The focus of this week’s Raw centered around the five men who will be a part of the Extreme Rules Fatal 5-Way main event on June 4: Samoa Joe, Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns, Finn Balor and Seth Rollins. With Universal Champion Brock Lesnar not appearing on television until after Extreme Rules, Raw has been built around matches involving the five men battling to be Lesnar’s next challenger.
Raw started this week with Bray Wyatt doing one of his typical promos talking about how he’s in control of people while acting like he’s not scared of anybody else in the match at Extreme Rules. When Wyatt started talking trash about Roman Reigns, it led to Reigns getting into the ring to dare Wyatt to say it to his face. That brought out Raw’s General Manager Kurt Angle, who set up a Reigns vs. Wyatt match immediately.
The match between Reigns and Wyatt only lasted about five minutes because Samoa Joe entered the ring and teased going after Wyatt because of Wyatt hitting him with Sister Abigail last week. Instead of going after Wyatt, Joe went after Reigns and that led to the disqualification finish. Joe applied the Coquina Clutch to Reigns and also to Wyatt. Seth Rollins made the save. When Wyatt tried to hit Rollins, Reigns saved Rollins by hitting Wyatt with a Superman Punch. Confusing? Yeah, a little bit. Anyway, it set up the obvious tag match for later.
Finn Balor defeated Karl Anderson after he had a chat with Paul Heyman
Finn Balor entered for his match against Karl Anderson at the top of hour two. He talked about how he’s going to win the Extreme Rules main event. The crowd was solidly behind him as usual.
Balor was interrupted by the great Paul Heyman, who is the advocate for Universal Champion Brock Lesnar. Heyman mentioned the other four wrestlers in the Extreme Rules main event and said they would all be victims. When Heyman entered the ring with Balor, he complimented Balor while adding that he thought Balor was the most talented in-ring performer in WWE today. Heyman also called Balor the favorite to win at Extreme Rules. Heyman was courteous to him and wished him good luck. Balor told Heyman to tell message that he (Balor) is going to get the title shot and win the title from Lesnar.
I thought it was very interesting that Heyman so nice to Balor. Part of the reason why they did it that way is because Lesnar is in more of a tweener role these days. He’s booed by some and cheered by others. That promo also made me more confident in picking Balor to win the Extreme Rules match.
Balor’s match with Karl Anderson was good for the seven minutes they were given. I like how the announcers touched on their past as allies in Japan. They formed the Bullet Club before they were in WWE, but WWE doesn’t acknowledge that group. Their friendship was featured a bit in the Balor WWE 24 special that is on WWE Network (I reviewed it here), so if you watched that then you know they are close friends. Anyway, Balor got the win with the Coup de Grace double foot stomp off the top rope. The result is no surprise since it was done to build up Balor heading into Extreme Rules.
Samoa Joe & Bray Wyatt defeated Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns
The main event was a slightly above-average tag match to put over the heel duo of Samoa Joe and Bray Wyatt. Reigns was isolated by the heels, Rollins got the hot tag and was fire. I like Rollins a lot, but the crowd isn’t behind him as much as they should be for a top face. He just doesn’t elicit a loud reaction from them at this point. The finish saw Reigns going for a Superman Punch on Joe, but Joe moved and Reigns bumped into Rollins. Wyatt pulled Reigns out of the ring, Joe applied the Coquina Clutch to Rollins, who passed out in the hold (not a tap out) to give Joe’s team the submission win.
Does the win really mean anything? Nope. It’s all about having momentum going into Extreme Rules, but that doesn’t mean the guys who win Raw matches are going to win at Extreme Rules.
At the end of the show, two big matches were announced for next week by Kurt Angle: Balor vs. Joe vs. Wyatt and Reigns vs. Rollins. I love Angle, but he said “Baylor” instead of Balor, so that was awkward.
