April 30 2017
We’re in San Jose, California. Hosts are Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Booker T. The latter has been drafted in to save us from David Otunga.
WWE United States Championship
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Chris Jericho
Whoever wins is off to SmackDown as US Champ, thanks to IC champion the Miz being drafted to RAW as an exchange. I personally thought it was a bit odd for Miz to leave SD where he’d been ‘feuding’ with GM Daniel Bryan. The San Jose crowd start out feisty; cheering the face and booing the heel until the “ten” counts almost ruin a near count-out. Owens spends a solid chunk of the match recognising and countering Jericho’s trademark spots. He’s been doing his homework and is not overawed at the prospect of wrestling one of his idols. Owens is prone to doing a lot of chinlocks, which are starting to grind me down. I’m sure there are question marks about his fitness in general as he’s not altered his body shape since joining WWE. It’s the kind of thing that Vince McMahon undoubtedly has issues with. Jericho makes a point of working Owens’ hand, after KO saves himself from the Walls of Jericho. This leads to an inability to get the Pop Up Powerbomb and Jericho wins the title back! That was totally unexpected. Maybe they are going to go the route of Owens Stable on RAW.
Final Rating: ***1/4
WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Neville (c) vs. Austin Aries
These two had a good match on the ‘Mania pre-show. It’s notable here that despite not doing crazy spots the pacing is quick. The whole 205 Live division has suffered from not wowing the audience. It’s just been solid grappling, which you could get anywhere. It’s not been helped by the purple branding, which means delays before and after cruiser matches. Neville channels KO by also going to chinlocks, which is not good news for the PPV. Sometimes you need to skip over your structure to get the crowd into the show but keeping a master flipper like Neville heel is hard work in of itself. The pressure is on Aries to step it up and he does, for the most part. Aries gets the Last Chancery but Neville grabs the referee to save himself and gets disqualified for it. Good little match with a rough finish.
Final Rating: ***
RAW Tag Team Championship
The Hardy Boyz (c) vs. Sheamus & Cesaro
Babyface Sheamus has been quite a jarring experience of late. From a storyline perspective they’re the more interesting team. Mainly because Matt Hardy may look like he’s “Broken” but winning the tag titles on his return to WWE has made him all happy and normal. Which is a bit of an issue because that makes him a nostalgia act and his mobility isn’t great. Everything that made the Hardyz fun in TNA has been stripped away. Obviously there are contractual issues that prevent all that from happening but the crowd are chanting “Brother Nero” and “Obsolete”. Ironically the latter aimed at supporting the Hardyz is actually jabbing at their out-dated act. One that Matt felt the need to completely overhaul. Jeff doing the same spots he was doing 20 years ago is a little depressing, frankly. Poor Jeff gets murdered here, taking a horrible bump to the floor before Sheamus feels the urge to punt him in the face. Cesaro carries chunks of the match, perhaps performing above where the Hardyz are comfortable. Matt bleeds from the face during the Giant Swing and part of me is hoping it’s from the G forces involved. Centrifugal forces baby! Jeff catches Sheamus with the old blind tag/Swanton combo for the pin in a cracking contest. The brutality of it was stunning with the elder statesmen struggling to keep up with the modern speed of Sheamus & Cesaro. Jeff is definitely saying something about losing a tooth during the match afterwards. This leads to the challengers full on turning heel and beating up the champions. “I’ve done enough? I can do way more” rants Cesaro at the referee on his way out.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Video Control takes us backstage where an angry Braun Strowman promises to put Roman out of his misery.
RAW Women’s Championship
Bayley (c) vs. Alexa Bliss
Alexa Bliss is not impressed with Bayley’s hometown entrance and reaction. You might say she’s “blissed off”. The Hugger Section in this building is literally everyone and Bayley gets one of the biggest reactions of her career. The longer the Four Horsewomen continue into the business the more it feels like that group got over by wrestling each other. Whenever they’ve moved out of that comfort zone the results have been less satisfactory. This is especially evident with Sasha Banks but is also true of Bayley and Charlotte. The only exception is Becky Lynch, who’s arguably the best in-ring talent of the four. WWE clearly felt she could stand on her own two feet and stuck her solo on SmackDown. Bayley has basically worked all the same women she worked with on NXT. Alexa, although her matches have been less impressive, has translated to the main roster with consummate ease. She got ‘good enough’ in NXT and personality/promos wise she’s excelled. This match is a shining example of Bayley struggling outside her comfort zone and Alexa being good at everything but putting matches together. In particular when Alexa comes stumbling out of the corner while Bayley is trying to do a spot on her. It’s Bayley who switches gears to make the match work, which is pleasing to see and good news for her career. Bayley takes a header into the ring post and Alexa nails her with a DDT for the title. Obviously this is insane, booking the home town favourite to lose…yet again.
