This week’s edition of Raw took place one day after the death of one of the greatest performers in WWE history, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. The Brain was one of the funniest guys in the history of the business who made us laugh as an announcer, managed a lot of great heel wrestlers and, prior to getting to WWE, he was a good wrestler too.
Heenan loved the business as much as anybody, he devoted his life to it and he really could do it all. Heenan died on Sunday at the age of 72 due to throat cancer, which he was first diagnosed with 15 years ago. After multiple surgeries and issues with his organs, he passed away with his family by his side.
Heenan’s role in the rise of the WWF/E in the mid-1980s through the early 1990s was very important. I loved his work with his main announcing partner Gorilla Monsoon as they provided us with many laughs, often with Monsoon yelling “will you stop?” at Heenan many times because of how ridiculous Bobby was.
I’ll never forgot Bobby’s influence on me as a fan because he taught us how fun wrestling is and can be. If you watched him, you could see on his face how much he loved it. Bobby Heenan will be missed and he will never be forgotten. I wrote a tribute column to Bobby on my site TJRWrestling that you can check out if you want more of my thoughts on him.
This week’s Raw began with a graphic saying that this week’s show was in loving memory of Bobby Heenan. They also had a video package about him and featured social media comments from many people in the wrestling business as well.
— WWE (@WWE) September 19, 2017
It was a different kind of Raw this week because Brock Lesnar wasn’t there to promote his Universal Title match at No Mercy against Braun Strowman, although he did appear via a taped interview that WWE disguised as being live. Also, John Cena wasn’t there to hype his No Mercy match against Roman Reigns, although Reigns delivered some parting shots to Cena.
Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman video package
— WWE (@WWE) September 19, 2017
A video package aired to promote Lesnar vs. Strowman for the Universal Title at No Mercy. There were some clips from Paul Heyman in 2002 (Lesnar’s debut year) in which he spoke about how Lesnar was a special athlete that we had never seen before and wasn’t going to be stopped. It showed highlights of Lesnar’s successful run in WWE from 2002 to 2004 and later from 2012 to 2017. The video also showed highlights of Braun Strowman destroying Lesnar at SummerSlam and in recent weeks.
The video isn’t on WWE’s YouTube channel as of this writing, so that’s why I included a tweet above.
Final words between Lesnar, Heyman and Strowman
There was an interview with Braun Strowman on a split screen with Universal Champion Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman on the other side. It was the usual comments from both sides with Heyman talking about how great Lesnar is while listing his accomplishments. Then he also put over Strowman as possibly being better than Lesnar. Strowman said he didn’t care about Suplex City, while Heyman noted that Lesnar is aware that he’s going to have to do more than take Strowman to Suplex City to win. Lesnar ended it by saying he’ll see him on Sunday and said: “Suplex city, bitch.”
It was a fine way to sell the match, but I’m surprised Lesnar wasn’t booked on the last Raw before a big Universal Championship match. An in-ring confrontation would have helped a lot. Then again, this match was already built up well at SummerSlam with Strowman putting Lesnar through tables and in the weeks that followed.
Strowman only appeared on camera when he showed up to destroy Enzo Amore with a running clothesline, a Chokeslam and a Running Powerslam. The crowd loved him for it.
I’ll have an in-depth preview of Lesnar vs. Strowman in my No Mercy Preview on Friday, along with the rest of the card. I’m leaning towards a Lesnar win, but it’s not a sure thing.
Roman Reigns and John Cena video package
— WWE (@WWE) September 19, 2017
This was designed to get people excited for Reigns vs. Cena, which shouldn’t be a problem. They aired comments from their promo battles over the last three weeks as they took personal shots at eachother.
Like with the Strowman/Lesnar video package, the video isn’t on WWE’s Youtube channel as of this writing, so that’s why I included a tweet above.
It’s interesting to note that both Kurt Angle and Corey Graves were scripted to call Roman Reigns an icon or “iconic” during the show. Really, WWE? The guy has been in WWE for five years, has been a singles wrestler for three years and you’re shoving that word down people’s throats already? Too soon. With Cena it’s fine because he’s been doing it for 15 years. With Reigns it feels forced, which is why people have a problem with how Reigns is booked.
