As promised last week, Raw begins with Seth Rollins bouncing around like a pinball maniac to help Braun Strowman regain his heat after his dismal failure to beat Brock Lesnar. Seth played to his strengths, busting out fats, high-flying moves to wear down Strowman and almost had him with the Kingslayer (or the Rip-Cord Knee Strike, I guess) until Strowman murdered his ass with a clothesline and landed the Running Powerslam for the win. Afterwards, he powerslams Rollins again so Dean Ambrose runs out to try and even the odds and ends up dead as well. While I don’t, and will never like, to see the Tag Team Champions get their asses handed to them, this was a pretty solid match and it makes Strowman look strong again to take out two competitors of the calibre of Ambrose and Rollins. Plus, they lost in singles matches; as long as they don’t lose a handicap match, I think we’ll be okay.
Elias continues his newfound desire to make complete chumps of the Titus Worldwide stable, by making short work of Titus O-Neil in an easily forgettable match. All he has to do next is beat Akira Tozawa and he’ll’ve gone three-for-three against all of Titus’s guys. I guess it’s nice for the Drifter to have something to do but nobody really gives two hits about Titus anymore.
Mickie James then fights to prove she’s still viable enough to be the number one contender by taking on the woman who should be the number one contender, Nia Jax, in a questionable match, filled with some weak action and sloppy moves on Mickie’s part. Anyway, despite her turning against her a while back, Nia lost when Alexa Bliss interfered, but got kicked into oblivion by Mickie in the aftermath.
Things take a turn back to the better when Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson get another win, this time over Matt Hardy and Jason Jordan. It wasn’t much to write about, but at least the Club got to win a damn match for a change. Why do I suspect that, maybe, they’re building up to Jordan snapping and turning against Matt to give them both something a bit more constructive to do while Jeff Hardy is out injured?
Roman Reigns does the smartest thing anyone could do and takes out Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel with Superman Punches and chair shots so that he can have a clean match against the Miz. However, Sheamus and Cesaro throw a wrench in the works by randomly interfering and costing Reigns the match, and the Intercontinental Championship. Afterwards, all three land their finishers on Reigns, hit a Shield-style triple powerbomb, and do the Shield’s three-man pose over Reigns’s prone body. I’m not sure why Cesaro and Sheamus would align themselves with Miz, except that I guess they both dislike Reigns, but they make for much more credible opponents than the Miz-tourage, if nothing else.
Next up, Finn Balor talks smack about Bray Wyatt, who appears on the TitanTron and promises to unleash his own inner demon, transforming into a creepy-looking version of himself. Apparently, the plan is for Wyatt to debut his own demon personality and wrestle Finn as Sister Abigail which, if done badly, could completely destroy any credibility Wyatt has left.
Emma walks out on Alicia Fox and costs them a tag team match against Sasha Banks and Bayley. Buy anyway, for the second week in a row, Enzo Amore and the cruiserweights get the main event slot of the show. This time, Enzo completes his heel turn by, again, talking smack about the entire division and bragging about how great he is now that he’s the Cruiserweight Champion. As he claims to have set up a deal where none of the current division is allowed to touch him or else they’ll be fired, Kurt Angle brings out Kalisto as the newest addition to the 205 Live roster and he proceeds to lay Enzo out with the Salida Del Sol. You’d think it was Rey Mysterio coming back with the amount of hype Kurt tried to put into this announcement, which didn’t do much for me because I thought Kalisto was on the cruiserweight roster now and, more importantly, he hasn’t been relevant since he had that random run with the United States Championship which, as I recall, got the rug pulled out from it after he got beaten every single time he stepped in the ring.
Raw goes off the air with Ambrose and Rollins walking in on Reigns as he’s nursing his wounds. They don’t say anything, but all three men stare at each other and nod, further fanning the flames for the Shield reunion that is apparently coming. A Shield reunion could help to finally get more people behind Reigns, or at least manufacture enough good feeling that he can cost into WrestleMania as something a bit closer to a face. Maybe they’ll draft in Jordan and Matt and have a five-on-five match against Miz, Dallas, Axel, Sheamus, and Cesaro at Survivor Series?
Shinsuke Nakamura opens the show to address all the racist crap Jinder Mahal has been talking about him in the last few weeks, only to get attacked by Mahal and the Singh Brothers and laid out with the Khallas. Man, the WWE have totally dropped the ball on building this feud, to the point where they’re apparently not even making their WWE Championship match a Hell in a Cell match at Hell in a Cell. I doubt it’d really make it that much better considering how bad the Punjabi prison match turned out but at least it’d have the stakes of a Hell in a Cell match added to it.
Man, I can’t get away from these throwaway women’s tag team matches, as Natalya and Carmella (two women, again, who should hate each other) manage to put aside the barely-existent issues between the two of them to beat Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch. This showed that Natalya is able to make Charlotte tap out, but it was in a tag match so that doesn’t mean much; maybe things’ll spice up when Carmella finally cashes in her briefcase.
Next up, two men who have been largely absent from SmackDown! Live in recent weeks make their decidedly undramatic return when Bobby Roode pins Mike Kanellis in less than a minute. I get the idea that Roode should have a quick, decisive win but against a guy who hasn’t had a chance to make any kind of impression yet? I don’t like it; I’m not exactly a massive fan of Kanellis but his stock as a credible heel drops a lot when he’s treated like a jobber like this. Afterwards, Dolph Ziggler comes out doing a whole over-the-top entrance to prove that Roode is nothing but an overblown entrance, so Roode…proves him right by posing and setting off his theme. Wow, Ziggler will need some ointment for that burn, I’m sure.
