THE SHIELD RETURNS…
Recap: The show opened with Roman Reigns coming to the ring. He was booed, but took it with a smile. He stated that he was a fighting champion, and that he had Finn Balor in mind for his first title defense. He reminded the crowd that Balor was the first ever Universal Champion, never lost, and had never received an opportunity to regain the title after returning from injury.
Balor came to the ring and accepted Reigns’ challenge. Baron Corbin then came down the ramp. He accused Balor of cowardice, saying that he no-showed last night, sending the Demon instead. Balor shrugged his shoulders. Corbin then attempted to cancel the Reigns-Balor match, but was stopped from doing so by Kurt Angle, who called out Bobby Lashley for a match with Corbin, to begin immediately.
Later backstage, Paul Heyman attempted to invoke Brock Lesnar’s rematch clause with Kurt Angle. Kurt informed him that Lesnar’s contract didn’t stipulate a timeframe for the rematch, and that he intended to make sure it didn’t take place for a very long time. Heyman attempted to persuade Kurt to set the match for the Hell in a Cell PPV, but Kurt emphatically declined.
In the main event, Reigns faced Balor for the title. Late in the match, Braun Strowman’s music hit and he approached the ring. Roman Reigns was distracted, allowing Balor to hit a Sling Blade. Reigns dodged the follow up coup de grâce, however, which allowed Reigns to retain the title.
Braun attacked Roman after the match, and then handed the briefcase to the referee to cash in his title shot. Before the match could begin, however, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose came down the ramp to traditional Shield music. Seth wore his Shield kevlar vest. The Shield triple-teamed Braun, finishing him with the Cerberus triple powerbomb through the announce table. Because the match never began, presumably Braun still has his briefcase contract.
Evaluation: Having Roman defend the title immediately was a smart move to try to earn respect from the fans as a fighting champion. It provided a stark contrast to Brock Lesnar’s infrequent appearances on Raw. Having Roman grant the title shot to someone the fans feel deserving (Finn Balor) was also a good way to earn some respect.
The segment with Paul Heyman was good as it explains why Brock Lesnar will be gone without the normal rematch. I’m always a fan of WWE providing logical explanations for the storylines.
Reuniting the Shield is also smart in terms of Roman’s popularity.
It was strange that after Braun previously made so much hay of not cashing in on an unsuspecting opponent, he provided a distraction during the Reigns-Balor match and further incapacitated Reigns before his cash-in attempt.
Forecast: It looks like Roman will face Braun at the Hell in a Cell PPV, with the Shield likely accompanying him to the ring.
A TERRIBLE WOMEN’S SEGMENT…
Recap: At the top of the third hour, Stephanie McMahon came to the ring for a special presentation of the Raw Women’s Title. The women’s locker room surrounded the ring. The heels clapped for Stephanie, while the faces looked annoyed.
Stephanie began with a video package showing the coverage Ronda Rousey’s title win received from large corporate media outlets. Stephanie went on to congratulate herself for discovering Ronda’s raw talent and claimed that Stephanie’s business prowess is what made Ronda a champion.
Ronda then came to the ring. She spurned Stephanie’s handshake and then grabbed a mic. She told Stephanie that everything wasn’t about her. Ronda then put over the entire women’s locker room, especially Nattie, Sasha, and Bayley.
Stephanie was annoyed and said she wanted the Rousey that would break the other women’s arms. Ronda retorted that she wasn’t out to break everyone’s arms, just those that deserved it. Ronda then put Stephanie in an armbar.
Backstage, Baron Corbin and Alexa Bliss sat with Stephanie as she received medical attention. Kurt Angle then entered. Corbin blamed him for not keeping Ronda in line. Stephanie said she could tell that the GM job was weighing on him, and put him on a “vacation” while making Corbin the interim GM.
Evaluation: This segment made me dislike everyone involved. I disliked Stephanie, as was intended with her being a heel, but I also came away disliking Ronda and the faces after all of the corporate-speak women’s empowerment.
My hope is that someday the women will just fight for the title instead of being forced to talk over and over about how they’re women. I would place the blame on WWE, however I’m sure they’re writing these segments primarily to please the political correctness drones that run the television networks.
Forecast: We’ll continue to hear about the gender of the women nonstop between now and Evolution. Ronda will keep the title at least until then, if for no other reason for the publicity. Stephanie will become a sort of leader for the female heels, exercising her imperium through Baron Corbin when she’s not on television.
TRIPLE H PREPARES FOR UNDERTAKER…
Recap: Triple H came to the ring for a promo. To chants of “NXT”, he recounted how last weekend’s events gave him he itch to return to the ring. He mentioned that he had been contacted by Vince McMahon to fight Undertaker at the Australia PPV. He said he originally declined because the moment after his last match with Undertaker was so special. He showed the fans a still shot on the tron of himself, Shawn Michaels, and Undertaker after the match. He said that shortly after that moment, Shawn had retired, the Undertaker lost his streak, and he had moved into the front office.
He then said that he had decided out of respect to lace up his boots as The Game one more time to face Undertaker.
Evaluation: This was a strong, emotional promo that reminded the fans of the history behind this match. It did exactly what it should.
Forecast: I still enjoy seeing Triple H wrestle a few times a year, but I cannot say the same for Undertaker. The Undertaker’s last several matches have been bad, and seem to get progressively worse. He doesn’t have the physical ability to be credible in the ring anymore. As a result, I don’t expect much in the ring when these guys meet in Australia.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: TOP 3 DEVELOPMENTS – RAW 8/13: Ronda Leads Off, Heyman Deceives Roman, Ambrose Returns