4/17 Powell’s WWE Raw Live TV Review: Braun Strowman opens the show, Jeff Hardy vs. Cesaro, Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax vs. Mickie James vs. Sasha Banks to become No. 1 contender to the Raw Women’s Championship

By Jason Powell

WWE Raw on the USA Network
Live from Columbus, Ohio at Schottenstein Center

Raw opened with a recap of last week’s angle with Braun Strowman attacking Roman Reigns… Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Booker T were the broadcast team members. Cole noted that David Otunga is off filming a movie, so Booker is just filling in “for a few weeks”…

Ring announcer JoJo introduced Braun Strowman, who headed to the ring for a promo. Strowman received more boos than cheers from the Columbus crowd when he paused. “I’m proud to say last week I broke Roman Reigns in half,” Strowman said, which led to more cheers than boos. Reigns said he’s proud that Reigns left in an ambulance and has a separated shoulder and cracked ribs. Strowman said he’s damn proud to say Reigns would not be on this Raw show. Strowman said he would show the entire locker room that he is a monster among men.

Kurt Angle’s music played and the Raw general manager headed to the ring. Angle asked what point Strowman was trying to prove, adding that he’s done enough damage. Strowman said there was still more to come. Angle said that’s the same thing Reigns said before the show went off the air. Angle said he was giving Reigns what he wanted by giving him a match with Strowman “at the appropriately named Payback.” Strowman said it will be Roman’s funeral. Angle said they would find out in two weeks.

Strowman asked what about tonight. Angle said Strowman should be suspended. Angle said Strowman had done enough damage and should take the night off. Strowman said Mick Foley played the same game with him. “I want more competition or else,” Strowman said. Angle asked “or else what?” Strowman dropped the mic and left the ring…

Cole hyped a four-way to determine the No. 1 contneder to the Raw Women’s Title with Mickie James vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks. Graves hyped Dean Ambrose appearing on Miz TV. Cole hyped Chris Jericho vs. Samoa Joe…

Seth Rollins made his entrance… [C]

Powell’s POV: A good opening segment in terms of recapping the big angle from last week and setting the stage for both the pay-per-view match and the mystery of what Strowman will do this week as an encore. It was surprising that Strowman received as many boos as he did. I really thought the angle last week would turn a lot of fans in his favor. There were plenty of Roman haters, but that initial reaction that Strowman received before his promo was more boos than cheers.

Seth Rollins joined the broadcast team on commentary. They hyped his match against Samoa Joe for Payback…

[Q2] 1. Samoa Joe vs. Chris Jericho. Footage aired of the Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe beatdown of Jericho from the night after WrestleMania. Rollins said he looked up to Joe for a longtime, so he blindsided him both physically and emotionally when he first attacked him. Jericho caught Joe with a springboard dropkick that knocked him off the apron heading into a break. [C]

Joe had offensive control coming out of the break. Jericho came back and applied the Walls of Jericho. Joe spun his way out of the hold and then applied the standing Coquina Clutch. Jericho pushed his way onto Joe by using the ropes for a two count. Joe maintained the hold and wrapped his legs around Jericho, who tapped out…

Samoa Joe defeated Chris Jericho in 9:05.

After the match, Joe took the mic and addressed Seth Rollins, mocking him by calling him the mighty Kingslayer. Joe asked Rollins if he remembered what it sounded like when he arrived. He said he remembers it well and it was the sounds of joints and ligaments popping, and Rollins screaming for mercy.

Joe said that was just business because Rollins was a designated target assigned by his benefactor Triple H. Joe said that he cares about his clients and because of what Rollins did to Hunter and, more disgustingly Stephanie McMahon, it will now be very, very personal. Rollins stood on the broadcast table with a mic and said it will be personal because Joe almost cost him his career. “Payback is a bitch,” Rollins said…

Backstage, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson were shown walking and “The Drifter” Elias Samson was shown playing the guitar next to them.

[Q3] The cameras cut to their opponents, R-Truth and Goldust, who were attacked by Strowman. Adam Pearce, Finlay, and Jamie Noble entered the scene, barked at Strowman, and then tended to the Golden Truth duo… [C]

Powell’s POV: A good match. I’m actually surprised they went with it if only because Jericho has a big match at Payback as well. That said, if they were going to have a clean finish, then Joe definitely needed to go over. I hope they heat up Owens vs. Jericho by having Jericho make a crossover appearance on Smackdown. The post match verbal exchange was well done. Congrats to Rollins for getting the “payback is a bitch” line this year. Meanwhile, Strowman is a babyface in my mind for sparing me from the one billionth performance of the R-Truth entrance song.

An ad for Smackdown hyped a six pack challenge with Sami Zayn vs. Mojo Rawley vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Erick Rowan vs. Luke Harper vs. Jinder Mahal with the winner becoming No. 1 contender to the WWE Championship…

Powell’s POV: That’s a very odd group from a storyline standpoint given the fact that most of those guys lose more than they win. So one of those six guys is going to become No. 1 contender to the WWE Championship while AJ Styles is number one contender to the U.S. Championship? Strange.

The broadcast team recapped Strowman’s attack on Golden Truth… Backstage, a referee reminded Strowman that Angle gave him the night off. Strowman said he would leave when he wants to. Strowman stood up and added, “Unless you have a problem with that.” The referee left the room…

Anderson and Gallows stood in the ring for a promo. Anderson said Strowman gave Golden Truth the United Airlines treatment, yet they were the ones on standby. Gallows said Angle better round up some nerds from the locker room. Enzo and Big Cass made their entrance and performed their entrance schtick, which the crowd had fun with…

2. Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Cole noted that Dash Wilder would miss eight weeks with a fractured jaw. Enzo and Cass had offensive control heading into a break a couple minutes into the match. Enzo and Cass had offensive control heading into a break a couple minutes into the match.

