After last night’s bizarre but entertaining WWE Backlash PPV, we pivot to the red brand for WWE Raw 05/22/17. With the Extreme Rules PPV just two weeks away, I imagine the remaining matches for that card will begin to come into view. While nothing concrete has been announced (or I just simply missed it in between all of the coverage of Jinder Mahal) I’d assume we’re getting Matt Hardy vs. Cesaro since we had Jeff Hardy vs. Sheamus last week. Also, I suspect we’ll get something out of Goldust to explain his shocking heel turn on R. Truth on last week’s show. Other than that, possibly some tag team action – considering the big Fatal Five Way is set for the PPV and we had some singles matches last week. Let’s get to the recap!
WWE Raw 05/22/17 Recap
WWE. Then. Now. Forever. We open with a dramatic Extreme Rules hype video that blends seamlessly into Bray Wyatt’s theme and he heads to the ring. No Raw opening credits, no pyro, and we’re live from Grand Rapids.
Bray cuts a rather lucid (for him) promo that likens Lesnar to the “beast” that Bray will save us from. Bray claims he sacrificed Seth and Joe already and even the Demon will see the truth – that only Bray can slay the beast. Bray refers to the “5th man – the man who claims this whole place to be his yard”, name drops Roman Reigns, and gets the expected boos. Bray begins to say this is his world when Roman’s music interrupts.
Roman hits the ring and tells Bray he can run his mouth to Roman’s face. Roman claims he’s going to “beat four guys” and then he’ll beat Brock Lesnar too. As expected, he manages to do this all without saying “Great Balls of Fire”. Soon, they’ll have to start adding those words into the promos. Soooooon. Anyway, Roman threatens to forcibly remove Bray from his yard and that causes Kurt Angle to come out.
Angle wants to see which of these two has the momentum heading into Extreme Rules – but he doesn’t want to wait until next week, or even later tonight – he wants to see Bray vs. Roman right now. He asks for a ref and we head to break.
Back from break, the bell rings.
Match #1: Bray Wyatt vs. Roman Reigns
It’s Reigns and Wyatt – a feud that didn’t exactly set the world on fire a few years back. Before we get too deep into this match, Joe’s music hits and he runs in. After looking at Wyatt for a bit, he turns and slaps the Coquina Clutch on Reigns – getting the match thrown out.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – I suppose having the trappings of a “match” between Roman and Bray is at least different from the typical twenty-minute multi-man promo that would have gotten us to the same eventual main event.
Post-match, Roman escapes the Clutch and suffers a beat down from Bray. Joe slaps the Coquina on Bray, which brings out Rollins. Roman and Seth clear the ring and stand tall as we go to break.
Later tonight? Finn Balor takes on Karl Anderson.
Even later tonight? Matt Hardy faces Sheamus. The winner gets to pick the stipulation for the Tag Team Championship Match at Extreme Rules.
Back from break, Rollins and Reigns are backstage arguing. Roman doesn’t need Seth’s help and Seth was out there for Joe – not to help Roman. Angle enters and says that even though Extreme Rules is “every man for himself” tonight is all about teamwork. He channels Teddy Long and makes Seth and Roman vs. Bray and Joe for tonight’s main event. The Drifter wanders in and Kurt acknowledges that the Drifter has been trying to get his attention for a long time. So, now he’s got Kurt’s attention and Kurt puts him in a match with Dean Ambrose.
Akira Tozawa is out next for some #PurpleRopes action. Brian Kendrick is shown watching backstage, but rather than having him join commentary, they just throw to him occasionally during the match and Kendrick chimes in with his two cents. I kind of liked that. Daivari has apparently already entered and the match begins.
Match #2: Akira Tozawa vs. Ariya Daivari
An absolute squash match. Daivari gets in the most minimal of offense before Tozawa takes over. After some strikes and a suplex, Tozawa goes up and hits a top rope senton to get the win. Tozawa gets some massive air on the senton too. Very impressive.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – A squash, and thus over too fast to be a solid segment. But, I did like the bit with Kendrick watching backstage and actually contributing. Usually we just see the person looking at a screen in the locker room and they add zero to the match.
Post-match, Kendrick chimes in one last time to say he was impressed with Tozawa tonight, but not as impressed as everyone will be with Kendrick after tomorrow’s street fight on 205 Live.
Up next? The Drifter drifts into the Asylum.
Back from break, Sasha Banks is backstage… walking. Charly asks her about tonight’s “rubber match” with Fox and Sasha calls tonight a “get out of jail free card” so she can get away from Crazy Fox and her hot mess of a boyfriend. Cue Crazy Fox and Hot Mess of a Boyfriend. Dar claims that Banks is just jealous of their relationship. I really need a blood feud between Alicia Fox & Carmella (and their slimy male valets).
Next, Elias Samson is introduced and he’s already in the ring and sitting on a stool. He plays a song that attempts to bury both Grand Rapids and Dean Ambrose. But, before he gets too deep into the song, Dean’s music cuts him off. Meanwhile, The Miz and Maryse have joined commentary.
