KELLER & POWELL FLAGSHIP (12/5)
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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
MAY 14, 2018
TAPED EARLIER IN DAY IN LONDON, U.K.
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Booker T
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-They opened with clips of the “NBCUniversal Up Fronts” (a TV industry event where stars of TV shows gather as they try to lure in advertisers for the next season of new and continuing shows) at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, N.Y. They showed various NBC TV actors plus Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and three top WWE women wrestlers – Charlotte Flair, Ronda Rousey, and Nia Jax. They showed Jax walking up to Rousey as she was talking to Charlotte and she asked her if she could be the Raw Women’s Champion. Rousey shot her a look and the narrator said, “Find out what happened tonight on Monday Night Raw.”
-Cole introduced the show as the camera panned the crowd, which he said was sold out.
-Roman Reigns’s music played and the crowd erupted into boos. Then another surge of boos when the ring announcer introduced him. They cut to the announcers on camera. Booker is back this week, in place of Coach who didn’t make the trip to London. They commented on a clip of Jinder Mahal interfering last week to cost Reigns a chance to win the match and thus earn a spot in the MITB ladder match.
Reigns paced in the ring. Cole said it’s been a rough few weeks for him. Booker said Reigns’s walk tells a story of confidence. The music stopped and then another surge of boos rang out. He stood and listened to the boos, which WWE wasn’t hiding in post-production. Graves called it “a typical United Kingdom reception for Roman Reigns.” (I think he could have stopped at “typical.”) Reigns said last week he wasn’t robbed by WWE management, but rather this time by Jinder. (The whole “screwed by management” angle he’s taking is so counter-productive because it just doesn’t ring even slightly true based on what fans have seen and know of his positioning in the eyes of management.) He told Jinder to come out and face him like a man. He dropped the mic and waited. After about ten seconds, Kurt Angle’s music played. Big cheers.
Angle walked out and encouraged the “You suck!” chants. Angle said Jinder won’t be here tonight. Reigns asked when he started speaking for Jinder (in his usual completely dickish manner). The crowd booed. Angle said he doesn’t speak for Jinder, he speaks for WWE management. He said he received a call over the weekend and was informed of a couple of things. He said when he denied Jinder a chance to compete for a MITB slot, he wasn’t thinking logically, he was thinking emotionally. “That’s what’s best for business,” he said. He said Jinder is a former WWE Champion, so he will have a MITB shot against Elias and Bobby Lashley in a Triple Threat match tonight.
Reigns said he should be added to the match and make it a Fatal Four-way. The fans chanted “No! No! No!” Reigns said he understands Angle has to answer to his superiors and has to do what he has to do, but he’s going to do what he has to do. He left the ring and walked backstage. The crowd sang the “Hey hey hey, good bye” song at him. He asked around backstage if anyone had seen Jinder. Eventually he saw Jinder and Sunil Singh. Jinder threw Sunil at Reigns, then attacked Reigns. Reigns made a comeback and threw Jinder around and every time he threw Jinder into a wall or onto something, the crowd booed. Reigns threw Jinder back into the arena bowl onto the stage and continued to beat on him including a Superman Punch which drew another surge of booing. Officials came out to keep Reigns from continuing his attack. Jinder retreated. A loud “Roman sucks!” chant broke out.
(Keller’s Analysis: We’re just getting to the point where it’s comical what’s happening to Reigns. We just watch week after week as Reigns is thoroughly rejected, but he just has to go through this process anyway, like an opposing guard trying to stop James Harden from scoring, but he just keeps scoring, and the coach doesn’t change the line-up. Reigns is just going through the motions like a popular babyface and somehow not selling that he’s just hated by fans.)
-The announcers hyped Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens for the Intercontinental Title up next. [c]
-A commercial aired for Total Divas including the tearful Nikki Bella and John Cena talking about their relationship. The new season premieres on Sunday night on E!.
-The announcers narrated a replay of the Reigns-Jinder brawl.
