Raw Thoughts- Good Guy Joe Saves HHH's Kids From A Home Invasion
Welcome to Monday Night Raw! ...Can't believe it's taken me this long to use that opening. More accurately, it's Saturday Night Raw. Using the weekend to catch up on wrestling between friends and family stuff. I'm also trying a new method of writing this blog where I pause after each segment to write my thoughts on it, rather than watching the whole show then going from there. The only reason I bring it up is that it may change my style of writing. Then again, it may not. Let's see how we go.
-Opening the show with the Universal Champion, Kevin Owens. Refreshing to see the show open without the top face, Roman Reigns, or the top heel, Stephanie McMahon. Yeah, I see plenty wrong with that sentence, too. So, KO opens the show by passionately declaring himself the man, the guy, the one, before acknowledging that he did have some help defending his title at the Royal Rumble, so thanks... Chris Jericho, who of course accompanied his best friend to the ring for this segment. In classic humble Jericho fashion, Y2J says he doesn't like to brag... but just this once he's going to make an exception and brag. While he touts his achievement of the most combined time in the Royal Rumble in history (over 4 hours, including a 61 minute effort in this year's edition), he is interrupted by the roar of Braun Strowman's music.
-Side note, Jericho would have totally won the whole Rumble if not for the vertigo suffered in the shark cage during the Universal title match. Despite almost pulling a Jerry Lawler with the time spent out of the ring during the Rumble match.
-Another side note, Jericho does an excellent job of naturally speaking until Braun's interruption. Too many wrestlers, from rookies to veterans, unnaturally pause waiting for the person's theme music to hit.
-Mr Country Strong isn't here for thanks for his role in the title match, oh no. He wants the title shot Owens promised him, and gets the monkeys in the truck to pull up the footage of a segment from several weeks ago. Nice continuity. Despite KO's protestations, Mick Foley comes out to make the match official for later in the show.
-Chris Jericho stays in the ring, because he's in the opening match vs. Sami Zayn. This is a match up I love, and at first, I thought this was their first one-on-one meeting. A Google Search reveals to me that they actually wrestled at Clash of Champions last year. In my defense, I was on a holiday in the US and didn't give that PPV my full attention. Anyway, both guys start well considering their lengthy stints in the Rumble- Saxton finally says something of value, pointing out that Y2J did spend a great deal of time on the floor in that match. Both men do a great job of creating the illusion of a fast pace with some smooth, but deliberate chain wrestling, followed by baseball slides in lieu of suicide dives. Zayn hits a moonsault off the barricade- captured by a pretty cool camera angle basically from the ringside fan's POV- to accelerate the match pace. It becomes a battle of avoiding each other's big moves. Zayn counters the Walls, Jericho dodges attempts at the Helluva Kick and the torpedo DDT. Jericho kicks out of the Blue Thunder Bomb- and despite Zayn never winning a match with that move, he does a good job in altering the way he covers Jericho to create a sense of hope. Later, Jericho locks in the Walls, and Zayn's selling is on point, writhing in a convincing manner like he's about to tap. Sami escapes and shortly after hits the exploder suplex, the usual prelude for the Helluva Kick. Third attempt is the charm, and Sami Zayn pins the US champ in this non-title scrap! Two total pros setting the tone nicely for Raw, excellent work.
-A look back at the Seth Rollins-Triple H feud via WWE's usual top notch video packages. My main takeaway from it was the reminder of how awesome that NXT Takeover angle was.
-Backstage with Stephanie McMahon on the phone. Love her outfit, suit jacket over a sheer top, it says- I'm a successful businesswoman, and I have nice titties. Kevin Owens enters and is mad about Mick Foley making the Universal Title match with Strowman. Steph agrees that it's unfair. Ooooh.
