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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
JULY 26, 2021
KANSAS CITY, MO.
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Commentators: Jimmy Smith, Byron Saxton, Corey Graves
-They opened with three minutes of highlights of Charlotte Flair winning the Raw Title at Money in the Bank, then Rhea Ripley challenging her on Raw ending with Nikki A.S.H. cashing in the MITB contract and capturing the title.
-Jimmy Smith introduced the show as they showed a close-up of fans in the front row and tight shots of the arena rather than wide shots from above, suggesting a smaller crowd than usual. He said it was a raucous crowd, although at that moment they were nearly completely silent and motionless. Then Nikki’s music played and the crowd cheered as she made her entrance with the Raw Title belt around her waist. There was a brief “Nikki!” chant and then she held up her belt for some more cheers. She said: “I’ve always wanted to say this. Welcome to Monday Night Raw.” She said she keeps pinching herself to make sure she’s not dreaming. She said this is real. In the past, when she reached for the stars, she didn’t have the confidence she needed. She said she was afraid to fail. She said she realized that it was okay to fail because she’s still her. Fans applauded. They showed a close-up of a young girl clapping. She said if you believe in yourself, you can overcome the odds. “We can all be almost super heroes!” she declared. Charlotte’s music then played.
Charlotte walked out. Graves said she is statuesque, with an amazing physique and confidence oozing from her pores. When her music ended, fans booed. She said she can only imagine Nikki on “The Today Show” and Al Roker not believing she’s a champion as she runs around the set. She called her Almost An Idiot and said she’s there to provide a reality check and perspective. She said she wanted to revisit “what really happened last week.” The crowd chanted “You suck!” She shhh’d them. Charlotte said, “Oh, I love you guys too.” She said her title was stolen from her. She said Rhea Ripley acted last week like a teenager who had her phone taken away by her parents when she attacked her. She said as a result she wasn’t even on her feet when the bell rang and Nikki cashed in against her. She said she’ll take her title back at Summerslam. She started ripping on the fans for having sad lives.
Ripley came out to a “Rhea! Rhea!” chant. She mockingly said to Charlotte, yes, the fans are all jealous of her. She mocked Charlotte for holding her title for a only a day. She said she’s an 11-time champion, but the only way she can win a title is by pinfall or DQ, and last week she got herself intentionally disqualified. Ripley said it should be her getting a match against Nikki at Summerslam. Nikki interjected that each of them, when they were champion, represented the division wonderfully, but this Women’s Division has undergone a metamorphosis. She said she is leading the charge as the new champion. Charlotte made fun of Nikki’s outfit. Ripley began speaking when Sonya Deville and Adam Pearce walked out onto the stage.
Sonya said the only logical solution is a three-way match at Summerslam. Ripley was okay with it. Charlotte wasn’t, so she challenged Nikki to a match tonight. Nikki agreed to it. Pearce said that makes it official. Charlotte then attacked Ripley, knocking her out of the ring. Nikki dropkicked Charlotte to the floor. She stood in superhero posture in the ring as her music played. Graves said it’s a big main event they have to look forward to.
(Keller’s Analysis: This felt rather predictable, in both good and bad ways. Charlotte got a little robotic again in her delivery at the start, but her confidence in her top tier heel character seems higher than ever. Ripley is being solidified as a babyface by the fans, which should help steer Vince McMahon in the right direction against his own instincts. Nikki was Nikki, but there’s a risk that her character, that might work as a mid-card kids act, will seem quickly out of place when put in this situation.)
-They went to the announcers at ringside. Smith threw to Damien Priest. He called Sheamus a bully and promoted his match with Sheamus later. He said Sheamus should be a fighting champion. It’s billed as a “Championship Contenders match.”
(Keller’s Analysis: A match with a champion and a top contender isn’t a “Championship Contenders match.” Maybe it’s a “Contender’s” match in that Priest is a challenger facing a champion, but WWE is putting an apostrophe in there. It’s just a really lousy euphemism for “non-title match” that is attempting to give off a more grandiose vibe than a “non-title” match would otherwise have. How about augmenting it to a “Champion vs. Contender match”?) [c]
(1) SHEAMUS vs. DAMIEN PRIEST – Non-title match
Priest took control early, but Sheamus took over at ringside a minute in and slammed Priest on the edge of the ring apron. They cut to an early break. [c]
Sheamus was in control after the break until Priest knocked his protective face mask off. Priest chokeslammed Sheamus off the top rope for a near fall. Sheamus came back with an Alabama Slam for a near fall a minute later. Priest eventually kicked Sheamus in the face and then hit The Reckoning for the win. Saxton said that officially enters Priest into the conversation for a U.S. Title match. Graves said Priest just jumped to the front of the line. Sheamus, meanwhile, cried out for a doctor, claiming he had a medical emergency because of his broken nose.
