In this episode of Wrestling Night in America, PWTorch columnist Greg Parks breaks down both nights of WrestleMania with callers and emailers. Topics include the quality of the Firefly Funhouse match, the decision to put Charlotte over Rhea Ripley, the potential of wrestlers getting more creative freedom in the current environment, and more.
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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
JUNE 5, 2017
WILKES-BARRE, PA. AT MOHEGAN SUN ARENA
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Booker T on commentary; JoJo ring announcers; Charly Caruso on interviews.
-A highlight package aired on the Fatal Five-way from Extreme Rules on Sunday night.
-The Raw opening aired, then pyro blasted and the camera panned the crowd, and then Cole and Graves introduced the show and hyped Samoa Joe’s match against Lesnar.
-As Bray Wyatt made his way to the ring, the announcers said the four who didn’t win last night would face off in two singles matches. Wyatt would face Reigns and thus Seth Rollins would face Finn Balor. Bray began talking over six minutes into the show. He said he had a chance to slay the beast and save all the fans from damnation. He said instead of arming him with his sword, they took it from him and stuck it into his eye. He said he is still here, though, and he would cast judgment on all of those who are guilty. He said Balor is guilty. He said Joe is guilty. Joe was booed. He said Seth is guilty. Cheers. He said Reigns is guilty. Eruption of boos. You know, as long as there’s a big reaction, that’s all that counts. Right? He said one by one they must all be punished. Reigns music interrupted Bray. The crowd booed again. Reigns stepped onto the stage and more boos. “A thunderous reaction for Roman Reigns,” said Vince Mc… I mean, Michael Cole. Graves said Bray looked calm, cool, and collected and didn’t seem to be sweating Reigns at the moment.
When Reigns entered the ring, the music stopped and the boos got louder. Bray smiled, giggled, and then maniacally laughed. “Right on cue,” he said. A “Roman sucks! Roman sucks!” chant drowned out any chance at a battle chant with two sides to it. Reigns yanked the mic away from Bray. Bray is deceptively tall, standing nearly eye-to-eye with Reigns. They stared each other down. A battle chant then broke out: “Let’s Go Roman! / Roman sucks!” Reigns said: “You hear this? This is why I’m thee guy.” He said when you run your mouth in his yard, this happens. He gave Bray an uppercut. Bray tumbled to the floor. Bray tore off his jacket. Cole said Reigns was “marking his territory.”
(1) BRAY WYATT vs. ROMAN REIGNS
Bray went for an instant Sister Abigail. Reigns escaped and went for a Superman Punch. Bray ducked. Reigns gave him an uppercut. Bray rolled to the floor. They cut to a break. [c]
Bray grounded Reigns for a few minutes. Then he threw Reigns shoulder-first into the ringpost at 13:00. When Reigns tumbled to the floor, Bray landed a senton splash. They cut to another break just over four minutes after the prior break. [c]
Back from this break, just like last time, Bray had Reigns in a headlock mid-ring. It’s so predictable it’s getting stupid. Reigns escaped and hit an uppercut, sending Bray to the floor. Both were slow to get up. They went back and forth and scored some two counts. At 22:00 Reigns landed a powerbomb after lifting Bray out of the corner. He scored a near fall. Both were slow to get up. Booker said Reigns is a big time player as he stood up first. Bray sidestepped Reigns, but Reigns countered with another Superman Punch for a near fall. They cut to crowd reactions. When Reigns signaled for the spear with a very loud yell – which is a really bad strategy when you think about it for even a second – Bray ducked out to the floor. Reigns landed a Drive-By. Bray managed to basically no-sell it by firing back with a hard clothesline. Again, both were slow to get up. Bray entered the ring first. Reigns barely made it into the ring to beat the ten count.
Bray then set up Sister Abigail. Reigns countered with a schoolboy for a two count. Reigns hit a Superman Punch and a spear for the three count. Cole: “It’s the Big Dog’s yard!” Graves said: “Impressive is an understatement in this case.”
