By Graham "GSM" Matthews
United States Champion Rusev def. Titus O'Neil
Rusev making his entrance immediately after Lillian Garcia's amazing rendition of the national anthem was perfect, and kicking off the in-ring portion of the evening with the championship match was fitting and a nice hook heading into the first commercial break. I, along with the rest of the crowd from what it seemed, was much more engaged in this match than I was their Money in the Bank match simply because the feud has only improved since then and it would have been a cool story if O'Neil won his first singles title on the Fourth of July. O'Neil looked good in defeat, especially after his close Clash of the Titus nearfall, and Rusev's post-match promo was golden.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass def. The Social Outcasts
I was almost in tears over Bo Dallas' presidential cosplay. The goofy smile just completes the package. I wasn't exactly keeping track, but Enzo listing off every U.S. President in history was pretty damn impressive. The match was a glorified squash, but it didn't need to be anything more than that and I was happy it didn't overstay its welcome. Thankfully, this appeared to be a one-off and won't be a full-fledged program going forward.
Sasha Banks Interrupted WWE Women's Champion Charlotte
There are weeks where Charlotte will come off as comfortable on the microphone, and then there are weeks where she still sounds robotic as hell. This was one of the latter weeks. She has one tone of voice and doesn't add any inflection at times. On the bright side, she can be carried to solid segments when in the ring with someone who is a better talker than her, such as Banks. This was a great verbal exchange and it was great to hear Banks discuss what The Boss character is all about. That was long overdue, and I appreciated how she mentioned how she nearly won the title at WrestleMania 32 and how Charlotte has never beaten her one-on-one. I'm now even more excited for their eventual championship clash.
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Dean Ambrose def. Intercontinental Champion The Miz (Non-title)
I laughed when Michael Cole said earlier in the evening that champion vs. champion matches are "rare." Not only do they happen often, we saw this exact same match less than a week ago on SmackDown! I can't wait for the Brand Extension to put an end to things like that occurring. At any rate, Ambrose and Miz once again contested an entertaining matchup where Miz emerged as an equal to Ambrose. The clean loss for Miz wasn't a surprise, but I enjoyed the match for as long as it lasted. Additionally, I liked the lead-in to the subsequent match with Seth Rollins coming out as Ambrose was walking back up the ramp.
Seth Rollins def. Dolph Ziggler
This brought back memories of a time when Ziggler was actually relevant in WWE. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. They have had no less than a thousand matches against each other over the past two years, but they always manage to contest excellent matches and this encounter was no exception. Meanwhile, Rollins cut another gem of a promo afterward on Roman Reigns' suspension. He should be a babyface right now, but he's been doing a great job at eliciting heat and making the crowd hate him again.
Vickie Guerrero Returned
When it was teased by WWE over the weekend that a former SmackDown general manager would be returning to Raw, my immediate thought was that it would be Vickie. I guess it was good to see her after over two years, but here's hoping this was merely a one-off (and I'm almost positive it was). She was always exceptional at generating genuine heat from crowds, but her act ran its course for the near-decade she was in the company. The fans sure didn't forget about her if that response was any indication.
The Golden Truth def. The Vaudevillians
The Vaudevillians are by no means an over act, but they have fared far better than I thought they would when they arrived on the main roster. They aren't tag team title material at the moment (and I don't know if they ever will be), but they definitely don't deserve to be losing to teams like Golden Truth. That was slightly sad to see. Worse yet, Golden Truth's feud with Breezango is apparently continuing! Noooooooooooooo!
John Cena Called Out The Club
For a guy whose promo ability was never that great, Styles' mic work is getting better by the week and this was easily his best promo to date. The subtle "bury" remarks got a chuckle out of me, he addressed Cena being the face of the Japan tour despite being a big star over there himself, and I loved how he discussed how no one came out to save him last week. Usually that type of stuff is ignored. Styles is a fantastic face, but he undoubtedly has more freedom in the heel role. Enzo and Big Cass making the save here was interesting, and a feud between them and The Club could be a blast.
Becky Lynch def. Summer Rae
I was glad this match wasn't forgotten about after it didn't come to fruition on last week's Raw. It was a well-wrestled match and both women put forth a commendable effort, but unfortunately, it took place too late in the show for the crowd to care. They weren't completely quiet, but they would have been more lively had it transpired in the first half of the show. On a related note, it's awesome Lynch vs. Natalya is now official for Battleground as it's a welcome addition to what should be a stacked card.
The Wyatt Family Invited WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day to the Wyatt Family Compound
We haven't seen anything from the Wyatt Family compound since they debuted almost exactly three years ago and it's cool they're finally revisiting it. It's also refreshing they're getting creative with this feud and not just relying on the same promo battles week after week. Xavier Woods finally showing cracks within New Day has me intrigued, but fingers crossed it doesn't lead to the group breaking up any time soon and it's rather an evolution of their characters.
Team USA (Big Show, Mark Henry, Kane, Zack Ryder, Apollo Crews, Jack Swagger and The Dudley Boyz) def. Team World (Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus, Sami Zayn, Cesaro and The Lucha Dragons) in a 16-Man Elimination Tag Team Match
The eliminations were so rapid-fire that it was difficult to invest in any of them, not to mention that a majority of the members of this match belong on WWE Superstars. There were a few shining moments, including the brief Real Americans reunion and anything involving Jericho, but everything else was total throwaway. That said, I expected nothing less in the main event of the holiday show, but if nothing else, a few feuds (Zayn vs. Owens and Cesaro vs. Del Rio) were well-furthered. After the botched disqualification spot with Owens, I couldn't keep track of who was still in since everyone was attacking each other, but Ryder winning made it worthwhile for me.
I assumed we would be in for a forgettable edition of Raw given it fell on the Fourth of July, and while we were subjected to some campy comedy, I liked this show quite a bit. There was storyline progression heading into Battleground, multiple matches were made official for the pay-per-view, and it was just a fun three hours. I'm likely in the minority on that one, so I can fully understand if others didn't feel the same way. Perhaps I'm still in a good mood from the holiday. Speaking of which, happy Independence Day to my American readers, and to everyone else, happy Monday!
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