[Q4] Anderson and Gallows had taken advantage coming out of the break and isolated Enzo. Anderson performed a spinebuster on Enzo for a two count at 7:15. Booker criticized Cass for not coming in to break up the pinfall. Cole quickly defended it saying that Enzo was able to kick out without the help. Enzo caught Gallows with a DDT off the middle rope and nearly made the tag, but Anderson checked back in and stopped him.

Cass eventually took the hot tag and worked over both opponents. Cass performed a side slam on Anderson and then dropped the Empire Elbow. Cass connected with a big boot and then performed a rocket launcher with Enzo landing on the interfering Gallows. Anderson tossed Enzo knees first into the top rope in the corner and then pinned him…

Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson beat Enzo Amore and Big Cass in 10:45.

Cole hyped Mickie James appearing in action on Raw for the first time in over seven years. Graves hyped the Miz TV segment for after the break… A WrestleMania 34 video aired. Sadly, they’re not counting down the days yet…

Powell’s POV: That was an unexpected, yet cool finish. It appeared to be completely planned as Enzo actually took the toss safely on the top rope. Clever.

Cole showcased Nia Jax as highlights aired. This was similar to the video that James received, so they are doing it for all four women in the four-way…

The Miz and Maryse made their entrance for the Miz TV segment. A recap of last week’s segment involving Miz and Ambrose was shown. Miz was quickly interrupted by Ambrose’s entrance.

[Q5] Ambrose noted that Miz was still upset about last week. He called for a truce and noted that Miz is from Cleveland, he’s from Cincinnati, and they were in Columbus. He led the “OH-IO” chant, which the crowd was hot for. Miz said he lives the part of WWE superstar, whereas Ambrose is a disgrace to what a superstar should be.

Miz said the worst part is that the fans love Ambrose. He spoke about how Ambrose had all the momentum after being drafted number one and headlining SummerSlam. Miz said Ambrose was barely a blip on the radar at WrestleMania. Miz said Ambrose never breaks the glass ceiling because he is lazy and complacent.

Ambrose said it’s about heart. He said he’s not a brand, he’s simply Dean Ambrose. He said he does what he does because he loves it and would do it in front of 20 people or 100,000 people. Ambrose there’s no one who does it like he does and that’s why he’s the IC Champion. Ambrose said Miz should know this because he beat him for the title.

Maryse called Ambrose a “dirty little street rat” and said walking around with a title doesn’t make Ambrose a real champion. She said the man makes the championship. Ambrose had Maryse hold the mic and then put down the title belt, empties his pockets, removed his jacket, and folded it nicely while Miz said he’s made the title the same thing he is – a joke. Ambrose tackled Miz. Maryse struck Ambrose from behind. Miz tried to take advantage of the distraction. Ambrose countered with a Dirty Deeds attempt, but Miz escaped it and left the ring…

A shot aired of Braun Strowman dragging Kalisto by the arm through the backstage area. Strowman picked up Kalisto and slammed him into a garbage dumpster. Big Show shoulder blocked Strowman into the wall, which knocked him down. Show told Strowman to pick on someone his own size… [C]

Powell’s POV: It’s hard to be excited about going back to Ambrose vs. Miz again if you’re a regular viewer of Smackdown. It’s not that they don’t work well together or that this wasn’t a good segment. Rather, it’s that I was hoping for fresh feuds for both men, not a rehashed feud that was carried over from Smackdown. Meanwhile, was dumping Kalisto in the trash the ceremonial way of moving him to the cruiserweight division?

An ad for NXT hyped Tye Dillinger vs. Eric Young in a cage match… A recap of the Strowman and Show segment was recapped. The broadcast team announced Strowman vs. Show for later in the broadcast…

[Q6] 3. TJ Perkins vs. Jack Gallagher. Perkins performed his usual entrance despite the heel turn. Just as the wrestlers were being called together to shake hands, JoJo introduced Neville as making a special appearance. The wrestlers came together for the handshake again, but this time Austin Aries made his entrance and said he was making an even “specialer appearance.” Aries set up his chair right next to Neville’s and offered him a banana. Neville moved his seat. Aries at the banana. Perkins was in control a few minutes into the match. [C]

After the break, Gallagher did the umbrella spot off the top rope and onto Perkins on the floor. Perkins ended up shoving Gallagher into Aries, which knocked Aries and his chair over. Aries stood on the apron and took his jacket off, but Neville tripped him up aggressively. Meanwhile, Perkins kicked the middle rope into the face of Gallagher and hit the Detonation Kick for the win…

TJ Perkins beat Jack Gallagher in 10:10.

Cole narrated a brief Alexa Bliss video and noted that she will be in her hometown of Columbus during the four-way…

[Q7] Graves hyped Jeff Hardy in one-on-one action for the first time in over eight years when he faces Cesaro… [C]

Powell’s POV: I smell a tag team match for 205 Live. Either way, this was effective in putting heat on the heels. I like the way Graves described TJP as the hand of the king. It’s odd that they didn’t hype the Jeff Hardy vs. Cesaro match online ahead of time, as it certainly appeals to the diehard fans. By the way, are we going to hear from the Hardys on Raw for the first time this week?

Backstage, Akira Tozawa told Apollo Crews that he’s so happy he is on Raw. Titus O’Neil showed up, and Tozawa split. Titus congratulated Crews on the news that he’s going to be a father for the first time. Titus asked Crews what he intends to do to make an impact on Raw. Crews said he’s all about hard work and eventually he will knock one down. Titus told him he needs to hook up with the Titus brand. He spoke about how fans could go on an Apollo cruise as one example. Titus gave Crews his card and told him to think about it…

Powell’s POV: The mere mention of the Titus brand makes me check the time and yawn.