WINNER: Priest in 10:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Sheamus overplaying the drama of the broken nose is a good way to assure he’s booed, because until this, he was kicking ass in the ring and was perhaps “at risk” of being cheered out of respect for his matches lately.)
-The announcers hyped the tag title match up next. [c]
(2) A.J. STYLES & OMOS vs. THE VIKING RAIDERS – Raw Tag Team Title match
Erik dropped Styles quickly with flying double-knees. Ivar charged at Omos. Erik then threw Ivar into Omos, knocking him to the floor. Erik then dove at Omos at ringside. Omos didn’t go down. Back in the ring, the Raiders continued to attack Styles two-on-one. When Erik made the cover, Omos yanked him out of the by his legs. Omos then went after Ivar and Erik at ringside. He tossed Ivar into Erik. [c]
Styles caught a charging Erik with a superkick to the chin, then landed a tornado DDT for a two count. Styles ended up landing a Pelé kick before tagging in Omos for the first time. He picked up Erik, walked around the ring roaring, and then slammed him.He yelled, “This is my house!” He tossed Ivar out of the ring over the top rope, gave Erik his head-vice slam, then tagged in Styles. Styles landed a springboard 450 splash for the three count.
WINNERS: Styles & Omos in 10:00 to retain the Raw Tag Team Titles..
(Keller’s Analysis: Solid match. The Raiders mix it up well with both Styles and Omos style-wise. Smith’s announcing is almost unbearable. His enunciation of words is totally unnatural and grating in an attempt to force “extra enthusiasm.” He talks like he’s wincing constantly. He’s just not a good fit for this or he’s being produced terribly or both. He doesn’t bring enough product knowledge, instinct, wit, or grace with his use of words to make up for any of his deficiencies.)
-They replayed Drew McIntyre’s 34 chairshots last week against Shanky. Drew then made his ring entrance. [c]
-Jinder Mahal walked out with Veer. Jinder said Drew is despicable for what he did to Shanky last week, and the fans are too for cheering him. He said he wanted to give him a chance to apologize. Drew chose not to. Jinder introduced his attorney who was standing next to him and Veer. He said he’s going to sue Drew and take away everything from him. Drew told Jinder to shut up. He admitted he has a bit of anger problem. He asked Kansas City their opinion on whether he should apologize and buy those men a steak dinner tonight (boos) or “say screw the lawyer and beat Veer within an inch of his life” (cheers). Drew said he has a chant for Jinder that is going to be his future. “Drew is gonna kill you!” The fans joined in.
(3) DREW MCINTYRE vs. VEER (w/Jinder Mahal)
Drew controlled early. Veer got in some offense. Drew made a comeback, then played to the crowd. He got a nice response. Then he overhead tossed Veer, slammed his head to the mat, and kipped up. Veer chopped Drew in the throat. Jinder gave Veer a chair. Drew noticed and Claymore Kicked the chair into Veer’s face. The ref DQ’d Drew. Graves said Veer is probably happy that’s the worst that happened to him tonight. They played Drew’s music even though Veer was the winner.
WINNER: Veer via DQ in 3:00.
-Drew jumped to the floor and shot the lawyer a look. The lawyer stood in place instead of running away. Drew threw him into the ring. The lawyer had a chance to roll out of the ring, but instead stood and ate a Claymore.
(Keller’s Analysis: The lawyer didn’t really do anything obnoxious to give the fans much reason to take joy in seeing Drew take him down like that, unprovoked. If that was the plan, why not have the lawyer be the one who handed Veer the chair? The match was short and decent.)
-A clip aired of last week’s Alexa’s Playground with Doudrop and Eva Marie.
-Backstage, Eva told Doudrop to forget about what happened last week because this week they’ll be a step closer to becoming tag team champions. She said the Eva-lution will not be stopped as long as Doupdrop does her job.
