WWE Monday Night Raw
Watch: USA Network
July 25, 2016
Consol Energy Center – Pittsburgh, PA
I’ve had a crazy weekend of live professional wrestling. I went on a 800+ mile round trip this weekend to Cleveland and Chicago for AIW and AAW shows respectively, but you’ll hear more about those in a future post. Late last night, I was recovering from my trek when my brother proposed to me that we attend Monday Night RAW the next night in Pittsburgh. I figured why the hell not? Well, thank god I did. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had just signed up to go to one of, if not the, greatest episode of Monday Night RAW of all-time.
Normally I leave much earlier than 6:15 P.M. for RAW when it comes to Consol Energy Center, but we had a few set backs and couldn’t take off until then. This admittedly made me nervous, as I’m a guy who doesn’t like to miss much, especially a potentially awesome WWE C-Show. Luckily, we found some cheap parking and a really nice parking attendant showed us a sort-of but not really secret entrance into the arena through a parking garage that had no line. We got straight to our seats just in time for the Superstars matches. Bo Dallas and Sin Cara had an alright match, pretty typical stuff, Sin Cara won. The other match on the Superstars card was The Dudleys vs. C-Show MVP Jack Swagger & Titus O’Neil. I took this as my only chance to score a Dr. Pepper and some loaded fries, so I took it. I regret nothing.
To start off, Steph and Foley headed down to the ring and brought out the whole roster. Steph blamed Roman for costing Seth the title at Battleground and letting that dastardly Ambrose take it to SmackDown Live. Now, they’re bringing a new title RAW — The WWE Universal Championship~! They set up two Fatal-4-Way matches in which the winners would face off in the main event to face Rollins at SummerSlam to become the first champion. When the opening segment was over after 10 minutes, and it had set up an exciting new top-tier championship, and mini-tournament to decide who’s gonna go to war for it at SummerSlam, I’m already happy. I’ve sat through one too many brutal RAW opening segments that end at 8:30 to let that go unappreciated.
Rusev vs. Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor vs. Cesaro
And so after only about 10 minutes, we got straight to the action. I’m not sure how long this match went on, but being there live it felt like it went 20, maybe 25 minutes. But that is no complaint, brothers. This match was balls-to-the-wall great. Cesaro is just a born superstar, Kevin Owens gets EVERYTHING right about being a tremendous pro-wrestler, Rusev is great across all fronts, and Finn Balor looked like a star in his first match in the main roster. I can’t wait to go back and re-watch this match on tape. A solid showing of good near falls and high spots. The beauty of this was I was biting on the near falls, uncertain of who was going to win. To my joy, Finn earned his way into a Number 1 Contender’s match in the main event of his first Monday Night RAW. Clearly the WWE has big plans for Finn already and with the way he was presented tonight, he’s a star. Hopefully he keeps stepping up his game on the main roster and leaves some of his average matches begin in NXT.
Nia Jax vs. Britt Baker
Speaking of looking like a star, that’s exactly what Nia Jax looked like in her RAW debut tonight. I hope that local talent squash matches are here to stay, because they need to be a mainstay on weekly wrestling TV again. Not only does it make the talent look great, it shines exposure on some of the local talent that deserves it. Which is what we got tonight with Britt Baker, who is a regular on the indies in the Pittsburgh/Cleveland at places like IWC and AIW. Good for you, Britt! Congrats!
Roman Reigns vs. Sami Zayn vs. Sheamus vs. Chris Jericho
Again, to my delight (thankfully, a reoccurring feeling tonight) we went back down to the ring for some more Fatal 4 Way action. Sheamus vs. Sami Zayn vs. Chris Jericho vs. Roman Reigns. What a goddamn match on paper. And it was a good goddamn match in execution too. There were some solid sequences, and the Reigns/Zayn encounters were amazing. My god do I want that match to happen. The only really bad thing I remember here was a pretty bad botch from Jericho and Reigns that almost made me spit my Dr. Pepper out of my mouth in laughter. But they recovered somewhat nicely and the match went on. It was hard not to root for Sami Zayn, one of the best babyfaces on the planet, so I was a little bummed when Roman came out on top. But Finn vs. Roman? Holy shit. At this point in the show, I’m already declaring this as the best RAW I’ve ever been to. It’s no contest.
