John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE No Mercy preview featuring the WWE Raw brand. The show takes place this Sunday, September 24 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Second straight PPV in a huge market since SummerSlam was in Brooklyn just outside of New York City.
There are seven matches on the main card with Brock Lesnar defending his Universal Title against Braun Strowman and John Cena vs. Roman Reigns as the co-main events. They are both huge matches that could easily be considered matches at next year’s WrestleMania, but we’re getting them much earlier at a September PPV that isn’t historically one of the biggest of the year. Due to those two main matches, No Mercy feels like a very big deal.
Joining me for the preview are Kurt Zamora and Mike Holland. Our usual fourth man Matthew Douglas couldn’t make it this month due to work commitments.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE.com. The banner up top is courtesy of our friend Melo Man.)
Elias vs. Apollo Crews (Kickoff Show)
John: This was added on Friday afternoon, so I’ll preview it solo. There is no storyline for this match. It’s just a heel in Elias against a face in Apollo Crews. They should get around 5-10 minutes and Elias should get the win as a midcard heel getting a mild push.
By the way, that above graphic from WWE.com makes Crews look huge and Elias looks tiny. Somebody let Elias know that the graphic nerds at WWE.com don't want to walk with Elias.
Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Enzo Amore
Kurt: I can’t say that Enzo has brought any real appeal to the Cruiserweight division. Hell, we just had an entire episode of Raw without a Cruiserweight match. I thought he’d be a spark to the division, but I wonder if Miz’s promo from a few weeks back opened the eyes of some fans. It feels like after he pulled the curtain back on Enzo’s real life issues and the fact he is a lot to take in, the fans have started to pull back on him. Whereas everyone wanted Enzo into the 205 Live group, I bet Neville is hoping he could get out. At this point, he’s done everything he could for the division and it’s not any better or worse without him. A true heel like him would be valuable on the heavyweight side of things. I’m predicting a title change only because I don’t know what else you do here that gives the division and these two guys any legs moving forward.
Prediction: New Cruiserweight Champion, Enzo Amore
Mike: Remember that really shocking upset of Neville's lengthy and very well-done run as Cruiserweight Champion? This is the new normal of WWE, in which no prediction as safe as even the most seemingly innocuous opponent (looking at you, Akira Tozawa) can potentially unseat a stellar champ for the purpose of...well, who knows, really? The lesser titles on both brands have traded places more than Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy, and that means there is at least the glimmer of possibility that Enzo Amore could walk out of No Mercy with some gold.
Unfortunately for him, though, that gold will be around his neck or on his track pants, because he's not going to be the one to unseat the King so soon after he was already booked to drop the title once. This has oddly been a resurgence for Amore, who seemed perhaps destined for the dustbin between his blow-off feud with former partner Big Cass and his behind-the-scenes chicanery. I can only imagine that WWE's corporate power structure cares so little for the "purple" show that they are snickering in taking a less-talented version of the Santino gimmick and planting it right at the top of the heap. Hardy har.
Winner (and STILL WWE Cruiserweight Champion): Neville
John: I’m not intrigued by this match at all. Enzo wrestles the kind of style that probably shouldn’t be in a WWE ring. That style is bad. I get why he’s on TV because he’s got an over the top character and some people like him, but I think his presence in this division in example of WWE’s inability to get good wrestlers over. I realize not every fan thinks the same way as me, though. I’m just saying for me personally I have little interest in this match. If Neville wins that’s fine and if Enzo wins that’s a step back for this division that probably doesn’t have a long shelf life anyway.
I like to think that I'm not anti-Enzo. I'm pr0-good matches.
WWE Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Jason Jordan
Kurt: Was that a hint of the fans coming around on Jordan that I heard this past Monday? This storyline as Kurt Angle’s son had seemingly gone over as well as a fart in church, but it sure sounded like the crowd was getting behind Jordan by the time he became #1 contender. Something to watch moving forward with The Miz, it was Maryse who revitalized his career and has helped him become what he is now. I’m very interested to see if he can sustain everything without her there (due to her pregnancy) to play off of. Axel and Dallas will help as heaters for him, but you can’t replace the dynamic he had with his wife obviously.
