11/9/15 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Undertaker and Kane Confront Bray Wyatt
Raw from Manchester, England did not have a true main event and it was probably better for it. Most of the show centered on the first-round matches in the WWE Title tournament that will conclude at Survivor Series, and those matches created intrigue and high stakes from beginning to end. The story elements were even better in the final segment of the show, when Undertaker and Kane returned from the metaphorical death imposed on them by Wyatt to stare him down.
Wyatt gave a Wyatt-esque promo about his assumption of power and dominance of WWE. The lights went out and pyro accompanied the surprise return of Undertaker and Kane. They cornered Wyatt in the ring to a massive fan reaction. The Wyatt Family members surrounded Undertaker and Kane, but they fought them off with teamwork. That left only Wyatt, who ate a double chokeslam from the Brothers of Destruction.
I love to see storylines outside of the traditional main event ending Raw because it negates the often formulaic nature of the show. With two weeks until Survivor Series, it appears natural that the Wyatts will get their heat back next week and necessitate some additional team members for Undertaker and Kane.
Title Tournament Round of 16
Roman Reigns def. Big Show
HHH opened the show by explaining the Seth Rollins injury and announcing the tournament to crown a new champion. He invited Reigns to the ring and gave a persuasive case for Reigns to join The Authority as their new poster boy. He offered Reigns the title straight away if he would do it on HHH’s terms, but Reigns refused and said that he would earn the title on his own. HHH announced Reigns would instead face Big Show in his first round match immediately.
As he often does, Reigns started the match slowly. Big Show overpowered him and wore him down. Reigns eventually got going with a Drive-By. He went for his Superman Punch, but Big Show caught him with a chokeslam for a two count. Reigns regained the momentum with a Superman Punch and finished Big Show with a nice Spear.
I recently re-watched the 1998 Survivor Series, which also featured a WWE Title tournament. While the quality of matches left much to be desired on that show, it was interesting from beginning to end. There was more interest in making the story told at the event itself cohesive and entertaining. Although I suspect that the matches at this year’s Survivor Series will be uniformly better, I can only hope that the entertainment value is as high. If the show is simply a coronation for Reigns as it appears, it will be a missed opportunity.
Kevin Owens def. Titus O’Neil
Owens turned even the smart Manchester fans against him by asserting that their admiration for the Royal Family makes them the dumbest people in the world. He did not start the match strong, as O’Neil overpowered him fairly easily. O’Neil punctuated his attack with a nice inverted pump-handle slam. Owens suddenly threw O’Neil off of the ropes and hit the Pop-Up Powerbomb to win. Given the spotlight that has been on Owens since he came to WWE’s main roster, he’s a good bet to go deep into the tournament. In fact, he might be the most likely to spoil the Roman Reigns coronation.
Cesaro def. Sheamus
One of the highlights of the evening was King Barrett’s brilliant dissection of Wayne Rooney’s flop against his beloved Preston North End a year before. Barrett did not get to follow up the promo because he only accompanied Sheamus to face his old rival Cesaro. Sheamus controlled the match and used Cesaro’s hands to flip him off of the top turnbuckle for an early near fall.
Cesaro fought back and nearly put Sheamus in the Swing, but Sheamus fell awkwardly on his arm when he suplexed him to the floor. Cesaro used a double-leg takedown to counter the Brogue Kick and went straight into the Sharpshooter, though Sheamus reached the ropes. Cesaro continued wrestling one-handed, even shifting to lefty uppercuts. When the action spilled to the floor, Sheamus and Barrett both became so preoccupied with trash talking Rooney that Cesaro was able to regroup. Rooney slapped Barrett while Cesaro rolled Sheamus up to win.
With Reigns waiting for him in the next round, Cesaro has probably already had his high point in the tournament. Nonetheless, it was a very fun match. Cesaro’s toughness and engagement with the fans were outstanding.
Dean Ambrose def. Tyler Breeze
Breeze wrestled his first Raw match in a WWE Title tournament and got to cut a fun promo about Ambrose’s style beforehand. The match moved extremely quickly until Breeze got a near fall with his feet on the ropes. Ambrose answered with a rebound clothesline that turned Breeze inside out. He went up top and landed badly on his left shoulder to give Breeze a clear target. As Breeze worked the shoulder mercilessly, Ambrose suddenly put him in a small package to get the victory. It was strange watching this match on the heels of Cesaro’s match- both featured a scary-looking injury that changed the match, and both ended with roll-ups.
Dolph Ziggler def. The Miz
Miz got the inauspicious “already in the ring” introduction for his first tournament match. He fared better in the fight by targeting Ziggler’s chronically bad knee. When Miz let up for a moment, Ziggler hit a quick superkick and got a three count to advance to the second round. It’s hard to see Ziggler going far in the tournament, so it would make sense for his participation to build his rivalry with Tyler Breeze.
New Day def. Neville and The Usos
New Day complained on their way to the ring about their exclusion from the Title Tournament, which is a fair gripe in kayfabe terms. Although they faced the Usos in only their second week back, the Usos fell right back into a very familiar routine. New Day cut off the ring, primarily on Jey Uso, and dominated the early part of the match. Neville got a hot tag and cleared house. The Usos hit superkicks and planchas to the floor and Neville followed those with a Phoenix Splash to the floor on the other five participants in the match.
It looked like Neville had an opportunity for a Red Arrow, but Big E tripped him off of the top turnbuckle. Neville hit his head hard on the mat, Woods pinned him with his feet on the ropes, and New Day escaped with the win. With the tournament as the primary focus of Survivor Series, the secondary matches will just have to fill in the gaps, and New Day vs. The Usos is very good gap filler.
Becky Lynch def. Paige
A week after Paige earned the Divas #1 Contender status, her former teammate brought her back down to earth. Paige called Becky and Charlotte the “b” and the “c” of their group. Their match was initial a little disjointed at the start. Becky eventually escaped the PTO and won the match by rollup. An angry Paige retaliated by jumping Becky and locking her in the PTO on the announce table. Byron Saxton hit the nail on the head when he yelled, “Why? Why?” since the location of the move seemed ineffective. Charlotte made the save and chased Paige away. I’m looking forward to Paige vs. Charlotte, but this build did not help.
Natalya def. Naomi
Natalya started working her way through Team BAD last week with victory over Tamina. This week, she faced Naomi to a chorus of “we want Sasha” chants. She fought through distractions and interference to get a rollup on Naomi for the win. Natalya tried to put Sasha in the Sharpshooter after the match, but Team BAD ganged up on her and allowed Sasha to hold in the Banks Statement. With cheap shots and arrogant taunts going back and forth, it was hard to tell which woman was supposed to be the fan favorite in this match.