Braun wins the Greatest Royal Rumble, Roman watches his push die this week in WWE
Robert O’Neill: Time for Raw! Well, Raw was last night. And we were at the Scottrade Center! So this part of the recap will actually be a lot of fun and different than other ones in that we’re talking about Raw from a live in the building perspective instead of a TV perspective.
Chris Novak: Yeah, a change from the usual here. Honestly, this was a really fun Raw to describe from inside the building.
Robert O’Neill: Oh man, that Bruno Sammartino tribute was beautiful. Say what you want about WWE, but whenever one of their legends passes away, they go all-out with excellent video tributes.
Chris Novak: This was one of the better montages they’ve shown in a long time. Unfortunate circumstances, obviously. But they knocked it out of the park. An incredible look at an incredible wrestler.
Robert O’Neill: Having never seen Brock Lesnar before, I was pretty hyped when he came out to open the show. Obviously, he’s kind of an… enigma (sure, let’s use enigma) at this point, but I still like him. Also, it may have just been because I was in the building, but this was the most I’ve enjoyed a Paul Heyman promo in a long time. He brought the heat. Roman’s promo was kind of weird to me. It was like two sentences and one mentioned “St. Louis” which… seemed ad-libbed for a cheap pop. I don’t want to nitpick because I really don’t mind Roman, but I found it kind of odd.
Chris Novak: I have not heard heat like this for Lesnar in a long, long time. This was a pretty decent segment, not their best. But the crowd definitely brought it here and made for a fun atmosphere.
Robert O’Neill: I’m gonna be honest here, I’ll never forgive Bob Roode for depriving us of an Elias performance. I am furious, still. The match between Roode and Elias was fun, though. A lot of people forget that Elias is very solid in the ring in addition to being an excellent character. This is a breath of fresh air for Roode, too, compared to his past year feuding with other plodding slow-paced guys like Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton.
Chris Novak: Yeah, I completely agree, Rob. Seeing Elias perform live was one of the reasons I wanted to be at the event! Alas, it was not to be. Fun match here, agree there too. Good win for Elias. Hopefully this allows for a change of direction for.
Robert O’Neill: I still can’t believe I’m saying it, but I find myself pretty entertained and captivated by Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy. Nice to see The Ascension get some work, too!
Chris Novak: They’re, like, making Bray useful? As a babyface, he’s done quite well. There was some thought that it’d work well that one time he did that tag match with Roman (You know the one. You’ve seen the GIF). And it seems to be working out. Heh. We’ll see how long this lasts.
Robert O’Neill: While it probably won’t last long, and they’ll eventually need something else to do, I loved Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel going to Seth Rollins and asking if they could form a new Shield. The Miztourage was entertaing as all hell, and Daniel Bryan’s WWE return ruined it for all of us. Who says that was a good thing, again?!? I kid.
Chris Novak: I found the two to be absolutely hilarious, too. They’ve really found their stride. As always, Miz did a great job elevating people.
Robert O’Neill: Speaking of things that were awesome, how about the Kevin and Sami Show? As cool as it was for me to see Kurt Angle live for the first time in 13 years, it was equally as cool to see him alongside these two, who desperately need a breath of fresh air after their Shane McMahon feud.
While a lot of people are put off by this because they’re feuding with another authority figure, it’s a bit different because Angle will use guys like Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley to take on Owens and Zayn instead of doing it on his own like Shane did, so that’s refreshing. Heck, even if Angle *does* insert himself into the action and take on one of these two, he’s a better wrestler than Shane McMahon. He’s also a believable face, unlike Shane.
Anyways, back to this segment. I loved it. Kevin and Sami are great shitheads and the Jason Jordan bit was hilarious, as was giving Angle a lawn chair to sit in. It’s the little things. The match between Owens/Zayn and Lashley/Strowman went about as you’d expect. Lashley was in first, the heels isolated him from Strowman, hot tag, Strowman destroys everyone, Owens and Zayn bump and sell like crazy, Strowman wins, crowd goes wild. He’s awesome.
HOWEVER, and I don’t want to ramble here, so maybe I’ll make this a standalone article. I don’t think Strowman should be WWE Champion at any point in the near future. There are far too many roadblocks and hurdles for that.