Match #3: Dean Ambrose vs. Elias Samson
Pairing Ambrose with Samson for his main roster debut was a smart move. Even though we get a non-finish, Dean and Elias really seemed to have decent chemistry and played off of each other well. But, yeah, that non-finish. Much like the in the show opener, this one ends when Miz randomly enters the ring and attacks Samson to DQ Ambrose. Of course, this one at least made storyline sense as the IC Title match has the stipulation that if Dean loses by DQ, he loses the belt. Maybe Samson will give Miz a receipt at the PPV – causing the title switch?
Verdict: Thumbs Up – Non-finishes aside, I was actually more into Samson’s main roster debut than Nakamura’s main roster debut. Go figure.
Post-match, Dean chases Miz around the outside and finally catches him in the ring for an attempt at a Dirty Deeds. Miz manages to escape and Samson hits his finisher on Dean to end the segment. Not bad.
Up next? Finn Balor vs. Karl Anderson.
But wait, someone is rushing to get Big Cass backstage. We’re shown Enzo face down on the floor, shoe by his head, unresponsive. Either someone attacked Enzo or he partied a little too hard at Jinder’s victory party last night.
Back from break, Enzo has been revived and he is talking to the EMTs. Angle has arrived on the scene and Enzo didn’t see who did it. Cass claims that Angle better hope that he finds out who did this before Cass does.
Next, Balor’s music hits and he’s out. Balor addresses his fans and starts to cut a promo saying he’s going to win the match at Extreme Rules and face Brock. Paul Heyman interrupts and heads out to the stage. He cuts a promo calling Bray Wyatt, Seth Rollins, Samoa Joe, and Roman Reigns all “victims” of the Beast. Balor, on the other hand, is no victim and he’s not an “underdog” either – despite what the other guys in the match might be saying. Heyman puts Balor over huge and says he looks forward to the possibility of Finn vs. Brock. They shake hands. Finn says he wishes Brock was here (he’s not surprise, surprise – Finn’s words not mine!) but he asks Heyman to relay a message to Brock. That message? That Finn will win the Fatal Five Way, he’ll face Brock for the title he never lost, and he will beat Lesnar. Solid promo work from Heyman here as always.
Anderson (w/ Gallows) is out next and we head to break.
Back from break, the match is joined in progress.
Match #4: Finn Balor vs. Karl Anderson (w/ Luke Gallows)
As I kind of expected when I saw this announced, we get a Finn Balor showcase here. Anderson does just enough to look credible and sells really good for Balor. After a dive to take out both Anderson and Gallows, Finn goes on a run into his signature Sling Blade, double boot, Coup de Grace combination to get the win.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – The match alone would have just been a “Thumbs In The Middle” since it was nothing special, but I enjoyed the interplay between Balor and Heyman that led up to the match.
Later tonight? Tag team main event.
Also later tonight? Matt Hardy tries not to lose a tooth in a match with Sheamus.
Back from break, Fox and Dar are already in the ring. Sasha Banks is out next.
Match #5: Sasha Banks vs. Alicia Fox (w/ Noam Dar)
Man, I really wanted to get excited by this, but it’s hard when the match is super short and, once again, Banks goes over without even needing to hit her finisher. I suppose a high point was seeing Noam Dar attempting to mock Sasha’s mannerisms on the outside. Seriously, getting a real Ellsworth vibe from him lately. But, yeah, this match is totally a throw-away.
Verdict: Thumbs Down – Why are we still doing this?
Post-match, Sasha slaps Dar and eats a scissorkick from Fox. Yeah, we’re going to still be doing this next week, aren’t we?
Meanwhile, Kalisto is backstage berating Crews for siding with Titus O’Neil lately. Kalisto accuses Crews of attacking Enzo tonight and Crews gets offended and says he didn’t do it. Titus enters, thinks that Kalisto is trying to be the “first international client” for Titus Brand, and gets angry when Kalisto rejects his advances. O’Neil decrees that Kalisto will now have to face Crews in a match later tonight. I guess he’s got the book now?
Up next? Alexa Bliss gets “extreme”, which I can only imagine involves her eating Doritos, drinking some Mt. Dew Code Red, and playing Halo on the original XBox. EXTREME!
Back from break, the announcers remind us that Goldust turned on R-Truth last week and show us the footage.
Next, we get a classic old school Goldust “Shattered Dreams Productions” vignette. I absolutely loved this return to form for the Goldust character. Goldust doesn’t need scripts, he’s in the director’s chair, and he controls how and when his next film will end.
After that, Charly is backstage with Alexa Bliss. We’re sent to footage of Alexa’s kendo stick attack on Bayley and see the welts on Bayley’s neck and back. Alexa says she’s not sorry and says that the “sound of bamboo striking Bayley’s flesh makes me salivate”. Damn. We learn that Alexa has a match with Mickie James later tonight.
After that, we, for some reason, see a video package on the Roman / Strowman stuff that I swear we’ve been seeing for a few weeks now. With no real update on Braun’s condition, why are we seeing this again?
