Note: I’m filling in for Bradley Tiernan this week. He loves and misses you all very much. This review comes from the abridged Hulu version of Monday Night RAW, which is a much better viewing experience, by the way.
On the heels of a questionable, and sometimes frustrating, SummerSlam event, the WWE had one last chance to make the most of its annual weekend with Brooklyn a success. Did they accomplish that? Here’s what went down.
Finn Balor relinquishes the Universal Championship, promising that the title will be the first thing he guns for when he’s back. It’s never fun to see a genuine fan favourite, and critical darling, reach the pinnacle of their career and have to relinquish a title due to injury. Daniel Bryan’s last years in the WWE are still fresh in the minds of fans, so the misfortune is very apparent in this scenario. Seth Rollins strolls past Balor upon his exit in great heel fashion, planting the seeds for another encounter down the line when Balor returns.
Rollins tries to convince Stephanie and Mick to award him the Universal Championship when the parade of entrances for Sami Zayn, Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, Enzo & Cass ensue. Foley announces a series of matches that night would determine who gets a shot at the Universal Championship next week. Leading to…
Seth Rollins vs. Sami Zayn: I could watch these two work any day of the week. Zayn, the best candidate to fill Daniel Bryan’s underdog position, always plays well off Rollins’ smarmy-heel persona. The match comes to a halt as Zayn (kayfabe) favours his ankle from a spot. The energy and stakes really play a role in this, making for a very good opener.
Kevin Owens vs. Neville: Apparently Neville has the opportunity to advance? Maybe the explanation was lost in the Hulu edit, but that wasn’t made clear here. Either way, you could predict what would happen. Brooklyn was very invested in these two. It was short and spirited, but Owens picks up the win.
Backstage, Stephanie McMahon, in her Canadian tuxedo, states that Brock Lesnar will see repercussions for his SummerSlam actions. Plant those seeds, Creative Team.
Rusev vs. Big Cass: A solid big man match where Rusev maximises his heelish instincts. He lays out Enzo at ringside, cowers in his injured ribs and eventually says “Fuck it” and takes a countout to Big Cass. The point of the segment was to get Big Cass over, but he’s already mega-over as it is. Mission accomplished, I guess.
Backstage, JeriKO are interviewed by Tom Phillips. Like the previous weeks, this segment succeeds in Tom having to play straight man to Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens’ delightful goofiness. Jericho assures Tom that Roman Reigns is going to get “it” later.
New Women’s Champion Charlotte verbally runs down Sasha Banks’ short title reign… until Bayley debuts to the delight of the Barclay’s Center audience! Charlotte and Bayley’s exchange, while brief, has enough heat to make the segment sizzle.
Bayley vs. Dana Brooke: Bayley puts Dana away pretty quickly, but the elation of the crowd sells both segments. Look out, Charlotte.
The Dudley Boyz deliver their farewell, heartfelt speech only to be interrupted by the Shining Stars. Heel heat, delivered. Brooklyn chants “We want tables!”, knowing exactly how this is going to end. The Dudleys lay out the Shining Stars… but they get laid out by The Club. While the Brooklyn crowd might not have liked seeing hometown heroes get stretchered, it did a lot in gaining heat for The Club – heat they really need right now.
Chris Jericho vs. Roman Reigns: For the episode’s main event, the Brooklyn crowd was firmly behind Jericho, as you’d expect. So this match’s narrative focused on Reigns trying to overcome a veteran and prove a point to the audience. It’s a fairly short main event, with Reigns getting a predictable win. This sets up next week’s Fatal Four-Way between Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens and Big Cass.
Compared to last year’s Brooklyn SummerSlam experience, 2016’s edition leaves a lot to be desired. After another terrific Takeover event, SummerSlam left the crowd confused and, at times, exhausted from the length of the show. While there were stakes on this edition of RAW, it’s frustrating to walk into the last show of SummerSlam weekend with a fan favourite (Finn Balor) relinquishing a title and ending it with a performer who has completely sold the fanbase (Roman Reigns). We’ll see how the trajectory goes next week.
Photo via WWE on Twitter.