|Cena & Cesaro tear the house down yet again. (Photo credit: WWE.com)|
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman start the show. It's HYPE! After what happened the last time Brock was on Raw, I'm expecting a major beatdown tonight. Heyman gets on the mic and makes absolute magic like usual. "Brock Lesnar is the Lord thy God. Hallowed by his name." Only Paul Heyman. Heyman says that Lesnar will win the title at Battleground however the suplexes and violence starts tonight. BUHROOOOOCKKK LEESSSNNNARRRR! Exit beast and advocate.
1) The Big Show vs. Ryback
I really don't know how to explain what took place here. I figured the momentum that opening segment created would come to a screeching hault here and in a way it didn't, but in a way it didn't. This was just pure fun, in my opinion. You had Miz yelling "Lay it in! Harder!" as Ryback & Show beat the shit out of each other with chops and stuff. We come back from commercial and Show has Ryback in a random submission hold that I've never seen him use before and Miz is now proclaiming "WRENCH IT IN!" through the microphone. Ryback picks up the win. Show assaults him then "Miz slides in to finish the job!" Show & Ryback ends up cornering The Miz. Show picks up Miz for the chokeslam as Cole yells "MIZ GOES FOR THE RIDE!" Then Ryback takes Show out, takes his straps down, and poses insanely in a way that makes his eyes almost bulge out. Don't take this seriously and you'll get a major laugh even though I'm not sure that was the intention.
Match rating - **3/4
We get clearly photoshopped photos of Kane in Hawaii on the titan tron which was pretty hilarious. They then proceed to show a map detailing "J&J's Road Trip". Alright, this is almost getting too silly, but I'm feeling light hearted so it's whatever. Noble & Mercury are riding around Chicago in the Cadillac that Rollins got them last week. They drive by the Cubs arena and call it trash.
2) Paige vs. Brie Bella
The Bella Twins are now a trio as Alicia Fox has joined them apparently. This went really short and Paige got completely screwed out of the match despite putting up a fight against the sly interference. So, yeah, this was short however it was sweet as well. Action packed, well executed. I can't complain. This has to be leading to something bigger which I'm guessing is two NXT divas hitting the main roster to help Paige. I'm crossing my fingers for Charlotte & Sasha Banks.
Match rating - **1/4
3) Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus
These two had a good match last week that ended in a no contest (if I remember correctly) so that leads to mixed feelings from many heading into this. Some sigh because it's a rematch, others applaud because they want to see them go at it again. I'm caught in between, but once the match begins, I find myself leaning towards the right because Reigns & Sheamus mesh quite well together. They're both hard hitting and intense which makes for an easy, enjoyable match to watch. Sheamus works over Reigns which made the impatient fans bored and "CM Punk" chants fired up for the first time of the night. Reigns mounts his comeback and starts hitting his stuff. Things are getting good when the lights go out and it's Bray Wyatt. Reigns charges him up the ramp with a superman punch. Well, we thought it was Bray. The lights are still dim as Reigns seemingly pulls a wig off. It's a fake! Wyatt appears on the screen and cuts a promo.
This was a pretty good segment. I haven't been a fan of Wyatt's work in the past year because of how repetitive it's been, but they seem to be putting a bit more effort into the mindgames angles and it's showing. It just sucks that the match between Reigns & Sheamus had to end just as it was getting going. I'd say it was worth it for that creepy visual, though.
Randy Orton returned afterwards which was pretty exciting. Then, I realized we're going to get a feud between he & Sheamus, oh boy.
4) Dean Ambrose vs. Bo Dallas
Squash match. Not much else to say. Ambrose comes in like a house of fire. Rest holds from Bo for a minute or two then Ambrose puts him away. Chop/punch combo, rebound lariat, dirty deeds. Game over. I'm curiois what they're planning to do with Ambrose going forward since this was nothing more than a bout to keep him looking strong.
Dolph Ziggler & Lana confront Rusev & Summer Rae
One of the most horrible things about WWE in recent weeks has been this storyline and thankfully they managed to turn it around with this segment. The catfight stuff between Lana & Summer will never get old and then Rusev pulls off the swerve of the week by beating Dolph with his crutch and taking off his ankle brace. Rusev slams Ziggler throat first on the crutch and yells random gibberish. This was great!
