KELLER INTERVIEWS ROB VAN DAM FOR FIRST TIME...
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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
SEPTEMBER 30, 2019
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Vic Joseph, Jerry Lawler, Dio Maddin
-The “Then, Now, Forever” signature opening now has new music, brass instrument-based. It includes Hulk Hogan slamming Andre the Giant, along with the same images of Steve Austin, Stephanie McMahon, Triple H, John Cena, Freddie Blassie, among others as usual but notably with The Fiend added.
-The new Raw opening theme is “Legendary” by Skillet. Key lyrics include “My heart bleeds adrenaline. The fire I breath is where I love… One life to live, I never give up, I never give in. Some people wanna turn around and run, but the strong rise under the gun. Top, to the top, ain’t never gonna stop… Destiny is calling me, go down in history, every day I’ll fight to be, Legendary.” The wrestlers included in order are Brock Lesnar, Becky Lynch, Seth Rollins, A.J. Styles, Roman Reigns, Kofi Kingston, Charlotte, Finn Balor, Undertaker, Drew McIntyre, Sasha Banks, Bailey Miz, Randy Orton, Rey, Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe, Alexa Bliss, Braun Strowman, New Day. Some appeared more than once, with Seth being the final image (for whatever that is worth with the WWE Draft coming up next week).
-They camera panned wide to show the new entrance stage as loud pyro blasted from three tiers of scaffolding alongside the new sloped big screen and entrance stage that resembles the most awesome skateboard park ever.
-New lead announcer Vic Joseph was flanked by Dio Maddin and Jerry Lawler. Lawler said he’s feeling deja vu as he’s been part of most of the previous 1,400 episode of Raw.
(Keller’s Analysis: Lawler has usually been part of the perceived “A-show” in the WWE line-up, plus with Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone announcing AEW Dynamite on Wednesday night, they might want a touch of the Attitude Era on the announce team. Plus, he’s way more experienced than his partners on the new team.)
-As Rey Mysterio came out, they hyped with on-screen graphics Seth Rollins vs. Rey Mysterio for the Universal Title, A.J. Styles vs. Cedric Alexander for the U.S. Title, Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler vs. Heavy Machinery for the Raw Tag Team Titles, and Miz TV with Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan. Lawler said it’s the best episode of Miz TV ever.
-As Rey entered the ring, he saluted his son Dominick who was in the front row ringside. Rey took the mic and said later tonight he’s going to face Seth for the U.S. Title. He said it’s because of Dominic that he’s there so he’s dedicating the match to him. “I love you, son,” he said. “Tonight, I’m going to bring that Universal Championship…” at which point Brock Lesnar’s music played. Brock and Paul Heyman walked out together. Rey looked nervous, but held his ground as Lesnar and Heyman made their way to the ring. Joseph said Lesnar gets a shot at Kofi Kingston this Friday on Smackdown on Fox. Lesnar snatched the mic away from Rey and handed it to Heyman. Rey snatched it back just as Heyman began to talk. Lawler let out a “Hahoo!” Rey began to talk, but Lesnar immediately gave Rey an F5. Fans booed. Lawler said there’s no call for that. Lesnar delivered another.
Lesnar then eyed Dominick and hopped to the floor. Lawler told Dominick to sit. Dominick did. “King, he’s watching his dad being pummeled. At some point you have to stand up and fight,” said Maddin. (Maddin’s first major comment on Raw was really bad there.) Lesnar grabbed Dominick and tossed him over the barricade to ringside. Then he lifted him, almost lost his grip, adjusted, and rammed Dominick into the ringpost back-first. Then he slammed him. He tossed him into the ring and gave him a released German suplex. Then he picked up Rey and delivered another F5. Lesnar left, but then returned to the ring and gave Rey an overhead suplex. Heyman begged Lesnar to stop. Then he gave another suplex to Dominick. Lawler called the 22 year old Dominick “a teenager.” Lawler said Kofi has to be having second thoughts about this Friday’s title defense. Lawler said all Brock cares about is inflicting pain and suffering on people. Rey crawled over to check on Dominick. At ringside, Heyman pleaded with Lesnar to return to the back. Lesnar returned to the ring and stomped on backstage producer Pat Buck (a former wrestler, he’s the red-headed agent in a suit who gets more TV time these days than 90 percent of the roster). Fans chanted “Asshole!” Lesnar tore off his shirt and held it up like a title belt. Lawler said, with disgust, he’s proud of himself. Lesnar finally walked to the back. Lawler muttered under his breath, “This is awful.”
