This Samoa Joe-Brock Lesnar feud has been fun for so many reasons but what I'm most impressed with is the fact that they've actually told a great story with a steady progression week after week with characters progressing along with it.
We started with Lesnar's indifference, because he can hardly even be bothered to show up to the damn building on most nights, but kicked into gear with Joe, a well spoken assassin, methodically dismantling Paul Heyman to send a message to his client. That escalated into a pull apart brawl so both could flex their muscle -- and where Joe showed he could not only hang but maybe even get the better of Brock. The next week he showed he absolutely could get the better of Lesnar, with a sneak attack choke hold that turned the Universal champ purple.
It all led to this week, the last episode of Raw before the big match, and they were booked for a side-by-side interview in different locations. Lesnar did what he always does -- laughed in the face of a deadly foe with the same casual disrespect he's shown every other opponent. Joe, however, had reached his tipping point. The pot boiled over and the well spoken assassin became a screaming lunatic out to kill.
There are a million ways to interpret this -- yet another reason this has been so fun -- but I like to think that Joe's quest to prove he belongs at this level has turned desperate, that Lesnar's refusal to acknowledge him as a worthy adversary pushed him over the edge.
That he never got to exorcise that rage in the physical confrontation he so craved, and Brock's response to that, is interesting for what it predicts later -- that Lesnar, despite Joe's best efforts, is still very much on top of his game, and Joe's dogged pursuit has made him vulnerable in a way he may not have been otherwise.
It may have looked like Joe was getting the upper hand each week before but it sure as hell doesn't look like it did him any good now.
What a delightful program they put together here. Let's hope the match delivers too.
The rest of Monday Night Raw
Teach that: Enzo Amore's promo style doesn't lend itself well to an emotional ordeal like a breakup with a longtime partner but he delivered a few great lines -- "you're nothing more than a 7 foot tall catchphrase that I wrote" -- and got me interested in the upcoming match so he did exactly what he was tasked with here.
Bliss-Banks: There isn't a story here, and that's unfortunate because these two could probably have a memorable feud if they were given more than a week without also having to service every other major story in the women's division in the same segment. For now we'll just have to live with "Sasha tapped the champ in a tag match, can she do it in the title match at the PPV?!?"
Golden Truth: Worst storyline of the year, and it's not close.
Kids: Heath Slater has ‘em, and he needs to feed ‘em. The way they got to his getting an Intercontinental championship match was so very pro wrestling and so very fun because of that. Of course he lost, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t prove once again that he’s a valuable asset when they bother to use him like this.
Legend: The Miz won an Intercontinental title match after ripping his pants at the ass. What a legend. Also, someone show me the lie in that promo on Dean Ambrose.
Rollins-Wyatt: There's some good thematic stuff going on here but it doesn't translate well to a pro wrestling program that needs to cater to a live audience. Further, Wyatt's poor record in feuds has taken all his mystique from him. No matter how well produced his promos may be, his words are empty and his matches suffer greatly for it.
Finn Balor vs. Cesaro: It's usually a bad thing when WWE throws together as many wrestlers as possible just to make sure they all get TV time to advance their storylines but they did some fun stuff with the Hardy Men, Cesaro, Sheamus, Balor, and Elias Samson so they get a pass for this one.
THAT KICK: Braun Strowman beating grown men to death is always worth watching but I quite literally cannot stop watching the replay of Strowman countering a standing moonsault by just booting Apollo Crews across the ring. I also can't stop laughing at Michael Cole responding to it by saying "he's gotta have some sort of internal injuries, guys, I mean."
BigBrick McDumbAsShit: I guess this was the receipt for booking Roman Reigns to be an idiot the other week but Strowman's confusion at the ambulance not taking Titus O'Neil away was bad enough. That he actually looked through the driver's side window to see who was inside was indefensible. That he followed that by opening the door to get a better look is the kind of stupidity that is actively harmful to viewers. The big spear off the stage spot was a nice way to make up for it, at least. I guess.
Not a bad show.