So, I was at WWE Raw 05/01/17 which is why you’re getting this recap late and it’s a bit different from usual. Instead of my format, I’ll be dropping my thoughts on the matches and segments and giving some stories about what it was like to experience this show live. Hopefully it’s at least partially as interesting to read as it was seeing Raw live. Let’s get to it!
WWE Raw 05/01/17 Recap
So, my seat was one over from the aisle about five rows back from the ring. I had a great view of the ring and the entrances. If only the guy next to me in seat #1 didn’t show up… I did a literal Ron Simmons “Damn.” when that guy got there about 5 minutes before the show started. At one point early on after doors opened, some guy tried to start a “Let’s Go Roman” chant and was laughed at by a few thousand people. He stopped. It was brutal.
After the Main Event taping (spoilers: Lince Dorado loses to Drew Gulak (sadly he didn’t wrestle in a suit), and Curtis Axel wrestles (!) and beats Curt Hawkins), the entire active women’s roster is introduced and each gets their entrance. I got to see Emma’s entrance live – she’s a real human being even if Emmalina is a lie (Then. Now. Forever.). Apparently Summer Rae was backstage but is still not ready to return.
WWE. Then. Now. Forever. (yep, you get to see it live on the Titantron) Standard Raw credits, pyro, and we’re live from Sacramento. The ring has been set up with a red carpet and little pedestal for Bliss to stand on. Alexa is out for her own entrance while Sasha Banks, Mickie James, Nia Jax, Alicia Fox, Emma, Dana Brooke, and Bayley stand in the ring.
So, I honestly could not hear a damn thing said during this. The audio quality in the building for Bliss wasn’t great and she was getting massive heat from the crowd. I gathered from facial expressions and the booing that she berated all of the faces and danced around not totally burying Jax. Bliss “forgets” to mention Bayley and apparently buries her based on the reaction she was getting from this pro-Bayley crowd. I mean, I even got mean-mugged by a pre-teen Bayley clone in the line to get in the arena since I was wearing my “Little Miss Bliss” t-shirt. Even though it’s not San Jose, Sacramento is clearly Bayley country as well.
Bayley dumps the pedestal that Alexa was standing on and a brawl breaks out. Apparently they immediately cut to break based on the irate things I saw on my Twitter timeline. During the break, the faces and heels eventually broke apart into teams and it became obvious we were getting a tag team match.
Sure enough, the break appears to have ended and we’re told that Kurt Angle has made this into an eight-woman tag.
Match #1: Bayley, Sasha Banks, Dana Brooke, & Mickie James vs. Alexa Bliss, Emma, Nia Jax, & Alicia Fox
As far as eight person matches go, this one wasn’t too bad. The crowd seemed pretty hot for it and they gave this a huge chunk of time. Alexa ends up going over with an eye rake and snap DDT to Bayley. I’m down with it. As a fan of women’s wrestling, it was awesome to see the entire roster get their entrances and work a multi-person match. Much better than just seeing only a fraction of the roster like we tend to on Raw. So, for the live experience alone this one made me happy.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – Not bad for an eight-person match and I got to see the entire Raw women’s division live so that was a bonus.
As the heel team leaves, the guy next to me tries to slap hands with Emma. She acts like she’s going to do it – but pulls away. Can Evil Emma get any more dreamy?
Enzo & Cass are backstage… and they’re walking!
After a break, Enzo and Cass are out. Wow, were these two over in Sacramento. They got one of the largest reactions all night. I guess those of us tiring of their schtick are in the minority. They cut their usual spiel and are giving a promo in the ring when Gallows and Anderson crash the party and a brawl breaks out. During the break, an official was tending to Enzo’s head for the duration. It almost looked like he may have gotten hard-wayed or something.
Back from break, a match starts. We get no official announcement or anything… so it took me 2/3 of the way through the match to figure out it’s not a tag team match but a singles match. I kept wondering why Cass still had his shirt on and wasn’t up on the apron.
Match #2: Enzo (w/ Big Cass) vs. Luke Gallows (w/ Karl Anderson)
I don’t remember a ton about this match. Likely because I’m bored with the Enzo and Cass gimmick and WWE has managed to make me not care much about Gallows and Anderson. I remember it looked like Enzo was going to win, but Gallows ended up flapjacking Enzo and getting the victory.
Verdict: Thumbs Down – I really want to like Gallows and Anderson but WWE is making it so hard. At least Enzo didn’t win.
Fun fact: Since he stood right by me, I think I’m bigger than Enzo Amore and I’m far from a big dude. Huh.
