WWE Raw results, recap, grades: Brock Lesnar appears, relationship with Paul Heyman turns
Lesnar seems to truly be out for himself as SummerSlam date with Roman Reigns nears
Amid an otherwise unrewarding build to WWE's August spectacular of SummerSlam, the main event storyline finally saw business pick up on Monday thanks to the long-awaited return of universal champion Brock Lesnar.
The three-plus hours of programming which followed created a bit of a double-edged sword for WWE fans, as the constant stream of interspersed segments involving the Lesnar soap opera carried the show, proving to be compelling and entertaining content. Everything else, however, left much to be desired as the show's recent trend of copy-and-paste booking provided far too many "Groundhog Day" moments.
But when it comes to the four-month journey post-WrestleMania in which WWE's most important championship was left uncontested on Raw and the man who held it was a constant no-show, Monday's developments proved invaluable to the overall storyline just for the sake of continuity.
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Brock Lesnar sends message in return to Raw
In his first live appearance on WWE television since April's Greatest Royal Rumble card in Saudi Arabia, Lesnar finally returned with his universal championship in hand. But the question of whether he would leave the couch in his dressing room to appear in the ring quickly became a running plot line that dominated the entire episode from start to finish.
Roman Reigns escorted from the building: Reigns opened Raw by announcing that, while he respects last week's opponent he defeated to earn the shot at the champion at SummerSlam, Bobby Lashley, he has zero respect "for that fool" Lesnar. Out came Heyman to reiterate Lesnar's plans to defeat Reigns and become a two-sport champion by regaining the UFC heavyweight championship. Heyman also said his client will only come out if he feels like it. Reigns countered that if Lesnar shows up at SummerSlam, he's going "back to UFC not as 'The Beast' but as Roman Reigns' bitch."
Approached by Heyman backstage about Reigns' comments, Lesnar admitted he doesn't watch Raw and threw Heyman's phone against the wall after it was handed to him. Shortly after, Raw general manager Kurt Angle confronted Heyman and warned that if Lesnar doesn't enter the ring by the close of the show, Heyman's WWE contract would be terminated. Heyman was unsuccessful in convincing Lesnar to go out, though. "I don't give a crap about the WWE universe," said Lesnar, who ordered his advocate to fetch him a steak, medium well.
After "Constable" Baron Corbin handed Angle a phone call from commissioner Stephanie McMahon, he begrudgingly carried out her orders by informing Reigns he needed to be removed from the building or else lose his title opportunity. Reigns appealed to his manhood by asking Angle "when is this going to stop" and reminding him he's not a "yes" man. A smiling Corbin called for a trio of officers to exit Reigns out and ate a right hand for being so smug.
Lesnar turns his back on Heyman: After telling Lesnar that Reigns had left the building, Heyman attempted one final plea to get his client to enter the ring, revealing that his job was at stake. "For no other reason because you are my friend," Heyman implored. Lesnar grabbed him by the collar and told him they weren't friends. "You work for me, I don't work for you!" Said Lesnar, who asked Heyman how long he has been leaching off of him and ordered him to "march your ass out" and do his job.
During the show's final segment, Angle and Corbin entered the ring to publicly threaten Heyman's job. The advocate came out dejectedly and delivered a downtrodden version of his usually over-the-top intro. After Heyman said that Lesnar wasn't coming, Angle blew up and called Lesnar the worst universal champion of all time. Despite appeals from Heyman that Lesnar should be punished instead, Angle followed through on firing him and Heyman begged at his feet for mercy. Out came Lesnar, which drew an evil smile from Heyman.
After getting in the faces of the Raw authority figures, Lesnar hit an F5 on Angle as Corbin ran for cover. Lesnar then grabbed the face and eventually the throat of Heyman, working him to the ground while pointing at Angle and yelling, "See that?" Heyman struggled to breathe until Lesnar let go before walking off to end the broadcast.
Throughout an otherwise forgettable episode, the Lesnar story succeeded in keeping the show afloat. The final segment also retained a strong level of suspense until the final second of the broadcast due to the unspoken yet very present tease that Braun Strowman might cash in his Money in the Bank contract at any point. While the apparent fallout in the relationship between Lesnar and his advocate certainly planted seeds for a turn from Heyman at SummerSlam, the real story was how WWE went to the extremes of doubling down on its hope that Lesnar -- and not Reigns -- will be the one who gets booed come Aug. 19 in Brooklyn. By having Lesnar's disdain for everything from the crowd to the sanctity of the universal title extend as far as him mistreating Heyman, who has become the ultimate smark crowd favorite, WWE is essentially using every form of remaining ammo to sacrifice the appeal rating of the exiting Lesnar in hopes of saving Reigns.
