WWE put forth a tremendous outing with last week's edition of Monday Night Raw, but followed it with one that was mostly forgettable.
Some eventful things happened, but the overall show didn't match what WWE presented the week before.
Was it some questionable decision-making? Was it a Tampa, Fla. crowd that was less enthusiastic than Brooklyn's?
I would say it was combination of both. Regardless of the reason, this week's Raw was a step back on the road to Night of Champions. Fortunately for WWE, it has plenty of time to make up for it.
Here are the full match results from the Amalie Arena in Tampa:
- Dolph Ziggler def. Rusev via disqualification
- Becky Lynch def. Alicia Fox (3:21)
- WWE Intercontinental championship – Ryback def. Big Show
- Charlotte def. Brie Bella (1:40)
- Kevin Owens def. Cesaro
- Braun Strowman def. Dean Ambrose via disqualification
- Paige vs. Sasha Banks – Paige doesn't beat the clock
- Dudley Boyz def. The New Day
Now, here are my full observations from WWE Raw:
Seth Rollins defending both titles at Night of Champions
Sort of lost in the hoopla in Sting's return last week was Rollins' United States title and how that was going to come into play at Night of Champions, where every WWE title is defended.
Well, WWE solved that issue in a very sensible yet intriguing manner by forcing Rollins to defend both his coveted championships on one night.
That's because John Cena will invoke his rematch clause and challenge Rollins for the United States title. Win or lose, Rollins will also have to defend the WWE World Heavyweight title against Sting in the main event.
I like this idea much better than adding Cena to the main event in a triple threat match or having Rollins defend the U.S. title before the pay-per-view.
What will be intriguing to me is how WWE books each outcome and how it paints Rollins throughout the night.
Whether he hangs on to the United States title or not, Rollins will be walking to his WWE World Heavyweight title defense in a bit of a vulnerable state — at least he should, anyway.
WWE might run the risk of Rollins gaining sympathy from the fans, which is not the desired effect for the top heel in the promotion.
As I mentioned earlier, the outcomes of these matches have a ton of intrigue surrounding them.
One would presume that Cena regains the United States championship, but does he need that title back for the second time this year? I think Cena has done wonders with the title, but what will having the title back around his waist actually do for him?
As I discussed last week, do you halt Rollins' reign as WWE World Heavyweight champion just as it's getting interesting for the sake of giving Sting a historic win, or do you have Sting drop to 0-2 in WWE?
Even if Sting technically wins by disqualification, it would still feel like a loss to the fans.
Sting's driving wedge between Rollins, Triple H
One of the cringe-worthy segments on the show was its opener, which featured Sting cutting what was a relatively short promo by WWE standards.
Unfortunately, what Sting said in those roughly 10 minutes left me scratching my head.
Sting essentially said that Rollins, while very good in his own right, was not even half the man Triple H was, as he found out for himself when he lost to him at WrestleMania.
Remember, after the match, Triple H and Sting shook hands in an inexplicable show of respect. It didn't make sense then, and the way WWE attempted to explain it Monday made even less sense.
I get that Sting is clearly trying to drive a wedge between Rollins and Triple H, but did it have to happen by essentially worshipping Triple H at his feet?
Also, it doesn't help Sting any that he's saying all this after he was pinned by Triple H in his only WWE match. It makes him look unworthy even to face Rollins.
It also doesn't do Sting any favor that he's essentially being used as a conduit to a larger overarching story of Rollins eventually going up against his storyline father figure in Triple H.
What happened in Dolph Ziggler's locker room?
WWE decided to drag out this love angle with Dolph Ziggler, Lana, Rusev and Summer Rae until Night of Champions, but probably think about how it was going to keep this angle fresh on television until then.
Well, it looked as if WWE settled for the least compelling story possible.
After a hard-fought match, Ziggler ducked into his locker room to take a shower while Lana stepped off to handle whatever business she needed to handle.
