WWE RAW: Live From Detroit
I attended last night’s live broadcast at Joe Louis Arena. I’ll recap the action and add some other assorted notes at the end (including Superstars spoilers).
RAW began with a 30-man battle royale to determine the #1 contender for The Miz’s Intercontinental Title (what, no 20-minute talking segment?). Apollo Crews made his entrance after all the other competitors were shown in the ring. Miz stood on the announce table and taunted them, saying he’d beat the winner at Battleground. He sat down with Maryse at ringside. This was the usual fare for this type of match: punching, kicking, stalling, and Dolph Ziggler near-eliminations.
The finish was Apollo Crews and Baron Corbin eliminating each other, leaving Darren Young as the only competitor left in the ring. Young was in shock after reaching the highest point in his singles career to date. Meanwhile, his mentor Bob Backlund was so giddy, the 66-year-old lifted Young into his arms in celebration.
Thoughts: Young had been doing vignettes for several weeks with Backlund, but it was still a bit of a surprise to see him win here. The crowd was very responsive to Young during and after the match though, so perhaps this is his time to shine. Baron Corbin was impressive in eliminating several Superstars, but him vs Miz probably wouldn’t have worked as a heel vs. heel matchup.
Backstage, Stephanie and Shane McMahon speculated as to why their father Vince was showing up to RAW. Seth Rollins walked in and said he had exclusive footage of Roman Reigns addressing his suspension. As a result, a new talk show called The Rollins Report would debut later on RAW.
An image recap of Brock Lesnar defeating Mark Hunt at UFC 200 was shown. A graphic appeared showing that Lesnar would face the returning Randy Orton at Summerslam, a match which was announced last week on Smackdown. Also, Orton will be Chris Jericho’s special guest on The Highlight Reel during the Battleground PPV.
Zack Ryder confronted Rusev backstage, challenging him to a U.S. title match (side note: wasn’t that match already scheduled for that night?). Out of nowhere, Sheamus attacked Ryder and declared that they would be having a match next.
Zack Ryder vs. Sheamus: Ryder hit the Broski Boot for two, but otherwise, it was all Sheamus in this one. Sheamus hit the Brogue Kick shortly thereafter for the three count. Rusev came out to beat on Ryder some more, including putting him in the Accolade.
Breezedango (Tyler Breeze & Fandago) vs. The Lucha Dragons: This match was set up from an earlier confrontation when one of the Lucha Dragons knocked Breeze’s drink onto him. After Kalisto got the hot tag, he promptly botched while attempting a springboard off the second rope. The crowd went easy on him (no “you f’ed up” chants).
Kalisto quickly recovered and hit some impressive moves on his opponents to make up for his mistake. Towards the end of the match, Kalisto was on the top rope but got kicked by Breeze. Breeze slammed him down and rolled him up for the victory.
Thoughts: A clean heel victory was surprising considering the teams involved, but maybe Breezedango is in line for a push. I’m still high on Breeze so hopefully this is a sign of good things to come. Both of these teams could be broken up come draft time, but Breeze and Kalisto in particular can hack it on their own.
The Rollins Report: Rollins came out to a big pop from the crowd. He said he had “exclusive footage” of a one-on-one interview between himself and Roman Reigns. The video was reminiscent of an Angle/Rock exchange back in 2000, with Reigns “admitting” to being a lying scumbag and feeling like he wanted to puke seeing Dean Ambrose with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
This “interview” got a lot of laughs from the crowd. Afterwards, Rollins got another big pop when he proposed removing Reigns from the Triple Threat match at Battleground. At that point, Ambrose came out to a good response.
Rollins whined some more about Ambrose stealing his title, and also admonished him for being such a jokester. Ambrose acknowledged that he liked to have fun, but then got serious and said he would do anything to keep his title. Ambrose intensely proposed a one-on-one title match tonight. Rollins played along at first, but then said he would see Ambrose “next week”, which got him strong heel heat from the Detroit crowd that was hoping for a live championship match.
Thoughts: This was great work from both men, not surprising since they have great chemistry together. The crowd was very into this exchange.
Sami Zayn came out to do commentary for the next match. Kevin Owens’ music hit, but he didn’t come out to the ring. Turns out, he was backstage with a bunch of refs demanding that Zayn be removed from commentary. Steph showed up and obliged his request. Zayn was escorted away, but was able to get a shot in on Owens on the way out.
