Raw Highlights: May 30, 2016

With Money In The Bank a couple of weeks out, it was a slow Raw tonight. We had a few solid spots that I will recap in this week’s Raw Highlights.

Opening Segment 

Shane McMahon enters the arena. Upon entering the ring, Stephanie McMahon’s music hits and she comes down. May I say, Steph was looking great on this night.

Shane teases tension as he throws some shade Steph’s way. The crowd cheers Shane and boos Steph, typical.

New Day then shows up and say how pumped they are for Smackdown going live. Big E says he is excited to bring the power of positivity to Raw AND Smackdown. Floating champions maybe? I hope.

new-day-francesca-620x350The trio vows being worried about breaking up because of the draft. Tells Shane and Steph to think about the kids. Thinks about Francesca II because she deserves all three fathers.

New Day suggests dance off between Shane and Steph. Shane jives around to crowds approval and as Stephanie is about to, Vaudevillains interrupt and attack New Day.

Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson making push for titles? 

Anderson and Gallows attack the New Day during their match with the Vaudevillains and say they can inflict damage without their former friends AJ Styles.

They go on to say they’re just getting started and not going anywhere.

Reigns v Rollins 

Reigns comes out and says Seth Rollins souled out and broke up The Shield. Reigns said Rollins self proclaimed himself as The Man. Reigns wonders how Rollins can call himself that when he is running from The Guy. Of course he then says “Im not a good guy. Im not a bad guy. Im the guy.”

Cool Reigns…Im over you spitting this same promo every night. He then calls Rollins out.

Rollins music hits and begins to walk toward the ring before turning his back at Reigns like the true champion he is. After teasing Reigns a couple of times about getting in the ring, he eventually walks back to the locker room. Why would the fighting champion, Seth Rollins, put himself in harms way when he doesn’t have to?

I love that the WWE is not letting those two touch each other right now. With a couple of weeks until MITB, I think they should make sure they never lay a hand on one another until then.

Rusev v Titus O’Neil 

Rusev killed Zack Ryder on Raw with the Accolade. Following the win, Rusev cut a promo saying Americans are entitled and that he is what America should be. Obviously the boos are loud given the fact it is Memorial Day.

Titus O’Neil comes out the be the American Hero in Green Bay. The USA chants begin erupting and he calls Rusev a Bulgarin Blowhard. O’Neil gives Rusev a shot to the jaw and the Bulgarian brute rolls out of the ring. The USA chants erupt as Rusev retreats.

Remember when Jack Swagger got the biggest pop ever because he challenged the anti-american Rusev? Yeah, me neither. Same thing will happen with Titus O’Neil and I am ok with that. Rusev CRUSH!

Enzo and Cass def. the Dudley 

They continue shitting on the Dudleyz week in and week out because they are certified Gs and bonafide studs and YOU CAN’T TEACH THAT!

AND HIS NAME IS JOHN CENA…RETURNS 

The WWE golden boy comes back to a huge wave of cheers. Cena cuts typical Cena promo talking about the veterans making the ultimate sacrifice to which the crowd erupts. The USA chants break out.

AJ Styles music hits as he enters the arena. As the Phenomenal One enters the ring, AJ Styles chants erupt around the arena.

Lets Go CENA/AJ Styles chants erupt around the arena as the two face off. This goes on for a couple of minutes. It started to feel a lot like Hogan v Rock in the build to their Wrestlemania showdown.

AJ welcomes Cena back as he offers his hand saying how much he respects him. Cena accepts AJs welcome and the two shake hands.

As the two hit it off, Anderson and Gallows show up saying that AJ is sucking up to Cena and that they are not here to kiss ass. They are here to kick it.

053016 aj styles.vadapt.480.high.8AJ HEEL TURN! YESSSSSSS

As Gallows and Anderson make their way to the ring, AJ attacks Cena and his friends provide back up as the onslaught continues. The Bullet Club reforms as they attack Cena.

THE BULLET CLUB IS HERE BABY!!!

I love it! With the brand split coming, I predicted Reigns and Cena to be on different shows automatically making them the top babyface on each program. AJ would be much better suited as a heel especially if Reigns is going to have a lengthy title run. Although WWE did a great job with the Reigns/Styles storyline, the title is much more compelling when it is heel v face.

Overall, the show was very uneventful minus the heel turn. We are about three weeks out from Money In The Bank so it makes sense for this to be a slow show since we just had a bunch of rivalries capped off.

 

 

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Raw/Smackdown Brand Split Predictions and Concerns

The WWE announced they are re-establishing the brand split, meaning Raw and Smackdown will have different rosters, titles, etc.

