With the fate of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship still uncertain, WWE Raw came to Greenville, SC in the go-home show for the Survivor Series pay-per-view. A Divas Championship contract signing took centre stage, the tournament to crown a new champion continued and the Wyatt Family traded spooky promos with the Brothers of Destruction…
The show opened with the entire roster on the stage in a touching moment of silence for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris. WWE always does a great job of respecting global tragedies like this one.
1. The Brothers of Destruction
Eerie music rang out as druids made their way to the sides of the entrance ramp. Eventually, Undertaker’s music hit and the Brothers of Destruction made their way to the ring to a massive ovation. Michael Cole rather undercut the magic of the situation by choosing to plug the WWE Network and its forthcoming “Undertaker Week” of programming. The Brothers cut one of their trademark spooky promos, promising to take the Wyatts to the deepest reaches of hell after accepting their Survivor Series challenge on SmackDown. The Wyatt Family then assembled at the top of the ramp, with Bray Wyatt saying Undertaker has had his time at the top and a “new army of darkness” should rise. Wyatt then promised that Taker’s “creatures of the night” now belong to him, turning off the lights before revealing the druids wearing sheep masks. The Brothers made short work of the druids, but Bray Wyatt stopped his family from getting involved.
This was a tremendous opening segment that continued to sell this feud as one of the most important on WWE television right now. All involved are playing their parts very well and things are surprisingly evenly matched. This could turn out to be a great Survivor Series match.
2. WWE Championship Tournament Quarter Finals: Kevin Owens vs. Neville
This was a hell of a way to kick off the in-ring portion of Raw, pitting two of NXT‘s greatest champions against each other in a tremendous wrestling match. Neville was on fire in this match, pulling out many of his trademark crowd-pleasing spots including a brutal reverse rana and a second rope Phoenix Splash. It was Owens, though, who managed to pull out the win and advance to Survivor Series following a Pop-up Powerbomb out of nowhere. This was precisely the kind of match that the tournament format allows, with midcard performers pulling out their best work in order to earn a chance at the main event scene.
Kevin Owens was shown chatting to Triple H in the backstage area. If there’s going to be someone new join the Authority, there are far worse choices than someone who himself acknowledges that he does everything for money.
3. Tyler Breeze vs. R-Truth
For some reason, Breeze was booked into a competitive match with Truth, who is several rungs down the roster from Prince Pretty. Thankfully, Breeze won the match after nailing Truth with the Beauty Shot. Not that anyone told the commentary team, who spent the entire match bullying Byron Saxton and rambling about lip balm.
4. WWE Championship Tournament Quarter Finals: Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler
Kevin Owens was shown watching on a screen backstage as two of WWE’s top babyface talents squared off for the chance to meet KO in the semi-finals at Survivor Series. This was a really interesting match, with both men frustrating each other in the early stages, particularly as Ziggler had a counter for much of Ambrose’s offense. The entire match was focused on counter wrestling, with the two men entirely evenly matched and unwilling to take many risks. Every slight mistake was capitalised upon, creating a real sense of unpredictability. It was one of those mistakes that led to the end of the match as Ambrose rolled through a pinning attempt and managed to hit Dirty Deeds for the win. This was an excellent example of in-ring storytelling and another great match in this tournament.
Ambrose grabbed a microphone and promised to “turn the place upside down” if he won the championship. He pledged to throw the rules out of the window, get rid of suits and ties and bring “less talking” to the WWE.
5. New Day vs. The Usos and Ryback
New Day cut a promo complaining about the fact that everyone was talking about Undertaker’s anniversary and not the one-year anniversary of the New Day. They criticised the fact that they haven’t been given the opportunity to be interviewed on ESPN like The Usos. This was a pretty standard throwaway six-man tag team match, which ended when a frustrated Ryback steamed into the match and shoved the official, drawing a disqualification. He then dismantled New Day, with only a minimal assist from his tag team partners. It’s difficult to see what this achieved really.
Cesaro was shown in the locker room preparing for his battle with Roman Reigns. Triple H arrived and seemingly offered Cesaro the chance to grab the brass ring whilst schmoozing him. The Authority dimension adds an intriguing subplot to the tournament without getting in the way of the wrestling, which is exactly what should be happening.
6. WWE Championship Tournament Quarter Finals: Cesaro vs. Roman Reigns
Reigns got a strong babyface pop as he started his promo, recapping his journey to the tournament and reiterating his rejection of Triple H’s indecent proposal from last week. This was a sportsmanlike match early on, with both men trading mat exchanges and showing respect for each other. The power and intensity of both men was on show to tremendous effect, with Cesaro out-wrestling the former Shield powerhouse, but unable to put the Big Dog away. This was another home run of a match, with both Cesaro and Reigns at the height of their powers and producing a series of tremendous near-falls. Reigns managed to pop out a Superman Punch/Spear combination to score a pinfall victory. If Reigns’ work in matches like this doesn’t endear him to the fans, nothing will.
The announcers briefly spoke about the sad death of wrestling legend and former AWA Champion Nick Bockwinkel, credited by many as the greatest technical wrestler of all time.
7. Ascension vs. Dudley Boyz
Once again, Stardust was a notable absentee as his henchmen battled the Dudleys. This was, of course, a brief contest. The Dudleys nailed Viktor with the 3-D to win in short order.
Renee Young caught up with Zeb Colter and Alberto Del Rio backstage. Colter spoke of how there are no taxes in Mex-America, allowing its citizens to keep what they earn. He added that Del Rio was about to earn the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Triple H arrived and teased an alliance with Del Rio.
8. WWE Championship Tournament Quarter Finals: Alberto Del Rio vs. Kalisto
A brief interview with Kalisto was shown, in which the Lucha Dragons member said that he would fight hard to overcome his size and upset another top star after beating Ryback in the first round. Kalisto frustrated Del Rio with his speed in the first moments of the match, utilising a similar strategy to the one that took him to victory over Ryback. There were some awkward sequences as the match progressed, with both men suffering some ugly miscues. Del Rio caught Kalisto with his corner double stomp to book a clash with Roman Reigns in the semi-finals at Survivor Series. This was by far the worst of the night’s tournament matches, with Del Rio continuing to be somewhat inconsistent in the ring since his return and Kalisto slightly off in terms of timing throughout.
9. Divas Championship Contract Signing: Charlotte vs. Paige
Michael Cole hosted as the Divas Championship contract signing occupied the main event slot of Raw. Paige claimed that there were no longer any friendships when titles were on the line. Charlotte spoke about how she wanted to be like Paige when she first made it to the WWE and got choked up when discussing her brother Reid, who died in 2013. The two women shared an intense war of words that did far more to hype their Survivor Series match than the last two months of television. A rather misguided jibe about Reid ignited a brawl between the two women that had to be broken up by about half a dozen referees. This was a hot segment and one that really benefited from its main event positioning. Had it been backed up by solid build beforehand, it could’ve been great.
This was a very solid episode of Raw, really helped by the quality of three of the tournament matches and the star power of the Brothers of Destruction in the opening segment. It’s remarkable how good WWE can be when they just give everything time to breathe and reduce the filler to a minimum. Next stop: Survivor Series on Sunday.
Tom Beasley – Follow me on Twitter for movies, wrestling and jokes about David Cameron.