Six short days away from the Money in the Bank event and Monday Night Raw was live in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Here’s what happened on the go-home show before MITB:
John Cena is out to open the show with another U.S. Open Challenge. Cena speaks about Kevin Owens and all that he “fights for” this Sunday. (You know how it goes) Kevin Owens comes out to respond: telling Cena that the people are “tired” of seeing him open Raw. Owens then suggests an NXT Championship Open Challenge. Following some back-and-forth jabber; the conclusion is reached that whomever should come down to the ring next will get to decide which champion he challenges … Out comes Neville and "The Man That Gravity Forgot" choses to fight Kevin Owens.
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Neville for the NXT Championship
John Cena sits in on commentary to observe his opponent at MITB … Kevin Owens’ innovative smashmouth style versus the high-flying methods of Neville makes for great complimentary action. (Announcers are focused more on interviewing Cena than calling the match. Where is J.R. when needed?) Strong, solid match to kick off the program with Owens picking up the victory.
Match Winner: Kevin Owens
Match Rating: 7.5/10
Backstage: Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and Seth Rollins discuss Dean Ambrose. Triple H and Stephanie let Rollins known that he can handle Ambrose on his own – allowing him to choose his own opponent later in the night to prove how he can stand on his own.
Nikki Bella vs. Summer Rae
Moments of aggression … Moments of sloppy style … Nikki Bella hits The Rack Attack … Match is over.
Match Winner: Nikki Bella
Match Rating: 2/10
Roman Reigns is out to address the WWE Universe and his six opponents at MITB. Reigns discusses how he once hated the MITB briefcase when it was connected to Seth Rollins. Kane is out next followed by Dolph Ziggler followed by R-Truth (who believes he is a participant in the MITB Ladder Match before being informed that he will not be competing … kind of funny) followed by The New Day followed by Sheamus followed by Randy Orton (huge pop) … Everybody claims victory on Sunday. (Usual pre-MITB promo)
Randy Orton vs. Sheamus
Blows are exchanged between Orton and Sheamus as both men have clearly come to do battle. Orton and Sheamus know each other well inside the ring which really comes across during their matches. Orton is eventually DQ’d when a steel chair comes into play … and Sheamus feels the wrath of The Viper.
Match Winner: Sheamus via DQ
Match Rating: 6/10
Backstage: J&J Security approach Seth Rollins. Some heated words are exchanged; leading to Rollins choosing Noble and Mercury as his opponents in a 2-on-1 Handicap Match.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Kane
The in-ring style of Dolph Ziggler is on point while Kane (despite his age) remains a workhorse whenever competing in a match. Rusev is out to confront Lana – who was watching from the ramp – causing her to fall off said ramp. This would distract Ziggler; allowing Kane to pick up the victory.
Match Winner: Kane
Match Rating: 5/10
-Miz TV with Big Show and Ryback-
The Miz and Ryback have some entertaining back-and-forth interaction before Big Show heads down to the ring. Big Show is bombarded with “What?” before facing off with Ryback. The Miz attacks Big Show from behind and is quickly dumped to the floor. Ryback then hits Big Show with the Shell Shock; standing tall in the ring as the segment ends.
Luke Harper and Erick Rowan vs. Los Matadores
Harper and Rowan dominant the entire match; making quick work of their opponents.
Match Winners: Luke Harper and Erick Rowan
Match Rating: 2/10
Backstage: Kane wishes Seth Rollins “good luck” and informs him that on Sunday he will cash-in the MITB contract on whoever wins the Rollins/Ambrose WWE World Heavyweight Championship match.
Titus O'Neil vs. Big E
Slow paced contest with a few typical “big guy moves.” Big E scores the pinfall thanks to a distraction from Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods.
Match Winner: Big E
Match Rating: 2/10
Roman Reigns vs. Kofi Kingston
Kofi Kingston has always impressed with his in-ring ability – too bad he has never been pushed higher on the card. (There is no chance of Kofi walking out with the briefcase this Sunday) The New Day cannot handle the physicality of Reigns as he picks the victory.
Match Winner: Roman Reigns
Match Rating: 6/10
Dean Ambrose comes out through the crowd to sit on the front row and watch the Seth Rollins match. (Why is he sitting in the crowd with a purchased ticket? Ambrose is an employee of WWE who can simply sit ringside)
Seth Rollins vs. Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury (J&J Security)
Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury put up a good fight against their boss, Seth Rollins before The Architect gains the upper hand. Ambrose jumps the barricade; tossing the title into the ring and causing the distraction – allowing Joey Mercury to roll-up Seth Rollins for the three-count.
Match Winners: Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury
Match Rating: 7/10
Side Note: Noble and Mercury can still compete in that ring.
What We Can Expect Going Forward
Money in the Bank is always an exciting night; filled with high-paced action and unpredictability. While the MITB Ladder Match is meant to be the focal point; this year the main focus will be on Kevin Owens and John Cena – proving once again that Cena remains the top guy in WWE and boosting the stock of Owens as he continues to feud with the biggest star in professional wrestling.
Kevin Owens should go over on John Cena again this Sunday but there is a strong possibility that Cena will come out victorious at MITB. This would obviously set up a third and final encounter (possibly with an added stipulation) between Owens and Cena ... The rubber match which will hopefully see Owens coming out on top.
It would appear as though the favorite heading into the MITB Ladder Match is Roman Reigns. If this is the direction WWE chooses to go; a long rebuild of Reigns is necessary. The Royal Rumble fiasco should be taken as a lesson learned: do not force Reigns onto the WWE Universe this time around.
Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose are going to put on a great match at MITB. It will be interesting to see how this match plays out but the feeling is that Rollins will retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in anticipation of the return of Brock Lesnar.
Another night without Bray Wyatt ... WTF!? ... Luke Harper and Erick Rowan have reunited as a tag team. Perhaps its time to send them back to their leader.