6/22/15 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
To the surprise of no one, the return of Brock Lesnar rapidly put things into perspective for WWE Champion Seth Rollins. While we witnessed Rollins’s ego swell consistently from the time he won the title at Wrestlemania through his recent defense against Dean Ambrose, there was always another shoe waiting to drop. With Lesnar back in the picture, Rollins had to act quickly to get his allies back on his side after he alienated them for months.
At the start of the show, Paul Heyman gave a typically excellent promo to fans who were excited to cheer for Lesnar. At the instruction of The Authority, Lesnar shook hands with JBL and rag dolled Michael Cole with a noogie as his form of an apology. Heyman went on to say that Lesnar would recapture his title at Battleground because it is “Beast for Business” and continued to use the “Suplex City” catchphrase. Just the appearance of Lesnar was an energetic way to start the show.
As the night progressed, Rollins realized that he needed to make up with Kane, J&J Security, and the rest of The Authority to have the appropriate support at his back against Lesnar. He struggled to bury his ego when he first talked to each of them, and they responded by snubbing his offer to rejoin him. HHH told him that he and Stephanie McMahon still believe in Rollins, but that he needed to apologize to his compatriots to give himself a viable “Plan B” against Lesnar.
Rollins invited Kane and J&J to the ring and lavished them with compliments. He said that he patterns his wrestling style after J&J and that Kane is his favorite wrestler of all time. When Rollins started to beg for their support, Lesnar hit the ring. After they initially left Rollins on his own, Kane and J&J jumped Lesnar from behind. He fought them off briefly and started to give Rollins a series of German suplexes. Before he could hit Rollins with an F5, Kane saved him with a chokeslam. The gang warfare continued while Lesnar tried to fight back. They grounded him by driving his knee into the ring post and smashing it with a chair. After a few more big moves, Rollins finished the attack with a Pedigree while the crowd booed loudly.
The reunited Authority is the right move, in my opinion. Lesnar left Wrestlemania so red hot that he was destined to come back with babyface support. Meanwhile, Rollins has done tremendous work as a chicken heel champion and ought to continue with that as long as the crowd continues to hate him the way that it does now. Turning Rollins heel would be premature, and bringing Kane and J&J back into the fold only gets him more heat against Lesnar in the short term.
Sheamus def. Roman Reigns by Countout
In the last few months, WWE has booked two non-feuding high-end wrestlers in matches on Raw more often, and it is always a welcome part of the card. Sheamus and Reigns was destined to be a hard-hitting affair and it delivered on that account from the opening bell. Sheamus answered by blocking an apron dropkick with a clothesline. He worked on Reigns’s back after throwing him into the barricade and hit three Irish Curse Backbreakers out of an extended chinlock.
Reigns fought his way out of a cloverleaf and finally started to rally. As usual, Reigns good the crowd behind him after he sustained tremendous punishment and was able to fight back. He hit the apron dropkick on his second attempt and followed it with a leaping clothesline on the announce table. Just as Reigns was getting ready to take full control, Bray Wyatt appeared on the Titantron and made it look like he was holding a tea party with Reigns’s young daughter.
Reigns ran from the ring to find Wyatt and got himself counted out. He rampaged through the backstage area until he found a room with pictures of him taped to the wall and crossed out in red paint. His daughter was not there, but Wyatt’s voice sung “I’m a Little Teapot” in the background as Reigns saw the message “Anyone But You” scrawled across the wall. I believe that the early part of this rivalry with Reigns is the best work we have seen Wyatt do. It’s not enough for him to say he’s playing head games- we have to actually see the head games and they should make sense. The manipulation of Reigns’s fatherly instinct is a natural way to personalize their animosity.
Kane def. Dean Ambrose
Although this match felt a bit predictable and vanilla while Kane dominated the early portion, the pace picked up as it continued. Ambrose hit a nice neck breaker and fought out of a chokeslam with a rebound clothesline. Rollins’s music hit and Ambrose hit him with a suicide dive as he walked toward the ring. It looked like Ambrose had overcome the distraction as he climbed back to the top rope, but Kane chokeslammed him from there into the ring to get the surprise win. As much as I hope Ambrose does not return to his constant losing, I think it made sense to show that Kane and Rollins are both more dangerous with one another in order to support the main event storyline.
