By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose Confronted Brock Lesnar
Kicking off Raw with Lesnar and Paul Heyman is never not a good idea. He brings a level of excitement to every episode he appears on, so it was wise to have him open the night, especially so Heyman could discuss what Lesnar has planned for his opponents at WWE Fastlane. The face-to-face encounter between Lesnar and Ambrose was very cool. It felt special because we hadn't seen it prior to that point and Ambrose not backing down from The Beast Incarnate was a nice touch. The Triple Threat match at Fastlane makes zero sense from a booking standpoint, but it should be one hell of a wrestling match.
United States Champion Kalisto def. Rusev by Count-out (Non-title)
While I couldn't care less about League of Nations at the moment, it was refreshing to see Rusev go up against a fresh face in Kalisto. Expect them to drive this match into the ground over the next month or so, similar to what they have done with Alberto Del Rio and Kalisto. They should contest another fun match at Fastlane, but it will be their fifth match in the matter of a month. Anyway, I liked the count-out finish because it gave Kalisto a necessary win while also protecting Rusev. He doesn't need much protecting at this point, but he was undefeated for a year, believe it or not.
The Usos def. The Social Outcasts
The Social Outcasts are a fun undercard group, but it's hard to take them seriously when they go up against tandems like The Usos. It makes for an enjoyable outing, but it served no purpose other than giving The Usos a decent win before they seemingly go back after the WWE Tag Team Championship. It was filler at its finest, but as noted, The Social Outcasts are entertaining enough that I didn't mind it too much. The Usos, on the other hand, need more character development to feel fresh again.
AJ Styles Attacked The Miz on 'Miz TV'
Miz doesn't often get the credit he deserves for being a tremendous mic worker. He really heeled it up in this segment and he always does an excellent job of getting under the skin of fans. Granted, I would have wanted to hear more from Styles, but he isn't amazing on the mic anyway, so perhaps less is more with him. I questioned why Styles wouldn't have attacked Miz earlier than he did, but at least their brawl gave fans a small preview of their pending match on SmackDown.
Brie Bella def. Divas Champion Charlotte (Non-title)
So, Brie Bella is a face this week? Good to know. I was glad they set this match up with a backstage segment, but why would fans care about Brie fighting for her injured sister Nikki, who was a heel when we last her? The match actually wasn't half-bad, but having Brie win clean was questionable. I guess the plan might be to do Brie vs. Charlotte at Fastlane, and possibly save the Triple Threat for WrestleMania (and I'd be fine with that), but Brie is so damaged I simply can't take as a threat to win the title.
Big Show def. Erick Rowan
Remember when these two had that classic Stairs match at TLC 2014? Ah, good times. Surprisingly enough, this was a quicker burial (and I do mean burial) than that was with the match being over within a minute. But I guess if any member of The Wyatt Family had to take a quick loss, it had to be Rowan. The post-match attack was all right, but I can't bring myself to get excited about a potential Show and Braun Strowman showdown at the pay-per-view.
Titus O'Neil def. Tyler Breeze
I was on the verge of turning off my television if Stardust was going to be announced as O'Neil's opponent. We had too much Rematch-a-mania already on this show. As I have said multiple times in the past, I'm happy that O'Neil is being given a chance to shine by winning more often than not in singles competition, but other than the photos WWE shows of him doing charity, we know nothing about him and therefore we have no reason to care. Meanwhile, Breeze continues to flounder like a fish. Poor guy.
Dolph Ziggler def. Kevin Owens
I can't say I was thrilled when it was announced these two were facing each other for the umpteenth time. And there's no real rivalry between them, either. They're having matches for the sake of having matches. Don't get me wrong, they always contest high quality matches and I enjoy them, but I'm ready for something new for Ziggler and Owens. Ziggler winning clean was a surprise and a refreshing change of pace to an extent, but what's Owens's direction right now? Also, wasn't Ziggler beaten by Heath Slater about a month ago? The inconsistency is unreal. I'm well-aware that's nothing new but it never gets any less annoying.
Sasha Banks def. Becky Lynch by Disqualification
Speaking of matches we have seen one too many times, Banks and Lynch made the most of the time they were allotted, but the finish could be seen coming from a mile away. I'm excited to see Banks finally breaking out on her own (no more faction wars! Yay!), but no tension was teased between the members of Team B.A.D. before the impromptu breakup. It just sort of happened. I hate to complain, but I would be remiss not to mention it. Could we be getting Banks and Becky vs. Naomi and Tamina at Fastlane with Charlotte vs. Brie happening over the Divas title?
Roman Reigns and Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose def. WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day (Non-title)
It is a good thing New Day are as great as they are because otherwise I would have fallen in and out of sleep during this match after the underwhelming last hour of TV. I appreciated them taking more high risk bumps than usual and making it feel like just an ordinary tag team match, so everyone involved was given a chance to shine. Reigns and Ambrose winning clean wasn't a shocker, but at least New Day got some of their heat back with their post-match attack. Lesnar ended the show on a high note with his F5 on Ambrose and I commend WWE for giving more attention to those two on this show since it's pretty predictable Reigns will be winning the Triple Threat.
I won't say I had high hopes for this edition of Raw given nothing was advertised ahead of time except for Lesnar, but the first hour was good and then it was all downhill from there. We were treated to some solid wrestling, but a few of the booking decisions on this show were head-scratching to say the least. On the bright side, the Fastlane card seems to be coming together nicely and they have another two weeks to make it special, so I wasn't too disappointed this wasn't as must-see of an episode as last week's was.
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