Photo Credit: WWE.com
Over the past several weeks, Raw continues to show how lackluster it really is. Through constant rematches and nonsensical storylines, Raw has become hard to watch for a number of people. However, WWE is beginning to enter one of the most important and interesting times in its calendar year: Money In The Bank season. With five qualifying matches announced for tonight’s show, will Raw finally be money or can we bank on another lackluster 3 hours? Let’s find out!
GOOD: Up first is the VIP Lounge with MVP and the WWE champion Bobby Lashley. Lashley says that he and Drew went through hell last night and pushed him to his limits. But, Lashley says after all of that he is still the champion. Everyone shares a toast of champagne to Lashley but are interrupted by the New Day. Kofi brings a cart of toast to the ring and starts tossing the toast into the ring. MVP continues to reinforce his point that Kofi is a clown because of these childish antics and that’s why he’s not in Lashley’s position. Kingston says that he’s happy that he surrounds himself with his friends and people that he can trust as opposed to people that will most likely leave when he loses everything. Bobby says that Kofi isn’t on his level but Kofi reminds him that he beat him. Kofi challenges Lashley to a match for the title at Money In the Bank to which Lashley accepts. Lashley also challenges Xavier to a match tonight. Woods accepts and says that the match will be inside hell in a cell. This segment was honestly whatever until the New Day came out and business picked up. The toast bit had me worried but I’m happy it’s perfectly incorporated into the storyline. Xavier cut a great, impassioned promo about how he shouldn’t be overlooked and while it’s certainly unnecessary, Xavier and Lashley inside the cell should be very interesting. A good segment to start the show.
GREAT: Up next is the first of five qualifying matches of the evening, AJ Styles vs Ricochet. Before the match, they show a segment with the Viking Raiders and Styles and Omos. AJ says that the Raiders are zeros but the Raiders say that they won the 6 man tag match last week. AJ says that he’ll go on to win the briefcase and the WWE title and then defend the tag titles against the Viking Raiders. AJ slaps the Turkey leg out of Ivar’s hand to end the segment. Ricochet also has a decent, brief promo saying that he knows what it’s like to be in the WWE title picture and vows to get there again. A bit slow and momentarily sloppy to start off but once the match got going, it started to pick up. The Viking Raiders come out to attack Omos and send him through the barricade. Ricochet catches AJ mid air with a codebreaker and beats Styles in what is arguably a massive upset but a pleasant surprise. Not the best outing between these two but still a really enjoyable match.
Result: Ricochet defeats AJ via pinfall
John Cerenzio WR Star rating: 3.5 stars
GREAT: Riddle and Orton have a backstage segment where Riddle says that he’s gonna use the briefcase to hide his “stash.” His stash of whoppers that is. Riddle continues to make Burger King references before Orton tells him to get to the point. Riddle asks for pointers in winning the ladder match since Randy has won it before but Randy just says to stay out of his way. RKBRO continues to be one of the more consistently entertaining acts on Raw. I liked this backstage segment a lot. It creates a potential storyline going into the ladder match of tag team partners having to fight for the briefcase. Randy’s selfishness makes perfect sense as he’s not a full on face in the tag team and still looks out for himself above Riddle.
AVERAGE: Eva Marie and Piper Niven are interviewed backstage. Eva says that last week she caught a cold after getting a manicure for her debut and that’s why she couldn’t compete last week. Eva reveals that Piper is her protege and gives her the impromptu name of “Doudrop.” Piper is dumbfounded that Eva calls her that, but she doesn’t have enough time to take it in as their match is next. Call me insane, but I kinda liked this. Eva saying she has a cold is a great continuation of her 2016 gimmick and the addition of a protege that has to put up with her could really work well if done correctly. I’ll say right now that I don’t like the name Doudrop. At all. However, the addition of Doudrop being a name Eva coined as opposed to Piper’s actual name is smart because it’s definitely planting seeds for Piper to eventually turn on her. The name is stupid but at least the name is intended to be stupid. WWE thankfully salvaged this from the confusing debut last week. I just hope they continue this going forward. My only gripe that keeps this from being good is Eva needs a little more time to get used to cutting promos again. Otherwise, I didn’t hate this segment.
