This week’s edition of Raw continues the build to the awkwardly named Great Balls of Fire PPV on July 9. Brock Lesnar, the Universal Champion, is back on Raw this week after taking last week off, so the big selling point of this show is that Lesnar (and Paul Heyman) is going to call out his GBOF opponent, Samoa Joe.
There’s also going to be an appearance from new Los Angles Lakers (that’s NBA for those that don’t follow basketball) #2 overall draft pick Lonzo Ball and his eccentric father LaVar Ball. The duo are advertised for a Miz TV segment. If you follow sports then you know who they are, but if you don’t I’ll try to explain it to you.
The timing is great since Lonzo was just drafted by the Lakers last Thursday and LaVar has been getting a lot of press for being so loud. LaVar has been all over sports talk shows in the last couple of months talking about how great his son is going to be and doing things like putting his “Big Baller Brand” shoes on sale for $495, which is ridiculously high. Anyway, LaVar fits into wrestling well because he knows how to be over the top and get attention, which is obviously really important on WWE TV. As for Lonzo, he’s only 19 years old with a lot of pressure on his shoulders, but I think he’ll be great in the NBA. Lonzo also comes across as a quiet guy that is almost embarrassed by how obnoxious his dad can be. LaVar has two younger sons that he hopes can make the NBA too, so it’s not like he’ll get out of the spotlight. The positive thing is that it’s good to have a father that cares so much rather than one that doesn’t or one that isn’t even there. In most cities, LaVar would likely get booed heavily. However, since he’s an LA guy and his son is going to play for the Lakers it might be a more positive reaction. The main reason it’s being done is because it will get WWE some mainstream press in the sports media and we know that’s always something WWE wants. I think it’s a smart move on WWE’s part. Whether it’s a good segment or not, we’ll find out together during the show.
Live from Los Angeles, California (go Rams) this is the Raw Deal for episode #1255. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Thanks Melo Man for the creative banner up top where you can wonder if he left “of fire” off at the end of it or if we like it better that way.
There was a live shot of the arena with no Raw theme song, no pyro and no replay from last week. That’s when the music of Roman Reigns hit.
Roman Reigns Has Things To Say
Reigns made his entrance to a mixed reaction from the crowd. A replay aired from last week when Samoa Joe beat Roman Reigns due to a shocking appearance from Braun Strowman. That will set up Reigns vs. Strowman in an Ambulance Match at the Great Balls of Fire PPV on July 9. The announce team of Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Booker T were shown on camera welcoming us to the show.
Reigns stood in the ring while some of the crowd chanted “we want Strowman” and others cheered him. Reigns said that last week on Raw, Samoa Joe put the Coquina Clutch on him and put him to sleep. Reigns noted that when Joe was done, Braun Strowman returned and picked the bones like a coward while Reigns was down. Reigns said that Strowman challenged him to an Ambulance Match and Reigns noted he’s never been in an Ambulance Match. Reigns accepted the challenge even though the match was made official last week. Reigns said that he’s going to throw Strowman into the ambulance and take him straight to hell because “this is my yard.” Crowd booed. An ambulance siren interrupted the promo as an ambulance backed its way into the building by the ramp.
Analysis: Quick promo from Reigns with a lot of reaction from the crowd. They don’t like the guy even though he’s still portrayed as a face.
Reigns left the ring and slowly walked over to the ambulance. Reigns paused by the back of the ambulance door, he opened it and there was nothing in there. Strowman attacked Reigns from behind with a forearm. Strowman tossed Reigns onto the stage. Reigns went for a Superman Punch, but Strowman grabbed him and sent Reigns into the side of the ambulance. Great bump. Strowman tossed Reigns into the back of the ambulance and shut the doors as a preview of what could happen at GBOF on July 9. The ambulance drove away with Reigns in it. Strowman did his pose to celebrate what happened.
