July 25, 2016
From the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA
Your hosts are Corey Graves, Byron Saxton, and Michael Cole
Before the show, we see a slow-mo clip of Dean Ambrose pinning Roman Reigns to retain the WWE Championship as we hear JBL screaming about how Ambrose is bringing the WWE Championship to SmackDown Live.
The show now has a new opening montage and song. After it ended, we saw announcers Corey Graves, Byron Saxton, and Michael Cole standing behind the announcers table, which is now positioned to overlook the ring. I do like the changes as the new look really shakes things up, giving the show a fresh feel.
Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon are in the ring to open the show. Foley tells us the New Era starts tonight as he welcomes the RAW roster to the stage. Foley promises to work with the talent to bring the most exciting, action-packed edition of RAW each and every week. Stephanie then blames Roman Reigns for losing the WWE Championship for the entire roster and how he even screwed it up when Seth Rollins had the match won. Stephanie tells Roman He is not a good guy, He is not a bad guy, but rather he is a loser. She then mentions how RAW does not have a Champion for the first-time ever. Foley & Stephanie then talk about their being 2 Fatal Four Way matches tonight with the winners facing off against each other tonight for the right to face Seth Rollins at SummerSlam for the new “WWE Universal Championship.” Foley names the right competitors which include: Sami Zayn, Sheamus, Roman Reigns, Cesaro, Chris Jericho, Rusev, Kevin Owens, and Finn Balor, making his RAW debut by appearing front and center in his leather jacket. Foley then tells Charlotte that she will be defending her WWE Women’s Championship tonight against Sasha Banks.
I thought this was an effective segment and it answered the question as to whether or not a second World Title belt would be created for RAW. This was short enough and even though on the surface it seems lame that Rollins walked into a title match, the history of being aligned with Stephanie in the Authority and being the #1 overall pick of the draft at least gives some backstory to why he is there. Plus, Stephanie said that Rollins would have won had not Reigns ruined it for him and the entire RAW brand. With these big matches being named on the first show, it appears that they are going all out tonight to make this a big show. I even liked the dynamic between Stephanie and Mick Foley, who did the majority of the talking.
Fatal Four Way Match: Cesaro vs. Rusev w/ Lana vs. Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor
Cole really put over Balor during his entrance as the others watch him from the outside. Match starts with Balor and Owens going at it in the corner. Rusev and Cesaro fight on the outside while Graves talks about Cesaro being unhappy regarding his draft position. Everyone is outside where Cesaro takes Rusev down with a running senton from the apron just before the break. The action returns with Rusev and Owens stomping on Balor in the ring then try to out-perform each other as they suplex Balor. Owens takes a bow after clotheslining Balor on the back of the neck as that gets two. Rusev & Owens suplex Cesaro back inside from the apron as they now beat on Cesaro until Balor runs in for the save. Owens blocks a crucifix with a Death Valley Driver but Rusev breaks up the pin. Cesaro takes out Owens and Rusev with a crossbody as he then hits everyone with the uppercut train. Cesaro takes himself out when he hip tosses Rusev to the floor. Owens cuts off Balor as he tried a dive but Balor rolls through a sunset flip and hits a basement dropkick. Owens rolls outside as Balor takes everyone out with a tope con hilo. Balor hits Cesaro with an enziguiri from the apron then heads in for a dropkick. He gets two with the 1916 then we head to break. We return with Rusev on the winning end of a Tower of Doom spot. Owens gets two with a frog splash on Balor then hits the Pop-Up Powerbomb as Cesaro breaks up the pin attempt. Cesaro tries for the Neutralizer but fails yet is able to hit a springboard corkscrew uppercut. Rusev knocks down Cesaro then puts Owens in the Accolade but Cesaro comes in and deadlifts Rusev for a suplex. Cesaro attempts a sharpshooter but Rusev counters and tries for the Accolade then Cesaro counters that with a cradle for two. Cesaro then turns Rusev inside-out with a clothesline as both men are down. They get up and slug it out until Cesaro takes him down and hits the swing before applying the Sharpshooter until Owens breaks that up. Owens hits a cannonball in the corner but Balor cuts him off and hits the Sling Blade then goes up top to hit Rusev with the Coup de Grace for the win (20:27) ****.
