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Raw Roundtable: SummerSlam anticipation

(Photo courtesy of WWE.com)

Moment of the night?

Travis Wakeman: I’m going to go with Heath Slater coming out to interrupt Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar. Of course, we all knew what was going to happen, but watching the “hottest free agent” have the nerve to do that was highly entertaining. While the majority of Slater’s career has been him trying to make something out of a comedic gimmick where he loses 95 percent of his matches, this is one that seems to have something behind it. Eventually, Slater will win one of these matches where he’s given a chance to win a contract and he might be able to get enough the crowd behind him this time to convince WWE to give him a push out of it.

Daniel DeMarco: You’ve got to go with the Rollins-Balor segment. Balor’s entrance was done excellently, and Rollins sold the uneasiness and cautiousness to his presence well. The action we got was just the right amount to show a single-serving preview of what to expect between these two world-class performers on Sunday, without it feeling like hardly anything at all or a drawn-out brawl. The segment served its purpose and gave that extra kick of hype for SummerSlam on an overall underwhelming go-home Raw.

Jason Hall: The Demon appearance. I think that will be the only memorable takeaway from an otherwise average Raw. Being that it was Bálor’s first appearance as the Demon on the main roster, it felt like a big deal. Plus, it managed to build up Sunday’s match and present the newly called up superstar as a legitimate threat.

Riley Kontek: The debut of the Demon King. I’ll be honest, I was less than impressed with this week’s episode of Raw yet again. Outside of a great Roman Reigns-Rusev match, the in-ring action was average at best. The non-wrestling segments dragged. The only thing that saved much of the show for me was Finn Balor making his entrance and introducing the WWE audience to his alter ego. That was the biggest moment of the night and it wasn’t even close.

Joseph Nardone: When a fan ran into the ring, Michael Cole pretended Seth Rollins wasn’t staring at the dude, but was in “a daze” or whatever, which culminated in Rollins asking if that was the Demon King.

Honestly, it was actually a scary moment. Whenever a fan jumps the guard rails, we have no idea what their intentions are. But given some hindsight here — knowing everyone is OK — the way Rollins handled it was great. He just stared at the guy, make a little quip about it, then moved on.

It was yet another example as to how he’s such a next-level talent. Nothing can slow him down.

After all of Brock’s appearances before SummerSlam, are you any more excited about his match with Randy Orton?

TW: I’m not more excited only because all of Brock’s appearances are pretty much identical. He comes out, stands there, and Heyman talks the match up. This is a match that doesn’t need to be talked up. They came in at the same time and they were both “blue chip” athletes who had the chance to be about as big as any Superstar that had ever come before them. On top of that, this is a match/feud that has never happened. WWE isn’t rehashing something from 10 years ago and trying to make it better. For that reason, I’m excited. I don’t need Brock to appear at all before SummerSlam, honestly.

DD: Sure, they improved my expectations and anticipation for the match. Though admittedly, I started from a level where the bar was set low, so I’m not sure what that says for WWE. We still have SmackDown to go I suppose, but I think WWE peaked with the Lesnar-Orton build in the looking-back video put together, covering the last 15 years of both men’s careers and what they thought of each other. Raw’s Heath Slater segment basically had nothing to do with SummerSlam, but Lesnar came off great, even putting on a full-blown promo. I cannot even remember the last time we got more than a handful of words out of him in WWE. But in reality, Lesnar-Orton is No. 3 on my list of most anticipated matches, and that is at best, simply for the novelty factor going in.

JH:  Yes. I think the fact that Randy Orton is his opponent also has something to do with it. It’s slim, but there is a chance that WWE could actually book Brock to lose. Think about it, Orton is established enough to go over. Lesnar’s only losses have come against the likes of John Cena and Triple H. Orton is one of the few superstars with a comparable status. Plus, the whole UFC drug test thing could sway the booking as well. I’m not saying I want Brock to lose, but it is more intriguing when there’s a realistic chance that he’ll at least take some bumps.

RK: I am excited about the match with Orton no doubt, but there isn’t a whole lot that the build up has done to improve that. Orton showing up on Raw and Lesnar showing up on SmackDown as retaliation were really the only two things that got me stoked about he feud from a storyline perspective. Otherwise, it’s just been Paul Heyman cutting promos that we hear every week. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Heyman, but when he essentially cuts the same promo every week, it doesn’t do much to add to my involvement in a feud.

JN: Nope. Not a single bit. If anything it makes me want Orton out of the match and the WWE replace him with the hottest free agent around, Heath Slater.

This angle was doomed from the start. At least for me. Orton is just a character I care very little about. I don’t hate him, but I also don’t like him. He’s kind of just there.

To be fair, normal non-Orton indifference-feelers might care a little bit. But there’s no logical reason to. Not unless you’re into two guys who have tattoos that go great with Ed Hardy t-shirts.

Did WWE make a mistake by debuting Demon Balor before SummerSlam?

TW: In my opinion, yes. Why reveal Finn Balor’s alter ego before the big event? That entrance should have been saved for a big show/venue, not a regular episode of Raw. For those that are familiar with The Demon, they knew he’d appear in that form at SummerSlam. For those that aren’t familiar, WWE doesn’t have pay-per-views to sell anymore, so why not have more patience? And yes, there are fans that have never seen The Demon before. Not every fan watches NXT. Back when the internet began to explode with “dirt sheets” that gave away show results, storyline plans, etc. I always used to say that the shows should be booked for those that didn’t go and read spoilers, even if it was a smaller percentage than those that did. The point is, there should always be an element of surprise with wrestling booking. There should always be something that makes the fan feel a “pay off” when it happens. Wrestling isn’t booked that way anymore. It all happens on Raw and then they do the exact same thing at the PPV event and make it seem like it’s more important. I could go on and on, but that’s my basic complaint with WWE and has been for quite some time.

DD: No. I can understand why people say Demon Balor should have not debuted until SummerSlam, but the segment WWE put on for Raw was fully effective in its delivery. Again, Raw has more viewers than SummerSlam will, so it is good to give people a little taste of something as unique as Demon Balor on Monday nights. It is good promotion, simple as that. And WWE also was able to show the performance difference of day-to-day Finn Balor to Demon Balor, with the great chemistry display between himself and Rollins. Not to mention, it was the standout moment of the show, so it is just that much more memorable for viewers. WWE could have easily gotten away with waiting on unveiling the Demon, but the decision to debut him early was done very well and, thus, was not a mistake.

JH: Not really. It helped build intrigue for the match. We all knew Bálor was going to come out as the Demon either way. Plus, he’ll likely have a different paint job for the actual event. It wouldn’t have made much sense for WWE to spend the last two weeks talking about the Demon and it not actually show up.

RK: No, I actually think it was the right call. The reason I say that is because I think a lot of the younger fans that make up a good portion of the audience probably do not watch NXT and probably don’t really know who Balor is. Having him debut the Demon King on Raw before SummerSlam will actually probably help their viewership, as he has now drawn the interest of those who did not know him before. It’s also a sign that he will probably be putting Rollins over.

JN: Yes. It makes Demon Balor’s — or, really, I guess the WWE is calling him The Demon King — debut on SummerSlam a bit anticlimactic.

To me, it is like the WWE decided to give all its Christmas presents to its kids a week before Christmas. So, even if there is still a few leftover presents on the world’s most famous carpenter’s birthday, that special feel of waking up to the unknown is gone.

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