By Jason Powell
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WWE Raw on the USA Network
Live from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at Consol Energy Center
A video package recalled WWE Battleground… A new Raw opening and theme song played and featured the Raw brand talent… Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton stood at their new broadcast position near the entrance ramp and introduced the show…
Powell’s POV: How will wrestlers be put through broadcast tables?!? I like the video, but the theme song didn’t do anything for me. Neither does the idea of the authority figures telling us that it’s going to be all about the talent and then opening the new era with a speech, but maybe they will cover that.
Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon stood in the ring and welcomed viewers to the show. Foley said a new era begins tonight and worked in a cheap pop. Foley introduced “the entire roster of Monday Night Raw.” The wrestlers walked onto the stage. Brock Lesnar was not present. Foley said he will be working hand-in-hand with the talent with the goal of delivering the most thrilling Raw every week.
Stephanie said Foley will have the authority to make that happen, but she wanted to talk about Roman Reigns letting everyone down by losing at Battleground. Stephanie claimed Seth Rollins had it in the bag before Roman screwed it up for all of them. “You’re not a good guy, you’re not a bad guy, you’re just a loser,” Stephanie said. Roman stood stone faced on the stage sporting his thicker beard.
Stephanie said the Raw audience demands a World Champion and that’s what they will get. Foley announced that Raw will feature two Fatal Four-Way matches. He said the winners of those two matches will meet in the main event of Raw. Stephanie said the winner of that main even will go on to face number one draft pick Seth Rollins for the new championship title.
Foley said the title is named for the fans in the WWE Universe. Foley announced the title will be called the WWE Universal Championship. Foley announced the following eight wrestlers for the four-way matches: Sami Zayn, Sheamus, Chris Jericho, Cesaro, Roman Reigns, Rusev, Kevin Owens, and Finn Balor, who walked to the front and joined the other wrestlers selected or the matches at the front of the stage. There was a light Finn chant.
Stephanie said the WWE Women’s Champion remained on Raw and called for her to step forward. Foley recalled that Charlotte tapped out to Sasha Banks in a tag match at Battleground, then announced Charlotte vs. Sasha for the WWE Women’s Championship on Raw. Stephanie told the competitors in the four-way matches to be ready because the first one would take place on the spot… [C]
Powell’s POV: A newsworthy segment to open the show. I mock the idea of the authority figures addressing the talent after claiming it would be all about the talent, but obviously they needed to address the title situation. The WWE Universal Championship name is sappy. Will Smackdown go with Intergalactic Planetary Women’s and Tag Team Champions? I’m also not crazy about Rollins getting a free pass to the finals. It makes storyline sense that Stephanie would sign off on it, but it makes Foley look weak for going along with it.
[Q2] 1. Cesaro vs. Rusev vs. Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor in a Fatal Four-Way. Balor stood on the stage and turned around when his music hit a key point. The “Balor Club” logo appeared on the big screen. Balor performed his arm opening entrance while Cole ran through the list of Balor’s accomplishments in New Japan Pro Wrestling and in NXT. Cesaro had the advantage heading into the break just 90 seconds into the match. [C]
Owens covered Balor only to have Rusev break up the pin. They fought and then Cesaro dove onto both men. Cesaro threw uppercuts at Owens and Rusev, then hesitated before deciding to throw them at Balor too. Cesaro set up for the swing on Owens, but Rusev struck him from behind to break it up. Rusev and Cesaro ended up tumbling to the floor, leaving Owens and Balor in the ring. Balor performed a dropkick onto a seated Owens, then followed up with a flip over the top rope onto all three opponents on the floor. Balor caught Rusev with a nice kick from the ring apron.
[Q3] Back in the ring, Balor got a two count on Cesaro. [C] Owens performed a torture rack into a neckbreaker on Balor for a two count. He followed up moments later with a Frogsplash on Balor, but Rusev broke up the pin. Later, Cesaro used his power to hoist up Rusev for a suplex. Cesaro nearly pinned Rusev off an Accolade attempt. Cesaro hit Rusev with a clothesline and both men stayed down while Balor and Owens were at ringside.