Thoughts: Excellent match. Balor looked tremendous in his debut and everyone else also got a chance to shine. I liked when Owens & Rusev paired up and I think, if given the chance, can really be a great heel duo together. Let them cut loose and give them a push and you have a fresh, new heel act. Cesaro seems to be pushed as a guy with a chip on his shoulder and that should be worth monitoring going forward. This was a tremendous match to open the show.
We see a montage of the Cruiserweight Classic that leads to a graphic hyping the Cruiserweight Division on RAW. No word on when it will go into effect though.
Nia Jax vs. Britt Baker
Baker is an Independent wrestler based out of Pittsburgh. She has done some work in the AIW promotion. Jax clotheslines Baker in the corner to start. She puts her in the tree-of-woe and beats her down before hitting a leg drop for a two count after pulling Baker up. Jax then hits a headbutt before hitting another leg drop for the win (1:20).
Thoughts: I thought it was an effective way to get Jax over and building her up by having her run through enhancement talent is a good idea. I’d also start by including insert promos to build up her character.
Sasha Banks is standing backstage as the Golden Truth are running around trying to catch Pokemon. They leave as Tom Phillips enters as Sasha talks about winning the Women’s Title to kick off the New Era and bring some swag to the title too. Decent interview by Sasha and having the Golden Truth parody Pokemon was actually pretty funny and clever given its current popularity.
Fatal Four Way: Chris Jericho vs. Sheamus vs. Sami Zayn vs. Roman Reigns
Sheamus and Jericho beat on Reigns in the corner. Zayn then jumps in and beats on Reigns too. Outside the ring, Jericho and Sheamus beat on Reigns then head inside and outnumber Zayn. They work him over in the corner as Zayn tries to fight back but ends up running into a big boot. Zayn takes both guys outside and teases a dive as they moved out of the way but Reigns sneaks up from behind and slams him down for two. Snap suplex gets two. Zayn tries to fight back but Reigns knocks him down. Zayn pulls the ropes down on Reigns and tries a dive but Sheamus grabs him from behind as he and Jericho were ducking behind the apron. Jericho takes Sheamus off the apron with a springboard dropkick then everyone else gets dumped over besides Reigns, who takes them all out with a plancha as we head to break. The match returns with Jericho & Sheamus beating on Reigns. Sheamus then takes down Jericho but Zayn hits him with a crossbody. Sheamus clotheslines Zayn down but Reigns beats on him and hits Jericho with a Samoan drop. Reigns hits both Sheamus and Jericho with the Drive By as he is beating down both men at the same time. Zayn comes in and hits Reigns with a Blue Thunder Bomb for a nearfall. Reigns catches Zayn with a boot then hits a Splash Mountain for a nearfall of his own. Sheamus blocks a Superman Punch attempt with a Brogue Kick then Zayn nails Sheamus with a Helluva Kick for two as Jericho breaks up that pin attempt. Zayn beats on Jericho as we get the Ole chant. Jericho then blocks a tornado DDT attempt and applies the Walls of Jericho but Sheamus breaks it up with a Brogue Kick as Zayn is able to break up the pin attempt. Sheamus tries for the White Noise on Zayn but Reigns breaks that up with a Superman Punch then hits the others with that too. Reigns sets up for the spear but Jericho blocks that with a kick and hits the Codebreaker as that gets a nearfall. Jericho then mocks Reigns and charges but Reigns leapfrogs him and hits the spear for the win (17:14) ***1/2.
Thoughts: Another very good match, even if the outcome was predictable. The last five minutes were great and they kept Sami’s momentum from last night going as he looked like a credible threat here. Sheamus and Jericho also played their parts well and Reigns moved around better here than he did last night. Reigns vs. Balor is now our main event for the night.