(1) SETH ROLLINS vs. KEVIN OWENS – Intercontinental Title match
The crowd loudly yelled “Burn It Down!” at the start of Seth’s entrance. The announcers touted Seth’s hot streak. Formal ring introductions took place. Cole said Seth’s goal is to make the IC Title the primary title on Raw by defending it often and that he’s started #FightingChampion and #BrockWho. Fans chanted “Let’s Go Rollins!” early. Seth dove through the ropes but Owens caught him on his shoulder; Owens then tossed Seth into the ringpost. Cole touted Seth’s schedule of defenses. Owens backdropped Seth over the top rope. They cut to a break at 3:00. [c]
Owens set up a powerbomb on the edge of the ring apron. Graves said, “We’re going to have a new champion.” Seth slipped free and then gave Owens a Falcon Arrow onto the ring apron. They cut to a crowd reaction shot. Seth dove through the ropes with two straight tackles. Booker said Seth’s speed was causing Owens to speed up his game. Owens ducked a Seth kick and landed a DDT for a two count. After some more exchanges, both wrestlers were down and fans chanted “This is awesome!” Cole talked about all of the shows around the world since WrestleMania. When Owens went for a top rope senton, Seth lifted his knees. Seth rallied and hit Owens in the forehead with his Revolution Knee for a near fall.
Seth met Owens on the top rope, but Owens quickly turned it into a Fisherman Buster. Seth rolled to the floor to avoid a cover. Booker said that was no accident. Owens threw Seth into the ring, then as he entered, Seth caught him with a Stomp and scored the pin.
WINNER: Seth in 15:00 to retain the IC Title.
(Keller’s Analysis: This match deserves more build up. Seth is a top babyface on Raw, and Owens has been a top featured heel on Smackdown, and after a long time apart, they are thrown in the ring without any prior hype and wrestle like it’s just another match between two top tier guys. I get WWE has a lot of content demands on a three hour show, but a little lip service about this being a bigger deal would have been nice instead of it just being a “good match to fill time” that it was put on a pedestal more.)
-Graves plugged Mickie James vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley coming up. Cole plugged the Bobby Roode vs. No Way Jose vs. Baron Corbin match later. Graves hyped that the Jax-Rousey incident was up next. [c]
-Cole narrated highlights of the NBCUniversal Up Front event. Kathy Kelly interviewed Rousey who talked about having a lot of challenges ahead of her and hard work and dedication. Then in walked Charlotte who said she and Rousey have a lot in common. She asked Rousey if she can “wooo!” Rousey gave it a shot. It was okay. Nia Jax walked up and asked Rousey if she can raise a title belt. “Can you be Raw Women’s Champion?” Rousey said she hopes so, and only time will tell. Jax said, “Nothing better than the present.” Rousey asked what she means. Jax said she has a mandatory title defense at MITB and “I am challenging you.” Rousey said it’s a huge honor, but she’s only had one match and there are many women who deserve that shot before her. Jax said she’s challenging her. Charlotte told her to do it. Rousey said, “This is quite unexpected, but I accept your challenge.” They shook hands. Charlotte let out a “wooo” and put her arms around both women. They all smiled.
(Keller’s Analysis: Will fans think Ronda Rousey being gifted a title shot out of nowhere? Or might they instead mostly be excited to Rousey shot to this position because of her star power? Or a mix of both? WWE, though, clearly wants to fast-forward to a certain position with Rousey, and I can’t say I blame them because if she just hangs out doing mid-card stuff it will define her down before they get to the big angles and big matches. I also think this elevates Charlotte and Nia Jax by being in this Upfront scene with media and TV actors and standing in the same frame with Rousey. It’s good that this is largely taken for granted in some ways, but two years ago, you wouldn’t have expected three top women on the WWE roster to be centerpieces of this type of event. As for the actual execution, it was awkward. Rousey is probably always going to be awkward, and Charlotte and Jax aren’t great at acting, either. It showed here. But I think the net effect was good enough.)
-Backstage Angle was talking on the cell phone, telling someone that Nia made the challenge. In walked Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel. Axel said they want a Raw Tag Team Title match. Alex said they’re standing on their own two feet and they’re going to be known as “The A Team.” Angle said that name is taken. Bo suggested “The B Team.” Angle said, “What kind of stupid name is that?” Bo said it stands for “Best.” Angle said he loves their ambition, but they have never won a match in WWE. “Not one tag team match. Not one, period,” he said. Angle said the champions beat them just last week. Bo said The Miztourage has a bad record, but The B Team is undefeated. Axel said he can’t deny his best team a title match. Angle said he’ll put them in action tonight if they promise to leave him alone the rest of the night. Bo blurted out, “Deal!” Then they said “B Team” and high-fived each other.
