The main focus of this week’s Raw centered around the main event of the next Raw brand pay-per-view on June 4 called Extreme Rules.
Kurt Angle, Raw’s General Manager, started the show by announcing that Braun Strowman will be out of action for “up to six months,” as he put it. He spoke about Strowman wanting a shot at the Universal Title (held by absentee champion Brock Lesnar), so they needed to find out who would get the next shot at Lesnar.
Angle announced that there would a Fatal 5-Way Extreme Rules match (meaning weapons are legal) at Extreme Rules. The five men in the match are Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe. The first man who wins that match by pinfall or submission will become the number one contender for the Universal Title. They didn’t announce when that title match would be, but the likely date is July 9 at the poorly named Great Balls of Fire PPV event.
Following Angle’s announcement, all five guys made their way down to the ring with separate promos. Rollins was out last and said they will have plenty of time to talk, but he’s there to fight. Rollins went after Samoa Joe while Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns and Finn Balor battled in the ring. It ended up turning into an entertaining brawl with Balor cleaning house while hitting a perfect somersault dive over the top to take out Reigns and Rollins.
In a backstage segment, Angle set up Rollins vs. Wyatt for the first time ever and Reigns vs. Balor. I was shocked that they didn’t set up an obvious tag match. That will probably happen during another week over the next month.
Roman Reigns defeated Finn Balor
I thought this was the best match of the night and one of the better TV matches this year since they also had plenty of time. They got 15 minutes. Reigns has his haters, but the guy can sell an injury well. Reigns had his upper body taped up and the left side had bandages on it. Balor targeted it during the match, but Reigns kept coming back.
There were a lot of good near-falls in the match as well. What I really liked is that neither guy kicked out of a finishing move. Have to protect those finishers! Reigns hit his Superman Punch for a two-count, but that’s no surprise since it’s merely a setup move done to get two counts. Balor never got to hit his double stomp off the top. The finish saw Balor go to the top rope, Reigns knocked him down and when Balor got back up, Reigns hit a Spear to beat him clean.
This was their second televised match against each other. The last time they had a match was last summer after the draft and Balor beat Reigns clean to get a shot at the Universal Title, which he won. That was right after Reigns returned from his Wellness Policy violation, so that was the main reason Reigns lost clean there.
I didn’t expect Reigns to lose this match. It also doesn’t matter that much because it’s more likely that Balor wins at Extreme Rules than Reigns since WWE will save Reigns vs. Lesnar probably until WrestleMania next year. Matches like this are used to give somebody momentum on television, but a 5-Way match is being done to have two guys involved in the deciding fall not named Reigns to protect him. That’s just how WWE is these days.
Seth Rollins defeated Bray Wyatt by disqualification
They hyped this up as a “first time ever” match, which is probably true, but they have wrestled in tags plenty of times. It didn’t feel like a big deal by any means. The crowd didn’t care about it much either. I’ve talked about this before, but I think Rollins is missing something as a face. His theme song is too generic, the nicknames “The Architect” and “Kingslayer” just don’t scream cool to me. Even though he’s one of the best in-ring workers in the company, he doesn’t play to the crowd enough. I think that as time goes on he’ll get more crowd support. It’s just that right now there seems to be something lacking with him.
The match was similar to Reigns and Balor in a lot of ways, but that match was better. Wyatt dominated much of this match, Rollins came back with his cool-looking offense and the finish was predictable. Since Samoa Joe has been feuding with Rollins for months, it made sense for Joe to attack Rollins at ringside, leading to the disqualification at around the 14-minute mark. Booking a finish with no victor allows WWE to book this match again down the road.
Post-match, Joe worked over Rollins in the ring and it looked like Wyatt was going to join him. Instead, Wyatt dropped Joe with the Sister Abigail neckbreaker. Wyatt also hit Rollins with the Sister Abigail neckbreaker as well to end this week’s show.
— WWE (@WWE) May 16, 2017
There are two more episodes of Raw before Extreme Rules, so I expect Balor, Rollins and Joe to stand tall during those shows, similar to how Reigns and Wyatt got to look strong this week.
If I had to pick the winner of the Extreme Rules 5-Way match, I’m going to go with Balor. It makes sense since he never lost the Universal Title last summer. He was forced to give it up due to injury. Having him win the match to face the larger champion Lesnar sounds like a good idea to me. If it’s not Balor, then I think Rollins is most likely. Reigns is least likely because, as I noted earlier, he’s probably going to be out of the title picture until next year’s WrestleMania. It’s not how I would book it, but that’s what WWE is most likely to do.
This Week’s Raw Matches
Here’s what else happened in the ring Monday night on Raw.
Jeff Hardy defeated Sheamus
It was a decent match that went about eight minutes, but they messed up a spot on the finish. Matt Hardy was on the apron, Sheamus went to kick him, he missed by about one foot, so Matt continued to stand there and Sheamus did the kick again to knock Matt onto Cesaro on the floor. When Sheamus turned around, Jeff hit him with a Twist of Fate and Swanton Bomb for the win.
They are facing off in a tag title match at Extreme Rules on June 4.
Alicia Fox defeated Sasha Banks
This was the most surprising outcome of the night. Fox beat Banks clean in about three minutes with a scissors kick to the back. They did the match because last week they messed up the finish when Fox had her shoulder up while being pinned, so she got another match at Banks. At the end of it, my reaction was more of a “huh?” rather than thinking it was a good match. I assume this will be just a short-term feud to keep Banks busy and she should get her win back. Long-term, I think Banks will turn heel in July or August.
