Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The SmackDown Files: Seven Days The Hard Way - How Carmella Became The First-Ever Ms. Money in the Bank On The Second Try (6-27-2017)

By: Keila Cash

Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The SmackDown Files. Tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live emanated from the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, California. The setting is fitting because Charlotte, Natalya, Tamina, Becky Lynch, and Carmella will make HERstory once again as the second-ever Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder takes place for the first time on free television. Was the moment sullied by controversy or did a winner emerge from the fray unscathed? The answer to that question can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of SD Live in no particular order. 

·        James Ellsworth’s mouth got him in serious trouble when he called Daniel Bryan a gutless coward who couldn’t hack it in the ring anymore.

·        Instead of firing Ellsworth on the spot, Bryan decided to ban Ellsworth from the arena during the Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match later tonight. Security escorted him out of the ring as the fans serenaded the chinless troll with “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” as the opening segment came to an end.

·        The opener was fine, but it was a refresher from last week’s show as Carmella whined about being punished for breaking the rules that didn’t exist within the realm of a Women’s MITB Ladder Match. Bryan agreed with her to a point but stated that no one ever grabbed the briefcase on someone’s behalf which allowed him to overturn the decision. Despite the retread, the crowd was hot for the opener which speaks well for the main event if they’re not burnt out by then.

·        The Usos defeated The Hype Bros when Jimmy Uso pinned Zack Ryder with a Frog Splash. The match was decent, but short on time. The finish happened immediately after the picture-in-picture commercial break which was awkward, to say the least.

·        To soften the blow, The New Day came out and traded rap bars with The Usos as they hyped their SmackDown Tag Team Championship rematch at Battleground next month. If both teams clean up the botches from their first title bout, their redux should be even better.

·        The latest episode of Fashion Vice revealed a few things.

·        1) The Ascension didn’t trash Breezango’s office as someone else trashed their headquarters while Viktor and Konner were being interrogated.

·        2) Tyler Breeze packs a lot of heat in the form of water guns.

·        3) The Ascension are undercover fans of Eddie Money despite their heavy metal leanings.

·        4) American Alpha is back in the running as lead suspects in the office trashing. For their sake, let’s hope that’s the case because they need a creative jolt. Stat!

·        Naomi retained the SmackDown Women’s Championship when she defeated Lana with a Split-Legged Moonsault in a quick match. Lana attacked Naomi from behind before the match started, but it wasn’t enough to get the win. The Lana Experiment is flat lining at an alarming rate…

·        After Randy Orton threatened to beat Jinder Mahal’s ass six ways from Sunday if he didn’t get another shot at the WWE Championship, Shane McMahon made a surprise appearance and granted Orton’s rematch which will take place at Battleground next month.

·        McMahon acknowledging his past with Orton when it came to The Viper laying hands on his father and sister eight years ago was a nice nod to their complicated history.

·        Due to Mahal being the WWE Champion, he was allowed to name the stipulation for their match. After cutting another middling promo, Mahal announced that he will face Orton in a Punjabi Prison match which actually drew a good reaction from the crowd.

·        The announcers tossed to a video package explaining the rules of the match as the segment came to an end.

·        Orton showed great fire on the mic and it’s nice to see him motivated for a change. The Punjabi Prison match should be a spectacle with The Singh Brothers taking a ridiculous amount of bumps to the crowd’s delight.

·        Daniel Bryan announced that there will be a Battle Royal to determine the number one contender for the United States Championship on the July 4h edition of SD Live next Tuesday. To say Kevin Owens wasn’t happy about this news would be an understatement.

·        Baron Corbin defeated Sami Zayn when he nailed him with End of Days for the win. The match was solid as Corbin dominated the action until Zayn made a babyface comeback midway through the match. He put up a good fight, but Mr. Money in the Bank took care of business and won fair and square. No complaints here.

·        Carmella climbed the ladder and officially became Ms. Money in the Bank in a good main event match.

·        The action was solid throughout as Becky Lynch took everyone on a trip to Suplex City early on. The action dragged at times due to all the crash and burn spots that had the ladies selling at ringside for prolonged period of time, but the match told a good story for the most part.

·        Charlotte was about to grab the briefcase when Natalya yanked her off the ladder and took the fight into the crowd. The downtime allowed James Ellsworth to get involved even though he was banned from the arena.

