Kurt Angle pops out to remind everyone of his unparalleled Olympic accomplishments only for…
Paul Heyman claims that Kurt, and WWE upper management, don’t like Lesnar and want to get the Universal Championship off of him and that, as a result, if he loses in the biggest testosterone-fuelled match ever in the WWE at Summerslam (Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe vs. Braun Strowman) then Lesnar will walk away from the WWE (again…would that be the third time now?) I guess that this is the WWE trying to raise the stakes even further for the Universal Championship match but, with the rumours that Lesnar is considering going back to UFC, I think this was a bit on the nose foreshadowing for Lesnar’s loss at Summerslam.
The Hardy Boyz defeated Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. So, last week, the Revival got a pin over the Club, now the Hardyz have once again pinned what should have been the most dominate tag team in the WWE. However, afterwards, the Revival came out for a big three-way brawl, which saw the Hardyz get the upper hand. I like this part as it plays into my hope for a four-way match for the Raw Tag team Championships at Summerslam but can we please get some new tag teams on the main shows or throw together some lesser heel and faces teams for these guys to beat rather than burying the Club two weeks in a row?
Akira Tozawa, Rich Swann, and Cedric Alexander got a win over Tony Nese, TJP, and Ariya Daivari in a six-man cruiserweight match then didn’t even get past ten minutes. Cruiserweights in the WWE are apparently like a packet of crisps; you have a deep packet with a few tasty bites and you eat them like small, exciting nibbles. With the WWE currently making some cutbacks and looking to save money, I honestly believe that the writing is on the wall for a lot of the cruiserweights and, given how badly they’ve handled the division, I doubt that too many people will be upset about that.
The Miz and the Miz-tourage then spoke to Jason Jordan on Miz TV, which ended with Jordan suplexing them all over the shop. I guess with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins apparently segueing into the tag team division, this was a pretty effective way of setting up the Miz’s new feud and, considering how played out and annoying Miz vs. Ambrose was, I am just happy to see a fresh face involved in the Intercontinental Championship picture.
Speaking of which, Seth Rollins then beat Sheamus while also fighting off interference from Cesaro. After the match though, Sheamus and Cesaro kicked the crap out of Rollins while the crowd chanted for Ambrose. However, Ambrose didn’t come out until the beating had gone on for a long while, and then he got his teeth kicked down his throat. So this established that Rollins can beat Sheamus (which is fine, Rollins is younger and far more capable than Sheamus, who missed his opportunity back when he was the young up-and-comer) but that Sheamus and Cesaro have the advantage as a team. Again, this makes perfect sense as their the tag champs and Ambrose doesn’t trust Rollins; so, even though one of the champs took a loss, the overall message of the champions being dominant was made very clear.
Bray Wyatt then came out to talk about how he’s a God and more than man and yadda-yadda-yadda. Finn Balor interrupted him, playing mind games of his own, and gave Wyatt a bit of a beating. Wyatt’s words, still completely empty and meaningless, actually might be more effective in this feud, especially as it looks like Finn will be donning his warpaint for Summerslam. If any guys can channel the supernatural, over-the-top theatrics of Kane and the Undertaker, it’s these two, so I say push it as far as possible; anything to make Bray look like a threat.
Summerslam then came early, in a sense, as Roman Reigns got a win over Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman after smashing Joe with the ring steps and Spearing him. While this match bodes well for the big-man Universal Championship match, why the hell was it not the main event of Raw? Also, why am I so sure that we’re going to see variants of the Summerslam match every week until Summerslam? I’d rather see the guys jump each other backstage and really play into the strengths of the Strowman/Reigns feud by having these three really try to murder each other; it really helps fuel the idea that they all hate each other and will do anything to get the belt off Lesnar.
Elias Samson then got a win over Kalisto in a nothing match where the real story was that the Drifter got to sing a whole song…wait, he’s just Elias now? That’s…terrible! What is it with the WWE shortening the names of guys from NXT? Neville, Cesaro, Rusev…none of them were really that better off just going by their last names, surely? Did the WWE really do some kind of consumer survey where people said they’d like the Drifter more if he didn’t have that incredibly annoying two-syllable last name? ugh, well, at least he won a match on Raw but….seriously? Elias?
And here we are, the last match before the main event, and it’s the first and only women’s match on this weeks Raw. I know what you’re thinking, it’s a bit hypocritical of me, surely, to complain about there only being one women’s match this week and it’s placement on the show given that I’ve openly admitted to not caring for (or about) the women’s division but how is that perspective supposed to change when there’s only one match? On the plus side, Bayley got a big win by beating Nia Jax by count out. Well, as big as you can get by winning through count out. The bad new sis that, apparently, Bayley might be injured now and her Summerslam match is a bit up in the air at the moment; I like Bayley and think she’s sweet and cute but, if she’s hurt, they should just have Nia beat Alexa and go on a dominant tear through the Raw women’s division. Then, when Bayley returns fully healed, she can get a big babyface win by toppling the monster heel.