WINNER: Reigns in 26:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: This was a good match without a doubt, but felt longer than the material justified, especially the middle 15 minutes. It’s just so many Superman Punches and spears by Reigns without enough variety. It’s fine. They had the crowd. But in a longer match like that, the narrow list of go-to moves by Reigns not only get exposed, but they get overdone. And Bray lost again. That’s not news, but it’s also not inconsequential.)
-The announcers hyped Samoa Joe’s promo later. [c]
-Charlie Caruso interviewed Enzo Amore and Big Cass backstage. Enzo asked Caruso, “How are ya’ doin’?” She smiled, then asked if being attacked by anonymous attackers affects his approach to wrestling Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson tonight. He said nobody has the scoop on what happened and nobody’s happy about it. He said he could make people happy by selling ice cream, but he sells SAWFT shirts, not soft serve. Cass said it’s insulting people thought it might have been him. He said he’s watching Enzo’s back at all times now to be sure it doesn’t happen again, including in their tag match tonight. Enzo turned to hit on Caruso again, and when he turned back, Cass was gone. Enzo jokingly asking Cass where he went and gave him a hard time for not being there.
-They went to the announcers on camera on the stage. They threw to freeze-frames of Alexa Bliss’s victory over Bayley last night. Graves said Bliss took Bayley out with repeated, wicked kendo stick shots. Cole said Bayley wouldn’t be on Raw because she was at home to recuperate. He plugged pictures of Bayley at WWE.com showing the damage done to her from the kendo stick shots.
-They went to Kurt Angle backstage who was looking at his phone. He said, “God, this is driving me nuts.” Bliss walked up to him. She said he should be congratulating her on her win, then sarcastically thanked him. Bliss said Bayley didn’t have what it takes to hold her title, but Bayley is in her past now. Bliss said she’d like to celebrate her own life this week. She said she has guests lined up. She proposed: “Alexa Bliss: This is My Life.” Angle said last week’s segment was one of the worst in the history of Raw. “How dare you!” asked Bliss. Angle pointed out that Bliss promised Nia Jax a title match after she got past Bayley. He said that match is tonight. Bliss asked if he was serious several times, then left, looking morose.
-They showed Dean Ambrose heading to the entrance stage. [c]
-In the ring, Elias Samson sang and played guitar in mid-ring. His lyrics made fun of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Ambrose interrupted. Graves said he thinks he heard that song on some crappy college radio station. Booker asked what there is to dislike about him. He said he’s good and talented. When Graves said he’s a terrible musician, Booker said, “So you think you could do better?”
(Keller’s Analysis: First of all, it doesn’t take a good musician to recognize bad music, and you don’t have to be able to do better than someone at something to evaluate accurately someone is bad at something. Second, why is Graves saying Samson is bad and Booker saying he’s good?)
Ambrose attacked Samson and threw him over the ringside barrier. Then he re-entered the ring and grabbed the mic. He said he is there for one reason – he wants The Miz right now. Miz and Maryse appeared on the big screen. Miz said Dean must be confused because he didn’t get an invitation. He said tonight there won’t be a rematch. Instead, there will be a Miz Comeback Tour Kickoff Celebration. Samson attacked Ambrose from behind and gave him his swinging neckbreaker finisher. Cole called it his encore. Clever.
-Graves plugged Joe’s promo again. [c]
-A Smackdown commercial hyped Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kevin Owens “for the first time ever.”
-Backstage Ambrose approached Angle and asked him where Miz’s dressing room is. He offered to get the IC Title rematch out of the way. Angle told Ambrose to take a deep breath. He said it won’t happen tonight. He said the Miz celebration will happen tonight. He said Maryse planned it, and he doesn’t want to have to deal with her. He told Ambrose to cool off. Ambrose said maybe he can drink some cucumber water with Miz. Ambrose unconvincingly said, “I won’t hit him.” Angle told him to take the night off. “That’s not a suggestion,” he said. Ambrose said, “Okay, cool.”
