They had Kurt Angle join the kick-off panel to talk about Roman vs. Cena, but Miz showed up to be a jerk about Jason Jordan. In a moment that totally shocked me, Jerry Lawler brought up his feud with Bret Hart, saying that his making fun of Stu and Helen gave Bret extra incentive to kick his ass, and warning Miz that making fun of Kurt might cause a similar reaction in Jason Jordan. This was shocking to me not only because WWE actually remembered continuity from over twenty years ago and applied it in a logical way, but also because Jerry Lawler contributed positively to a conversation on the pre-show.
NEVILLE PROMO - Good
ALEXA BLISS! IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA LOUNGE - They gave her the chance to verbally destroy a loser who proposed to her over Twitter. Charly Caruso, G-d bless her heart, had the sense to do her job as a babyface and say something to put the guy over a bit ("unfortunately he's asking you, not me.").
And now my WWE Network is flaking out, saving me from having to watch the rest of the pre-show. Hooray!
Holy sh*t! That has got to be the best show-opening video package WWE has in YEARS. This was at the level of those Dusty and D'Amore era TNA video packages.
There is a sign that says "Roman Reigns
WWE INTERCONTINENTAL MATCH:
The Miz(c) (w/the Miz-Tourage vs. Jason Jordan - 5.75/10
The fans are totally in Miz's corner. Jordan ran wild for a while but Miz retained via heel shenanigans. Between that and Jordan getting a visual pinfall, this feud will obviously keep going, but feels like it has gone on for too long already.
RENEE YOUNG INTERVIEWS JASON JORDAN - He wants a rematch and tries to get the fans to chant "you suck" at Miz but there was not one single audible chant.
BRAY WYATT vs. FINN BALOR - 6.75/10
Bray jumps Balor from behind before the bell, but the referee pretty much just stood there while Bray beat the crap out of Balor on the outside. Referees came out to check on Balor in order to really sell how hurt he was. How about sending a doctor out? They waste time teasing that the match might not happen even though everyone knows that they're not going to cancel the match.
Bray worked over Finn's injured ribs but Finn made his big comeback and was about to hit the Coup de Grace but froze when Bray did his stupid spiderwalk bridge thing. The announcers tried to claim that "the Demon" wouldn't have frozen but "Finn Balor the man" did. Oh come on.
Bray took over after this, but then Finn just made another comeback and won anyway, making Bray look like absolute crap. Maybe I'll get lucky and the reason they decided to have Finn beat Bray clean twice in a row is that they've just decided to end this stupid feud, but when was the last time I got lucky about anything Bray Wyatt.
Michael Cole hyped up the upcoming TLC PPV by talking up great moments in TLC history, asking "who can forget in 2010 when Sheamus shocked the world and defeated John Cena for the WWE Title?" No one, Michael. Because it didn't happen. But I do know of at least one person who can forget that Sheamus won the WWE Title from John Cena at the TLC PPV in 2009. Hint: it's Michael Cole.
WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose(c) vs. Sheamus & Cesaro - 9/10
This was even better than last month! Excellent double heat, some great false finishes, and some fantastic twists and turns along the way. Add in Cesaro's valiant effort after having his face become a bloody mess and losing some teeth, and a finish that does a good job of continuing the story of this feud by placing the shoe on the other foot in terms of which tag team will be having trust issues while feeling totally natural (i.e. not the standard WWE bullsh*t), and you've got yourself one hell of a match. This division feels like it has been almost single-handedly carrying Raw's workrate since SummerSlam.
FATAL FIVE-WAY MATCH FOR THE WWE RAW WOMEN'S TITLE:
Alexa Bliss!(c) vs. Nia Jax vs. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks vs. Emma - 7.5/10
This was a really great match that did a great job of telling three different interconnected stories: the difficulty of winning a match with five women running around at the same time, of constantly shifting and breaking alliances, and Nia's size advantage making her the biggest threat. Fortunately, Nia seems to be okay after taking a scary Tower of Doom-esque powerbomb onto the outside where she appeared to land right on her head. Alexa won, pinning Bayley, which, due to the fact that Asuka will be debuting next month, is actually the best possible finish, for reasons I will explain in a fantasy booking scenario that I will post soon.
JOHN CENA vs. ROMAN REIGNS - 8/10
The match definitely felt epic and they made every move mean something, but I didn't come close to biting on any of the false finishes simply because, with Cena in particular, WWE has been trying to add more excitement into his match by overusing and killing his finishers. The same way you knew that AJ Styles wasn't going to get beaten by the top rope AA the next time they faced off, I was certain that Roman was going to kick out of the rolling AAs because that's what beat AJ and WWE, in their desire to up the ante, has been rapidly killing off Cena's finishers. You've got really establish the rolling AAs a as Burning Hammer-esque death-move before you go having someone kick out of it for it to feel like a big deal that someone kicked out of it rather than just a very basic "how can we go one further than we did last time?"
The other issue I had with this match was the idea that Cena's "part-time" status has made him rusty and caused him to doubt whether he can go anymore, because since his latest return he has beaten Rusev, Baron Corbin, and Jason Jordan with no one ever suggesting anything of the sort and Cena not seeming to have any trouble out of the normal that you'd expect for someone of that level with any of them.
Roman won clean and Cena raised his hand after the match... and the people still booed Roman. Cena got the big "thank you" chant and they seemed to be trying to make everyone think that Cena was going away for a long time (Miz's comments comparing it to Roman beating Undertaker in the next segment played into this as well).
KURT ANGLE & THE MIZ BACKSTAGE - Miz is mean to Kurt but then pitched MizTV with special guest Roman Reigns tomorrow on Raw, and Kurt says that is a good idea and books it as the opener.
ENZO AMORE PROMO - Meh. Enzo asked "What's a king without a queen?" Unmarried? Gay? Most importantly, though, a king without a queen is still the f*cking king, Enzo.
WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Neville(c) vs. Enzo Amore - 4.5/10
Everything that they did until the finish was good, but that finish... Enzo is about to get counted out, so he grabs Neville's championship belt from the timekeeper's table. This upsets Neville, who tries to go after him but for some reason the referee stops his count to prevent Neville from going after Enzo rather than just letting Neville go and restarting his count if Neville were to get to the outside before Enzo was counted out. Enzo gets into the ring with the belt and Neville follows. Enzo threatens to hit Neville with the belt but gets rightfully threatened with disqualification by the referee, so Enzo gives the referee the belt, and as the referee goes to remove this dangerous foreign object from the ring, Enzo- the babyface- kicks Neville right in the nuts so he can roll him up and get the pin. This spot is heel 101, and yet WWE wants us to somehow think that Enzo is a hero. This company has no idea what they're doing!
WWE UNIVERSAL TITLE MATCH:
Brock Lesnar(c) (w/Paul Heyman) vs. Braun Strowman - 6/10
Another sub-10-minute Brock Lesnar main event Universal Title match. What they did was good for the time it lasted, but if Brock was going to win this it should have gone A LOT longer. This does absolutely nothing for Brock, and I think it definitely hurts Braun by making him just like Goldberg and Joe and everyone else Brock has beaten quickly. I'm tired of these short main events. What is the endgame here, anyway? That Roman is the one who lasts a long time against Brock? Do they really think that- after everything else they have tried- will in any way affect the way that the react to Roman?
This was a show that fell off a cliff towards the end. The first four fifths or so were solid to great, but after that both the booking and match quality took a sharp turn downhill. They've pretty much managed to kill the allure of a Brock Lesnar match for me, and as I said above, I think they did major damage to Strowman as well. This company seems to have totally lost their way when it comes to how to book a babyface and how to keep someone strong in an effective manner (which neither Brock nor Roman are because they're pushing them both in ways that negatively affect the product), and they don't have anything close to the storytelling skills necessary to make up for that by having things be interesting, either. Expect some more from me in the coming weeks on some of these topics.