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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
MAY 15, 2017
NEWARK, N.J. AT PRUDENTIAL CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Booker T
-They opened with slo-mo footage of Braun Strowman entering the ring last week with his left arm in a sling followed by a glorification in the form of video and Cole commentary of Roman Reigns sending Braun into retreat. It was three and a half minutes of a video package whose main goal was to build up Reigns’s accomplishment last week.
-The Raw opening aired. Then Cole introduced the show, stressing more than usual that they are LIVE. He hyped the defense of the PRESTIGIOUS Intercontinental Title.
-Kurt Angle walked out to his music as Cole sang his praises. Angle said Braun was flown back to the United States last week and had surgery on his elbow. He said he may be out of action up to six months. He said before his injury, he had set his sights on the Universal Championship. He said someone else will challenge Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title. He said he has given it a lot of thought, but it has to be earned, not given. He said at Extreme Rules, there will be a first-ever Fatal Five-Way match and the winner will face Brock. He said he gave a lot of thought to who belonged in the match. He revealed them, with accompanying graphics of Lesnar facing them: Seth Rollins, Samoa Joe, Finn Balor (big pop), Bray Wyatt, and Roman Reigns (boos). Angle said whoever wants to slay the Beast has to be victorious at Extreme Rules. He said it will be historical and extreme, “oh it’s true, it’s damn true.” He then began to leave.
Out walked Reigns, though, favoring his left arm. Graves noted Reigns favoring his shoulder. Booker T said the look in his eyes says, “This is my yard.” He said as far as he is concerned, it is his yard. Reigns entered the ring and looked upset. He told Angle they don’t need a Fatal Five-way because he’s the no. 1 contender. Boos from the crowd. He said this is his yard, and he cited beating Undertaker at WrestleMania and putting Strowman in the ambulance. He said he’s the only guy around who can beat Lesnar. Balor then walked out before Angle could bring the mic to his mouth.
Cole noted that Balor is the first-ever Universal Champion. Balor told Reigns that he was the first-ever Universal Champion and he never lost his title, so if he wants a shot at the Beast, the line starts behind him. Reigns said he has a lot of heart, but he doesn’t have the killer instinct to beat someone like Lesnar. Balor said he should know what he’s capable of because on his first night on Raw, he beat him. Reigns stared a hole in him. Then Joe’s music played.
Joe walked to the ring. He said, “Oh gentleman, you have it very very wrong.” He said it’s not about big hearts or anybody’s yard. He said it’s definitely not about anybody’s club. He said it’s about actions and results. He said if he enters the Fatal Five-way, he wins. He recited various actions and results, but was interrupted by Bray Wyatt who managed to magically appear center-ring after the lights flickered.
Bray said they all put on their brave faces, but he can feel them trembling. He said Roman, Joe, and Finn will cower and fall and run. He was quickly interrupted by Seth.
Seth walked out and said they’ll mix things up at Extreme Rules, but that’s weeks away and New Jersey didn’t come to talk, they came to fight. He said he came to Jersey to fight Joe. Joe met a charging Seth at ringside. Bray went after Balor, then Reigns knocked Bray out of the ring. Reigns pursued him at ringside. Seth snapped Joe’s knee over the middle rope. Joe retreated. Bray went after Seth. Balor dropkicked both of them. Back in the ring, Reigns avoided a Coup de Gras, Balor ducked a Superman Punch, and Finn landed a Sling Blade. Balor then flip dove onto Reigns and Seth at ringside. Balor returned to stand center-ring as his music played. Seth wondered if that would be the scene at Extreme Rules.
(Keller’s Analysis: Formulaic opening segment, clocking in at 15 minutes after the three minute opening video. It accomplished what it needed and everyone played their role well.)
-They showed Jeff & Matt Hardy walking backstage, with Matt giving Jeff a pep talk.
-A commercial aired focused on Shinshuke Nakamura facing Dolph Ziggler at Backlash. [c]
-Backstage Reigns, Balor, and Seth were arguing. Angle told Seth since he took out Joe, he is going to face Bray for the first time ever tonight. Angle then booked Balor vs. Reigns against each other.
