Juggling is an impressive skill. I can do it in my writing but with objects? Like bowling pins or balls? Not a chance. Juggling is necessary for even average wrestling storytelling. Some stories intersect but doing it naturally within the flow of everything isn’t easy. We got an example of good juggling this week during Raw’s main event when a match six years in the making combined with Survivor Series feud, mixed with a follow-up from last week’s concluding main event.
And it all made sense, even if it was a bit chaotic at times.
Finn Balor challenged Seth Rollins for the United States championship. Finn also wanted vengeance for Seth shortening his inaugural Universal championship run in 2016. Unfinished business, as Finn put it, and business picked up this week. I’m not giving you blow for blow in a match featuring two of the best in the world right now because you know it was dope.
Their 2016 match worked and this one worked even better because of the extra shades. Finn needed this W more than Seth. He needs validation for a career deferred six years ago, and Judgment Day needs some gold. Which makes it weird that he took his eye off the ball the minute his crew came to the ring and The O.C. followed.
The Judgment Day hit ringside and distracted Seth with their usual tricks. No real interference, just annoying him at opportune moments. Once the Californiiiaaaaa crew showed up, with Mia Yim in tow, all hell broke loose. Finn looked disheveled while ignoring the fact Seth was on the literal ropes.
He stood ready with the killshot but hesitated when AJ’s crew got physical with his crew. Little things like that always irritate me in wrestling. I understand it’s a part of the game at times for heels—and faces—to act ditzy at times, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying. Especially when the stakes are that high for one competitor.
But I digress. The brawl spilled into the ring and Finn seemingly forgot Rollins existed. While the rest of Judgment Day and The O.C. fought into the stands, Seth put the finishing touches on Balor. Right there, we furthered a feud between factions and advanced something between Finn & Seth that is nowhere near finished with that fuzzy finish.
And then came Austin Theory.
Theory assaulted Seth when Finn rolled out of the ring. Spoiler for the rest of the recap and earlier in the show, but Theory is a man hellbent on proving he’s not a kid and play time is over. He channeled all his pent up anger and rage into pummeling Seth into a million little pieces, while mocking him for being a “visionary.” I am subtracting points from Theory for not asking if Seth “saw this coming” after asking if he's a visionary. I mean, come on, son, it was right there.
Juxtaposing last week’s episode, Theory stood tall when the credits rolled. And Seth, once again, sold his beatdown like a champ.
Very good juggling, WWE.
Hurt People Hurt People
Bobby Lashley vs. Mustafa Ali came out of nowhere. By that I mean Ali rushed the ring while Lashley confronted Seth Rollins. Lashley wanted Rollins and his United States championship. BUT, and Seth made this point, Bobby had his chance last week. Rather than take advantage of said chance, he slapped enough fire out of Seth to ignite 4th of July fireworks. I’m on Seth’s side here. Bobby’s temper got the better of him and there’s no real reason for Seth to give him anything else at this point.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s focus on Ali. Mustafa justifiably went after Lashley for what happened last week during Lashley’s reign of terror. Their “match” illustrated how dominant Bobby is at the moment with his temper out of control. Ali never really stood a chance. From a wrestling standpoint, Ali made Bobby look great, although I’m not a fan of using Ali for this purpose right now. Also not a huge fan of starting Raw with a match that, for the most part, was a glorified squash.
Who’s Your Mami?
From a glorified squash to an actual one, Mia Yim made short work of Tamina. Short, proper work. Rhea Ripley and Dom looked on with devilish grins. Rhea fronted like she wanted static with Mia, but she said nah.
BUT WAIT...Damage CTRL looked on as well. From the back, of course, in the weird way that only wrestlers watch television. Impressed with Mia, they offered her a spot on their Survivor Series team. Mia, flattered, declined since she has no beef with Bianca and friends. But she didn’t sound completely opposed to joining Bayley’s crew. Of course the California Boys showed up with beers in hand and whisked Mia away before her convo with Bayley and the Women’s tag champs got any further. But this is an intriguing development. Might Mia join Damage CTRL’s damaged ranks for Survivor Series?
We got our answer later in the show. Mia joined Bianca’s team, much to Bayley’s chagrin. Naturally, Rhea joined Damage CTRL’s team out of spite.