Chris Novak: I am not too crazy about another authority angle for these two. But, I won’t deny that this segment was entertaining. Zayn is such a great heel, and it’s hilarious that we’re saying that, right? We all thought he should be a babyface for life. And yet… he’s such a great smug POS.
Robert O’Neill: Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler have a new mashup theme. It’s alright, I guess. They got a win over Titus Worldwide and both cut a promo after. Ziggler’s was alright. McIntyre’s was excellent. I don’t think they’re gonna screw him up again. I mean, if he’s making DOLPH ZIGGLER entertaining, the sky's the limit.
Chris Novak: Concur. I was walking around a bit during this segment, so I missed it.
Robert O’Neill: Let’s talk about CHAD GABLE, SINGLES WRESTLER. As I wrote last week (or said on the podcast, it all runs together) Gable is awesome and I hope he gets more opportunities to show it. He was really good in his showing over Jinder Mahal and got a win out of it.
Chris Novak: I recall someone pointing out that he was going to be good in this role. OK, so that’s not much of a hot take, obviously. But he played the underdog babyface role SO well here. I’m already enjoying this.
Robert O’Neill: I’m going to defer to Chris for the Baron Corbin segment, because I went to use the restroom because Baron Corbin sucks.
Chris Novak: Pretty much, No Way Jose came out. Baron came out, said he wasn’t gonna fight while the conga line was out. He leaves. Jose and the conga line go up to the stage. The conga line disappears, and Corbin came out and attacked him. Basic stuff. Not really much of an impact here.
Robert O’Neill: Look, I’m biased, but that PSA may have put Alexa Bliss into best female heel in WWE history territory for me. Incredible.
Chris Novak: Alexa does a great job of being disingenuous. She makes everyone look worse in comparison to her, which has its pros and cons. But she’s so brilliant.
Robert O’Neill: The 10-woman tag was a pretty cool main event. Despite being teammates, there were some fairly subtle Bayley and Sasha interactions that made it clear that there’s still plenty of ill will between the two. Also, it was fairly evident that Ronda Rousey was going to get involved, especially when Natalya went down with an “injury”. When “Bad Reputation” hit, Scottrade Center went nuts. Remember the concerns about how live crowds would react to her? That was fun. Anyways, she killed Mickie James to end the show.
Chris Novak: Yeah, a couple people were mad about how this was structured. I get it in some ways, but this was always going to lead to Ronda coming out. Just solely based on how everything was done leading up to it. So, it is what it is. Seeing Ronda live was cool.
Robert O’Neill: Top to bottom, this was one of the weirdest Raw's I can remember. I mean that in the best way possible, too. I didn’t really know what exactly to expect from this show, given that the roster was coming back from South Africa and most of them were going to Saudi Arabia. What we got was a lot of tag team matches, and I was perfectly fine with it. I think my big concern is the fact that they scheduled the Greatest Royal Rumble a week before Backlash, so Backlash seems super inconsequential now, but I guess that’s a problem for the future. This pushed all the right buttons and got everything in place for Friday’s show. A
Chris Novak: Have to agree with my colleague here. Weird show, but everything still managed to work well and make a lot of sense. As fun an atmosphere as I’ve been around in a while. The STL crowd was excellent all night, and I had a lot of fun at the event. I’ll give it an A as well.
Robert O’Neill: Welp! We’re starting with Miz TV featuring Daniel Bryan. I’m here for it.
Chris Novak: Off and running. Might as well get going. Miz says that something’s missing, and it’s a title. The Intercontinental Title, of course, which he says he’ll win at the GRR for a record-tying ninth time. Whether that happens is yet to be seen.
Robert O’Neill: That’s not Daniel Bryan! That’s Big Cass!
Chris Novak: Cass comes out and cuts what was a pretty great promo about how Bryan reminds him of himself when he was young. He also points out that he was cleared on the same day that Bryan was cleared, but everyone paid attention to Bryan instead of him. Honestly, he nailed this promo. Straight down to the motivation as for why he targeted him. A great start for Cass on SDLive.
Robert O’Neill: They cut to the back and Bryan was down and in a heap! Intrigue.
