By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the O2 Arena in London, England. The biannual European Tour is in full swing as WWE makes a pit stop in the land of tea and crumpets for the next couple of days. With the crowd having a reputation of being extra rowdy, did they live up to expectations or did they have something to cheer about for all the wrong reasons? 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.
· Kurt Angle and Stephanie McMahon appointed Dean Ambrose and The Miz as co-General Managers of Raw since they were unavailable to run the show tonight.
· Braun Strowman made his way to the ring and demanded another match against Roman Reigns after he recovers from his shoulder injury. Once Reigns is out of the way, Brock Lesnar is next on Strowman’s hit list.
· Kalisto came out and challenged Strowman to another match after Strowman pushed him off the stage while trapped in a dumpster a few weeks ago. Strowman laughed off Kalisto’s comments and claimed that he could beat him with one arm. Ambrose decided to test that theory by booking Strowman vs. Kalisto for later tonight.
· Ambrose continued to show off his matchmaking skills by putting Miz in a match against Finn Bálor as the opening segment came to an end.
· This was a fine way to start the show, but it was nothing to write home about for the most part. Also, it appears that the crowd noise has been edited in post-production. It kills the viewing experience because the London crowd is usually hot. Perhaps their rowdiness will be detected later in the show, but it was definitely muted here.
· The Miz defeated Finn Bálor via disqualification when Miz shoved Bálor into the referee who was busy trying to keep Maryse out of the ring. Dean Ambrose overruled his co-GM by restarting the match and banning Maryse from ringside.
· Bálor attacked Miz and tossed him back in the ring. He nailed Miz with the Slingblade/Running Dropkick/Coup De Grace trifecta for the win. The match was decent, but it didn’t get past a certain level due to the screwy booking down the stretch. Despite that small quibble, this was a nice showcase for Bálor after Bray Wyatt cost him a shot at the Intercontinental Championship last week. Speaking of Wyatt, he didn’t show up to confront Bálor which is a little surprising. The night is still young, though.
· Alexa Bliss defeated Mickie James thanks to an assist from Nia Jax. James went up to the top rope, but Jax tugged her leg to provide the distraction.
· Bayley laid out Jax with a cross body at ringside, but it wasn’t enough as Bliss knocked James off the top rope and pinned her clean as a sheet.
· Bliss continued to attack James until Bayley chased her up the ramp.
· However, James was ripe for the picking as Jax laid her out with a running avalanche followed by an elbow drop for good measure. Jax is doing Bliss’ dirty work because she wants a shot at the Raw Women’s Championship. Bliss promised to discuss the matter with Kurt Angle, but I have a feeling she is going to duck Jax because she is a smart woman who values her livelihood.
· Samoa Joe sounds like the chiropractor from hell as he described how he was going to break every bone and ligament in Seth Rollins’ body.
· Rollins attacked Joe from behind and a backstage brawl ensued until WWE officials broke things up. This was a nice way to forward their feud leading up to their presumed rematch at Extreme Rules next month.
· Braun Strowman vs. Kalisto ended via No Contest when Roman Reigns made his way to the ring to confront Strowman. Reigns and Strowman had another epic brawl which saw Reigns nail Strowman with three Superman Punches before focusing his attention on Strowman’s injured elbow.
· Reigns rammed the elbow into the ring post before grabbing a steel chair to finish the job. Strowman eventually retreated through the crowd while Reigns stood tall in the ring soaking in a mixture of cheers and boos.
· This was a nice way to forward the Reigns-Strowman feud.
Both men showed great intensity during their brawl which bodes well for their return bout at Extreme Rules. Expect a special stipulation to push things over the top in terms of batshit craziness.
· Sadly, their rematch is postponed because Strowman needs to have minor surgery on his elbow which explains the injury angle. This is sucky news because it throws the main event of the next two Raw PPVs into chaos. However, this medical timeout might be a blessing in disguise because Strowman should be back in time for SummerSlam which will allow WWE to build up Strowman vs. Reigns or Strowman vs. Lesnar for the Universal Championship. Either direction is fine, but it gives the creative team more flexibility when it comes to plotting out Lesnar’s Title defenses for the rest of the year.
