The WWE really hooked me this time.
After the usual underwhelming period between WrestleMania and SummerSlam, the Raw brand has been really firing on all cylinders lately and wasted no time in giving us two main angles that I thought we wouldn’t get until the next Mania in New Orleans: Brock Lesnar against Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns against John Cena.
While you can certainly question the rationale of giving two of the biggest money matches that the company has left at a traditionally throw-away pay-per-view like No Mercy, you can’t argue that these are matches that anyone with even a casual interest in professional wrestling would find intriguing. These are two matches that individually could have been used to sell a show and we’re getting them both on that same show and it isn’t one of the big four.
It may be hotshotting the territory. It may be good business to keep eyes on the product as the NFL kicks into high gear and before the build to WrestleMania really starts next January, but whatever the reason they got me. I’m hooked and I was really excited for this show.
In Brock and Braun, the appeal is obvious – two seemingly unbeatable monsters going at each other for the Universal Championship. There was also genuine intrigue in what the outcome would be as either result really made sense.
Braun had just beaten Brock to a pulp, put him through tables, dumped two announce tables on him and sent him away on a stretcher at this past SummerSlam. He then proceeded to no sell all of Lesnar’s offense and get the better of him several times in the build up to this match.
There is also the matter of the obvious parallels between the two men which was driven home in yet another top notch series of promos by Paul Heyman leading into the show. Braun Strowman is essentially Brock Lesnar circa 2002. He’s on an incredible tear and taking out all of his opponents from legends like Big Show and Mark Henry to fan favourites like Sami Zayn to the current face of the company Roman Reigns.
Braun got the better of Roman so badly in a post-WrestleMania beating where he beat him down so badly he had to be put on a stretcher, then he wheeled the stretcher with Roman still attached off a loading dock and then when Roman was loaded into an ambulance, he flipped the ambulance over.
Yes that moment is as incredible as it sounds and to know surprise it was one of the most viral clips that WWE has produced in some time and had a feeling of unpredictability, over the top awesomeness and risk that the company really hadn’t produced since the heyday of the Attitude Era where Braun would have also fit right in.
Strowman followed that up with a series of wins over Roman including an ambulance match at the hilariously named Great Balls of Fire and a Last Man Standing Match that I had the pleasure of witnessing when Raw was in Toronto.
Braun is everything you want in a wrestling monster. Physically he looks the part – in that I genuinely do believe that he is capable of flipping over an ambulance when I look at him – he’s 6’8” and 385 pounds and looks like he eats kettle bells for breakfast. He dwarfs even the most dominant competitors in the promotion including Brock Lesnar and has the ability to toss them around like rag dolls. He’s also got the most important characteristic for a WWE monster – charisma.
His “I’m not finished with you yet”, primal screams, facial expressions and the utter menace he’s able to convey when destroying his opponents reveal a force that will be on top of the promotion for years to come. At 34 years old, he’s got years left to tear apart the promotion, but he’s also not young enough that the promotion can play the waiting game that it does with other upper card guys. Braun can’t trade wins. He’s got to beat pretty much everybody so that his losses mean more. He’s got to stay strong for the company to maximize his potential.
Brock has been down this road before. He hit the company like a force of nature to an even greater extent than even Strowman has. He came up to the main roster in 2002 at 24 years old and was rocketed to the top of the card. With Paul Heyman by his side, The Next Big Thing destroyed Hulk Hogan and The Rock on the way to becoming the youngest ever WWE Champion at the time and then went on a run at the top of the company that included memorable feuds with The Undertaker, Big Show and Kurt Angle.
Unfortunately, life on the road became too much for Brock and he left two years after he showed up.
Leaving the company may have been the best thing for Lesnar in the long run, however, as he eventually found his way to real life legitimacy and built himself the kind of legacy that he never really could have in professional wrestling when he went to UFC and dominated the heavyweight division. Winning real fights went even further to cement Lesnar than even his impressive collegiate wrestling background and certainly more than his professional wrestling career in the view of most combat sports aficionados.
