Swinging into view (I promise, that’ll be the last balls pun!) WWE’s Great Balls of Fire already looks like a strong event on paper. The pay per view promises much, with a stellar double-header main event that really makes recent PPV’s look lame in comparison. But before we can get our Fire on, we have to deal with Monday Night Raw. Could tonight’s show deliver the goods?
GOOD: Enzo Cuts a S-W-E-E-T Promo
As was to be expected – Enzo delivered one of the best promos of his career here. There’s no denying that he knows how to connect with the audience, and while this segment didn’t do much to convince fans that he’ll be able to overcome Big Cass on Sunday, it really laid bare the emotions WWE wants fans to feel through this match. Heck, even the backstage beat down felt well crafted – allowing both guys to shine. A very strong opening for Monday Night Raw.
The biggest question hanging over the whole Enzo/Cass feud remains ‘what happens to Enzo next?’ Of course he’s great on the microphone – but that’s not enough for WWE to get behind a guy who’s really not all that great in the ring. The reality remains that he’s going to need something new and fresh heading out of this feud – if he’s to remain relevant for long.
GOOD: Bayley & Sasha vs. Nia Jax & Alexa Bliss
The worrying thing here was just how quickly Bayley fell out of relevance. The booking saw Nia Jax take her out early in the match – effectively leaving Sasha Banks on her own. This might have been a problem, if Sasha didn’t then go on to single-handedly overcome the pair – effectively relegating Bayley to an afterthought.
It really speaks to how little WWE value their hugger Superstar – when she can’t even feel like a solid part of the Monday Night Raw Women’s Title picture. It’s good for Sasha Banks – she has a heap of momentum heading into Sunday’s PPV. But man, this was bad for Bayley.
BAD: Cedric Alexander vs. Noam Dar
The never-ending feud continues, and no one cares. It went just over two minutes, and was quickly forgotten.
Please WWE. Give them something else to do.
GOOD: Miz TV Segment
The good news, it couldn’t be as bad as last weeks infamous car crash of a segment. So awful was it that WWE actively acknowledged the negative press it received – something that really helped to set this up as something more.
The segment itself was fine. Miz calling out Dean Ambrose’s lack of ambition echoed that infamous Stone Cold Podcast from last year – with Ambrose’s inability to hold a main event spot on the card coming under scrutiny. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Heath Slater made his arrival – announcing his intention to compete for the IC Title. Any Heath Slater time is good time in my books.
GOOD: Heath Slater vs. The Miz (IC Title)
Well this was a pleasant surprise. Not that I don’t think Heath Slater can have good matches – but I wasn’t expecting this much of a match from him. Miz competing in his suit helped to relay just how unprepared her was for the whole thing – and also helped to give Slater a huge leg-up.
Of course the ending involved Miz’s entourage getting the upper hand – beating down Dean Ambrose and teasing Miz potentially losing this Sunday. I’d rather not see that – Ambrose really needs a new direction. Miz on the other hand really needs to look strong heading out of the upcoming event – lest his position on Monday Night Raw be strained.
GOOD: Goldust Unveils “The Golden Truth”
As a lower-card feud, this is hitting the spot. The return of creepy Goldust has been a good laugh for Monday Night Raw fans, and this week continued to prove as such – with the unveiling of his latest movie offering. Shame R-Truth attacked him as soon as it was over.
There’s nothing wrong with this whole thing – if for no other reason than there’s nothing else going on right now. I’m just bemused this isn’t on the Pre-Show event.
GOOD: Samoa Joe & Lesnar Don’t Understand Sitdown Interviews
Following the trend of this feud, Samoa Joe just couldn’t help himself. The interview started civil enough, but quickly fell apart when Joe’s temper got the better of him. It led to the Samoan Submission Machine hunting down Lesnar in the arena, with Joe being pulled back by various agents and wrestlers.
It’s interesting that WWE seem to using Samoa Joe’s rage as a possible out for him losing. Here Michael Cole clearly planted the seeds that Joe’s anger was getting the better of him – possibly costing him the match on Sunday. Whatever the plan, this was another solid outing for the pair – who have exceeded my expectations for the match. It seems the two are dynamite – something I hope translates into the ring.
GOOD: Neville vs. Mustafa Ali
A good match with a lot going for it. Again though, its big problem stems from the fact nobody cared. The live audience didn’t add anything, turning what was a hot singles match into a rather tired outing. If WWE could find a way to get fans animated, they could use this match as a template moving forward.
GOOD: Strowman’s Open Challenge Goes A Bit Wrong
First up – good on WWE for not squashing Apollo Crews quite so horrendously. He managed to get a decent amount of offence in – right up until Strowman kicked Crews out of midair like a god damn tennis ball. It was an insane visual and underlines quite heavily why the company are placing so much stock in Braun as a potential main event talent.
Then Roman popped up, and things got oh so much better. The two fought on the stage, with Reigns spearing Braun off into a table. It was an impressive visual, made all the more impressive by Braun getting up and walking off. Goodness knows what mad spots they’ve got planned for the PPV on Sunday – but this match has some serious potential to steal the show.
It feels really odd to say, but it appears WWE Monday Night Raw has found its mojo recently. The quality of tonights Raw was way ahead of the product a month back – with fans seemingly more happy. In our post-Raw poll – the conscensouc seems to be that the show is heading in the right direction.
It helps that there are two feuds at the top of the card which are just brilliant. Joe/Lesnar and Reigns/Braun have money printed all over them. Well built and some of the besat anticipation that the company has delivered in a long time. It remains to be seen if the two matches can be all that at Great Balls of Fire – but there’s a lot of star power on Raw.
It’s just a shame that the likes of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Finn Balor seem to be stuck in an aimless mess. I can’t understand quite where things are going for them – and it appears WWE doesn’t have any idea either. Still, it’s better than the mess Bayley is currently trapped in. Is there anyway back for her character at this point?
Solid Monday Night Raw – arguably one of the better overall shows of the year so far. Roll on Sunday!