The return of WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar was the big story for this week’s Raw. On a normal edition of Raw, that might be the main event of the show since Lesnar has been off WWE TV since the night after WrestleMania in early April. However, this wasn’t a normal week due to the NBA Finals. Since WWE knew that Game 5 of the NBA Finals, which started an hour after Raw began at 9 p.m. ET, would bring in 20+ million viewers for ABC, the decision was made to have Lesnar start Raw.

I don’t blame WWE for making that decision. It was the right move because when the viewership numbers come in for Raw later on Tuesday, they will likely show a big drop in hours two and three. It just hurt the quality of the show because the best segment took place in the first 15 minutes. Everything else that followed felt average at best and it could be argued that this was the worst Raw of the year.

Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe have their first face-to-face encounter

Lesnar started the show with his advocate Paul Heyman. Good ovation for Lesnar, who is positioned as a face against Samoa Joe on Raw these days as they head towards Lesnar vs. Joe for the Universal Title at Great Balls of Fire on July 9.

Heyman talked about how he showed respect to Samoa Joe last week, but Joe took advantage of that respect by putting Heyman in the Coquina Clutch. Heyman claimed that upset The Beast (Lesnar) and now Lesnar will solve the Samoa Joe problem. Heyman added that Joe won’t be able to get the Coquina Clutch because he’s not man enough to do it and that brought out Joe.

Joe walked right down to the ring as Heyman left so that Joe and Lesnar could have their face-to-face encounter. I like that Joe didn’t say a word. They had a staredown, Joe hit him in the shoulder and they brawled all around the ring. The fight only lasted about 10 seconds until Kurt Angle brought out security to break it up. The security guys weren’t successful because Joe and Lesnar shoved them away. That led to Angle bringing out the majority of the Raw locker room (not the top names) to break it up.

During the pull-apart brawl in the ring, Joe got free and hit a running kick on Lesnar while Lesnar was being held back by other guys. Joe was pulled out of the ring after that while Lesnar tried to get after him, but wasn’t successful. It was a chaotic situation to begin Raw.

I’m a big fan of pull-apart brawls once in a while. The best one that I can remember on Raw was Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker two years ago, which took up three segments of the show because of how much they kept going at each other. This was a quicker brawl, but it got over the fact that these two men wanted to fight.

I say it all the time because it’s true – the best wrestling matches (or fights in this case) are the ones that look real. That’s the whole point of the show. Make it look as real as you can without hurting somebody. With Lesnar and Joe, they have the credibility to really pull off something like a pull-apart brawl and have fans buy into it, thinking that they are watching a real fight. It would be nice if WWE’s creative team remembered that was the point of wrestling, but they don’t seem aware enough to remember the basics of what it is they do.

Later in the show, Joe did a promo talking about how he had no fear when it came to Lesnar. I like the way he’s been presented in the story. Joe has been booked very strong on the main roster aside from the Payback loss to Seth Rollins, which I didn’t agree with at the time and I still don’t. It didn’t hurt him, though.

Lesnar isn’t scheduled to be at next week’s Raw. He will be at Raw in two weeks, so the story should pick up at that point.

This Week’s Raw Matches

It was not a good week for matches on Raw. Here’s a summary of a bad Monday night for WWE.

Elias Samson defeated Dean Ambrose

They had a decent match that went about 12 minutes with The Miz showing up to cost Ambrose. The finish saw Ambrose leave the ring to go after Miz, so when Ambrose went back in the ring to beat the 10-count, Samson capitalized with a double knee to the back and the spinning reverse neckbreaker.

The victory gives Samson his biggest win to date on the main roster, although I’m not impressed by him. He looks like any generic wrestler with a beard and long hair. His moves are pretty basic. I don’t know if he’ll ever stand out. I also think that stylistically, his matches don’t look good with Ambrose. It just felt off from the beginning.

Cedric Alexander defeated Noam Dar

Dar had “girlfriend” Alicia Fox on FaceTime on her phone because she has some neck injury. She kept yelling while he put the phone in the turnbuckle. When Dar turned around, Alexander hit his Lumbar Check finisher and pinned Dar in about eight seconds. Match of the year! Not really.