·        Ellsworth was about to grab the briefcase when Lynch pushed the Chinless One off the ladder and sent him groin-first between the ropes.

·        Lynch had a clear path to victory when she climbed the ladder, but a knee injury gave Carmella the opening she needed in order to gain the upper hand. Lynch tried to climb the ladder when Carmella nailed her with a chair shot to the back of the leg.

·        Lynch fell to the mat as Carmella climbed the ladder and grabbed the briefcase for the win. SD Live went off the air with the Princess of Staten Island posing on top of the ladder while holding the MITB briefcase high in the air.

·        Despite Ellsworth getting involved, I’m glad Carmella won the match fair and square. Her performances on the mic have generated legit heel heat which will serve her well when she goes after the SmackDown Women’s Title. Carmella’s in-ring work is far from stellar, but her personality will get her over the proverbial hump. Having Ellsworth by her side is an added bonus because he’s an annoying pest who gets under people’s skin for all the right reasons.

·        The outcome of the match teased a future Natalya vs. Charlotte feud while Lynch has to do some soul-searching after suffering another heartbreaking loss. Is she on the verge of turning heel or will she keep pushing forward as a plucky babyface with a ton of heart? We shall find out soon enough.

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was decent at best. The show was light on in-ring action until the main event. WWE wanted to give the women enough time to have a good match which explains why the first two matches ended in quick fashion. I appreciate the strategy, but it hampered the overall flow of the show.

·       Minor criticism aside, the company spotlighted the women in a positive way as the Raw and SD Live women’s divisions have headlined both shows within a 24-hour span. NXT will make it three for three when Asuka faces Nikki Cross for the NXT Women’s Championship in a Last Woman Standing Match tomorrow night. That’s a pretty cool stat that shouldn’t be overlooked or understated.

·        Also, the blue brand announced the first two matches for the Battleground PPV which takes places next month. This is the final brand exclusive PPV before SummerSlam which should provide a clearer picture of what to expect at the biggest party of the summer.

·        A big piece of the puzzle will be filled next week with the return of John Cena. Cena is a free agent and it should be interesting to see where he hangs his hat over the next few months. In any event, Mr. Hustle, Loyalty, & Respect is bound to generate buzz because he is WWE’s biggest needle mover when it comes to ratings.

On that note, this wraps another edition of The SmackDown Files. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back next week with a brand new installment of The Raw Exposé. See you later, boys and girls! 

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Raw Exposé: The Big Baller Brand Blockbuster Bonanza Edition (6-26-2017)

By: Keila Cash

Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. WWE usually puts on a good show for the LA fans which should give the company an extra boost heading into the July PPV That Shall Remain Nameless Unless Absolutely Necessary in a couple of weeks.

Also, Brock Lesnar AND LaVar Ball are under the same roof. With two of the biggest personalities on planet Earth within close proximity of each other, expect ample amounts of mayhem to ensue. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of Raw in no particular order.

·        Roman Reigns agreed to face Braun Strowman in an Ambulance Match at the July PPV That Shall Remain Nameless Unless Absolutely Necessary. Reigns vowed to win the match and drive Strowman straight to hell as an ambulance rolled into the arena.

·        Reigns decided to investigate the situation by creeping towards the vehicle. He opened the doors, but no one was there. Moments later, Strowman ambushed Reigns from behind and rammed his head against the railing as the fans cheered him on.

·        Strowman tossed Reigns on the stage to do more damage, but Reigns countered with a right hand. Reigns was about to nail Strowman with a Superman Punch, but Strowman caught Reigns and tossed him against the side of the ambulance in a great spot.

·        Strowman threw Reigns in the back of the ambulance as the opening segment came to an end with Strowman doing his signature roar and pose on the stage while Reigns was driven out of the arena.

·        This was a hot way to start the show. Strowman destroying Reigns has become appointment television over the past few months. Each attack is violent, yet beautiful at the same time. Considering how quickly Stroman put Reigns in the ambulance, let’s hope their actual match has a bit more drama and intrigue leading up to the finish.

