The Intercontinental Title Dominates Raw…
Recap: The show began with a montage done in the style of a TV series prior season recap. It showed the conflicts between Samoa Joe, The Shield, and The Bar, all from the perspective of Roman Reigns as the lead character in the saga. His role as a fighting champion was emphasized.
The show then opened in the ring with a Samoa Joe promo during which he called out Roman Reigns, who obliged by coming down the ramp. The Bar interfered in the Joe-Reigns confrontation, and the odds were evened when Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose appeared.
Later, in the coveted top of the third hour slot, Roman Reigns defeated Cesaro to retain the Intercontinental Title in a very good match. Reigns fought the match in a scrappy face style, coming back from an injured arm which was picked apart by Cesaro for most of the bout.
Evaluation: Because Brock Lesnar (with his very limited schedule) is the Universal Champion, often Raw the events of Raw do not revolve around the primary title belt. This is almost a throwback to the territory era, when the champion would travel between territories and no one territory could have him all the time.
This phenomenon is amplified now that Roman Reigns holds the Intercontinental Title. The combination of the Intercontinental Title with WWE’s desire to heavily emphasize Reigns and the lack of Universal Champion on television has elevated the Intercontinental Title storylines to the top spot of the show. The title picture was the focus of the opening montage, the opening promo, and the top of the third hour, arguably the three most important spots on the show. While Braun and Kane had the “main event,” in the three hour Raw era where the Nielsen drop off from hour two to three is generally large, WWE generally slots the most important match of the night at the top of hour three.
Reigns did just about everything you could ask of him tonight in terms of being the focal champion of the show. His match with Cesaro was solid.
The opening Samoa Joe promo was awkward, as there was a long delay when Joe called out Reigns. The camera cut backstage to Seth and Dean, who were discussing Joe’s promo and debating going into the locker room to find Reigns to alert him to what was going on. I’m not sure what the writing team was trying to accomplish there.
Forecast: The Intercontinental Title will likely remain the focal belt on the show until the build to Brock vs Roman at Wrestlemania begins. This allows WWE to not have to use up too many of the limited number of Brock Lesnar appearance dates, and also keeps Reigns in the spotlight.
Absolution Finally Confronts Asuka…
Recap: Early in the night, Bayley & Mickie James fought Paige & Mandy Rose in a tag match, which the heels won.
Later, Asuka was scheduled for a rematch with Alicia Fox. Instead of Fox coming down the ramp, Absolution appeared, and showed footage of Alicia injured backstage. Paige indicated that they let Asuka walk away the previous two weeks as a warning, but that tonight it was time for Asuka to move out of the way or be moved out of the way. A defiant Asuka faced all three heels, but eventually the numbers game was too much. The entire Raw women’s locker room then stormed the ring and attacked Absolution.
Evaluation: It appears the unusual treatment of Asuka by Absolution for the past two weeks was a device to have the entire women’s locker room unify against the invading faction.
In the earlier tag match, Mandy Rose had some extended mic time. She stumbled on one of her sentences a bit, but overall sounded pretty good. She’s way ahead of the Riott Squad based on what we saw last Tuesday. It seems she will be Absolution’s Number 2 talker after Paige.
Forecast: At least for the immediate future, it appears the face/heel bifurcation will go out the window as all of the Raw women unite against the new invading faction. If Paige has a shot at the title as part of this storyline (which I’m not sure will happen yet), Alexa Bliss would have to at least temporarily play the face with the support of the locker room.
Jason Jordan’s Turn Continues…
Recap: Jason Jordan apologized to Kurt Angle for making demands last week. However, shortly after his apology, he immediately began to question Kurt’s judgment in not giving him his requested match with Samoa Joe. Jordan rattled off a list of top flight opponents with which he’d had competitive matches. However, Kurt reminded him that he lost all of those matches. A frustrated Jordan referred to Angle as “Kurt” rather than “Dad” as he stormed off.
Later, Jordan was at ringside for the match between Dean Ambrose and Samoa Joe. Ambrose had Joe beat. However, the referee was busy yelling at Jordan and missed the count. An incensed Ambrose confronted Jordan, which Samoa Joe exploited for the win.
Evaluation: Jordan did a good job backstage of appearing entitled and whiny. This was emphasized by Kurt pointing out that Jordan had lost all of his matches, and therefore wasn’t deserving of anything. Costing fan favorite Dean Ambrose his match will also bring needed heat.
Forecast: It seems like the “big reveal” relating to this fatherhood storyline is coming soon, maybe at Royal Rumble. I’d be surprised if it didn’t turn out that Jordan was not really Kurt’s son. More likely than not, I believe Triple H and/or Stephanie will be revealed to be behind the ruse.
-Like last week, there was another alternating pre-taped promo between Woken Matt and Bray Wyatt this week. I liked Matt saying that he had known Sister Abigail through the ages and had walked the Gardens of Babylon with her. It ties together their storyline…
-Finn Balor at least defeated Curtis Axel more easily this week than Bo Dallas last week…
-It’s sad to see the only role for Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson is a goofy backstage comedy act to be interrupted and terrified by Braun Strowman approaching the ring. It’s not as if WWE tag teams are so deep that there’s no other role for these guys…
-Living in New Jersey my entire life, I of course know that the word “capicola” is properly pronounced “gabagool,” and I therefore understand Enzo’s Capicola-ak nickname for Drew Gulak. But do the rest of the 49 states just wonder what the hell Enzo is talking about?