This week’s edition of WWE Monday Night Raw was headlined by Roman Reigns facing off against Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman in the biggest match of the night. I would have used the common “main event” term for it, but this wasn’t the last match of the show. It was one of the most peculiar things about a below-average edition of Raw that took place in front of a Pittsburgh crowd that wasn’t very loud, especially in the last hour.

Here’s a summary of the segments involving the four men in the Universal Title match and then I’ll address the match order issue as well.

Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman felt that Kurt Angle wants Lesnar to lose at SummerSlam

Kurt Angle addressed the crowd in Pittsburgh, which is his hometown. He got a louder than usual pop from them, even though he didn’t say much that was interesting. Angle merely talked about what’s to come later in the show, so you knew the interruption was coming.

Brock Lesnar, the Universal Champion, entered with his advocate Paul Heyman. It was the usual Raw appearance for Lesnar where he said nothing at all, while Heyman did all the talking. Heyman claimed that WWE didn’t want Lesnar to be the Universal Champion, so they had Angle stack the odds against him by putting him against three formidable opponents at SummerSlam against Reigns, Joe and Strowman. Heyman even threw the word “ultimate” in there because of the rumors that exist about Lesnar possibly returning to the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) later this year or next year. Smart by Heyman to mention it since Jon Jones called out Lesnar after Saturday’s UFC 214 main event.

The other interesting part of this promo was when Heyman said that Lesnar and Heyman will leave WWE if Lesnar loses the Universal Title at SummerSlam. The idea is that they would be mad about losing the title in a match with three oopponents and Lesnar would possibly work for UFC. The reality is that Lesnar is under a WWE deal until at least WrestleMania next year, so even if he loses the Universal Title and “leaves” WWE for a few months, he’ll be back on TV early next year.

It was a nice tease by Heyman because it makes me think Lesnar might retain the Universal Title at SummerSlam, even though initially I thought Lesnar would lose it. Plant those seeds of doubt, Paul. Good job.

My wife and kids! What a night in Pittsburgh. #itstrue #family #missingKyraAndKody #lovemyfamily

A post shared by Kurt Angle (@therealkurtangle) on

Angle wasn’t featured on Raw after that opening segment, but he did post the above photo of his family (including storyline son Jason Jordan). Angle’s two oldest kids weren’t there because they live with their mother Karen, who is now married to Jeff Jarrett. Kurt mentioned them in his post too.

Roman Reigns defeated Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman in a triple threat

All three guys did promos during the show to hype up their match. I liked the Reigns and Joe promos, but the Strowman one was cheesy. I don’t think Strowman should act like the others. If he said he’s not going to talk because somebody told him to and walked off, that would have been better.

A triple threat match is no disqualification and no countout, so it was an entertaining match where they brawled all around the ring while using weapons such as the steel steps, which came into play for the finish. They brawled into the crowd a bit too.

It was a typical three-way match where each man got their chance to shine, so to speak. They were all on offense at different points with guys hitting big moves and the third man breaking up the pinfall or submission. Joe had Reigns in the Coquina Clutch and Strowman broke it up. Strowman hit his Running Powerslam on Joe and Reigns broke it up.

They used the stairs for the finish. Strowman brought them into the ring, and the crowd chanted “yes” because they wanted Strowman to use them against Reigns, but Reigns came back with a Superman Punch. Reigns picked up the steps, hit Strowman with them and knocked him out of the ring. Joe staggered across the ring, so Reigns hit a Spear on him and got the pinfall win after about 16 minutes of action.

Reigns winning didn’t surprise me, just like Joe getting pinned didn’t surprise me. It doesn’t really mean anything in the big picture because somebody has to take the pin in this match and that same person may have nothing to do with the finish on August 20. I’m leaning to Samoa Joe as my first pick at SummerSlam and Reigns is my second choice. That opinion could change over the next three weeks.

Raw Match Order

Why would WWE put Big Show vs. Big Cass on last instead of Reigns vs. Joe vs. Strowman? I think the main reason is that when WWE looks at the viewership numbers every week, they notice a pattern. The most watched part of Raw every week is the end of hour two/start of hour three (around 10 p.m. ET), so if you know more people are going to be watching at that time, then it makes sense to put the real main event in that spot. I understand WWE’s logic behind the move, but do I like it? Nope.

The order of the matches also led to a lot of confusion among WWE fans because when I was on Twitter last night, that’s what most of the discussion was about. Fans who have grown up watching WWE are used to the biggest match at the end of the night, so putting Roman/Braun/Joe last without anything exciting in the main event comes across as a poor move. Also, Dave Meltzer on Wrestling Observer Radio noted that some of the Cass/Enzo segments have dRawn pretty good ratings for their segments, so perhaps WWE had confidence in them.