(Keller’s Analysis: Lawler did 96.6 percent of the talking in that segment, and he was good. Maddin made one counter-productive comment saying Dominick should be a man and stand up to The Beast. Intense angle that worked with the local crowd, who gave Lesnar some intense old school heel heat. I assume this means the Seth vs. Rey match is off. Lawler kept calling Dominick a teenager, but he’s 22. That was weird.) [c]
-Right after the break, they replayed clips of the beating by Lesnar. Joseph said it’s hard to watch back a second time. They showed Dominick being taken to the back on a gurney in a neckbreace. Rey kissed his forehead as he was carted away. Rey said over and over he was sorry. Lawler said Lesnar is the one who should be sorry.
(1) SASHA BANKS vs. ALEXA BLISS
After Banks made her entrance, followed by Bliss, suddenly Becky Lynch’s music played. She held up her Raw Title belt. She joined the announcers on commentary. The desk, by the way, is on the stage, not at ringside. Sasha stared down Becky before the bell. Sasha knocked Bliss to the floor, then stood on the second rope and yelled at Becky. Becky stood on the table and mouthed off back to her. Lawler said Becky promised him in the back that she would act as a professional out there. He implored her to sit back down as they cut to a break. [c]
The commercial was a brief and for Gear 5 starring Batista, and they stayed with the action on split-screen. The wrestlers were kind enough to settle into a Bliss armbar during the brief commercial. The action immediately picked up back to full screen. Becky remained standing on the table. Maddin asked if this happens often that Becky comes out and stands on a table. (Maddin’s second comment reveals that apparently he’s the new color commentator for a show that he hasn’t made a habit of watching. This isn’t a good start.) A minute later a siren blared that apparently was Dominick being taken to a local hospital. The fans looked slightly concerned when it first started blaring. Lawler said he’s just been told Lesnar is being questioned by authorities in the back. Sasha called for Bayley to interfere. As Bliss looked over at Bayley at ringside, Sasha kicked her in the legs and pinned her.
WINNER: Banks in 5:00.
-Becky strutted to the ring with her title belt. She took Sasha down and knocked her to the floor. Banks “high-tailed it out of Phoenix,” said Joseph. Becky asked Sasha where she is going because they were just getting started. She said Sasha has made it personal and awoken that Irish side of her, so now she can’t stop even if she wants to and she’s going to make it painful. She said retribution is coming around. She threw down the mic and her music played.
-The Firefly Funhouse jingle aired. Joseph said there’d be a new episode later tonight.
-Roode and Ziggler then came out. [c]
-They showed an Instagram post by The Rock who said he’s coming home to Smackdown this Friday.
-Charley Caruso (with her name on the screen!) threw to a clip of what happened last week on Raw with the Firefly Funhouse and then images of The Fiend terrifying Seth in the ring. Then back to Caruso, Seth cut her off and said he doesn’t mean to be rude, but all he can think about is what Lesnar just did to Rey and Dominick. He said this is what Lesnar does, but he’s disappointed and disgusted that he crossed a line you just don’t cross. He said he doesn’t know how to game-plan for The Fiend, but this title means too much for him to go quietly. He said he’ll survive, prevail, and walk out Universal Champion. He said tonight is the season premiere of Raw and they are live in Phoenix. Cheers. He said after Sunday, he is promising Rey a Universal Title match. He said he promised the WWE Universe (“WWE Speak” is still here in the New Season) a title shot tonight, and they’ll get it. He said he doesn’t care who it is, tonight he will burn it down against whomever steps up.
