By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Roman Reigns Confronted United States Champion Rusev
This was infinitely better than that blatantly boring wedding segment we had to suffer... er, sit through last week. The crowd reaction to Reigns hasn't changed in the slightest despite going up against the universally hated Rusev, but I like how both guys are starting to incorporate more personality into their respective characters. Lana has also been playing her role really well as of late. I'm typically not for talking segments to kick off Raw, but this was intense enough that it had me looking forward to what was in store for Reigns and Rusev later on in the show, and at least the involvement of the authority figures was kept relatively limited.
Sami Zayn def. Sheamus
I was just wondering earlier today what Zayn has been up to on Raw recently, so it was cool to see him in a meaningful match for the first time since Battleground. Twitter wars between Superstars sound so juvenile on paper, but if executed the right way, they can be effective, as seen here. The underdog Zayn going up against the bully Sheamus made for a fun dynamic, not to mention that the match was very well-wrestled. I really liked how Cesaro's distraction from the ring apron was what cost Sheamus the match, allowing Zayn to score the win and further the feud between Cesaro and Sheamus.
WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day def. The Dudley Boyz (Non-title)
I like New Day and I like The Club, but the ball jokes that we've heard throughout this feud have been horribly cringe-worthy. The match was an afterthought as a result, but at least New Day had some good mic work afterward. In other news, it looks like The Dudley Boyz are headed for a split, which I am completely content with as long as it leads to a Bully Ray run from Bubba Ray. If so, expect D-Von to transition into a trainer role before long.
Nia Jax def. Rachel Levy
To her credit, Levy's pre-match promo wasn't half-bad. In fact, it was pretty decent, especially for an unknown "local athlete," and she surely knows how to take a beating. This was a shorter squash than what we've seen from Jax so far on the main roster, but I am digging her new finisher. It's definitely an improvement over the leg drop she used in NXT.
Brock Lesnar Attacked Heath Slater
Paul Heyman was excellent per usual in hyping up the anticipated encounter between Lesnar and Randy Orton at SummerSlam, but that was the bare minimum and everyone expected that. That said, I love how they went the extra mile by having Heath Slater come out and demand a match against The Beast only not to get it. Instead, he received a brutal beating for his efforts, and we had a rare Lesnar promo (I popped huge when he said he didn't give a shit about his kids)! This was a spectacular segment all around and I am now more pumped than ever for Lesnar vs. Orton.
Big Cass def. Kevin Owens by Disqualification
Owens and Cass contested a solid match, but it never felt like it left the first gear before it abruptly ended. That said, similar to last week, I was fine with the non-finish because it protected Cass and put heat on the newly formed duo of Owens and Chris Jericho. Besides, their mic work is entertaining enough that the matches don't need to be anything special.
The Shining Stars def. The Prime Time Players
Well, you knew how this was going to end as soon as it started, but I'm not going to lie: I enjoyed seeing The Prime Time Players back together albeit for one night. They were always one of my favorite tag teams and at least they explained their reunion with the logic that Bob Backlund was merely trying to get them back on the same page. More importantly, O'Neil has been established as the heel in this feud. Thank the lord.
Neville def. Jinder Mahal
As I've said time and time again, Mahal isn't an awful worker; he just isn't interesting in the slightest. On the bright side, he works well in the enhancement role, but if that was the only reason why he was brought back, what a waste. Meanwhile, Neville needs a real program to regain momentum in WWE, and I hope that will be the case post-SummerSlam. For now, this was a nice showcase of his skills.
Seth Rollins Called Out The Demon King
First and foremost, WWE has to stop with "The Demon King" crap. Just "The Demon" will suffice. The Demon King sounds far too similar to The Demon Kane. Anyway, while this was a solid segment that built toward the WWE Universal Championship match, I wish they would have saved the debut of The Demon for SummerSlam. Granted, it was a cool moment and the crowd reacted favorably, but it would have been bigger on the grand stage of SummerSlam. On a side note, I didn't realize this until afterward, but when the announcers said Rollins was in a "trance," a fan actually ran in the ring. Kudos to WWE for not acknowledging it at all.
The Club def. The Golden Truth
This was immensely better than what we saw from The Club earlier in the evening. Granted, I don't know how much heat they generated from beating Golden Truth, but a win is a win. And the post-match brawl between The Club and New Day was well done. With Big E "out indefinitely" according to the announcers, my guess is that The Club take the WWE Tag Team Championship on Sunday.
Charlotte def. Alicia Fox
I honestly totally forgot Fox was on the roster. Seriously. At any rate, I was glad the match was kept short and sweet with Charlotte going over in decisive fashion. Sasha Banks was a treat to listen to on commentary, and it was logical to put heat on the heels going into SummerSlam (even though Dana Brooke is "banned" from ringside). Speaking of whom, haven't they teased tension between her and Charlotte before only to swerve everyone and reunite?
Roman Reigns def. United States Champion Rusev (Non-title)
I came into this contest assuming it would be an angle more than a match, but that wasn't what happened at all. They were given sufficient time in the main event slot, and while it's a good thing they have great in-ring chemistry together and they told a simple story with Rusev working over Reigns' arm, I'm shocked they gave away one of their top SummerSlam matches six days ahead of the event. It was almost as stupid as when WWE did the same thing with Reigns and Seth Rollins before Night of Champions in 2014. Rusev almost has to retain his title at SummerSlam at this point considering Reigns won clean here, but I guess I wouldn't be shocked to see Rusev lose back-to-back bouts versus Reigns. Can they recreate this same magic in their rematch?
This was not the hot go-home edition of Raw I was hoping for from WWE. It was by no means terrible, and it had its fair share of highlights from Lesnar's annihilation of Slater, the Balor/Rollins confrontation and the excellent main event, but the three hours definitely dragged as they tend to do. Rather, it was a standard show with not much of a sense of urgency. Just as a heads-up, for the second straight year, I will be in attendance at SummerSlam (as well as at TakeOver and next Monday's Raw), so my review of the show here on the site will be delayed. The pay-per-view definitely has the potential to be a blockbuster, so I'm looking forward to it, nevertheless. Enjoy the event, folks!
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