FAIR & SQUARE
No Elias this week (BOOOOOOOOOOOO) so Riddle faced Chad Gable on his own. Gable, however, was not alone and that made the difference. These two wrestled a pretty good match as per usual. Riddle and Gable worked well together when RK-Bro feuded with Alpha Academy, so seeing them one-on-one is more of the same. They told a simple story: They’re even in the ring but Otis tips the scales in Gable’s favor. No pun intended, just clever wordplay.
Chad got the win after Otis interfered multiple times and threw Riddle off his game. The last time proved fatal as Chad rolled up Riddle—no pun intended again—put his feet on the ropes, and the Number One Guy held his feet down to the ropes for lots of extra leverage.
After the match, Otis yelled that the win was “fair and square” despite the facts saying otherwise. Good match, fun ending.
Mr. Rogers Didn’t Die for This
Look, I like Johnny Gargano. Don’t love him, but I do like him. And Dexter in NXT was fantastic. But this thing with the two of them and Miz just isn’t working for me. Not even a little. Johnny convinced WWE officials to give Dexter a match with Miz for “everything Miz owes him” plus a WWE contract. Just end it already so I don’t have to poke holes in the story “logic” week after week. Like this week, how Dexter still doesn’t have a contract but showed up in a WWE ring, again, and security didn’t chase him off the grounds. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. But this week they didn’t because...basketball reasons? After Miz narrowly escaped Dexter’s grasp, he ran to the back while Dexter and Johnny slowly followed. Which, again, doesn’t make sense.
It’s been 84 years and I’m just tired.
Dom and Damian Priest got in Shelton Benjamin’s face. Dom wrote a check that he...actually cashed. His match with Shelton wasn’t the best match and it was a little too methodical for my taste for this point in the show, but Dom continues showing improvement. His Frog Splash is pretty and...he got the W. Judgment Day looking dominant going into Survivor Series is the right move.
With all this talk about the Hurt Business possibly maybe hopefully getting reinstated, Lashley’s meltdowns combined with Shelton and Cedric on their own respective losing streaks might be the catalyst. One can dream.
Nikki Cross threw the 24/7 championship in a trash can last week. Well, she tried. Anyway, Dana Brooke took a lot of umbrage with that and wanted retribution this week in the form of a match with IYO SKY. Yeah, that didn’t go so well for Dana. Or for me watching because it wasn’t much to speak of. IYO got the win, mercifully.
Once upon a time not long ago when people wore pajamas and watched Raw slow, Dolph Ziggler picked a fight with Austin Theory. That was a thing they did and then went away from it. With Theory no longer holding the MITB briefcase and looking incredibly stupid (which the crowd chanted), Ziggler reappeared like Navient or Sallie Mae: at the worst time possible.
Austin is tired of people calling him a kid and treating him as such, so he challenged Dolph and, of course, Dolph accepted. The match hit for me the moment Dolph countered an A Town Down with a sleeper hold. A sleeper he refused to let go despite how much Theory tried fighting his way out. Theory snapped that very second, despite almost passing out, and the match hit another gear.
Theory launched Dolph off of his back, regained his composure and the match continued. Theory survived a Zig Zag and eventually hit an A Town Down. Match over, right? Nope. Austin flashed a psychotic look, showed all that frustration and anger from last week, and let it rip. He hit another A Town Down then pummeled Ziggler with lefts and rights. The ref intervened, Ziggler rolled out of the ring, and Austin followed. Steel steps, chairs, and anything not nailed down was fair game for Austin. He took out all of his frustration on Ziggler and took the DQ loss.
A match that started okay ended pretty great with a logical ending steeped in character with an interesting climax. WWE turned Theory from dummy to dangerous psychopath in one week.
Impressive. Most impressive.
Baron Corbin defeated Tozawa after the latter cleaned the former’s pockets during a poker match. That is a thing that happened.
This was an okay episode of the Haitch era. The main event was fantastic and Theory vs. Ziggler turned into a good match. Theory turned into the star of the show, so good work from everyone involved turning him from a joke into a G in the span of a week. But there were still moments that either uninterested me or just made me scratch my head. Not a terrible show by any means but not that good either. Middle of the road show gets a middle of the road grade.
That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it.