(2) ROBERT ROODE & DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. HEAVY MACHINERY – Raw Tag Team Title match
Lawler said in catering today he saw Otis eat a minute steak in 12 seconds. They did formal ring introductions. Otis took off his shirt and rubbed and gyrated his exposed ample belly. Lawler said he spoke to Ziggler earlier, not because he wanted to but because it’s part of his job. He asked about facing Heavy Machinery. He said Ziggler calls them The Tank Brothers, Sherman and Sceptic. Joseph noted #Brock is the no. 1 trend worldwide. When Heavy Machinery cleared the ring of the heel duo and celebrated, they cut to a break. [c]
Lawler said Roode said you can’t find Heavy Machinery’s IQ with a flashlight. Maddin said that sounds like a King-ism and asked if Roode really was the one who said that. Lawler said Roode said it. The heels took over on Tucker for a while. Tucker hot-tagged Otis eventually and got a nice pop as he collided with Ziggler and Roode, then danced and wiggled a bit. Roode kicked him in the gut, but Otis just wiggled and hip thrust in response. Then he overhead tossed Roode. Ziggler entered, but Otis caught him and spun him around and slammed him. Then he splashed Roode in the corner. He gave a double Caterpillar to Roode and Ziggler. Joseph said they could be closing in on new tag champs. Roode then made a brief comeback, but Otis caught him and then Tucker tagged in. Ziggler hit Tucker with a Zig Zag, then superkicked Otis. The heels tossed Tucker out of the ring, and then Roode gave Tucker a Glorious DDT for the win.
WINNERS: Roode & Ziggler in 12:00 to retain the WWE Raw Tag Team Titles.
(Keller’s Analysis: Exactly what you’d expect from these two teams in a ten minute TV match. That’s neither good or bad, but just what you would expect.)
-They showed Hulk Hogan and Jimmy Hart backstage on split screen with Ric Flair.
(Keller’s Analysis: So clever of them to insulate Hogan from being on the screen alone after the outburst of boos in San Francisco for Raw live on TV last week.) [c]
-Joseph plugged Total Divas on Tuesday night on E! starring Ronda Rousey, then NXT on USA featuring Adam Cole vs. Matt Riddle, and then Smackdown on Fox featuring The Rock plus Kofi Kingston vs. Brock Lesnar. Then he shifted to a plug for WWE Hell in a Cell on WWE Network. Lawler said, “This might be the biggest week in wrestling ever!” (I think he meant “sports entertainment.”)
-The Miz made his ring entrance as pyro rained down on him. He was wearing a bright red suit. He sent his thoughts to “Rey and Dominic Mysterio.” He said there is no telling what he’d do to someone if they ever put their hands on his child. Then he said, “Let’s get this thing started, shall we?”
Miz then said this is the season premiere and most anticipated Miz TV ever. He introduced Ric Flair first as a “16-time World Champion.” Cheers and woo’s. Lawler said his favorite Flair line is, “Ladies, you can’t be first, but you can be next.” Miz then introduced Jimmy Hart and Hulk Hogan. Hogan came out to “Real American.” Joseph said he is having an out-of-body experience. “It’s like my childhood is playing in front of me, and I can’t believe it.” Hogan posed and cupped his ears for the crowd. Flair kept saying, “I’m over it.” Miz said he and the fans aren’t. Miz asked, “How many times do you get to see three legend standing inside a WWE ring?” Hogan pointed at Flair, himself, and Jimmy. Miz said he was just kidding. Flair told Hogan he’s had to listen to that music for three decades and he’s tired of it. Miz said they’ve been able to listen to Flair’s woo’s even longer. After asking Miz to repeat himself, Flair seemed offended, but Miz said, “And we like it.” Flair told Miz not to change the subject. They all sat down on the director’s chairs.
Miz asked Hogan what it’s like looking across the ring staring down Flair. Hogan stood and gave a shout-out to Phoenix and got cheered. Hogan said it’s great to be in the ring with the greatest of all-time and a friend of his. He let out a “wooo.” Miz tried to direct the conversation as Flair responded. Flair told Miz he didn’t want to be rude and he sat down to let Miz talk. Miz said, “No, please.” Flair said nobody touches him inside the ring. He asked fans if they have a problem with that. He said he won’t take second fiddle to Hogan inside the squared circle, including Hogan tonight. Hogan said it sounds to him like he wants to take one more run at the 24 inch pythons. Flair stood up, took off his jacket, and asked Hogan if he wants the limousine riding, jet flying, kiss stealing son of a gun, then he ran the ropes. Hogan wound up for a punch. Flair stopped short. Flair then bowed to Hogan and said he was just playin’. Hogan said they’re definitely not spring chickens anymore. Fans loudly chanted, “One more match!” Hogan said that doesn’t mean that they can’t add one more page on their legacy. Flair said he’s in because he wants a paycheck once in his life with as many zeros on the paycheck as Hogan has.