Eventually a bout with diverticulitis ended Brock’s UFC career and he returned to WWE to pick up where he left off. After a bit of a slow burn that included feuds with John Cena and Triple H before things got kicked into high gear with Brock ending The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania and then absolutely destroying John Cena for the championship at SummerSlam and once again cementing his status as the biggest bad ass in pro wrestling.
Lesnar, as a part timer, cycled in and out of the company in high profile feuds with Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, The Undertaker (again), and a returning Goldberg (with whom he’d had the last match of his first run) before claiming the top title on Raw and impressively defeating the likes of Samoa Joe.
Brock and Braun’s collision at SummerSlam had us all salivating for their eventual one-on-one match. Braun had absolutely destroyed Lesnar and put him out on a stretcher – only for Brock, in an equally impressive display, to return to the match and pin Roman Reigns to retain his title.
I’m surprised we got the match this fast as they could have really drawn it out until WrestleMania. Instead we got it now.
Likewise for a match that I had assumed would main event the next WrestleMania: John Cena vs. Roman Reigns.
I’ve written extensively about both men and their legacies. In John Cena you have a man who has been on top of the company for longer than anyone else ever has. In Roman Reigns you have the heir apparent.
To have them meet was going to give us a major moment in WWE history. It was a clash that was on the level of Hulk Hogan and The Rock or The Rock and John Cena in terms of having the face of a previous generation clash with the face of the current one in order to eventually past the torch.
Yet the outcome was still in doubt. Would the company do more than one match? It worked well with Cena and The Rock where Big Match John lost the first one and kicked off a yearlong redemption storyline which culminated in a big win over the man now known as Hollywood’s Dwayne Johnson.
There are so many parallels between this feud and Cena’s with The Rock – but with the roles reversed. The build-up consisted of a series of worked shoots only this time Roman was the guy carrying the company and leading the locker room while Cena was down to a part-time schedule and trying to make his name in Hollywood.
There was also the fact that Roman is The Rock’s cousin. Being the face of the company runs in his blood and who better to take it from than a man who he views as following a career trail blazed by his own flesh and blood. Here was Cena at 40 years old; holding on to the spot that Roman felt was rightfully his.
The back-and-forth was wonderful and really showed off what a star Cena really is. Much like his promo-off with The Rock, his wit was just a little quicker than Roman’s and his comments, such as digs about Reigns’ wellness policy violation, were a little more on the mark. If there was ever a feud where the “John Cena sucks” chants and general backlash from smart fans wouldn’t have to be there, where they could actually get behind Cena for the first time since his Doctor of Thuganomics phase, this was it.
Wrestling fans on a whole also haven’t embraced Roman. They booed him when he beat Taker, they cheered when Braun destroyed him and the booed he receives from the grown male audience (and on the contrary the cheers from the children in the crowd) parallel the back-lash and rejection Cena faced for so long.
Yet neither of them deserves it. Both men are the total package in terms of look, charisma and in-ring ability and if you were to dream up a wrestler that you wanted to be the face of your company, he’d likely look a lot like John Cena or Roman Reigns. There was a reason that Cena’s indie gimmick was The Prototype after all.
Would Roman defeat Cena so soon after retiring Undertaker at WrestleMania? Would the company instead have Cena win to start a longer redemption story for Roman? Would one of them turn? Would there be a run-in to lead to a future match?
So many questions and so much intrigue. I couldn’t wait.
I watched this show in a very good mood and with all the excitement that a card anchored with such huge matches deserved and that will be reflected in the lack of cynicism and positive feel that will be present throughout this review.
Pre-show match: Elias vs. Apollo Crews w/ Titus O’Neil
I’m a huge mark for both of these guys. I definitely walk with Elias and appreciate both his in-ring work and clever songs. This gimmick could have been so dead on arrival once the artist formerly known as The Drifter hit the main roster but he’s totally killed it. The songs are genuinely clever and you can tell he’s having a great time with time tested heel tactics like trashing the town you’re in.
