Raw Thoughts- Superstar Shakeup, And The Greatest Feat of Strength I've Ever Seen in WWE
Once upon a time, when WWE first introduced the brand split in the early 2000s, it was customary to have a draft in the week or two following Wrestlemania. This has returned in a fashion today, as Vince McMahon told me himself last week (and 15,000 other people in the Amway Center). He called it a Superstar Shakeup, and it's actually an interesting take on things. The details have emerged as follows- Commissioners and GMs of Raw and Smackdown have spent the last week negotiating trades. The Superstars traded from Smackdown to Raw will appear on this episode of Monday Night Raw, but we won't know who the Superstars traded from Raw to Smackdown are until we tune into Smackdown Live tomorrow! Clever...
-We kick off the show with John Cena's music. My gut reaction is, "Oh great, way to establish Raw as the A show and Smackdown as the B show by having Cena run back to Team Red the first chance he gets." But that was immediately washed away with the realisation that it's The Miz and Maryse, continuing their spoofing of the recently engaged Cena and Nikki Bella. Fun way to kick the show off and get Miz some heat. Miz and Maryse take some more shots at their Wrestlemania rivals before being interrupted by Raw's newest acquisition, the Intercontinental Champion, Dean Ambrose!
-Ambrose humorously plays into the schtick by pretending the A List couple are really Cena and Nikki. When an exasperated Miz does the "shocking" reveal, Dean delivers Dirty Deeds. Loved it. Lots of fun all around. My only concern now- and this is only in my head because I watched Total Divas the other day- what does this mean for Dean and Renee Young? (Yeah, I know, take my man card)
-Man, New Day can't even take Kofi suffering a broken ankle seriously. I mean, Xavier kind of tried with the tone of his promo, but it's hard to look like badasses when you're carrying a blow up doll dressed like Kofi Kingston. Also, considering recent... leaks, is it the best idea to associate Xavier Woods with a blow up doll?
-I do enjoy how Revival are the polar opposites to New Day in every sense. I also enjoy how this feud finally gives New Day a little direction, considering how much they seemed to flounder following their title loss at the end of last year (lucky they sell so much merch). And I REALLY enjoyed that mid-air Shatter Machine on Xavier. Revival 2, New Day 0. Top guys.
-Curt Hawkins on Raw? Could I care less? Big Show comes out, KOs him and leaves. He got off easy.
-Aries vs. Perkins was fun while it lasted. Expected heel turn for TJP given the backstage segment earlier in the show. Good move, I've long said he was way too cocky as a face. Some faces can pull off cocky- HBK, The Rock. TJ Perkins is neither of those men. But this creates a nice logical path for the 205 division- Austin Aries beats Neville at Payback to win the Cruiserweight Championship, the next feud is Aries vs. Perkins for the title. They showed good chemistry even in this five minute match, so I'm on board.
-Probably the best work from Seth Rollins to date as a babyface on the mic. Following his best in ring work as a face to date at Wrestlemania- I watched Mania back on the Network, and I appreciated so much more than I did live. Built up sympathy against the sadistic Triple H before coming back to hit his high spots. It wasn't HHH vs. HBK, but I could see some rough parallels there. In the promo here on Raw, Seth credits the fans for getting behind him, and says he wants to stay on Raw, despite what Stephanie might want. This brings out GM Kurt Angle for a live appearance- God, it's so good to hear his music again- and he acknowledges that Steph does want him to go to SD, but Angle has balls and gives Seth the seal of approval. Big moment.
-Samoa Joe comes out to attack Rollins and reheat that feud. Kurt stays in the ring and sort of tries to get between them. I have brief TNA flashbacks and hope that Angle puts Joe in the Ankle Lock, but no luck. Seth's a big boy, and is able to fight Samoa Joe off on his own. I can't say enough good things about how much this did for Seth Rollins as a face. From the promo, to Angle's endorsement of him, to standing tall after the Joe ambush- perfect. Rollins looks like a star.
-Nia Jax vs Charlotte was interesting. Heel vs. heel, following last week's altercation. Jax once again shows her green-ness, not protecting Charlotte in the shoulderbreaker and allowing her to fall directly on her head. Fortunately, the Queen is okay and they move on. Moonsault to the outside, and Charlotte's knee/shin catches Nia right in the face. Receipt? Moments later, Nia hits the Samoan Drop for the clean victory. Ooh. That's the kind of result that has me thinking Charlotte is Smackdown-bound.
-Finn Balor has his first singles match since Summerslam. Jinder hits a stiff looking forearm, but that's the only offense he gets. Balor gets his shit in and wins comfortably to presumably set himself up for a big time feud soon.
