Trying new things on RAW

Joshua Waddles
Staff Writer

All and all, RAW gave us a good show last night and a nice buildup for Summerslam. There were some problems, though. In the cases of some of these matches (The Hardy Boyz vs Anderson and Gallows, Wyatt vs Balor) the WWE hasn’t really done a great job of getting the fans invested.

Paul Heyman and Kurt Angle

The fans weren’t expecting Brock Lesnar to show up. Although it’s great to see him at all, I have to wonder. As hard as it is to get Lesnar off of his couch and drag him to work, why didn’t they have him do something more than just stand beside Paul Hayman?

But Heyman added a stipulation to the Fatal Four-Way at Summerslam: if Lesnar loses the belt, both he and Heyman leave the WWE.

These “retirement matches” are always temporary and Heyman has been missing almost as much as Lesnar lately, because he only has one client now. If Lesnar does lose the belt, my hope is that Heyman will return with another client while Lesnar takes his time off. Heyman is just great on the mic and I’ve badly missed this guy.

The Hardy Boyz and The Revival

The Hardy Boyz defeated Carl Anderson and Luke Gallows. Afterwards, they got into a brawl with The Revival.

The Revival seems to be a play on the sort of wrestling fan who doesn’t like high fliers or “flippity ____”, and they promise to bring back a classic style. Although the announcers tried to press to the fans how much these teams hate each other, there really hasn’t been a lot of buildup to show us why.

But anything involving The Hardy Boyz is practically guaranteed to be great.

Miz TV

Today’s special guest was Jason Jordan. As with all episodes of Miz TV, it ended with The Miz getting taken down.

The Miz is great in everything I’ve ever seen him do. Jordan seems a little green. It could be that the WWE plans a feud with The Miz to get Jordan over, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Pretty much everyone beats up The Miz on Miz TV, whether that starts a feud or not.

I also hadn’t realized The Miztourage was done with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. I thought for sure that would be a Summerslam match.

Seth Rollins vs Sheamus

The fans are going nuts wanting Dean Ambrose to forgive Seth Rollins and take the first step in getting The Shield back together, but Ambrose just can’t get over how Rollins betrayed them. This angle is so good all around.

It really plays up Rollins’ repentance angle. Before this new storyline with Ambrose, I thought Rollins came off as a bland, generic face (hero), although he was at his very best as a heel (bad guy.) This thing with Ambrose shows the humanity of Rollins, how he’s a flesh and blood human being with insecurities.

Sheamus and Cesaro picked a fight with Rollins back stage. Rollins challenged either one of them to a one-on-one match.

During the match, when Cesaro jumped in and both started pounding Rollins, it looked like Dean Ambrose was not going to show up. Ambrose finally comes out and saves him. But backstage, Ambrose gives his theory on how Rollins planned the whole thing. He said Rollins, who’s also been called “The Architect” for his manipulations, got himself in trouble with two guys on purpose so Ambrose would be obligated to come out and save him.

This not only shows Ambrose’ continued distrust for Rollins, but that theory also kind of makes sense.

Bray Wyatt and Finn Balor

The fans weren’t really feeling this at first. As with The Hardyz and The Revival, the WWE hasn’t really explained why these two should hate each other. This was even acknowledged by the announcers. “No one knows what’s going on inside Bray Wyatt’s head except Bray Wyatt. I don’t know why he targeted Balor, but we’re about to find out.”

Well, it seems to be that “You are a lie, a fake” motivation that Wyatt has used before. I have to say, that doesn’t really feel organic when going against Balor. He then started to talk about how Balor inspires fans to dream for things that they can’t have - not really. We like Balor, but this promo seemed to be treating Balor as if he were still at the top of the RAW roster, like he was before his injury.