John Cena Accepts Challenge
Cena responded to last week’s challenge from Kevin Owens to wrestle again with the U.S. Title on the line. He said that Owens is a great wrestler, but garbage as a human being, so accepting the challenge is a great risk. Owens emerged on the ramp and said that he does not care if Cena says he is garbage because he puts no stock in others’ opinions of him. He heeled up by responding to Cena in French and got him to formally accept the challenge. The back-and-forth made sense, but it did not live up to the lofty standards that they have set both in the ring and on the mic so far. What really counts is the quality of their rubber match and what comes next.
Ryback def. Mark Henry
Ryback showed his power early with an impressive spinebuster on the enormous Henry. Big Show acknowledged Ryback’s power on commentary, but said that he will show that he is much more powerful. Throughout his time on commentary, he refused to even acknowledge that the Miz is part of the upcoming Intercontinental Title match. Ryback got the win with a top rope frog splash. Big Show berated Henry and it looked like they were going to come to blows, but he awkwardly walked away. He found Ryback giving an interview backstage and a brawl broke out. Ryback came out on top when he threw Big Show into a cart. Ryback continues to refine his character and work better matches. He deserves respect for his commitment to improvement even after he reached the highest level of the business.
Dolph Ziggler def. Adam Rose
Before the match started, Rose gave a rare promo in which he said that Ziggler and Lana do not understand the meaning of true love like he and Rosa Mendes do. It almost felt like WWE wanted to reestablish Rose, and he even looked pretty good in the match. He hit a great spinebuster, but ate a superkick when coming off of the top rope to suffer the loss. It was one of several non-traditional finishers on the show, which is always a good thing.
After the end of the match, Ziggler and Lana kissed in the ring, which sent Rusev into a rage while he watched on a monitor backstage. When he lashed out and fell down off of his crutches, Summer Rae helped him back to his feet and told him that Lana isn’t worth it. WWE clearly wants to find a role for Summer, though I think this story would make more sense if it was simply about Rusev’s jealousy as he tries to inflict revenge on Ziggler.
The Bellas def. Tamina and Naomi
Alicia Fox joined the Bellas a week after they reminded all of the women on the roster that they have the ear of The Authority. The match was pretty sloppy throughout and the finish made little sense. Naomi hit a Rear View on Brie to send her to the floor, but accidentally hit Tamina with another one when she meant to hit Nikki. A running forearm and a Rack Attack followed to earn the Bellas the win.
The way the match played out, the Bellas felt like the babyfaces in the story (they were the ones who were double teamed by the heels). I’m also at a loss for why Alicia joined them, unless it is exclusively to spite Paige. Perhaps Paige will return with multiple teammates from NXT to reveal the necessity for an extra Bella. Until that time, I will continue to be confused.
Prime Time Players def. The Ascension
Konnor and Titus O’Neil squared off early in a battle of the big men. The PTPers reversed their normal roles and O’Neil gave Darren Young the hot tag. He got a near fall on Viktor with a bridging northern lights suplex and followed it with his Gut Check to get the win. It was a simple, solid victory for the champions. My only complaint is that Michael Cole talked about how inspirational they are and awkwardly danced around saying that Young is gay. WWE should be proud of that fact and should not try to keep it quiet.
Neville def. Kofi Kingston
After Neville beat Xavier Woods on Smackdown, he continued working his way through New Day on Raw. Woods was still the most entertaining part of the match, taking publicity photos at ringside and threatening to “call gravity” on Neville. The Prime Time Players neutralized New Day when they tried to use their numbers and all four men not in the match were sent to the back. While Kingston argued with the referee about that decision, Neville hit an enzuigiri and a Red Arrow to get the win. I hope WWE finds something more concrete for Neville to do soon. In the meantime, having fun matches with good opponents every week is a decent way to spend his time.
King Barrett def. Zack Ryder
A taped promo aired before the match in which R-Truth made his comic pitch for the WWE’s kingship. Ryder had a good run of offense in the match and even came close to hitting the Broski Boot. Instead, Barrett rolled under the bottom rope and retook the momentum. When Ryder went to the top rope, Barrett hit him with a Bullhammer and got a rare victory. It was nice to see that there is someone low enough on the card that even Barrett can get a clean win.