(Keller’s Analysis: Balor and Reigns must’ve been on a platform or Angle has shrunk to Hornswoggle size because he was considerably shorter than Balor there. Reigns is going to be booed big in that match. Putting him against Balor makes booking sense, I suppose, but it also puts Reigns in a situation where if he’s booed, there’s no shame in it because he’s against a fellow babyface. So in a way, it’s protecting him because facing, say, Bray or Joe instead, if he got booed, he looks a lot worse.)
(1) JEFF HARDY (w/Matt Hardy) vs. SHEAMUS (w/Cesaro)
They replayed in slo-mo Sheamus kicking a tooth right out of Jeff Hardy’s mouth at Payback, and then Sheamus & Cesaro attacking the Hardys after losing. Booker said, “You cannot go out there and respect nostalgia. You have to take it away from them.” How do you take nostalgia away from someone? Graves cleaned up what it seemed Booker was trying to say by explaining that Sheamus posted on social media that the new era is superior to the Attitude Era and he is looking forward to eliminating the “nostalgia act that is the Hardy Boyz.” Sheamus took control early and threw Jeff hard into the ringside barrier at 1:00. They cut to an early break. [c]
Back from the break, Sheamus locked Jeff in a chinlock. Cole said Sheamus dominated during the break. He noted the two teams face each other at Extreme Rules in three weeks. Jeff made a brief comeback. Sheamus made a comeback. When he leaped off the top rope, Jeff caught him mid-air with a stunner-like move. It was good for a two count. When Cesaro jumped onto the ring apron, Matt knocked him down. Matt told Jeff to give him a Twist of Fate, but Sheamus blocked it and then tried to give Matt a Brogue Kick off the ring apron. He came up short. Matt stayed on the ring apron. Sheamus delivered another kick, and Matt somewhat awkwardly flew off into the arms of Cesaro. Jeff then landed the Swanton for the win.
WINNER: Jeff Hardy at 8:30.
(Keller’s Analysis: Jeff is either badly hurt or doing a great job selling the beating Sheamus gave him. Or some of both. I suspect the Brogue Kick coming up short could be Sheamus being hesitant to be too stiff after knocking out Jeff’s tooth. But with a kick to the chest off the ring apron, from a safety standpoint, it’s more important to make firm contact.) [c]
(2) ALICIA FOX vs. SASHA BANKS
Cole said Noam Dar campaigned for a rematch tonight because Fox lifted her shoulder before the three count last week on Raw against Banks. Graves said it was a beautiful, lovely, honorable thing for Dar to do. Banks went for a back stabber, but Fox held onto the top rope. Sasha went tumbling over the top rope to the floor. The announcers sold Sasha’s leg hitting the edge of the ring on her way down. Fox rolled up Banks for a near fall. Fox then landed a scissors kick. Graves said, “That is it!” And it was. Three count. Dar ran in and celebrated with Fox.
WINNER: Fox in 3:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Fox beating Banks, huh? I mean, Banks isn’t being heated up right now, but that seems to hurt Banks as much as it might help Fox. We’ll see the trajectory of those two in coming weeks to see if this makes sense in retrospect.)
-The announcers hyped that up next was Miz vs. Ambrose.
-A Smackdown commercial hyped A.J. Styles vs. Jinder Mahal, plus “The Viper” Randy Orton vs. Baron Corbin. No dives. [c]
(3) DEAN AMBROSE vs. THE MIZ (w/Maryse) – Intercontinental Championship match
Cole explained as Miz walked to the ring that in 1979 “Pat Patterson became the first man to earn the Intercontinental Championship.” He said since then, more than a dozen WWE Hall of Famers have held that title. Dean got in the early offense, so Miz retreated to ringside and they cut to a break. [c]
Miz was in control after the break. They showed that during the break, Miz threw Ambrose into the ringside steps. Miz settled into a chinlock.
When Miz began kicking Ambrose’s chest with a barrage of Daniel Bryan-style round kicks, Cole said he stole them from Bryan. Graves said these days that’s called repurposing. Ambrose dove through the ropes into Miz at ringside, knocking him into the ringside barrier. Cole said fans love those high-risk moves from Ambrose.
