KELLER INTERVIEWS ROB VAN DAM FOR FIRST TIME...
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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
OCTOBER 16, 2017
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Booker T, Corey Graves
-They opened with a video package on The Shield vs. Braun Strowman & The Miz & Sheamus & Cesaro taking shape last week.
-Cole introduced the show as the Raw music played and the camera panned the crowd.
-Kurt Angle walked out onto the stage which was decked out with tables, ladders, and chairs to give a visual reminder of what TLC stands for. Cole pushed the main event of TLC and Angle spoke right over him, so someone missed a cue. Angle said, “It’s safe to say The Shield are back together.” He was about to shift to talking about tonight’s line-up when he was (rudely) interrupted by The Shield’s music. They walked through the crowd. “Ohhhh myyy!” said Cole. He said it’s been three-and-a-half-years since they saw The Shield together, all decked out in their vests, coming through the crowd. “Portland is getting a treat, guys,” said Booker.
(Keller’s Analysis: They are doing a really good job making the most out of The Shield reunion at this point. Even if the last two weeks maybe felt a little rushed, they’re not leaving anything on the table regarding hyping this occasion. On another note, I’m wondering how long the guy in the ROH t-shirt in the upper right of the hard camera shot of the crowd lasts.)
As The Shield walked to the ring, Cole said it was 2012 at TLC when The Shield premiered. Graves talked about Dean and Seth spending more than half of their lives in “this business” and he said Reigns was born and raised in it. The fans chanted “This is awesome!” Angle asked if the fans want to hear from them. Cheers. He handed the mic to Reigns. Boos.
(Keller’s Analysis: Just as many of us predicted, cheers for The Shield collectively, but boos for Reigns individually.)
Reigns said Angle made the right choice because when the hounds come down to the ring, you have two choices – “you get out of our yard or we beat your ass.” Seth asked Reigns to take it easy. He said it feels good to be out there. He said it’s amazing to see things come full circle. He said they dominated, but then one day it all went away. Then he said The Shield is back and better than ever, baby.
Ambrose took the mic, sporting a new shorter haircut, and said, “Tables! Ladders! And chairrrrrrsss!” He said Miz’s team should be scared because they’re going to war with the masters. He said nobody in the history of hit business divides and conquers like The Shield, nor fights longer or harder than they do. He said they are the most dominant force of nature. He smiled and said maybe he got a little ahead of himself when he said they’d take on four or more opponents, but he’d say it again because they just don’t care. Reigns laughed. Ambrose called out “you four hombres and how about we throw down here in Portland.” After a pause, Braun Strowman’s yell blared over the system. Graves: “Be careful what you ask for.” Strowman, Sheamus, Cesaro, and Miz walked out. Curtis Axel was with Miz.
Angle stopped them and said that match won’t take place tonight. He said Raw, though, will make history. Cole said Raw is shaping up to be one of the great Raws of all time. Angle’s music played to end the segment. The panned back to show the cage above the ring. The Shield stared down their opponents from center ring.
-The announcers hyped Seth & Dean defending against Cesaro & Sheamus and Strowman vs. Reigns. [c]
-Elias sat mid-ring with Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. He said if the fans wanted to walk with them, tough, because he found two good men to walk with him. Anderson interrupted Elias and asked if they could warm up their vocal chords. Gallows began an intentionally ridiculous sounding warm-up routine for his voice with high pitched chirps and other noises. Then Anderson made cartoonish noises like he was trying to make a baby laugh. Elias then strummed as Anderson sang the Honky Tonk Man theme with Gallows chiming in to help with the chorus. Boos from the crowd. Anderson said he’s ready. Elias said that wasn’t too bad. He then suggested they sing their song about Jason Jordan. He asked the audience to absorb what he’s signing because lyrically it might be his best. “Jason.. is a nerd! Jason… is a nerd!” they all sang. Jordan and his team interrupted.
(1) JASON JORDAN & TITUS O’NEAL & APOLLO CREWS vs. KARL ANDERSON & LUKE GALLOWS & ELIAS
The babyface trio got in a flurry of offense and celebrated just seconds into the match. The heels bailed out and they cut to an early break. [c]
Back from the break, Elias battled Crews. Jordan eventually got a hot-tag. Crews then finished Anderson with a spinning powerbomb.