Rusev stood and threw punches at Cesaro, who took him down and performed the swing, then applied the Sharpshooter. Owens returned and superkicked Cesaro to break the submission hold. Balor returned and caught Owens with a great dropkick and then performed a slingblade clothesline on Owens, who crashed into Rusev. Balor dropkicked Rusev, then followed up with the Coup De Grace on Rusev and pinned him clean with the fans counting along with the three count…
Finn Balor defeated Rusev, Cesaro, and Kevin Owens in a four-way in 20:30 to earn a spot in the semifinals of the title tournament.
The broadcast team hyped New Day’s title reign celebration, and Nia Jax debuting after the break. A brief yet slick Jax highlight video aired as her theme played… [C]
Powell’s POV: A good debut for Balor, who had to go over as it sent the right message about this being a new era. I am anxious to see if they go all the way by having Balor win in the finals as well. The show has had energy thus far with the newsworthy opening and the four-way. I don’t know if they can possibly maintain it for three hours, but I like what I’ve seen so far.
[Q4] A cool WWE Cruiserweight Classic video aired and it ended with a graphic touting that the cruiserweight division is coming to Raw. Saxton said the division is exclusive to Raw and it’s the first time that WWE has had a cruiserweight division in ten years. Cole mentioned that Smackdown was gloating over their rating topping Raw last week. Graves pointed out that they had the draft with all the stars of Raw on that show…
2. Nia Jax vs. Britt Baker. Nia received a full entrance, while Baker wasn’t even introduced on television, though Cole did say her name on commentary Cole also said Nia is from the same Samoan family as the Usos, The Rock, and others. Jax dominated the match. She performed a leg drop and had Baker pinned. Nia picked up Baker rather than take the win and dished out a little more punishment before hitting the leg drop for the win…
Nia Jax defeated Britt Baker in 1:20.
Backstage, Sasha Banks was stretching out when Goldust and R-Truth showed up and tried to take her picture. She asked if they were taking her picture, but they claimed they were playing Pokemon Go and went on their way. Tom Phillips showed up looking creepier than Goldust and Truth did, and asked if she’s feeling pressure. She said she will make the dream she’s had since she was a girl come true. Banks said the WWE Universe better get ready because the women’s champioship is about to have some new swag to it “and it’s about to get lit”…
Saxton hyped Zayn vs. Sheamus vs. Reigns vs. Jericho in the other four-way for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: Nia’s debut was exactly what it needed to be and further proof that squash matches can be effective and entertaining. Sasha’s cockiness is true to her character, but I also wonder whether fans who are not all that familiar with her slow to jump onboard with her because she’s borderline heelish.
A video hyped Brock Lesnar’s return for next week’s Raw in Atlanta. A short time later, Cole questioned what Lesnar would have to say about some of Randy Orton’s comments at Battleground…
Powell’s POV: It’s amazing that WWE is just shrugging off the Lesnar test failures in UFC. That said, his return next week is huge in that it will be his first public appearance since the UFC news broke. Will Paul Heyman be with him?
Ring entrances for the four-way took place…
[Q5] 3. Roman Reigns vs. Chris Jericho vs. Sheamus vs. Sami Zayn in a Fatal Four-Way. The heels attacked Reigns while Zayn watched. Reigns started to fight back, but Zayn attacked him. Sheamus and Jericho worked over Reigns at ringside and high-fived one another. The heels returned to the ring and worked over Zayn. Saxton complained about Rollins getting the easy path to the title match at SummerSlam. Graves played heel by saying it was a case of the authority figures maximizing their investment in Rollins as the number one pick.
