Raw General Manager Kurt angle Announced a Fatal 4-Way For the Universal Championship at SummerSlam
It's amazing how hot the Universal Championship picture has gotten in such a short period of time. Brock Lesnar wasn't even being discussed two months ago, but between Lesnar vs. Joe and now this four-way program, it has heated up considerably. Everyone, including Angle, played their roles remarkably well and I love that all four men will be vying for the title at SummerSlam as it carries a big fight feel. The brawl that ensued was excellent as well and started the show on a high note.
Elias Samson def. Finn Balor in a No Disqualification Match
Needless to say, this was the best bout these two have contested to date and it was refreshing for them to receive so much time. Samson doesn't have much "big match" experience, but he held his own here as Balor carried a majority of the matchup, resulting in this being very entertaining. They utilized the No Disqualification stipulation well and it was the perfectly slotted as the opener to the show (the previous segment aside). Despite being directionless since returning to the ring, Balor remains immensely over with the audience and I hope he comes out of this apparent program with Bray Wyatt looking strong. Sure, he fell short of victory against Samson, but it was only after Wyatt interfered. Here's hoping Samson can continue to ride this wave of momentum he's got going right now.
Big Cass def. Enzo Amore
This was almost identical to their Great Balls of Fire encounter in that Cass was in complete control throughout and Amore scored next to no offense. I don't know how much differently I would have done it because Amore beating Cass simply isn't believable at all, but the crowd was quiet as the fan favorite was dominated for five minutes. Thankfully, the post-match attack from Cass on Big Show was well done and set up their likely SummerSlam match.
Nia Jax def. Emma
Remember that time five years ago when JTG tweeted about never being on Raw (or something along those lines) and then he was on the show the next week getting killed by Ryback in the matter of a minute? Yeah, this was probably a similar situation. It's such a shame because she's tremendously talented but has been wasted for pretty much her entire main roster run. Jax doing a somersault on Emma was impressive, but this did Emma no favors, obviously.
Ariya Daivari Attacked WWE Cruiserweight Champion Neville and Akira Tozawa
Titus O'Neil just turned babyface not too long ago, but tension is already being teased with him and Akira Tozawa? Weird. Tozawa isn't the greatest talker, so he should keep his promos a bit briefer in the future. Neville was excellent as always, and Daivari shockingly stood tall over Tozawa and the champ for a change. I doubt we'll see a Triple Threat for the title, though, and rather Tozawa will beat Daivari for the right to contend for the championship at some point in the next several weeks.
Bayley def. Sasha Banks in a Raw Women's Championship No. 1 Contender's Match
Bayley and Banks did a good job coming into this contest of establishing that they wanted to win here and would do anything it took to do so. This wasn't your typical women's match that was paint-by-numbers; they beat the holy hell out of each other and it was very well-wrestled on top of that. Banks growing increasingly frustrated was nice storytelling and her not losing decisively (Bayley won with a roll-up of sorts) was smart. Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley wasn't everyone's favorite feud earlier this year, but Bayley has been built back up relatively well as of late and her capturing the Raw Women's Championship when Banks couldn't should lead to a Banks heel turn sooner rather than later.
JAson Jordan def. Curt Hawkins
Jordan's first match on Raw was hyped effectively over the course of the night with the recap of Angle's grand reveal that he's his son on last week's show as well as a pre-match interview backstage. He doesn't have too much of a character yet other than he's a likable hard worker, but adding that extra intensity he showed in this match was a welcomed touch. He won over the audience with his offense and I'm looking forward to seeing how he progresses from here.
The Revival def. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
The Revival cutting a promo in front of the crowd was necessary seeing as how they haven't properly introduced themselves to the masses since being called up from NXT the night after WrestleMania 33. Gallows and Anderson were heels the last time we saw them on TV, but I was fine with them being the babyfaces in this match in order to allow Revival to garner heat. Hell, Raw's tag team scene is heel-heavy, so I wouldn't mind them officially turning soon. Revival picking up the victory was what needed to happen in order to keep them undefeated, and it looks like we're in for a multi-team tag team title match at SummerSlam.
Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins def. Intercontinental Champion The Miz and The Miztourage in a 3-on-2 Handicap Match
It was certainly strange to see Axel and Dallas involved in a Raw main event, but of course, the real focus here was on Ambrose and Rollins and whether they could coexist. Much of the match was formulaic with the heels working over the babyfaces, but the crowd wasn't totally flat for it. They picked up the pace down the stretch and the final few minutes were fun with each of the nearfalls being broken up. Ambrose and Rollins emerging victorious was cool, but I hope this means they'll move past the Miz-tourage and Ambrose pinning Miz won't lead to another Intercontinental Championship match between them. The slow-burn to Ambrose finally trusting (or turning on?) Rollins has been incredibly well executed up to this point.
Coming off that atrocious Battleground pay-per-view on Sunday last, this show might as well as have been WrestleMania. In all seriousness, this was a strong show by recent Raw standards, and in fact, I'd be remiss if I said Raw has been poor lately because it has been better than usual since right before Great Balls of Fire and more must-see than SmackDown Live. The opening segment, Bayley vs. Banks, Jordan's in-ring debut on Raw and the partial Shield reunion were among the highlights of this enjoyable episode and I appreciated the approach they took at the start of the show of advertising most matches in advance. Speaking of which, Jordan on Miz TV in addition to a Joe vs. Strowman vs. Reigns Triple Threat match are on tap for next Monday. Sweet!
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