The Raw brand followed up on SummerSlam with a show that continued some rivalries from Sunday night and set the stage for some new stories. Plus, one of the biggest stars in WWE history, John Cena, made his return to Raw as a “free agent” who wanted to stand in the ring with Roman Reigns.

I’ll get to that shortly, but first I need to go over the explosive start to the show with Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman.

Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman had a massive confrontation

Brock Lesnar walked out with his Universal Championship, along with advocate Paul Heyman by his side. Lesnar was all smiles because he survived the SummerSlam four-way match and left with the Universal Title still in his possession. Heyman talked about how Lesnar was even taken away on a stretcher during the match, but got back in there and conquered to retain the Universal Championship. He then boasted that nobody could beat Lesnar in WWE, which brought out Braun Strowman.

Strowman walked down to the ring with a purpose. He didn’t say a word as he had a staredown with Lesnar. Strowman went for a chokeslam, Lesnar avoided it and Strowman decked him with a boot to the face. Strowman hit the Running Powerslam on Lesnar. Strowman picked him up again and hit another Running Powerslam. Strowman grabbed the Universal Title, held it up in the air and the crowd chanted “yes” for it. Even though Strowman is a heel, he gets cheered quite a bit.

I thought it was a simple segment that was effective in terms of getting the point across that Strowman was tough for Lesnar to handle. Strowman dominated Lesnar at SummerSlam by putting him through two announce tables and dumping a third announce table onto Lesnar, which is something that hasn’t happened to him before. The fans are buying into Strowman as a legit badass monster-type character. Putting him against Lesnar shows how much WWE believes in Strowman too.

It was announced later in the show that Lesnar will defend the Universal Title against Strowman at No Mercy on Sept. 24. I think it’s going to be an awesome match that should be very physical and would probably benefit from being a Street Fight too. I think Lesnar will retain because I believe the plan is for him to hold it all the way until WrestleMania to drop it to Roman Reigns. It’s not what I want, but I think that’s what WWE wants to do.

John Cena called out Roman Reigns, but The Miz made sure to steal the spotlight

John Cena was introduced at the top of hour two by Raw general manager Kurt Angle. It was presented as a surprise, even though Cena has been advertised for Raw shows months in advance, so it was expected by those of us who pay attention to these things. Cena mentioned how Angle asked him to come to Raw and since Cena was a “free agent” in the storyline, he was allowed to. Cena said he was there to confront one man. Cue Roman Reigns.

When Reigns got in the ring, Cena let him know that Reigns was exactly who he was talking about. I should point out also that announcer Michael Cole said it was “deafening” in the arena when they were out there together, but it really wasn’t. That is Cole just following orders from Vince McMahon trying to get excited about Reigns and Cena. I’m not saying the crowd was dead. They made noise. It just wasn’t close to deafening at all.

The Miz interrupted with his crew. He screwed up saying Barclays Center at first, which Cena mocked him for. But Miz did a fantastic promo ranting about how many “moments” Cena and Reigns have had while claiming that he (Miz) deserved it more. The crowd was actually cheering Miz based on some of the things he said because a lot of the fans are sick of Cena and Reigns getting the spotlight.

Miz claimed that the crowd cheering and booing those guys hurts him because he should be main eventing Raw, SummerSlam, WrestleMania and every show because he’s been doing it for 12 years. I thought it was a great job by him. Cena challenged Miz to a tag match with one of the buddies of The Miz, but Miz said that’s a moment for Cena and Miz is not dressed to wrestle.

Samoa Joe showed up to join the promo party to say he will team with Miz against Reigns and Cena. That led to a brawl as Joe attacked Cena, while Reigns got rid of Miz and his buddies. Reigns then saved Cena by hitting Joe with a Superman Punch. The segment ended with Cena and Reigns in the ring while the fans chanted “you both suck” at them. That’s pretty funny.