The fans started out giving Wyatt the “What?” chants, but Wyatt is the best the WWE has to offer on the mic (with the possible exception of Paul Heyman) and the crowd quieted down. Although everyone is very aware that Wyatt vs Balor is a filler match and not the epic showdown Bray tried to present it as, but it should still be entertaining. And from the brawl we saw last night, Wyatt and Balor should look great in the ring together.

Reigns vs Strowman vs Joe

Three out of the four who will be fighting for the Universal Title had a little preview match on RAW. I was surprised this wasn’t the main event. It was certainly good enough to be, but I like that the WWE gave the main event match to some other wrestlers.

All three of these wrestlers looked great in this match. The outcome confused me. I was 100 percent sure Brock Lesnar would rush out and clear the ring, but instead they gave a clean win to Roman Reigns (pinning Samoa Joe.) For such a huge match, they wouldn’t normally have a clear winner between any of the contenders until the pay per view.

There are two more episodes of RAW before Summerslam. My theory is that Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman will each have a moment of their own before going into the pay per view. An excellent way to handle the build up, if that’s the case.

Elias vs Calissto

It’s just Elias now, not Elias Samson. I like the old name!

Elias started out as he always does, playing that guitar of his and trying to serenade the crowd. He had the crowd cheering for him at first because he sounded like he was going to flatter their city, but instead he sang a short little diddy about how he would have to have to live in Pittsburgh.

Kalisto interrupted the song and they had their match, with Elias winning via pinfall.

I mostly mention this because Elias was able to make me laugh out loud with that song he started before the match. He’s an entertaining heel, nice to watch in the ring, and I kind of feel the need to defend this guy against some commenters who have been bashing him online. Elias Samson is anything but bland, and I believe they will see that once the WWE puts him in a good feud.

Bayley vs Nia Jax

Nia Jax is so much more powerful, and more physical than any other female wrestler, I sometimes don’t think there is any female wrestler who could convincingly win against her. At least not clean.

Some fans were disappointed that Bayley scored a count-out victory against Jax rather than giving us a clean resolution. But I think this was the best ending possible. If Jax had fought Bayley by herself, I could maybe believe Bayley stood a chance of pinning her clean. But not with Alexa Bliss at ringside interfering.

After Bliss and Bayley had it out, Jax checked on Bliss before going after Bayley again. That moment, in addition to running into the ring post after Bayley dodged her charge, kept her out of the ring just long enough for Bayley to steal one. I saw this as a great way to show Bayley’s ability while at the same time keeping her as the underdog against Jax.

And the friendship angle between Jax and Bliss they seem to be going for is just endearing. You could even hear Jax ask “You ok?” when she checked on Bliss.

I don’t know why, but I love heel friendships. I’m still grieving over the split up of Owens and Jericho.

Big Show vs Big Cass

Enzo Amore came out as the hype guy for Big Show instead of Big Cass this time. It seems likely that Big Show will be taking over the feud with Big Cass, likely with Enzo involved somehow.

The WWE seems to be straight up acknowledging that Enzo Amore can’t beat Big Cass. The impression I got from Enzo’s speech was “I can’t beat you, but my big new friend can.”

I don’t feel confident saying one way or another if this idea will succeed or fail, but it could be a good way of setting up Enzo Amore as a heroic underdog. If the feud between Big Cass and Big Show goes as I expect, with Big Cass retiring Big Show, I expect a story angle with Enzo Amore feeling guilt issues over Big Show’s retirement. This could lead to some great character development.


The episode felt very experimental. Although some things went exactly as we would have expected (Wyatt and Balor, Jordan and Miz), I still got the sense that someone involved in the creative process was saying "Let's try it this way."

When experimenting that way, some ideas will work and some will not. If I'm right, and the WWE is looking to change the formula, good for them. There were some things I weren't really into, but, with the exception of Wyatt vs Balor, none of it really felt like the "Same old, same old" I was used to. And even in the case of Wyatt vs Balor, I'm choosing to forgive that because I've gotten the sense with many feuds that the WWE plans to drop them abruptly.

Look for a big shakeup after Summerslam.


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