Final Rating: **3/4
House of Horrors Match
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
Immediately I find this hysterical as they play creepy horror music when Randy rocks up at the venue in a limo, with his fucking shirt off no less. Tops off for Bray! A tractor drives past him, with no driver and everything is lit in blue. Bray has taken up residence in a house and strolls around inside. The style of shooting is cinematic, rather than fly-on-the-wall like most WWE. This leads to unintentional hilarity from the usual crap that WWE think is ‘scary’. In particular I could do without the music while Bray does a comically poor beatdown. It’s not a street fight, it’s a House Fight. What horrors are in the house? Sofas! Tables! Lamps! Babies with scissors hanging from the ceiling! Wait, what?
As Randy strolls around, from room to room, looking as confused as the big dumb jock can look the style of shooting becomes more erratic. The cameraman unable to get a good shot so he sways from side to side and the editor fast clipping in a style I’m sure he thinks is cool. The match is an aberration. Bray escapes as the focus switches from Orton to him, which is the first clever thing they do. As Orton has gone from prey to the hunter. As we cut back to the venue all the announcers look flabbergasted and the crowd booing is drowned out by WWE playing music.
Final Rating: TBD
Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe
Seth makes a point of doing a lot of dives early to show he’s healthy and his knee is fully operational. Joe looks sluggish by comparison but I guess that’s the idea. Joe goes after the knee creating a wonderful slow-motion visual of Seth yelling “motherfucker” on a replay. WWE figuring out what he’s about to say somewhere around the “f….” The problem with doing a leg match is that selling can limit ambition but not selling will limit the psychology. Joe is relentless too, continually going after Seth’s surgically repaired knee. I appreciate Joe going after the right knee, which is the damaged one, rather than the traditional left side. Seth occasionally does good work in selling the knee but it’s sporadic and borderline forgetful. One moment he’s in agony, the next he’s popping off a Falcon Arrow. Joe makes a point of battering him whenever possible, to get him focused but that merely has the undesired result of getting the fans behind Joe. Rollins is better off wrestling defensively, which is how he wins by countering the Coquina Clutch into a pin.
Final Rating: **1/2
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
Bray makes it back to the arena via limousine, having left Randy in the ‘House of Horrors’ under a fridge. However when Bray blows out his lamp Orton appears in the ring behind him. I can only assume he was the driver of the limo, otherwise that makes no sense. Also Orton no-sells fridge shots.
The match is brisk but the lack of rules allows the Indian Contingent to run in and cost Orton the contest. Bray finishing with Sister Abigail’s Kiss after Jinder bashes Randy with the WWE title belt. Now Bray can toddle off to RAW, happy that he got a measure of revenge for losing his title and his stable to Orton. This whole feud has been poor and I’ve not enjoyed any of it. The capper being as predictably bad as everything else. It’s weird because I love the idea and concept of Bray Wyatt but the execution is always a turn-off. But the same was true of the Undertaker for many years. The Undertaker pretty much stunk from 1991 to 1995. How long will Bray be given to find his niche.
Final Rating: DUD
Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns
Braun’s vicious assault on Roman was absolutely stunning. Who pushes an ambulance over? That’s next level! I’m also fond of the ring/referee murdering superplex on Big Show. That guy yelling “Braun” must be having a field day. Now they’ve reached a point where Braun has virtually peaked as a monster. What else can he do? If Bray has suffered due to poor booking then the opposite is true of Strowman. It’ll be interesting to see who wins here, as it’ll be a clue towards WWE long term booking ambitions regarding Braun. He certainly throws Roman around like a freakin’ rag doll. Sometimes big men can be shackled by not wanting to injure their opponents. Show in particular worked soft for his size over the years. Braun doesn’t have that issue because he doesn’t know any better. Presumably he’s been told to work a little stiff and that’s what he’s doing. The steam quickly dissipates as Braun isn’t used to long matches and they frequently go to rest holds or overselling. Given the size of the two participants is not surprising. Roman has been proving himself for the past two years but Strowman doesn’t have the experience to work a main event.
They have to rely on false finishes and it takes a while to get into those. Eventually Braun overcomes Roman with a triangle choke and a pair of running powerslams. WWE seem to be deadly serious about pushing Braun as a main event talent, enough to sacrifice Roman to him. Roman: the Golden Goose of the McMahon Empire. This started good, struggled a little in the middle and finished strong. The image of Braun will be what people remember about this show, which means WWE have done a solid job in building a new star. Of course Braun isn’t good enough in the ring just yet but that didn’t stop them pushing Reigns before he was ready.
Final Rating: ***1/4
This was a middling show. As a viewer I generally expect better but RAW is a show without leadership right now. The champion didn’t appear here and the fill-in was one of inexperience. The likes of Orton and Samoa Joe didn’t step up to fill the breach but the way the show was structured they never had the chance to.