(Keller’s Analysis: Bo & Curtis aren’t going to be top guys ever, but for a show that designates a certain number of comedic segments per show, they are better than most acts already at filling that quota. There is a real chemistry between them. Angle is finding his groove in the last month or so, and his reactions to Bo & Curtis feels more natural and more of a throwback to when Angle was, himself, a comedic star with great timing and delivery.)
-No Way Jose began his ring entrance. [c]
(2) NO WAY JOSE vs. BOBBY ROODE vs. BARON CORBIN – MITB Qualifier
Corbin’s ring entrance took place next. Then Roode’s. With Roode down in the ring, Jose went after Corbin at ringside and they cut to an early break. [c]
Booker said if someone fails to cash in their briefcase, “it’s a travesty of justice to one’s career.” (I’m not sure Booker knows what “travesty of justice” means based on its use here, but Corey Graves doesn’t know what “begging a question is,” so he shouldn’t be judgmental.) Jose leaped off the top rope with a crossbody, which Corbin bumped way early on and it looked horrible. When Booker talked about putting yourself in position to take advantage of someone being out of position (or something like that), Graves gave him a hard time and Cole tried to decode what he was saying.
(Keller’s Analysis: Because Booker and Coach bring such different things to color commentary, but both can wear thin quickly, I’m advocating for a rotation of every-other week or every-other month for them. Coach’s sage-like arrogance and over reliance on sports analogies soon overrides whatever serious tone he brings to commentary, and Booker can just say some of the most counter-productive things out of nowhere that it just distracts from the product, but if you get a break form them, I think their positives have a chance to stand out more. I doubt that will happen, though.)
Roode played to the crowd after dropping Jose. Graves said it wasn’t a time to gloat. Corbin distracted Roode, and Jose recovered and knocked Roode over the top rope. Corbin took over on Jose and landed a chokeslam backbreaker for a near fall. The fans began signing the “Glorious” song lyrics. Jose broke up a pin attempt by Corbin on on Roode. Roode ended up catching Jose with a Glorious DDT for the win. Cole said three spots remain in the Men’s MITB Ladder Match with Miz, Strowman, Roode, Balor, and Rusev all qualified.
WINNER: Roode in 12:00.
-Backstage Owens said he wants a rematch against Seth. Angle said he lost. Owens said he should let him pick the stipulation. “Do something!” he said. Angle said, “Or what?” Owens said he’d call Stephanie McMahon. Angle said he’s sick of him threatening him. Owens said it’s not a threat, it’s about to become reality. Angle went into the trainers room where Jinder was asking for his qualifying match to be postponed after what happened earlier. Angle said it’s best for business for him to keep the match scheduled. Jinder said he’d make it work and do what Reigns couldn’t do. Singh iced Jinder’s hip. [c]
(3) BREEZANGO (Tyler Breeze & Fandango) vs. THE B TEAM (Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel)
The fans sang along to the Fandango entrance theme. Booker said he and his brother were once known as Cane and Cole and they went on to become tag team champions after they changed their names. He said it’s a great time for B Team to step up. Cole said, “We don’t count wins and losses anymore?” in response to Graves downplaying the zero-wins history of The B Team. He said it’s all about winning and going to the pay window. Bo settled into a chinlock as fans entertained themselves with singing. In the end, Axel avoided a top rope splash by Fandango, and then after a double-team move, B Team won.
WINNERS: The B Team in 4:00.
-Axel and Bo celebrated with Charlie Caruso inside the ring. An elated Bo said anything is possible. Axel said they’re coming for the Raw Tag Team Championships and led the crowd in a chant of “B Team!” Graves said they’re about to become a phenomenon.