Analysis: Great attack by Strowman to make him look as dominant as ever. That bump into the ambulance by Reigns was really well done. The crowd was firmly behind Strowman during that segment even though he’s supposed to be the heel. The opening segment went about ten minutes, so that’s better than 15 minutes or more like we get sometimes.
Later: Brock Lesnar is on Raw.
Finn Balor and the Hardy Boyz vs. Elias Samson, Sheamus & Cesaro is up next.
A commercial aired for Smackdown this week and their women’s Money in the Bank ladder match for the second time.
Replays aired of what happened before the break. The announce team talked about the Reigns situation with Strowman.
The trio of Elias Samson, Sheamus & Cesaro were in the ring with the spotlight on them. Samson said normally he’s a solo act, but he thought he would form a trio and give us a song we all deserve. Samson strung the guitar a bit, said nothing and The Hardy Boyz interrupted.
Analysis: It would have been funny to see them try to sing a cheesy song together, but it was not meant to be.
The Hardys made their entrance to a nice ovation followed by their partner Finn Balor, who took a lot longer to get through his entrance.
Cesaro, Sheamus & Elias Samson vs. Finn Balor, Matt Hardy & Jeff Hardy
Double team by the Hardys early with the Poetry in Motion attack on Sheamus in the corner. Double suplex by Hardys on Cesaro. Samson left ring to avoid Balor and there’s the commercial one minute into it.
Back from break, the heels were in control of the action. They worked on Jeff Hardy, Balor tagged in and the heels focused on him. Actor Josh Duhamel randomly joined commentary to plug Transformers and some WWE Films production they are starting soon. Duhamel said he just met Vince McMahon and he’s never been to a WWE show before. Duhamel noted Sheamus is in his next movie. Sheamus hit a slam on Balor. Jeff tagged in and hit the double leg drop on Sheamus. When Sheamus tried to come back, Sheamus went for an attack and hit the ring post. Jeff up top for an attack, Cesaro pulled him out of the ring and Jeff jumped onto Cesaro on the floor. Samson distracted Jeff on the apron and Sheamus hit a knee lift on Jeff for a two count as Jeff got his foot on the rope. That knee looked nasty. Show went to break there.
Back from break, Sheamus hit a backbreaker on Jeff for a two count. Cesaro was in there, Jeff hit a back body drop on Cesaro and tried to tag out. Sheamus tagged in and Jeff hit him with the Twist of Fate. Matt got the hot tag against Samson as he sent him into the turnbuckle face first repeatedly. Matt hit the Side Effect on Samson for a two count as Sheamus made the save. Cesaro into the ring and he sent Matt into the steel post. Cesaro and Sheamus did a double team White Noise for a two count as Balor made the save. Jawbreaker by Matt on Cesaro. Balor hot tag offense with forearms for everybody, kick to Samson on the floor and a leaping kick to the head. Balor with a running clothesline that sent Cesaro to the floor and a clothesline that sent Sheamus to the floor as well. Balor hit a somersault dive over the top to take out the guys on the floor. Balor with the Slingblade, then a running a dropkick and Balor went up top. Matt took down Sheamus with a Twist of Fate on the floor. Jeff took out Samson with a dive on the floor. Balor hit the Coup de Grace double foot stomp off the top on Cesaro for the pinfall win after 17 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Finn Balor, Matt Hardy & Jeff Hardy
Analysis: ***1/4 Very good tag match. It got a lot of time, the crowd was into all of it and the last few minutes were excellent with a lot of high flying action. Balor was on fire after the hot tag. I thought the finish was a bit sloppy just because Balor was standing on the top rope while Cesaro was down in the center of the ring for about 20 seconds while both Hardys did moves on the floor. It looked a bit silly to have Cesaro just laying there for so long. Anyway, Balor getting the win is fine because it was the first match of the night and the crowd was strongly beside him.
The announcers thanked Josh Duhamel for joining them. Replays aired of the finish.
The face trio celebrated the win after the match.
