RECOMMENDED NEW PODCAST - EX-WWE CREATIVE TEAM MEMBER DISHES ON BACKSTAGE WWE OPERATIONS...
(Search "wade keller" to subscribe in podcast app)
WWE LIVE EVENT REPORT – RAW BRAND
JULY 12, 2019
AUGUSTA, MAINE AT AUGUSTA CIVIC CENTER
REPORT BY BRANDON LECLAIR, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
The Raw crew visited the Augusta Civic Center on Friday night for WWE’s annual stop in the state’s capital. This marks their first appearance in Augusta since July of last year (a Smackdown house show), and the Raw crew’s first appearance there since August of 2017. This was admittedly the thinnest crowd I’ve seen for a WWE event in Augusta. The arena, which has a capacity of about 6,500 people and is usually configured for about 4,800 for WWE events, looked to have no more than about 1,500 in attendance tonight.
Several rows on the floor were entirely empty, or occupied by no more than two people (my row included.) The center bleachers were mostly full, but grew increasingly sparse to the left and right, and almost entirely empty in the corners. I was most surprised by the lack of density in the $15 “cheap seats.” Usually, those sections fill in nicely here. Tonight, they were as sparse as everywhere else.
(1) Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins defeated The Revival by disqualification in 6:00, The Revival retained the Raw Tag Team Championships.
Byron Saxton welcomed us to the show and introduced Hawkins and Ryder first. They received a warm welcome. The Revival came out next and immediately began jawing with the crowd. Dash Wilder got into an argument with an older woman at ringside and kept calling her “grandma.” The two of them work the crowd incredibly well. It took several minutes for the referee to actually ring the bell, because Dash & Dawson kept giving each other hugs and purposefully distracting the referee. Hawkins & Ryder hugged as well, then eventually the referee hugged each of them, much to the chagrin of the champions. When the match finally began, it was a typical WWE style tag team house show match. Nothing of particular note.
Eventually, Ryder found himself alone in the ring with Scott Dawson. He hit the Rough Ryder and covered him, but just as the referee was about to count to three, Dash Wilder pulled him out of the ring. The referee immediately called for the bell.
After the match, The Revival began walking up the ramp with their title to a chorus of boos. The Viking Raiders’ music hit. Suddenly, the Revival were sandwiched between Ryder & Hawkins and the Viking Raiders. The Raiders brushed past the tag champions, slid in the ring and attacked Ryder and Hawkins. Dash & Dawson joined in on the beatdown.
The Usos music hit and they ran out to make the save. The crowd exploded in one of the biggest reactions of the night. Jimmy grabbed a microphone and requested an eight man tag team match. Before long, Byron Saxton said the match had been made official (by who?)
(2) The Usos & Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins defeated The Revival & The Viking Raiders in 10:00
The crowd got behind The Usos intensely. Jimmy & Jey worked the majority of the match. Again, very little to comment on in the way of memorable action for the first several minutes. The heels used some isolation techniques to get the crowd cheering for the hot tag. Eventually, the ring cleared and The Usos took command. They hit a number of super kicks on Erik & Ivar, then began working on The Revival. I can’t recall which of the heel team members was the legal man, but the Usos hit double super kicks to pick up the victory. They celebrated around ringside with Hawkins and Ryder. Honestly, the only thing that truly stood out here is how incredibly popular The Usos were, and how much they came off like stars.
(3) No Way Jose defeated Mojo Rawley in 3:00
Jose came to the ring in cargo pants and his new “Vote for Jose” t-shirt. The crowd respectfully clapped along to his theme. They seemed to know who he was, but weren’t particularly interested or excited to see him. Mojo Rawley came to the ring with minimal reaction. Once the bell rang, Rawley taunted Jose a bit and sat idly in the corner, refusing to lock up. The two eventually came to blows. Mojo got dumped outside and Jose dove over the top rope onto him on the floor. Back in the ring, Jose rolled up Mojo for a quick pin fall victory.
After the match, Jose danced his way to the back quickly. Mojo asked for a microphone. The audio wasn’t great, and Rawley wasn’t projecting well, so he was a bit hard to hear. He was demanding another opponent. Out came Titus O’Neil.
(4) Titus O’Neil defeated Mojo Rawley in 1;00
Mojo attacked Titus as he was stepping in the ring. He beat him down a bit, then taunted the crowd and said he’s “not a loser.” Mojo tried to shoot Titus off the ropes, but O’Neil countered and sent Rawley instead. He hit Mojo with the Clash of the Titus for a quick victory.
Titus left in a hurry. Mojo recovered in the corner and asked for a microphone again. He started insulting Augusta. (“Disgusta.” Trust me, anyone from Maine has heard this before.) He asked to face “any man in the back.” Braun Strowman’s music hit. Strowman stepped out onto the stage to a huge ovation. Mojo said he’d face any man, not a monster. Strowman didn’t seem to care about this distinction.
