How does that saying go again? Death, taxes and Roman Reigns wins via Superman punch and spear? Unless WWE has a well-orchestrated swerve up its sleeve, the road to SummerSlam in August took one giant step forward as the likely main event was secured, producing an opponent for Brock Lesnar thanks to Monday's episode of Raw.
But that wasn't the only eventful moment as WWE not only opened the show with a historic announcement, it leaked two additional matches that were set in stone for the biggest wrestling party of the summer in Brooklyn, New York.
All in all, Raw proved to be a largely disappointing three-plus hours of content as the self-aggrandizing corporate theme of women's rights was hammered home ad nauseum in segments it didn't belong, and the remaining matches were carried out to incredibly predictable outcomes as the recent copy-and-paste booking style on the main roster only continued.
Big fan of WWE? Subscribe to our podcast -- In This Corner with Brian Campbell -- where we go in depth on everything you need to know in WWE each week.
Brock Lesnar gets his SummerSlam opponent
An early backstage interview with Charly Caruso produced a much edgier side of Reigns as he previewed his main event match against Bobby Lashley for a shot at the universal championship. "I'm the most decorated superstar of this generation," Reigns said. "Learn to like it or close your mouth because I don't care what anyone is saying. I'm going to SummerSlam and I'm not only taking back my title, I'm going to whoop Brock Lesnar's ass." Lashley also delivered a solid yet still forgettable promo ahead of the match.
Roman Reigns def. Bobby Lashley via pinfall in a No. 1 contendership match: After a long build to get there, their match lived up to the standard set by their meeting at Extreme Rules one week earlier as it overflowed with intensity and violence. A surprise powerslam from Lashley produced a dramatic near fall late, but it was nothing in comparison what took place just before the finish as Reigns kicked out of a vicious spear in about as close to an accidental pin as one could imagine. In between, Lashley provided his own drama by kicking out of a pair of Superman punches. The end came when Lashley's second spear attempt was met by Reigns' third Superman punch. After his initial spear attempt was blocked by a Lashley kick, Reigns bounced off the ropes to hit it clean for the 1-2-3.
Although the match was well handled with a sweaty Lashley pounding the ramp in disappointment on his way out hammering home the intensity, the match finished in a manner that was both predictable and unwelcoming by most. Considering how great he was at delivering a borderline heel promo earlier in the night, here's to hoping WWE creative has one long-awaited big swerve planned as Reigns finally gets in touch with his darkside at SummerSlam. Don't bet on it, of course, as yet another Lesnar-Reigns bout is in our future (for now) as WWE scrambles to book it in a way that won't get it booed out of the building at the Barclays Center come August. Grade: C
WWE announces first all-women's pay-per-view
With the entire men's and women's roster on the stage, Vince McMahon welcomed Triple H and Stephanie McMahon into the ring for a historic announcement. Fighting back tears, Triple H asked the women to take a step forward and put over how much they have stolen the show "again and again." Stephanie recalled WWE's recent timeline of the women's revolution, which includes #GiveDivasAChance and inaugural Royal Rumble and Money in the Bank matches. "Thirty-second matches became main events and because of all of you," McMahon said, "Divas became the superstars they were born to be." McMahon and Triple H then announced that on Oct. 28, 50 women "then, now and forever" will participate in the first all-women's PPV titled "Evolution."
While WWE creating yet another first for women's wrestling under its brand is undoubtedly a positive advancement, the almost shameless manner in which the company pats itself on the back in doing so nearly ruins the message. Forget the fact that WWE just accepted a gluttonous amount of money in April to bring a Greatest Royal Rumble card to Saudi Arabia that was void of women. But it's difficult to take the grandstanding of the McMahon family seriously when they were the ones who held back women's wrestling in the first place by playing up divas and focusing exclusively on sex appeal. With that disclaimer out of the way, it's about time the underused women's division on the main roster gets proper shine and the inclusion of legends can only help the card's overall anticipation. Grade: C+
Kevin Owens awarded special stipulation
Braun Strowman entered the ring with his Money in the Bank briefcase to declare that it doesn't matter who fights for the universal championship at SummerSlam because "sooner or later a monster is going to come calling because I have this!" Just as Strowman posed for the crowd and asked how he might look as universal champion, out came Kevin Owens to complain about being thrown off the cage at Extreme Rules. After Owens cut a promo about his 10-year-old son having his dreams of teaming with Strowman (like Nicholas did at WrestleMania) "crushed the same time you crushed my spine," KO cryptically teased that Strowman's problems have only just begun. Out came Constable Baron Corbin to announce that Stephanie McMahon had empowered him to handle the situation. Corbin sent out Jinder Mahal and Sunil Singh to help Strowman control his temper. Instead, Strowman taught them his own mantra of "get these hands" and kicked Mahal in the face before throwing Singh into him.
Later on backstage, Owens interrupted Angle and Stephanie McMahon by bringing in Corbin, who told McMahon that Angle has let the Strowman situation run out of control. Owens followed by saying, "Braun Strowman tried to take everything away from me and all I want is a chance to take everything away from him." KO then pitched a SummerSlam match against Strowman in which he would win the MITB briefcase with a win of any kind. After Angle called it absurd, McMahon said she kind of like it and approved the match.
