Monday, July 31, 2017

The Raw Exposé: The Steel City Blues Edition (7-31-2017)

By: Keila Cash

Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh is the Atlanta of professional wrestling when it comes to sleepy crowds being doused with ZzzQuil. Aware of this sobering fact, WWE front-loaded the show with a Triple Threat Match featuring Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe. Will this marquee bout keep the crowd awake or put them in a deep slumber 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.

·        Kurt Angle ran down tonight’s agenda and was about to bid the fans farewell when Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman came out to air the grievances about Lesnar being forced to defend his Universal Championship in a Fatal Four Way Match against Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns, and Samoa Joe at SummerSlam.

·        Heyman could see through Angle’s scam and admired his strategy of setting The Beast up for failure. If Lesnar lost the Universal Title, he would leave WWE with Heyman in tow. After all, the ULTIMATE opportunity awaited them if they decided to walk away. However, Heyman vowed that Lesnar would do the improbable and retain his title which would negate any threat of them leaving the company as the opening segment came to an end.

·        This was a good way to start the show. WWE did a nice job acknowledging the Lesnar-UFC rumors which have been running rampant over the past couple of weeks. It wasn’t explicit, but Heyman saying the word “ultimate” gave fans some food for thought heading into the PPV.

·        The Hardy Boyz defeated Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows when Jeff Hardy pinned Gallows with the Swanton Bomb in a solid tag team match. Anderson and Gallows targeted Jeff’s left shoulder which caused him to play the babyface in peril for a large chunk of the match until he made the hot tag to Matt.

·        Matt cleaned house, but he was almost dropped with The Magic Killer until Jeff made the save. The Hardys eventually gained the upper hand as Matt laid out Gallows with the Twist of Fate followed by Jeff hitting his finisher for the win moments later.

·        After the match was over, Matt and Jeff exchanged words with The Revival before both teams brawled on the main stage. Anderson and Gallows joined the party which caused all hell to break loose.

·        Matt nailed Scott Dawson and Luke Gallows with a pair Twist of Fates on the stage before Jeff laid out Dash Wilder and Karl Anderson with Whisper in the Wind onto the floor as the segment came to an end.

·        The Hardys execution of the Twist of Fate is very similar to the Stone Cold Stunner based on how certain opponents have been selling the move since their return. It’s a little distracting, to say the least.

·        The melodrama surrounding Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins continues as Ambrose is still apprehensive when it comes to forgiving his former Shield brother. Renee Young beaming at a possible reunion was a nice touch. Perhaps she could be the mediator to bring Ambrose and Rollins back together.

·        Meanwhile, Cesaro and Sheamus bragged about their partnership while making fun of Rollins for being friendless due to his past mistakes. Rollins snapped and challenged either man to a match which will take place later tonight. Sheamus was more than willing to accept the challenge. The Tag Team Division is heating up!

·        Cedric Alexander, Rich Swann, and Akira Tozawa defeated Tony Nese, TJP, and Ariya Daivari when Tozawa pinned TJP with a Senton from the top rope in a solid match. The action was fast paced and the crowd was somewhat awake. By Cruiserweight Division standards, this was a success.

·        Jason Jordan’s new theme music sucks…

·        After Jason Jordan turned down The Miz’s offer at being his mentor, Miz decided to go below the belt by calling Kurt Angle a washed up jock who was hired as the Raw General Manager out of pity. Jordan warned Miz that he would kick his ass if he continued to bad mouth his father. Miz pretended to talk strategy with Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel as he tried to ambush Jordan.

·        His plan backfired when Jordan dropped Miz with an Overhead Belly-to-Belly Suplex which sent him crashing into his Miztourage. Jordan made a swift exit as the heels were left seething in the ring as the segment came to an end.

·        Miz TV was fine, but it was nothing special. Miz generated easy heel heat while Jason Jordan kept his comments short and sweet. Jordan’s promos need some work because he’s scripted like a goody two-shoes who is too good to be true. Minor criticism aside, this was a decent way to tease Jordan vs. Miz for the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam.

·        Seth Rollins defeated Sheamus with a roll-up, but he didn’t get a chance to celebrate as Cesaro attacked him from behind. Sheamus joined in on the beat down as the fans chanted for Dean Ambrose.

·        Cesaro and Sheamus laid out Rollins with White Noise before leaving the ring. Noticing that Rollins was beginning to stir, they decided to go on the attack once again.