I think Raw should end with the most important match/segment on last. We see them use this strategy during NFL season sometimes when the Monday Night Football game is at halftime and WWE tries to counter with a bigger match in that spot. In this case, they weren’t facing major sports competition of any kind, so it was simply done to put a hotter segment earlier in the night when more people are watching.

The question becomes this: If the triple threat match ended Raw, would it have made the show better? I think it’s a resounding yes, which is why the best part of the show often times is the main event.

This Week’s Raw Matches

Here are the rest of the matches from this week’s Raw.

The Hardy Boyz defeated Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson, leading to a post-match altercation

The Hardys have lost some matches to other teams on Raw in the last few months, so this was about giving them some momentum with a win. It was a basic match where the heels worked over Jeff, Matt got the hot tag, the Hardys cleaned house and Jeff tagged back in to hit his Swanton Bomb for the win. This felt like the most routine tag match you’re ever going to see. It’s not bad. Just average.

Post-match, The Revival were on commentary and talked trash to the Hardys. That led to a brawl between the teams with Gallows and Anderson joining in. The three teams got into a fight that the Hardys won, as they knocked all four heels down and were left standing tall.

It should lead to some triple threat tag team match, possibly at SummerSlam, to get all of them on the card. That show is going to have so many multi-person matches that it’s going to be tough to deal with it all.

Akira Tozawa, Rich Swann & Cedric Alexander defeated TJP, Ariya Daivari & TJP

When you do a tag team formula match where the faces get the win using the exact same booking two matches in a row, it’s not that interesting. There were some cool aerial spots with Swann and Alexander hitting dives outside the ring, leading to Tozawa getting the hot tag and the top rope senton splash for the win.

Tozawa faces Daivari on 205 Live Tuesday night with the winner facing Neville for the Cruiserweight Title at SummerSlam. It should be a win for Tozawa.

Seth Rollins defeated Sheamus

Rollins was sad about Dean Ambrose not trusting him during an interview segment, so Sheamus and Cesaro (the Raw Tag Team Champions) mocked Rollins for not having friends. Sheamus and Cesaro noted they were rivals, but then became best friends who trust each other, which is the opposite of what happened with Rollins and Ambrose (and Reigns) in The Shield. That led to Rollins challenging them to a match, which Sheamus accepted.

Rollins ended up getting the win over Sheamus with a pinning move where he used his upper body to keep Sheamus down. It was just an average match that wasn’t as good as you’d expect from guys this good. Sheamus controlled the majority of it and Rollins won with a move that wasn’t his finish, so it was a bit of a surprise ending.

Post-match, Sheamus and Cesaro beat up on Rollins. The crowd chanted for Ambrose, he didn’t come out right away and then eventually he did. Sheamus and Cesaro beat up Ambrose too. It was a good post-match angle to put over the Tag Team Champions, while making fans want to see Ambrose and Rollins beat them.

There was a locker room segment where Ambrose told Rollins that he knows that Rollins fought on his own, so that Ambrose would have to save him because Rollins always has a plan. Ambrose acted like he still didn’t trust Rollins. The story is that Rollins and Ambrose will end up challenging for the Raw Tag Team Titles at SummerSlam after Ambrose ends up trusting him. It’s a good way to build up a new feud. I like it.

Elias defeated Kalisto

Elias no longer has the Samson last name. He’s joined the one name crew like (Antonio) Cesaro, (Alexander) Rusev and (Adrian) Neville, among others. Just one of those things that WWE changes on the main roster sometimes. It’s not a big deal. Elias did his pre-match “song” where he ripped on Pittsburgh, even though he grew up there.

The match went about seven minutes with Elias in control for most of it, Kalisto rallied for a brief comeback and Elias ended up winning with his spinning neckbreaker called the Drift Away. If it went three minutes, it would have been better because the crowd was dead for this match. No reaction at all.

Bayley defeated Nia Jax by countout

Boring match with the crowd not reacting to much at all. That’s because they put the main event match earlier in the night and this match has been done so many times. Alexa Bliss went to ringside, Bayley avoided her attack and Jax missed a charge outside the ring that sent her into the steel steps. Bayley went back in the ring to win by countout because WWE doesn’t want Jax getting pinned even though she’s been on the Raw roster for a year with no title wins. No sign of Sasha Banks on the show this week.

Bayley may have hurt her right shoulder. There was a spot where she took a hard bump on her shoulder and then she rolled to the floor for about 30 seconds. The ref had to leave the ring to check on her, which is not part of the show usually. I assume she’ll get it looked at this week and we’ll know more soon. If it’s serious, that’s no good obviously and even if it’s something like six weeks, it would take her out of SummerSlam.

