We’re here in Los Angeles for No Mercy, a show with two WrestleMania-quality Main Events, did you know they have two WrestleMania-quality Main Events? Because they do and the KickOff panel of Renee Young, Sam Rosenberg, David Otunga & Jerry Lawler would like you to know so. We get some WrestleMania KickOff panel-quality promos from Braun Strowman, Kurt Angle, The Miz, Finn Balor, Neville, Paul Heyman & Alexa Bliss in the social media lounge with Charley Caruso. Most importantly, Elias plays a song railing on the hipsters of Los Angeles for having screenplays and Apollo Crews for existing, leading into our first match of the night…

Kick-Off Match: Apollo Crews vs Elias

If there were any justice in the world, Apollo Crews would be the action figure every kid wanted to play with as athletically speaking, he is the complete package that the commentary team hype him as and as part of Titus Worldwide, he has the charismatic mouthpiece he needs in the form of Titus O’Neill. Elias has been improving a lot since hitting the main roster, or at least he has the guitar, in the ring he still remains desperately faithful to the fundamentals. Could Crews bring something new out of Elias tonight?

Not really, it was a solid, little match with the two following the heel win on KickOff structure of a little back-and-forth between the two, Elias cuts off Crews, controls the match, Crews eventually fights back, looks like he could take the win but Elias drives him into the ring post, hits his Drift Away finisher and gets the pin. There were some nice elements to it including a rope-hung, corner mule kick by Elias and a comeback sequence by Crews that actually got a reaction out of the crowd including a beautiful springboard elbow smash. Ultimately there’s not much as you can say about it as it was a random match-up made with no story behind it but Crews always works hard to try and make things matter. Hopefully, Elias can start to step his game up as well.

Match 1: The Miz (c) vs Jason Jordan – Intercontinental Championship

This was fine. I don’t really know what else to say, it was was that, fine. Jason Jordan, even with his character’s knees cut off with the whole ‘Kurt Angle’s my Dad’ storyline is still a superb wrestler and The Miz is very good as a wrestler and probably still the best character worker they have (or at least the best on RAW, there is, after all, Kevin Owens). They got the opening match and worked it with the typical amount of energy that both of these two bring to a match but sadly a ‘hometown’ crowd that was firmly behind The Miz and refused to enjoy anything Jordan did manage to sap any of that energy that the two could bring.

Even with that, there were some lovely sequences with an opening where Jordan managed to bring all that collegiate wrestling to The Miz and reminded him why they’re pretending Jordan is Angle’s son with some near-perfect suplexes including a fisherman’s reversal out of Miz doing the ‘yes’ kicks. Of course, the problem with modern Miz matches is we all knew exactly how this one was going to end: Jordan escaped from the Miz, hit a big comeback sequence, just when he was about to win, Dallas and Axel’s intervention provided Miz with the opening required to hit the Skull-Crushing Finale for the pin. As I said, this was fine. It could have and indeed, should have been better but if we take anything from this, it’s another strong performance from Jordan who if given some actual character beyond ‘my fake dad is also good at wrestling’, could indeed be ‘the next generation of great’.

  • After the match, Jordan is interviewed in the ring by Renee, he’s disappointed in his loss, he wants a rematch and even though crowds tell his Dad affectionately that he sucks, it’s the Miz that really sucks.

Match 2: Finn Balor vs Bray Wyatt

This was a surprising delight. After a few months of trading matches with no real drama, purpose or excitement, they finally managed to deliver (what was hopefully) the appropriately aggressive final act to this play. It was slightly mystifying that after Finn delivered a promo on last week’s RAW all about the demon that he was out in his Balor Club gear but this time with a dusted grey-powder blue palette that really worked with Finn’s complexion. After the two tried to compete at who could stretch out their entrance longer, Wyatt satisfyingly jumped straight into action, attacking before the bell and treating Balor like a ragdoll around the outside of the ring. As some referees helped Finn to the back, Bray got on the mic and started calling Finn a little coward which was enough to get Finn to forgo medical treatment and rush back, straight into a match, immediately getting Wyatt back outside the ring to hit a barricade dropkick.

What worked about this was that it had that G1 Climax sprint feel to it as the two men went at each other with all they had throwing in a superplex, an elbow smash onto the apron and superb sequence where Finn manages to catch Wyatt between the apron and the banner on it before mashing him with strikes and hitting a full force PK. Sadly, this match also featured a really stupid moment where Balor, perched, ready for the Coup de Grace is frozen in fear or something after Wyatt gets up into the spiderwalk. It’s clear that they’re still trying to sell the cerebral threat of Wyatt’s ‘mind games’ but so far this year his mind games have amounted to spider-walking, experimental filmmaking at ‘Mania and dropping a fridge on Randy Orton.