-Samoa Joe walked out for the promo of his lifetime. The “Great Balls of Fire” PPV graphic showed Lesnar and Joe along with vintage 1950s car bumpers and fonts. Joe’s opening line: “I’m going to make this very simple. What stands here in front of you is a man that does not fear Brock Lesnar.” He said he is incapable of fearing him because he is far too envious of him. “I want everything Brock Lesnar has and I want to take it from him.” No yelling. Just firm, deliberate cadence with authority and believability of tone. He said he wants Lesnar’s schedule where he can come and go as he pleases after beating people down, not having to show up every week “in front of you ungrateful masses.” He said he wants Lesnar’s ability to instill fear in other men. He said he wants Paul Heyman to be his advocate, negotiate his contracts, and run his errands. He most than anything else in the world, he wants Lesnar’s Universal Championship. He said at Great Balls of Fire, he’ll stare him down and take the Universal Championship from him. Paul Heyman interrupted. Cheers.
(Keller’s Analysis: Great start for Joe there. Right words, great delivery and demeanor.)
Heyman introduced himself. He called Joe a destroyer and badass who ate through four other top contenders to earn a title opportunity. As he stepped onto the ring apron, Heyman said Joe has left wreckage everywhere he has gone in his career. He said he is just an advocate and asked Joe’s permission to enter the ring. Joe waved him in. Heyman said Joe may not fear Brock, but Brock doesn’t fear him, either. Heyman said what bothers him about Joe is that Joe likes the fact that Brock doesn’t bother him. He said that is exactly what he is looking for. He said when he looks at his client’s opponents, he worries for a living. “That’s what I do as a Jew.” The crowd laughed and ohhh’d. He said that to Brock, it doesn’t matter how ruthless or how tough or how athletic or what their mindset is or how merciless, Lesnar assuages all of his concerns and worries.
Heyman said he came out there last month and said he wanted to see Lesnar vs. Finn Balor. He said a never say die challenger against Lesnar, “what a Rocky story; it’s box office; it’s a license to print money.” He said, “You, Samoa Joe, are the worst case scenario. You don’t give a damn because you want to take the fight to Brock Lesnar.” He said he’s not supposed to say this, but “you want to go to war with Brock Lesnar.” He said even if Lesnar retains his title, he won’t leave the ring the same way he came in. “I know you are going to take a piece of Brock Lesnar with you.” He said man-to-man, it’s his job to make sure at Great Balls of Fire, Brock is “your worst case scenario.” Joe soaked it up.
Heyman said he wanted Brock, he’s got Brock. Heyman offered his handshake. Joe shook his hand. As Heyman tried to leave, Joe led him into the corner. He said it’s very disappointing to him his client didn’t show up. The mic caught up his words, but they weren’t on mic. Joe got in Heyman’s ear and said he’s going to wrap his arm around his throat and it’s going to feel tight. He said his vision will get hazy until it gets dark. “And then I want you to take this message to Brock Lesnar that this was for him.” He told him to describe it, as only he can, in excruciating detail what Lesnar’s future holds. Joe put Heyman in the Coquina Clutch. Heyman passed out after a brief struggle. Four referees ran in and helped Heyman and ordered Joe out. The crowd chanted, “We Want Brock!” Joe grabbed the mic and said, “And so do I!”
(Keller’s Analysis: Great improvise by Joe there at the end. I loved that segment start to finish. I especially loved the “off-mic” message Joe gave to Heyman telling him what he was going to do and then doing it. When Heyman is motivated and engaged and believes in what he’s doing, he’s still the master. Joe is at his best when he’s not frothing and yelling, but cool, calm, and largely soft-spoken, but in a way that strikes fear and establishes immense credibility. This is Joe being used optimally.) [c]
-They replayed the end of the last segment.
-Angle yelled at Joe. “What’s wrong with you?” he said. Joe told Angle there is only one question he should ask: “Are you in my way.” Seth walked up to him and got in his face and said he beat him before one-on-one and he’ll do it again tonight. Angle said that sounds great to him. Joe told Seth: “The stakes we make. The stakes we make.”
-They went to the announcers to react.