Miz said on Oct. 31 at Crown Jewel there will be a historic match featuring Team Hogan vs. Team Flair, five-on-five, with those two standing in as the coaches. Hogan said he only has one more question, then. “Whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania and my team captain run wild on you, brother.” Out came Seth to his music, revealing himself as Hogan’s team captain. Seth said little five year old Seth would kick him in the shins if he didn’t accept Hogan’s offer to be team captain. Seth said they’re going to burn it down. Flair asked if it was his turn. Then Randy Orton made his ring entrance. Orton asked for Seth’s 100 percent undivided attention, “so could you crawl out of Hogan’s ass.” Lawler asked if he just said that and laughed. Orton asked for a “woo” from Flair. Flair delivered. Orton said they’ll pick their teammates in coming weeks, but since it’s the season premiere of Raw, and since they’re both standing in the ring, how about the Captain’s Match. Seth said he was looking for someone to step up, “so let’s do it baby!” A ref ran to the ring and they cleared the ring got the director’s chairs. Orton asked for them to roll the carpet out of the ring.
As Orton helped roll the carpet out of the ring, King Corbin walked past Hogan, Flair and Hart on the stage. He distracted Seth, then Orton attacked Seth from behind. Corbin then attacked Seth from behind with the scepter. They stomped away at him. Rusev then ran out and attacked Orton and Corbin. The announcers didn’t act surprised enough at Rusev choosing to side with Seth. He took Orton down with a Matcha Kick. Then he gave one too Corbin. Seth then dove through the ropes and knocked Orton into the front row. Fans chanted, “Rusev Day!” Seth and Rusev joined Hogan and Jimmy on the stage as Hogan’s music played. Hogan, Seth, and Rusev flexed their arms with Hogan.
-They went to the announcers. Maddin asked if Rusev and Corbin are the second members of Team Hogan and Team Flair. Lawler and Joseph said it appears that way. Then they showed footage from earlier of Dominick being put into an ambulance in the back. Rey got in the back with him. The ambulance drove away with sirens blaring. That’s what fans heard earlier. Joseph said Rey won’t be returning tonight, so Seth would face a mystery opponent later with the Universal Title at stake.
(Keller’s Analysis: The legends “dream moments” in Saudi Arabia continue. Hogan and Flair were good there, and if not for the stench of it being for Saudi Arabia payday, this would have been a more fun nostalgia-soaked segment.) [c]
-WWE announced on a local commercial that tickets for the Dec. 15 TLC event in Minneapolis, Minn. at Target Center will go on sale on Oct. 11.
-Caruso approached Rusev backstage. She congratulated about him joining Team Hogan, then asked where Lana went. Rusev stared off and got emotional for a few seconds. Caruso then said she’d move on. She asked why he is back on Raw. He said he’s not there to talk about his problems at home. He said he was the only person to step up and help Seth as he was being attacked. He said Seth owes him a debt, so he’s there to collect it. He challenged him to the Universal Title match tonight.
-They went back to the announcers. Lawler wondered if Seth would accept. They went back to hyping WWE premiere week with hype for Cole vs. Riddle on NXT. Then Smackdown with Kofi vs. Lesnar. Lawler said it’s Lesnar’s first match on Smackdown in 15 years. Then they hyped Hell in a Cell.
-An AOP vignette aired. Akam and Rezar introduced themselves in English, then were captioned for the rest of the segment as they talked about their background. They talked about living for violence and loving violence and craving violence and lusting violence and bringing forth violence and being the violence. That is how they became The Authors of Pain. [c]
-They showed a postcard shot of Phoenix. Then Joseph plugged the Seth vs. Rusev match had become official.
