There’s a new WWE Universal Champion and his name is Kevin Owens. Thanks to the surprising, unadvertised return of on screen WWE Chief Operating Officer Triple H, Owens managed to survive against Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Big Cass in a four way elimination match for the vacant title. There was a lot to digest, so let’s get to it.
The Universal Title was on the line Finn Balor had to give it up after suffering a torn labrum in his shoulder that will see him miss about six months of action after surgery. It led to Raw beginning with a promo face off between Owens, Rollins, Reigns and Cass. There was a lot of trash talk as well as some jokes until Reigns ended things by clearing the ring and showing that he was there for a big fight in the main event.
Throughout Raw, they aired two-minute video packages about the men in the match. It was a smart idea because it built up all four guys in a way that you could tell how much this match meant to them. The videos featured comments from the wrestlers as well as highlights of the matches they won in order to get into the Fatal 4-Way match.
About an hour before Raw, it was announced that the match would be a Fatal 4-Way Elimination match rather than just a first fall wins the match type finish. That allowed them to make the falls a lot more dramatic and meaningful. It also meant a longer match at 25 minutes.
The first man eliminated was Big Cass. That’s no surprise considering he’s a tag wrestler at this point in his career, but he has a very bright future and a lot of support from the crowd. It’s obvious that WWE is high on him, which makes sense because he’s 7 feet tall and as they like to point out every week…you can’t teach that. He got in a lot of offense, he came close to eliminating others and it took three big moves by the other guys in order to eliminate him. Owens got the pinfall with a Frog Splash.
There was a lot of intensity with Owens, Reigns and Rollins in there. Plenty of great moments where they teased eliminations of all three guys. The crowd was certainly into it. Then the surprise came.
After Reigns destroyed both guys with Superman Punches (he threw a lot of those) and then hit Rollins with a Spear on the floor, Triple H showed up in a suit to drop Reigns with a Pedigree. Hunter walked in through the crowd, so nobody really saw him coming. The camera showed it in a way that it was a total surprise to the viewer as well. It was the first time Triple H has been on Raw since he lost the WWE Title to Reigns at WrestleMania in early April. He rolled Reigns into the ring, then sent Rollins in there and Rollins covered Reigns to eliminate him.
This was where the big swerve happened. It looked as though Triple H would help Rollins because they were allies in 2014 and 2015, but that didn’t happen. Instead, Triple H kicked Rollins in the gut, locked his arms for a Pedigree, nodded his head at Owens and Triple H hit the Pedigree on Rollins. Owens was stunned, then covered Rollins and stared at Triple H the whole time. Owens won the Universal Title while the crowd cheered loudly even though Owens has been a heel in WWE.
It was a massive angle that worked really well while also following a familiar pattern. It’s the third time in four years where Triple H “handpicked” a champion since he helped Randy Orton in 2013, then helped Seth Rollins in 2014/15 and this time he helped Owens. The angle worked well because Triple H worked closely with Rollins so much, so when he turned his back on him to “choose” Owens in this instance it meant a lot. People reacted to it in a big way because it worked so well.
Another interesting point from the finish was that Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley were both surprised by Triple H’s actions. Whether Stephanie is being genuine is something we don’t know yet, but it’s likely that she would have known what her husband Triple H was going to do. It’s going to lead to some interesting promos next week.
Rollins is likely going to become the top face on the Raw brand now. With Finn Balor on the shelf, there was an opening for that spot and Rollins is already cheered by most of the crowd anyway, so it makes sense. He’s got ready made feuds with Owens as well as Triple H now. Plus, if he were to feud with Rusev down the road it would be fresh as well. When Rollins came back from major knee surgery in May, most people wondered why he wasn’t a face. It was because WWE needed him to be a heel, but now they need him as a face and this is the role he will likely be in for the majority of his career.
The win was the biggest victory of Kevin Owens’ WWE career so far. The Universal Title is considered to be at the level of the WWE Title for the Raw brand, so he’s become the top guy just like that. As the heel champion, he’ll likely have the backing of Triple H while also having potential feuds with the likes of Rollins, Reigns and perhaps his “best friend” Chris Jericho could turn face to feud with Owens at some point as well. Don’t forget about old rival Sami Zayn, who beat Owens in a classic match at Battleground in July.
Reigns could feud with Triple H or Owens immediately after this. His feud with Rusev wasn’t resolved at SummerSlam, yet they had no interaction in the last two weeks of Raw, so maybe that feud has been dropped. It looks like he could have a mini Shield reunion with Rollins since they have common enemies in Triple H and Owens now. That’s going to be a tag match at some point.
There was a lot of anticipation for this match and it lived up to the hype in terms of being a great match, but also pulling off a big angle that we’ll remember for a long time. While it’s impossible to do major storylines like that every week, this is proof that WWE is capable of doing some incredible things when they really put their minds to it. Tremendous execution by the creative team as well as the wrestlers in the ring.
Raw ended with the excellent Houston crowd chanting “you deserve it” for Ownes. It’s because they know it took him over a decade just to get to WWE and he doesn’t have the. The right man is holding the Universal Title. Congrats to Kevin Owens.
This Week’s Raw Matches
The main event was the major part of Raw, but there were some other good matches this week too.