Backstage, Mike Rome interviewed Matt and Jeff Hardy and asked what’s changed since they were last in WWE. Matt said almost everything. He said the lights are brighter, the pyro is louder, the current crop of wrestlers are the most athletic they have ever faced. Jeff said he thought he’d felt every emotion there was to feel until they returned at WrestleMania. He said they are excited to be back and part of the new era on Raw.

Sheamus and Cesaro showed up and said they were there to welcome them both back to Raw. Sheamus spoke about watching them steal the show at WrestleMania 17 and called them the creators of TLC. Cesaro said his match with Jeff is a dream match. Sheamus said that without the ladders, it will be an honor to defeat the legends at Payback to win back the titles. Matt said they don’t need ladders to win back the titles. Cesaro said to excuse his partner because he ruins a good time. He said they should keep it respectful and he would see Jeff out there. Jeff told Rome that it’s good to be back…

The broadcast team hyped Jeff Hardy vs. Cesaro. Cole spoke over a Sasha Banks video to set up the four-way… Sasha Banks made her entrance for the four-way match… [C]

Powell’s POV: It was good to hear from the Hardys even though their promo was pretty basic. The story here was the behavior of Sheamus and Cesaro in terms of where it will go. Are they building tension or could we see an actual heel turn from both men?

Alexa Bliss made her entrance to a strong hometown ovation. Mickie James was out next to a flat reaction. Nia Jax was out last…

[Q8] 4. Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James vs. Sasha Banks in a four-way to become No. 1 contender to the Raw Women’s Championship. Cole said his money was on Jax to win. Booker called it the smart money. Bliss slapped Jax early and then fled from her, but James took out Jax. Bayley was shown watching the match on a backstage monitor. James performed a neckbreaker on Sasha and covered her, but Jax pulled James to ringside. Sasha dove onto both of them heading into a break. [C]

Jax put Banks in a bearhug. Banks countered into a guillotine attempt, but Jax blocked it and slammed her. James caught Jax in an arm bar. Jax teased tapping, but instead rolled over and powered James up before slamming her onto Banks in the corner. Bliss went up top and then noticed that Jax was waiting. Bliss climbed down and headed to ringside.

Later, Sasha performed the double knee spot on Bliss in the corner and went for a cover, but Jax pulled her to ringside to break the count. Bliss knocked James off the apron and onto Jax. There were cheers as Bliss and Banks were alone in the ring. Sasha performed the Backstabber and then applied the Bank Statement, but James returned to break it up.

[Q9] Later, Jax caught Banks on the ropes and used her to knock James off the ropes. Jax performed a Samoan Drop on Sasha. Bliss took out Jax and then covered Banks for the win…

Alexa Bliss defeated Nia Jax, Sasha Banks, and Mickie James in 13:45 to become No. 1 contender to the Raw Women’s Championship.

Powell’s POV: A fun match. Unfortunately, Cole predicting a Jax win at the start of the match immediately made me assume that she wasn’t going to win the match. I suspect they think their audience believes what Cole is saying, but they have to know that a big portion of their audience heard that and immediately suspected that Jax would not be going over.

Backstage, Big Show said Braun Strowman needs to find out what it’s like to be intimidated and he would give him a taste of his own medicine giant style… A WWE Network commercial focussed on al the pay-per-views, NXT specials, original programming, 205 Live, and WWE 24 specials on Finn Balor, Kurt Angle, and Bill Goldberg… [C]

Curt Hawkins stood in the ring and delivered a promo about Big Show getting in the ring with him last week and now being in the main event this week. Hawkins said if you want to be a superhero then you enroll in Professor Xavier’s school for the gifted, but if you want to be a main eventer then you get in the ring with him. He asked who it would be this week. Finn Balor made his entrance (obviously medically cleared after being concussed last week)…

5. Finn Balor vs. Curt Hawkins. The broadcast team didn’t mention the injury Balor suffered last week, which was never publicly addressed by WWE. Balor connected with quick strikes, a sling blade clothesline, and a dropkick. Balor hit the Coup de Grace for the win…

Finn Balor beat Curt Hawkins in 0:37.

Powell’s POV: It’s obviously great to see that Balor made a quick recovery after taking that hard shot from Jinder Mahal last week. It was encouraging when it was reported that he would be tested at Raw today because they wouldn’t have him travel if they didn’t feel good about it, but it was still a pleasant surprise to see him return to the ring on this show.

Cole hyped the Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt House of Horrors match for Payback… Actor Dule Hill was shown in the crowd as Cole hyped his new film…

[Q10] [C] Backstage, Mike Rome interviewed Chris Jericho and noted that he was unsuccessful in his match against Samoa Joe. Jericho called Rome “Tom (Phillips)” again. Jericho indicated that there’s no shame in losing to Joe, but he’s distracted by his upcoming match with Kevin Owens. Jericho said he would be a better face of America. He posed for the camera. He spoke about the idea that he would go to Smackdown if he wins the U.S. Championship and said it doesn’t matter where he goes. Rome reminded him of his name. Jericho asked if his name was Mike or Tom. They went back and forth and Jericho got Rome to say his name was Tom. Jericho was to put him on the list for not knowing his own name when Elias Samson walked behind them playing his guitar. Jericho told Rome he was off the hook, then put Samson on the list…

Powell’s POV: The funny part about Jericho mugging as he spoke about being the Face of America was that he held up his arm and his Team Canada hockey tattoo was on full display. No one seemed to mind.

