There are great first days, and then there’s Finn Balor’s amazing two-match debut on Raw, which concluded as The Coolest Thing on Raw Last Night!
Welcome to The Coolest Thing on Raw Last Night, Laser Time’s Tuesday morning (slash-early afternoon) quarterback article series that picks the best part of the biggest weekly LIVE wrestling program, WWE Monday Night Raw. With three live hours to sort through (and two more now that Smackdown LIVE is around), it can sometimes be difficult to separate what sucks and what rules. That’s where The Coolest Thing on Raw Last Night (or TCTORLN) comes in. We find the cool part(s) and tell you exactly why it’s so awesome!
SASHA BANKS WINS THE WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP
One of the pitfalls of being a West Coast Cord Cutter is that it’s pretty easy to have Raw spoiled before it airs on America’s left side (and it’s even easier if you wait for Hulu and YouTube to fill in the gaps on Tuesday morning). To that end, I knew Sasha Banks and Finn Balor would end the night as Women’s Champion and the #1 Contender to the Universal Championship, respectively. However, that didn’t detract too much from what ended up being a night-after-WrestleMania caliber Raw. There were some good returns, debuts, and repackages (from Neville, Nia Jax, and Braun Strowman, respectively), but Raw’s top women and men Superstars were the true highlights of the show.
Sasha Banks’ championship win started a bit slow (with a dead crowd hardly helping) and as great as the Eddie Guererro tribute worked it didn’t make sense for The Boss to risk the disqualification would usually come with a foreign object attack on the off chance that it would get Dana Brooke instead, but the match built to a great fevered pitch and Charlotte’s final declaration really put an exclamation mark at the end of her reign and this match. When added to the pure emotion coming from Sasha Banks in her post-win interview after her dream was realized, it was the second-best moment on one of the best Raw’s of 2016. Now here’s hoping Sasha defends the belt on both shows, so that The Boss can rightly rule over the entire WWE Women’s roster.
FINN BALOR’S SPECTACULAR DEBUT
Even though he was taken in the first round, I never thought Finn Balor would have the magnitude of a main roster debut that he ended up having last night on Raw. A gutsy win over a Jericho-level near-main-eventer, sure, but Balor had two performances on par with some of his best NXT work this year.
Raw’s first four-man match of the evening simultaneously gave Balor a great debut opportunity (showing his mesmerizing entrance and his unique moveset) and also re-stacking the deck to showcase Raw’s main eventers. Hopefully we can see younger talent the likes of Rusev, Kevin Owens, and Cesaro challenge for Raw’s big belt soon. With less exciting talent in the other bout of the evening, Roman Reigns, Sheamus, Chris Jericho, and Sami Zayn also had a damn good match with slightly harder hits to offset the lack of surprise.
Speaking of surprising, who would have expected THREE mostly clean Roman Reigns pinfall losses in the last six weeks. Getting pinned in a title match is one thing, but even with his recent suspension, it seems like Roman is just a hairs breadth away from being slotted back into the main-event to the chagrin of fans. However, he came up short against Finn in what I think is each performer’s best match this year. I would have never expected Roman’s hard-hitting offense to mesh well with Finn’s unorthodox throws and strikes, but the counters were pretty amazing and the conclusion was (even with the spoilers) satisfying. Plus, showing a bit of vulnerability to the normally bulletproof Reigns is (slowly) winning some fans over and his humble post-match interview has made him more of a sympathetic character than years of wins and edited video packages.
My only complaints? The wonder of Finn’s entrance shouldn’t be lessened with two separate entrances in the same night, and it’s going to take a lot of time to get used to the WWE Universal Championship. Only one company can rightly declare a title the Universal Championship, and it’s TNA. That belt sounds like it should be defended only within the confines of Universal Studios, where the Impact Zone is set. Who wouldn’t want to see Finn Balor vs Seth Rollins duke it out on the set of the Indiana Jones Stunt Show?
THE COOLEST MOMENT FROM THE COOLEST THING ON RAW LAST NIGHT:
Seeking more WWE chatter? Check out our NEW PATREON EXCLUSIVE EPISODE OF CHEAP POPCAST! There’s also plenty of great free rasslin-related content on Laser Time’s YouTube page, including our recent Battleground-themed stream of WWE 2K16 shown below!