By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Darren Young Won a No. 1 Contender's Battle Royal For the Intercontinental Championship
Didn't we have a Battle Royal to determine a No. 1 contender to the United States Championship a few short months ago? While this was no different, I always enjoy an old fashioned Battle Royal, especially when the winner isn't telegraphed ahead of time. There were a few different Superstars who could have won it, but Darren Young was the right victor in my opinion. He would have been labeled a loser from the get-go had he not won, and he's a fresh face in the midcard scene. Not much time remains between now and Battleground to build a fan following for Young, but the fans chanting his name afterward was an encouraging sign.
Sheamus def. Zack Ryder
I guess Ryder vs. Rusev for the United States Championship was never officially advertised for Raw, but I was disappointed we received this SmackDown rematch instead. It might be a bout better saved for Battleground, but then why the hell would WWE have Sheamus cleanly beat the apparent next challenger to the title? That seemed like a complete waste of the momentum Ryder built up last week, and Sheamus barely benefits from the victory.
Breezango def. The Lucha Dragons
There really wasn't a point to this match other than teasing that both tandems might be split up in next week's WWE Draft, which I would be in full favor of. There is plenty of talent in the tag division right now, but not enough depth i.e. not many of the teams mean much. At the very least, Breezango and the Dragons worked well together and Breeze's victory over Kalisto was a pleasant surprise.
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Dean Ambrose Interrupted Seth Rollins
The 'Rollins Report' was every bit as campy as I expected it to be. Rollins played his role fantastically well, but it sure seemed like WWE wanted fans to feel sympathy toward the suspended Roman Reigns with this. If they honestly think that's going to get him more over, they're out of their minds. The segment was infinitely better once Ambrose confronted Rollins and cut one of his best promos to date. The Shield Triple Threat match sells itself, but WWE has had a tough task of promoting the match without Reigns around. That said, Rollins and Ambrose have done a decent job of picking up the slack in his absence.
Kevin Owens def. Cesaro
These two have had no less than a dozen matches against each other over the last year, so although this technically wasn't anything new, their chemistry is always awesome and thus I can't complain. They were given great time and produced a very good match. Owens winning clean was necessary as he has a match at Battleground and Cesaro doesn't (as of now, anyway). Additionally, the brief bits between Owens and Sami Zayn before the bout as well as afterward effectively furthered their feud.
Titus O'Neil def. Heath Slater
If you couldn't care less about The Social Outcasts appearing on programming now, just wait until after the Draft and the Raw roster is cut in half. They are entertaining as jobbers, but crowds immediately lose interest in anything involving them. On the bright side, this was a pretty straightforward win for O'Neil and I'm glad WWE is moving forward with his push despite falling short of capturing the United States Championship last week.
WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day and The Wyatt Family Brawled at The Wyatt Family Compound
Well, this was certainly... interesting. I would applaud WWE for going outside the box and doing something different for a change, but the truth is, this came across as a blatant rip-off of TNA's Final Deletion match between Jeff and Matt Hardy from last week's TNA Impact Wrestling. The only issue is that this wasn't done for comedy. It was a brutal brawl and well-produced, but TNA definitely did it better (regardless of their intentions).
Enzo Amore and Big Cass def. The Club by Disqualification
Like I've said several times over the past week, I love the idea to incorporate Amore and Cass into this feud because they can undoubtedly benefit from the high profile program. They contested a solid match with The Club and the non-finish was wise in protecting both tandems. I had a feeling Cena might resurface when The Club were beating down the babyfaces following the match. Even if he is across the country, never count the guy out for a surprise return.
Sasha Banks def. Dana Brooke
I was shocked by how long this match ended up going, if only because Brooke is far from polished in the ring. It wasn't the train wreck I thought it would be, so I commend Banks for putting forth an extra effort to make the match as passable as possible. Holding a rematch on SmackDown this Thursday night with the stipulation that Sasha "might" get a title shot if she beats Brooke again is asinine. The Boss won clean here, so is there any doubt she won't be able to do it a second time?
Mr. McMahon Named Shane McMahon the Commissioner of SmackDown and Stephanie McMahon the Commissioner of Raw
This was almost the equivalent to an Authority promo opening. It ran just as long and there was a whole lot of nothing for over 20 minutes. Granted, it was revealed Shane and Stephanie will indeed have power over the two brands, but that was expected weeks ago. That was slightly disappointing, but at least we will have general managers running the day-to-day operations and those should be notable names. Basically, this segment was a placeholder for what should be a blockbuster week in WWE next week.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the most recent editions of Raw, even the Fourth of July episode, but this was a glorified filler show one week ahead of the Draft. Nothing groundbreaking happened and the in-ring action was average at best. There were a few highlights including the Ambrose and Rollins confrontation and Owens vs. Cesaro, but everything else felt like a placeholder before the Draft next Tuesday.
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