By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin. A lot has changed since last week’s blog. The entire complexion of TLC changed when Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt were pulled from the PPV due to a viral infection. WWE delivered a major make-good by replacing Wyatt with Styles for the first-ever match against Finn Bálor while Kurt Angle filled in for Roman Reigns as he joined Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins in a 5-on-3 battle against The Miz, Sheamus, Cesaro, Braun Strowman, and Kane. It turned a run-of-the-mill show into a must-see event that exceeded expectations.
The focus now switches to Survivor Series as the battle for brand supremacy heats up as Raw and SmackDown Live go to war for the second year in a row. Will the latest incarnation of Bragging Rights live up to the hype or die on the vine instead? The answer to that question can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s show in no particular order.
· Kurt Angle kicked off the show by announcing several Raw vs. SmackDown matches at Survivor Series next month which will feature four Champion vs. Champion bouts along with two Traditional Five-on-Five Elimination Matches showcasing the best male and female talent from both shows. The lineup is as follows:
· Alexa Bliss vs. Natalya (Raw Women’s Champion vs. SmackDown Women’s Champion), The Miz vs. Baron Corbin (Intercontinental Champion vs. United States Champion), Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose vs. The Usos (Raw Tag Team Champions vs SmackDown Tag Team Champions), and Brock Lesnar vs. Jinder Mahal (Universal Champion vs. WWE Champion).
· Before Angle could continue, The Miz came out to blast Angle for hogging the spotlight at TLC and wanted him to resign as Raw General Manager. Angle scoffed at the notion which caused Miz, Sheamus, Cesaro, and Curtis Axel to circle the ring like a bunch of sharks.
· Ambrose and Rollins made their way to through the crowd to provide Angle with some backup. Miz chided The Shield for selling out to upper management and warned them that he still had the numbers advantage.
· Angle evened the odds by booking a Six-Man Tag Team Match featuring The Miz, Sheamus, and Cesaro vs. The Shield and AJ STYLES which took place after the commercial break.
· This was a hot way to start the show. The lineup for Survivor Series is pretty meh so far due to the underwhelming heel vs. heel matchups with exception of the tag team match featuring Ambrose and Rollins vs. The Usos. They should have the best match on the show unless one of the Traditional Five-on-Five Elimination bouts edges them out.
· Lesnar vs. Mahal should be the usual five-minute showcase for Lesnar unless The Singh Brothers get involved to delay the inevitable when it comes to Mahal eating the pin. Outside of that, the PPV card feels pretty blasé on paper at the moment. Here’s hoping WWE can sprinkle some magic dust on the proceedings because Brand Wars 2017 feels like a retread from last year for all the wrong reasons.
· Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and AJ Styles defeated The Miz, Sheamus, and Cesaro when Styles nailed Cesaro with the Phenomenal Forearm for the win. The action was fast-paced and hard-hitting throughout as fans clamored for Styles to get the hot tag. Rollins gave them what they wanted as Styles cleaned house. The match broke down into a parade of finishers which set up the ending beautifully.
· The babyfaces didn’t get a chance to celebrate as Kane made his way to down to the ring. They charged after the Big Red Machine, but he laid them out with the greatest of ease as Miz, Sheamus, and Cesaro joined in on the quadruple beat down. Realizing that Kane had his own agenda, Miz and his crew left him alone in the ring as the segment came to an end.
· After another break, Kane explained why he attacked and seemingly destroyed Braun Strowman by tossing him in the back of a garbage truck at TLC last night. He was upset that people were calling Strowman a monster and wanted to see how mean and ugly he really was. Kane was unimpressed and called him a piece of trash that got what he deserved. There was only room for one monster in WWE and he challenged anyone backstage to prove him wrong. Finn Bálor stepped up the plate and accepted the challenge which took place after the break.
· Kane defeated Finn Bàlor after dropping him with three Chokeslams in a fairly lopsided match. The booking made sense in terms of making Kane look strong, but it hurt Bàlor because he got punked out in decisive fashion. After having a show-stealing match against AJ Styles at TLC last night, Bàlor should’ve had a stronger showing to build momentum for Survivor Series next month. The whole thing was mindboggling to watch. Here’s hoping Kurt Angle still adds him to the men’s Survivor Series team because he should be the captain despite the questionable booking.
· Shane McMahon made a surprise appearance as he and Kurt Angle had a friendly verbal joust leading up Brand Wars 2017. It was a cute segment and I can’t help but notice Shane’s hard nipples through his tight sweater. Just saying…
· Asuka made Emma tap out the Asuka Lock in an underwhelming match. I partially blame WWE for showing the Green Bay Packers at ringside which led to a “Go Pack Go!” chant. Due to the fans cheering on their hometown team, it completely killed Asuka’s babyface pop. Throw in Emma inexplicably dominating the action and we have the recipe for a cold debut for the Empress of Tomorrow. At least their match last night was more evenly matched instead of Asuka selling 80% of the time. Here’s hoping this is a blip on the radar because too many NXT call-ups have been botched over the past couple of years. Asuka is too good to be squandered, but history has shown that WWE is capable of fucking up a good thing. Prime Example: Bayley’s Babyface Run.