Next, we have Neville talking to Perkins in a backstage segment. It was nearly impossible to hear what was being said during the backstage segments from where I was sitting. It also didn’t help that a child next to me was screaming “What?” randomly during this Neville / TJ segment. I gleamed something about either Neville or TJ facing Aries later tonight.
After that, Rollins comes out and cuts a promo saying that he pulled one out against Joe at Payback and now he wants Lesnar and the Universal Title. Well, about that… First, Finn Balor comes out and makes his claim for the title – including putting over that he blew out his shoulder and still managed to beat Seth. Sick burn. Ambrose comes out because he’s the de facto top champion on this show now and no one is getting Lesnar until Great Balls of Fire (yeah, I can’t believe it’s called that either). This brings out The Miz & Maryse – which leads to Dean “calling” Kurt Angle on his phone. Somehow through all of this, a triple threat match is made between Miz, Rollins, and Balor for Dean’s IC Title.
At this point, I’m assuming Angle isn’t in the building since he made the women’s tag match without being seen and now Dean is “calling him” on a cell phone. And, again, these long promo segments are really hard to follow live since the sound isn’t the greatest. I’m sure there was more to this, but I’ll just watch the YouTube clips later to catch any zingers.
Time for some purple rope action. Man, you have not lived until you see a grown adult climb over four people so he can get to the barricade to take a photo of Rich Swann’s entrance. Anyway, time for some random six-man Cruiserweight action.
Match #3: Tony Nese, Brian Kendrick, & Noam Dar vs. Rich Swann, Akira Tozawa, & Jack Gallagher
The crowd hated this one. The kid next to me that shouted “What?” at every backstage segment tried to get a “this is boring” chant going during this match. Admittedly, the Cruiserweight style plays better on TV (and likely live in a more intimate setting) than it does on this big stage. I can sort of see why 205 Live gets the lackluster reaction it does now. Maybe it’s because these matches just aren’t “WWE style” enough or because very little has gone into getting these guys over outside of a Network show only a small fraction watch – but, this just felt lacking even though my brain told me these guys were kicking ass in the ring.
Verdict: Thumbs Down – I had to look up who even won this match since it was out of my brain just a few hours after the show. Looks like Gallagher pinned Kendrick. That does zero to further any of the current 205 Live programs, so “Thumbs Down” all the way around.
Next, Cesaro & Sheamus are out and are rocking matching black jackets to add to their freshly minted heel look. Now, more than ever, they look like the two utilikilt wearing dudes at the goth club who request Ministry songs so they can attempt to start a mosh pit. During the break, we saw the end to the Payback tag team title match – I suppose to let us know why we should be booing Sheasaro.
The promo? What I was able to gleam is that they deserve the titles, they can easily beat up the Hardys, and they don’t set the bar – they are the bar.
Matt and Jeff are out just when it looks like this promo segment is over. Jeff (w/ freshly fixed dental work) lets Matt do the talking and Matt cuts a semi-“broken” promo that goes “full broken” when he and Jeff do the “delete” gesture and rush the ring. Sheasaro bail to avoid physical confrontation and I’m already awaiting the ladder match at Extreme Rules.
Next, Miz and Maryse are backstage getting interviewed. Dean shows up and takes over and as is standard for this live experience, I couldn’t hear what was said. I imagine he berated Miz’s acting in Marine 5 or something along those lines. The one thing I was able to hear was Dean throwing it back to “Bobby and Gene”. Also, Ambrose didn’t stare off into space at the end of the interview. Dean will never make it as a backstage interviewer in the WWE.
Back from break, Slater and Rhyno are out to a big pop. We see some “earlier today” footage of some form of an encounter with Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews. I’m assuming the words “Titus Brand” were said. Crews and O’Neil are out next.
Match #4: Heath Slater (w/ Rhyno) vs. Apollo Crews (w/ Titus O’Neil)
Well, at least this is something for Crews to do. I’m not a huge fan of it, but it’s better than just being the “guy who can wrestle good and likes to smile”. Not a whole lot to this match. Crews goes over clean with his finisher. Post-match, Rhyno photo-bombs the celebratory Crews and O’Neil selfie. They sold it like they were angry but as they were leaving off-camera Titus showed Crews the photo (or something) on his phone and they were laughing.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – Not bad for what it was. The crowd was way more into this match than the Cruiserweight six-man.
Back from break, he’s here after all! Kurt Angle is out to a nice pop. He heads to the ring and cuts a promo saying that Reigns has “internal injuries” and Braun Strowman “tore his rotator cuff” so both are out of action until he can determine what is best for both men and the Raw brand. He does tell us that Reigns and Strowman’s beef is not over yet. I imagine the much rumored “Ambulance Match” happens at Extreme Rules then?