A “Shattered Dreams Production” video aired featuring Goldust with him saying “The Shattered Truth” hits Hollywood. Goldust said that he knows that R-Truth may be nervous, but a true professional like himself must bring his A-game and shine like gold. Goldust claimed he is putting the finishing touches on his masterpiece. Goldust said the “golden age is back” and did the chomp. He’s up against R-Truth in a match up next.
Analysis: Same promo he’s been doing for the last month.
Goldust made his entrance. He had his own camera man in gold suit filming him. I was hoping for the classic Goldust wig and robe, but he didn’t have that.
R-Truth didn’t do his rap on the way to the ring. He just walked down to the ring with a purpose.
Goldust hid behind the camera guy and Goldust took advantage by punching Truth in the face. The ref told Goldust to back off, but Goldust ended up sending his arm into the ring post. Goldust’s music played. That was it.
Analysis: No match. Just an angle to further the story. I thought it was weak in terms of the attack, but should lead to a match at Great Balls of Fire on July 9.
Paul Heyman was interviewed backstage by Charly Caruso. Samoa Joe grabbed Heyman from behind. Joe teased putting Heyman into the Coquina Clutch, he said something to Heyman about putting Lesnar in the Coquina Clutch and that was it.
Analysis: Quick segment to set up Lesnar/Joe confrontation later.
The Miz is up next with LaVar, Lonzo and the Ball family in a Miz TV segment.
There was a graphic telling us that Adweek named Stephanie McMahon one of the most powerful women in sports. Yawn. Please stay off TV Stephanie. You are not missed.
There’s a women’s gauntlet match coming later on Raw. Replays aired from last week showing the rushed women’s segment where the faces cleared the ring of the heels.
Kurt Angle, the Raw General Manager, was backstage with a mini tumbler. He had Bayley there and she pulled out a ball with a number in it. She just smiled and the scene cut away.
Miz TV with LaVar Ball, Lonzo Ball and other Ball family members
The Miz, the Intercontinental Champion, walked out with his lovely wife Maryse. Miz was wearing his ring gear underneath his awful looking robe. He said things were great with her, but she wouldn’t kiss him. The ring was full of chairs and “Big Baller Brand” shirts. The Miz sucked up to the crowd saying LA was his adopted home town.
The Miz introduced LaVar Ball and one of his sons Lamelo Ball. He’s still in high school. LaVar ran down to the ring with enthusiasm. LaVar introduced his son, Lonzo Ball, who was just drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers this past Thursday. Lonzo is rocking the socks with sandals look as if he’s an old man in his 50s instead of a 19 year old man.
There were five chairs in the ring with Miz welcoming Lonzo. That led to Lonzo saying it was great being in the Staples Center for the first time as a Los Angeles Laker. Miz said a partnership with the Big Baller Brand would be great. LaVar said that they aren’t there for a partnership. LaVar said they were thinking of a partnership with somebody higher because Miz is a little too low for them.
Miz told LaVar that he’s a proven champion. LaVar said he’s won two championships, Lonzo said three and Miz asked if UCLA won the championship and the crowd booed. LaVar started arguing about how Miz has too many zippers on his coat. LaVar ranted about how great he is. Miz got in his face. LaVar told Miz to stay in his lane. Miz took off his jacket to show he was in his ring gear and LaVar took off his shirt too acting all crazy. This was pretty bad. Dean Ambrose’s music interrupted it.
Ambrose was wearing a Big Baller Brand shirt. LaVar was running around the ring like a madman. Ambrose said he was there to represent the Big Baller Brand and he likes free t-shirts. The music of Ambrose played to end it as Cole noted a six man tag was coming up.
(Note: LaMelo Ball said the “N” word twice during the segment as Ambrose made his entrance and was picked up by the microphone. I didn’t catch it live, but a lot of viewers did and WWE had to issue an apology about it.)
Analysis: That was awkward did more bad than good. I thought it might go better than that, but it really didn’t work because I think LaVar did a poor job of taking his time to deliver some of his lines. Miz tried his best to carry the promo. It was definitely sloppy. The crowd didn’t know how to react because they cheered Lonzo being on the Lakers, but you could tell that they found LaVar to be obnoxious. I’m sure a lot of people watching felt the same way, which is why it was so awkward. The Balls were presented like the faces there, yet LaVar managed to come off as a jerk like he has done many times on television. He needs to learn to tone it down a bit. Anyway, it was harmless and will probably get WWE some mainstream press. That’s why they did it even though it likely pissed off loyal WWE viewers, especially those of you who had no idea who these guys are.
Tag match started after the break. The Ball family guys were gone.
Dean Ambrose, Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. The Miz (w/Maryse), Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas
Ambrose was wrestling in that Big Baller Brand shirt. There were some quick tags from both teams early on. Miz sent Rhyno into the turnbuckle with hard whip into the corner due to the heels getting control. Rhyno hit a back elbow on Axel followed by a clothesline out of the corner. Ambrose got the tag, took down Axel with clotheslines, neckbreaker on Miz, bulldog and clothesline combo on Miz and Axel at the same time. Ambrose sent Dallas and Axel to the floor, so Slater & Rhyno tossed Miz over the top rope onto the other heels outside the ring. They went to break five minutes into it.
The heels were in control of Slater with Miz hitting Slater with his weak looking kicks to the chest. Slater came back with a flapjack. Dallas prevented Slater from tagging out. Slater hit a neckbreaker on Axel, Miz tagged in and Slater nailed Miz with a jumping heel kick. Rhyno tagged in against Dallas with two clotheslines, shoulder tackle in the corner and a spinebuster by Rhyno earned a two count as Miz made the save. Ambrose chased after Miz. Axel with a punch to Rhyno and Dallas with the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! to pin Rhyno for the win after 12 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: The Miz, Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas
It was announced as The Miz and “The Miztourage” as the winners, so they’re going with that Miztourage name officially.
Analysis: **1/4 It was a basic tag match that wasn’t as good as the tag match earlier in the show. I don’t think it’s a smart move to do two six man tag matches in a row because they are the same format building up to the hot tag and the finish. I’m glad that the heel side won since the “Miztourage” team needed the win to build up credibility as a new group.
Paul Heyman was shown waiting in the back for Brock Lesnar.
A video package aired about the Enzo & Cass tag team leading to their breakup last week when Cass attacked Enzo. The video took a few minutes as they replayed Big Cass doing the big boot to Enzo’s face a few times.
Enzo Amore was shown walking backstage. He’s up next.
Enzo Amore Has Things To Say
Enzo Amore made his entrance to the theme song that he used when he teamed with Big Cass. I guess he keeps the song in the divorce.
Enzo did his usual promo in the aisle. It was weird not hearing the part for Big Cass, so he just ran into the ring.
Enzo walked into the ring and said this isn’t about him. Enzo took off his jacket to reveal an Enzo & Cass t-shirt. Enzo said that he has tried to get a hold of Cass all week and even got in touch with his mother, but he never heard back from him. Enzo said that he knows he’s done some stupid things and said that he needs to Cass right now.
Big Cass made his entrance to the same theme song the team used. Sorry, but I’m not deleting the divorce joke. Cass wore a plain black shirt, which is telling. Cass walked into the ring and Enzo spoke.
Enzo said that Cass said a lot of things last week while admitting that Cass said a lot of truthful things also. Enzo said that he would say all those things to people because he knew he had Cass with him. Enzo said that they are like family and told Cass he’s like his brother. Enzo repeated himself by saying that Cass is his family. Enzo said that he doesn’t have time to dwell on the past while noting that he saw anger, passion and pain on Cass’ face. Enzo spoke about how this is real, that Cass is his brother and they are family. Enzo told Cass that he refuses to let Cass break that bond before the two of them become Tag Team Champions. Cass took the microphone from him.