·        The Hardy Boyz and Finn Bálor defeated Sheamus, Cesaro, and Elias Samson when Bálor pinned Cesaro with the Coup De Grace in a very good six-man tag team match. The heels dominated the action early on, but Bálor provided the offensive flurry down the stretch as he nailed Samson with a kick to the face before laying out Cesaro and Sheamus with a flip dive on the outside.

·        He tossed Cesaro back in the ring and hit him with the Slingblade/Running Dropkick combo as Matt laid out Sheamus with a Twist of Fate on the floor. Jeff took out Samson which gave Bálor enough time to set up his finisher.

·        All in all, this was a fun match that had great crowd heat throughout. Josh Duhamel did a decent job putting over the action in the ring while shilling his television/film projects at the same time. That’s what I call a multitasker.

·        Goldust vs. R-Truth never got underway as Goldust attacked Truth before the match started. The Golden One had his personal cameraman film the beat down which will be screened at a later day. I think it’s safe to assume that Goldust and Truth will have their day in the limelight at the July PPV That Shall Remain Nameless Unless Absolutely Necessary in a couple of weeks.

·        LaVar Ball showed up and showed out on Miz TV. It’s hard to describe what happened, but I will try my best.

·        Miz gave LaVar props for correctly predicting that his son Lonzo would be drafted to the Los Angeles Lakers. Miz wanted to join the Big Baller Brand, but LaVar shot him down because Miz wasn’t on his level.

·        Miz asked LaVar and Lonzo how many championships they’ve won. They threw out some numbers while Miz wondered if UCLA won the NCAA Championship this year which drew some audible oohs and ahs.

·        LaVar and Miz traded insults which culminated with LaVar taking off his shirt and challenging the A-Lister to a fight.

·        Before things got even crazier, Dean Ambrose appeared on the stage wearing a Big Baller Brand shirt and challenged Miz to a tag team match as the segment came to a close.

·        This will go down as the batshit craziest edition of Miz TV in history. LaVar Ball was a hot ass mess, but that’s how the founder of the Big Baller Brand rolls. It’s safe to say that his appearance on Raw will be the talk of the sports world come tomorrow morning. If WWE is looking for their next heel manager, Ball is their guy. No megaphone or big ass cell phone required.

·        The Miz, Curtis Axel, and Bo Dallas defeated Heath Slater, Rhyno, and Dean Ambrose when Bo Dallas pinned Rhyno with a roll-up thanks to a cheap shot from Axel. The match was fine, but it never got past a certain level. Seeing another multi-man match screams repetitive booking in the worst possible way. No shade, just facts.

·        Big Cass hates Enzo Amore so much that he still uses his theme music.

·        Just went it appeared that Enzo and Big Cass’ friendship was on the mend, Big Cass clotheslined their brotherhood to the point of no return. Cass flung Enzo down the ramp as the crowd showered him with boos.

·        Enzo cut an impassioned promo, but it wasn’t the epic performance I was expecting from him on the mic. Big Cass said a lot with his eyes which was a great way to sell the intent of Enzo’s promo. Cass’ apology seemed genuine, but it was too saccharine to believe at face value. Therefore, the bait and switch worked which gives Cass more ammunition to work with as a heel. Here’s hoping Enzo cuts the promo of his life on next week’s show because his friendship with Cass is deader than dead.

·        Seth Rollins defeated Curt Hawkins with a knee to the face in a match that lacked crowd heat until Rollins took over down the stretch.

·        After the match was over, Bray Wyatt appeared on the Titantron and told Rollins to embrace his true nature at the Fire of Great Balls PPV or he will burn. The threat was nice, but their feud lacks bite because Wyatt vowed to punish the four men that cost him a chance at the Universal Championship at Extreme Rules only for Roman Reigns to beat him clean in the ring. Wyatt’s proclamations of doom and gloom are falling on deaf ears at this point. It’s sad but true.

·        Paul Heyman called Samoa Joe a Samoan Dumbass for not fearing Brock Lesnar. Joe proved that he was no such thing when he attacked Lesnar from behind during The Beast’s signature entrance.

·        The Samoan Badass put Lesnar in the Coquina Clutch only for Lesnar to break the hold by pushing Joe into the LED Board. Joe locked in the submission hold again only for Lesnar to power out. Joe tried one more time to put The Beast to sleep and it appeared that he was about to do so when The Revival and WWE officials broke things up. Joe headed backstage while Lesnar tried to catch his breath as the segment came to end.