When they actually wrestled though, the wrestling was really good with Wyatt playing the athletic powerhouse and Balor showing why he’s still squaring up to the big lads and not stuck down in 205 Live. The finishing sequence as the two men repeatedly reverse each other’s attempts at finishers until Wyatt would go to the second rope, Balor followed him, hit a high kick, two corner dropkicks and a Coup de Grace for the pin. Nothing that I would put into either men’s top 10 but certainly the best thing so far on this show. Admittedly, that’s not saying much thus far.

  • Asuka is coming at TLC. No one is ready, probably.
  • The Bar are interviewed backstage, they have no plans to change their strategy because they don’t need to, they don’t just raise the bar, they are The Bar.

Match 3: Not The Shield (c) vs The Bar – WWE RAW Tag Team Championship

This was wild, I thought their Summerslam match was easily the third best match of that particular night and this match was even better than their first. The thing people will be talking about with this match is, of course, that corner bump by Cesaro (see below) but the entire match deserves our attention. Currently, the consistently best things on either show have been the Tag Team divisions and this match was no different. The Bar, or SheaSaro as I prefer to call them, have been consistently brilliant showing their versatility as performers from violent sprints like this through to slower, more technical work like their Iron Man match with the Hardyz and this match worked wonders.

From the opening brawl which saw Sheamus and Cesaro work over Ambrose as he played the lunatic-in-peril taking everything from a giants swing headfirst into the steps onwards, it did briefly slow down as in the lead-up to a Rollins hot tag, I was concerned it might slip into  basic tag structure but luckily from Dean posting Cesaro onwards, the match went crazy as a bloody-mouthed Cesaro attempted to still fight off both Dean and Seth while also being forced to receive basic medical attention.

Ironically considering how long their history together is in comparison to the challengers, the main issue with this match is that Rollins and Ambrose are still treated like and performing like a pair of singles wrestlers and not a tag team. Where Cesaro and Sheamus work together pulling off grand spectacle like the combination of Sheamus hitting White Noise on Ambrose as Cesaro top rope powerbombed Rollins onto Ambrose, it felt like all the big moves and moments of Rollins and Ambrose were as individuals and not as a unit, they both got full singles entrances, unlike the combined Bar entrance, even their finish is basically just both guys hitting their singles finishers in a row.

The finish came as there was a slight miscommunication between the Bar leading to Sheamus taking out Cesaro only to eat the unnamed ripcord-knee finisher into a Dirty Deeds for the pin. As much as I’d like to see more unity from Seth and Dean, this was a great match, probably the only match that I’d recommend without reservation from this entire show but what’s really intriguing is that I don’t think this is the end of the feud between these two teams. I see no way out for these teams other than going full Big Japan and having some kind of deathmatch. Or a TLC match what with that being the next RAW PPV but still, a deathmatch would be nice.

Match 4: Alexa Bliss (c) vs Emma vs Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax vs Bayley – WWE RAW Women’s Championship

This is that rare thing: a women’s match that felt like it was exactly as long as it needed to be. These kinds of multi-competitor matches work best if they’re just a crazy sprint, no time for rest holds just keep moving, especially when you have five competitors, you don’t need to give the audience time to breathe and that’s exactly what they did here. What’s worth acknowledging is that the structure of this match allowed each woman at least a moment to shine and they took that and ran with it, especially Emma who had a lot of to prove here as the one everyone assumed was just there to eat the pin so that all of the people they care about could stay look strong but instead, she looked gutsy playing the cool heel who wanted to prove to everyone she was better than them,  Jax played a superb powerhouse, Alexa Bliss was at her sneaky, chicken sh*t best, Sasha was a Bo$$ and Bayley reminded everyone how good she is at playing the underdog, at least until she took the pin because Alexa has proven herself to be the better of Banks and Bayley so many times, I frankly don’t see how they can call her a heel when she’s proven right.

Of course, the big spot of the match involved all four of the most girls that Nia is unlike performing an assisted powerbomb to the floor on her. Credit has to go to all five competitors for creating an unexpected moment out of this but also to Nia for selling it like death. Ultimately after a final minute of everyone trading finishers, Bliss would sneak in and hit a DDT on Bayley for the pin. This wasn’t a particularly memorable match beyond the aforementioned powerbomb spot but still, it was a lot of fun and it made me anxious to see some more substantial tete-a-tete encounters amongst this quintuplet of performers.

Match 5: Roman Reigns vs John Cena

This was nearly twenty-three minutes. I had to check this afterwards because not in a good way, this did not feel like twenty three-ish minutes (unless we’re talking in the Usos sense). We all knew as the first of two WrestleMania-quality Main Events that this was going to be given the big fight feel, especially as this was the man poised to replace John Cena finally taking on the man that is John Cena. While there was nothing necessarily wrong with what either man did, the main issue was that none of it felt special, normally when it comes to ‘big matches’ and especially when it’s new opponents, Cena and Reigns will find themselves forced to step their game up and throw in something new or at least something in a way we haven’t seen before but this felt like a greatest hit concert of the two men but performed without any urgency.