· Sheamus and Cesaro survived Tag Team Turmoil as they defeated Enzo Amore & Big Cass, Heath Slater & Rhyno, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows, and The Golden Truth to become the number one contenders for the Raw Tag Team Championship. The series of matches were good with Anderson and Gallows giving Sheamus and Cesaro a run for their money.
· The Golden Truth tried to pull off the upset, but it was to no avail as Cesaro pinned R-Truth with a roll-up. The finish was underwhelming, but it didn’t take away from the match quality leading up to the final pinfall.
· The Hardy Boyz came out to confront Sheamus and Cesaro, but the heels decided to head up the ramp instead. It was another case of Lather, Rinse, Repeat because the same thing happened last week. A change of pace would be nice, but I digress.
· Seth Rollins defeated Samoa Joe via disqualification when Joe rammed Rollins’ head into the exposed turnbuckle. Rollins pulled off the covering by accident which allowed Joe to take advantage of the situation. The referee gave Joe a pass but warned him not to do it again. Joe defied the ref’s order which led to the DQ finish.
· Joe continued to ram Rollins’ head into the turnbuckle before putting him in the Coquina Clutch. The referee shouted at Joe to break the hold which he eventually did as the segment came to an end.
· Joe and Rollins had a good match, but it lacked crowd heat. It was clear that both men were holding back because the finish allows them to have a more definitive match at Extreme Rules. The booking made sense, but the match suffered from an atmospheric standpoint.
· TJP defeated Jack Gallagher with a roll-up while grabbing the tights for extra leverage. The match was decent, but it was short on time.
· After the match was over, TJP targeted Gallagher’s knee and put him in the kneebar to do further damage until Austin Aries made the save.
· Neville promised to give TJP a shot at the Cruiserweight Championship if he won tonight, but he backpedaled when Michael Cole put him on the spot. It appears that Neville is taking the Alexa Bliss approach when it comes to keeping their frenemies closer.
· Sasha Banks defeated Alicia Fox with the double knees from the top rope. However, the win was controversial as Fox had her shoulder up before the count of three. The match was decent, but it was overshadowed by some sort of kerfuffle in the crowd. Since the WWE Production Crew is edit-happy when it comes to keeping the London fans in check, why was the “integrity” of this match kept intact in terms of crowd noise?
· Bray Wyatt defeated Dean Ambrose with Sister Abigail thanks to an assist from The Miz down the stretch.
· Wyatt and Ambrose had a good match which is not surprising due to their past encounters over the years. Ambrose had things under control until Miz hit him in the back with the Intercontinental Championship. Wyatt made the cover, but Ambrose managed to kick out at two. He only delayed the inevitable as Wyatt dropped him with Sister Abigail to pick up the win moments later.
· Miz attacked Ambrose by raking his eyes before cutting a promo vowing to win the Intercontinental Championship next week as Raw went off with Maryse and her husband canoodling on the entrance ramp.
· Finn Bálor didn’t appear during the main event which suggests that his feud with Wyatt has been dropped for the time being. Strowman’s injury might’ve pushed Bálor in front of the line for a shot at Brock Lesnar’s Universal Title at the July PPV. We shall see how it all plays out, but it’s very telling that the follow-up was dropped cold.
· As for Ambrose and Miz, they will face off for the IC Championship next week. I don’t expect a title change, but stranger things have happened.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was decent at best. Even though the show was taped, the broadcast zipped by for the most part. The wrestling action was solid, but uneventful compared to last week’s stellar main event.
· It is becoming more apparent that WWE is doing a lot of post-show editing when they tape Raw and SmackDown Live from London. The crowd noise was subdued for most of the night, but a smattering of Randy Savage and CM Punk chants were picked up during the main event. The European fans can be a rowdy bunch, but neutering them like a bunch of puppies is a bit much because it kills the television experience for the viewers at home.
· The last couple of taped shows from the UK have been lackluster and the trend continued tonight which is sad because WWE usually goes all out to make these shows special. Let’s hope SD Live fares better tomorrow night, but I am not getting my hopes up. Le Sigh…
· The Braun Strowman injury is a bummer and it should be interesting to see how Roman Reigns is handled since his sparring partner is temporarily on the shelf. The creative team has to reshuffle the deck and we shall see how it all shakes out as Raw takes place from Newark, New Jersey next week. The injury bug needs to be wished the best in its future endeavors because it’s been taking out wrestlers left and right over the past couple of years…L
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!