The main event spot on this week’s Raw saw the return of “The Beast” Brock Lesnar with his advocate Paul Heyman addressing the WWE Universe. Just as Heyman was saying that there was no way that Randy Orton, Lesnar’s SummerSlam opponent, could hit him with a RKO, there was Orton with that famous RKO… outta nowhere.
It was Lesnar’s first appearance on WWE programming since his WrestleMania victory over Dean Ambrose four months ago. Heyman was delivering one of his usual speeches about how great Lesnar is and about how violent he’s going to be when he beats up Orton at SummerSlam. It’s the same sort of thing we’ve heard from Heyman many times in a WWE ring in the last four years, but this time was different because Lesnar was attacked without any warning.
Orton is a Smackdown brand wrestler who returned to action last week on Smackdown when he beat The Miz rather easily. He’s not supposed to be on Raw because the brand split is in place to prevent a Raw guy from being on Smackdown and a Smackdown guy being on Raw. I’m sure that some fans are going to complain that it took one week for WWE to break their own rules. However, I think it’s okay to break the rules in this case because this match was announced before the WWE Draft took place and if they want to promote it properly, there should be some physicality at some point. Having Orton show up randomly on Raw to hit the RKO was a smart move. Listen to the crowd reaction. They loved it. I don’t really have a problem with it.
As for the big elephant in the room, with recent news of Lesnar failing two tests for performance enhancing drugs prior to his UFC 200 victory a couple of weeks ago, it was not addressed. Heyman avoided talking about it while Lesnar didn’t say a single word. It’s not a surprise that they would ignore it, although Orton did use the “no enhancements needed” line at Battleground over a week ago.
— WWE (@WWE) August 2, 2016
Should they have mentioned Lesnar’s drug test failures? I don’t believe so. They can control what is or isn’t said on WWE TV, so if they want to ignore it, that’s their right. Lesnar may face discipline from UFC and that’s fine, but he can still work for WWE because it’s a different company with a different set of rules, especially for a top guy like Lesnar.
— Randy Orton (@RandyOrton) August 2, 2016
I think WWE is doing a great job of building up the idea that Orton can beat Lesnar if he is able to connect with the RKO. Their SummerSlam match will probably be something where Lesnar dominates much of it, then Orton finds a way to comeback with a RKO and gets a dramatic near-fall out of it as Lesnar kicks out. Then it’s a matter of how many finishers each guy hits. Lesnar will probably win, but I think they’ll do it in a way where Orton is close to being victorious multiple times.
There’s no word on when Lesnar may appear on Raw again. Perhaps it will be on the April 15 edition of Raw one week before SummerSlam or maybe he will show up on Smackdown as a surprise to drop Orton with a F5. It could happen this week. It’s not like WWE is going to tell us, nor should they.
The goal of the Lesnar/Heyman appearance was to build up anticipation to Lesnar vs. Orton at SummerSlam. Based on what happened in the last minute of the show with Orton hitting that RKO to a thunderous applause, I think it’s pretty obvious that they accomplished that goal. Well done.
This Week’s Raw Matches
Last week’s Raw was one of the best shows of the year in terms of in-ring action. This week wasn’t close to that, as they had a bunch of short matches and really only one match standing out above the rest.
Charlotte & Chris Jericho defeated Sasha Banks & Enzo Amore
It took nearly 20 minutes to set this match up, then GM Mick Foley had to come out to make it official (even though it was obvious) and they got about 10 minutes to wrestle. Banks was pinned after a distraction from Dana Brooke, then she had to knock Jericho down and Charlotte capitalized with a kick as well as a Natural Selection for the pin. I’m not a fan of Banks getting pinned one week after the Women’s Title. I know it’s a tag match and it’s done to set up Banks/Charlotte at SummerSlam, but I wouldn’t have done that finish.
Braun Strowman defeated Evan Anderholm
A quick win for Strowman, just like last week, with the idea being that nobody is going to able to stop him because he’s such a big, powerful guy. He will probably win a few more of these squash matches until a regular member of the roster steps up to face him.
The Shining Stars defeated Golden Truth
An example of Raw at its worst. The Shining Stars haven’t done anything all year, then they get a win in this match because R-Truth was distracted by playing Pokemon Go on his phone. Why should we care if the company doesn’t care to put on matches that matter? Waste of time.
Rusev defeated Mark Henry
First of all, congrats to Rusev and Lana for their wedding on Saturday. Rusev celebrated by beating Mark Henry in about six minutes with only half of the match actually shown on television. Post-match, Roman Reigns got in the face of Rusev. More on that later.
Titus O’Neil defeated Darren Young
The former Prime Time Players had a match where it appears as though O’Neil is heading for a heel turn. He beat Young using a rollup and then grabbed the tights for the cheap win. Backstage after the match, Bob Backlund (Young’s “life coach”) yelled at O’Neil about his tactics and O’Neil threatened to beat him up. Young saved Backlund from an attack. I think it’s going to work out well for O’Neil because his singles face act is pretty boring and he wasn’t going anywhere. If something isn’t working, turn the wrestler. It’s the smart thing to do.
Nia Jax defeated Ariel Monroe
Another easy win for Jax similar to Strowman earlier in the show. This will probably continue for the next month. Perhaps she’ll feud with Sasha Banks after SummerSlam.
Big E & Kofi Kingston defeated Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
Here’s another short match, this one going about two minutes with Big E pinning Anderson with a rollup. Post-match, Gallows & Anderson beat up both guys along with Xavier Woods. Then there was a big injury angle with Gallows & Anderson sending Big E groin-first into the ring post. Perhaps it’s going to lead to some sort of worked injury for E so that he’s not in the Tag Title match at SummerSlam (it’s not official yet), meaning Kingston and Woods would have to team for the match. That’s where the title change is likely going to happen too.