-Cole plugged a six-woman tag match. [c]
(4) SASHA BANKS & NATALYA & EMBER MOON vs. THE RIOTT SQUAD (Ruby Riott & Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan)
They opened with Ember vs. Logan. Booker said it’s a tough call whether the women’s division or men’s division is better in WWE in 2018. The announcers began talking about the Rousey-Jax situation. They cut to a break at 2:00 with the Riott Squad regrouping at ringside. [c]
The pace picked up a few minutes after the break with action inside and outside the ring, then chaos inside the ring. After Logan hit Ember in the face with a forearm, Booker said, “Talk about a potato.” Banks leaped onto Logan with a double knee at ringside, and then Ember dove onto Riott at ringside. Natalya then put Morgan in the sharpshooter for the win.
WINNERS: Banks & Natalya & Moon in 11:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Natalya was booked here to look strong, so even though Rousey is headed for a title match already, I wouldn’t rule out Natalya being right in the mix of wherever that storyline goes.)
-Cole plugged Braun Strowman & Finn Balor vs. Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre.
-Backstage, Drew and Ziggler talked from the locker room with a selfies-style promo. Drew said WWE’s roster used to be filled with warriors and legends, but now it’s a banquet of pigs stuffing their fat faces at the trough. Ziggler said Braun flips cars like a mindless meathead. Drew said they are here to remind everyone what they should be and ‘”flip the damn table over.” [c]
-A Superstar Fact talked about Sheamus’s background in sports and a bodyguard for U2 and Bono.
(5) THE REVIVAL vs. WOKEN MATT & BRAY WYATT
After a nice move by Dash Wilder, Matt stopped the match and said it was wonderful. The fans applauded with him and gave a standing ovation to Dash. Fans then chanted “Delete!” They showed B Team taking notes backstage with notepads with big “B” letters scratched on the back. Matt and Bray finished Dawson with their Kiss of Deletion double-team Sister Abigail variation.
WINNERS: Hardy & Wyatt in 5:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: The Revival are, sadly, right where people predicted they would be once Vince McMahon got a look at them. NXT just has a knack for getting more out of wrestlers than Vince McMahon by focusing on the positives and hiding weaknesses, and McMahon just defines everyone based on their weaknesses if they’re not at least 6-3 and ruggedly handsome and muscular.)
-They showed Bayley backstage when she crossed paths with Banks. Banks wished her luck. Bayley thanked her and smiled. It seemed like they were sort of getting along.
(Keller’s Analysis: Is anyone left who feels strongly about what’s going on here with Bayley and Sasha and rooting for some outcome? It’s been botched so badly, and you sense that they don’t even know what they’re supposed to be doing – like actors in a whodunit who haven’t been clued in on the final act of the movie, so they can insert any subtle clues about where things are headed.) [c]
-Sami stood mid-ring as his music faded. He told them to stop singing his song. He said, “Has it occurred to anyone that Prince Harry looks a lot like me?” He said he hears he’s a big fan of his. He then complained about Bobby Lashley returning to WWE the same night he returned to Raw. He said he looks like a million bucks, but he tried to make a name for himself at his expense. He complained about Lashley’s delayed vertical suplex and the fans cheering the whole time. He asked the fans if they ever thought about what effect it would have on him. He said he contracted vertigo, the first-ever documented case in WWE history.
Sami produced a doctor’s note that defined vertigo and that’s why he couldn’t compete at the Greatest Royal Rumble match. He said he would have won. He said that’s why he lost his MITB qualifying match and every match since that incident. He said in the mean time Lashley is getting cheered and notoriety and special treatment. He threw to a clip of Lashley’s sit-down interview last week with Renee Young. They showed Lashley talking about his sisters. Sami said it’s clear Lashley wants to be him because he’s wearing his hat. He said Lashley has something to hide, so he reached out to Lashley’s sisters on Facebook “and boy oh boy did they have a story to tell.” He said they were nothing like Lashley described them to be, nor is Lashley in real life like he portrays on TV. He said they’ll appear on Raw next week and he will expose the real Lashley.
(Keller’s Analysis: This only lasted 6 minutes but it felt like 14. Sami is annoying. Lashley’s gimmick being built around a storyline with his “sisters” is so crazy, yet almost predictable. A bland black wrestler with other skills and assets? Vince has to go into the bag-o-race-linked-gimmicks like Shelton’s Mama to try to make Lashley “interesting.” I’m bracing for something really cringe-inducing next week.)
