With Super ShowDown behind us, the path to Stomping Grounds is now well under way, though the matches made for the June 23 PPV suggest that we’re in familiar territory. As a result, it felt like we’d be seeing more of the same on Raw this week.
Seth Rollins Promo
Seth Rollins opened up by noting how nobody had ever brought a beating to Brock Lesnar like the one he had unleashed with a steel chair at Super ShowDown. He was interrupted by Baron Corbin, who was drowned out by boos for an extended period. Undaunted, Corbin revealed that he would be allowed to pick a special guest referee for his Universal Championship rematch against Rollins next Sunday. Rollins noted that Corbin has no friends, so how could he pick his own official, which led to Sami Zayn bouncing out. Sami proclaimed his support for Corbin, and when Seth noted how Sami doesn’t have friends either, out came Kevin Owens via the Wild Card rule (KO: “The Wild Card, whatever that means!”). Somehow, the upshot of this was a Rollins vs. Owens main event, with Zayn later convincing Shane McMahon to allow him to be an outside enforcer for Seth vs. KO.
Lars Sullivan vs. Lucha House Party
This was an elimination rematch from Super ShowDown (you may be noticing a theme here), and the stipulation made it clear who was going over. Lars looked very impressive, from his ludicrously high jumping squats backstage beforehand to his utter dismantling of LHP. Kalisto, Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik were all pinned, with Kalisto tossed hard onto the steel stairs at ringside (on the top strand, which was unusual to see, and onto piñatas no less). Metalik was polished off with a diving headbutt that allowed Lars to claim the victory. I’m not sure why we didn’t get this match at SSD, and the comprehensive manner of Sullivan’s triumph means that a further three-on-one battle at Stomping Grounds is surely unnecessary. Lars is definitely being set up for bigger and better things; perhaps he targets Braun Strowman in the near future?
We then had a backstage split-screen discussion between Becky Lynch (who was initially accompanied by “her boyfriend”, to quote Michael Cole, Seth Rollins (acknowledging their real-life relationship is surely going somewhere on-screen?) and Lacey Evans. In a nutshell, it wasn’t very good, due to the combination of poor scripting for Evans and Becky being unable to keep a straight face. The sooner this feud ends, the better. There was also another chat between Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross, whose uneasy alliance does have potential to lead to some interesting television.
Miz TV w/ Samoa Joe
We then had Miz TV with the United States Champion, Samoa Joe. Miz called out Joe for attacking an injured Rey Mysterio and threatening a family member in the form of his son Dominic, which led to Joe suggesting that he wouldn’t care about threatening Miz’s family either. We then got interruptions from Braun Strowman, Bobby Lashley and Ricochet, all of whom proclaimed their intentions to either win the U.S. Title or to attack one or more of the men in the ring. Cesaro then came out and immediately, and humorously, cold-cocked Ricochet without saying a word. The inevitable brawl then broke out.
The Miz, Braun Strowman & Ricochet vs. Samoa Joe, Bobby Lashley & Cesaro
If you’ve been watching Raw for more than a few weeks, then you knew what was coming next (highlighted by all involved, in particular talk show host Miz, being in ring gear): yes, we had a six-man tag team match. This was enjoyable enough, though nothing that we haven’t already seen play out many times in the past. As is often the case, Ricochet was the highlight, with his incredible offence wowing the crowd in San Jose. And it was The One And Only (which elevates him above “The One” Billy Gunn, I guess) who earned the win for his squad with a 630 onto Cesaro, though he landed directly onto his right knee. Hopefully, Cesaro isn’t seriously injured, because Raw has benefitted from his in-ring contributions more than ever in recent weeks.
Becky Lynch & Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss & Lacey Evans
There are several rules of thumb in wrestling. One is that Michael Cole has to reel off the Hall Of Famers who have won the United States Championship during such a title bout. Another is that WWE has to show the crowd watching backstage segments on the big screen (that one baffles me). And a third, and most notable at this stage of the review, is that Bayley loses in her hometown of San Jose. The local Californians were happier to see The Hugger than anybody else, and she performed to the usual high standard that she offers. But a Woman’s Right put her down for the three-count by Lacey (not Alexa, who Bayley defends her SmackDown Women’s Title against at Stomping Grounds). I’m not necessarily complaining, by the way, it’s more an observation. I would wonder, though, why they couldn’t have Evans pin Becky, her own SG opponent, rather than a champion whose title she is currently not pursuing. Perhaps Lacey gets a pin over Becky next Monday prior to her inevitable defeat on June 23?