Backstage, a limo pulled up, and out came Vince McMahon to a loud response. Renee Young asked him what his plans were for tonight. Vince said he was going to name the new commissioner of Smackdown.
Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro: Owens was trolling throughout the match, pretending to go for a big move but slapping on a chinlock instead. He also stole JBL’s hat an attacked Cesaro while wearing it (Cesaro did the same thing with the hat later on).
The ending saw Owens put Cesaro into a torture rack position and turn it into a swinging neckbreaker for the clean 1-2-3. After the match, Zayn darted in from the other side of the arena, attacked Owens, and threw him in the ring. Cesaro was waiting there to deliver the big swing to Owens.
Thoughts: This match really picked up towards the end. We’ve seen better from those two, but it was still a very good match, probably the best of the night. Another heel won clean here, but it keeps Owens strong for the PPV and it won’t hurt Cesaro much. I also loved a secondary move ending the match, which doesn’t happen often enough.
The Club was backstage lamenting that John Cena was in Los Angeles rehearsing for his ESPYs hosting gig. They thought out loud that maybe that they should fly to L.A. to “beat up John Cena”.
Titus O’Neil vs. Heath Slater (w/Social Outcasts): The former Slater Gator teammates faced off with Titus dominating the early action. The Social Outcasts tried their three-man tactics, but it was all for naught as Titus finished off Slater with the sky-high powerbomb. Backstage, Sasha Banks got a big crowd response as she told Renee she was going to shut Dana Brooke’s big mouth up.
The New Day at the Wyatt Family Compound: This confrontation took place in some rural, backwoods area. As the New Day approached the area, a woman donning a sheep’s mask appeared (Sister Abigail?). We never saw her again.
The Wyatts pounded on the New Day in the beginning, tossing them around into mud and onto vehicles. The New Day fought back but eventually got separated from each other. Kofi and Big E got the upper hand briefly before Braun emerged from the slop like a swamp monster and Rowan blindsided one of them. Bray Wyatt isolated Xavier Woods and threw him into a car. From there, Bray, shattered the glass and proclaimed “where’s your power of positivity now?”.
By the end, the New Day were able to re-converge. But when they were ready to face off with the Wyatts once again, a gang of people in sheep masks surrounded them. The New Day looked fearful as they backed away from the scene. Bray shouted “follow the buzzards!”.
Thoughts: Judging by the internet response, I’m in the small minority of people who liked this segment. Many people compared it unfavorably to Lucha Underground or especially TNA’s Final Deletion. I liked both the compound and The Final Deletion for different reasons and went into them with different mindsets.
I viewed The Final Deletion as more of a campy, B-movie-esque production that provided plenty of hilarious moments. Even though WWE’s version had some mildly humorous moments, it was treated as more of a serious segment meant to legitimize the Wyatts and show a different side of the New Day. For that, it served its purpose in my opinion.
Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (w/ AJ Styles) vs. Enzo & Big Cass: Both teams cut promos against each other prior to the match. A very loud “AJ STYLES/AJ SUCKS” dueling chant broke out. Even the typical Cena chant had a different twist this time with the crowd going “WE WANT CENA/NO WE DON’T”.
At one point, Enzo was driven shoulder-first into the ringpost and he landed hard onto the floor below. Cass showed much concern as his partner had recently dealt with a nasty concussion. Fortunately, Enzo was fine.
The match ended when AJ attacked Cass at ringside, DQing Gallows and Anderson. The Club surrounded Enzo in the ring when Cena’s music hit to a big ovation. Cena ran to the ring and helped Enzo and Cass clean house. Cena chants rang out as he celebrated with his future Battleground tag partners.
Thoughts: Enzo & Big Cass were very over with the live crowd. Cena drew the biggest reaction from the crowd in my view. The match itself was solid. A lot of people don’t exactly love Enzo and Cass’ ringwork, but I didn’t see much wrong here.
Sasha Banks vs. Dana Brooke: Sasha got the upper-hand early on, prompting Dana to leave the ring a few times. Sasha got in some hard strikes, but was later thrown out of the ring, hitting her head hard on the apron. Dana received a few “you can’t wrestle” chants as she worked over Sasha. She got her fair share of offense in before Sasha countered a move into the Banks Statement for the submission victory.