·        Samoa Joe continues to look strong heading into his Universal Championship match against Brock Lesnar at the Great Fire of Balls PPV in a couple of weeks. Lesnar looks vulnerable heading into his first title defense which might cause Paul Heyman to re-think his strategy when it comes to playing mind games with Joe. The final hard sell for their title bout should be a good one come next week.

·        Neville defeated Lince Dorado when he made Dorado tap out to the Rings of Saturn in a decent match. It was pretty one-sided outside of Dorado having a few hope spots to keep things somewhat competitive.

·        Only Paul Heyman can pull off saying “Goodness Gracious Great Balls of Fire” while keeping his integrity intact. Heyman cut a great backstage promo about how Brock Lesnar was in for a fight at the Great Balls of Fire PPV because Samoa Joe was going to put him through the ringer. However, Lesnar would eventually take Joe on a trip to Suplex City before laying him out with an F5 for the win. The outcome is almost a foregone conclusion, but the match being a smash mouth masterpiece is a nice consolation prize.

·        Sasha Banks defeated Nia Jax when she made Jax tap out to The Bank Statement in a good main event match.

·        Jax had her best showing since debuting on the main roster last year when she almost ran the table during the gauntlet match to determine the number one contender for the Raw Women’s Championship.

·        Jax defeated Bayley, Mickie James, Dana Brooke, and Emma in dominating fashion. The fans actually cheered her because she was putting on a clinic as she defeated her opponents with ease. If she’s booked this strongly on a consistent basis, WWE might have a new star on their hands. Jax is still green in the ring, but her power can be finessed to cover up her shortcomings between the ropes.

·        Banks vs. Jax was slow in spots, but both ladies worked hard and got the crowd involved towards the end.

·        Banks finding multiple ways to lock in her submission hold speaks to her ability to adapt on a whim while Jax tried to finish the match by hitting the Samoan Drop only for Banks to roll towards the ring apron to avoid getting pinned.

·        The finish was great as Jax tried her best not to pass out to The Bank Statement only to tap out in the end.

·        Kurt Angle came out to congratulate Banks until Alexa Bliss made her way to the ring. Bliss got in her face, but Banks laid her out with a dropkick before grabbing the title and holding it high in the air as Raw went off the air with The Boss standing tall.

·        Sasha Banks is back in the championship fold as she will face Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Title at the July PPV That Shall Remain Nameless Unless Absolutely Necessary in two weeks. This is a fresh matchup that should have good heat if both ladies of given enough time to shine. In any event, this was a nice way to cap off the show with the women’s division spotlighted in a positive way for the first time since WrestleMania season.

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw was decent at best. The show started off hot with Braun Strowman attacking Roman Reigns for the nth time while the six-man tag team match featuring The Hardy Boyz and Finn Bálor vs. Sheamus, Cesaro, and Elias Samson popped the crowd something fierce.

·        The show briefly fell off the rails when LaVar Ball appeared on Miz TV, but the third hour recovered nicely with Samoa Joe choking out Brock Lesnar and the women’s gauntlet match ending the broadcast on a high note.

·        Raw is slowly getting back on track which is good to see because it has been a struggle to watch over the past couple of months. The Fire of Great Balls PPV is shaping up to be a good one, but the booking is key. As I mentioned last week, WWE is 0-4 when it comes to producing solid brand exclusive PPVs since WrestleMania. The company has a great chance of righting the ship two weeks from Sunday by delivering a stellar show sans the cheesy name. The go-home show should push things over the top if everything is executed properly. Let’s hope the creative team can get the job done. Fingers crossed!

On that note, this wraps up another edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back tomorrow night with a brand new installment of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The SmackDown Files: If Only For Two Nights - How Carmella Became The Woman Formally Known As Ms. Money in the Bank (6-20-2017)

By: Keila Cash

Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The SmackDown Files. Tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live emanated from Wright State University Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio. After the first-ever Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match ended with James Ellsworth grabbing the briefcase and handing it to Carmella in one of the worst finishes in WWE history, Daniel Bryan had a huge decision to make. Would Carmella’s win stand or did the SD Live General Manager right the wrong committed by the Chinless Penis? The answer to that question can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s show in no particular order.