Cass told Enzo he doesn’t know when to shut up. Cass admitted that after what he did last week he had never been so ashamed in his life. Cass said that Enzo runs his mouth and he accepts him for what he is while noting that he’s not going to change Enzo and Enzo can’t change him. Cass noted that like Enzo said they are brothers. Cass said in front of the world he wants to say to his brother: “I’m sorry.” Cass said he’s sorry for everything he said, everything he did, sorry about the past five weeks and for Enzo to please accept his apology. Fans chanted “no” for it.
Cass wanted a handshake. They talked to eachother without the use of the microphone. They shook hands. Cass gave him a brotherly hug. Cass did the “SAWFT” bit to end it and they hugged in the ring again. They posed together on the ramp and Cass decked Enzo with a clothesline. Crowd was mad about that. Cass picked up Enzo above his head and tossed him down the ramp with Enzo rolling onto the floor. Cass left while referees ran out to check on Enzo. Good heat for Cass for the cheap attack.
Analysis: That was well done. The crowd bought into the team reuniting. I didn’t think it was going to stick because I’ve watched a lot of WWE programming in my life and when you do that you know how things will go. It was a jerk move by Cass to do it after he had earned Enzo’s trust back. I thought it was great. The eventual match should lead to Cass getting the win, then Big Show can come to Enzo’s aid and Cass can go over Big Show too. I don’t have strong expectations for the match, but the story has been good.
Seth Rollins is up next.
The announcers were talking about the women’s match and Big Cass went up to Graves at the table. Cass was mad about Graves exposing him last week, he said he wanted to beat up Graves, but Angle told Cass he couldn’t touch him. Cass said he didn’t know what Graves had on Angle, but it must be good. Cass left angrily while Booker asked Graves what he knew about Angle and Graves avoided answering.
Analysis: Good to see Cass is being a jerk to Graves for exposing him last week. I know some people think there might be some sort of Graves alliance with Cass, but I don’t think they are going in that direction now. Graves having some secret about Angle is an interesting story that’s been going on for over a month now.
Seth Rollins made his entrance. A replay aired from last week when Rollins took out Wyatt with a cross body block off the top rope.
Curt Hawkins, rocking the NY Mets colors, was in the ring. He asked the fans who thinks he’s about to lose this match (fans cheered) and asked the fans if they think he’s going to win (fans booed).
Seth Rollins vs. Curt Hawkins
Hawkins with a clothesline early on followed by a suplex. Chinlock by Hawkins. Rollins back to his feet and a kick to the head sent Hawkins to the floor. Rollins with a suicide dive onto Hawkins on the floor that sent Hawkins into the barricade. Back in the ring, Rollins hit a Slingblade followed by a Blockbuster neckbreaker and a springboard clothesline off the top rope. Rollins hit a standing side kick to the face. Rollins hit his running knee lift to the face for the victory after three minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Seth Rollins
Analysis: *1/2 Easy win for Rollins as expected as soon as the match started. I don’t like the running knee as a finish. It’s not impactful enough and when you see how Nakamura does his version this looks weak. He should use a Frog Splash or something else to win matches because that looks more impressive.
Bray Wyatt did a promo on the video screen. He spoke about how Rollins told the people to “be like no one” (the tag line of the video game) and Wyatt said that he was going to save Rollins. Wyatt claimed that Rollins would be cleansed by the flame of a true God. Wyatt told Rollins to be careful what he wished for because Wyatt is everywhere. Wyatt mentioned July 9 (Great Balls of Fire day), so it sounds like he challenged Rollins to a match.
Analysis: It’s the same promo Wyatt always does about being a God. When he was first doing these promos they stood out as different, but now they feel so repetitive with the things he says. At least some progress was made by mentioning a PPV match between Wyatt and Rollins.
