It was the last episode of WWE Monday Night Raw before the WWE Draft, which is set to take place Tuesday night on Smackdown Live. Two major events happened this week, as the WWE Title match ended in controversial fashion while two popular former WWE Champions returned as General Managers.
It started off with Smackdown Commissioner Shane McMahon and Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon bickering about things like usual. They were there to announce GMs of their respective shows.
The new Raw General Manager is the WWE Hall of Famer… Donald Trump! OK, so it’s not him. It is Mick Foley, who is one of the most popular wrestlers in WWE history. It’s an interesting choice because he’s normally a babyface character while Stephanie is a heel, so why should she pick him? I guess the idea is that he’s more likable than her, so she’s trying to appease the fans that hate her so much. Foley delivered a solid promo, although he stumbled a bit at one point when it looked like Stephanie had to feed him a line or two.
Smackdown’s General Manager received a bigger ovation than Foley because it was Daniel Bryan. The crowd loved him as they chanted “Yes!” for the former WWE Champion, who was forced to retire from in-ring competition back in February due to repeated concussions. He’s likely going to headline the next WWE Hall of Fame class in Orlando next year.
Bryan spoke about the challenge of being the GM of Smackdown, because it’s the underdog just like he was. The underdog thing works because Raw has more history than Smackdown, has a three-hour show rather than two, and regarding WWE draft picks, they are giving Raw three picks for every two picks that Smackdown gets. That definitely makes Smackdown the tougher show to manage, since there are fewer people on it. Then again, Raw is tough to sit through for three hours, so Smackdown could have the advantage since it’s “only” two hours.
I thought Bryan had the better speech between he and Foley. It just felt more natural. Foley’s a great talker too, but Bryan’s speech came off well. He talked about how he didn’t know if he could come back to WWE after being forced to retire because he loved wrestling so much. Then he talked to Shane, heard about his vision for Smackdown and was happy to come in as the GM after that. Bryan’s also serving as the color commentator for the Cruiserweight Classic that started last week on WWE Network, so WWE is keeping him busy in retirement.
While Bryan and Foley went back and forth, Shane was out there sweating profusely in a shirt that was probably heavy. Meanwhile, Stephanie McMahon was out there using her “lady balls” phrase because that’s the title of her upcoming book. Speaking of shilling, Foley’s got a WWE Network show with his family that is starting in August, so this will allow them to promote the show with Mick there on Raw every week.
Monday’s show was headlined by a WWE Title match, as Dean Ambrose put the gold on the line against Seth Rollins. The match was built up well after they announced it last week. Rollins did a great promo in an empty arena from earlier in the day, while Ambrose did a quick selfie promo on a cell phone like The Shield used to do.
The Ambrose/Rollins match lasted 24 minutes. It was very even the whole way. Both guys were doing everything they could to win, with Ambrose hitting his Dirty Deeds finisher only for Rollins to get his foot on the bottom rope at the count of two. Rollins came back with a Pedigree. Ambrose surprisingly kicked out of that.
For the finish, they went with something unique as Rollins hit Ambrose with a Superplex off the top rope. When they landed, they locked their feet together as both of their shoulders were down. The referee Chad Patton (who was knocked down briefly before the move) counted the fall although they didn’t declare a winner right away.
The controversial finish led to Stephanie, Mick, Shane and Daniel all arguing about it. Stephanie declared Rollins the new WWE Champion. Raw ended there, which was weird.
For some reason, WWE decided to air about five more minutes of footage on WWE Network immediately after Raw aired. What was peculiar is that they didn’t even promote the extra WWE Network time during the show on USA Network. It was only mentioned on their social media channels or through their notification services. If you watched Raw and didn’t think to turn on WWE Network, then you missed it. I was able to catch it, but that’s because I cover this stuff for a living. The casual fan likely had no idea.
— WWE (@WWE) July 19, 2016
The WWE Network portion led to more arguing. The referee asked for a replay of the finish. It showed that both guys had their shoulders down, so the match was officially ruled a draw. That led to Ambrose keeping the title, since he was the WWE Champion going into the match.
All of this was likely done as a way to introduce a second WWE Title, which may be called the World Title. Raw will have one title and Smackdown will have the other. Who or what goes where will be determined in the WWE Draft tonight.
In addition to all of that, WWE has added a WWE Title match to Tuesday’s Smackdown with Ambrose facing Rollins again. Keep in mind that they are also doing the Ambrose vs. Rollins vs. Roman Reigns WWE Title match at Battleground this Sunday as well. That’s three televised WWE Title matches in a six-day span. A little much? I think so.
The whole thing is very confusing. I’m not sure who is going to end up as WWE Champion by the end of Battleground on Sunday, but it’s likely that the second World Title will be back at some point soon.
This Week’s Raw Matches
Sami Zayn & Cesaro defeated Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho
They’ve done this tag match a few times in the last few months, but I like all of them so that’s okay. Very good match, as usual, from them. It got about 15 minutes with Zayn beating Jericho with a cradle. The outcome made sense with Jericho taking the fall, since he’s not in a match at Battleground while Zayn will face Owens.
