August 18, 2015 by Joey Keogh
With just days to go until Summerslam takes over NYC, RAW isn’t wasting any time, with The Authority strolling out to unanimous boos to open the show the only way they know how: by shilling the hell out of the PPV. Steph pauses to do a Queen-style wave at the top of the ramp, and the two of them smooch for a bit once they make it to the ring – classic heel move, of course, but it works particularly well for them because they feel like our collective parents. This is the go-home show, so naturally we’re expecting some build-up for Sunday, but is it really this exciting? Describing tonight’s show as feeling a lot like Christmas Eve is pushing it a bit, let’s be honest.
That damn Demi Lovato song kicks in rather unexpectedly while Steph is mid-sentence and, for a moment, I thought maybe a new Diva was debuting. They go through all of the many, many, many matches on the card before revealing that tonight we have a contract signing to look forward to (woo?) along with a bout featuring Roman Reigns and Luke Harper (double woo?). Also the WWE have somehow roped in recently-retired Daily Show host, and major wrasslin’ mark, Jon Stewart to host the show on Sunday because their first choice, Stephen Amell, had prior engagements. This isn’t a bad opening segment, it’s quick, entertaining and the crowd are into it, but the rattling off of matches is a bit tedious. Also Trips is distractingly pink throughout.
Our curtain-jerker tonight rather curiously pitches Cesaro and Randy Orton, in a tag team, against Sheamus and Kevin Owens. It seems like Orton is just strolling out to interrupt the proceedings as usual, because The Authority aren’t exactly finished when he appears, but whatever. As Sheamo enters, Orton points at him like “that’s him” and Cesaro nods like this is his first time seeing the man. This is a weird mixture of two kind of mini feuds that works best when it focuses on Cesaro and Owens, instead of those other two we’ve seen fight a million times before (and will be watching again on Sunday, hooray!). Cesaro hits the coolest spots of the match, with his vertical Suplex and flying uppercut looking particularly cool.
Sheamo, to his credit, goads the crowd by yelling “Respect the hawk!” and “Are you not entertained?” If only he could find someone besides Orton to feud with, we’d be in business. He does some good in-ring work with Cesaro, too, but then that guy elevates everyone. Orton somehow ends up winning it for them, though, with a DDT followed by an RKO. Owens tries to stop him but is still kind of sore from his fat jibes last week and fails rather miserably. A weird Taker promo follows, during which his face is, wisely, mostly covered by a big ol’ hat and a load of dry ice, while he’s bathed in purple light like he’s got lost in Peter Murphy’s bedroom and can’t quite tear himself away from the lashings of velvet. There’s also more Network shilling just because, and it actually lasts longer than Taker’s segment, which is a bit sad.
Backstage, The Authority and Rollins are drooling over a piece of paper emblazoned with the Summerslam logo and literally about two lines of text. What does it even say? “I, Seth Rollins hereby agree to fight John Cena on Sunday kthanxbye”? Anyway, if Rollins wins both belts at the PPV, he reckons there should be a statue erected in his honour. Trips agrees that he can have it if he wins, but is so obviously trying to hold back laughter the whole time that it seems almost guaranteed he will not.
Up next, Reigns has a match with Luke Harper that is composed mainly of headlocks and nothing much else of note. Luckily, his buddy Ambrose is on commentary, causing trouble and trying to taunt Bray Wyatt – who is sitting as far away from him as humanly possible – into getting in his face so they can brawl a bit. Apparently, this fledgling feud, that’s due to come to a head on Sunday, was built up a bit more on Smackdown. Too bad nobody watches that show. Harper hits a deadly michinoku driver, and Reigns manages a decent enough flying elbow off the apron.
But those are the highlights of a match during which they spend so long tangled in each other’s hair, it’s a wonder they’re not sharing their favourite home remedies for split ends (or maybe they are?) It just seems like they’re calling shit the whole time, almost as though they’re not ready or something. Predictably, Reigns wins with the boring old Superman punch/Spear combo and that’s that. It’s not a bad ending, there’s just no reason for it, or indeed this match, to have happened tonight when they’re meeting in the ring on Sunday and nobody cares anyway.
The ladies are up next, with Tamina Snuka taking on Becky Lynch. This is the first of two women’s matches tonight, and it’s the slightly weaker bout mainly because they just don’t get quite enough time. It’s a fast-paced, energetic match nonetheless with Lynch’s quick movements playing nicely off Tamina’s strongman(woman)-style tactics. She wins it with the Disarmer, which Cole naturally has to point out is called The Disarmer. However, regardless of how irritating his so-called commentary is during the women’s matches, it’s at least better than the weird Rusev/Mark Henry squash match that follows and exists purely to reintroduce the weakest element of the Rusev/Lana/Summer Rae feud: Dolph Ziggler.