There was a shot backstage of Mickie James and Dana Brooke picking their order of entry balls from the mini tumbler that Kurt Angle set up. One woman is great and the other woman is named Dana.
Heyman was in the parking lot as a car pulled up and Brock Lesnar emerged as the second hour ended.
The show returned with Kurt Angle in his office as Sasha Banks chose her number out of the tumbler.
Confrontation with Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe
Paul Heyman was alone in the ring doing a promo introducing himself to us like he always does. Heyman mentioned that Samoa Joe did a cheap shot on Brock Lesnar two weeks ago and then Joe kicked Lesnar in the face when Lesnar was being held by others for the second cheap shot. Heyman said that Joe is a “Samoan Dumbass” for what he did with Lesnar. Heyman warned Joe by telling him that now is the time to fear Brock Lesnar. Heyman said now is the time to hit record because this is the moment you’ll be talking about tomorrow. Heyman introduced the reigning, defending, undisputed Universal Champion Brock Lesnar.
Lesnar walked out with the Universal Championship around his waist. Lesnar was on the ramp, so Samoa Joe attacked Lesnar from behind and took him down with the Coquina Clutch. Lesnar fought out of it and backed Joe into the video screen twice. Joe didn’t let go as he applied the Coquina Clutch again. Lesnar’s face was turning purple. Joe choked out Lesnar as Karl Anderson, Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder showed up and pulled Joe back. That led to Joe yelling at Lesnar some more. Lesnar was down on the ramp and struggled back to his feet as the show went to break. Lesnar looked like he was in a lot of pain. Great selling job by him.
Analysis: Excellent segment from these guys that left us wanting more. Having Joe get the advantage was perfect because it makes Joe look like a credible opponent for Lesnar. It makes fans buy into the idea that Joe could beat Lesnar when they have their match at Great Balls of Fire on July 9. What they also did was leave us wanting more like their brawl from two weeks earlier. I hope there are more meaningful segments from Lesnar and Joe in the build up to the match. Lesnar’s selling was great. It’s also something we don’t see that often, so it meant a lot to see him in pain like that.
A replay aired of Joe’s attack on Lesnar from before the break.
Akira Tozawa is ringside in some VIP area set up for him by Titus O’Neil.
Neville vs. Lince Dorado
This is not for Neville’s Cruiserweight Title.
Neville whipped Dorado into the turnbuckle twice and grounded him with a headlock. Dorado hit a dropkick. Neville was on the floor, so Dorado hit a suicide dive where he flipped onto Neville on the floor. Back in the ring, Neville took control with a back kick and a running kick to the face. Rings of Saturn submission by Neville wins it after three minutes.
Winner by submission: Neville
Analysis: *1/4 A quick match to put over Neville. Dorado got a few moves in, but had no moments in the match where I thought he was going to win. At least it’s a champ winning non-title, so that’s a positive.
After the match, Neville held the Cruiserweight Title in the ring and stared at Tozawa.
Tozawa went into the ring to face off with Neville. Titus O’Neil made his entrance wearing a suit. O’Neil said he just finalized a match for Neville vs. Tozawa for the Cruiserweight Title. O’Neil noted that Tozawa is signed officially to Titus Worldwide, which is no longer the Titus Brand. Titus ended it with the “powa (like power) of Tozawa” line. The crowd reacted to it in a positive way.
Analysis: It’s a fresh matchup. The crowd cares about Tozawa a bit, but they need to do more than have Titus do promos for him especially since O’Neil is a heel. A face wrestler with a heel manager is awkward too.
Emma was shown in Angle’s office and she picked her number.
There was a replay of the Roman Reigns/Braun Strowman segment from earlier. They face off in an Ambulance Match at Great Balls of Fire on July 9. It was noted by Cole that Reigns got out of the ambulance and is looking for Strowman.
Analysis: I thought Reigns would show up at the end of the show and brawl with Strowman, but they didn’t appear again on Raw.