The Miz defeated Dean Ambrose in an Intercontinental Championship Match (Ambrose retains the title)
I thought they would do a title change here, but instead they built up another match for this feud that seems like it is never going to end. They got plenty of time and it was a solid match, even though it felt like a replay of their other matches, but all people are going to remember was the crappy finish. There was a spot where Maryse jumped on the apron to distract the ref, Miz went for a low blow, Ambrose blocked it with his hand and Ambrose kicked Miz in the groin with the ref right there. That led to the disqualification ending after 12 minutes with Miz writhing in pain while Ambrose kept his title.
There was a backstage segment where Miz and Maryse went up to Kurt Angle backstage to complain about what happened. Angle told him he can get another IC Title shot at Backlash, but Miz wanted more and suggested a match where Ambrose could lose the IC Title if he gets disqualified. The funniest part of this was Maryse yelling at Angle in French, so Angle spoke in broken French to remind her he’s a freaking gold medalist.
I assume they will do the title change at Extreme Rules. Why else do they need to continue this rivalry? Just get it over with and let both guys move on.
Neville & TJP defeated Austin Aries & Jack Gallagher
There’s another Neville vs. Aries match for the Cruiserweight Title at Extreme Rules (their third straight PPV title match), so I figured Neville or Aries would lose to give the other guy momentum. Nope. Instead of that, they with TJP pinning Gallagher after about 10 minutes, thanks to some good teamwork from Neville. The fans didn’t care about this match at all, focusing instead on whatever was going on in the crowd.
Other Key Items From Raw
1. Braun Strowman Injury Update
Braun Strowman had elbow surgery last Thursday and according to WWE.com, he’s going to be out up to six months. It sounds bad, but according to last night’s Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer noted that Strowman will only be out for about two months and should be back for SummerSlam in August.
Why would WWE lie to the fans on their website and on television? Because that’s what they do. They don’t have to tell the truth about things like this. It’s their way of trying to tell people the Strowman is a “monster” that can heal from injuries faster than regular people.
The expectation was that Strowman would face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title at Great Balls of Fire on July 9. That’s been put on hold now. Perhaps they will do it at SummerSlam if Strowman is ready for it.
2. Alexa Bliss and Bayley set up a “Kendo Stick on a Pole” match at Extreme Rules
Alexa Bliss did a promo insulting the New Jersey fans saying NJ was the “sweat gland of America,” among other things. She did a good job of shutting up the “what” chants as well. She also talked about the same stuff she usually says about being the first woman to hold the Raw Women’s Title and Smackdown Women’s Title. It was fine until Bayley interrupted and it got worse.
The Bayley character is so boring and every promo against her is the same thing. Bliss ripped on her for being like a big kid, which is the same sort of thing Charlotte Flair said to her. Meanwhile, Bliss is much shorter than Bayley and looks like more of a kid, but it’s not like Bayley is going to say that to her. Bayley talked about how she’s going to get her title rematch at Extreme Rules. She had enough of the trash talk, so she shoved Bliss and Bliss hit a neckbreaker using the ropes. Bliss went to the floor, found a kendo stick (after not finding it the first time) and hit Bayley in the back with it. Bayley sold it like a kendo stick is the most painful object on Earth.
Later in the show, Kurt Angle told Bayley she’d have a regular match with Bayley, which led to Bayley saying she wanted something more extreme. Angle said he would put her in a “Kendo Stick on a Pole” match against Bliss for the Women’s Title instead. Lame gimmick any time something is on a pole, but at least they can build up to the spot where one of the girls gets their hand on the kendo stick as a big deal.
3. Goldust attacked R-Truth to put an end to the Golden Truth team
Goldust and R-Truth did a locker room promo with Goldust firing up his partner saying they still have a lot left as a team. Truth was lacking confidence early on, but then he was motivated to do his best.
When they were in the ring preparing for a match, Truth was rapping their song and Goldust hit him with a forearm to the back. Goldust stomped away on him, sent him into the barricade and beat him up with punches to turn heel. It wasn’t a big beating or anything like that. It still worked in terms of getting a reaction because it came off as a surprising heel turn.
My guess is that Goldust is going to retire soon since he’s 48 years old, so WWE probably wanted him to do one last feud with his tag team partner before calling it a career. If it’s not that, then both of these guys will just be veteran midcard wrestlers who will be there to put over younger guys. It doesn’t mean a whole lot in the big picture, but it was well done as an angle.
Looking Ahead To Extreme Rules
— WWE (@WWE) May 16, 2017
The next Raw pay-per-view event is Extreme Rules on Sunday, June 4 in Baltimore, MD. They announced five matches this week.
Fatal 5-Way Extreme Rules Match to Determine No. 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: The Hardy Boyz vs. Sheamus & Cesaro
Raw Women’s Championship – Kendo Stick on a Pole: Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley
Intercontinental Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz (If Ambrose is disqualified, he will lose the IC Title.)
Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Austin Aries
That’s all for now. Four of the five matches are rematches while the main event is a first time ever match that should be pretty wild, since an Extreme Rules Match means that anything goes.
It was a slightly above-average episode of Raw. Good show for matches and they set up Extreme Rules well by announcing five of the main matches at that event. I thought Reigns/Balor was the match of the night. The show was lacking in terms of great promos, but that’s okay.
I’ll be back Wednesday with a review of Smackdown Live featuring AJ Styles vs. Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton vs. Baron Corbin.