This week’s edition of Raw was the last episode of the show before SummerSlam, which is one of WWE’s biggest events of the year. The show was built around a major confrontation between Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe. It was hyped as some sort of face-off that teased a big brawl.

I want to begin this week’s review by saying my thoughts and prayers are with Ric Flair, who is in a hospital bed in Atlanta in serious condition. He’s been in the hospital since Saturday. On Raw, they said that he had surgery on Monday and that he’s not out of the woods yet. Let’s hope he pulls through because we all need the Nature Boy to keep on living as long as he possibly can. Ric is 68 years old, his family is with him — including WWE superstar Charlotte, who is his youngest daughter — and needs all our love and support in this difficult time.

Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe had a Fatal 4-Way Face Off

The main event of Raw began with General Manager Kurt Angle in the ring surrounded by security guys. The idea was that Angle didn’t want this to turn into a crazy brawl, so he had security (they were really indie wrestlers there) to try to prevent something bad from happening.

Brock Lesnar, the Universal Champion, walked out with his advocate, Paul Heyman. That led to a great promo from Heyman as he did his best to sell us on the main event of SummerSlam by saying he was there to provide spoilers, not predictions. Heyman made it clear that Lesnar didn’t like being in a Fatal 4-Way match, while claiming that it was Kurt Angle and WWE’s way of getting the title off Lesnar by having somebody else walk away with it. In other words, Lesnar could be beat without getting pinned.

Heyman said one of two things would happen at SummerSlam. The first thing is that they rip the title from Lesnar, leading to Lesnar and Heyman leaving WWE. Heyman added that if it happens like that, then you may as well lock The Beast (Lesnar) in a cage and added “hint, hint” to reference Lesnar’s desire of going to UFC again. Heyman said the other option is Lesnar will retain his title and remind us what a great athlete he is. I thought Heyman was fantastic at getting his point across. The story of Lesnar possibly leaving WWE is an intriguing one because it makes sense from a storyline standpoint.

Samoa Joe entered the fray to say he’s going to choke out Lesnar and take the Universal Title from him.

Braun Strowman was up next to brag about how he was the Last Man Standing last week and to ask Roman Reigns. Joe laughed about it, saying that Braun only beat Roman because of him, which is true because Joe choked out Roman to help Braun win.

That led to Roman Reigns entering the ring (he was booed heavily) and he hit a Spear on Joe right away. Strowman hit a running Powerslam on Reigns, which led to Reigns and Joe going to the floor. That cleared the way for the Lesnar confrontation with Strowman.

Lesnar and Strowman fought each other, but were quickly separated by the security guys. Both guys ended up beating up the security, tossing them all out of the ring and they fought again. That led to Kurt Angle calling for the Raw locker room to empty out to try to break it up, which was successful briefly until Lesnar broke free to get a shot in and Strowman got a shot in too. Raw went off the air shortly after that with the tease of this four-way match headlining SummerSlam on Sunday.

I thought it was an effective closing segment because it left us wanting more in terms of the match at SummerSlam. That’s the point of having main event TV segments where they don’t give away too much. If Lesnar was out there hitting the F5 on everybody, then that doesn’t make the others look good. It also gives the fun away. When it happens on Sunday, it will mean a lot more than if he did it on Raw. I also think WWE kept Lesnar and Reigns apart to try to build that as a big showdown too.

I’m leaning towards a Lesnar win at SummerSlam. As I wrote in this column here at The Comeback on Monday, his value to WWE is as high as ever. I don’t buy the “Lesnar will walk away” story because he’s under contract until WrestleMania and WWE is going to use him as much as they can. I also think that final segment was done to tease Lesnar vs. Strowman as a potential September WWE No Mercy PPV match. So when Lesnar retains at SummerSlam, he’ll probably pin Joe to protect Strowman and Reigns as future opponents. I’ll write more about the match in my SummerSlam preview on Friday.

This Week’s Raw Matches

Here are the matches from this week’s Raw, which included a title change.

Sasha Banks defeated Nia Jax

This match was done to determine who would face Alexa Bliss at SummerSlam and it’s no surprise that Banks won. Bliss was seated in what looked like a lifeguard chair painted silver. Bliss is the “Goddess” of WWE, so she was on a throne to watch the match at ringside.