WINNERS: Crews & Titus & Jordan in 7:00.
-The announcers on camera pushed the TLC PPV at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn. Then they plugged WWE Network’s 30 day free trial. Graves touted the main event. Booker pushed Asuka vs. Emma.
-A Smackdown commercial hyped Jinder Mahal’s Survivor Series Challenge plus Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler in a rematch. [c]
-A video package aired on Asuka.
(Keller’s Analysis: They can’t give everyone entering the main roster the type of hype Asuka is getting, but this is a template for doing a good job building anticipation and framing her arrival as a bigger deal than most.)
-Renee Young interviewed Emma. Emma said she’s sick of hearing about Asuka. She wanted the attention to be focused on her. Emma said she started the “Women’s Revolution.” Renee said it’s actually the “Women’s Evolution.” Emma barely tolerated Renee’s interruption. Emma said she is a social media Superstar. Emma asked what Asuka has done around there. Alexa Bliss walked in and said Asuka hasn’t done anything, whereas Emma single-handedly started the Women’s Revolution. She punctuated “Rev” to stick it to Renee a little. Alexa said Mickie James isn’t a locker room leader and she body shamed her last week, so she proposed Emma team with her against Mickie and a partner. “Maybe Betty White’s available,” she joked. Emma laughed and agreed to team with Alexa. Renee smiled uncomfortably.
-They went to the announcers on camera who were standing with their backs to the crowd. Cole said Emma reminds him a lot of Enzo. “Same type of personalty, very active on social media,” he said. Is that a hint of them being paired up or just a random observation? He threw to a highlight package from 205 Live developments to set up the next match.
-Cedric Alexander made his ring entrance. [c]
(2) JACK GALLAGHER (w/Brian Kendrick) vs. CEDRIC ALEXANDER (w/Rich Swann)
When Kendrick joined Gallagher in the ring, Cedric invited Swann out to even the sides. When Kendrick got on the ring apron early, Swann ran around the ring and yanked him off the ring apron. That distraction led to Gallagher taking control of the match a minute in. Swann DDT’d Kendrick after he grabbed Cedric’s leg. Cedric then gave Gallagher his Lumbar Check for the win. Cole announced these four would be in a tag match at TLC.
WINNER: Alexander in 4:00.
-Graves hyped Miz TV with Braun. He said the hard-hitting questions would be asked. [c]
-The Miz came out for Miz TV. He was joined by Curtis Axel, Sheamus, and Cesaro. Miz said Angle wanted to keep them and The Shield apart because he feared he’d lose his TLC main event because they’d shatter The Shield into splinters. He said tonight it won’t be good for The Shield anyway, because Sheamus & Cesaro will take back the tag titles. Cesaro cut a promo with his mouthguard in, with a really bad lisp, which is meant to generate extra heat and laughter. Sheamus said “shattered” is the word because The Bar will shatter The Shield into three pieces at TLC. The crowd chanted “You look stupid!” (I’m surprised WWE hasn’t found a way to get the crowd to chant “You sound stupid!” at Cesaro.) Miz asked the fans: “Have you looked in the mirror?” Miz said The Shield are a nostalgic act and aren’t as good – and never were as good – as the fans think they are. He said The Shield are coworkers, whereas he, Curtis, Sheamus, Cesaro, and Braun are family. He then introduced Braun.
