KELLER’S RAW TAKE – HR 1 (7/25): New format, wrestlers, announcers, Balor debut

By Wade Keller, editor


KELLER’S WWE RAW TAKE – HOUR ONE
JULY 25, 2016
PITTSBURGH, PA.
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK

BATTLEGROUND TITLE MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

Basics: They showed highlights of the finish of the WWE Title match last night and the celebration by Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon with Dean Ambrose, contrasted by the disappointment and anguish of Seth Rollins, Stephanie McMahon, and Mick Foley.

Wade Keller, editorReax: You wouldn’t have known Roman Reigns was in the match other than his getting pinned by Ambrose. There was no narrative reference to him or post-getting-pinned focus on him… I’m always glad to see a title match outcome be the top story of Raw…

NEW OPENING

Basics: The new Raw opening theme song is “Enemies” by Shinedown. The opening line is “Listen, there’s not a moment to spare. Gotta drop from the top, so how do you feel down there? It’s a cold cruel, arch reality, caught stuck here with your enemies. Who do you think you are, tearing us all apart?” … The wrestlers included in the opening are Seth, Reigns, Sasha Banks, Brock, Enzo & Cass, Kevin Owens, Charlotte, Sami Zayn, Neville, Paige, Sheamus, Cesaro, Finn Balor, Braun Strowman, Titus O’Neal, The Club, Bob Backlund and Darren Young, Jericho, Nia, New Day, Brock again, Enzo & Cass again, Golden Truth, Big Show, Dudleys, Mark Henry, Lana Rusev, Charlotte again, Reigns again, Seth again, Sasha again… The new Raw logo debuted here, minus the italicizing and with a little texture and 3D element to the lettering. The “W” just jumps out to my eye as an upside down “M” because it doesn’t slant, but oh well…

Reax: I really liked the prior Raw opening theme, so this will have to grow on me. I’m always interested in the order of wrestlers in the open, and how many get a second clip in the montage. Roman was featured twice, and was the second one to appear, but there’s obvious branding of him as a top-top guy…

LIVE ENTRANCE

Basics: They opened with Michael Cole, Bryon Saxton, and Corey Graves standing in front of their announce desk from a new position to the right of the stage entrance. Cole noted that Graves is a new addition to the team.

Reax: I love the new position. It, for one, will eliminate the shots of the announcers staring at the monitors at ringside instead of the ring. It might cut back on announce table spots. It’s good news for fans at ringside who don’t want to be blocked, but it also eliminates the sense of “invasion of privacy” that came from fans taking pictures of what the announcers were reading on their screens or scripts. In general, I like the shift in positioning just to arbitrarily give off the vibe a fresh new start and production vision… The biggest potential positive for Raw coming out of the draft is Graves adding a fresh youthful cool informed vibe to the broadcasts, with a particular strength being able to relate to a younger audience, not to mention immersive knowledge of NXT talent now on the main roster…

OPENING SEGMENT

Basis: Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon stood in the ring. Mick introduced the new roster of Raw. Reigns led the way, which drew some boos, followed by Mark Henry, Seth Rollins, and the rest. Cole talked about the various draft spots some were picked in, such as Charlotte as no. 3. Graves talked about how happy he was to be part of the new announce team. Mick said each week he plans to work with each Superstar in the ring to bring the fans the most thrilling, most physical, most action-packed episode of Raw each and ever week. Steph said she will give Mick the full authority to do just that…

Steph shifted to blaming Reigns for losing for the team. “You screwed it up for all of us, Roman.” She said he’s not a good guy or a bad guy, but rather “just a loser.” She said in 1,209 episodes of Raw, there has always been a heavyweight champion. She said the WWE Universe demands having a heavyweight champion on Raw, and they’ll get it. Foley said this episode will feature two Fatal Four-way matches with the winners facing off one-on-one in the main event to determine who will face their no. 1 draft pick at Seth Rollins at Summerslam to determine the new WWE Universal Championship. That got a flat response from the crowd… Foley listed the eight wrestlers involved in the Fatal Four-ways. Balor was the last wrestler Foley announced. He walked through the crowd and stood next to the others on the stage…

Foley also announced Charlotte would face Sasha Banks.

