This week’s RAW had an extremely high level of anticipation attached to it, after the surprising finish involving Triple H’s run in, attacking Reigns and, more shockingly, Rollins, before giving the nod to Kevin Owens to grab the victory and Universal championship. The finish was so left field that it surpassed the level of intrigue of even new roster addition Finn Balor contending for the championship before his untimely injury.
The show was a strange assemblage of strong and weak performances, moments that capitalized brilliantly on the buzz coming off the previous RAW while others never quite fit in with anything else going on, and a feeling that a very exciting potential direction was started upon, but with one step out the door, was left in disappointingly familiar territory.
Let’s get into it.
RAW September 5, 2016
Opening montage of most excellent moments and mentions on social media.
The opening segment was perhaps a bit of overhype, making the closing moments of the last RAW’s fatal four way the wrestling media event of the century, throwing in quotes from all corners of twitter. But, a bit of hyperbole is what you want to get you psyched up about what you are about to see.
Mick and Stephanie and Kevin and Seth
The first two segments were all a good blend of drama and story advancement outside the ring. It was especially good to see Mick Foley out of his usual flannel and something along the lines of more serious attire. He was also given reason for a more fiery delivery, and it gave so much more purpose to his character. Seth’s entrance feels a bit more dynamic with the digitized bursts of static, black, and white and it lending a look of someone fans would want to get behind. Stephanie’s exchange with Foley made sense and created some questions to mull on and Kevin Owens did what he’s been doing great at for some time: play an obnoxious self promoting grumbling heel, who very quickly gave the fans grief even as he acknowledged their cheers of approval for his victory.
Mick and Stephanie and Kevin and…Chris
After a commercial break, Mick and Stephanie were still talking. This time about the decision Mick had just made to book Rollins and Owens in a match at the Clash of the Champions special, and not kotow to Stephanie who wanted to suspend Rollins. Some seeds of dissent sown among these two managers makes for fertile storytelling ground down the line, even though the fact that there was more talking after talking sowed the seeds of potential boredom as the show wore on.
It was good to see the alliance between Jericho and Owens continue, as they make a great team. This also veers from the tired formula of heel champ backed by a corrupt authority collective. Jericho delivered some classic instances of humor, such as referring to Owens as the ‘longest reigning Universal Champion.’ Great because it’s true!
Charlotte VS Bayley
This was a fine match, with Bayley looking great in action. Her win was a nice way to shake things up and since it had Dana arguably botching things to lead to the finish, Charlotte escapes with some credibility as champion still. Bayley started selling an ankle injury that started to feel genuine. I’m beginning to wonder if this will be an increasingly used strategy on WWE’s part to keep us guessing about the reality of what is happening in the ring. It’s not a bad idea, but they had better watch out lest they overplay this hand. It was also a bit sudden for such a big match and result, something that would occur later on too – big moments would not have fully sunk in when suddenly, another big moment, leaving an inability to fully absorb.
Don’t Stop Bo-Lieve-ing
It’s good to see Bo Dallas back with a weirdly intense new persona. I think it has more potential than the overly comedic version of the character. And this match also proved that yes, smaller wrestlers can gain a lot from squash matches too. NOTE TO SMACKDOWN LIVE: Let’s try a run of these with Apollo Crews too.
Rollins VS Jericho
This was a good match that accomplished a lot. Rollins had some heroic attributes restored by him powering through The Walls of Jericho submission. His acrobatic maneuvers proved to work very well, much better even, as delivered by a fan favorite babyface, such as propelling off the ropes and landing a kick in midair to counter his opponent’s offense.
One note I’d disagree on is that doing the Pedigree is an effective message sent to Triple H, something the commentators, at least Cole, tried to assert. Byron Saxton seemed out of the loop with this. I think a better message would be him using a new finisher, as if to say ‘screw you Hunter, I don’t need this move or anything to do with you anymore.’ I am sure he has plenty of interesting maneuvers in his repertoire to choose from.
Two Gee’s and a Baby
It is good to see a renewed focus on Enzo and Cass as a tag team. Their opening antics were as funny as ever. On paper, the idea of what they did would surely sound corny. A lot of the lines they uttered were also ridiculous but their singular and confident delivery makes their material work so well. I did not mind The Shining Stars winning (by somewhat devious tactics) because it allows for the rematch and Enzo and Cass really do not lose much popularity by taking the occasional loss.
Kevin and Sami promo
Despite it being a contradiction of their feud getting a dramatic finish just a few Network specials ago, it is very cool that these two have this built in story involving their previous history wrestling together in Ring Of Honor and on the indie scene in general. It makes for great reality based promos like this one. Still for this to be returned to so soon after making a point of them being finished feuding for a while is strange. There was also something a bit wooden about the delivery on Zayn’s part, like he was given a bunch of lines to remember. These two should be left to improvise.