·        SD Live kicked off with Carmella explaining why she should remain Ms. Money in the Bank. She didn’t care about making history. She used her street smarts in order to gain the upper hand. Ms. MITB offered examples of how Kane and Bray Wyatt interfered in previous MITB Ladder matches in order to tilt the outcome in their favor. Carmella called out the internet trolls for blowing up her mentions on Twitter because she used the no disqualification rule to her advantage. She didn’t give a damn what anybody had to say and Daniel Bryan would back her up later tonight as the opening segment came to end.

·        This was a good way to start the show. Carmella is finally getting heat for all the right reasons. Despite James Ellsworth sullying the integrity of the first-ever Women’s MITB Ladder Match, the Princess of Staten Island is the second most-hated woman in WWE behind Stephanie McMahon. If her in-ring work catches up to her solid promo skills, this might kerfuffle might be a blessing in disguise.

·        Big E defeated Jimmy Uso with the Big Ending in a solid match. Most of the action took place during the commercial break, but it was good while it lasted. Jimmy delivered a cheap shot to Kofi Kingston while he was cheering Big E at ringside which played into the finish.

·        The Usos started to head up the ramp when Kingston laid out Jey Uso with a dive. Xavier Woods forced Jimmy to get back in the ring. Big E grabbed Jimmy by the hair, but he got sucker punched for his efforts. Jimmy tried to nail Big E with a Superkick, but E blocked it and hit his finisher for the win. This was a nice way to forward The New Day-Usos feud which will presumably continue at the Battleground PPV next month.

·        Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Dolph Ziggler with the Kinshasa in a long, but good match. This was very similar to their bout at Backlash a few weeks ago. Nakamura sold a lot which killed the heat in spots, but his comeback popped the crowd towards the end of the match. Plus, no pyro was set off during Nakamura’s entrance. Perhaps WWE got the hint that the extra accouterments weren’t needed in order to make him look like a bigger star than he already is.

·        American Alpha Sighting!

·        Kevin Owens retained the United States Championship when he pinned Chad Gable with a Popup Powerbomb. The match was short, but it was solid while it lasted. Gable deadlifting Owens for a delayed German Suplex was a thing of beauty. Here’s hoping American Alpha get more airtime because they are too talented to be sitting backstage with nothing to do.

·        It appears that WWE is revisiting the Kevin Owens-AJ Styles feud as Styles interrupted Owens’ United States Open Invitational before Gable came out and threw his name in the hat. Both men had a very good match at Backlash and I expect similar results when they have their US Title rematch at Battleground next month.

·        Daniel Bryan announced that Carmella would be stripped of the Money in the Bank Briefcase after James Ellsworth insulted Bryan’s newborn daughter. Bryan told The Chinless One to shut up or he would punch him in the face before firing him on the spot.

·        The second-ever Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match featuring Charlotte, Natalya, Becky Lynch, Tamina, and Carmella will take place next week. Bryan snatched the briefcase out of Ellsworth’s hands before heading backstage.

·        A brawl broke out between the ladies which saw Charlotte and Becky corner Carmella in the middle of the ring. Charlotte nailed the woman formerly known as Ms. MITB with Natural Selection before Becky made her tap out to the Dis-Arm-Her for good measure as the segment came to an end.

·        Bryan made the right decision and the ladies will get another chance to have the match they should’ve had this past Sunday. James Ellsworth being banned from ringside would be an added bonus in order to keep things fire and square.

·        Jinder Mahal defeated Luke Harper with the Cobra Clutch Slam thanks to an assist from the Singh Brothers. The match was fine, but it was nothing to write home about.

·        Baron Corbin came out and teased MITB cash-in, but he was only playing mind games with Mahal. The distraction allowed Harper to get a near fall on the champ, but it wasn’t enough to get the win as Singh Brother A climbed on the ring apron to distract Harper. Harper tried to nail him with a Clothesline, but he ducked out of the way which led to the finish.

·        After the match was over, Randy Orton made his way to the ring and made a beeline for the Singh Brothers before attacking Mahal in the ring.