A Bray Wyatt video aired. He said fear lives within his house of horrors. He said he knows Randy Orton is scared and he smells it. He said all of Orton’s fears will come to life. He said Orton will know pain, fear, and horror… Graves hyped Jeff Hardy vs. Cesaro…

Powell’s POV: The House of Horrors match could be a blast, but only if they let Matt Hardy book it. The production team worked hard on that Wyatt video. Bray is damaged. It’s hard to even focus on his promos at this point because they never end up meaning anything despite how well he delivers them. By the way, the Hardy vs. Cesaro match teaser included a teaser for Xyzal, which uses an owl mascot. You can’t make it up.

[Q11] Backstage, Alicia Fox showed Dana Brooke the footage of a gift exploding in her face on 205 Live. Emma showed up and said Brooke was showing that video to everyone all week. Brooke said that wasn’t true. Fox yelled at Brooke and said she didn’t want to be her friend anymore and then stormed off. Emma said Brooke wanted to stand on her own two feet, so she wants to see how she balances…

6. Jeff Hardy (w/Matt Hardy) vs. Cesaro (w/Sheamus). Booker labeled it a dream match. Cole plugged the allergy relief company again and the owl appeared on the screen as the match started. There was a Brother Nero chant early on. Jeff performed a running leap off the apron and onto Cesaro on the floor just over a minute into the match.

Jeff went to ringside and sold a leg injury after taking a move from Cesaro, who ran out and hit him with an uppercut against the barricade. Back inside the ring, Jeff came back and went to the top rope, but Cesaro rolled to ringside. [C]

Cesaro was the aggressor coming out of the break and he slowed the pace of the match. Jeff came back and got a two count off a dropkick to the face of a seated Cesaro. A short time later, Cesaro performed a springboard uppercut for a two count of his own. Jeff went to the top rope a short time later, but Cesaro cut him off.

[Q12] Jeff blocked a superplex attempt and crotched Cesaro on the top rope. Jeff dropkicked Cesaro off the ropes to the floor. Jeff performed a moonsault onto a standing Cesaro for a two count. Cesaro went for a Neutralizer, but Jeff avoided it and hit a Twist of Fate. Jeff went up top and performed a Swanton Bomb for the win. After the match, Shemaus and Cesaro offered handshakes. Matt and Jeff reluctantly accepted the handshakes…

Jeff Hardy beat Cesaro in 13:05.

Powell’s POV: A fun television match even though there was nothing particularly memorable about it. The live crowd wasn’t red hot by any means, but it’s hard to blame them considering there was nothing at stake, no real issue between the characters, and both men are babyfaces.

The broadcast team spoke over footage of Braun Strowman and Big Show earlier in the night…

Mike Rome stood in front of the trainer’s room and started to give an update on Kalisto and Golden Truth, but he was interrupted by Heath Slater and Rhyno. Slater spoke about how he wasn’t even drafted last year, yet he and Rhyno became the first Smackdown Tag Champs. Rhyno was eating crackers and cheese whiz. They noticed Braun walking by them for his match and jumped back in fear… [C] The Smackdown commercial hyping the six pack challenge match aired again… [C]

Powell’s POV: But what about Golden… No one cares.

Graves hyped TJ Perkins vs. Austin Aries for 205 Live… Ring entrances for the main event took place…

7. Braun Strowman vs. Big Show. Before the match, Strowman and Show fought at ringside. Show threw Strowman into the steps. The match started once they returned to the ring. Show continued to be dominant. Strowman cut him off with a dropkick. Cole said they were flying around like cruiserweights.

[Overrun] Both men went for bodyslams. Big Show ended up hoisting up Strowman, but he couldn’t turn him over. Show was successful with the bodyslam on the next attempt, which woke up the crowd. Show went for the chokeslam, but Strowman shoved his hand away and then suplexed him. “I’m the giant,” Strowman yelled at the fans.

A short time later, Show avoided a slam and then shoved Strowman into the corner and followed up with a splash. Show did a lot of talking to Strowman while the broadcast team questioned whether it was Big Show’s last dash. Show set up for a superplex and the fans stood up only to boo when Strowman avoided it. Strowman jumped off the ropes and Show caught him and then chokeslammed him for a two count.

Strowman avoided a knockout punch and then performed a powerslam for a two count. A short time later, Show went for the superplex again, but Strowman once again avoided it. Strowman leapt off the second rope into a knockout punch for a good near fall.

Show went to the top rope. Strowman cut him off and then performed the superplex that everyone had been waiting for. The ring collapsed and the fans popped huge. Referees and trainers entered the collapsed ring and checked on both men while the broadcast team narrated the highlights of the big spot. The fans chanted Yes! Strowman got back to his feet and raised his arms. Strowman’s music played…

Braun Strowman fought Big Show to an apparent no-contest in 13:00.

Powell’s POV: A good super heavyweight match. This wasn’t as entertaining as their previous match until the big finish, though it’s possible they set the bar so high with that outing that my expectations were higher this time around. This was still a cool match and I like the non-finish as they can go back to it. Sure, longtime fans remember the Show and Lesnar collapsed ring spot, but that didn’t seem to bother the live crowd whatsoever. Strowman standing tall at the end was logical in that he’s the guy facing Reigns in a couple of weeks while Show doesn’t even have an advertised match for Payback.

Overall, a good show that held my interest more than many shows have in the three-hour era. There was nothing that really stood out as being truly memorable until the ring collapse spot at the end, but they forwarded some storylines and things felt fresher thanks in part to the shakeup. I will have more to say in my All Access audio review later tonight.