Apollo is someone that I’ve really hoped they would do more with. He was really lost in the shuffle on Smackdown and the switch to Raw hasn’t exactly set his career on fire. The Titus Brand angle showed a lot of promise, but he’s essentially spent the past few months as an afterthought in favour of O’Neil coaching Akira Tozawa to the Cruiserweight title.
Crews might be a case of a talent being brought up from NXT too soon as there was more for him to accomplish there and he’d have done well to get more seasoning and exposure working with the likes of Bobby Roode or Eric Young instead of being relegated to Main Event or dark matches most weeks with little direction or exposure.
Anyway this was a fun match that allowed both guys to get their stuff in and showcased both Elias’ slick in-ring work and Crews’ remarkable explosiveness and athleticism. Apollo got to hit his high spots in and looked great until Elias caught him with his finish.
It was nice to see both guys with a spot on the card, but I wish they weren’t so lost in the shuffle.
Match 1: WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz w/ The Miztourage vs. Jason Jordan
Poor Jason Jordan.
The guy is absolutely money in the ring. He’s an excellent worker and can really do it all and looks like a million bucks doing it. He’s a good looking young man who has clearly worked hard to become such a skilled in-ring technician.
He was able to display his skills in really good and competitive matches with both Roman Reigns and John Cena over the past month and looked like he belonged with two of the top guys in the entire wrestling business to the point where the near falls were believable and I really got into his hope spots in both matches.
After such an impressive showing he should be seen as one of the cornerstones of the company’s future and someone who will one day be WWE Champion and main even WrestleMania.
Instead he’s saddled with the Kurt Angle’s son storyline which the crowd has totally shit on and as a result and through no fault of his own, they’re shitting on Jordan too. Even though he’s excellent in the ring, even though he’s not writing the show and even though he’s doing the best he possibly can with this angle.
The Miz, on the other hand, is absolutely killing it. He’s one of the best heels in the entire wrestling business and has been a breath of fresh air in general as a talent who genuinely wants to get booed more than anything else and will be a total spineless dick of a heel as a result. It’s perfect.
The subtle ways he reinvents his character are also brilliant and I’m digging this current incarnation as a delusional “Hollywood star” that only plays in direct-to-video schlock, but acts like he’s a bigger deal than The Rock and George Clooney combined. It’s fantastic and the addition of Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel (his co-stars from “The Marine 5”) has added so much to it.
In a just world, The Miz would be a multi-time champion and a focal point of the company. As it stands he does the best with what he has and is the highlight of Raw’s midcard week in and week out.
The match was great with Jordan dominating and Miz selling to make him look like a serious threat to his title. Jordan decimated the Miz with a series of impressive suplexes and a crisp and physical offense before Miztourage distraction lead to the skull-crushing finale.
In any other scenario, fans would be clamoring for a rematch after a young, pluck babyface with immense in-ring ability almost took the title off the veteran champ, but not in the context of the “gold blooded” angle. Instead Jordan was booed mercilessly throughout the match while the crowd cheered literally everything The Miz did.
Then Jordan tried to cut a post-match promo where the negative crowd reaction clearly threw him off and he looked more like a deer in headlights than a professional wrestler who took one of the best in the business to the limit.
I felt sorry for him.
Match 2: Bray Wyatt vs. Finn Balor
I genuinely have no idea what the point of keeping this feud going beyond SummerSlam. The Demon had already defeated The Eater of Worlds clean as a sheet with a storyline geared toward Balor needing to unleash his alter ego to defeat the darkness within the patriarch of the Wyatt Family.
Instead we got this sort of backwards booking where Wyatt goaded Balor into facing him again, but this time not as The Demon but as the man; plain old Finn Balor. Bray would, of course, remain exactly the same.
Wyatt jumped Balor before the bell and seemingly injured him after a vicious slam on the announce table, which actually made a lot of sense to be honest. Given that the next Raw pay-per-view is Tables, Ladders and Chairs, I figured that they would do an injury angle so that they could blow this whole thing off in a gimmick match.
Sadly that would mean another month of these two immense talents treading water in a feud that is ultimately completely meaningless.
