The NXT Champ is here, and even though he opted out of an impromptu fight last week with John Cena, that didn’t stop Kevin Owens from resuming his verbal takedown of the Cenation leader during Raw’s opening moments. Yet again, The Champ offered Owens the chance to put his money where his mouth was, and yet again, he said he’d pass until bell time at Money in the Bank.
Despite refusing Cena’s challenge, Owenswasin the mood for a fight. After butting heads for a few moments, the two champions decided the mood was right for an open challenge of some point, and whomever answered would have his pick of title bout. Enter Neville, who swooped in with a second NXT Title reign on his mind, leading to …
Neville, meet gravity. The New Sensation’s previous encounters with Kevin Owens tended to end inabrupt, brutal fashion, and his answer of Raw’s first (but not the first) NXT Title Open Challenge didn’t turn out any better for the high-flying wonder.
To be fair, Neville landed himself in the hole early on by insinuating Owens was unworthy to hold the NXT Championship in the first place. That sentiment drove Owens into third gear almost right out of the gate. The big man flattened Neville with the Cannonball and almost hit an Attitude Adjustment before Neville turned it around into a tornado DDT. The Man That Gravity Forgot continued his comeback long enough to set Owens up for a pair of Red Arrows, but the champion thwarted both and finally hit his own Pop-up Powerbomb to end Raw’s first NXT Championship Match.
So Nikki Bella’s got Paige one-on-one at Money in the Bank. So far, so good. But the title-holding half of Twin Magic’s practitioners had to contend with Summer Rae on Raw before The Diva of Tomorrow got her turn at Money in the Bank. Nikki passed the test with flying colors, though, fending off the “Total Divas” veteran with a springboard enzuigiri and the Rack Attack for the victory.
Did you know? Turnabout is fair play. And so, when Sheamus spoiled Randy Orton’s return with a chair to the gut last week on Raw, it was practically written that The Apex Predator would repay The Celtic Warrior in kind. And of course he did, with apparent delight, in the first of three singles contests between the Money in the Bank match competitors organized by Kane.
The build-up to the chair’s fateful appearance was equally enjoyable for The Viper, who stomped on Sheamus’ ankle early on to pre-emptively neutralize the Brogue Kick and sent the Irishman tumbling into the barricade. The beating continued until Sheamus was a braid’s length from an RKO, at which point the Irishman maneuvered the fight to the outside, and after a brief scrap, he ended up with a chair fastballed into his stomach, Eddie Guerrero-style. Never one for subtlety, Orton continued to beat his opponent up, culminating in a successful RKO to an out-on-his feet Sheamus.
As it turns out, Rusev doesn’t even need two working feet to step all over Dolph Ziggler in the wake of The Showoff’s budding relationship with Lana. Rebounding quite nicely from his foray into despair last week, The Super Athlete made his lingering presence known when Ziggler went one-on-one with Kane on Raw. He sneak up behind The Ravishing Russian right as Ziggler was rallying from a lengthy beating at the hands of The Devil’s Favorite Demon.
Rusev’s appearance forced Lana into a hasty attempt to flee, only to trip and fall off the ramp in a development that seemed to please The Super Athlete very much indeed. While Lana tended to her ankle and Rusev made himself scarce, Kane struck, seizing a distracted Showoff by the throat and executing the Chokeslam to claim his victory.
Last week The Miz had been cast in the role of human punching bag in Ryback and Big Show’s oncoming head-to-head over The Big Guy’s Intercontinental Championship. On Raw in New Orleans, the most must-see talk show in WWE history “Miz TV” was reduced to rubble when The Miz found himself once again on the receiving end of his former tag-team partner’s titanic fists.
Miz met this fate despite trying to manipulate Ryback into taking Big Show out over KO’ing him last week. Though when that plan failed Miz took matters into his own hands and clocked the giant over the head with his microphone. A few seconds later and The Awesome One went adios real fast, but Ryback had the last laugh of the night when he hoisted his No. 1 contender up for a Shell Shocked that shook New Orleans to the core.
Truth be told, it wasn’t even close. Despite the hard-nosed points they earned in the Elimination Chamber, Los Matadores simply weren’t ready for Luke Harper & Erick Rowan, the reunited “reapers” who tore them to shreds in one of their first matches back as a tag team. In fact, except for a brief spurt by the bullfighters at the match’s open, Harper & Rowan were nearly unstoppable, cementing their victory with their tandem maneuver, "The Way," and a brief address promising “judgment” for all who oppose them.
The New Day might not be worth millions of dollars, but Big E was certainly money in his match against Titus O’Neil, a soft run for the teams’ battle over the Tag Team Titles Sunday at Money in the Bank. The Big Deal seemed poised to continue his hot streak over The New Day, tossing “The Minister of Mass” to and fro until Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston surrounded Darren Young at ringside. When O’Neil took his eyes off Big E to come to Mr. No Days Off’s aid, Big E rallied for a Big Ending and the victory.
As Roman Reigns has shown on several occasions, he’s got bigger ups than you might expect for a big man. So Kofi Kingston, who typically flies around his opponents, didn’t have that inherent advantage when the two faced off in the night’s final singles match between Money in the Bank foes, and the first singles bout between Reigns and Kingston to boot.
To Kingston’s credit, he made good use of his New Day comrades at ringside, using Xavier Woods and Big E to distract Reigns. Woods even took a Superman Punch meant for Kingston to facilitate a rally for The Dreadlocked Dynamo. But the dreaded numbers game wasn’t enough to topple one of its original practitioners, and The Big Dog sealed his win with a Superman Punch to an airborne Kingston.
Two weeks ago, Seth Rollins had a title, a security team and a 7-foot enforcer. He had none of those things by Raw’s end when, having goaded J&J Security into a match he felt would be a tune-up, Rollins instead suffered one of the most demoralizing losses of his career. It’s not that Joey Mercury & Jamie Noble are slouches — far from it. But their track record hasn’t been great and Rollins has.
Despite all that, The Architect’s plans were dashed to pieces when Dean Ambrose, whose tour of New Orleans had taken him to ringside with Rollins WWE World Heavyweight Championship, dangled the prize in his former “brother’s” face. The distraction allowed Mercury to schoolboy The Architect for the pin. To add insult to injury, Ambrose crushed his former friend even more after the loss, hitting Dirty Deeds and taking the title back before posing atop a ladder with the title in hand. Let the good times roll, Dean-o.