-Looks like we don't have to wait long! A familiar snippet of video interrupts Balor's celebration and Bray Wyatt appears on the screen! Wyatt has been moved to Raw! I'm a bit excited now. Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt, yesssss, take my money.
-Side note- Bray mentioned having his House of Horrors match against Randy Orton... at Payback. Spoiler for the end of the show, but Randy Orton does not get traded to Raw, and Payback is a Raw-exclusive PPV. Huh?
-Apollo Crews, Kalisto, Heath Slater and Rhyno are announced as moving to Raw in a brief 20 second spot. Of those moves, the only one that interests me is Kalisto, because he can finally join 205 Live. Don't know why he didn't join last year, honestly.
-Nice TV match with Miz and Sami Zayn. It's not a new thing, but I still have a small feeling of surprise when Miz has good matches. He's been extremely good for the last year or more in the ring, but he's such a good character- and he was so average at wrestling for so long- that it's easy to forget. Despite winning here, I strongly believe Zayn is Smackdown bound.
-Roman Reigns' sit down interview with Michael Cole was just a set up for one of the best backstage segments I've ever seen. Braun Strowman interrupts to attack Roman and puts him through a table. Okay, basic repeat of what Owens did to Jericho last week, cool. But, wait, there's more! Braun throws him into a garage door and then powerslams him onto a large equipment case. Done? Nope. Strowman then runs the large metal case into Roman's face. Ooh, great beatdown! The medics put Roman on a stretcher. End scene.
-Psyche! Braun grabs the stretcher and runs it off a ledge, causing Roman to ragdoll into the concrete a good 10 feet below. The man's got a family! The medics load him up into an ambulance. Next minute, you hear the roar, "I'm not finished with you yet!" The medics scatter, Braun pummels Roman some more, leaves the ambulance... and proceeds to TIP THE DAMN AMBULANCE OVER with Roman inside! Holy fuck! Nobody has done a feat of strength like that in WWE. Not Mark Henry, not Big Show, not John Cena, not Brock Lesnar. I think Big Show or Henry might have tipped a Jeep over once, but that's nothing compared to this. I can think of some ways that they could have gimmicked it to make it lighter, but it's still one of the most impressive things I've ever seen. Oh yeah, and Braun Strowman basically tried to kill Roman Reigns there, and the fans are chanting, "You deserve it." If the idea was to get sympathy on Reigns, that failed miserably. But I'm writing about this a few hours after I actually watched it, and I'm still in awe of it all.
-8 Man Tag. Hardys get to shine here, which is good, because if they were defined down to filler 8 days into their WWE return, I'd be ultra pissed. In amongst the teams, they're getting the star treatment.
-Elias Samson is actually drifting around Raw. I don't get it. WWE can't tell the difference between "go away heat" and proper heat, can they? The Drifter isn't the kind of guy I want to see get beat up, he's the kind of guy to make me get up and get a Coke, because I need the caffeine to stay awake during his matches.
-The new Raw women's division shapes up in the next segment with a big time call up. Bayley and Sasha's love fest is interrupted by Alexa Bliss! Oh, be still, my beating heart. Bliss declares that she's left the Smackdown drama behind, only for Mickie James' music to hit. After a brief promo, Nia Jax ambushes her. Is it bad that I've been watching WWE so long, I knew Mickie was getting jumped because of the camera angle they were using? Anyway, Jax smashes Bayley and Sasha too, but leaves Alexa alone. I have flashbacks to their Twitter exchanges where Nia says what all us straight guys are thinking and basically drools over the perfection that is Alexa Bliss's ass.
-Conspicuous by her absence in this segment involving all the major players in the Raw women's division- Charlotte Flair. She does look good in blue...
-Owens vs. Ambrose is the Raw main event, champion vs. champion after KO's promo from earlier claiming he's the number one champion on Raw (for the purpose of this, we're ignoring Brock and his Universal title because... well, you know). Standard stuff from these guys, not reinventing the wheel but it's a good TV main event. Ambrose wins straight up with the Dirty Deeds.
-Chris Jericho returns post-match to lay out Owens with the Codebreaker! It's funny for me, because I've always loved Y2J, but a year or two ago, everyone was saying, "Jericho should retire, he's stale, he's old, he can't go like he used to"- yet he's the number one face on Raw. He's got a Fozzy tour coming up, so his match with Owens at Payback may well be his last WWE date, at least for a while.
And that's the show! Quick predictions for who's going to Smackdown from Raw tomorrow:
R-Truth & Goldust
I also have a feeling about Roman Reigns going over as the "big name", but how that'll be dealt with following Braun killing him, who knows.
Until next time, take care,