By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Dean Ambrose Interrupted WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins
I really liked how Rollins acknowledged how it was almost exactly one year ago to the day that he betrayed The Shield and from there gave the fans a history lesson as to what led to this point. His slow, monotone voice dragged the segment out longer than it needed to be, but it was something different for him and made fans pay attention to what he had to say, so I enjoyed it. Ambrose's promo was equally excellent, though it would have been better if he was face-to-face with Rollins delivering it in the middle of the ring. I'm usually not a fan of talking segments kicking off a show, but this was a strong back-and-forth.
Prime Time Players def. The Ascension and The Lucha Dragons in a No. 1 Contender's Triple Threat Tag Team Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship
The in-ring action was solid, but it was difficult for the live crowd to care about anyone involved since none of them have been given much TV time as of late. The Ascension are a dead act, The Lucha Dragons are rarely on Raw nowadays, and hopefully this win means the Prime Time Players will be featured more prominently even past the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. It was a standard match for the most part with a fun finishing sequence with everyone hitting their signature spots.
Intercontinental Champion Ryback def. Stardust (Non-title)
Just when you thought they were doing something of note with Stardust following his win on the Elimination Chamber Kickoff show, he was back to being an enhancement talent on this show. Perhaps the match really isn't happening after all, which would be a shame because I was actually looking forward to that. Anyway, the good thing about Ryback being Intercontinental Champion is that he rarely loses singles matches and thus won't be booked to look like a weak champion... or so I hope. The "curse" of the Intercontinental title usually has no exceptions, but this squash match was a solid start to his reign.
Renee Young Interviewed Paige
It was great to hear from Paige following the events of Monday that saw The Bella Twins screw her out of the Divas Championship. As much as I hated that, it was necessary for them to follow it up properly and I was glad it simply wasn't forgotten. Paige came off well on the mic here as she always has and whether her comments abut the Bellas holding the Divas division back were a work or a shoot are up to you to decide. Paige saying that something has to change peaked was interest. Could she challenge Nikki to a Loser Leaves WWE Match? Fingers crossed.
NXT Champion Kevin Owens def. Zack Ryder
It's awesome WWE knows how exceptional of a talker Owens is and have allowed him to run his mouth as much as he has since arriving on the main roster. His pre-match promo was pretty much what every member of the "IWC" has been saying for years and it was glorious. It cemented my belief that he has to win the rematch, no doubt in my mind. Some people were probably disappointed with Ryder answering the open challenge, but he was the perfect person for Owens to decimate. It wasn't completely lop-sided, but it was a short and sweet exhibition for the NXT Champion.
Neville def. Kofi Kingston
On paper, this had all the tools to be a fantastic match and while it was fun for the most part, it didn't live up to its full potential because of the odd commercial break early on that interrupted the momentum of the match. That's not to say I was disappointed by the bout, though, as both guys put forth a good effort and had an enjoyable outing. I just wish they would stop constantly placing commercial breaks during matches, especially during the shorter ones.
The Miz Hosted 'Miz TV' with Lana
Honestly, I hope Lana never joins the Divas division. It consists of women that WWE has zero idea what to do with and women who don't have clear-cut characters. Lana is a refreshing change of pace from that because she sticks up for herself, though I could do without her immediately finding another guy to lean on (Dolph Ziggler). I wasn't expecting Rusev to show up, so that was a pleasant surprise. His "genuine" apology to Lana and subsequent blowup when she didn't accept was great. Is this the last we see of Rusev before he takes time off to heal his injury?
Roman Reigns def. Sheamus by Disqualification
To my knowledge, this was the first time these two have gone one-on-one in singles action, so I appreciated the fresh fell of it. As expected, it was a hard-hitting matchup and it was pretty good while it lasted, but neither guy was going to be beat cleanly. Thus, I sighed when Kane came down to cause non-finish and sighed even more when he announced his participation in the Money in the Bank Ladder match. Look: I like Kane, but him taking the final spot over someone more deserving like a King Barrett or a Bray Wyatt is ridiculous. He won't win, obviously, but his presence alone in that match is unnecessary.
I got my hopes up when I saw the spoiler-free card for this show and it definitely delivered. While it wasn't a great show, it was certainly solid by SmackDown standards and each of the matches and segments were entertaining. There wasn't anything I'd recommend you go out of your way to see other than Owens' segment, but it was effective in building toward the Money in the Bank event next Sunday.