WWE Raw: Balor Relinquishes Universal Title Due To Injury

One night after Finn Balor won the belt, he finds out he'll miss six months due to shoulder surgery ...

What a kick in the groin.

Finn Balor won the inaugural WWE Universal Title at SummerSlamon Sunday night in Brooklyn, putting a helluva exclammation point on his first full month on the WWE main roster. Balor and Rollins kicked the crap out of each other all over the arena, including when Rollins hit a running powerbomb on Balor, tossing him into the ringside barricade. During that move, Balor’s shoulder popped out of its socket, according to WWE.com, and Balor was able to pop it back in himself, finishing the match and even winning the Universal Title. However after the match, it was learned that Balor also tore his labrum.

According to WWE, Balor could miss up to six months and could be back in as little as four. Either way, it seems likely that Balor will be able to return prior to WrestleMania 33in Orlando, which is a huge plus for him.

But for now, it brings his main-roster push to a dead stop, and it couldn’t come at a worse time for him or WWE. It’s eerily similar to Daniel Bryan relinquishing the WWE Title just a few weeks after winning it at WrestleMania 30,although Bryan’s injury turned out to be much worse and Balor’s seems relativelty common in comparison.

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But Balor is gone. That leaves a big hole at the top of Raw’scard. It could mean that WWE pushes Roman Reigns back into that spot (good lucK) where he has been receiving a more positive reaction in his matches against Rusev. That would be a mistake, though.

The best person to fill Balor’s spot is probably Sami Zayn. He has the respect of the audience and is also a internet darling, similar to Balor, who the older audience would no doubt respect. Zayn was elevated during his feud with Kevin Owens and while Owens has followed that up recently by teaming with Chris Jericho, Zayn needs some new life.

Zayn lost his match to Seth Rollins on this week’s episode, however, and won’t even be in the title match next week.

By the way … Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley announced a series of singles matches on Rawlast night to set up a Fatal Four Way next week to crown a new champion. More on that as we run down the show.

Balor still teased that his feud with Rollins wasn’t anywhere near being settled. The two glared at each other after Balor gave up the title to Foley in the ring to open last night’s show. Rollins as champion, holding it until Balor returns, and then gloating as the heel who took Balor out, is the best way to re-introduce Balor back to WWE. That title match would feel pretty special, and the story is a natural one to tell. It doesn’t take a lot of convincing. But the trick will be whether or not WWE can pull off a heel Rollins as champion for the next six months. We’ve seen a lot of Seth Rollins running the show as the heel title holder. Something would need to be done in order to make that feel new again.

Just last summer, until Rollins was injured in the fall, we were on a six-month quest with Rollins as heel champion. WWE has since re-branded their television shows, in part because ratings were dipping. Going back to that formula without any changes less than one year later could hurt the product. That’s not an argument against Rollins, but rather the realization that Rollins as a heel champion needs to feel different in some way, in comparison to his last run, in order for it to work.

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1. Seth Rollins beat Sami Zayn in a WWE Universal Title Series Match

Rollins picked up a very ho-hum win here. The match was good, but went as expected. Zayn, who they need to build off of his Owens feud, was the heavy underdog and lost.

2. Kevin Owens beat Neville in a WWE Universal Title Series Match

Neville looked good here against Owens, who has been elevated (unlike Zayn) since that feud. Owens picking up the win, because of that, is no surprise but Neville looked solid here. These tournaments can be tricky, because WWE needs to put matches together where both competitors have a legitimate shot at being in the title match, or else it looks fake, yet at the same time, someone needs to lose. I’m a big believe that losses don’t hurt guys, even clean ones, when done well and this was fine. Neville is very good, but the story here is that he’s just not at Kevin Owens’ level yet. 

That being said, I could have done without Chris Jericho’s interference. Just let it be a clean match. That is, unless WWE wanted to send the message that there isn’t as much of a gap between Owens and Neville as we think.

3. Big E beat Karl Anderson

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This felt clunky as the match was joined in progress. Not seeing the beginning of the story you’re telling makes it hard to get into what you’re seeing on the screen. I realize it’s not the same, but can you imagine an MMA promotion starting a fight on television in the middle of a round, and just having the commentator tell the audience what it missed?

4. Big Cass beat Rusev via count-out in a WWE Universal Title Series Match

Big Cass isn’t winning the Universal Title next week. Not to knock the guy, but he won his match here via count-out. That isn’t inspiring me with a lot of cofiidence that WWE has the title in store for him. Not to mention, he beat an “injured” Rusev via count-out. Besides, there is too much left in the tank of Enzo and Cass as a team. They just debuted five months ago. That’s a team that should have a multi-year run.

Bayley Debuts

In a promo, Bayley debuted to set up a feud with Charlotte, now that Sasha Banks is going to miss some time. Bayley should have debuted about a year ago, but WWE is protecting NXT as a brand. Regardless, she’s the perfect fit to replace Sasha while she misses some time. 

5. Bayley beat Dana Brooke

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The live crowd was nuts for Bayley. Solid debut for her as well, although I wish it was shorter against someone of Brooke’s caliber. Brooke was on the offense after Charlotte distracted Bayley. Bayley came back, but a more dominant win to show that Bayley was on a path to Charlotte would have been slightly better than what they did here. Still, no real problems with the segment. It was good.

6. Braun Strowman beat Johnny Knockout

Johnny Knockout is awesome. Before the match, Byron Saxton asked him why he would possibly want a match against Strowman, and the response was, “because I like big sweaty men.” 

Strowman then proceeded to destroy him.

Dudley Boyz Retirement Segment

Michael Cole teased earlier in the show that the Dudley Boyz were retiring tonight. It makes sense, from a realistic standpoint. If their contracts were one-year deals, they would expire right around now (they debuted the night after SummerSlam last year).

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The Dudleys thanked WWE and the crowd. It was a good speech. The Shining Stars came out and said it was embarassing and taunted them a bit. The Dudley Boyz attacked but before they could use a table, Gallows & Anderson hit the ring and beat them up, leaving them laying. 

During the break, Bubba and D-Von walked to the back and saluted the fans again.

Part of me thinks the retirement was a work because of the interference and not getting that final table spot. But another part of me thinks it’s legit for the same reasons. The Dudley Boyz came back one year ago in an effort to put over the younger teams. They weren’t about themselves, they were about everyone else. They helped get over New Day, Enzo & Cass and others. What better way to go out than giving a little rub to Gallows & Anderson?

True veterans. 

Still, part of me is holding out hope for a Bubba singles run as Bully Ray.

8. Roman Reigns beat Chris Jericho in a WWE Universal Title Series Match

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This was a solid match and the crowd reacted better to Reigns than I expected. Unfortunately, I think that opens the door a bit for Reigns maybe winning the title next week.

The result here was never much in doubt. Reigns was going to be in the match but Jericho and Reigns sold the near falls well and the match was exciting. It had a good flavor to it. 

It also makes some sense, if they are going with Reigns, to have the title match next week and not tonight. Outside of Brooklyn and an overly-smart SummerSlamhangover crowd, you run Rawnext week in Houston, and the mid-west audience might be more receptive to Reigns going over as the new champion.