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8/1 WWE Raw Instant Reaction – Three-Pack Edition
In the spirit of PWTorch contributor Ben Tucker’s “Instant Reaction” series, we present the top three takeaways from Monday’s Raw from PWTorch staff, contributors, and correspondents.
Greg Parks, PWTorch columnist
(1) Orton strikes first against Lesnar. Before Raw, the hype for Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton was all talk. And all from Orton. We heard from Orton again on Raw, but with an RKO. Paul Heyman’s promo was the usual Paul Heyman promo until Orton surprised both Heyman and Lesnar with an RKO, truly outta nowhere. Orton, the first wrestler to cross over to another show since the brand split, sent the first shot across the bow in this feud.
(2) Roman Reigns next for Rusev. After dispatching of the increasingly-fragile Mark Henry, Rusev seemed to wrap up the week we all dream of: Getting married to a major babe and then handily beating the World’s Strongest Man. Now, it’s Miller Time…or rather, Reigns Time. Roman set himself up as the next challenger for Rusev’s United States Championship, presumably at Summerslam, adding to an already-stacked card. Reigns and Rusev seem to be a good match, both in the ring and in storyline, for now.
(3) Jinder no longer hindered. Jinder Mahal returned, winning a contract for the Raw brand by beating his former 3MB mate Heath Slater. Slater gets to continue his odyssey as a legend in his own mind, while Mahal has an opportunity to add depth to the Raw roster. Hopefully, he’s given a more serious gimmick and a real opportunity to show what he can do, even if it is at the lower card level.
Dominic DeAngelo, PWPodcasts recapper
(1) Great Storytelling Told With Predictable Segments (and Shaky Babyface Mic Work). Having two wordsmiths like Chris Jericho and Enzo kick off Raw was an unexpected surprise, but in old hat fashion, a great deal of the prime roster was cut off the verbal knees tonight. Finn Balor had a small window to talk before Seth Rollins strong-armed his way through a “segment we’ve seen before” with Bill Murray zingers while Cesaro and Sheamus bickered their way in a muddled mess. Don’t get me wrong, Balor held his own, but to say he out-witted Seth’s topical quips would be inaccurate. And sure, the opening segment was a pleasant surprise, but Enzo and Sasha both had off-nights with poop jokes and creeperly forced “How You Doin’s’?” Hopefully Jericho and Enzo’s second encounter will produce more favorable results. The only babyface winner on the mic tonight? Sami Zayn (and he still lost). Amazingly enough, Raw still put together a solid enough showing, progressing last Monday’s stories along and starting up intriguing new ones (Reigns-Rusev MIGHT actually work!)
(2) Outlaw Orton vs. The Omitting Beast. Making Randy Orton look like the rebellious rule breaker is a cagey move on WWE’s part, even going as far to have Stephanie McMahon & Mick Foley come out to air their grievances, but where’s the follow up to Orton’s “enhancement” comment? When done correctly, injecting real-life controversy (pun honestly not intended) into the wrestling product has always been a surefire money maker, and it’s (again) old hat for WWE to not follow up, especially with an elephant in the room as big as this one.
(3) Jobbers Are All The Craze. From the pre-match interviews to the unforgiving ass beatings, it’s great to see jobbers back in the mix for two consecutive weeks. I want more names I never heard of to enhance new era talent. What’s old is certainly new again.
Sam Hayward, PWTorch reader
(1) Reigns Stays Face. It looks like we won’t be getting a heel Roman Reigns anytime soon, with The Big Dog taking on Rusev in a slugfest following his match. It looks like the two are likely set to square off at Summerslam for the United States Championship. Although not a match anybody expected to see anytime soon, it does promise to provide something fresh. Whilst I can’t see Vince putting the belt on Reigns right now, the switch in dynamic between Ambrose and Reigns from main-eventer to mid-carder feels slightly poetic. This could be a good chance to really put Rusev over should he come out of this on top. I’d still rather see Reigns turn heel, though.