As for this match, it’s too soon to give Jordan the belt. Keep him working for it. If I’m right, and I very well could be wrong, about the fans coming around on him then you have to make him earn the title and not give it to him right away.
Prediction: The Miz retains the Intercontinental Championship
Mike: It's notably odd how this feud was barely stitched together for SummerSlam until the eleventh hour, but has now resurfaced as part of the "GM Soap Opera Storyline" angle that Raw is so enamored with and guarantees that the hacks from Santa Barbara and One Life to Live can stay gainfully employed. I will say that at least there's been a decent build here. As ridiculous as the Jordan-is-Angle's-son gimmick is (and, truly, it could be hot death on a stick), it has played right into the Miz's over-the-top bombastic character, as Jordan is seemingly being handed opportunities by his "dad" despite not trying to get them that way and proving himself in the ring weekly.
Miz can turn palaver into pearls, but through all of this midlevel feuding, JJ has quietly and solidly gotten time to show himself as a hard-fought blue chipper, not necessarily getting the duke but building crowd support along the way. I'm not sure that means it's time to unseat Miz, however. Should Jordan win, I would assume outside interference unknowingly assists in the downfall of the Real Worlder. That said, a much more likely scenario is Jordan acquitting himself well, getting cheated, and Angle continuing the feud with the repercussions.
Winner (and STILL WWE Intercontinental Champion): The Miz
John: This match has sleeper potential because I think they’re going to get 12-15 minutes and have a hell of a match. Jordan’s very good at making the babyface comebacks with the crowd getting behind him when he’s throwing those suplexes. Jordan lacks a strong personality, but once he gets going in that ring he can put on a good show. Miz is a pure heel that will help Jordan improve from a character standpoint. I like this pairing a lot.
If I had to bet on who the next IC Champion is going to be I’d bet on Jason Jordan, but it’s not going to happen yet. Before the end of the year? Very possible. Not yet, though. I think the Miz will win although it’s possible they go with a DQ finish with Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas being the cause of the problems at ringside.
Winner: The Miz
Finn Bálor vs. Bray Wyatt
Kurt: It’s unfortunate how obvious this storyline has made it that they don’t have anything planned for either of these guys. Realistically, this feud should’ve ended with SummerSlam. If Balor wins here, it does nothing for Wyatt. If Wyatt wins, then it makes Balor look useless unless he’s The Demon. I really don’t know what else to say about this match. I’m going to pick Finn only because they still haven’t gotten him his shot at the Universal Title he never lost, and Bray has been scorched earth so often that another loss really isn’t the end of the world.
Prediction: Finn Balor
Mike: I will give credit where it's due that this oddball feud has been largely entertaining. Thanks to unleashing Balor's "Demon" side, he's been able to play in the sandbox effectively with Bray's demented ramblings, and the whole thing has reminded me of the best of the Halloween Havoc ideas versus the Papa Shango stuff from WWE's Eerie Files. We are a long way removed from Wyatt v. Orton in the budget haunted house set, and that's a good thing.
As for the match itself, my big question is not so much what happens here but what happens next. You have to imagine that the winner here gets involved in the Universal Title picture eventually, and Balor has some history there. Wyatt may have hit his ceiling, at least in terms of what the company believes he can do, and as I've mentioned on many of these previews he essentially doesn't need a title due to the uniqueness of his gimmick.
Those factors add up in my mind to Balor defeating Wyatt at No Mercy and putting this rivalry firmly in the rearview mirror. Bray can turn his attention to remaking Goldust or something. Finn wins.
Winner: Finn Balor
John: It’s time to wrap this up feud up, right? Yes, I think so. They did the story with Bray beating the man the first time, then Balor was the Demon beat him the second time and it should end with Balor beating him again. Balor should be a more featured player on the Raw brand, so get by Wyatt and move on to better things.
