By Graham "GSM" Matthews
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins Interrupted Paul Heyman
This is the third time in the last month that we've had a Heyman promo kick off the show, and I'd be damned if it wasn't a vast improvement over The Authority. Needless to say, Heyman is always excellent in not only delivering a terrific promo but also selling viewers on a pay-per-view. Rollins did well in his retort (and came back nicely from his botching of the word 'inanimate') but Heyman and even Lesnar with his one line were total gold. Starting the show off with a near-20 minute talking segment only to hold a contract signing later in the night seems counterproductive, but it's hard to complain about an entertaining opener like this one.
Intercontinental Champion Ryback and Randy Orton def. Sheamus and Big Show
On paper, this match might not have lit the world on fire for a number of people, but it furthered the feuds involved and was also much better than originally expected. It was a rather formulaic tag team match early on, but they picked up the pace after the second commercial break and delivered a fun final few minutes. Ryback continues to add more moves to his arsenal and it's cool to see. As for The Miz, he was hilarious on commentary and he's been the glue holding this Triple Threat feud for the Intercontinental title together.
Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt Went to a No Contest
I chuckled when the commentators referred to Ambrose vs. Wyatt as one of the all-time great feuds when it really wasn't all that epic. They usually work well together, so I wouldn't have minded another match between the two, but I can't say I was disappointed to see it turn into a brawl between Roman Reigns and Wyatt instead. It was one way of allowing Reigns to get his revenge without giving away too much, but the cut to commercial was weird and I was waiting for some sort of follow-up after the break.
Charlotte, NXT Women's Champion Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch Debuted
Well, we were all hoping the recent nonsense we've been seeing in the Divas division would lead to Charlotte and possibly a few others getting called up, and it finally happened! It was beyond awesome to see all three women on Raw together and I couldn't be happier for their success. The live crowd was hot for the entire segment and it goes to show what WWE has in these NXT standouts, so fingers crossed they don't drop the ball. Women's wrestling could be in for a real revolution if WWE starts booking them the way they deserve to be.
WWE Tag Team Champions Prime Time Players and Mark Henry def. The New Day
I could have sworn Henry turned heel not too long ago, but I guess his match against Big Show on the June 29 Raw turned him face? I have zero idea and I honestly couldn't care less. On the bright side, the live crowd reacted favorably to him during and after the match, so it didn't seem to bother them. The match was basic for the most part and I'm happy to see the Players getting more and more over by the week, but all these wins for the tag champs give me the feeling The New Day win the belts back at Battleground.
R-Truth def. King Barrett
I had faith (admittedly not that much) that Barrett beating Truth last week would mean the end of their "feud," but no such luck. Apparently, the three week winning streak of Barrett's was done to build to him losing to Truth... again. No one cared about the match, and that should come as a surprise to no one. I don't even know why they bother with Barrett anymore. Just give him the push he deserves or let him go, enough of the depressing games.
Rusev def. Cesaro and Kevin Owens in a Triple Threat No. 1 Contender's Match for the United States Championship
I love the way they switched up the predictable formula of someone answering the open challenge by instead having three potential contenders come out and face off in a No. 1 Contender's match to determine who'd face the champion. Owens, Rusev and Cesaro put forth one hell of an effort and one of the best Triple Threats I've seen in some time (perhaps since the Royal Rumble?). Owens walking out was perfectly in line with what his character would do and Cesaro and Rusev had a great outing once he was out of the equation. Is there any doubt that Cesaro belongs at the top of the card after his amazing showings as of late?
Rusev def. United States Champion John Cena by Disqualification
I wasn't too excited about the idea of another Cena vs. Rusev match so soon after the conclusion of their feud, but you had to know it was only going to last a few minutes before Owens got involved, so at least it didn't overstay its welcome. Owens needed to be the last man standing going into Battleground, but now it's time to give him the title. It'd make up for his loss against Cena at Money in the Bank as well as his loss of the NXT Championship earlier this month.
Lita Introduced the Tough Enough Cast
It was wise to keep this brief at the risk of the crowd turning on the segment. All the competitors were given their time to shine and it successfully promoted the show, so job well done. Plus, seeing Lita (who is still a sight for sore eyes) and hearing her entrance music again was a nice bonus as well. Remember when Stone Cold Steve Austin introduced the cast back in 2011 in the middle of the ring and the crowd chanted "Stun them all!"? Fun times.
Stardust def. Neville
Ugh. I had my hopes up for a Cody Rhodes return, but I guess I assumed WWE would do the right thing. It's always possible they do this feud with Neville first and then turn him back into Cody, but this would have been the perfect time to bring him back as Cody considering they were in Georgia (his home state). He plays the character well, but he'll never get beyond a certain level and he could be so much more.
The WWE World Heavyweight Championship Contract Signing Transcended into Chaos
Heyman cut an effective promo hyping the title match, but the strongest mic work came during the opening segment. Has there ever been a contract signing that didn't end in a Pier 6 brawl (nod to CM Punk)? That part was predictable, but Lesnar's complete annihilation of Kane was a joy to watch as it likely means he's off TV for the foreseeable future. Rollins' promo to close the show was excellent and showed he was somewhat confident going into his title defense, also setting up something with Kane upon his return.
WWE usually hits a home run (not meant to be a pun with the Home Run Derby tonight) with their go-home shows and this one was no exception. There was plenty of exceptional in-ring action, strong final build for Battleground and newsworthy segments with the return of Stardust and the debut of the NXT women, which was undoubtedly the highlight of the night. This was one of the best all-around editions of Raw in recent memory and I'm excited to see what's in store for Sunday.