Roman Reigns had final words for John Cena
The Reigns promo took place at the bottom of the second hour, which was right around when the Monday Night Football game was at halftime, so they timed it perfectly when there were likely more people watching Raw who flipped over from the football game.
Reigns said that Cena may be the best talker ever, but says stupid s**t by saying that Reigns may be the next Cena. He mocked the look of Cena, saying he doesn’t look like a jacked-up white guy with a military crew haircut. Reigns said if he did look like that he may not have a career there like Alex Riley, a former WWE wrestler who got fired a few years ago after never receiving much of a push. That was a random name to throw out there. Riley has complained about Cena for years, by the way, so that’s partly why Reigns mentioned it. Reigns teased bringing Cena out and then noted that Cena isn’t there.
He continued by calling Cena a “fake ass little bitch” and a hypocrite, while setting up a video from a Cena promo from 2012 leading to Cena vs. The Rock at WrestleMania 28. The promo featured Cena ripping on The Rock for saying he was back in WWE, but he kept on leaving for movies, which is what Cena is currently doing in his career.
Cena wasn’t there partly because he was wrestling at a Smackdown house show in China on Sunday and there may not have been enough time for him to get to Raw. Even if Cena did get back, he may have been busy with movie commitments. That’s not confirmed as of this writing.
— WWE (@WWE) September 19, 2017
Reigns ended the promo saying: “See ya Sunday, movie star.”
I thought Reigns did a great job in that promo. He was more comfortable in that promo by himself rather than the three weeks when Cena was in the ring with him. It also helped that he didn’t stutter and that Cena wasn’t there as well. Reigns came across as more of a heel than anything else, but he’s still supposed to be a face just because of how he’s booked.
This Week’s Raw Matches
Here’s what happened in the ring on this week’s Raw, which really wasn’t that exciting. This might have been the worst week of the year in terms of matches, but they did try to further storylines.
Nia Jax defeated Alexa Bliss
This was a boring match that was not for Bliss’ title, which meant that you knew she was going to get pinned. Sasha Banks went out during the match, prevented Bliss from leaving and Jax finished off Bliss easily with a Samoan Drop for the win. They got seven minutes with only four minutes of it shown, which shows WWE didn’t have a lot of faith in this being a good match. Both women are decent with other opponents, but their styles don’t mesh well.
Post-match, Bayley made her return from dealing with a shoulder injury over the last two months. Bayley teamed up with Banks and Bliss to knock Jax out of the ring. Bliss tried to celebrate with Banks and Bayley, so Banks kicked Bliss and Bayley hit the Bayley to Belly suplex on Bliss to end it. The crowd was hot for Bayley with her return and because Raw was from Bayley’s hometown of San Jose.
Later in the show, it was announced that Bayley was added to the Raw Women’s Title match, so it’s now Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley vs. Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks vs. Emma. There was no sign of Emma on the show, which doesn’t look good for her. I’m leaning towards Bliss retaining.
Sheamus & Cesaro defeated Gallows & Anderson and Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose
It was originally going to be Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Gallows & Anderson, according to Cole, but there was a promo between the three teams that led to this triple threat tag match that wasn’t for the titles. Second straight non-title match where champions lost, although in this case they didn’t get pinned.
They got a lot of time with this match getting around 18 minutes. The heel wrestlers worked over Ambrose for most of it and also worked over Rollins. It was fun when Ambrose and Rollins were making their comeback by cleaning house on the heels leading to a double suicide dive spot that the crowd loved. Ambrose ended up in control of the action as he hit a Dirty Deeds DDT on Anderson. The problem was that Sheamus made a blind tag, got Ambrose out of there and stole the pin by covering Anderson for the win.
That’s the crafty heel finish you see occasionally in triple threat matches. It didn’t hurt the champs since Rollins and Ambrose didn’t get pinned while also giving Cesaro and Sheamus a win going into the No Mercy tag match. I doubt Rollins and Ambrose will lose the titles at No Mercy. It would be too soon.
Apollo Crews defeated Curt Hawkins
— WWE (@WWE) September 19, 2017
Hawkins did a promo noting he had a 114-match losing streak and it was going to end here. Apollo Crews had Titus O’Neil with him. Hawkins nearly got the win, but Crews fought back and hit the spinning sitout Powerbomb for the win. The loss meant that Hawkins’ streak continues at 115 matches and there was even a graphic about it, so this is likely some new gimmick for him as he tries to actually win a match.
