Review

WWE Raw Reaction 8/21/2017 – All Braun, No Brains

SummerSlam was a bit of a mess, let’s be honest. So many titles changed hands, it felt like an episode of Game of Thrones. But change brings fresh and WWE is nothing if not willing to semi-commit to new ideas (until they get bored and send it back to the undercard). Tonights Raw went about delivering what fans wanted (unless its beach balls, in which case WWE remove and destroy them with alarming speed). So let’s dive into this week’s Raw Reaction – featuring Braun and his crazy strength.

Brock Lesnar opened the show with Paul Heyman, Lesnar leaping around the ring like an overexcited jumping bean. It was all positive as Heyman laid it on thick, telling audiences that Lesnar was the unquestioned kind of the Monday Night realm (I love how Roman Reigns later still tried to claim it’s his yard). Of course, Braun Strowman made his way to the ring and began throwing fists in Lesnar’s face – which led to the amazing visual of Brock being thrown around the ring-like a bag of potatoes.

I’m totally down for Braun being booked like a monster. WWE doesn’t really have any of those right now (Kane’s edging to retirement and Big Show is about as popular as beach ball in a Cesaro match). What I’m saying is that it’s totally fine for him to be protected in a way that makes him look equal to Lesnar. We all want to see that monster brawl at No Mercy – helped along by the fact that WWE announced the match later in the show. It’s a shame we didn’t see either man again throughout the show – but too much Braun may be a bad thing. Now if someone could just hide the announcer’s tables before that match, that would save WWE a fair amount in rebuilding costs.

Enzo and Cass continued their never-ending feud of misery (for audiences), this time in a Street Fight (I refuse to acknowledge the silly name WWE insist on giving these things). Things took a very abrupt and sad turn left not far into the match though, as Big Cass misjudged a fall out the ring and splatted on the outside, horribly injuring his leg.

With the likelihood of Big Cass missing months, it puts Enzo in a real bind. Up to no, he’s been insulated from the backstage heat on him because his feud with Enzo gave him a reason to be on Monday Night Raws. Without that, Enzo is basically drifting – and it won’t take long for the sharks in the water to sniff blood. Sometimes it’s just not your moment – and I suspect that Enzo’s time isn’t right now.

But at least Enzo had something to go on. Poor Emma continues to suffer at the hands of WWE Creative, who seemingly are going well out of their way to wave the middle finger at audiences. I’d love to say this is going somewhere, but it seems like Vince McMahon and the creative team throwing Emma a well. Another week another Nia Jax squash spectacular for the Aussie. Who knows what they’re doing at this point.

Elias also did his sing-song for the live audience – cracking a small pop until R-Truth (Yes, he’s still around) emerged for his weekly beating. It was all filler until Kurt Angle emerged and introduced John Cena to the Raw audience. Yes, WWE has finally invoked that free agent status and dragged him over to save ratings. Almost instantly Cena was booed out the arena by the Brooklyn crowd (who were getting more and more smarky as the night pressed on). He said he was here for one man – before being cut-off by Roman Reigns.

It’s fair to say that neither of these guys were top of the fans Christmas card lists, as the two fought against the tide of boo’s raining down on them. Cena seemed way more comfortable in this situation, Reigns awkwardly seemed like he wanted to be anywhere but there. The Miz also came out and pretty much went onto steal the segment. He railroaded both Cena and Reigns for taking top spots, said he was worthy of more respect and took shots at the fact that WWE sent him and his entire pre-show match out to wrestle in front of all of 50 people.

I’m glad WWE let Miz has this moment. Those SummerSlam images were brutal – as the Barclay’s Centre struggled to fill up in time for the match. Audiences loved Miz in this segment – he almost accidentally turned face in the heat of the resentment for Reigns and Cena. Cena and Miz bounce off each other so well at this point, it’s good to see it playing out in such a strong fashion. The fact Samoa Joe came out and threw in an assist only helped raise the intrigue level – but there’s a sense WWE may have mishandled this Roman/Cena build. The live audience wasn’t having any of it – given that it’s one of the few “dream matches” WWE has in its arsenal, it’s not a good look for both guys to be getting megaheat.

