Raw got a new logo and a new set starting from this week to celebrate the start of a “new season”; I guess that’s an American television thing as the WWE doesn’t really have “seasons” in the same way other television shows and sports do (although, arguably, they should) but none of the seemed to matter much after Brock Lesnar decided to interrupt Rey Mysterio and Dominik and murder them on live television.
Alexa Bliss and Sasha Banks then had the unenviable task of following up this white-hot opening with…a complete subpar match that saw Sasha get the win and then be chased off by Becky Lynch afterwards. Heavy Machinery found themselves battling the Raw Tag Team Champions, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode, after that; while Heavy Machinery totally deserve a feud over the tag belts, I wish the WWE would put a bit of effort into setting up an interesting storyline revolving around that as well instead of just randomly slapping the belts on a non-team and then chucking Otis and Tucker into it without really earning it. It was academic anyway as the big boys took the loss, despite seemingly set to win, when Roode hit the Glorious DDT.
Hulk Hogan, Jimmy Hart, and Ric Flair were all wheeled out for Miz TV this week; tensions ran high between Hogan and Flair, to the point where they announced that the WWE will be returning to Saudi Arabia once again in October and that they’ll each pit a team of five men against each other then. I mean, sure, because it’s not like they could just do that at Survivor Series or anything…anyway, Hogan picked Seth Rollins as his team’s captain, while Flair picked Randy Orton, so Orton and Baron Corbin (…randomly) attacked Rollins until Rusev, of all people, made the save to join Rollins on Team Hogan. Luckily, Rusev later justified this by stating that Rollins owed him a title shot, but I can’t help but feel like the WWE missed an opportunity here for the Fiend, Bray Wyatt, to attack two more legends…
More tag team action followed as the Viking Raiders defeated the O.C., which just made me realise that Heavy Machinery aren’t even part of the Raw roster…or are they? I forget which of these two massive teams is on which show but, either way, one of them doesn’t belong here. Maybe, though, we’ll see common sense prevail sooner rather than later and the WWE can unify their Tag Team Championships and we can see awesome, big-man matches between the Viking Raiders, Heavy Machinery, the O.C., and the Authors of Pain. But I doubt it.
After Cesaro gushed about his appreciation of Brock Lesnar’s actions, he went one-on-one with Ricochet and, of course, lost in less than three minutes, despite putting on an entertaining sprint. Y’know, I was talking the other day about Lesnar challenging Kofi Kingston and it really does annoy me that he’s constantly pushed towards the World Championships when guys like Cesaro, Rusev, even Samoa Joe and Bobby Lashley could get that same monster push towards the belt, freshen up the main event scene, and stop Lesnar holding the title’s to ransom. He just doesn’t need to be fighting for, or winning, World Championships or taking up the main event scene like this.
Cedric Alexander came very, very close to besting AJ Styles afterwards but it just wasn’t to be, as AJ managed to counter the Lumbar Check and hit the Styles Clash to get the win. At least this was a far more competitive match than their recent efforts but I fail to see why Styles would bother entertaining another match against, or title shot for, Cedric when he’s conclusively and indecisively proven that he can beat Cedric without much effort.
Lacey Evans then defeated Natalya one more time, hopefully for the last time, before Rusev (substituting for Rey Mysterio) went up against Seth Rollins in the main event; Rusev tried for the Accolade right at the beginning and got a close near fall near the end when he kicked Rollins in mid-air as he went for the Stomp but, in the end, the match was thrown out when Bobby Lashley and Lana randomly started making out at the top of the ramp and the Fiend, Bray Wyatt, attacked Rollins with the Mandible Claw. I honestly really don’t understand the WWE’s obsession with keeping Lana and Rusev apart; just put them together and get on with it!
The old school giant fist may be missing but the all-new, all-different Smack Down set actually looked unique and new, which makes a change. Vince and Stephanie McMahon did a quick introduction to promise a “new era” for Smack Down’s FOX debut before Becky Lynch and the Rock teamed up to rip Baron Corbin a new asshole.
Lynch then teamed up with Charlotte Flair to take on, and score a victory over, Bayley and Sasha Banks; this was one of those last minute tag team victories for the challengers before their Hell in a Cell match to show that the faces are capable of getting a win over the champions.
