The WWE Raw brand presents what is their most loaded show of the year in terms of big matches. It’s rare to say that a September WWE pay-per-view event has two matches that should be taking place at WrestleMania, but that’s what we have here as Brock Lesnar defends the Universal Title against Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns faces John Cena.
There are currently seven matches on the card with five of them for titles. I expect WWE to add one or two more matches for the Kickoff Show, but as of this writing I don’t know what those matches are.
Normally when I do these previews I go in-depth for the main event, but since there are two special matches on this show I’ll break them both down in-depth.
The Build to Brock Lesnar defending the Universal Championship vs. Braun Strowman
The build to this match has been great. Strowman was the most dominant man in the excellent SummerSlam main event as he put Lesnar through two announce tables. When the finish of that match happened, Lesnar came back to beat Reigns and Strowman was protected. Following SummerSlam, Strowman destroyed Lesnar again. Their last encounter on Raw two weeks ago saw Lesnar hit a German Suplex on Strowman, which had no effect on Strowman. He then destroyed Lesnar again.
Booking Strowman as an unbeatable monster is the perfect way to utilize him in a match like this because if Lesnar does keep him down for any length of time, it’s going to lead to a big reaction. It’s not like Strowman has never lost a match because he has lost to Roman Reigns this year. It’s been a while, though. In the eyes of the average fan, Strowman is a guy who doesn’t lose and if Lesnar beats him, it will be seen as a big moment because of how Strowman has been booked this year.
I think Paul Heyman has been brilliant in hyping up this match with his promos as well. While Heyman is confident in his “beast” Lesnar, he has also put over Strowman as being similar to Lesnar as a guy unlike anybody we’ve ever seen before. Heyman has said that Strowman is stronger and Lesnar is the underdog for the first time since WrestleMania 30 against Undertaker, but in that match it was a Lesnar wins, so the question is can Lesnar do it again?
This match has been booked well and that’s why it is one of the most anticipated WWE matches of 2017. Kudos to Lesnar, Strowman, Heyman and the creative team for that.
Crowd Reaction for Lesnar vs. Strowman
Lesnar has been booked as a face for most of the last two years since he coined the “Suplex City, bitch” catchphrase at WrestleMania 31 in 2015. During the Goldberg feud perhaps you could say Lesnar was a heel, but for the most part he’s cheered by the fans. I like when Lesnar is booked as more of a heel. The problem with that is he’s so established now that people are going to pop for his big moves like the German Suplexes and F5, so it will be difficult for WWE to ever book him as a heel again.
Strowman is an example of the unique crowd reactions leading to him being booked like a heel, yet he is cheered as much as anybody on the show because of how dominant he is. He’s getting the strong response from the crowd because he looks like a bigger badass than anybody else. Fans want to support him because of his legitimacy as a tough guy who is a great athlete. With that said, having Strowman embrace the fans and do catchphrases to suck up to them would be the wrong way to book him, so I like how they are doing it now.
The crowd should be into everything they do. There will be “this is awesome” chants as they stare at each other before the match begins. It will be easy to please the fans in LA.
Match Quality for Lesnar vs. Strowman
It depends on what kind of match it is. If they keep it as a regular singles match where they have to stay in the ring for the majority of the match, then it will probably hurt the quality of the match. If it becomes a No Holds Barred, Street Fight or Falls Count Anywhere type of match, then that’s going to help because it will allow them to brawl more, use weapons and make it a more violent battle that the crowd will love.
I think WWE has made a slight mistake in terms of not announcing this as No Holds Barred or something else to make it stand out more. Why would they have a regular match? It would limit what they can do. The only reason to have a regular match is to have a controversial finish to build to a rematch.
If it’s a match where they can brawl around the building, then I expect it to be a very good, hard-hitting bout and go in the 12-15 minute range. If it’s just a regular match, then it might only got eight to 10 minutes, they’ll each hit power moves that will be sold in a big way and one of them hits their finisher more than once to get the win.
What’s Next for Lesnar and Strowman
I really don’t know what’s next for Lesnar because there have been rumors saying that he’s going to be off for the rest of the year and then he’ll return for the Royal Rumble in 2018. Lesnar’s contract with WWE expires after WrestleMania 33 next April. Nobody knows if he is going to stick around after that. He’s 40 years old right now and has more than enough money in the bank to live comfortably on a farm with his family without being in the spotlight ever again, if that’s the path he wants to take.
Strowman should continue to be a major player on the Raw brand. If this feud is over after one match, that would be disappointing because I want to see more of it. Plus, Strowman has already feuded more than enough with Roman Reigns and after him, who is there? Perhaps a guy like Finn Balor will move up the ladder to challenge Strowman in what would be an interesting feud. I just don’t know what he next best option would be.
