By Graham "GSM" Matthews
NXT Champion Kevin Owens Interrupted United States Champion John Cena
These two are absolute money on the mic together as we all assumed they would be. Cena has been cutting some of the best promos of his career as of late while Owens serves as the perfect foil for him. Moreover, they did an excellent job of making me even more excited for their pending rematch, which I thought was near-impossible. The "we'll both host open challenges" shtick was a nice twist and Neville choosing to contend for the NXT Championship going into the break was a nice hook.
NXT Champion Kevin Owens def. Neville
It was quite the treat to have the NXT Championship defended on Raw for the first time ever, though you had to know Owens was going over considering who his opponent is at Money in the Bank and how not even Neville is an NXT regular anymore. We haven't been able to see much of them against each other since Owens' NXT debut late last year, so it felt fresh and they worked a very good match. Despite not having much of a chance of winning, Neville looked good here and it was another nice win for Owens as his encounter with Cena looms large.
Divas Champion Nikki Bella def. Summer Rae (Non-title)
While it's somewhat encouraging that there's something of a feud going on between Nikki and Paige going into Money in the Bank, the Divas division is still in a poor state and never was that more evident than doing this match. Summer, who is very talented, has been wasted since splitting from Fandango last year. Although it appeared she was the babyface in this match (since Nikki apparently turned last week), she came off like a heel, and Nikki didn't do anything to elicit a babyface reaction. Plus, it was too short to mean anything, so it came as no surprise that no one cared.
Roman Reigns, Kane, Dolph Ziggler, R-Truth, The New Day and Sheamus Interrupted Each Other
This is almost as predictable as the multi-man brawl/Battle Royal we tend to get every year before the Royal Rumble. I just don't see what purpose it was supposed to serve since it didn't make me any more excited for the Ladder match than I was before (the exact opposite effect of the Cena/Owens segment from earlier). No one said anything of note, and R-Truth's random involvement was... weird. Why not use this precious time to instead air video packages of people who have won the briefcase before and put over the importance of winning it?
Sheamus def. Randy Orton by Disqualification
In response to the boring bout between Sheamus and Orton from last week, WWE choose to have them face off in a rematch. How much sense does that make? They never produce a bad match; rather, their matches fail to excite me and a decent portion of the crowd. This was more of the same from them and the non-finish was groan-worthy. I understand they wanted to protect both guys, but in that case, why bother booking the match?
Kane def. Dolph Ziggler
Thankfully Ziggler, being as great of a wrestler as he is, was able to carry Kane to a decent outing and Kane held his own. Other than that, there really isn't much to say. I didn't find myself invested in the action, mostly because Kane was involved. I didn't mind Kane winning (his first singles win sine December, mind you), as it at least made him more of a threat in the Money in the Bank Ladder match. Additionally, Ziggler was well protected with Lana's injury at ringside. For Rusev's sake, I hope they don't continue to trot him out there while he's still injured. His storyline with Ziggler can wait unless he'll be 100% relatively soon.
The Miz Hosted 'Miz TV' with Intercontinental Champion Ryback and Big Show
I guess it was logical to follow up Big Show knocking Miz out last week by putting him on his talk show, but seeing Show and Ryback sit across from each other in director chairs just felt strange. Their feud is the type of feud where you want to see them beat the crap out of each other, not have a casual conversation. Everyone played their role well, but it wasn't until Ryback hit the Shell Shocked on Show at the end that I was officially sold on the match.
Luke Harper and Erick Rowan def. Los Matadores
This seemed like an odd time to bring Harper and Rowan back given it's the go-home show and I don't expect them to have any involvement in Sunday's pay-per-view, but it was nice to see them get featured for once. Not only that, but a decisive squash of Los Matadores never ceases to put a smile on my face. Their post-match promo was intriguing and although I don't assume this is what they were talking about, a reunion with Bray Wyatt would be fantastic.
WWE Tag Team Champion Big E def. Titus O'Neil
It's great to see that the Prime Time Players are gradually getting more over with the fans, and having O'Neil be the one to compete in the singles match was a smart move because he can connect with a crowd. The match was fine for what it was, but ultimately unspectacular. I'm content with Big E winning this match if it means the Players win the titles Sunday, but if The New Day retain, then it would have served the Players better to score some more momentum here.
Roman Reigns def. WWE Tag Team Champion Kofi Kingston
See how fresh matches Reigns has a singles star when he isn't facing Big Show or Kane every other week? He and Kingston worked well together and contested a nice match. It wasn't much more than a preview of what to expect in the Money in the Bank Ladder match and the ending outcome was never in doubt, but I enjoyed it while it lasted. In other news, The New Day act continues to be an absolute riot.
J&J Security def. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins in a 2-on-1 Handicap Match
I didn't understand why Dean Ambrose had to buy a ticket in the arena when he works for the company, and I don't recall him being banned by The Authority. Anyway, the match was fun at times as the crowd was surprisingly into J&J Security's offense on Rollins. I figured Rollins would bounce back and score the win, but instead they shocked the world by winning the match with help from Kane. I don't know if it made Rollins look weak, but it definitely didn't do him favors. Of course, Ambrose being the last man standing essentially means he retains at Money in the Banks.
This was a strange go-home show. Outside of the first half hour of the show, there wasn't much that excited me, though most of what was featured effectively hyped the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. There were a few pointless segments on the whole, but at least almost everything was in relation to the event. I don't know if I'm looking forward to it any more now than I was before this edition of Raw, but Money in the Bank is always entertaining, so I have no doubt it'll continue the recent strong streak of great PPVs. Furthermore, I'm highly anticipating getting back to having only one event every four or so weeks as the fast-paced PPV schedule is starting to take its toll.