Reigns returned to the ring at 3:45 and took out the heels. Reigns worked over Zayn, who eventually lured him in and pulled the ropes down so Reigns would fall to the floor. Zayn set up for a dive, but Sheamus stopped him. Reigns returned and clotheslined Sheamus and Zayn to ringside while getting a mix of cheers and boos. Reigns performed a big dive over the top rope onto all three opponents. [C]
Jericho and Sheamus finally turned on one another coming out of the break. Zayn hit a Blue Thunder Bomb on Reigns for a good near fall at 12:20. Zayn seemed to be the person most surprised that he didn’t get the win. Zayn set up for his finisher, but Reigns caught him with a kick instead and then performed a Razor’s Edge slam for a two count of his own.
Reigns went for a spear on Sheamus, who caught him with a Brogue Kick. Zayn caught Sheamus with a Helluva Kick and had him pinned, but Jericho broke it up. Jericho covered Sheamus, but Zayn broke that up. Jericho put Zayn in the Walls of Jericho. Zayn nearly reached the ropes, but Jericho pulled him back to the middle of the ring. Sheamus recovered and blasted Jericho with a Brogue Kick. Sheamus covered Jericho, but Zayn broke that up.
[Q6] Sheamus threw stiff forearms and a clothesline at Zayn, then performed an Irish Curse. Sheamus set up for White Noise, but Reigns returned and hit him and Jericho with Superman Punches. Reigns tried to throw the punch at Sami, who moved, causing Sheamus to take a second punch. Sami rolled up Reigns for a two count that more fans bought into.
A short time later, Reigns went for a spear on Jericho, who kicked him and dropped him with the Codebreaker and covered him for a good near fall. Graves said Reigns was showing no signs of ring rust. Reigns came back with a spear on Jericho and pinned him…
Roman Reigns defeated Chris Jericho, Sheamus, and Sami Zayn in a four-way in 17:45 to advance to the semifinals.
The broadcast team hyped the New Day segment for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: Another very entertaining four-way match. The live crowd was a little slower to get into this match than the first match, but they were definitely reacting to the near falls down the stretch. The Reigns reaction seemed to be some cheers, more boos, and some fans not reacting much beyond his entrance. By the way, they have already run several Smackdown Live commercials for tomorrow night’s show. Join Dot Net staffer Jake Barnett for live coverage of Smackdown as the show airs on Tuesday nights.
A soda commercial sponsored a greatest moments in WWE history. It was Shawn Michaels ending the career of Ric Flair at WrestleMania in 2008…
New Day made their entrance carrying 337 balloons to signify the number of days they have held the tag titles. The ring had balloons in New Day colors set up in the corners. Xavier Woods acknowledged the count. Big E said Jennifer Garner and Gwen Stefani were still married, just not to each other. Kofi Kingston said BootyO’s were just a dream, but now they are an actual cereal. They set up a video package on their antics, then told “package” jokes.
Woods said they were going to select one person to be an honorary member of New Day. They all asked “who?” as they ran around the ring. They found a guy wearing a New Day shirt. He struggled to get over the guardrail and brought him into the ring. “What is your name, sonny boy?” they asked. He responded that his name was Sonny Boy. They wanted to know his real name, but he said it was Sonny Boy.
[Q7] The crowd was quiet, then they started a brief yet loud “Sonny Boy” chant. Sonny Boy did the New Day Rocks dance with them. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows crashed the party by attacking the New Day members. Unfortunately, Sonny Boy escaped. Anderson and Gallows performed the Magic Killer on E while a fan held up a sign that asked E to stop diving. They went to ringside and tore the shirts off of Kingston and Woods, who were still down on the ground. They picked up Woods and ran him into the steps. Anderson and Gallows walked over to Sonny Day. Gallows blew snot on the New Day gear and then threw it at Sonny Boy…
Neville was hyped for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: This is all Sonny Boy’s fault. I hope we actually hear from Anderson and Gallows about now longer being on the same brand as Styles. This was a nice start for the duo as a tag team, but my usual fears are in play when it comes to how a serious tag team will fare while working with the comedic New Day team. For instance, will New Day show their mean faces the next time we see them or will they go right back to fun and games?