· Alexa Bliss felt disrespected and underappreciated and demanded that the fans shower her with a “You Deserve It!” chant The crowd didn’t play along as she went into meltdown mode as she claimed the fans didn’t like her because she wasn’t old with a three-year-old like Mickie James.
· James came out and nailed Bliss with a wicked DDT while wearing high heel boots. She is the exception to the Trish Stratus Rule when it comes to doing wrestling moves while wearing fancy footwear. James grabbed the mic and told Bliss that she deserved it which was a clever way to end the segment.
· Jason Jordan defeated Elias via Disqualification when Elias smashed Jordan’s shoulder with his guitar in a sick spot. Booker T condoned The Drifter’s actions which caused Corey Graves to go off on Booker for being an idiot. The whole thing was a hot mess, but Jordan earned style points for being more aggressive in the ring which was refreshing to see.
· Paul Heyman has zero respect for Jinder Mahal and he read the WWE Champion for filth as he called him a pretender who didn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Triple H, and John Cena.
· Lesnar wasn’t interested in representing Raw because any show he’s a part of is automatically the best. Therefore, Heyman warned Mahal that a trip to Suplex City was in his future as Lesnar reasserted his dominance as the undisputed Beast, Conqueror, and Universal Champion of the World.
· As an added bonus, Heyman stated that Mahal would be victimized like Randy Orton at SummerSlam last year when Lesnar broke every moral code in WWE by busting Orton’s forehead open by elbowing him repeatedly. It was a violent spot that caused an uproar in both locker rooms. Heyman informed the modern-day Maharaja that he would suffer a similar fate as the segment came to an end.
· Heyman was passionate and borderline apoplectic as he ran down Mahal for being a paper champion who didn’t deserve to breathe the same rarefied air as Lesnar. Mahal’s response should be very interesting, but I doubt it will hold much water if Heyman continues to demolish him on the mic.
· The Triple Threat Match featuring Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Alicia Fox ended in a shocker when Fox pinned Bayley as she became the team captain of the Women’s Traditional Five-on-Five Elimination Match at Survivor Series. Banks defeated Fox three times in a row over the past couple of weeks, but the Crazy Fox Lady gets the golden goose egg instead. Fox’s crazy gimmick is fine in small doses, but her overacting gets on my nerves. To say that I am rooting for ladies on Team SmackDown Live would be an understatement. Go Blue!
· Gran Metalik, Mustafa Ali, Cedric Alexander, and Kalisto defeated Drew Gulak, Tony Nese, Ariya Daivari, Noam Dar, and Enzo Amore when Kalisto dropped Enzo with the Salina Del Sol for the win. The match was decent, the Cruiserweights being slotted in the 10:30 p.m. Lull Period of Death did them no favors in terms of crowd heat. It’s back to business as usual when it comes to the bastardization of the beleaguered purple brand. It’s sad but true.
· Raw ended on a shocking note when Shane McMahon led a SmackDown Live invasion which saw the blue brand decimate the Raw roster as Kurt Angle was forced to watch the carnage unfold.
· The New Day were the ringleaders as they ambushed everyone backstage from Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows to Finn Bálor and Matt Hardy.
· Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Carmella and Natalya, and Tamina destroyed the ladies from Team Raw in quick fashion.
· The Shield tried to fight back, but it was to no avail as the numbers game caught up to them. Baron Corbin grabbed Kurt Angle and made him watch the onslaught unfold before escorting Angle to the ring with the blue crew in tow.
· Shane McMahon told Angle to bring his Olympic Gold Medal and what’s left of Team Raw to Survivor Series so SD Live can finish the job as the show went off the air with Angle looking shell-shocked in the ring.
· This was an interesting way to end the show. Shane McMahon’s sweet and innocent demeanor was a ruse to lure Kurt Angle into a false sense of security. The invasion worked in the literal sense, but the segment died a thousand deaths live. The crowd didn’t hold up their end of the bargain when it came to pushing the ambush over the top. They were absolutely dead for everything that happened backstage and in the ring. Raw vs. SmackDown might seem big to WWE, but the fans couldn’t care less about both shows jockeying for brand supremacy. It’s a concept that has failed on numerous occasions. See Bragging Rights 2009-2010.
· Unless there are real stakes on the line when it comes to trades, the whole thing is pointless. Despite these valid criticisms, the Green Bay crowd giving a fuck might’ve saved the segment. Instead, they provided the death knell with four weeks to go until the PPV which is a damn shame. There’s still time to salvage things, but the company had one shot to make Brand Wars 2017 feel special and their fan base let them down something fierce.
· Despite the disappointing conclusion, WWE was smart not to include Sami Zayn as a proud member of Team SD Live after Zayn put the screws to Shane McMahon at Hell in a Cell a couple of weeks ago. At least there was some sense of storyline continuity heading into tomorrow night’s show. Whew!
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was subpar at best. The first hour of the show was hot, but the rest of the broadcast couldn’t keep up in terms of excitement. The main event segment was good in concept but failed in execution. The Green Bay crowd was lukewarm and their total apathy towards the SmackDown Live invasion was pretty damning. If this happened in any other city not named Pittsburgh or Atlanta, it would’ve gotten over despite the tired Raw vs. SmackDown brouhaha. Here’s hoping the creative team can get things back on track because this was an underwhelming first shot leading up to Survivor Series next month.
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!