The New Day come out to celebrate their 337-day long Tag Team Title reign as well as their Booty O’s cereal. We see balloons in all corners of the ring too. Xavier tells us that while last night did not go as planned, he is glad Bray Wyatt got drafted to SmackDown and that they have been the champions for 337 days and tell us how to get Booty O’s at FYE as this leads to a video package of the New Day and all of their accomplishments and favorite moments. After it ends, they make a joke about “packages” then selects one person in the crowd to be an honorary New Day member. They pick some guy wearing a New Day shirt as he struggles to get over the barricade. Big E asks “Sonny Boy” his name and as it turns out, the guy’s name is in fact Sonny Boy. They joke about that for a minute or two then dance around until Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson run out to attack the New Day as Sonny Boy fled to safety. After the attack, Gallows & Anderson look around and rip off the shirts of Kofi & Xavier before heading over to Sonny Boy and his pal as Gallows blows his nose in the New Day shirt as Anderson whips it as Sonny Boy’s face. Gallows tosses the other shirt at him as this ends with the camera zooming in on The Club doing the “too sweet” hand gesture as they hold that up while looking angry.
I really liked this segment too, especially the end with Gallows & Anderson destroying the New Day before looking around in disgust at all over the antics, causing them to inflict even more punishment. The New Day celebration itself wasn’t their greatest but the bit with Sonny Boy amused me at least and more importantly, they effectively set up a new Tag Team Title feud.
Dean Ambrose will be the guest on the “Stone Cold Podcast” in two weeks after RAW on the WWE Network.
Curtis Axel vs. Neville
Axel takes offense to being referred to as “Mr. Irrelevant” due to being the last draft pick. Neville now sports a beard. Neville hits a tilt-a-whirl headscissors then shows off his agility some more before using a chinlock. Axel breaks out then Neville hits Axel with a standing shooting star press to the back. Axel comes back with a dropkick then works a chinlock on the mat. Axel hits a backbreaker for two then tries to work the leg but Neville hits an upkick then follows with a deadlift German suplex. Neville hits a back suplex before hitting the Red Arrow for the win (3:43) *.
Thoughts: The crowd was dead for this one, barely even reacting to the Red Arrow. They gave Neville a brief video package hyping his return but he was in need of some direction or even a character prior to his injury and that was not addressed here. Axel could be really fun as a modern day Iron Mike Sharpe of sorts I think. The show needs reliable lower card talent and he can fit that role, like he has for most of his career.
Backstage, we see Darren Young and Bob Backlund. They are upset over what happened last night. The Golden Truth run in and catch Pokemon then Backlund starts screaming and tells Young he will do what he has to in order to win a title. The Backlund/Young felt really forced but the Golden Truth trying to catch Pokemon continues to amuse me as RAW has created a nice show-long bit.
We get a video package on Finn Balor, showcasing his NXT career, used to hype up his match against Reigns.
Tom Phillips is backstage with Dana Brooke and Charlotte, who tells us Sasha had a partner last night but is all alone tonight. She then stumbles a bit as she talks about leading the Women’s Division and that Sasha can keep dreaming because tonight she will bow down to the queen and she can bank on that. Not Charlotte’s best promo, that’s for sure.
