The theme of this week’s Raw was to continue last week’s story of Braun Strowman as the “Monster Among Men” that was on a path of destruction all night long. Strowman started the show with a promo, was featured in backstage segments throughout the night and also took part in the main event. Here’s a rundown of everything that happened during Strowman’s busy night.
Strowman started off the show with a promo talking about last week when he beat up Roman Reigns so badly that he sent him to the hospital. Don’t forget that Strowman also pushed over an ambulance while Reigns was in it as well. Strowman was proud to announce that Reigns wasn’t on Raw this week, which led to loud “yes” chants from the crowd.
Kurt Angle, Raw’s GM, entered the ring to talk to Strowman. Angle told Strowman that he is booking him in a match against Reigns at Payback on April 30. Strowman wanted to know what he was doing on Raw, so Angle told him he should be suspended and gave him the night off. Strowman said he wanted more competition or else. When Angle asked “or else what?” it led to Strowman storming off.
Goldust and R-Truth were shown walking backstage for a match. Strowman ambushed and beat them both up, which prevented them from having their scheduled match with Gallows and Anderson. I doubt many viewers at home were mad about no Goldust and R-Truth match this week.
Then Strowman was in the locker room where ref John Cone went up to him to say that Angle wanted Strowman to leave. Strowman replied by telling the ref that he will leave when he wants to.
Strowman went up to Kalisto backstage and dumped him in to a trash bin because he said he was garbage. Big Show then jumped Strowman, shoved him into a garage door and challenged him to take on somebody his own size. That led to Strowman vs. Big Show as the main event for later in the night.
As soon as the match was announced, it became obvious what was coming. The usual LED lights that are on the ring posts at WWE events were not there this week, which suggested that the ring collapsing spot was coming. Once the match became official, I got a lot of tweets during the show from fans predicting it was going to happen. I thought it was going to happen as well.
Braun Strowman vs. Big Show ended when the ring collapsed
— WWE (@WWE) April 18, 2017
This was the second time Strowman has faced Show in a Raw main event. You may recall their Feb. 20 match that was surprisingly good. I had no problem seeing the match again.
They started out with a quick brawl on the floor, which puts over the idea that they really want to fight. I like when guys do that. When they got into the ring, it was a match similar to what they did two months ago. They teased some of the most basic moves in wrestling like a body slam and suplex, which the crowd reacted to in a big way because they look cool when big guys do it. Each man got some nice near-falls as Show hit a Chokeslam, Strowman hit his Powerslam and Show hit the KO Punch (after Strowman jumped off the middle rope) for a two-count.
They teased the superplex spot a few times during the match. Show went up top after he couldn’t put Strowman away. That led to Strowman battling him on the top rope, the crowd went wild because they knew what was going and Strowman hit a superplex off the middle rope (going off the top may have been too difficult) and it led to the ring collapsing. In case you don’t know, that was a planned spot done to end the show on a high note while leading to a huge crowd reaction. Also, referee John Cone bumped from inside the ring to the floor in what looked like a painful bump, but apparently he’s doing just fine.
Following the big spot, referees and doctors went into the ring to check on the performers. I thought that Raw GM Kurt Angle should have gone out there as well to sell the impact of the big move to check on if both guys were okay, but he wasn’t there. While Big Show stayed down, Strowman got back to his feet, let out a loud yell and walked up the ramp on his own as Raw came to a close about 15 minutes past the 11 p.m. ET hour.
In case you’re wondering, this is the third time they’ve done the ring collapsing spot. The first time was Brock Lesnar and Big Show during a Smackdown match in 2003. They also did it at Vengeance 2011 with Mark Henry and Big Show. Since Big Show is in his mid-40s, he’s likely going to retire soon so this is probably his last ring collapsing spot. Kudos to him for being willing to do it again to put over Strowman.
— Braun Strowman (@BraunStrowman) April 18, 2017
Is the story the fact that they broke the ring or that Strowman stood tall? I think it’s about Strowman standing tall. The whole show was about making him look like an indestructible force.
I’m a huge fan of this Strowman push, yet I sit here wondering what WWE was thinking about at WrestleMania. Here’s this guy that was used in a major way for months leading into that show, yet he was only part of the battle royal, which he didn’t win because Mojo Rawley is friends with Rob Gronkowski.