Miz leaped off the top rope a couple minutes later, but Dean caught him and attempted Dirty Deeds. Miz blocked it, but Dean countered a Skull Crushing Finale with a jackknife roll-up for a near fall. Dean hit a flying elbow to Miz’s chest for another near fall. Miz countered a Lunatic Lariat with a Skull Crushing Finale for a convincing near fall that popped the crowd. Booker: “You’ve got to be kidding me!” They were slow to get up. Ambrose went for a roll-up, but Miz kicked out. Ambrose knocked Miz to the floor and then climbed to the top rope. Miz stood behind Maryse. Ambrose said he’s going to dive anyway. He gave her a three second countdown. Maryse moved as Ambrose did as promised. Maryse distracted the ref again. Miz went for a low blow, but Dean sensed it was coming and blocked his arm. Ambrose then kicked Miz low. The ref DQ’d him. Graves said Dean has no one to blame but himself in letting his emotions get the best of him. Booker said, “If you ain’t cheating, you aren’t trying. I have to give Miz credit for actually trying to capture that elusive title.”
(Keller’s Analysis: That is such a stupid thing for anyone but an all-out heel commentator to say, and even then, only if there is a counter perspective immediately offered that winning by cheating is for losers who can’t win otherwise, and there’s no honor in being champion if you have to cheat to win.)
WINNER: Miz via DQ so Ambrose retained the IC Title in 12:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good match. These two have good chemistry.)
-Charly Caruso interviewed Balor backstage. She plugged his “WWE 24” special that airs on WWE Network right after Raw. Balor talked about it being about the size of the fight in the dog, and Reigns may be the Big Dog, but his heart is his advantage. “It might be Reigns’s yard, but it’s my universe.”
-Cole plugged Seth vs. Bray later. Graves hyped Reigns vs. Balor.
-Out came Alexa Bliss… [c]
-They replayed Bliss shoving Bayley head-first into the ringpost, then following up with a DDT to score the win and become Raw Women’s Champion. “So this is Newark, New Jersey,” she said with disdain. She struggled to figure out the slogan, then said, “The sweat glands of America.” There are probably plenty of people from outside Newark who are nodding along. She said the crowd are poster children for failure. She said tonight they’ll experience a winner. She said being smarter and more dominant than everyone else makes winning come easy. They started the “What?” chants. She said, “If you’re a failure, say ‘what.’?” That shut them up. She said she does what she promises. She said Miss D.C. won Miss America only because she didn’t enter. Bayley walked out, hugged some kids, and entered the ring with a mic in hand.
Bayley said she doesn’t care about Bliss giving herself a Goddess title, but she is concerned about the title belt over her shoulder. She said she is invoking her rematch clause at Extreme Rules. Bliss said she may be jet lagged or maybe her pony tail is cutting off circulation to her brain. She said Extreme Rules is different than what Bayley is familiar with, such as Extreme Hopscotch or Extreme Pogo Sticking. She said she is a good girl, but she and her legion of huggers had their moment in the sun, but now it’s over. She told Bayley to leave being champion to the adults now. Bayley shoved Bliss and dropkicked her to the floor. Bliss looked under the ring and found a kendo stick. What’s that doing under there? She hit Bayley across her back with it. An “ECW” chant broke out. Not what you’re looking for if you’re WWE, as the fans ideally will be upset with Bliss. [c]
-Backstage Angle was on the phone with Sami Zayn telling him he was doing a great job and he’d call him back about something. The Miz complained to Angle that Ambrose got himself DQ’d on purpose to keep his title. Angle said he’d grant him a rematch at Extreme Rules. Miz said he wants a stip where if the champ gets DQ’d, he’ll lose the title. Maryse yelled at Angle in French. “The Drifter” Elias Samson strolled by strumming his guitar.
-They announced Austin Aries challenging Neville for the Cruiserweight Title at Extreme Rules. [c]
(4) NEVILLE & TJP vs. AUSTIN ARIES & JACK GALLAGHER
They cut to an early break after Gallagher launched Aries onto the heel duo at ringside. [c]
In the end, TJP pinned Gallagher after a Detonation Kick, but after a distraction by Neville yanking on his leg. Aries gave him a running forearm at ringside as TJP scored the pin in the ring.
WINNERS; Neville & TJP in 9:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Another good match, but the Cruiserweight Division just doesn’t stand out enough action-wise and the purple ropes just scream that they’re part of a special sideshow attraction.)
