This marks the first week that any sort of crowd is at a WWE show in quite some time. WWE decided to have members of NXT serve as the crowd tonight and I must say that they did a good job. I also enjoyed the addition of plexiglass and it didn’t distract me in the slightest. Plenty to look forward to with this episode as Apollo Crews takes on Andrade for the US Championship and we will see who will face Asuka at Backlash. With all that out of the way, let us see what the red brand had for us this week.
The Kevin Owens Show
Kevin Owens came out for the Kevin Owens Show and I liked how he acknowledged the NXT roster members serving as the crowd for tonight. I also liked that he pointed out someone wearing his merch because it sounded off the cuff and totally improvised. If you know anything about the way Raw has their workers, you know that Heyman wants less scripting and wants the wrestlers to come off more naturally rather than robotic. Owens mentioned the triple threat match to determine the number one contender for the Raw Women’s Championship and he introduced Asuka as his guest for the evening to get her thoughts on the match. I loved that Asuka was still chanting for Becky because that really was a special moment the two had in the ring after Becky made her announcement. Asuka spoke about all three women and who she would want to face and that led to a predictable story beat. Charlotte Flair came out and boasted about how she has beaten Asuka and then Natalya came out. I honestly didn’t catch most of what she said because it is hard to be invested into anything she says. Nia Jax then came out and had some words as well. This would end up leading to a brawl that had Asuka standing tall at the end of it. Before I forget, I also liked that Owens removed everything when Natalya came to the ring so she wouldn’t trash his set again.
Apollo Crews Backstage
This was a short and sweet backstage segment and I have loved the emergence of Apollo during the empty arena era. The man is showing charisma that many of us were unsure that he had. He is confident going into his match with Andrade for the US Championship and he is ready to win his first title in WWE. Apollo has taken the ball and run with it during this push of his.
Andrade vs Apollo Crews
I expected this match to be a little bit better than what it was but that does not mean that this was a bad match by any means. These two have great chemistry and actually have great chemistry with darn near anybody they work with. That is a telltale sign of top tier workers and that makes for great things in the ring. Really good back and forth in the match and the tide turned during a specific moment. Andrade nearly collided with Zelina Vega on the apron and turned around but ate a kick from Apollo. He then bumped into Zelina and knocked her off the apron. Andrade did turn up the aggression after that but that may have led to his downfall. Apollo was able to withstand that and put together a series of moves that allowed him to get the pin and win the US Championship. Zelina’s shocked face is top tier and it was on point after Andrade lost. I also loved how the NXT talent serving as the crowd let out a big cheer for Apollo. That was plenty and no need for forced chants like another company has with its talents. Apollo gave a great post-match promo as well as he talked about the win. Eminem had it right in Lose Yourself, “Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity to seize everything you every wanted in one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip?” and Apollo has certainly captured it this week. Apollo put in the work and he is getting rewarded rightfully. I also loved Andrade’s tantrum backstage after the match because that is how you throw a tantrum and Natalya should take notes. I will say I have to knock the grade down a bit because of that awkward interview during the match with Angel Garza. I am a huge fan of Garza but that was such a poorly time interview.
Seth Rollins Backstage
Seth Rollins is most certainly the top heel on Raw and it is not even close. The man has fully embodied this persona and I love every minute of it. He is walking around with Rey Mysterio’s mask as a trophy now and that is such a nice touch. Seth spoke more about how Rey was sacrificed for the greater good and I love how much Seth believes in his words. He then introduced his two disciples and I love how Muprhy is clearly jealous of Austin Theory being in their group. He does not want to be replaced and is trying his best to hide it. Murphy talked about how Seth saved him, and Theory did the same. Seth then talked about the tag match with Humberto Carrillo and Aleister Black and how they will show them what happens when you stand in their way. Great stuff from Seth and this is becoming my favorite gimmick Seth has done so far in his career.
Charlotte Flair Interview
Charlotte was interviewed backstage about the upcoming triple threat, and she did more of what she has been doing. She spoke about how great she is and how nobody can touch her in the division. I love how Asuka came in to interrupt the interview and how she told Charlotte that red is not her color. It looked like Charlotte stifled a bit of a laugh to me but either way, Asuka brought up the grade for this segment with her fun personality.
The IIconics In-Ring
People like to hate the IIconics but I am no one of those. Like King Corbin, I have been talking about how great they are for some time and this was some really good stuff. We have grown accustomed to their goofier side, but they were all business here tonight. They apologized to each other over what happened last week and then moved on to why they were really out there. They spoke about how they want another shot at the tag titles and how they were treated unfairly when they were champions. That is 100% true as they were not given a fair shake as champions and were not given any matches or tv time to show their talent. That brought out Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross and both women were dismissive of what the IIconics were saying. I loved the fire Nikki had in what she said because she totally brought it. I loved how she finally gave the reason as to why she doesn’t act crazy anymore and that is because Alexa has gotten her to focus. That should shut up all the people that want that version of her back, but I doubt it because the IWC loves to complain more than anything. She spoke about how she had to fight for everything, and you could feel the fire and passion through the tv. This would lead to a brawl and the IIconics would stand tall and pose with the tag titles. This feud is being built wonderfully and it certainly deserves a match at Backlash.
