Raw Review – The Beast is Back

6/15/15 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters

The Authority Names Brock Lesnar #1 Contender

Seth Rollins’s ego swelled with each Authority-aided title defense, so it was no surprise that he reached new levels of arrogance when he beat Dean Ambrose with no outside help. HHH and Stephanie McMahon did not appreciate his insubordination and used it as an opportunity to put him back in line. HHH’s mechanism to put Rollins in his place was one that many fans saw coming, but that didn’t ruin the fun of Brock Lesnar’s return.

At the start of the show, an incredibly cocky Rollins read a prepared statement in which he thanked himself repeatedly. He insulted Johnny Manziel in the front row and the city of Cleveland as a whole. As Rollins continued his diatribe, Ambrose hobbled to the ring and chased Rollins away, but that attack was not enough to get Ambrose back into the title picture.

Throughout the show, Rollins bickered with is old friends in The Authority. Rather than making up with J&J Security, he antagonized them further. Joey Mercury even challenged him for a title match based on his interference-aided victory last week. Similarly, Rollins and Kane continued to bicker. Kane snapped when Rollins mentioned Paul Bearer and the Undertaker, but they stopped short of a fight.

At last, Rollins joined Stephanie and HHH in the ring for their announcement of his next challenger. HHH said that he wants to put Rollins under pressure to see if he will turn into a diamond or merely dust. With that, Lesnar’s music hit and he walked to the ring with Paul Heyman, who shook hands with HHH. The look on Rollins’s face melted from betrayal to fear with Lesnar’s gaze fixed firmly upon him. Rollins finally backed down and walked backstage as the fans cheered the fully babyface Lesnar.

The Rollins-Lesnar rematch has been a golden opportunity from the moment Rollins won the WWE World Title at Wrestlemania. The wins over Ambrose and Randy Orton have solidified Rollins at the top of the card, but there is no better star-making adversary for him than Lesnar. With five weeks to go until Battleground, there are plenty of questions to answer: what is the relationship between Heyman and The Authority? Will Rollins enter the match without any allies? Why wasn’t Michael Cole more upset about Lesnar’s reinstatement after he was suspended for attacking him. Even with the longer gap between PPVs, those questions should leave plenty of story to fill the time.


Dean Ambrose def. Sheamus
While Ambrose didn’t get the shot at Rollins that he wanted from his sit-in, he got a match with Sheamus instead. Sheamus immediately targeted the bad knee that Rollins initially injured at Money in the Bank. Every time Ambrose would respond with any sort of offensive flurry, Sheamus would ground him once again with a hold like a knee bent behind his head and his cloverleaf submission.

At last, Ambrose started to sequence some offense. He countered the Beats of the Bodhran with his own version of the move and followed it with an elbow drop. After a rebound clothesline, Ambrose set up for Dirty Deeds. Sheamus escaped and rolled to the outside. Before he could run away, Randy Orton’s music hit and Orton chased him back in the ring. Ambrose hit Dirty Deeds to get a big win and Orton got some revenge on Sheamus, though Sheamus rolled out before Orton could hit an RKO.

Orton and Sheamus are off to a hot start in what appears to be their summer rivalry. It seems like Ambrose is likely to stay somewhere near the top of the card since he has no obvious fallback. Regardless of what Ambrose does next, he has solidified himself as a star and the result of this match reflects that elevated status.


Kevin Owens def. Dolph Ziggler
Owens came away from Money in the Bank offended that John Cena patronized him by raising his hand after their match and telling him that he belongs in WWE. With Cena off of the show, Owens issued his own open challenge. Hometown favorite Ziggler answered the call and said that he wanted to become the ¬champion that Cleveland deserves, but Owens retorted that he did not intend to put up the title.

In spite of the non-title stipulation, Ziggler came out firing on all cylinders. Owens used his momentum against him and hit an early senton and fallaway slam into the barricade. He threw Ziggler into the timekeeper’s area and Ziggler barely beat the count back into the ring. Owens tried a cannonball, but Ziggler met him with a superkick. Ziggler countered a powerbomb attempt into a sunset flip and hit a Rocker Dropper. He leapt over a pop-up powerbomb try and hit the Zig Zag, but Owens kicked out at two. At last, Owens put together a closing rally and hit the pop-up powerbomb to get the win.

