WrestleMania-calibre? Maybe not, but this year’s No Mercy was such fun until it fell off a cliff at the end…
We tend to not follow the “main WWE show” so much, but there was a fair bit of hype going into No Mercy in Los Angeles. Lesnar/Strowman and Cena/Reigns were matches that WWE touted as being “WrestleMania-worthy”. We’ll be the judge of that, if they delivered!
Elias vs. Apollo Crews
Having lost his last name, Elias is now singing in the ring before his matches. Only scanning Raw results these days, I legit forgot that Crews was still around. Add him to the list of those who’ve become “just a guy” once they moved up from NXT, I guess.
Meanwhile, it seems that Elias is around just to troll Corey Graves on commentary.
Crews tried to use his agility to edge ahead, but Elias tripped him as he went for a springboard, which takes us into our mandated commercial break. It’s all Elias after that break, before Crews returns with his flips, getting a near-fall from a standing shooting star press.
An enziguiri takes Elias to the outside, but he ends up rebounding as he shoves Crews into the turnbuckles after a missed leap, before ending things with the Drift Away swinging Fisherman’s neckbreaker. Decent stuff for a pre-show, but it’s not going to lead to much, so… it was just a match. **¼
Right, onto the main show!
WWE Intercontinental Championship: The Miz (c) vs. Jason Jordan
Miz has his followers with him now, with Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel now being branded as the Miztourage. It’s a slight step up from having Damien Mizdow… Jason Jordan’s also had a slight change, now the storylined son of Kurt Angle, which the crowds are not playing along with. Jordan got his shot a week earlier on Raw, winning a six-way match.
In spite of the Kurt Angle story, they’re not really strapping the rocket to Jordan right now, which is just as well since him being shoved down everyone’s throats would be akin to what happened with the Rock about twenty years ago.
Every time Jordan looked to be edging ahead, Miz quickly cut him off, at least until Jason opened his book of suplexes, with rolling Northern Lights getting a near-fall. Dallas and Axel get suplexes too, before Miz gets caught in a crossface, which he eventually broke in the ropes. Jordan tries to follow-up with a shoulder charge, but he crashes and burns into the buckles. At the second try those charges work… and Bo Dallas tries to interfere again. That doesn’t work, but Axel’s does, allowing Miz to hit the Skull Crushing Finale for a popular win. Yeah, when a bad guy is getting cheered in WWE land – outside of Canada and select areas – that’s a sign the good guy isn’t connecting at all. Heck, when the good guy’s getting booed in his post-match promo, you know you’re not onto a winner. In 2017 you cannot get away with things like “I have a secret dad” when backstories already existed… As for the match, it was fine, but the lack of crowd connection hurt. ***
Yeah, the crowd booed Jordan’s request for a rematch. Well, he’s got the dorky smile down from Kurt Angle, anyway.
Bray Wyatt vs. Finn Balor
A rematch from their good, but underwhelming match at SummerSlam, and we’ve got baby blue Balor! Apparently this is “man-to-man”, since Bray wasn’t a fan of the Demon King that he got at SummerSlam. He’s clearly not a fan of that new gear, as he attacked Finn from behind and took him outside.
Being sent into the ring barricades? That’ll make Finn feel like he’s back in New Japan! The early barrage saw Balor dropped onto the announce table, and apparently left him in such a state that he needed to be carried away by referees. Bray takes the mic and trash talks Finn, which of course prompts the fightback as the match starts properly.
A shotgun dropkick took Bray into the barricades – much the same way in how Balor injured his shoulder a year ago – only for Wyatt to rebound with a superplex as he started to take Balor to task. The story being told was that despite this being “man-to-man”, Wyatt needed to attack Balor from behind to have any chance of winning.
Balor makes a comeback, but his ribs keep nagging him… at least giving him enough time to trap Wyatt in the ring apron and kick him in the chest. Back inside, Bray’s crab walk confuses Finn momentarily, before he ran into a boot and a uranage as Wyatt nearly took the W. The Pele kick looked to get Finn back in, but he’s gotta fight out of a Sister Abigail to have any chance… another double stomp off the top almost does it for Finn.