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Braun said The Shield couldn’t get the job done on their own, so they’re working together out of necessity, but he’ll tear them apart and beat them down piece by piece until they are gone forever. He said that starts tonight against Reigns in a cage. He said the cage will keep Reigns from running away from him. Miz said The Shield is no match for them. He asked the fans if they think The Shield can beat them. They chanted “Yes! Yes! Yes!” Miz said, “Really? Really? Really?” in response. Miz then noted that Ambrose continued to run his mouth about how The Shield can take on any five guys. He tried to announce a fifth member of the team (as the crowd chanted “Curtis Axel” in anticipation. Angle stepped out and said Miz is taking things too far. He said he agreed to four-on-three, but not five-on-three. Angle said he doesn’t care what Ambrose said. Miz interrupted and said words still matter. Miz brought up the three I’s and “integrity.” Miz made his case and asked him to make The Shield prove what they say. “Think about the main event you could make!” he said. Angle said Miz is going to stand there and shut the hell up. He said he’s the Raw G.M. and they’ll settle it in the ring. He said Braun has to beat Reigns, and if he does, then he can get a fifth man. But if Reigns wins, then the match goes back to three-on-three and they lose Braun as a partner. He asked Miz if he agreed. After Miz talked with Cesaro and Sheamus, Miz seemed to be on the verge of saying no. Braun then stepped forward and said yes. Angle then said he’s banning everyone from ringside.
(Keller’s Analysis: They had Angle seem like less of a dope this week, which is good. That might have been the best Angle has been booked to look, which isn’t saying much, but he seemed competent and fair-minded and not easily fooled or manipulated. I like the added stip to hook viewers to stick around since there are some ramifications beyond the usual.)
-The announcers hyped Finn Balor will have a “Demonic Message for Sister Abigail” later. [c]
-A soundbite aired with Alicia Fox calling Sasha Banks a “bossy bitch.” She said the ref thought she tapped out, but she was just scratching her nose. She said after ten years she deserved more respect, and she yelled, “Where is my t-shirt!”
(3) SASHA BANKS vs. ALICIA FOX
Sasha caught Fox in a Bank Statement in the opening seconds. Fox reached the bottom rope and yelled for Banks to get off of her. The announcers talked about Fox having an issue with focusing. Graves said Sasha just whines and complains all the time. Booker said he must be talking about Emma. Sasha then won a couple minutes later with a Bank Statement as a counter to a tilt-a-whirl by Fox. Cole asked, “Now what is the excuse going to be?”
WINNER: Banks via tapout. [c]
-They showed Enzo Amore backstage. Graves said he wishes they could have him removed from the premises. [c]
-A Payday commercial features WWE wrestlers talking about their first payday. “It wasn’t exactly glorious,” said Roode, who’s never seen a play on words opportunity in a promo he didn’t take advantage of, and it pays to be Roode. Becky Lynch, the Usos, and Naomi all talked in generalities about what their first jobs did to build character.
-Charlie Caruso interviewed Sasha backstage. Sasha said Fox is as tough as she is crazy. Fox attacked her from behind and threw her around backstage, ramming her into anything around them. She said she’d learn to respect her because this is not over. A ref told her to stop. She shoved him. He said she can’t do that because he’s a referee. “You don’t look like my dad!” she screeched. Two other referees ran in. Cole said Angle will have his hands full with this situation.
(Keller’s Analysis: With so many wrestlers in the main event, it looks the PPV is going to get rounded out with some matches that normally might not make the cut for the WWE Main Event TV show.)
-Enzo made his ring entrance. He noted he heard a few boos. He said fans must be wondering where his Cruiserweight Title is. He threw to a clip of the title change. “Roll that frickin’ footage!” he said. He said he got robbed of his title by a corrupt G.M. He took some more digs at Kalisto, saying he stole the title. Kalisto came out and said enough is enough. Enzo sat in the corner and protested his speaking Spanish. Kalisto said his mouth is like a 7-Eleven, it never closes. He said he blames everyone else, and if that helps him sleep at night, so be it. He called him a knockoff. Enzo stood up and said he has money stacked taller than him. “The Zo train is coming through,” he said. Daivari, Noam Dar, Tony Nese, and Drew Gulak attacked Kalisto. Enzo asked the fans why they aren’t cheering like they did when he got jumped. They were interrupted by Mustafa Ali charging out as his music played. He battled through all of the heels and made his way to Enzo, but was eventually overwhelmed. Enzo helped beat down Ali and then Kalisto.
