Raw General Manager Kurt Angle Confronted Braun Strowman
It's only been two weeks and Angle has already proven to be a better general manager than Mick Foley with how he doesn't back down the talent. Strowman's promo was kept relatively short and sweet as it probably should have been leading to Angle's announcement of a match between Strowman and Roman Reigns at Payback as well as a tease for what would happen later in the night. There was no indication that they will have a gimmick match of any kind, but it would be befitting of the feud.
Samoa Joe def. Chris Jericho
These two were shorted for time when they initially faced off last month, so I was glad they received much more time for this match. They made the most of it by putting together an enjoyable affair and Jericho scored enough offense to not look weak in defeat. The decisive win for Joe was a nice touch, as I assume he'll be leaving again after the Payback pay-per-view. Joe's post-match promo was phenomenal and I liked how Rollins' retort was straight to the point. I'm looking forward to their first-ever encounter on the main roster at Payback.
The Club def. Enzo Amore and Big Cass
The Club against Enzo and Cass isn't exactly a fresh match considering they were just feuding heading into WrestleMania, but I understand WWE will be slightly short on star power in their tag team division with Dash Wilder of The Revival recently suffering an injury. It was a pretty basic bout for the most part, but Andrews tossing Enzo on the ropes in painful fashion was a cool finish. I was hoping The Club would be reunited with AJ Styles on SmackDown Live in the Superstar Shake-up, but I'm glad they aren't being lost in the shuffle on Raw despite not being in the title picture right now.
The Miz and Maryse Hosted Miz TV with Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose
Miz and Ambrose have always worked well together and their matches never cease to deliver, but I can't say I'm too thrilled with how Raw is revisiting a rivalry from SmackDown Live we saw only a few months ago. I will say, however, that they're at least putting a different spin on it with Miz calling Ambrose "lazy" and "complacent," playing off Stone Cold Steve Austin's comments from his WWE Network podcast last year. Hopefully this is a short-lived program before both men branch off into fresh feuds.
TJ Perkins def. Jack Gallagher
Yes, they did this exact same match on 205 Live last week, essentially rendering that show irrelevant. That said, this was a fun match and I'm digging Perkins' heel turn (you can't help but hate him whenever he does the damn "dab"). Gallagher is also entertaining enough to engage fans in the action and they benefited from receiving more time than usual. Perkins being added to the WWE Cruiserweight Championship match at Payback would make sense, but I assume he'll just have a presence at ringside.
Alexa Bliss def. Sasha Banks, Nia Jax and Mickie James in a No. 1 Contender's Raw Women's Championship Fatal 4-Way Match
It's amazing how bringing some new blood can really rejuvenate a dead division. It was refreshing seeing Bliss and James mix it up with Banks and Jax and everyone played their roles well. Not only was it a very good match, there was also an element of unpredictability surrounding the finish because any one of these four women realistically could have won. Bliss was the best choice since WWE should continue to hold off on Bayley vs. Banks until SummerSlam at the earliest, not to mention she received a big pop for coming out on top in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio (WWE tends to embarrass the hometown heroes more often than not).
Finn Balor def. Curt Hawkins
I guess WWE didn't issue an official injury update on Balor last week after it was reported he suffered a concussion in his match with Jinder Mahal because they wanted to run tests on him before Raw this week. Well, it looks like he's good to go and has been cleared to compete, which is awesome news. It would have been heartbreaking if he had to sit on the sidelines again after returning from injury two weeks ago. Granted, this squash match was rather brief, but WWE wouldn't let him wrestle at all if they feared there was a risk of him being seriously hurt.
Bray Wyatt Addressed WWE Champion Randy Orton
I hate to sound like a broken record, but this Wyatt vs. Orton feud has been the drizzling shits. It had potential before Orton turned on Wyatt when he did, but once it resorted to being about nothing but nonsense again, I quickly lost interest. Wyatt delivers his once-compelling promos well, but we learned long ago that his words hold no value because he always loses when it matters most, and his upcoming House of Horrors match with Payback is bound to be no exception.
Raw Tag Team Champion Jeff Hardy def. Cesaro
This bout was billed as a "dream match" several times by the commentators and even by Cesaro himself, yet WWE couldn't take the time to advertise it in advance for some strange reason. Nevertheless, it was an above-average television match with Hardy doing a solid job of selling his lower-body throughout. With both men being babyfaces, the crowd didn't have an incentive to cheer one guy over the other, but Cesaro and Sheamus did tease a heel turn earlier in the evening with the way they were acting.
Braun Strowman vs. Big Show Ended in a No Contest
While I liked their previous encounter two months ago a bit more, my expectations were likely a little high because that bout was so surprisingly great. This was still a better match than it had any right to be on paper and these two had a strong chemistry together it seems. Strowman is improving in the ring at a rapid rate and his opponents play to his strengths. Of course, we've seen the ring collapsing with Show twice before, but the crowd popped huge regardless and it was a memorable moment with Strowman standing tall as a dominant monster for the second straight week.
Raw has definitely taken a turn for the better since WrestleMania 33 in my opinion. Is it because of the influx of debuting/returning talent, the Superstar Shake-up, or the lack of The Authority? I'd like to think it's a combination of all of those things. There's a few feuds I'm not completely enthralled with at the moment, but by and large, the immediate future of Raw looks bright and it's great that the Payback card is almost already complete.
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