Raw is focused tonight on the World Heavyweight Championship, so this will be a very interesting ep.
The show opens with an incredible package profiling the various WHC tourney competitors. VERY well done. No time to talk now though, the computer… I mean the action is starting.
Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Damian Priest (WHC Tournament Match)
Cody Rhodes comes out first, still selling the Kimura Lock from Brock Lesnar. He gets on the stick before the opening tourney match to go off on Lesnar. He then introduces the bracket before Rollins comes out for a mini staredown between former rivals.
Rollins vs. Nakamura one on one is a dream match, but Priest isn’t quite on their level. No disrespect.
Priest starts off strong, just to oppose my earlier note. He’s soon sent out of the ring though and the two awesome technicians get their staredown.
Nakamura is awesome on offence and delivers a guillotine knee drop to Priest along the outside.
Soon after being back from break, Rollins hits a double Cross Body Block, then a Tope Suicida to each of his opponents who were outside the ring on opposite sides.
Back in the ring, Nakamura gets a vicious offensive series on Priest while Rollins takes a breather on the outside. Rollins sneaks back in and tries a roll-up to Nakamura to no avail. Priest then grabs Rollins and hits a fallback Chokeslam rather than South of Heaven for two.
This triple threat is being engineered extremely well overall.
A short time later, Rollins gets the Stomp on Priest but the pin is broken up by Nakamura. Their exchange afterward is freaking awesome. Nakamura setsup for Kinshasa but is absolutely Laratied to hell by Priest. He goes for South of Heaven but Nkamura kicks out and locks in a kneebar. Rollins flies in out of nowhere though with a Frog Splash and hits the Pedigree for the awesomely done finish (albeit with the wrong man eating the pin).
Winner: Seth Rollins
Backstage, Giovani Vinci and Luwig Kaiser tout the arrival of Gunther next week before running into the Quebec Connection. The exchange is beautiful and ultimately sets up a match between the two squads later on.
Mustafa Ali vs. Otis
Power vs. speed match with Ali matching up a lot better than expected. Otis gets a huge clothesline to take firm control. Otis wants to go for the Caterpillar but Maxxine stops him. As she and Chad Gable bicker about what Otis should do, Ali recovers and after a missed charge, Ali hits the 450 for the rare win. Bad match action wise but a good story told.
Winner: Mustafa Ali
The Miz vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Finn Balor (WHC Tournament Match)
Action isn’t quite as hot as the first triple threat just about an hour earlier, but it’s still decent. Rhodes picks up the 7-10 split with a Tope Suicida to his foes on the outside leading to a break.
Back from the break, Rhodes hits another dual attack hitting a Missile Dropkick on both men. He then hits a double Goldust fist on both men. No serious pins yet as a Double Cody Cutter keeps Rhodes working with a great focus on both opponents.
Miz goes to the outside and Rhodes gets a near pin after a Disaster Kick on Balor. He gets back into the ring and hits a dual basement DDT. Goes for the pin on Cody to no avail.
Fast pin attempts follow until Balor gets the Shotgun Dropkick on Miz. Miz evades the Coup de Gras and throws Balor into Rhodes to keep him out of the ring. SCF on Balor then gets two thanks to interference from Rhodes in a very hot sequence.
Rhodes tosses Miz out and tries for Crossrhodes and hits it after a second attempt on Balor. Miz breaks up the pin then eats consecutive Crossrhodes x3. Goes for the pin, but is yanked out by Lesnar, who is looking worse for wear. Lesnar hits an F5 on the outside.
Miz is out and Balor hits him with a Coup de Gras for the exclamation point.
What I liked here is that this match, unlike the first, was constructed as a true triple threat for the mostpart, rather than the standard one guy on the outside like the first. Both matches were great in their own way.
Winner: Finn Balor
Post match, Lesnar continues to decimate Rhodes, putting through the announce table with an F5. Lesnar then stands over Balor on the outside and delivers a promo but the mic is faulty. Lesnar looks freaking scary with his face torn up. He demands a fight against Rhodes at Night of Champions. Very well done, but the crowd boos feels so piped in.
Back from break and backstage, Rhodes is taken into the trainer’s room.
Rhea Ripley vs. Dana Brooke
Oh this could be bad.
Brooke comes out guns blazing to start but an Irish Kiss turns the tide in very quick order. Brooke attempts to fight back and hits a Wheelbarrow DDT to her credit, but a Flying Crossbody goes awry. Pumphandle Slam confuses Corey Graves before Ripley grabs the Stretch Muffler for the tapout.
Winner: Rhea Ripley
Well, the belts haven’t changed brands yet…
Postmatch, another pumphandle to Brooke followed by another Stretch Muffler until Nattie Neidhart comes out, not intimidating Ripley in the slightest. Absolute right attitude from Ripley because, with all due respect, Neidhart has not been a threat to a title in years.
