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WWE Raw preview (Aug. 1, 2016): Here comes the pain?

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Reviews for last week’s show - the first of the ‘new era’ - were so good, most viewers didn’t know how to process it. Expectations are high for the second show of conducted under Stephanie McMahon & Mick Foley’s leadership, tonight in Atlanta.

The Headliner

The Beast is back, and under a sizeable cloud of questions and controversy.

WWE 2K17 cover boy Brock Lesnar hasn’t been seen since a pretty ho-hum victory at WrestleMania over the man who is now undisputed WWE champ. Since then, he announced a return to the competitive fighting world, convincingly won his bout at UFC 200... and then the wheels came off.

Lesnar’s MMA comeback - and the legitmacy of Brock’s entire brand - is tainted by two positive doping tests brought about by his return to the Octagon. WWE doesn’t plan to address them under their Wellness Program since he’s a “part-timer”, and they’ve only brought it up in kayfabe with a joke and literal wink from his SummerSlam opponent, SmackDown’s Randy Orton.

Being popped for the same thing he lectured Jon Jones about when he was caught with it in his bloodstream and a vague promise to “get to the bottom” of his own failed test threaten to make even a formidible athletic specimen like Lesnar the butt of jokes. WWE may be bringing him back tonight just to see how Georgia reacts, so they can book for Brooklyn accordingly.

He likely won’t be interacting with the Viper, who works Tuesday nights exclusively these days. But it looks like he will be bringing his Advocate.

Here comes the pain?

The Title Scene

No one has held the WWE Universal championship yet, but it’s already created some strong reactions. First, for its name, which even its supporters say will take some getting used to. More importantly, for one of the men who will contend for it at this month’s pay-per-view (PPV). Finn Bálor’s amazing main roster debut means it will be he, and not Roman Reigns, challenging Seth Rollins for the still unseen belt at SummerSlam. Like Raw itself, the Irishman has a high bar to clear on his second night in the bigs... and the Architect will surely be working to slow Finn’s roll now that the match has been made.

You may have heard, there’s a new Women’s champ. Her name is Sasha Banks. She’s pretty cool. The woman who was champ for a long time until she lost to this new gal (think her name is Charlotte?) is getting her rematch on August 21.

He just got married, but don’t think that’s going to stop United States titleholder Rusev from showing up and being his awesome self tonight. He was busy trying to earn a Universal title shot last week, so he doesn’t currently have a rival for the red, white and blue strap. Not that he’s losing it any time soon.

The New Day were looking to move on from their Battleground loss by celebrating their record-setting run with the tag team titles, but The Club was looking to make a statement now that they’ve been separated from AJ Styles. Are Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson the men who will finally give Big E, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods something to be sour about?

Other stuff to keep an eye on:

- Looks like Vince McMahon is almost as high on Braun Strowman as my boss is... WWE.com’s official preview lists him, and the man he squashed last week, among the five things they highlight about tonight’s episode.

- NXT draftee Nia Jax also got to feast upon local competitor in her debut. Will Raw build two monsters with beatdowns simultaneously? Can they tell two stories featuring women on one brand?

- There’s a whole crop of guys in the same boat as the Bulgarian Brute. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens are supposedly done beating up each other... now what? Will Cesaro’s “shoot” promo lead to anything other than more popularity with smarks like me? Is Alberto Del Rio leaving? Who else forgot Sheamus was even around?

- Enzo & Cass are quite popular, will they get a real feud? Do they need one? Have Golden Truth caught them all?

- Neville came back, and Steph’s promise of a cruiserweight division is apparently a real thing.

Three weeks until SummerSlam!

What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?