WWE returned to the USA network for Monday Night Raw last night (Aug.1, 2016) from Atlanta, Georgia and while three hours is still far too long, they did some good things, even if they went a little too quickly on running an "invasion" angle of sorts.
Click here to get full results with the live blog. Let's get to reacting to all the night's events.
This was great.
WWE has been fairly consistent in its presentation of Brock Lesnar, namely that he shows up and stands around looking tough while Paul Heyman says a bunch of words for him. They do this because it works, and it keeps him happy, so why bother messing with the winning formula?
One of the reasons it works is because it sets up great moments like this.
Right when you were fully expecting they were going to end this show with Heyman barking about how great Lesnar is and how many times he's going to throw Randy Orton around the ring at SummerSlam, The Viper showed up with an actual, legitimate RKO OUTTA NOWHERE. Sure, we know the brand split is nonsense and they were always going to have stars from Raw show up on SmackDown and vice versa but they got me here.
I honestly did not expect this, and in hindsight we TOTALLY should have seen it coming.
If the crowd reaction is any indication, I wasn't the only one taken in. This felt fresh when all they did was a spot they've done a million times before but with a fresh match-up between two guys who haven't been around much lately.
This also promotes SmackDown Live because surely Lesnar is going to want to answer this, right?
I have no idea why I enjoyed the opening segment of this show so much but I'll be damned if it wasn't tons of fun. I guess that answers my question.
I can see how some might find it problematic: Sasha Banks and Charlotte were essentially arguing over promiscuity, a man (Chris Jericho) came out to shush Sasha before another man (Enzo Amore) came out to creep on her. You could also argue the women became supporting players in their own story, I guess.
I'm not buying any of that, though.
Charlotte delivered a great line when she said "it's one thing to take the prom king home, it's another to get him to put a ring on your finger" before calling Sasha a one night stand, if only because it so beautifully set up Banks saying Charlotte literally wouldn't exist if it weren't for Ric Flair having a one night stand.
True or not, that's a phenomenal line. Because, you know, Ric Flair.
Jericho showing up actually added to the segment because he's an annoying piss ant and when you put him alongside Charlotte they're literally the two most annoying human beings on the planet. That makes Sasha look like a million bucks by default, but they brought an insanely over Enzo out to run some game and get the two of them over that much more.
Sure, you could argue Amore was being creepy and, yeah, he basically was. But Sasha was having fun with it and who am I to say that's wrong? That's what really put all this over the top -- everyone in the ring looked like they were having the time of their lives in there.
No complaints here.
There's long been a fear that Finn Balor would get to the main roster, they would ask him to cut a promo, and he would fail so spectacularly they would shoot him down the card. After all, how can you book top babyface who can hardly speak?
Anyway, Balor did just fine in his interview before he was interrupted by Seth Rollins and he did just fine going toe-to-toe with the former WWE world heavyweight champion. They certainly didn't reinvent the wheel here, and the material wasn't exactly breaking new ground, but Balor looked like a star who belonged in this spot.
If he never improves beyond this, it's now clear they can get a solid career out of him on the main roster at a high level, if there was ever any real doub to begin with.
Rollins, by the way, had a really fun match with Sami Zayn later in the night. The brand split is a good thing if only because it basically forces match-ups like this and the hope for writing stories that consist of always circling back.
All the best to all the rest
Braun Strowman def. Evan Anderhold: They had this week's victim say he was there because they were paying him a cool $1000 to show and $5000 to win. That's good money for a 60 second ass whooping.
Shining Stars def. Golden Truth: Seriously, they have to let this Pokemon Go nonsense go.
Rusev def. Mark Henry: The match was fine for what it was but, let's be real, this was all about setting up for WWE revisiting that awesome Rusev vs. Roman Reigns series that happened on SmackDown some time ago, although I'm not sure why Roman cares about Rusev raging against the corrupt International Olympic Committee. This felt like less of a step down for Reigns and more of a step up for Rusev. Either way, it's going to be a lot of fun.
Titus O'Neil def. Darren Young: O'Neil cheated to beat his former tag team partner, so they had Bob Backlund confront him backstage to freak out on him about it. When he threatened to knock Backlund's old ass out, Young sucker punched him. Yeah, I don't know. Whatever.
Nia Jax wins: She always wins. She also has eyes.
The Club beat up New Day: This was actually well executed becuase I totally forgot Big E scored a roll up pinfall win in the actual match. I don't know that I want to see more because of it, but it worked well enough for what they were doing.
Cesaro def. Sheamus: A short but fun match -- that powerslam into a Gotch Neutralizer was really something -- that featured even better post-match shenanigans with the both of them getting after it with a nice pull apart brawl. We need more unhinged wrestlers just fighting it out.
Final thought: They did plenty of good things on this show, but that third hour continues to be a problem.
Random Twitter grade:
@cagesideseats raw grade B-— FinnBalorforlife (@scottframe29) August 2, 2016