John Cena and Roman Reigns defeated Samoa Joe and The Miz

The match was pretty basic as you would expect, with most people watching the match likely knowing who would take the pin. It was as predictable as ever with Miz getting pinned by Cena, who won clean with the Attitude Adjustment. The most interesting part of the match was when Reigns went for a Superman Punch on Joe, who had Cena in the Coquina Clutch, and Joe moved, which led to Reigns punching Cena. That led to Cena acting like he was knocked out by it, although that was brief because moments later, Cena hit the AA on Miz to win.

Post-match, the ref raised the hands of Cena and Reigns as the winners with Cena looking over at Reigns while Cena held his jaw to sell the punch.

I’m not sure what the plan will be for No Mercy. I get the sense that WWE might want to save Cena vs. Reigns as a PPV match. They could do Cena vs. Joe and Reigns vs. Miz at No Mercy. If they did Cena vs. Reigns, then maybe they can do Joe vs. Miz for the IC Title although that’s awkward with both as heels. Guys like Finn Balor and Bray Wyatt could be in the mix with any of them too.

There were several beach balls in the Brooklyn crowd during the show. Reports from different fans said there were as many as 10 of them. At one point, the cameras even showed one of the security guys grabbing a beach ball, which led to massive heat. After the show was over, Cena put over the crowd for being great and was happy about the beach balls. That’s not something he should have said because it may encourage other crowds to do it. There’s no way WWE would be happy with fans bringing beach balls in when the wrestlers are trying to have a match because it takes away from the talent.

This Week’s Raw Matches

Here are the other matches from this week’s Raw.

Enzo Amore actually won a match because Big Cass got hurt in a Brooklyn Street Fight

It was the typical Big Cass match against Enzo where Cass beat him up nearly the entire time. Enzo had some weapons with him since it was under Street Fight rules, so weapons were legal. The match ended before it was planned because of an injury to Big Cass.

The spot happened when Enzo was on the apron, Cass ran the ropes and went for a big boot to the face. Enzo ducked and Cass went over the top to the floor like he was supposed to. When Cass landed, his left knee buckled as he tumbled to the floor. Cass went back in the ring, stomped on Enzo’s hand and did a weak body slam. Cass was going for the Empire Elbow to win, but his leg gave out and he collapsed. Cass went to the apron, he started swearing because he was in the lot of pain. Cass was also hitting the ring ropes with his hand. The ref called for a doctor, so the match ended there with Enzo announced as the winner.

There’s a report on WWE.com noting that Cass will undergo a MRI to determine the extent of the injury. It looks pretty serious and the kind of injury that could cause him to miss half a year or more. I don’t want to speculate, though. The timing obviously sucks because he was getting a singles push. I know the push hasn’t gone great and he’s not that exciting, but I don’t want to see people getting hurt. Good luck to him in his recovery.

Nia Jax defeated Emma

Easy win for Jax in just over one minute of action, ending the match with a Samoan Drop. This was probably done because Jax tapped out to Sasha Banks on last week’s Raw, so it is WWE’s way of having Jax get some positive momentum after a loss.

Elias defeated R-Truth

Easy win for Elias in about one minute with his Drift Away neckbreaker. Elias did a boring song before the match too.

Cedric Alexander, Gran Metalik, Rich Swann and Mustafa Ali defeated Tony Nese, Drew Gulak, Noam Dar and Ariya Daivari

They were all in the ring when the match began, so no televised entrances. There was a commercial a few minutes into it and they were only given eight minutes, which meant only five minutes were shown. I’m glad that Gran Metalik finally got to be on Raw to show off some of his aerial moves. That moonsault off the top was amazing. He makes everything look so easy. Alexander got the win for his team with the Lumbar Check, which is a great finisher. I’m all for a push for Alexander as the next cruiserweight contender.

The problem with this match was the crowd wasn’t interested that much. It’s a problem with 205 Live and WWE’s presentation of the product.

Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins defeated The Hardy Boyz

I thought this was the best match of the night. Ambrose and Rollins were in the ring celebrating their Raw Tag Team Title win from SummerSlam. The Hardys showed up with the interruption to challenge them to a tag match. Ambrose and Rollins mentioned that they grew up watching the Hardys, so it would be an honor. That made the Hardys sound so old, although really they aren’t that old since Jeff will be 40 years old in a week and Matt is only a few years older. The Hardys just started young with Matt noting they have been doing this for about 25 years.