Wyatt somehow fights back with a clothesline, before he propelled the Irishman across the ring with a series of suplex throws, but Balor snaps back in with a succession of shotgun dropkicks, before planting him with the Coup de Grace double stomp for the win. This was alright, but this feud – or what I’ve seen of it – is doing nothing for me. Plus, if the whole pre-match stuff was going to set up to Finn having bad ribs, why is that forgotten by the end? Ah well. **¾
Asuka’s coming to Raw – and will be at TLC in a month. Ooh.
Cesaro threatens that their next match “will turn ugly”. Having seen GIFs on Twitter beforehand, that was ominous.
WWE Raw Tag Team Championship: Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins (c) vs. The Bar (Cesaro & Sheamus)
Things spilled outside early as the challengers threw Rollins into the guard railings, before doing the same to Ambrose… who then eats a Giant Swing into the ring steps. That looked like it sucked.
A body blow to Ambrose looked to put him down as we have some fighting spirit… which Cesaro quickly quell by working over Ambrose’s shoulder. Dean fights back, and slingshots Cesaro into the XL ring post… and for once, it actually did loosen some teeth as Cesaro instantly clings to his mouth and sees some blood spatter as Seth drilled him with a superkick. It’s quite gruesome as Cesaro staggered to the outside, presumably to get checked on as he noticed he was a tooth or two short.
Meanwhile, Sheamus goes it alone, dropping Rollins with a uranage, before Cesaro comes back in – all wiped down – to take a back body drop. A pop-up uppercut from the Bar nearly wins it, prompting disbelief from the challengers once Rollins kicked out. Seth manages to fight back, despite Cesaro trying to keep him cornered, and he sidesteps a corner charge from Sheamus as bloody Cesaro bleeds again after taking a back body drop to the floor.
Ambrose and Sheamus come back in, but this time it’s Dean who’s on top of things, clotheslining Sheamus to the floor before knocking him into the guard railings with a tope. Back inside, Ambrose avoids White Noise off the middle rope, then hits an elbow for a near-fall… somehow hurting his arm in the process. That left him prey for a Sharpshooter, then a crossface, but still he wouldn’t tap, so a double crucifix powerbomb followed as the challengers crept ever closer.
The Bar look to end things with a spike White Noise, but instead Sheamus does it himself before Rollins gets powerbombed onto Ambrose for a near-fall. Rollins still tried to fight back, but he ate a stomp on the apron before Ambrose collapsed away from a Brogue Kick… but it’s a con as a small package nearly did the deal. Instead, once Sheamus had charged into his partner by mistake, a ripcord knee from Rollins and the Dirty Deeds proved to be enough to secure the win. That was a fun war – Cesaro really did shed blood, sweat and teeth here… and now I’m wondering where Isaac Yankem is these days. Running for mayor, right? ****
WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Bayley vs. Emma vs. Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks vs. Alexa Bliss (c)
Not counting Asuka and Paige (who I don’t believe is officially on Raw, despite what Wikipedia says), this is literally half of the show’s women’s division in one match. The pre-show video package shows Nia Jax being Batista to Alexa Bliss’ Randy Orton, which I wish had gotten more play.
My main issue with five-ways for the title is that these tend to be incredibly anarchic, and not in a good way. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my title matches to be one-on-one, with the focus being on a challenger trying to dethrone the champion, rather than “hey, who can score a fluke pin over another… ah nevermind, the champion’s done it”.
They start by getting rid of Bliss and Jax, before Bayley’s booted in the head… but this immediately switches into “two in, everyone else out” with the revolving door. Jax targets Bayley’s shoulder as she tried to bulldoze through the returning hugger. Alexa Bliss tries to shock Jax with a floatover DDT, but that’s stuffed as Jax nonchalantly ragdolled the champion.
