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Raw has a new #1 contender and some great storytelling

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Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.

  • Results: Roman Reigns defeated Bray Wyatt; Sheamus and Cesaro defeated Heath Slater and Rhyno; T.J. Perkins defeated Mustafa Ali; Kalisto defeated Titus O’Neil; Big Show and Enzo defeated Gallows and Anderson; Alexa Bliss defeated Nia Jax via DQ (Raw Women’s Championship match); Samoa Joe defeated Seth Rollins.
  • For weeks on end now the same set of main event guys have been having matches on Raw, but it’s hard to argue with the formula when it’s working. It doesn’t always work, but right now there seems to be the right mix of talent with the right type of storytelling resulting in matches that continue to deliver. There are two matches on this week’s show pulled from the Extreme Rules main event, and the first of the night, which sees Roman Reigns take on Bray Wyatt, kicks off the show. Rather than begin with a lengthy promo segment to set something up, Raw basically dives right into the match. Including the Wyatt entrance and very brief promo, the match takes up the first 35 minutes of the show. That’s a great way to shake up the structure and signal to your audience that you mean business. On top of that, Wyatt and Reigns have great in-ring chemistry. They work a different, more hard-hitting match than Rollins-Reigns from last week, and it’s more proof that Raw clearly has the talent to make a compelling show each week, but is too often failing on the booking front.
  • Early on in the show we get more teasing about a mysterious text to Kurt Angle. He’s seen browsing his phone before Alexa Bliss comes into his office and interrupts him. As usual, she’s great. She’s surprised that Angle isn’t congratulating her, which leads to her wanting to leave Bayley in the past. Unfortunately for her, Angle takes that as a reason to have her defend her title against Nia Jax later in the night.
  • At what point does the Elias Samson shtick get old? I’m not saying I’m tired of it—in fact, he’s been a nice change of pace on Raw and you can’t argue with the heat he gets—but I’m worried that it’s not sustainable. We’re by no means in crisis mode yet, but at some point Samson will have to develop some layers if he’s going to move beyond a comedy piece that’s only used to tell other people’s stories.
  • At Extreme Rules on Sunday, Samoa Joe became the #1 Contender for the Universal Championship, securing a title match against Brock Lesnar at Great Balls Of Fire. It’s an inspired choice, and looking at the five guys that were in that match, you could say that he’s the superstar who’d benefit most from a big time match whether he wins or loses. The real story though is that Samoa Joe’s transition to the main roster has been handled perfectly. He’s been a true force, running through guys and making a name for himself as not only indestructible, but also opportunistic. He fleshes out that character on Raw, talking about how he’s not scared of Brock Lesnar and that, in fact, he wants to be like him. He wants a staggered, relaxed schedule and Paul Heyman as his manager. He doesn’t just want it, he’s ready to take it, and in order to send that message he slowly, calmly tells Paul Heyman that he’s going to choke him out before following through with the threat and putting The Advocate in the Coquina Clutch. As if that wasn’t enough, Joe leaves the ring with a single bold statement: as the crowd chants “WE WANT LESNAR,” Joe picks up a mic and shouts “AND SO DO I!” It’s incredible, and I can’t wait for these two to tear each other apart at the next PPV.
  • While I’m not a huge fan of the GMs being defanged, I’m willing to give a free pass to Creative with Samoa Joe getting in Angle’s face. I wouldn’t mess with Joe after that promo and attack either.
  • This has been stated before, but I am so happy that classic Goldust is back. Not sure the eventual R-Truth match is going to move beyond “that was fine,” but hopefully there’s a solid late-career run for both guys in there somewhere.
  • It’s really hard to care about the Cruiserweights right now (is a thing I think every single week). Raw is doing what it can to convince us that 205 Live is must-see, but let’s be honest, no one is watching that. The result is a bunch of Raw matches and segments that feel disconnected from any sense of storytelling, and that’s a shame, because Neville is doing some tremendous work. On the plus side, it looks like maybe Akira Tozawa will get some time outside of the division. He’s teased as a potential member of the Titus Brand this week.
  • I’m still loving the whole Titus Brand angle. As I mentioned on Twitter, we all have that one friend who rolls out one crazy, overconfident scheme after another, and we embrace their enthusiasm, however misguided, because we love them. That’s Apollo and Titus right now.
  • Few people can carry a segment like The Miz. He completely sells the paranoia of Dean Amrbose being somewhere during his championship celebration. Also, I’d watch him wrestle a giant gift box every single week. He’s that good.
  • The “Who Beat Up Enzo Amore?” mystery deepens this week as Big Cass is attacked this time around. There’s a moment where Dean Ambrose sneaks back into the building after being told to take the night off and we see The Revival hanging out backstage, but I’m still thinking that Cass is the perpetrator here. His overprotective nature, and his disgust with Enzo over having Big Show as his emergency fill-in tag partner, has me feeling suspicious.
  • It is astonishing how inconsequential Gallows and Anderson are on Raw. What a waste.
  • Alexa Bliss gets a DQ win in her match against Nia Jax, but surely that isn’t the last we’ve seen of these two feuding. I’m optimistic about what Raw can put together for them, and it’ll be nice to move away from seeing the same performers—see: Sasha Banks and Bayley—in the main event scene all the time.
  • I don’t have much to say about Samoa Joe vs. Seth Rollins. Joe’s meaningful segment comes earlier in the night, and the “Wyatt music cue as distraction” is fine. Joe didn’t even need to wrestle to look strong. Lesnar is scheduled to show up next week though, so let’s all buckle up and get ready for that.