The season premiere of Raw rarely disappoints, and last night’s was no exception. Despite the fact that WWE runs 52 weeks a year and no-one ever views Raw as having a season premiere or finale, the season premiere tagline is always backed up by big time matches, and that is exactly what we got last night.
The mini-feud between Paige and Sasha Banks continued as the tumultuous twosome went toe-to-toe once more. Paige is gunning for her first pin fall or submission win over Sasha, whilst Sasha is looking for her fifth against Paige. Team B.A.D have nearly always been a factor in The Boss’ wins over Paige, yet could the Freaks & Geeks leader thwart them once and for all last night?
Elsewhere, a high-profile Divas Championship match was on the cards, as Charlotte challenged Nikki Bella. Charlotte’s daddy was there too. Never heard of him though. Not really heard her mention him before. The Queen City siren was looking to stop Nikki from beating the record to become longest reigning champion of all time, yet did she manage to do it?
Kicking off Raw like most weeks was the iconic Billion Dollar Queen herself, Stephanie McMahon. Steph and Triple H continued to sit on the tweener fence that they have done for the past few weeks as they announced the massive matches scheduled for tonight, including what should be an epic Divas Title match featuring Team Bella and Team PCB members. Stephanie hyped that one like her life depended on it. She then gets down with The New Day‘s entrance music, as does Trips. Why they shouldn’t be happy and dancing, The New Day are so over and making them a whole lotta dough!
Despite being overshadowed by Sting being confirmed to wrestle for the first time ever on Raw, I know this title bout is going to deliver. Well I do now as I have already watched it, yet I felt that way beforehand. This had too much of a “big match feel” to disappoint!
We’re backstage again for our next segment and Renee Young is standing by with Charlotte and her Dad, two-time WWE Hall of Famer, Ric Flair. You guys knew that though because 1) we all know who Ric Flair is, and 2) Charlotte mentions she is his daughter every other sentence. Woo!
Charlotte ignores Renee’s question about preparation completely top open the promo and she explains how excited she is that he Dad is there with her for her first WWE Divas Title opportunity. Ric then cuts a promo like only he can, yelling and screaming about how amazing the Divas Revolution has been. He says that not only his daughter, yet all of the Divas have been busting their butts and have put on world-class matches and he has loved it. He can’t wait for Charlotte to tear the house down.
Renee asks Charlotte whether stopping Nikki from becoming the longest reigning Divas Champion has added pressure to the situation, yet she says that she winning the title is her main focus and she hasn’t been distracted from that. Halting history from being made is just the icing on the cake. Charlotte and Ric then have solo and stereo woo action as the interview comes to a close. That was a really fun interview.
It is time to enter the arena for match #1 of the night. Paige enters first accompanied by Becky Lynch, and I am getting major SHIMMER vibes. If only Saraya Knight could join them… Following Team B.A.D’s entrance featuring an absolutely incredible looking Naomi, the bell rings.
The pair immediately tackle each other to the ground, both pulling at one another’s hair and scratching at the other’s face. The official breaks them apart yet Paige charges right back at Sasha. She throws The Boss across the ring twice by her hair yet the ref is in Paige’s face, telling her not to be yanking at that weave. Paige’s discussions with the referee, ultimately because of her temper cost her as she runs back over to Sasha who is ready and waiting. She pushes Paige through the middle rope and then snaps her arm over the ropes.
After throwing Paige into the apron, Sasha doesn’t let up, sending Paige arm first to the mat once the two get back in the ring. Sasha then traps her target arm of Paige underneath her own body before bending Paige’s healthier arm across her body, majorly contorting it. Sasha applies a keylock through the ropes next, accentuating that with a variation of her double knees to the arm. The Boss reverts back to the keylock and she has it clamped on rather tight. We see Paige try and muster enough strength to arm drag Sasha off her, yet the Boston native holds on strong.
Paige eventually amounts enough valour to shrug Sasha off, yet the hungry NXT graduate takes Paige right back down to the mat with a dart-like dropkick. Sasha then begins to get cocky and taunt, and this is where she slips up! Paige has time to recover and does so. She knees Sasha in the face before kicking her teeth in twice. Not enough to get the win, Paige tries to hit a wheelbarrow suplex perhaps, a throwback to last week’s match. Banks counters with a roll-up but Paige kicks out. If at first you don’t succeed, try again, and this is what Paige does next. She applies a waistlock once more and delivers a superb german suplex.