Chris Jericho defeated Neville by submission
They had a competitive match that went back and forth with Neville showing off his high flying moves while Jericho kept coming back with counter moves. Jericho got the win after avoided the Red Arrow splash, then put Neville in the Walls of Jericho submission. Great thing about that is Jericho put his knee into the head of Neville, so it was like the old school Liontamer that Jericho used to do in WCW. It’s harder to do in WWE unless the wrestler is shorter like Neville is. Jericho is likely going to be in more prominent role now that his “best friend” Owens is Universal Champion. It wouldn’t surprise me if a split happens in the next month or two because in WWE, all friendships end at some point.
Nia Jax defeated Hyan
The name of Jax’s opponent didn’t really matter. Jax won in about one minute like she has done in every match she’s had on Raw for over a month. Can she get a feud at some point? No idea.
Sami Zayn defeated Jinder Mahal
A quick for Zayn in about three months. Mahal was hired back to put people over, so that’s what he did here. Zayn was selling the ankle injury from last week, but he managed to win easily. Zayn really needs a feud and at this point there appears to be nothing for him. What a waste of a great performer.
Bayley, Big E & Kofi Kingston defeated Dana Brooke, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows
Six person intergender tag matches are pretty rare, but the result of this match had a familiar feel to it as Bayley ended up pinning Brooke. It feels familiar because WWE had Brooke put over Sasha Banks for about two months as she feuded with Charlotte and now they are doing it with Bayley. It just doesn’t interest me that much. The tag team title feud has also regressed quite a bit after starting out hot last month.
Sheamus defeated Cesaro to go up 2-0 in their Best of 7 Series
It was another physical match between these two. Credit them for coming up with a great finish as they did a big spot you don’t see very often. Sheamus gave Cesaro a back body drop into the ring post with Cesaro selling it like a big deal. Sheamus applied the Cloverleaf submission to win by submission.
The likely result for the series will be for the face Cesaro to win in seven matches. Being down 2-0 plus selling a back injury makes him a very sympathetic figure. I like the way it has been booked.
Braun Strowman defeated Americo
The Americo name was cheesy and so was the mask that he wore. Strowman won easily in one minute. Then he took the mask off after the match to disrespect him. Much like Nia Jax, Strowman continues to win easily with no feud in sight.
Darren Young defeated Titus O’Neil
The match was pretty boring with O’Neil on offense for most of it, then Young was able to maneuver him so that O’Neil’s shoulders were down and Young got the win after about four minutes. Post match, O’Neil attacked Young and his “life coach” Bob Backlund. This is arguably the worst feud of the year in WWE, yet they’re going to keep it going based on what happened after it was over.
Kevin Owens defeated Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns & Big Cass to win the WWE Universal Title
This was covered earlier. Most will talk about the angle as they should, but the match quality was really good here too. One of the better Raw main events this year.
Three Other Key Items From Raw
1. There was a promo segment with Stephanie McMahon and Paul Heyman where she wanted him to apologize for Brock Lesnar hitting her brother Shane with a F5 at SummerSlam. She said it wasn’t a personal issue with Shane, but she was mad about Lesnar putting his hands on an authority figure.
Heyman paid the $500 fine (a joke amount per the storyline) with one dollar bills, Stephanie wasn’t impressed by that and Heyman ended up apologizing. She accepted the apology although it was clear that Heyman wasn’t being serious either. It’s a way to push the idea that she can’t trust Heyman to control Lesnar, but she realizes that Lesnar is too valuable to Raw.
No word on when Lesnar may return to WWE TV although he is scheduled to face Randy Orton at a non-televised live event in Chicago on September 24.
2. Bayley teaming up with The New Day was a lot of fun. Lots of energy for them especially in their backstage segment. I’m not sure if that is going to be an association that WWE will touch on weekly or if it was just this week because they were in a six person tag match. The crowd seemed to like it, so perhaps WWE will do more backstage vignettes to try to use New Day in a way that gets Bayley’s personality over more on the main roster.
On the other hand, I touched it on earlier when I said the tag team title feud isn’t hot anymore. Raw has done a poor job of utilizing other tag teams the way Smackdown has. Gallows & Anderson being used in bad comedy segments is a poor use of their talent as well.
3. Mr. Fuji passed away on Sunday. He was 82 years old. Anybody that watched WWE regularly in the 1970s when he was a wrestler or the 1980s and 1990s when he was a manager will remember him as one of the best heel managers ever. He was mostly known for managing Yokozuna to two WWE Titles in 1993. A lot of people will also remember the “Fuji Dust” he used to throw in the eyes of other wrestlers, which was basically salt or something they said was salt anyway.
I liked that WWE aired a tribute video for him during Raw and the crowd was very appreciative of it as they gave him a standing ovation.
Rest in peace, Mr. Fuji. Thanks for the memories.
Looking Ahead To Clash Of Champions
The next time Raw performers will be on a WWE Network pay-per-view will be September 25 at Clash of Champions in Indianapolis. At this point, no matches had to be announced.
It would make sense to do Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins as the main event, but they could go with Roman Reigns as the challenger too. Triple H could be in a match against one of them.
Rusev vs. Roman Reigns is a possibility although after the last two weeks of Raw it’s possible they have dropped that feud.
Charlotte vs. Bayley for the Women’s Title seems like a lock at this point.
The ending of Raw was so great that this should be remembered as one of the best Raw episodes this year.
Raw felt stagnant for the past few months and I think they needed to do a big angle. They nailed it with this one because it has got people talking in a positive way because of the new champion as well as all the possibilities that exist due to the finish of the show. I’m excited to see what’s next. It’s been a long time since I could say that. Seek out the main event if you missed it because it provided us with one of the best Raw moments in a long time.