-Eva Marie and Doupdrop made their ring entrance.
-An NXT commercial aired with a generic promo from Karrion Kross as highlights aired of him beating people up. [c]
-A WWE Fact stated that John Cena’s return to WWE was the highest viewed Instagram post in WWE history with 3.5 million viewers.
-Graves narrated a slideshow of Eva Marie photos. He said he’s inspired by her and we all might be on the precipice of something great.
(4) TAMINA & NATALA vs. DOUDROP & EVA MARIE – Non-title match
Eva swung at Natalya, ran to cower in the ropes, and then tagged in Doudrop. Doudrop and Natalya wrestled for a minute, then Tamina tagged in. Somewhere in there, Natalya injured her leg and couldn’t put her full went on it, which prompted the tag. She didn’t reenter the match. Doudrop splashed Tamina, then tagged in Eva who covered Tamina for a two count. Suddenly Alexa’s friend, Lilly, interrupted with a mock video of Eva-lusion called Lilly-lusion. She said she wants to inspire people to follow their nightmares. It showed images of her in a lake and doing a photo shoot. Tamina then kicked a DISTRACTED Eva for the win. A trainer helped Natalya join Tamina at ringside for a bitter-sweet victory celebration.
WINNER: Tamina & Natalya in 5:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Eva does almost nothing in the ring, but the little bit she does actually looks terrible in ways you didn’t know wrestling could look terrible.)
-They showed a split screen of Kross and Keith Lee. [c]
-The announcers hyped the “Raw Women’s Championship Contenders match.”
(5) KARRION KROSS vs. KEITH LEE
As Kross made his way to the ring, Smith said Kross is normally intense and focused and determined “and even more so tonight after his debut on Raw.” Graves said he was humiliated last week on Raw after dominating him during the match. He didn’t mention Hardy put his feet on the ropes. He said what happened last week could be bad news for Lee tonight. Lee then made his ring entrance. Graves said Lee was bold and gutsy but perhaps it was not the wisest decision in accepting Lashley’s challenge last week. He said he came up short, but he’ll try to “right the ship” tonight against Kross. The announcers noted Kross defeated Lee to become NXT Champion the first time. Kross intensely eyed Lee during his ring entrance.
Lee resisted an early suplex attempt by Kross, then tossed Kross across the ring. Lee clotheslined Kross over the top rope. Smith said Kross is used to out-sizing and overpowering his opponents. At ringside, Kross rammed Lee into the ring apron, then overhead tossed Lee at ringside. They cut to an abrupt break. [c]
Back from the break, the announcers talked about both men trying to bounce back from losses last week. Nobody is saying anything about Hardy putting his feet illegally on the middle rope to get the cheap win last week. Graves just said he made a much-hyped Raw debut and was “embarrassed by Jeff Hardy.” Kross applied the Kross-jacket sleeper. Lee faded a bit before powering out with an armdrag. Lee one-arm slammed Kross. He back elbowed Kross and charged at him in the corner. He checked him to the mat. Lee looked at the fans who applauded. He set up his Spirit Bomb, but Kross escaped and gave Lee a Saito Suplex. Kross then gave Lee a running forearm to the back of his neck and followed up with his Kross-jacket for the win.
WINNER: Kross in 9:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: The Hardy situation took away any way to evaluate if there was a way to justify at all Kross losing his Raw debut like he did last week with some sort of follow-up. Beating Lee in a competitive, but clunky match where they offset each other’s usual strengths didn’t seem like a great momentum-builder for Kross. Lee lost to two champions the last two weeks, and there’s no shame in that in a general sense, but losing in unannounced throw-away short TV match situations defines him down in a way that’s going to be hard to come back from as anything but a mid-carder. This follows the pattern of the vast majority of WWE wrestlers ending worse off, not better off, than they were before getting TV time on Raw or Smackdown.)
-A video package aired on Nikki’s win last week.
-Sarah Schreiber interviewed Nikki backstage. (They actually put Schreiber’s name on the screen next to Nikki’s.) Nikki said win or lose, nobody can take the feeling away from her that she can achieve anything. She said the hardest of challenges are worth fighting for. She said no matter what happens tonight, she’s excited she’ll be defending her title at Summerslam. Ripley walked up and said she can’t help but admire her unconditional belief that she has in herself. She said she hopes she “gives Charlotte hell” tonight. She said she intends to unseat her at Summerslam.
