Winners: Dillinger, Nakamura, Usos, Zayn, Tamina, Carmella, and Natalya, Owens, Harper, and Mahal.
Nakamura went toe-to-toe with Ziggler, allowing him to showcase exactly what he’s all about and capable of, while Ziggler got a strong innings for once. Although Nakamura could’ve maybe been a bit more dominant, this match (and feud) is about placing him as a top guy on SmackDown! Live and what better way to do that than to illustrate his personality and match style in a more competitive match?
Sami actually got to win a match, which is great for him but not so great for Corbin’s monster push and also, I fear, a bit misleading as I don’t have the faith in WWE to really get behind Zayn until all of his popularity has died out (like in 2015 with Ziggler).
Owens and AJ stole the show, as expected, though the result was far more neutral than I thought. With neither man getting the pin fall or submission and the match ending on a count out, this feud is obviously set to continue, maybe even into SummerSlam. Great athleticism by AJ to make everything so crisp and effortless, and fantastic character work as always by Owens. I imagine their next match will kick into an even higher gear.
Harper and Rowan had a plodding, dull affair; this is what I mean by not getting all the hype around Harper. You can blame this on the heat-sucking void that is Rowan all you want but it takes two to tango and Harper wasn’t able to carry Rowan to anything resembling a decent match. If he’s that great, move him away from opponents like this and give him a decent push. Rowan, on the other hand…I dunno, who needs a bodyguard? Ziggler?
Jinder won. How about that? I was certain he wouldn’t win the belt on his first try…I guess they’re going to put it on him and have him go all anti-America and escape with the belt through nefarious deeds until we’re all clamouring for him to lose it just so anyone else can carry the title…then he’ll fall right down the card. While I am glad that the WWE is taking chances like this, I just wish they’d do it with more relevant and deserving talent (Cesaro, for example).
Bray Wyatt reasserts himself as a force to be reckoned with with another of his trademark rambling promos, this time to further stake his claim as the number one contender. Because apparently WWE hasn’t gotten enough mileage out of this yet, a match between Wyatt and Roman Reigns occurs when Reigns comes out to take exception to this, with Reigns taking the disqualification win when Samoa Joe attacks Wyatt. I like both of these guys and struggle to understand why the WWE finds it so difficult to back their words up with actions (in the case of Wyatt) or replace words with actions (in the case of Reigns). It’s all very well and good being so into the character and great on the mic, but give Wyatt some more cohorts; call some guys up from NXT (Sanity, perhaps?) or trade over the Ascension. I don’t know, but give him a stable; make him a fearsome figurehead in control of all of Raw‘s belts. Just do something! With Reigns, why can’t they incorporate some of Strowman’s booking? It’s like back when Ryback was in the company; before he left, they limited his mic time (to his frustration) and just had him plow through guys and say very little and the crowd loved it! Apply that to Reigns, keep him out of the main event for three of four months, and maybe you’ll get people fully behind him.
The Drifter makes his in-ring main roster debut against Dean Ambrose in a non-title match. Although the match is thrown out due to interference from the Miz, this was shaping up to be a solid introduction of the Drifter. We got a bit of tease as to what he’s capable of so, hopefully, he gets thrown into the Intercontinental Championship picture if only to help add some spice to the Miz/Ambrose feud.
Finn Balor comes out to once again stake his claim to the number one contendership since he never lost the belt in the first place but has to go through Karl Anderson in a neat little match, which it should be considering these guys know each other so well from their days in Bullet Club. Balor wins, despite Luke Gallows being at ringside, which is great for him and his renewed push towards the Universal Championship but rubbish for Anderson (and Gallows, and the Club as a unit) because all he(/they) ever seem to do is lose. If only Finn wasn’t such a natural face and they weren’t such natural heels, I’d say turn them all one way and get the Club united to help Balor defeat Lesnar.