Tye Dillinger fares much better than Mike Kanellis by winning his match against Baron Corbin. However, isn’t Corbin the number one contender and set to face AJ Styles for the United States Championship at Hell in a Cell? If so, why is he losing to Tye Dillinger? If Tye can beat Corbin, surely he deserves to be added to that match, at the very least? Instead, Corbin just looks like a jackass for losing on the go-home show before his big championship match.
Rusev voices his continued beef with Randy Orton, leading to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it match between Orton and the guy who can handily beat Sami Zayn like he’s a jobber but cannot beat anyone further up the card, Aiden English, after a sleek pop-up RKO.
SmackDown! Live ends with us remembering that we shouldn’t care about any other match at Hell in a Cell, especially the WWE Championship bout, as Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon go at it once again. This time, Kevin beats Shane into the crowd and powerbombs him through a merchandise table, then headbutts and powerbombs him in the ring to make an emphatic statement. Oh, and apparently, their match will be falls count anywhere…soooooo, will Shane get pinned on top of the cell like that one time?
Kickoff Match: Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable vs. Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley
Is this it? Will the Hype Bros finally implode here? Or will they simply lose and then tease it some more? Or lose and both turn heel? Or lose and slink away as losers? You what I would’ve probably preferred for Shelton? Instead of splitting up American Alpha, drop the whole “Jason Jordan is Kurt Angle’s son” bit and just have Kurt bring back Shelton and push him as Raw’s next top star. Yes, well, anyway, Shelton and Gable will win here.
Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler
Ziggler continues to be the standard that all NXT guys have to go up against once they come up to the main roster. While Rood would probably be better off as a heel, and I’m still holding out hope for the two to team up as a conceited heel team, I don’t fully understand Ziggler’s newfound disdain for entrances and the fickle nature of the crowd and such. He just comes across as a whiney crybaby, which is a weak-ass look for any heel. I doubt Ziggler is going to win or go anywhere after this, so let’s give the win to Bobby Roode and hope that he can use that momentum to get some real traction.
Randy Orton vs. Rusev
So this feud is still a thing, apparently. It’s hardly set the world on fire and I feel like Rusev is being wasted here; he should really be used more in the WWE Championship picture but, maybe, he can come out on top here and stake a claim if Jinder loses the belt. Given that I hated the lightning fast way their Summerslam match ended, I hope we get a decent outing here that sees Rusev victorious, maybe even with some assistance from Aiden English.
WWE United States Championship Match: AJ Styles (c) vs. Baron Corbin
So, as I’ve said, Corbin apparently has all this heat and got his main event push derailed by John Cena, but he’s still getting a United States Championship match and is being used relatively well, except for his loss this week on SmackDown! Live. I’d would have like to see Tye Dillinger added to this match, if only to help bolster the United States Championship division and get some more competitors involved, but surely AJ can drag an exciting match out of Corbin. There’s no way Corbin’s winning, though, and fully expect AJ Styles to retain here, most likely to defend the belt in a convoluted ladder match at WrestleMania.
SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship Match: Natalya (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
What, no Hell in a Cell match for these two? I’d like to get things over with and put an end to it all and see Carmella cash in and start building some real heat in the women’s division.
WWE Championship Match: Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Also no Hell in a Cell? I’d say that’d make sense as it’d keep the Singh Brothers out but the Punjabi Prison didn’t keep the Great Khali out so I guess it would be wasted here but….surely it’s a no-brainer for the WWE Championship match at a pay-per-view named after the match! I was hoping that the WWE would make up for the thrown-together nature of their match at Summerslam by putting some real time and effort into their feud in the build up to this match but, instead, they’ve totally dropped the ball and descended into weak racism, bland promos, and very little in the way of physical interactions between the two. While I guess that builds the tension as we should, theoretically, be chomping at the bit to see them finally go at it, Mahal’s inability to step up his in-ring game (and the fact that he’s barely had any matches these last few weeks) and Shinsuke’s admittedly not so impressive showings so far makes this match far from a must-see bout. I’d like to see the WWE pull the plug on the Mahal experiment but something tells me that we may see him hold the belt all the way to WrestleMania so I think we’ll see Jinder Mahal retain here.
Hell in a Cell SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship Match: The New Day (c) vs. The Usos
Giving the Hell in a Cell stipulation to the New Day’s match rather than the women’s or WWE Championship matches makes a clear statement that the WWE cares more about giving this played-out trio the big stage and focus than their women or top belt. I guess this’ll be good, as all five men will go leaping about and such. Knowing the WWE, the game of hot potato will continue and the Usos will regain the belts and keep this feud going on (and on…and on).
Hell in a Cell, Falls Count Anywhere Match: Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon
Again, what is the point of this match? And isn’t it just a little insulting to place it in the main event over the WWE Championship? Owens is a former NXT, United States, and Universal Champion (was he also the Intercontinental Champion? I forget) and has fought all over the world for years. He’s great on the mic, great in the ring, and doesn’t need any kind of rub or boost from this kind of gimmicky match. He seems to be spinning his wheels with this completely unnecessary feud so that the WWE can run their little experiment with Jinder Mahal, which is a bit criminal, really. Anyway, does anyone really expect Shane to win this? If he does then…the WWE will have hit a new low. I don’t quite understand the addition of the falls count anywhere stipulation, unless we’ll see Shane jump off the cell roof, crash through a table, and be pinned in the rubble. Anyway, Kevin Owens will walk away the winner here.