(5) Braun Strowman defeated Mojo Rawley in <1:00
Strowman climbed in the ring and Mojo tried to attack him, but Braun dropped him where he stood. He scooped Mojo up and hit the Powerslam for a three count.
Braun played to the crowd for longer than his entire entrance and match. He signed autographs, took selfies and seemed enthusiastic despite only being out there for an incredibly brief period of time. For what it’s worth. he was advertised to face Bobby Lashley who did not work the show.
(5) Naomi & Dana Brooke defeated Tamina & Sarah Logan in 7:00
Byron announced the next match as a women’s contest and the crowd cheered loudly, which was nice to hear. Strong ovation for Naomi and very little for the other three, though Dana won a lot of people over with her demeanor. She stood out in the match, in particular, as seeming to work incredibly hard. She spent most of the match in isolation trying to make the hot tag to Naomi. Sarah Logan did a nice job of working the crowd over from her corner and interacting negatively with kids who were booing she and Tamina. Dana eventually made a hot tag and Naomi cleaned house. The finish came shortly after. Dana and Sarah had spilled to the outside. Naomi kicked Tamina to the mat and hit her split legged moonsault for the victory.
Naomi and Dana took pictures and signed for fans at ringside while a trainer hoped in the ring to assist Tamina. I’m not sure what happened. The finish took place on the opposite side of the ring from me and nothing looked out of the ordinary, but Tamina looked very much out of it when she sat up. Sarah sat by her side and a second trainer came in the ring. Tamina started to get up, but wound up sitting back down and rolling onto her stomach, laying flat on the mat for a moment. At this point, they dimmed the ring lights and began playing promos on the screen. Tamina was finally able to sit up again and rolled out of the ring with assistance from Sarah, the referee, and the two trainers. She walked to the back under her own power and the audience gave her a really warm, respectful ovation as she left. All told, I’d guess she was down in the ring for 3-4 minutes after Dana and Naomi returned to the back. Hope she’s alright.
Byron Saxton returned to the ring to announce that the next match would be for the United States Championship.
(6) Ricochet defeated Cesaro in 12:00 to retain the United States Championship
Ricochet got a very strong reaction. It’s clear that he’s already catching on pretty nicely, especially with the younger crowd. Cesaro got a warm welcome as well. He’s sort of a main stay at Maine house shows (no pun intended) and the crowd is always happy to see him, be it as a babyface or a heel.
The match started out slow, with Cesaro trying to work over Ricochet’s body parts and slow him down. The crowd willed Ricochet on, and he eventually lit up Cesaro with a bunch of acrobatic moves, including one particularly impressive back flip dropkick (he landed on his feet!) The action spilled outside briefly, with Cesaro gaining control. He got Ricochet back in the ring and locked in a cloverleaf, but Ricochet escaped. After taking Cesaro down, Ricochet hit him with a standing shooting star press for a surprise victory.
I guess it’s not a huge surprise that Ricochet doesn’t bust out the 630 at house shows, but the finish to this one caught everyone a little off guard. Just when they finally kicked things into high gear, the finish came rather abruptly.
Byron Saxton touted some merchandise for sale and sent the show the intermission.
Regarding intermission, WWE should really consider updating its presentation of the audience participation section. It’s customary for them to begin the second half of the show with the ring announcer selecting someone from ringside (usually a child) to watch a clip of a WWE Network video and then guess what happens next. Every single house show I’ve attended in the last 3-4 years has used the exact same clip – Randy Orton sneaking up on a kid who is cutting a promo on him. Come on, guys. You’re a billion dollar company, you’ve got more footage than this! It’s reasonable to think that a lot of these same kids come to the Augusta show every summer, (not to mention when they visit Bangor and Portland) which means most of the audience has likely seen this thing enough to know exactly what’s coming from a mile away. This is a minuscule complaint and my annoyance over it is surely lighthearted, but, again, come on.
(7) Cedric Alexander defeated Robert Roode in 13:00
Roode was the first out of the back following intermission and the crowd seemed ready to sing along to “Glorious.” Cedric got a respectable reception that grew as the match progressed. These guys worked incredibly hard. It’s impossible not to be impressed by Alexander once he gets going, and he seemed motivated to put on a show tonight. The match was smooth and crisp with a handful of good near falls and fun counters. Deep into the match, Roode looked to have Cedric put away as he attempted the Glorious DDT, but Alexander countered out. Roode went to kick him, but Cedric spun him around, hoisted him up, and hit the Lumbar Check for the win.
This was an above average house show match from two guys that should probably mean more than they do. The crowd was engaged and lively, but it’s hard to care about a house show match that extends beyond ten minutes when the two guys in the ring are relegated to being fodder for R-Truth and the 24/7 Championship (Cedric Alexander’s odd Monday night notwithstanding.) It’s a shame that this is the only place a lot of these guys really get to show off.
