No matter the great work Rollins and Ambrose are doing in the main event, there’s still a black hole at the heart of the title picture. WWE had a chance last night to really ramp up the narrative by having almost any number of opponents win the Money In The Bank contract ladder match last night. The obvious choice for the win was Roman Reigns. Having him carry the briefcase would have cemented a Shield showdown for the title for months on end. A win for Roman would have meant WWE could draw on a whole lot of backstory for its current World Heavyweight Championship feud.
That didn’t happen though. Hell, even Kofi Kingston didn’t win, the WWE denying us the joy that could have been New Day using the briefcase under the Freebird rules. Instead, Sheamus won the briefcase and is maybe in the title picture? Or will be after he’s done feuding with Randy Orton? It’s hard to tell what WWE’s plan is right now in terms of the Celtic Warrior, but his insertion into the title picture is a little puzzling. When he comes out on Raw tonight and says he could cash in his contract at any time, there’s nothing exciting about it. It’s a boast without any stakes behind it, and that means for the first time in awhile the MITB briefcase feels like an accessory, not a threat.
There is, of course, a giant threat who hails from Suplex City ready to step back into the title picture. That’s right, Brock Lesnar is back from his suspension and looking to take back what’s rightfully his: the World Heavyweight Championship that he never lost. Lesnar’s inclusion in tonight’s Raw, and in the storyline going forward, is perhaps the only thing that’s saving the main event right now. It immediately adds history and motivation to the storyline. More than that, it sets up an intriguing angle where Seth Rollins is the superstar who’s fallen out of the Authority’s good graces.
Lesnar is the obvious highlight of a spotty show. The entire show felt like WWE understanding that Lesnar would blow the roof off, so why not just throw some meaningless stuff out in the ring and see what happens. That means there were some serious duds tonight, but also some fun matches. The best of the night saw new WWE Tag Team Champions the Primetime Players teaming up with Neville to take on the New Day. The match was remarkable because it made everyone look great. New Day continues to do masterful heel work, Neville is just about everything you want in a high-flying talent, and PTP looked like legit champs. It was especially nice to see Darren Young getting some offense in, as he’s largely been playing the beaten body to Titus O’Neil’s dominating bruiser.
Even the “lesser” matches on the card had their moments. Miz vs. Big Show was mostly just an excuse for Ryback to utter the best line of the night on commentary (see that below), but I always enjoy Miz in his hometown. Plus, it makes sense that he’d spend the match running away. Who the hell would want to fight that giant? He may lose a lot, but he’s huge, so props to Miz for getting the countout win. Paige and the Bellas managed to make a handicap match not unbearable, which is saying something. The Bellas took it to Paige for the majority of the match before Paige made her comeback. It was thwarted though, so we got one of those rare handicap matches where the team with more wrestlers actually won. You need those every now and then to remind the audience that sometimes there is logic to the storytelling.
And let’s not forget that amongst all the Lesnar hoopla, there’s this guy named Kevin Owens lurking in WWE just waiting for another opportunity to beat anyone, including WWE’s musical guests. First he dispatches with Ziggler, then he takes out Machine Gun Kelly. I don’t know what WWE has planned for Owens but right now he’s the best thing they have on television and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture sooner rather than later.
But back to Brock. This was a typical episode of Raw, one with a fair amount of highlights but outweighed by the filler that’s necessitated by a three-hour show. When Lesnar’s music hit though, all that filler disappeared. This wasn’t the most exciting episode of Raw but in many ways it was the most promising in awhile. It put into place feuds that have the potential to last. There’s Wyatt cutting his best promo in ages and bringing Reigns’ daughter into their feud; there’s motivation there and that’s how you build a good feud. There’s Owens and absolutely everybody that comes near him. There’s PTP versus New Day. The Divas division is a mess of heel-face dynamics, but there’s still a potential storyline there with the Bellas unfairly ruling the division with Twin Magic. Then there’s Lesnar and Rollins. There’s Brock staring Rollins down, and Rollins doing everything he can to avoid eye contact. These are two guys at the top of their game right now and in five weeks they’ll square off. Hard to argue with that.
- Programming note: Like C.M. Punk before her, LaToya is just fed up with main roster WWE. I’ll be taking over the weekly reviews from here on out. Fear not though! LaToya will still be bringing it with the weekly NXT reviews.
- RESULTS: Dean Ambrose defeated Sheamus; R-Truth defeated Bad News Barrett; Kevin Owens defeated Dolph Ziggler; Kane defeated Randy Orton; The Miz defeated Bis Show (via countout); The Bella Twins defeated Paige; Neville and the Primetime Players defeated New Day.
- “You got Miz all over me.” Ryback wins the whole night.
- Someone tell Paige that Nikki Bella isn’t married.
- Rollins is next-level right now. The way he sold being absolutely terrified of Lesnar was a thing of beauty.
- WWE decided to air their Dusty Rhodes tribute so that I could cry for the second night in a row.
- Sick of Sheamus vs. Randy Orton? Here’s an Orton vs. Kane match for you!
- Barrett lost again because that’s what he does.