WWE Women’s Championship Match: Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte (c) w/ Dana Brooke
The crowd chants for Sasha as Cole puts over Charlotte’s 307-day title reign. These two fight over a lockup to start. They continue to struggle for position then Dana grabs Sasha’s leg as Charlotte takes control. Sasha hits a lungblower but cannot put on the Banks Statement as she works a Japanese strangle hold. Charlotte breaks the hold after backing Sasha in the corner but comes back to put on the Banks Statement as Charlotte scurries over to the ropes. Charlotte rolls outside as Sasha jumps off of the apron with a double knee smash. Back inside, Charlotte fights out of a struggle and hits a neckbreaker as she takes control of the match. Charlotte then boots Sasha into the barricade as she grabs her title belt and tells Sasha she does not deserve it but Sasha fights back. Charlotte rolls inside as Sasha is on the ground and tosses the belt to Dana, who is nearby, as the referee sees that and tosses Dana from the back as Sasha smiles and waves by at Dana from the floor while Charlotte is flipping out in the ring as we head to break. We return with Charlotte in control as Sasha fights back and hits a double knee smash as both women are down. Sasha ducks a boot and hits a few clotheslines then a dropkick. Sasha drills Charlotte with a knee smash then takes her off the ropes in the corner with a knee drop for two. Charlotte fights back and hits a neckbreaker as she begins to smile, thinking she has Sasha where she wants her. Charlotte lands on her feet trying a moonsault then Sasha gets her knees up on a splash before nearly killing herself with a tope as it appears she overshot the move. Back inside, Sasha heads up top but Charlotte cuts her off. They battle until Charlotte drops Sasha on the top rope as she falls to the floor then Charlotte flies to the outside from the top rope with a moonsault press, drawing a “holy shit” chant from the crowd. Back inside, Charlotte tries for the figure-eight but Sasha turns that into a small package for two. Charlotte then hits the Natural Selection after hitting a big boot but Sasha was able to grab the rope. Charlotte tries again for the figure-eight and they roll to the ropes until Charlotte falls to the floor. The crowd rallies behind Sasha as Charlotte tries a bridging pin but Sasha turns that into a Banks Statement. Sasha rolls through the counter but Charlotte reaches the ropes. Charlotte then talks says Sasha will never take her title as she charges but Sasha dodges and hits the lungblower then puts on the Banks Statement and gets the win and the WWE Women’s Title (16:54) ****.
Thoughts: Awesome match. The WWE created a great moment here as the match itself was planned out to perfection. I loved Sasha’s homage to Eddie Guerrero when she got Dana kicked out and these two had some great nearfalls at the end. I wonder what is next for both as Charlotte was shown
After the match, Saxton comes to the ring and asks Sasha what this moment means to her. She cries tears of joy while the crowd screams “you deserve it” then she talks about this being her dream and how its the era of change and women’s wrestling. A nice segment to cap off Sasha’s win. Cole even noted on commentary that this might be our main event of the evening. They’ve done a great job in treating this as a special moment and everyone should seek out this match and interview.
Braun Strowman vs. James Ellsworth
Saxton is with Ellsworth, asking him what he is thinking facing off against Strowman. Ellsworth talks about wrestling on RAW being is dream but he had no idea it was against Strowman. Ellsworth weighs about 160 lbs and looks like someone who got busted in a meth lab sting. Anyway, the match begins as Strowman no-sells a few punches and tosses Ellsworth down. Strowman pauses then hits an Avalanche before hitting a “reverse chokeslam” for the win (1:09).
Thoughts: I liked the setup of this match, with Saxton asking the scrub how he felt about facing Strowman. The finish looked effective on this poor guy, who just bounced off of the mat. Strowman getting a singles push is not surprising but he is still not ready for this as he remains the 21st century answer to Ted Arcidi. Well, he is a little bit better than Arcidi anyway and its a good first-step in an attempt to build him up as a monster singles act.
We now get a video package on Roman Reigns to hype up tonight’s main event, with the winner facing off against Seth Rollins at SummerSlam to become the first WWE Universal Champion. They played up the “One vs. All” and “The Guy” stuff throughout the video.
Backstage, the Golden Truth continue to look for Pokemon. Its still amusing, believe it or not.
Enzo & Big Cass come out to the ring as the crowd is going insane. Enzo quotes Ol’ Dirty Bastard from the Wu Tang Clan about liking it “RAW” as Cass lists off all the things he likes raw until the Shining Stars interrupt. They promise to invite us all to Puerto Rico after taking care of Enzo & Cass, who responds with his S-A-W-F-T routine. Not the best work from Enzo & Big Cass on the mic but seeing how the Shining Stars could barely even get heat cutting them off, it really goes to show you how dead in the water the Shining Stars act is at the moment.