(Keller’s Analysis: Well, there’s zero ambiguity left for the nine years old who were still cheering him at house shows – Enzo is a heel. They’ve also drawn the lines and built up two sides now – heels vs. babyfaces – where in recent weeks it’s been Cruiserweights vs. Enzo. Having these cruiserweights join him without explanation is a stretch, since they had been steadfastly against him and he had insulted them week after week. We get used to WWE making it up as they go along, but this could have definitely used a better transition.) [c]
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(4) SETH ROLLINS & DEAN AMBROSE vs. SHEAMUS & CESARO – WWE Raw Tag Team Title match
Dean came out first to his music, then Seth to his music. So they’re not giving up their music individually despite coming out to The Shield music (i.e. Roman’s music) otherwise. Graves said Dean “has an edge back” and is walking differently and his eyes look more focused than before. We got an early rally by Seth and Dean, knocking both heels out of the ring. They played to the crowd, then launched over the top rope onto both heels. Seth let out a big yell. Booker said The Shield are back to being brothers to the bone. He said the fans love it. When Sheamus took over after a clothesline by Cesaro that the ref didn’t catch, they cut to a break. [c]
Eventually Dean hot-tagged in. Four-way action broke out resulting in more dives. Cole exclaimed that it’s going to be even more crazy when Reigns is added to this mix. Sheamus broke up Dean’s cover on Seth. More four-way action, with Sheamus delivering a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker on Seth. Cesaro then backdropped Dean. Sheamus tagged in. There seemed to be miscommunication between Dean and Sheamus as they set up a double-team move. Cesaro then clotheslined Dean out of Sheamus’s grip. Next they set up a double crucifix, but Seth broke it up. Seth delivered a high knee to Cesaro, then Dean then gave him a Dirty Deeds for the win.
WINNERS: Dean & Seth in 12:00 to retain the WWE Raw Tag Team Titles.
(Keller’s Analysis: Although the babyface duo won fair and square, it means less when the stips are four-on-three and Braun is involved as the true badass X factor in this match. This tag match was exciting and intense enough to whet people’s appetites for more, and the announcing hard sold that idea.) [c]
-Curtis Axel gave Sheamus and Cesaro a pep talk, telling them not to hang their heads. He said if Braun does his job, then he gets added to the match. Curtis said TLC is in his hometown so they need to stay strong. Braun walked in. Curtis told him that life is all about moments, and his moment at TLC hinges on whether he wins or loses inside the cage tonight. He told Braun he needs this match more than anything and he wants to fight. He was practically breathless and said he wants to fight Roman and fight him now. Braun told him: “So go find him.” Curtis then seemed less brave and said he’s wearing his suit. Cesaro said Curtis sounds sacred. Sheamus said the fifth member of their team wouldn’t be afraid to hunt down Roman. Curtis gave in to peer pressure and said he’ll go find him.
-They went back to the announcers on camera. Graves said hearing Curtis deliver a motivation speech to Braun is one of the strangest things he’s seen on Raw.
-A clip aired from last week with Bray turning into Sister Abigail as Finn Balor watched from the ring.
-Balor made his live ring entrance. Graves said Bray is upset because Finn captivates the WWE Universe and he has followers who buy into what Bray is saying, whereas Bray hasn’t succeeded in that regard. Graves on Balor: “An ordinary man who does extraordinary things.” He said when Bray first introduced the world to Sister Abigail, he didn’t know what to think. “Had he lost his mind?” he wondered. “Or maybe he just outsmarted all of us. I thought it was just another trick, another mind game, but I was wrong.” He talked about being a kid and hearing about monsters wandering the Earth, and he used to think they were just stories, but after seeing Sister Abigail and sensing her presence, he realized these weren’t just stories, they were real. He said Bray may have his tricks, but he has his own tricks too. He said he will slay a monster with a demon of his own. Suddenly there was a heartbeat over the soundsystem. He said his Demon has no fear. He suddenly appeared in make-up, through the trick of live editing, which the crowd wasn’t part of seeing. He said his demon is dying to meet Sister Abigail.
(Keller’s Analysis: Balor contradicted himself, saying Abigail was just tricks and then real and then back to an example of Bray’s tricks. The editing of Balor as “The Demon” made everything seem overly planned out and produced. Despite standing live in the ring, someone knew what he was going to say and exactly how his face would be framed so they could splice in images of him as The Demon? What it gained from being “visually cool” it lost, and then some, from being super corny and fake.) [c]
-The Asuka video aired again.