I’m not sure where Wyatt goes from here because he’s kinda lost at this point. They really messed up his character by taking the Wyatt Family away from him. It’s not like Luke Harper and Erick Rowan are thriving on Smackdown either since they are rarely used. A classic example of WWE not having good long term booking plans. Anyway, this should be a clean win for Balor and anything else feels like the wrong choice.
Winner: Finn Balor
Raw Women's Championship Fatal 5-Way: Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley vs. Nia Jax vs. Emma
Kurt: If they’re just going to throw everyone into the match, they really couldn’t find a spot for Mickie James? I’d argue she’s the worst booked main roster superstar. She’s at least in the discussion with the likes of Sami Zayn. I don’t know that anyone has any momentum in this match except for Nia. Nia has a different look and appeal than everyone else and I feel like the crowds have wanted to get behind her as a babyface. I would do a double turn with her and Sasha in this match and then I would ultimately give Nia the title. I love Alexa, but since being on Raw, she’s constantly had her legs cut out from under her and hasn’t been the greatness she was on Smackdown. It’s time for something brand new and then add Asuka to the mix.
Prediction: New Women’s Champion, Nia Jax
Mike: First of all, this is almost a comedy routine of Bobby Heenan proportion. (Rest in peace, Brain!) Is it scribbled on the bylaws of Titan Tower's constitution that every available woman has to participate in some form or another in a title match every month? It's a little ridiculous to keep having these "everyone must go" wholesale title matches, and just speaks to the unfortunate and continuing trend of not giving these talented athletes a decent story to go with their efforts. They can, and should, expect better.
It's nice of Emma to get onto a PPV expressly for the purposing of eating the pin. Most intriguing would be the presence of Bayley in this match, but I think it's a red herring. Banks is clearly not on the radar for whatever reason, so maybe that much discussed heel turn could finally happen. They are building this as the moment when Nia Jax finally breaks out and snatches the belt away from Alexa Bliss, and that certainly could occur here. Jax and Banks have done a good job with that part of the story.
That said, the imminent arrival of Asuka is the unspoken issue here. She will be the one to dethrone Bliss.
Winner (and STILL Raw Women's Champion): Alexa Bliss
John: It should be pretty good because there’s some talent here, but it also feels like we’ve seen it before. We get so many multi-women matches on WWE TV including this past Tuesday on Smackdown. I can see anybody in this match leaving with the title except Emma, who is likely there to take the pin. There might be a spot where Banks is about to win and Bayley prevents it, so that could be the start of Banks turning heel if that’s the direction they go.
I’m going with Bliss to retain after Jax hits a Samoan Drop on Emma and Bliss will pin Emma. Jax will win the title soon because WWE will want to get the title on her when Asuka arrives on Raw likely around November. I don’t see WWE booking Bliss as some great champion in the long term. That’s the role of Jax and that’s who Asuka will face off with when the time is right.
Winner: Alexa Bliss
Raw Tag Team Championships: Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose vs. Sheamus and Cesaro
Kurt: Only a bunch of NEEERRRRRRDDDDSSSSS wouldn’t have made this a triple threat match with Gallows and Anderson. This is another match that feels like there isn’t much to say about it. Gallows and Anderson would make it a better dynamic and add something new. Obviously, Rollins and Ambrose being together is working and there’s no reason to take the titles off of them. I’ll have more to say on them in the next match.
I’d like to think with the matches that The Usos and New Day are having, these two teams would feel motivated to have a match that could steal the show.
Prediction: Rollins and Ambrose retain
Mike: Sheamus and Cesaro have had a way better run as a team than anyone would have expected, rising like a double phoenix out of the ashes of Mick Foley's decision to make those rivals a unit. After dabbling in the comedy (which Cesaro in particular has an obvious affinity for, and that makes sense; a sense of humor is a good idea when dealing with creative), they got their act together and rebuilt around the "bully" prototype that Sheamus always reverts to when it's convenient.
I'm tapping out on the pair, though. Raw needs tag teams but they've got plenty of people on the roster, and it's high time Cesaro turned this into something even better. He's been the most consistent and underappreciated person on either brand since the split (aside from perhaps The Miz, for completely different reasons). Isn't it time for your movie, Sheamus?
