7/27/15 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
John Cena def. Seth Rollins to Remain US Champion
From the top of the show, The Authority focused on new matchups, new features, and new wrestlers. The newness was on display up and down the card, but the most important place was in the main event, where Seth Rollins and John Cena faced off in a singles match. Despite Cena’s imploration for a WWE Title match with Rollins, The Authority only offered him the match with his US Title on the line.
Both wrestlers did admirable work in their time on the mic. Rollins, in particular, sounded impressive in his interview with Renee Young in which he said that he beats WWE’s best every month while Cena gets his leftovers.
Neither wrestler could gain a decisive advantage for several minutes at the start of the match. Rollins repeatedly cut short Cena’s attempt to set up for the Five Knuckle Shuffle and Cena eventually changed gears and planted Rollins with a Torando DDT. Rollins recovered to hit a suicide dive and a top rope knee strike for a two count.
Cena used his strength to block a follow-up by Rollins and hit an electric chair flapjack. They proceeded to trade right hands in the ring until a Rollins knee broke Cena’s nose and left him pouring blood. Rather than break to clean up the blood, Cena went right back after Rollins without hesitation. Cena looked out of control and Rollins took advantage with a buckle bomb for a near fall while Cena continued to bleed profusely on the canvas.
After a doctor finally tried to slow Cena’s bleeding, he hit the spring board stunner. His AA attempt did not land and Rollins answered with a superkick for two. Both wrestlers slowly made their way to their feet and Cena hit an AA, only for Rollins to kick out at two. Rollins responded by stringing together a superplex and a falcon arrow, which somehow only earned him a two count.
Rollins dug deep and ascended to the top rope for a Phoenix Splash. Although he did not waste any time, Rollins missed Cena. Cena immediately locked Rollins in the STF and forced the Champion to tap out. It was a fantastic match that stands out due to Cena’s grotesque broken nose. The hideous visual heightened the drama of the match, even though it made it hard to watch at times.
For a couple of weeks, Cena has looked like the probable challenger for Seth Rollins at SummerSlam. On its face, it might look like a let-down to see Cena back in the main event rather than in his terrific US Title program slot. Upon closer examination, there’s some logic to the pairing. Nobody on the roster (other than possibly Brock Lesnar) can provide the same bump to Rollins in a rivalry. Additionally, SummerSlam carries the reputation and expectation of WWE’s #2 PPV, so a marquee matchup like this one is needed for the WWE Title. If Rollins beats Cena, he comes out as a champion on another level. Above all, wrestling is about creating entertaining matches and storylines, and they showed on this night that they can do that with each other.
Randy Orton def. Kevin Owens
A verbal confrontation quickly turned into a slugfest at the top of the match. The brawl spilled out to the floor where they punished each other with whips back and forth into the barricades. Owens seized the advantage and hit Owens with a senton for a near fall. In spite of a backbreaker, Owens made it quickly back to his feet and hit a jumping knee to keep Orton down.
Things started to change when Orton dodged the Owens cannonball. He hit a clothesline, a powerslam, and a T-Bone suplex. Owens countered the hangman’s DDT and brought Orton out to the floor. Sheamus stayed on script and left the commentary table to hit a Brogue Kick. When Sheamus and Owens started to gang up on Orton, Cesaro hit the ring to make the save. He impressively halted both heels until Owens used a Sheamus distraction to hit a Pop-Up Powerbomb.
The booking made sense in this segment across the board, but I couldn’t help but feeling that something was missing. For three months, every Owens segment has felt like must-see TV. After his rubber match loss to Cena, he simply no longer feels as special.
Big Show def. Dean Ambrose By Count-Out
In the opening match of The Authority’s slate of “first time ever” matches, Ambrose looked destined for an unclean finish with Miz on commentary. Instead, he brought a very good match out of Big Show- a rare feat indeed.
Early in the match, Ambrose wrestled in what looked like a cape after Big Show ripped his shirt in half. Undeterred, he hit a baseball slide and a suicide dive to gain the advantage. When he found himself in a leg lock, he untied Big Show’s boots to free himself. He countered Big Show’s chokeslam attempt into a DDT, but things went south from there.