Bray Wyatt interrupts and makes his way to the ring. Bray introduces himself to Angle, they shake hands, and he cuts a standard Wyatt promo that boils down to Angle is either by Bray’s side on Raw or he stands in Bray’s way. Angle says despite what Bray may have planned this is still Angle’s show. Bray finds that amusing and laughs until we head to break.
More Dean backstage interviewing – this time with Rollins. Seth was super over since he has either been injured or on the wrong brand when WWE has come to Sacramento since I started going to shows again in 2015. He got huge pops every time he appeared and that made this backstage bit even more unintelligible than the Miz one.
More purple ropes! Austin Aries is out first. TJ Perkins (now apparently known as TJP – but we don’t know this in the arena) is out next. Same entrance, though the “character select” now only includes TJP, Gran Metalik, and Cedric Alexander. Heel version? Glitch? Who knows.
Match #5: Austin Aries vs. TJP
I kept waiting for Neville to come out during this, but apparently if you were watching at home they kept cutting to Neville watching the match in the back. The crowd was way more into this Cruiserweight match than the six-man, but it still got a muted reaction compared to even Slater / Crews. I enjoyed this one and the story-telling of Neville’s heel run has been great. Aries goes over with the Last Chancery, but TJP delivers a savage post-match beat down that likely made Neville proud. Curious to see how this escalates going into Extreme Rules.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – Even if the crowd didn’t care – I cared.
More Dean backstage – this time with Finn Balor. Again, couldn’t hear this but he appears to get Finn to a bite out of a donut – for reasons? Meanwhile, the Drifter drifts by.
During this break, the ring crew does some crazy misdirection but based on where I was sitting I was able to see what appeared to be Bray Wyatt rushed to ringside in near darkness – but I’m guess a large chunk of the audience did not notice this.
Next, Golden Truth are pitching a tag team title shot to Angle. I heard something about Angle not liking their win / loss record, but offering them a shot in a tag team turmoil match (next week?) to determine a new #1 Contender to the titles. Heading into Extreme Rules – be it Sheasaro or someone else, it’s gotta be a ladder match, right?
Balor enters – this time with full, non-demon entrance and we head to break. Good thing too, Finn’s smoke took the entire break to dissipate from the stage area. Man, that stuff is even worse to breathe in than the “fog” at dance clubs.
Back from break, Miz and Maryse are out with a costume change. Of nearly everyone I tried to take photos of during their entrance, Miz and Maryse were by far the easiest to shoot. Makes sense, I suppose. Got some great pics of them. Seth is out last to a huge pop.
Match #6: Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor vs. The Miz (w/ Maryse) (#1 Contender Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship)
Wow, this match. Tons of false finishes, a Samoa Joe run-in, and Wyatt taking out Balor – helping The Miz yet again. This is possibly one of the best Raw main events this year and I was totally down with Miz getting the win by any means necessary. With Balor and Rollins on the periphery of the Universal Title picture whenever Brock returns and drops it – it makes sense to get the IC strap back on Miz for another epic run. This one was super fun to watch live and definitely earned the “this is awesome” chants that broke out.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – A great match and an awesome end to the show.
So, for the dark segment, Miz comes back out and cuts a promo berating Sacramento. Dean comes out and says he’s going to interview Miz. During this, Bray Wyatt randomly runs out from under the ring and sprints to the back while laughing. Dean makes some sort of reference to “I always wondered how he did that” and continues to talk to Miz. By now, Rollins and Balor have gotten up on the apron. Dean wants Miz to give Sacramento his catch phrase – Miz finally does and then eats Rollins’ new knee strike finisher – into a Dirty Deeds – into a Coup de Grace from Finn to send the crowd home happy.
No word on when WWE is coming back to town, but it looks like we’re getting a house show in late September according to that leaked 2017 – 2018 WWE schedule that even had the “Great Balls of Fire” location correct.
As I was leaving the main floor area, I ended up in the line to leave directly behind long-haired guy. He was carrying two “Ringsider” chairs and I immediately thought “man, he must have a ton of those”. I wanted to say something to him, but thought against it. Glad I did. Random people kept coming up to him saying things like “Hey, you’re that guy that is always in the front row”. He’d just smile and nod. He looked rather uncomfortable with the whole thing. I totally got the impression he’s just a regular dude and isn’t in the front row to put himself over. As I headed out the door, it appeared that he was giving away his “Ringsider” chairs to a kid and his Dad. Guys, “long-haired guy in the front row” is a good dude.