SATISFACTORY: Up next is a tag team qualifying match for the women’s money in the bank ladder match with Asuka teaming up with Naomi to take on Eva Marie and Doudrop. A decent showcase for Doudrop fighting off two women single handedly plus Eva making the blind tag to try and sneak the win was a good spot. However, Doudrop jumping off the apron and avoiding the tag was very out of nowhere. I find it really odd that they’re already teasing dissension between the two. A lackluster match with a very confusing ending. However, if Piper does end up turning on Eva this soon then so be it. Piper deserves a good run on the main roster and if they’re deciding to break them up this soon I’m not completely opposed.
Result: Asuka and Naomi win via pinfall after Naomi pins Eva.
John Cerenzio WR Star Rating: 2 stars
BAD: Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville are in the ring and say they are addressing the “controversy” from the Raw Women’s title match at Hell in a Cell. Rhea is surprised that there’s a controversy with her causing a DQ last night and says that that’s what Charlotte would’ve done. Charlotte comes out and says that she’s proud of Rhea’s actions but says that she’s still gonna destroy her. Sonya says that Rhea and Charlotte will have a rematch at Money In the Bank. Why did this segment need to happen? Why did Pearce and Sonya act like Rhea was the first ever champion to get themself disqualified in a title match? A pointless segment to set up a title match that I feel a lot of people are sick of seeing.
POOR: Natalya and Tamina are having a photoshoot when they’re interrupted by the sound of Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke training in the ring. Natalya says that it’s rude they’re being interrupted but Mandy brings up the good point that they’re simply doing what the champs said they should do: focus on in ring work. In that sense why are Natalya and Tamina upset that they took their advice? The segment ends with Natalya and Tamina trying to attack Dana and Mandy but they’re taken down quickly. Almost a carbon copy of last week’s segment with these four but reversed but not as bad as last week.
GOOD: Up next is another qualifying match with Randy Orton taking on John Morrison. Somehow this is the first ever singles match between these two which is crazy. A fun match with a good story of Morrison working over Orton’s shoulder. Before Orton can use the RKO, Miz uses the drip stick to distract him. Riddle comes out and they have a funny spot where Riddle on the scooter chases around a wheelchair bound Miz. However, Riddle proves to be an inadvertent distraction for Orton, allowing Morrison to hit Starship Pain for the win. I’ll give Raw this much. I appreciate them subverting my expectations with who qualifies for the money in the bank matches. I in no way expected Ricochet and John Morrison to be the two men in the ladder match, but I’m very happy that they are.
Result: Morrison defeats Orton via pinfall
John Cerenzio WR Star Rating: 3 stars
BAD: Up next is the second women’s qualifying match as Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross take on Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler. Nia and Shayna have a brief backstage interview saying they aren’t afraid of anyone but that Alexa is different then anyone they’ve faced. Nikki Cross has a backstage segment where she debuts her new character. Nikki has on superhero gear and says that she’s found her spirit. She will use her spirit to spread positivity and represent everyone who has a fighting spirit. I have no words. Nikki Cross was so good when she was crazy and twisted in Sanity. Now she’s a white meat superhero gimmick. What in God’s name is this. However, gimmicks aside, the match itself wasn’t anything awful but everything around the match from Nikki’s new gimmick to Alexa’s unexplained hypnosis powers is just plain bad. Alexa and Nikki advance to Money in the Bank.