If there’s any flat moment on this show, it was the New Day segment. That’s a sentence I’m not used to typing. New Day was there to celebrate their record breaking title reign and invited a fan into the ring as an honorary member to help celebrate. Much to the dismay of New Day, this fan refused to state his name, choosing to call himself “Sonny Boy” since that’s what Big E called him. This seemed to throw New Day’s plans into a loop and they just toyed with him over his name for a few minutes until the Club rushed the ring and blindsided the champs. This segment was flat compared to your usual New Day segment but at least it set up a new feud.
Neville vs. Curtis Axel
Hey! Neville’s back. Neville went over “Mr. Irrelevant” Curtis Axel in his return match. A fitting return for Neville, who sustained the injury that had him sidelined earlier this year in this same arena. Thankfully, Neville is healthy and looked jacked. And edgy, with his new beard. More squash matches, yay!
WWE Women's Championship: Charlotte (c) vs. Sasha Banks
Usually, RAW drags on a bit when you’re watching. It’s 3 hours and it’s usually a chore. However, I couldn’t believe it was already almost 10 o clock when the Women’s Championship match went on. I expected this to be very good and that’s exactly what it was. There were callbacks to previous matches from NXT, including some spots I remember from a house show match I saw. This was the good stuff we knew Sasha was capable of, but hadn’t gotten the chance to show too much on the main roster. Sasha used a trick out of the Guerrero book and tricked the ref into throwing Dana Brooke to the back and I loved every second of it. Love how much she pays homage to her idol. Considering Sasha was the first of the Four Horsewoman that I really became a mark for, this was a special moment. I jumped out of my seat when Sasha made Charlotte tap, I was fully invested in this. The “You deserve it!” Chants rang loud and true through the Consol Energy Center, it was beautiful.
Braun Strowman vs. James Ellsworth
Holy shit. Next up we got ANOTHER jobber squash match that made Braun look like a star. He wrestled James Ellsworth, who was money with his facials, for what it’s worth. He looked legitimately terrified of Braun. Hell, I was too and I was in the nosebleeds. Braun won with a reverse choke slam! What a dope finisher. So far I’m all in on a monster Braun push.
Enzo & Cass vs. Shining Stars
Enzo and Cass came out and were over as hell to no surprise. I’m convinced those two will never have an off entrance or an off promo. Some will be better than others but none of them will be bad. They were interrupted by the Shining Stars and we got a tag match. This wasn’t anything special. Big Cass got the win following a Big Boot. Oh yeah, during the match R-Truth ran into the ring chasing Pokemon on Pokemon Go. I laughed. If you hated this, lighten the hell up.
Finn Balor vs. Roman Reigns
Before I even knew it, it was main event time. Finn Balor vs. Roman Reigns. I did not expect this when my brother had asked me if I was in on getting RAW tickets last night. The hype was real in the arena. These two had a great back and forth match, and had me biting on several near falls. I thought they were giving it to Roman for sure. I was sure of it. But nope. Roman found himself eating a shotgun drop kick and a Coup de Gras. Finn won clean as a sheet. Finn is a main event star in one night, and we’re getting Finn vs. Rollins at SummerSlam for the Universal championship. I went crazy.
Dark Match: Dean Ambrose & John Cena vs. Seth Rollins & AJ Styles
The dark match was Cena/Ambrose vs. Rollins/Styles. We stayed because that’s some star power. It was pretty standard, run of the mill stuff. Styles and Rollins #BeatUpJohnCena until Ambrose got the hot tag and the good guys won with simultaneous AA and Dirty Deeds.
I’ve seen the rumbles on the Twitter machine that this is the greatest RAW of all time and I can’t disagree. I can easily say this is the best WWE show I’ve ever been to, and the best top-to-bottom episode of RAW that I’ve ever watched. They got the pacing of this show PERFECT. Never have I seen an episode of RAW where each match and segment was given the appropriate amount of time as much as they were tonight. There were multiple ****+ matches, feuds advanced, debuts done right, squashes done right, local talent used, new champions crowned. There was magic in the Consol Energy Center on July 25th, 2016. I won’t ever forget tonight. What a way to cap off my weekend of live wrestling. I love professional wrestling.