Chris Novak: Here comes The IIconics, who proceed to mock Becky and Asuka. They take a trip through logical loopholes and claim they’re better than Asuka. I think they may rue the day that they said that…
Robert O’Neill: Solid match here. IIconics needed a win and they got it using underhanded tactics. Good heeling.
Chris Novak: Looks like we’ll get AJ Styles and The Club vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev Day later in the main event. How fun!
Robert O’Neill: An Uso faced Erick Rowan… and won! Naomi came out and did her full entrance to distract Rowan and allow the win via the distraction. It was cool.
Chris Novak: Jimmy took some hard bumps in the match but came out on top. Solid match, although I’m sure some will complain that some badasses in Bludgeon Brothers got distracted by dancing.
Chris Novak: We’re off and running for this contract signing for the Women’s Championship Match. Carmella comes out first, and points out how it’s “disrespectful” for the champ to come out before the challenger. She also wondered what world is that acceptable. Well, Carmella… anyways she plays the video package from last week. This is totally hilarious.
Robert O’Neill: Carmella is an absolute joy. Charlotte… is not.
Chris Novak: Charlotte pushed the desk over on ‘Mella. Rude behavior. Aiden English then told Dasha that there were “no interviews” after she came up to Shinsuke’s locker room.
Chris Novak: Shelton Benjamin is out to wrestle. US Champ Jeff Hardy first comes out but… then, here comes Randy Orton! So after last week’s ‘08 SD flashback, we now get an ‘04 Raw flashback. Cool!
Robert O’Neill: Oh, good. A Randy Orton match! Time to tune out for 10-12 minutes.
Chris Novak: Shelton wins! Sunil Singh came out of the crowd wearing a luchador mask and chop blocked Hardy, who, of course, Jinder is facing at the Greatest Royal Rumble. Then he tried to get away from security and ate an RKO for his troubles. Shelton then took him down with Paydirt. That was pretty fun!
Robert O’Neill: Alright! Let’s do Nak and Rusev Day vs. Styles Club. I’m ready for it. WAIT A MINUTE, Shinsuke’s theme is changed! It has words now. This is strange.
Chris Novak: Very impressed so far with Nakamura as a heel. The theme bangs. This was a good six-man tag team main event, one that Nak won for his team after hitting a Kinshasa to the back of Gallows’ head. Nak then went after Karl Anderson and hit him with a knee to the face.
Robert O’Neill: All the big post-Shakeup talk about Smackdown being the A-show may have been a bit premature. Don’t get me wrong, this was a good show, but nothing really blew me away. I guess they had the same “issues” as Raw, where they have a PPV coming up on the other side of the world that they’re getting paid a trillion dollars for and they can’t risk anything going wrong, but this Smackdown was just kind of there. I *will* say, it’s pretty cool that Smackdown has three different stories involving women right now. Naomi and the Usos, Becky and Asuka against the IIconics, and Charlotte and Carmella. That division certainly got the jolt it needed. Not having Samoa Joe or Daniel Bryan wrestle was annoying to me, but I guess they’re not gonna be in action every single week. It was a perfectly acceptable show. B
Chris Novak: There’s a lot going on with SmackDown in the post-Shakeup world, and I think a lot of it is good. While there were no must-see matches here, everything delivered pretty well here. I’m pleased with how everything’s crafted, and like Rob said, it’s neat that there’s three different stories involving the women. We’ll see how things shake out in the future. For now, they’ve earned a B+ for me for this week’s show.
Pierce Roberson: We kick things off in Saudi Arabia with Triple H one on one with John Cena in this "dream match" from Jeddah. Kinda weird to see Cena and Trips open a show with a one-on-one match but the crowd is so hot it doesn't matter. This was your standard house show main event. Cena got the win with the AA and said no matter what's going on in his universe (OH HEY NIKKI HOW YA DOIN?!) it was an honor and privilege to be there for the event.
The crowd died down for the Cruiserweight championship match between Cedric Alexander and Kalisto, understandable after they just lost their minds to Cena-Trips but unfortunate because this was a really good match. These two hit a lot of high spots, including a nasty springboard spanish fly ff the top rope by Kalisto. In the end Cedric hit the Lumbar Check (one of the best finishers in WWE mind you) for the W.
