Raw opens with superstars gathered together for a moment of silent reflection for those lost in the terrorist attacks on Paris this past week, with the audience joining them in their silence and respect.
After this sobering moment, we start with a recap on Seth’s knee injury, and how we ended up with this tournament for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. We’re told our first match will be Kevin Owens vs Neville, but instead, we get a dark, blue-lit entrance, and Undertaker’s hooded figures take their steps out to surround the ring, with the excitement of the crowd rising as the Deadman’s music starts, and the Brothers of Destruction make their way out to stand at the top of the ramp. They make their slow way down to the ring as the pyro goes off, and we get a reminder of how Bray Wyatt thought he had managed to take Taker and Kane down, but was surprised as they (yet again) rose from the dead. It’s almost like it’s a thing for them or something. Undertaker says he has the true army of darkness, and that Bray will be buried at Survivor Series. He and Kane say their brand of evil is stronger than that of the Wyatts’, but all I can think is that Kane and Taker really sound like they need a throat lozenge after this segment.
The Wyatts make their entrance, too, and all I can think is ‘well, thank goodness we’ve started Raw off with the two families who take twenty minutes to walk down to the ring, it would be a shame if something happened with some sort of good pacing’. Because really. Bray says that 25 years has been long enough for the Brothers of Destruction to have their innings, and that it’s his turn now, the time for his family to have their spotlight. Bray also growls a lot, before saying that Taker’s hooded figures are his, and the lights go back up to reveal sheep masks on the druids, attacking Kane and Undertaker. Kane seemed to choose his victim for the chokeslam pretty early, and just stood around in the ring for a while, waiting for Taker to decide who he wanted. Rowan, Strowman and Harper move to intercept, but Wyatt stops them, saying that their date with destiny is on Sunday.
WWE World Heavyweight Title Match – Quarter-Finals – Kevin Owens vs Neville
This should be an interesting match, not least because both of them are NXT graduates and know how to put on a good show. The assumption is that KO will go forwards in the competition, because Neville’s strong, but even his excellent moves will struggle to take down the bigger guys as we get further into the competition. It also makes sense to push KO, as he’s a fantastic talker, and one of the last legitimate heels in the competition.
Despite the explanation of how a tournament works, Michael Cole still forgets when he’s talking about who will face who at SmackDown this week. Well done there. Neville gets a few good arm grabs in early, using his speed against KO’s strength, before KO gives Neville a boot to the midsection and then a stranglehold. Neville keeps his moves swift and steady, throwing a gorgeous moonsault off the top rope which is a joy to see, getting KO pinned for the two-count, before he kicks out easily.
After the ad break, we come back to both men up in the ring, and Owens giving a good clothesline, Neville flat on the mat and into a chokehold. Neville fights his way back up, the crowd chanting ‘fight Owens fight’ and getting KO in the face to kick out of a vertical suplex. A few good boots from Neville look good, but Owens easily takes Neville over the ropes, leaving the high-flyer on his back outside of the ring, just getting back into the ring for the count of nine. Running senton from KO to Neville, who’s curled up on the mat like he doesn’t want to take much more punishment, dragging himself to the ropes and the relative safety of the corner. German suplex by Neville to KO, moonsault off the second rope onto KO, but he kicks out of the pin at two. Neville heads back for the corner, and onto the top rope, but KO’s approach means he has to step down. He makes it for another time, after catching KO with a boot to the head, but Owen’s moves the ropes. Neville jumps out of the pop-up powerbomb and it looks like he’ll take KO down for the count with a reverse hurracanrana, but once down KO kicks out. Beautiful attempt at the red arrow from Neville, but Owens moves, hits him with the pop-up powerbomb, and pins Neville for the three count.
We go to a recap of how Paige won the Diva’s championship from AJ Lee, and how we’ve ended up with Charlotte and Paige at each others’ throats, with many tiring comments about the Diva’s revolution, and how that’s not exactly working out like people had hoped. While pitting two Divas against each other, with Paige standing for bad and Charlotte for good, it’s a little better, but the drama is still left over from the in-fighting and bitchiness from the women fighting each other for no reason.