Why would fans care about the cruiserweight division when WWE puts stuff like this on Raw? It’s awful.

Apollo Crews defeated Kalisto

Crews won clean in about three minutes, even with Titus O’Neil in his corner. O’Neil had Akira Tozawa sitting in row one in the crowd because O’Neil wanted to recruit him for the Titus Brand. I thought Crews would win in a cheap way, but it was totally clean. Crews hit his sitout Powerbomb for the win. Post-match, O’Neil, Crews & Tozawa did an awkward selfie pic together.

My immediate question for that is why does a wrestler with a contract need to sit in the crowd? Makes no sense. I know WWE doesn’t like us asking questions because they think we are idiots. The problem is the booking decisions lead to so many unanswered questions.

Sasha Banks, Mickie James & Dana Brooke defeated Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss & Emma

The match was set up with a promo that started with Bliss complaining about the other women, Nia Jax being mad about the way their title match ended last week, Mickie James and Dana Brooke ripping on Bliss (Mickie called her a “dwarf”), Emma making her return from a month-long shoulder injury and Banks ending it by hitting Bliss with a forearm to the face. That led to the impromptu (or predictable) six-woman tag.

They only got about four minutes with Bliss walking out on her team because her gimmick is being a selfish jerk unless she needs help. Mickie didn’t even tag in for her team although she did take Jax out on the floor. Banks finished off Emma with a Bank Statement submission. It will probably lead to Banks as the next title contender against Bliss at Great Balls of Fire, unless they opt to go for a multi-woman match instead.

Heath Slater & Rhyno defeated The Miz (w/Maryse) & “The Bear”

You might be wondering what “The Bear” is. It was a guy dressed like a bear just like on last week’s Raw during The Miz’s IC Title celebration. It led to the announcers making bear references throughout the match. The guy in the match even applied a bearhug submission move. Thrilling, huh? Anyway, Miz attacked the guy thinking it was Ambrose and it was not. However, after the original Bear fell to the floor, another Bear went into the ring and hit the Dirty Deeds DDT on Slater. Ambrose took off the bear head part of the costume and hit Miz with a Dirty Deeds DDT. Ambrose put Slater on top of Miz to give the faces the win.

It was a silly comedy match that didn’t make me laugh and made me embarrassed that I was watching this boring show. What a waste of time.

When The Miz was on Smackdown late last year and early this year, he came off like a huge star that was better than ever. The move to Raw hasn’t helped at all. They have booked him in stupid, campy segments week after week and he’s become just another guy again. I have no interest in more Miz vs. Ambrose matches aside from the obligatory rematch, yet somehow this feud keeps going. Please allow them to move on, WWE.

Neville attacked Rich Swann before they could have a match

Neville was already in the ring when Rich Swann made his entrance. Neville jumped Swann as soon as he got in the ring, beat him up and ended it with his Rings of Saturn submission move. Neville ended it with a generic promo about being the king of the cruiserweights. I like Neville, but this felt like a waste of time more than anything.

Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson defeated Enzo Amore & Big Cass

Prior to the match, Cass was mysteriously attacked backstage. The Revival were shown walking around back there, but I doubt it was them. Anyway, Cass took part in the match even though he was hurting, and the heels took advantage of that to hit the Magic Killer double-team move on Enzo to win.

Post-match, Big Show made the save for Enzo when the heels were going for a double-team attack. Big Cass saw Show making the save and looked jealous as if this was some teenage drama show where a guy is mad that another guy got to hug the pretty girl instead of him. They followed up with a backstage segment where Enzo needed to be sure it was not Big Show who attacked Cass and Show told Enzo that Cass was “SAWFT” for thinking that.

I still think it will be Cass going heel with him revealing he faked his own attacks. He can beat up Enzo easily and then have a feud with Big Show in the battle of guys with “Big” in their names. Vince McMahon will be wetting himself.

Sheamus & Cesaro vs. The Hardy Boyz had a Tag Team Title 2/3 Falls match that ended in a countout

The first fall ended quick with Sheamus hitting a Brogue Kick on Jeff Hardy while Hardy was going for a move off the top rope. The second fall saw the Hardys make the comeback and Matt pinned Cesaro after a Twist of Fate.

