By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After last night’s “Holy Shit!” moment of Jinder Mahal becoming the new WWE Champion, how did the red brand follow up in terms of batshit craziness heading into Extreme Rules on June 4th? The answer to that question can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of Raw in no particular order.
· Bray Wyatt kicked off Raw by cutting one of his better promos in quite some time as he told the fans he wanted to free them from Brock Lesnar’s reign as Universal Champion. He vowed to win the Fatal 5-Way Match at Extreme Rules and feast on The Beast’s black heart to add a morbid touch to the festivities.
· Wyatt took pleasure in sacrificing Samoa Joe and Seth Rollins because there are no friends in war. He chided the crowd for being followers of Finn Bálor when they should be backing the only man who can slay The Beast.
· Finally, he turned his attention to Roman Reigns as he explained that owning the world was more important than ruling a yard.
· Reigns made his way to the ring and challenged Wyatt to a match. Kurt Angle appeared on the main stage and made the match official as the opening segment came to end.
· I thought this was a good way to start the show. Wyatt was given meaty material to work with as he told the crowd to stand up and emancipate themselves from being Lesnar’s slaves. He repeated that mantra as he ran down his opponents which gave his promo extra firepower. It was refreshing to hear Wyatt make sense for a change because it prevented fans from giving him the “What?” treatment.
· Reigns kept things short and sweet on the mic while maintaining his nuclear heat at the same time.
· Roman Reigns defeated Bray Wyatt via Disqualification when Samoa Joe put Reigns in the Coquina Clutch.
· Wyatt suffered a similar fate until Seth Rollins came out and attacked Joe to get a measure of revenge after last week’s beat down.
· Reigns nailed Wyatt with a Superman Punch as the former Shield brothers stood tall in the ring.
· Due to the match ending via DQ, Angle booked Reigns and Rollins vs. Joe and Wyatt for later tonight.
· Akira Tozawa defeated Ariya Daivari with a Senton from the top rope in a quick match. The action was decent for the most part and the crowd grunted along with Tozawa which gave the bout some much-needed heat.
· Elias Samson’s performance was something else...
· Elias Samson defeated Dean Ambrose via Disqualification when The Miz attacked Samson in order to put the screws to Ambrose heading into their Intercontinental Championship match at Extreme Rules next Sunday.
· Before the DQ finish, Sampson and Ambrose had a solid match that saw The Drifter on offense for the most part. He looked impressive, but he needs to do more than delivering a few stiff kicks, flying knees, and rest holds in order to get over as a wrestler.
· Ambrose went after Miz and was about to drop him with Dirty Deeds when Samson attacked The Lunatic Fringe from behind. Samson nailed Ambrose with a Swinging Neckbreaker as he ended his in-ring debut on a high note (no pun intended).
· Someone attacked Enzo Amore backstage. Based on what happened last week, the likely suspects are Apollo Crews and Titus O’Neil.
· It’s nice to see you again, Paul Heyman.
· Heyman made a surprise cameo as he labeled Bray Wyatt, Seth Rollins, Samoa Joe, and Roman Reigns future victims of Brock Lesnar if any of them won the Fatal 5-Way match at Extreme Rules. However, he viewed Finn Bálor as a legit threat who shouldn’t be taken lightly.
· Heyman was very complimentary of Bálor and actually looked forward to Lesnar vs. Bálor for the Universal Title at the July PPV that shall remain nameless.
· Bálor appreciated the kind words and told Heyman to tell Lesnar that he was going to beat him for the title he never lost as the segment came to an end.
· Heyman cut a great promo as usual and I was surprised at how he heaped a boatload of praise on Bálor. Something tells me that his overt pleasantries are strategic in nature, but Bálor getting extra cred when it comes to his badassery is always a plus in my book.
· Finn Bálor defeated Karl Anderson with the Coup De Grace in a solid match. Anderson and Bálor know each other very well which explains why their in-ring chemistry was on point. Gallows interfered in spots, but Bálor neutralized him with a sick kick to the face followed by a flip dive on the outside which led to the Slingblade/Running Dropkick/Coup De Grace finishing sequence. This was a nice maintenance win for Bálor heading into Extreme Rules in a couple of weeks.
· Sasha Banks defeated Alicia Fox with the Double Knees in the corner, but she’s not free from the Foxy One just yet as Banks committed the carnal sin of slapping another woman’s man. Fox retaliated by nailing Banks with a Scissor Kick before sharing a kiss with Noam Dar in the middle of the ring. The match was decent while it lasted, but it was nothing special. I have a hunch that Banks will recruit some backup in the form of Cedric Alexander or Rich Swann to play into the never ending love quadrangle that’s been playing out on 205 Live over the past few months.
