By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The two-week European Tour is in the books which mean only one thing: The Raw crew is bound to be tired and lethargic after such a grueling trip overseas. With the creative team in a rush to revise their plans for Brock Lesnar heading into the summer, did the talent rise to the occasion or did they wilt under the pressure? 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.
· Due to Braun Strowman’s elbow injury, Kurt Angle announced that there would be a Fatal 5-Way Extreme Rules match at the eponymous PPV featuring Seth Rollins, Samoa Joe, Finn Bálor, Bray Wyatt, and Roman Reigns with the winner going on to face Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship. Angle wisely omitted the July PPV by name because it absolutely sucks.
· Reigns, Bálor, Joe, Wyatt, and Rollins had the obligatory spiel about being the guy to face Lesnar for the Universal Title until Rollins charged after Joe which led to a full-on melee.
· Rollins targeted Joe’s knee by yanking it between the ropes while Wyatt attacked Bálor which caused Reigns to get involved. Chaos ensued as Reigns nailed Wyatt with a Superman Punch which allowed Bálor to double dropkick Rollins and Wyatt into the barricade before laying them out with a flip dive on the outside.
· Balor capped things off by hitting the Slingblade on Reigns as the opening segment came to an end.
· This was a fine way to start the show. The segment could’ve ended with Angle’s announcement, but the other wrestlers had to air their grievances in order to stretch out the opener. The jibber jabber was pointless, but it set up Wyatt vs. Rollins and Balor vs. Reigns for later tonight. Predictability aside, the in-ring action should be very good if the wrestlers are given enough time to shine.
· Jeff Hardy defeated Sheamus with the Swanton Bomb in a solid match. It was hard hitting and physical throughout, but the closing sequence was a little messy as Sheamus nailed Matt Hardy with two sloppy Brogue Kicks while Hardy was standing on the ring apron. Outside of that, the Twist of Fate followed by Jeff’s finisher ended things on a high note.
· Alicia Fox evened her feud with Sasha Banks when Fox pinned Banks with the Scissors Kick. Fox and Banks are embroiled in a battle of 50/50 booking as they are tied at 1-1. For fear of burning through this feud too quickly, Fox and Banks need to explain why they are beefing with each other. Then again, the hit or miss scripts the female performers have to recite is sub par at best which puts the creative team in a damned if you, damned if you don’t situation. Allowing both ladies to speak in their own voice would be helpful, but the odds of that happening is highly unlikely. A girl can dream, though.
· In a bizarre finish, Dean Ambrose retained the Intercontinental Championship by getting himself disqualified when he kicked The Miz in the nether regions in plain view of the referee. The ref DQ’d Ambrose which probably is building up to a rematch for the IC Title at Extreme Rules in three weeks.
· It should be noted that Ambrose grabbed Miz’s hand while the latter was trying to deliver a low blow of his own while Maryse distracted the referee. The Lunatic Fringe was simply paying it forward, but he got caught for his efforts.
· Prior to the DQ finish, Ambrose and Miz had a very good match that featured fast paced action throughout. Ambrose must’ve had a double shot of espresso because he was extra energized tonight.
· The crowd was hot from start to finish which pushed the match over the top. The fans were split down the middle which is little surprising, but Miz has been such an awesome (no pun intended) heel over the past year that it’s not completely shocking that a portion of hardcore fans cheer him unabashedly. He’s come a long way from being Hollywood A-Lister with no bite to becoming one of the best pure heels in the wrestling business.
· Alexa Bliss taught Bayley a thing or two about being extreme when she whacked the Hugger Extraordinaire in the back with a Kendo Stick. It was a sick shot and Bayley did a great job selling her back on the floor while Bliss posed in the ring with the Raw Women’s Championship.
· The verbal exchange leading up to the physical confrontation was fine, but Bliss continues to blow Bayley out of the water when it comes to her mic work. Bayley is a lovable character, but her saccharine and uneven promos do more harm than good when it comes to garnering fan support. Her in-ring work will smooth things over, but she has to become a better talker in order to stand out in the Women’s Division.
· Neville and TJP defeated Austin Aries and Jack Gallagher when TJP nailed Gallagher with the Detonation Kick for the win. The match was fine, but it was marred by the fans being distracted by something in the arena which led to a chorus of boos followed by a CM Punk and Justin Bieber chant. Neville being visibly pissed made things even worse. The Cruiserweight Division is already fighting behind the 8-Ball. Having the fans turn on the action from the opening bell is rubbing salt in an already open and battered wound. Here’s hoping things get better soon because this match was tough to watch as a fan.