·        The action spilled to the outside as Orton nailed Mahal with a wicked clothesline before kicking his ass from pillar to post. Mahal escaped certain doom when The Singh Brothers attacked Orton. However, the reprieve was short-lived because Orton nailed Singh One and Singh Two with a pair of RKOs moments later. SD Live went off the air with Orton and Mahal having a stare down building up to their third WWE Championship match at Battleground next month.

·        This was a fine way to end the show. Orton showed great fire during his attack on Mahal and The Singh Brothers. Harper had a nice showing in the ring while Mahal got his first taste of being in the main event scene since winning the WWE Title at Backlash last month. If WWE is betting the house on the India market, they have to push the modern-day Maharaja to the hilt. This was a step in the right direction which should bode well for Mahal’s future until a certain free agent makes his return on July 4th.

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was middling at best. This was not a hot show after such a controversial Money in the Bank PPV. The women were spotlighted in a positive way, but the rest of the broadcast didn’t pop off the screen from an excitement standpoint.

·        WWE offering a mea culpa to fans by re-doing the Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match on free television is the smart thing to do. Hopefully, the redux will produce better results instead of another controversial finish for the sake of drumming up buzz on social media.

·        Also, The Hype Bros will face The Usos next week for the right to earn a shot at the SmackDown Tag Team Titles. Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley reminded Daniel Bryan that they won the Tag Team Battle Royal to become the number one contenders for the Tag Titles last December, but Ryder’s knee injury prevented them from going after the gold silver. Despite the team reuniting, something tells me that a Ryder heel turn is afoot. Rawley has achieved a lot of success while he was rehabbing his injury. Will a case of sour grapes ruin their partnership? Based on recent WWE history, the answer is yes. Please see the disintegration of Jeri-KO, The Golden Truth, DIY, and Enzo Amore and Big Cass as examples.

·        Plus, Naomi will face Lana for the SmackDown Women’s Championship next Tuesday. Their first outing was so-so, but we shall see if they can work out the kinks this time around. Fingers crossed!

·        Despite tonight’s so-so show, next week’s episode of SD Live looks stacked with the Women’s MITB Ladder Match being the main selling point. Let’s hope the blue brand delivers the goods as the return of John Cena looms on the horizon. Fingers crossed!

On that note, this wraps up another edition of The SmackDown Files. I hope you enjoyed it and I will back next week with a brand new installment of The Raw Exposé. See you later, boys and girls! 

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Raw Exposé: WWE Presents - Death of a Friendship II Starring Enzo Amore and Big Cass (6-19-2017)

By: Keila Cash

Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana. After WWE threw in the towel last week due to Game 5 of the NBA Finals, this was the perfect opportunity for the company to get back on track as the infamous July PPV rapidly approaches. Samoa Joe proved that he’s not scared of Brock Lesnar by going toe-to-toe with The Beast and walking away unscathed. Did the Samoan Badass continue his streak of dominance or did someone decide to rain on his parade? 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.

·        Raw kicked off with Roman Reigns’ announcement regarding his plans for Summerslam. Reigns wanted to face the winner of the Universal Championship match between Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe. He declared himself the number one contender because the ring was his yard now.

·        Samoa Joe came out and was offended that Reigns omitted his name from the title match. He was actually flattered because Reigns never beat him one-on-one. Reigns had a stinging line about how Samoa Joe didn’t live up his Samoan roots and called him “Just Joe” as an insult.

·        Joe headbutted Reigns and proceeded to toss him into the barricade before rolling him back in the ring.

·        He tried to lock in the Coquina Clutch but Reigns powered out of the hold and nailed Joe with a Superman Punch as the opening segment came to a close.

·        This was a good way to start the show. The talking was kept to a minimum as Reigns and Joe traded barbs while coming off like total badasses at the same time. Reigns being a cocky asshole is a good look for him. It generates instant heat whether he’s catering to his fanbase or deliberately pissing off hardcore fans who despise his character. WWE has found the perfect formula when it comes to presenting Reigns as a star who is a lightning rod who generates buzz wherever he goes. Here’s hoping the company stays the course because there is money to be made if they play their cards right.

·        Samoa Joe fending off claims that he is the black sheep of the Samoan Dynasty continues to fuel him in the best possible way. Joe is not only fighting for the Universal Title but his namesake as well. No one comes for his manhood and gets away with it. Brock Lesnar learned that lesson last week. Will Reigns suffer a similar fate? We shall find out later tonight.