-They showed the announcers on camera who hyped the Finn Balor “WWE 24” special, plus this Friday at 3 p.m. ET a UK Championship Special with Jim Ross on commentary. Graves also hyped NXT Takeover this Saturday in Chicago featuring Hideo Itami challenging Robert Roode for the NXT Title. Then they shifted to hyping the two remaining main events. [c]
-Bayley’s right shoulder was being tended to by a trainer. Angle walked in and said those kendo sticks are no joke. She said she’ll have a bruise, but she’s okay. Angle said she likes to fight fair, so he’s making it a straight up wrestling match without special rules. Bayley said she wants to have a chance to get back at Bliss. Bayley said she’s mocked her family and called her a child and she wants a chance to prove her wrong. She said she is ready to get extreme. Angle asked if she’s sure. She said yes. Angle got excited said it’ll be a Kendo Stick on a Pole match then.
-Goldust and R-Truth chatted backstage. Truth said he feels bad about last week’s Tag Team Turmoil result. Goldust said they’re a team and they win and lose together. He said Truth has helped him back to his feet before. He asked him to smile and they can show Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows what they’re all about.
-Balor’s ring entrance took place. Cole called it one of their two “huge main events” tonight. Graves talked about how the “WWE 24” special will feature commentary from Anderson and Gallows, his best friends, along with Seth and Owens. [c]
-The video package aired on Reigns and Strowman. It’s like the were running ahead and had to fill four minutes. Balor had to stand in the ring while that video package aired again.
-Reigns ring entrance took place. He got booed early. Cole said Strowman could be out of action as long as six months thanks to Reigns.
(5) FINN BALOR vs. ROMAN REIGNS
Graves said Balor will need to go after Reigns’s injured shoulder to have a chance. Booker said Balor will need 20, 30, or 40 minutes to “have a chance.” They’re doing that Vince McMahon style overcompensation routine, the motivation for which will become clear by the end of the match. Cole said Balor has a lot to prove tonight as the first Universal Champion. Reigns tossed Balor across the ring in the opening minute to show his power advantage. Reigns charged at Balor shoulder-first, but Balor moved and Reigns hit the ringpost. Balor then kicked Reigns from the ring apron and then leaped onto his back with a double stomp. [c]
Back from the break, Balor threw Reigns to ringside. He got right back up, but Balor kicked him down again. Graves really stressed that Reigns was fighting with “one good arm” after reinjuring his shoulder when he flew into the ringpost. Reigns caught Balor and rammed him back-first into the ringpost. Back in the ring, Reigns slammed Balor with a sitout powerbomb. Both were slow to get up. Balor rallied. Reigns cut him off eventually with a Superman Punch for a two count. They cut to a two guys in the crowd reacting with excitement. Reigns got up and stood in the corner and yelled. He charged, but Balor lifted his knee and then gave him a Sling Blade. Next Balor charged with a dropkick. Balor was slow to cover Reigns, selling a rib injury. He struggled to climb to the top rope. Reigns knocked him off balance. Reigns speared Balor and got a three count.
WINNER: Reigns at 14:40.
(Keller’s Analysis: The motivation for playing up Reigns’s immense heart was to make his eventual win seem even more astounding, not to give Reigns an excuse for losing to Balor. Ultimately it did kind of make Balor look weaker given the advantage he should have had.)
-They went to the announcers who reacted to the news of the show and looking ahead to the next main event. They were interrupted by Bray on the big screen.
-Wyatt said there is an evil that surrounds Monday Night Raw and lurks in the shadows. He said some call it a man, others call it a conquerer, but he calls him a beast. He said while it may be Angle’s show, it’s his world. He said everyone will worship his name after he stands triumphant over Lesnar as the new Universal Champion. He laughed. He said Seth claims to be The Man and an Architect and a King Slayer, but is he enough to slay the Beast? He asked if he can stand up and face evil and conquer it or will he submit to his gutless instincts.
(Keller’s Analysis: That was one of Bray’s better promos because he talked within the world of WWE’s narrative structure without the nonsense. He asked real questions that fans could contemplate regarding whether Seth has what it takes to stand up to him or Lesnar. More of this. His delivery was more grounded, too, which worked better than trying to be all otherworldly. He seemed more like a real-life psycho playing mind games than a scripted cult leader rehearsing some cheesy community theater play.) [c]
-Caruso interviewed Seth backstage. He said he heard what Bray said about him. He said Bray called him gutless and asked whether he could stand up to evil and conquer it. He said after all he’s been through with his knee, Stephanie McMahon, and Samoa Joe, Bray won’t stand in his way of winning the Universal Title. He said if anyone will slay the Beast, it’ll be The Man who slayed The King.