-Mace and T-Bar made their ring entrance. The announcers said they fancy themselves post-apocalyptic warriors. [c]
(6) MACE & T-BAR vs. MUSTAFA ALI & MANSOOR
A soundbite aired with Mace & T-Bar discussing animals that eat other animals. T-Bar said big animals eat little ones, and they are the big animals in WWE. Mace and T-Bar were talking to each other non-stop after the break until Mansoor’s music began. A soundbite aired with an over-eager Mansoor discussing a gameplan with Ali. Ali told him to follow his lead and they’ll be just fine. Mansoor smiled. Mace and T-Bar got some actual heel heat from the crowd after beating up Ali early in the match with aggressive offense. Ali came back with a spin hook kick that showed some light. Mansoor hot-tagged in against Mace. Ali flew through the ropes and DDT’d T-Bar at ringside to save Mansoor from an attack at ringside. Ali yelled at Mansoor for not being focused. Mace grabbed Ali on the ring apron. Mansoor kicked theM apart, sending Ali hard to the floor. Mansoor leaped onto the top rope, but Mace grabbed him with a chokeslam attempt. Mansoor, though, countered with a roll-up of Mace for the win. Smith yelled, “Are you kidding me!” Mansoor celebrated with Ali, hugging him. Ali seemed shocked by Mansoor’s success. He seemed to have mixed emotions.
WINNERS: Mansoor & Ali in 3:00.
-Graves said Bobby Lashley would respond to the Goldberg challenge last week next. [c]
-Lashley and MVP made their ring entrance. They replayed Goldberg’s return last week when he confronted Lashley. MVP demanded fans show Lashley the proper respect. He said he understands the fans feelings about Lashley because he reminds them of Tom Brady, and that wound is still sore.
MVP shifted to talking about Goldberg “disrespecting” Lashley last week. Fans taunted MVP with a “Goldberg! Goldberg!” chant. Lashley said he won’t dignify Goldberg’s challenge with a response. He then said this is his ring and he won’t be disrespected by anyone. Cedric Alexander then walked out and said, “You want to talk about disrespect?” He said he was disrespectfully excommunicated from the Hurt Business earlier this year. He said he figured out why. “It’s because I’m better than you,” he said. He said he wants his opportunity to show it’s true tonight. He was interrupted by Shelton Benjamin. He asked Cedric said, “Do you have any idea how annoying the sound of your voice is?” (They’re leaning into that now, apparently. He’s not wrong.) Shelton entered the ring and said he’s there to issue a real challenge. As they bickered, MVP said they both sound ridiculous. Lashley then grabbed the mic and said he’ll take them both on at the same time. “Get a referee!” he said. (So this is Lashley’s babyface turn, right?)
(7) BOBBY LASHLEY vs. CEDRIC ALEXANDER & SHELTON BENJAMIN
Lashley tossed Cedric out of the ring, then rammed into Shelton in the corner. Lashley lifted Cedric onto his shoulders and rammed him into the ringpost. Shelton attacked Lashley as he re-entered the ring. Cedric held Lashley’s legs to help Shelton knock Lashley down. Cedric then landed a DDT for a two count. Lashley one-arm slammed Cedric and then tackled Shelton as a counter to a clothesline. “Who or what can stop this man?” asked Smith. Lashley gave Shelton a Jackhammer. Then he slammed Cedric onto Shelton and stacked them for a pin.
WINNER: Lashley in 3:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: An impressive win for Lashley, but by portraying Shelton and Cedric in such an annoying way before the match, it made Lashley a defacto babyface. It could lead to Lashley getting cheered instead of Goldberg at Summerslam.)
-Styles and Omos approached Miz and Morrison backstage. He said he needed to have an important, private talk with them. They huddled as Omos stood guard between the camera and the other three.