To my surprise, Finn came back to the ring after Bray called him a coward. So I figured that actually doing the match after the injury angle was a way of having Balor “lose” and Wyatt “win” in a manner that wouldn’t hurt Finn. But I was wrong again.
They engaged in what was actually a very good match that was miles ahead of their SummerSlam bout. Both guys really brought it and Balor looked especially good in his new periwinkle (?) coloured tights.
The match was a very crisp with a nice superplex spot, a beautiful Balor dropkick that sent Wyatt over the railing and a cool spot where Balor did double spot onto Bray’s head that somehow only resulted in a two count. There was also some nice psychology as Finn, now the man and not the demon, got freaked out by Bray’s exorcist walk.
Balor finally put him away with the Coup De Gras and hopefully both guys can now move on to something else.
Finn is in desperate need of a higher profile feud to really showcase his skills and build him back up to the level he really hasn’t been in since his shoulder injury killed his Universal Title reign. A returning Samoa Joe would be a nice choice as they had a great feud in NXT that allowed both men to shine as they complimented each other in the ring well. It would be nice to do it for the wider audience.
Wyatt, on the other hand, either needs to be repackaged or conclusively pushed. He’s been floundering since dropping the WWE Championship to Randy Orton at WrestleMania and has fallen into this pattern of cutting great promos and playing innovative mind games with his opponents before losing. Sometimes he loses a few times up to and including the blow-off – which he always loses conclusively.
Bray is an incredible talent and his gimmick really works. None of that means anything, however, if he isn’t given some credibility in the eyes of the audience. He needs wins to make everything else have that much more impact. Wyatt is way too good to have to just tread water and only exist to put people over. Give him something meaningful to do and watch him shine.
Match 3: WWE Tag Team Champions Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins vs. Sheamus and Cesaro
Good lord! What a match!
I don’t know what it is about this combination but they really bring out the best in each other while at the same time beating the holy hell out of each other with stiff shots and insanely hard spots. I mean Cesaro lost a tooth at one point. They were really laying it in and I loved every minute of it.
This feud is the exact opposite of the Wyatt-Balor one in that I hope it never ends if it’s going to continue to result in quality matches like this. With half of both The Revival and The Hardys on the shelf, it just might have to continue indefinitely.
I really love how WWE has recycled one of the best ways to use upper tier guys who don’t really have a direction: put them in a tag team. It worked for Money Inc., Jerishow, Kane and Daniel Bryan, and for so many other great teams and now it’s working for Sheamus and Cesaro as well as Ambrose and Rollins. The chemistry between both teams is off the charts.
Ambrose and Rollins have their shared Shield history to draw on, but Sheamus and Cesaro feel like they’ve been tagging for years. They have such a natural flow to their team and are constantly innovating new double team offense and their matching outfits and combined entrance theme entrance is just fantastic. It’s a case of a tag team situation enhancing both talents and I hope they get to anchor the tag team division for a while yet.
This feud has resulted in some of the best matches in the company as well due to how well these teams gel together when facing each other. Even all the one-on-one combinations have resulted in some excellent matches including an Ambrose and Cesaro match at the Toronto Raw which was one of my absolute favourite Dean Ambrose singles bouts in a very long time.
Even though this feud has been going for almost two months, it still feels really fresh and exciting because of the quality of the matches and this one was the best so far. An incredible back and forth match with such insane spots as Cesaro powerbombing Rollins onto Ambrose, Sheamus backdropping Rollins into a Cesaro forearm, a double crucifix bomb and the stunning visual of Cesaro putting Rollins in the crossface with blood pouring from his mouth that would have been a t-shirt in another era.
This match was easily one of the best tag team matches I’ve seen all year and between this feud and the Usos/New Day one on Smackdown we’re getting spoiled with top notch tag team action on the main roster. I really hope we get a nice gimmick match at TLC before this feud is blown off.
I’d say this was a safe bet for match of the night, which was an impressive feat considering what it was up against.
