Notes In Observance – WWE Raw 8/22/16: The Hugger Section Comes Alive
By Nicholas Jason Lopez
“Notes In Observance” features random thoughts and analysis on recent television shows. Quick results can be found at the bottom of the post.
The Hugger Section Comes Alive
– With the six-hour marathon that was SummerSlam finished, we were down to the last show of the Barclays Center trifecta – the Raw after SS. Last year, it provided a big shift in creative direction. Braun Strowman debuted, The Dudley Boyz returned and Sting pretended to be a statue. It was iconic stuff. This year opted to tell a different story, pretty much because they were forced to. They didn’t go immediately into it though, as the opening video simply focused on WWE Universal Champion Finn Balor, in full “Demon King” attire, overcoming “The Man” Seth Rollins in scintillating fashion to become the first-ever Universal Champion. Of course, it did make sense to focus on it, as it was Raw’s biggest development. It was the success story.
– The in-ring segment with Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon, Raw General Manager Mick Foley, Balor, Rollins, Kevin Owens, Enzo Amore, Big Cass, Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn set the tone for the rest of the night. We also had Michael Cole break the horrid news that Balor suffered a torn labrum on a spot where he took Rollins’ barricade powerbomb at SS and thus, had to relinquish the gold. Balor came across as a humbled star, with a sling and a smile. The crowd dug him and chanted everything they could to keep the inevitable from happening, but their hearts sank when Foley timidly lifted the belt off Balor’s shoulders. The timetable for his return was six months, which would roughly be the end of Feb. 2017. Oh, we’ll be waiting for then. Tough break for Balor, who surely was set to be positioned on top against guys like Rollins, Owens, Jericho, etc. The rest of the segment saw the involved talent try to stake their claim at being the next Champion, mostly Rollins as he showed Balor disrespect on the ramp (could plant a return feud down the road) and put himself over as a true winner. Zayn felt right at home with the crowd’s support. You already knew how they reacted to Enzo/Cass. Do we even need to say it? They basically carried over the Jeri-KO-Enzo/Cass feud and put them in the Universal Title hunt. Obviously, Reigns wasn’t welcomed with open arms from this crowd, but it made sense to have him involved in this thing too, even though we hoped he wouldn’t. The “series of matches” explanation by Foley to determine a new Champion next week obviously downed the crowd and left us a bit confused. Why not just call it another tournament? Was it because we saw a tournament play out to determine the Balor-Rollins SS match to begin with? It’s not a bad thing. This happened because it had to. This transitioned to the Zayn-Rollins match nicely, as Rollins attacked Zayn from behind.
– The Zayn-Rollins match was definitely an entertaining back-and-forth affair that contrasted Zayn’s fighting spirit with Rollins’ “by any means necessary” personality. Of course, fans had to hold their collective breaths when Zayn sold an ankle injury on a springboard leap frog, but it proved to be the right out for a loss to Rollins in the end. Despite that, Zayn looked tough as nails for going at Rollins on one leg and even teasing an upset a few times. Nevertheless, we wouldn’t put Zayn over Rollins at this point, as the Pedigree did him in. Still a very good match to start things out the right way. We really feel for a guy like Zayn, who obviously connects with the crowd and has little to show for it in terms of his position on the card.
– The Owens-Neville match wasn’t quite on the level of their past Raw encounters, but it still was a nice follow-up to Zayn-Rollins in its own way. Neville pulled off some impressive aerial moves, like a 450 Splash off the apron and then later on a corkscrew spinning moonsault from the second rope. In the process of setting things up in the Universal Title picture, it was odd to think Neville was above Owens and for that reason, we had to know Owens would go over. We liked that Jericho came down and indirectly helped Owens win, as it confirmed they were still a team and would probably help each other get to next week. Maybe Zayn/Neville will team back up together? Owens also pulled out his torture rack neckbreaker finisher for this one to diversify his moveset. It was also announced that these matches would set up a Fatal Four-Way for the WWE Universal Championship next week in Houston, with Owens and Rollins already penciled in. Other matches announced to determine the other spots were WWE United States Rusev-Big Cass and Reigns-Jericho. Oh boy. All we gotta say.
– Hopefully, we have moved on from the WWE World Tag Team Champions The New Day-Karl Anderson/Luke Gallows feud being about testicles, jars and lab coats and actually more about straight-out tag team wrestling. The in-ring segment with the two teams was a better direction for that, as the basis of the promo was ND celebrating 365 days as Tag Champs, since they won the belts at last year’s SummerSlam. It was sort of ironic to have the guys who donned lab coats and testicle jokes days before call the Tag Champions “stupid.” Maybe it was purposely ironic. Either way, the unicorn piñata never got to be popped. Logically, Anderson/Gallows brought up their entitled opportunity at the belts since they won by DQ the night before. Big E shut them up, as this set up a match between him and Anderson for after the commercial break.