It was the best kind of Ziggler match- one in which he fights from underneath enough to sell, look vulnerable, and get the crowd behind him for his comeback. While Ziggler remains in a holding pattern until Rusev recovers, one-off matches like this are a great way to use him. Owens winning in Ziggler’s hometown shows his stature in the company.


Kevin Owens Attacks MGK

Most musical guests on wrestling are total wastes of time. As such, I fast-forwarded through MGK’s performance until I saw Owens join him on the ramp. Owens started to congratulate him, but quickly turned on him and powerbombed him off of the ramp. Other than the clear visual of the cushion onto which MGK fell, it was brilliant, classic heel behavior.


Bray Wyatt Explained His Attack on Roman Reigns
An angry Reigns stormed the ring and demanded answers from Wyatt. When Wyatt appeared on the Titantron and started to speak in riddles, Reigns ordered him to get to the point. Wyatt defied the odds and actually explained himself. He said that Reigns took his place in the Money in the Bank match- a bizarrely utilitarian explanation for Wyatt.

He went on to say that Reigns is the sort of false idol that he exists to debunk. He closed by ominously holding up a picture of Reigns with his daughter. Wyatt virtually never has an inciting incident or a personal element in his rivalries. With the promise of both of those in this program, Wyatt and Reigns could do very good things.


The Bellas def. Paige
Paige organized a secret meeting for all of the women on the roster and tried to get them to align with her against the Bellas. When Nikki and Brie interrupted the meeting, they reminded their rivals of their alliance with The Authority and they quickly dispersed, leaving Paige alone.

That meant Paige was by herself for a handicap match against both Bellas. She fought valiantly against a series of double teams early in the match. She even knocked Nikki to the floor to isolate Brie. She hit her with the Rampage and covered her until Nikki broke it up at two. Finally, Nikki hit a big forearm and the Rack Attack to get the win and leave Paige desperate.

It seems like Paige is destined to find a partner outside of the main Divas roster. One would think that Charlotte would be a prime candidate for the spot, but I have incorrectly predicted her promotion so many times that I’m going to stop trying.


Prime Time Players and Neville def. New Day
This match went on last before the announcement of the new #1 Contender, which indicates that the company still sees some value in the tag team division. The coronation for the new champions was rather bland until Neville and Xavier Woods found themselves isolated in the ring and dialed up the pace significantly. At last, Darren Young hit a gut-buster to set up Neville for the Red Arrow on Kofi Kingston to win. Despite the loss, I suspect New Day will quickly find their way back into the title mix.


Big Show def. The Miz
Ryback sat in on commentary and came off as excessively scripted rather than the likeable weirdo I typically enjoy. In the ring, Miz ran from Big Show until Big Show feigned a leg injury to draw Miz in close. From there, Big Show cleanly dominated the Miz all over the ring.

Naturally, the action moved outside and Big Show started an argument with Ryback. Miz slipped back into the ring just in time to win by count out, which only enraged Big Show more. Ryback ripped off his shirt (and looked even more terrifying than he does in his singlet) and charged the giant, but Big Show got away in time. As long as Ryback is stuck working with two marginal opponents, his ceiling is limited, but this segment worked fairly well tonight.


Kane def. Randy Orton
What looked like one of the least exciting matches possible on paper basically lived down to those expectations until Sheamus emerged and changed the circumstances. Kane used his Director of Operations power to add a No DQ stipulation to the match and Sheamus Brogue Kicked his burgeoning rival. That move allowed Kane to get a rare pin and got some legitimate heat on Sheamus.


R-Truth def. King Barrett
Adorned in a bed sheet and a paper crown, R-Truth didn’t even realize he was booked in a match with Barrett. Despite the lack of preparation, he ducked a Bullhammer and won via schoolboy. I’m sure the idea of Barrett’s post-match Bullhammer and promo about taking his kingship seriously were meant to help him get his heat back. I’m afraid that ship has sailed. I was curious whether Barrett’s 50/50 booking would get better after he won King of the Ring. I didn’t expect to see it get considerably worse.