Match 4: Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax vs. Emma vs. Bayley
Going into this I would have been fine with any one of these ladies taking the title. They’ve all really been bringing it in the ring as of late and the Raw women’s division has felt a lot more exciting and competitive than it has in a long time which is a great place for it to be with Asuka coming up next month.
I normally dislike it when all of the women are crammed into one match instead of being given their own individual issues and multiple matches on a PPV, but there were honestly some really good singles matches on Raw leading up to it and the storyline and intrigue that built the match really validated the decision to go with the five-way.
I really can’t say enough good things about this match. Every single participant delivered. Alexa Bliss continues to be a charisma machine and one of the best stories in the entire company. She was highly undervalued and almost an afterthought when brought up to the main roster in comparison to the Four Horsewomen of NXT but has outshone them all with her ability to connect with the fans due to her uncanny ability to project her facial expressions to the top of the arena. She’s also getting a lot better in the ring too with an expanded offense and much improved and absolutely beautiful DDT as her finisher.
There were many who speculated that Emma was only inserted into this match to take the pin but I’m glad that this wasn’t the case. She’s been on fire with her in-ring work and has also been great on the mic. I’ve long been a fan of her heel persona and I like the new edge with her claiming to have started the women’s revolution in WWE which isn’t entirely false given that she really came to prominence in any NXT before any of the more revered graduates and can hang with all of them in the ring. She really got a lot of opportunities to shine in this one and I’m glad for that.
Nia Jax was the star of this one. Not just for her power moves which are always impressive and were on full display in this one, but also for her selling. Jax took some crazy bumps including a double powerbomb to the outside administered by Emma and Bayley and also a crazy spot where she missed a charge and collided with the ring post so hard that I thought she broke her shoulder. Seriously she took it head and collided so hard with the corner that Bret Hart would have been proud watching it.
Don’t worry though. Nia still got her power moves. Including a great spot where she got up Alexa Bliss and Sasha Banks in a double Samoan drop spot that was really impressive. They’ve done a really great job of building Nia up to be the monster of the women’s division without putting the belt on her, but she’d be a great candidate to get it and eventually drop it to Asuka once the Empress of Tomorrow finishes working her way through the Raw women’s division.
Sasha Banks is so good that we almost take it for granted now. After again winning the women’s title only to drop it right back to the champion, she was the glue in this one and made everyone look fantastic with her selling. One of the drawbacks of having such a stacked women’s division and not enough time devoted to having unique angles and feuds for every woman is that if you aren’t involved in the title feud, you’re kind of treading water. Sasha deserves better than that. She’s a star, moves tons of merch and should get the angles and prominent spot of a talent of that magnitude. Thankfully that looks to be changing soon.
She and the returning Bayley took turns breaking up each other’s pin attempts in the final sequence of the match which will hopefully lead to enough dissension between the best friends that one of them turns on the other and we get a continuation of their excellent NXT series of matches. Perhaps this time with the roles reversed as Bayley returned from injury only to eat the pinfall and has been so completely and utterly dominated by Alexa Bliss and is in desperate need of a new direction given how flat her character has been on the main roster due to how she’s been booked.
The idea of a heel Bayley is an intriguing one especially considering how much it could contrast with her clean cut hugger persona. She’s expressed an interest in playing the role on a recent episode of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast and is talented and versatile enough in the ring to pull it off.
Or maybe Sasha will be the one to do the turn which would also be great considering how much she’s excelled in the role in the past and how much more of an edge The Boss persona gets when she’s a heel. The more I think about it, the more I really miss heel Sasha.
Then again, they could just leave things status quo and not pull the trigger on this feud despite hinting at it. As incredibly disappointing as that would be, it’s entirely possible given the amount of merchandise that both women move and how hesitant the WWE often is to turn popular faces heel.
The match was absolutely fantastic and is well worth going out of your way to watch if you missed the show. It’s a testament to the talent of every woman involved and it’s great to see the women’s division thriving and delivering at every turn.