Jax was dominant for most of the match. They were given three segments for the bout with two commercials and it went about 15 minutes. The final segment was all about Banks trying to make her big comeback, which led to a couple of near-falls. Eventually, Banks applied the Bank Statement submission, she wrenched back on the neck of Jax and Jax tapped out. Tremendous performance by Banks in terms of her selling and also the moves she used to get the win. It was one of the better Jax matches I’ve seen, so give her credit for improving.

Post-match, there was a staredown between Banks and Bliss. I can see there being a title change at SummerSlam, but not sure if that’s my pick yet.

Akira Tozawa defeated Neville to win the Cruiserweight Championship

I enjoyed this match a lot. It was all about building to the signature moves of each guy. Tozawa went for his Senton Bomb finisher off the top two times, but Neville kept getting up to prevent it. Neville went for his Red Arrow splash and Tozawa moved. That led to Tozawa going up top, hitting the Senton Bomb and covering Neville to win the title, ending Neville’s reign as champion after 197 days (over six months). It was treated like a big moment with a celebration by Tozawa along with his manager Titus O’Neil and fellow Titus Worldwide member Apollo Crews.

I wasn’t surprised by the title change because I think Tozawa has been built up well as a character. I just thought they would save it for SummerSlam. There’s nothing wrong with doing it on Raw, though.

Later in the show, it was announced that Neville will get his rematch at SummerSlam.

Bray Wyatt defeated Finn Balor

This was the second match of the show where they chose to do a SummerSlam match six days early. It was pretty boring for the most part with Wyatt controlling most of it, Balor never really got going and Wyatt ended up winning clean with the Sister Abigail neckbreaker. It left me saying “That’s it?” because it felt so anticlimactic.

Post match, the Wyatt logo appeared on the screen, Wyatt had a bucket in his hand and Balor was against the turnbuckle. Balor poured some red liquid on his head with the idea that it was some blood symbolism, although it wasn’t blood and they didn’t say it was blood. Remember The Brood in 1998/99? They used to do bloodbaths, so it felt a bit similar to that.

Later in the show, Balor said that Wyatt had demons and Finn had demons too, which drew a pop from the crowd because they knew it meant Demon Balor time where he paints his whole body. It was advertised later in the night that “Demon” Finn Balor will face Bray Wyatt at SummerSlam. In other words, that post-match angle was just done to set up Balor bringing back the “demon” look for the first time in a year.

Mickie James defeated Emma

They set this up with a backstage segment where Emma was complaining about how she needs a chance. Mickie suggested a match and it was on.

Mickie won in about four minutes. Emma dominated most of it, but her offense didn’t look that great aside from a couple of moves. It was also telling that the crowd was hot most of the night, but they didn’t care about this. That’s what happens when people are barely on the show. Anyway, Mickie won with her reverse Mick Kick to the head. I think the story is that Emma is going to keep whining until things get better for her. I hope both women are featured more regularly going forward.

Jason Jordan defeated The Miz by disqualification

They only wrestled for about two minutes. Jordan dominated the action, went for his neckbreaker finisher and was attacked by Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas (aka The Miztourage) leading to the disqualification. The Hardy Boyz made the save to set up a tag match.

The Hardy Boyz and Jason Jordan defeated The Miz, Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas

It was a standard tag match where the heels worked over the faces and Jeff was in position to make the hot tag. I thought Jordan looked great hitting suplexes on everybody. The crowd isn’t fully behind Jordan, which is obvious from watching the shows, but teaming him with the Hardys was a good idea because they are so popular. Bo Dallas ended up taking some big moves from the faces, including Matt’s Twist of Fate and Jeff nailed the Swanton Bomb to get the win. It was given about 15 minutes, which is more than you might think for a match like that, but it was a good effort by everybody.

It feels weird that the Hardys, Jordan and Miz aren’t in matches at SummerSlam. All of them should be featured at that show, yet here we are less than a week ago and nothing announced for any of them. That could change before Sunday.

Other Key Items From Raw

1. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose finally reunited

Raw began with Dean Ambrose doing a promo about how he didn’t know what Rollins was doing when he walked away from Ambrose last week as Dean stuck out his fist for the Shield pose. Rollins entered to argue that Ambrose has been playing games with him for weeks too. They ended up having a schoolyard fight between friends that saw them both tumble to the floor. That led to Sheamus and Cesaro, the Raw Tag Team Champions, to enter the picture and attack both of them.