5) Bad News Barrett vs. R-Truth
This actually got some time and as a result wasn't bad at all. It was weird because it went longer than any match they had, but once it got going it was a decent little match. The finish was cool as BNB caught Truth in mid-air off a dive with the bullhammer. Hopefully this victory marks the end of the BNB/Truth program and Barrett will move on to something better. I don't mean that as an insult to Truth obviously, I've praised him alot in the past. It's just that BNB won King of the Ring and began losing to a guy who hasn't been taken seriously in years? It's kinda dumb.
Match rating - **3/4
Brock Lesnar destroys Jamie Noble & Joey Mercury's car
Brock Lesnar is must see TV and this exemplified why. Rollins and J&J are in the ring with axe handles awaiting The Beast. Lesnar comes out and instead of going into a 3 on 1 fight, he destroys J&J Security's precious car which lures them in. Before we get to that though, Brock went bezerk and it was amazing. He ripped the door off and threw it across the stage, smashed the windows, and knocked a hole in the front door. J&J run down and Noble gets put in the kimura and Brock wrenches back on it. Noble sells it phenomenally. Mercury is up next and BELLY TO BELLY SUPLEX ON THE HOOD/WINDSHIELD!! Brock heads to the ring after Rollins now and he jumps on the apron AND OVER THE TOP ROPE! Lesnar chases Rollins into the crowd as he retreats up the steps. Brock returns to the car and stands atop it while Heyman sits on the ground and bows down. What else needs to be said? Awesome stuff.
6) Big E, Kofi Kingston, & Xavier Woods vs. Lucha Dragons
Best handicap match on Raw in YEARS. I honestly didn't even realize this was three on two until I started writing this and realized that all three members of New Day were in the match. Aside from a few awkward sequences between Big E & the luchas, these two teams meshed really well together and made me want to see them face off again. They worked over one of the Luchas (forgive me for not remembering which one), the other gets the tag and a killer closing sequence goes into play. Dragons go for a double dive, Big E catches one of them and BELLY TO BELLY SUPLEX ON THE FLOOR! He & Xavier head back in the ring and hit their signature double team manuever to pick up the win. This is a worth a watch. Titus going off on JBL on commentary during this is worth a listen as well.
Match rating - ***1/4
7) John Cena vs. Cesaro - United States Championship
This could possibly be my personal favorite Raw moment/match of the year. I was eager to find out who would answer Cena's Open Challenge since it was going on last. Owens & Cesaro both hadn't been on so I figured we'd get a triple threat. My prediction nearly came to fruition as Cesaro & Owens both came out. Cesaro makes Owens cower down and leave the ring though and it's one on one - Cena/Cesaro one more time! The crowd is hot with "Lets go Cena! Cena sucks!" chants and this epic encounter gets going. I truly don't know where to begin with this. It felt like a PPV main event, to be honest. With the way last week's match ended, I felt like this could go completely either way. One thing I did not expect was that this would clock in at just over 30 minutes. It's been forever since we've gotten a match this long (and good) in the Raw main event so it was really refreshing. Just like always Cena & Cesaro conjured up some really cool counters for each other's stuff along with call backs to earlier happenings in the match such as Cesaro repeatedly blocking the five knuckle shuffle. This has happened so many times that Cena reverses Cesaro's reversals. Cena goes for the fist drop, CESARO CATCHES THE ARM, CROSSFACE!!! Cena eventually gets the five knuckle shuffle, but the build towards it was so well done. That's one thing I really loved about this. For the most part, everything was built up fairly well. I also enjoyed the submission trading and THAT FINISH! Every ounce of my being thought Cesaro was gonna hit the Neutralizer off the top rope and win the US Title. Having Cena hit a top rope AA to get the win really kept Cesaro looking strong in defeat as if this 30 minute battle alone didn't leave him looking better than he did going in. Now, for all the things I adored about this - the atmosphere, the counters, the submissions, the finish, there were also things that happened that kept this from becoming a complete classic.
I don't want to be a party pooper because I loved this match. It's one I'll likely remember forever since Cesaro is one of my all time favorites as I've watched nearly ALL of his pre-WWE work. However, as a "reviewer", I have to give both sides of things. The first thing is minor and something I can overlook. That being a slight bit of sloppiness here and there. Cena has been trying alot of new stuff lately and it sometimes comes off as too forced. I appreciate the effort and I don't want him to quit doing it because it's just helping solidify my argument that he's one of the best performers around, I'm just pointing out what I noticed about his execution of the stuff in this match. He never horribly botched anything aside from the weird looking spring board stunner, so I can't go on and on about that. The biggest thing that kept me from going as high as I wanted to do with the rating for this match is all the finisher kick outs.