KO and Triple H are backstage, chatting, and KO accepts a handshake from Triple H, leading into a recap of how Roman refused to turn heel with Triple H’s help and skip the tournament completely. We then talk about Seth Rollins’ knee injury, with some photos from before, during and after his surgery, where we hear that he is doing well, that the six to nine months of time off is going to be used well for him to rebuild himself physically and mentally. It’s good to hear that the surgery went exactly to plan, and that
Tyler Breeze comes out – or Summer Rae’s arm candy, as I suggest we call him now – with the ubiquitous selfie stick, ready to face R-Truth, for some reason. I’m not sure what about R-Truth could have offended Tyler, because he dresses in seasonally appropriate black, and his hair looks great. R-Truth quickly gets Tyler to the mat and does a leg drop. These two are beautifully matched in the ring, with R-Truth’s speed and movement against the aggression and force of Tyler Breeze. Commentary get a little obsessed with the fact that Tyler stops to get Summer Rae to put some lip balm on. Half crab from breeze to R-Truth, with great strength, but Truth manages to crawl to the ropes to break the hold. While Tyler’s busy shouting at the ref, R-Truth hits him with a couple of good blows to the jaw, and slams Breeze into the mat. He manages to hold out and kick out at two, with Truth favouring the left knee. He takes the beauty shot and Tyler gets the pin for three, and it’s all over faster than I would have liked, considering how spry they both are in the ring. Unfortunately, he still doesn’t seem to have done anything about putting toner on his hair, so he’s still a little more ginger than I’d expect to see, especially as he lets his hair down.
We get a very, very long Raw intro, as the theme just keeps playing before it’s time for our next championship match. Here’s a reminder of our brackets right now.
WWE World Heavyweight Title Match – Quarter-Finals – Dolph Ziggler vs Dean Ambrose
I love both of these wrestlers so very, very much, so I’m a little conflicted about this. Dolph could win it, causing Dean to turn heel to get his shot back, or Dean could win clean and head on to meet Roman in the final. The shrieking of the women is deafening.
Dean bends Dolph back into a bridge, their hands locked, before Dolph reciprocates the move, Dean kicking out. Everything is starting off very slow, with attention paid to the flexibility of both men. We see KO watching backstage, and then we’re back to the test of strength between Dolph and Dean, with Dean trying for a pin, but Ziggler refusing to let his shoulders down. Ziggler rolls Ambrose up to get his shoulders down, but Dean kicks out easily, bouncing off the ropes with a shoulder tackle to get Dolph flat on his back. When Ziggler goes for a superkick, Ambrose ducks out of the way, and goes for a side headlock, both men moving with a measured pace until Dean gets a kick to Dolph’s chin and clotheslines him out of the ring. He comes through the second rope and Dolph moves out of the way and slides back into the ring. Ziggler rolls Ambrose up into a good surfboard submission, but can’t get it locked in. Finally, Dolph gets the dropkick to Ambrose, but he kicks out at one, easily. Dean gets a backbreaker, and Dolph’s flat for an easy kick out at one, before Dean’s pulling at his hair for the count of three, because why not. Ambrose goes for the crab submission move, Ziggler’s bad knee being wrenched. Ambrose heads to the top rope and hits him with an elbow drop, which Ziggler rolls through, but Ambrose kicks out.
Sleeper hold from Dolph, but Dean forces a break, and the match starts to look more frenzied, with Dolph slamming into Ambrose and leaving them both rolling in pain in the middle of the ring. Dean goes to the top rope, but Dolph heads up there too and the two of them have a slugfest around the ring post before both of them are knocked outside of the ring, with Ziggler hitting the steps as he comes down heavily. When we come back from the break, Dean is back in the ring, leaping out to slam Ziggler into the barricades, before throwing Ziggler back in. Dolph is struggling to stand on that bad knee, and gets the running bulldog, before Ziggler hits him with a superkick and pins Dean for two and a half, in a heart-stopping moment where it looks like he’ll win. Ziggler takes Dean into the corner, but Ambrose gets a backslide and gets Ziggler’s shoulders down for two.