Darren Young defeated Alberto Del Rio
It was a short match that Del Rio nearly won except that The Miz — Young’s opponent at Battleground — caused a distraction. It ended up working out well for Young, as he rolled up Del Rio and did a bridging pin for the win. Young needed the win since he won the battle royal in a lucky manner last week. Del Rio losing in less than four minutes shows he has fallen very far in his career.
AJ Styles, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan & Braun Strowman vs. John Cena, Enzo Amore, Big Cass, Big E, Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston
The match got about 20 minutes. It was a way to set up the two six-man tag matches that are happening at Battleground on Sunday. All 12 guys got a chance to be in the match with Cena taking the most punishment for his team. Then The New Day trio ended up brawling to the back with The Wyatt Family. That led to Enzo accidentally kicking Cena and Styles capitalized with a Styles Clash on Enzo to win for his team. It put over the idea that Cena may not have a lot of success with his new buddies while Styles is more familiar with his team.
Baron Corbin defeated Sin Cara
A short match to give Corbin the win. Nothing much to it. After the match, Corbin also hit Cara’s friend Kalisto with a clothesline to the back of the head.
Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch defeated Charlotte & Dana Brooke by disqualification
It was another short match, this time due to Natalya showing up to attack Becky Lynch. WWE has done a poor job of setting up Natalya vs. Lynch, but they have a match at Battleground. After the match, Banks fell victim to a double-team attack by Charlotte and Brooke. Banks and a mystery partner face Charlotte and Brooke at Battleground as well. Is the partner Bayley? I sure hope so. I guess it could be Paige too.
Rusev & Sheamus defeated Dolph Ziggler & Zack Ryder
A basic tag match to put over Rusev heading into his US Title match against Ryder at Battleground on Sunday. I liked how Sheamus didn’t want to tag Rusev in, which was a nod to their problems in the League of Nations earlier in the year. Rusev ended up making Ziggler tap out to the Accolade submission after it took just two moves to put him down. Poor Ziggler.
WWE Title Match: Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins ended in a draw
One thing I’ll add is that the crowd reaction to this match was subpar. You would think the audience would care more about an advertised WWE Title match featuring two top guys, but they had a hard time getting into it. That’s the problem with a three-hour Raw — the show is just too long.
Three Other Key Items From Raw
1. Enzo Amore cut a hilarious promo before the 12-man tag team match. He was out there ripping on AJ Styles for his soccer mom haircut, Luke Gallows for being ugly and Karl Anderson looking like a generic bald man. He’s really becoming one of the best talkers in WWE with his ability to say some funny things, while also showing some intensity as well.
There were about 20 minutes of promos before the match including John Cena out there as the awkward, old guy that didn’t know what Enzo and Cass are talking about with their “How you doin’?” line. If you remember the early part of Cena’s career from 2002 to 2004, he was the coolest guy on the show with his raps that made fun of people and the edginess of his character. Now he’s 39 years old and trying to fit in. It was a bit awkward, but they made it work.
2. There was a backstage face-to-face promo with Foley and Bryan later in the show that I really liked. It was a way to show that even though both guys are among the most popular WWE superstars ever, they are in this to be the best at their job. Foley did an excellent job of talking about how neither one of them was supposed to be “the man” in WWE, yet they were able to get there despite being unconventional.
I don’t envision Foley or Bryan turning heel anytime soon, but that’s okay. The heel authority figure role is overdone anyway. Foley’s great at sucking up to the crowd while Bryan has the “YES” chant in his back pocket, so both of them will succeed as likable characters that are in authoritative roles.
3. During the show opening promo, Stephanie McMahon announced that Raw will be the exclusive home of the Cruiserweight Division after the success of WWE’s new Cruiserweight Classic show that started on WWE Network last week.
It feels like an odd choice to put it on Raw, considering Daniel Bryan is the GM on Smackdown. Bryan’s one of the announcers on the Cruiserweight Classic show, so Raw is going to have the cruisers? It just feels weird. I assume it’s just being done that way because Raw is three hours while Smackdown is two hours.
I’m optimistic that it will produce some great matches while likely re-introducing the Cruiserweight Title as well. I just don’t know if WWE is going to get behind it as much as they should. I hope so.
Looking Ahead To Battleground
The next WWE pay-per-view event is Battleground and it takes place in Washington, DC this Sunday, July 24. Here’s the lineup:
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins
John Cena, Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. AJ Styles, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn
The New Day vs. The Wyatt Family
Randy Orton is the guest on Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel
Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Darren Young
United States Championship: Rusev vs. Zack Ryder
Charlotte & Dana Brooke vs. Sasha Banks & ???
Natalya vs. Becky Lynch
That looks to be the full card unless they add one or two more matches on Smackdown.
I’ll have a preview of Battleground ready for Friday.
I thought it was a slightly above-average episode this week because of two matches getting over 20 minutes, and the opening tag match was great too. Then you had the energy that Daniel Bryan brought as the Smackdown GM, so the show started off on the right foot. There’s still too much of Shane and Stephanie bickering, but at least that should end after the WWE Draft special tonight.
Speaking of the WWE Draft tonight, I’ll be back here on The Comeback on Wednesday with a recap of all the picks and a look at how both the Raw & Smackdown rosters will look. Looking forward to it!