WWE hit Oakland, California for Monday Night Raw this week, and set up the big matches for the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view (PPV) later this month. They were already set up, sure, but they really did a number on the top matches on this show and I mean that in the best way possible.
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The perfect segment
Sasha Banks cuts great promo putting over how women can achieve their dreams because she has (two times over at this point) and that's great. Then she challenges Charlotte to a Hell in a Cell match because hey, why not, let's keep making history.
Rusev interrupts because he's a belligerent asshole who doesn't like that women are taking up his time and stealing some shine. He doesn't care about what Sasha and Charlotte are doing, and he doesn't understand how anyone else could, but most importantly he sees their very existence within his space -- the ring -- as an insult to him personally.
This is the first time in a very, very long time that he was actually booked to be a bad guy. Because that is absolutely how a bad guy would respond to all this.
The response he got back was even better. Charlotte and Sasha took turns taking his mic from him while he was trying to shout over them. Then Lana got in on the act and she was swiftly dealt with before they also literally kicked Rusev in his ass and out of the ring. Two strong women refused to put up with a large man's shit when he had no right to be in there lipping off, and it was GLORIOUS.
Rusev, his ego badly bruised, actually went to get back in the ring like he was going to retaliate. That's when Roman Reigns' music hit to a thunderous ovation, and he calmly walked out and put a stop to whatever Rusev may have been planning. This, too, is the first time in a long time that Reigns was booked to be an actually good guy.
Rusev showed his cowardice, bailing out of a confrontation he wasn't sure he could win. Reigns, for his part, didn't say a word. He didn't have to.
This was a perfect segment. Sasha and Charlotte making an historic announcement, Rusev being an actually bad guy, the women standing up to said bad guy in the best way possible, Reigns being an actually good guy, and both upcoming matches looking that much better off for it.
Later, they did a mixed tag team match that saw Banks team up with Reigns against Charlotte and Rusev and it was great fun. The babyfaces went over and the crowd absolutely loved it. They couldn't have handled all of this any better.
I like to think we've reached a point where Stephanie McMahon is manipulating everyone because that is all Stephanie McMahon knows. She is not Stephanie McMahon unless she is manipulating anyone and everything, so, even when it makes no sense for her to do so, she manipulates.
That's the only way I can be entertained by her constant meddling.
Really, though, they handled this week's chapter in the story well. It's still Seth Rollins against his bosses who turned on him but it's also about testing Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho's friendship. It looked like they were headed for ruin last week but they fully supported each other this week.
That includes Owens trying to help Jericho win a match that would have made the Hell in a Cell Universal title bout a triple threat and Jericho saving Owens from a Pedigree. But, once again, KO was caught bailing out while Jericho took another one for the team.
We'll see if that matters next week.
All the best to all the rest
Bad friends, worse enemies: I'm not entirely sure why Sheamus is costing Cesaro matches or what direction they're heading with these two but everything they've done so far has done nothing but make me disinterested in whatever comes next. The idea, it seems, is that they still can't get along but when they do figure it out they'll be unstoppable. Will they figure it out? Stay tuned! Or don't.
Bayley at home: She won a match in front of a crowd that adored her. It was a sloppy match but no one cared because they love Bayley and this was a clear demonstration of what she can be on the main roster under the right circumstances. Dana Brooke laid her out while celebrating and that's as good a way as any to get some heat on her before a match between the two.
Sin Cara, cruiserweight: It's the only division where his style not only fits but is welcomed, so this could work wonders for a career that has been nothing but a disappointment so far. Assuming, of course, the matches are good. This one, a tag affair, was solid.
Fun police: I quite like the idea of Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows going from being jokesters who were having a great time but losing to the actual fun police because they couldn't find success within that.
What's creative: Neville and Sami Zayn have nothing to do, so WWE decided to put them together and have them work as a tag team. That's fine! They're fun to watch. Not a lot of meat with the potatoes here but they taste good nonetheless.
Make it a win: Actually, don't. Make it a loss.
Real competition: Mick Foley's idea for giving Braun Strowman some real competition was to have him wrestle the SPLASH BROTHERS at the same time. He murdered them to death. It was really fun. He again threatened Foley. I can't wait for next week.
THE LIST: This is what makes pro wrestling so great and, I'm sure, so maddening for those in charge of trying to make money on it. Speaking purely as a fan, absent my need to cover the show for my job, there is very little that keeps me coming around. I would, however, watch entire episodes of Raw just to get to see/hear Chris Jericho put someone on THE LIST. It is the dumbest but greatest and best thing in the world.
Goooooooldberg: Say what you will about Paul Heyman's promos these days, he went out and made sure to put those Goldberg chants back in everyone's mind ahead of the former WCW star's return. That's good business. I'm still not excited for it, but they sure tried!
Final thought: This was a fine show!
Check out a bunch of random grades for it here.