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4/17 Powell’s WWE Raw Live TV Review: Braun Strowman opens the show, Jeff Hardy vs. Cesaro, Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax vs. Mickie James vs. Sasha Banks to become No. 1 contender to the Raw Women’s Championship

By Jason Powell

WWE Raw on the USA Network
Live from Columbus, Ohio at Schottenstein Center

Raw opened with a recap of last week’s angle with Braun Strowman attacking Roman Reigns… Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Booker T were the broadcast team members. Cole noted that David Otunga is off filming a movie, so Booker is just filling in “for a few weeks”…

Ring announcer JoJo introduced Braun Strowman, who headed to the ring for a promo. Strowman received more boos than cheers from the Columbus crowd when he paused. “I’m proud to say last week I broke Roman Reigns in half,” Strowman said, which led to more cheers than boos. Reigns said he’s proud that Reigns left in an ambulance and has a separated shoulder and cracked ribs. Strowman said he’s damn proud to say Reigns would not be on this Raw show. Strowman said he would show the entire locker room that he is a monster among men.

Kurt Angle’s music played and the Raw general manager headed to the ring. Angle asked what point Strowman was trying to prove, adding that he’s done enough damage. Strowman said there was still more to come. Angle said that’s the same thing Reigns said before the show went off the air. Angle said he was giving Reigns what he wanted by giving him a match with Strowman “at the appropriately named Payback.” Strowman said it will be Roman’s funeral. Angle said they would find out in two weeks.

Strowman asked what about tonight. Angle said Strowman should be suspended. Angle said Strowman had done enough damage and should take the night off. Strowman said Mick Foley played the same game with him. “I want more competition or else,” Strowman said. Angle asked “or else what?” Strowman dropped the mic and left the ring…

Cole hyped a four-way to determine the No. 1 contneder to the Raw Women’s Title with Mickie James vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks. Graves hyped Dean Ambrose appearing on Miz TV. Cole hyped Chris Jericho vs. Samoa Joe…

Seth Rollins made his entrance… [C]

Powell’s POV: A good opening segment in terms of recapping the big angle from last week and setting the stage for both the pay-per-view match and the mystery of what Strowman will do this week as an encore. It was surprising that Strowman received as many boos as he did. I really thought the angle last week would turn a lot of fans in his favor. There were plenty of Roman haters, but that initial reaction that Strowman received before his promo was more boos than cheers.

Seth Rollins joined the broadcast team on commentary. They hyped his match against Samoa Joe for Payback…

[Q2] 1. Samoa Joe vs. Chris Jericho. Footage aired of the Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe beatdown of Jericho from the night after WrestleMania. Rollins said he looked up to Joe for a longtime, so he blindsided him both physically and emotionally when he first attacked him. Jericho caught Joe with a springboard dropkick that knocked him off the apron heading into a break. [C]

Joe had offensive control coming out of the break. Jericho came back and applied the Walls of Jericho. Joe spun his way out of the hold and then applied the standing Coquina Clutch. Jericho pushed his way onto Joe by using the ropes for a two count. Joe maintained the hold and wrapped his legs around Jericho, who tapped out…

Samoa Joe defeated Chris Jericho in 9:05.

After the match, Joe took the mic and addressed Seth Rollins, mocking him by calling him the mighty Kingslayer. Joe asked Rollins if he remembered what it sounded like when he arrived. He said he remembers it well and it was the sounds of joints and ligaments popping, and Rollins screaming for mercy.

Joe said that was just business because Rollins was a designated target assigned by his benefactor Triple H. Joe said that he cares about his clients and because of what Rollins did to Hunter and, more disgustingly Stephanie McMahon, it will now be very, very personal. Rollins stood on the broadcast table with a mic and said it will be personal because Joe almost cost him his career. “Payback is a bitch,” Rollins said…

Backstage, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson were shown walking and “The Drifter” Elias Samson was shown playing the guitar next to them.

[Q3] The cameras cut to their opponents, R-Truth and Goldust, who were attacked by Strowman. Adam Pearce, Finlay, and Jamie Noble entered the scene, barked at Strowman, and then tended to the Golden Truth duo… [C]

Powell’s POV: A good match. I’m actually surprised they went with it if only because Jericho has a big match at Payback as well. That said, if they were going to have a clean finish, then Joe definitely needed to go over. I hope they heat up Owens vs. Jericho by having Jericho make a crossover appearance on Smackdown. The post match verbal exchange was well done. Congrats to Rollins for getting the “payback is a bitch” line this year. Meanwhile, Strowman is a babyface in my mind for sparing me from the one billionth performance of the R-Truth entrance song.

An ad for Smackdown hyped a six pack challenge with Sami Zayn vs. Mojo Rawley vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Erick Rowan vs. Luke Harper vs. Jinder Mahal with the winner becoming No. 1 contender to the WWE Championship…

Powell’s POV: That’s a very odd group from a storyline standpoint given the fact that most of those guys lose more than they win. So one of those six guys is going to become No. 1 contender to the WWE Championship while AJ Styles is number one contender to the U.S. Championship? Strange.

The broadcast team recapped Strowman’s attack on Golden Truth… Backstage, a referee reminded Strowman that Angle gave him the night off. Strowman said he would leave when he wants to. Strowman stood up and added, “Unless you have a problem with that.” The referee left the room…

Anderson and Gallows stood in the ring for a promo. Anderson said Strowman gave Golden Truth the United Airlines treatment, yet they were the ones on standby. Gallows said Angle better round up some nerds from the locker room. Enzo and Big Cass made their entrance and performed their entrance schtick, which the crowd had fun with…

2. Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Cole noted that Dash Wilder would miss eight weeks with a fractured jaw. Enzo and Cass had offensive control heading into a break a couple minutes into the match. Enzo and Cass had offensive control heading into a break a couple minutes into the match.

