WWE Raw results, recap, grades: An improvement from last week, but that's not saying much
Raw did take a step forward, but how could it not after it bottomed out seven days ago?
One week after a Raw that was generally described as one of the worst in modern history, WWE reminded viewers once more how unwilling it is to compete in any form with late-season football. If anything, Monday's episode was an improvement from the three-hour shamble from the previous week. Sadly, however, it wasn't by much as another stale effort heavy on rehashing and vanilla execution became the norm. Do the recent losses of top talent like Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman hurt? Without question. But what hurts more is seeing WWE creative so willing to present a second-rate product as a result. The Ronda Rousey-Nia Jax storyline which bookended the show simply lacked juice or any significant storyline development.
Even the angle which should've been the hottest -- the dissolution of the partnership between Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler -- played out as underwhelming. Raw isn't just the main roster "B" show at the moment, it's on the verge of becoming DVR material at best. If WWE has been consistent about anything in the second half of 2018, it's knowing when to reextend that creative carrot to keep its core from walking away for good. Here's to hoping next Monday is that week.
Ronda Rousey continues feud with Nia Jax
Raw began with what was supposed to be an advertised tag team match featuring Rousey and Natalya against Jax and Tamina Snuka. Out came the Riott Squad to help the heels beat them both down, including Natalya being superkicked by Ruby Riott off the apron into a double powerbomb through a ringside table by Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan.
An angry Rousey screamed at Alexa Bliss backstage. Bliss, who was appointed by acting general manager Baron Corbin to oversee the women's division, said she sent the Riott Squad home and would help Rousey find a new partner to replace the injured Natalya. Rousey said she will get her own. Later, during a backstage interview where it was revealed that Rousey chose Ember Moon, Jax got in the face of Charly Caruso and screamed her plans to torture Rousey and regain the title.
Ronda Rousey & Ember Moon def. Nia Jax & Tamina Snuka via submission: The heel duo attacked Rousey from behind before Moon reached the ring. Eventually, a hot tag led Rousey to land a Superman punch on Snuka and a creative step-up knee before Jax dove in to save the pin. Moon went on to hit her Eclipse on Snuka before Rousey produced a tap via armbar.
This was cookie cutter from the beginning in terms of creativity and lacked both a strong enough reveal or any legitimate heat to be depended upon as a quality main event worth building to. The most redeemable moments may have been Jax's almost sociopathic delivery in the face of Caruso during her pre-match interview, which was a noticeable step forward. Still, the larger problem is that unlike the lead women's feud on SmackDown involving Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch, both Jax and Rousey typically lack the chops to carry key Raw segments on the microphone to build interest. It's time to consider giving Rousey the kind of mouthpiece (Paul Heyman anyone?) who can elevate her character to the level which her physical talent deserves. Grade: C
Drew McIntyre turns on Dolph Ziggler
Following a video package to kick off "Drew McIntyre appreciation night," Corbin presented the "Scottish Psychopath" with a gold medal of excellence as a gift for ridding the show of Kurt Angle. McIntyre followed with a promo centered upon how he changed the culture of the locker room and "reformed Raw in my image." After McIntyre called Finn Balor "nothing more than a boy in a man's world," out came Ziggler to ponder why he wasn't invited to the party.
McIntyre insulted Ziggler's height and referred to himself as the brains, muscle and talent of their pairing. He also said their business relationship wasn't working for him anymore. "Your role was to get me in a prominent position and look at me now," McIntyre said. "You did it, you succeeded for once in your life." But after McIntyre added that he was the reason Ziggler became relevant for the first time in 10 years, Ziggler finally snapped and hit a ZigZag before walking off. Corbin immediately interrupted him and booked a match.
Dolph Ziggler def. Drew McIntyre via pinfall: McIntyre manhandled him for most of the match and even taunted him during it on the microphone. Out came Balor to monitor from the outside. Just as Ziggler began to rally, Balor nailed McIntyre with a missile dropkick on the floor while the referee was distracted. McIntyre just barely avoided a countout before walking into a superkick for the 1-2-3. Later on during a backstage interview, McIntyre said Ziggler was never his friend -- only an asset -- and called the victory a tainted one. He later gained revenge (see below) by attacking Balor backstage.
