The 7/29 edition of Raw seemed to have a different feel to it. After the Raw Reunion it was very undecided what we could expect to see. Yet it seemed this week that WWE found a way to spark a bit of excitement and depart away from the old and usher in a new era. But that may be spreading the credit a bit too thin. We may very well be seeing the beginning of the Paul Heyman era.
With F4Wonline reporting Raw had the “heaviest” influence from Heyman yet, this could be the type of program we see going forward. And while the ratings dropped, that was to be expected after such a large numbers grabber last week. Once people see some of the highlights from Raw this week, expect those figures to rebound.
3 hours of Raw have already begun to change the landscape. Heyman seems to have authoritatively put his stamp on what to expect from Raw going forward.
6. Wrestling First
This applies to more than just the way we started Raw. We got an interesting 24/7 title match to start things off, but it made a statement as well. We didn’t have a drawn out beginning. We jumped right into what this show is all about: wrestling.
That would continue to be a theme throughout the night. The in-ring action felt like a star rather than an outlier. Just seeing a lot of underused superstars wrestling on the same show is refreshing.
And the match was interesting if not unspectacular. But the important thing was that it showcased some talent that has been carrying this title thus far instead of just on social media. Maverick and Truth have had a great chemistry and have created some entertaining moments to this point. But giving it to Mike Kanellis was a good way to get him over. Simple, easy ways to progress a character and ease them into a good program.
This is classic Heyman. Look back at ECW Hardcore TV from way back in 1994. 911 decimated Doink the Clown as the fans cheered. Without any deeper introduction than Joey Styles announcing, a simple story was told. Doink was an invader from WWE here to be killed. But the deeper side is what came next. Doink would go on to become Borne Again, a gimmick well ahead of its time. Progression was happening even when we weren’t perceiving it as such.
5. Gauntlet For Contendership
Another showcase of wrestling came in the gauntlet. This was an excellent way of bringing a good amount of talent out there and using the in ring competition to get them over. Maybe for everyone except Sami Zayn. But regardless, this set up a lot of interesting scenarios.
Rey Mysterio kicked things off with Cesaro which will always be entertaining. This transitioned into Zayn getting a quick loss because he is still himself. But after that atrocity we had a rematch fans have wanted for some time; Andrade vs. Mysterio. This put Andrade over well, as he won ripped off Rey’s mask. This could lead to a rumored hair vs. mask match at SummerSlam. And who doesn’t want to see that?
Ricochet saved Rey and continued his push as the babyface crusader. He put on a good bit of action with Andrade and came out the victor. This means that Ricochet gets his rematch for the United States title at SummerSlam. And for once it wasn’t just a given, it was earned. This used everyone (except Sami) well and better yet did it by putting them in the ring. That is an upgrade from the over-scripted Raw we are used to and felt like a refreshing way to keep people involved. This goes back to the “wrestling first” theme that continued on throughout.
4. Featuring Tag Teams
Later on we had a very well put together triple threat tag team match. Another great way to incorporate a good mix of talent. We had the Usos, The Revival, and The OC all being used in the ring with a nice emphasis on the tag team division for once. This all seems to really feel Heyman influenced. Remember ECW was home to tag teams like The Dudley Boyz, Triple Threat, Public Enemy, Impact Players and more exchanging the tag titles there in big time matches with triple threats being a common theme.
Back to Raw, we got to see an exciting bout with a lot of back and forth action. But ultimately, this would end up with The OC claiming the titles after a Shatter Machine to Jimmy Uso. This ending was a perfect way to transition the belts to something new. The Revival could get their rematch or book this same triple threat at SummerSlam. Regardless, it left a thread that you could follow up on down the line.
And this is exactly the type of refresh the tag team division needs right now. Usos and Revival was far beyond overdone at this point. Adding in the newly pushed duo of Anderson and Gallows injected some new life into the titles. And also it gave The OC a more imposing reputation. Hard to ignore them when every member has gold on their waist. This made everything just a bit better for a struggling division, and those are steps in the right direction.
3. Sharpshooter Vs. Disarm-Her
Although Natalya may not have known what she was talking about, I think we all know where this is going. After an exchange of Becky locking in the Disarm-Her preshow and Natalya locking in the sharpshooter, we didn’t even need the awkward promo to know. We are gearing up for a submission match between the two at SummerSlam. And that just instantly makes this match more interesting. Fans needed something more to cling onto than just Natalya being in Canada.
This stipulation (when it is officially confirmed) will give this match a much more clear vision. Natalya isn’t just representing herself as a contender anymore, she is also defending the sharpshooter her family made famous as the most dangerous hold there is.
This bit of simple character work tells a lot without having to say much. And that seems to be the type of story Heyman is looking to tell. Let the narrative play out without holding people’s hands through it the whole way.
This added a new dimension to a match that was quickly looking like an afterthought. And that alone should be a victory as we approach WWE’s biggest event of the summer.
2. Brock’s Beatdown
And this is where Heyman began shouting at you through the script that he was here. The absolute destructive rampage that Brock went on against Seth was brutal and executed perfectly. So well in fact, the crowd was even calling for “one more time” for Brock to deliver another F5 to Rollins. Not what you expect from your top heel beating up one of your top faces, but that’s just consequence of how good this was.
We saw German suplexes, then an F5 to the ring post, and finally an F5 onto a standing steel chair three times in a row. This would’ve been enough to cement a moment of true badassery on the part of Lesnar, but he was just getting started. He went on to stop the ambulance carrying Rollins and then ripped him out of the back for the most devastating F5 yet. Rollins crashed down onto the frame of the stretcher and it felt like Brock was really trying to kill him.
This beat-down was done so well that it made you wonder how Seth could possibly beat Brock after that. And that is exactly what WWE wants you to feel. This could be either the triumphant victory Rollins needs to reinvent himself, or a defining moment that Lesnar is here to stay at the top of the mountain. Either direction they go, the hype has increased significantly for the match. And what do you know, it was a Paul Heyman guy doing the heavy lifting for a damn near perfect angle. Don’t think for one second that was by accident.
1. Fade To Black
But this isn’t even the most Heyman influenced moment we may have gotten on Raw. After the brawl in the back between Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns, all hell broke loose. Joe tried to start a match between him and Reigns but it didn’t stay organized for very long.
Drew McIntyre got involved and him and Roman exchanged some offense before the numbers advantage took over. Cedric Alexander came in to even out the playing field and take on Drew one on one. But once Cedric was down and out, it looked like Reigns had a one way ticket through the announce table. But just to add another layer to the chaos, the Usos came in for the save. Then Anderson and Gallows joined the fray, attacking the Usos to help team heel. But then, it happened.
Alexander launched himself off of the LED board onto everybody, sending everybody back to the days of when New Jack was diving from all areas of the ECW Arena. This moment is when Heyman introduced himself to the audience through this Monday’s Raw.
And if this is just the introduction, we all have a lot to look forward to from Paul E. Dangerously. It made next Monday seem much too far away. And that is good to feel again.
There may be a lot of holy s**t chants coming to Monday nights.