· The Titus Brand took another hit when Kalisto defeated Apollo Crews with the Salina Del Sol in a decent match. O’Neil’s constant barking/coaching at ringside might’ve distracted Crews down the stretch. Crews is not a full-on heel, but at least he has a storyline with some teeth for a change.
· Matt Hardy defeated Sheamus with the Twist of Fate in a good match. The action was hard-hitting throughout as Sheamus delivered some stiff shots which are the norm when it comes to his smash mouth style.
· Hardy held his own and had the crowd eating out of his hands down the stretch when Jeff laid out Cesaro to keep things fair and square until Sheamus kicked him in the back.
· However, the distraction allowed Matt to hit his finisher for the win. After the match was over. The Broken One announced that Cesaro and Sheamus will face The Hardy Boyz in a steel cage match at Extreme Rules.
· The heels didn’t look pleased, but the match should be very good if they are given enough time to do crazy shit within reason. Let’s hope Sheamus doesn’t get too overzealous because his stiff style tends to do more harm than good in the literal sense.
· Austin Aries defeated Tony Nese with the Last Chancery in a solid match. Nese targeted Aries’ injured knee throughout, but Double-A fought back when he locked Nese in a guillotine. Nese tried to power out of the move only for Aries to counter with his submission hold for the win. Aries always does a beautiful job setting up the Last Chancery.
· Neville attacked Nese after the match was over and put him in the Rings of Saturn to hype his submission match against Aries for the Cruiserweight Championship at Extreme Rules. Their matches have been very good, but they haven’t had a blow away battle for the title yet. Here’s hoping they can reverse that trend in two weeks.
· Alexa Bliss picked up the win over Mickie James when she drilled James with a wicked right hand followed by the DDT for the 1-2-3.
· After the match was over, Bliss whacked James in the back with a Kendo Stick. Bayley made the save and was about to cash in her receipt from last week when Bliss rolled out of the ring. The Raw Women’s Champion had a hint of fear in her eyes as she stared down Bayley. Bayley shouldn’t get her revenge until the PPV because the Kendo Stick moment needs to be built up. With that being said, James and Bayley have done a nice job selling their backs after taking the Kendo shot over the past couple of weeks.
· Bray Wyatt and Samoa Joe defeated Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns after Joe submitted Rollins with the Coquina Clutch in a solid main event match.
· Rollins and Reigns had the match in hand until Reigns accidentally hit Rollins with a modified version of the Superman Punch after Joe moved out of the way. Reigns tried to pull up, but Rollins still took the brunt of the hit.
· Rollins and Reigns bickered in the ring which allowed the heels to take advantage. Wyatt laid Reigns out with Sister Abigail on the outside while Joe put Rollins to sleep with his submission finisher.
· The action was solid as Reigns played the babyface in peril until he made the hot tag to Rollins towards the end of the match. Rollins picked up the tempo as he laid out Joe and Wyatt with a suicide dive onto the floor while averting their double team efforts.
· Ultimately, the heels outsmarted the babyface team which plays into next week’s go-home show.
· Finn Bálor met with Kurt Angle backstage and wanted a piece of the main event action. Angle granted his request and booked Bálor in a Triple Threat Match against Wyatt and Joe and decided to make another main event caliber match featuring Rollins vs. Reigns as Raw went off the air.
· This was a smart way to give the viewers at home a reason to watch next week because WWE has the double whammy of promoting the go-home show for Extreme Rules on Memorial Day. It’s a tough task and the company had to offer a hook to prevent the ratings from falling off a cliff. We shall see if their marketing trick worked soon enough.
· Overall, I thought this was a perfectly acceptable episode of Raw. The third hour dragged things down a bit, but I thought the show as a whole was competent from a wrestling and storytelling standpoint. WWE is doing a better job making Extreme Rules feel like a major event versus their ho-hum effort when it came to Payback last month. There’s still one week to go, but I am looking forward to the show because the card looks good on paper.
· Paul Heyman rooting for Finn Bálor was a bit surprising, but it makes Bálor look like a bigger star if he’s the one facing Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship. The Beast needs to have a competitive match on the main stage and Bálor is good enough to get the job done along with his other opponents in the Fatal 5-Way. This is a wide open field and it should be interesting to see who comes out on top.
· The rest of the Extreme Rules card is harder to navigate, but the matchups are intriguing. Here’s hoping the creative team doesn’t drop the ball heading into the most Extreme night of the year. Fingers crossed!
On that note, this wraps up another edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will back tomorrow night with a brand new installment of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls!