By Jason Powell
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WWE Raw on the USA Network
Live from Providence, Rhode Island at Dunkin Donuts Center
[Q1] The Raw opening aired (enjoy it because it will be changing next week following the draft)… Michael Cole, JBL, and Byron Saxton were commentary. Cole noted that the venue was sold out…
Stephanie McMahon made her entrance while Cole recapped how Stephanie became the Raw Commissioner last week. Cole read through the rules of the draft. They noted that for every two picks, Raw gets three, but they didn’t even bother to explain why.
Stephanie started to welcome viewers to the show, but Shane McMahon’s music interrupted her and then he headed to the ring. Cole hyped that they would pick their general managers. Stephanie said this will be Shane’s last night on Raw because of his status as the Smackdown Commissioner. She said she will not miss working with him.
Shane said the feeling is the same. He said she knows she wakes up every morning wishing that she were born with testicles. Steph told him that lady balls are bigger than testicles. This was a big hit with what sounded like three percent of the live crowd.
Stephanie announced they would be launching a cruiserweight division and it will be exclusively on Raw. Stephanie also built up to “the person” who would lead Raw to the promised land. Mick Foley made his entrance. Stephanie danced to his music.
Powell’s POV: My instant feeling was that this has a “been there, done that” feel to it. I like Mick Foley on WWE television in small doses. I was hoping for something fresh. The good news is that Stephanie has a babyface to help balance out her heel persona. In other words, Raw isn’t the heel run brand.
Foley spoke about the Attitude Era and taking Raw to the future and beyond. Steph applauded him. Shane congratulated Foley and said he has the utmost respect for him. Shane gave Stephanie kudos for bringing in Foley and endorsed the move.
Shane spoke about his general manager and said he needed someone who embodies the underdog spirit. Shane introduced Daniel Bryan as his GM. The fans popped big. Shane did a “Yes!” lap around the ring.
Powell’s POV: This news should not come as a surprise to our podcast listeners. I know it’s been common knowledge for about a week, but this is something Will Pruett and I spoke about as a likely scenario since the roster split was initially announced.
Bryan came out wearing a jacket and a button up shirt and led a Yes chant. He shook hands with Shane and Foley, and pulled back in a playful way when Stephanie went for a handshake. Bryan said it seemed like the fans missed him. Steph accused him of pandering to the fans like Shane does. Bryan said she doesn’t know what pandering is because the fans never cheered her. Steph said they did once.
[Q2] Bryan said he didn’t know if he would ever be able to step back inside the ring. Bryan said Shane told him about his plans to make Smackdown more about the superstars than the management. Bryan said he thought he could come back and he needs to come back. Bryan said Smackdown is the underdog just as he was.
Bryan spoke about how “we did that” in terms of beating Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. He said “we will do it again.” Stephanie asked where the underdog ended up. She said that Bryan was able to make the loser fans feel good for one night. She called him a B-plus player for a B-plus show.
Stephanie pointed out that Shane was sweating profusely. Shane asked for a hug, then said she had to marry a WWE Superstar just to remain relevant. Bryan and Shane led a Yes chant…
Powell’s POV: I won’t miss the awkward and cutesy exchanges between Stephanie and Shane. If you do, just know that you’ll be seeing more of them at the joint pay-per-view events. By the way, Foley is Mike Pence to Stephanie’s Donald Trump in that had had to just stand there while Stephanie said things his character didn’t agree with. Oh, and before you get your red panties in a bunch, don’t blame me that there’s not a Democrat VP candidate to compare Bryan to.
A Superstars Facts graphic noted that Baron Corbin is a three-time Golden Gloves boxing champion who won 13 of his 16 wins by way of knockout…
1. Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn and Cesaro. A Zayn pre-tape aired with him saying that the draft means his Battleground match could be his last match with Owens. Um, wasn’t it already billed that way?
[Q3] [C] Owens stood on the apron and kicked Zayn, then did a Foley thumbs up pose while looking into the ringside camera. Zayn made a hot tag to Cesaro, who worked over Jericho with uppercuts at 8:10, then he worked over both opponents with running uppercuts.
At 10:15, Owens and Zayn ended up in the ring together and traded punches. Owens got the better of it briefly and went for his finisher, but Zayn caught him with a dropkick. Both men tagged out. Cesaro performed a cross body block on Jericho for two.
Jericho came back with a Walls of Jericho attempt, but Cesaro countered into the swing. Owens broke it up with Jericho being swung into his legs. Zayn performed a tornado DDT on Owens, and ended up pinning Jericho to win the match for his team…
Sami Zayn and Cesaro beat Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho in 11:55.
Backstage, Goldust and R-Truth made their pitch to Daniel Bryan to be drafted to Smackdown. He got away from them, then had Titus O’Neil and a glasses wearing Jack Swagger greet him. Stephanie approached Bryan and spoke about how she thought he was be off living off the land and raising peaches. She compared him to the Chucky doll. Bryan said it’s not so bad since she compared him to a goat. Bryan said he’s happy she spent her time coming up with new insults while he was away, then wished her well and moved on… [C]
Powell’s POV: I wonder if the time for all of the matches held at the WWE Draft edition of Smackdown combined will surpass the time of the Raw tag match. Meanwhile, Steph’s smiling insult act is really tired. I hope it goes away now that Shane is moving to Smackdown, but I fear she’ll take the same approach with Foley.
[Q4] 2. Alberto Del Rio vs. Darren Young (w/Bob Backlund). The Miz and Maryse sat in on commentary. Young got on a roll at one point, so Miz climbed onto the apron. Young punched Miz. ADR rolled up Young, but the referee was tied up with Miz. ADR went to shove Miz, only to be rolled up and pinned by Young…
Darren Young beat Alberto Del Rio in 2:25.
Backstage, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan were shown talking with Big Show… The broadcast team hyped Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte and Dana Brooke, and a 12-man tag match… [C]
Powell’s POV: It’s possible WWE will be able to elevate Darren Young or Zack Ryder by having them challenge for secondary titles, but right now it feels like The IC and U.S. Titles are undercard titles more than mid-card titles.
The broadcast team hyped a WWE Draft option on the website. John Cena made his entrance and Cole hyped that he will appear on ESPN(ews) SportsCenter on Tuesday night. Cena, who received more boos from the Providence crowd than he’s been getting elsewhere lately, delivered an in-ring promo.
Cena hyped the WWE Draft for Tuesday, then shifted to Sunday’s WWE Battleground. Cena said The Club is going to try to beat up Cena on Sunday (apparently not in this match?). He said they are about to realize that “they can’t see me because I got the Certified G.” Enzo and Big Cass made their entrance to a strong ovation. Enzo delivered his mic work as they headed to the ring.
[Q5] Once in the ring, Enzo told a smiling Cena that he had something to say. Enzo said the term “do not take this the wrong way” has a zero success rate. He said without ugliness there would be no beauty, and thanked Luke Gallows for his sacrifice.
Enzo said the only time women open their mouths for Gallows is when they yawn. Enzo said AJ Styles has a haircut like a soccer mom. Enzo said Karl Anderson is like Times New Roman font in that he’s as generic as it gets. He said the only time those three will beat his team is on the 35th of Neveruary.
Cena interrupted and said Enzo was all over the place and was just spitting out punchlines. Cass said that’s just Enzo doing what he does. After a little more play between the team and Cena, they closed with the SAWFT line, which was interrupted by AJ’s music.
The Club made their entrance and Styles mocked Cena for teaming with Enzo and Cass, saying he is setting himself up for failure. Anderson said The Club has chemistry, and so does he and his hot Asian wife. Anderson assumed that Cena, Enzo, and Cass met over a bowl of candy in catering just a few weeks ago. The Club ran through all the people they were going to beat up, including New Day.
New Day made their entrance. AJ mocked them for being afraid of the Wyatt Family. Xaiver Woods said the mind games would have broken normal men, but New Day are not normal men. New Day explained “how you doin'” to Cena. Woods asked if he could have a shot. Enzo approved. Woods boasted that he’s a Level 21 Pokemon Go gamer. He ran through Pokemon characters and some of the fans chanted “How You Doin.”