"What? Ethan, a massive PWG fan, is complaining about a bunch of false finishes?!" I can hear the critics, who have clearly never read any of my reviews in depth or watched alot of PWG, now. None the less, I love false finishes. Just like I love head drops. They make you jump out of your seat and/or cringe in frustration or shock. What I don't love is for them to be overdone. Recently, it seems like they've been just that. The Cena/Owens matches have been FILLED with sequences like this. Big move, near fall, big move, nearfall. This match wasn't as littered with that which is why I prefer both Cesaro/Cena matches to both Owens/Cena matches although it did have more of them than I would have liked. I feel like Cena doesn't have a legit threatening finisher anymore because so many people have kicked out of the AA this year. This made it somewhat hard to buy into a few of these nearfalls. I know some people who are totally sick of the finisher kick outs and they hated that about this match. My displeasure with that didn't hinder my enjoyment of this match any, although it does keep me from saying this was better than last week's match.
It's so hard to say it though because this match felt like a true star making performance. The atmosphere was there. The Chicago crowd responded to every single thing both men did, but Cesaro in particular got some of his biggest pops yet. They yelled "HEY!" back to him, they went wild for the swing, they chanted his name. It was clear that he had won the WWE Universe over. Then you have last week's match that was more smoothly executed and didn't feel like overkill at 20 minutes. This one went 10 minutes longer and it felt like all they did was add a bunch of extra nearfalls. I plan on going back and re watching this match as soon as possible because I'm truly torn on what rating to give this. And I know, the star rating thing isn't very important, but if you think about it, it really represents how I feel about the match and I like to properly recognize things. If I do change the rating from what I have it as here, it likely won't be a drastic difference and my indecisiveness may just be causing me to overthink 1/4 of a star however it is what it is.
So, let's throw my star rating discussion out of the window and look at the bottom line here - this is Cesaro's time. After this match, if WWE doesn't do anything with Cesaro, they're never going to. He's proven himself as a main eventer for the third or fourth time now. Each time has been bigger than the last as he's gotten over in any situation. There's literally nothing more Cesaro can do to win the corporate folks in WWE over. BUT if they are going to (which it certainly seems like it), it's going to be one hell of a ride. Cena put Cesaro over hard after the show went off the air and rightfully so. It's the second time that Cena has done something like this and I don't think it's going to fall on deaf ears this go round. Especially after the matches he's had during the past two weeks with the face of the company. Cena did his best to make Cesaro look good. As if Cesaro needed his help because he's arguably smoother than Cena, but you get the point. Cena did his job, Cesaro did his job, and the crowd repaid them for it. Cesaro has had popularity surges that began and died off however this felt different than those. The first few times, it wasn't suppose to happen. Cesaro wasn't supposed to become a huge babyface as part of the Real Americans. He wasn't supposed to tear the house down last February with Cena & Orton in route to his first PPV main event at Elimination Chamber although that felt like Cesaro was getting a legit push as he DEFEATED the WWE Champion at the time. This match didn't have the feel that WWE had 100% faith in pushing Cesaro however it did feel like they had some intrigue in the idea and intentionally gave him a big chance to prove himself which sets this apart from past "Cesaro surges" if you will. I don't feel like this will be dropped after a few weeks. I feel like it will skyrocket and at the end of his career, we will look back on this match as the night that Cesaro finally won the billionare boss over. One can only hope.
NOTE: I increased my rating of this match after a second viewing. The atmosphere and feel of the entire match was too epic to ignore. TV Match of the Year thus far and I doubt anything will be able to beat it.
Match rating - ****1/2
I was so into the match that had just happened that I didn't pay much attention to what happened afterwards despite watching it take place. Owens runs down and CENA AA'S HIM OUT OF NOWHERE--- what? After a grueling 30 minute contest, Cena takes down Owens like he is nothing in a matter of seconds? I don't need to go any further. I'll just state my reaction when I realized this: Aw, WWE, just when I thought you had changed your ways ;)
Overall thoughts: I'll keep it short and sweet. Watch the last hour of Raw. That's literally all you need to see. Brock going nuts, a good tag match, and a Cesaro/Cena classic plus a Kevin Owens appearance. Enjoy yourself!