– Of course, all the work to build up Gallows/Anderson as big heels went out the window with the Big E-Anderson match. Outside of the okay ring action was outside shenanigans and that overshadowed the match. Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston took out Gallows on the outside and that allowed Big E to focus on Anderson alone and beat him with the Big Ending. Would’ve made way more sense to have Anderson go over. Don’t forget, guys, you’re trying to establish threats to these Champions. Gallows/Anderson are portrayed as jokes and don’t have AJ Styles to fall back on now thanks to the WWE Draft.
– The in-ring segment with Titus O’Neil, Bob Backlund and Darren Young served as an angle to continue the feud between the former Prime Time Players, but went about it all wrong. O’Neil suffered dreadfully on the microphone and this wasn’t the crowd to do that in front of. He got heat, but more in the form of “go-away heat.” You knew it was slipping when they began to chant for Heath Slater as he even had to acknowledge the chants. O’Neil has proven in the past to be charismatic enough with a fan-friendly moveset to be relied on as a babyface powerhouse, but he doesn’t possess the mic skills to utilize the same attributes as a heel. It was also odd that Young waited so long to save Backlund. The crowd did pop for Backlund almost applying the Cross-Face Chicken Wing in full, but that was about it. This feud hasn’t gone many places since they first introduced it.
– We expected more from Steph’s reaction promo towards Brock Lesnar’s SummerSlam actions (F5’ing her rival brother) as she simply stated there’d be repercussions and that she agreed with Shane that a line was crossed. Given Lesnar’s status as a part-time star, it’d probably set him up for a storyline suspension. They already had an out for that when he forcefully pushed aside a medical trainer, but it was cemented with the F5 to Shane. You’d think she’d love to see that though. Guess not.
– The Rusev-Cass match to determine one of the two spots in next week’s Fatal Four-Way looked good on paper as this was something fresh, but didn’t nearly live up to what we expected to see. Rusev got some good heat from the BK crowd as he attacked Enzo at ringside to work Cass into an emotional frenzy. Cass also looked smart in targeting Rusev’s injured ribs, as he advanced the work that Reigns began the night before. The countout finish was a bit weak in that Rusev spoke so highly of the World Title, yet he’d take a countout loss in a match that would advance him closer to getting it. Ah well.
– The Jeri-KO backstage promo continued the comedic chemistry the duo had with Tom Phillips and also hyped the Jericho-Reigns main event. They bickered a bit, which needed to happen given they were both in the tournament for a singles belt, but established they had each other’s backs no matter what before they closed out with Jericho’s new catchphrases. Funny stuff.
– Easily, the most memorable thing on the show was also the most positive. The in-ring segment with WWE Women’s Champion Charlotte, Foley, Dana Brooke and Bayley set the stage for Bayley’s Raw debut while also letting Charlotte have her moment to gloat over beating Sasha Banks the night before, as it was established that Banks would miss about a month to nurse recent injuries. Charlotte’s promo was well-delivered with insult that Banks was “all flash and no cash.” Foley provided the next step for the Raw Women’s Division as he “signed the hottest free agent” and formally introduced Bayley to the hot crowd, who called it from the moment Charlotte came out. Also liked Charlotte’s heel logic in the statement that there was a reason Bayley was left behind in NXT to which Bayley formally challenged her for the belt. It was the perfect opportunity for Charlotte to bow out and volunteer Brooke to wrestle for her. This was well-executed on all ends. Foley came across as a good guy, Bayley got her moment and Charlotte’s next challenger was likely set with Banks temporarily out of the picture. We did have fears of setting Bayley up to fail in her first feud, but let’s enjoy the ride to the match first. It would also be easier to tell a babyface-heel dynamic with Bayley-Charlotte as opposed to Banks-Charlotte, despite their great chemistry.
– The Bayley-Brooke match served well as Bayley’s in-ring Raw debut, as she pulled out her signature spots and the crowd showered the ring with some classic Bayley chants as heard on past NXT TakeOver Specials. An easy squash as Bayley won with the Bayley-To-Belly and further established herself as a threat to Charlotte’s belt. Brooke also showed a good performance and had potential as a foil to Bayley in the ring here.
– Reigns’ backstage promo gave hype for the main event on his end and was met with boos and a monotone threat to shut Jericho up wither with his scarf or his fist.
– Thankfully, more is being done to establish the incoming Cruiserweight Division set to debut on Sep. 19. We also saw promo snippets from guys like Rich Swann, Noam Dar, Brian Kendrick and TJ Perkins. It made sense to establish some personalities early on, so why not start now?