·        Ambrose made the save, but the numbers game caught up to him as well. With Rollins out of commission, Ambrose was in a tough spot as Cesaro dropped him with the Neutralizer. The Swiss Superman ripped Ambrose’s t-shirt off and wrapped it around his face which allowed Sheamus to nail him with a Brogue Kick for good measure as the Raw Tag Team Champions headed backstage.

·        The match between Sheamus and Rollins was okay, but the post-match beat down of Rollins and Ambrose told the true story.

·        This feud was hinted at last week when Cesaro and Sheamus watched Ambrose and Rollins’ 2-on-3 handicap match against Miz and his Miztourage.

·        WWE is doing a nice job milking the Ambrose-Rollins reunion for all its worth. It’s smart to give the fans breadcrumbs instead of delivering the whole enchilada at once. SummerSlam seems like the perfect place for a reconciliation to take place. Hmm...

·        Bray Wyatt talked about destroying Finn Bálor and other assorted nonsense until Bálor magically appeared in the ring with his back turned to Wyatt while doing the Chris Jericho pose for some reason.

·        Wyatt found this amusing and tried to attack him from behind, but he got nailed with an overhead kick for his troubles.

·        Bálor drop kicked Wyatt over the barricade as the segment came to an end with the Demon King standing tall in the ring.

·        For a split second, I thought Bálor was going to show up with his body painted up. WWE is saving that moment for SummerSlam. Hopefully…

·        Roman Reigns defeated Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman when he pinned Joe with the Spear in a good Triple Threat Match. This was not a barn burner by any stretch of the imagination as it was clear from the opening bell that the wrestlers were holding back their best stuff for SummerSlam. The crowd was still hot for the match as all three men got a chance to shine throughout.

·        It appeared that Strowman had the match won because he was about to lay out Reigns with the steel steps, but Reigns nailed him with a Superman Punch instead. Reigns grabbed the steps in order to ram Strowman out of the ring which led to the aforementioned finish.

·        This is Reigns’ first win over Joe which gives him a lot of momentum heading into SummerSlam. I wished the announcers drove that point home because Joe has had Reigns’ number since his debut on the main roster earlier this year. Moments like this should be sold to the hilt, but they dropped the ball at the one-yard line. Here’s hoping Joe goes ballistic next week to show that he cares about wins and losses. Who am I kidding? That would never happen in the land of 50/50 booking.

·        Elias dropped his last name. He’s so fancy…

·        Elias defeated Kalisto with a Swinging Neckbreaker in a serviceable match. The 10:00 P.M. Lull Period of Death is starting to set in.

·        Bayley defeated Nia Jax via count out in a one-sided match that favored Jax for the most part. Jax targeted Bayley’s shoulder which caused the Hugger Extraordinaire to sell for a prolonged period of time. I got a chuckle out of Jax putting her hair in a ponytail to mock Bayley, though.

·        Bayley gained the upper hand until Alexa Bliss tried to attack her from behind. Bayley pounced on Bliss until Jax slung her against the barricade.

·        Bayley managed to sidestep Jax as the powerhouse slammed against the steel steps which led to the count out victory.

·        The match was fine, but the crowd has been doused with Ambien for the last 30 minutes or so.

·        Big Cass defeated Big Show via Disqualification when Enzo Amore jumped Big Cass from behind. However, the moment was fleeting when Cass nailed Enzo with a Big Boot.

·        He taunted Enzo while Big Show was trying to gather his bearings in the corner. Cass charged after Big Show but got rocked with the Knockout Punch as Raw went off the air with Big Show dragging Enzo’s limp body up the ramp.

·        Big Cass vs. Big Show was fine, but it wasn’t worthy of being in the main event spot. The crowd was dead with the exception of Enzo doing some cheerleading at ringside. However, WWE played it smart by not giving away the finish on free television because Big Show and Cass will probably face off in the Battle of the 7 Footers at SummerSlam. Oh, joy! *Insert Sarcasm Here*

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was middling at best. The Pittsburgh crowd lived up to their reputation for being sleepy during the third hour while trying their best to hold it together during the first two hours.

·        There were a couple of good matches on the show, but the in-ring action was pretty blah for the most part.

·        The slow burn reconciliation between Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose is the best storyline in WWE while the main event and tag team scene is on fire at the moment.

·        The mid-card is so-so, but there is a clear sense of direction heading into SummerSlam which balances things out. This doesn’t erase the fact that tonight’s show was a chore to get through which hasn’t been the case in recent weeks.

·        Things should be better next week as Raw emanates from Toronto. The crowd is usually hot which should liven things up a bit. However, it’s up to WWE to deliver the goods since it’s the penultimate episode before the go-home show the following week. Let’s hope they 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!  

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