(8) Lacey Evans defeated Natalya in 7:00
Natalya hit the ring to a great babyface reaction, and Lacey received an impressive amount of heat. She circled the ring and fanned the crowd, but wound up giving her hat to a little girl at ringside. It’s a little nuance that makes sense if you follow her character, but it’s still a little strange for a heel to do. Nattie was clearly in command of this one. Lacey opened the match by trying to get Natalya to shake her hand. Nattie looked for advice from the crowd (it was a clear “no.”) She (naively) went for the shake and Lacey tried to kick her, but, in a rare feat, the babyface outsmarted the heel and Nattie caught the leg and took Lacey down. The rest of the match centered around Lacey taunting and flaunting.
Eventually, Nattie locked on the Sharpshooter but Lacey used her strength to quickly make it to the bottom rope. Nattie broke the hold and tried to remain on the offensive while Evans was still tied up in the ropes. The referee held her off. This allowed Lacey to recover and surprise Nattie with the Woman’s Right for the win. The finisher looks great in person, by the way. Nattie sold it incredibly well, too.
Lacey left quickly. Natalya sold the punch and slowly stood up, but then hung around and signed autographs and took selfies with the fans at ringside.
Byron Saxton thanked everyone for coming and introduced the main event.
(9) Seth Rollins defeated Baron Corbin in a Street Fight to retain the Universal Championship in 17:00
Baron Corbin has heat. His reaction, to that point, was second only to the Usos (on the opposite end of the spectrum, of course.) He smugly walked around the ring and soaked it in. Seth Rollins’ music hit and the arena gave it their all with a massive “burn it down!” Rollins is carrying himself like he’s the guy and he’s coming off that way. I saw a lot of kids rush down from the stands to try to fill in the gaps between sections and get a high five, more so than I’ve really seen with any major star since John Cena.
Corbin gave Byron Saxton a piece of paper to reintroduce him (the same schtick he does on Raw sometimes.) The crowd booed. Rollins scoffed. The match began and the two worked a standard wrestling match for a few minutes. The intensity picked up quickly, though.
Once the action spilled to the outside (thanks to a dive from Rollins), Corbin found himself spilling over the barricade and into the crowd (and onto the back of a poor security guard who didn’t see him coming.) Rollins retrieved a table, which riled the crowd up about as much as one might expect. Wrestling fans sure do love tables.
Corbin regained control with a kendo stick and beat down Seth for a while. He retrieved a chair and the two traded back blows. Eventually, Corbin set the table up in the ring and they teased some spots with it. Seth super kicked Corbin onto the table and climbed to the top rope for a splash. Corbin pulled him down and gave him a chokeslam through the table for a very close near fall. This earned a “this is awesome” chant from the audience. (For the record, it wasn’t quite awesome, but it was better than it really had any right to be.)
Rollins recovered and retrieved another table, which got set up in the corner. They battled a bit more. Corbin went for the what looked to be the Deep Six, and Rollins sold it as such, but Corbin didn’t really complete the move. The result was just him kind of throwing Rollins across the ring awkwardly. No matter, they recovered quickly. Corbin charged at Seth, but the champ side stepped Baron and sent him crashing through the second table, which was propped in the corner (two table spots!)
Corbin crawled out of the table wreckage and Seth gave him the stomp for the win.
After the match, Seth swung the title over his head for a nice photo opp. He hopped out of the ring and stayed at ringside for almost ten minutes, stopping to slap hands, sign autographs, and take pictures with absolutely everyone he could reach. I always make it a point to stick around at the end of shows to observe the way the leading babyface interacts with the audience, and I can recall very few times that someone hung around this long and with this much patience and genuine interest in making sure everyone left happy.
1. Seth Rollins
2. The Usos
3. Braun Strowman
1. Baron Corbin
2. The Revival
3. Lacey Evans
4. Mojo Rawley
FINAL THOUGHTS: There’s no denying that this was a bit of a bare bones, skeleton crew show. I think certain members of the roster sensed that and went out of their way to attempt to deliver a little something extra. The main event was surprisingly good, given the number of times we’ve seen Seth and Carbon wrestle to less than stellar outings.
If it isn’t clear from my report, the two biggest takeaways from this show were simply how over Seth Rollins and The Usos were. You wouldn’t have known the building was less than 50% full judging by the the reactions they received. Seth Rollins, in particular, presented himself with a swagger and confidence not at all unlike John Cena at his peak. It’s been clear lately that he’s trying very hard to make a case for himself as the “top guy” in the company, and anchoring live events in these small towns is a big part of holding that moniker. Rollins owned that building and it was clear that people were there to see him. Now, it’s not all good. This was, as I mentioned, the lowest attended show I’ve seen in Augusta in quite a long time, perhaps ever. It’s hard to say if that’s an indictment of Rollins, or on the product as a whole, but it’s certainly an important fact to consider.
Overall, I enjoyed myself, as I usually always do. This was the first time in years I opted to go for a cheaper seat (5 rows back on the floor, $55 at the box office.) I usually spring for front row. It was nice to have a slightly different perspective, and to keep some cash in my wallet on a less than stellar line up.