First, since when does Ziggler get his own locker room? He's got cement shoes on in the mid-card, but he's got his locker room? I guess Heath Slater has his own, as well?
Anyway, in plain sight you can see Summer Rae sneak into Ziggler's locker room. Some time later, she comes running out and Ziggler, in nothing but a towel, chases after her.
This sounds interesting, right?
Well, that's about where the interest ended because Ziggler tells his side of the events to Lana -- that Summer Rae snuck in as he was stepping out of the shower. Ziggler swore Summer Rae saw him naked for only a very short time before he grabbed his towel.
For whatever reason, Lana seemed upset about this.
As you would expect, Summer Rae had a completely different version, one that involved Ziggler inviting her into the shower. If this sounds all hot and steamy to you, then you should have heard Summer Rae describe it.
She sounded as if she was recording an audio book of one of those terrible romantic novels you find at the grocery store. Lana catches wind of Summer Rae's account, and now she's all broken about it.
First, why would Lana believe anything Summer Rae has to say?
Second, this story needs to end as soon as possible.
I'm all for compelling stories in wrestling, but they need to steer toward the issue getting settled in the ring. This looks like something that would be on Maury or Jerry Springer.
I know WWE has done stuff like this in the past, especially during the "Attitude Era." Not all that stuff was great, by the way, and even if it wasn't great, it was probably more entertaining than what we saw Monday.
Charlotte is No. 1 contender for Divas title
The "Divas Revolution" got a No. 1 contender Monday, and her name is Charlotte.
Although I'm not big on beat-the-clock challenges, having one for the Divas championship is a good way of emphasizing the title itself, something WWE completely ignored until last Monday.
The only problem with the beat-the-clock challenges is that the matches were very short. Instead of getting 10-minute matches in which the women could attempt to tell a story, the longest match was Becky Lynch's win over Alicia Fox at 3 minutes and 21 seconds.
Not to mention, the match that featured the most popular woman on the roster at the moment, Sasha Banks, didn't even have a finish. That wouldn't be such a terrible thing if WWE followed up on that by having Banks proclaim she deserves a shot (she also beat Nikki Bella a couple of weeks ago), but I don't have any faith in WWE to do that.
So while this wasn't all that revolutionary, it was a step in the right direction, as the Divas championship is finally the focus of this whole story.
Also, I like the Bellatron. Yes, it has been done before, but I still like it now.
Strowman destroys Reigns, Ambrose with no help
After Braun Strowman's debut on Raw, the jury is very much still out on him. His match with Dean Ambrose didn't sway my opinion of him one way or another, as it was relatively short.
This was mostly about getting over the fact that Strowman is virtually unstoppable. Strowman took both Ambrose and Roman Reigns and vanquished them without any help from Bray Wyatt or Luke Harper. Ambrose and Reigns looked like children fighting Strowman.
WWE gives away two matches
The WWE gives away pay-per-view matches weekly, but this week in particular rubbed me the wrong way.
First, why did Kevin Owens face Cesaro again? It just happened on SummerSlam eight days before, but it needed to happen again, apparently.
I'm all for Owens gaining another victory but it didn't have to come at the expense of Cesaro… again. WWE has a ton of people on the roster it could put in that spot, so there's no reason to put Cesaro in it unless it's at a big show (no, not that Big Show) and there's a good angle heading into it.
The WWE also gave away what could be a future tag-team title match between the Dudley Boyz and the New Day.
Shouldn't you build to that match for Night of Champions at least? I guess not, as WWE gave it away for free with a clean finish on Raw.
So what is the payoff then? The payoff isn't about simply beating the New Day anymore. That's already been done. The payoff looks to be putting one of the New Day members through another table.
I'm sure the Dudley Boyz could have faced the Primetime Players or the Lucha Dragons or somebody before facing the New Day. They already got the Ascension out of the way on Smackdown so why not those other teams?