By Jason Powell
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WWE Raw on the USA Network
Live from Houston, Texas at Toyota Center
[Q1] A graphic acknowledged the passing of Harry “Mr. Fuji” Fujiwara… A video recapped last week’s Raw… Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton were on commentary…
Pyro shot off on the stage as Cole introduced the show and set the stage for what was happening in the ring. A shot aired of the WWE Universal Championship set up on a podium in the ring. Corey Graves stood as Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, and Big Cass sat on chairs.
Rollins cut off the Graves introduction and boasted that they wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for him causing the injury that led to Finn Balor forfeiting the championship. Rollins said everyone knows he’s the favorite to win, so he was donating his time to one of the guys who actually needs it. Rollins picked Kevin Owens to speak.
Owens said that was so generous and thanked Rollins. Owens said he watches Graves’s show “Culture Shock” on WWE Network because it helps him sleep. Owens said he doesn’t know what’s going to happen tonight, “but boy is it exciting!” A loud “Fight Owens Fight” chant broke out briefly.
Owens said he assumed they wanted the wrestlers in the four-way to be nice to one another and that’s why this resembled a group therapy session. Owens said he can focus on what matters now that Sami Zayn is out of the picture. Rollins interrupted to take credit for that injury too.
Owens said Rollins talks big. Owens mentioned Reigns, who was booed, and said he fights hard. Owens said he fights hard. “And Big Cass, you’re just really tall,” Owens said. “Do you think that counts for something?” Cass said it does. Owens said it was incredible that Cass could speak for himself. He said he thought he had a string on his back “and that little idiot Enzo (Amore)” pulls it.
Cass asked if Chris Jericho wrote that for him like he’s written the rest of his stuff while Owens was out buying scarves for him. “That’s not funny,” Owens said. Cass said he has nothing to lose because no one is expecting him to win. Rollins said he heard Enzo bet against him. Cass said he might be new, but he’s the biggest dog in the fight. Cass said that no matter what Rollins tells himself, size does matter.
Rollins said he’s happy the match has elimination rules so he could take care of Cass, then send Owens back to jabronie Chris Jericho, and then it will come down to him and Roman. Seth said he beats Reigns every single time. Rollins told Graves to ask Roman how he’ll change his game plan to finally beat him.
Reigns, who hadn’t said anything yet, stood up and teased talking. Instead, Reigns sucker punched Owens. Reigns threw Rollins down, then turned and had a staredown with Big Cass. Rollins recovered and ran Reigns into Cass. Reigns punched Rollins, cleared Cass from the ring, and then Superman punched Rollins. Reigns looked at the title belt as his music played and a lot of fans booed…
Cole said Stephanie McMahon ordered Paul Heyman to appear on Raw to address the actions of Brock Lesnar… Saxton hyped Chris Jericho vs. Neville for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A solid opening segment in that I’m happy they gave them time to talk and set the stage for the main event. I thought Houston might be kinder to Roman than Brooklyn was, but it’s clearly not Roman Country.
[Q2] Neville made his entrance. Backstage, Tom Phillips interviewed Chris Jericho, who said everyone knows that Kevin Owens is going to walk out of the main event as the new champion. Jericho called Neville a “Mighty Mouse freak” and then set up “Phil” for the “it” routine. However, when Phillips said “it” then Jericho called him a stupid idiot and said he would give him the gift of Jericho…
1. Chris Jericho vs. Neville. The broadcast team stood in front of their desk and made title match predictions as Jericho made his entrance. Graves picked Reigns, and Saxton picked Cass. Jericho took an early powder and barked at fans at ringside. Neville went after him and rolled him back inside the ring and then performed a high cross body block for two. Jericho walked on his knees and hid behind the referee. Jericho raked the eyes of Neville while the referee was distracted. [C]
Jericho was in control coming out of the break. Neville came back with a standing shooting star press for a two count. Neville also performed a springboard moonsault on the floor. Neville avoided a Codebreaker and put Jericho down with a Codebreaker. Neville went up top and wanted to go for his finisher, but Jericho moved and Neville rolled onto his feet. Neville went for a huracanrana, but Jericho caught him in the Liontamer for the win…
Chris Jericho defeated Neville.
