By Graham "GSM" Matthews
WWE Paid Tribute to Roddy Piper
I feels like just yesterday we had the tribute to the late, great Dusty Rhodes at the start of Raw, and losing a legend never gets any easier. As one of the most revolutionary and trailblazing performers this business has ever seen, it's a big blow to the industry for him to pass on, but WWE always done a tremendous job paying tribute to the late legends and Piper was no exception. The video package as well as the ten bell salute were extremely well done and I'd be lying if I said they didn't bring a tear to my eye. Rest in peace, Hot Rod!
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins def. Neville
Rollins' promo gloating about breaking John Cena's nose last week was gloriously over-the-top, which is exactly why it was perfect. I could have done without the fans chanting "Thank You Rollins!", though. That seemed a little unnecessary. The title unification match at SummerSlam is a lose-lose situation in my opinion, but it's without question a major addition to the SummerSlam card. All the El Tortio talk had my guard up for a Heath Slater-like competitor accepting the open challenge, but Neville coming out instead was a pleasant surprise. He and Rollins put together a fantastic match where the action was excellent and the fans were buying in to all the near-falls, especially down the stretch. In an interesting note, this was the first official WWE Championship match on Raw since the first Raw of 2013. While I would have appreciated WWE advertising it in advance, it added a special feel to the show by kicking it off on a hot note.
The New Day and The Ascension def. The Lucha Dragons and Los Matadores
Our SmackDown rematch of the week came in the form of this match. It was fun while it lasted and they were given decent time, but I personally found the match they had last week to be better. Worse yet, none of these mutli-team matches are doing anything to get me excited about a potential tag team title match at SummerSlam; they should be more focused on building feuds featuring these teams. If nothing else, The New Day was overdue a big win and it helped them regain some of their lost momentum.
Charlotte and Becky Lynch def. The Bella Twins
I don't know what the general consensus was among the fans, but I personally didn't mind the Submission Sorority name for Paige's trio. I'm not a fan of the faction wars, mind you, but I thought that name was pretty clever. I won't sour on it as long as Michael Cole doesn't try to push it on us as much as possible whenever they're wrestling. The match was good and an effective job of showcasing the skills of Charlotte and Lynch. You had to know Charlotte was going to beat Nikki to win for her team, planting the seeds for a title match at SummerSlam.
The Miz Hosted 'Miz TV' with Kevin Owens and Cesaro
Owens acting as phony as Miz early on by saying he's always liked him was hilarious. He's lost so frequently recently that I can see why the casual viewer wouldn't take what he's saying seriously. Thankfully, he's such a talented talker that he held the crowd's attention and he and Cesaro had an enjoyable back-and-forth on the mic. I really like that this feud was given some promo time so their apparent SummerSlam match will feel more meaningful.
Rusev def. Mark Henry
Remember how huge their match at Night of Champions was built up last year? They even closed out Raw at one point! Now it's been reduced to nothing more than a squash match for Rusev. That's more a reflection of how poorly they're using Henry right now than Rusev, who isn't doing that much better. I'm not suggesting they put him in a top-tier storyline again, but why bother keeping him around if all he's going to do is lose inconsequential matches?
King Barrett def. Zack Ryder
It's unfortunately gotten to the point where I actually buy in to Barrett's opponents beating him because he's fallen so far that it's become possible. Thankfully, WWE didn't attempt to "swerve" us in that respect and Barrett went over as he should have, but not without giving up quite a bit of offense first. It appears they still don't have the slightest clue how to use him, which is a massive shame.
Paul Heyman Addressed The Undertaker
It's amazing how Brock Lensar simply standing in the ring and not saying a single word can add to the presence of a promo. I could have done without the multiple recaps (which I honestly skipped over while watching on DVR), but Heyman's subsequent promo was strong in selling people on just how epic the encounter between Lesnar and Undertaker will be. I would have gone one step further by having someone interrupt and let Lesnar brutalize him just to make the most of his time on the show, but what we got was great on its own.
Paige def. Naomi
I was surprised to see Paige in action so late in the show when she was set to appear on Stone Cold's podcast immediately afterward, but that might have been the point. Plus, they might have wanted the crowd hotter for the previous women's match which was better anyway, but Paige and Naomi had nothing less than an average match per usual. She's benefiting from being paired with Sasha Banks, but Naomi has lost too many matches for fans to take her as a legitimate threat.
Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Randy Orton def. Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Sheamus
While this didn't initially feel like a blockbuster bout worthy of occurring in the main event slot, it definitely exceeded expectations and entertained me on the whole. All six competitors worked well together and while it started out slow, they picked up the pace down the stretch and built to a fun final few minutes. It was a simple progress of the Ambrose/Reigns/Wyatt Family feud, but I really wish they'd blow off the tired rivalry between Orton and Sheamus which seems to be never-ending.
Can anyone remember the last time we had three consecutive editions of Raw that ranged from good to great? I sure can't. After a noteworthy post-Battleground show and a thoroughly entertaining episode last week, this week's show once again left me optimistic about the SummerSlam card that is slowly shaping up. The Piper tribute, WWE title match and Lesnar's appearance were among the highlights, but the main event, the women's matches and 'Miz TV' were all enjoyable as well.