– Sheamus’ backstage promo advanced the feud with Cesaro upon the news that the second match in their Best-of-Seven Series would happen next week. His comparison of Cesaro to the Suicide Squad was an easy one as he settled in for more cheap hometown heat as he made fun of New York’s gold-less sports teams.
– The trend of entertaining Braun Strowman jobber matches continued, as he demolished Johnny Knockout (who bore some resemblance to WrestlePro’s Chris Payne), but it was JK’s pre-match comment where he said he “loved big, sweaty men” that had us distracted a little bit, even after the match was over. How exactly do you explain that comment to people? How did that make JK come across to the LGBT viewers? We also might’ve gotten a little insight into Strowman’s “heel or face” question when he pretty much demanded the Referee to count to three another time after the bell. We’ll still count that as one win.
– With the recent developments between The Dudley Boyz with miscommunications and bickering, we figured this “Dudleyz Say Goodbye” segment was a way to set up a Bubba Ray turn on D-Von to finally unleash him as a top singles heel we all know he could be. We had slight reminders of Mark Henry’s fake retirement speech in 2013. The moment was also hyped well throughout the night though their career highlights were limited to their 1999 debut and their 2015 return. They got all hearty and emotional as they got big cheers for showing their appreciation to the crowd that has loved and hated them over the past 20 years. They also name-dropped other teams that got them to where they were now. It was funny to see “Delete!” chants upon mention of the Hardy Boyz. Just as they wrapped it up, we almost saw the turn coming… then out came The Shining Stars. Well, okay… maybe they’ll demolish them and then have Bubba do the turn. SS’ mic work was reminiscent of their hype vignettes as they pimped up Puerto Rico as the place to be. They critiqued them as “washed up” to draw some easy heat. The Dudleyz hit their signature spots like the 3D and “Wassup?” to a big reaction, before they pulled out the tables. Now this is where we kind of liked how it ended up – a “passing of the torch” per se to Gallows/Anderson, who deprived fans of seeing one last table broken by way of the Dudleyz and instead watched a table broken by a Dudley himself. The Magic Killer on Bubba Ray on the floor look vicious as did the one that out D-Von through the table. Now, this was the moment we had waited for Gallows/Anderson to have. That’s how they should be pushed. Wr were curious if this meant that the Dudleyz wouldn’t hang it up to feud with Gallows/Anderson instead, but it was apparent after the show that they were indeed calling it a career. That was fun while it lasted.
– The Reigns-Jericho main event to determine the final Fatal Four-Way spot was par for the course if you’ve seen a Reigns match, but it was still entertaining. We liked that Owens followed up on what he said as he came out to provide a distraction and attempted to help Jericho throughout the match. The crowd was unsurprisingly against Reigns the whole time and chanted for almost all of Jericho’s offense. There were a few nice teases of Jericho going over with the Codebreaker and with Owens’ help, but the same old “Reigns overcomes adversity” story was the one they opted to tell and it was Reigns who advanced to next week. Yawn. That said, the Fatal Four-Way set between Rollins, Cass, Owens and Reigns looks pretty good on paper. Just a matter of how things will play out.
- Winner Advances To Next Week’s Fatal Four-Way To Crown Next WWE Universal Champion – Seth Rollins def. Sami Zayn via pinfall to advance
- Winner Advances To Fatal Four-Way – Kevin Owens def. Neville via pinfall to advance
- Big E (w/Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston) def. Karl Anderson (w/Luke Gallows) via pinfall
- Winner Advances To Fatal Four-Way – Big Cass (w/Enzo Amore) def. Rusev (w/Lana) via countout to advance
- Bayley def. Dana Brooke (w/Charlotte) via pinfall
- Braun Strowman def. Johnny Knockout via pinfall
- Winner Advances To Fatal Four-Way – Roman Reigns def. Chris Jericho via pinfall to advance
Posted on October 9, 2016, in WWE and tagged Bayley, Big Cass, Big E, Bob Backlund, Braun Strowman, Brian Kendrick, Byron Saxton, Charlotte, Chris Jericho, Clash Of The Champions, Corey Graves, Cruiserweights, Dana Brooke, Darren Young, Enzo Amore, Finn Balor, Johnny Knockout, Karl Anderson, Kevin Owens, Kofi Kingston, Lana, Luke Gallows, Michael Cole, Mick Foley, Neville, Noam Dar, Rich Swann, Roman Reigns, Rusev, Sami Zayn, Seth Rollins, Sheamus, Stephanie McMahon, The Dudley Boyz, The New Day, The Shining Stars, Titus O'Neil, TJ Perkins, Tom Phillips, Xavier Woods. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.