The titles weren’t on the line in the match. It was face vs. face, so it took a while for the crowd to get into it because I don’t think they knew who to cheer for. The champs isolated Jeff for most of it, Matt did a good job with the hot tag as usual and Jeff got back in there only for Ambrose to get his knees up to counter a Swanton Bomb attempt from Jeff. Seth and Dean managed to get Matt out of the ring after a Seth superkick, which allowed them to set up Jeff for the finishing sequence. Rollins hit the knee to the face, Ambrose hit the Dirty Deeds DDT and Rollins covered Jeff to win the match after about 17 minutes.

It wasn’t better than the two tag title matches at SummerSlam, but I still enjoyed it a lot. I assume it will be Rollins and Ambrose vs. Sheamus and Cesaro at No Mercy in a title rematch. The Hardys could be involved too, if WWE wants to make it three teams or include Gallows and Anderson to have a fourth team.

Finn Balor defeated Jason Jordan

This was set up in a backstage segment where Jordan asked his “dad” Angle for a match. Angle told him Miz was already booked, so Jordan asked for Finn Balor with Angle asking if he thinks he’s ready for him. Jordan said he was.

Balor was in his regular gear for this match. The “Demon” thing was for SummerSlam and probably some future PPV matches. The match was hurt by beach balls in the crowd. There were a few of them that distracted the crowd leading to random chants that had nothing to do with the match. I don’t think it bothered the wrestlers because they got through it, but it was a noticeable distraction that no wrestler wants to deal with.

Balor ended up getting the win after about 12 minutes using the three moves he usually does to end matches: Slingblade, dropkick into the turnbuckle and Coup de Gras double foot stomp off the top rope.  There was no point in the match where I thought Jordan might win. Not much of a story for either guy either.

Other Key Items From Raw

1. Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss set up the Raw Women’s Championship match next week

Banks celebrated her Raw Women’s Title win. She noted her history in Barclays Center with losses to Bayley in NXT and Charlotte at the previous year’s SummerSlam being great matches where she came up short. This time, she ended up winning although her match with Bliss was just average.

Speaking of Bliss, she interrupted the proceedings with a promo about invoking her rematch clause, but the fans in Brooklyn didn’t deserve her celebration. That means Bliss will face Banks next week on Raw in Memphis for the Raw Women’s Title. Bliss ended it by calling Banks “the legit loser” instead of “the legit boss.” I thought that was weak, but rest of the promo was fine.

I feel like Banks is going to retain and then move on to a feud with Nia Jax. I like Bliss, but it feels like WWE wants to involve Jax more.

Looking Ahead to WWE No Mercy

The next Raw brand WWE pay-per-view is No Mercy on Sunday, Sept. 24 in Los Angeles. We only know the main event at this point.

WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman

There’s over a month to go until No Mercy, so plenty of time for other matches to be announced.

In Closing

It was just an average Raw this week. The two tag matches were the best in terms of in-ring action, but the main event was so predictable that it was hard to get into anything the heels did. Ambrose/Rollins vs. Hardys was good for a TV match. As I said, though, it’s hard to say it was great because it was not at the level of the two tags at SummerSlam.

They used the same formula to set up two impromptu tag team matches, which shows how uncreative the “creative team” was this week. Plus, two squashes and Enzo actually winning a match due to injury hurt the quality of Raw as well.

On the positive side, they set up Lesnar vs. Strowman well. It was an easy segment to do, but also very effective. I also like Cena on Raw because it could provide some new big matches for him against the likes of Reigns and Joe as well as Strowman down the road.

I’ll be back Wednesday with a review of Smackdown Live featuring all the fallout on their show following SummerSlam.

About John Canton

John has been writing about WWE online since the late 1990s. He's written for WhatCulture, Bleacher Report, Layfield Report, Rajah.com and many other places. You can follow John Canton on Twitter @johnreport or email him at mrjohncanton@gmail.com with any comments or questions. For more of his wrestling opinions, visit his website at TJRWrestling.net.