Enzo & Big Cass vs. Shining Stars
The Stars work over Enzo to start. Enzo makes the tag as Cass cleans house. Primo pulls the ropes down on Cass as R–Truth is in the ring trying to catch Pokemon as Goldust leads him away. This distracts Primo as Cass runs in to hit a big boot for the win (1:54). 1/4*
Thoughts: Not a fan of this segment. Using Enzo & Cass to set up a Golden Truth vs. Shining Stars feud was a waste. At the very least, the WWE had a great show-long bit with the Golden Truth trying to catch Pokemon.
Backstage, Reigns walks into Balor, who is looking confident. They wish each other luck as Balor tells Reigns he is Irish and they invented luck as Reigns replies that he is Samoan………..”enough said” before walking away.
Winner Gets to Face Seth Rollins at SummerSlam for the WWE Universal Championship: Finn Balor vs. Roman Reigns
A lot of boos for Reigns here. Reigns attacks Balor to start and tosses him across the ring. Reigns tosses him again as he intensely and slowly walks towards his opponent. Balor dodges a charge and catches Reigns with a kick but ends up running into a shoulder tackle. Balor comes back with a dropkick but Reigns sends him back down with an elbow smash as the announcers talk about Reigns not wanting to lose to someone who just came from NXT. Reigns continues to beat on Balor but misses the Drive By as Balor slingshots out with a double stomp. Balor then dropkicks Reigns into the barricade as we head to break. Back from break we see a replay of Balor working over the leg of Reigns, who hits a slam for two before using a headlock. Balor escapes but Reigns headbutts him. Balor catches Reigns with a boot and hits a few forearms but Reigns ends up picking him up for a powerbomb as that gets two. Balor ducks a Superman Punch but runs into a boot. Balor then cuts Reigns off of the top and dropkicks him off of the apron. Balor then hits a soccer kick and heads inside for a double stomp to the back of his head for two. Balor works a Dragon Sleeper then hits the Sling Blade as he takes a break in the corner. Balor measures up Reigns but ends up running into a Superman Punch but Balor is able to kick out. Reigns tries for a Splash Mountain but Balor counters with a sunset flip for a nearfall. Reigns then picks up Balor and hits a powerbomb then uses a sitout powerbomb but that still only gets two. Reigns sets up for the spear but Balor counters with the Sling Blade then hits the Coup de Grace for the win and the right to face Seth Rollins at SummerSlam for the WWE Universal Championship (13:56) ***1/2. After the match, Phillips asks Reigns his thoughts as they watch Balor celebrate in the ring. Reigns says when Balor beats Rollins at SummerSlam, he wants to face him again. He also said he respects Balor too.
Thoughts: Good match but the real shock was that Balor won as the previously reported Rollins vs. Reigns match for SummerSlam seems to be off the books. Balor was over here but not It will be interesting to see where they go with Reigns from here as wrestled like a heel in the match but came off like a face in the post-match interview. In one show, they established Balor as one of the top guys.
Final Thoughts: Overall, this was a tremendous show. The wrestling alone was great and better than what you see on most PPV’s and for my money, any PPV the WWE has put on this year. And in one night they managed to create a new star in Finn Balor plus we saw Sasha Banks finally win the Women’s Championship in a classic match that was a true feel-good moment. They truly went for a “New Era” feel with Sasha’s win and Balor going to SummerSlam in the WWE Universal Title match.
I also loved how they shook up RAW. The announcers table is no longer at ringside and I also liked how Saxton and Phillips would come out to the ring after and even before some matches to speak with the talent. I think its a much better way to get talent over on the mic than in random backstage segments. Even the commentary felt more inspired tonight. And having enhancement talent is a great tool, especially when you are trying to get over newer talent and characters. Remember how well Ryback got over after months of squash matches after he got called up?
Like many, I was weary of how they would have a three hour RAW with a split roster but they really hit it out of the park on night one. Even still, it will be a challenge going forward when you do not have the luxury to have title matches and show-long themes like setting up who will face Rollins at SummerSlam on a weekly basis.
Regardless, watch this show and you will have a blast.