[Q4] Anderson and Gallows had taken advantage coming out of the break and isolated Enzo. Anderson performed a spinebuster on Enzo for a two count at 7:15. Booker criticized Cass for not coming in to break up the pinfall. Cole quickly defended it saying that Enzo was able to kick out without the help. Enzo caught Gallows with a DDT off the middle rope and nearly made the tag, but Anderson checked back in and stopped him.

Cass eventually took the hot tag and worked over both opponents. Cass performed a side slam on Anderson and then dropped the Empire Elbow. Cass connected with a big boot and then performed a rocket launcher with Enzo landing on the interfering Gallows. Anderson tossed Enzo knees first into the top rope in the corner and then pinned him…

Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson beat Enzo Amore and Big Cass in 10:45.

Cole hyped Mickie James appearing in action on Raw for the first time in over seven years. Graves hyped the Miz TV segment for after the break… A WrestleMania 34 video aired. Sadly, they’re not counting down the days yet…

Powell’s POV: That was an unexpected, yet cool finish. It appeared to be completely planned as Enzo actually took the toss safely on the top rope. Clever.

Cole showcased Nia Jax as highlights aired. This was similar to the video that James received, so they are doing it for all four women in the four-way…

The Miz and Maryse made their entrance for the Miz TV segment. A recap of last week’s segment involving Miz and Ambrose was shown. Miz was quickly interrupted by Ambrose’s entrance.

[Q5] Ambrose noted that Miz was still upset about last week. He called for a truce and noted that Miz is from Cleveland, he’s from Cincinnati, and they were in Columbus. He led the “OH-IO” chant, which the crowd was hot for. Miz said he lives the part of WWE superstar, whereas Ambrose is a disgrace to what a superstar should be.

Miz said the worst part is that the fans love Ambrose. He spoke about how Ambrose had all the momentum after being drafted number one and headlining SummerSlam. Miz said Ambrose was barely a blip on the radar at WrestleMania. Miz said Ambrose never breaks the glass ceiling because he is lazy and complacent.

Ambrose said it’s about heart. He said he’s not a brand, he’s simply Dean Ambrose. He said he does what he does because he loves it and would do it in front of 20 people or 100,000 people. Ambrose there’s no one who does it like he does and that’s why he’s the IC Champion. Ambrose said Miz should know this because he beat him for the title.

Maryse called Ambrose a “dirty little street rat” and said walking around with a title doesn’t make Ambrose a real champion. She said the man makes the championship. Ambrose had Maryse hold the mic and then put down the title belt, empties his pockets, removed his jacket, and folded it nicely while Miz said he’s made the title the same thing he is – a joke. Ambrose tackled Miz. Maryse struck Ambrose from behind. Miz tried to take advantage of the distraction. Ambrose countered with a Dirty Deeds attempt, but Miz escaped it and left the ring…

A shot aired of Braun Strowman dragging Kalisto by the arm through the backstage area. Strowman picked up Kalisto and slammed him into a garbage dumpster. Big Show shoulder blocked Strowman into the wall, which knocked him down. Show told Strowman to pick on someone his own size… [C]

Powell’s POV: It’s hard to be excited about going back to Ambrose vs. Miz again if you’re a regular viewer of Smackdown. It’s not that they don’t work well together or that this wasn’t a good segment. Rather, it’s that I was hoping for fresh feuds for both men, not a rehashed feud that was carried over from Smackdown. Meanwhile, was dumping Kalisto in the trash the ceremonial way of moving him to the cruiserweight division?

An ad for NXT hyped Tye Dillinger vs. Eric Young in a cage match… A recap of the Strowman and Show segment was recapped. The broadcast team announced Strowman vs. Show for later in the broadcast…

[Q6] 3. TJ Perkins vs. Jack Gallagher. Perkins performed his usual entrance despite the heel turn. Just as the wrestlers were being called together to shake hands, JoJo introduced Neville as making a special appearance. The wrestlers came together for the handshake again, but this time Austin Aries made his entrance and said he was making an even “specialer appearance.” Aries set up his chair right next to Neville’s and offered him a banana. Neville moved his seat. Aries at the banana. Perkins was in control a few minutes into the match. [C]

After the break, Gallagher did the umbrella spot off the top rope and onto Perkins on the floor. Perkins ended up shoving Gallagher into Aries, which knocked Aries and his chair over. Aries stood on the apron and took his jacket off, but Neville tripped him up aggressively. Meanwhile, Perkins kicked the middle rope into the face of Gallagher and hit the Detonation Kick for the win…

TJ Perkins beat Jack Gallagher in 10:10.

Cole narrated a brief Alexa Bliss video and noted that she will be in her hometown of Columbus during the four-way…

[Q7] Graves hyped Jeff Hardy in one-on-one action for the first time in over eight years when he faces Cesaro… [C]

Powell’s POV: I smell a tag team match for 205 Live. Either way, this was effective in putting heat on the heels. I like the way Graves described TJP as the hand of the king. It’s odd that they didn’t hype the Jeff Hardy vs. Cesaro match online ahead of time, as it certainly appeals to the diehard fans. By the way, are we going to hear from the Hardys on Raw for the first time this week?

Backstage, Akira Tozawa told Apollo Crews that he’s so happy he is on Raw. Titus O’Neil showed up, and Tozawa split. Titus congratulated Crews on the news that he’s going to be a father for the first time. Titus asked Crews what he intends to do to make an impact on Raw. Crews said he’s all about hard work and eventually he will knock one down. Titus told him he needs to hook up with the Titus brand. He spoke about how fans could go on an Apollo cruise as one example. Titus gave Crews his card and told him to think about it…

Powell’s POV: The mere mention of the Titus brand makes me check the time and yawn.