(5) MICKIE JAMES & BAYLEY vs. ALEXA BLISS & EMMA
Early in the match all four got into a shoving match at ringside and they cut to a break. [c]
As the match continued, they panned back to show the cage hanging above the ring as Cole plugged the main event. Mickie eventually got a hot tag and rallied against Bliss. Bliss eventually slapped Mickie hard and yanked her over, but Mickie came back with a face plant and her signature kip up. Mickie leaped off the top rope with a Thesz press for a near fall, broken up by Emma. Bayley leaped in and knocked Emma out of the ring. Bliss then turned to yell at Bayley, which left her vulnerable to a Mick Kick for the pin. Graves said Little Miss Bliss may have bitten off more than she can handle on Sunday.
WINNERS: Mickie & Bayley in 12:00.
-Backstage Curtis found The Shield talking strategy backstage. He took a deep breath and approached them, then they cut to a break.
(Keller’s Analysis: So why are we supposed to believe the director chose to cut to a break at that very moment? The director is supposed to be on our side, the viewers, not on the side of some script telling him to “create a cliffhanger.” There are other ways to get the effect they wanted.) [c]
-Backstage The Miz asked Cesaro, Sheamus, and Braun where Curtis was. Braun told Miz that he told Curtis to go find and beat up Reigns. Laugher from the crowd as Miz gulped. Miz excused himself.
(Keller’s Analysis: This is ha ha fun to fill TV time, but is that right kind of heat going into this main event at TLC?)
-Backstage Mickie and Bayley were celebrating their win and discussing a possible tag team name, such as “Hugging and Wrestling.” Caruso then approached Mickie for an interview. Bayley hugged Mickie and left. Caruso asked if this is as much about winning the Raw Women’s Title as getting revenge for Bliss calling her an old lady. Mickie said her comments really hurt. She teared up and then said she’s proud of who he is and everything she accomplished in this business. Cheers. She said she has a three year old boy at home waiting for her. She said he is her everything and the light of her life. She said one of the greatest feelings in her entire career would be to take that women’s championship to her little boy Donovan. She said Bliss can have her jokes and play her pranks, but at the end of the day, she’ll have the last laugh because she’ll whip that little Biscuit Butt all over TLC and become women’s champion for the seventh time.
-They went back to the announcers who discussed the Kickoff Show – Sasha vs. Fox. The announcers ran down the line-up. “I can’t believe The Shield are back together,” Graves closed with.
-Miz shouted for Curtis then turned and saw Axel hanging upside down with his pants and shirt ripped. Referees ran up to help as Miz called for more help, perhaps a forklift.
-The cage began to lower as Cole excitedly built it up. [c]
-205 Live will feature Enzo & Ariya Daivari vs. Mustafa Ali & Kalisto and Swann vs. Gallagher.
-Backstage, Renee approached Miz who stood over Axel who had been lowered to the floor. Renee asked if Axel couldn’t compete, will he have time to find a replacement at TLC? Miz said he thinks the world of Axel, but he was never the fifth man.
-Braun made his ring entrance. The ring announcer explained the rules. Then Reigns came out to The Shield music alone. Boos started even before the music started, then got much louder when the music started. There were cheers, too.
