By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. As Americans enjoy the extended 4th of July holiday, WWE is gearing up for an epic event two months in the making. The first-ever Great Balls of Fire PPV will take place this Sunday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. It’s a slice of Americana with a side order of Jerry Lee Lewis for good measure.
The show is stacked with Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman in an Ambulance Match while Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe face off for the Universal Championship. Both matches have been promoted brilliantly thus far. Did WWE push the hype machine into overdrive or did the company take the hold steady approach instead? 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.
· Enzo Amore cut the promo of his life to kick off Raw. Enzo was on fire as he talked about getting knocked down and knocked out literally since his debut on the main roster last year. Through it all, the fans were behind him while Big Cass never had his back in the first place. Instead of standing behind Enzo, Cass walked through him in order to get ahead.
· Enzo confessed that he had confidence, but that’s what makes him special. He was grateful for every fun that bought his t-shirt, rocked a chain necklace, and donned a wig while emulating his signature dance. He was some next level 2Pac shit with all eyes being on him.
· Enzo called Cass a 7-foot catchphrase that he created who would draw zero dimes during the next WWE quarterly report. He wanted to drive that point home during their match at the July PPV That Shall Remain Nameless Unless Absolutely Necessary.
· Charly Caruso interviewed Big Cass backstage as he laughed off Enzo’s comments by stating that he was the star who had money written all over him. As he was going on his tirade, Enzo attacked him from behind which was quite poetic in a lot of ways. WWE officials quickly broke things up as the opening segment came to an end.
· This was a hot way to start the show. As I mentioned last week, I thought Enzo didn’t deliver a breakthrough performance on the mic when it came to mending fences with Cass. After Enzo was betrayed for the second time, the gloves came off as he delivered a money promo that captivated the audience from start to finish. There were no “What?” chants to throw him off his game. He was in the zone and spitting bars which might’ve helped The Usos and The New Day prepare for the rap battle tomorrow night on SD Live, but I digress.
· Enzo is not the best wrestler in the world, but his promo skills will keep him employed for life. His match against Big Cass should result in a loss, but I expect the Certified G to put up a fight.
· Sasha Banks minus Bayley defeated Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss when Banks made Bliss tap out to the Bank Statement. Jax took Bayley out of the match when she laid her out with a running charge into the barricade. Banks was left to fend for herself as she clawed her way back into the thick of things. The submission win hints at Bliss retaining the Raw Women’s Championship at the July PPV That Shall Remain Nameless Unless Absolutely Necessary, but we shall see how it all plays out on Sunday.
· Cedric Alexander defeated Noam Dar he drilled him with the Lumbar Check for the win. The match was fine, but it lacked crowd heat. The never-ending love triangle between Cedric Alexander, Noam Dar, and Alicia Fox makes the quadrangle featuring Rusev, Lana, Dolph Ziggler, and Summer Rae from a couple years seem like Nicholas Sparks film in comparison. That’s faint praise…
· Miz TV featured a few truth bombs from The Miz as he correctly noted that Dean Ambrose wilted under the pressure during his reign as WWE Champion last year. His lackadaisical attitude didn’t go unnoticed as Stone Cold Steve Austin and John Cena threw verbal barbs his way at every turn. Even though Miz is a heel, no lies were told during his promo which makes Ambrose look bad in hindsight.
· Ambrose came out and owned up to his shortcomings, but he wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty as he threatened to kick Miz’s ass despite Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas running interference on their boss’ behalf.
· Heath Slater came out and challenged Miz for the Intercontinental Championship since he was the last man to pin him. Most importantly, Slater needed to prove to his kids that he can win the big win. Ambrose appreciated the sentiment but told Slater to head to the back of the line because he has next dibs on the IC Title.
· Miz told both men to shut up and stated that he was heading to a Fourth of July party in Hollywood when Kurt Angle appeared on the main stage. Angle announced that Miz would defend his IC Title against both men. Ambrose would face the winner of Miz vs. Slater for the IC Title at the Fire of Great Balls PPV which took place after the commercial break.
· The Miz retained the Intercontinental Championship when he defeated Heath Slater with the Skull Crushing Finale in a solid match. Slater put up a good fight and it appeared he had the match won when he took out Miz with a powerslam from the top rope. However, Axel and Dallas provided the distraction which caused Rhyno to get involved. Rhyno took out Axel and was about to go after Dallas when Maryse got in the way. This allowed the Miztourage to slam Rhyno head first into the ring post.
· Slater’s concern for his tag team partner allowed Miz to hit his finisher for the win. The heels continued to attack Slater until Ambrose made the save. He tried to nail Miz with Dirty Deeds, but the A-Lister made a run for it. Ambrose went after him, but he was blindsided by the Miztourage. Miz picked the bones when he laid him out with the Skull Crushing Finale as the segment came to an end with Miz and Maryse sharing a kiss on the ring apron.
· This was a fine way to forward the Miz-Ambrose feud as we head into the PPV on Sunday. Their never ending saga for the Intercontinental Title will finally come to an end. Hopefully…
· R-Truth got a measure of revenge when he attacked Goldust during the world premiere of The Shattered Truth. To say the film won’t be eligible for any film festivals would be an understatement.
· The Hardy Boyz-Cesaro & Sheamus feud will come to a head when they face off in a 30-Minute Ironman Match for the Raw Tag Team Championship at the Great Fire of Balls PPV on Sunday. Also, Angle booked Cesaro in a match against Finn Bálor for later tonight. If both men are given enough time to shine, we could be in for a treat. Fingers crossed!
