By: Troy Boesen
I will be honest; I was not expecting the New Era of Raw to be so very different. This was different in a great new way. The New Era has been presented as a new focus on women’s wrestling, a greater focus on match quality for the men and the Authority role playing a background to the wrestling storylines. I still want to be hesitant to say that WWE can keep that up, but after the first episode of RAW, it looks like the company is heading in the right direction.
The night started out with a brand new opening music and a brand new stage and ring ropes. What wasn’t new was the back of the ring which still had the old RAW logo on the ring banner. Also, the Smackdown live commercials alternated between showing the new and old logos. Right off the bat, we get our new announce team of Michael Cole, Byron Sexton (Thanks Kevin Dunn), and Corey Graves. It’s very evident throughout the night that the New Era of Raw is taking some things from UFC. Having the announcer have to stand up while they are on camera is a nice touch.
The very first segment saw Foley and Steph in the ring and I instantly felt like nothing had changed. Since this was the only appearance of the Authority and it set up the entire show, I was happy. It really did show the company trying to go in a new direction. They announced that RAW must have a champion, and we got the reveal of the new World Title, the Universal Championship. And by reveal, I mean just the name because they didn’t show the belt. Tonight we will have two fatal four way matches, with the winners facing each other in the Main Event to be in a match against Seth Rollins for the new belt at Summerslam. So we are right back to Rollins getting things handed to him as he didn’t even have to qualify for the match. They also announced that Charlotte would defend the WWE Women’s Championship against Sasha Banks tonight. We got the first appearance of Finn Balor and it was a dud. They just announced him for the match and he stood there. It was a very lackluster first appearance for Balor, but thankfully, the rest of the night made up for it.
Rusev vs Kevin Owens vs Finn Balor vs Cesaro
This match was excellent. Rusev and Owens working together to take out Balor and Cesaro was great to see, and Owens provided some fun commentary during the match. My favorite point of the night came when Rusev tried to pin Cesaro. Owens pulled him off and shouted “I’m right here.” All four guys looked very strong in this match, with Balor able to begin to showcase his talent. The match ended when Balor hit the Coup de Grace on Rusev for the win. Balor winning seemed like the logical bet for this match, and it leaves the other three guys without a storyline right now.
Nia Jax vs Britt Baker
The return of the squash match and enhancement matches was rumored for a while, and this show featured a few of both. Jax was able to show her dominance over a jobber, who didn’t get an entrance. Baker didn’t get a single offensive move in, but she looked decent. Jax came off well and it was a good debut.
Chris Jericho vs Roman Reigns vs Sami Zayn vs Sheamus
This match was also very good, and maybe even better than the first fatal four way. Zayn was put over huge in this match as he got a lot of really good moves in. Anyone who thought that Reigns wasn’t going over is a straight up mark. This was the second time I felt that the New Era was going to be the same old shit. Jericho took the pin at least, so Zayn and Sheamus remain strong. As with the first, all three men who lost do not have a storyline now.
At this point, the New Day hit the ring to celebrate being the longest reigning Tag Team Champions. I said it on the show, but the New Day are the longest reigning TAG TEAM Champions, not the longest reigning WORLD tag team champs. Different titles man. They bring in some fat black dude and pull an Abbott and Costello joke about his name being Sunny Boy. This was dumb, and thankfully, The Club pulled the New Day out of the ring and beat the shit out of them. They blew snot into Kofi Kingston’s shirt and chucked it at Sunny Boy’s face. The Club vs The New Day at Summerslam seems imminent.
Neville vs Curtis Axel
Curtis Axel, former IC champ, is now Enhancement Talent. This match was to put Neville over in his return and the match was decent. Neville really hasn’t done much to change his gimmick or look beyond growing a beard.
Charlotte vs Sasha Banks
The entire match I felt that shenanigans where in order. I could see now reason for them to finally give the title to Sasha on RAW instead of SummerSlam. The match was great. These two have such a great chemistry together and the match was awesomely back and forth. We got a great spot where Sasha tossed the belt to Dana Brooke and pretended to be hurt. Brooke got ejected (really it would have made more sense for the DQ here since they did the same thing last night in the Darren Young match) and Sasha got to give a shoutout to Eddie Guerrero. The two exchanged submission attempts with Charlotte telling Sasha “you will never beat me.” Sasha responded with the Backstabber and the Banks Statement to make Charlotte tap. This was the first time my jaw dropped tonight. It wouldn’t be the last. Banks starts to cry while holding up the championship and we see Charlotte crying on her way to the back. Saxton jumps in the ring to interview Sasha, and again, I felt UFC vibes here. Sasha winning is a huge moment, and she needs to retain at SummerSlam to give her run some importance.
We got a terrible backstage segment where The Golden Truth interrupt Darren Young and Bob Backlund. So much for the New Era being without it’s shitty moments.
Braun Strowman vs James Elsworth
Strowman came out with a brand new haircut but with the very same outfit on. They even interviewed jobber James Elsworth before the match. The commentary never mentioned that Strowman was a member of the Wyatt Family and treated this like it was the first appearance of Strowman. No surprise that Strowman got the win.
Enzo and Cass vs what the fuck? The Shining Stars?
Enzo and Cass had a decent promo and where then interrupted by Primo and Epico. This is what happens when you draft Enzo and Cass to a program with every other top Tag Team. They have nothing to do. This match was further shit on when The Golden Truth walked through the match trying to catch Pokemon. Ug. Enzo and Cass won, but who really gave a shit about this match really.
Finn Balor vs Roman Reigns
The match? Awesome. The result? Jaw Dropping. Balor came off as a true star here. This match had a great back and forth with Reigns using his power and Balor using his quickness. Balor hit the Coup de Grace and WWE got Smarks around the world to jizz their pants. Finn Balor won. Finn Balor will go to SummerSlam and be in a title match against Seth Rollins. Reigns gets interviewed on his way out and puts over Balor. The very first episode of the New Era of Raw ended with Finn Balor victorious.
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