I like announcing matches in advance like that because it gives us something to look forward to next week. With that said, it’s not a great thing to put these guys in matches against each other every week because we’ll get sick of it by the time we get to June 4 at Extreme Rules. If they were kept apart, then it would mean more when they had their matches.
This Week’s Raw Matches
Here’s what else happened in the ring on Raw during a night full of many short matches.
Akira Tozawa defeated Ariya Daivari
It was a three-minute cruiserweight match to put over Tozawa since he has a match against Brian Kendrick on 205 Live this week. They rushed through it. Cool ending to the match with Tozawa hitting a back splash off the top after he got a lot of height when he did the jump.
“The Drifter” Elias Samson defeated Dean Ambrose by disqualification
This was Samson’s Raw in-ring debut. He sang a bad song before the match, which the crowd hated. I was never that impressed by him in NXT because he’s just very average in the ring and has a simple look to him. The match was pretty boring. Miz went into the ring (he was on commentary earlier), hit Samson in the back with a double axe and Ambrose was disqualified for it.
After the match, Ambrose chased after Miz, but Ambrose was attacked by Samson, who dropped him with a neckbreaker. The stipulation for Ambrose/Miz at Extreme Rules is that Ambrose can lose the Intercontinental Title at Extreme Rules if he is disqualified.
Keep that finish in mind for Extreme Rules. In theory, if Maryse went into the ring during the match and kicked her husband Miz, then Ambrose would lose by disqualification, which would give Miz the title per the stipulation. Will they do that? I doubt it, but it’s possible.
Sasha Banks defeated Alicia Fox
This was their third match in three weeks. The announcers actually said Fox was “on a roll” because she won a match last week. I can’t remember her last win before that. Anyway, Banks won clean in about three minutes with her double knee attack. After the match, Noam Dar got in Banks’ face, so Fox attacked and dropped her with a scissors kick.
This should have ended the feud, but it’s not over yet. It will probably lead to Rich Swann or Cedric Alexander teaming with Banks in a mixed tag against Dar and Fox. It gives them something to do, but I’d rather see Banks turn heel soon and used better.
Kalisto defeated Apollo Crews
WWE turned Crews heel last week (we think) and had him lose in three minutes this week. What a bizarre way to try to get a new direction over. After the match, Crews was yelled at by his coach Titus O’Neil.
Matt Hardy defeated Sheamus in a “Choose the Stipulation” match
I thought this was a good match that was very competitive. There wasn’t a point where it felt special or anything like that, but it was solid work by two veterans. Sheamus hit a high knee lift at one point where he dazed Matt. It looked legit. Turned out to be just a good-looking worked knee lift. When Cesaro tried to interfere, Jeff Hardy took him out on the floor with a clothesline. Sheamus kicked at Jeff, which allowed Matt to capitalize on Sheamus for the win.
Because of Matt’s win, the Hardys got to pick the stipulation for their Extreme Rules match against Sheamus and Cesaro. The Hardys picked a Steel Cage match, which led to angry faces from Sheamus and Cesaro. Some people complained to me saying it should be a Ladder Match. I don’t agree because they just did a Ladder Match at WrestleMania last month and there’s the Smackdown Money in the Bank ladder match also in June, so that would be overdoing the gimmick.
Austin Aries defeated Tony Nese
The second cruiserweight match saw Aries win with the Last Chancery submission over Nese. The reason for the submission win is because Aries will challenge Neville at Extreme Rules in a Submission match. They got about five minutes and it was okay. Nese barely worked on the left knee of Aries, even though Aries was out there trying to sell the knee injury.
After the match, Neville attacked Nese from behind and put him in the Rings of Saturn submission to send a message to Aries.
Alexa Bliss defeated Mickie James
Here was another short match in a night full of too many short matches with Bliss winning after about three minutes. James was on offense for a few minutes and Bliss seized control with a forearm to the face. Bliss followed up with a DDT to win.