The Wyatt Family made their entrance. Cole said “so much for the fun and games.” Cole hyped the 12-man tag match and questioned whether The Wyatts and The Club could get along… [C]
Powell’s POV: I couldn’t tell if the crowd was losing interest in the long talking segment or if they just weren’t interested in Woods dropping the names of Pokemon characters. His original Pokemon Go reference got a strong reaction. Enzo was on fire even more than usual this week.
[Q6] 3. John Cena, Big Cass, Enzo Amore, Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods vs. Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan, Braun Stroman, AJ Styles, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson in a 12-man tag match. The match was joined in progress. The teams obeyed the tag rules, but then a big brawl broke out at 3:00.
Cass and Strowman were the last men in the ring, and the two big men fought. Cass hit him with punches and a big boot. Kingston tagged in and apparently Strowman was supposed to catch him or something, but he stumbled awkwardly before picking him up and performing a power slam going into the break. [C]
Powell’s POV: It was hard to tell whether Kingston overshot Strowman or if Strowman moved in too close as Kingston was in the air. Strowman recovered quickly and it didn’t look like anyone was hurt.
Cole noted that the Wyatt Family can be drafted separately as Rowan worked over Cena and the crowd went back and forth with dueling Cena chants. The heels took turns working over Cena with Styles and Anderson both getting two counts. Cena started to come back while Gallows was in the ring. [C]
[Q7] The rapid fire spots continued until everyone was down aside from Strowman, who recovered on the floor. New Day and the Wyatt Family fought up the stage and eventually to the back. Styles ducked a clothesline from Enzo, who accidentally hit Cena. Styles performed the Styles Clash on Enzo and pinned him…
The Club and The Wyatt Family beat John Cena, Big Cass, Enzo Amore, and New Day in 19:05.
The broadcast team hyped all of the WWE Draft broadcasts and WWE Battleground… Backstage, Stephanie and Foley spoke with Apollo Crews… The broadcast team hyped Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE Championship for later in the show… [C]
Powell’s POV: A nice, long match that helped set up the two six-man tag matches for Sunday. I came away more excited by The Club vs. Cena, Enzo, and Cass. I wasn’t blown away by the followup to the compound angle, whereas now they’ve put Cena’s team in the position of looking for revenge and potentially have some friction amongst themselves. By the way, does Foley’s well documented head trauma issues mean he can’t take Stephanie McMahon’s slaps? If so, he won’t last long in that role.
Earlier in the day, Seth Rollins was shown walking down the steps of an empty arena. He spoke about how he used to do that with Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. He questioned whether Reigns would ever be the same without his edge. He also labeled Ambrose a coward for “stealing” the title from him by cashing in his Money in the Bank contract. Rollins said when he walked down the stairs with Amrose and Reigns, there was always a piece of him that wanted to shove them down. He said it’s fitting that he will end the fairytale of Ambrose as champion. He said he will walk into Battleground and prove when it comes to The Shield, “I was always the man”…
[Q8] The broadcast team set up highlights of the general manager announcement segment… Backstage, Tyler Breeze and Fandango tried to get Foley to dance with them (or something), but he said he doesn’t move that way anymore. Shane showed up and pulled away Foley. He said why anyone would want to work for his sister is baffling to him.
Shane said there are rumors that Stephanie hired Foley because he relates with the crowd and because she can control and manipulate him. Foley said he want into this with his eyes wide open. Foley said he knows she is ruthless, but he also sees passion and drive. Foley said he sees an opportunity to better himself, then excused himself and told Shane thanks for looking out for him. Shane told him to have a nice day…
Powell’s POV: The Rollins piece was the most effective hype we’ve seen for the Triple Threat main event at Battleground thus far. Okay, that’s not saying much, but it was well done and stood out in a good way. The Shane and Foley segment gave Foley a chance to explain that he’s not a pushover dope even though you just know damn well that creative will eventually position him as a pushover dope.
4. Baron Corbin vs. Sin Cara. The Dre was at ringside. Cole explained that the Lucha Dragons opted to enter the draft as singles wrestlers. Corbin won with End of Days. Corbin was going after Sin Cara after the match, but Kalisto ran out to stop him. Kalisto turned his head and ended up being laid out by Corbin too…
Baron Corbin pinned Sin Cara in 1:15.
