If last week's episode of Raw was instantly canned by fans and critics alike as the latest rock-bottom moment of plummeting ratings and stale creativity, the fact that Monday's episode was tape-delayed from London didn't necessarily muster up hope that things would change. Yet, just six days out from Sunday's Money in the Bank pay-per-view, this was a go-home episode that was anything but a mailed-in stop on a larger European tour. Tasked with the job of changing the narrative, WWE delivered three hours of sports entertainment that accomplished just that thanks to a quick pace and consistency across the board.
There was something for everything in this one as Raw once again figured out how to be a true variety show in that it produced strong in-ring work, thoughtful promos and properly built suspense to keep the third hour from feeling like an afterthought.
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Let's take a closer look at the highs and (very few) lows from what took place in London.
Sami Zayn takes Braun Strowman's place at MITB
A backstage argument between the two wrestlers and Shane McMahon led to Zayn issuing a challenge. To gain revenge for being thrown in a dumpster last week, he would wrestle Strowman for his spot in Sunday's MITB match. A confident Strowman accepted before declaring he would eat Zayn alive.
Sami Zayn def. Braun Strowman via pinfall in a falls count anywhere match: Both wrestlers brawled through the crowd and into the concourse area before Baron Corbin interfered by attacking Strowman with a garbage can and suplexing him through a merchandise table. The action then spilled backstage where Drew McIntyre ran in to DDT Strowman onto a chair. Each time, however, Strowman would kick out and fight through it. Eventually, Strowman buried Zayn under a mountain of chairs on the stage before Corbin and Strowman overtook him with chairs, ladders and sneak attacks. The heels dragged Zayn's body onto Strowman and added their weight onto the pin for the 1-2-3. Corbin turned on Zayn after the match and threw him out of Gorilla and into Strowman who followed with a choke slam through the announce table to end the broadcast.
Consider this fun booking and an entertaining way to fill the main event slot. Not only was there something legitimate at stake, the psychology made sense of Corbin and McIntyre wanting to use Zayn as a pawn to eliminate their potential greatest threat in Sunday's match. The use of weapons and fun spots throughout the entire arena worked great from a visual standpoint, as well. The finish also created intrigue regarding how Strowman might seek revenge by making his presence felt in the MITB match. Considering the failure of Strowman winning the briefcase last year, this development ended up benefitting the story arcs of all four performers. Grade: B+
Becky Lynch endures dual beatdown at contract signing
Lynch entered the ring across from Sunday's opponents Charlotte Flair and Lacey Evans to the chants of "Becky Two Belts" from an excited crowd. The trio went on to cut lengthy promos on each other as Lynch called Flair a "disappointment" despite all of the help she has received in terms of booking from the McMahon family and insisted she isn't biting off more than she can chew with two title matches. Flair teamed up with Evans to verbally counter by insulting Lynch's "big mouth." After Lynch threatened to "slap the blonde off both you guys," a brawl broke out with Lynch's early success quickly giving way to the numbers game. While attempting to put a Dis-Arm-Her on Evans, Lynch was flattened by a Flair superkick. The two heels then teamed up to power bomb Lynch through the table before closing by standing over her, with each holding up the respective title belt they will challenge for at Money in the Bank.
While the dialogue between them was a bit overwritten and lacked the typical burns a segment like this would demand, the three participants did their best to bring intensity to both feuds. The final visual of Lynch succumbing to both Flair and Evans standing above her with the titles hoisted was a powerful one and slammed home the segment's overall narrative that Lynch is daring too hard to be great by defending both titles. The added plus of seeing Evans benefit from the rub of briefly teaming up with Flair helped her take yet another strong step forward despite being so green in such a large introductory feud on the main roster. All in all, this accomplished what it set out to do in setting the stage for Sunday. Grade: B
Bray Wyatt reveals evil secret on 'Firefly Fun House'
The fourth episode of Wyatt's new sadistic children's show turned out to be the darkest of all as he teased a secret off the top that he has been working on and wants to show the world. To do so, he needed the help from his Fireflies and referenced that there is still darkness in his mind, only he has learned how to harness and control it. Wyatt turned his back and the room went dark and evil as he alternated chants of "let me in" and "twinkle, twinkle little star." Wyatt turned around to reveal new clothes and a mask straight out of a horror movie to close the brief and chilling segment.
