WWE Raw results, recap, grades: Dean Ambrose makes a tough decision to end the show
A more cohesive and interesting episode of Raw saw Ambrose and The Shield take center stage
For all of Raw's glaring faults and inconsistency over the past month in the hangover that followed SummerSlam, Monday's episode saw the refreshing return of cohesive storytelling, strong writing and the kind of physical wrestling that keeps one's hands off the clicker. No, this wasn't necessarily award-winning television or an episode we'll remember in years to come yet the three-plus hours of sports entertainment did seem to present a notable shift in terms of quality and the feeling that the payoff for your time invested would be worth it.
This week's commitment to telling The Shield's story and the potential of a long-suggested Dean Ambrose heel turn not only bookended the show, it provided Raw an exciting foundation thanks to interspersed segments throughout and a compelling main event that avoided becoming a cluster.
Less than two weeks out from Super Show-Down in Australia, it's still too early to tell whether WWE's foray to Australia will feel more like a true pay-per-view or a glorified house show on par with the Greatest Royal Rumble in April. Either way, episodes like Monday restore a bit of faith that the journey to get there might be entertaining enough where it doesn't matter.
Dean Ambrose chooses to stay with The Shield
Raw opened with commissioner Stephanie McMahon reprimanding acting general manager Baron Corbin for granting himself a title shot last week. After Corbin blamed it all on The Shield, McMahon told him that "mistakes are tolerated but excuses never are." She then told him to find two tag team partners and take care of business against the Shield or Kurt Angle's vacation might come to an end. Inside the ring, Dean Ambrose referred to his Shield brethren as "the three workhorses of WWE; they have lost a few battles but have never lost a war and are still standing." Out came Corbin, who quickly welcomed Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre to begin exposing what they see to be "cracks in the Shield." The heels quickly targeted Ambrose and attempted to sway "disposable Dean" into believing the Shield merely uses him.
Later on backstage, Ziggler doubled down on their pitch for Ambrose to turn by telling him to give a signal during the main event "and we will take care of the rest." To counter the heel's efforts, Rollins made a similar plea to McIntyre by trying to convince him that Strowman and Ziggler are using him. McIntyre sold the uncertainty by rushing a late-arriving Ziggler off. The best pitch, however, came later from McIntyre when he approached Ambrose and reminded him of how Rollins had previously stabbed him in the back by breaking up the Shield originally.
The Shield def. Baron Corbin & AOP via pinfall: Corbin revealed Akam and Rezar as his mystery partners, giving way to a six-man tag match that took up the final 30-plus minutes of the show. With Strowman, Ziggler and McIntyre watching from chairs on the stage, the match featured a series of near falls, big spots and a fun face-off between Reigns and Rezar. All six heels worked in concert together at various points to distract the Shield. After Ambrose carried his team late, the finish came following a wild sequence in which Reigns saved Ambrose from AOP's finisher and Rollins hit a pair of suicide dives. Ambrose then hit Corbin with Dirty Deeds before Reigns tagged himself in to hit a spear for the pin. After the match, Ambrose sat alone on the floor and after a long pause in which he contemplated turning on the Shield, he instead entered the ring to join fists and hug them.
Raw Tag Team Championship -- Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre (c) def. The Revival via pinfall: Earlier in the show, the champs were pushed to the limit in their largely one-sided match that might contain nearly all of Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson's main roster highlights thus far in one match. The Revival enjoyed upwards of six dramatic near falls following moves which included a textbook Northern Lights suplex from Dawson, a springboard shoulder block from Wilder, a butterfly powerbomb by Dawson and a tandem superplex/top rope splash. Their title hopes ended late when Wilder ate a Zig Zag/Claymore combo for the 1-2-3.
Fair play to WWE for keeping the suspense for a possible Ambrose heel turn going for three full hours. Even though the payoff never came through, the final segment avoided being an annoying tease by how intense and exciting the match was. Credit Ambrose for selling his uncertainty so strong thanks to what was a well-written build throughout the show. WWE creatively teased upon Rollins' former heel ways and a built a believable angle that McIntyre was being just as "used" by his friends as Ambrose. Would the payoff of an actual turn have lifted this moment from very good to great? No question. But enough seeds were planted to stay tuned for the future.
The tag team title match was fun and electric, and it provided legitimate teases toward a possible title change. Not only did The Revival benefit greatly from the rub of Ziggler's impeccable selling, the duo raised its game to a level so high that it was hard to exit the match not wondering when their turn to holds the belts will come. Known previously for their chemistry and throwback style, both Wilder and Dawson used this match to showcase how great they can work individually with one huge move after another. Their performance was so strong, in fact, the abrupt ending to the match stuck out for how out of place it felt. Grade: B+
What else happened on Raw?
- Finn Balor def. Jinder Mahal via pinfall: Fun match with the finish used as an advertisement for Season 2 of the Mixed Match Challenge thanks to Bayley in Balor's corner and Alicia Fox joining Mahal. Bayley repaid earlier interference from Sunil Singh by grabbing Mahal's leg from under the rope to slow him down. She then knocked out an attacking Fox before landing a Bayley-to-belly on Singh onto the floor. The action distracted Mahal enough for Balor to roll him up for the win. After the match, Mahal slapped around Singh and threw him into the ring before Fox reminded him of his new peaceful demeanor and the trio began chanting while sitting in the ring.
- The Riott Squad def. The Bella Twins & Natalya via pinfall: With Ronda Rousey away on a media tour, the heels got the upper hand despite a legitimate injury to Liv Morgan after Brie Bella repeatedly kicked her flush to the face. (Ruby Riott later appeared to provide Brie with the "receipt" of two extra stiff forearms to the face.) The trio of babyfaces recorded the spot of the match when they combined on a three-way suplex but the finish came after Riott secretly tagged herself in. Natalya applied her Sharpshooter on Sarah Logan only to be kicked in the face by Riott. She would add a Riott Kick to secure the 1-2-3.
- Konnor def. Chad Gable via pinfall: Pre-match video promos from both played up how big of a challenge Gable faced in terms of size differential. Gable countered by saying he would remember his new partner for inspiration by thinking, "WWBRD: What would Bobby Roode do?" Gable missed a moonsault late and Konnor countered with a face-first, gut-wrench suplex for the pin.
- Triple H cuts promo on The Undertaker: Before ducking into his limo backstage, Triple H gave Charly Caruso a reaction to comments from Undertaker last week that he has become too corporate. "If Undertaker is worried about a suit than he has already lost," Triple H said. "We are not going to be fighting in suits, we are not going to be fighting in a board room. As far as him taking my soul, I sold that a long time ago. Anybody that is honest with themselves can feel it in the air, it has been coming for a while now. When it comes to The Undertaker, the end is near."
- Bobby Lashley def. Elias via disqualification: A brief edition of "The Kevin Owens Show" before the match saw Elias welcome KO on guitar as both welcomed Lio Rush and heckled him about his size by presenting a booster seat. Rush announced the Denver native Lashley to a big pop and the brief match which followed ended abruptly after Owens chased Rush around the ring and accidentally tripped over Lashley to fore the DQ. Owens and Elias eventually trapped Rush inside the ring until Lashley intercepted a pop-up powerbomb to save his manager. Later, a Lashley-Owens match was booked for next week's Raw.
- Nia Jax def. Alicia Fox via pinfall: A dominant victory for Jax appeared to be booked for nothing more than to put over her Game Changer People's Choice Award nomination. The spot of the match came from Ember Moon, who was in Jax's corner and hit a stiff rolling cannonball off the apron onto Mickie James. Jax secured the pin following a Samoan drop.
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