(2) CESARO & SHEAMUS vs. HEATH SLATER & RHYNO – WWE Raw Tag Team Championship
They replayed highlights of the tag team title change in the cage last night. Graves said the Hardys chose the stip and Cesaro & Sheamus “went into the Hardys house, beat them, and took their titles.” Booker said it’s hard to get there, but it’s harder to stay there. He said the Hardys have to work up the hill now, just like every other tag team. So is it harder to be champions or to regain them after losing them? Sheamus hit Slater with a Brogue Kick and scored the pin.
WINNERS: Cesaro & Sheamus at 1:40.
-Afterward, Sheamus said that’s how an intelligent team wins. He asked the crowd if they were happy the Hardys came back. Cesaro said he knows two people who aren’t happy – Matt and Jeff themselves. Sheamus said they’re at home licking their wounds. Cesaro said the Hardys picked the stip they thought gave the the advantage, but it didn’t work out. Cesaro said, “We don’t just set the bar.” Together they said, “We are the bar.”
(Keller’s Analysis: I feel as though Slater & Rhyno deserved better than this type of push post-Shake-up. They were over enough that you almost have to wonder if they’re in the dog house for another reason.)
-TJP told Neville that it’s his turn for a title shot. Neville told him to be patient. TJP said he held up his end of the bargain the last two months, so now Neville has to hold up his end. Neville said he is a man of his word, and he deserves the title shot. He told him he’ll speak to Kurt Angle if he takes care of business tonight. [c]
(3) T.J. PERKINS vs. MUSTAFA ALI
The announcers talked about the Neville-TJP dynamic. TJP knocked Ali off the top rope, then won with his Detonation Kick.
WINNER: TJP in 3:00.
-As TJP was celebrating, Neville’s pyro blasted out of nowhere. Cole asked Booker if he was okay. Everyone flinched. TJP walked up to Neville on the stage and gestured for an answer to his challenge. Neville looked down and said he wasn’t sure how to break this news to him, but he spoke to Angle and he’s afraid he has some unfortunate news. TJP was upset. He said they’re going to both go talk to Angle now. Neville attacked TJP from behind. Neville said he’ll get his shot tomorrow night on 205 Live.
(Keller’s Analysis: Who are fans supposed to root for here? TJP, who was willing to sell out and do Neville’s dirty work for two months to get a title shot, or Neville who attacked him from behind and is an established heel?)
-Graves plugged Bliss vs. Jax, saying they could have a new champion tonight. [c]
-A Goldust vignette aired. He said if R-Truth thinks he can sit in his director’s chair, he quite frankly doesn’t give a damn. He mentioned that line was from “Gone with the Wind.” He said for Truth, this is another juggling act for a clown, but not for him. He said he sees the truth and the bigger motion picture here. He said soon the biggest names in Hollywood and the biggest stars in the sky will be glittered in gold. He said it will be so beautiful. “The Golden Age (deep inhale) is back,” he said.
-Dana Brooke and Mickie James told Sasha Banks she showed some good moves last night. Bliss walked in and said, “Hey guys.” Banks looked at her, said “No,” and tried to leave. Bliss called them back and asked if they’re insulted that Jax is cutting in line to get a title shot. Bliss said Jax doesn’t deserve a match before Dana, who has improved so much. Bliss said Mickie is a role model in the division and this must be eating her up inside. Bliss said after tonight, their sisterhood might never be the same. Dana said they don’t have a Nia Jax problem, Bliss does. Mickie said they’ll be at ringside watching her take care of her problem all by herself tonight.
-They went to the announcers who reacted to that segment. Angle stepped into the scene and urgently asked Graves to come talk with him. He began showing him a text on his phone. Cole said this is one of the strangest things he’s seen. Graves and Angle chatted. Cole asked him what is going on. Graves said Kalisto is coming to the ring, so focus on that.