Dolph Ziggler is the first one up, going for HBK’s superkick, sending Ziggler into the turnbuckles, but he still kicks out at two. Once more, Dolph goes for the sleeper hold but doesn’t make it, so Ambrose goes for his own, but is again countered. He hits Ziggler with a great clothesline, and Ziggler looks like he’s down for the count, but again a kick out at two. Dean goes to the top rope, but Ziggler plants him face first, landing badly on his knee, as Ambrose rolls out of the ring in a deliberate move to stop Ziggler getting the pin, though both men look pretty out of it. Ziggler sends him back in, and Ambrose goes for the small package, getting him down for two, but Ziggler hits him with a superkick and pins Dean, who again kicks out for two.
Dolph is struggling on his knee, but Dean looks dizzy and failing, and it becomes a slugfest, before Ambrose starts swinging, broken by a headbutt from Dolph. Dean hits dirty deeds, finally, and pins Ziggler for three, winning by the skin of his teeth, falling to his knees as soon as his arm has been raised. Dean gets on the mic, saying if he wins, there won’t be any more suits or rules, stares at commentary as says there will be less talking, and also suggests replacing Michael Cole with a fish tank and getting more pyro – turning the whole place into the Ambrose Asylum. A spectacular match, evenly spread between two great workhorses of the WWE, and wonderful to watch. I always say that a good match is when you don’t care who wins, because they both deserve it, and that’s what Ambrose and Ziggler gave us tonight.
We see a recap of the start of the Diva’s revolution and how Paige and Charlotte first became a team, as we’ve got the Diva’s contract signing tonight, which no one seems to care about, because it’s not a wrestling match.
The New Day come out in their wonderful unicorn gear (am I alone in wanting Kofi’s and Xavier’s leggings?) to talk about how everyone should be celebrating the 1-year anniversary of The New Day, instead of 25 years of Undertaker. They’re upset they didn’t go to any fancy interviews, and they’re talking about Jey’s injury at Wrestlemania, turning the ‘Uce-“ “Ohh” chant into “Uce-“ “Oww”. But they won’t let negativity drag them down, so they cheer for themselves instead. The Usos come out to their usual crowd pop, with Ryback joining them in his tiny hat, which is still ridiculous, for a six-man tag match.
Now, to remind people which Uso is which – when they wear their face paint, Jey wears his on the left side of his face, and Jimmy wears his on the right side. Or tonight, Jey is in red, and Jimmy is in blue. If commentary called their names for often, it’d be easy to tell. Jimmy leaps onto the New Day from the inside of the ring, and then the New Day are all over Jey, pulling at his shoulders, and doing what Cole terms a unicorn stampede, tagging in each other before putting Jey down. Big E goes for the splash, and then he’s taunting Jey, putting him in the abdominal stretch, pulling to stop him from getting to Jimmy and Ryback.
Jey is being systematically taken down by the New Day as the ‘feed me more’ taunts rise, and Jey manages to reach Ryback and tag him. Unfortunately, the ref doesn’t see it, and while he tries to corral Ryback away, the New Day get to go to town on Jey. Unfortunately, as it keeps going on, Ryback goes on a rampage, shoving the official out of the way and making them lose the match, but as Jimmy goes to check on his brother, Ryback slings Kofi out of the ring, and then between them, Jimmy and Ryback shove the whole of the New Day out of the ring, leaving them in a battered heap on the ramp. They might have lost the match, but the Usos and Ryback are happy in the knowledge that they certainly won the fight.
We’re shilling the Network again, because of the upcoming PPV, and now we’re looking at Night of Champions and how Charlotte won the title. It’s actually nice to see them selling a Diva’s match, I guess because we don’t know (in kayfabe) who will be going for the heavyweight title at the PPV, so they can’t sell that to us. It would be nice if all of the Diva’s title matches were sold with this many promos throughout a night, so it’s pretty good to see the women getting the spotlight. Although this might mean there isn’t a women’s match on the card, as we’ve still got two quarter final matches to get through and only another hour or so to get it done in.
We see Triple H talking to Cesaro, trying to make sure that he’s got a man in his corner for this title, that he can keep the title in the family now precious ninja princess Seth has gone and got a boo boo. Daddy Trips says he’ll be watching tonight, in his own Cesaro Section, and that if Cesaro will ‘do anything’ then he can be the man. It sounds a little like he’s being propositioned for sex, to be honest, so it’s somewhat unnerving.