Sasha rolls to the outside and she looked like a concussed Undertaker against Brock Lesnar! Thankfully the Viscera to her Taker (Ministry of Darkness reference), Tamina comes to her aid. Paige locks-on her flip senton from the apron, yet Tamina pulls Sasha out of Paige’s sights. Paige is now less Hell in Boots and more sitting duck. Sasha introduces that duck to her hoisin sauce and pancakes, the Bank Statement. Yeah, I just made that reference. Now I really want Chinese food. Anywho, Paige just needs bandages and not food after that as she is forced to tap out yet again.
FIVE-TIME, FIVE-TIME, FIVE-TIME, FIVE-TIME, FIVE-TIME!
Sasha T celebrates before deciding that she does not dig the sucka that is Becky Lynch. Team B.A.D assault PCB and throw them to the wayside like they are Seth Rollins statues. Team B.A.D are re-energised and Sasha is simply on top form.
Team Bella are in the spotlight next as the announce team hype Nikki’s title defence against Charlotte later on. Brie and Alicia are clapping Nikki on as she does some stretches. Whilst these types of segment always come across as so cheesy, it was nice to see WWE utilise another few seconds to promote the match coming up later.
Just before our title match, it is time for one last piece of hype to whet our appetites. A Nikki Bella video package airs and this was amazing – very unique! Nikki asks the viewer how they have spent their year. She says that you may have worked hard and perhaps been promoted, or maybe you played hard with friends. Whatever you have done is nothing compared to her achievements. She has made history, started a revolution and cemented a legacy. I am so Team Nikki after that. A fantastic piece of mic work. She may have started as guest star arm candy, yet now she is the star, make no bones about it.
After all of the hype, it is time for the match we have been waiting for. A match that has actually had build-up. Shocking, I know. Charlotte, Paige and Becky enter the arena first before Team Bella reminds us all that we can look yet can’t touch. They are surely hoping Charlotte will only be looking at and not touching the butterfly belt!
After in-ring introductions from Lilian Garcia, we’re underway. Both girls reach a stalemate when they jockey for position via a collar-and-elbow tie-up but Charlotte manages to one-up Nikki after applying a waistlock and throwing the champion to the mat. She piles on the pressure with a front facelock and three knees drops, a trifecta she follows up with another trio in three figure four neck lock throws across the mat – impressive!
Charlotte’s offense continues with a shoulder tackle in the corner, but Nikki fights back when Charlotte tries again. The butterfly beholder then decks her challenger with a tornado armbreaker from the second rope. A sweet nugget of new offense from Nikki.
Nikki keeps visiting the arm like a moth to a flame, kneeing it successively before wrapping it around the second rope. Nikki drapes the shoulder across the top rope twice following that. She is fearless yet also shows how ruthless she can be when she sends Charlotte crashing face first onto the apron, her arm whacking against the steel. Charlotte is writhing in pain as the show cuts to commercials.
When we return, Charlotte is trying her best to fight out of an armbar yet isn’t having much luck. Nikki switches tactics and tries to lock in a cross armbreaker yet Charlotte is defiant to not let her fully initiate the move. Charlotte knows she has to pull something big out of the bag, and boy does she! Showcasing awesome strength, she picks Nikki up (who is wrapped around her arm) and flattens her with a super powerbomb!
Charlotte is all fired up and she comes back fighting. She unloads on Nikki with a lightning quick array of chops before taking Nikki down with a hard big boot. Nikki retaliates with some forearms and further work on Charlotte arm, yet Charlotte keeps the pace ultra quick and hits back with a spinning hangman’s neckbreaker. The challenger tries a spear yet she dashes into a dropkick to the shoulder from Nikki. The Fearless One then introduces her knee to Charlotte’s face but that sharp move still isn’t enough to bag the win.
The back and forth nature continues when Charlotte reverses and Alabama Slam before managing to outsmart and outspeed the champion to hit her with a spear! The crowd are going wild, as does Alicia Fox, who jolts onto the apron. She grabs Charlotte but Miss Flair sends her packing. This distraction gets the referees attention, and the Bellas switch! Charlotte outsmarts and outspeeds again though, pinning Brie with a schoolgirl to win the Divas Championship!
