While the big story on the final Raw before Survivor Series revolved around who would be on Team Cena, the biggest event of the night happened when Luke Harper won the Intercontinental title.
After taking out Dolph Ziggler last week, and joining Team Authority, Luke Harper was given an Intercontinental title shot against Ziggler this week. Before the match even got started, Ziggler suffered a beatdown from Seth Rollins, Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury. This led to a match in which Harper had most of the offense, though Ziggler was able to get a few big reversals in.
Finally, Harper hit the discus clothesline (for the second time), and that was enough to keep Ziggler down for the three count and give Harper his first taste of gold in the WWE.
Why is this important?
For one, I don't think anyone would've guessed 15 months ago that of the Wyatt Family members, Luke Harper would be the first one to not just get gold, but singles gold. While he quickly established a good workrate and seemed to be the best in-ring wrestler of the group, between his look and the question about his mic-work, many questioned if he'd get a singles push any time soon. So for him to get a singles title before getting the tag belts, and to get a title before Bray Wyatt got one, potentially says a lot about what the WWE thinks of him.
Many casual fans don't realize that Luke Harper is another wrestler with a background of traveling the independent circuit. Like Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Cesaro, Daniel Bryan and the others, he spent years in Ring of Honor, CHIKARA and other organizations honing his craft. In fact, he spent some time with Seth Rollins (then Tyler Black) in a stable (The Age of the Fall) in Ring of Honor. So while it's too early to definitively call Brodie Lee another indy success story, it's certainly looking that way. It certainly says a lot that they gave him a belt in his first match after breaking away from the Wyatt Family.
Hopefully this reign doesn't turn out like many others, where the champion loses most of his non-title matches. Luke Harper, if used properly, could be a rare commodity for the WWE, someone credible as a monster, or a wrecking ball, who also can put on great matches. This could be just the tip of the iceberg for him, and I for one am looking forward to what's in store for him in the next few months.
The Rest of RAW:
** As mentioned, the main story revolved around the Survivor Series main event, and specifically, who was going to be on Team Cena. Starting with Ziggler, each presumed member of Team Cena was taken out during the course of the show. Ziggler was beaten down by the Authority before his match, and then after Harper got the pin, Rollins came in to give Ziggler a curb stomp. Stephanie McMahon tried to convince Big Show and Sheamus not to join Team Cena, and when they didn't listen to her, she put them in a match against each other.
In the middle of the match, Mark Henry and Rusev came out and destroyed the two. Rusev took out Big Show, and put him in the Accolade, and Mark Henry threw Sheamus around ringside, before giving him the World's Strongest Slam through the announce table. Before the final segment of the night, which was the contract signing, the broadcasters announced that Sheamus had to go to the hospital and would not compete at Survivor Series. So it was unknown who would be on Team Cena.
As the Authority filled the ring, Cena came out and cut a promo about how he would take on each and every member, and win, if he had to. When it looked like he would have to do just that, on his own, Dolph Ziggler, and then Big Show came out to stand by him. That's when something odd happened.
Erik Rowan came down to the ring, and stood with Team Cena. More on this in a second. As we waited on the fifth member, Cesaro's music played. He came down to ringside, stood next to Cena, and then started laughing and walked over to the Authority's side. As the Authority had a laugh at Cena's expense, Ryback, who had stated at the beginning of the show that he was just out for himself, came out, and joined the team. The five members of Team Cena took out the Authority, ending with Cena sending Triple H through a table.
Now, back to Erick Rowan. Rowan, like Harper, had shown up the past two weeks. Two weeks ago he had just showed up with Renee Young, and said she was pretty. Last week he showed up at ringside, presumably looking for her (or another woman, possibly Natalya). Him coming out to join Team Cena is so out-of-nowhere it almost seems nonsensical. Despite leaving the Wyatt family, there was no big blowup between him and Harper. There seemed to be no reason that they should be feuding, or want revenge.
If the WWE was going to go this route, why didn't they have some sort of big breakup between the two? Believing Rowan as a face is weird, but it might not have been quite so weird if they had done a breakup angle if they were going to have Rowan and Harper feud anyways. It seems so bizarre and out-of-nowhere that it almost makes me believe there's a deeper story that will progress at Survivor Series and beyond, possibly involving Bray Wyatt.
But as it stands, Rowan is on Team Cena, and that team will be Cena/Ziggler/Show/Rowan/Ryback, facing Rollins/Kane/Rusev/Henry/Harper.
** Before joining Team Cena, Ryback faced Cesaro in an interesting match. The match was one of the longest of Ryback's singles career, and it was pretty clunky at first. However, it did get better as it progressed, and the last few minutes were quite good. Ryback still isn't a masterful in-ring technician, so whoever faces him really needs to get a majority of the offense in for a longer match, which is odd when you consider that Ryback is supposed to be such a powerful machine. However, as shown with this match, if you have someone like Cesaro who can not be believable as a threat to Ryback, but also has the ability to help him through the match, it can be quite good.
** Bray Wyatt came out and cut a promo on Dean Ambrose. It was a pretty standard Wyatt promo at this point. In the middle of it, Dean Ambrose came on the tron to interrupt Wyatt. After running him down, he said that what he was saying was actually a tape, and then came up from behind Wyatt to attack him. For whatever reason, this feud hasn't really clicked. It's partially because these two have barely had any physical contact. Also, we haven't really been given a reason for the feud. While sometimes Wyatt's vague promos can be endearing, it also would have been nice to get an actual reason for why he attacked Ambrose at Hell in a Cell. I doubt this is the end of the feud, so hopefully they'll be able to develop it a bit more in the next few weeks.
** Lana came out with Rusev and cut what started out as a standard promo from her. She then talked about how pathetic America is, and talked about how all anyone in the country could talk about was Kim Kardashian's pictures. She then asked if the audience wanted to see her topless pictures, and then showed the pictures that had gone around the internet of a shirtless Vladamir Putin on a horse. Heath Slater came out, in an Apollo Creed costume, told Lana to shut up, and got in the ring. He immediately was squashed by Rusev.
** Tyson Kidd beat Adam Rose after the Bunny unintentionally distracted Rose. Two things to look at here. For one, this is Tyson Kidd's third straight win on Raw. I'm not sure the WWE has anything in mind for him, but it seems like they're at least somewhat behind him to be getting these wins. The second is what happened after the match. The Bunny came in the ring, and then started, for lack of a better term, dry-humping Rose. While this was supposed to get laughs, my reaction and the reaction of a lot that I saw on Twitter was groans. WWE really needs to stop with that sort of “humor.”
** The Dusts, Miz and Sandow beat the Usos and Los Matadores in an 8-man tag. These four teams will all face each other at Survivor Series.
** Nikki Bella had Brie dress up as AJ Lee and face her in a match. The real AJ came down and got on commentary. While Brie was just supposed to take the abuse, she did fight back somewhat. AJ jumped up on the apron, and when Nikki was distracted, Brie rolled her up for the win. AJ then came in the ring and took out both Bellas.
** Big E's promo for The New Day aired, and it was pretty similar to Xavier's and Kofi's. Hopefully now that all three of them have aired, we'll get to see what the stable is all about next week.
** Grumpy Cat was the guest host, and all things considered, the segments with Miz, Sandow and Rowan worked pretty well. Also, it was announced that Larry the Cable Guy would be a guest host next week.
Thoughts? Questions? Leave them in the comment section, or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster