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WWE Raw results, recap, reactions (May 15, 2017): Extreme ways

Word was last week’s Raw was a snapshot of a show in a creative holding pattern. And not just because they were overseas, and WWE has a history of kind of phoning in tape delayed shows from places other than their home turf... but also because they knew Braun Strowman was hurt - but not how badly.

Last night’s show represented the start of the descent (just to extend the metaphor, not as a statement of quality) towards Extreme Rules. The June pay-per-view (PPV) is itself just a layover on the way to the return of Universal champion Brock Lesnar at Great Balls of Fire the following month, and then a marquee match-up for the Beast Incarnate at “The Biggest Party of the Summer”.

And Raw didn’t waste any time laying out their plan for how to get through at least the next couple months, as General Manager Kurt Angle broke it down for us in the opening segment.

- My word is it nice to have a no-nonsense authority figure on Monday nights. I didn’t even hate the Mick Foley era as much as a lot of folks, but it was just a different flavor of the Authority-inspired drama we’ve been getting since 2013, for crying out loud. A big part of SmackDown’s secret has been the absence of “corporate intrigue”, and it’s been a big part of Raw’s post-Shake-Up uptick in quality, too.

- Promo quality from the five wrestlers in this segment, ranked (best to worst): Roman Reigns, Finn Bálor, Bray Wyatt, Samoa Joe, Seth Rollins.

- On one end of the spectrum, we have the Big Dog. Even if you’re not digging his arrogrant-guy-who-backs-it-up tweener act as much as I am, he’s definitely delivering his words with confidence (a key component to being a good talker... an idea we’ll revisit here shortly). On the other, his old Shield brother. WWE finally gave Seth a reason to be a babyface, but now we’re right back to the catchphrase-spouting cheap pop machine he was before that happened.

- In the middle, we have one guy in Finn who’s impressed me when given a chance on the main roster in a way he rarely did in NXT. And then two guys who are treading water. Heck, Joe gave a better version of the “action -> consequences” speech last year on the third brand.

- Overall, though, this was a smart segment. The 5Way program gives them plenty of pairings to use to get us to Extreme Rules, and can spin out programs for the four guys who don’t end up feuding with Brock (right away, anyhow... you have to think each of these men will get a shot if WWE is intent on holding Reigns/Lesnar for WrestleMania 34).

Speaking of those pairings, one of them gave us the match of the night. In fact, Reigns vs. Bálor II should have main evented the show. It would have been more satisfying than the Wyatt/Rollins bout which never seemed to gel and ended in a schmoz.

Although I am as strangely excited by the prospect of Joe vs. Bray as I am over the Joe/Rollins stuff.

Finn and Roman also got a clean, decisive finish on a night which didn’t feature a lot of those. While it’s not ideal to see the Irishman take a loss so soon after he’s returned, and before he’s had a really meaningful win... this does even their series at one win a piece (remember Bálor pinning the Big Dog clean in his debut last July) and should raise the stakes for an eventual PPV bout somewhere down the line.

Oh, and one more thing... he may not have been cheating, but Romey didn’t look like someone you were supposed to be cheering in this one. This has been your occassional reminder to react how you want to what’s in front of you, and don’t worry about labeling everything.

I’m about as big a Bayley apologist as you’ll find, but can we stop sending her out for promo segments against Alexa Bliss. The kendo stick wasn’t the only way the champ unloaded on the Hugster (no, we’re not doing phrasing in this feud any more... it’s impossible to avoid the double entendres when they put “stick” and “pole” in the stip). Bliss’ ability to deliver the script and improv reactions not only makes Bayley’s mic work look lesser, it seems to be sapping her confidence. And with the way they’ve muddled her character on the main, there’s not even a good kayfabe justification for her stumbling over her words any longer.

It is true that long Alexa promos aren’t any better than long anyone else promos, though. I personally think her delivery makes them more enjoyable than a similar speech from any other woman on the roster, but I still don’t need to see them every week... and judging by a lot of live reactions, I’m not alone in that.

While we ponder that, however, can we get Bayles’ a mouthpiece, maybe? Mickie James seems to be a good girl again, and isn’t doing anything else... maybe she could mentor the Hugger while they coach her up on the mic, eventually leading to what would be a phenomenal in-ring series?

Just an idea, and a way to avoid dealing with “Kendo Stick on a Pole”...

- Elsewhere in the Women’s division, does Sasha losing to Alicia Fox signal a return to the slow burn heel turn it looked like we were getting before ‘Mania? Will “The Boss is in the doghouse” rumors be popping up again soon? Or is this all just an excuse to keep Foxy and Noam Dar on our screens as much as possible?

- For the record, I have no problem with two out of those three options.

While we’re kind of, sort of talking about the purple ropes gang... I love pretty much everything about the Cruiserweight title story and all four men involved (yes, four - now that TJP is a heel). But we’re kind of going to this well a lot, aren’t we?

Meanwhile, in the mid-card:

- Sheamus, Cesaro and the Hardys continue to have good matches I continue to care less and less about. Some of that is probably on me, but WWE needs to up the stakes or get back to teasing some character development from the champs ASAP.

- The end of the Intercontinental title match makes sense for setting up Extreme Rules, but it was kind of a bummer way to wrap up one of the better showings I can recall from Miz & Dean Ambrose.

- All-in on giving a bit of spotlight to the Golden Truth break-up and Apollo Crews joining the Titus Brand (but, did I miss some step in Crews’ acceptance, or did he just sign on 100% cause he won a match?)... but I worry they won’t continue to get time as we get closer to bigger shows, and the return of bigger stars.

- They seriously have no interest in doing anything with Enzo & Cass, do they? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I guess... and live crowd reactions say it ain’t broke. Remember when Cass was in the Universal title match last August, though?

Raw did what it needed to do on May 15 and, for the most part, did it well.

But there was still an understandable sense they were scrambling, and the absence of the Monster Among Men they’d built their plans around was palpable.

Once this new status quo settles in over the coming weeks, we should have a better idea of how the Summer will go. But this was a good start.

Grade: B

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