Or so we thought…
After Ric Flair joins the party to celebrate, Stephanie McMahon arrives and cuts the good times short. She explains the situation, stating that Charlotte actually won by DQ; therefore, Nikki is still the champion. The crowd erupt in a chorus of boos as Stephanie decides that since Charlotte still won she will get a rematch at Night of Champions. However, if Nikki loses in any way at all, including DQ and countout, then Charlotte will win the belt. Nikki doesn’t seem fussed though as she gloats in Charlotte’s face that she has kept the belt and broken the record.
On Raw Fallout, both parties reacted to the events that we just watched transpire, Team Bella celebratory and Charlotte disappointed, but confident:
That’s everything then, right? Psyche. We just have time for a Summer-filled segment or two.
The role of mind game player is reversed this week as Dolph Ziggler begins to plot revenge for Summer’s lies. Whilst Summer is at ringside for Rusev‘s match with Cesaro, Dolph approaches her and presents with her a gift. This drama causes Rusev to take his eye off the ball and Cesaro beats him for a second time. Unlucky RuRu!
After the match, we see Summer backstage with the present, and what looks to be a diamond broach is inside. Summer only has a quick second to take in its beauty as Rusev yells for her to get into his locker room right away. Does Dolph really have feelings for Summer? Not if you ask me!
Thoughts: I thought Raw was amazing last night. I hardly have any negative things to say, yet I’ll get them out of the way now.
Both matches saw the heel work over the face’s left arm. I enjoyed both matches yet this stuck out to me as something that seemed really dumb.
Onto the title match – Twin Magic happening was so obvious. Couldn’t Nikki have cut a backstage promo saying that she was so confident about winning, she was going to come out without Team Bella? Her coming out alone, only for Foxy to then rundown to distract the referee whilst the Bellas switched under the ring would have been much more unpredictable. Brie being dressed as Nikki was massively apparent to me from the beginning; I noticed it as soon as they walked out to the ring.
Speaking on twin magic, we literally just saw a finish like this before the Divas Revolution begun, with Paige having to realise she hadn’t actually won the title as she pinned Brie. In that instance, the match was immediately restarted and Nikki won so at least this was slightly different. I did love the shenanigans if I am being honest yet I feel that WWE could have done something a little less predictable and a tad more outlandish. Nikki shoving Paige, only for Paige to run into the ring and accidently hit Charlotte would have been more exciting to me.
Despite being able to see the finish from a mile away, I did love the controversy of the finish. The false finish was euphoric. Ric Flair coming down to celebrate too really added to the fact that perhaps Team Bella weren’t going to get away with it this time. The booking of the aftermath was actually perfect. What WWE booked was done tremendously, yet I feel that we have already been there and done that with this scenario, and I would quite like to see a new t-shirt. As you can probably tell, I am torn by the finish! I would have chosen for the match to end differently, yet what did transpire was performed excellently. Stephanie’s appearance was the cherry on top too.
I mentioned Ric Flair there in the last paragraph, and his presence totally swerved me. I have been 100% in belief that Nikki would walk away as champion yet good ol’ Naitch was a major curveball. Bringing him in only for his daughter to then lose was fantastic, fantastic booking.
As for the match, I loved it. Charlotte sold her arm injury to perfection and I thought she looked phenomenal. The apron spot was a major highlight for me, and I love that the only rest hold happened mostly during the commercial break, so the full match was edge-of-your-seat stuff in my opinion. I like the sequence with Nikki countering the spear too, only for Charlotte to hit it later on with the crowd erupting. I cannot forget the powerbomb reversal to – amazing.
I also very much enjoyed Sasha and Paige’s match. Team B.A.D once again proved to be the difference makers at ringside, with Tamina helping Sasha this time as opposed to Naomi on last week’s show, and both Naomi and Tamina two weeks back. The scrappiness of the early going was highly entertaining as well. That level of aggression really puts this rivalry over a little further. That german suplex as well. Oh my Tameezus!
All-in-all, I was very impressed with Raw last night. From the ultra-important title match to the lesser relevant Summer Rae angle, WWE delivered when it came to the Divas. My prediction from last week is coming true on this week’s SmackDown, and we are going to witness Nikki Bella’s Championship Bellabration. I’ll be excited to see the confetti, balloons, carnage and brawling!