August 18, 2015
The Target Center in Minneapolis was the site for the go-home edition of Raw just six days away from the biggest event of the summer, SummerSlam. This year, SummerSlam comes back to the East Coast and expands to four hours for the first time ever. WWE is certainly putting a lot of eggs in their SummerSlam basket, so the effort to put on an amazing show for their national audience will be second to none.
Before Raw took the air on the USA Network, WWE announced that former host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart, would be the special guest host of SummerSlam this Sunday night. Stewart has a semi-feud going with the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion, so something tells me he might get involved in the Title vs. Title match in Brooklyn.
Not only will SummerSlam this year have a major celebrity feel thanks to Stewart hosting the event, but ESPN has decided to cover the event live from the Barclays Center. Jonathan Coachman, a former WWE announcer who’s been working for ESPN since 2009, will be a part of the broadcasting team on SportsCenter live from the Barclays Center on Sunday morning and Sunday night. This only helps both ESPN and WWE, and it’s surreal to see professional wrestling being showcased on ESPN, especially with their coverage of WrestleMania back in March. ESPN was also the platform of choice for Brock Lesnar to announce his re-signing with WWE the week before WrestleMania.
Lesnar was also on SportsCenter and Mike and Mike Tuesday morning, so this might just be the beginning of continuous WWE coverage on ESPN. Stay tuned.
Here are the main stories coming out of Raw:
The anticipation mounted all night for the homecoming of Minnesota’s own, the Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar. Once he made his way to the ring, Paul Heyman decided to pay his respects to the Beast by serenading him.
Heyman’s singing couldn’t keep the Undertaker away, as the Dead Man appeared and low blowed Lesnar before nailing him with a chokeslam and Tombstone before leaving the ring. It was an interesting way to end the Raw before SummerSlam, considering they were in Lesnar’s backyard and the crowd turned on Taker for the first time in what seems like forever.
I fully expect Lesnar to get the win on Sunday, and I have a feeling it won’t be as clean as his victory was at WrestleMania XXX. I’ll explain further in my SummerSlam preview later this week.
It didn’t take long for us to get another contract signing segment, and this time it was for the highly anticipated Title vs. Title match at SummerSlam as United States Champion, John Cena, looks to gain his 16th World Title as he takes on Seth Rollins.
Rollins’ promo to start out the segment dragged on a little too long, and Cena made his way out to the ring with some harsh words for the champion. With The Authority present, Cena told Rollins he was going to make him his bitch on Sunday night on his way to his 16th World Title reign.
That was really it. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s a war of words at this point, so there’s not much to look forward to until the two lock up on Sunday night.
Roman Reigns and Luke Harper had a hell of a match Monday night, but the story might seem to lean more towards how often the commentators have brought up the brotherhood between Reigns and Dean Ambrose. Ambrose was on commentary during the match and Bray Wyatt was just sitting in the corner on the outside of the ring, but in professional wrestling storytelling, one could surmise Ambrose may be turning heel at SummerSlam given the backstory.
I could see Ambrose turning heel and joining the Wyatts, despite his undying hatred for them, because pro wrestling 101 can always explain that. If Reigns turned heel? I’m not so sure that would happen.
But Ambrose needs something now and is toiling away in the midcard despite being super over with the crowd. He needs to become important again. Joining the Wyatts wouldn’t necessarily mean great things for him because he could get lost in the shuffle, but simply turning on Reigns and ignoring the Wyatts could give him a good launchpad for a singles heel run.
Nothing really was furthered with these four combatants on Monday night. The talent level is supremely high with all four wrestlers involved, but I just felt like this match should have had some more importance attached to it. Orton pinned Sheamus, although I’m not sure why since the two are set to compete against each other on Sunday night. Look for Sheamus to get his win back.
Dolph Ziggler returned to WWE on Monday night, saving Lana from a staredown by Rusev. Ziggler then challenged Rusev [well, really, he challenged The Authority to make a match of him against Rusev], so the two will be going one-on-one at SummerSlam.
We all saw this coming, but Lana couldn’t have been more awkward in her lead up to Ziggler’s return.
One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three... pic.twitter.com/ACssZwAfoz— Nick Piccone (@nickpiccone) August 18, 2015
Honestly, I would make this match a Mixed Tag Team match since it makes more sense to me. Save the Rusev/Ziggler one-on-one match for Night of Champions, and have Lana and Summer Rae finally go at it inside the ring during a real match. It makes more sense and takes away the obvious scene of the two getting into a “catfight” outside of the ring during Sunday’s match.
More Divas action on Monday night, with Becky Lynch going one-on-one with Tamina in a pretty good match. Later on, the Divas Champion, Nikki Bella, took on the NXT Women’s Champion, Sasha Banks, in a Champion vs. Champion match. Of course, Banks’ championship wasn’t on the line, and neither was Nikki’s, although I can’t imagine the harm in having Nikki defend the title on Raw or even SmackDown if she is going two special events in a row without defending it.
The crowd didn’t do themselves any favors, but neither did the booking. I can absolutely get behind the idea that the women would main event Monday Night Raw in front of a Lesnar/Taker showdown. I’m all for that thought process, but someone had to believe not having Lesnar appear until after the main event would elicit some bad responses from the crowd. In this instance, it happened during what happened to be the best match on the show.
Banks made Nikki tap out to the Bank Statement to end a fantastic match that saw the crowd shower the hard-working women with “We Want Lesnar!” chants. It’s a double-edged sword here. While I have to admonish the crowd for completely disrespecting the women inside the ring putting on a great match, the booking of the show to not have Lesnar appear until the very last segment of the show set these women up to fail. I wouldn’t mind if they had this match at the beginning of the 10 p.m. hour, but this was the main event match of the evening and someone had to know the crowd would become antsy in anticipating a Lesnar appearance. Someone dropped the ball, and it certainly wasn’t the Divas.
Stephen Amell may not have appeared on Raw, and Neville may not have, either, but I absolutely loved this promo by Stardust and King Barrett. It felt like an old-school 1980s promo.
Short, simple and awesome. That’s all we can ask for these guys in this position. They’re having fun. At least that’s what it looks like.
The New Day lost… again. I’m thinking the trio regains the Tag Team Titles on Sunday, though. WWE would be stupid not to put the straps back on the hottest tag team act going right now.
As for the Triple Threat Intercontinental Championship match at SummerSlam? It might be the match I’m looking forward to the least at this point.
I’ll have my SummerSlam preview later this week right here at The Philly Voice. I’ll also have a complete review of NXT’s Takeover: Brooklyn show on Saturday night. The double main event pits Bayley trying to take the NXT Women’s Championship away from Sasha Banks and the NXT Championship is up for grabs in a Ladder Match as Finn Balor defends against Kevin Owens.
• Randy Orton and Cesaro d. Sheamus and Kevin Owens by pinfall after Orton hits Sheamus with an RKO.
• Roman Reigns d. Luke Harper by pinfall via a Superman Punch and spear. Both Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose were at ringside.
• Becky Lynch d. Tamina Snuka by submission via the Disarmer.
• Rusev d. Mark Henry by submission via The Accolade.
• Non-Title: Ryback (c-IC) d. The Miz by pinfall via Shell-Shocked.
• The Prime Time Players (c) and Lucha Dragons d. The New Day and Los Matadores by pinfall after Kalisto pinned one of the Matadores with a hurricanrana pin.
• Non-Title: Sasha Banks (c-NXT) d. Nikki Bella (c-D) by submission via the Bank Statement.
Andrew Goldstein joined us on The Straight Shooters last Thursday night to talk about SummerSlam and what he expects will happen at the biggest event of the summer. You can listen to that show here.