Seth Rollins’ new best friend is a steel chair, Samoa Joe gets a Stomping Grounds opponent and Baron Corbin has a decision to make on this week’s Monday Night Raw.
This week’s episode of Monday Night Raw came to us from Los Angeles, just days away from Sunday’s Stomping Grounds pay-per-view. Most of the Stomping Grounds match card is a retread of the last few months of WWE storylines, but Raw was still capable of bringing us something fresh this week, despite how the show has trended in the months since WrestleMania 35. It was a nice reprieve from the slogs that so many recent Raws have been. It wasn’t perfect, but it was certainly more watchable than usual this week and — gasp — bordered on legitimately good.
The show opens with Elias talking down the Los Angeles crowd (there are like six promos people cut against the Lakers throughout the night), and also says that Baron Corbin had invited him to Raw. Elias will be serving as the special guest referee in his match with Seth Rollins at Stomping Grounds. He is then attacked from behind by Rollins (with a steel chair). Rollins says he’s not playing games any longer and that he will attack anyone who aligns with Corbin and agrees to serve as referee on Sunday. Elias bows out of the job, so Corbin has to find someone else.
We get right to a major match — the fatal five-way to determine Samoa Joe’s challenger for Joe’s United States Championship at Stomping Grounds.
Match No. 1: The Miz vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Cesaro vs. Ricochet vs. Braun Strowman
The Miz hits the ring and gives a Skull Crushing Finale to Elias — not forgetting that Elias is part of Shane McMahon’s group of cronies. Bobby Lashley comes to the ring next and then spears Elias. Cesaro is up next, and he gives a Cesaro Swing to Elias. Ricochet is the next competitor, and yep — he attacks Elias with a Codebreaker. Braun Strowman is the fifth and final man to the ring and he powerslams Elias. Nope, not a good night for Elias, at all.
This is an elimination match. Strowman gets the first out, pinning Cesaro, but Cesaro at least did this first:
Strowman then eliminated Lashley and turned his attention to The Miz and Ricochet, who were both outside of the ring. He, naturally, ran them over. Lashley and Cesaro returned to the match (as it is no disqualification), attacked Strowman and gave the floor to Ricochet, who hit a 630 and, (with Lashley and Cesaro on his back), pinned Strowman and eliminated him. That led to Strowman throwing everyone around. The Miz and Ricochet, however, are the last two legal competitors in the match. Then, this apparently happened:
After the break (during commercials), the match resumed. The pace between Miz and Ricochet was brisk and it was also a pleasant change of pace to see things come down to two babyfaces — though it’s only natural, given that Joe is very, very much a heel. The Miz locked in a Figure Four but Ricochet reversed it. Even with a “bad leg,” though, Ricochet could reach the top rope, hit a 630 and defeated The Miz.
Ricochet will now face Joe for the United States Championship on Sunday. Unsurprisingly, Joe — who was watching from ringside — attacked Ricochet after the match, but Ricochet got quick revenge. The five-way was a fun, chaotic little match that could serve to set up any number of feuds, and Joe vs. Ricochet has the potential to be the best bout at Stomping Grounds. That’s a pairing worth watching, much like the Ricochet-Cesaro program WWE has given us over the last month.
Becky Lynch, the Raw Women’s Champion, comes to the ring next to talk about her Stomping Grounds match against Lacey Evans, who is coming after Lynch’s remaining title belt. Evans, of course, comes out to have a promo battle with Lynch. Evans claims she’s more than she appears, having gone through things Lynch “could never comprehend.” Lynch gives Evans the floor.
Evans reveals her past as a Marine and stakes her claim to bringing “dignity” to the women’s division. It’s a typical back-and-forth between the two: Lynch wonders why Evans has any claim to a title match, Evans believes that she’ll class up the company. This ends with Lynch giving Evans a quick beatdown and leaving triumphantly with Evans’ hat.