While there were certainly moments in the Ziggler-McIntyre match to like, the dissolution of their partnership, which had been teased for months, felt rushed and almost secondary to the larger McIntyre-Balor feud. The confusing psychology of having Balor help Ziggler (before doing the same for Elias) only to then be helped by Apollo Crews later on (see below) only made things worse. McIntyre is still nothing short of magic on the microphone, but having Balor cheat in order to help Ziggler avoid having to job out in a one-sided loss made Ziggler appear unnecessarily weak. If all of this leads to a eight-man tag match next week on Raw pairing Balor, Ziggler, Elias and Crews against McIntyre, Corbin, Lashley and Mahal, consider me out for good. Grade: C+
Dean Ambrose tangles with Seth Rollins once more
One week after receiving immunization shots to prevent him catching anything from the WWE Universe, Ambrose walked to the ring in a gas mask flanked by a swat team wearing the same. He then cut a promo in which he called both Seth Rollins and the Houston crowd "needy." He also accused Rollins and Roman Reigns of selling out before labeling himself "the last man in this business with integrity" and the "moral compass" of WWE. Although Rollins' music hit, "The Architect" surprised by emerging from the crowd to attack Ambrose and take out the swat team. A brawl ensued into the crowd before Ambrose took control by beating Rollins with the gas mask and hitting a Dirty Deeds on the floor. "At least I have integrity," Ambrose muttered. Corey Graves and Ambrose's wife, Renee Young, then got into an argument at the commentary desk with Young saying, "no one is allowed to know behind closed doors what goes on with a husband and wife. How dare you?"
You want the good news or bad news first? Let's stick with the good: The argument involving Young and WWE's further acknowledgement of her marriage with Ambrose and the awkwardness of having her watch him act so distasteful from the commentary desk was both compelling and needed. Consider me all-in regarding what happens next on that front. The bad news, however, is that Ambrose's promo was terrible again.
After an insanely hot start to this feud, which played in daring fashion off the emotions of Reigns' real-life leukemia battle, the intensity of this once can't-miss angle continues to dissipate. Rollins and Ambrose combine just about every week for the same generic brawl while Ambrose's character continues to care about seemingly the wrong things (I.e. the smell of the crowd). Presenting the insane Ambrose as someone who feels justified for attacking Rollins as payback for him originally breaking up The Shield is so simplistically perfect, it writes itself. Consider this a time where WWE needs to get out of the way and let the natural magic of each performer help write new chapters to their feud that lame dialogue about vaccinations only ruins. Grade: C
What else happened on Raw?
- Boss 'n' Hug Connection def. Mickie James & Alicia Fox via pinfall: What began as Alexa Bliss' second attempt at holding an open forum for fans to get to know Sasha Banks and Bayley better ended when James, Fox and Dana Brooke ran out to attempt another attack. Bliss surprisingly backed up her words by reprimanding them and booked an instant tag match. The finish came on a Backstabber from Banks into a Bayley-to-Belly suplex on James for the pin.
- Lucha House Party def. Scott Dawson via pinfall: Dawson's attempt at teaching the Luchas a lesson in a classic 1-on-1 match was overruled by the ring announcer, who revealed Dawson would instead be involved in a 3-on-1 match under Lucha House Party rules. The lame stipulation continues to make zero sense, especially considering Dash Wilder wasn't allowed to join the match. The Luchas knocked Wilder off the apron before Kalisto hit a springboard flip onto the floor to take him out. Kalisto then hit a Salida del Sol on Dawson before Gran Metalik added a senton off the top rope for the pin.
- Elias gets revenge on Bobby Lashley for attack: Elias' in-ring song was interrupted by Lashley and Lio Rush. But once Rush instructed his charge to bend over and show his best pose, Elias ran down to attack. He reversed an early beating by tossing Lashley into the video screen before chasing him off. But Finn Balor randomly appeared (for the second time tonight) to interrupt Rush's exit attempt and toss him on the stage for Elias to crush him with a guitar.
- AOP & Drake Maverick def. Bobby Roode & Chad Gable via pinfall in handicap match: Roode and Gable's backstage plea to Corbin for a title rematch with AOP was met with a stipulation that Roode must defeat Maverick first (with AOP and Gable banned from ringside). As soon as the match started, AOP was shown on the big screen attacking Gable backstage. If the original stipulation made little sense, Corbin changing it to a 3-on-2 was painfully ridiculous. AOP ran in to prevent Roode's pin after a Glorious DDT. After Gable limped out, AOP a Super Collider on both before Maverick tagged himself in for the pin.
- Heath Slater def. Rhyno via pinfall: The tag team partners were paired against each other when Corbin said there was only enough room on Raw for one and neither would willingly quit. Rhyno attacked Slater off the start of the match to avoid being fired. But despite dominating its entirety, one reversal into a neckbreaker gave Slater the pin. Corbin congratulated Slater backstage and denied him when asking if there was anything they could do to help Rhyno and his family. "You can do your job," Corbin said before handing Slater a referee shirt and alerting him about his demotion.
- Finn Balor def. Jinder Mahal via pinfall: Balor's early attempt at a Coup de Grace was foiled by Samir Singh throwing him off the top rope. Apollo Crews came out to hep and took out the Singh brothers before eating a head kick from Mahal. Balor landed a sweet Tope Con Hilo and followed up with his Coup de Grace for the pin. During a backstage interview meant to celebrate his big night, Balor as brutally attacked from behind by McIntyre and thrown into a pile of empty kegs.
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