Charlotte and Dana Brooke were shown walking backstage as Cole hyped their tag match… Cole set up a Superman vs. Batman DVD trailer… [C] The broadcast team acknowledged ESPN’s mock draft…
Powell’s POV: Hey, what was that other WWE related story that ESPN covered the other night? Much like Brock Lesnar’s fight at UFC 200, WWE will mention it on their website, but they may only mention this on TV if he wins (his appeal).
[Q9] 5. Charlotte and Dana Brooke vs. Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch. Cole brought up Sasha’s mystery partner and said Sasha stated earlier in the day that she has it covered. Natalya came out and attacked Lynch and rammed her into the ring post and the barricade for the DQ. Charlotte rolled Sasha inside the ring. Dana threw punches at Sasha, then ran her into Charlotte’s big boot. Charlotte performed the Natural Selection. Charlotte and Brooke mugged over Sasha to close the segment…
Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch beat Charlotte and Dana Brooke by DQ in 2:20.
Powell’s POV: Am I the only one hoping Charlotte and Dana get drafted to separate brands? I’m just not seeing any real chemistry.
Backstage, Demon Kane was shown talking with Shane and Daniel Bryan…
Dean Ambrose was shown talking about his title matches on Raw and at Battleground, and how he will retain his title… [C] A graphic touted that Xavier Woods earned his master’s degree in education psychology and runs the UpUpDownDown channel…
Lana stood in the ring wearing a camouflage outfit with a red top. She introduced Rusev as her fiancee and the only person who can have her. Sheamus was out next, then Dolph Ziggler, then Zack Ryder…
[Q10] 6. Rusev and Sheamus vs. Dolph Ziggler and Zack Ryder. Sheamus worked over Ryder and then teased Rusev with tags only to pull his hand away twice. Later, Rusev caught Ziggler with a kick to the back and then locked in the good version of The Accolade for the win…
Rusev and Sheamus beat Dolph Ziggler and Zack Ryder in 4:00.
Powell’s POV: Here’s hoping the draft means we’ll never have to see this combination work a meaningless tag match again.
Cole hyped WWE SummerSlam with the return of Randy Orton facing Brock Lesnar. An Orton video aired. Cole also hyped Orton will be at Battleground on The Highlight Reel… Cole hyped the Ambrose vs. Rollins main event as being up next with Cole hyping it as a rare WWE Championship match on Raw… [C]
Powell’s POV: Well, that answers the question of whether they would hype the Lesnar vs. Orton match. Does it answer the question of whether WWE intends to do anything if Lesnar’s potential anti-doping policy violation becomes a confirmed anti-doping policy violation?
A video package recapped John Cena hosting the ESPY awards… Cole hyped the rules of the draft again (and still didn’t explain why Raw gets more picks)…
[Q11] Backstage, The Ascension was talking with Mick Foley when Daniel Bryan saved him. Bryan said he hopes they can have a good working relationship. Foley agreed and said he was fine when Bryan’s monster reaction dwarfed his. After a little back and forth competition jokes, Bryan put over how influential Foley was to him. They talked about how they both won titles and married women who are way out of their league. Foley said they outfight, outwork, outperform, and outlast anyone who gets in their way. Foley said Bryan is standing in his way. Bryan said Foley is standing in his. They had a tense handshake and a “may the best man win” moment…
Dean Ambrose made his entrance. Cole told us the main event was coming up next (again)… [C]
Powell’s POV: Man, I can’t wait until that one guy I like takes on that other guy I like in a never ending battle for television ratings (that don’t matter according to WWE), pay-per-view buys (that no longer matter) and whatever else we’re supposed to use to keep score.
Cole pimped tickets for Raw in Pittsburgh next week. It wouldn’t be an issue if Kurt Angle had been named the Raw general manager…
Stephanie McMahon, Mick Foley, Shane McMahon, and Daniel Bryan sat at ringside for the championship match… Lilian Garcia delivered in-ring introductions for the title match…
7. Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE Championship. JBL said his sources told him Reigns is a caged animal waiting to come out at Battleground. Cole said Ambrose has not defeated Rollins in a full length match (MITB excluded). They fought on the apron and to ringside. Ambrose caught Rollins with a clothesline, then they showed Foley whispering to Stephanie heading into the break.