Next up the Raw tag team division just got a little BROKEN. Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt - the Woken Warriors, as I like to call em - beat The Bar is a pretty short match to capture the vacant Raw tag team titles. Nothing really to say about this mach. Sheamus and Cesaro now head off to Smackdown where fresh matchups await them, and now we'll see where Hardy & Wyatt go as a tag team.
Oh Jeff Hardy and Jinder Mahal... This match fucking sucked. The highlight of this match was when Jeff Hardy missed a Whisper in the Wind badly while Mahal was getting up... but Jinder sold it anyway. Ugh... I don't know who botched what but this was horrendous. Hardy won with the Swanton Bomb to retain the US Title.
The Bludgeon Brothers continued to squash the Smackdown roster as they demolished the Usos to keep the Smackdown tag titles. Without Naomi to further the story, this match never had legs. It was much of the same of what we've seen from the Brothers since they made their re-debut on the blue brand. Anyway, I feel like we're only here for GIFs of Naomi.
After a few duds in a row, we got a treat in the form of a Fatal 4 Way Ladder Match for the IC strap. Everyone in this match did great work, from Joe's double powerbomb on Balor and Rollins, to an incredible ending where Rollins stole the win from Balor at the last second, pulling down the strap before Finn could get his hands on it. Fun match and furthers the feud between Rollins and Balor.
Then we got a segment with a few Saudis who trained with Triple H and WWE. Ariya Daivari, flanked by his older brown Shawn, made their way down to the ring... and if you think Vince wasn't going to do a highly controversial angle involving Saudis and Iranians - two countries currently at odds - LOL you're sorely fucking mistaken. the trainees beat up on the Daivari's and crowd pops ensued.
Isn't it funny how both championship matches in Jeddah were better than their Wrestlemania counterparts? AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura wasn't the bore it was in New Orleans, which started slow but built into a fast-paced, hard-hitting affair. The two exchanged blows and finishers until the action spilled outside of the ring, ending in a double countout. Styles walked away in the end, driving Nak ino the barricade and hitting a Phenomenal Forearm onto the floor.
IT'S RUSEV DAY! and he gets to job out to the Undertaker! IT was No DQ because of the Casket match stipulation so we got a lot of Aiden English in this one, and in the end he got thrown on top of Rusev in the casket before Taker shut the lid. This was a solid house show match, nothing more. Good for Rusev and Aiden English to be featured in a high spot on the card with the legend.
Right before the Undisputed Title match I had the feeling that WWE was swerving everyone who believed Roman Reigns would finally get his coronation in Saudi Arabia. And he didn't! Hilarious how that works. Brock and Roman fought inside a steel cage, and it was the physical, fast-paced battle we wanted three weeks ago. Brock hit a flurry of Garman's and F-5's, Reigns countered with Superman punches and spears of his own, the last sending himself and Brock through the cage. Roman's feet hit the floor first, but Brock was awarded the win. Almost surely this means Reigns will get another title shot, but what's the point? He got usurped by Seth at Wrestlemania 31, had a lackluster run with the belt in 2016, lost to Brock at Mania and now at GRR. Has Vince soured on him? Maybe, but Reigns being the top face in the company can never be now. Ever.
And now, the Greatest Royal Rumble. We got Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler entering at number one and two, respectively, and both (especially Bryan) put on one hell of a show in this Rumble. Bryan broke the record for longest time in the Rumble at 76 minutes and 10 seconds, a great way to put him over in his return. This was a 50-man Rumble and it showed as they really used the entire locker room in this one, plus a few surprises like Hornswoggle, Rey Mysterio and NXT's Roddy Strong & Tucker Knight.
The best spot of the Rumble wasn't in the ring. Much love to Titus O'Neill. Anybody else would be embarrassed by stumbling on their way to the ring and sliding under the ring, but not Titus! This man's brand doesn't know how to lose. Go ahead and make all the Benny Hill videos you want; Titus Worldwide is the real winner of the Rumble.
In the end, Braun was the last man standing. He wins a trophy and an unnamed green belt. Not sure if that's gonna transition into an actual belt for the company, but it's green and it's nice so there. Braun also holds the record for most eliminations in a Rumble now, so this makes up for that ridiculous angle at Wrestlemania. Braun goes home the victor. Everyone goes home happy.