A stack-up Samoan drop squashes Bliss and Banks as Ni-back (sorry) nearly won the title. Bayley gives Jax a taste of her own medicine with a guillotine counter to a suplex, which eventually leads to Jax being taken outside after everyone else lifted up Nia as if she was the monster in a battle royal. She returned to life, but ended up taking a powerbomb off the apron as everyone else worked in unison, before we went back to the usual format. Emma’s butterfly suplex seemed to rock Bayley, ahead of a sliding splash into the corner, but Alexa was on hand to break up covers. And mess up my Amazon Echo… I knew there was a reason I mute it during WWE.
Bliss ends up falling into a Bank Statement, but Bayley breaks it up so she could steal a pin, landing a Bayley-to-Belly as Sasha and Bayley broke up each other’s pins. Nia awakens again and splats Sasha with a legdrop, but in the end a missed shoulder into the corner sent her outside as Bliss DDTs Bayley out of nowhere and gets the win. Enjoyable stuff, and I love me a monster in a match. Nia may not be perceived as “being there yet”, but her size and look makes her stand out. Bliss retains, and I have a feeling she’s on a collision course with a certain Empress… ***½
John Cena vs. Roman Reigns
This clash of the controversial good guys has seen some fairly heated promos – and lots of fourth-wall breaking as they looked to once again give a string to Roman Reigns’ bow. The pre-match video showed how these guys have mirrored each other’s careers thus far, even down to them not really having fans’ acceptance.
This was a typical Cena “long match” – a less is more kinda deal – with the story clearly being that this was another crack at passing the torch. They teased a walk-off moments into the match as Cena tried to give the crowd what they wanted… only to get a right hand that staggered him almost immediately. Cena recovers and throws Reigns forcefully into the ring steps, dislodging both tiers in the process, only for Roman to issue an instant receipt. Hey. Mirror careers, mirror match!
Cena kept finding his usual stuff would work at first, but Reigns was eventually wising up, stopping a Five Knuckle Shuffle dead in its tracks with a Samoan drop. At the second try, the shuffle connects, but Reigns slips out of an AA, only to get caught in a STF in the middle of the ring. Reigns powers out into a powerbomb, only for Cena to reply in kind, catching a crossbody and switching it into an AA that Reigns barely got a shoulder up from in time.
Cena looked for the legdrop off the top, but Reigns turned it into a powerbomb for a two-count before the boos rained down ahead of a Superman punch. That connects, but Cena kicks out too, then sidesteps a spear as Reigns became friendly with the ringpost. This turns into Cena dragging Reigns onto the top rope for a Super AA, but again Reigns gets a shoulder up in time!
The crowd chanted “one more time”, but Cena doesn’t offer it up… instead he clears the Spanish and German announce tables… only his AA attempt is stopped as Roman speared Cena through a table, planting his own head in doing so! That looked brutal!
Of course, that doesn’t end things, and Cena fires back with a pair of AAs… but that still doesn’t get the job done! Out of nowhere, Reigns popped up with a Superman punch, and that proves to be enough as Reigns gets his big win over Cena! This was good, but the problem was… no clear good guy, no clear bad guy. Sure, there were shades of grey here, but this felt like a lot of indy matches where you had a mixed crowd. Add another one to the list of “biggest wins in Roman Reigns’ career”, but nothing has changed with the crowd’s perception of him which would make this truly a milestone. They’ll keep trying… they’ll keep trying if it’s the last thing they ever do. ***¾
Cena raises Roman’s hand afterwards, and gets booed. See, it wasn’t just because of the Rock – Roman just isn’t getting accepted by the “TV crowd”.
There’s a change of commentary as Michael Cole and Booker T get to use the bathroom. Vic Joseph from 205 Live joins Corey Graves for the Cruiserweight title match…
WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Neville (c) vs. Enzo Amore
Putting this out there now – unless it’s for open challenges, I hate it when champions come out first. Since we last covered WWE, Enzo’s been busted down to 205 Live – and his weight isn’t even announced, which makes you wonder… It’s apparently added new eyeballs to the cruiserweight show, but if this isn’t what the hardcore fans feared, then I don’t know what is.