· Thanks for coming, Curt Hawkins. For some inane reason, Hawkins wanted to face Seth Rollins two weeks in a row. He ate a knee to the face for his efforts. Poor thing.
· After the match was over, Rollins cut a promo on Bray Wyatt as he vowed to cleanse Wyatt’s mystic of being a God at the July PPV That Shall Remain Nameless Unless Absolutely Necessary. The promo was fine, but this feud is not striking a resonant chord with me because I’ve been through this song and dance before. Wyatt talks a big game, but he can’t back it up in the ring. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. I doubt his feud with Rollins will buck that trend. It’s sad but true.
· In the greatest split screen confrontation ever, Samoa Joe and Brock Lesnar traded insults that had me rolling. Both men were brimming with confidence ahead of their Universal Championship match at The Fire of Great Balls PPV.
· Joe got fed up with Lesnar’s blasé attitude and decided to hunt down The Beast. He roamed the backstage area until he ran into Kurt Angle and his security detail. Joe ignored Angle’s plea and found Lesnar and Paul Heyman’s hiding place. He charged after them, but security held him back as Lesnar and Heyman shared egged him on.
· This was another stellar segment that continues to highlight the awesomeness of the Joe-Lesnar feud. They are two badasses who don’t give a damn about anyone or anything. Lesnar taking Joe lightly might be a mistake based on his recent history with Goldberg, but I still expect a slobber knocker of a match come Sunday.
· Neville picked up a decisive win over Mustafa Ali when he made Ali tap out to the Rings of Saturn in a lopsided match. This was a great showcase for Neville as he dominated Ali throughout. Outside of a beautiful Spiking DDT from Ali, this was the Neville Show. In terms of getting a maintenance win heading into the July PPV That Shall Remain Nameless Unless Absolutely Necessary, this was perfection from start to finish.
· Bray Wyatt’s promo was sleek and ominous as always. Despite a little zest added to the filet mignon, I remain uninspired by his feud with Seth Rollins. L
· Finn Bálor defeated Cesaro with the Coup De Grace in a very good match. Despite being slotted in the 10:30 P.M. Lull Period of Death, both men rose to the occasion and delivered the best match on the show.
· The action was hard-hitting throughout as everyone and their mama got involved down the stretch.
· Bálor was about to nail Cesaro with a running dropkick when Elias Samson made his way to the ring while strumming a tune on his guitar. The distraction allowed Cesaro to nail Bálor with a flying European Uppercut for a near fall. As the numbers game began to overwhelm Bálor, The Hardy Boyz made the save. They attacked Samson while Sheamus and Cesaro tried to intervene. Bálor took everyone out with a flip dive on the outside which caused all hell to break loose.
· Matt dropped Samson with a Twist of Fate but ate a Brogue Kick by Sheamus seconds later. Jeff laid out Sampson with a dive only to get nailed with an Uppercut by Cesaro. Bálor saved the day when he dropped The Swiss Superman with a running dropkick into the barricade before hitting his finisher for the win.
· Chaos aside, this was a fun match that popped the crowd once things broke out into melee. The match would’ve been more effective if it took place earlier in the show, but WWE killed two birds with one stone by hyping the 30-Minute Ironman Match between The Hardy Boyz and Sheamus and Cesaro and the presumed one-on-one bout featuring Balor vs. Samson.
· Braun Strowman defeated Apollo Crews when he laid him out with three Running Powerslams. Strowman even licked Crews’ bald head to put an exclamation point on things.
· Crews never had a prayer, but he put up a good fight. Crews tried to hit a standing moonsault only for Strowman to kick him halfway across the ring while he was mid-rotation. It was the sickest spot of the match with the announcers responding accordingly by going out of their minds.
· After the match was over, Strowman attempted a fourth Running Powerslam on Crews only for Titus O’Neil to pull him out of harm’s way. O’Neil and Strowman went face-to-face with Strowman taking out the founder of Titus Worldwide with his finisher.
· Strowman continued his attack on Crews before throwing him in the back of the ambulance. He gave the vehicle the all-clear to roll out of the arena, but it didn’t move. Noticing that something was amiss, Strowman went to the front of the ambulance to confront the driver. He opened the door and was immediately hit with a right hand by Roman Reigns. Reigns had Strowman on the ropes until the big man regained control when he slammed Reigns’ head into the back of the ambulance before tossing him against the railing.
· He chucked The Big Dog onto the stage and was about to finish him off when Reigns rammed Strowman against the LED board. This gave Reigns the opening he needed as he speared Strowman off the main stage and through a table.
· However, Strowman got back on his feet as Raw went off the air with Michael Cole wondering whether or not Reigns had what it takes to win the Ambulance Match on Sunday.
· This was a great way to end the show. The spear off the main stage was a great spot as both men crashed and burned on the outside. However, Strowman got back on his feet which took the sails out of Reigns’ momentum heading into Great Balls of Fire. Their Ambulance Match should a classic if it’s booked properly. Here’s hoping Reigns and Strowman get the job done.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw was decent at best. The in-ring action was middling for the most part with the exception of Finn Balor vs. Cesaro and Braun Strowman vs. Apollo Crews which took place during the final hour.
· WWE did a nice job putting the finishing touches on the Fire of Great Balls PPV, but the bulk of the go-home show took place last week in Los Angeles. Based on the hype and promotion, this has the potential to be a very good PPV. However, the booking will tell the true story come Sunday. Can the creative team end the streak of lackluster PPVs? We shall find out soon enough.
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. Happy 4th of July, boys and girls!