Reax: I like that if they were going to introduce a Raw-based main singles title, they didn’t call it the Raw Title or World Title, but rather Universal Title. I think it’s a fine compromise to avoid having “two world champions” and having the lineage with the existing Smackdown-based title in tact. I’m not sure prestige-wise how history books or wrestlers themselves will look at holding a newly created Universal Title compared to a title called a “World Title,” though… I’m not sure a “Fatal Four-way” is the best way to introduce Finn Balor, but eventually he’ll make it regardless of the nature of his debut. I’d rather have seen Balor wrestle a few singles matches with decisive wins over lower card talent just to establish his persona and in-ring style and finishers first, not thrown in the ring, interacting physically with three other top wrestlers. There should be great anticipation regarding Balor battling every top tier wrestler in WWE, so this feels like spending a lot of equity in his first match…

MATCH ONE – FINN BALOR vs. RUSEV vs. KEVIN OWENS vs. CESARO

Basics: Ring entrance order: Cesaro, Rusev, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor…Cole said many are calling Owens vs. Sami from last night a Match of the Year candidate… The big screen said “Balor Club Worldwide” when he made his entrance… Cole said Balor has built quite a resume during his years in the ring. He brought his history winning the British Commonwealth Championship at age 18, wrestling in Mexico, and becoming a three-time IWGP Jr. Hvt. Champion and six-time IWGP Jr. Hvt. Tag Team Championship, and a two-time winner of the Super Juniors Tournament, not to mention the longest-reigning NXT Champion. Graves told the WWE Universe to get ready to have their mind blown…

Match Notes: A memorable sequence was Owens instructing and coaching Rusev what moves to do to beat up Cesaro and Rusev going along with it… Also, Cesaro did a series of uppercuts against all three opponents who are in separate corners. Rusev broke up the subsequent Cesaro Spin attempt… Balor did a flip dive onto the other three on the floor… There were two commercial breaks in this match, so there’s no change in policy there in terms of interrupting matches with commercials rather than trying to schedule commercials between matches… Rusev gave a powerbomb type of move to the other three when they were stacked on the top rope… Late in the match Cesaro did the giant swing on Rusev and applied the Sharpshooter, but Owens broke it up. Owens gave Rusev a cannonball. Balor dropkicked Owens and then gave him a Slingblade. He gave Rusev a running dropkick and then landed the double stomp off the top rope for the pin… WINNER: Balor.

Reax: Makes total sense to give Balor a huge win early to send the message that his resumé will matter to his push. It sets him up for a potential showcase singles match later on the show, too… It’s tough in a fatal four-way to have any one wrestle really shine, and it seems if you had to pick one it’d be Cesaro here, even though he didn’t win…

ANNOUNCER SEGMENT

Basics: Byron, Cole, and Graves were shown standing at the announce table with the ring in the far background. They reacted to a video hyping the Cruiserweight Classic, bragging that Cruiserweights will be the exclusive property of Raw… Cole noted that Smackdown is bragging they outdrew Raw last week in viewership. Graves said that was because it was the draft and all of the Raw Superstars were on the show, so it’ll be a different story this week…

Reax: It’ll be interested how much they’ll continue talking about ratings. A lot of ideas are fun when they are novel and new, but will Vince McMahon care to talk about a “ratings streak” for one show if the story is the same each week?…

MATCH TWO: NIA JAX vs. BRIT BAKER

Basics: Graves said Jax is a combination of speed, power, and agility, unlike anything the women’s division has see before. Jax won squash style. She challenged King Kong Bundy by lifting Baker’s shoulders during a clear chance to get a three count, then landed a headbutt and legdrop… Winner: Jax.

Reax: I like the squash win for Nia just getting to show off her ring entrance, signature moves, and dominance…

BACKSTAGE SEGMENT – SASHA BANKS

Basics: Goldust and R-Truth were aiming their phones at Sasha Banks. They denied they were taking pictures of her. They said they were playing Pokemon Go… Tom Philips then approached her for an interview hyping her title match against Charlotte. She said she doesn’t feel pressure. She said when she beats Charlotte, her dream will come true and the new era is about to have a new champion “with a new swag to it”…

END FIRST HOUR: They began ring entrances for the second Fatal Four-way match as the show first hour ended.

HOURS TWO AND THREE: VIP members can read my Takes on hours two and three later tonight at the AD-FREE VIP-website at www.pwtorchvip.com.

BIG $1 SALE: Go VIP for just $1 with a limited-time sale right now: http://www.pwtorch.com/govip (use coupon code “draft16” to save $9 on a full month and pay just $1).

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