Prior to the VIP Lounge, MVP was backstage with Lana and she wanted to talk to him. I loved how MVP told her no and just walked off. Lana is clearly not happy about the time he is spending with Bobby Lashley and is worried she will be thrown to the curb. The Lounge started and MVP’s guest for the evening was Drew McIntyre. Drew just has that swagger of a champion that a certain superstar on Smackdown is seriously lacking. I love that Drew came down and instantly started to rearrange the furniture because he knew Lashley was lurking somewhere. The two had a great back and forth and this showed how talented both men are on the mic. Lashley would eventually come out and the distraction actually allowed Drew to hit MVP with the Claymore. MVP would hold Lashley back because he doesn’t want them to fight before Backlash quite yet. I loved the intensity from both men here and Drew stood tall in the ring.
Natalya is just not good at all with her mic work. She got a call from her husband and I just didn’t buy any sort of conflict she may have with her husband. This was just a nothing interview segment that feels like it is supposed to lead to something, but I have a hard time finding a reason to care.
Kevin Owens vs Angel Garza
Have I mentioned how I feel like Garza is the second coming of Eddie Guerrero? I have? Well, I will say it again because he completely reminds me of him. Owens was making his was out to the ring when Garza attacked him from behind to gain an advantage before the match. Owens gave the okay after the commercial to keep going with the match and it was a really solid match. It feels like Garza has been searching for that big win since coming up to Raw and spoiler alert, this was that. Good back and forth and Owens did a great job of selling the attack throughout the match. Garza said he would make a statement tonight and this sure was it. These two have some great chemistry and I would love to see how they can do in a longer style of match. I was totally surprised when Garza hit Owens with the Wing Clipper for the win. This is by far the biggest win for Garza since coming to Raw and I doubt this is the last match between these two.
Street Profits & Viking Raiders Go Golfing
You read that right and you also read the rating right as well. I am shocked that this is all working but it totally is. The only reason this is working is because both tag teams are buying into it and would not work if they didn’t. Both teams stand even in this series of finding out who the better team is, and they went to a golf course to see who would take the lead. Both teams were dressed for a round of golf and I like that the Vikings didn’t quite get the rules but also did get the rules at the same time. The Profits were clearly the better team at golf, and I loved that they both got thrown off the course because of their antics. The eventually found their way to a mini golf course and I loved that they are continuing with Ivar being a ladies man. They aren’t making too huge a deal of it but doing just enough to keep it from being cringeworthy. The Profits would win this round and take the lead in the series, 2-1.
Lashley & MVP Backstage
MVP really doesn’t want Lana hanging around and I actually felt a bit sorry for her here. She just wanted to give some ice to MVP as a peace offering but he wanted none of it. MVP is going to be the reason the marriage fails, and it feels like Lana will end up being the reason why Lashley doesn’t win at Backlash. I did like how Lashley stayed quiet during this because he actually said more without words. Lana got angry again and this is really getting close to that boiling point.
Murphy & Theory vs Aleister Black & Humberto Carrillo
This was another fun match for this episode and some good action throughout. Seeing Murphy and Theory as a team made me realize these two could be a really good team if they run with them. Both are extremely talented in the ring and I think they could find a nice groove as a team. I was delighted to see Black but not so much Humberto. The man is just a black hole of charisma and I just find it hard to be invested in him. That being said, the man can clearly go in the ring and he brought it tonight. Really fun back and forth in this match and I liked how you could tell that Murphy was distracted by Theory because he is worried that he will become Seth’s favorite and push him to the side. That is a nice story beat to add and Murphy is doing a good job and not overdoing it. Theory would end up picking up the win for his team but that wasn’t enough for Seth. Seth ordered them to beat down Aleister and they then grabbed Humberto. They put him next to the steps like Seth did to Rey and Aleister came with a chair to stop them. Seth got on the mic and told him to stop or else they would do to Humberto what he did to Rey. Aleister obliged and Seth told both men to stop getting in their way or else they will be sacrificed like Rey was. Great storytelling after the match here and I doubt Aleister will stop going after Seth and his disciples.
I have said it once and I will say it again, the promo work during the empty arena era has been top notch. Not relying on crowd reaction has upped how the superstars deliver their promos. Edge is in my top 10 of guys on the mic and he showed it backstage here. He spoke about how Randy kind of goaded him into agreeing to a wrestling match and how he might have some rust on him for a match like that. He then listed some of the names he has faced in his career and man has he faced some true legends of the business. He spoke about how long it has been since he has had a wrestling match and how Orton has had plenty of matches since Edge’s last one. I like the calmness that Edge delivers his promos because it is a quiet intensity that you get rather than one that is obvious when you raise your voice. That little nuance is something that talent everywhere need to be taught because too often do people think intensity means raising your voice when you can do the same in a calm tone. Really solid stuff from Edge here and I am actually looking forward to his match with Orton at Backlash.