Rollins and Ambrose ended up working together to send the champs out of the ring. They hit double clotheslines to get rid of them as the crowd went wild for it. That’s when the big moment happened as Ambrose stuck out his fist, Rollins stuck out his fist and they did the Shield fist pose to thunderous applause. It took about 10 minutes to get to it, but the wait was worth it because it felt like a big moment.

Raw GM Kurt Angle showed up to announce that at SummerSlam, it’s Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Ambrose & Rollins for the Raw Tag Team Titles. I think a title change is very possible for that match.

This was really well done. There was a lot of energy in the arena to start the show and this was a fun way to begin the night. It was obvious that Ambrose/Rollins vs. Sheamus/Cesaro was the direction a few weeks ago. It should be an awesome match on Sunday.

Where is Roman Reigns during this Shield reunion stuff? Busy with other things. Of course, WWE doesn’t mention that at all.

2. Elias and R-Truth had an altercation

Elias was in the ring doing one of his songs ripping on the local city, which was Boston in this case. R-Truth walked out doing his rap. When Truth got in the ring, Elias attacked him before he could do anything. Elias hit his “Drift Away” move to put down Truth easily. Truth has been a wrestler for nearly 20 years and was made to look like a rookie who had no idea a guy would attack him when he would enter the ring. Weak segment.

3. Big Cass injured Big Show’s hand

Big Cass did a promo where the crowd booed him loudly the entire time. He did the stop-and-start thing to get them to boo even more, which is a smart heel trick. The shark cage was in the ring because that’s what Enzo Amore is going to be in (above the ring) during the Cass vs. Big Show match at SummerSlam. Cass did a cocky heel promo about how he’s going to beat Big Show.

Enzo showed up on the ramp to remind Cass that Big Show knocked out Cass the last two weeks on Raw. Cass told Enzo to shut up and that he always has jokes. Enzo brought out Big Show.

When Big Show entered the ring to face off with Cass, he was ambushed by the team of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. The three heels beat up Big Show and of course easily knocked Enzo out of the ring too. Gallows used a belt to drag Show towards the cage. Cass was by the cage door and slammed the cage door on Big Show’s right hand, which is the same hand that Show used to knock out Cass. Show sold it like he was in a lot of pain. Cass stomped on the hand some more and referees went out to break it up.

There was a backstage segment with Show, Enzo and a doctor where the doctor told Show that he had a broken hand. Show said he’s still wrestling at SummerSlam, so they’ll probably give him the cast gimmick. Cass should win on Sunday.

Looking Ahead to WWE SummerSlam

The next WWE pay-per-view is SummerSlam this Sunday, August 20 in Brooklyn, New York. Here are the 12 announced matches.

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

WWE Championship: Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

John Cena vs. Baron Corbin

United States Championship: AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens (Shane McMahon is the referee)

Raw Tag Team Championships: Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins

“The Demon” Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt

Randy Orton vs. Rusev

Big Show vs. Big Cass (Enzo Amore is in a shark cage above the ring)

Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks

Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The New Day vs. The Usos

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Naomi vs. Natalya

Cruiserweight Championship: Akira Tozawa vs. Neville

The main portion of SummerSlam starts at 7 p.m. ET and there’s a two-hour Kickoff Show starting at 5 p.m. ET, so that’s six hours of content on Sunday night. You can watch it all on WWE Network. I will have an in-depth SummerSlam preview on Friday.

In Closing

I enjoyed Raw a lot this week. Good matches all night long, the opening promo was very good and the main event segment was even better because it left us wanting to see what was going to happen at SummerSlam. It was one of the better Raw episodes in the past month and an above-average “go home” show, which means the last episode of the brand before a PPV.

There were four matches on Raw that got over 10 minutes. I liked all of them and the main reason is because they were given time to tell a story. That’s something Raw has to do more often in the future. There are times when they have eight or nine matches and all of them are short, which really hurts the flow of the show. By giving the wrestlers more time in the ring, they are going to get more over with the crowd and hopefully lead to bigger reactions.

Also wanted to acknowledge the Boston crowd for being loud most of the night. That certainly helps the atmosphere of a show when the crowd is in into it that much.

I’ll be back Wednesday with a review of Smackdown Live featuring Jinder Mahal vs. John Cena in a non-title match.

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.