REIGNS VS. LASHLEY BOILS OVER…
Recap: The show opened with a video package recapping the Reigns-Lashley feud to date. The package must have included footage of every pro-Reigns sign in the crowd for the past year. Like most of the feud, the highlight package made both Reigns and Lashley come across as unlikable.
After the package, the show began with Reigns backstage walking toward the ring. He was stopped by Lashley. Lashley told Reigns that if Reigns called him out from the ring, he’d head down to fight rather than talk.
Reigns arrived in the ring, and obliged by calling out Lashley. Lashley came to the ring. Just before the two tangled, Kurt Angle appeared and told them to save the fight for Sunday. Reigns and Lashley ignored him, and a brawl broke out. Angle and Corbin then called out the locker room to pull them apart.
The brawl continued for some time as Reigns and Lashley would occasionally escape the pull-apart to restart the brawl. At one point, Reigns did a dive over the top rope onto Lashley and an ensemble of wrestlers holding him back outside the ring.
Later backstage, Lashley was interviewed by Renee. He said he respected everyone in the ring with him, except Reigns, closing with a “believe that.”
Renee also later interviewed Reigns. He said that he didn’t respect Lashley until tonight’s brawl, which showed Lashley’s fire. He said that fire wouldn’t be enough, and that he’d beat Lashley and move onto bigger and better things.
Evaluation: The brawl worked and the crowd loved it. It’s hard to argue with anything that excites the crowd to the degree this did.
The video package, on the other hand, served to remind us of all of the reasons that this feud hasn’t worked. We were especially reminded of Reigns’ whining.
The two backstage interviews didn’t enhance the positive progress made with the brawl; it would have been better to have the brawl been the last we saw of either Reigns or Lashley before the pay per view, ending on a high note.
Forecast: The video package made clear that WWE still sees Reigns as a face, so I would expect him to go over Lashley as part of an inevitable march toward the Universal Title.
MCINTIRE FACES ROLLINS…
Recap: At the top of the second hour, Seth Rollins came to the ring for a promo. He was interrupted by the appearance of Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntire. Ziggler predicted victory on Sunday, and recounted his college wrestling success. Rollins asked how many of those college wins came with McIntire assistance.
Rollins then tried to sow division between the two, accusing McIntire of being led around by Ziggler. Rollins asked why McIntire allows Ziggler to push him around, and then implied it was because Ziggler had incriminating photos of McIntire with a sheep in Scotland. A furious McIntire challenged Rollins to a match. Rollins accepted.
Later backstage, Kurt Angle informed McIntire that if he lost tonight’s match, he’d be banned from ringside on Sunday.
In the main event, McIntire pinned Rollins after Rollins was distracted by Dolph Ziggler interference.
Evaluation: This was just solid pro wrestling booking: a promo to hype the pay per view match and a solid television main event to whet the appetite without giving away a direct matchup between the two pay per view competitors.
Forecast: There hasn’t yet been any indication of friction between Ziggler and McIntire. Sunday’s match may be the beginning of the angle that breaks them up, allowing McIntire to move on to bigger things. They can go that direction with either match outcome. Rollins could win due to a mistake by McIntire, or Ziggler could win with McIntire becoming interested in the Intercontinental Title afterwards.
BRAUN & OWENS ANNOUNCED FOR A STEEL CAGE…
Recap: Kevin Owens told Kurt Angle that in exchange for not suing for an unsafe work environment after Braun’s actions last week, he’d be spending the entire show in the safety of Angle’s office.
Later, Braun was called into Kurt’s office. An agitated Kevin Owens looked concerned. At that point, Angle announced that Braun and Owens would be facing each other in a steel cage at the pay per view.
Evaluation: The level of fear that Owens has showed toward Braun has diminished him in my eyes. Unfortunately, WWE seems to view Owens as a Swiss army knife to plug in wherever needed rather than the main event level heel role he’s had in years past.
Forecast: I expect Braun to win on Sunday in a manner that keeps him looking very strong.
The therapy sessions for Sasha and Bayley this week were even more pointless than last week….
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: TOP 3 DEVELOPMENTS – RAW 7/2: Roman Acts Like a Jerk, Reigns vs. Lashley is Set, Owens and Strowman