-Cruiserweight time! The nature of Raw means that we only get the greatness of Austin Aries in small doses, but he maximises his time with the astute observation that with a new CW champ crowned in Neville, all the other cruisers are jockeying for position to be the next top contender. Two of my favourite cruisers go one-on-one as Tony Nese faces Mustafa Ali. Ali hits some of his trademark flashy stuff before taking a nasty fall from the top rope, leading to a big Nese knee and a big Nese win. Looks like the machine is getting behind the Premier Athlete. Aries gets some more screen time by interviewing Nese, and takes some jabs at his perceived lack of charisma. Hmm, doesn't seem the best way to get a new star over. Maybe the machine's a little rusty.
-Time for the Seth/Steph confrontation. Big time pop for Rollins, bigger reaction than I've heard for him for a while, which leads me to think they may have shown the crowd the awesome video package from earlier. They do a nice job make Seth look like a rebel in all aspects, allowing him to say to Steph, "suck it up", calling her "babe" and making a joke about her and Triple H's "disappointing" love life. Seth's hitting notes here that could believably hit nerves, and Stephanie does a nice job angrily demanding an apology, to which the crowd responds with a loud "NO!" chant. Man, they're into this. Seth says sorry... for exposing Triple H as a coward, and with a ton of conviction, says, "I'm the biggest threat to his legacy." I don't believe it, but I sure believe that he believes it, which is the most important thing. Rollins invaded NXT, maybe next he invades WWE Headquarters. Maybe he goes to Triple H's house. He's got nothing left to lose. This angers Steph enough to confess that she lied in the beginning of her promo... Triple H is on his way to the arena! Other than Seth's implied threat to HHH's kids, that was a really good segment. Both Stephanie and Rollins played their parts extremely well.
-Mixed tag match- Cesaro/Sheamus/Bayley vs. Gallows/Anderson/Charlotte. I still haven't watched the Rumble Pre-Show where Gallows & Anderson won the titles, need to get on that. The new Raw tag belts are my favourite of the newly designed belts, maybe just because I hated the old copper ones so much. So, Cesaro returned from shoulder injury a good year ago now, why is it still taped up? The tag champs and their rivals carry the bulk of the match, and the ladies get tagged in for the finish. Outside of a brief Cesaro slip, good crisp action. One point of annoyance- at one point, Charlotte hits Sheamus, and he does nothing but awkwardly pause until Bayley shoves her out of the ring. The message sent- via quasi-heel Graves, but not refuted by the faces- Charlotte was brave to do that to Sheamus. We know in the world of WWE, Sheamus isn't going to hit her, so why even travel down that road? Had Sheamus retaliated, it would have been a huge no-no, but there was no real problem with Charlotte hitting him. Women are equal, can hit men, but men can never hit women. In the context of a wrestling match, you pick one angle and go for it- either intergender physicality is good for all, or nobody does it. Really infuriating double standard that no one blinks an eye at... and really, it's a societal problem bigger than WWE, so since it's not strictly about WWE, I'm going to leave it alone now.
-Steph rips Mick (Foley, not Robson) about his choice of putting Owens in a title defense against Strowman tonight. I would offer some analysis of what this bickering means for Raw storylines, but I'm still distracted by how good Stephanie's tits look.
-Neville's "coronation" as new Cruiserweight Champion and King of the Cruiserweights. Ugh, they're going heavy on the King motif, like 1990s King of the Ring winners. Neville rants on the fans who didn't support him- "look at me now!"- but former champ Rich Swann has unfinished business. He wants a rematch, but credits Neville for the win and offers his hand. Neville insists that he "bow to his king", Swann turns away because this isn't some low rent theatre play, and Neville attacks. Rich gains the upper hand with the Lou Thesz press (otherwise known as the flying dick to the face), followed by a big kick to the dome that sends the new champ flying to the outside. Swann goes for the dive through the ropes, but catches his feet and almost faceplants, hitting Neville with an outstretched arm. Looks a little ugly, but could have been a whole lot worse for the health of Rich Swann. That's two failed dives in two segments now. And end segment. Not a bad segment, but they taped the ropes purple for that? When are they going to realise how pointless that whole ordeal is? I actually think it's harmful to give the cruisers that separate presentation on Raw, it pigeonholes them as a sideshow.
