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!