-Goldust and Truth danced their way to the ring. Truth sang his song as Goldust’s head bobbed over the words on the screen. Truth asked Newark to make some noise. Goldust attacked him from behind. “Oh my God!” exclaimed Cole. Truth looked shocked and dismayed. Goldust continued the attack with a kick. Truth cowered in the corner. Graves asked Booker what is going on with Goldust. Booker said Goldust didn’t seem like himself when he talked with him earlier in the night. A small “Thank you, Goldust” chant started. Booker said Goldust was frustrated by the result of the Tag Team Turmoil match. Goldust eventually leaned over Truth and said, “That’s what’s up.” He threw the mic down and walked away.
(Keller’s Analysis: Goldust deserved better than what he’s been portrayed as on TV since cleaning up his life and getting in shape. He still has more to give, and now he can give that within the context of something more significant. Surely he’ll feud with Truth first, but maybe he can parlay that into something even higher on the card. These are angles that are unlikely to be even considered prior to the roster split.) [c]
-Cole threw to an ad for a video game featuring DC comic characters.
-They had to get Big Cass and Enzo on Raw in Jersey. Titus interrupted his mic work before the match as he talked about being a Certified Jersey guy. Titus imitated Enzo on the mic on his way to the ring. Crews’s facial expression in reaction to Titus were hilarious as they walked to the ring. He half enjoyed it, and half thought Titus was a complete nut. The worst part of Titus and Crews is that Titus is so much taller than Crews. It doesn’t matter with Enzo and Cass, of course, but Titus is presumably there to help Crews get over. Cass informed Titus that he is scheduled to wrestle, not Crews. Titus denied that and said he’s wearing an expensive suit and can’t wrestle. Cass said he looks great, but the match is going to happen. He said, “When the match is over, you’re not going like the way you look. I guarantee it.” He then did S-A-W-F-T. Graves protested that Titus had to wrestle in a $4,300 wardrobe. Booker said they are in New York. Cole and Graves corrected him. Booker did his laugh thing and said, “Close enough!”
(6) BIG CASS (w/Enzo Amore) vs. TITUS O’NEAL (w/Apollo Crews)
Titus took off his suit jacket, then his belt. He was going to whip Cass with the belt, but Enzo distracted him. Cass then gave him a big boot for the win.
WINNER: Cass in 1:10.
-The announcers hyped the main event. [c]
-A commercial aired for the Balor “WWE 24” special.
-Neville told TJP tomorrow that they’ll end Aries, whose knee is hanging on by a thread.
(7) BRAY WYATT vs. SETH ROLLINS
Bray made his full ring entrance. Then Seth. The bell rang 52 minutes into the third hour. Booker said it’s hard to prepare for Bray because he’s so unpredictable. Booker said Seth is capable of getting a big win over Lesnar if he advances to that match. Seth leaped onto Bray at ringside 90 seconds in and threw him into the ringside barricade. Seth then springboarded at Bray, but Bray caught him and slammed him hard over the barrier. They cut to a break. [c]
Back live, Bray was still in control. He superplexed Seth and scored a two count. Bray got in sustained offense for several minutes, but Seth came back. When he climbed to the top rope, Bray rolled to ringside. Seth leaped onto Bray at ringside instead. Joe then came out of nowhere and charged at Seth. The ref called for the bell.
WINNER: Rollins via DQ in 15:00.
-When Seth was announced as the winner, his music played for less than two seconds. Then Joe and Bray had a bit of a stare down. Then they joined forces to stomp away at Seth. Bray eventually pulled Joe off of him as if he was on his side, but saying enough is enough. Then he gave an unsuspected Joe a Sister Abigail. He picked up Seth and gave one to him.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF TONIGHT’S SHOW? I will be hosting the PWTorch Livecast tonight after Raw with PWTorch columnist Pat McNeill. If you have thoughts on Raw you’d like us to address in our show that starts right after Raw, send your questions or commentary to email@example.com.
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