The Winner of Lesnar vs. Strowman
I want Braun Strowman to leave with the Universal Championship because I think he deserves it after having such a great year. It would be a great moment for him while a guy like Lesnar really doesn’t need the title to be considered a main eventer. However, my belief is that WWE wants Lesnar to hold the Universal Title for one year from WrestleMania 33 to WrestleMania 34 and lose it to Vince McMahon’s “chosen one” Roman Reigns, so I think Lesnar is going to retain the title in this match.
If Brock vs. Roman at WM34 is the goal, that’s fine, but it doesn’t mean Lesnar has to win here. They could still get to that point if they had Strowman win the title here and then he dropped it to Brock or Roman at the Royal Rumble in 2018. Let Brock take the rest of the year off if he wants to, have Strowman carry the title for the rest of the year and book him as a dominant champion. What’s wrong with that? Nothing at all. It’s just that WWE may not want to interrupt Lesnar’s run as champion with a loss, so that’s why I think Lesnar is going to retain.
It won’t bother me if Lesnar retains the title because I like the guy as a performer and he has star power that nobody else has. I just think it would mean more for Strowman to win the title, so I hope I’m wrong with this prediction. Once again, if it was up to me I’d put the title on Strowman, but it’s a Vince McMahon call as always and I think he’s going with Lesnar. Either way, it should be an incredible match and I’m looking forward to it.
Prediction: Brock Lesnar retains the Universal Championship
The Build to John Cena vs. Roman Reigns
It’s been four weeks of promos with no physical contact between two of Vince McMahon’s favorite wrestlers ever. It started on the Aug. 21 edition of Raw (the night after SummerSlam) with John Cena jumping over from Smackdown as a “free agent” and calling out Roman Reigns. They won a tag match that night. Things picked up from there in a big way on the Aug. 28 Raw with a massive promo confrontation between the two men where they signed the contract for this match.
They have taken plenty of verbal shots at one another in the build to this match. Cena has ripped on Reigns for not being good enough at his job to take Cena’s spot. When Reigns struggled through a promo, Cena admonished him by saying that you have to learn to how to do this. As for Reigns, he has targeted Cena by ripping on him for saying he’s a WWE guy, yet Cena ends up leaving to do movies from time to time. On the Sept. 11 Raw, Cena took it to another level by ending a promo battle by ripping on Reigns for his 2016 drug test failure.
I noted the lack of physical contact between them. That’s key because unlike other big feuds in WWE, there weren’t any moments where one guy had the upper hand on the other. It’s been a verbal battle won by Cena for the most part, but Reigns has more than held his own.
The build to this match has been very good. I think you could make the case that the build has been better than Lesnar vs. Strowman, although it’s a different style as well.
The best thing about this rivalry is it feels like it’s a natural battle between John Cena wanting to prove he’s still the man in WWE and Reigns wanting to show he’s ready to take Cena’s spot.
Crowd Reaction for Cena vs. Reigns
This will be one of the most interesting parts of the match. The Los Angeles crowd is usually very vocal, so they should be invested in this match as soon as the music hits of each man.
I think both guys will get booed at various points due to the adult males in the crowd who like to hate on them, but of the two it should be Reigns that gets booed more. That’s just how his reactions are this year. Cena doesn’t get booed nearly as much as he used to because he’s earned a lot more respect with a lot of great matches in the last couple of years.
Match Quality for Cena vs. Reigns
Both guys perform well in big matches. I know the Reigns haters don’t think so, but he’s really solid in the longer matches and does a good job of building up the near-falls. Every time Reigns does a cover after a Superman Punch, the crowd buys into it even though he almost never wins with that. (Of course, Michael Cole freaks out about it too.) With Cena, he busts out a lot of moves for near-falls and has had many long matches that have been very good, including my 2017 WWE Match of the Year so far against AJ Styles at Royal Rumble back in January.
There will be plenty of time for this match in the 15-20 minute range. It might even go longer than that, depending if they go with a slow pace early on to build up the anticipation more.
I’m expecting a very good match that has likely been well thought out for several weeks including specific spots designed to create big reactions. These guys are very capable in a big match setting and I think they will deliver a memorable match.
What’s Next for Cena vs. Reigns
There are all kinds of rumors out there for Cena in terms of his future. The one that I believe the most is that this is probably his last match in WWE in 2017 because he has movie commitments the rest of the year that will keep him busy. There are also rumors that he’s probably going back to Smackdown in 2018 (remember he’s a “free agent”), which is why they did this match now instead of waiting to do it. When he goes back to Smackdown, he might be the guy to end the WWE Title reign of Jinder Mahal and win his record 17th WWE/World Championship. All of that makes sense to me.
It’s also possible that Cena is going to stick around on the Raw brand for a bit and if he were to stick around, he may be the next opponent for Braun Strowman. When Cena faced Strowman on Raw a few weeks ago, it ended in a disqualification, so they could easily have a feature feud. Once again, I don’t know for sure what his schedule is, which makes it difficult to predict what’s next.