[Q12] [C] The broadcast team spoke about the cruiserweights returning to Raw. JBL name dropped Kota Ibushi and Cedric Alexander. Saxton teased the possibility that this could be the final show for the Raw broadcast team (please, draft gods).
At 13:00, Ambrose went for a clothesline on the floor again. Rollins avoided it and then performed a Bucklebomb style move into the barricade. Back inside the ring, Rollins splashed Ambrose and covered him for a good near fall. Steph and Foley stood and applauded, while Shane and Bryan sat applauding with Shane saying, “Wow, wow” before the break. [C]
Coming out of the break, Ambrose performed a huracanrana that dropped Rollins awkwardly in the corner. Rollins got up and went for his finisher, but Ambrose avoided it and catapulted Rollins over the top rope. Rollins caught himself and performed a flying knee off the top rope. Ambrose avoided a frogsplash.
[Overrun] Ambrose ducked Ambrose’s clothesline from the ropes and performed a bucklebomb. Ambrose no-sold it and performed a DDT had Rollins pinned, but Rollins put his foot on the bottom rope. They went to ringside and Ambrose jawed at Stephanie and Foley, then threw Shane and Bryan’s chairs aside.
Ambrose placed Rollins onto the broadcast table. Rollins sat up and raced back inside the ring. Ambrose chased Rollins. They fought on the ring apron. Ambrose clotheslined Rollins back inside the ring. Ambrose went up top, but jumped into a kick from Rollins, who followed up with a Pedigree for a strong near fall.
At 23:20, Ambrose went up top only to have Rollins meet him on the second rope. Ambrose shoved Rollins off the rope and into the referee for a REF BUMP!!! REF BUMP!!! REF BUMP!!! Rollins superplexed Ambrose, who hooked the leg of Rollins when they both landed on the match. The referee counted three.
Steph and Foley clapped. Shane and Bryan looked confused. Rollins celebrated like he won. Rollins tried to get the ref to make up his mind. Stephanie entered the ring and hugged Rollins. Shane and Ambrose protested. Bryan and Foley entered the ring. “Who won this thing?” one of the broadcast team members asked.
Stephanie took the mic and introduced Rollins as the new WWE Champion. Rollins celebrated with the title belt and his music played as he headed up the ramp. Steph, Foley, and Shane argued at ringside. Bryan spoke with Ambrose in the ring. Cole said controversy abounds on Raw. “Did we see a new champion tonight?” Cole asked to close the show…
Dean Ambrose fought Seth Rollins to a double pin draw in 23:55.
Powell’s POV: Is this the big title split? Heel Stephanie can choose Rollins. I’m not sure how Foley could say with a straight face that Rollins won the title. At least Shane and Bryan can say that the match was a draw and therefore Ambrose should still be champion. Wouldn’t the referee have final say, though? So while this may be a split title scenario, it could also be a hook for Smackdown with some type of ruling being made by the referee on Smackdown. Keep in mind that there’s a Triple Threat on Sunday, which would seem like the place to do a double finish given that there would be one winner otherwise. I will have much more to say about the show in members’ audio tonight. Join us on Tuesday night for coverage of the WWE Draft beginning with the pre-show. Thanks for watching along with me tonight.
Update: They ruled on WWE Network after Raw that it was a double pin with the shoulders of both men down, so Ambrose retains. This is bizarre in that they never directed viewers to go to WWE Network. They showed Rollins attack Ambrose after the ruling and then walk out with the title belt. Cole said Rollins had the championship, but he is not the champion.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Frank Zarrillo discussing his film "The Wrestler: A QT Marshall Story", which includes appearances by Matt Riddle, Damian Priest, Gerald Brisco, Kevin Kelly, Steve Corino, and many more, the involvement of Marshall's wife and mother, and much more. Stick around after the interview for Powell's audio review of Wednesday's AEW Dynamite television show...