This match seems like the all-too-common "stuck in neutral" feud that has been WWE's favorite of late, and while I have no issue with watching these four guys go at it, I can't imagine that the outcome serves to do anything but continue to build off the reformed Shield's success. I can't wait for the Ambrose turn!
Winners (and STILL Raw Tag Team Champions): Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose
John: I like the energy of the Rollins team with Ambrose. This isn’t going to last forever because as I’ve written in my Raw Deal reviews before, the heel turn for Ambrose is probably going to happen early next year, but that’s down the road. For now, Rollins and Ambrose should have a tag team title reign that lasts a few months at least, which means there’s no reason to drop the gold back to Cesaro and Sheamus. Looking ahead to Raw’s next PPV they have TLC in October, which means a Ladder match is a possibility for the tag teams. How about Rollins and Ambrose vs. The Hardys in a Ladder match? Sounds like a good idea to me.
The champs should retain here. I would be surprised if that didn’t happen.
Winners: Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose
John Cena vs. Roman Reigns
Kurt: I’ve always been a Roman defender. Nothing that has gone wrong with the way he’s been booked is his fault. So, with that said, the last few weeks of Roman have been his best ever. From the moment that Cena called him on forgetting his lines, Roman went into a straight DGAF mode and has been fantastic ever since. THIS is the Roman we should’ve had all along. I give credit to Cena for pulling it out of Roman. I can’t let Roman off the hook completely though as his line about “selling the tickets that Cena hasn’t been” really did him no favors when the pictures come out that half the arena is blacked out. You’ve got to gauge the crowd that’s around you that night and come up with a different line. Everything he’s said about Cena has been spot on, except for that.
Cena has been tremendous in his role as well. If Roman is going to be the new franchise, Cena isn’t just going to give him that spot. He’s going to make him earn it. He’s tried to trip up Roman a couple times and Roman has been toe to toe with him ever since that slip up Cena called him on. As for the match itself, WWE still needs a spark. They had some real momentum going into SummerSlam and now judging by the crowds they’re drawing, I’d say that momentum is gone.
They should do what they should’ve done at SummerSlam. I would have Rollins and Ambrose come out and help Roman take out Cena. Put The Shield back together. With Survivor Series coming up and Cena being advertised for it, you can have a Survivor Series style match with The Shield taking on Cena and two partners of his choice. Then the story becomes can Cena find anyone that is willing to join him against a force like The Shield. It needs to happen and it needs to happen now.
Prediction: Roman Reigns. Sierra Hotel India Echo Lima Delta.
Mike: This showdown has almost overshadowed the main event in my view, as Cena and Reigns have been allowed to engage in the flaming social media wars and "off-script" scripted promos that WWE reserves for their biggest names. It's leant an insider feel to the goings-on, and while that can't really be considered ground-breaking or original (How many times will the idea of the actor/wrestler going Hollywood be recycled, especially since it continues to completely NOT apply to Cena?) it's been entertaining as hell to watch. Say what you will about Cena, but he's miles ahead of most on the stick in any company, and his ability to roll with the punches and ad-lib shows exactly why California's been calling so frequently.
The risky part of that play is that it's presented Roman Reigns, WWE's golden boy, with an opportunity to fall all over himself trying to keep up with Cena in an area where John is better than most and Reigns is...a work in progress. Following a couple "no-contest" verbal beatdowns, the creative team smartly allowed Reigns to become the physical aggressor and even risked some of Cena's image in so doing with him backing down to avoid a conflict. It's strange behavior for the two biggest faces in the company, but we've indeed entered a brave new world here.
This match should be (and needs to be) stellar. Make no mistake that Cena was brought over from Smackdown precisely for the express purpose of getting Roman over, and it makes sense since many of the same people not buying into Roman's shtick aren't exactly Total Divas fans either. That said, Cena sells, and I can't fathom that they have a one and done here. You've got half a year to tell a story which ends with Roman parked at WrestleMania, and that indicates this needs to be a longer con. So far, so good. We'll see what the second half holds.
