By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Brock Lesnar "Apologized" to JBL and Michael Cole
Well, this sure beat the hell out of a promo from The Authority or Seth Rollins to kick off the show! Paul Heyman, per usual, did a superb job of building anticipation for the match between Lesnar and Rollins at Battleground and all but confirmed that Rollins will be in for one brutal beating when he comes one-on-one with The Beast. The "apologies" from Lesnar to the commentators was well done in that him shaking the hand of JBL only to horse around with Cole was in line with what his character would do in that sort of situation. It was wise of WWE to open Raw with arguably their hottest act at the moment and although we're still a little less than a month away until the pay-per-view, I'm already excited for the pending title match.
Kane def. Dean Ambrose
We've already seen this match a million times before, but Ambrose is exciting enough of a character that I didn't zone out for a majority of the match. Honestly, it wasn't half-bad and they put together a pretty decent, but I was confused by Seth Rollins' interference. Wouldn't he be more concerned with Lesnar right now? Thankfully, the commentators made it clear that he wanted to get on Kane's good side so he can help him in his feud with The Beast Incarnate, so that much made sense. Hopefully WWE has a plan for Ambrose now that he's not in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture anymore.
WWE Tag Team Champions Prime Time Players def. The Ascension (Non-title)
While the match didn't do much for me personally, part of that might be because I've seen them work together almost every other week for the last several months on Main Event and Superstars. If nothing else, it was nice to see the tag champs pick up a win and I'm glad they seem to be getting more over week by week. On a side note, the video that aired prior to the match focusing on Titus O'Neil being named the "Father of the Year" was really well done. I hope that wasn't the only reason they put the belt on these two, though, as they were already well-deserving of a run with the twin titles.
Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus Ended in a No Contest
After Bray Wyatt cost Reigns the Money in the Bank briefcase last Sunday, it was logical for Reigns to go one-on-one with then new Mr. Money in the Bank Sheamus and I thoroughly enjoyed the match. They tend to work well together and their similar styles made for a hard-hitting matchup. Wyatt's interference was a fine way of protecting both competitors, but the least they could do was announce the finish of the match as it left viewers confused to whether Reigns was counted out or if it abruptly ended.
Neville def. Kofi Kingston
Is it just me or is the Neville-New Day feud already played out? The reason I say that is because it doesn't feel like much of a feud but rather WWE putting Neville in random matches against the New Day members. I'm glad he's picking up wins, but he seems to be directionless right now and they're still trying to find something substantial for him to do. I'd rather see New Day focus on their feud with Prime Time Players while Neville moves on to bigger and better things.
King Barrett def. Zack Ryder
The silence Barrett entered to spoke volumes. I've ranted on and on about the treatment of Barrett in the past, so there's no use in sounding off here. While I'm glad he won a match for once, how could Ryder fail to beat him yet Truth could? Either way, it's going to take a lot more than a few squash wins for fans to care about Barrett again and this program with Truth needs to end as quickly as possible.
NXT Champion Kevin Owens Interrupted United States Champion John Cena
I loved the logic that if Cena didn't accept Owens' championship challenge for a match at Battleground, he'd be proving everything that Owens has said about him to be true. He cut yet another passionate promo about how he's going to beat Owens in their next match and Owens' rebuttal was excellent as well. My only gripe is this, however: why wasn't Cena selling the attack from Money in the Bank? This wouldn't be the first time (see: SummerSlam 2014), so I guess I'm not too surprised, but it would have been nice if he sported a bruise at the very least.
The Bella Twins def. Naomi and Tamina
I immediately lost interest in this match when I saw it was two heel teams facing each other. I've complained about this before so I apologize, but who does WWE honestly expect the fans to cheer for in this sort of situation? The crowd sat on their hands the entire time and it's hard to blame them. The match wasn't that bad, but the confusion on who the faces were and who the heels were left everyone confused. And where the hell was Paige? This was one giant mess and managed to make me care even less about the Divas division, which I thought was impossible.
Intercontinental Champion Ryback def. Mark Henry (Non-title)
It always bothers me when WWE talks of the 2013 feud between Ryback and Henry like it was something monumental. In actuality, it was a pretty terrible match at WrestleMania that year, and this wasn't much better, but it was passable. And hey, at least Ryback won this time around! He isn't losing as many matches as past Intercontinental Champions have, so there's that. Big Show was once again surprisingly good on commentary. Honestly, I'd rather have him behind the booth at this stage of his career than in the ring.
Dolph Ziggler def. Adam Rose
Coming off the rumors of Ziggler potentially leaving WWE when his contract expires in a few months, you'd think they would have done more of note with him on this show to make fans think otherwise. Instead, he was placed in a throwaway match with Rose that didn't do anything to benefit either guy. It was fine for what it was, but it's apparent Creative has zero clue how to handle either Ziggler or Rose right now and it's depressing to watch. Meanwhile, the Rusev character continues to be pathetic (while he should be out healing), and I don't think a pairing with Summer Rae with do anything to help change that.
The Authority Attacked Brock Lesnar
Tension has been teased between the members of The Authority so many times in the past that viewers never had a reason to believe that Rollins was actually going to break off on his own. I appreciate the effort in building the show around that story, but it fell flat for this viewer because the ending outcome was never in doubt. I was happy that Rollins trying to make amends with Kane and J&J Security was kept brief because it was evident the crowd was quickly losing interest. As soon as Lesnar's music, the entire audience awoke from their slumber. I didn't have a problem with Lesnar being on the receiving end of a beatdown because Rollins had to get the upper hand at some point and he was up against the odds so he wasn't made out to look weak at all.
The show started off strong with the Lesnar and Heyman segment and ended on a pretty good note with the Lesnar attack, but everything else in between left a lot to be desired. I enjoyed the Cena and Owens segment per usual, but the rest felt like filler that was there simply to kill time. Luckily, many matches have already been confirmed for Battleground and the pay-per-view isn't for another four weeks, so I wasn't too shocked this week's episode was a snoozer.