WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (July 13, 2015) from Atlanta, Georiga with the go home show to the upcoming Battleground pay-per-view (PPV) scheduled for this Sunday night in St. Louis. That included the NXT three, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch, getting called up in an amazing segment.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
They made it.
You know what's really great about this? WWE slow burned us. When dealing with a Vince McMahon booked wrestling show, you can usually count on the women getting next to no time to tell a story. This time, they took what felt like forever to pull the trigger on calling up the NXT three, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks.
So long, in fact, that even those of us who greatly appreciate Nikki Bella's work as champion were ready for a fresh set of challengers and/or a new story that doesn't involve her beating the same two or three women in the same matches every week.
And my oh my did they bring them in well.
I mean that to say the segment was produced really well and the performers involved all delivered the goods, even with a botched spot or two once the brawl broke out (someone get to Brie Bella and work on those punches, by the way). The idea that Stephanie McMahon -- who I absolutely adore, mind you -- would randomly show up to smack down Nikki, who was on her side last I checked, before introducing the new crop of women to the division doesn't really fly.
She's the heel authority figure one week and the babyface leader of a women's wrestling revolution the next?
Still, that doesn't take away from what happened here. This was a really big deal that they booked to make sure it felt exactly that way. And, as an unabashed lover of Becky Lynch, I couldn't be happier as a fan that she was included.
I also don't share the concerns of others -- looking at you, Sean Rueter -- that Sasha Banks is somehow in trouble as a character for having been paired with Naomi and Tamina. In fact, she fits the bill perfectly and they can always go back later and rectify any issues immediately considering she's a BOSS heel.
Plus, TRIOS. If they're giving us a trios triple threat at SummerSlam, none of us will be worthy and there's enough material to fill an entire hour of Raw each week.
This was so much fun.
The dumbest ass
A contract signing in a WWE world heavyweight championship match at a PPV is standard booking for a go home show, and when it involves Brock Lesnar you can count on his bringing the ass kicking goods.
But not before they worked me.
First, let's establish that Seth Rollins is the dumbest ass. Actually both Rollins and Kane are the dumbest asses and the idea that they would hide a weapon under the table used to sign the contract to ensure an advantage over Lesnar is silly to the point of stupidity but I loved it.
Because this is Brock and they booked his response perfectly.
The appeal of Lesnar will always be that he is a behemoth and you cannot stop the death he brings. When you have a badass babyface, you should always book him to look like a badass for maximum appeal. That he would find the weapon, set it on the table, and sit back to allow Rollins to take it while smiling is ultimate "do you actually think that's going to save you" style badass.
That's what I want out of my Lesnar.
Where they worked me was what came next. Lesnar attacked first and gained the edge before Kane and Rollins got the upper hand. And then suddenly Brock was selling for the Director of Operations.
Selling way, way too much.
And right when I was getting good and pissed off that the ultimate badass was getting his ass handed to him by an old man in a suit, BROCK SMASH engaged and Kane was left with a busted ankle while Rollins was running for his life.
As Seth himself would say, that's what I'm talking about.
Watching Brock Lesnar smash and seeing Kane taken out was just so much fun.
I like to think far more of Kevin Owens than most WWE heels, so when he walked out of a match on this show it didn't look so much like he doesn't care as it did a calculated effort to affect his opposition in a negative way. Instead of allowing Rusev to challenge for the US title, he mucked up the works. Soon, Cesaro was out and suddenly it's a triple threat to determine who will challenge Cena for the strap on this same show.
Remember, Owens has his US title match at Battleground no matter what happens.
So he got down and dirty in an outstanding triple threat match, especially by Monday Night Raw standards, again mucking up the works and wearing down Rusev and Cesaro before bailing to recover. The winner, as Cena continually pointed out on commentary (by the way, why does he commentate like he's announcing a golf event?), would be at an extreme disadvantage having already worked a physically grueling match against two strong opponents.
So he bailed and let Rusev and Cesaro beat the hell out of each other after not so subtly manipulating the situation so that this would happen when originally it was to be a fresh Rusev vs. Cena for the title. And how much fun was Cesaro and Rusev beating the hell out of each other?
Too much fun.
Rusev winning also felt like the right call, considering positioning on the card and future plans. What didn't feel like the right call was Cena beginning his match with Rusev by working holds to, as commentary told us, "wear him out."
This immediately after the aforementioned brutal triple threat match.
It also felt somewhat odd that this was booked like Cena was a bastard gladly picking at the bones of a worn down babyface, and Rusev was a hero doing his damnedest to overcome extremely long odds. The fact that Owens came back to ensure Cena didn't lose the title only made this look even more like a babyface turn for the Bulgarian brute.
That bit of baffling booking aside, this was so much fun.
All the best to all the rest
Randy Orton & Ryback vs. Sheamus & Big Show: Michael Cole called this the WWE version of the All Star Game. I just ... I don't know what to do with that. This is more like the Pro Bowl and these are the guys who replaced the guys who couldn't play because they had to play in the Super Bowl the next week. That's about how it played out, too, if the Pro Bowl featured an annoying announcer who tried to affect the outcome of the game. That said, Orton's antics pre-RKO were fun and THE BIG GUY is now a high flyer apparently. So that's cool.
Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt: Actually really liked that Roman Reigns finally smartened up and attacked Wyatt from behind before this match could start, with all the fire a white hot babyface should have. They also didn't give too much away before the match at the PPV this weekend. Ambrose leaning against the announce desk quietly enjoying his friend's violent rage was a nice touch as well. This was really well done.
Prime Time Players & Mark Henry vs. The New Day: Fun for what it was, a relatively short match that saw all the spot work we've seen from these teams before, with Henry added to the mix. Worth it for the big man doing the MILLIONS OF DOLLARS dance after.
King Barrett vs. R-Truth: This happened again. Truth made a mockery of Barrett again. Vince McMahon hates the King of the Ring. Thankfully, I'm a fan of Truth's antics. If you're not, you probably hated this and I certainly couldn't blame anyone for that.
Tough Enough: I completely understand the need to do this and, in fact, think they should have done this sooner. That said, the show is terrible and an appearance on Raw isn't going to change that. It's just going to help expose more folks to how bad the show actually is.
Stardust returns: Have now lost count of the number of times I've broken down over Dusty Rhodes. Stardust added one more when he paid homage to his dad in his promo. Then WWE broke out that graphic and while there was no story between Stardust and Neville before this, it felt right by the time they finished up their match. I'm in for more.
SO MUCH FUN.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts on last night's show. How did you like it, if you liked it at all?