(3) THE VIKING RAIDERS vs. KARL ANDERSON & LUKE GALLOWS
Maddin said, “These two teams have bad blood together.” Lawler said he loves the Viking Raiders. This match brought the energy in the building down. Maddin explained what LARPing is and said the Viking Raiders are not LARPers. Lawler kept calling Anderson & Gallows “The OCs.” The announcers talked about the Seth vs. Rusev match. Maddin said, “What a well-earned opportunity by Rusev.” (Huh? Really? Maddin pretty awful so far.) They cut to a break a few minutes in. [c]
Back live, Joseph said Anderson and Gallows have remained in control. Lawler characterized the lack of any crowd heat as “stunned silence as they’re watching these two teams beat the hell out of each other.” Gallows shifted himself into proper position for an Ivar top rope splash to end the match.
WINNERS: The Viking Raiders in 11:00.
-Caruso said she’s been told neither Rey nor Dominick will be returning to Raw tonight. She said Lesnar and Heyman are still in the building and demanding the opportunity to explain their actions. Caruso said most people are calling their actions criminal. Cesaro walked in and asked who cares what people think. He said there is nothing criminal about what Brock did. (This is beginning to sound inspired by current U.S. politics.) “I enjoyed it, I liked it,” he said. He said if Rey and Dominick were still around, he’d walk right up to them. Ricochet entered and said Cesaro night be eight inches taller than Rey, but he isn’t half the man Rey is. Cesaro said he is literally twice the size of Rey. Ricochet asked him to prove it inside the ring. “I’ll be waitin’,” he said.
(Keller’s Analysis: So we’re to believe Cesaro and Ricochet were dressed in their ring gear for no reason otherwise? It’d be so easy for the announcers to mention that they each were scheduled for other matches, but because of the challenge it’s shifted to them facing one another. Or something else that doesn’t make something presented as impromptu feel so choreographed.) [c]
(4) RICHCOET vs. CESARO
Ricochet took it to Cesaro out of the gate. Maddin said he’s said it over and over that Cesaro is pound for pound the strongest wrestler in WWE. Ricochet landed a flying twisting dive into Cesaro on the floor a minute in. Maddin said he’s seen Lawler “bust it out” a couple times, in reference to Lawler questioning the wisdom of dives like that which can backfire. Maddin said Ricochet looks up to Mysterio and has his whole life. Cesaro settled into a chinlock. Ricochet soon came back with a springboard huracanrana for the win.
WINNER: Ricochet in 3:00. [c]
-Firefly Funhouse: All the puppets were shown shaking and crying in fear. In walked Bray, fearing Ramblin’ Rabbit was dead. He checked his pulse and found out he was a goner. He acted sad, but then tossed him away and said, “Oh well.” He asked what is going on. They said they’re scared of what’s going to happen to Seth because it’ll be so much horror. Bray said it’s okay to be scared, and to be honest, he’s scared too. He said there is nothing like Hell in a Cell. “Imagine a world without chocolate,” he said. “Only worse.” The pig, whose mouth was smeared with chocolate, screamed in horror. Bray said the Hell in a Cell is a place you can enter, but never leave without scars. The Buzzard asked what is going to happen to Seth. Bray said The Fiend will always protect them and come back, but he’s not so sure about Seth. A light bulb showed up on the screen. He said he’s going to go find The Fiend and ask him to be nice to Seth. He darted away and then returned a half second later, laughing maniacally. “Just kidding,” he said. He then said in a sinister tone, “Let me in.” He then returned to smiles and happy waves and asked his puppets to say goodbye.
(5) A.J. STYLES vs. CEDRIC ALEXANDER – U.S. Title match
The A.J. Styles entrance took place as Lawler said the specter of The Fiend is hanging over the arena right now. Then Cedric made his ring entrance. Styles threw his shirt at Cedric and then attacked him as the bell rang. Cedric came right back with a rana and a roll-up for a soft one count. Then a dropkick to Styles as he sat up for a one count. Lawler said Cedric moves faster than he can talk. Styles slingshot himself over the top rope onto Cedric at ringside as they cut to a break. [c]
They fought back and forth for several minutes. Styles eventually caught Cedric with a Styles Clash for the clean win.
WINNER: Styles in 9:00 to retain the U.S. Title.