Wild cardin’ out with Daniel Bryan and Rowan
Daniel Bryan and Rowan, the SmackDown Tag Team Champions, come out to cut a promo saying that Raw sucks (as well as Los Angeles), which is why the McMahons insisted Bryan and Rowan show up. Bryan talks about LA’s pollution and vacuousness and then claims their purpose is to excite the crowd. Bryan will be facing Rollins later in the night (pleasebegood pleasebegood pleasebegood). See you later, Bryan!
Match No. 2: Local talent “experience” the Viking Raiders
The Vikings Raiders win very quickly with their finisher, The Viking Experience.
The KO and Sami show
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn teamed up for a special episode of the KO and Sami Show, with Corbin joining them as guest. Corbin will (again) be announcing his choice for special guest referee for his match on Sunday. Elias has already been taken out of the running courtesy of Rollins; now we find out who Rollins’ next target will apparently be.
(Oh and Shane McMahon, Drew McIntyre and The Revival have been having an ongoing VIP party throughout the show. It features a humiliation of Heath Slater, for some reason. It did get a McIntyre-Slater moment, though, which was satisfying in its own way).
Back to Zayn and Owens and Corbin, Zayn and Owens have taken their names out of the running for the special referee job. Corbin understands and then makes his big announcement: EC3 will be the referee — whoops, nope, Rollins hits him with the chair, as promised.
He’s left lying atop the ramp as …
The New Day arrive to liven things up
Owens establishes himself as a contender for Kofi Kingston’s WWE Championship after Kingston’s steel cage meeting with Dolph Ziggler at Stomping Grounds. Kingston puts over the Ziggler bout and the jawing then leads to a six-man match between The New Day and Owens-Zayn-Corbin. They revive EC3 — yes, he’s still laying there — and recruit him to serve as the referee for the match. EC3 is still out of it, so The New Day agree for him.
Match No. 3: The New Day vs. Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and Baron Corbin
First, we get a segment with AJ Styles and The Good Brothers in which the trio recount their histories together. Styles tells The Club they are getting complacent, which is why they aren’t wrestling on television anymore. They need to get serious — and they’ll do it against The Usos tonight.
Anyway, the six-man tag match has been named a two-out-of-three falls affair. Woods gets the first fall victory over Zayn.
The momentum shifted to the heel squad following the break, including Owens hitting a beauty of a superkick on Big E. The plan is to isolate Big E from his New Day corner.
Big E finally makes the tag, to Kingston, and he dominates Corbin until he hits Deep Six. The New Day broke up the pin attempt and Corbin accidentally hits Zayn with a clothesline. This angers Owens, who hits another lovely superkick, this time on Corbin. Zayn and Owens split, Kingston hits Trouble in Paradise on Corbin and The New Day snag the victory.
Paul Heyman has something to say
Paul Heyman is here and he’s nervous, because Rollins is going crazy with the chair shots. To be safe, he makes it clear that he is not, nor does he want to be, the special guest referee at Stomping Grounds. He does note that Rollins is vulnerable tonight, what with his match with Daniel Bryan. Perhaps Brock Lesnar is — or isn’t — in town to take advantage of this fact.
Heyman teases not knowing when Lesnar will show up and cash in his Money in the Bank contract and how neither the fans nor Rollins know when, either. The reminder that The Beast is on the hunt was effective, because anything Heyman does is effective.
Eric Young, meanwhile, was tapped by Corbin for the referee job but then runs into Rollins, who he tells he won’t be taking the job. Rollins beats him with the chair anyway. Now it seems like Rollins is coming unhinged, with this Corbin situation and Lesnar both wearing him down. Or he’s just kind of a jerk now.
Match No. 4: The Usos vs. The Good Brothers (or The Club, your choice)
Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows haven’t been on Raw or any WWE television for a long, long time but finally get a match worthy of their talents, taking on The Usos (whom AJ Styles called the best tag team in the world a little earlier). It’s easy to forget, given how infrequently we see them, that Gallows and Anderson are also one of the world’s top tag teams. It’s just that the WWE has preferred to crap all over their legacies instead.
