Roman comes out. He gets booed. Last night he supposedly took a beating so bad that he couldn’t continue in a G-d damn Hell in a Cell Match and now here he is, less than twenty-four hours later, and he’s not even selling. He then tells us that “last night it didn’t really go to plan for me, but I woke this morning and the fact is that that I AM STILL THE UNIVERSAL CHAMPION!” Yeah, because you’re match ended in a f*cking bullsh*t tie because a third dude ran in and beat up both you and the other guy! You nothing to be out here bragging about, asshole! What a f*cking heel.
Roman calls Brock out to fight right now but Braun comes out instead. He’s not selling anything, either. Michael Cole then attempted to tell us just how angry Braun Strowman was after having his MITB cash-in Universal Title match ruined by Brock Lesnar last night. Let’s have some fun and make this a guessing game. Did Cole tells us that Braun was so angry after last night’s match that he…
A) Flipped over a production truck?
B) Ripped the cell apart with his bare hands and started kicking over the barricades?
C) Sent out some angry Tweets?
The answer is in the Don Jardine box below.
Why should either Braun or Roman be happy about having to wait six weeks to get their hands on Brock? Why should Roman be happy having to wait six weeks to prove that he still deserves to be champion? Why should Braun be happy that the title match that he specifically wanted in Hell in a Cell so it would be just him and Roman one-on-one is now going to have a third person involved? The only person who this should make happy is Brock, who gets to sit on his ass at home and not show up for six weeks, which is what WWE has spent then past seven months telling us is what Brock likes to do anyway, and which was making the company and the fans so angry with him.
Oh. Wow. Braun was actually upset with this. He didn’t say why, of course. He just said that everything and everyone “sucks” and then went to leave. While he was walking up the ramp, Paul Heyman showed up, with a group of Valued Backstage Crewmembers™ carrying the door of the cell that Brock kicked off its hinges last night. Why is WWE letting Paul come out here and grandstand? They’re pissed at him and Brock, and the Saudi show is a sold show so it’s not their job to sell tickets.
Paul rambles on about Brock’s financial value and the rights fees deal and the stock price and all of that stuff and I don’t understand why we fans are supposed to give a sh*t. The rights deal is done. If Brock, Ronda, and Cena all retired tomorrow, WWE would still have that deal in place, and as for the stock price going down with Roman as champion… so what? What we fans care about is whether the product makes us want to tune in, to buy tickets, to keep subscribing to the WWE Network, and whether the wrestlers or the product make us want to buy merchandise. The fact that the stock price was going up even before the new TV deal simply because of social media numbers even though they were selling fewer tickets and drawing lower ratings shows exactly how little the people who drive the stock price know about pro wrestling in general and WWE in particular.
Strowman waited for Paul to finish, then walked off after him in an angry manner. This left Roman and Corbin in the ring. Corbin said that he has seen the injury report and Roman is banged up from last night’s match. I guess someone forgot to tell Roman that, because he hasn’t sold at all, and isn’t taped up or in any way showing any sign that something is wrong. Corbin says he is going to take advantage of this by booking himself in a Universal Title match tonight. So who do ya’ll think is causing the f*ck finish tonight: Braun or Balor?
DEAN AMBROSE vs. DREW MCINTYRE- 7.25/10
They had a great match. Dean worked Drew’s knee. Drew sold it well.
DOLPH, DREW, & CORBIN BACKSTAGE- Corbin cut a promo on Roman, then told Dolph that he “heard” that Rollins isn’t here tonight (he’s the f*cking GM! How is he not 100% certain if one of his champions hasn’t shown up yet over half an hour into the show?!) Corbin suggests to Dolph (who actually is selling from last night) that he invoke his rematch clause tonight and win by forfeit. Well why didn’t Dolph just do that two weeks ago when The Shield had been arrested?
BABYFACE WOMEN BACKSTAGE-
First we got a slideshow recapping Ronda’s victory last night. Then we cut to the women’s locker room where Nattie and the Bellas were gushing to each other about how great Ronda’s win last night was. Are you kidding me? Like none of them have ever gone into a match injured and still managed to win? F*ck off. I’ve seen all three of them do it multiple times. This sort of thing doesn’t make Ronda look impressive; it just makes the other three look bad. Because the fact of the matter is that what Ronda Rousey did last night- while commendable and impressive- is something that is relatively commonplace in the world of WWE… and yet we’ve now got to watch these three WWE veterans treat Ronda like she’s the greatest thing since sliced bread for doing it.