Shinsuke Nakamura then narrowly avoided joined the long list of Intercontinental Champions who stupidly eat a loss just to help the World Champion look stronger as his match against Seth Rollins was cut short when the Fiend, Bray Wyatt, attacked Seth right as he was getting ready to hit the Stomp and tossed him off of the stage.
Kevin Owens then took on Shane McMahon in a ladder match to determine which of them will be fired and which will remain employed; despite Shane stupidly being allowed to get in a lot of offense, somehow common sense finally prevailed and Owens was able to incapacitate Shane with a Powerbomb onto a ladder, win the match, and “fire” Shane afterwards. Christ, I really hope that this actually lasts for at least six months or so.
The Miz, Heavy Machinery, and Braun Strowman then took on Robert Roode, Dolph Ziggler, AJ Styles, and Randy Orton in one of the weirdest four-on-four tag team matches put together. This kinda felt like a prelude to Team Hulk vs. Team Flair but largely served to introduce the idea that, now that Smack Down is on FOX, other random sports personalities are likely to pop up as Tyson Fury (…I literally have no idea…) teased a confrontation with Strowman, though this did little to stop Strowman picking up the win with a Running Powerslam.
Roman Reigns and Erick Rowan then went at it in a lumberjack match, who were summarily parted like the red sea once Luke Harper showed up to help out his buddy. Luckily for Reigns, Daniel Bryan was on hand to even things up and allow Reigns to get the win with the Spear.
After a massive build up, Brock Lesnar then made his dramatic return to Smack Down by hitting Kofi Kingston with one F5 and pinning him in ten seconds to become the new WWE Champion. Afterwards, he was attacked by Cain Velasquez, who I believe is some guy from MMA Lesnar once fought, because that is apparently more important than Kingston’s push, which has now been completely derailed and Kofi left looking like a total joke.
Smack Down Women’s Championship Match: Bayley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
This should, hopefully, be a match that helps to fully legitimise Bayley as a champion to be reckoned with, solidifying her new heel-ish persona and pushing her towards an inevitable run as a double champion. Therefore, I fully expect Bayley to retain the title.
Raw Women’s Championship Hell in a Cell Match: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Sasha Banks
Again, this one of those odd-ball matches as Becky Lynch has already proven that she can beat Sasha Banks and has no real reason to fight her again, or escalate things to a hell in a Cell match. I just feel like this would have been more justified if Sasha had been doing a bit more to physically provoke Becky, like attacking her with weapons, maybe handcuffing her and targeting a limb or something. However, Becky has to lose at some point and it really seems like the WWE are trying to make Sasha happy and also make up for their mistreatment of Bayley so I see Sasha Banks winning here to set up her and Bayley holding all the women’s gold.
Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan vs. Erick Rowan and Luke Harper
I mean…this has to be a swerve, right? Surely? It can’t just be me who thinks that Daniel Bryan’s face turn has come completely out of nowhere and that the motivation behind it is about as strong as that time creepy stalker/rapist Kane turned face in his feud with Gene Snitsky. Maybe I’m blinded by my hope that we were going to get a meaty Bryan/Reigns feud that would help ease Reigns back towards the main event and give him a chance to showcase a bit more than his usual signature/finisher spam-fest offense. I dunno, but either way it doesn’t make sense for Harper and Rowan to lose here as they just reunited and it’d make them look super weak so I’m going to say that Erick Rowan and Luke Harper will get the win here and then we’ll transition to Bryan (as a tweener) vs. Reigns.
WWE Universal Championship Hell in a Cell Match: Seth Rollins (c) vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt
I love that Bray Wyatt is finally being taken seriously again, and that he can just demand and bully his way to a title shot despite not really physically assaulting Seth Rollins that much. In that regard, you could argue that this build hasn’t been too great (similar to Becky/Sasha) as Bray seems to target anyone and everyone rather than specifically making Seth’s life a misery. However, I think the WWE have lightning in a bottle here and they need to capitalize on this right now, while Wyatt is super over, and not let this opportunity slip through their fingers like they did with Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan, and Braun Strowman so I’m going to pick Bray Wyatt to win; they can stretch the feud out to the next pay-per-view and then have Bray hold the title until WrestleMania where he can be dethroned by, oh, let’s say…Finn Balor!