Venue: Talking Stick Resort Arena (Phoenix, AZ)
A new season of Raw brings about some major changes for the show: A new intro, new announce team, new stage, new graphics, new ring apron and the return of pyro. It all looks good. Nice changes.
I’m a fan of Vic Joseph from his last impromptu appearance on Raw. Not as familiar with Dio Maddin, but he seems like he’s got a unique personality. I have an old Pro Football Weekly 2013 NFL Draft Preview magazine that referred to him—then known as Brennan Williams, the offensive tackle prospect out of UNC—as a “quirky, artsy personality atypical of the trenches” so he seems like he should at the very least provide an interesting new feel to the commentary team. They’ll need some time to gel but it helps to have a seasoned veteran like Jerry The King Lawler to help guide them early on.
Brock Lesnar Interrupts Rey Mysterio’s In-Ring Promo
It makes sense to start off the night with Rey Mysterio considering Phoenix has such a large Hispanic population. Unfortunately for Rey, Brock Lesnar didn’t feel like listening to what he had to say.
As if Lesnar’s multiple F-5s to Mysterio weren’t enough, the beast showed just how heartless he can be by bringing in Rey’s son Dominick into the fold and dishing out some uncalled for punishment on him as well. A credit goes to Dominick, who clearly has eyes on following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a wrestler himself one day, for showing he can take some pretty vicious bumps from WWE’s most intimidating force.
Lesnar has already established himself as the scariest monster heel on the roster but this type of segment really helped to show how sadistic he can be. It was reminiscent of his beat downs on a helpless Zach Gowen back during the early part of his career.
Sasha Banks defeats Alexa Bliss
Not much to this match, which is fine because Sasha needed to pick up a quick win instead of going back and forth in a long match like she did last week with Nikki Cross.
Keeping the post-match tussle with Becky Lynch brief was the right call, as was having Sasha be the one to run away. “You made it personal, I’m going to make it painful.” I like that line by Lynch.
Their match at Clash of Champions was one of the few bright spots of an otherwise lackluster show. I’d expect their match in HIAC to be even more brutal. Banks took a beating when she faced Charlotte in the first ever women’s Cell match. That bout was flirting with being great until they unfortunately botched a table spot late in the match and failed to recover. Hopefully, Banks and Becky can match the quality of that affair.
Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode defeat Heavy Machinery to retain the Raw Tag Titles
Ziggler and Roode don’t really do much for me but this was a well laid out match: Some fun tandem moves early by Heavy Machinery followed by Ziggler and Roode getting the heat on Tucker which built to a hot tag by Otis. Crowd loved Otis and it’s easy to see why. He’s got such a different kind of look and energy. He’s a perfect hot tag guy.
I’d love to see Heavy Machinery and The Viking Raiders have a title feud at some point.
Miz TV Featuring Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan
Big pops and a sea of camera phones for both Flair and Hogan.
Ric throwing Undertaker’s name in with Hogan and Austin as the top draws in WWE history is a bit of an interesting choice. The Rock may have something to say about that.
Ugh, I forgot it’s almost Crown Jewel time again. A five-on-five tag match with Hogan and Flair as coaches and Seth Rollins and Randy Orton as captains probably isn’t going to be enough to get me to watch that show. Admittedly, anything short of Austin coming out of retirement wouldn’t be able to get me to to tune in for that one.
Great hearing those “Rusev Day” chants for Rusev’s appearance instead of the crickets treatment and the “We Want Lana” chants he’s received the last two weeks.
Overall, this was a nice nostalgia segment which the crowd ate up. Unfortunately, it was promoting the Saudi Arabia show which I’m not particularly a fan of.
AOP Video Segment
“We grew up thousands of miles apart but on the same street corner of dystopia and atrocity where we both learned at the same time, he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. But the sword is just a metaphor for violence. He who lives for the violence, learns to love the violence. He who loves the violence, learns to crave the violence. He who craves the violence, learns to lust for the violence. He who lusts for the violence, learns to bring forth the violence. He who brings forth the violence, learns to be the violence. He who is the violence becomes the Author of Pain.”
Sounds cool enough, especially with those two saying it. It seems they really dig violence.
Viking Raiders defeat Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
Tough spot for these two teams following two of the biggest legends of all time. Crowd was noticeably dead at the beginning, which was to be expected.
A physical strike by Ivar on Anderson got the crowd into the action, and his suicide dive and splash got a good reaction as well. I thought their match last week had a few more high points but overall this one was decent, especially when you consider the uphill climb they had following Hogan and Flair.
A Cesaro and Ricochet backstage Confrontation
Love seeing what these guys do in the ring but I definitely don’t love either of their mic work. Ricochet’s cadence in promos is Natalya-level bad.
Ricochet defeats Cesaro
Would have liked to see what these two could have done with more time and the chance to really build a match. Only memorable spots were Cesaro’s knee and Ricochet’s hurricanrana finisher, which looked spectacular. Hopefully, this leads to a rematch where they get some more time.
Not sure how I feel about Cesaro’s new cropped pants attire. It’s different, I’ll give him that.
Firefly FunHouse Segment
Oh no, Ramblin Rabbit bites the dust…again. RIP
AJ Styles defeats Cedric Alexander to retain the US Title
Some early near falls really got the crowd excited for a possible title change, especially after Cedric’s Michonoku Driver. Wouldn’t say this was great but it’s probably the best match they’ve had in this feud. Crowd was into it. Not sure were Alexander goes from here, as he’s taken a bunch of clean losses in this feud.
Street Profits Backstage Segment
What happened to the We Want the Smoke t-shirts? Those were awesome.
Lacey Evans defeats Natalya
“Lacey Evans may be putting a final stamp on this rivalry with Natalya.” – Vic Joseph
Let’s hope so.
Backstage Segment With Paul Heyman
“My client’s actions were wanton and reckless.”
Nice use of wanton. Don’t hear that one often. Passionate promo by Paul. I didn’t need to be sold on that Kingston-Lesnar WWE Title match but he sold me on it anyway. Hopefully this one’s a little better than their meeting at Beast in the East in 2016.
Seth Rollins vs. Rusev
The Fiend “Let Me In” quick inter cut before the commercial break was a nice touch.
Besides that, there was a lot to process and unpack with this ending segment.
There was the presence of Randy Orton and Baron Corbin standing around, kicking off the promotion for the Crown Jewel 5-on-5. There was the return of Bobby Lashley, who apparently is now having an affair with Lana. Oh joy, another Rusev-Lana love triangle. Those storylines always worked so well in the past. /s Well, OK, the fish gif was good. Other than that, that whole stuff with Lana, Dolph and Enzo did not work for me at all.
And we finish it off with another Fiend attack on Rollins which luckily didn’t end with Seth screaming and crying this time.
Hot crowd. Lesnar’s assault on Rey and Dominick felt like the highlight of the night. It was a bit of a weird show that seemed like it was trying to overreach by promoting both Hell In a Cell and Crown Jewel. Speaking of Hell In a Cell, we’re less than a week away and there have only been three matches announced for the card. It seems like they’re saving a lot for Friday’s Smackdown Live debut on Fox, which makes sense. Still, that lineup is abnormally light on matches with so little time left before the show.