-Kalisto made his ring entrance. The announcers commented on a replay of last night’s finish between Kalisto and Apollo Crews, with Kalisto pinning Crews because Crews was distracted by a pep talk by Titus on the ring apron. [c]
-Backstage Mike Rome asked Angle what he was talking to Graves about. Angle said it’s a private matter. Angle then walked away. Dean snuck back into the arena and acted cartoonishly inconspicuous.
(4) KALITSO vs. TITUS O’NEAL (w/Apollo Crews)
When Graves said Titus is like a player-coach, like Bill Belichick. When Cole said it’s like Pete Rose, Booker apparently had no idea Rose was actually a player-coach and said Rose is too old to make that analogy. Cole and Graves weren’t sure what to do, but had a laugh at Booker’s expense. They showed Akira Tozawa watching on a monitor backstage. Cole said Titus told him to watch. Kalisto rolled up Titus, but Titus countered and yanked on his tights. Kalisto rolled through and yanked on Titus’s trunks and got the win. Titus went bug-eyed. Crews entered the ring and gave Titus a hard time about his loss. Cole wondered if Tozawa was impressed, as he’d be waiting for Titus behind the curtain. Graves said everything Titus touches turns to gold, only it takes a while.
WINNER: Kalisto in 1:00.
-They showed Miz and Maryse backstage, getting ready for the Championship Celebration. The camera swung over and saw Big Cass knocked out face-first in the back with some objects on top of him. A ref ran up and called for help. Enzo asked if he saw what happened. Enzo asked Cass if he was okay and if he saw who did it. Cass sat up, but was groggy. Cass handed Enzo a necklace.
(Keller’s Analysis: This just makes me more suspicious Cass did it and he was just faking it here. Or was Enzo faking it all along!!?) [c]
-They were still backstage. Enzo said whoever attacked him two weeks ago brought that necklace with them. Enzo asked Cass if he was insinuating something. Enzo said they have a match now, but the ref said there’s no way Cass can wrestle. He suggested he find himself a new partner. Enzo said he needs Cass; he can’t fight by himself. A ref put an ice pack on Cass’s neck and helped him walk away.
-Maryse stood in the ring to introduce the Miz Championship Celebration.
-The crowd chanted “You deserve it.” Miz said: “That chant would mean so much more if you didn’t do it to every single Superstar who won a new crown in the WWE,” he said. Miz gets it. Bliss gets it. It’s too short of a list. Miz said tonight they kick off Miz’s Intercontinental Championship Comeback Tour. He asked the fans to raise a glass, “or if you are in this arena, a Styrofoam cup,” to him. He and Maryse held up a pair of champaign glasses. Miz said: “May the world never know a time when I am not the Intercontinental Champion.” He said his wife outdid herself with balloons, MIZ was spelled out in balloons, and there was a dancing bear.” There was a guy in a bear outfit holding up a sign that said, “Congratulations.” Maryse said she didn’t order the bear. Miz said he didn’t, either. They discussed it and got increasingly worried. Miz slowly looked at the bear and waved. Miz attacked him and gave him a Skull Crushing Finale. Booker asked why Miz did that. Miz lifted up the bear head and said, “I present to you your former WWE Intercontinental Champion, Dean Ambrose.” And like a Scooby Doo cartoon, off came the mask. Instead, it was some other guy. Miz said at least the kid can say he was beat up by the IC Champ. Cole called him paranoid.