Backstage, Mike Rome interviewed Matt and Jeff Hardy and asked what’s changed since they were last in WWE. Matt said almost everything. He said the lights are brighter, the pyro is louder, the current crop of wrestlers are the most athletic they have ever faced. Jeff said he thought he’d felt every emotion there was to feel until they returned at WrestleMania. He said they are excited to be back and part of the new era on Raw.

Sheamus and Cesaro showed up and said they were there to welcome them both back to Raw. Sheamus spoke about watching them steal the show at WrestleMania 17 and called them the creators of TLC. Cesaro said his match with Jeff is a dream match. Sheamus said that without the ladders, it will be an honor to defeat the legends at Payback to win back the titles. Matt said they don’t need ladders to win back the titles. Cesaro said to excuse his partner because he ruins a good time. He said they should keep it respectful and he would see Jeff out there. Jeff told Rome that it’s good to be back…

The broadcast team hyped Jeff Hardy vs. Cesaro. Cole spoke over a Sasha Banks video to set up the four-way… Sasha Banks made her entrance for the four-way match… [C]

Powell’s POV: It was good to hear from the Hardys even though their promo was pretty basic. The story here was the behavior of Sheamus and Cesaro in terms of where it will go. Are they building tension or could we see an actual heel turn from both men?

Alexa Bliss made her entrance to a strong hometown ovation. Mickie James was out next to a flat reaction. Nia Jax was out last…

[Q8] 4. Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James vs. Sasha Banks in a four-way to become No. 1 contender to the Raw Women’s Championship. Cole said his money was on Jax to win. Booker called it the smart money. Bliss slapped Jax early and then fled from her, but James took out Jax. Bayley was shown watching the match on a backstage monitor. James performed a neckbreaker on Sasha and covered her, but Jax pulled James to ringside. Sasha dove onto both of them heading into a break. [C]

Jax put Banks in a bearhug. Banks countered into a guillotine attempt, but Jax blocked it and slammed her. James caught Jax in an arm bar. Jax teased tapping, but instead rolled over and powered James up before slamming her onto Banks in the corner. Bliss went up top and then noticed that Jax was waiting. Bliss climbed down and headed to ringside.

Later, Sasha performed the double knee spot on Bliss in the corner and went for a cover, but Jax pulled her to ringside to break the count. Bliss knocked James off the apron and onto Jax. There were cheers as Bliss and Banks were alone in the ring. Sasha performed the Backstabber and then applied the Bank Statement, but James returned to break it up.

[Q9] Later, Jax caught Banks on the ropes and used her to knock James off the ropes. Jax performed a Samoan Drop on Sasha. Bliss took out Jax and then covered Banks for the win…

Alexa Bliss defeated Nia Jax, Sasha Banks, and Mickie James in 13:45 to become No. 1 contender to the Raw Women’s Championship.

Powell’s POV: A fun match. Unfortunately, Cole predicting a Jax win at the start of the match immediately made me assume that she wasn’t going to win the match. I suspect they think their audience believes what Cole is saying, but they have to know that a big portion of their audience heard that and immediately suspected that Jax would not be going over.

Backstage, Big Show said Braun Strowman needs to find out what it’s like to be intimidated and he would give him a taste of his own medicine giant style… A WWE Network commercial focussed on al the pay-per-views, NXT specials, original programming, 205 Live, and WWE 24 specials on Finn Balor, Kurt Angle, and Bill Goldberg… [C]

Curt Hawkins stood in the ring and delivered a promo about Big Show getting in the ring with him last week and now being in the main event this week. Hawkins said if you want to be a superhero then you enroll in Professor Xavier’s school for the gifted, but if you want to be a main eventer then you get in the ring with him. He asked who it would be this week. Finn Balor made his entrance (obviously medically cleared after being concussed last week)…

5. Finn Balor vs. Curt Hawkins. The broadcast team didn’t mention the injury Balor suffered last week, which was never publicly addressed by WWE. Balor connected with quick strikes, a sling blade clothesline, and a dropkick. Balor hit the Coup de Grace for the win…

Finn Balor beat Curt Hawkins in 0:37.

Powell’s POV: It’s obviously great to see that Balor made a quick recovery after taking that hard shot from Jinder Mahal last week. It was encouraging when it was reported that he would be tested at Raw today because they wouldn’t have him travel if they didn’t feel good about it, but it was still a pleasant surprise to see him return to the ring on this show.

Cole hyped the Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt House of Horrors match for Payback… Actor Dule Hill was shown in the crowd as Cole hyped his new film…

[Q10] [C] Backstage, Mike Rome interviewed Chris Jericho and noted that he was unsuccessful in his match against Samoa Joe. Jericho called Rome “Tom (Phillips)” again. Jericho indicated that there’s no shame in losing to Joe, but he’s distracted by his upcoming match with Kevin Owens. Jericho said he would be a better face of America. He posed for the camera. He spoke about the idea that he would go to Smackdown if he wins the U.S. Championship and said it doesn’t matter where he goes. Rome reminded him of his name. Jericho asked if his name was Mike or Tom. They went back and forth and Jericho got Rome to say his name was Tom. Jericho was to put him on the list for not knowing his own name when Elias Samson walked behind them playing his guitar. Jericho told Rome he was off the hook, then put Samson on the list…

Powell’s POV: The funny part about Jericho mugging as he spoke about being the Face of America was that he held up his arm and his Team Canada hockey tattoo was on full display. No one seemed to mind.