First, Rusev has to beat Henry while Lana is on commentary trying really hard not to say too much in case her already-thin accent breaks even further. He wins easily, after beating Henry down when he tries to escape the clutches of the Accolade and simply putting him in it again until he taps. Lana then demands Summer meet her in the ring, and they have a bit of bitch-my-man-ain’t-yo-baby’s-daddy-style girlfight action until Ziggler shows up and pummels everyone. He then makes out with his lady in the centre of the ring. They have clearly had kissing lessons in the interim because it’s much less stomach-churning this time around. Immediately following this whole ordeal, Jojo corners them backstage and interviews Ziggler’s tan lines, which reveal he’ll be facing Rusev properly on Sunday.
And if that does nothing for you, we’ve got Ryback versus The Miz next, with Big Show on commentary, trying in vain to shill his new DVD. Miz reckons he’s not a real actor and Show goes so red when he hears this that he looks like he’s about to cry. As for the match, Ryback makes quick, er, slow work of Miz. The end comes with the meathook clothesline followed by the shellshock. It’s a boring end to a boring match. Can’t we just put Ryback down already? After he’s tossed Miz aside, he demands Show enter the ring with him but, in spite of being in his ring gear for some unknown reason, he declines and strolls sadly out.
As Lesnar is slated to return tonight, we have to have the contract signing now, which gives the Minneapolis crowd a great opportunity to take a big ol’ nap until their hero arrives. Rollins does his best to lick his bosses’ butts before Cena inevitably shows up, explaining how the Superman has held us all hostage for years and how, in reality, he’s the disease and Rollins is the cure. It’s a great promo, wasted on a crowd who couldn’t give a shit because they only want Lesnar (or Taker) tonight. When Cena’s music does hit, it feels like it’s happening much later than intended. And, although he’s rocking a new, fluorescent orange T-shirt, he’s curiously muted tonight, flubbing lines and looking a bit lost until he gets to utter the immortal “I’ma make you mah bitch” line at the end.
It’s a weird segment all round, made weirder by the fact that it’s immediately followed by a ludicrously short, eight-man tag team match that pitches The Prime Time Players and The Lucha Dragons against Los Matadores and The New Day. As is becoming customary at this stage, The New Day steal the show with some fun rhyming before things kick off proper. Xavier Woods, the breakout star of their stable, has some fun with El Torito on the outside, but the Dragons win it for their team with a small package. Elsewhere, Barrett continues to be buried for no apparent reason as, right before the next match, he cuts a promo with Stardust during which he becomes the Cosmic King.
The second Divas match of the night pitches current champ Nikki Bella against NXT champ Sasha Banks and, considering it’s technically the Main Event match, they prove yet again why they deserve to be top-tier. This is an interesting match-up right off the bat, because the two participants are so different, both physically and when it comes to their in-ring styles. They establish an easy rhythm and knock the living hell out of each other for a good ten minutes until the asshole chants for Lesnar start. It’s incredibly disappointing, because they’re giving it all they’ve got but it says more about the fans than the women involved (chants won’t keep you warm at night, lads). Banks wins after slipping out of the Rack Attack and locking Nikki into the Banks Statement.
Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for has arrived as Brock Lesnar makes his triumphant return to…Minnesota. Theirs is being sold as the match that was too big for Wrestlemania, which makes absolutely no sense no matter how many goddamn replays try to convince us as such. In truth, the only man who can really convince us any of this really matters is Paul Heyman and he is on reliably good form tonight, powering through an intro that makes even a man as hard as Lesnar beam with pride. Taker’s music drops midway through his second monologue, but the Deadman doesn’t materialise and Lesnar is all like “heh, good joke”.
He keeps bouncing from foot to foot like a Mortal Kombat character the whole time, though. Why can’t he stand still and be regal like Heyman? Finally Taker shows up and the crowd boo him out of it. He kicks Lesnar in the balls to start off, then chokeslams him. Lesnar somehow manages to crawl to his feet only to eat a tombstone piledriver, as Heyman yells “oh my Goooood” from ringside. It’s a fitting ending, mainly because Heyman is the best in the business, but also because they really needed to put this one over. I’m still not entirely convinced, even with that last shot of Taker’s flaccid wrist raised high, but if nothing else their fight should be memorable at the very least. And it’s not totally obvious who’s going to emerge victorious, either.