Paul Heyman then cut one of his typical promos to promote the superiority of Brock Lesnar compared to Seth Rollins. To put it simply, he and Lesnar will not be playing around with the Money In The Bank briefcase, and will pop up to cash it in whenever they feel like it (which is the whole point of MITB, though their infrequent appearances should make for a more surprising cash-in when it happens).
The IIconics vs. Lisa Lace & Aaliyah Mia
Billie Kay and Peyton Royce easily dispatched of local competitors, and when Corey Graves was asked to provide background information on the unknowns, he and his fellow commentators burst out laughing. Gorilla Monsoon would have been pissed. Anyway, this was a basic showcase for the Women’s Tag Team Champions (who were bizarrely cheered for claiming, under the heel veil of course, that they’re the longest-reigning holders of a title which only debuted in February and which they have barely defended on TV), and so we move on.
Shane McMahon Celebration
Shane O Mac had a party of sorts alongside Drew McIntyre (who was accompanied by bagpipe players for a matter of moments, in perhaps the shortest fancy entrance in Raw history). In the ring, they bragged about their accomplishment of Shane pinning Roman Reigns at Super ShowDown, with Drew promising further punishment for The Big Dog at Stomping Grounds. Reigns was actually not in the building (“Roman’s not here, man!” About five people reading this will get that reference), so for once, the shindig went off without a hitch. The Revival were introduced by McMahon, though he told Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder that they could only enjoy champagne after their match (and after winning the Raw Tag Team Titles). Makes sense really. Shane may be delusional and annoying, but he knows that you shouldn’t wrestle while under the influence. Maybe he is the Best In The World after all.
Raw Tag Team Championship Match
Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder (C) vs. The Usos vs. The Revival
Hawkins and Ryder had disappeared from television in recent weeks (they’re not alone in that regard), and they looked to remind the fans here of what they are capable of. But against both The Usos and The Revival, the odds seemed to be against the Broskis to retain, and so it proved as we got a title change. And, as it turned out, Shane’s champagne would indeed be used, as it was Dash and Dawson who recaptured the titles, taking advantage of multiple superkicks and an Uso splash to sneak the pin over Ryder. The assumption is that we will get an extended title feud between The Revival and Jimmy and Jey (especially since the days of automatic rematches are over) to build on their other recent hostilities, perhaps resulting in another bout with the belts at stake next Sunday.
Throughout the show, we had been shown footage of R-Truth (the 24/7 Champion), Carmella, Drake Maverick (who Truth kept calling Hornswoggle), EC3, Cedric Alexander and Heath Slater being stuck in a lift, but without a referee, nobody could capture the gold; once they were finally released, another mass brawl broke out, but Carmella dragged Truth back into the elevator, and the champ escaped again! We also had the latest edition of Firefly Fun House, which saw Bray Wyatt smash up Ramblin’ Rabbit with a mallet. The creepiness continues (and it’s now been almost two months since the first episode of FFH).
Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens
As noted earlier, Sami Zayn was stationed at ringside for this match. And as you could imagine, Sami looked to favour KO at every possible point, which included him intervening when Rollins was looking to execute offence off the top rope. At one point, Seth launched himself towards KO at ringside, with him bumping over Zayn in the process. This angered Sami, which led him to pull referee John Cone out of the ring when Rollins had Owens beat with a Curb Stomp. The resulting fracas led to Seth shoving Sami, causing a disqualification in Owens’ favour. Post-match, Rollins pounded Zayn with a steel chair to send a message to a watching Baron Corbin, who did not name his choice of guest referee for his showdown with Seth next Sunday (though Zayn may be the obvious pick now).
Raw was productive in furthering the major storylines for Stomping Grounds, as well as providing a title change. The issue, though, was that it all feels so safe and predictable right now. The smaller segments or moments stand out more so than the prolonged, seemingly stronger action (Rollins vs. Owens being an example). I will cover the potential improvements for the WWE product as a whole in a separate article, but I will simply state that while Raw was entertaining, it’s understandable why fans feel the show is in a lull as we head towards the usually-busy summer season.