Another week, another edition of Monday Night RAW. With last week’s show finishing on a surprise title change and with the building hostilities between Kane & Braun Strowman and Kurt Angle & Triple H, & Stephanie McMahon, & Shane McMahon, basically Kurt Angle and anyone in charge, all they had to do was sit back and watch the fireworks go off and everyone would be happy, right? I’m Jozef and frankly, I have better things to do but instead, here’s what happened this week on RAW.
The First Ever Roman Reigns Intercontinental Title Open Challenge
It’s good that what they had here was an opportunity to use up any leftover script work from John Cena’s US Title Open Challenge but just change the names around. Reigns opened by showing footage of how The Shield powerbombed The Miz through the announce table and straight into a new Marine film after RAW went off-air last week, Reigns said that Miz will be away for a while with ‘injuries’ or as we call them ‘shooting commitments’. Standard, prestige of the title, if you want some, come get some fare followed. The Miz’s music would hit to the confusion of Reigns till out would come Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel to introduce their new friend, Elias. He has agreed to home the MizTourage until Miz comes back for his boys and he is taking his title shot. Reigns agreed and then told Elias he’d better ask Axel about playing the guitar with a neck brace because he was going to make sure Elias left in one. Not too thrilling work but it was short and it set up a match for later in the night.
Seth Rollins def. Cesaro (18:30)
The best match of the night by far, saw both members of their respective teams alone as Ambrose was on his honeymoon and Sheamus was on Sabbatical. How come no one else gets Sabbatical leave? The two worked a clean, crisp, technical affair with Cesaro working from above as the more powerful of the two. Both men have had encounters before and their shared history in Ring of Honor played well here as they worked far closer to a RoH match than a WWE match, it only need a few extra ridiculous near-falls and it basically would have been an indie match.
The layout of the match was clever as Cesaro worked over the back of Rollins, keeping him from being able to perform his more explosive moves without seeming he was hurting himself and Rollins sold well, never forgetting the work that had been done. The finish saw Rollins escape a Neutraliser and hit a superkick and a desperation Rain-Trigger for the pin. Post-match, Seth told Charly Caruso that the Shield are still together, as strong as ever and that when Dean was back next week, they were coming for their Tag Team Titles. The Title rematch was made official for next week’s show.
Normally, I would have stuck this in the other bits section, but it went on for so long that I thought I needed to give it some attention. So earlier in the night, it was announced that after the fatal four-way was crashed by Paige, Deville & Rose last week that the three women they beat down (minus Alicia Fox because she bailed and hasn’t been seen since presumably), Banks, James and Bayley would face them in trios action, with Alexa Bliss on commentary. After Banks made her entrance, there was no appearance by either James or Bayley to their entrance themes, till Paige’s hit and out she came and titantron showed injured Bayley and James backstage.
Paige and her flunkies would run down the entire division saying that Paige was there before any of the four horsewomen or Alexa Bliss, who had snuck off to wherever Foxy is by this point, and that Paige was responsible for burying the term Diva (Paige can currently be seen on Total Divas, Wednesdays on E). She then offered Sasha the chance to join them or they will consider her against them. You can probably guess that Sasha did not join them, so she took all their finishers. If all Mandy Rose ever does is just turn up and hit people with Angels Wings, I’ll be happy, Deville might be less experienced than the rest of them but she shows good intensity, Paige is still wiping off the rust from being away for over a year. Here’s hoping she catches up soon.
Cruiserweight Title Contenders Fatal Four-Way: Rich Swann def. Akira Tozawa, Noam Dar & Ariya Daivari (12:32)
A much better, more motivated and most important, crowd-involved match than normal from the cruiserweights, making the most of getting 20-25 minutes of screen time instead of the standard 3 or 4. The match didn’t reinvent the cruiserwheel but it made the most of each man, throwing in action thick and fast and making everyone look like they could have theoretically won it with Daivari putting in probably his best in-ring performance in the division showcasing a power game rarely shown outside of Neville in the division.
Of course, this became a showcase for Swann and rightly so as he’s been out of the spotlight really since he lost his title to Neville back in January, while he’s been putting on strong performances, it’s good to see him theoretically back in the title picture. The finish of the match was well-done with Daivari hitting his Top Rope Senton on Daivari only to be posted by Dar who rolled up his ‘Zo Train teammate till Swann broke the pin, took out Dar and hit a Phoenix Splash for the 3. It was multi-man structure work and it never became more than each man getting in their stuff but it was energetic, fun and entertaining. What more could you ask for?