Big Cass defeated Big Show by disqualification

Enzo Amore did a pre-match promo. The crowd liked his catchphrases, but it wasn’t that interesting otherwise. When he said “Pittsburgh,” they woke up to cheer. Big Cass got a new theme song, so at least WWE listened to the fans who complained about how bad the first song was. It’s still a generic song that doesn’t make him stand out.

Terrible match in front of a dead crowd. Remember when WWE did Strowman vs. Show twice and both times it was better than expected? They probably thought this would be good too, but it was not. Cass still has a long way to go in terms of selling, the moves he does in the ring and being interesting. When Cass was in a tag team, he didn’t have to sell much at all, so now we are seeing how limited he is. Working with Big Show will give him credibility, but it won’t lead to good matches.

They wrestled about five minutes and Enzo, who was at ringside, jumped on Cass’ back to end it. Cass gave Enzo a big boot to the face to knock him down. Show recovered and hit the KO Punch on Cass to end it. It felt like a boring midcard angle, yet here they were with Big Show’s music to end Raw.

It was a lame finish designed to set up another match between Cass and Show at SummerSlam. Remember that SummerSlam is four hours long, so there’s your bathroom break match if you need it.

Other Key Items From Raw

1. Jason Jordan stood up for himself against The Miz

The Miz hosted his Miz TV talk show segment at the top of hour two with Jason Jordan as the guest. Miz had his wife Maryse with him, along with his Miztourage duo of Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas. Miz told Jordan he wanted to mentor him and help guide his career. Jordan politely declined. Miz pushed further, Jordan kept saying no and Miz ripped on Jordan’s “dad” Kurt Angle, saying that Angle was only in his position of Raw GM because people felt sorry for him. Jordan said you can talk about him, but not Kurt. Miz backed his crew up, he charged at Jordan, which led to Jordan hitting a belly to belly suplex on Miz that took out Axel and Dallas as well. Jordan left to avoid a further attack.

I thought Jordan did a decent job there, while Miz was excellent as always. Jordan is still finding his niche as a singles face wrestler as part of a big angle, so doing a feud with a terrific all-around performer like Miz would be great. I’m a little surprised there were no Jordan segments with Angle the last two weeks. This should lead to an Intercontinental Title match at SummerSlam and I think it’s very possible Jordan wins the title in their first match. It could also lead to another match with Jordan winning. It just feels like the kind of feud where a title change is very likely.

2. Finn Balor got the upper hand on Bray Wyatt

Bray Wyatt did one of his usual promos where he talked about how he was better than others and the people in the audience were inferior than him. He talked trash about how he left Finn Balor laying last week. The lights went out with some flashing red lights. When they came back on, Balor was in the ring with his back turned to Wyatt. As Wyatt approached him, Balor hit a leaping kick to the head and followed up with a dropkick that sent Wyatt into the crowd. The crowd was into it, so the slow build used for this rivalry has worked.

I think it’s fair to assume that Wyatt is going to face Balor at SummerSlam in less than three weeks. That should be a win for Balor, who may end up wearing the “Demon Balor” paint in that match because we haven’t seen him do that since last year’s SummerSlam where he got that serious shoulder injury.

Looking Ahead to WWE SummerSlam

The next WWE pay-per-view is SummerSlam on August 20 in Brooklyn, New York. Here’s what we know so far.

WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe

Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Naomi vs. Natalya

Other likely matches are The Miz vs. Jason Jordan for the Intercontinental Title, Sheamus/Cesaro vs. Ambrose/Rollins for the Raw Tag Team Titles, Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt and sadly, we might have to sit through Big Show vs. Big Cass again.

Remember, SummerSlam is going to run four hours on the main card and the Kickoff Show might be two hours, so it’s possible they will have up to 10 matches on the show.

In Closing

It was a below-average edition of Raw this week. The highlight was the triple threat match, which was pretty good, but not that outstanding either. Some of the storylines progressed well, in terms of setting up IC Title (Miz vs. Jordan) and Tag Title (Sheamus/Cesaro vs. Ambrose/Rollins) feuds for SummerSlam. Other stories involving people like Bayley and Big Cass were hurt because of how bad they were.

Also, the match order issue I mentioned earlier affected the quality of the show too. If you end Raw with a good triple threat match, it leaves people feeling excited. Instead, they ended it with a boring midcard angle and it makes people wonder why they tune in every week.

I will be at Raw and Smackdown next week in Toronto. I’ve been to many shows there and the crowd is usually much louder than this Pittsburgh crowd was, so that should help.

I’ll be back Wednesday with a review of Smackdown Live featuring a huge match as John Cena battles Shinsuke Nakamura for the first time ever. I wrote a preview about the match and “dream matches” in WWE on Monday, so please check that out if you haven’t done so already.

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.