(6) ALEXA BLISS vs. MICKIE JAMES vs. BAYLEY – Triple Threat match for MITB slot
Ring entrances took place for Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, and Bayley. They match began, but they cut to a break early after Bayley was knocked to ringside. [c]
Alexa and Mickie double-teamed Bayley. Graves said it might as well be a handicapped match. Cole wondered what would happen if it came down to Mickie and Alexa. Bayley rallied against both heels a few minutes later. After Bayley fended off Mickie at ringside, Bliss caught Bayley re-entering the ring with a slap and a DDT for the win.
WINNER: Bliss in 9:00.
-The announcers threw to a recap of the Reigns-Jinder angle earlier.
-They cut backstage to Jinder writhing in pain with his ribs wrapped. Reigns speared Mahal into and through a (very very fake looking) wall backstage. The crowd erupted in boos. Singh called for help. [c]
(7) BRAUN STROWMAN & FINN BALOR vs. DREW MCINTYRE & DOLPH ZIGGLER
After some Balor vs. Ziggler action, Braun tagged in. Drew tagged in, circled Balor, and then tagged back out. Cole said maybe Drew doesn’t want anything to do with “the Monster Among Men.” Graves said he’s playing mind games. [c]
(A Smackdown commercial hyped A.J. Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura tomorrow night.)
Strowman and Balor were taking turns beating up Ziggler until Ziggler finally tagged in Drew. Cole noted Drew was eager to get in against the injured Balor, which may have foreshadowed the finish. Drew yanked on Balor’s leg a few minutes later. Strowman charged at Drew at ringside and knocked him down. Ziggler then surprised a distracted Balor by knocking him off the top rope and made the cover and scored the three count.
WINNERS: Strowman & Balor in 13:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: A strange mix of four very different wrestlers, and a little teaser of Drew and Braun, which I would assume will be a singles feud at some point in the next year. I still don’t see any chemistry or value in Ziggler and Drew together.)
-They went to the announcer next who threw to a replay of the Jax-Rousey angle earlier, then a collage of Tweets and media headlines reacting to it all. Graves said it’s going to be enormous and he can’t wait to see how it all works out.
-Angle was on his phone talking to someone about Rousey and also Jinder. He said he sent Jinder away and he has a perfect replacement for him. He didn’t like what the person said next. “Another opportunity?” Angle gasped. “I knew he was going to call you. Okay, Stephanie.” So Stephanie ordered Owens as Jinder’s replacement. [c]
(8) KEVIN OWENS vs. BOBBY LASHLEY vs. ELIAS
Booker defended Owens being put in this match. Cole was outraged. Booker asked who would be a better choice. Owens and Elias doubled on Lashley much like Mickie and Bliss did to Bayley earlier. Lashley clotheslined both over the top rope and then they cut to a break. [c]
Cole said he feels sorry for Angle because he has to do what his boss wants. Graves said maybe Angle shouldn’t have undercut his bosses when it came to Rousey. The crowd chanted “Lashley’s Sisters.” Elias had a moment and called for Jo Jo to bring him his guitar. He sat on the edge of the ring apron and asked Jo Jo to hold the mic so fans could hear him sing. Owens attacked him from behind. Elias was frustrated and he delivered a knee to KO’s chin for a two count.
Later Owens missed on a cannonball in the corner. Elias then leaped off the top rope and landed his elbow for a near fall, but Lashley yanked Elias off of Owens. Elias backed away from Lashley at ringside. Lashley took it to Elias back in the ring including a belly-to-belly. Elias powerbombed Owens a minute later, but Lashley broke up the count again. Elias and Lashley battled. When Lashley made the cover, Sami yanked Lashley off of Elias, then gave him a Helluva Kick against the ringside barrier. Cole pointed out there are no DQs in triple threat matches (WHICH IS STUPID). Owens then frog splashed Elias and “stole” the win.
WINNER: Owens in 13:00 to earn a spot in the MITB match.
(Keller’s Analysis: Can we please change the default “no-DQ” rule in Triple Threat matches? What’s even the point? I like Owens in the MITB match, though.)
FINAL THOUGHTS:An okay edition of Raw, not a disaster but not great. It does give off the vibe of one big ensemble cast where almost everyone is on the same level just doing something. What binds most of it right now is their shared desire to get in the MITB matches to get a title shot, and that’s good because it’s focused on everyone wanting to be champion.