By Jeff Hamlin, WrestlingObserver.com
The Big Takeaway: Sting wrestled his first Raw match ever tonight. He actually wrestled two. The first against the Big Show ended with a Seth Rollins run-in after all of 1:43. The subsequent tag team match saw him defeat Rollins with the Scorpion Death Lock. Much of the discussion on this show will center around the Dusty Finish in the Nikki Bella-Charlotte match, where Charlotte appeared to have won, only to have it reversed when Stephanie McMahon ruled Twin Magic couldn’t count as a title change. This show was billed as the “Season Debut” of Raw. If this was the first Raw you ever watched, you would have thought Stephanie McMahon was the most pushed personality in the company.
The Authority came out to welcome fans to the new season of Raw. Stephanie McMahon put over the new stars they’ve created over the past year like the New Day, Neville, Rusev, and others. HHH promoted Seth Rollins vs. John Cena & Rollins vs. Sting at NOC.
Stephanie talked about Nikki Bella defending the Divas title against Charlotte. HHH announced Sting would compete tonight for the first-time ever on Raw against The Big Show.
Stephanie brought out the New Day, then started clapping them. This led to HHH joining them, which was amusing.
The New Day (C) defeated the Prime Time Players to retain the WWE World Tag Team Titles (12:10)
Kofi Kingston pinned Titus O’Neal after the Midnight Hour. O’Neal got distracted by Xavier Woods playing the trombone on the apron. Among the newest Woods spots was playing the Pink Panther theme while Big E. struts and Woods playing notes in cadence while Langston and Woods stomp an opponent in the corner. Decent match.
They showed portions of Sting’s past, including a tag team match with Dusty Rhodes against The Road Warriors at Starrcade 1988, which was Dusty’s final NWA bout before his departure for the WWE. He was wearing a striped shirt that was barely more flattering than the polka dots he would be wearing a year later.
Rollins walked in to talk to the Authority. HHH arranged Sheamus vs. Cena for tonight just in case Sheamus thought about cashing in the briefcase tonight.
Ric Flair showed up with Charlotte to do an interview with a now short-haired Renee Young. Charlotte talked about what a dream it would be to win the Divas title. Flair said he’s now living vicariously through his daughter and wants to see her win tonight.
Sasha Banks defeated Paige via submission (5:15)
Sasha Banks won with a backstabber into a Bank Statement. Tamina moved Banks out of the way of a Paige charge into the corner. At one point, Paige delivered a facebuster that appeared to knock the hell out of Tamina. It appeared referee Charles Robinson was concerned momentarily.
There was a very nice tribute to Connor Michalek to start a program the company has launched called “Connor’s Cure” during September, which is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month
The Wyatt Family came out for MizTV. They continue the gimmick that Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose can’t find a third partner for the trios match at Night of Champions. Miz was basically a babyface trying to get a word out of Bray Wyatt, who said he wanted everyone to understand regardless of who shows up at Night of Champions, they will all fall down.
Ambrose and Reigns came out. Ambrose threw the Miz out of the ring while the five men had a stare down. Reigns acknowledged Jimmy Uso was his cousin and Wyatt took him out, which he would pay for. Reigns said they have found a third partner. Reigns vowed to win a war against the Wyatts on Sunday. Wyatt’s flash went off and the scene just ended.
Sting’s next flashback moment was the Great American Bash 1990 where Sting defeated Flair to win his first NWA/WCW World Championship.
John Cena defeated Sheamus (14:43)
Good match with some good selling by Sheamus. Cena won after he no sold the Rolling Senton by Sheamus and immediately hit the AA for the pin. Earlier in the match, Sheamus attempted the Brogue Kick but Cena countered with a clothesline. Crowd was very negative towards Cena, but he delivered in another good match.
Ryback did an interview where he had to sing lyrics to “All Shook Up” that was greeted by crickets. Kevin Owens came out as part of their fledgling program. Owens talked about how Ryback read the book “The Secret” to get him past a low point. Owens brought out his own copy of “The Secret,” said he read it and said he felt sorry for anyone who believes in that garbage. Owens called the book a crutch for weak people. Owens said Ryback was the strongest man in the locker room, but also the weakest mentally.