A commercial aired for the Stone Cold Podcast with Dean Ambrose in two weeks…
The broadcast team stood at their new location and spoke about being impressed by Finn Balor and Roman Reigns, and the match they would have to determine which man would face Seth Rollins…
JoJo introduced Curtis Axel as Mr. Irrelevant. Cole explained that he was dubbed that because he was the last man drafted. Axel took the mic and said he was picked last because they saved the best for last…
4. Neville vs. Curtis Axel. Cole noted that Neville fractured his ankle four months ago in the same venue. Cole said the bearded Neville questioned himself while he was sidelined and wondered whether fans would even remember him. Graves recalled holding the NXT Tag Titles with Neville.
Neville beat Curtis Axel in 3:45.
The broadcast team hyped Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks for after the break…
Powell’s POV: It looked like the same old Neville in terms of what he did in the ring with a standing moonsault and the Red Arrow. I hope he is one of the guys who benefits from the brand split. I’m still stunned by how little they did with him before he was injured. We’ll see if they do more before the match, but the build for the women’s title match has been uninspiring. We heard from Sasha in a backstage segment that also featured The Golden Truth, but I’d like to hear more serious comments from champion and challenger to sell the match and the importance of the women’s championship.
[Q8] [C] Backstage, Darren Young said he almost won the Intercontinental Championship, but nobody better put their hands on Bob Backlund. Bob told him that he nearly won it and he will get it. Goldust and R-Truth entered the room and said the Pokemon Go target was under Bob’s bowtie. He flipped out… The broadcast team spoke from their perch and Byron acted like a jackass while Graves shot the camera a look of disbelief. Cole set up a Finn Balor video package that included shots of him in his various Demon attire… Cole hyped Balor vs. Reigns…
Powell’s POV: Just who do they think this cornball Byron Saxton comedy appeals to? They make it impossible to take him seriously.
Backstage, Tom Phillips interviewed Charlotte and Dana Brooke. Charlotte took exception to Sasha talking about pressure. Charlotte said she has been leading the division and has evolved it into what it is today. Charlotte said Sasha will bow down to the queen “and she can bank on that”… Sasha made her entrance for the title match… [C]
Powell’s POV: There we go. I still would have preferred more meaningful promos from the champion and challenger to create a big match feel, but this was a step in the right direction. I like that Charlotte isn’t playing the chickenshit heading into the match.
The champion and her sidekick made their entrance. Still shots aired of the tag match at Battleground that included Bayley…
[Q9] 5. Charlotte (w/Dana Brooke) vs. Sasha Banks for the WWE Women’s Championship. Before the match, JoJo delivered in-ring introductions. Sasha had control early and went for a backslide. She went for her finisher, but Charlotte was able to get her legs under the ropes and escape to the floor. Sasha kicked Charlotte from the ring, then performed a Thesz Press off the apron.
Charlotte took over the offense with a kick from the apron and then followed up with a neckbreaker. A short time later, Charlotte ran Sasha into the barricade. Charlotte picked up the title and taunted Sasha by saying “this is mine.” Sasha kicked the title away. Sasha picked up the title belt and threw it in the air. Brooke caught the title. Sasha acted like Dana had hit her, so the ref ejected Dana from ringside. Sasha smiled and waved at Brooke. [C]
Sasha performed another knee press on Charlotte. They traded forearm shots in mid-ring with Sasha getting the better of it. Sasha clotheslined Charlotte and then dropkicked her. Charlotte tried to kick Sasha, who caught her leg and said, “I don’t think so.” Sasha set up Charlotte in the ropes and then dropped both knees on her, which led to a two count. Sasha looked anguished over not getting the pin.
Charlotte came back with a moonsault onto her feet and then dove and tried a senton, but Sasha put her legs up in a clunky moment. With Charlotte at ringside, Sasha performed a suicide dive. Sasha appeared to overshoot Charlotte and landed hard. Back inside the ring, Sasha got a two count and let out a scream in frustration over not being able to put Charlotte away. Charlotte caught Sasha on the ropes and it looked like she was going for a superplex, but she instead dropped Sasha on the ropes. Charlotte performed a moonsault off the top rope and onto Sasha on the floor, which led to holy shit chants. Charlotte rolled Sasha back inside the ring and covered her for two.