WWE World Heavyweight Title Match – Quarter-Finals – Roman Reigns vs Cesaro
Someone decides Roman needs to talk tonight, so we’re all going to have to deal with that. He calls for the Roman Empire, and you can hear the screams of the women, as he talks about how he’s fought hard to be here. He can’t seem to manage any heat for Seth’s knee, sounding honestly regretful about it all as he stumbles through his words. No, Roman, you’re meant to hate him! He says he thought hard about the offer from Triple H, but that he’s never been a sell-out, and that the road is going to get rougher – even going through ‘my boy’ Dean Ambrose. But he says this road ends with him holding the title, no matter what.
Cesaro comes out to a good pop from the crowd, but it’s obvious he hasn’t got the same reaction that Roman has, despite the multitude of ‘Cesaro Section’ signs.
Roman doesn’t look impressed with Cesaro, but the two of them look like a fairly even match to begin with, seeing them grapple with each other, refusing to let go. You can see how much both men are enjoying the match, snarky little grins to each other, before it gets frantic, with Cesaro cartwheeling off the top rope to get out of Roman’s way, before rolling him up into a pin, then a sunset flip into another pin, before Roman gets in one of his own. Reigns flat down in the middle of the ring, Cesaro easily lifts him and goes for a gut wrench. Roman looks a little hurt, and the crowd try to outdo each other with ‘Let’s go Cesaro’ and ‘Let’s go Roman’ chants getting louder and louder as the crowd reaches fever pitch. Roman gets a tilt-a-whirl slam to Cesaro, but he kicks out at two, so Roman slams Cesaro into the turnbuckles, holding his right side as he wrenches Cesaro’s shoulder. Reigns goes for a superman punch, but Cesaro gets a flying uppercut and Roman’s flat on the mat, struggling to get up again, with Cesaro going for the swing, but Roman kicking him away. Shoulder first into the ring post goes Reigns, and then Cesaro kicks him into it too, turfing Roman out of the ring.
Roman’s caught by an uppercut from Cesaro on the outside of the ring, slamming Roman into the barricades. When we come back from the break, Roman finally gets a counter to Cesaro, and they’r eboth back in the right at the count of seven. Roman goes for a few boots to the gut to get Cesaro moving, and gets a clothesline to Cesaro, but the right arm is obviously bothering him, as he moves it like he can’t get feeling back into it. Cesaro slams him into the turnbuckles, and Roman tries to punch him, but the blows don’t seem to have the power they usually do, even if he gets Cesaro down and then over and onto the mat. Both of them are struggling, and Roman steps out of the ring to a chorus of boos to catch his breath, before going for the drive-by, but Cesaro catches him and swings him before going for the sharpshooter. Roman has nowhere to go, and it looks like he might tap out, but he uses sheer power to rise up once, before a cross-face from Cesaro in the middle of the ring, with the injured arm locked in. He looks like he’s fading out as Cesaro wrenches at him, but Roman powers out to his feet, lifting Cesaro and taking a Samoan drop, getting Cesaro’s shoulders down for the count of two.
Cesaro comes over the ring from Roman’s throw, and his elbow hits the apron hard. As Cesaro gets back into the ring, Reigns goes for a drive by, then hits a big clothesline to get Cesaro into the corner. He winds up for a final blow, but Cesaro counters it, lifting Roman, who rolls through and plants Cesaro on the mat with a sit-out powerbomb, but he kicks out yet again. Commentary make a bad point about trying this at home – please don’t – and Roman goes for the superman punch, but Cesaro takes him down with an uppercut, and for a second, it looks like he has him, but Reigns kicks out. The ‘this is awesome’ chants rise as Cesaro dropkicks Roman while he’s sitting on the top rope, then pulls him upright again and tries to take Roman over the top rope, but as Roman moves out, he gets a superman punch to Cesaro’s head, sending him flying back into the ring, stunned. Roman roars, going for the spear, but Cesaro counters, has Reigns in a backslide for two, but Cesaro fights it back, before Reigns gets a superman punch, followed by a spear, and getting the pin,
Afterwards, Reigns and Cesaro shake hands, before Cesaro brings it in for a hug, telling Roman something along the lines of ‘you’d better get that title now you beat me for it’. That was a spectacular match, but I have to say I’m a little disappointed with didn’t see Cesaro win and then the chance to go for a Reigns heel turn but perhaps this has all been put together a little too quickly for there to be any major storyline changes – those might happen when the belt is on the new champion, because at some point, we’re going to see a break between Reigns and Ambrose. They’re left at the top of the card, and if they don’t feud, they have no one to fight.