The brand split rumors surfaced after Shane showed back up on WWE television looking to run the show. On May 25, it became official when WWE announced they will draft the rosters on the July 11th episode of Monday Night Raw.

ShaneStephShake.0.0.pngAfter Wrestlemania 32 in Dallas, Stephanie McMahon and Triple H took some time away after Shane McMahon was awarded control of Monday Night Raw. He vowed to give us new opportunities, fresh match ups and some fun. He delivered.

Eventually it was announced that the brother sister duo will take over Monday Night Raw. So far things have been smooth and going well. I anticipate that won’t be the case for long as we get closer to draft day.

My intention here is to blindly predict how the draft will shake up. I honestly have no idea who is going where, but let’s give it a shot.

First let’s begin with who is taking over each show. I anticipate Monday Night Raw to be in the hands of the authority so I fully expect Trips and Steph to stay on the flagship show. Smackdown has always been the “B” show. However, with it going to a live format on Tuesday nights, it will need some rebranding and appeal. That is where Shane comes in.

Roster

Now deciding the first 10 picks of each roster…

The Authority’s RawReigns

1- Roman Reigns

3- Seth Rollins

5- New Day

7- Dean Ambrose

9- Brock Lesnar

11- Charlotte

13- Finn Balor

15- Enzo and Cass

17- Sheamus

19- Neville

 

Shane’s Smackdown

2- John CenaJohn_Cena_pro.png

4- Kevin Owens

6- AJ Styles

8- Sami Zayn

10- Sasha Banks

12- Randy Orton

14- Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows

16- Rusev

18- Shinsuke Nakamura

20- Wyatt Family

Like I said, Im taking a shot in the dark here on these rosters. I have no idea how it is going to shake up. I am very confident that Reigns and Cena will be on the shows that I placed them on. Seth Rollins will definitely be on Raw to battle it out with Reigns. I do believe Kevin Owens will be on Smackdown to be the top heel of the brand. Other than that, I am in the dark here.

Concerns 

1 – What happens to the titles? 

The only thing I am 100% sure of is each show having their own mid-card titles. Raw gets the IC, while Smackdown gets the US or vice versa. If it were up to me, I would have the tag team, women’s and WWE World Heavyweight Champion floating between shows.

For the first time in a long time, the tag team division feels ripe. New Day are the crowned jewels of the tag team division, obviously because NEW DAY ROCKS. You still have potential contenders like Enzo and Cass, Vaudevillains, Dudley Boyz, Usos, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows and Lucha Dragons. Coming up from NXT by next year, you will have American Alpha (BRING BACK KURT ANGLE DAMN IT) and The Revival.

With the Women’s Title being revamped recently after dropping the stupid butterfly Divas strap, it would be foolish to bring that back. Let Charlotte or whoever is the champ float on both shows and whenever they drop the strap, the former champ goes to the show they were originally drafted to.

I hold the same belief for the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Roman Reigns will still have the strap and be the #1 pick to Raw come July. While he remains champ, let him float between the two shows.

The only problem I have with two major titles is that it will inflate the number of times someone wins because they are not competing against the entire roster.

2- Pay-per-views 

When WWE first did the brand split, they offered more PPVs each year. The brands would share the stage for the big 4 (Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, Summerslam and Survivor Series). Each show also had their own PPVs which drove the cost for consumers up. At $50 to $60 a pop, it was not cheap to be a wrestling fan. After Wrestlemania 23, WWE then announced both shows would compete on all PPVs.

Thankfully, we now have the WWE network for just $9.99 (Yes that was a plug) per month. It really is an amazing deal though. I absolutely love it. If they do go with separate PPVs, it is now affordable at least.

I would not go overboard with the number of PPVs, but I would say let both shows compete on the Big 5. The four mentioned above and Money In The Bank. That will cover you for January, April, June, August and November. Give each show maybe 5 or 6 other PPVs.

Now you are floating the realm of 15-16 PPVs each year, which is not too bad.

If not, keep it the way it was prior to meshing the rosters and that is fine with me too. I personally think WWE will have both shows compete at every PPV.

3- Overkill

giphy.gifI am pretty excited about the draft because as a sports fan, I love the idea of drafts to begin with. However, it is a pain in the ass sitting through three hours of Raw every week. Thank you DVR! Now with Smackdown being live on Tuesdays and having their own brand, five hours of programming total. I wish they would go back to two hours for Raw, but that’ll never happen.

4- Injuries 

Some people may contend the draft is foolish because of the amount of injuries the WWE has battled recently with Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, John Cena and other major stars. However, two brands will give the superstars a much lighter workload so it should take down some of the injury numbers. I think a brand split will help in that regard.