Bray Wyatt defeated Dustin Rhodes
The reason it was Dustin Rhodes is because Dustin was in general manager Kurt Angle’s office without his Goldust face paint on and asked Kurt for a match against Wyatt. Angle granted him that match.
Dustin wrestled wearing the Goldust gear, but without the face paint. Dustin got in a fair bit of offense and he was intense during the match. Wyatt managed to get the win easily after about three minutes with the Sister Abigail.
Post-match, Finn Balor appeared on the video screen and did a promo explaining he was a shy little boy who grew up to be a man that wanted to be like a demon in mythology books. Balor wondered if “The Demon” is the creation of this man (himself), then what is more dangerous and told Wyatt he’ll find out at No Mercy. In other words, Balor will wrestle at No Mercy without the Demon body paint and he’ll probably get the win.
Neville defeated Gran Metalik
Neville appeared when Enzo Amore was beat up by Braun Strowman and hit him with the Red Arrow splash. He then asked Enzo how he was doing and laughed maniacally, which is great.
The match versus Metalik took about three minutes. It was nice to see Metalik hit his signature aerial spots that he makes look easy. When Metalik tried to finish him off, Neville got the knees up to block a moonsault and slapped on a Rings of Saturn submission to win.
Jason Jordan won a Six Pack Challenge against Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel and Elias
They set this match up in the opening segment where Kurt Angle was welcoming us to the show, Miz complained about not being in a match at No Mercy and Angle said there would be a four-way match. Miz wanted his guys Axel and Dallas in the match too. Jason Jordan defended Angle when Miz called Angle a bad father and told Angle to put Axel and Dallas in the match as well. That led to the match in the main event slot of the show with the winner getting a shot at the Intercontinental Title held by Miz.
Jordan got the win in the Six Pack Challenge, which was obvious because the opening promo was built around that as well as all the discussions by The Miz. They could have just announced Jordan getting the title shot, but WWE wanted to give him a win. The finish saw Jeff Hardy hitting a Swanton Bomb on Curtis Axel and Miz broke it up because it was a No Disqualification match. Axel hit a face-first neckbreaker on Jeff and nearly covered him, but Jordan went back in the ring to hit a lifting neckbreaker on Axel to get the win.
The reward for Jordan is an Intercontinental Title match against The Miz at No Mercy. This match was likely the plan a month ago, yet they waited until the main event of the last Raw before No Mercy to announce it. It feels like the start of this rivalry and I think Jordan will win the title later in the year after more build up to it.
Other Key Items From Raw
1. Bobby Heenan tribute video
The video for Bobby Heenan was excellent as is usually the case when WWE has to air a tribute video. They covered his comedic stuff well by focusing on some of his funniest skits and, of course, his work with Gorilla Monsoon. They should have shown a bit more of his promos when he was a heel manager for guys like Andre The Giant, but it was mostly about the comedy work.
2. Another video aired about Asuka going to Raw
For the second week in a row, a video aired about former NXT Women’s Champion Asuka heading to Raw soon. It’s not known when exactly she might be on Raw, but the rumors are that it will probably be November because she has been dealing with a broken collarbone. I like the video packages every week because it keeps her fresh in people’s minds and when she does show up, it will be treated like a big deal.
Looking Ahead to WWE No Mercy
— WWE (@WWE) September 12, 2017
The next Raw brand WWE pay-per-view is No Mercy this Sunday, Sept.24 in Los Angeles. Here’s what we know.
WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman
Roman Reigns vs. John Cena
Raw Tag Team Championships: Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins vs. Sheamus & Cesaro
Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt
Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax vs. Emma vs. Bayley
Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Jason Jordan
Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Enzo Amore
That’s seven matches. There will likely be another one or two matches added to the Kickoff Show later in the week.
It felt like an average show that did a decent job of hyping the major No Mercy matches that were already set up for several weeks. Was there anything must-see on this week’s show? Nope. It sure didn’t feel that way to me.
I’ll be back Wednesday with a review of Smackdown Live with AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin for the US Title and the reaction to Vince McMahon getting attacked by Kevin Owens last week.
On Friday, I’ll have a No Mercy preview up as well.