Result: Alexa and Nikki win via pinfall after Nikki pinned Shayna
John Cerenzio WR Star Rating: 1.5 stars
AVERAGE: Pearce and Sonya are walking backstage when they hear Jinder Mahal, Jeff Hardy, Cedric Alexander and Sheamus arguing backstage. They all voice their frustrations that they’re not in qualifying matches for the money in the bank ladder match. Jinder and Jeff say that they’re former WWE champions yet weren’t considered. Cedric says that since WWE is going back on the road they should invest in the future rather than legends, which is a fair point. Jeff brings up a good point as well saying that he beat Cedric the past couple weeks. Sheamus also says that since he’s the United States champ that he should’ve been considered. Pearce questions the legitimacy of Sheamus’ injury and asks him if he can defend the title, to which Sheamus hams up his nose injury which was legitimately very funny. Jinder says that if someone by some chance can’t compete, that he should be considered as a potential alternate. A decent segment with an interesting potential storyline heading into the ladder match with the inclusion of alternates. Jinder flubbed his lines a few times which hurt this segment a bit but otherwise this was entertaining enough.
MUST WATCH: Up next is the last qualifying match of the evening as Drew McIntyre takes on Riddle. Before the match, Pearce and Sonya say that due to Drew’s injuries, he doesn’t need to compete tonight, but Drew insists anyways. The match is very hard hitting with Riddle smartly doing a lot of suplexes to target Drew’s bruised back. Riddle has had outstanding performances ever since coming up to the main roster and this was no exception. Riddle defeats McIntyre in an absolutely fantastic match. Post match Randy Orton is on the stage and doesn’t reciprocate Riddle’s fist bump. Riddle questions why Randy is upset but Orton says nothing. Riddle advancing to the ladder match while Orton is inadvertently screwed out of his chance is a great addition to the RKBRO story.
Result: Riddle defeats McIntyre via pinfall
John Cerenzio WR Star Rating: 4.25 stars
GOOD: Jaxson Ryker is backstage whipping himself with a belt when Mansoor shows up questioning what Ryker is doing. Ryker says that Mansoor should never let his enemies escape and says he will face Elias in a strap match next week. Mustafa Ali shows up and says that Mansoor is still searching for answers but is looking in the wrong places and asking all the wrong people. Ali says that Mansoor couldn’t qualify for the money in the bank ladder match. However, he has a good line where he says that in order to climb the ladder of success, sometimes you need to build your own ladder. Overall, this was enjoyable. I don’t like Jaxson Ryker but his performance in this segment honestly wasn’t that bad and Mansoor has good comedic timing. Mustafa is also great as always and I’m interested to see where the storyline with him and Mansoor ends up.
MUST WATCH: Up next is the hell in a cell match between Bobby Lashley and Xavier Woods. This was a very entertaining match with the main story being Woods showing that he belongs in the same conversation with Bobby Lashley. Xavier uses several weapons like kendo sticks and chairs to get the upper hand on Lashley, which is a smart way to get an upper hand against the tougher opponent. My only issue with the match is that it seems eerily similar to the Roman Reigns- Rey Mysterio hell in a cell match from Friday. The story is very much the same, however I feel that wasn’t enough to detract from the overall quality of this match. Woods has a great spot where he hits the tightrope elbow on Lashley through a table. Xavier gets a few more last minute hope spots before Lashley eventually wins with the Hurt Lock. This was a great showcase from Xavier to show that he’s so much more than the third guy in the New Day. Post match, MVP gets into the cell and locks Kofi outside as Lashley continues to put the Hurt Lock on Woods. Kofi tries fighting Lashley from the outside, screaming for Lashley to let Woods go, but Lashley refuses. The visual of Lashley still having the submission locked in as the show ends was a great touch.
Result: Lashley defeats Woods via submission.
John Cerenzio WR Star Rating: 4 stars
Raw. I’m happy and impressed. You put on a fun show tonight. Great Money in the Bank qualifying matches with very surprising yet solid winners. Even though the cell was absolutely unnecessary, the main event was still highly enjoyable. The only bad parts of this show, unfortunately, were the storylines involving the women. The title picture continues to be boring and the new Nikki Cross gimmick is just not for me. If Raw can fix the division, we have something really good going forward. Easily the best Raw in weeks but still has a ways to go.
Show Theme & Presentation: 6/10
Show Production: 9/10
Storyline progression: 8/10
Crowd reaction: 5/10
Overall Show Rating: 6.6/10