Wyatt's incredible commitment to taking a risk for the sake of telling a creative story was on full (and evil) display here. While the early episodes of Wyatt's new segment only teased the darkness he was concealing inside himself in very subtle ways, the reveal was an outright smack in the face of terror. For a PG wrestling product, this was legitimately scary and disturbing, which ultimately means it worked in a big way. Surely this development only raised the ante and applied even more pressure to WWE's booking in making sure Wyatt's latest character turn goes in a logical direction that maximizes the time and creativity put into it. Here's to hoping it does, and that Wyatt can move closer to becoming the dark legend he has often teased he has the potential to be. Everything about this screamed that something legitimately innovative and special is brewing. Grade: A
What else happened on Raw?
- Shane McMahon ruins Miz TV: The Miz excitedly welcomed Roman Reigns, who took shots at Elias' resume by calling him a "karaoke performer" and "wedding singer" who hasn't won anything in WWE. The Miz went on to cut his own babyface promo by pointing out how much McMahon's heel tactics taught him that the value of respect as he now sees eye-to-eye with Reigns and the crowd for the first time. Out came McMahon to cancel the segment just as Elias and Bobby Lashley attacked Miz and Reigns from behind in a familiar Raw trope. Grade: C
- The Miz & Roman Reigns def. Elias & Bobby Lashley via disqualification: McMahon booked this predictable tag team match on his own, and ended up causing the finish by attacking Reigns to prevent the hot tag from Miz. A brawl ensued that spilled outside until Reigns leaped over the top rope to splash the heels. Reigns eventually hit Superman punches on everyone to run them off. Grade: C+
- Mojo Rawley def. Apollo Crews via pinfall: After a lengthy period of inconsistent vignettes teases, Rawley finally debuted his new look. Unfortunately, the second-rate Roman Reigns chest protector and peculiar face paint around Rawley's eye did him no credit. The match quickly turned into a squash after Crews suffered a storyline left knee injury following a flip. Rawley took advantage with a chop block before getting on his knees and maniacally laughing in Crews' face before finishing him off for the pin. Grade: C-
- Baron Corbin def. Ricochet via pinfall: Strong two-segment match here between two competitors in the Money in the Bank match. Ricochet kicked out of a Deep Six, and shortly after could only get two himself following a sick springboard hurricanrana off the top rope and a standing shooting-star press. The finish was also well booked as Corbin hit End of Days for the pin but ultimately lost his heat when he set up a ladder inside the ring after the match and Ricochet knocked it over, sending Corbin crashing into the ropes. Grade: B
- Seth Rollins, AJ Styles hype WWE championship match: In a pair of separate backstage interviews, the two participants in Sunday's title bout explained their side of last week's brawl. Styles claimed that although the forearm he hit Rollins with was accidental, he ultimately justified it due to the disrespect Rollins has shown him. Styles also talked up the chip he still carries on his shoulder that he entered WWE with. Rollins countered that "it's not about respect anymore, this is personal for me." He also claimed Styles showed his true colors. Rollins threw to a video of the lone match between the two of them from an independent show in 2006 with NWA No Limits Wrestling, and said that match was the first time his friends and family believed in his dream. Consider these a subtle yet strong way to keep the momentum going in this feud entering MITB. Grade: B
- Nikki Cross def. Natalya (via pinfall), Naomi and Nikki Cross in fatal 4-way match: A much saner version of Cross finally made her Raw debut, and was added to this match when she made quick friends with Alexa Bliss backstage as a sympathetic ear and offered to fill in after Bliss' luggage was lost by her airline. The mini spotfest turned out to be the perfect advertisement for the women's MITB match. Cross, who isn't in Sunday's match, then received the strong booking of going over after hitting her spinning neckbreaker while Natalya was draped on the ropes. Bliss, who put over Cross on commentary, helped her set up a ladder in the ring after the match and climbed it to pull down the briefcase as a joyous Cross celebrated. Consider this a strong tease for Cross' potential interference on Sunday. Grade: B+
- Rey Mysterio def. Cesaro via pinfall: This match featured a strong setup in the locker room as Cesaro interrupted Mysterio's interview about Samoa Joe and called out Mysterio for originally bringing his son to work in the first place. A brawl ensued, followed by a strong video promo from Joe and an entertaining match soon after. Mysterio and Cesaro showed tremendous chemistry in trading high spots and near falls throughout. The finish came when Mysterio landed a 619 followed by a frog splash for the 1-2-3. Grade: B+
- The Revival sends a warning to The Usos: After Raw showed highlights of the recent pranks pulled off by The Usos, Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder cut a backstage promo calling them "weirdo voyeurs." Dawson vowed that the embarrassment of The Revival stops now and "if you two want to continue to be the skid mark on the underpants of society, go ahead." This may not have been the promo of the year or anything, but seeing The Revival act serious for a bit following the recent unnecessarily silly hijinks between two teams that can really work was a refreshing development. Grade: C+