-Sasha pretty heelish towards Bayley ahead of her rematch with Nia Jax. Could mean a heel turn, could just be another example of the writers being tone deaf when it comes to Sasha's face character. She's an underdog with the attitude that she's better than everyone else, which makes her look like she has a Napoleon complex.
-Owens vs. Strowman, Universal title on the line. Can't see this going long or ending clean, being heel vs. heel. Jericho on commentary! There is a (wrestling) god. Wait, Strowman comes out and chokeslams Jericho through the announce table! As much as I'm sad that we won't hear witty one-liners from the GOAT, that's a hell of a way to make Strowman look like (more of) a beast. Owens, for his part, does a tremendous job selling fear, and didn't move a muscle to help his best friend. High drama.
-Strowman gets the early advantage by hitting hard and moving fast. No matter how many times I see it, I will always be amazed by the speed of the 385lb Strowman. Owens, for his part, shows smarts and viciousness when presented with an opportunity, avoiding a Strowman charge, causing the monster to smash into the ring post, and quickly following up with a cannonball into the barricade. The opening 3 minutes has captured the characters and strengths of both men perfectly. Braun regains the advantage with a powerslam, prompting Roman Reigns to make an appearance! Match is thrown out as Reigns takes Strowman down with both a Superman punch and Spear aided by the steel stairs as a launching point. Spear for Owens, too. For what it's worth, best use of Reigns. Come out, don't say a word, kick ass and leave.
-Following a recap of the Seth/HHH/Steph issue, a limo pulls up. Time to play The Game? No, a visit from the mayor of Suplex City! Brock Lesnar is here!
-Heyman delivers an epic promo around the idea of, "Yeah, but..." referring to all the athletes that had an asterisk next to their names. Andre had Hogan. Angle had Lesnar. Taker had Lesnar. Cena had Lesnar. Lesnar has Goldberg. Brock Lesnar wants one more shot at Bill Goldberg. Wrestlemania 33. That's a money promo.
-Nia Jax ragdolls an injured Sasha Banks, literally. Sasha's lifeless body and injured knee smacks the ring post multiple times. The attack continues, Sasha won't quit. The bell rings... I didn't see the ref call for it? He looks confused for a minute, but Cole calls it like he waved off the match. Nia continues the beating, leading Bayley to come out for the save. Nia leaves with a smile. Brutal.
-Lana is the sex. On a serious note... Lana is the sex. On another serious note, tornado tag match time. These things are usually a lot of fun, wish we saw them a bit more often. Holy shit, Lana's running with the "Handsome Rusev" thing from last week. I'm crying here. Disappointingly, his name graphic still reads plain ol' "Rusev". Also, if Jinder took a piss test, his piss would be neon, I swear.
-Time to play The Game, because Triple H is finally here. He does a great job expanding on the point Steph briefly made earlier in the night- he's apparently trying to leave his Cerebral Assassin past behind, trying to be the boss, the creator, trying to take the high road. But Rollins has pushed it too far, and now the creator becomes the destroyer. This brings out Rollins, and it looks like the fight is on! Just... not between Hunter and Rollins. Seth is blindsided at ringside... it's Samoa Joe! Making his Raw debut! Senton after Senton, this is vicious. Kokina Clutch to end things. Seth Rollins has a Samoa Joe sized obstacle on the Road to Wrestlemania.
Unfortunately, news came out this week that Seth Rollins reinjured his knee in that show-closing brawl. It's looking like Rollins will be out 8 weeks, which means his status for Wrestlemania is shaky at best. They could do everything to protect him and not be physical for 8 weeks, but can they build a Mania match around that? Will they? Would they put someone coming off an injury in a major match at Wrestlemania? Hugely unfortunate, it would be terrible for Rollins to miss two Wrestlemanias in a row. Fingers crossed we get some positive news soon.
A longer blog than usual! I've always said that I would write about the things that interest me, and everything on Raw was interesting in some way. It's Wrestlemania season, baby! Top quality Raw, and a hell of a debut for Samoa Joe. I just hope that Rollins' unfortunate injury isn't held against Joe.
Until next time, take care,