I don’t know what’s happened but there were five matches announced for this week’s RAW in advance. Five. It’s almost like this is meant to be a sports programme and that there are actual booking committees organising the show ahead of time if you can believe such nonsense. This week we had to look forward to Cesaro vs Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe vs Dean Ambrose, Sheamus vs Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman vs Kane and nearly Drew Gulak vs Rich Swann till things that I don’t think I’m qualified to talk about just yet happened. Still, with a good card on paper, surely good things could happen? Well, I’m Jozef, this is the RAW Recap and I’m glad you can be here to share my pain.
Samoa Joe Speaks
This was a nice change of pace as Joe is probably the best all-around promo in WWE and he always brings the fire. He railed on the Shield talking about how unimpressed he was with each member and how he has single-handedly broken Seth’s leg, chased off Dean and choked out Roman, repeatedly and how even though he helped out The Bar last week, he doesn’t need them, he did it just to screw over the Shield and especially Roman.
He then called out Roman who was watching from backstage with his brethren, Seth and Dean, causing Roman to rush the ring and beat down Joe until The Bar come out to assist, at this point Seth and Dean hit the ring too causing a big ol’ brawl until the heels took over and ran roughshod with Joe choking out Reigns in the centre of the ring. Even if the actual brawl lacked some of the electricity of The Shield days of old, Joe once again made every word he said feel more important. Assume that this is leading to a six-man tag at some point.
Second Chance WWE Cruiserweight Qualifier Fatal Four-Way: Cedric Alexander def. Tony Nese, Ariya Daivari & Mustafa Ali (13:08)
For the third week in the row, the Cruiserweights manage to come from underneath and low-key steal the show. The match itself was your standard crowd-pleasing spot-fest as every man got in his bit, trading big moves until Cedric Alexander was able to hit a humungous Lumbar Check for the pin but what really shone about this was the sheer energy.
The crowd were unconvinced early on in proceedings but by the time the action was flying thick and fast (with Mustafa Ali particularly impressing, how this man isn’t the face of the division, heck, the WWE I’ll never know) but from a home viewers perspective, I think it’s worth talking about how much was added to this match by the guest commentary of Drew Gulak. Managing to not just get across his character beats but infusing interactions with comedy but also actual insight, he raised the game of this segment, suggesting that should he ever hang up his boots, there could be a commentator’s headset waiting for him.
After the match, Cedric took to the mic to remind Drew Gulak that he may have beaten him before but that was the old Cedric and that this new one will be the new Cruiserweight Champion. The craziest thing, the crowd even reacted to that. This whole ‘Cruiserweight Division’ experiment might finally be paying off.
Intercontinental Title Match: Roman Reigns def. Cesaro (16:45)
Now, this is what I’m talking about. Not to once again compare to the John Cena open Challenge but it just shows how great a match can be when the story is simple, one man has the title and the other wants it. With ad breaks and entrances, being given a good 25 minutes in the middle of the show, the hour that has slowly become the main event as it seems to be most viewers are switching off by hour 3, the two men did what they do best, wrestle their socks off. What works so well about Cesaro as a heel is that he is a good powerhouse but also a fantastic technical wrestler so even though Reigns’ offence is explosive, Cesaro was able to employ a gameplan of taking out Roman’s arms in an attempt to prevent him hitting a Superman Punch and certainly making latching on a Spear more difficult.
It was nice to see Reigns work from underneath for once as Cesaro imposed his will on him and there were some excellent near falls including a superb one-off a Very European Uppercut. The match did suffer down the homestretch as Reigns’ arm-selling was put to one side to allow him to hit his signature offence leading to a SPear to retain his title but that shouldn’t nullify what was a fantastic match up to that point which had the audience on their feet and believing Cesaro might actually pull off the upset. A rematch of this soon, please.
The Ballad of Absolution
Early on in the show, Absolution would deliver a promo as they walked to the ring talking about how Paige squashed Sasha Banks last week, by ‘squash’, they, of course, mean put on a competitive match and Paige only really won because of the number’s game, with Sonya Deville & Banks in the teams respective corners, Paige & Mandy Rose def. Bayley & Mickey James (8:12) via pin.
The booking here was solid as it showed the dominance of the heel team but what really became interesting was later in the show. Asuka was scheduled for a match against Alicia Fox till, surprise surprise, Absolution had attacked her backstage, Paige came to the ring talking about how they’d let her survive so far, Paige offers her one last chance to step aside, Asuka doesn’t step aside, she kicks Rose and Deville’s heads off, locks in an armbar on Paige till Absolution come back in and attack, just as it looks like Asuka’s in trouble, Sasha Banks’ music hits and out come the entire RAW Women’s roster to get some payback on Absolution.