Sheamus VS Cesaro: Best of 37
This was actually fine as far as ideas go. Instead of the expected back and forth, Cesaro is way down in wins and needs three victories in a row to be back in the running. And sure he will get them. Unfortunately, this idea was lost on a dead crowd and it’s hard to blame them because very little was done to get them enthused. In cases where wrestlers like Cesaro and Sheamus are failing to get a reaction, I am beginning to think it should call for INSTANT TWEAKS. Not major changes, of course not, but just an attempt at a little something in their presentation to wake the audience up a bit.
Guns and Gallows and Gramps and Groans
Anderson and Gallows have a reputation for being funny, bantering with each other on their homespun podcast that once was featured on the MLW network and injecting some sneaky humor into their work in NJPW. But the ratio of mean ass kickers to humor should be 70 percent of the former and 30 percent of the latter. Or thereabouts. This one liner based humor revolving around an old version of The New Day is not it. Maybe it would have worked if they came out and then Gallows and Anderson simply beat them up, but no enter The New Day. The New Day has become known for creative humorous segments that they lead, not reacting to the material of others. It feels like Enzo and Cass are at where The New Day was, and now The New Day is languishing. We need a refresher on their in-ring work, and I think it would really help for them to be split off into a tag team and singles scenario. Then, coming back together for promos maybe,
Nia Jax and Alicia Fox in the WWE Production MEAN GIRLS
This was a chance to do some simple heating up of Nia Jax’s character, which is much needed, that came off terrible and was upsetting for how badly it was blown. Some very awkward wording set things moving in the right direction from the start, with Nia claiming ‘reality shows’ don’t involve real repercussions…OK…and Fox replying that she knows this isn’t reality. Hmm.
Fox knocking a box into Nia made the monster’s reaction seem timid in comparison, and then Fox started screaming melodramatically. This did not make Jax look intimidating. Instead it came off as one of those terrible fake real segments, the sort they claimed this wasn’t. Unprofessional was the word that came to mind.
Sasha Banks (not a) retirement speech
Perfect for the weird category because this caused something of a ‘wha…?’ reaction, but overall it was good. Good because it had me, and I presume many others going, and even if there is something a little bit cheap about playing on audiences’ concern, it was compelling. Sasha Banks did an excellent job commanding the audience. Dana coming out to take advantage of the injury – while it did quickly restore the fourth wall of the story for savvy fans – was nicely played dastardly heel stuff. And Sasha looked cool as can be and full of finesse turning the situation with the ‘I’m fine’ reveal.
It was a cool moment, but the more you think about it, the harder it is to stand by it. How did it fit in with the rest of the show? It was a bit awkward after Bayley had just beaten Charlotte earlier and asserted her claim to a title shot. And WHY would Sasha swerve her fans and pretend to be injured, thus pulling one over on… us? At best you could make the case she was hoping to draw Charlotte and/or Dana in so she could hit them with that surprise announcement and Bank Statement. But that is a stretch. I guess you could also just say she knows the power of a ‘moment’ and worked it for that reason alone. She definitely established presence. She came off as a power player. And, since she mentioned the name of the designer on Instagram, I will mention that her wardrobe fit her figure very nicely.
Zayn and Owens and Reigns
Not that weird, just…a bit of a waste and some very familiar wasted potential? Owens VS Zayn was fine, and did the job of making Kevin the dominant one, which I guess he needs to be for now. Having just come off their amazing match at Payback a few months ago AND off the emotional Sasha Banks segment, it was hard to concentrate on this. I think on the positive front, we can look forward to a break between these two happening now, with Sami having reason to turn away, dejected, in need of doing some soul searching, to come back and challenge Owens later down the line in a well promoted match.
Then there is the appearance of Roman Reigns. I don’t want to talk about this because it is getting ridiculous, the number of times an opportunity to turn Reigns to heel mode, which would both a) make for a great moment and b) make so much more sense for the way he presents himself and the way the audience reacts to him. He could’ve shocked many by coming down to the ring, attacking the all around good guy Sami Zayn and setting up an interesting match for Clash of Champions between them.
The WHAT IF…
I liked a lot about this RAW if not all, and I love the fact that Kevin Owens is champion, and looking strong in the role. I can’t help but wonder about things going differently…Triple H on this show – the lack of him being there to explain his actions did feel a bit strange – championing Owens, setting up a rift between Owens, representing a rebel figure along the lines of Daniel Bryan, CM Punk taking on the figure backed by management in Seth Rollins. Could have been a bit more exciting? Things could be moving in interesting directions though. Will stay the course.