With Elimination Chamber less than one week away, WWE is almost ready to enter the home stretch for the build to. As Raw landed in Brooklyn, two of WrestleMania's biggest stories got time in the spotlight to open and close the show, and both segments delivered the goods. The show opened with things finally getting physical between WWE champion Brock Lesnar and WrestleMania challenger Drew McIntyre, while it closed with Randy Orton laying out Edge's wife weeks after the vicious attack on the returning star.
In between was a mix of good (an outstanding tag match), bad (a robot spider) and plenty in between. But a hot crowd at Barclays Center helped propel things forward at a good pace and added extra weight to the show's biggest moments.
Let's take a look at what went down Monday night as Raw returned to Brooklyn.
Drew McIntyre lays waste to Brock Lesnar
Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar opened the show with an in-ring promo. Heyman said it was their job to hype the fans for WrestleMania. He called Drew McIntyre a "hyped-up fraud," pointing out it was Ricochet's low blow that allowed McIntyre to eliminate Lesnar from the Royal Rumble. "All it does is show you Drew McIntyre can take advantage of a momentary situation," Heyman said. McIntyre interrupted the promo after further insults from Heyman, including threats of what would happen the next time Lesnar laid eyes on his WrestleMania opponent.
McIntyre entered the ring and got in Lesnar's face, drawing laughter from the WWE champ. Lesnar feigned leaving the ring before trying to run back for an attack -- only to get hit with a massive Claymore Kick, leaving the champ down and out as McIntyre walked to the back. A stunned and embarrassed Lesnar stumbled from the ring to first "you deserve it" chants followed by a fan chorus of "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye." As Lesnar hit the top of the entrance ramp, McIntyre ran back in with another Claymore Kick before posing with the belt and hitting a third Claymore.
There aren't many better ways to open a show than with a Heyman promo before Lesnar gets brutalized in front of a rabid crowd. One of the issues with the build to Lesnar vs. McIntyre at WrestleMania has been the story being told by two physical men using only promos. Adding in physicality and making it an established fact that McIntyre can seriously hurt the champion does so much good for the program as a whole. When a segment leaves you excited to see more, it's a sign things worked perfectly. Grade: A
Randy Orton continues to cross the line
Beth Phoenix closed the show to provide a medical update on her husband, Edge, following Orton's brutal attack on the Raw the night after Royal Rumble. As Phoenix was about to provide the update, Orton's music hit and "The Viper" made his way to the ring. Orton offered a handshake before Phoenix called him a "son of a b----." Orton eventually said he would offer an explanation, and told a story of going to WWE in St. Louis in 1999, still as a fan, when his dad introduced him to WWE agents and of all the superstars at the show, Edge came up to shake "Cowboy" Bob Orton's hand and pay his respects. He also talked about Edge helping Orton out of the darkest period of his life. Orton said that in return for Edge saving his life back then, he returned the favor when Edge returned by taking him out before someone else could because he wanted Phoenix to have a husband and their daughters to have a father.
Orton then blamed Phoenix for helping Edge come back because he's a "junkie" for wrestling and said what happened was her fault. He added that he did what he did because he loves Edge more than she ever could. In response, Phoenix slapped Orton across the face. A switch seemed to flip in Orton, and he began to stare Phoenix down. Phoenix attempted to kick Orton in the stomach and he quickly turned and laid out the former Divas champion with an RKO before walking to the back as officials and members of the locker room ran to the ring to provide aid.
Orton hitting Phoenix with an RKO seemed a foregone conclusion when Phoenix was announced for the show, but the journey to the moment was executed very well. Orton's explanation for attacking Edge makes a certain twisted type of sense that is well in character. And the protection of men doing moves to women in WWE adds significant weight to Orton's attack. It's a unique moment in what has been a very well told story -- especially in the world of WWE. Grade: B+
What else happened on WWE Raw?
- Raw Tag Team Championship -- The Street Profits def. Seth Rollins & Murphy (c) via pinfall to win the titles after Montez Ford hit a frogsplash onto Rollins. Rollins waived AOP to the ring to help but was caught by the referee. As the referee was distracted by the situation, Kevin Owens slid into the ring, delivered a Stunner on Rollins and Montez Ford followed up with a frog splash for the title-winning victory.
- Rollins and Murphy were interviewed backstage after the loss. Rollins demanded a rematch for Elimination Chamber, and also said Owens can name the time, place and stipulation for a match between the two.
- 24/7 Championship -- Riddick Moss (c) def. Ricochet via pinfall to retain the title after a neckbreaker.
- Aleister Black def. Karl Anderson via pinfall after hitting Black Mass. Before the match, AJ Styles addressed his loss to Undertaker at Super ShowDown, saying the two are on a collision course. Styles also said Black hadn't read the contract and had to beat Anderson before he could face him. After Black's win, Styles said the contract also stated Black would have to beat Luke Gallows.
- Aleister Black def. Luke Gallows via disqualification when Gallows refused to follow referee instructions to break in the corner. After the match, Gallows and Anderson hit Black with a Magic Killer.
- AJ Styles def. Aleister Black via pinfall after a Phenomenal Forearm. Black had nothing left after the beating, and Styles used Undertaker's trademark folded-arms pin for the victory.
- Liv Morgan def. Ruby Riott via pinfall with a roll-up. Sarah Logan was referee for the match between the former Riott Squad teammates. Logan gave a fast count after Riott had gotten in her face. After the match, Morgan laid out Riott before Logan did the same to Morgan.
- No Way Jose politely asked Erick Rowan to show him what was in the covered cage he has been carrying for weeks. Rowan said he'd been waiting for someone to politely ask, and finally made the reveal, pulling from the cage a ... large animatronic spider. The reveal of the spider -- which looked like a Dollar Store Halloween decoration -- scared off Jose and his crew in one of the worst possible answers to the mystery of Rowan's "friend."
- Shayna Baszler def. Kairi Sane via submission with the Kirifuda Clutch. Becky Lynch made her way out to commentary for the match but the women did not get physical. As Baszler locked in the Clutch again after her win, Lynch held up her belt and said, "I don't have my wrestling boots, but I'll fight you."
- Rey Mysterio & Humberto Carrillo def. Andrade & Angel Garza via pinfall after Carrillo hit Andrade with a moonsault. Before the match, Mysterio and Carrillo cut a backstage promo about the importance of family before saying the rivalry would end when and how they want. This was a tremendous TV match given plenty of time for all involved to show off their skills.