Then Ronda showed up and they all gushed to her face. Ronda asked them “how do championship open challenges actually work? Do I just go out there? Do I talk to Constable Corbin? Do I text my dear friend Stephanie? Like… what do I do?”
That’s an excellent question, Ronda, and I, too, am very interested in what the answer is. Nattie says you just go out there and do it, and gives Ronda a completely ridiculous speech that I’m sure the writers think was brilliant on their part because it explained to any first-time viewers what an open challenge is while also having Nattie giving what I’m sure they thought sounded like an inspirational speech (that’s certainly what Nattie’s delivery sounded like), but in reality it was Nattie using a completely ridiculous voice to tell Ronda sh*t that Ronda already knows (or, alternatively, if Ronda somehow didn’t actually know what an open challenge entails, then it makes Ronda look like an idiot for being so gung-ho about having one without having any idea what the concept entailed).
CHAD GABLE (w/Bobby Roode) vs. VIKTOR (w/Konnor)- 4/10
Roode & Gable had an inset promo. They seem to be going to great lengths to make Gable look like as big of a dork as possible. Included in this is making him not only come out to the ring to Roode’s music, but make it look like he is the one intruding on Roode’s entrance when it’s Gable’s f*cking match!
Is it even possible to call this Ascension vs. Roode & Gable thing a “feud” or even a “program” when Roode and Gable win every time and they never do anything to make us think the outcome might be different?
Chad Gable is great and Viktor is really good, so this match was great for the time it got. Roode and Gable were going to celebrate together after the match but Konnor knocked them into each other from behind, meaning that finally, after three straight babyface victories, we have finally have even a minor angle.
KAYLA BRAXTON INTERVIEWS SETH ROLLINS- Kayla told him about Corbin booking Ziggler’s rematch for tonight and saying that Seth would have to forfeit if he couldn’t compete. In a normal wrestling promotion Rollins would cut a promo about how Corbin is a biased piece of crap but he’s going to preserve and win the match anyway, and the mere fact that Dolph would hope to win the title via forfeit is proof that he is not worthy to be the WWE Intercontinental Champion. Unfortunately, this is not a normal wrestling promotion; this is WWE, so Rollins instead said “Well he might be the acting general manager around here, but someone should remind Baron Corbin that this is still Monday Night Rollins.”
UNDERTAKER PROMO- An excellent promo about something I cannot possibly bring myself to care about. The news here is that Taker doesn’t trust that HBK would be willing to go all the way to Australia to just sit and watch, so he’s going to have Kane in his corner to counter HBK. If you’re into this match, you’ll really, really, really love this promo.
DANA BROOKE vs. BAYLEY (w/Sasha Banks)- 1/10
Renee Young said that “it’s about time!” that Dana Brooke left Titus Worldwide. You know… because Dana was doing so well before Titus came along. Before she joined Titus Worldwide, the bright side of things for Dana was that the fact that she was never on TV meant that wasn’t doing jobs on TV on a regular basis. At least with Titus Worldwide she had some visible presence, even if Creative completely mishandled the role by having her be a regular valet instead of trying to make her the modern-day Alexandra York that her “statistician” gimmick would have suggested. How did they drop the ball on this? It’s DAna BRooke. I was ready to mark out so hard for DABRmetrics.
So, in her first match after her big breakaway from Titus Worldwide, Dana Brooke… doesn’t get her entrance shown on TV and loses cleanly in three minutes.
THE AUTHORS OF PAIN BACKSTAGE- One of them threw a Valued Backstage Crewmember against a wall. Drake Maverick yelled at him to “save it for the ring.” Credit where it’s due: Drake was authoritative enough that I found it believable that this large monster would listen to him.
BARRETT BROWN & GREGORY JAMES vs. THE AUTHORS OF PAIN (w/Drake Maverick)- pointless squash
One more of these and I’m starting to give them duds on principle. They’ve been on the main roster for almost six months. We’re past the point where they should be doing weekly squashes with random jobbers.
DOLPH, CORBIN, & ROLLINS BACKSTAGE- dull
Dolph is upset that Rollins showed up. Corbin convinces him that it will be fine because “Rollins is way more hurt than you are.” Then Rollins showed up for no reason other than to have a completely toothless and pointless exchange of words with Ziggler.
WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH: Seth Rollins(c) vs. Dolph Ziggler- 6.75/10
They both sold their backs a lot from last night’s match and big table bumps. The match was very good, but the story they were telling felt like it limited the match. Maybe if they had more time and worked at a slower pace to build up to things more it would have been better.
CHARLY CARSUO INTERVIEWS ROMAN REIGNS- a fine babyface promo by Roman to build up to his title defense against Baron Corbin tonight.
RONDA ROUSEY PROMO- HORRENDOUS
She started off by thanking Alexa for pushing her to her limit and putting over how much fight Alexa had last night. I’m not sure if she was supposed to be sincere or if she was mocking Alexa, as her delivery was not close to being either of those things (it was more like a kid in a high school play trying her best to just remember her lines and get over her stage fright). What’s worse, not matter which direction she was supposed to have headed in, the words she said made her come like a self-aggrandizing asshole. “I have to thank her for showing me that I’m more of a champion than I ever thought that I could be.” Is that not a complete and total heel line?
Ronda then transitioned to telling us all that she wants to be a great champion like Bret Hart and Steve Austin and Ric Flair. Ronda Rousey, UFC megastar and the woman WWE is warping their entire women’s division around… is out here and being reduced to naming star wrestlers of bygone eras to get cheap pops. This felt like a poorly-delivered version of something I’d expect to hear NXT Bayley say, not “The Baddest Woman on the Planet.” This was one of those promos that, while there will certainly be promos with worse delivery or promos with messages that make less sense over the course of this year (and probably even some that are both at the same time), this might be the worst promo of the year when you factor in not just the delivery, but the fact that the message itself is so far away from what the messenger should be saying.
Anyway, Ronda wants to make an open challenge because that’s what great champions do, apparently. I understand the idea of being ready and willing to defend your title at any time, but there is also something to be said for ensuring the quality of the challenger. Have the Smackdown Tag Team Titles meant less over the past few months because New Day and the Bludgeon Brothers have only defended the belts against people who had to actually win some matches before getting a title shot as opposed to these open challenges where the way you earn a title shot is by being the first person to show up at Gorilla?
The babyface should never be afraid to defend the championship, but the role of the authority figure should be to enforce standards by keeping unworthy challengers away. After all, his/her job is to serve the interests of the promotion, and while we often think of that as meaning someone who ensures that a worthy challenger isn’t being ducked and that the title isn’t being devalued by languishing in inactivity, his/her job is also to ensure that the title isn’t devalued by allowing wrestlers to compete for it if they have not proved themselves worthy by earning victories. After all, if you don’t need to do anything to earn a title shot, then what makes a title match different from a normal match? The job of the authority figure is to ensure that all worthy challengers receive a title shot, and the “worthy” part of that is just as important as the “all” part of it.
Anyway, Ronda makes her open challenge (and oh my G-d Ronda’ last lines here were SOOOOOO MUCH BETTER than everything else that came before it). As was teased before…
CUE NATALYA’S MUSIC- But then we see the Riott Squad dragging an unconscious Nattie out onto the stage. Ruby Riott cut a decent promo on Ronda and the Riott Squad attacked. Ronda held her own for a few moments (still remembering to sell her now-taped ribs) but the numbers game caught up with her and her ribs got worked over by a knee from Logan, a spear from Ruby, and then a triple-team stomping in the corner. Cue the Bella Twins to come out and make the save, ending in Ronda hitting her twisting Samoan Drop to Ruby Riott.
It’s impossible to deny that the segment WWE set out to do here (aside from the first 99% of Ronda’s promo, obviously) was extremely well executed, but I do have a few things that I think are very much worthy of saying about this whole situation:
1. Once again, the Riott Squad get their asses handed to them, leaving us with absolutely zero reason to think they will stand a snowball’s chance in hell of winning at Super Show-Down and zero reason to feel like we need to watch that match to see the babyfaces get any sort of revenge on them.
2. To this segment’s credit, this was the first time that I did not groan upon seeing the Bella Twins being put with Ronda Rousey, and that is because this is the first time that Nikki & Brie did not feel shoe-horned in. It made me think that, in retrospect (though it should have been foresight for the people booking it because they knew where they were going from week to week) a MUCH better way to build up to this six-woman tag would have been by keeping the Bellas completely separate from Ronda and having them actually lose to the Riott Squad last week due to the numbers game. Then, when the Riott Squad pull the same trick on first Nattie and then Ronda this week, the Bellas have a logical reason (beyond the obvious moral one, I suppose) to come to Ronda’s rescue. I think that is a MUCH more natural way to bring these quite frankly extremely different personalities together than what they have been doing on TV for the past several weeks, which was to do a bunch of backstage segments in which the Bella Twins do the verbal equivalent of having one of them fan a lounging, toga-wearing Ronda with a giant palm leaf while the other one feeds her grapes.
