Monday Night Raw moved both onward and upward this week, with a key title change and feuds taking next steps. One very unlucky rabbit, though, has been turned into marmalade.
Seth Rollins was the first man out to the ring on this week’s episode of WWE Monday Night Raw. He had his Universal Championship in tow — no, Brock Lesnar did not cash in his Money in the Bank contract on Friday, and no, Baron Corbin did not defeat Rollins, either.
Rollins claims that the Universal Title is in a “new era,” and that there’s no one on the roster to best him, noting as an example his chair-centric beatdown of Lesnar on Friday at that show in June. The promo parade begins: Here’s Corbin in his branded vest, fresh off of his shift at TGIFriday’s. The crowd is less than pleased with his presence (shocker).
Because of Corbin’s belief that officiating cost him the championship, he announces he’ll have a rematch with Rollins with a hand-picked official of Corbin’s choosing at Stomping Grounds. Rollins wonders who it may be, given Corbin’s apparent friendlessness. Cue Sami Zayn.
Zayn talks down the Rollins-Lesnar feud as a “swirl of toxic masculinity,” with the two men trapped in a never ending cycle. Thus, it would be better for Rollins (and for Raw) if Corbin were the Universal Champion, allowing us to break free from the Lesnar obsession. Also, Zayn is Corbin’s special referee (of course). And here comes Kevin Owens, because: promo parade.
This leads to Rollins and Owens set to meet one-on-one later in the night. Expect Corbin and Zayn to interfere. This took up the first 15 minutes of the three-hour show. Later on, Zayn appeals to Shane McMahon to be the special guest referee for Rollins-Owens; McMahon allows him to be a second, outside-of-the-ring ref.
Match No. 1: Lars Sullivan something something
The Lucha House Party-Lars Sullivan feud is apparently continuing, with Sullivan taking on the House Party in a three-vs.-one elimination handicap match. The upside is that an actual match (with the bell ringing and everything) took place within the first 21 minutes of Raw this week.
Sullivan quickly dispatched Kalisto. Next up was Lince Dorado. A running powerbomb did in Dorado. Gran Metalik was Partier No. 3. Sullivan opted to toy with Metalik rather than quickly putting him away as he did Metalik’s teammates. Sullivan eventually took out Metalik with a flying headbutt. This match lasted approximately three minutes, while this feud feels like it’s gone on for three months already.
In 24/7 Championship news …
R-Truth and Carmella, meanwhile, are shown running through backstage being pursued for Truth’s 24/7 Championship. Truth gets stuck in an elevator with Carmella, EC3, Cedric Alexander, Drake Maverick and Heath Slater. The elevator, of course, stalls out, and there is also no official within it, so no chance for those four men to actually challenge Truth for the title while stuck. A note, though: Slater has served as a referee in the past. Does he still possess those privileges?
Nearly two hours later, everyone remains stuck. They are understandably driving each other crazy.
The group realizes an hour later that they all have more in common than they first thought and that it’s too bad that the 24/7 Championship have been tearing each other apart. The elevator then opens with another set of Superstars plus a referee, but in the ensuing madness, Truth and Carmella get away.
Ladies and The Man
We then get a split-screen interview conducted by Michael Cole with Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch and Lacey Evans because the two are (yet again) meeting for Lynch’s title on June 23 at Stomping Grounds. What is a “plank,” anyway, and why is that Lynch’s insult of choice? Now, it’s kind of hilarious, still, but what does it mean?
In other women’s division news, Alexa Bliss and Evans will be teaming up against Lynch and SmackDown Women’s Champion (and San Jose native — where tonight’s Raw is taking place) Bayley, with Alexa Cross in Bliss’ corner.
MizTV with guest Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe claims that he won back the WWE United States Championship from Rey Mysterio a week ago, while it’s a known-known that Mysterio gave up the belt and back to Joe, owing both to Mysterio’s real-life shoulder injury and also Joe’s shoulders not being actually on the mat when Mysterio won the belt.
Miz then claims that Joe has crossed the line by involving Mysterio’s son Dominic(k), but Joe says that there’s nothing “too far” for him. That perhaps The Miz, and his family, should be Joe’s next target. This tension is broken by the arrival of Braun Strowman. Strowman makes it known he wants to challenge Joe; the two stare down, triggering Bobby Lashley, who isn’t through with Strowman and who also wants to challenge Joe. Ricochet arrives: same. Cesaro? Same. Though he simply attacks Ricochet, with whom he has a few weeks’ worth of beef. This leads to …
Match No. 2: Six-man tag match
Ricochet, The Miz and Strowman then team up to face Lashley, Joe and Cesaro. It’s basically a sampler platter of the WWE roster: Four powerful guys with varied motivations, some more charismatic than others, plus white-meat babyface Miz working that classic WWE style and the high-flying Ricochet, his speed keeping the heel trio honest.
A highlight of this above-average match was a Cesaro Swing on The Miz that saw Miz swung around approximately two-dozen times. With a collection of the company’s actual, proven top talent, it’s apparent that the WWE can put forth some must-watch wrestling. The only problem is how few and far between it has become.
Everything breaks down when Joe takes his US Title and goes home, remembering he has no alliances (and that all five men in the match want to challenge for his championship). A distracted/angered Cesaro takes a Skull Crushing Finale from Miz and a 630 splash from Ricochet, and Ricochet picks up the pin. Cesaro exited the ring quickly, apparently taking some damage to his knee from Ricochet’s awkward landing.