Charlotte went for the Figure Eight, but Sasha countered into a small package for two. Charlotte caught Sasha with a boot to the face and then hit the Natural Selection for a two count. Charlotte applied the Figure Four and tried to get into Figure Eight position, but Sasha got to the ropes. Charlotte countered into dropping to ringside while Sasha was still in the figure four.
[Q10] Sasha countered into a Bank Statement. Charlotte got her foot on the bottom rope to break it. Charlotte got up and told Sasha she will never beat her. Charlotte charged at Sasha, who dodged her and hit the Backstabber and then applied the Bank Statement for the win…
Sasha Banks defeated Charlotte in 16:55 to win the WWE Women’s Championship.
After the match, Saxton entered the ring and congratulated Sasha, while noting that this was the first new champion of the new era. There was a Yes! chant that was overtaken by a “You deserve it” chant. Sasha took it all in and then said, “I did it.” She said it’s been a dream since she was ten years old. She said she told everyone she was the best, and now the title proves that she is the best. She said it’s a new era in WWE, the era of The Boss, change, and women’s wrestling. A Yes! chant started. Sasha promised that she will show everyone why she is champion and that there’s only one Boss in WWE…
Cole and Graves spoke about the match and then hyped Reigns vs. Balor as still to come… [C]
Powell’s POV: I am very surprised they gave Sasha the title just a week after Charlotte was picked so high in the draft and, more importantly, before SummerSlam. I thought this was going to be the setup match that would leave fans hoping to see Sasha win the title at SummerSlam. Even so, the title change was over huge with this live crowd. The fans seemed to be reacting to spots more than pulling for Sasha, but they really rallied behind her in a huge way after she won the championship.
Braun Strowman made his entrance with new entrance music that starts with him yelling his own name. He had new hair with the sides shaved and the rest of his hair in a ponytail. In the ring, Saxton asked jobber James Ellsworth what he was thinking by getting in the ring with Strowman. Ellsworth said getting a match on Raw was a dream come true, and if he could somehow get a win it would do big things for his career…
6. Braun Strowman vs. James Ellsworth. Strowman entered the ring and intimidated Strowman before the bell. Strowman destroyed Ellsworth and finished him off with a reverse chokeslam before pinning him…
Braun Strowman defeated James Ellsworth in 1:10.
Powell’s POV: This is the type of enhancement match insanity that I grew up on and missed until tonight. You can’t do a full show of monsters destroying guys who look like they could have no other profession in life than being a jobber, but it sure is fun and effective in small doses.
[Q11] A brief Roman Reigns video package aired… [C] The backstage Pokemon Go game with R-Truth and Goldust continued…
Enzo Amore and Big Cass made their entrance to a hot live crowd. Once in the ring, Enzo said Monday nights just got a little more raw. He sang “Oh, baby, I like it Raw” in tribute to ODB (not the wrestler). Cass ran through a list of things he likes raw. He was interrupted by The Shining Stars, who still like Puerto Rico or something. Cass and the live crowd called them sawft…
7. Big Cass and Enzo Amore vs. The Shining Stars. Cass hit the Empire Elbow on Primo, but Epico broke it up. Goldust and R-Truth came to the ring. Truth walked through the ring while playing his game. Primo turned into a big boot from Big Cass, who then pinned him…
Big Cass and Enzo Amore beat The Shining Stars in 1:50.
A shot aired of Roman Reigns walking backstage. He stopped and then Finn Balor entered the picture and wished him luck. Reigns also wished him luck. Balor said he’s Irish and invented luck. “Well, I’m Samoan, enough said,” Reigns replied.