Street Profits & Viking Raiders Backstage
Fun little backstage segment between the two teams as the Street Profits have taken the lead in their series of finding out which one is the better team. The had a nice back and forth and the Profits gave the Vikings the choice of the next game. The Vikings suggested bowling and I loved how confused the Profits were at the suggestion. I was fine with this segment and then it got a little more interesting. MVP and Lashley would walk in and MVP gave them the same style of talk he gave Lashley. The difference is that the Profits didn’t take it as well as Lashley and MVP would eventually challenge them to a match for later in the night. Solid stuff all the way around with the Profits here.
Charlotte Flair vs Nia Jax vs Natalya
It was obvious that Natalya was in this match to eat the pin and that is what ended up happening. Asuka was also on commentary during this match and she just continues to solidify her spot as MVP across every company during the empty arena era. Really fun back and forth in this match between all the ladies and Nia would be taken out for a bit with a powerbomb by Natalya and Charlotte through the commentary table. The only bad part about it was that it was a bit slow moving and that was obviously because Charlotte and Natalya wanted to make sure they could carry Nia to the table and not drop her. Fun stuff all the way around in this match and I was just waiting for someone to pin or submit Natalya because it became obvious that was going to happen. Nia ended up pinning Natalya and she will face Asuka at Backlash. Seemed rather obvious she would win, and I am cautiously optimistic about the match. I will also add that I wonder why Nia abandoned doing the RamPaige after one week. It is a far better-looking finisher than a simple Samoan Drop, but I guess she didn’t like the move or something.
Drew McIntyre Backstage
Drew was interviewed backstage and I loved that he said he had something planned out to say in the event of an interview. I like that Kayla cut him off before he could really get into that to inform him of what the main event would be. That seemed to pique his interest and he changed his mind about leaving and will stick around for a bit. Drew is shining like a bright star and I am loving every minute of it.
R-Truth & Gronk Video
Sorry but this just didn’t do it for me. It pains me to give something featuring Truth this grade because he is such a joy, but he couldn’t save this. He was entertaining enough but Gronk was so robotic during this and it was clear he was reading his lines. This was like a bad SNL sketch where the cast is carrying the guest host for the evening. WWE needs to get that title off of Gronk ASAP, but I doubt that will happen.
Ric Flair Promo
Back to back skulls and it doesn’t feel good to do that. Flair is an all timer when it comes to mic skills, but this was so unnecessary. He talked about the Edge/Orton match, but he didn’t really add anything to it. He sounded sober and he seems to be isolating so there’s that.
Liv Morgan Promo
This was almost a skull trifecta, but I decided to be forgiving on this one. I am not into any of this Liv stuff, but she is delivering it well. She keeps talking about finding herself and how WWE gave her purpose and I am just finding a hard time to have a reason to be invested. The way this is going makes it feel like she is a prime candidate to be a follower of Seth because she is trying to find herself. What better way to find yourself than with someone calling himself the Messiah?
Street Profits vs MVP & Lashley
I loved the energy the Profits brought to their entrance and that Montez was the only one to bang on the plexiglass. You can tell how much they were loved in NXT by the way the NXT roster members reacted to their entrance. The match itself was plenty of fun and quite the diverse one. Two minority teams main eventing an episode of Raw and not a big deal was made of it. It is just something I felt like I had to mention because it was on my mind watching the match. Really fun back and forth in this match and Montez does such a stellar job selling a beating by the other team. That man is a future main eventer and I truly believe that. Side note, I would love to see a program between the Street Profits and the New Day because I think that would be money. Back to the match and I love Dawkins’ hot tag because he comes in with such huge energy. The Profits would end up winning by disqualification when Lashley put Montez in a full nelson and would not let it go. That would bring out Drew McIntyre and he would have a brawl with Lashley. I loved that the referee signaled for back up, but nobody came out. He then turned to the NXT talent to help him and they obliged him. They didn’t do a good job at first but eventually enough talent came from behind the barricade to separate the two men as Raw came to a close.
This was a darn good episode of Raw and I really do not have many complaints. The low points were the 24/7 Championship promos by Truth and Gronk, the Flair promo, the Natalya interview and the Liv promo. Outside of those, this was a really good episode of Raw and every match delivered. It was great to see Apollo finally get a title and be rewarded for the hard work he has clearly been putting in. The main event was great as well and so was the golfing with the Profits and Vikings. The Seth stuff was great as well and so was the triple threat match. I will also give props to WWE for using the NXT roster as the crowd because they did a good job too. They sounded natural and didn’t do any forced chants or anything of the like. I also liked the addition of the plexiglass because it wasn’t distracting at all. Overall, really good episode of Raw this week and one of the best of this current empty arena era we are in. I am Sovereign S.A.M. and make sure you join me for another Sovereign Statement next week.