Match No. 3: More tag team action
The women’s tag match hinted at earlier in the night came next, with Becky Lynch and Bayley — the two top champs — facing Lacey Evans and Alexa Bliss, their respective top contenders. Bliss is seconded by Nikki Cross. Bayley has the benefit of a hometown crowd.
Evans was less tentative than last week against Charlotte Flair, and being in a tag team environment certainly helped in that area as well. Her moonsault — here, missed on Lynch — still impresses and looks more smooth than Flair’s.
Evans hit Bayley with a Women’s Right, picking up the pin on Bayley.
Ladies and gentleman
Paul Heyman spoke next, declaring he is “disturbed” by the level of animosity between (his client) Brock Lesnar and (Universal Champion) Seth Rollins. The two men are trading beatings, you see, and he found Rollins’ excessive use of a steel chair against Lesnar makes him a “stupid, feckless thug,” who has now provided Lesnar with more fuel for the fire (and less incentive to cash in his Money in the Bank contract quickly).
Now, the cash-in will come whenever Lesnar deems it, and will not make it known when it’s coming. You know, how the Money in the Bank contract has always been intended to be wielded. Heyman insinuates — by saying explicitly that he is not insinuating — that Lesnar will do all manner of horrible things to Rollins at Stomping Grounds and then successfully cash in. Threat, promise, guarantee: Lesnar will be Universal Champion yet again. Voila. Predator-prey suits Lesnar-Rollins.
Match No. 4: The IIconics were here (and they won)
The IIconics — WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, despite the company not wanting to do anything with them — face local talent, “Lisa Lace” and “Aaliyah Mia.” The IIconics come away with the victory. So, what happened with Asuka and Kairi Sane again?
A celebration for the son of Vince McMahon
Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre were feted on Raw in reward for McMahon’s Friday defeat of Roman Reigns with McIntyre’s help to open the show’s third hour. McMahon starts by putting Reigns over but quickly turns it into how Reigns has beaten everyone except McMahon (because, of course, McMahon is “the best in the world”). He then praises McIntyre.
The crowd is decidedly not into this segment. What a bummer that a promising feud between McIntyre and Reigns has to be saddled with this McMahon baggage. Both men deserve better, because they are better. McIntyre promises to disfigure Reigns at Stomping Grounds and then pin him.
Time to pop the champagne (and to pour it in the Best in the World trophy)! They decide to bring out The Revival, who are about to take on the Raw Tag Team Champions Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder and The Usos for the titles. They can’t have champagne until after the match, McMahon informs them (and only if they win).
Match No. 5: And new!
Ryder and Hawkins won the Raw Tag Team Championships at WrestleMania but haven’t done much defending of them in the past two months. But this week, they put the belts on the line in a triple threat against The Revival and The Usos.
The Revival ended the night with the gold. Jey Uso had cleared the ring with superkicks and hit a frog splash on Ryder that would have picked up the win for The Usos, except Scott Dawson of The Revival tagged himself in, stealing the pin and the championship for himself and Dash Wilder.
Ryder and Hawkins held the belts for two months, didn’t defend them and never even bothered to have matching gear. Not a bad eight weeks’ of work in the WWE, honestly. Ask the IIconics how it could have gone.
Firefly Fun House
This week’s Firefly Fun House “Abandon all hope ye who exit here.” Mercy is trying to eat Rambling Rabbit and warns that he’ll get The Fiend if the two don’t calm down. Wyatt allows Rabbit to give a speech on why you shouldn’t eat your friends and that he doesn’t feel safe in the Fun House.
Wyatt smashes Rambling Rabbit with a giant mallet to keep him from talking. He licked the Rabbit’s … innards? … and they’re delicious. Rambling Rabbit is turned into a jar of Bohemian Breakfast Spread, making for one of Raw’s best moments. As twisted and entertaining as ever.
Match No. 6: Our main event
The final match is the one set up at Raw‘s beginning, Kevin Owens versus Seth Rollins, with Sami Zayn serving as second, outside-the-ring referee. Owens held much of the early advantage, with Zayn’s help, but he also held his own thanks to his focus on attacking Rollins’ taped up ribs and midsection.
Zayn uses his authority position to keep Rollins away from Owens in crucial situations. He was neutralized by Rollins throwing Owens into Zayn. That opened up Rollins to hit the stomp on Owens but before the real referee could get the three count, Zayn pulled the ref out of the ring. Zayn and Rollins argue until Rollins grabs Zayn, so Zayn calls for a disqualification.
Post-bell, Rollins takes out Zayn, Baron Corbin takes out Rollins (Owens stalks to the back), steel chair-adjacent things happen that results in Rollins hitting Zayn with said chair. Rollins’ attack on Zayn (while he yells at a retreating Corbin) closes the show. Rollins is mad, y’all.
Given how dismal Raw has been of late, this was a much better overall episode, perhaps owing to no longer having to build to a non-canon international show in lieu of a pay-per-view. There were six matches and while two of them was the IIconics vs. Local Talent and the other the Lars Sullivan squash, the other four were of good quality.
Feuds have been advanced ahead of Stomping Grounds in two weeks’ time and the overall pace of the show was not one of abject suffering. It wasn’t perfect, but Monday Night Raw took a positive step forward this week. Now, will it maintain its upward trajectory? Let us know your thoughts on the show in the comments below.