A Bray Wyatt video aired. He said fear lives within his house of horrors. He said he knows Randy Orton is scared and he smells it. He said all of Orton’s fears will come to life. He said Orton will know pain, fear, and horror… Graves hyped Jeff Hardy vs. Cesaro…

Powell’s POV: The House of Horrors match could be a blast, but only if they let Matt Hardy book it. The production team worked hard on that Wyatt video. Bray is damaged. It’s hard to even focus on his promos at this point because they never end up meaning anything despite how well he delivers them. By the way, the Hardy vs. Cesaro match teaser included a teaser for Xyzal, which uses an owl mascot. You can’t make it up.

[Q11] Backstage, Alicia Fox showed Dana Brooke the footage of a gift exploding in her face on 205 Live. Emma showed up and said Brooke was showing that video to everyone all week. Brooke said that wasn’t true. Fox yelled at Brooke and said she didn’t want to be her friend anymore and then stormed off. Emma said Brooke wanted to stand on her own two feet, so she wants to see how she balances…

6. Jeff Hardy (w/Matt Hardy) vs. Cesaro (w/Sheamus). Booker labeled it a dream match. Cole plugged the allergy relief company again and the owl appeared on the screen as the match started. There was a Brother Nero chant early on. Jeff performed a running leap off the apron and onto Cesaro on the floor just over a minute into the match.

Jeff went to ringside and sold a leg injury after taking a move from Cesaro, who ran out and hit him with an uppercut against the barricade. Back inside the ring, Jeff came back and went to the top rope, but Cesaro rolled to ringside. [C]

Cesaro was the aggressor coming out of the break and he slowed the pace of the match. Jeff came back and got a two count off a dropkick to the face of a seated Cesaro. A short time later, Cesaro performed a springboard uppercut for a two count of his own. Jeff went to the top rope a short time later, but Cesaro cut him off.

[Q12] Jeff blocked a superplex attempt and crotched Cesaro on the top rope. Jeff dropkicked Cesaro off the ropes to the floor. Jeff performed a moonsault onto a standing Cesaro for a two count. Cesaro went for a Neutralizer, but Jeff avoided it and hit a Twist of Fate. Jeff went up top and performed a Swanton Bomb for the win. After the match, Shemaus and Cesaro offered handshakes. Matt and Jeff reluctantly accepted the handshakes…

Jeff Hardy beat Cesaro in 13:05.

Powell’s POV: A fun television match even though there was nothing particularly memorable about it. The live crowd wasn’t red hot by any means, but it’s hard to blame them considering there was nothing at stake, no real issue between the characters, and both men are babyfaces.

The broadcast team spoke over footage of Braun Strowman and Big Show earlier in the night…

Mike Rome stood in front of the trainer’s room and started to give an update on Kalisto and Golden Truth, but he was interrupted by Heath Slater and Rhyno. Slater spoke about how he wasn’t even drafted last year, yet he and Rhyno became the first Smackdown Tag Champs. Rhyno was eating crackers and cheese whiz. They noticed Braun walking by them for his match and jumped back in fear… [C] The Smackdown commercial hyping the six pack challenge match aired again… [C]

Powell’s POV: But what about Golden… No one cares.

Graves hyped TJ Perkins vs. Austin Aries for 205 Live… Ring entrances for the main event took place…

7. Braun Strowman vs. Big Show. Before the match, Strowman and Show fought at ringside. Show threw Strowman into the steps. The match started once they returned to the ring. Show continued to be dominant. Strowman cut him off with a dropkick. Cole said they were flying around like cruiserweights.

[Overrun] Both men went for bodyslams. Big Show ended up hoisting up Strowman, but he couldn’t turn him over. Show was successful with the bodyslam on the next attempt, which woke up the crowd. Show went for the chokeslam, but Strowman shoved his hand away and then suplexed him. “I’m the giant,” Strowman yelled at the fans.

A short time later, Show avoided a slam and then shoved Strowman into the corner and followed up with a splash. Show did a lot of talking to Strowman while the broadcast team questioned whether it was Big Show’s last dash. Show set up for a superplex and the fans stood up only to boo when Strowman avoided it. Strowman jumped off the ropes and Show caught him and then chokeslammed him for a two count.

Strowman avoided a knockout punch and then performed a powerslam for a two count. A short time later, Show went for the superplex again, but Strowman once again avoided it. Strowman leapt off the second rope into a knockout punch for a good near fall.

Show went to the top rope. Strowman cut him off and then performed the superplex that everyone had been waiting for. The ring collapsed and the fans popped huge. Referees and trainers entered the collapsed ring and checked on both men while the broadcast team narrated the highlights of the big spot. The fans chanted Yes! Strowman got back to his feet and raised his arms. Strowman’s music played…

Braun Strowman fought Big Show to an apparent no-contest in 13:00.

Powell’s POV: A good super heavyweight match. This wasn’t as entertaining as their previous match until the big finish, though it’s possible they set the bar so high with that outing that my expectations were higher this time around. This was still a cool match and I like the non-finish as they can go back to it. Sure, longtime fans remember the Show and Lesnar collapsed ring spot, but that didn’t seem to bother the live crowd whatsoever. Strowman standing tall at the end was logical in that he’s the guy facing Reigns in a couple of weeks while Show doesn’t even have an advertised match for Payback.

Overall, a good show that held my interest more than many shows have in the three-hour era. There was nothing that really stood out as being truly memorable until the ring collapse spot at the end, but they forwarded some storylines and things felt fresher thanks in part to the shakeup. I will have more to say in my All Access audio review later tonight.

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