But with Styles telling Anderson and Gallows to “get serious,” perhaps that’s an indication that the creative team is willing to give them a new push. Facing The Usos is certainly a major step up for their booking.
Showboating, though, and a bit of arrogance led to a quick Uso victory via stereo superkicks. Styles does not approve. It looks like a new storyline is afoot.
A disguised R-Truth (with Carmella) runs out to the ring, followed by the usual murderer’s row of challengers. It was the only 24/7 Championship segment for the night.
And now a word from Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns shows up to cut a promo and says he’s ready for a fight. Shane McMahon, at his party elsewhere in the arena, interrupts. He’s not going to fight Reigns tonight and says Reigns should be more concerned about Drew McIntyre, the man he’s facing at Stomping Grounds. McIntyre takes over the promo, insulting Reigns’ familiy, leading to Reigns making his way to the VIP suite.
Reigns encounters The Revival along the way and beats them down. He gets into the suite, slams McIntyre through the catering table and McMahon escapes to the arena.
Reigns follows and gets in a proper beating on McMahon. Reigns tells McMahon to “crawl to the back” and tell McIntyre that a beating is coming his way. End scene.
Match No. 5: The IIconics vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross
The IIconics defended their WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships against the newly-established (and highly caffeinated) team of Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross. The IIconics lament the low level of talent to challenge them — a not untrue statement, given that there’s not much going on in the WWE women’s tag division.
SmackDown Women’s Champion, Bayley, is ringside for the match, as she is set to defend her title against Bliss at Stomping Grounds. Bliss is also trying to turn the women’s division as a whole against Bayley, via weird social media machinations.
The IIconics’ trash talking remains on an epic scale. And while Cross and Bliss get in some quality offense, Bliss being distracted by Bayley and Cross being outmatched when trying to handle Billie Kay and Peyton Royce simultaneously leads to Cross taking the pin.
This week’s Firefly Fun House
Bray Wyatt’s Firefly Fun House returns this week with Wyatt doing some gardening in his window. Gardens are like minds, with water and sunshine making them grow. Ideas that are “full of worms,” though, are no good. Wyatt dispels that the world is round and that dinosaurs are extinct.
He wants everyone to join him in the Fun House, with his various puppets (including a very much alive Ramblin Rabbit) asking us to join them. “People worship what they fear and fear is power,” says Wyatt, and to “follow the leader.” Lots of creepy visuals follow.
It ends with The Fiend asking us to let him in. Chilling stuff. Must-watch stuff.
Match No. 6: Daniel Bryan (with Rowan) vs. Seth Rollins
Our main event pits Daniel Bryan against Universal Champion Seth Rollins in a non-title match and a match that, on paper, has every reason to (no pun intended) burn the house down. Unfortunately, it initially ends before it ever got started, with Rowan interfering early and causing a disqualification.
This leads to The New Day coming to make the save for Rollins, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and The Revival getting involved, drawing out The Usos and on and on. Numerous officials take control of the interfering parties and the match restarts, after a commercial break, as just Bryan vs. Rollins, one-on-one, with no Rowan and no distractions.
The match itself, once underway, delivered as these two undeniably talented wrestlers put on a bona fide pro wrestling showcase. A Falcon Arrow counter into a Labell Lock were among the standout sequences.
Rollins wins the match cleanly following a stomp. Corbin then shows up and sneak-attacks Rollins with a steel chair — what goes around comes around — and drags him back into the ring to hit him with End of Days.
For a go-home show for a pay-per-view no one is particularly all that excited about, Monday Night Raw managed to deliver an entertaining, well-paced show that felt different from recent weeks. Perhaps it was the lack of promo parades, but things seemed a little fresh despite the number of feuds that are getting stale.
Did you enjoy this week’s episode of Raw? Do you think the show can manage an upward trend? Does this make you more interested in Stomping Grounds? Sound off in the comments below.