Then, only after this segment- when Ronda’s involvement in this Bella Twins vs. Riott Squad feud feels natural- would you announce the six-woman tag. Plus, let’s be honest here: just telling people that “Ronda Rousey will be wrestling at Super Show-Down was probably going to sell more tickets over the past few weeks than they did by specifying that it wouldn’t be a title match and would be as part of a six-woman tag in which Ronda teamed was teaming with the freakin’ Bella Twins.
3. I think the reason that a lot of the stuff in #2 jumped out at me is kind of a feeling I have had since the news of Ronda vs. Nikki at Evolution first came out that I haven’t really found a way to put into words until now. And those words are “The Bella Twins are the epitome of the type of character that Ronda Rousey should be kept as far away from as possible.”
I know that sounds harsh and I’m not trying to say that Nikki & Brie are bad workers or that they are not characters that have value to the company from a Creative perspective. But the Bella Twins, with their reality TV shows that have been kept visible to us despite their over fourteen-month period of inactivity (plus a further year of inactivity for Brie and an additional year for Nikki since she had a storyline that wasn’t about her dating John Cena), and their teenage girl speech patterns, and their status as the company’s favorite spokesmodels (and I do use that exact term on purpose) in the pre-Diva’s/Women’s R/Evolution Era, come off more than anyone else in the company as relics of a by-gone era where looks were prized well above talent and the job of the female competitors was first and foremost to look pretty rather than being portrayed as serious athletes, and Ronda Rousey is the very epitome of “serious athlete.”
Yes, it’s not fair, and for many reasons, most of which are out of the Bellas’ control (although Nikki talking like a girl who is like totally going to rush, like, THE HOTTEST sorority on campus rather than talking like a grown adult woman is completely her fault, as are their personalities on their reality shows, which don’t help the perception, especially in Nikki’s case). Yes, there are women on the main roster who are not at the Bellas’ (and certainly not at Nikki’s) level as workers and who were also hired primarily to look good- bikini model Mandy Rose immediately springs to mind, as do Liv Morgan, Carmella, and Lana (though Lana is a manager and I wouldn’t have Ronda get involved in the ring with her, either) and even, if you want to make the argument, Alexa Bliss!, and Dana Brooke (though I’d argue that those two had additional value in their gymnastics backgrounds plus charisma and big muscles, respectively)- but those women have all benefited from coming up at a time when they were all portrayed as wrestlers first and hot chicks second (Carmella is a chickensh*t, yes, but her job has always felt like it was to be a wrestler or a manager, not to stand there and look pretty; Mandy Rose uses “extremely hot chick” as her gimmick, but she has never not been portrayed as a serious wrestler who just happens to be really hot and uses that as her gimmick). The Bellas do not benefit from that. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. And I wouldn’t be saying this about them if it was anyone other than Ronda involved, but they need to be kept as far away from Ronda Rousey as possible or else you risk shattering the image of this new age of women’s wrestling in WWE, led by new top star and poster-girl former UFC megastar Ronda Rousey.
As for who Ronda should face at Evolution,I’ve got a thought on that which I will share with you later on in the show.
CORBIN & STROWMAN BACKSTAGE- Braun tells Corbin that he hopes Corbin wins tonight “because you suck and I know that I can kill you.” That… actually makes a lot of sense.
THE DRIFTER SINGS- He got interrupted by Lio Rush, and they had a very good back-and-forth. Lio brought out Lashley, who came out because apparently he has a match booked against The Drifter now, I guess?
BOBBY LASHLEY vs. “THE DRIFTER” ELIAS SAMPSON- no rating, Bizarro-World segment
Lio Rush was on commentary. Lashley is apparently still a babyface, but Lio comes off like a total fast-talking heel. They did some stuff. Then Kevin Owens came out and went after Lio but Lio managed to avoid him. If I didn’t know any better, I would have sworn that Owens was a wronged babyface trying to get revenge on the cowardly Lio Rush. Lio wound up attacking The Drifter to cause a DQ because The Drifter went after him for… well, I’m not sure why. Lio got to do some cool flips to avoid people, but in the end, he was running away and hiding behind Lashley. Then Lashley threw Lio into the two heels. This was so weird.