They beat them down briefly before the heel trio managed to escape. This was a clever segment as it made Absolution look like in no way less of a threat as it took an entire division to take down the three of them but at the same time, showed that the women’s roster aren’t dummies and realise that Absolution will keep trying to pick them off one-by-one. That said, the less discussed about the actual tag match, the better as Rose showed us all why she wasn’t really featured on NXT TV.
Others Bits & Indeed Pieces
- Bray Wyatt & ‘Woken’ Matt Hardy go back and forth trading promos in the Twilight Zone & in front of a blue bed-sheet. They suggest that a Great War is coming between these two noble houses, do a lot of awkward quick-cuts and transitions and then laugh at each other for an eternity. Remember how Bray Wyatt was WWE Champion going into Wrestlemania?
- Enzo Amore tries to eye-f*ck his Cruiserweight title and then discusses with Drew Gulak the new qualifiers match for the Number One Contendership for said title. Enzo also ‘accidentally’ slips Nia Jax’s name into conversation. Who doesn’t love exposition?
- Finn Balor def. Curtis Axel (1:44) – A quick squash to continue to rehab Finn Balor. He might not have an actual storyline at the moment but at least he’s winning matches.
- Kane has a promo near the boilers or somewhere. He talks about crushing more than just throats and destroying Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar. Vote Glen Jacobs for Knox County Mayor.
- Seth Rollins def. Sheamus (13:11) – It was nice seeing a clean match between the competitors of these two teams as it seems to be constant outside intervention normally. A solid, clean match that probably means that we’re still stuck watching these two/four for a while longer. The matches are always good but frankly, it would be nice to change things up.
- Dean Ambrose has a backstage interview about his upcoming match with Samoa Joe. He’s starting t go back to wacky comedy Dean in his promos. Oh good, I love wacky comedy Dean.
- Drew Gulak meets with Enzo for the second time tonight, Drew tells Enzo that he’s going to beat Cedric and then he’s going to beat Enzo. Enzo is offended by this, Drew tells him it’s just friendly banter but Enzo doesn’t see them as friends but Drew as his employee, he’s about to insult the sacred PowerPoint presentations when up turns Nia Jax and he forgets what he was saying. Things we learnt here, Drew Gulak is a true treasure & Nia Jax deserves better than Amore.
- Braun Strowman promises to destroy Kane tonight. I’d settle for them having an actual finish to a match at this point.
- Kurt Angle tells the ring crew to prepare for Kane vs Strowman and make sure the ring doesn’t collapse this time. Up turns Jason Jordan and tells his dad to give him a match with Samoa Joe but Angle tells him that Joe already has a match. Boy, it would be a shame if this lead to shenanigans…
- Samoa Joe def. Dean Ambrose (10:50) – Jason Jordan came to the ring and caused shenanigans, he caused distractions for both men, took a Coquina Clutch and a tope suicido and generally got in the way. The match itself, well, both men have had better but at least Samoa Joe can now consider himself amongst an exclusive club of men who’ve beaten each member of The Shield in singles action.
- Dana Brooke meets with Titus Worldwide and they announce her new role as head of statistics and developments. Up turn The Good Brothers reminding us all that there was that classic segment where they were doctors and Dana Brooke was a nurse. Fun times. Everyone gets called ‘nerds’. Braun Strowman makes people bump simply by walking near them.
- Next week: Brock Lesnar turns up for once.
Universal Title Number One Contender’s Match: Kane vs Braun Strowman ends in a Double Countout
How many times do we have to do this? Things were rolling along at a fair old pace to start with as both men were throwing forearms and chokeslams and trading near falls till soon into the match Kane rolled out, Strowman followed, they fought through the crowd and Strowman speared Kane back to ringside through the barricade. This lead to both men being counted out and fighting further around the ring with Kane beating down Strowman with a chair till Strowman would come back to life and reverse a chokeslam into a running powerslam through a table.
I have to assume they’re doing this to set up a triple threat for the Royal Rumble so that whether Lesnar or Strowman win, Kane can take the fall to keep the other looking strong. I get doing that, it makes sense but does it have to be Kane? There are any number of other workers who could benefit from such a match. Think of Lesnar vs Cena vs Rollins at Rumble 2015 and then compare that in this instance, we’ve swapped out peak Cena for long past his best Kane. Let’s see what happens next week or at least, I’ll just read Amanda’s take on events, you don’t think I actually watch this when I’m not reviewing it do you?