Perhaps it wasn’t helped that the back-and-forth ‘worked shoot’ promos only served to highlight how little reason these two men had to be fighting, there was nothing at stake here, no one had anything particularly to prove, this was entirely competition for the sake of them having been put into a match and hoping that the considerable talents of both men would cover the storytelling cracks.

If we take one thing away from this, let it never be said that ‘Super Cena’ is still a constant as the man hit 4 Attitude Adjustments including a top rope avalanche edition and a double consecutive AA and was not able to put away Roman yet Reigns only did one regular in-ring spear for the pin. There was also the (admittedly impressive) Spear off one announce table through the other but as this wasn’t a Falls Count Anywhere match, that doesn’t count towards the near fall quota because really? Were they ever going to burn a big match like this on a double count out. What I did appreciate were some of the smaller character touches from Cena as he hit the double AA, the move that he put away AJ Styles with for his sixteenth world title at Royal Rumble, he looked completely stunned as Reigns managed to kick out.

The problem with this match is that as the pre-match video package loved reminding us, these men are too similar, they both employ similar match structures and have similar cooldown times to the point where this didn’t feel like two opposing forces but the same one force pointed in the same direction as itself. Equally, painting Reigns as the new Cena is fine, except for when you put him in a match where it’s clear Cena is still better at being Cena than Reigns could hope to be. Still, it wasn’t a bad match but honestly, considering how much they put into it, there should have been a lot more to come out of it.

  • After the match, Cena gets a standing ovation with ‘Thank You, Cena’ chants as he walks out of the arena. Could this be Reigns’ second retirement match of the year? I hope not, Undertaker may have been done since before WM XXX but Cena is still at the top of his game.
  • Kurt Angle is backstage, The Miz/Tourage turn up, The Miz wants a Miz TV on RAW tomorrow with Roman Reigns. Angle allows it. Someone/everyone’s getting speared.

Match 6: Neville (c) vs Enzo Amore – WWE Cruiserweight Championship

I feel sorry for Neville, I shouldn’t feel sorry for the heel but I do. He tried so hard to make this seem like an actual match but he was having to try and put on a wrestling match against a man who seems to have forgotten how to wrestle with an unironic smiling sh*t emoji on his trunks. To add insult to injury, Neville had to enter first as well to allow Enzo to come out while he was in the ring and do his standard promo shtick. The structure of the match was quite simple, for 9 minutes Neville beat up Enzo but Enzo managed to squirm away just enough that he avoided being pinned, submitted or counted out. The ending came when Enzo, being demolished in the timekeeper’s area, made it back into the ring holding the Cruiserweight Title belt, as the ref took the title off him, he used the distraction to get a low blow kick on Neville and roll him up for the pin and the title. I hated this, it’s not having Neville lose that I hate, it’s that they gave us nothing from Amore to suggest that he had fought hard enough to earn it.

This wasn’t a match, this was an angle and not a good one at that. When they announced Amore was heading to 205 Live, I was optimistic, I thought if they gave him a few months, he could pick up some tips on in-ring work from the incredibly talented roster and maybe he could help out some of the floundering babyfaces with how to elicit a response from the audiences and then, they could give him a title run when he’d proved he was worth it but they immediately pushed him into a title feud he wasn’t nearly prepared for against a champion who deserves so much better than this. Well done Enzo, you’ve done the near impossible and worked out how to give Neville a bad match. Sorry, Neville, I hope they paid you well for that.

Match 7: Brock Lesnar (c) vs Braun Strowman – WWE Universal Championship.

I’d probably have enjoyed this match more if it wasn’t the exact same match that Lesnar had with Samoa Joe (get well soon, Joe) at Great Balls of Fire. Lesnar threw everything he had at Strowman but Strowman remembered he’s the bigger human and hit a chokeslam and a Running Powerslam for a 2 count. He then worked over Lesnar who tried to fight back with a Kimura but Strowman powered out and threw what he could at Lesnar but eventually fell to Suplex City and a desperation F5. It was reasonably fun because everything Braun does at the moment is but Lesnar was back on autopilot, I suppose it was a lot to ask for him to be awake for three matches in a row. After all the hype about two WrestleMania-quality Main Events, in the end, what they ironically delivered was a pair of main events worthy of No Mercy.

RAW Talk:

Renee Young & Jerry Lawler are joined by Enzo Amore, Alex Bliss & John Cena. I didn’t watch it because I also read the words ‘Jerry Lawler & Enzo Amore’ and couldn’t bring myself to do it. If you did, feel free to tweet me and tell me how it was.