The one positive to Monday arriving is the wrestling week beginning once again. With less than two weeks until Summerslam, Raw is here with an important episode to hopefully name the remainder of the PPV card. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor, Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte, Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton and New Day vs. The Club are the matches involving Raw talent already announced for the wrestling card. Last week implied Big Cass and Enzo Amore vs. Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho could be on the horizon as well. All matches provide potential but the build on Raw has to help add appeal going into the big event.
Smackdown General Manager Daniel Bryan is expected to make an appearance on Raw tonight on behalf of Mick Foley’s invitation. Could we be in store for another interpromotional match? The mystery surrounding the purpose of Bryan on Raw will be rather interesting to watch play out. WWE has to put a lot of effort into Rollins/Balor and Banks/Charlotte after last week’s episode harmed their momentum. We’ll only see these talents two more times on WWE television before Summerslam arrives. Let’s take a look at how things play out with a glimpse into the five huge takeaways from this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw.
5. Tag team wrestling thrives
Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens teased being partners last week and followed through by uniting against Big Cass and Enzo Amore. The opening segment saw Enzo and Cass trash talk Jericho until the latter comes out and invites Owens by his side. All four men engaged in conflict until a match was made between Jericho and Amore. Jericho picked up the win but the main story came after the match.
Cass challenged the heels to a tag match at Summerslam in Brooklyn and they agreed. We will now have at least two high-profile tag team matches on the second biggest WWE show of the year. New Day vs. The Club continued their feud tonight as well with backstage segments and vignettes. Smackdown will likely have their tag division spotlighted with American Alpha deserving a spot on the card. It is rather interesting to see three credible tag matches on one big WWE show.
4. Dudleyz splitting?
We saw a rare appearance by Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley on Raw tonight. The legendary Dudleyz tag team has been relegated to the smaller shows of Main Event and Superstars. They bullied Neville during a pre-show interview earlier in the night and challenged him to find a partner. Neville and the disappointing choice of Sin Cara won the match due to miscommunication between the Dudley brothers.
The facial expressions of Bubba following the match planted the seeds for a potential break up in the near future. D-Von actually hit Bubba and would get pinned by Neville to lose the match. Bubba appeared upset and that usually spells doom for tag teams in wrestling. The singles run in TNA as Bully Ray proved he could succeed on his own but it will be trickier in WWE. There’s less freedom and more restrictions that could hinder Bubba from finding a way to get over the way he did in TNA. Either way, this is terrible news for D-Von.
3. Too many video packages
The problem with three-hour long episodes of Raw is it often leads to filler. We didn’t have any in-ring work involving Seth Rollins or Finn Balor. That gave a good insight into how weak the match selection for the night was. We saw multiple video packages to sell the main event matches for Summerslam. WWE video packages are often tremendous so it is an effective way to highlight storylines but it was a bit too much tonight.
The first video showcased the story of Randy Orton vs. Brock Lesnar. Orton working for Smackdown and Lesnar not appearing on Raw forced their hand into having to run a long video package. Balor having a video spotlight him instead of cutting a promo in the ring was a poor choice. We are two weeks away from Summerslam and Balor has barely interacted with Rollins at all. Rollins cut a long promo earlier in the show with no interruptions. The commitment to keeping Rollins and Balor apart is interesting but they need more momentum for sure.
2. More brand split issues
The brand split gave us excitement and hope for the future of WWE. One important facet needed to successfully pulling off the competition between two shows under the same banner is keeping them apart. WWE has already started to bail on that belief. Randy Orton appeared on Raw last week. Brock Lesnar appeared on Smackdown. Mick Foley invited Daniel Bryan on Raw tonight for a segment that saw very little importance that required another talent to appear on the rival show.
It is somewhat understandable with Summerslam being a show featuring stars of both brands. The fact that we are only a few weeks into the new era of WWE makes it stand out even worse. Lesnar and Orton can’t really sell their feud without breaking the separation but there has to be a better way without sacrificing the integrity of the split. WWE can’t possibly allow this to happen after Summerslam until we are in WrestleMania season.
1. Cesaro steals the show
Most wrestling fans adore watching Cesaro perform and wish he could get a better position on WWE television. The story of Cesaro typically repeats itself. He has great matches, fans start to rally behind him and the company does absolutely nothing. This week’s episode of Raw saw him start the process again with a tremendous performance. Cesaro defeated Sheamus in an exciting match that left the fans on their feet. We lucked into another Cesaro appearance later in the show.
Mick Foley made an impromptu main event match between Cesaro and Rusev for the United States Championship. The result was severely disappointing with Sheamus costing Cesaro the match. The good news is Cesaro had the crowd on his side genuinely rooting for him to pull off the big title win. Cesaro thrived in a main event environment closing Raw and we can only hope this finally changes his fortune with a legitimate push coming soon. Very few are as deserving as Cesaro and Raw desperately needs to create new stars.