Powell’s POV: Not a typo on the finish, Jericho used the Liontamer rather than Walls of Jericho. He’s explained in the past that he switched to the Walls of Jericho because it was easier to utilize when he was in the ring with bigger wrestlers. The Mighty Mouse comments in Jericho’s interview were comical in that it was rumored at one time that Neville would play a masked Mighty Mouse inspired character once he was called up from NXT. It’s also worth noting that Jericho was Neville’s opponent when Neville performed a baseball slide that resulted in his ankle.
[Q3] Backstage, Bayley arrived and looked awestruck when she spotted New Day, who sang “Hey, we want some Bayley” to her. Bayley did their tag team champions intro and hip swivel until Dana Brooke showed up and told her she doesn’t belong in WWE. New Day asked who she beat last week. Dana said maybe she should go find Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. New Day told her to bring it on. New Day picked up Bayley and celebrated with her heading into the break…
An ad aired for WWE Backlash featuring Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. The Dolph Ziggler as Col. Sanders and Miz as a chicken commercial aired… [C] Cole congratulated The Rock for being the highest paid actor, then thanked WWE fans for supporting him…
2. Nia Jax vs. Hyan. A pre-taped interview with Hyan featured her saying she’s from Houston, Texas and everything in Texas is bigger, including her heart. Jax destroyed her…
Nia Jax defeated Hyan in 1:20.
Powell’s POV: Hyan is Hyaneyoung Olvera, whose Twitter page (@_Hyaneyoung) notes that she is a GEICO employee by day and a pro wrestler by night.
A video featured Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson standing in front of a screen image of them in an old person’s home. They said they are in the retirement business. They said some superstars need encouragement such as the Dudley Boyz. Footage aired of Gallows and Anderson working them over. Gallows said they are playing table tennis, watching 3D movies, and reminiscing about when they actually mattered. Anderson said New Day should also be preparing to retire at least as champions. He said they have a program for them that starts with their staff, starting with Nurse Dana Brooke. She entered the picture in a nurse outfit and asked, “Where do we begin” before snapping a latex glove on her hand…
Powell’s POV: I’m cool with Brooke being aligned with Anderson and Gallows if that’s what they have planned. She just doesn’t add much to Charlotte’s act. However, the monotone Anderson and Gallows doctor and not retirement specialist promos are groaners. At least they weren’t telling nut jokes this time around.
Q4] A Seth Rollins video package aired and included footage of him pinning Sami Zayn last week, and commenting on winning the match and how he intends to become Universal Champion via the four-way…
3. Sami Zayn vs Jinder Mahal. No televised entrance for Jinder. Cole noted that Zayn had a bit of a limp coming out of his match with Rollins last week. Graves said he walked past the trainer’s room earlier and there is a lot of tape on Zayn’s ankle. Zayn sold the ankle throughout the match. He caught Mahal with an exploder suplex in the corner and then put him away with a Helluva Kick…
Sami Zayn pinned Jinder Mahal.
The broadcast team hyped Anderson, Gallows, and Brooke vs. New Day and Bayley in a six-person tag match, and an update on Sasha Banks… A WWE Cruiserweight Classic commercial hyped quarterfinal matches beginning on Wednesday… [C]
Powell’s POV: Jinder means only slightly more than Hyan. I didn’t expect him to be a player in WWE, but I wish they would have done a little something to prop him up before turning him into a traveling enhancement wrestler so that it actually meant something when someone beat him. I like that Zayn sold the ankle injury from last week. I just wish they would have booked Zayn with an opponent whom viewers would have seen as a threat to beat him because of the ankle injury.
The broadcast team was joined at their perch by Charlotte. Cole set up a clip of Sasha Banks giving an update on her health on the Raw Pre-Show (full report available on the main page). Charlotte pointed out that Ric Flair and Dana Brooke were not at ringside when she beat her at SummerSlam. “So what’s her excuse?” Charlotte asked…
New Day made their entrance onto the stage, then Bayley’s music played and she joined them. Bayley was giddy when they gave her a unicorn horn to wear, and she ate BootyO’s. Bayley hugged a couple of young girls on her way to the ring. Charlotte said Bayley is a good kid, and then questioned why she didn’t debut when she, Sasha, and Becky Lynch did. The heel trio made their entrance…
[Q5] 4. Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, and Dana Brooke vs. Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Bayley (w/Xavier Woods). Bayley and Brooke started the match as a small “we want some Bayley” chant broke out and faded. Dana tagged out, leading to Big E suplexing Anderson. The New Day members kicked Anderson in the corner while Bayley clapped.
