As far as violently impactful spots are concerned, Monday's episode of Raw had plenty of them as the build toward July's Great Balls of Fire pay-per-view continues to be strong. From the further escalation of an already sizzling Roman Reigns-Braun Strowman feud to a satisfying main event gauntlet match that did well (for once) to showcase the Raw women's division, it was easy to overlook how inconsistent Monday's three-hour offering truly was thanks to the big moments.
A painfully atrocious segment involving LaVar Ball and his sons likely brought the crossover attention WWE was looking for on this night. But the true gold of Raw came in the intensity of how many of the stories were told, including Big Cass doubling down on his heel turn.
The highlight of the night was certainly Samoa Joe's sneak attack on Brock Lesnar, which included a Coquina Clutch that turned "The Beast" purple and gave advocate Paul Heyman's multiple opportunities to make gold on the microphone.
Raw may have been left out of this year's Money in the Bank plans, but the road to SummerSlam on the red brand continues to stay hot when its needed most.
WWE Raw results
Confrontation -- Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman: Reigns came out on his own to accept Strowman's challenge for an ambulance match at Great Balls of Fire. "When I'm done with you, I'm going to throw you into that ambulance and lock it up," Reigns said. "I'm going to jump in the driver's seat and send you straight to hell because this is my yard and I make the rules around here." An ambulance began backing up into the arena. Reigns opened the back door and was predictably ambushed from behind by Strowman before being tossed onto the stage like a rag doll. Strowman intercepted a Superman punch and threw Reigns off the side of the stage into the ambulance like a lawn dart.
Raw came out swinging in such a dramatic, violent way that it was near impossible not to pop for this. Reigns continued to showcase just how impressively he can sell in the big spots and Strowman took one giant step closer to full-on cult hero status. This was an absolute slam dunk.
Finn Balor & The Hardy Boyz def. Elias Samson, Cesaro & Sheamus via pinfall: Actor Josh Duhamel made a random (and largely gratuitous) guest appearance on commentary to plug his various projects. But this three-segment match heated up late as Balor cleaned house in the ring and landed a sick Tope Con Hilo outside onto Cesaro and Sheamus. Moments later, with help from his teammates to prevent any interference, Balor landed a Coup de Grace on Cesaro for the 1-2-3.
Goldust vs. R-Truth: After Goldust offered just about the same movie-inspired promo against R-Truth that he has delivered for over a month, he walked to the ring with his own camera man dressed in gold. Before his match with R-Truth could even start, Goldust used the distraction of his camera man to attack Truth and leave him unconscious.
Considering it has been five weeks since Goldust originally attacked R-Truth and both have been relegated to regurgitated video promos ever sense, this was an incredibly poor reveal. Goldust's beat down didn't appear vicious enough either for Truth to be out cold.
Backstage -- Paul Heyman and Samoa Joe: After announcing that Brock Lesnar would be in the building later tonight, Heyman began to cut a promo on Samoa Joe until Joe snuck up from behind to choke him. After Heyman reminded Joe that he's just an advocate, Joe relented and said, "This wasn't meant for you. I won't waste it on you. Tonight, your client will get what is meant for him."
Backstage -- Bayley and Kurt Angle: Michael Cole announced a women's gauntlet match tonight to decide Raw champion Alexa Bliss' opponent at Great Balls of Fire. With Angle officiating, Bayley briefly prayed before selecting her number from a raffle machine and smiling. Later on, Dana Brooke, Mickie James, Sasha Banks and Emma did the same.
Miz TV with LaVar, Lonzo and LaMelo Ball: With a set of mannequins inside the ring wearing Big Baller Brand gear, Miz welcomed the Ball family. Dressed in sweatpants and sandals with socks, Lakers draft pick Lonzo was given a separate intro and entrance by his father. LaVar quickly shot down The Miz's idea of a partnership with the Big Baller Brand ("You a little too low for us right now") and cut a weak and obnoxious promo on him. LaVar then took off his shirt and called Miz on with comical martial arts poses before running around the ring. Out came Dean Ambrose, wearing a BBB shirt, who said no one in the WWE had bigger balls than him and "plus, I like free T-shirts." The segment ended abruptly soon after.
What was a strong (yet equally shameless) idea in terms of ratings, providing some coincidental branding synergy on the build toward Great Balls of Fire, quickly turned into an awful train wreck. LaVar was his natural heel self and had a few playful moments, no doubt giving WWE the circus it hoped for. But this was really, really bad. LaVar also gave the feeling he may have gone off script considering how the plug was pulled.