In the wake of the success of the Mae Young Classic on the WWE Network and GLOW on Netflix (incidentally the cast was front row for No Mercy), there is a huge audience for women’s wrestling and WWE really needs to capitalize on it. If they keep presenting matches like this and continue to develop more angles and opportunities for the women on the main roster, they’ll find themselves at the forefront of the cultural zeitgeist when it comes to women’s athletics in general these days and find a way to make professional wrestling increasingly relevant again.
There’s always speculation on what will cause the next wrestling boom and who will be the face of it in the same way Hulk Hogan or Stone Cold were for their respective eras. I genuinely believe that women’s wrestling is the key to the next wrestling boom and that the next big phase of wrestling will be fronted by a woman.
Every match like this one brings us one step closer to that reality.
Match 5: John Cena vs. Roman Reigns
I was so excited for this match. If I wasn’t already a WWE Network subscriber, I would have ordered it just for this.
I’m an unrepentant mark for both these guys and I don’t mind admitting it. I don’t care how much internet fans hate, reject and boo them. These guys always deliver in the ring and work their asses off just as much outside of it.
Cena carried the torch for almost fifteen years. Working more than anyone with an incredible load of personal appearances and taking the time for every single child whose last wish it was to meet him to that point where he’s lapped every single other requested Make-A-Wish celebrity. He’s carried the company on his back for so long as its face and franchise star.
Now it’s Roman’s turn to pick up the torch.
That’s ultimately the story that this match told and these guys did an excellent job of it. John Cena busted out all the stops, catching Roman in mid-air and throwing him up for a Samoan drop, catching him again and rolling through with Reigns in his arms the whole time and then throwing him up on his shoulders for the Attitude Adjustment, and even giving him a top rope AA. Reigns kicked out every time.
On the other end, Cena kicked out of the spear and the Superman punch. He took a spear through a table but came back to hang in there with Roman. Reigns even busted out a move called “Moment of Silence” that I haven’t seen him do before. These guys gave each other everything they had and still kept going.
There were a lot of false finished and the pace really reminded me of the G1 Final where Omega and Naito kept trading Destinos and V-Triggers in the final sequence before Naito finally got him.
You’d think that smart fans who generally trash the WWE and praise New Japan would have been excited for that, but shockingly they turned the whole thing around on Roman and Cena by criticizing them for kicking out of their finishes too much, which is a laughable complaint given that most of the people making it were likely doing so in Bullet Club t-shirts and love nothing more than a Young Bucks superkick party.
That’s just reality when you have two guys in the ring that represent everything mainstream wrestling is in a lot of ways. WWE stars – even if they’re top workers like Cena and Reigns – take unfair and often unwarranted criticism from some sectors of fandom. But what most of these detractors miss is that Roman and Cena primarily embody everything that is good about mainstream North American wrestling. Especially with their incredible in-ring work which far exceeds the constraints typical of WWE mainstream style and elevates both to the pantheon of incredible workers in the wrestling business today. If you’re objective, that is. Most of the detractors of Roman Reigns and John Cena absolutely are not objective.
This match delivered in my view. It was easily one of my favourite matches of the year and from a historical standpoint gave us a moment that we’ll talk about for a long time when Reigns finally caught Cena with the Superman punch and spear and got the biggest win of his career in the process. Yes even bigger than his win over Taker at WrestleMania and also a bigger deal than his impending win over Brock Lesnar at next year’s WrestleMania.
This was the passing of the torch. The real one.
Cena shook Roman’s hand and that was it. Cena will be back for more matches, but he’s transitioning into a Hollywood career and at 40 years old, it’s time for him to wind down.
I’ll miss him.
I know there’s a few big John Cena moments still and I know that this wasn’t he last we’ll see of him by a long shot, but it was the last time we will see him as the face of WWE.
It really is Roman’s yard now.
I’m not going to lie, that handshake at the end complete with Cena whispering words of encouragement to Roman made me tear up. Cena is all too familiar with the road that Reigns is going down and all the pressure and expectations that come with it. Now that burden is on The Big Dog.
On the Raw Talk after the show when John Cena cried, I really felt for him. I may have joined in to be honest.