Powell’s POV: Imagine if the Shining Stars had interrupted Enzo when he seemed like he was on a roll rather than Big Cass when he was delivering a forgettable list. Good line by Reigns, but please tell me they’re not going to make Balor the latest potentially huge babyface who has to work as a heel because of some delusional fantasy that Roman is magically going to be cheered by everyone. I know some of you guys love Bullet Club and all, but will this Roman madness ever end?
[Q12] A video aired for Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton at SummerSlam… Saxton hyped Lesnar’s return to Raw next week…
8. Roman Reigns vs. Finn Balor to earn a shot in the WWE Universal Championship match at SummerSlam. Cole read a social meeting message from Reigns about how he knows who Balor is and he’s ready for him. JoJo delivered in-ring introductions. Reigns was booed loudly again. Reigns tossed Balor across the ring. Cole got excited and welcomes Balor to the big leagues. Balor avoided a charging Reigns and then caught him with a kick. Reigns came right back by knocking Balor down with a shoulder block.
Balor caught Reigns with a tremendous dropkick. Later, Balor avoided a Drive By, then jumped over the ropes and caught Reigns with a double stomp on the apron. Balor caught Reigns with another dropkick at ringside heading into the break. [C] The latest of many ads for Smackdown aired, then Cole wished Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan good luck topping Raw. Reigns was in control coming out of the break.
[Overrun] Reigns rolled up Balor, then picked him up and slammed him for a two count. Balor caught Reigns with a kick that knocked him off the second rope to ringside. Balor caught Reigns with a nice running knee. “Roman, you can pick up your teeth in section 118,” Graves said. Back in the ring, Graves performed a double stomp to the back of Roman’s head and covered him for a two count.
Balor caught Reigns with a sling blade clothesline. Balor charged Reigns, who tagged him with a great looking (even on replay) Superman Punch that led to a two count. Reigns had a fat lip with a little blood. Reigns set up for the Razor’s Edge slam, but Balor rolled him up for a good near fall. Reigns came back with two more slams for another two count. Reigns smiled in disbelief, then looked down at Balor and nodded.
Reigns went back to the corner and let out the primal scream and went for a spear, but Balor caught him with the Sling Blade. Balor followed up with a dropkick and the Coup De Grace for the win. Cole acknowledged that it was Balor’s birthday, then a graphic hyped Rollins vs. Balor for SummerSlam.
Finn Balor defeated Roman Reigns in 13:55 to earn a spot in the WWE Universal Championship match at SummerSlam.
As the Balor celebration continued, Phillips approached Reigns at ringside and asked him if he had anything to say. Reigns said he hopes Balor beats Rollins for the title at SummerSlam because he wants him again. “I respect that dude,” Reigns said before limping away. Balor continued to celebrate. Cole said there’s a new women’s champion and Balor is heading to SummerSlam. “What a night on a brand new Monday Night Raw,” Cole said. “Goodnight everybody”…
Powell’s POV: A really cool moment. Unfortunately, when they showed the crowd you could see a lot of people racing for the exits even though fans seemed like they were really into the actual match. Reigns continues shine with a variety of opponents and I really liked his brief post match comments. He also lost again and I wonder where that’s going if anywhere. I love that they used the first Raw of the brand split to create a new star in Balor, and to showcase Sasha. It was a big night for two wrestlers so closely associated with the NXT brand.
Overall, the first Raw “of the new era” was a big Hit. Cole followed up a good night at Battleground with another good outing, and Graves is a welcome change from JBL. Oh, Byron is still there. The look of the show changed and they did some little things such as adding some post match interviews. There was a lot to like and I’m happy they came out swinging with the first show rather than just taking the business as usual approach with half the crew. The big question is whether they can maintain this pace when they’re not giving away two huge matches. Only time will tell, but I will have more to say in the WWE Raw Hit List on Tuesday. Thanks for watching along with me.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Jim Ross on his role in AEW, Tony Khan as a leader, whether Ross knew Shawn Spears was going to hit Cody with a chair shot to the head, working with Excalibur and Alex Marvez, his new book and speaking engagement deal, and much more... Search "Pro Wrestling Boom" in Apple Podcasts or any podcast app to subscribe.