Bray Wyatt's Electric Return, Lesnar vs. Rollins Yet Again, More WWE Raw Fallout
The July 15 edition of WWE Raw showcased how seriously the company takes the build to SummerSlam. Just one day removed from Extreme Rules, it refocused on the future with two major No. 1 contendership matches.
Seth Rollins overcame a field of the best stars new executive director Paul Heyman could bring together from both brands in a Battle Royal. With his victory, he earned a chance at redemption against Brock Lesnar that he cannot afford to squander.
Natalya eliminated the field in a Fatal 4-Way match to get a shot at Becky Lynch at SummerSlam on August 11. While it may not be the most exciting pairing, it does set up an important moment in the career of The Queen of Harts.
Other stars haven't got their clear match at SummerSlam yet, but they did build momentum for future opportunities. Cedric Alexander managed to escape a match against Drew McIntyre with a victory, and he now has the most momentum he has ever had in WWE.
No moment was quite as important to the night as the return of Bray Wyatt, though. The Fiend made his long-awaited return by attacking Finn Balor, setting his sights clearly on the first of many victims.
This week's Raw may not have been a massive paradigm shift, but it did set an interesting stage for the future of the red brand on the road to SummerSlam.
Bray Wyatt's Back to Terrorize WWE
Finn Balor attempted to reclaim momentum after his loss to Shinsuke Nakamura at Extreme Rules, but Samoa Joe also needed a victory.
The Samoan Submission Specialist stole the pinfall with a crucifix pin, but the Irishman got revenge with a Coup De Grace after the bell.
Then the lights went out.
When they came back on, Wyatt as The Fiend appeared to lay out The Extraordinary Man with Sister Abigail. It was an impactful moment after a few weeks of silence from The Eater of Worlds.
Through the months of "Firefly Fun House," Wyatt has been the best part of Raw. He has now reached the crucial stage of translating that gimmick to wrestling. He is getting a solid start, working with one of his best opponents during his first major run.
While Balor and Wyatt struggled to tell the story of their last rivalry, their matches were quality performances driven by the chemistry of two talented wrestlers. Hopefully, this fresh Wyatt persona will make for better storytelling and even better matches.
The time has come for The Fiend to be unleashed. If this goes as well as the buildup, Wyatt may finally become the main event talent fans always thought he should be.
Cedric Alexander Just Got His Restart on the Main Roster
The Age of Alexander went largely unheralded when the Superstar was first brought to the main roster. Luckily, he may have just gotten a chance to rectify that. Cedric Alexander pulled off an improbable victory over McIntyre with a surprise roll-up.
Last week, The Lumbar Legacy was embarrassed in a spot where he should have shined. He sneaked into the main event under a mask and teamed with Roman Reigns in a tag team match.
He lost, but his appearance was apparently enough to frustrate The Scottish Psychopath, giving him a second chance. His victory over McIntyre is a huge moment for a man who has only wrestled a few times on the main roster.
It could be argued McIntyre could not afford this loss. It will take a true statement win for him to recover. He wasn't considered a worthy contender to Lesnar and took a defeat to someone not even seen as worthy of TV time a month ago.
The next few weeks could be vital to both men. If McIntyre responds by squashing Alexander next week, it will all be for nothing. These two need to truly feud or stay away from each other to gain real momentum.
Natalya Is the Right Challenger for Becky Lynch Even If the Build Is Boring
In an elimination Fatal 4-Way match to determine the next challenger to the Raw Women's Championship, Alexa Bliss used devious tactics to pin Carmella before Natalya caught Naomi with a roll up. Finally, The Queen of Harts hit Nikki Cross with a lariat and made The Goddess tap out to the Sharpshooter.
Afterward, The Man made clear she would not fight Natalya at SummerSlam as a friend. She would beat her down like every other challenger. The Queen of Harts fired back with her own barbs, establishing how serious both were taking this match.
The Fatal 4-Way was a mess, but that was not on Natalya. She did her part and was the best option fans would recognize to get this shot at The Man.
Right now, the Raw women's division lacks strong challengers. Until Nia Jax or Ruby Riott returns from injury or Sasha Banks chooses to get back in a WWE ring, The Queen of Harts is as big a rival as the champion could get.
The match will take place in Toronto, so it is even more appropriate for the Canadian-American.
Longtime friends Lynch and Natalya should bring their best in the clash, but The Man will have to do the heavy lifting for the weeks leading up to SummerSlam.
Natalya has never been a great mic worker, and it was obvious how outmatched she was in their post-fight confrontation. It's also hard to believe she can beat Lynch unless she ends up turning heel and finding someone to help her.
Seth Rollins Earns His Way to Redemption but This Must Be His Last Chance
Paul Heyman set the stage for the next challenger to Brock Lesnar's title by announcing a 10-man Battle Royal between the best on Raw and SmackDown.
Seth Rollins overcame the field by catching Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman on the apron before last eliminating Randy Orton.
The Beastslayer hit a snag at Extreme Rules, when he fell to The Beast Incarnate. Now, he has his chance at redemption. At WrestleMania 35, he connected on a series of low blows to take down Lesnar, but he will need a new strategy now. He will need to be able to beat Lesnar man-to-man.
It was expected that Rollins would be the next man up after The Beast's cash-in on Sunday. The Architect proved at 'Mania he could defeat Lesnar, but he didn't prove he was the better man. That will hopefully come as the final moment in this rivalry at SummerSlam.
It may have been a mistake by WWE to tease so many tantalizing new matches only to return to the familiar. However, since the company has now thrown out the automatic rematch clause, even the expected title clashes need to be earned.
Hopefully, the point here is just to solidify Rollins as the one man who can truly topple The Beast—he has to earn his title as The Beastslayer. Then WWE will be able to move on from making the Universal Championship Lesnar's signature title.