In the weeks that followed WrestleMania, Strowman has been pushed more heavily than anybody on Raw by far. So why he wasn’t in a more important match at WrestleMania? I have no idea. It’s an example of why WrestleMania wasn’t a great show. The push of Strowman on television should have led to him being featured more at WrestleMania. Instead, he couldn’t even win a battle royal with a bunch of guys barely on television.
Fans are always looking for the next big star. I think Strowman is one of those guys who will be main eventing shows for the rest of this decade and beyond. He continues to impress me while improving as an all-around performer all the time.
On a final Strowman note, check out my column right here at The Comeback posted on Monday looking at some big WWE matches and feuds we could see in the next year. I mentioned Strowman against Brock Lesnar while also looking at a potential AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura match as well.
This Week’s Raw Matches
The match quality has stayed consistently good on Raw for three straight weeks. It’s a great sign after months of frustration earlier this year.
Samoa Joe defeated Chris Jericho
Joe won in about 10 minutes by submission with the Coquina Clutch. Jericho is going to be off television after Payback at the end of the month because he’s focusing on his Fozzy music commitments, so he’s going to lose matches before he goes. Putting over Joe clean is fine. They had a competitive match with a couple of near-finish spots, but it wasn’t that exciting.
After the match, Joe did a promo on Seth Rollins (who was doing commentary) to say that because of what Rollins did to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon at WrestleMania, their rivalry is personal. Rollins replied with a “Payback is a bitch” line because they have a match at Raw’s Payback PPV.
Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson defeated Enzo Amore & Big Cass
How many times have these teams wrestled in the last six months? I have no idea, but I have gotten sick of it. They followed the usual formula where Enzo got beat up for most of it, Cass got the hot tag, foolishly tagged Enzo back in and Anderson pinned Enzo after sending him groin/legs first into the top rope. I thought it was a weak finish even though it was creative. That kind of move shouldn’t win a match because the crowd barely reacted to it.
In other tag team news, Dash Wilder of The Revival is out of action for about eight weeks due to a broken jaw. It’s unfortunate, but it also means that Gallows & Anderson will probably get some wins since they are future opponents for the Hardy Boyz.
T.J. Perkins defeated Jack Gallagher
They got about 10 minutes and had a good showing with Cruiserweight Champion Neville and challenger Austin Aries at ringside. The crowd wasn’t into it that much until Gallagher jumped off the top rope while holding his umbrella for the Mary Poppins-like seated splash outside the ring. Perkins sent Gallagher into Aries, so Aries went on the apron, Neville tripped him up and Perkins got the win after a Detonation Kick.
I like Perkins in the heel role. He had lost a lot of momentum as a face. Now that he’s an ally of Neville, it’s going to help him.
Alexa Bliss defeated Sasha Banks, Mickie James and Nia Jax
This was a one-fall Fatal 4-Way match to determine the No. 1 contender to the Raw Women’s Title held by Bayley.
Bliss got a positive reaction from the crowd since it was in her hometown of Columbus. She’s still a heel, but not on this night. The match was mostly about Jax dominating by using her power while James and Banks carried most of the action. They bumped their asses off making Jax look good while James and Banks also came close to winning a few times. Bliss played the role of the cowardly heel for much of it.
They went about 13 minutes with Jax knocking James out of the ring and Jax gave Banks a Samoan Drop. Bliss hit a dropkick on Jax to send her out of the ring, which led to Bliss pinning Banks to win. Heels stealing the pin is a common finish in four-way style matches.
With the win, Bliss gets a title shot at Bayley at Payback on April 30. There could be a title change there, even though it is in Bayley’s hometown of San Jose. I thought Banks might win here leading to a heel turn, but I think they are going to save her feud with Bayley until we get to SummerSlam in August.
Finn Balor defeated Curt Hawkins
The match was over in under one minute. Balor suffered a concussion last week against Jinder Mahal and was off live events this past weekend. He was cleared on Monday afternoon, so it was only a mild concussion. It’s smart of WWE to book him in a match where he didn’t have to bump. Balor is likely going to feud with Bray Wyatt after Payback.