Kalisto upset Apollo Crews in a nothing match and there’s still some weird issues going on between Crews and Titus O’Neil…does anyone really care at this point? Why is it so hard for WWE to push Kalisto in the Cruiserweight division and have Apollo and Titus be some no-nonsense tag team that wrecks their opponents? Both divisions need the shot in the arm but they seem intent on pushing Apollo as a singles guy when no one cares about him (he’ll be Universal Champion in a month, knowing current booking).
Matt Hardy defeated Sheamus and decreed that their Raw Tag Team Championship match at Extreme Rules will be a steel cage match. Strong back-and-forth match between these two; Sheamus seems to lose a lot and has dropped way down in my estimation ever since dragging Cesaro into that horrible best-of-seven series. I just have no interest in seeing him do anything and want to see Cesaro do more and do better. However, at least this feud gives him a chance, once again, to shine as the better of the two (maybe even the four, given that the Hardys are hardly in their prime).
Austin Aries gained some more momentum in his feud with Neville by making short work of Tony Nese and Alexa Bliss defeated Mickie James with ease in a short, throwaway match that saw Bayley scare her off with a kendo stick afterwards. Nothing like short, skippable matches to make people care about your other divisions, WWE. It’s hard to care about either angles when they’re given so little match time and focus on a three hour show.
Building from the opening match, Bray Wyatt and Samoa Joe then defeated Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins in the main event in a hard-hitting, decent tag team match. Reigns is doing a lot more subtle expressions and reactions that really add a tweener edge to his character since defeating the Undertaker at WrestleMania, which really adds to the dynamic in his team with Rollins as the two will probably (or should, anyway) have unresolved issues. This was a showcase for Joe, though, who picked up the win over Rollins by forcing him to tap, and made him look like a strong contender for the Universal Championship.
Shane McMahon announced matches for the upcoming Money in the Bank pay-per-view, including Randy Orton’s rematch against Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship and AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Kevin Owens in the titular Money in the Bank Ladder Match, which led to a series of matches between the six later in the night. All good, strong, worthy contenders there; with Mahal likely holding the belt, I guess he’ll need a decent face challenger. Maybe AJ will help get him over a bit through a series of matches? Or will WWE give Sami a push into the spotlight? Hard to predict at this point.
Carlotte and Becky Lynch defeated Carmella and Natalya, furthering the lacklustre feuds happening in the women’s division. I can’t say much about this, or most of these matches, as I really have no interest in them. They got some decent time, though, it just seems all very samey.
Sami Zayn upset Baron Corbin to take another win over the Lone Wolf. I don’t necessarily love that, as these sudden roll-up finishes are so overdone in WWE, but Corbin went on a rampage afterwards that saw Sami be stretchered out so at least he looked serious and a threat even in defeat.
Jinder Mahal had a big celebration for his unprecedented championship win where he basically just tore down America and Randy Orton and claimed he was the greatest champion ever. This did was it set out to do, which was paint Mahal as a self-righteous, anti-American, arrogant champion who we should all boo because he offends everything he know and love. I’d like to see more from him as a hell than this basic stuff, but it’s a good way to get some short-term heat, I guess. And at least it wasn’t interrupted or disrupted in any way, ensuring that the focus was squarely on Mahal.
Tyler Breeze and Fandango defeated Jimmy and Jey Uso in two short singles matches back-to-back in seconds, both with sudden roll-ups. Yup, that’s kinda rubbish, so it leads immediately into a proper tag match between the four where the Usos win…so I’m not sure what the point was? Is the WWE telling us that Breeze and Fandango are the superior singles wrestlers because they can beat their opponents in seconds but they are not as good as a tag team because they lost in that environment? Weird.
AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler in a blockbuster main event that maybe could have benefited from more build and more energy. Like Backlash, this match was mainly about showcased Nakamura’s unique offense and character to allow wider audiences to become acclimatised to him. His pinning of United States Champion Kevin Owens is significant and allows him the chance to float between contendership for both of SmackDown! Live‘s singles titles, like AJ, and teaming with AJ helps sow the seeds for a surely-inevitable clash between the two. However, I don’t massively like Ziggler teaming with other heels; I’d prefer him to the a heel who has no friends or allies and doesn’t team up with anyone, much like Owens show (and used to) be.