Then two guys rolled out a giant gift box, the size of a refrigerator box. Miz said there could be anything in that box. He grabbed a chair and added, “Or anyone.” He began bashing the gift. Maryse told him not to do that. Miz speared it. Miz bashed it over and over, then did elbow drops. Maryse said, “It is from me!” Miz then opened the box and took out a broken grandfather clock. She said it is timeless, just like him. Miz was sorry. Maryse yelled, “You ruined it!” She shoved the mic into his chest and stormed off. Miz vowed to get it fixed. Miz then called for Ambrose to come to the ring. He asked if he was one of the kids in a Kalisto or Sin Cara mask. Parents began standing protectively in front of their kids in Kalisto masks. Ambrose then entered the ring dressed as a camera operator. Miz turned around slowly and then charged. Ambrose gave Miz a Dirty Deeds. [c]
(5) ENZO AMORE & BIG SHOW vs. KARL ANDERSON & LUKE GALLOWS
Before the match, Enzo said he’s not just a G, he’s a 4G, he’s well-connected. He introduced his replacement partner, Big Show. Enzo said Show is looking a little thin. He asked if he’s aiming for the Cruiserweight Division. Enzo said he weighs 206 so he’s in a heavyweight. He said the only time he cuts carbs is with a pizza wheel. Show was all serious. Enzo told him to loosen up. Enzo said he needed a Certified G-iant. Show looked grumpy and angrily asked Enzo if he wants him to lose up. Then he broke into Fun Big Show and began doing a bit of an Enzo imitation. He said Enzo is like that bug-eyed and crazy squirrel.
The bell rang. Gallows gave Enzo a big boot. He tagged in Anderson. Anderson threw Enzo into the turnbuckle. Enzo avoided his charge with a boot. Enzo tagged in Show who gave Anderson a clothesline and then fended off Gallows when he interfered. He checked Anderson to the mat seconds later, then delivered a chokeslam. Show tagged in Enzo and then pressed him over his head and carried him over to Anderson and launched him into him for the win.
WINNERS: Show & Enzo in 2:00. [c]
-Backstage Cass approached Enzo and Show who were celebrating their win. Cass said it’s funny that Show’s been gone for a few weeks, but as soon as Enzo needed a partner, he shows up. Show said he’s a giant and he can’t sneak around. He said if it was him, people would have seen it. Enzo said they should celebrate this win together by grabbing a table at the casino. Show said they can go celebrate with him. Cass was agreeable to that and led Enzo away.
-R-Truth responded to Goldust with another “What’s Up Studios – Truth Be Told Production.” Truth said if Goldust wants answers and the truth, Goldust can’t handle the truth. “A Few Good Men,” 1992. Truth said he’s coming for Goldust. “We were friends, we were brothers, and now I’m nothing more to you than a mean, mad, bad mother shut your mouth!” He said he turned his back on him, so now he’s going to get revenge and strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger. “You gonna get got!” he said.
-Rome interviewed Bliss about her defense up next. He asked if she regrets promising Nia Jax a title shot. Bliss said she regrets being on a brand where the female athletes have no pride or are jealous of her. She said she deserves better than how the rest of the division treats her.
-Jax made her ring entrance. [c]
(6) ALEXA BLISS vs. NIA JAX
Bliss begged off, but Jax went at her and overpowered her. When Bliss bailed out to ringside, Mickie and Brooke stood over her. Bliss shoved them. They attacked her. The ref called for the bell. Cole said something inside him tells him Bliss had that all planned.
WINNER: Bliss via DQ at 2:20.
-When Bliss fought with James and Brooke at ringside, Jax shoved them away. Bliss dropkicked Jax. She no-sold it. Bliss ran to the back. Mickie and Dana entered. Jax attacked them and then left.
-They showed Heyman being tended to backstage by a medic. Heyman’s phone rang and it came up “Brock.” Heyman answered. Heyman looked like he had been crying. He said he was glad he asked that question. He told Lesnar to instill that fear in Joe that Joe says he doesn’t have. He told him to show up on Raw next week and it’s time that they unleash the Beast. He hung up on Brock and threw the phone aside. [c]
(7) SAMOA JOE vs. SETH ROLLINS
Joe dominated the early minutes. [c]
Back from the break, Joe continued to dominate. Booker said Joe is confident and balanced and reminds him of when he hit his stride in 2007 as a wrestler. Joe gave Seth a running senton and scored a two count at 9:00.
Rollins eventually came back and hit a Blockbuster and then a dive through the ropes. He springboard clotheslined Joe back inside the ring for a two count. Seth countered Joe’s strength with a Falcon Arrow for a near fall at 14:00. Bray’s music played. Joe then caught a distracted Seth with a Coquina Clutch for the win.
WINNER: Joe in 15:00.