·        The Hardy Boyz defeated Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows when Jeff Hardy pinned Gallows with the Swanton Bomb in a gusty match. Jeff played the babyface in peril until he laid out Anderson with the Whisper in the Wind. Matt made the hot tag and had things under control until Gallows sucker punched him. This allowed Gallows and Anderson to hit the Boot of Doom for a near fall. Jeff eventually made the blind tag as Gallows was about to take out Matt. Jeff saved his brother which set up the Twist of Fate/Swanton Bomb finish. Nice effort from both teams as WWE teased an Anderson and Gallows win only for them to pick up another loss. Again…

·        Random Observation: Bo Dallas has an amazing tan. And long luxurious hair. And a beard!

·        Finn Bálor defeated Bo Dallas with the Coup De Grace in a surprisingly competitive match. Dallas attacked Bálor before the match got underway which gave him the advantage early on. However, Bálor got back on offense by nailing Dallas with a wicked kick to the face before throwing him into the barricade for good measure. He rolled Dallas back in the ring and hit his Slingblade/Running Dropkick/Coup De Grace trifecta for the win. This was a nice showcase for Bálor while Dallas looked good for a grand total of two minutes before eating the pin.

·        Seth Rollins waxed poetically about being on the cover of WWE 2K18 while renouncing his greedy and egomaniacal ways from three years ago. Bray Wyatt didn’t buy Rollins’ nice guy act as he cut a promo from backstage. Wyatt hated the idea of Rollins being a corporate shill and vowed to make him pay for using his name in vain.

·        Wyatt made his way to the ring and was about to sacrifice Rollins for the greater good when Rollins laid him out with a crossbody from the top rope onto the floor. Rollins walked away while Wyatt tried to save face by smiling manically as the segment came to an end.

·        The promo exchange between Rollins and Wyatt was fine, but I am not emotionally invested in their feud because Wyatt has looked weak at every turn. He might gain the advantage every now and then, but he never wins the BIG ONE. Wyatt’s feud with Rollins will deliver similar results. It’s sad but true.

·        Elias Samson sent quite the message to Finn Bálor when he attacked Bálor from behind during his backstage interview with Charly Caruso. Samson warned Bálor never to upstage him again as D-Von shooed The Drifter away. I think it’s safe to pencil in Bálor vs. Samson at the July PPV That Shall Remain Nameless Unless Absolutely Necessary.

·        Akira Tozawa defeated TJP with a Senton from the top rope. The match was solid and Titus O’Neil added to Tozawa’s act by being his manager. If this is O’Neil’s career trajectory, why is he a heel?

·        Based on O’Neil’s rebuttal to Neville after the Cruiserweight Champion vowed to annihilate Tozawa if he continued to stick his nose where it didn’t belong, we might have our answer. O’Neil & Apollo Crews will face Sheamus & Cesaro in a nontitle match. Two heel teams going at it doesn’t make sense unless the creative team decided to turn O’Neil and Crews babyface. We shall find out soon enough.

·        Samoa Joe defeated Roman Reigns by putting him to sleep with the Coquina Clutch in a very good match. It was hard-hitting and physical throughout which made things even better. Joe had his best match to date since debuting on the main roster while Reigns continues to prove why he’s one of the best performers in WWE.

·        The counters and near falls were on point as Joe countered Reigns’ Spear attempt with a knee to the face followed by a modified Atomic Drop and Senton. It was a great sequence that popped the crowd something fierce.

·        Joe tried to finish Reigns off with The Coquina Clutch, but the Big Dog powered out and dropped Joe with a Spear. Joe put his foot on the rope for a near fall which heightened the drama even more.

·        Joe rolled out of the ring and barely made it back in the ring before the count of ten. Reigns was in position to hit him with another Spear until a beeping sound stopped the match in its tracks.

·        An ambulance was backing into the arena and lo and behold, BRAUN STROWMAN made his triumphant return to Raw. The distraction allowed Joe to lock in his submission hold for the win. 

·        After the match was over, Strowman made his way to the ring and reminded Reigns that he wasn’t finished with him yet. He laid him out with a Reverse Chokeslam and challenged the Big Dog to an Ambulance Match at the Fire of Great Balls PPV as the segment came to an end.

