9/21/15 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
John Cena def. Seth Rollins to Remain US Champion
When the masked Demon Kane returned at the end of Night of Champions to attack both Seth Rollins and Sheamus, it appeared to be the end of Director of Operations, Corporate Kane. Instead, Corporate Kane returned to Raw, refreshed and smarmy from his time away, with no notion of his demonic alter ego. The Authority seemed not to know that Corporate Kane was set to return to work, and Rollins was irate that his former teammate booked his US Title rematch after only one night.
While the Kane storyline remains up in the air, one thing that is never in doubt is the match quality between Rollins and Cena. Rollins changed the script slightly by jumping Cena before the bell and grabbing an advantage that he would not easily relinquish. He cut off every offensive attempt, including an AA countered to a DDT. It took almost 10 minutes for Cena to finally hit a cross body for his first meaningful offense, and Rollins even answered that with a pair of superkicks. He followed it with his own version of Cena’s STF and a jumping knee strike.
Cena took Rollins off of the top rope with an electric chair flapjack. They countered each other’s finishers and Rollins hit a Michinoku Driver for a two count. He missed a Phoenix Splash and Cena answered with an STF, though only briefly. Rollins made his way to the top rope for a Frog Splash. Cena absorbed the contact and rolled through to hit an AA for a clean win.
After the loss, Corporate Kane appeared on the screen and told Rollins that he has challengers that he wouldn’t imagine in his worst nightmares. The lights went red and Demon Kane emerged from under the ring, just like in his WWE debut. He dragged Rollins, kicking and screaming, into the hole in the ring, and the show ended with smoke and flames, but no sign of the wrestlers.
The Kane character has always been so over-the-top and absurd that it works better when the storylines lean into its insanity. No, Kane’s identity confusion doesn’t make sense, but it’s fun to watch if fans are willing to go along for the ride. Rollins remains such a fantastic wrestler that he makes everything work. Even with another loss to Cena, he remained a worthy focal point of the show.
Randy Orton Gets Vengeance on Wyatts
Bray Wyatt opened Raw by gloating about his team’s win at Night of Champions. Roman Reigns joined him in the ring and challenged him to a one-on-one fight. Wyatt briefly obliged, but as soon as Reigns got on track, Braun Strowman and Luke Harper returned to attack Reigns. Dean Ambrose tried to make the save. The advantage didn’t last long against three adversaries and Strowman wore them down. Orton then hit the ring and took over. He fought through each of the Wyatts. He teamed with Reigns and Ambrose to finally do some damage to Strowman. A pair of dropkicks and a Superman Punch forced him to the floor, even if he never left his feet.
If this segment points to a Night of Champions rematch with Orton in Chris Jericho’s place, this feud is likely to start feeling stale. I think there’s more to it than that, though, as there is a story to be told about Jericho’s role in the match. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a bit more attention on Strowman over the next month.
Charlotte def. Brie Bella
Despite a great heartfelt introduction from Ric Flair, Charlotte’s victory celebration went horribly awry. When Charlotte tried to thank her teammates, Paige lashed out and said that Charlotte was patronizing her. She insulted every woman on the roster, verging into worked shoot territory, and finished by saying that Charlotte never would have made it where she is without her dad.
Nikki Bella immediately rubbed salt in the wound. She said that insults and jealousy are par for the course for any champion. She said that she handled it for a year and that Charlotte will have to learn to deal with it or else risk losing her title immediately.
In her emotional state, Charlotte had to face Brie Bella. Brie went straight for the bad knee that her sister worked against Charlotte at Night of Champions. Several minutes into the match, Charlotte finally scored some offense with an enzuigiri. She delivered some chops, a neckbreaker, and a spear to set up the Figure 8 and make Brie tap out.
Becky Lynch celebrated with her to show what is left of Team PCB. The match was a decent follow-up to the title win that emphasized Charlotte’s resilience- a good personality trait to garner some sympathy in addition to her imposing physicality. As for the Paige turn, one could argue that it should have taken more time. On the other hand, Charlotte might become more popular with several rivals gunning for her. I simply hope that WWE doesn’t return to its lazy women’s booking of a babyface champion in a division otherwise full of heels.