Reigns will likely continue to be featured on the Raw brand in top feuds. I know I’m not going out on a limb with that one. I think he’ll be kept away from the Universal Title until early next year, so he’ll need a feud to end the year. Keep in mind that Survivor Series is in November, which means he could be in a tag team elimination match there. With Samoa Joe due back in October, we might see Reigns vs. Joe at the October TLC show that’s a Raw show or maybe they find somebody new for Reigns.
The Winner of Reigns vs. Cena
My pick has been Reigns since the match has been announced for this main reason. Who took the pinfall in the SummerSlam main event between Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe? The answer is Reigns. I don’t think Reigns is going to lose a second straight PPV match.
If Cena wins, then perhaps he won’t be gone to film his movie commitments right away. Maybe Cena will work TLC in October and Reigns will get his win back there. It’s possible.
I’m interested to see how they book the finish. It’s possible they might do it where Reigns kicks out of the Attitude Adjustment two times and Cena kicks out of the Spear two times, but it might be a case where the first finisher wins the match. There are some Cena matches where they overdo the use of the finishers and other times when one finisher truly ends the match, so that’s something to keep an eye on.
Prediction: Roman Reigns wins
Raw Tag Team Championships: Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose vs. Sheamus & Cesaro
I used to always think that challengers getting their title rematch rarely win, but this year it’s happened a few times because WWE booking has become so unpredictable this year. In this case, I doubt the champs lose the titles because Rollins and Ambrose have the crowd firmly behind them. There’s really no reason to take the titles off them now.
As for match quality, it should be great because they are all experienced performers who work well together. The heels will work over Ambrose, Rollins will be on fire after the hot tag and it should lead to a win for the champs. This has a chance to be the match of the night depending on how much time they get.
Prediction: Rollins & Ambrose retain their titles
Raw Women’s Championship Fatal 5-Way: Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley vs. Nia Jax vs. Emma
I’m tired of multi-women matches. They happen way too often in WWE this year. This past week on Smackdown, the main event was a women’s 4-Way match. I think Nia Jax will win the title either next month at TLC or Survivor Series in November, so WWE can book her like a dominant champion leading up to Asuka challenging her. Asuka is headed to Raw soon, so that’s the long-term view.
Bliss should retain the title and I can see Emma taking the pin. Emma getting pinned may be too obvious, so maybe they go with Banks or Bayley, but I highly doubt that Jax would get beat. If somebody other than Bliss wins, then it might be Bayley because WWE may choose to have her be the one to drop the title to Jax.
Prediction: Alexa Bliss retains her title
Finn Bálor vs. Bray Wyatt
This series is tied 1-1 with Wyatt beating Balor clean on TV, then Balor beat Wyatt at SummerSlam when Balor was in the full body paint as “The Demon.” This time, Balor said he’s going to be his regular self. There isn’t that much interest in the feud because Wyatt has lost whatever heat he used to have.
It feels like the end of the feud and I think Balor’s going to receive more of a push after this. It’s time to do more with Balor, so I’d be surprised if Wyatt went over here.
Prediction: Finn Balor wins
WWE Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Jason Jordan
The long-term plan is likely for Jordan to win this title, but there’s no reason for that to happen in his first shot at the IC Title. Miz is the right Intercontinental Champion for Jordan to feud with because he’s a cheap heel who has no intention of acting like a cool heel to get cheers from the crowd. Miz gets booed all the time, so that should help Jordan a lot as WWE tries to get him over.
For this match, I’m going with Miz retaining the IC Title, thanks to having his buddies Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas at ringside. I think in a future match, they’ll have Kurt Angle in the corner of his “son” Jason Jordan to prevent interference from Axel and Dallas, which is when Jordan will win. That’s likely in October or November. Not yet. Miz wins in cheap fashion here or maybe they go with a disqualification finish. Either way, something happens to lead to another match between them.
Prediction: The Miz retains his title
WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Enzo Amore
Good luck, Neville. I’ve seen Enzo Amore wrestle for about four years in WWE now and I’ve yet to see an above-average match from him even in a tag team setting. They’ll probably work a match where Neville is in control for 80% of it because Enzo’s strength is selling, then Enzo will get a couple of near-falls and Neville will manage to put him away. It wouldn’t surprise me if this ended in a disqualification or countout-type win for Enzo to lead to a rematch. I hope it’s a decisive win for Neville as he retains his title.
Prediction: Neville retains his title
I’m excited about this show. I think this has the potential to be the best WWE pay-per-view event this year. I know that may not be saying a lot because it’s been a weak year for standout PPVs, but if the top matches deliver then that could propel No Mercy into the discussion as the best WWE PPV of 2017. My top two PPVs of 2017 so far are Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber (the first two of the year), so we’ll see if I’m praising No Mercy as the best of the year on Monday.
You can watch WWE No Mercy this Sunday on WWE Network at 8 p.m. ET with a Kickoff Show starting at 7 p.m. ET. I’ll be back on Monday with a review of the show.