Intercontinental Title Match: Roman Reigns (c) def. Elias (14:50)
Elias gave us all a treat, actually getting through technically a full three-song concert tonight, his opening number, an ode to the ‘injured’ Miz, his second, a little jam session with Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel definitely not miming along to the sounds of harmonica and his third, just a little instrumental noodling to show us all he can actually almost play the guitar well these days. It was a well-paced heel segment as it actually made the crowd pop when Roman appeared after they chanted ‘We Want Roman’. The match itself was fine. It hit all the beats you’d expect with Elias utilising his newfound e(lias)ntourage helping him abuse the number’s game until Roman fired back and hit all his best hits, hitting the Spear for the pin. The only really notable part of the match, Elias hit a Halo Bomb. After the match, Samoa Joe would surprise Roman by choking him out on the ramp. I will never tire of seeing Joe do that to people. Ever.
- Akira Tozawa, Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali & Rich Swann are backstage complaining about how Enzo Amore hides behind four men more talented than him. Kurt Angle resolves to have two Fatal Four-Ways to determine the two men who’ll compete for the number one contendership. I like how this builds actual stakes to the RAW Cruiserweight matches as well as setting up three good matches for the next three weeks of television.
- Samoa Joe def. Titus O’Neill (2:33) – A short match with far too much domination by O’Neill. Samoa Joe defeated Apollo Crews on his return four weeks ago and then went to attack further till Titus pulled him off and got choked out as well. After this match, Joe went to attack Titus further so Apollo intervened and got choked out as well. Time is a flat circle.
- The Good Brothers are in a Cyber Monday WWE Shop Ad. It’s an easy paycheque for the lads.
- Bray Wyatt def. Matt Hardy (3:38) – It’s nice that they’re letting Bray have clean wins before they work out who he has to lose to next. Before the match, Bray Wyatt cut a promo about how he never had a proper childhood, so he decides to beat up Maxel Hardy’s Dad to prove something He tells the audience they’re all dead and laughs at them. Post-match, Matt Hardy is in the ring, doing his ‘delete’ shtick, he almost looks, ‘Broken’.
- Jason Jordan and his Dad are backstage, Jordan is talking about how he wants a match with Kane to show people he’s healed up and ready to play with the big boys and that he isn’t trying to get out of matches by faking an injury.
- Asuka def. Dana Brooke (0:05) – Dana Brooke had a second-screen promo during her entrance where she talked about how she’d worked out Asuka’s weakness – that she starts slow. Asuka immediately applied her eponymous Lock. After the match, Absolution surrounded the ring, Asuka was about to kill them all when she decided to leave.
Kane def. Jason Jordan (1:45) & Finn Bálor def. Kane (2:44)
You will notice that the image above doesn’t feature two out of the three men in the final two matches, that’s because none of this is about Jason Jordan or Finn Bálor. So Jordan’s match, he came out of the gate firing on at least most of his cylinders, hitting a lot of strong offensive work until Kane decided to stop selling, beat up the two-time tag team champion, threw him out of the ring and he slid in just after the count losing by default. Kane decided to do what Kane does and attack the poor lad till out came Finn Balor to save him.
These two had a slightly more even match, utilising the classic speed v power dynamic, though obviously, Bálor slowed things down a little to allow Kane to keep up. Just as Bálor was picking up momentum, Kane hit him with a chair for the DQ win but no time to celebrate as Kane would keep hitting him. Just before he’s about to break his neck, out came big lad Strowman to walking Powerslam Kane onto ring steps and hit two what I guess are chokeslams with chairs to Kane’s throat. After being beaten up, Kane would flee through the audience. This was your evening’s main event. I don’t know why they had to send Finn Balor out to lose as well, want to make Kane look strong by feeding him two opponents? You had Jordan, you still had an unused Heath Slater, Rhyno, Goldust, Dash Wilder and Curt Hawkins backstage. The worst bit, something I don’t think’s said enough of the internet, the ending would have been so much better if they’d made the Roman Reigns match the main event.