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WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW PRIMER
JULY 30, 2018
MIAMI, FL. AT AMERICAN AIRLINES ARENA
AIRS ON USA NETWORK, 8:00PM EDT
BY FRANK PETEANI, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Our hearts are quite heavy as we lost several members of the wrestling family within the last few weeks.
Josip Nikolai Peruzović, better known to WWE fans as Nikolai Volkoff, passed away Sunday at the age of 70. According to ESPN.com, his wife claimed he had heart problems and was unresponsive to medication. This news hit me particularly hard as Nikolai was one of the first wrestlers I got into as a fan when I began watching in 1986. I used to pretend to be him and sing the Russian national anthem as a gag with friends or family that watched wrestling. His predominant wrestling years spanned from 1967-1995 while working for various promotions including Stampede Wrestling, AWA, WWWF (later known as WWF and now WWE), and assorted others. He captured multiple tag team championships including most memorably with the Iron Sheik while being managed by “Classy” Freddy Blassie at the first WrestleMania in 1985. Volkoff was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 alongside Sheik. Here’s a few heartfelt tweets honoring his long-time friend and partner:
— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) July 29, 2018
WWE truly lost a foundational member of the television/PPV years, and great heel who knew how to draw heat, and a man who did so much for so many wrestlers during his years. He will be sorely missed, and our hearts go out to his loved ones.
BRIAN CHRISTOPHER LAWLER
Brian Christopher Lawler, known to us as simply Brian Christopher or Grandmaster Sexay, passed away Sunday at the young age of 46. He was the son of WWE Hall of Famer Jerry “The King” Lawler. His most prominent gimmick was the Grandmaster Sexay character he played alongside Scotty 2 Hotty in the tag team “Too Cool” in the later 1990s-early 2000s. They helped introduce the character Rikishi to us in 1999, who himself would go on to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015. Out of respect, especially to King, I’ll refrain from speculating on the reasons of his death.
Frederick Seawright, known as Brickhouse Brown, lost a battle with cancer on Sunday at the age of 57. He wrestled for numerous promotions over a span of 35 years which including a brief stint in WWF(E) in 1995 as an enhancement talent where he jobbed to Hunter Hearst Helmsley, known to us now simply as Triple H. He previously won the AWA Southern Heavyweight Championship from WWE Hall of Famer Jerry “The King” Lawler in 1987. Again, our hearts go out to his loved ones.
Finally, I apologize as I realized last week I did not recognize the loss of Masanori Saito. Perhaps WWE fans remember him as Mr. Saito as he stood along the late WWE Hall of Famer Mr. Fuji capturing the then WWF Tag Team Championship on two different occasions from 1981-1982. He wrestled for various other well-known promotions including various arms of the NWA, AWA, AJPW, NJPW, and WCW. While it’s been a few weeks, let us still send our condolences to his loved ones.
Arena / Opening Thoughts
Tonight, WWE Raw returns to the American Airlines Arena in Miami, FL. for the second time this year as the show emanated from the same arena on the evening of New Year’s Day. We continue to get ready for SummerSlam as the pieces continue to come together for the big summer event. Please note, WWE.com incorrectly shows last week’s location as the location for tonight’s event.
Before we get started I want to weigh in on Roman Reigns winning the no. 1 contender’s match over Bobby Lashley last week to earn a match with Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at SummerSlam. It was expected, as I certainly did not feel WWE was behind a Lashley vs. Lesnar match, but that’s not the point. WWE fans vociferously rejected Reigns vs. Lesnar at WrestleMania. I don’t think they could be naïve and expect a better result especially from a Brooklyn, N.Y. crowd. It’s disappointing to say the least, because there’s one act that’s been particularly over during the past few months and that’s Seth Rollins. I’m not saying he should have been the one to get that match. I’m just saying WWE ignores their fan base when for the fourth time a wrestler who has been clearly rejected, gets an opportunity to topple Lesnar. Perhaps there’s a bigger picture we’re not seeing. The problem with that is they’ve been painting this picture since Reigns won the Royal Rumble in 2015. They don’t care that fans have kept throwing dirt on it for almost four years now.
WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar Returns
Brock Lesnar returns alongside his advocate, Paul Heyman to confront #1 contender Roman Reigns whom he will face at SummerSlam. WWE is not specific as to whether or not this will be a backstage or in-ring confrontation. We have not seen Universal Champion Lesnar since his last match with Reigns at the Greatest Royal Rumble at the end of April this year, three months ago.
Thoughts: I talked about this earlier. It will be interesting to see how Lesnar is received. If you recall, when Heyman said that Lesnar will defend the title at SummerSlam two weeks ago on Raw, the crowd rejected the notion. They wanted the title stripped. As far as Reigns is concerned his reception will be something to watch as well. Last week he most notably said “People can boo, they can hate, they talk about ‘Roman is being crammed down our throats.’ It’s simple. Learn to like it or close your mouth.” That’s not becoming of someone whom WWE wants to get over as its top babyface. It makes we wonder is that still the plan?