Once Enzo’s had his comedy hour, complete with some lines that got “insiders” buzzing, the match got going. Yeah… the less said the better really. Apparently Enzo has been wrestling for five years, but it’s all been within the WWE system so he only knows one word. Sorry, one way. Meanwhile, Neville just toys with him, kicking him away as he tried to reverse a wristlock with a backflip in the ropes.
Enzo fought back with a push-down stomp out of the corner before a tornado DDT’s caught… and met with Neville charging him back into the corner. They head outside where Enzo’s thrown into the barriers, forcing him to crawl back in to beat the count-out… but still, Neville proves his superiority, superkicking Enzo as he tried to skin the cat.
There’s “boring” chants from the crowd as Neville gets all cocky, before some kicks dropped Enzo ahead of a Red Arrow. But Neville doesn’t think Enzo’s worthy of it, as he instead tries a Phoenix Splash! That misses as Enzo rolled away, and follows in with a Deep Impact DDT off the top… which gets a two-count!
Literally nobody reacted to the kick-out.
Neville kicks away a dive attempt from Enzo, then throws him into the timekeeper’s area. He returns with the title belt, which sparks a game of cat and mouse as Enzo teases a belt shot. The ref manages to get the belt, but while he deals with it Amore kicks Neville low before a roll-up gets the win. Wow. That… that finish is worse than a banana peel. You’ve got a guy getting obliterated on Raw by big guys, and somehow sneaking in title wins? At least Eddie Guerrero had charisma when he did the lie, cheat, steal gimmick! I’m not gonna be all “Neville deserves better”, but this was not good on any level. Let alone Neville’s. ¾*
WWE Universal Championship: Braun Strowman vs. Brock Lesnar (c)
This was the hoss fight everyone was waiting for, with the pre-match video showing that like Cena/Reigns, these two have had mirror careers thus far, except Strowman’s not won any gold just yet. This ended up somehow being disappointing. Again, we had a Lesnar sprint, but against someone who’s not even 3 years into wrestling, there were some gaps that you’d expect the veteran to cover for.
Strowman shows off his power early on, easily throwing Lesnar across the ring as if he were nothing. A German suplex works, but Braun’s back up with a chokeslam as the challenger looked to have Brock’s number early… somehow getting himself a cut under the eye in those exchanges too.
Lesnar teased an F5, but Strowman’s size was too much as the 100lb weight difference saw the champion crumble. Brock getting charged into the ringpost probably didn’t help things… but once Strowman charged himself into the corner, Brock got a break… which he tried to capitalise on with a Kimura. Which Braun tries to break by throwing brock into the corner.
Brock held on though, scissoring Strowman on the mat until Braun found a way to grab that bottom rope. Just like that, Braun drops Brock with a spinebuster for a two-count, but Brock manages to retaliate with German suplexes, leaving Braun on his hands and knees. Was Brock always this shiny? I don’t recall him sweating bullets so easily in his first run…
More Germans follow, before Braun slides out of an F5 and hits the powerslam… but he can’t make the cover! Another powerslam leads to a delayed cover for a near-fall, before Brock just gets an F5 for the win. That felt so anticlimactic. I wasn’t expecting a 30-minute slugfest, but this just felt slow and plodding. Whether it’s a case of too much, too soon for Braun, I don’t know, but I’ll be damned if this performance doesn’t hurt him in some people’s eyes. *½
If you turned off No Mercy after Cena/Reigns, you got a really good show. Perhaps not “WrestleMania quality” as WWE were trying to force into your mind, but a good show nevertheless with a brilliant midcard. You might not like some of the booking, but an enjoyable yet by-the-numbers women’s title match and that tag title match were at least memorable. If only for the sight of Cesaro’s bloody mouth…