I’ve said this before, but I’m not a fan of that finish because it doesn’t even look that good when she does it. We see DDTs all the time as finishers. At least people like Roode (Implant DDT), Ambrose (Double Arm DDT) and Mickie (Leaping DDT) do different things with their DDTs. Bliss does a basic one and it can win her matches, but not other people. Weird. I still think Bliss has a lot of things she can improve on in the ring. The rest of her act is great, though.
After the match, Bliss grabbed a kendo stick and hit James in the back with it. Mickie sold it great as she rolled out of the ring. Bayley made the save. If Bayley was a better friend, shouldn’t she have gotten out there before the kendo stick to the back? I realize it is because they want to sell the kendo stick match at Extreme Rules. I’m just saying from a logic standpoint, it makes Bayley look like an awful friend.
Other Key Items From Raw
1. Enzo Amore was knocked out by a mystery attacker
There was a backstage scene where Enzo Amore was knocked out on the floor with only his shoe by his head. They went to break with Big Cass checking on his tag partner. When they came back from break, Enzo said he had no idea who did it and claimed he was attacked from behind. Raw GM Kurt Angle said they’ll find out who did it and Cass told Angle that they better find out before he does.
I wasn’t sure where this might go, but a few astute readers suggested that maybe it was Cass who did it and this will be used to set up the Enzo & Cass split. It would make sense since Enzo & Cass never won the tag titles together, so Cass attacking his smaller partner who loses all the time would set up Cass as a monster heel.
2. Goldust had a “Shattered Dreams Production” video
It felt like 1996 again as Goldust was featured in a Shattered Dreams Production video. He spoke about how his former partner R-Truth was holding on to that last glimmer of hope. Goldust told some guy who handed him a script that he didn’t need a script because it’s his picture and he’s in the director’s chair again. Goldust claimed that “The Golden Age is Back” and did his famous chomp to end it.
This was similar to the promos he was doing over 20 years ago as a heel character that was so different from anybody we’ve seen before. Retro is in, so why not give it a try? I hope it works out. The reality is that he’s almost 50 years old and R-Truth is in his mid-40s, so it will just be a short-term feud for them. I don’t expect a big push for Goldust, but at least he’s doing something better than being an old guy that loses tag matches.
Looking Ahead To Extreme Rules
— WWE (@WWE) May 23, 2017
The next Raw pay-per-view event is Extreme Rules on Sunday, June 4 in Baltimore, Maryland. They announced five matches last week and nothing new this week, but they have some stipulations for all five matches.
Fatal 5-Way Extreme Rules Match to Determine #1 Contender for the Universal Championship: Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe – They didn’t announce when the winner gets a title shot, but it will be at Great Balls of Fire on July 9.
Raw Tag Team Championships (Steel Cage Match): The Hardy Boyz vs. Sheamus & Cesaro
Raw Women’s Championship (Kendo Stick on a Pole): Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley
Intercontinental Championship (Title can change hands if champion is disqualified): Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz
Cruiserweight Championship (Submission Match): Neville vs. Austin Aries
That’s all for now.
It was an average show that bored me for most of the night. Too many quick matches makes the show feel longer too. Six matches going five minutes or less is way too much. It’s why the crowds aren’t consistently good during Raw. You can’t get up for matches when they barely get time. The longer matches had better reactions because the crowd got emotionally invested in them. Easy to understand, right?
As I mentioned earlier, it’s tough for me to get that excited about the Extreme Rules main event. I think it will be a great match, no doubt, but they are featuring the talent in too many matches against each other. Keep them apart and their Extreme Rules match will mean more. It’s common sense.
Raw just doesn’t have a lot of excitement right now. Part of it is the absence of Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, but it’s also the booking of the show in general. It’s hard to get excited for some of these storylines that don’t seem to ever have a big payoff while the long term booking is generally pretty weak.
I’ll be backWednesday with a review of Smackdown Live featuring Jinder Mahal’s WWE Championship celebration. It feels weird just writing that.