Bayley tagged in and threw a dropkick, which Brooke started selling before Bayley was even in the air. No kidding. Watch it again. The babyfaces celebrated with Woods playing the trombone going into the commercial break. [C]
Anderson and Gallows isolated Kingston. Kofi nearly made a tag, but Gallows pulled E off the apron before he could (Revival spot). Bayley was tagged in and she worked over Brooke.
New Day and Bayley beat Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, and Dana Brooke in 13:20.
[Q6] Backstage, Cesaro recalled Mick Foley promising a title shot to the winner of his best of seven series with Sheamus. Cesaro said Sheamus is just a bully who likes to throw his weight around. Cesaro said he’s going to throw Sheamus “around and around and around and around…”
An ad aired for Smackdown that showed footage of The Miz blowing up on Daniel Bryan on Talking Smackdown. The narrator said Bryan will address Miz on Smackdown Live on Tuesday… [C]
Powell’s POV: I like that she was awestruck by New Day because the character is a WWE fangirl at heart. I’m not so crazy about the ultra confident Bayley we saw throughout the match. Is that the Vince McMahon vision for the character? I was really hoping they would revert to her being a bit sheepish and intimidated on the main roster. I don’t get the sense that Dana and Charlotte have split since Cole still referred to her as Charlotte’s protege, though Charlotte did say there’s only so much she can do for her after she lost the match.
Graves congratulated the band Fifth Harmony for winning two MTV awards (they performed at WrestleMania)… A Big Cass video package aired to showcase him for the main event…
Sheamus made his entrance for the match with Cesaro. Saxton tried to interview Sheamus in the ring. He took the mic and said despite what Cesaro said earlier, he’s desperate. He added that Cesaro isn’t charming, witty, or handsome like he is. Sheamus got the “What?” treatment and then asked if the fans are deaf. He also questioned how Cesaro will feel when he learns that Sheamus is better…
5. Cesaro vs. Sheamus in the second match of the best of seven series. Cesaro dropkicked Sheamus and then clotheslined him to ringside heading into the break. [C]
[Q7] There was a wicked spot with Cesaro charging at Sheamus on the floor, which resulted in Sheamus backdropping him into the new ring post. Shemaus rolled him inside the ring and applied the Cloverleaf for the win. Trainers checked on Cesaro afterward…
Sheamus defeated Cesaro via submission in 11:15 to go up 2-0 in the best of seven series.
The broadcast team stood as Cole set up a video package for Mr. Fuji, who died on Sunday at age 82. The narrator said Fuji is probably best known as the manager of Yokozuna, and later added that he will be remembered as one of the most impactful characters in WWE history. The fans gave a polite round of applause while others ignorantly mugged for the camera… [C]
Powell’s POV: A wild spot and I believe the first time we’ve seen someone go into the new post. Cesaro hit the side, so it wasn’t the screen part. However, Will Pruett stated on last Monday’s Prowrestling.net Live that he met the man who helped make the new posts for WWE, and they were designed in a way where the wrestlers can be safely run into them. By the way, they did show Demolition briefly in the Mr. Fuji video despite their involvement in the brain injury lawsuit against the company.
[Q8] Cole hyped the four-way main event and set up a video package on Kevin Owens…
6. Braun Strowman vs. Americo. Byron Saxton tried to interview Americo in the ring about facing Strowman, whose music cut him off. Saxton asked the question again, but Americo froze. Strowman destroyed Americo and then removed his mask and threw it at him…
Braun Strowman beat Americo in 0:55.
A shot aired of Stephanie McMahon walking backstage and being friendly with employees… [C]
A video package showcased Tommaso Ciampa, Cedric Alexander, and Johnny Gargano for the cruiserweight division, which debuts on Raw in three weeks…
Stephanie McMahon headed to the ring and welcomed viewers to the historic edition of Raw. She said they were just moments away from crowning the new Universal Champion, but first they needed to address the actions of Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. Steph said some people think she welcomes that type of behavior because she is competing with Shane McMahon, but it’s not true.
Paul Heyman interrupted Stephanie and asked if she would indulge him for a moment. She said she wasn’t there to indulge him. She ordered him to get in the ring and apologize. Heyman entered the ring and fans chanted ECW. Stephanie told the fans she purchased ECW from him a long time ago. A brief CM Punk chant followed. Heyman said Raw won when Lesnar won at SummerSlam.
[Q9] Heyman conceded that Lesnar crossed the line and that’s why he was there “hat in hand” to pay his client’s “most reasonable fine of 500 dollars.” Heyman pulled out a huge stack of cash and started counting off $500 while dropping the bills in the ring.
