By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Nikki Bella Explained Her Actions
Stephanie McMahon coming out to Daniel Bryan's entrance theme and doing the whole "YES!" shtick was a riot. She continues to be the best heel WWE has at the moment, and she's not even an active competitor! And then there's Nikki. Her promo was very paint-by-numbers and her delivery was deplorable. I know she's not the best on the mic, but that's what I was worried about when she turned heel at SummerSlam. Why can't Stephanie do all the talking for her? By the way, despite "pouting" after turning on her sister on sister, Nikki appeared to be a full-blown heel on his show. Brie Bella's terrible acting didn't help matters and I really hope that's not what the rest of this feud will consist of.
Big Show and Mark Henry def. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan
This was essentially the same match we saw on SmackDown a few days ago (what else is new?), but slightly better. Show and Henry sold well for the offense of Harper and Rowan, but the ending outcome was never in doubt. I realize they want to establish Show and Henry as a tag team, but why does it have to be at the expense of one of the best duos in WWE today? Show and Henry don't excite me as a tandem unless they're heel and The Wyatt Family shouldn't be beaten so consistently.
Natalya def. Divas Champion Paige (Non-title)
Anyone who saw the matches these two have had on NXT in the past had to be disappointed by this bout, but it was more of an angle than it was a match. AJ lost two non-title matches last week and now Paige has lost her first match as champion, so I hope doesn't become the norm for the Divas title holder. The pre- and post-match promos from Paige and AJ, respectively, were good and furthered their feud in freaky, yet intriguing way. Let this segment put the rumors to rest that AJ is "distancing" herself from wrestling and the rivalry is continuing after all.
Brock Lesnar Was Awarded the New WWE World Heavyweight Championship Belt
First off, I'm completely content with the new title belt as well as the new logo. It was time for a change and it was about damn time that they did away with the two belts. I know some will be sad to see the "Big Gold Belt" go, but it's what had to be done. What can be said about Paul Heyman's promo? It was a total gem, plain and simple. I've honestly run out of adjectives to use to describe how fantastic it was because nothing I can write will do it justice. Phenomenal work from Heyman and I can't wait to see what's next for Lesnar as champion.
The Miz def. Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler by Count-out
Miz and Ziggler had another good match that should silence the critics that claim Miz can't wrestle. Yes, some will say that Ziggler has carried Miz to great matches, but it takes two to tango. I love the in-ring chemistry these two to posses and am happy to see the feud continue. Ziggler losing his first match as champion may not please people, but it protected him and sets up another rematch for a late date, presumably Night of Champions.
Cesaro def. Jack Swagger
These two have had a handful of matches on WWE TV recently, so seeing them face off again here didn't do much for me. It wasn't a bad match by any means, it just didn't feel fresh. I was surprised by Cesaro picking up the clean victory and hope it's signaling a turnaround for him, but only time will tell. The post-match promo from Bo Dallas was humorous yet odd. Is a feud with Swagger in the works? Regardless, Swagger has too much momentum right now for it to be killed off, so I hope they keep it going for a while longer.
Roman Reigns, United States Champion Sheamus and Rob Van Dam def. Randy Orton and Rybaxel
This was your typical six-man tag team match with everyone getting their spots in and the crowd eating it all up. When was the last time Ryback was the star of a match? Two years ago? Granted, this was in his hometown of Las Vegas, but as I've said time and time again, they need to have him go back babyface. The match was very well wrestled and the finishing sequence was nicely done. RVD picking up a win for the second straight night was a refreshing change of pace, but it still remains to be seen how much longer he plans on sticking around before taking another hiatus.
Goldust and Stardust def. WWE Tag Team Champions The Usos (Non-title)
Six months ago or so, this would have been a marquee match in the tag team champion. Unfortunately, Cody Rhodes/Stardust and Goldust have been marginalized so much since then that the once-dream match has been reduced to nothing. Both tandems are face, so the crowd didn't have any incentive to cheer one team over the other, but it did feature some enjoyable action. The win sets up a rematch for the tag team titles for down the line, but I can't say I'm thrilled to see Stardust in the title picture. Isn't Goldust's contract set to expire soon?
Mark Henry Interrupted Rusev and Lana
Similar to after Money in the Bank, Rusev and Lana did an effective job of touting their accomplishments and how no one has been able to beat Rusev so far. Cue Rusev's next challenger (in this case Mark Henry) and the brawl ensues. Henry is perfect match for Rusev as he is larger than anyone Rusev has faced yet and the crowd was electric for his attack on Rusev. WWE has done a great job of slowly building up Rusev instead of hot-shoting him to the top of the card.
Seth Rollins def. Dean Ambrose in a Falls Count Anywhere Match
And I thought it couldn't get any better than their Lumberjack match (yes, you read that correctly) at SummerSlam! Seriously, this was great. I loved the fact they were given the main event slot and they sure as hell made the most of it. They took their brawl all around the arena and incorporated several cool spots. The live crowd was hot for everything they did and I wouldn't at all say the interference took away from the bout. I hated The Authority interference in matches in the latter half of 2013 and earlier this year because it was the same garbage every time. At least Kane aiding Rollins to victory sets up a future feud with Kane and Ambrose when Ambrose returns from filming his movie. When that will be I'm not sure, but it's possible he's back in time for Night of Champions to face The Big Red Monster.
The fact I watched this show on DVR (thus skipping through all the commercial breaks) and not live might have played a factor, but I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. There was a lot of great follow-up to SummerSlam and even the start of a few feuds as Night of Champions progresses. Not only that, and I may be in the minority here, but a sense of change was in the era when I watched this show. I won't go so far as to say that it felt like the dawning of a new era, but the new logo and various changes to the Raw graphics and set made it feel like a changing of the guard was taking place. The opening segment consisted solely of women, which is a first, and two of WWE's youngest and brightest stars closed the show. And John Cena wasn't even there! I give this edition of Raw two thumbs up in maintaining the momentum from SummerSlam as well as getting viewers excited for what's next in coming weeks.