· Bayley will face Alexa Bliss in a Kendo Stick on a Pole Match for the Raw Women’s Championship at Extreme Rules. Angle was extra giddy after Bayley told him she was ready to live up to the PPV’s namesake. The stipulation is fine, but I had an instant flashback to the horrid Paddle on a Pole Matches during the Divas Era. A No DQ or No Holds Barred Match would’ve sufficed instead of putting the women in a generic match that brings back bad memories from a recently bygone period in WWE history.
· Roman Reigns vs. Finn Bálor II was better than the original as they had a really good match that was filled with a balanced dose of physicality and grit. Reigns did a great job selling his shoulder while Bálor went on the attack.
· Reigns targeted Bálor’s ribs and shoulder which evened things up. Bálor had the match in control when he laid out Reigns with the Slingblade followed by a running dropkick in the corner.
· Bálor went up to the top rope to deliver the Coup De Grace, but his injured ribs made the climb slower than usual. This allowed Reigns to knock Balor off the top rope to set up the Spear for the win.
· Bálor lost nothing by losing while Reigns picked up a key victory heading into Extreme Rules. From a pure promotional standpoint, Bálor winning the match in order to promote his WWE 24 Special on the network after Raw would’ve made more sense but the booking team had other plans. Yes, I am closet PR Maven at heart.
· Goldust just went rogue! So much for The Golden Truth being on the same page.
· Big Cass defeated Titus O’Neil with a big boot in a quick match. The fact that Cass beat O’Neil while the former Mega Dad of the Year was wearing a suit made the win that much sweeter.
· After the match was over, Enzo was busy taking a selfie as Apollo Crews tried to shake his hand. Enzo kept ignoring him which caused Crews to nail him with an enzuigiri. I wouldn’t call this a heelish act because Enzo was acting like an asshole, but Crews developing a mean streak is much better than smiling his way through life.
· Bray Wyatt vs. Seth Rollins ended via Disqualification when Samoa Joe attacked Rollins at ringside before dropping him with an Uranage Slam in the ring. Wyatt joined in on the beat down before turning the tables on Joe by hitting him with Sister Abigail from out of nowhere. Rollins suffered the same fate as Raw went off the air with Bray Wyatt telling the audience to “Follow The Buzzards.”
· Before the DQ finish, Wyatt and Rollins had a solid match but it never got past a certain level. The match went a bit long and Joe’s interference wasn’t surprising due to what happened during the opening segment. The crowd was a little flat as well because the action was pretty paint-by-the-numbers.
· Despite those shortcomings, the crowd popped for Wyatt being his own man which is a positive considering his lackluster pair of matches against Randy Orton last month which caused the fans to boo him for all the wrong reasons during the House of Horrors match at Payback a few weeks ago. If Wyatt is going to face Lesnar for the Universal Championship, he has to be built up like a legit threat who isn’t crippled by his supernatural tendencies. History tells us that said tendencies will play into his eventual downfall. It’s sad but true.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was solid. The Newark crowd was hot outside of them completely shitting on the Cruiserweight Tag Team Match during the second hour of the show. The in-ring action ranged from solid to good which was a nice surprise because the first show after the European Tour has been historically uneventful. Fortunately, the wrestlers rose to the occasion which made the show feel livelier than usual.
· The creative team have a clear course heading into Extreme Rules as they booked the Fatal 5-Way Extreme Rules match featuring Seth Rollins, Samoa Joe, Finn Balor, Bray Wyatt, and Roman Reigns with the winner going on to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship. Braun Strowman will be sorely missed, but this is the perfect opportunity for someone fresh to step up to the plate and prove that he is worthy of being in the main event spot. The outcome is not clear cut which adds an element of surprise heading into the PPV.
· The Extreme Rules card is coming together nicely, but WWE has to hype this thing to the hilt because the go-home show for the PPV takes place on Memorial Day which tends to be a ratings killer. There is no John Cena to pop the number this year. The next couple of weeks is critical because the deck has been reshuffled due to Strowman’s injury. Let’s hope the creative team takes care of business because it’s been rough sailing for the red brand since the Superstar Shakeup last month. 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!