We then get a summary of the NXT Superstars picked up by Raw with a good video package. Byron Saxton then interviews Stark backstage before she spots Nikki Cross and cuts a promo on the veteran. The two quickly setup a match for later in the night. Nicely done.
Quebec Connection vs. Imperium
Zayn and Kaiser start. and Zayn shows his veteran chops. Kaiser and Vinci takeover however, and show that they work very well as a team.
Traditional WWE tag team match but there’s some cool offence by Imperium, hanging Zayn in the Tree of Woe and hitting consecutive dropkicks from different ankles.
Back from break, Zayn finally gets the hot tag who decimates Kaiser with strikes. HARD slaps to Kaiser in the corner until Vinci distracts. Package Neckbreaker gets two. Swanton also gets two thanks to Vinci.
Imperium gets the tides turned and hit a High-Low for two. Kaiser and Owens are both on the mat crawling for hot tags, Vinci interrupts Owens attempt though. Imperium tries for their double team but Owens breaks it up with a Stunner. He then hits a Thigh Slapper to Vinci, and Zayn finishes things off with the Helluva Kick. Very strong if formulaic match.
Winners: Quebec Connection
Backstage, Chelsea Green and Sonya Deville are passing around a petition, supposedly around the recycling movement. They approach Zia Li who signs, then approach the reunited The Way. The petition is exposed as really being to get a rematch for the Women’s Tag Team Championships. Unsurprisingly, The Way refuse to sign.
Nikki Cross vs. Zoey Stark
Slap by Stark to start what should be an elegant squash.
I’ll admit I haven’t watched a lot of Stark lately in NXT. Cross doesn’t have a lot here and Stark finishes off with a move apparently called the Z360.
Winner: Zoey Stark
Backstage, Saxton chats with Ripley and her pet troll. Xavier Woods and Tozawa enter the picture. Woods handles the whole thing well as he gets a match against Dumb Dumb, which I must admit I feel terrible for not thinking of first. Well done Austin, well done.
Before the break, we get Trish Stratus handing out Missing posters about Becky Lynch. She then comes out to ringside. This is a bit more of the smarmy comedic Trish that we knew and loved in the post WM20 days, rather than the dry heel act we got in the last couple weeks. It feels like they’ve either found her old writer or have let her be herself again.
Trish hits a couple mom insults and ultimately Becky’s music plays, but no one shows up. Good old HBK moment. Trish goes off a bit more until the music plays again, and this time Becky shows up for reals.
Becky straight up pounds Trish until the HOF”er can roll out of the ring. Music botch as Becky’s theme plays again in the middle of her promo.
Backstage, Rhodes has an ice pack on his midriff.
Xavier Woods vs. DumbDumb Mysterio
Yes, I want to make this a thing. Please help me out by Tweet-sharing. And yes, as is my new tradition, as soon as DumbDumb does anything Guerrero, I stop writing up the match.
Good chain wrestling to start, but DumbDumb gets the advantage and does the Guerrero chest slap taunt.
Winner: DumbDumb Mysterio
Hey look, Veer is coming… with Sanga.
Backstage, Nakamura and Miz chat. Nakamura plays it up extremely well.
Elsewhere backstage, Deville and Green continue their campaigning. Liv and Raquel sign the petition for the rematch.
Yet elsewhere backstage, Cathy Kelley talks with Rhodes and cuts deep into Brock and accepts the “fight” for Night of Champions
Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins (WHC Tournament Match)
Good callback to the 2016 Universal Championship tournament here. Yes, it’s already been seven years since Balor debuted on the main roster and near-instantly won the Universal Title.
The action goes to the outside early where Rollins hits a Slingblade. Bit of a dumb move since Rollins tuchus gets as much punishment as Balor does. Back to the outside, Balor hits a Powerbomb to the boards, like Rollins did years before.
Back from break both men are engaged in a slap fight (not a thigh slap fight). More strikes until Balor falls. Rollins goes to the top and goes for the Frog Splash but Balor gets the knees up and goes for a Fujiwara Armbar (rather than the Disarmer which would’ve been more appropos).
More back and forth includes the Thigh Slapper from Rollins. More strikes and kicks from both men until both are down on the canvas.
Back and forth continues as we see Balor bleeding hardway from the mouth. Balor gets the Shotgun Dropkick and Balor goes up. Misses the Coup de Gras and Rollins hits a one-arm Pedigree, which gets two. Stomp gets the threecount eventually.
Winner: Seth Rollins
I had heard rumour that Triple H’s true ownership of the book would start after Backlash. If so, it’s started very strong. Great ep tonight.
Until next time, Stay Classy.