The preview for tonight told us we’d have Sasha Banks versus Ruby Riott, a contract signing for Nikki Bella versus Ronda Rousey, Finn Balor versus Bobby Lashley, Ambrose and Rollins going for the tag titles, more from Elias and Apollo Crews, and a visit from D-Generation X. We got all that and more, but it was overshadowed by the deeply sad and shocking revelations of the opening segment.
I’m Amanda, and this will be a very subdued RAW review.
Finn Balor def. Bobby Lashley via pinfall
Ruby Riott def. Sasha Banks via pinfall
Elias def. Apollo Crews via pinfall
Ember Moon def. Tamina, Nia Jax, and Dana Brooke via pinfall
Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins def. Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre via pinfall
The Important Bits
The show opened with Roman Reigns. I’m going to give you the transcript of his speech because it’s important.
‘I feel like I owe everybody an apology. For months, maybe even a full year, I’ve come out here and spoken as Roman Reigns and I said a lot of things. I said that I’d be here every single week I said I’d be a fighting champion. I said I was going to be consistent and I said I was gonna be a workhorse, but that’s all lies.
It’s a lie because the reality is, my real name is Joe and I’ve been living with leukaemia for 11 years. And, unfortunately, it’s back. And because the leukaemia is back I cannot fulfil my role, I can’t be that fighting champion and I’m going to have to relinquish the Universal Championship.
I’m not gonna lie, I’ll take every prayer you can send my way but I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m not looking for you to feel bad for me. Because I have faith. When I was 22 years old I was diagnosed with this, and very quickly I was able to put it in remission, but I’m not going to lie, that was the hardest time of my life. I didn’t have a job I didn’t have any money, I didn’t have a home. And I had a baby on the way. And football was done with me.
But do you want to know who gave me a chance? The team that gave me a chance was the WWE. And when I finally made it to the main roster and I was on the road they put me in front of all of you, the WWE universe, and to be honest, you all have made my dreams come true. And it didn’t matter if you cheered me. It didn’t matter if you booed me. You have always reacted to me and that is the most important thing. And for that, I have to say thank you so much.’
The first of the ‘Thank You Roman’ chants started then, and Reigns struggled to keep his emotions in check.
‘Thank you. But you all know the deal, you all know how life is, life is not fair. It’s not all peaches and cream, sometimes life throws you a curve-ball. And right now, the best thing for me to do is to go home to focus on my family and my health.
But I want to make one thing clear, by no means is this retirement speech. Because after I’m done whooping leukaemia’s ass once again, I’m coming back home. And when I do, it’s not just going to be about titles and being on top it’s about a purpose. I’m coming back because I want to show all of you, the whole world, I want to show my family, my friends, my children and my wife that when life throws a curveball at me, I am the type of man that will stand in that batter’s box, I will crowd the plate, I will choke up and I will swing for the fences every single time.
Because I will beat this, and I will be back, so you will see me very very soon. Once again thank you so much, God bless you and I love you. Believe that.’
The crowd chanted ‘thank you Roman’, as well they should. Reigns laid the championship belt in the middle of the ring and left.
At the top of the ramp, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins met him and they hugged and did a tearful fistbump. They were all crying, as were most of the crowd.
When commentary got their moment after the ads, Corey Graves and Renee Young had clearly been crying. Michael Cole held it together, but he was clearly affected. Both of them spoke movingly of their personal relationships with Reigns.
Throughout the show, they went back to the story, showing tweets of support from other superstars and discussing what happens to the now vacant title. It will be decided in the match between Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar at Crown Jewel.
Paul Heyman came out to promote that match and said tonight his thoughts and prayers are with the champion of a man we know as Roman Reigns. It was humbling to be amongst the members of the locker room and to have been in the presence of such courage and greatness. When he goes home tonight and has to explain it all to his children what he wants them to understand is it’s about sacrifice. Reigns sacrificed his career aspirations because he couldn’t fulfil the obligations of being the Universal champion, because the title deserves the best any champion has to offer it. The fans and everyone who takes pride in WWE have the right to point to the Universal champion and say that is the best. And until 8.05 tonight we had the right to brag that the very best, the number one, was the Universal champion.
So now what. The show must go on and now Lesnar and Strowman battle for the title. Of course, his point was that it is Brock Lesnar and not Braun Strowman who fits his description of a champion.
Braun Strowman came out to disagree. He told Heyman to tell Lesnar and he’s going to beat him and bring the title back to Monday Night RAW, every single Monday. They’ve had their differences but when Roman Reigns beats Leukaemia he’ll be the first in line for a title opportunity, but for now, Brock Lesnar is going to Get These Hands. Strowman roared and turned in time to catch a Drew McIntyre Claymore kick in the face.
Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose’s backstage interview was all about Reigns. They were asked if they were able to put the emotion of the night into words. Ambrose said, ‘there are not words to describe the ride the ride the three of us have been on together over the last six years. There are not words to describe the ups and downs and highs and lows and everything in between. When you don’t know what to do and you don’t what to say you just gotta do the only thing you know how to do, what you always do. So tonight, we’re gonna do what we always do. Win.’
