Sami Zayn wanted Seth Rollins at his best. The champ gave Sami an open invitation for a championship match. Just name the time and the place and it’s his. Sami hesitated; he questioned Seth’s durability and health but Seth pushed back against all that. It’s clear how and why his championship reign ends, but the when remains the mystery. Either way, Seth convinced Sami and that became this week’s main event.
It took a minute but they eventually hit second and third gear. I liked the feeling out process though. It didn’t represent them figuring out each other but more so Sami feeling the moment and treating Seth with kid gloves. He didn’t take it easy on him but Seth showed a lot more aggression and energy. But that tracks based on Seth’s mentality right now. He’s doing any and everything if it means proving he’s just as capable, if not more, than anyone else on the roster.
Once Sami “snapped out of it” everything hit another level. It’s also when Sami focused on Seth’s back. He clubbed the back repeatedly, hit him with multiple big moves that put Seth on his back, and a Blue Thunder Bomb. Sami’s hesitance showed a man who thought he might win another way. He envisioned beating Seth without exploiting the obvious weak spot because he respects the man way too much. Eventually, he realized the foolishness inherent in that logic. That’s clever storytelling because the longer the match went, the more Sami realized the stakes. And the more dire those got, the better he wrestled.
Sami wore down Seth’s back enough for a Lion Tamer, followed by a Boston Crab! And he had Seth; the champ screamed and almost tapped several times. But miraculously, he countered the submission with a rollup. One three count later, Seth survived and pulled a victory out of nowhere.
No issues with the finish. After the war Seth went through at Crown Jewel, squeaking out a win 48 hours later makes sense. Sami survived a superkick and a Pedigree; the man felt like the Terminator. Seth ran out of options and needed something desperate when he had nothing left in his tank.
They played this like Sami lost his one and only shot at the championship. I don’t buy that but I do understand feelings considering how close he came with Roman Reigns. How many times can someone get close but no cigar until they feel burnt?
But that’s for another day. The show truly ended with Judgement Day hit the ring. They jumped Sami and Seth, which brought out Jey Uso and Cody Rhodes.
Adam Pearce, after watching security breakup this madness and tired of all the “games,” did the one thing anyone familiar with wrestling saw coming:
These cats hate each other so let them fight.
This represented the most energy the show had and ended the episode with a bang.
Damian Priest came to Raw on a mission. After a disappointing Crown Jewel that no doubt left him nursing several glasses of Crown Royal, he showed up pissed. It’s a little thing but goes a long way because, yeah, that’s real. Anyone in his position might feel the same and show that frustration. The only knock I have is him acting incensed that Sami gets a title shot for ruining his. Bruv, you’re walking around with a contract; the title shot is yours whenever you want it. It doesn’t matter that Sami gets one this week or if he gets one every week for the next two months.
But I digress.
Damian & Finn Balor got a surprisingly dominant victory over New Day. Not a squash by any means and of course the New Day got their moments. But the tag champs looked unstoppable. Damian had a statement in mind: pain.
No cheating. No tricks. Just a decisive and big victory for the group that runs Raw.
And I dig it. When the champs come in pissed and focused, this should happen. It shows Judgment Day cheats because they can and not out of necessity. That makes them more dangerous and also more hatable.
First off, I don’t know how Ricochet continued this match after taking a serious bump early. Maybe adrenaline or possibly it looked worse than it was, but most people don’t land on their neck after a hurracanrana and keep it moving.
This felt like a war that accomplished two specific things: It continued Ivar’s solo push and truly solidified Miz’s babyface run. Ivar looks great and they utilize him well. He’s all power and agility, which helps him flex between opponents. He looked just as home fighting Miz and Ricochet as he did against Bronson Reed.
And then Miz. Again, I’m not high on a Miz face turn for the reasons I stated last week. But seeing his surprise when the crowd gave him a standing ovation during the match? Priceless. A great character beat for a guy who always wanted the ever-allusive respect. When he got it, he hardly knew what to do with himself. It’s actually endearing and a glimpse of why Miz might actually make an effective face. I got no problem eating crow if that happens.
We got a lot of chaos throughout the match so focusing on the ending feels appropriate because, yeah, more chaos.
With both Miz and Ricochet laid out, Bronson and Ivar went up high. Ivar went for a moonsault on Ricochet while Bronson did what he does when he hits the top rope. That’s a lot of flying beef but unfortunately for Bronson, Miz moved and he missed. Miz rolled him up for a pin while Ivar covered Ricochet for the W.
The ref counted three for both but Ricochet got his shoulder up in the last second. Miz got the win and then Ivar’s wrath post match. We get Ivar vs. Miz before the latter gets his hands on GUNTHER, and that’s just another way cat getting both men over. The crowd gets more reasons to boo one and cheer the other. Like I said, effective.
Give it up for Ivy Nile! On the Diamond Mine’s first night on the main roster, the Brothers Creed defeated DIY and Ivy Nile found herself in the women’s battle royal final four. Those are potentially huge moves for the group and the individual wrestlers. Ivy looked great here and I’m actually surprised they gave her such a huge spotlight. It never seemed like NXT figured out her strengths and she languished a bit. But here she is on her first night on Raw rolling with the big dogs and getting eliminations.
But before all that happened, Xia Li knocked out Becky Lynch the same way she dropped Candice LeRae. Adam Pearce replaced Becky with Nikki Cross who...well, she’s still doing this weird catatonic thing. I don’t get it and I don’t know why it’s a thing right now. But no Becky meant a possible wild card finish and for a second, it looked like Ivy might get the big spot against Rhea Ripley. Alas, that didn’t happen.
Zoey Stark reigned supreme after it came down to her and Shayna Baszler. Shayna took the pinfall at Crown Jewel, so that made the pick academic at that point.
Zoey makes sense based on their interactions in Saudi. Zoey hit Rhea with the Z 360 and almost defeated the champ. Rhea responded in kind when she hit Zoey with a Riptide on top of their opponents.
The fact that Zoey came closest to doing the impossible clearly puts a chip on both women’s shoulders. Zoey knows she had Rhea beat while Rhea can’t stand that very fact. Now both women work out their issues with each other at Survivor Series.
Something about this weeks felt off. The show never truly captured any momentum with lots of space between matches, several video packages, and no real engine driving it forward. Not a wasted three hours by any means but very average and plodding. Raw, like any tv show, works best when there’s constant movement towards a climax. This episode meandered around until it eventually found its climax.
What say you, Cagesiders?