Stephanie knocked the cash out of his hand. She said Brock Lesnar provides value to Raw, then questioned what value Heyman brings to her. She spoke about how she will avenge her brother. She said there’s a storm coming and it’s coming his ugly way.
Heyman got fired up and said his client is the storm. He said the apology is eight days to late and it should be directed at Stephanie. Heyman said he knows they put her in a compromising position with the board of directors and her father.
Heyman brought up the “female empowerment movement” and Stpehanie cut him off and said it’s a women’s revolution. “This is reality and you’re staring it right in the face,” she said. Heyman said he is staring in the face of the heir to the boardroom. Heyman said Lesnar told him that Stephanie is the only rightful sole heir to the boardroom and the entire family fortune.
Heyman begged Stephanie to accept this as a fine paid, a lesson learned, and apology most sincerely delivered. “Apology accepted,” Stephanie said before leaving the ring. Heyman smiled as Stephanie exited the ring…
Powell’s POV: The purpose of this was truly lost on me. The $500 fine says Stephanie basically approves of Lesnar roughing up her brother, which was comical. I was actually hoping she would give Heyman $500 to award to Lesnar for the fight of the night and heel it up. Sure, Stephanie got to make Heyman grovel, but his character acted like he got away with one or outsmarted her, which goes against what we normally see from Stephanie. None of this left me anxious to see where this is going.
Footage aired of Finn Balor being injured at SummerSlam and then popping his shoulder back into place. Cole spoke about Balor undergoing surgery and said he would be out up to six months… Cole hyped the four-way elimination main event… Separate shots aired of Darren Young and Bob Backlund on one side of the screen, and Titus O’Neil on the other… [C]
A Roman Reigns video package aired…
[Q10] 7. Titus O’Neil vs. Darren Young (w/Bob Backlund). Titus took an early powder and called for a timeout. At 1:10, Titus sent Young into the corner and he tumbled over the top and nearly crashed into a cameraman. Titus brought Young back to the ring, slammed him, and then talked smack to Backlund and Young. In the end, Young caught a cocky O’Neil in a crucifix pin. Backlund celebrated with Young afterward, then O’Neil attacked them both and left them lying…
Darren Young beat Titus O’Neil in 4:05.
Powell’s POV: Titus asked “how you like me now” a couple time at ringside afterward. At this point, I was actually hoping he’d break in a song by performing a solo version of The Heavy tune. Even a musical breaking out in the middle of Raw wouldn’t bore me as much as this dead on arrival Young vs. O’Neil feud.
Backstage, Mick Foley told Stephanie that he should have had her back earlier. Stephanie said she can handle herself, but he still felt he should have been there. Mick said he wanted to ban all friends and tag partners from the main event. Stephanie agreed. Seth Rollins entered the picture and said it’s been a long road back and he’s going to bring home the Universal Title. Steph said they made him the No. 1 draft pick and tonight is his night. Rollins said he won’t let her down…
The broadcast team hyped the four-way as coming up next… An ad for NXT TV focussed on Shinsuke Nakamura’s reign beginning… [C]
Powell’s POV: We get it, Seth wants to have another celebration with Stephanie, and Stephanie made him the No. 1 pick for a reason. They really seem to be forcing Stephanie into this show for some reason. Is this the night she slaps the piss out of poor Mick Foley?
A Did You Know graphic touted that WWE gives free tickets to military personnel…
Stephanie and Foley stood at ringside, and Mick had that wretched looking Universal Championship belt over his shoulder. Roman Reigns made his entrance to boos and walked past a fan holding up a “If Reigns Wins We Riot” sign. Kevin Owens was out next followed by Seth Rollins.
[Q11] Big Cass was out last and was accompanied by Enzo Amore. The duo delivered some mic work on the stage. Cass said he shocks the world by becoming the new champion. He and the crowd did the sawft routine to describe his opponents… JoJo delivered in-ring introductions for the title match. Cole said one of these men will be the new Universal Champion “and it’s life, next”… [C]
8. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens vs. Big Cass in a four-way elimination match for the WWE Universal Championship. The bell rang and Owens started the match on the floor. The babyfaces cleared Owens from the ring and then went face-to-face only to have the heels attack them from behind.
