It’s the New Era that is part of the New Era… if you know what I mean. Battleground is over, and we are heading into a whole new style of Raw. Before we get there, however, I am going to give a quick rundown of my thoughts on said show. Don’t worry if you’re a SmackDown person; I’ll be doing that tomorrow.
Battleground is a bit of a miracle, to be honest. That PPV had no hype at all. It was getting in the way of the much more exciting draft. However, thanks to a handful of great matches it elevated itself. The most obvious of those was Zayn vs. Owens. Those two men could fight blindfolded with their arms tied behind their back and I would watch. Despite that, I’m glad they did it the old-fashioned way and we got to watch two incredible athletes go at it and bring the house down. This should be the moment that sees Sami explode.
Talking about exploding, I can’t be the only person who got emotional hearing Bayley get that pop. I adore her and having watched her grow in NXT seeing her treated as a star was a beautiful moment. She and Sasha have such an exciting story to tell, and I hope they get the chance to do it. Becky and Natalya are also telling a solid story but sadly had to go on after Zayn Owens, which hurt them.
Elsewhere, it was nice to see Woods get his moment, but the Wyatts still pick up the win. Orton put together his best promo in years and Jericho made a talk show segment work. While Cena pinning Styles felt far too predictable, the match was entertaining, and Enzo was fire on the mic beforehand. Even the two mid-card title clashes were fun even if the finish to Darren Young vs. The Miz made no sense.
Finally, the main event delivered in a way I didn’t expect. Ambrose deserved to win that match, but I couldn’t see it happening. Giving him that win is not only a show of support for him but SmackDown too. Raw may have announced a new title, but SmackDown has the one with the history. It was also a very well put together Triple Threat which played into their SHIELD past but allowed them to be themselves.
All in all, this was a much better show than I expected. Easily the best Battleground there has ever been, although I do realise that is damning it with faint praise. WWE has enjoyed waxing lyrical about their New Era, and I’ve joked about the brand draft being a New Era within the New Era, but this was a PPV that showed they could be serious about this. The Talent is shining through, and it’s a genuine delight to watch it. Right, onto Raw.
I have to admit when I first saw the new Raw logo I thought it looked crap. Within the structure of the new show, however, it isn’t quite as bad. I also like that they’ve changed the layout with the commentary desk’s new position. Talking about commentary, Corey Graves belongs there. I wanted him on SmackDown, but the guy is a natural, and Raw is his home.
My second worry was that Steph opened the show by belittling one of her male talents. She does this far too often, and I hope Foley is used to calm down that element of her character. Thankfully, after that, the opening segment took off a bit. The Universal Title is an awful name, but the eight talents they chose were guaranteed to get you into the show. Balor’s debut alone made this Raw interesting and after the Draft, it was the hook this episode needed.
I’m not going to go through the whole thing match by match, or this review will never end. Instead, let’s pick out the key moments whether they be ups or downs. The opening four-way would have been worth it for the Owens and Rusev team-up. If WWE ever has those two looking for something to do, a dominant tag-team pairing would be brilliant. They are the funniest guys on the roster. It wasn’t only that, all four of these men worked well together, and I could happily watch any of them feud coming out of this. Having Balor win was the cherry on the cake. I was worried when they set up this match that he was going to kick off his Raw career with a loss, but I genuinely popped when he picked up the win. This was a vote of confidence from WWE and while I love Cesaro, Owens and Rusev I was delighted to see it.
Nia Jax’s debut was solid but at the end of the day was a squash match. I think the longer they can keep that up the better because she is still very green. Golden Truth meanwhile can be fired into the sun.
The second four-way was interesting. The four men didn’t seem to have the same chemistry as the first match; there were a couple of awkward spots early on, but they grew into it. It was another brilliant performance from Zayn, and he seemed to be involved in everything that happened. It’s disappointing therefore that they went for Roman. If WWE is desperate for him to be a face, they need to get him out of the main event because fans are refusing to accept him there.
The New Day segment was an example of their humour not hitting for me. Hopefully, a feud with Gallows and Anderson continues the process we saw with The Wyatts and sees them embracing a harder edge to their characters. Nice to see Neville back, but I don’t think beating a guy called Mr Irrelevant does much for his career.
If you had asked me beforehand whether Sasha would win here, I would have shaken my head and sighed. This was all set up for shenanigans followed by a SummerSlam rematch, and yet they gave Sasha that moment and damn does she deserve it. The match was great. The perfect example of what these women can do. Sasha overegging that suicide dive was terrifying, but she seemed to shrug it off, and she gave her all. The emotion at the end was similar to that in watching Bayley debut last night and was a genuine pleasure to watch.
Breaking away from The Wyatt Family seems to guarantee you bad entrance music. What was with Braun Strowman shouting his name? I enjoyed the touch of having Saxton interview the jobber beforehand; the guy wasn’t a natural promo, but it gave him some personality before he was destroyed. Shining Stars might as well be fed to Braun. Enzo is the best stickman in the company, though. At least in his style.
Finally, we have the main event. Much like the Woman’s Title match, I could only see this going one-way. Much like the Woman’s Title match WWE shocked me and as I did with the first four-way, I was out of my chair in delight when Finn picked up the win. Rollins Balor is dream match territory and giving him the clean win over Roman is huge. It was also more proof that if you put Roman in there with a good wrestler, he’ll put on good matches.
WWE have been yammering on about their New Era for the last few months, but Battleground and Raw are the first time their actions lived up to their words. There are still problems, don’t get me wrong, but this was a splendid start for WWE in a post-Draft landscape. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that they can keep it up.