5- Talent 

The WWE is pulling talent out of their ass right now (despite what some may think) with so many up and comers along with the well established stars. The brand split will give younger guys plenty of opportunity to shine, hopefully. Cody Rhodes aka Stardust was granted a release recently. He is one of many superstars who unfortunately never got the push he deserved. He fell into the gimmick of Stardust, which was pretty cool at first. Odd, but cool. Eventually, he fell into the pit of irrelevance and now we no longer have him on the roster. Hopefully, the brand split can help eliminate lack of air time for some of these superstars.

GOOD OR BAD IDEA TO SPLIT

Overall, I know WWE recently made the roster all one entity again within the last few years. But with all the injuries, I think this could be a major reason why the company feels two brands is the way to go. Aside from the overkill of having five hours of programming, I am really excited about seeing how it all plays out. I will give WWE some credit here. July 11 can’t come soon enough.

Giphy 2.gif

 

Consider this the kiss of death to OKC

Look at thatSomehow, someway, when almost all hope was lost, the Golden State Warriors pushed the Oklahoma City Thunder to their limits forcing a game 7.

If you were not able to watch game 6 of this series, you missed out.

For nearly the entire game, OKC controlled the tempo and pace. From the start, the Thunder kept clinging to a three to six point lead before eventually pouring it on.

At the start of the second quarter, OKC had a 23-20 lead. That quickly turned into a 29-20 lead. With a little over four minutes left in the second, Thunder took a commanding  41-28 lead as Durant started to heat up knocking down mid range after mid range.

I remember texting a friend saying “game over.” Immediately after I sent that text, here come the Warriors closing the gap. By the end of the second it was a close 53-48 contest.

OKC and GS duked it out for most of the third quarter sharing a couple of leads. But in the end, OKC went on an 8-0 run to close out the third giving them an 83-75 advantage.

Then a fourth quarter for the ages came to fruition. With 7:09 left in the game, Warriors found themselves down 91-84, still within reach of keeping their season alive. Golden State kept scrapping their way back just for the Thunder to keep maintaining a solid lead.

As cliche’ as it is, it is not about how you start, but how you finish. The Warriors were Klay threeeeeriding Thompson who set a new playoff record with 11 three-pointers (five coming in the fourth) and Curry who finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists.

With 3:58 left in the game, Curry knocked down a clutch three to close the gap 97-96. Russell Westbrook picked up a foul on the next possession and knocked down both free throws to give the Thunder a three point advantage.

After both squads failed to score on their next possessions, Curry goes down hits another three to tie the game at 99. A couple of possessions later tied at 101, Thompson knocks down his fifth and final three ball of the quarter. Curry kisses a floater off the glass with 14 seconds left to give the Warriors a 106-101 lead. Thompson eventually ices the game with two free throws with eight seconds to go, 108-101.

Just like that, the Warriors claw back from 3-1 and now own the home court advantage after stealing game 6 in Oklahoma City.

The Thunder are a prime example of why basketball is and always will be a TEAM sport. You know why LeBron is so damn good and is appearing in his sixth straight finals? He elevates guys like Delonte West, Matthew Dellavedova and Mo Williams to outplay their potential.

The Thunder have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Both of them are top 5-6 players in the entire league. However, when the going gets tough, they mentally deteriorate and forget what got them there.

For most of the series, the two of them did a great job of getting other guys involved with a lot of passing and creating better shots for themselves and their teammates. However, that was not the case late in game 6.

The two of them shared the rock playing iso ball when the game was on the line. The Thunder put Golden State on the ropes and couldn’t land a single punch. They were going for haymakers when they should have been putting together some quick jabs.

The smug attitudes of both Durant and Westbrook make it very easy to shit on them when they fail. They have no problem jiving around when things are going well. But when their back is up against the wall, they act like a bunch of cowards.

In my last post, I mentioned how I am all for the smack talk, which I am. If you continue to read my blog, you will hear me say this on more than one occasion. It is easy to run your mouth when things are going well, any choad mongrel can do that. Talk when your back is against the wall, that takes some testicular fortitude.

The Thunder have buried themselves and it is hilarious. Admittedly, it is mainly because I love watching Curry and Thompson play. When you discredit what the Warriors do, this feeds into their game. That is one of the things I love about the Warriors, they are mentally tough and take everything in stride.

Down 3-1, you could sense they still believed they could win the series. Last night, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook could not convince the most gullible person in the world that they believe they can win.

Why? Because they are MENTALLY weak when things go wrong.

This series is heading back to Oracle Arena on Monday night and I will enjoy watching the Reggie Millerbiggest choke job in recent playoff memory unfold to a team that annoys the crap out of me.

Congratulations Oklahoma City Thunder, you just lost the series. I just hope this time around that the golden boy Kevin Durant gets some of the blame for once.