Dudley Boyz vs Ascension next, with Bubba starting off against Viktor, who’s getting the hell punched out of him, before he tags Konnor in, who puts a good boot to the face of Bubba Ray. Viktor tagged back in with a cover to Bubba, kicked out at two. Tag again – the Ascension are good at trading places easily and swapping over D-Von getting the tag, facing off against Viktor and planting him with several good clotheslines. The Dudleyz throw 3D onto Konnor, and it’s a nice quick victory to a placeholder match, forced to run short due to the way the night is going.
Triple H rocks up to interrupt Renee interviewing Alberto Del Rio and Zeb Colter, because he’s being a bit of a prick tease tonight and flirting with all the boys. Stephanie must be out of town or something, he’s getting needy. It really does script very, very badly, and feels like someone didn’t vet the script for it sounding like Hunter picks up wrestlers like sex workers, idling his car engine and saying ‘hey baby, wanna be with a real man tonight?’ It’s a little creepy.
WWE World Heavyweight Title Match – Quarter-Finals – Alberto Del Rio vs Kalisto
Kalisto comes out first, and we see an interview where he says he’s not a big guy, and he has to fight for his dreams. Alberto comes out with Zeb Colter, as per usual. We see just how small Kalisto is next to Del Rio, but he has his speed against the aggression of Del Rio. He’s being beaten down easily by Del Rio, and can’t seem to get any speed up or any sort of momentum against the larger man. Del Rio puts him in a sleeper hold, but Kalisto powers out and takes a few kicks to the knees of the champion, but Del Rio takes him down into the backbreaker, before firing him into the turnbuckles and stomping him. He gets booed from the crowd, because everyone loves a scrappy underdog, and that’s Kalisto. A few hits to the gut from Kalisto, and he gets caught by Del Rio, pinned, and kicks out at two. In what looks like a botch, Del Rio unmasks Kalisto, then there’s a frantic spot as they try and pull it back onto him. Kalisto, after hanging from the ropes, kicks back, sending Del Rio straight into the ring post, then hitting him with a corkscrew off the second rope. Kalisto takes Del Rio down with a salida del sol for a two count again, where it almost looks like he has the US champ, but doesn’t make it.
Back in the corner, Del Rio takes it to the top rope, but even hanging upside down, Kalisto is kicking back at him. Del Rio catches Kalisto on the top rope, hangs him there and goes for the double stomp, and get the cover for three, with the boos roaring out from the crowd. We knew what the result was going to be, but it was still disappointing to see it take so little time, and with little high flying movement from Kalisto, focussing instead on Del Rio’s array of slaps, chops and kicks.
This is what our semi-finals matches look like now, on the run up to Survivor Series
Finally, we come to the contract signing for Paige and Charlotte’s match at Survivor Series. Michael Cole stands between the two women and talking about how they were best friends at NXT. Paige says she isn’t bitter and angry, and that there are no friends in the business. Charlotte gets a little tearful talking about how she and Paige had families who were wrestlers, who sacrificed their bodies and loved wrestling almost as much as they loved their kids. She cries as she talks of her brother’s passing, and how Paige was there for her, and how she’ll fulfil his dream for him. She says it’s not about the title, and it’s about who has their back. Paige asks where she learnt about this, and Charlotte lists off many male groups which did well through the WWE. She says Paige was never a champion, because a champion is someone the girls watching want to be. Charlotte says she won’t lose the title on Sunday, and she won’t lose it to Paige. Paige calls Ric down to the ring, taunting him, and Charlotte says Paige won’t even make it out of the building if she keeps running her mouth about her dad. Paige has signed the contract, but Charlotte hasn’t yet and she keeps talking, until Paige finally says that Charlotte’s brother didn’t have much fight in him – which is way over the line. The two women become a blur of a brawl, and Charlotte keeps going after Paige, even as the refs try to pry them apart. You can hear a child’s voice in the crowd saying ‘no, Charlotte, no’ as Paige leaps into the ring and throws the desk at her, before Paige is being escorted away from ringside, and Charlotte is being held back by three refs to stop her going after Paige.
Raw ends with this ringing in our ears.