Charlotte was not impressed, telling Sasha that she didn’t deserve a shot at the Women’s Title based on one lucky win. She proposed that Sasha face Dana one more time on Smackdown to possibly earn a title match.
Thoughts: The match was very methodical and stiff, but not too bad overall. I didn’t mind Dana having the advantage for a good chunk of the match. She’s a strongly-built wrestler who should be a threat to any woman in the division. Plus, it’s nice for a sidekick to not be treated as an also-ran for once. It was strange for Sasha not to get any words in to respond to Charlotte by the way.
McMahon Family Segment: Shane came out to a nice response. Steph came to the ring to boos. Finally, Vince strutted to the ring to a warm reception. Vince told his kids that they did a fair job of running RAW, but that he was a bit disappointed. He gave them one final chance to make their pitch for Smackdown commissioner.
Steph made the case that Shane was a panderer who complained about not getting enough attention from daddy. Shane cited the fans (particularly the ones who were in Detroit for his return earlier this year) and their support of his innovative ideas as a reason he should be the COO of Smackdown.
Vince said he didn’t give a damn what the fans thought, but alas, he did name Shane as the new commissioner of Smackdown. The caveat though, was that he was relieved of his duties on RAW and Steph would now be the commissioner of RAW. Vince said he wanted both of them to compete hard, but also that they need to name a general manager for their respective shows.
Steph vowed to bury Shane. Shane interpreted Steph’s venom towards him as being fearful deep down inside. After Shane said “game on”, Steph retorted “there’s only one game in this business and I’m married to him”. Steph followed that up with a slap against her brother.
As she walked down the ring steps, she tripped and almost fell, which was an unintentionally funny moment. Shane and Steph exchanged more pleasantries as RAW finished. Shane thanked the crowd again for giving him the opportunity to be back in WWE.
Thoughts: Not the best ending to RAW, as it involved McMahon family drama yet again, only without the benefit of a big surprise. Steph’s final statement seemed to indicate the return of Triple H, possibly as RAW GM. Most of the excitement and fireworks will occur next week leading up the draft and Battleground. The highlights of the night were the Seth/Dean stuff and the Zayn/Owens continuing saga.
Dean Ambrose & Sami Zayn vs. Seth Rollins & AJ Styles: After RAW went off the air, the live crowd got this nice little 10-minute tag match. Rollins did a lot of posturing and showboating while Dean held a weird pose for awhile on the floor after being knocked out. After a finisher exchange, Ambrose finished off Styles with Dirty Deeds to send the crowd home happy.
Becky Lynch vs. Summer Rae: Natalya was seated at the commentary desk during this match. The in-ring action was fine, better than their previous error-filled match-ups. Becky executed some type of torture rack slam on Summer, then applied the Dis-arm-her to make her tap out. Becky and Natalya were jaw-jacking at each other afterwards.
Sami Zayn vs. Curtis Axel (w/ Social Outcasts): Zayn got the crowd going when he did a fakeout dive during the Social Outcasts “victory” lap. After a cheap shot by Bo Dallas while the ref wasn’t looking, Axel worked over Zayn for a bit. Zayn eventually made his comeback and was able to thwart off further interference. He hit the Helluva kick in the corner on Axel for the pinfall win.
-I noted Cena getting a positive response from the crowd. I think we’re at the point where the WWE Universe as a whole respects Cena (even though he still gets the “Cena Sucks” treatment for fun). There were assorted Cena chants throughout the entire night.
-On the other hand, Roman Reigns got the most negative reactions whenever he was shown on the Titantron.
-The kids behind me were in awe of Titus’ size and power during his match.
-Alberto Del Rio was surprisingly over, with many “Si” chants occurring during the battle royale.
-Many Wrestlemania 32 packages were shown throughout the night.
-A couple CM Punk chants were attempted but never gained much steam.
-The Lesnar video response was good but far from overwhelming (would’ve been nice if he had been here but I wasn’t counting on it).
-One personal gripe is that some of the ads during commercial breaks were loud as hell. It’s bad enough with the booming fireworks (especially the unexpected ones); we don’t need additional ear-ripping sounds too.