The babyfaces squared off again and traded punches with some fans cheering for Cass and booing Reigns. Reigns went for a Superman Punch, but Cass cut him off. Cass ran the ropes and knocked Reigns to the floor with a great looking big boot. Rollins ran the ropes and performed a suicide dive on Cass. Owens picked up Rollins and dropped him on the barricade. Reigns dove onto Cass and Owens from the ring as they cut to break at 4:30. [C]
[Q12] After the break, Owens acknowledged Foley before dropping a Cactus Jack elbow off the barricade onto Cass. Foley gave him the “bang bang” hand gesture. Later, Rollins pulled Owens to the floor, then worked over Cass in the ring. Reigns cut off Rollins with a clothesline, then Owens returned and took a clothesline too. Cass dropped Reigns with a big boot.
Rollins and Owens bounced off of Cass shoulder blocks, then hit hit them both with a splash in the corner. Cass hit Ownes with a big boot to knock him off the apron. As Cass mugged for the camera, Rollins rolled him up for two. Cass came back and performed the Empire Elbow. Cass had Rollins up, but Reigns returned to hit him with a Superman Punch. Rollins caught Cass with a superkick and covered him for two. Owens followed up with a frogsplash on Cass and pinned him to eliminate him from the match. [C]
Kevin Owens eliminated Big Cass at 12:45.
Powell’s POV: It will be interesting to see how that affects the crowd, as Big Cass was the most popular guy in the match. Will the crowd shift to cheering the guy who pinned him rather than pull for one of the usual suspects?
After the break, Reigns was at the bottom of a tower of doom spot that Rollins was on top of. Reigns covered both heels for two counts. There was a light “this is awesome” chant. Reigns threw clotheslines at Owens, who ducked one, yet ate a big boot from Reigns, who was booed.
Later, Rollins went for the Pedigree. Reigns backdropped Rollins onto the apron. Rollins caught Reigns with a kick and then went up top for a flying knee, but Reigns tagged him with the Superman Punch for a very good near fall. The “this is awesome” chants grew this time around until fans started booing as Reigns set up for his finisher, which Rollins cut off.
Owens returned to the match and hit cannonballs on both opponents, then ran into a Superman Punch from Reigns for another good near fall. Foleya nd Steph applauded. A short time later, Rollins went for a Pedigree on Reigns, who slammed him down for another two count. Reigns performed a Drive-By Kick on Rollins, then ran over and Superman Punched Owens at ringside.
[Overrun] Reigns speared Rollins at ringside. Triple H showed up at ringside and performed the Pedigree on Reigns. Hunter picked up Rollins, yelled at him, and threw him inside the ring. Rollins covered Reigns to eliminate him.
Seth Rollins eliminated Roman Reigns with help from Triple H at 23:55.
Triple H picked up Owens and rolled him inside the ring. Hunter then entered the ring while Cole spoke about how Rollins has been in the pocket of The Authority for two years. Suddenly, Triple H kicked Rollins, looked at Owens, and then performed a Pedigree on him. Owens froze for a moment in shock, then rushed over and covered Rollins for the win…
Kevin Owens defeated Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Big Cass to win the WWE Universal Championship in 25:15.
After the match, Hunter went to ringside and took the title from Foley, then returned to the ring and presented it to Owens and raised his hand. Owens dropped to his knees and celebrated with the title belt. Hunter held up Owens’ arm and they took a lap inside the ring. Hunter left the ring and Cole pointed out that Stephanie appeared to be in shock, and Foley was livid. Owens continued to celebrate in the ring and yelled, “It’s my show!” Fans chanted “you deserve it” as the show went off the air…
Powell’s POV: First off, let’s hope that Mrs. Kevin Owens had the camera rolling on her son when his father won the title (see the great footage of Owen’s reaction to his father feuding with John Cena). If Hunter had helped Rollins, everyone would be pissing and moaning about a cheap and predictable finish. Owens winning in tainted fashion feels new and right for his character. It’s the move that our readers voted for, and it’s the move that WWE poll voters wanted based on the results of the poll mentioned on the pre-show tonight. I was in the camp that said Owens was the right guy, but I really thought they would go with Rollins again.
The overall show was just sort of there until the main event, which was very good before the interference. Owens winning the title breathes some life into the show that was lost when Finn Balor had to drop the title last week. I hope he is given a sense of credibility as we move forward, but I really like that his opportunistic character won in this manner even if it didn’t seem like he was in cahoots with Triple H. I’m curious to see what Hunter’s explanation will be for turning on Rollins as much as anything. I will have more to say in my members’ exclusive audio review later tonight.