It has to be a huge release passing the burden of carrying an entire company on to someone else, but at the same time it’s somewhat bittersweet. Cena is still at the top of his game. He can still work an amazing match, still looks great and could still seemingly do it for years, but he won’t and it won’t be the same without him.
This is a beautiful moment huge leap forward for professional wrestling because we hardly ever get to see someone go out on his terms. For Cena to hand it off to Roman before he became broken down and old like Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair a generation ago is a great moment. It speaks to how much the business has changed and evolved for the better. Cena can go off to Hollywood still physically able to live a normal life and enjoy himself. Not as a broken down shell of his former self. He gets to walk off with his head held high.
We’ll see him again and it will be great when we do. But I’m glad he gets to move on. He deserves it more than anyone else really. He’s been the face of professional wrestling for longer than anyone ever has.
For Roman, the torch is now his to carry. At 32 years old he’s got a long run ahead of him as the top guy in the world’s biggest wrestling company. I’m excited to see how he continues to grow and evolve and how, much like Cena, he’ll eventually win over most of his detractors.
You’ll miss Reigns when it’s his turn to pass the torch to someone else. As much as some of you think that you won’t right now.
Match 6: WWE Cruiserweight Champion Neville vs. Enzo Amore
If Enzo could wrestle half as good as he can talk, he’d be putting on ******1/2 matches in the Tokyo Dome.
But he can’t.
His move to 205 Live was largely seen as a punishment; a demotion for many backstage sins and being a generally annoying and arrogant figure behind the scenes which matches his onscreen persona all-too-well.
I’d expected him to get a proper beat down by Neville in order to show off the one skill he really has in the ring: his selling and allow The King of the Cruiserweights to move on to something else. It certainly seemed that we were headed that way when Neville dominated the early goings of the match until Enzo hit him with a low blow and won the Cruiserweight title.
Because even if he’s been demoted he still moves a ton of merch and will get eyes on 205 Live. Vince McMahon always finds a way to try and profit off every situation.
It’s hard to believe that we got here just a year after the Cruiserweight Classic. It’s hard to believe that a company with Gran Metallik, Rich Swann, Akira Tozawa, Cedric Alexander, Noam Dar, Mustafa Ali, Tony Nese and his abs in the Cruiserweight division would resort to this. It’s hard to believe that all of Neville’s work in bringing credibility to the title was wasted on this.
But here we are.
Cruiserweight champion Enzo Amore.
Hopefully they sell a lot of leopard print belts.
Match 7: Universal Champion Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman
After the insane carnage of their SummerSlam face-off in the Fatal Four-way for the title, I expected a lot of chaos, destruction and widespread carnage.
What I got was a match very similar to Lesnar/Joe at Great Balls of Fire.
Braun started off no-selling all of Lesnar’s offense. Brock gradually wore him down including a nice sequence with the kimura. Brock eventually got him off his feet with a short trip to Suplex City. They traded power moves. Brock caught him with an F5. That was it. Just over eight minutes.
I can see why some people were underwhelmed given how over the top the SummerSlam sequence where Braun got Brock stretchered out was and how much a lot of fans were aching for a title change here. But when you see it in the context that this will not be the only time these two wrestle and that Braun’s loss ultimately won’t hurt him in the long run because of how strong he looked until being caught by surprise with the F5 – one of the still lethal finishers in WWE, it was a solid power match.
As the first in the series it’s a promising start and hopefully they meet again in a series of hoss fights with some more over the top violence and maybe even a gimmick match or two.
In the meantime, it keeps the belt on Brock so that he can drop it to Roman, while Braun likely moves onto other things. They aren’t going to deviate from Reigns and Lesnar at WrestleMania no matter what and with that in mind this result isn’t all that surprising.
I wanted more for sure, but we’re going to get it down the line. For now I was happy with what we got.
Bottom line: This was one of the best WWE shows of the year and certainly the best Raw brand PPV. If you haven’t seen it, definitely go out of your way to check it out. If you have, watch the tag match, the women’s five-way and Reigns-Cena again.