They were arguing over a book. Then Ryback recited these scripted lines and started repeated “Feed Me More.” Ryback said he respected Owens’ path to the WWE. Ryback admitted that he fell on his face when he first arrived in the WWE, but brushed himself off and won a championship. Ryback said he went to the Authority earlier today, and said they arranged an Intercontinental Championship match between the two at NOC. Ryback wanted to how a showdown, but Owens did his usual walkaway. All I can say is don’t ever watch NWA or Memphis promos via youtube on days leading up to Raws, because you’ll be very depressed after segments like these.
What was supposed to be Neville vs. Stardust turned into a six-way fight. The Ascension are now henchmen for Stardust. Lucha Dragons accompanied Neville and cleared the ring of the heels.
There was a package putting over Nikki Bella as the Divas champion who carried the entire Divas division on her back for the last 295 days. Bella pompously asked viewers have they started their year because she spent the year started a Divas Revolution.
Charlotte defeated Nikki Bella (C) by DQ in 9:55, so Bella retains the Divas Championship to become the longest reigning Divas Champion in history.
It’s only fitting that they showed a clip of Dusty Rhodes from 1989 earlier because they booked a Dusty Finish that killed the crowd tonight as much as it did 26 years ago. They went with Twin Magic as Alicia Fox tried to interfere, which allowed Brie Bella to run-in. Charlotte immediately pinned her with an inside cradle. Flair ran down like his daughter had won the title. Then Stephanie came out and announced that the integrity of the championship must be retained, telling the referee what happened and Charlotte won by DQ, but Bella would still be champion. However, Stephanie ordered a rematch at Night of Champions where if Nikki lost by DQ, countout, pinfall or submission, she would lose the title.
You might wonder why Stephanie didn’t make this ruling when they did this same finish at Money in the Bank. The answer is Stephanie wouldn’t get a chance to stand out as the company’s main star on a June PPV as much as the “season debut” of Raw. The sad part is they had a really good match going where Charlotte sold her arm great and the fans didn’t need to be coerced to emotionally invest in the match. It’s going to be tough trying to recreate that atmosphere on Sunday.
Cesaro defeated Rusev (4:03)
Dolph Ziggler came down and tried to offer Summer Rae a package. Rusev got distracted, allowing Cesaro to get the pin with an Inverted Chikara Special. Ziggler gave Rusev a superkick afterwards. Nothing match. Rusev was backstage furious about losing and slammed the door in Rae’s face. While Rusev was inside, Rae opened up the gift to find a gorgeous piece of jewelry. She started to smile when Rusev screamed at her to come inside.
The Big Show met with the Authority, who gave him a pep talk trying to beat Sting. Before every Authority segment, do they flip a coin to determine if they’re heels or faces?
Sting defeated The Big Show via DQ (1:43)
Rollins ran in for a DQ and I was getting flashbacks to 1999 Nitro the way this last hour went. Thank God Cena came out and joined Sting in clearing the ring. HHH then did the same routine they’ve done at countless Raws after they went off the air where they ordered an immediate tag team match between the four.
Sting and John Cena defeated Seth Rollins and The Big Show via submission (9:13)
Sting got the hot tag and made Rollins tap out to the Scorpion Death Lock after Cena gave the Big Show the AA. Cena spent most of the match trying to lift Show for a slam or the AA, only to fall under the weight. Sting did a good hot tag sequence, but the aura of Sting wrestling his first match on Raw seemed lost on the crowd.
SUMMARY: The company lost a lot of fans to football tonight, if they didn’t beforehand. For starters, the Authority appeared on seven segments on this show, and was mentioned in eight. If they’re role is clearly defined, more power to them. However, it’s impossible to emotionally invest in them as characters when they’re constantly flopping between babyfaces and heels. The effort to promote the company’s efforts to fight pediatric cancer are great. However, HHH is the same person who was negative on Kurt Angle doing PSAs because Angle was a heel in the mid 00’s, so it reeks of hypocrisy. As long as Rollins is the world champion subservient to the Authority, he’s not going to get over strong.