(Keller’s Analysis: With the commercial break mid-match, and total time at nine minutes, this again felt more like a cruel tease of what these two could do if the match was given more breathing room. Some promos beforehand would have been nice to get viewers invested, too.)
-Joseph plugged the Seth vs. Rusev match.
-The Street Profits, who had an NXT logo next to their names, said they’re going to be in action on Wednesday on NXT TV. Montez Ford yelled loudly that they’re going to regain their NXT Tag Team Championships. Then they talked about the season premiere of Raw so far and Hell in a Cell. Then they sang, “We want the smoke.”
-As Lacey Evans made her ring entrance, they went to the announcers on camera to hype the Hell in a Cell line-up.
(6) LACEY EVANS vs. NATALYA
Lacey raked Natalyas eyes and then rolled up Natalya and sort of pulled on her tights for a leverage three count. Joseph was outraged that Lacey tried to pull on Natalya’s outfit although there was really no grip there at all. Lacey gave Natalya a Women’s Right afterward. Joseph said this could be Lacey putting the final stamp on their rivalry.
WINNER: Lacey in 3:00. [c]
-More postcard shots of Phoenix.
-They showed John Cena “making a huge announcement” on the The Ellen DeGeneres Show that his new cause is Fit Ops, a charity to help veterans “after they lose their path in life.” He said 20 commit suicide per day and they want to lower that to zero. He said for every dollar donated, he will match it up to a million dollars. Lawler said people ask him what Cena is like in real life, and that is an example.
-The announcers threw to a recap of what Lesnar did to Rey and Dominick earlier.
-Backstage Sarah Schreiber interviewed Heyman, who said his clients actions were wonton and reckless. He apologized to Rey and Dominick. He said the person to blame is Vince McMahon for allowing him to schedule Lesnar on the Raw season premier when they should have known Brock is in fight mode. He said there are a lot of wanna-be tough guys in WWE and outside of WWE, but not one can do a damn thing about what Lesnar did to Rey and Dominick, or what he’ll do to Kofi this Friday. He said Kofi can thank god every night for the power of positivity and talent, but the devil thanks him because Lesnar lines up the victims. He said it’s not a prediction, it’s a spoiler – you will hear, “your winner and new reigning, defending, undisputed WWE Heavyweight Champion of the World, Brock Lesnar.”
-Caruso interviewed Maria. She congratulated her on her pregnancy. She asked if Rusev is the father. Maria said he isn’t, and Rusev obviously has enough going on with Lana. Banks then barged in and grabbed the mic and said Becky isn’t man enough for her. She said she is the blue print and the standard. (Matt Morgan!!!) She said she will make Becky beg and tap out. She said she has Hell in a Cell experience. “No Man will win my match,” she said.
-They cut to the parking lot where a white limousine arrived. [c]
-The announcers hyped Sasha & Bayley vs. Charlotte & Becky and Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon on Smackdown.
(7) SETH ROLLINS vs. RUSEV – Universal Title match
Joseph said Rusev has to focus on the ring and not his personal issues. Formal ring introductions took place. Rusev offered a handshake. When Seth accepted, Rusev yanked him to the mat. They separated and Rusev smiled at Seth. They circled, then Seth scored with a kick to the gut. Rusev ducked another super kick attempt after Seth avoided an early Accolade. Rusev caught Seth and tossed him over his head. Seth rolled to the floor. There was a brief flash of The Fiend before they cut to a commercial. [c]
After the break, King Corbin and Randy Orton stepped onto the stage to watch the match. Lawler said he can feel The Fiend. “I know he’s here!” he said. After taking a sustained beating, Seth eventually landed a Falcon Arrow for a near fall. Both were slow to get up. Seth slingshot himself toward Rusev, who overshot Seth, who sold it like he was hit flush. Seth rolled to the floor. Bobby Lashley then walked out with a smile on his face as his music played. He signaled toward Seth that he wants his title. He motioned to the back, and out walked Lana to her music. She held Lashley’s hand and spun around. Lawler wondered what was going on. They hugged. Rusev watched from afar. Then they began making out. They paused, gloated, and then made out again. The Fiend then took over the arena. He showed up in darkness and attacked Seth at ringside.
FINAL THOUGHTS: A lot to talk about. I’m about to go live podcasting. Join us.