Winner: John Cena
John: I’ll start with a statement that might be bold to some, but not to me: I am as excited for this match as I have been for any match WWE has done this year. The build has been phenomenal starting from Cena saying he wanted to be face to face with Reigns on the August 21 Raw and then they had that memorable 15 minute promo on the August 28 Raw where the match was made official.
I think Cena has brought out the best in Reigns even though Reigns did struggle at times and I think he might admit to that. In the last three weeks, Reigns more than held his own. The whole point of this feud really is about the veteran Cena helping the younger guy Reigns get better at everything involved in being a wrestling, especially promos. I think wrestling Cena will help Reigns too although both are very good in a big match setting and capable of outstanding matches.
The atmosphere that surrounds this match is going to be crazy. That’s really what I’m looking forward to the most. I think the crowd will be hot for this the entire time and most of them will boo Reigns while Cena will get some support. By the end of the match, I expect a few “this is awesome” chants, which shows how silly the booing of Reigns will be because the guy can put on excellent matches.
Picking a winner is where things get difficult. I’m going with Reigns because he’s the younger guy and I think Cena is in this match to put him over. Keep in mind that Reigns was the one that pinned in the main event of SummerSlam last night. It’s not something WWE is going to mention to us, but it plays a part in my decision because I doubt WWE is going to have Reigns lose two huge PPV matches in a row. I hope this is a part of a three match series between them although I don’t know when the other matches will be. Let’s enjoy this for what it is and if it’s only one match that’s okay because it has been built up so well that I’m sure I’ll have fun watching it.
Winner: Roman Reigns
WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman
Kurt: Braun is my favorite thing going on Raw and has been the best booked star on either roster. This match is his culmination and I cannot wait to see what he does against Brock. As I said above, WWE needs a spark. A crowning of a brand-new champion like Braun would do the trick if they’re not going to pull the trigger on a Shield reunion. However, the reason I’ve predicted two other title changes and The Shield reunion is because I just can’t predict Lesnar losing the title until it actually happens. I thought SummerSlam was the perfect chance for him to lose it and when he didn’t, it made me think that WWE fully intends to have him keep the title until WrestleMania.
The rest of the card will be interesting to follow though because if it ends up being a vanilla card and nothing major happens, then you can expect a title change here. They’ll book the rest of the card around this match, meaning they won’t do something major like a Shield reunion to take away from the moment of Braun defeating Lesnar. After the war that was SummerSlam, people are going to want another over the top brawl here. A shorter match makes sense with these two, but hopefully it’s got a lot of action packed into it.
Prediction: Brock Lesnar retains (but I really hope I’m wrong)
Mike: What a hell of a year for Braun Strowman. If you'd have told me that he'd be facing Brock Lesnar for the company's most prestigious belt at this event even six months ago, I'd have suggested counseling. It's to his credit that he's taken the generally stale but always welcomed "giant monster" gimmick and milked it for everything it's worse. That character, of course, is a Vinnie Mac favorite, and therefore they've booked him and protected him accordingly. They've done it so well, in fact, that Braun is likely favored to win here, as he's shown up Lesnar physically on more than one occasion going into this match.
There is a definite possibility that Strowman wins here, particularly when you consider Lesnar's advertised appearances are not that frequent in the coming months, and that the "Monster Among Men" (dear Lord) has a healthy history with Roman Reigns, expected to contend for said belt once WrestleMania season rolls around. I can only tell you that every time Paul Heyman maintains in level-headed fashion that Strowman is the biggest challenge Lesnar's ever had, yada yada, it convinces me more and more that they have no intention of removing the gold from Lesnar and it's being booked just like Samoa Joe, wrestling's version of Lady Macbeth protesting too much.
The reality is that all the work of having Lesnar dominate just about everyone (except, of course, for that brief cash grab involving Goldberg's return) would be a bit wasted if it ended on the tracks short of the station. There is absolutely a way to protect Strowman in losing this match. The same cannot be said for the champion. A phony DQ finish or something might suffice, but they can only traverse that road if they are going to have a rematch. Having Reigns renew hostilities with Strowman (and potentially involving the tag champs in it down the line) seems like a good way to keep calm and carry on. Don't be fooled by the appearance of waffling on Braun. This company has shown time after time that they have zero intention of altering the blueprints.