So, remember when I complained about the placement of the Reigns/Joe/Strowman match earlier? This is why, as the main event this week was Big Cass taking on the Big Show. Cass got the win after Enzo jumped into the match right when it looked like Test had Show beat after the Big Boot (wait…Test? I meant Cass, obviously…) after Cass stared beating on Enzo again, Big Show KO’d him with a really lame-looking punch which, in combination with how lacklustre the match preceding it had been, has really degraded Cass’s momentum and standing. I had high hopes for this feud; Show, who has publically admitted that he’s winding down towards retirement and wants to help improve the new generation of big men to take his place, could really help elevate Cass’s new heel persona and his push as a singles guy but, instead, the match was slow and plodding and nothing like the triple threat we saw earlier, where three big men were far more competent and just wailing on each other. Hopefully this feud picks up as we move towards Summerslam and we can start easing Enzo away from Cass completely, as this clash of the giants doesn’t need his involvement any more.
No talking, no bullshit, no time wasting; SmackDown! Live opened this week with AJ Styles defending the United States Championship against Kevin Owens. This, this, is exactly what SmackDown! Live should be doing with the United States Championship; defend it every week either as a hot opener or a big-time main event and cut out all the usual opening promo crap we have to keep sitting through. Playing off of the weird referee bump stuff from Battleground, this match was going really well until the referee got “hit” and “couldn’t see” that Kevin Owens had his shoulder up when AJ pinned him for the win. Afterwards, Owens (rightly) complains about how useless the referees have been lately, so Daniel Bryan announces that Shane McMahon will by the special guest referee in Owens’ rematch at Summerslam. I really hope that all these annoying referee bumps and moments are part of a larger plan for AJ and Owens to have a real five-star clash at Summerslam; though, the Vince Russo in me could totally see Shane screwing AJ out of the belt, turning heel, and aligning himself with Owens (maybe even birthing some kind of stable with…the Ascension? Yes, I like the Ascension and want them to be relevant! Don’t judge me!)
Aiden English’s sudden and unexpected winning streak and push continued as he, once again, pinned Sami Zayn after the most over and unbeatable finisher in modern day WWE….the roll-up. Afterwards, Maria and Mike Kanellis came out to make fun of Sami. Okay, I like the consistency of English beating Zayn again; at least Zayn didn’t fall victim to 50/50 booking. But why is he the one getting these cheap victories over Zayn and not Mike Kanellis? Kanellis is the guy Zayn is feuding with, and Zayn has proven he can beat him, which should’ve been the end of it really. Instead, Zayn is now losing, for no reason, to a guy who clearly isn’t better than him and has no obvious advantage to help him win. Kanellis should’ve cheating to beat Zayn at Battleground and should be stealing these cheap victories over him now; then you could tell the story of Zayn constantly trying to overcome Kanellis and Maria and fighting an uphill battle. Instead, he’s just a loser who is then publically humiliated.
Naomi and Becky Lynch then beat Carmella and Natalya. The plus side was that Carmella took the loss rather than the current random number one contender, which actually wasn’t a good thing as Carmella has the briefcase so she shouldn’t be looking weak!
Chad Gable then had an impressive showing against Rusev, arguably a much more effective and competitive match than Jordan’s against Curt Hawkins the other week on Raw. Gable lost to the Accolade but there’s no shame in that; I’m pretty sure you can still count on one hand how many people have been able to beat Rusev, and gable had a great showing so I am quite excited to see him get more opportunities as it would tie into my fantasy booking from the other week that sees Gable injected into the United States Championship picture. Oh, and after the match, Rusev demanded an opponent for Summerslam and got Randy Orton, which was weird as by coming out and accepting that challenge Orton has chosen to step away from the WWE Championship picture; that’s a good thing, as his feud with Jinder Mahal is clearly played out, but doesn’t make the belt look great. It would’ve been better if Rusev had demanded competition and then attacked Orton backstage and incited the feud rather than Orton picking to go after Rusev instead of trying to get another match with Jinder.
The main event this week was the dream match between John Cena and Shinsuke Nakamura, with the winner becoming the number one contender and getting a shot at Jinder’s WWE Championship at Summerslam. This match….this match is why Cena has become one of the best competitors in modern WWE; he worked his ass off to put over Shinsuke, absorbing the strong style offense of Shinsuke and throwing everything at him. There was a sick (sick!) moment where Shinsuke hit Cena with a reverse exploder suplex and Cena landed right on his head and neck! It honestly looked like Shinsuke had killed him! Then, check the skies for red clouds and invading Parademons because Shinsuke flew his knee right into Cena’s face and pinned him, clean as yesterday’s sheets, to a thunderous ovation! Afterwards, Shinsuke clearly apologises for the suplex and Cena clearly gives him his props, shakes his hands, raises his arm, and bows to him! It is truly the end of times, people; Shinsuke Nakamura will get a WWE Championship match at Summerslam! With Cena apparently leaving for Raw for the near future, this was the perfect way of cementing Shinsuke as SmackDown! Live’s top babyface.
However…I have to say….as happy as I am to see Shinsuke get the rub and the props and the title shot, I can’t help but think that Cena could have won and then done the same work with Jinder to really put over Jinder as a top heel. Imagine if Jinder had faced Cena in the Summerslam main event and won? That really would have shut up Jinder (and Cena’s) detractors. But, at the same time, this totally plays into my fantasy booking that sees Shinsuke win the belt only for Corbin to cash-in and rob him of the moment for massive heel heat!