-Riddle made his ring entrance, kicking off his flip-flops. When Saxton said he should try to flip his flops sometime, Graves said, “I prefer relating to Riddle on other activities.” Saxton, ever the innocent one, said, “I don’t know what that means.” [c]
(8) RIDDLE vs. JOHN MORRISON
Morrison’s ring entrance took place. Miz sprayed Saxton with the water squirters as Smith laughed uproariously. Graves said they could do this all night. Riddle kicked Miz backwards out of his wheelchair after Miz spent most of the previous minute trying to get a “Johnny Drip Drop!” chant going (the audience did not participate). [c]
Miz was back upright in his wheelchair after the break. Graves marveled at his miraculous recovery. Riddle flipped off the middle rope onto Morrison. “Are you kidding me!?” exclaimed Smith for at least the third time this episode. Styles and Omos walked to the ring. Morrison landed some elbows and kicks at a DISTRACTED Riddle followed by a running knee for a near fall. Smith said that’s exactly what Morrison needed. Riddle made a comeback and scored a near fall. Riddle became preoccupied by Styles and Omos at ringside. Styles lifted Riddle’s scooter. Omos then snapped it over his knee. Riddle was dismayed. Morrison then took a DISTRACTED Riddle down with an edge into a powerbomb followed by Starship Pain onto Riddle’s ribs for the win.
WINNER: Morrison in 11:00.
-Styles attacked Riddle after the match including a Styles Clash. Miz and Morrison pumped water out of the water blasters at ringside.
(Keller’s Analysis: At least they gave the best match the most time so far on Raw. The post-match attack sets up an Orton return next week and the expected Orton & Riddle challenging Styles & Omos at Summerslam for the titles.)
-They showed Nia Jax breaking up with Reginald, but then Reginald winning the 24/7 Title.
-R-Truth made his ring entrance. [c]
-They showed images of Kansas City, Mo.
(9) REGINALD vs. R-TRUTH – 24/7 Title match
Reginald flew into the ring over the top rope. Did he launch off of a trampoline? Either way, impressive. Truth was wide-eyed with amazement. Truth was mic’d up for the match. He asked Reginald to give him his baby back. He said they could do this the easy way or the hard way. Truth yanked off his jacket and then swung it at him. Reginald avoided it with flips. Truth threw the jacket at him. Reginald couldn’t figure out how to get it off his head. He ducked a charging Truth and then flipped onto him and sat on his chest for the win. Tozawa led other 24/7 contenders to the ring (including Drew Gulak, Humberto Carrillo, and Lince Dorado), but Reginald flipped over them all.
WINNER: Reginald in 2:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: That sounded better in the pitch room than it came across in actuality, but that’s taking into account how bad it must have sounded in the pitch meeting too.)
-Schreiber interviewed Charlotte backstage. She said she’s tired of “almost Superstars” dragging down the Women’s Division. She said tonight she’s going to prove there wouldn’t be a Women’s Championship in WWE if it weren’t for her.
-Charlotte’s ring entrance took place. [c]
(10) CHARLOTTE vs. NIKKI A.S.H. – Non-title match (“Championship Contenders match”)
Graves said this match is designed to shatter Nikki’s newfound confidence. Saxton said Nikki is not afraid to fail. Charlotte knocked Nikki out of the ring, then said, “This is who you cheer for?” Charlotte dominated early. Nikki made a comeback a few minutes in and landed a wrecking ball kick to Charlotte. She went after her at ringside, but Charlotte threw Nikki over the announce desk. They cut to a break. [c]
Nikki made a spirited comeback after the break. Charlotte took over again with a barrage of chops. Nikki flew out of the corner with a tornado DDT followed by a top rope flying bodypress. Charlotte rolled through for the three count. Charlotte mocked Nikki after the loss.
WINNER: Charlotte in 10:00.
-Kevin Patrick entered the ring and congratulated Charlotte on her win. She asked why he is congratulating her. She said she expected to win. She then brow-beat Nikki who was kneeling defeated against the ropes. “No one is in my league,” Charlotte sternly said. “It’s true, guys. It is. Sorry, not sorry.” Nikki took the mic and defiantly said she lost the match, but she showed that she could Almost Have Won, and she has the confidence she can beat her. She challenged her to a rematch next week. The crowd didn’t really react much. Nikki dropped the mic. Charlotte ordered Patrick to get the mic for her. He did. She said she can beat Nikki any day of the week, so she accepted her challenge. Charlotte offered a handshake. Nikki grabbed her hand. Charlotte yanked her and punched her. She then dragged Nikki to ringside and threw her against the ringside barricade and said, “You’re so inspirational.” Smith said the degradation continues.
(Keller’s Analysis Charlotte was successfully unlikable, but I didn’t get a sense the crowd loved Nikki with any main event level enthusiasm.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: WWE phoned it in this week with the Olympics as competition