(6) ROMAN REIGNS vs. BRAUN STROWMAN – Cage Match
Cole reviewed the rivalry between Reigns and Braun and said this is the culmination. The referee locked the door as Miz joined the announcers on commentary. Cole reminded Miz that Angle banned everyone from ringside. Miz said people need to hear his voice on commentary, and he doesn’t plan to go to ringside. Reigns ducked Braun, then threw an uppercut. Braun shoved Reigns hard into the corner and then tossed him across the ring, then charged at Reigns with a clothesline. He flexed and yelled. Graves asked Miz who the fifth man is, but he said he wouldn’t reveal it until Braun won. Reigns shoved Braun and climbed the side of the cage. Miz gave him a hard time for trying to leave the match. “What, is he scared?” he asked. Cole said he was trying to win to increase his odds on Sunday. Miz said he’s not scared of Reigns winning. Reigns went to lift Braun, but didn’t have the strength. Reigns avoided a Braun charge in the corner, then clotheslined Braun ten times. Fans counted along. Braun caught Reigns mid-air and gave him a spinebuster for a near fall. [c]
Braun methodically beat down Reigns for a couple minutes. Reigns made a comeback and lifted Braun and gave him a Samoan Drop for a near fall. Braun kicked out with authority. Reigns quickly scaled the cage. Miz yelled for Braun to get up. Sheamus and Cesaro ran out to ringside and cut off Reigns. Then Dean and Seth ran out and yanked Sheamus and Cesaro down. They fought at ringside. Dean clotheslined Sheamus over the barricade. Reigns continued his climb over the top and town the other side, but Braun grabbed Reigns’s wrists and stopped him. He dragged Reigns back over the top and superplexed him off the top of the cage. Geesh. “Holy shit” chanted fans. Both were slow to move. Braun draped his arm over Reigns and Reigns kicked out. The brawl with the two tag teams continued at ringside and up the ramp. “This is awesome!” broke out briefly. Miz excused himself from the announce table. Seth and Dean fought Sheamus and Cesaro backstage. Miz lowered a garage door and apparently locked the two teams in the back. He gave a cartoon villain look, short of twisting a mustache, and then the camera went back to the ring.
Braun set up Reigns for a running powerslam, but Reigns fought out of it. Miz returned to commentary and asked what he missed. Reigns climbed the side of the cage again. Braun met him on the top rope and headbutted Reigns twice to knock him down. Braun then began to try to climb to the top, but struggled. Booker said he was out of his element. Reigns knocked Braun off balance and he crotched the top rope. Graves said monster or not, that hurts any man. Reigns hit two Superman Punches to knock Bruan to the mat. Reigns then did his shaking thing in the corner to set up the Spear. He let out his signature yell and charged. Braun lifted Reigns in the air, but Reigns broke free and landed the punch. Braun kicked out of the believable pin attempt. Reigns looked shocked in response.
As Reigns stood and set up a spear again, the lights went red and then Kane’s music played. Braun charged at a distracted Reigns and splashed him in the corner. Reigns fired back with a spear on Braun’s next charge. Both were slow to get up, but Kane crawled up from under the ring. Reigns backed up. “What in the hell is Kane doing here!?” exclaimed Cole. Kane did his throat slice gesture. Reigns leaped toward him. Kane chokeslammed him hard. The lights went back to normal. Kane chokeslammed Reigns again. “Why is Kane here?!” asked Cole. The crowd was stunned. Braun and Kane circled Reigns as Cole said there are no DQ’s in cage matches. Braun gave Reigns a running powerslam. Kane gave Reigns a tombstone piledriver. Cole said the WWE Universe is shocked. Braun let out a barbaric yell, then gave him his running powerslam. Avoid the hole! He then scored the three count.
WINNER: Braun in 17:00.
-Miz sat atop a ladder on the stage and said “in case that wasn’t clear enough,” Kane is the fifth member of his team.
(Keller’s Analysis: Okay, what if Dean hadn’t said this week that he’d take on five men? What if Angle hadn’t agreed to the stip? Was Kane just hanging out in Portland, just in case something came up that intrigued him to make his grand return? That aside, this generates some buzz at a time when WWE is without John Cena and Brock Lesnar for a PPV and trying hard not to have gaps in interest that leads to drops in WWE Network subs. So Kane is a good guy to call out of the bull pen, especially headed into Halloween season. Perhaps, in answer to Cole’s question, Kane is going after Reigns because Reigns has been bragging about “retiring the Undertraker,” his brother. This is a good cliffhanger, although I wouldn’t be shocked if Kane shows up at TLC and then is gone again for months.)
Be sure to check out the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast in the early a.m. hours on Tuesday for a full analysis of this show, plus on-site correspondents to talk about the in-arena experience and real crowd reactions. Plus your emails! email@example.com.