Following this was a Cruiserweight 8-man match. Look. If WWE can’t be bothered to put effort into this division, I’m not going to bother watching. It’s a shame as there were some nice spots in the match. But like making a birthday cake without instructions, having the right ingredients doesn’t guarantee a great final product.  The best two guys (Neville and Tozawa) appeared in a brief backstage segment, pimping out the rematch for 205 Live tomorrow.

Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins came out to celebrate winning the Raw tag team titles, offering up an open challenge to the locker room. Rather than wheel out Sheamus and Cesaro (Who took their position by the side of the backstage screen), the call was answered by the Hardy Boyz. On the one hand, the match was great and the live audience loved it. On the other, seems a bit of a waste to dump such a dream meeting out on a random episode of Monday Night Raw. Also, everyone’s obsession with The Hardy Boyz age felt really out of place. Like, Jeff is still in his 30’s (for another week). You’d think WWE wouldn’t want one of their top teams sounding like they’re about to disappear into the wilds.

Speaking of wild, the unlikely pairing of Miz and Samoa Joe led to one of the best backstage segments of the night – as Joe told Miz to “do his whatever he does”. Team bonding in WWE is the real deal – but as an odd couple, I dig the dynamic. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see anything like this from Roman Reigns and Cena. Reigns telling Cena not to trample mud into his yard, Cena telling him he wouldn’t see him even if he did. Missed opportunities. Finn Balor and Jason Jordan also fought in a respectable (is somewhat totally pointless) filler match. It was good, but it didn’t make me like Kurt Angle’s fake son any more than I did at the top of the show. It’s going to take more than slotting him into makeshift matches with top card people to make me change my whole thought process on the situation.

Sasha Banks gave Ric Flair a nice little shout out, before invoking The Goddess that is Alexa Bliss. WWE seems to want this feud out the way snappish – with Alexa setting up the rematch for next weeks Raw. I always laugh when WWE set big matches up for the following weeks Raw, invoking an already restless crowd into a near state of outright anger. Hopefully, Alexa loses and Sasha moves onto someone fresh (Emma, no?), Not sure what Alexa can really do with herself presently (other than hang around menacingly in Nia Jax’s corner) but I guess that’s a problem for down the road.

The main event saw Samoa Joe and Miz take on John Cena and Roman Reigns. For what it was, it was a fine match. The main story was Cena and Reigns eyeballing each other like reluctant lovers across the dance floor. It led to a moment where Reigns accidentally nailed Cena with a Superman Punch – opening the window for Miz to get a pinfall. Sadly this was Super Cena on show, and he made sure to crush those dreams with a single AA.

I’m a bit annoyed they used Miz as cannon fodder again (This seems to happen a lot when Cena is around) but hey, he got to the main event and hung with John Cena and Roman Reigns for the longest time. There’s clear tension between those two, but this week wasn’t the time for WWE to deep dive into that – as the live audience wasn’t having any of it.

 

Overall

The best thing I can say about this Raw is that it wasn’t even that bad. It didn’t blow anyone away by any stretch but set up oh so many tasty feuds for No Mercy in six weeks.

Braun Strowman is white hot right now and WWE are wise to feed that flame. If the plan isn’t to put the belt on him, then he needs to come out of that Lesnar match looking like an absolute badass. Audiences want Braun to look good, this is the chance to really cement his main event push. Right now, fans want as much Braun as they can get – and WWE are wise to give them that Braun experience before it runs out of steam.

Cena and Reigns didn’t have the best start to their feud, I blame the rowdy crowd for that one. Maybe it’s because Reigns isn’t getting over (Cena splits fans more than he gets booed) but I can’t see this ending well if WWE can’t convince fans to not boo the hell out of them. It doesn’t look good when your two big tentpole attractions get the kind of nuclear reactions that would sink most careers.

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