Heyman was shown walking backstage as Charly Caruso showed up to interview him. Heyman said that Samoa Joe doesn’t bring the fight to somebody’s face like some Samoans – he attacks from behind. Heyman said that as a promoter he is loving every minute of it because Lesnar has his back against the wall. Heyman talked about how it’s going to be a violent fight to a brutal finish where Lesnar will take Joe to Suplex City. Heyman said after the match is over, Joe will be in the trainer’s room and the trainers will react to it wondering what it’s like being in the ring with Lesnar. Heyman ended it by saying “goodness gracious, great balls of fire” line like the song goes.
Analysis: Great promo from Heyman like usual. Way to work in the song lyrics at the end the way nobody else could.
Alexa Bliss, the Raw Women’s Champion, talked to Nia Jax backstage. Bliss said that it’s not easy being them. Bliss said she didn’t need it, but she said good luck. Jax said she didn’t need it and she’ll see Bliss and her title at Great Balls of Fire. Jax walked off because the gauntlet match is next.
Analysis: The story is that Bliss is only friends with Jax because she’s scared of her. It’s how a cowardly heel champion should be.
Bayley made her entrance to a good ovation from the fans in her home state of California.
Nia Jax is the second woman in the match.
The rules for the gauntlet match is two women start, when one of them loses, the next woman enters and it goes until there’s one woman left after a series of one on one matches. It’s luck of the draw in terms of the order that will determine the winner.
Gauntlet Match: Bayley vs. Nia Jax
Jax with a clothesline early on. Jax dominated for a few minutes. Bayley hit a running knee attack on Jax while on the apron. Bayley went up and hit her with an elbow drop to the back for a two count. Jax drove Bayley into the corner with a kick. Bayley went up top, Jax knocked her down and Jax hit a Samoan Drop to eliminate her. It went about four minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Nia Jax
Mickie James was up next as the show went to break.
Gauntlet Match: Nia Jax vs. Mickie James
Jax tossed James across the ring and gave her a headbutt. Jax slapped on a bearhug to wear down James. Sunset flip attempt by James, but Jax just pulled her up and applied a bearhug again. Great punch to the face by James. When Jax picked up James, Mickie nailed a dropkick and went for some forearms. Boot to the face by Jax. James up top and she took down Jax with a press into a two count. Spinning Mick Kick by Mickie stunned Jax, but when James went for a DDT there was Jax to overpower her. Jax ran over James with a running body attack and pinned her. It went about four minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Nia Jax
Analysis: *1/2 Good effort by James with the comeback and nearly putting her away. Mickie would probably be the best opponent for Jax in a longer match since MJ is a veteran that knows what she’s doing and gets the most out of her opponents. This was all about putting over Jax, though.
Dana Brooke was up next.
Gauntlet Match: Nia Jax vs. Dana Brooke
Brooke went for a cartwheel move in the corner, so Jax shoved her down and hit a leg drop for the pinfall after about 30 seconds of action.
Winner by pinfall: Nia Jax
Analysis: That’s what you do when you know Dana Brooke isn’t that good in the ring. You squash her.
Emma was up next.
Gauntlet Match: Nia Jax vs. Emma
Emma was aggressive early on with dropkicks to take down Jax. Emma went up top, Jax tripped her up and Jax hit her with a Samoan Drop to beat her in about one minute. Crowd popped for that.
Winner by pinfall: Nia Jax
Analysis: At least Emma got some offense in. Good reaction for that finish.
Sasha Banks was the last woman in the gauntlet as the crowd gave her a good ovation.
Gauntlet Match: Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks
Banks was aggressive early. Jax charged in and Banks sent her to the floor. Banks went for a dive onto Jax, but Jax caught her on the floor. Banks sent Jax into the ring post. Banks hit a running double knee attack on Jax on the floor leading to a commercial about one minute into it.