This has potential to be absolutely fantastic. Can you imagine Owens finding a way to defeat Strowman at SummerSlam and then cashing in on Reigns to close the night in Brooklyn? Not only could it potentially serve as the only result to drawn out the Reigns boos, the pop from the crowd would be even larger than had Strowman predictably done it himself. Despite how poorly Strowman performed on the microphone on Monday and how unnecessary Mahal's presence was in the moment, Owens carried this angle like he has done all along and the added wrinkle of McMahon overruling Angle adds another element to the overall story. Grade: B+
What else happened on Raw?
- Raw Tag Team Championship -- B-Team (c) def. The Deleters of Worlds via pinfall to retain the titles: Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel scored yet another "excuse me" victory to stay unbeaten, this time in the contractually obligated rematch of former champs Matt Hardy $ Bray Wyatt. A pre-match locker room pep talk from the B-Team saw Axel tell his partner the B stands for "brothers." Dallas, who is Wyatt's brother in real life, followed by hugging Axel and calling him "the brother I never had." The match saw the Deleters take out physical revenge throughout. But after Dallas dove in to save his teammate following a Twist of Fate from Hardy, Wyatt missed a running splash in the corner. Dallas then threw Wyatt into Hardy, allowing Axel to steal the pin. After the match, Hardy and Wyatt clapped for the B-Team and then attacked them as Axel ate a Sister Abigail and Dallas was laid out via Twist of Fate.
- Sasha Banks & Bayley def. Samantha Simon & Karen Lundy via pinfall: The on-again, off-again best friends were given the squash match treatment against a pair of local enhancement talent but not before they hugged backstage during a pre-match interview. Bayley mentioned they had a long talk and that it's their differences that make them so strong. Banks got emotional when talking about their collective dreams. Their match was brief and one-sided as Banks produced a tap out via Banks Statement. The two then hugged for nearly a minute.
- Mickie James def. Natalya via pinfall: With Ronda Rousey still away serving her Raw suspension, the finish became incredibly predictable. Alexa Bliss pulled Natalya from the apron while the referee was distracted and ate a clothesline outside for her trouble. But after Natalya reentered the ring, James caught her with a Mick Kick for the 1-2-3.
- Titus Worldwide answers Authors of Pain: An in-ring open challenge offered by AoP had just one caveat – anyone but Titus Worldwide could answer it. Out came Titus O'Neil, Apollo Crews and Dana Brooke to interject. O'Neil called AoP two of the strongest on the WWE roster but said it also means they have a lot to learn. "Man stop, what could you learn us?" Akam said, as both members of AoP struggled while retorting on the mic. After Crews put over how much he has learned from "father of the year" O'Neil, Rezar suggested it was time for Titus to retire. O'Neil answered with a right hand as Titus Worldwide ran AoP out of the ring.
- Mojo Rawley def. Tyler Breeze via pinfall: In a rematch of last week's squash, Rawley opened with an early football tackle, kicked out of a surprise roll-up attempt at two and landed a sit-out Alabama slam for the pinfall. Bobby Roode briefly joined commentary from backstage to remind everyone he is where Rawley is headed.
- Finn Balor def. Drew McIntyre via disqualification: Early in the show while talking with Chad Gable, Balor saw his gear being moved out of the locker room; when he followed it, he saw a small toy doghouse setup by Baron Corbin as his new area. A backstage promo from McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler focused exclusively on heckling Seth Rollins, which teased his eventual involvement in the match. After Balor packaged a slingblade into a missile dropkick to set up his Coup de Grace, Ziggler knocked him off the top rope to trigger the DQ and began to stomp him. Out came Rollins to the rescue and a run-in from Angle to make a painfully predictable announcement that the match would restart as a tag team bout.
- Seth Rollins & Finn Balor def. Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre via pinfall: The babyfaces attacked from behind on the ramp before the match started. A hot tag to Rollins produced his typical fare of springboard splashes and suicide dives. The finish came when Rollins broke free from a double-team finisher attempt to hit the stomp on Ziggler for the pin. After the match, Rollins told Mike Rome backstage that a meeting with Angle produced a SummerSlam match against Ziggler for the intercontinental championship. "Time to burn it down in Brooklyn one more time," Rollins said.
- Ember Moon def. Liv Morgan via pinfall: With Ruby Riott still injured and her other Riott Squad teammate Sarah Logan banned from ringside after last week, Morgan was forced to go at it alone. Moon rallied late to hit an Eclipse for the finish.
- Elias finally gets to play his song: After a long night of being interrupted while sitting on the stage before each match, Elias' attempt to plug his new album on ITunes and play a new song finally succeeded ahead of the main event. After Angle came out to give him the floor, Elias sang a noticeably poor performance of a new song before stopping to insult the Cincinnati crowd, otherwise known as "the grossest collection of humans that I've ever seen." Elias did drop a gem of a one-liner by instructing fans to buy two copies of his new album, "one for yourself and one for the person you become after hearing it." His attempt to sing once more was interrupted by Lashley's entrance, which drew a cold stare from Elias.