Rusev and New Day def. Dolph Ziggler and the Dudley Boys
This bizarre six-man tag match turned into one of the most entertaining parts of the show, made up of equal parts spectacle and solid in-ring work. It was no surprise that the New Day promo before the match was outstanding- Xavier Woods showed the chunk of table that was removed from his buttocks after the Dudleys put him through it and Big E advocated for a Trump-like wall built around Dudleyville.
The New Day theatrics continued into the match. Woods provided a trombone soundtrack for Big E and Kofi Kingston’s stomps in the corner. He played Rusev’s theme song when he tagged in and attacked Ziggler, yelling “Lana is mine.” When Ziggler reached Bubba Dudley, the match neatly transitioned into more focus on wrestling. He hit a nice side slam and worked with Devon to set up Ziggler to hit Rusev with the Wassup Headbutt. Ziggler superkicked Woods off the apron and Rusev used the distraction to superkick Ziggler and get the pin.
I have hoped for an end to the Ziggler-Rusev program for several weeks. The end of Night of Champions felt like a good place to end it. Fortunately, it became instantly more interesting with some new people involved. New Day probably deserves most of the credit since they make everything more compelling and fun.
Ryback def. Bo Dallas by DQ
Dallas complimented new Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens at ringside before the match and said that Ryback can never be as good as him. Ryback showed aggressiveness at the start of the match, but Dallas found some success with a prolonged headlock. Eventually, Ryback put together a Meat Hook and Shell-Shock. Owens hit the ring before the referee could make the count to break up the pin. Ryback remained fired up and clotheslined Owens to the floor. Owens retreated before Ryback could inflict any real damage. It was an effective way to set the stage for the rematch between Owens and Ryback and build back some momentum for the former champion. Now it’s time to have that rematch and let both wrestlers move along.
Sheamus def. Mark Henry
Sheamus got back on track after his failed attempt to cash in Money in the Bank. Henry frustrated him early with feats of strength, including a very nice catch powerslam. Sheamus eventually got on track and hit a pair of Brogue Kicks to pick of the win. After the win, Sheamus asserted that he already thinks of himself as the champion. The point of the segment was to get Sheamus some heat back after an embarrassing end to his attempted cash in. It simply didn’t feel very meaningful or entertaining.
Neville and the Lucha Dragons def. Stardust and the Ascension
After the superhero team surprisingly lost on the Night of Champions pre-show, they got their win back on the first match of Raw. They got off to a good start until Viktor interrupted a possible Red Arrow. The Comic Wasteland worked together to keep Neville cornered and wore him down slowly. He finally reached Kalisto for the hot tag and he bounced around with kicks for every one of his opponents. The Dragons teamed up for the Salina Del Sol to get the win. This feud is a personification of the bottom of the card. Nonetheless, I appreciate that Stardust has made the most out of his character and that there’s a real narrative so far down the pecking order.
Big Show def. Cesaro
Big Show used his size to overwhelm Cesaro for a long stretch at the start of the match. Cesaro finally mounted some offense, highlighted by a series of diving uppercuts and a suplex on the big man from the apron back into the ring. The suplex took so much out of Cesaro that Big Show quickly hit him with a KO Punch. Based on the commentary, this match largely functioned as a showcase for Big Show before his MSG match against Brock Lesnar in two weeks. I am disappointed that Cesaro was the victim and that his on/off momentum appears to have switched back off. I don’t see the need to promote an easy, redundant Lesnar win (Remember their Royal Rumble match two years ago? Didn’t think so) that is on the fringes of the WWE storyline cannon, particularly at the expense of someone who was recently on a great roll.
Naomi def. Natalya
Natalya returned to Raw by telling Paige that she is not the only woman who has been frustrated in WWE. She said that Paige’s mindset is legitimate, but that she was disrespectful and unprofessional in the way she dealt with it. In the ring, Natalya and Naomi both showcased their athleticism, trading impressive moves early. Naomi quickly took control and kept it until a Sasha Banks distraction let her hit the Rear View to win. It was odd that Natalya executed almost no offense in her return to the ring. It was doubly strange because she struggled so much while it appeared that a rivalry with Paige was starting.