WWE rolls into the first week of August with a huge edition of Monday Night Raw. Last week’s episode provided a great introduction to the new era of the brand. New stars were made with Sasha Banks defeating Charlotte to win the Women’s Championship and Finn Balor beating Roman Reigns to challenge Seth Rollins at SummerSlam for the WWE Universal Championship. Both moves were elaborately done to show us things are different and expect a fresh product going forward. Nia Jax made her debut on the main roster and Braun Strawman’s single run started. Raw is focusing on new talents and it will be interesting to what else changes going forward.
Rollins and Balor will meet in the big match at SummerSlam to crown the first WWE Universal Champion. The dream match is starting the official program tonight. WWE can go in many directions with this but it is important to make the new star Balor look strong. What’s next for Roman Reigns? Clearly, the former golden boy is in the dog house for his suspension. Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Cesaro and Chris Jericho all need stories going into Summerslam. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks will continue and needs a strong hook to sell their big match on the PPV. We’ll break down all the relevant happenings with the top five takeaways from tonight’s episode of Raw.
5. Big challenges for Big Cass and Enzo?
The tag team title program for SummerSlam appears to be New Day facing off against The Club. That had us wondering what the direction for Big Cass and Enzo Amore would be and it appears a little clearer after Raw. Enzo came to the defense of Sasha Banks after Chris Jericho and Charlotte berated her. Kevin Owens would come out to commentary specifically to trash talk Enzo and Big Cass.
Jericho attacked Enzo after the match until Big Cass made the save. The safe bet is Jericho and Owens teaming together to face off with Enzo and Big Cass. A backstage segment saw the villains unofficially align. With limited spots on SummerSlam due to the brand split, a tag team isn’t the worst idea. It does hurt Owens a bit going down into a tag team feud but all four parties can provide entertaining television so there are reasons to be positive. Of course, there can always be changes and the match could be a six-man tag with others getting involved or even two singles matches but two-on-two seems like the likely option for SummerSlam after tonight.
4. Roman Reigns is the midcard guy
Roman Reigns has fallen from the biggest star on the show into the United States Championship picture. Rusev scored a pin fall victory over Mark Henry and cut a post-match promo insulting America until Reigns made an appearance to stand against him. Reigns got the better of Rusev and unofficially set up the title match for SummerSlam. All jokes aside about Reigns’ suspension forcing him to move down the card, this is a great spot for him.
Fans have been more accepting of Reigns during storylines outside of the world title picture. Reigns received fan support in feuds against Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt over the past few years. The backlash comes when he enters the title picture and is positioned as “the guy.” Rusev and Reigns could tell a great story and adds some depth to the SummerSlam card. Someone with the name value of Reigns does nothing but help the midcard title picture, even though it is definitely a punishment from WWE.
3. Seth Rollins and Finn Balor have a long way to go
Both Seth Rollins and Finn Balor are exciting performers and their big title match at SummerSlam will definitely be thrilling to watch. The problem is nothing took place tonight to add momentum into the match. SummerSlam is less than three weeks away and every segment is pivotal with the brand split giving less television time for each story. Balor conducted an interview in the ring before Rollins interrupted him to engage in trash talk.
Rollins attempted to sneak attack Balor but received a kick for his troubles. The story was set with Balor as the hard-working upstart finally getting his break and looking to take advantage of the biggest of opportunities. The smug nature of Rollins makes Balor a sympathetic figure and the roles have been established. One issue is they haven’t teased the conflict between the two enough. A minor interaction is fine but Rollins defeated Sami Zayn later in the show and Balor was nowhere to be found. WWE could have at least given us a backstage follow-up after the match to show the tension between the two men competing to be the first WWE Universal Champion.
2. RKO outta nowhere
Brock Lesnar made his first appearance on WWE television since WrestleMania. Paul Heyman hyped up the accolades of his client and stated Randy Orton should be worried about his trip to Suplex City. Naturally, there was a surprise in the final segment of the show rather than Brock and Heyman talking until they want off the air. Orton appeared out of nowhere to hit the RKO on Lesnar to a huge ovation from the fans in attendance.
Following the huge move, Orton ran into the crowd as Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley brought security out to get the SmackDown superstar out of the building. Orton looked energized and sold everything to perfection. This match had some flaws on paper but it looks quite promising now. The inter-promotional aspect will be a part of the story with Orton invading Raw to get to Lesnar. WWE needs this one to stand out and help remind us how important Brock is to the pro wrestling world, along with making Orton a relevant main eventer again.
1. Who main events SummerSlam?
We usually have a good idea of what the obvious main event will be for a big PPV as the matches get announced. None of the major matches expected to take place at SummerSlam stands out among the rest as the one to close the show. Dolph Ziggler vs. Dean Ambrose doesn’t have a chance to secure that honor. The likely John Cena vs. A.J. Styles match will need a hell of a stipulation to warrant main eventing over the title matches.
As for the Raw side, tonight’s interactions between Seth Rollins and Finn Balor made it seem like it would not be worthy of the show closing spot on the second biggest WWE event of the year. They’ll need much more momentum to get there. Brock Lesnar matches rarely closes the show unless it’s involving a world title or a bigger feud with someone like The Undertaker. Randy Orton just isn’t the right opponent here.
The table is setting up for Sasha Banks and Charlotte to be the first women’s main event on a WWE PPV. Both women are at the top of their game. They were given a big role in opening the show tonight. The rematch is highly anticipated. Nothing is glaringly better on paper and the other options would be equal at best. Call this a bold prediction if you want but tonight’s Raw made it seem like we’ll witness history at SummerSlam with women’s wrestling closing the show.