WWE Raw Thoughts – July 25, 2016

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Source: wwe.com

Man, oh, man! When WWE touts that things are going to change and there will be a “new era”or change in anything, I’m usually skeptical. The reason is they usually never follow through knowing that they’ll still have an audience who never questions the product. Last night, after one hell of a PPV in Battleground, WWE brought out the big guns for their official relaunch of Raw.

Let’s start off with the obvious right away: the logo and beginning theme music have changed. I can’t say I really dig the song or the logo but that’s just my opinion. At least they made the effort to change it up and get rid of the awful theme they’ve been playing for years.

The show started with a view of the new set and the new announce team (who did a pretty good job during the show – minus some Byron Saxton BS lines) sitting at a different position than we’re used to. Their broadcast table is now off to the left of the Titantron, out of the way. It was so weird seeing the action go down last night and the bare space beside the ring, as we haven’t seen the broadcast team positioned up there for a very long time. How will someone go through the Spanish announcer’s table now?

Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley were in the ring to address the crowd and the roster to kick off the show. I had a feeling that the we were going to be starting off with a long winded promo and having to deal with Stephanie for twenty minutes or some bickering between her and Foley. Thankfully Stephanie only berated Roman Reigns a bit and called him a loser for costing Raw the WWE Championship belt on the program. They rectified that with the announcement that there would be a new WWE Universal Championship on Raw. The name kinda sucks, but you knew the creation of a new title was coming.

Mick Foley announced two fatal four-way matches for the program with the winners of each facing off in the main event of the show. The winner would face Seth Rollins at Summerslam for the belt. I’m confused as to why Seth got a free pass as it wasn’t explained and the Authority and Shane didn’t want to give him one over the last month, so what changed?

What also boggles my mind is hearing Stephanie have disdain for Roman Reigns and yet he’s given every opportunity to get into the title picture. You’d think she’d just keep him out of these matches – so the writing doesn’t make sense.

The first fatal four-way match featured Kevin Owens, Cesaro, Rusev, and the newly drafted Finn Balor from NXT, who came out to an excellent ovation. I was actually putting my money on Cesaro winning and Balor going into a program with Owens (or even Rusev) to establish himself. This match was great and we had two commercial breaks over it. I didn’t mind because it seemed like WWE was giving the wrestlers time to tell the story and not rush anything. The match ended with Finn Balor pinning Rusev and advancing the to main event. The crowd was hot for the match and I was surprised and I got excited for the next one.

Nia Jax made her debut last night and a repackaged Braun Stroman was featured on the show. Both had squash matches against two jobbers. I’m not sure if I’m fine with the squash a jobber matches coming back onto Raw. If they’re used here and there and to develop new characters, and not at the expense of talent they COULD elevate, then I’m fine with it.

Did anyone else dig the before and after match interviews that were held with the talent in addition to the usual backstage vignettes? I sure did. I found them to be done well and at the right times in order to push story lines or character development further. I’ll also say that I really dug the new camera angles they were using!

The second fatal four-way match featured Sami Zayn, Sheamus, Chris Jericho, and Roman Reigns. It was great to see three of them go after Reigns at first thinking he was the biggest threat. Zayn got a lot of good offense in, but man, did he ever take a beating. I was almost convinced that Zayn would win this, but my heart sank into my stomach when Reigns covered Jericho to advance. I was questioning if they’d actually have the guts to have Reigns win this thing after his whole suspension, but it did makes sense with a heel Rollins already in the title picture and I was predicting these two would be going at it at Summerslam.

I was surprised as hell when it was announced that Sasha Banks would be taking on Charlotte for the WWE Women’s Championship. I couldn’t believe they were going to be giving the match I thought was going to co-main event Summerslam on Raw.  Then I thought if they were, it was gonna be a DQ win due to Dana Brooke OR there would be the usual screwy booking. Boy, was I wrong. The two women gave us a PPV worthy match and was allowed to go long – over two commercial breaks again – to be able to show the world what they could do and tell their story in the ring. This match was excellent, although there were a few botched spots that made me jump out of my seat thinking someone was really hurt. Charlotte’s backflip off the turnbuckle onto Sasha on the outside of the ring was amazing.

I think WWE shocked the world when Sasha got the pin on Charlotte. Charlotte sold disdain as she walked to the back and you could see it in her eyes that this feud wasn’t over. WWE also got Bryson in the ring to do an interview right after and didn’t rush anything. The crowd soaked it in, as did Sasha, and this new pacing of the product is exactly what they need to seem fresh again.

Speaking of shocking the world, although the Finn Balor/Roman Reigns main event saw Reigns kind of dominate Balor during the beginning of the match, Balor ended up getting in some amazing offense and counters in on the big guy. This pacing gave us a great PPV quality match that was only accented more when Finn Balor covered the WWE’s golden child of the last year for a  1-2-3!!! It was awesome and almost unbelievable! They built Balor up so well during the night and with last week’s high draft pick. I’m so excited to see Balor and Rollins build to their match at Summerslam in less than four weeks.

A big question now is: where does Roman Reigns go next? I hope he doesn’t get involved in the story between Rollins and Balor, but who will be next to challenge him? I could see Braun Strowman going after him to prove something.

Bravo to The Club for taking out The New Day with another one of their long, unfunny, promos. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: they can tout they they’re the longest reigning tag-team champs of the modern era all they want, but they barely ever put the belts on the line. It’s easier to keep them that way and it makes for shitty champions. Now that WWE has allowed them to have this record, it’s only fitting that The Club gets established, calls them out on their jokes and laziness, and we see a fight with a fresh tag-team getting the belts.

I usually don’t tackle what has happened on an entire show, but WWE Creative and those working on the program really seem like that had their chains cut loose and new, fresh ideas, pacing, and delivery of the product made the three hours go by quickly. For me, it was never dull.

WWE delivered on a “new era” of Raw making this one of the best overall shows in years.The return of Neville was a welcome, the Golden Truth backstage antics had a purpose with them searching for Pokemon, only to end up in the ring and costing The Shining Stars their match. Enzo and Cass were great on the mic, too. So much good stuff happened!

Now I guess the doubter in me is thinking how long will this last. We know that we can’t have matches of this quality with so much on the line every week or else what’s the use for the big PPVs? If they can do like tonight and tell stories and let their talent shine, this is a great start.  With all the bitching and slamming of the product I’ve done on here since I started this site, it’s only fitting that I do a long article praising what they did last night. Now I can’t wait for Smackdown Live tonight to see what the different there will be!

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