(2) RKO Outta Nowhere. It looks like this cross-brand feud is going to allow for some genuine cross-brand appearances, with Randy Orton showing up on Raw last night to deliver a sweet RKO to Brock Lesnar. The entire promo from Paul Heyman was phenomenal and Stephanie McMahon’s screaming tirade, blaming Shane for the entire thing, made this feel a lot bigger than just a slapped together feud. Now it’s Raw vs. Smackdown. These two men who came up in the company together now champion their respective shows and it means the fans have an extra reason to tune in to both shows each night; to see if one will invade the other.
(3) 2MB Breaks Up. Heath Slater is delivering in marvelous fashion in his latest gimmick with the company. This idea of him going to both shows and begging for a job has provided the return of Rhyno on Smackdown and Jinder Mahal on Raw. Not two big names, but it makes you wonder who else they’ll use him to reintroduce as their bolster both rosters. Could we see Goldberg destroy the One Man Rock Band at some point down the road?
Chris Wooten, PWTorch reader
(1) Strange Bedfellows & New Rivalries. The New Era marches on. We’re two weeks off the heels from the “Draft,” and since then, WWE has showed that they can still show signs of versatility. This week, they took another chance and decided to mix some Superstars together that had never really shared a segment. In normal fashion, there were some really good moments, and there were also some moments you’d see in a badly written play. The opening segment with Jericho/Charlotte and Enzo/Sasha culminated in a great mixed tag-team match and told a great story. Universal Championship contenders Seth Rollins and Finn Balor also shared a captivating segment where both of the two came out looking stronger, verbally and physically. On that note, the talking segments also feel more organic since the “reboot,” not everyone seemed to get more freedom on the mic, but there were segments that sounded much more like people simply talking to each other and less like they were reading lines from a memorized script. Everything wasn’t a home run, but to their credit, at least they’re taking risks to see if there’s some untapped chemistry on the roster. Up until last week’s Raw “reboot,” it seemed like every Monday was a recurring story with the same characters over and over again. Even if you didn’t enjoy everything on the show, it seems at least, that things aren’t so predictable anymore.
(2) Invasion, Outta Nowhere. Tonight marked the return of the “Beast of the Brocktagon,” Brock Lesnar, and of course, Paul Heyman. Even though we’ve seen this type of segment from them time and time again, it never fails to demand attention, and make you believe that this “Beast” is an unstoppable force who deserves your admiration. Heyman mentioned several times that Randy Orton’s “equalizer,” the RKO, could never be stricken upon his client. At that moment, Orton slid into the ring and landed an RKO (#OuttaNowhere) on Lesnar, and fled the ring as officials ran down to ringside to catch him. This marked the first “invasion” of a Superstar from one brand to another, and we’re only two weeks into the brand extension. While it was an exciting and unpredictable ending, it begs the question of whether these “invasions” will become commonplace, or just very rare occurrences for the “big four” pay-per-views. Are we seeing the beginning of the end of the brand extension already? Hopefully we won’t be watching Raw & Smackdown Supershows anytime soon.
(3) The Roman Empire Falls… Down The Card. After an impressive United States Championship defense against Mark Henry (WWE Ambassador for the 2016 Olympic Games), Rusev cut a promo on the Olympics, drawing out Roman Reigns . The two squared off for a moment, with Roman Reigns eventually getting the upper hand, and looking very fondly at the United States Championship. We have to assume this is the U.S. Title match at Summerslam. Knowing that, we now see that Roman Reigns stepping down the card is true. While this may seem like a negative for him at first, this can actually end up being a good thing. Without the pressure of carrying the main event level championship, it may give Roman the breathing room he needs to improve his mic work, and then get back to the promised land. Many argue that Roman’s push to the top was too fast, or not earned. Now, Roman can write a new chapter of his career – one that he can pen himself by “earning” that main event level championship. If he climbs the ladder of success, and pays a few more dues, maybe the crowd will respect him enough to cheer him as a babyface, without having to turn him into a full-fledged heel. Either way, the Roman Reigns experiment seems to have taken a left turn, and the coming months will tell if this will all pay off for him in the end.