First, Big Show hit a chokeslam and Ambrose kicked out at two. A second chokeslam sent Ambrose to the floor and he barely beat the count. Big Show brought him back outside and speared him on the floor. Once again, Ambrose crawled into the ring before the ten count. His brief rally was cut short when a suicide dive was met with Big Show’s KO punch. This time, Ambrose could not make it back into the ring and he lost by count-out.
After the conclusion, Big Show tried to spear Ambrose through the barricade, but Ambrose avoided him and left standing tall. Despite the loss, Ambrose left looking reasonably strong because Big Show could not keep him down. Meanwhile, Miz came away looking better than anyone with his outstanding work on commentary. He manages to make a variety of salient points, all perfectly in character.
Sasha Banks def. Paige
The taped pre-match segment between Team BAD and Paige’s alliance came off a bit wooden, but the ensuing match was anything but. They opened with a great collar and elbow tie-up that sent both wrestlers to the floor and they proceeded to match each other hold for hold. Paige strung together a fallaway slam, a superkick, and a plancha to Team BAD. When the teams faced off outside, the referee banished them all from ringside.
With only Paige and Sasha left, they started to trade signature moves. Sasha hit a double knee in the corner and Paige answered with a clothesline and another superkick. Sasha came back with a running double knee strike for a near fall. Paige recovered and hit a leg whip into an STF, only for Sasha to reach the ropes. Sasha reversed a body slam into a back stabber and the Banks Statement to get another impressive submission victory. With the early success for Sasha and Charlotte, it’s clear that WWE is invested in the success of their new call-ups.
Charlotte and Becky Lynch def. Nikki Bella and Alicia Fox
Despite a fast start from Charlotte, some double team work turned the tide for the Bella team and she found herself stuck in a variety of holds from Nikki and Alicia. On the heels of a jackknife, she reached her corner and brought Becky into the ring for a variety of suplexes. Charlotte speared Nikki when she tried to interfere. Alicia went for a schoolgirl and Becky countered into the Disarmer to get a submission win.
Bray Wyatt Reintroduces Luke Harper
Wyatt’s extended metaphor about his dog that came back to him with a scar evoked memories of Billy Madison’s “puppy that lost its way” fable. Likewise, I would award Wyatt zero points and suggest that God have mercy on his soul for this meandering, useless promo. Harper created some context in saying that he pledges his life to Wyatt for giving him meaning. When Wyatt took the mic back, he refocused on Roman Reigns and said that their rivalry is personal and need not involve Dean Ambrose. Oddly enough, I have enjoyed Wyatt’s in-ring work much more than his mic work lately.
Lana Humiliates Summer Rae
Rusev continued his prolonged smear campaign against his ex-girlfriend when he lavished gifts on Summer Rae. After he referred to Summer as “always hot and obedient,” he gave her a dog. He suggested that they name it “Dog Ziggler” because it pees on itself and is neutered. Next, he gave her a dead, headless fish that he compared to Lana.
On cue, Lana stomped to the ring and said that Rusev’s preoccupation with her is not fooling anyone. She jumped Summer and rubbed her face in the dead fish. The end of the segment was fairly predictable. At the same time, Lana’s personality has come out in measured doses and is serving her character well.
Lucha Dragons def. Los Matadores
Two teams who seldom see extended time on Raw not only faced each other, but got enough time to wrestle a real match. Of course, the purpose of the segment was to allow Titus O’Neil to sit in on commentary once again, and he took his diatribe against JBL past the point of entertainment. In the ring, the teams traded their typically athletic offense.
When Los Matadores tried to build momentum, New Day entered and danced to the ring with a “Real Father of the Year” sign above Kofi Kingston. While New Day and the Prime Time Players bickered at ringside, Kalisto pinned one of Los Matadores. A week after Los Matadores beat New Day, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that WWE is building to a multi-team Tag Title match at Summerslam.
Neville def. Fandango
Fandango showed signs of life with a nice inverted surfboard type of move at the start of the match. It did not take long for Neville to hit a couple of kicks and a topez con giro to the floor. Fandango rolled back into the ring and Nevile hit the Red Arrow to win. The match was simply too short to mean anything for either wrestler.
Conversely, the post-match promo from Stardust worked quite well. He painted himself as a super-villain, intent on bringing down the WWE’s “heroes,” like Neville. Following Dusty Rhodes’s death, I thought it would make sense to bring Cody Rhodes back as a babyface without makeup or goofy gimmicks. While the reborn Stardust is not that, at least he is starting to show some meaning and motivation.