Rollins said, ‘there are no words but there are plenty of emotions. Tonight, we’re going to channel those emotions. We are going to go out there beat Drew, beat Dolph, become the new RAW tag team champions. We are going to do it for you, Roman, we love you. Believe that.’
– Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre vs Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose – RAW Tag Team Championship match.
Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins made their entrance Shield style through the crowd, dedicating the match to Roman Reigns. Both were still visibly upset.
They poured it all into the match, which was awesome despite the number of times we’ve seen it recently. But the match wasn’t the point here. No-one will remember that, not until the very end.
Braun Strowman appeared, attacked Drew McIntyre and chased him off through the crowd. The ref was down because Rollins had accidentally crashed into him, so he couldn’t disqualify anyone.
Dolph Ziggler grabbed the title belt, but Ambrose took it off him before he could hit Rollins with it. Rollins caught Ziggler with the Stomp and Ambrose dragged the ref into the ring to count the pin.
After an emotional celebration, Dean Ambrose dropped his belt and hit the Dirty Deeds on Seth Rollins then fell to the floor like he couldn’t believe what he’d done. Rollins tried to tell him it was ok, Ambrose paused and leaned against the ropes, then started beating on Rollins again.
It was a sustained and brutal attack. Rollins was thrown out of the ring, into the barricade, the timekeeper’s area, and finally given a Dirty Deeds on the bare concrete with Ambrose yelling at him the whole time. Finally, Ambrose tore off his black shirt and left through the crowd.
– D-Generation X talked about fear and nostalgia in their promo. They acknowledged that nostalgia is just another word for old. Triple H said maybe it just means they’re better and they said that maybe the X of D-Generation X is in the past, but there’s another X that is the future and they’re running that too. They didn’t get to say they had two words for Undertaker and Kane, because they were interrupted by a graveyard graphic and a Brothers of Destruction promo.
– The contract signing for the RAW women’s championship was at the start of the third hour. The Bella Twins came out first and did a lot of posturing before Rousey appeared. As soon as she did they vacated the ring and accused Rousey of being there to fight. Rousey gave them her word that she wouldn’t touch them, she didn’t want to beat them up, she wanted them to sign the contract for her to beat them up on Sunday. She said her mother would be ashamed of her if either of them could hurt her even with her arms behind her back.
They got back in the ring and started talking about how they were in no physical danger because Rousey had given her word, then proceeded to give a rundown of the promises to her mother that Rousey had already broken, winning the Olympics for example, and said her mother is already ashamed of her. She signed the contract and slapped Rousey across the face.
Rousey said, ‘on Sunday I will end you. I give you my word,’ then she left.
Some Other Bits
– Finn Balor vs Bobby Lashley – Look, with the show opener being what it was, it was kind of hard to get into the matches. This first one definitely took a hit. The only real noise came from Lio Rush. The match was fine. Balor won with a roll up.
– Ruby Riott vs Sasha Banks – Earlier today, WWE announced Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Natalya, will face The Riott Squad on the show. That’s how we ended up with this match. Bayley and Natalya accompanied Banks, Riott had her squad. This was good. Logan, Morgan, Bayley and Natalya got into it on the outside. Banks got out of the ring to help her teammates. As she got back in Riott kicked Banks into the ringpost then delivered a Riott kick for the win.
– Elias vs Apollo Crews was decent and ended with Drift Away from Elias to give them a victory each.
– Elias came back out to give another performance. Baron Corbin came out to explain there wasn’t time and belittled Elias, who slunk away after he got a few lines out and Corbin had his mic cut. Corbin didn’t get the opportunity to make his announcement because Elias came back and smacked him across the back of the head with the guitar.
– Kurt Angle did the promo for the World Cup at Crown Jewel. He ran through the attributes of the rest of the field, and he probably did a better job than individual promos would have done.
– Nia Jax vs Ember Moon vs Dana Brooke vs Tamina was short and uneventful. Just a build segment for the battle royal. Moon won with an Eclipse on Tamina.
– Lita and Trish Stratus’ interview segment degenerated into chaos. They were talking about Bliss and James underestimating them when Alicia Fox butted in to say that wasn’t how it was going to happen. They were answering her when Mickie James attacked them from behind (No Bliss, there are rumours she’s carrying an injury). James and Fox laid them out and started gloating. Lita and Stratus got back up and returned the favour, telling them that’s how they did it in the Attitude Era.
A few days ago, WWE announced that Michelle McCool, Maria Kanellis, Molly Holly, Alundra Blaze, Ivory, and Kelly Kelly will be part of the Evolution Battle Royal. Nia Jax and Dana Brooke both had promo segments for it during the show. The build for Evolution has not been good enough, but that’s a topic for a different night.
To be honest, I’ve kept the notes on everything other than Roman Reigns short tonight. Yes, there are two PPV length shows coming up, but some nights there are just more important things to focus on. Joe Anoa’i has his own fight now and we all wish him a full and speedy recovery, so Roman Reigns can take back the place he’s earned at the top of WWE.