The action picked up for the third fall with some good near-falls for both sides. At one point, Jeff Hardy hit his Swanton Bomb finisher and Cesaro pulled Sheamus out of the ring to save his partner. From there, it turned into a brawl with all four guys battling on the floor and the ref had no choice but to call it a disqualification. They continued brawling after the match with Jeff hitting a cross body block on the heels to give the advantage to the Hardys as Raw came to a close.

What a bizarre way to end the night with a countout loss. If this show was booked in a normal way, then this would have been at the top of hour two or three and not the main event slot. However, they moved things around due to the NBA game. It also means this feud will continue.

Other Key Items From Raw

1. Roman Reigns will have a SummerSlam announcement next week

There was no Roman Reigns on Raw this week, although he did appear before the live crowd after the cameras stopped rolling. Instead of being on Raw, they hyped up some big Reigns announcement for SummerSlam. Keep in mind that SummerSlam is in two months and that Great Balls of Fire is July 9, yet there appears to be nothing for Reigns in terms of storylines.

I’m not sure what the SummerSlam announcement will be. Perhaps WWE may have him challenge John Cena to a match? I don’t know what they are thinking about with it. Find out next week.

2. Bayley did a sit-down interview that didn’t help her at all

Bayley was interviewed by Corey Graves in a sit-down setting prior to Raw. Bayley said the same things she always does about wanting to be a wrestler, her goals from wrestling training about being the best and how she didn’t want to hurt people or put them in a hospital. Bayley claimed that she wasn’t going to change for any match she has and wants kids to know they can be themselves to achieve their dreams like her. She talked about wanting to be Raw Women’s Champion again.

At the end of it, Bayley wanted to hug Graves. It led to an awkward visual where she leaned forward for the hug while he wasn’t interested in hugging her back. Graves joked, “I need a cigarette.”

Why are they booking her to be such a loser? It’s not even a sympathetic loser. She comes off as annoying and is the most uncool character on the show. If you look back at her run in NXT two or three years ago, her character evolved from being a shy loser type girl to a strong woman. Now she’s back to being a loser and it’s not helping at all.

They should have had her get mad about losing the title to Bliss and losing the return match. Have her say that she’s going to learn from her mistakes and how she can’t wait to get her hands on Bliss again so she can teach her a lesson. Instead, she had one of the most lame interviews you’ll ever see. It’s amazing to me to see how much Raw’s creative team has botched the Bayley character in one year.

3. Bray Wyatt and Seth Rollins exchanged words

Wyatt has targeted Rollins in recent weeks, so Wyatt did a promo this week where he ripped on Rollins. That led to Rollins going into the ring to mock Wyatt for thinking he was some god and martyr. Just when it looked like they might get into a fight, the lights went out, Wyatt’s logo appeared on the screen and he was gone. Wyatt ended it by a saying a god lives forever while also warning Rollins to run.

It should lead to a PPV match between them at Great Balls of Fire on July 9. I would expect Rollins to get the win there.

Looking Ahead To Great Balls of Fire

The next Raw pay-per-view event is called Great Balls of Fire and it takes place on Sunday, July 9 in Dallas, TX. There’s only one match announced so far.

WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe

That’s all for now. I assume Rollins vs. Wyatt gets added to the card as well. There will be other matches announced in the next month.

In Closing

Boring show, aside from the Lesnar/Joe brawl to start. Honestly, if you didn’t watch it then I would recommend just watching that opening segment and skip the rest. Don’t feel bad about skipping it because Raw’s creative team skipped it and it’s their job to put on the best show possible. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Raw was heading in the right direction. Nope. Not anymore.

I’ll be back Wednesday with a review of Smackdown Live featuring Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler & Baron Corbin vs. AJ Styles, Sami Zayn & Shinsuke Nakamura in a six-man tag match.

About John Canton

John has been writing about WWE online since the late 1990s. He joined The Comeback/Awful Announcing team in 2015. Follow John Canton on Twitter @johnreport or email him at with any comments or questions. For more of his wrestling opinions, visit his website at Cheap pop!