The WWE superstars of Monday Night Raw go to war Sunday in WWE’s latest version of No Mercy. The card is top heavy (like most Raw events) with two WrestleMania-worthy matches on the docket.
Just like GBOF earlier this year, No Mercy will show just how much star power there is on the Raw roster. WWE can choose from any one of five or six competitors to headline any Raw-brand PPV. That’s not really the case for SmackDown live at the moment. Sunday’s show will be a good indicator of where the company is headed for the rest of the year, and all the way up to WrestleMania.
The Professor’s No Mercy Preview and Predictions (Card as of Thursday)
Neville vs. Enzo Amore (Cruiserweight Championship) – (Author’s note – if you look at my post from two weeks ago, you’ll see that I predicted this match would take place before it was announced.) We’ll start with this one, since the purple belt has been defended on ppv kickoff shows more often than not lately. While Amore has added some much-needed personality to the Cruiserweight Division, he simply isn’t good enough in the ring to hang with the top stars in the stable. The Realest Guy in the Room has been resorting to cheating to win lately, but remains very popular with the crowd. That works well here, as Neville is playing the heel role. Given that Amore got absolutely destroyed by Braun Strowman on Raw Monday night, Neville should go over quick and clean here. WWE can’t afford to stigmatize the cruisers any further, and having their champion lose to or struggle with a battered Amore would undermine Neville’s credibility. Besides, every muscle in my body cringes at the thought of Amore with the Cruiserweight Championship.
Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt (Man vs. Man) – The stip here seems to favor Wyatt, since he appears to be a man whenever he wrestles. (Except when he looks like an upside-down spider.) There’s no handicap for Wyatt. Either he’s a god or he’s not. You can’t tell by looking at him. It does hamper Balor, who cannot come out in his demon persona here. I suspect that protecting the Demon Balor is the reason for the stipulation. Wyatt gets a win here, continuing the feud until Balor can get back into character for a rematch.
The Miz vs. Jason Jordan (Intercontinental Championship) – When it comes to character work, there’s no contest here. Miz is one of the most polished heels in the entire wrestling industry. He plays the elitist snob to perfection. Jordan is still green as grass on the mic. Give WWE credit for not having him get into a war of words with the A-Lister. (They probably should have used the same approach with Roman Reigns and John Cena.) Jordan, however, has been outstanding in the ring over the past month or so. Miz is a capable hand in the ring, and can make Jordan look like a huge star. That said, it’s too early to put the belt on Jordan. If WWE wants to keep the Intercontinental Championship relevant, it needs to stay on Miz until a star of greater magnitude (Balor or maybe Samoa Joe?) takes it off him. Give Jordan some time to build a resume before putting a belt on him. Miz either wins dirty or loses by DQ or count-out, thus retaining the title.
Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax vs. Emma vs. Bayley (WWE Raw Women’s Championship) – The story here is about who isn’t in this match. Asuka is on the way to Monday nights, and when she gets there, the title belongs around her waist, so that WWE can continue the Empress of Tomorrow’s undefeated streak. With that in mind, Bliss needs to retain here. The women’s title has changed hands a bit too often lately. Bliss is the closest thing that Raw has to a dominant women’s champ. When Asuka takes the belt, she needs to take it from an established champion. Only Bliss fits that description for now. Bliss wins by luck and smarts. (But finds out Monday that she’s not ready for Asuka.)
Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins vs. Sheamus and Cesaro (Raw Men’s Tag Team Championship) – I don’t see any reason for WWE to tease dissension between Ambrose and Rollins so early in their reunion tour. The Bar makes for a good foil, and The Club is still around in the background, while the Revival is nearly ready to return. The best teams on Raw are heels, so it only makes sense to keep the belts on the babyfaces. Rollins and Ambrose win a great match.
John Cena vs. Roman Reigns (Ego on a pole match?) – WWE made a major mistake pitting Reigns against Cena on the mic. Over and over again, The Big Dog got utterly schooled by Cena. Reigns looked somewhat impotent, resorting to calling Cena a bitch, and repeating the part-timer angle that Cena used on The Rock a few years ago. Even when Roman was alone in the ring, his promo about Cena wasn’t overly strong. WWE should have simply had Reigns come out and blast Cena with a Superman Punch or a spear every time Cena called him out. The more Roman talks, the less cool he sounds. Either that, or WWE needs to stop scripting Reigns and let him ad lib more, like they do with Cena. The good news is that Reigns is every bit as good in the ring as Cena is on the mic. Cena has been more than willing to put guys over for the past year or two, and this match could be incredible. For Reigns’ (and WWE’s) sake, Roman has to go over clean here. Cena is probably on his way out for a few months, and if he leaves after defeating Reigns, there won’t be anything WWE creative can do to save the Big Dog. Reigns wins an absolute classic, then proceeds to beat Cena down mercilessly. (This solves two problems. Cena can go away for a while with a good excuse, and Reigns would be ever closer to the heel turn he so badly needs.)
Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman (WWE Universal Championship) – This is a tough call. I’ve never been a fan of absentee champions. I think the shows are much more interesting when the top belt is featured every week. The problem is that Lesnar works best as a special attraction. If he were on Raw every week, it would be hard to maintain his aura. Strowman has been booked like no other challenger before him. He’s physically dominated Lesnar on several occasions, making it seem possible that he could beat The Beast at any time. Call me crazy, but I think WWE pulls the trigger here, and puts the belt on Braun. If the company is shooting for a Lesnar-Reigns bout at WrestleMania in April, they still have plenty of time to get the belt back on Brock or even on Reigns. (Or, they could just let Reigns and Lesnar battle it out without the title on the line.) Braun wins a hard-hitting match, and begins a reign of terror on Monday nights.
That’s how I expect things to shake out on Sunday. (Actually, that’s how I think things should shake out. There’s no accounting for WWE’s booking.) We’ll see how close I am, and talk about the implications of Sunday’s event next time.