Cesaro defeated Sheamus
This was set up by both guys complaining to management backstage. It went about five minutes with Cesaro winning clean with the Neutralizer. They’ve had plenty of longer matches and better matches over the years. After the match, they kept on fighting, so the feud may continue.
Jinder Mahal defeated Heath Slater
It’s more of an angle than a match. Slater was out there doing his free agent thing saying he had his old 3MB buddy Jinder Mahal with him. Foley came out, said they can have a match and the winner will get signed by Raw. As he said that, Mahal got in position, kicked Slater in the head and pinned him to win the match in under five seconds.
If you don’t know who Mahal is, he was with WWE a few years ago and got released two years ago. They brought him back to add depth to the roster following the brand split. It would be a surprise if he is pushed heavily, but he is a pretty good performer if given the chance.
Seth Rollins defeated Sami Zayn
This was the longest match of the night and clearly the best one as well. They went about 12 minutes with the goal of making Rollins look good going into his WWE Universal Championship match with Finn Balor at SummerSlam. Zayn put up a good fight, getting a couple of believable near-falls in there and almost connecting with his Helluva Kick finisher. Rollins avoided it, hit the Pedigree and that was it. Zayn doesn’t have a feud for SummerSlam at the moment. I hope that changes soon because he’s arguably the best in-ring performer in the company (along with Rollins and AJ Styles), so he has to be a part of it.
Three Other Key Items From Raw
1. Finn Balor was interviewed briefly by Michael Cole until Seth Rollins showed up to kick Cole out and engage in some trash talk with Balor. They are set to meet for the WWE Universal Title at SummerSlam in a couple of weeks. Rollins bragged about how he did a lot of things that Balor has done, except that he did them first.
Balor’s a phenomenal in-ring performer while his promos are a bit of a weakness. Some of the lines they had him say just didn’t sound that great, but when he said he would kick Rollins’ ass, the crowd cheered a lot for that. Rollins has improved a lot as a talker in the last two years. I just wish he was even more of a heel jerk in his promos because he would be getting some serious heat if he was.
Their physical interaction was minimal as Rollins tried to get in a cheap shot, but Balor came back with a kick to the head leading to Rollins retreating. Why give it all away in one segment? Make people come back for more another time.
Meanwhile, there’s no sign of the WWE Universal Championship yet. I assume they’ll save it for next week’s Raw or the following week to unveil during a contract signing segment. They could also wait until SummerSlam as well.
— WWE (@WWE) August 2, 2016
2. As mentioned in the match results, Roman Reigns got in the face of Rusev following Rusev’s win over Mark Henry and trash talk against America. It looks like they’ll have a United States Title match at SummerSlam.
Reigns was actually cheered a bit more than usual because the show took place in Atlanta and he was a standout college football player at Georgia Tech. Reigns didn’t say anything when he got in the ring. He just got in Rusev’s face when the champion was ripping on America. It actually would have been the perfect spot for Kurt Angle, who won Olympic Gold in Atlanta, but WWE hasn’t chosen to bring him back.
Reigns has been main eventing in WWE for most of the year, but the Wellness Policy violation has knocked him down a few pegs and now he’s going for a secondary title like the US Title. It’s not a bad thing, though. Rusev could be a main event performer if they continue to book him the right way, so having him battle a big name like Reigns will be good for Rusev.
Would everything make more sense if Reigns just turned heel? Of course. That’s something I’ve written about for months, but for whatever reason WWE management and Vince McMahon are set on the idea of making Reigns a top good guy. At least with Rusev, a foreign heel that never acts like a face, fans should support Reigns for the most part.
3. During a backstage interview with Chris Jericho, a new alliance was formed with Kevin Owens showing up to say that he would watch Jericho’s back as he has to deal with the Enzo & Cass team. That’s because Jericho hit Enzo with a Codebreaker after their tag match, Cass made the save and Jericho had nobody to help him.
This is probably going to be a temporary thing where Jericho & Owens team up to likely put over Enzo & Cass in a tag match at SummerSlam. I’m okay with it because the promos should be very entertaining. I’d like to see Owens doing more in featured role, but hopefully that comes in the near future. For now, working with Jericho is better than nothing.
Looking Ahead To SummerSlam
The next WWE pay-per-view event is SummerSlam, which will be the 29th year they’ve done the show. It takes place on Aug. 21 in Brooklyn, New York. Here’s the lineup that we know so far:
Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton
Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins to determine the first ever WWE Universal Champion
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler
Women’s Championship: Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte
Another likely match is The New Day facing Gallows & Anderson for the Tag Team Titles.
Based on what happened on Raw, Rusev vs. Reigns for the US Title is possible too.
It’s expected that AJ Styles vs. John Cena will happen as well.
Remember that SummerSlam has a 7 p.m. ET start time, so it’s a four-hour show at least, plus the Kickoff Show.
This week’s show wasn’t on the same level of last week’s Raw. Last week had four major matches including a Women’s Title change, whereas this one had a bunch of shorter matches. There was a lot of talking too. Sometimes, WWE likes to forget that there’s a ring in the arena and would rather use it to have people spend over an hour talking instead of giving matches more time.
The good news is that even with Raw feeling very average this week, it accomplished a few things by setting up some new feuds, adding some heat to some rivalries and ending on a high note with Orton dropping Lesnar with the RKO. Here’s hoping the road to SummerSlam continues to heat up.