Finn Balor vs. “Constable” Baron Corbin
Finn Balor takes on “Constable” Baron Corbin in a rematch from Extreme Rules. Last week, Corbin attempted to insult Balor by moving his locker to a children’s playhouse. Balor, with a great sense of humor, took it in stride as he got ready for his match with Drew McIntyre. Tonight, Balor and Corbin lock it up one more time
Thoughts: There’s not much here other than comedic filler and a way to keep these two occupied. Balor deserves better, and hopefully that’s on the horizon.
Ronda Rousey Returns
Ronda Rousey returns as her “suspension” from Raw expired this past Wednesday. As we know, she will challenge Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship at SummerSlam. It’s not clear exactly what she will be doing.
Thoughts: A lot was made on both Raw and Smackdown about the upcoming all-women’s PPV, Evolution to take place this coming October. This was the “big announcement” Stephanie McMahon made last week alongside her husband HHH, and her father WWE CEO Vince McMahon. I’ll refrain from expounding on that, but I will say it was laid on quite thick during the announcement and throughout both shows. I would suggest reading Wade Keller’s and Zack Heydorn’s Raw reports to get further analysis on this topic. It will be interesting to see if Ronda has anything to say tonight, especially in the run-up to her second championship opportunity this year.
Seth Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre
As I said earlier, Finn Balor took on Drew McIntyre. This match evolved into a tag team match following Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler coming out to help McIntyre and Seth Rollins helping Balor. Rollins and Balor would go on to be victorious over Ziggler and McIntyre. We later learned Seth Rollins earned another shot at the Intercontinental Championship as he will lock up with Ziggler at SummerSlam.
Thoughts: It’s not surprising that Rollins is taking on Ziggler’s friend McIntyre here. As I‘ve alluded to in past primer articles, WWE likes to give us different “flavors” of upcoming PPV matches. This is certainly a match that can have bigger implications down the line, so look for this to be one of the better segments this evening.
- Elias was interrupted by wrestler entrances numerous times as he tried to play music from his debut album. It was suggested on Twitter (I believe by well-respected long-time PWTorch columnist Greg Parks, but I could be wrong) that he just play the entrances. I don’t see why not as it would save Elias the aggravation! Jokes aside, they are going a long way to protect Elias by not exposing him to matches where they probably feel he should job. It’s interesting to watch.
- It was reported by Bleacher Report that Mojo Rawley has been wrestling with a leg injury. WWE hasn’t reported as to whether or not he needs to take time off. He did score a win in a quick match against Tyler Breeze, which included an awkward in-set promo by Bobby Roode. Here’s a tweet from Mojo showing the injury:
Undeterred. Gonna take more than just a little bruise to hold me down. I’m undefeated with this little bruise. 4 wins in a row with this little bruise. On to bigger & better things with this little bruise. I’m too focused to take a knee. #MojoRising #KillerInstinct #NoFilter @WWE pic.twitter.com/dkeafzlJJO
— Dean Muhtadi (@MojoRawleyWWE) July 24, 2018
- The B-Team retained their Raw Tag Team Championship over Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt. Hardy and Wyatt appeared to want to congratulate their opponents, but rather went on the attack following the match. By definition, that was a heel turn. It was not presented as such by the announcers, so it’s hard to say what it means.
- Titus Worldwide (Titus O’Neil, Apollo Crews, and Dana Brooke) tried to recruit the Authors of Pain following AOP claiming they wanted new challenges other than them. When rejected, Titus World wide went on the attack. This rivalry looks to be continuing.
- We learned another piece of the SummerSlam puzzle as Braun Strowman puts his Money in the Bank contract on the line against Kevin Owens. We’ll certainly pay attention to see if this ties into the Universal Championship picture at least in terms of SummerSlam.
- Mickie James, accompanied by Alexa Bliss, defeated Natalya. Ronda Rousey’s return could be tied into this picture if anything further develops between James, Alexa, Natalya, or Nia Jax for that matter.
- Ember Moon got back on the winning track as she defeated Liv Morgan. She had previously lost to fellow Riott Squad member Sarah Logan.
On the arena’s website, start time shown is 7:30 p.m. with doors opening at 6:30 p.m.
Follow me on Twitter @FrankPeteani. Thank you for reading!
NOW CATCH UP ON LAST WEEK’S RAW: HEYDORN’S WWE RAW REPORT 7/23: Alt Perspective coverage of the live show including Stephanie McMahon’s big announcement, Reigns vs. Lashley number one contender match, and more