ALEXA BLISS! & FRIENDS SELFIE PROMO- They’re now going even more mean girls. Apparently we’re getting Fox & Mickie vs. Ember Moon and a partner of Ember’s choice. Also, apparently that match is next. Because it’s not like a mystery partner is something you’d want to try to build some anticipation for, right? Anyway, we got…
EMBER MOON & NIA JAX vs. MICKIE JAMES & ALICIA FOX (w/Alexa Bliss!)-
Cole remind us that Alexa and Nia used to be best friends but their friendship ended when Alexa “revealed those disparaging thoughts about Nia Jax.” Thanks for the detail, Cole. That is the sort of thing that really helps paint a picture for someone who might not have been watching while that entire feud was happening. Secondly… didn’t Nia turn on Alexa several times over the course of 2017 only for them to get back together each time? Why is Alexa the villain here?
To give them credit where it is due (although I don’t think the announcers ever mentioned it), Nia being Ember’s mystery partner mirrors Ember’s debut five and a half months ago when Ember was Nia’s mystery partner against Alexa & Mickie. The match was fine. The crowd was into it. The babyfaces won.
Since she’s out here, this seems like the perfect time to reveal who I think should be booked as Ronda Rousey’s challenger at Evolution: Nia Jax. I’m serious! Hear me out…
1. She and Ronda have unfinished business involving the title.
2. Her last title shot was marred by interference.
3. She and Ronda actually had a pretty decent match at Money in the Bank, so we know they can work well together if given time to practice, which I’m sure WWE will make readily available for them.
4. You try to capitalize off of whatever rub Nia got from that original angle they did with her and Ronda at the NBC Universal up-fronts to try make Nia more of a mainstream name (after all, she is The Rock’s cousin, plus she apparently just won this award for being a positive portrayal of women and/or girls in the media).
5. Yeah, it’s not going to be much of a ticket-mover, but neither is Ronda vs. Nikki Bella, and WWE’s plan seems to be to push the idea as the ticket mover, with the Trish and Lita matches as some back-up.
BARON CORBIN TALKS TO A REFEREE BACKSTAGE- He not-so-subtly threatens the referee
WWE UNIVERSAL TITLE MATCH: Roman Reigns(c) vs. Baron Corbin- 6/10
They had a match that was going along… about as well as could be expected, given that Baron Corbin was involved. Corbin got himself DQed out of frustration, but finally figured out that he could just restart the match without DQs (you know… the same thing he did less than a month ago). At that point Roman just made a comeback and got a nearfall. Roman took forever to hit Corbin with a chair, which bought enough time for Braun to show up to distract Roman so Corbin could hit him from behind. Braun then attacked Roman but Roman sent him to the outside but then Corbin attacked him from behind again. Drew & Dolph then came down to ringside, and so did The Shield and we had a brawl. Didn’t Corbin have an entire army of heels the last two times this happened… which were LAST WEEK’S SHOW AND THE WEEK BEFORE THAT?! Why didn’t he just do that here? Instead we got The Shield taking out the heels and Roman pinning Corbin to retain the title. The people writing this show have the collective memory-span of a lone goldfish.
This was a pretty up-and-down episode of Raw. There was stuff that was good, stuff that was bad, stuff that was fine but peppered with stupidity, stuff that was just plain weird. Sadly, it feels like this is the best we can hope for from Raw in 2018.
STUPID ANNOUNCER QUOTES:
1. Corey Graves had the f*cking temerity to insist to me that Roman and Braun went through “unparalleled brutality” last night, when they didn’t even have the most brutal Hell in a Cell Match on last night’s show, never mind in history.
2. Cole called Ambrose vs. McIntyre “a clash of two of the most unorthodox styles in WWE today.”
What? They’re both brawlers, with McIntyre doing some power moves. The same thing can be said for Roman, Owens, Corbin, Lashley, both Authors of Pain, Killian Dain, Eric Young, Curtis Axel, Bobby Roode, The Drifter, Big Show, Titus O’Neill, Mojo Rawley, Jinder, Rhyno, The Ascension, Sarah Logan, Tamina, Nia Jax, Gallows, Anderson, Harper, the Bludgeon Brothers, Aiden English, and Sheamus. That’s, like at least a quarter of the roster, and that’s not even counting NXT.
3. Renee Young- “This new version of Dean Ambrose has a deep artillery.”
I have no idea what this means.