Winner (and STILL WWE Universal Champion): Brock Lesnar
John: Ring the bell and let them fight. It’s that simple. That’s the appeal of this match and I’m looking forward to it as much as anybody. This has a feeling of a super heavyweight tilt where you want to see two big dudes just beat the hell out of eachother. While I’m sure they will do a good job of protecting eachother as professionals, it wouldn’t surprise me if they end up hitting eachother a little bit harder just because they know the other guy can take it.
I’ve said all month that I think Brock is going to win, but I would put the title on Strowman. It would be fresh and new, which is what WWE needs now more than ever. The fans believe in Strowman so much as a huge star that can be a main eventer for most of the next decade. If they have Lesnar beat him it won’t hurt Strowman that much, but if Strowman wins he’ll be seen as a much bigger star the next night on Raw as well as in the future. It’s almost like when Lesnar beat The Rock at SummerSlam 2002 to become WWE Champion with the crowd cheering Lesnar as a heel. The difference is that Lesnar vs. Rock match didn’t have a rematch, but they could have a rematch in this case.
I’m going with Lesnar to retain the gold. Saying I want Strowman to win isn’t a knock on Lesnar at all. I’m a big Lesnar fan and totally understand the appeal of having him hold the title. I just think Strowman is ready, so WWE should do it. If they really want Lesnar vs. Reigns at next WrestleMania 34 for this title next year then Strowman can lose it to one of them early next year and it would be easy to get to that same point. Like with Cena/Reigns, I’m excited to see the match and am intrigued by the booking.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
Match I'm Looking Forward To The Most
Kurt: It’s tough between the top two matches, but I think there’s far more possibilities with Reigns vs. Cena, so I’ll pick that.
Mike: Certainly Cena/Reigns. Two of the most protected stars in the company, each with potent bases of love and hate, dueling it out. Both can go, and this will be the best story of the night.
John: It’s pretty equal with the top two matches, but if I have to pick one I’d go with Cena/Reigns as well.
Match I Care About The Least
Kurt: The Cruiserweight Title Match. I’m just not into Enzo in the division considering the better athletes on that roster that deserve a shot
Mike: Enzo challenging for the Cruiserweight belt. Makes the division look even worse somehow.
John: It’s the Cruiserweight match for me too.
Kurt: I’ll go out on a limb and say the Tag Title match.
Mike: I don't see Lesnar/Strowman as being something able to go very long, so I think it will be up to Cena/Reigns to carry the mail. They will get the lion's share of the time, as they should. 5 Way should get some time too.
John: I think it will be Cena vs. Reigns going over 20 minutes. The Tag Title match could be really long too.
Kurt: Brock vs. Braun. Brock needs to do more longer matches, but this is one instance where a shorter match makes sense.
Mike: If Neville needs more than ten minutes to dispatch Enzo, there's something wrong with their medulla oblongata.
John: Probably Neville vs. Enzo because the longer Enzo is out there the worse it would be.
Excitement Level on a Scale of 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high)
Kurt: Solid 7. It’s a 2-match card but both of those matches are highly intriguing.
Mike: This reminds me of one of those boxing cards where you're far more interested in the couple title bouts than the undercard. Let's call it a 6.
John: It’s an 8 for me. I’m excited about it. I don’t think it’s a two match card because the Tag Team Title match can be a four star (out of five) type tag match if they get time and there’s really nothing that bad on the undercard.
John: That’s all for us. Thanks to the crew for joining me once again. I will have a live review of No Mercy on Sunday night, so check it out on TJRWrestling.net during the show or after it’s over for all of my thoughts, ratings and analysis.
Kurt - @KTankTMB
Mike - @DharmanRockwell
John - @johnreport
If you want to send an email, send it to me at email@example.com as well. Thanks for reading.