Back from break, Jax was in control of the action. There was a clip of her dominance during the break. Jax sent Banks to the floor. Banks got back in the ring, avoided a corner attack, hit a double knee attack two times in a row and Jax decked her with a clothesline for two. Jax sent Banks out of the ring with Banks holding her ankle. Back in the ring, Jax stood on Banks back and hit an elbow drop for a two count. Jax dumped Banks out of the ring again. Jax continued the offense when Banks went back in the ring. Jax tossed her out of the ring again. It’s as if they just want to kill time. The crowd sounded like they were losing interest. Jax applied a bearhug. Banks fought back with a tight headlock, so Jax picked her up and slammed her down hard. Banks went for a rollup, Jax didn’t go down and Banks went for a leg drop that Banks avoided. Banks hit a running knee attack to the face of Jax. That sounded and looked good. Banks went for the Bank Statement submission, but Jax powered out of it. Banks went for a headscissors and Jax countered with a Samoan Drop. Jax set up for the Samoan Drop again, but Banks fought out of it. Banks pulled back on the head/neck of Jax. Banks pulled Jax all the way down to the mat in a submission move that ended with Banks doing a Bank Statement like submission. Jax was forced to tap out for the loss. It went 15 minutes.
Winner by submission: Sasha Banks
It was noted by Booker T that the Gauntlet went 33 minutes and Jax lasted the whole way.
Analysis: *** It was slow paced early on, but then it became a good story with Banks wearing her down. Jax sold things well, the crowd bought into every move that Banks did in the comeback and they popped big for the win. I liked how Banks had to jump on her back to take her down rather than simply apply the Bank Statement easily for the win. The ending of the match is so important and I thought they got it right here, which certainly helps the rating of the match.
Kurt Angle made his entrance to a big ovation along with the crowd chanting “You Suck” for the song. Angle went into the ring to congratulate Banks for the win.
Alexa Bliss, the Raw Women’s Champion, made her entrance. She defends her title against Banks at Great Balls of Fire on July 9.
Bliss went into the ring. Banks hit Bliss with a dropkick that knocked her out of the ring. Banks held the Raw Women’s Championship in the ring as Bliss was on the floor. Bliss was given her title back.
Raw ended with Banks and Bliss talking back and forth as the show came to a close at 11:08pmET.
Analysis: Basic stuff to end the show with Banks standing tall. It felt like a midcard segment rather than something to end the show.
Three Stars of the Show
1. Samoa Joe – I know it wasn’t a long segment, but it was the best part of the night.
2. Brock Lesnar – See above.
3. (tie) Nia Jax – Give her credit for being in the ring for over 30 minutes.
3. (tie) Sasha Banks
6 out of 10
Last week: 6.5
2017 Average: 5.81
Average since brand split starting July 25/16: 5.85 (Smackdown is 6.76)
Last 5 Weeks: 6.5, 4, 7, 5.5, 6
2017 High: 8 (April 3)
2017 Low: 4 (Jan. 9, Feb. 27 & June 12)
I give it a 6 out of 10.
It felt like an average edition of Raw again. I liked most of the story developments in terms of the big matches like Joe vs. Lesnar and Strowman vs. Reigns. Some of the other feuds could be better, but when the top two rivalries are great that certainly helps.
The Miz TV segment didn’t really help anybody because LaVar Ball was ridiculous out there, more so than usual for him. He didn’t seem to understand that he was supposed to be a face and acting like more of a jerk than Miz did.
The opening six man tag and the Jax/Banks main event were good. Other than that, nothing in the ring really stood out.
— WWE (@WWE) June 27, 2017
Here’s the lineup for Raw’s Great Balls of Fire show on July 9.
WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe
Ambulance Match: Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt
Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks
Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Akira Tozawa
Some of the other likely matches are Miz vs. Ambrose, Cesaro/Sheamus vs. Hardys, Goldust vs. R-Truth, Balor vs. Samson and maybe Cass vs. Enzo too.
That’s all for now. See ya next time for the Smackdown review.
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