Jeff Hardy defeated Cesaro
I enjoyed the match as Hardy got the clean win after about 12 minutes. There were a few awkward moments since they had never had a match before, but they got through it. Cesaro hit Jeff with about a dozen uppercuts at various points in the match. Jeff came back with a Twist of Fate and Swanton Bomb to get the win.
Post-match, Sheamus and Cesaro shook the hands of Jeff and Matt Hardy. It’s possible that Sheamus and Cesaro could go the heel route to build to their Payback match, but I think they will stay faces (or at least Cesaro will).
Other Key Items From Raw
1. Dean Ambrose continued his rivalry with The Miz
Dean Ambrose won the Intercontinental Title from The Miz earlier this year when they were on Smackdown. Both guys moved on to different feuds after that, but now they are together on Raw, so they are back to feuding again. Weird? Yeah, it is a bit.
I liked their segment on Raw with Ambrose doing his over-the-top shtick where he acts like a jerk to his opponent, but is loved by the crowd. He also sucked up to the crowd with the “O-H” chant leading to the “I-O” since he was in his home state of Ohio, just like Miz was. Miz fired back saying that he dresses like a superstar while Ambrose looks like a bum. That’s the premise of their feud. Ambrose nearly dropped Miz with a Dirty Deeds DDT for the second week in a row, but Miz left the ring before that could happen.
They will likely have an IC Title match at Payback on April 30, but it wasn’t announced on this week’s show.
2. Bray Wyatt talked about the “House of Horrors” match
Bray Wyatt did a nearly four-minute promo about his House of Horrors match against Randy Orton for the WWE Title at Payback. It was about Wyatt referencing hell, fire and all the things he usually talks about. Since Orton is only on Smackdown, they can’t interact on television in building up to the match.
What WWE hasn’t mentioned is what happens if Bray Wyatt wins the WWE Title. Does that mean that Raw gets the WWE Title and the Universal Title? In theory, that might be what they are teasing, but I fully expect Orton to beat Wyatt at Payback. It’s just weird that WWE has made no attempt to explain what would happen if Wyatt wins.
3. Apollo Crews was introduced to the Titus Brand
As soon as Titus O’Neil went up to Raw newcomer Apollo Crews backstage, Crews should have reacted with a loud “NOOOOOOOOOOO” and ran away. The “Titus Brand” with O’Neil featured some of the worst segments and in-ring moments in WWE during the last year, yet they are still running with that angle for him.
I was hoping that Crews may have some positive momentum now that he’s on Raw, but being put in a program with Titus O’Neil is not a good sign. The crowd isn’t going to care about it because O’Neil has been booked like such a loser for so long.
4. Emma made life difficult for Dana Brooke and the viewers at home
The YouTube clip above said that “Emma torments Dana Brooke.” The reality is the acting in this segment tormented anybody who watched it. It was bad. What they are trying to do is have Emma tell Alicia Fox that Dana was making fun of Alicia and Dana was mad at Emma for lying. Emma had some cheesy line at the end about Dana having to stand on her own.
It’s nice that WWE is trying to do something with these women, but this was bad. It was as if they were eight-year-old little girls arguing about who broke a doll. I don’t know how else to explain it.
Looking Ahead To Payback
The next WWE pay-per-view event is a Raw brand show on April 30 in San Jose, California. Here are the announced matches.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
WWE Championship “House of Horrors” Match: Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
Samoa Joe vs. Seth Rollins
United States Championship: Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho – The winner of this match will take the US Title to Smackdown Live, which is the show Owens is already on.
Raw Tag Team Championships: The Hardy Boyz vs. Cesaro & Sheamus
Raw Women’s Championship: Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss
Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Austin Aries
An Intercontinental Title match between Dean Ambrose and The Miz is likely as well.
As for the Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, he’s not expected on television again this month. He will not have a match at Payback.
It was the third straight week where I thought Raw was above average. The first two hours were average with not a lot of great in-ring action, but the three longer matches in the last 75 minutes were very entertaining. Sometimes the third hour sucks because the show is too long. That wasn’t the case this week, though. They ended on a strong note, which is great to see.
I’ll be back Wednesday with a review of Smackdown Live as we find out who the new No. 1contender for the WWE Title is.