Later tonight? Some dudes have a tag team match as our main event.
Back from break, Kalisto is already in the ring. Crews (w/ O’Neil) enters next.
Match #6: Kalisto vs. Apollo Crews (w/ Titus O’Neil)
Eh, this is more filler. The only real story here is that Apollo has things well in hand, but Titus keeps screaming at him like he’s an angry Dad in the bleachers during a little league game. This causes Crews to botch his finisher and eat a Salida del Sol.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – Standard Raw filler that likely has no real legs or future implications.
Post-match, Titus screams at Crews in the ring.
Up next? Jeff Hardy and Cesaro watch a match from ring side.
Back from break, JoJo announces that the winner of this match gets to pick the stipulation for the Raw Tag Team Championship match at Extreme Rules. Hardys enter first. Sheasaro enter last.
Match #7: Matt Hardy (w/ Jeff Hardy) vs. Sheamus (w/ Cesaro) (Winner Picks the Stipulation for the Tag Team Championship Match at Extreme Rules)
I’m really tired of this feud being a series of singles matches until we get to the tag match at the PPV. Regardless, I’m happy that Matt Hardy won, but I was largely checked out during most of this match. I perked back up when Jeff takes out Cesaro with a dive off the apron, Sheamus connects with a boot to Jeff, which allows Matt to hit the Twist of Fate and pick up the win.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – This felt like the Corbin / Zayn match at Backlash last night, where I only felt invested during the finish sequence. No disrespect intended to Matt, but the Hardys really need to move on to some new foes because seeing them wrestle Sheamus week in and week out is getting old.
Post-match, Charly asks the Hardys which stipulation the want to pick for Extreme Rules. Matt lets out a broken laugh and says they will lock Sheasaro up and tear them down inside of a steel cage. Sheasaro collectively sell “anger” in the ring.
Next, we see tonight’s opening segment again in highlight form.
Later tonight? In case you missed the half-dozen other times we’ve seen this graphic… TAG TEAM MAIN EVENT.
Back from break, Neville and Tony Nese are already in the ring. Austin Aries (w/ wrapped knee and no banana) is out next. We see footage of last week’s attack on Aries by Neville from 205 Live. Also, we learn that the Cruiserweight Championship match at Extreme Rules is now a “submission match”.
Match #8: Austin Aries vs. Tony Nese
This match is actually fun because Aries makes it his mission to show off towards Neville who is sitting at ringside watching. Aries keeps busting out random submission holds on Nese and stares at Neville whenever possible. It was his not so subtle way of showing Neville how many different ways he could beat him. Nese gets in a shred of offense, but before long, Aries has managed to slap on the Last Chancery and Nese taps out.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – Aries did a great job of telling a story in this match – especially given the new stipulation at Extreme Rules.
Neville chooses to attack Nese after the bell instead of Aries. As Neville has Nese locked into the Rings of Saturn in the ring, Aries, from the safety of the ramp yells “try doing that to me”.
Meanwhile, Bliss is backstage and… she’s… walking!
Back from break, Mickie James is out. Bliss enters next.
Match #9: Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James
“Mickie James, your mission (should you choose to accept it), is to lose a quick match with Bliss and take a kendo stick shot to the neck”. Mickie starts off on fire, Alexa counters with a single fist strike, and hits a snap DDT completely out of nowhere to get the win.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – These short, pseudo-squash matches on tonight’s show are making it hard for me to “Thumbs Up” very much this week.
Post-match, Alexa finds a kendo stick underneath the ring and hits Mickie in the back of the neck with it. Bayley heads out to make the save, winds up with the stick, but Alexa bails before Bayley can use it.
Up next? RoMaN ReIgNs aNd SeTh RoLlInS vS. bRaY WyAtT AnD SaMoA JoE. We’re all mad here since this has been announced repeatedly since half-way through hour one.
Back from break, the main event entrances – Wyatt, Seth’s music by mistake, Samoa Joe, Seth Rollins not by mistake, and Reigns.
Match #10: Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt & Samoa Joe
They played this up to make you think that Bray and Joe wouldn’t be able to co-exist, but surprise – they are quite effective as a team. Roman goes into peril the longest for his team and Seth gets the hot tag. I figured it was going to be the other way around. After Seth’s hot tag sequence, the match breaks down. Roman goes to Superman Punch but Joe dodges it and Roman plows into Seth. Rollins takes issue with this and the distraction allows Bray to pull Roman out of the ring. Joe comes up from behind and slaps the Clutch on Rollins. Seth passes out to end the match.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – One of the better matches on this show – at the very least because it wasn’t a one-sided squash or a win out of nowhere. With the Fatal Five Way looming, a wedge needed to come between Seth and Roman and this facilitates that happening over the next week heading into the PPV.
Post-match, Kurt is backstage watching on a monitor. Finn enters and wants a match with either Bray or Joe next week. Kurt decides to do him one better and makes a Triple Threat between Joe, Finn, and Bray. Kurt also books Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reign for next week’s “co-main event”. Kurt puts himself over as a “great GM” as we go off the air.