The Miz, Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel def. Dean Ambrose, Heath Slater & Rhyno via pinfall: The heels, officially announced as "Miztourage," used a late referee distraction to get the win as Dallas rolled up Slater.
This was nothing short of gratuitous booking by WWE to send out a second six-man tag match featuring no prior build in the first 70 minutes of the show.
In the ring -- Enzo Amore and Big Cass: Amore hit the ring solo and said he needs to have this out now, man to man. Out came heel Cass, wearing a black T-shirt with no logo and hitting the ring with a "harder" version of the team's entrance theme. "Last week you broke my heart and you nearly broke my face, but you are my brother and that's a bond I'm not willing to break," Amore said. Cass apologized for his actions and gave Amore both a handshake and an aggressive hug, saying anyone who thinks he would throw away a lifetime of friendship was "S-A-W-F-T." But after they walked up the ramp and posed, Cass took him out with a vicious clothesline and press slam that saw Amore land awkwardly. Shortly after, at the announce desk, Cass told Corey Graves he'd have snapped him in half if Angle hadn't forbidden it. He told a shaken Graves to stay out of his business.
Seth Rollins def. Curt Hawkins via pinfall: After Hawkins awkwardly polled the crowd before the match about whether he would win, Rollins made quick work of him and used a knee to the face to get the pin. Bray Wyatt's music hit and he appeared on the video screen, telling Rollins he should be honored "because you will be cleansed by the flame of a true God. Be careful what you take, be careful what you wish for because I'm inside your mind Seth. I'm everywhere."
Confrontation -- Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe: After Lesnar arrived backstage in a limo, Heyman provided a passionate in-ring promo before announcing him. But Lesnar was attacked from behind on the ramp by Joe, who applied his Coquina Clutch. Three times Lesnar came close to breaking the hold by driving Joe into the video screen, but Joe held the choke and worked Lesnar down to the ground until The Revival and Karl Anderson ran out to break them apart. Joe screamed, "I did that to you. I run this."
This is how you take an already red-hot program and amp it up. Lesnar deserves credit for selling Joe's choke to the point that his face turned purple. Joe was also incredible in terms of delivering the kind of intense dialogue that two men in a real fight would actually trade.
Neville def. Lince Dorado via submission: With Akira Tozawa watching from the Titus Brand section at ringside, the incredibly underused Dorado put in a brief show of aerial moves. His ridiculous front flip suicide dive was the move of the night. Neville forced the tap late with his Rings of Saturn. Tozawa then entered the ring for a staredown. Out came Titus O'Neil to hype their title match at Great Balls of Fire, putting over the "Power of Tozawa."
Backstage -- Paul Heyman: Lesnar's advocate worked himself into a sweat selling the danger of Samoa Joe's Coquina Clutch. He then cut an amazing promo on what Lesnar will do to Joe, ending his emotional rant by singing the chorus to "Great Balls of Fire."
Backstage -- Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax: Bliss attempted to disarm Jax and build sympathy by telling her how much they are alike because both have been judged for their looks their entire life. Jax appeared to accept the goodwill as sincere until Bliss' offered good luck and Jax angrily responded with, "I don't need it. I'm going to see you and that women's championship at Great Balls of Fire."
Women's No. 1 contender gauntlet match
(1) Nia Jax def. (2) Bayley via pinfall, (3) Mickie James via pinfall, (4) Dana Brooke via pinfall, (5) Emma via pinfall | (6) Sasha Banks def. Nia Jax via submission: Banks secured the No. 1 contender spot for Bliss' title by rallying from a physical beat down to apply a standing Banks Statement, which eventually forced Jax to tap on the ground after she wore down. The final fall ended an impressive run from Jax, who tore through a string of consecutive pinfalls over Bayley, James, Brooke and Emma by using Samoan drops and leg drops as finishers. After the match, Angle came out to raise Banks' hand. That triggered a run in from Bliss, who ate a drop kick and was knocked out of the ring before Banks posed with Bliss' title.
Strong use of the main event slot by WWE to continue building Jax as being so dominant. With that said, her comical selling of Banks' submission move threw a damper on the effectiveness. Still, Bliss-Banks is the most marketable feud the Raw women's division can produce heading into SummerSlam, which supports the booking.