Ultimately, it worked on this night as Lesnar stood tall for what is likely the final time before returning to UFC. But it worked, mostly because Reigns was given a secondary role while Lesnar, and particularly Heyman, were given the floor to carry the show. Lesnar, who delivered more dialogue in one night than he previously had in years, delivered in a big way (thanks in part to a running gag of oddball magazines he read backstage). But can Reigns finally get the crowd reaction Vince McMahon has hoped for all along by beating Lesnar at SummerSlam? Without an elusive heel turn or the use of a MITB cash-in swerve, the jury is still out on WWE fans ever accepting Reigns as is. Grade: B+
What else happened on Raw?
- Baron Corbin def. Finn Balor via pinfall: This match was given three full segments and nearly 30 minutes of time just to see Corbin win cleanly as Balor's inconceivable burial continues. Twice Balor climbed to the top rope to attempt his Coup de Grace, only for Corbin to roll away. The second attempt saw the Constable quickly hit his End of Days for the pin. After the match, Corbin tossed Balor over the top rope, leaving fantasy bookers wondering if the turn of events leads to the Demon making a SummerSlam comeback.
- Alicia Fox def. Natalya via pinfall: With Mickie James out with an injury, Fox took over as Raw women's champion Alexa Bliss' sidekick following a backstage conversation. Fresh off suspension, Ronda Rousey also appeared by her friend Natalya's side. Late in the match, Fox's attempt to kick Rousey caused the former UFC champion to inadvertently distract the referee. Bliss followed with a cheap shot on Natalya and Fox followed up with a big boot for the 1-2-3. Rousey removed her jacket and beat down both heels, including a back suplex on Fox. But Rousey eventually turned her back outside the ring and was jumped by Fox who twice threw Rousey into the barrier wall. Later on backstage, Rousey approached Angle and was awarded her first Raw match next week against Fox.
- Bobby Lashley takes out Elias: With guitar in hand, Elias told the Miami crowd, "The Rock wants no part of me and I wrote a song about the whole thing." Out came Bobby Lashley before the song could begin. Lashley said he's a big fan and wanted a front row seat. Elias countered that he could see right through him, knowing that Lashley's real interest was to sing with him. After Elias began playing an off-key version of "Rocking Robin," Lashley jumped in to butcher the chorus. Elias attacked from behind but the tables quickly turned with Lashley hitting a belly-to-belly suplex to likely trigger a new feud.
- Jinder Mahal def. Braun Strowman via countout: Earlier on backstage, Kevin Owens begged Corbin to prevent Lesnar from going to the ring so that Braun Strowman didn't cash in his Money in the Bank contract on Monday, preserving KO's chance at SummerSlam. Corbin countered that it's Angle's problem and not his. Owens quickly made an impact in Strowman's match by attempting to steal the briefcase at ringside. Strowman gave chase and laid out Sunil Singh after Owens handed him the briefcase, then KO then ran backstage causing Strowman to get counted out.
- Mojo Rawley, Bobby Roode brawl backstage: Rawley addressed the mid-card members in the locker room by calling them "chumps" and saying he has beaten down the likes of Tyler Breeze and No Way Jose so badly in recent weeks that Jose, in particular, "has been relegated back to catering." Roode walked in clapping his hands and mocking Rawley before asking what his problem was. "What are you going to do about it, Bobby?" Rawley said. "You going to catchphrase me into submission?" Roode responded with a double-leg takedown and a brawl ensued until referees and road agents broke it up.
- Apollo Crews def. Akam via pinfall: The tag team feud between Authors of Pain and Titus Worldwide continued with the babyfaces gaining one-up after Akam missed a running splash in the corner with Crews rolling him up for the surprise pin. Crews, Titus O'Neil and Dana Brooke wildly celebrated the brief victory.
- Seth Rollins def. Drew McIntyre via disqualification: WWE went back to the well on this matchup so quickly after it served as a recent Raw main event, and the predictable ending of late interference from Dolph Ziggler came true. The match certainly heated up late with dramatic nearfalls, including McIntyre hitting White Noise off the second rope. The schmoz finish came following a Stomp from Rollins which led to a beatdown from Ziggler. Rollins rallied to hit a suicide dive outside. Later on during a backstage interview, Rollins was asked about constantly facing 2-on-1 odds but was attacked by Ziggler and McIntyre before he could fully respond.
- The Revival def. The Deleters of Worlds via pinfall: The Raw tag team champions, The B-Team, gave an in-ring interview about how they are living out their dreams. After the lights went out, Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy appeared with Hardy calling the B-Team's title reign "a cosmic anomaly." Out came The Revival to call them all buffoons who should step aside for "the real Top Guys to get the job done." After a brawl broke out between The Revival and Deleters of Worlds, a tag team match was booked during the commercial. With the B-Team on commentary, Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder reversed Wyatt into a Shatter Machine for the 1-2-3.
- The Boss & Hug Connection def. The Riott Squad via pinfall: Bayley and Sasha Banks came out with matching ring gear and an (incredibly lame) new name. With Ruby Riott remaining idle due to injury, the babyfaces got the upperhand late as Banks hit a backstabber on Liv Morgan. Bayley, who had tagged herself in, landed a Bayley-to-Belly suplex for the finish. The chemistry between the two was strong in this one, even if the future of where this angle headed remains cloudy.
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