·        The match between Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns was great while Strowman’s return pushed things over the top. Joe continues to look strong while the epic Strowman-Reigns feud will come to a head next month. All in all, this was a great piece of business that made me look for to the July PPV That Shall Remain Nameless Unless Absolutely Necessary.

·        The Miz’s marriage might be on the rocks, but the night wasn’t a total loss as he recruited Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel to join his entourage. Dallas and Axel attacked Dean Ambrose from behind while they were disguised as a pair of bears.

·        Miz picked the bones as he laid out Ambrose with the Skull Crushing Finale to wrap up the apology segment from hell.

·        Sheamus and Cesaro defeated Apollo Crews and Titus O’Neil when Cesaro pinned Crews with an assisted White Noise. The match was fine, but the 10:30 Lull Period of Death started to set in as the crowd was muted for the most part.

·        That Brock Lesnar-Samoa Joe video package was everything. Lesnar talking shit about his opponents never gets old. If only he did it for the live audience on a regular basis. Hmm…

·        Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax ended via disqualification after Emma kicked Jax in the stomach after Alexa Bliss moved out of the way. Since Banks was DQ’d, she attacked Emma and Jax until Bliss intervened.

·        From there, all hell broke loose as Mickie James, Dana Brooke, and Bayley made the save. The babyface crew stood tall while the heels retreated up the ramp.

·        Bayley got a nice ovation which was refreshing to see. Based on the melee, expect a multi-woman match for Bliss’ Raw Women’s Title at the July PPV That Shall Remain Nameless Unless Absolutely Necessary.

·        The whodunit mystery involving Enzo Amore and Big Cass finally came to a head when Big Cass was revealed to be the culprit.

·        Kurt Angle interrogated The Big Show and The Revival but noted investigator Corey Graves provided visual proof that Big Cass was the man behind the backstage attacks.

·        Security footage revealed that Big Cass staged the attack from last week as Enzo looked on in shock. Cass admitted that he was the man who attacked Enzo from behind because he was tired of carrying his dead weight.

·        Cass took pity on Enzo because no one liked him. His big mouth was writing checks that his ass couldn’t cash. Cass ended their friendship and nailed Enzo with a big boot to the face. Raw went off the air with Cass standing tall on the main stage while Angle tended to Enzo in the ring.

·        This was an interesting way to end the show. Big Cass held his own on the mic while Enzo Amore did a wonderful job letting his facial expressions do the talking for him. He even cried on command which is pretty damn remarkable.

·        It sucks that the team is breaking up, but Enzo’s rebuttal should be a thing of beauty next week. If he’s able to convey his own thoughts, we might have a potential promo of the year contender on our hands. I still have trepidation about both men going solo because they complement each other so well on the mic and in the ring.

·        However, Vince McMahon sees dollar signs in Big Cass and we shall see how his singles push plays out. As for Enzo, he’s a better talker than a wrestler. His long-term goal should be managing other stars. Enzo has the gift of gab which will serve him well in the future.

·        On a more somber note, I think it’s safe to say that it’s been a rough year for friendships in WWE. L

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was solid. This was a nice bounce back show after last week’s ho-hum effort. The wrestling action ranged from decent to very good with Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe winning match of the night honors.

·        Braun Strowman returned and went back to what he does best: Destroying Reigns to no end. Their Ambulance Match at Great Balls of Fire the July PPV should be a spectacle, to say the least.

·        The third hour dragged a bit, but the closing segment ended things on a high note. Big Cass showed his true colors and it should be interesting to see how he fares as a solo star. Enzo’s big mouth will keep him employed for years to come. His in-ring work? Not so much.

·        WWE is doing a good job building up the Balls of Great Fire PPV. However, the company is 0-4 when it comes to producing quality PPVs post-WrestleMania season. The booking decisions at Payback, Backlash, Extreme Rules and Money in the Bank have been atrocious. Here’s hoping they get their act together next month by booking a show that makes sense from a wrestling and storytelling standpoint. If not, the streak will extend to 0-5 which is a damn shame coming from the biggest wrestling promotion in the world.

On that note, this wraps up another edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back tomorrow night with a brand new installment of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls!