Monday Night Raw opened with a new, fresh take. Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels opened Raw with a unique panel discussion. The trio sat behind an announce table setup in the ring as Michael Cole moderated. Michaels and Flair both thought Cena was in for the same result at Night of Champions against Brock Lesnar, when he invokes his automatic rematch clause.
Hogan was very pro-Cena during the segment, saying he got to know Cena on a personal level, and that Cena is what he says he is, not giving up and being about “hustle, loyalty and respect.” Cena then interrupted and showed respect, but told the three that he had to beat Brock Lesnar at Night of Champions.
It was fairly generic. Cena made a lot of promises before their SummerSlam match that he didn’t deliver on, including “going to a dark place.” It would have been nice to see Cena address those promises, but WWE just ignored them.
That being said, it was a good use of some Hall-of-Fame names. With Monday Night Football about to return, WWE could use a ratings boost and infusing some Hall of Famers like this is a good idea to try to pop a rating. We’ll see if it works once the numbers come later this week. At the very least, it wan’t Stephanie McMahon and Triple H opening another Raw, with another promo.
Rusev def. Jack Swagger via referee stoppage
There were some interesting angles to this match. First, for the second week in a row, a match ended on Raw via referee stoppage. That’s a bit stolen straight from mixed martial arts, and must be Vince McMahon’s new flavor of the week. Vince has a history of falling in love with nuances and then force-feeding them on the television show. A few years ago, it was not letting the referees know the finish, so the officiating seemed more real.
They’re doing a nice job telling the story of Swagger not giving up, but it doesn’t seem like Swagger is ever going to be booked to get a win over Rusev. At some point, they’re going to branch Swagger off into a feud with Bo Dallas, who met Swagger in the training room after the match and continued to mock him. In the end, someone else on the roster – probably Cena after a second loss to Lesnar at Night of Champions? – will be the one to finally end Rusev’s streak of dominance. WWE will need something strong for him if he’s going to lose two main events to Lesnar in consecutive months.
Cesaro def. Rob Van Dam to become the No. 1 Contender to the U.S. Title
WWE is finally starting to build Cesaro back up as a respectable contender after he was used as fodder for much of the summer. Van Dam is reportedly finishing up his current run with WWE later this week, and he did the clean job on the way out the door here. Sheamus was on commentary, and after the match, there was an altercation at ringside.
Paige def. Natalya
Natalya picked up the win last week when AJ’s presence distracted the WWE Divas Champion. This week, however, Paige got the win back, despite AJ’s presence. Despite the AJ interference last week, a pinfall win over a champion usually gives that wrestler a title shot, and Natalya was just given another non-title match against the champion. After the match, AJ hugged it out, awkwardly, with Paige.
Rollins Eulogizes Ambrose
After a terrific closing segment to Raw last week, Seth Rollins delivered a eulogy for Dean Ambrose, with Kane also present in the ring. Rollins was wearing a black suit as there was a giant photo of Ambrose in the ring. Rollins gloated, and gloated some more, about how we’ll never seem Ambrose in the WWE again. That brought out Roman Reigns, who stormed through Kane at ringside and chased off Rollins. Reigns stood tall in the ring, sticking up for his former Shield teammate, as Rollins and Kane retreated to the locker room area.
It was a good segment and helped Rollins establish himself more on the mic. For awhile, Rollins was still using an “indy wrestling promo,” where there was a lot of yelling and not a lot of content. He slowed it down here and his cadence and delivery was different, much more serious, and much more enjoyable.
Goldust & Stardust def. The Usos [c] via count-out for the WWE Tag Team Championship
The count-out finish came after Jey injured his knee on the outside of the ring. Goldust got on the mic after the match and complained about the Usos purposely getting counted out in order to retain the titles, and demanded an immediate rematch. It didn’t happen, with Jey injured, so Goldust and Stardust turned heel, brutally attacking the Usos, including an injured Jey.
Hopefully the turn adds some emotion into this feud. The live crowd in Anaheim was completely dead for the face vs. face match, but did react to the turn. Goldust and Stardust have been doing some good things as a tag team, and they’ve been able to constantly reinvent themselves, but this heel turn gives them some new stories to tell.
Dolph Ziggler def. The Miz
Another match that the live crowd seemed to not enjoy all that much. This wasn’t a typical New York, Boston, or Philadelphia crowd, and it seemed overly quiet. Ziggler picked up a clean pinfall win in just over two minutes. They mentioned the count-out loss Ziggler suffered last week, but barely had time to mention it with Ziggler’s win coming so quickly.
At least Ziggler, who like Cesaro had been used to put others over for much of the last few months, is starting to be built back up.
Nikki Bella Hits a Level of Bad Taste
Up next, Nikki Bella and Brie Bella were going to “attempt to reconcile” with an in-ring promo segment. Instead, Nikki blasted her sister, re-delivering much of the same lines she did last week. But they took things a step further, and beyond the lines of good taste. Towards the end of the promo, Nikki told a crying Brie that she “wished she died in the womb.”
The line was obviously written for Nikki, and she seemed uncomfortable in her delivery, as if she was reluctant to say it in the first place. It’s pro wrestling and WWE is just trying to tell a story, but the promo didn’t need that line, which was in bad taste. About a decade ago, WWE ran an angle where Lita was pregnant, but lost her baby after being hit with a chair. They ran a similar angle in the late-90s, when Marlena miscarried after being knocked off a ring apron.
People losing babies in the womb is a real thing. It happens every day and it’s always – not often, always – devastating. WWE likes to boast that about 40 percent of its audience is women, and just like those previous angles were in extreme poor taste, this line in Nikki’s promo was exactly the same. It was disgusting, and shame on whoever wrote that line. Nikki was doing her job, and seemed uncomfortable delivering the line. Her cadence was different than at any other point in the promo. It was forced.
Roman Reigns def. Kane & Seth Rollins via disqualification
This handicap match was arranged after Reigns interrupted the Ambrose eulogy earlier in the show. Reigns was about to score a pinfall win over Kane after hitting a spear, but Rollins hit him with the Money in the Bank briefcase to force the disqualification. After the match, Rollins and Kane tried to end Reigns with cinder blocks, the same way they took out Ambrose last week, but Reigns fought them off. Rollins booked it up the ramp after Reigns tried to take his head off with a cinder block, but he ducked and it exploded on the ring post.
It seems evident that Reigns’ feud with Randy Orton is over, and he’s moving on to a series against Rollins and perhaps even more with Kane. WWE needs to keep Reigns strong, which means a lot of clean wins, even if at the expense of his opponent. That’s fine against Kane, who is well established and isn’t going to be in future title plans, but getting Reigns over at the expense of Rollins, right now, is poor judgement. Reigns against a more established heel, perhaps a turned Big Show, would be better.
Los Matadores def. Gator Slater
Heath Slater lost. Titus O’Neil complained. They didn’t get along.
It hasn’t even gotten started, and the shtick is already getting old. Slater and Titus did get a promo before the match, backstage, and are showing good personality on the mic, but they need to start doing something in the ring. The back-and-forth of not getting along just isn’t resonating.
Titus O’Neil is also a good talent. I’d like to see them do something more on the show with him. He’s not only good in the ring and on the mic, but he’s big. He has that ideal WWE size and outside of the ring, he’s a great representative for the company.
Bo Dallas def. Kofi Kingston
Total squash. Kingston was defeated in just over a minute. After the match, Swagger hit the ring and attacked Dallas, which actually brought some boos from the crowd.
John Cena def. Bray Wyatt via disqualification
Erick Rowan and Luke Harper hit the ring early in the match, taking out Cena and causing the disqualification finish. As the Wyatt Family was about to finish the job on Cena, Mark Henry and the Big Show made the save, setting up …
John Cena, Big Show & Mark Henry def. The Wyatt Family
This main event was what you would expect. Cena’s team won, and celebrated with the crowd. They tried to rebuild Cena after his loss at SummerSlam, but man did it feel forced and the live crowd didn’t buy into it at all. Cole jubilantly declared that Cena was “Ready for Night of Champions!” following the match, as Cena took a victory lap around the ring slapping hands to close the show.
There was a good story here to tell over the next four weeks. Cena has never faced someone like Lesnar before, and was never defeated the way he was at SummerSlam. But they glossed over it. They made Cena look like Superman again. He’s the face of the company, and someone that they need to remain built around, but Cena wasn’t made out to be vulnerable, which after he was squashed by Lesnar at SummerSlam, he should be.