WWE Raw results, recap, grades: Drew McIntyre targets Roman Reigns, title change before WrestleMania

It may have taken a while to get warmed up, but Monday's episode of Raw succeeded in keeping expectations sky high just 28 days out from WrestleMania 35. An uneven show gave way to a red-hot final hour, highlighted by Drew McIntyre's tour de force against members of The Shield. But the three-hour show succeeded overall in producing a number of viral moments affecting the biggest storylines heading into Sunday, April 7, even if the content leading up to it was less than stellar.  

From Triple H and Batista trading words in person to Ronda Rousey taking her bad side to a whole new level, let's take a closer look at the highs and lows from an ambitious installment of Raw.  

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Drew McIntyre brutalizes Reigns and Ambrose 

A scheduled match between Roman Reigns and Baron Corbin never took place thanks to an attack from behind on Reigns by McIntyre. A pair of stiff Claymore kicks, including one that sent Reigns's head into the ring post, left him needing medical attention as McIntyre warned, "I promise you Roman, this is just the beginning." As Reigns struggled to stand and walk off on his own power, Seth Rollins came out to assist and eventually joined Dean Ambrose backstage in helping Reigns to trainer's room. An enraged Ambrose ran into Triple H and demanded an immediate match against McIntyre with no rules or disqualification.  

Drew McIntyre def. Dean Ambrose via pinfall (Falls Count Anywhere): McIntyre taunted Ambrose on the microphone before the match began with a brawl on the ramp. The fight spilled into the crowd before advancing to the concession and merchandise area on the grandstand level. Ambrose utilized a low blow and McIntyre later gouged his eye with a pencil on top of the announce table. After being thrown head-first twice into the LED board on the stage, McIntyre trapped Ambrose's head on a guard rail before delivering a vicious Claymore kick to get the pinfall on the floor next to the stage. After he stood on the announce table to celebrate, McIntyre laid Ambrose out with a second Claymore.  

A "Scottish Psychopath," indeed. Seemingly no longer saddled with trying to carry Corbin and Bobby Lashley as unnecessary and undeserving stablemates, McIntyre finally began to show just how insanely big his potential is as an elite heel. This was the best 30-minute push a wrestler could ask for as McIntyre was presented as a force of nature void of conscious who actually backs up the trash talk he delivers. This wasn't just a hot-fire ending, it was about as stiff as WWE gets from a working standpoint as Ambrose absorbed countless vicious strikes that went a long way in elevating McIntyre to a level where a WrestleMania match against Reigns isn't just a great idea -- it's needed. For as hot as McIntyre once was coming off his program against Dolph Ziggler, WWE cooled him off with bland and repetitive booking. This was the kind of night that reignites a career.  Grade: A+ 

Triple H agrees to Batista's demands 

Arriving via black car with a large group of security protecting him, Batista had the part of despicable heel down to a "T" as he answered Triple H's in-ring challenge and walked onto the stage in a shiny jacket. But as the crowd chanted his name, Batista shot down Triple H's repeated offers to fight right now by saying he wasn't stupid, and that he learned from "the two dirtiest players in the game" -- Triple H and Ric Flair – during their time in Evolution.  

In response to Triple H referencing how many times he quit on WWE, Batista accused him of "always holding me down, talking down to me and shutting me out." A shouting match ensued as Batista demanded they handle it his way with a match at WrestleMania and threatened he will continue to hurt the people that Triple H loves until he gets it. "One last match to end my career on my terms," Batista said. "And that one last match to end your career on my terms." An emotional Triple H finally accepted and said the match will be "no rules, no restrictions, no law and no holds barred." 

What a great little piece of business between two legends. Not only was the back-and-forth in this segment refreshingly void of physicality once again, which only builds the suspense to finally seeing them do battle on April 7, the tiny attention to detail was tremendous. Batista wore blue-tinted sunglasses and a blue nose ring as a subtle tip-of-the-cap to his former "Bluetista" moniker given by annoyed fans in the past. Triple H, meanwhile, was sensational with the zingers, including calling Batista's bodyguards "the guardians of the independent scene." This feud proves that when nothing matters more than the story being told, perfection is within reach. Grade: A 

Ronda Rousey takes heel turn to next level 

Dressed in all black, an angry Rousey told the crowd to "take your applause and shove it." She also called them "bandwagon bitches" and cowards. Rousey promised to embarrass and humiliate Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania, and went as far as referring to the WWE authority as "the carny con artists they have always been." But Rousey's mic drop moment was interrupted by Dana Brooke, who attempted to stand up for the business and deliver an underdog plea for an open challenge match. Rousey immediately floored her with a front kick before rag-dolling her inside the ring, slapping a referee and audibly yelling at a fan, "Pay 60 bucks, then I'll show you an armbar." 

While Rousey's actual delivery of words is still far from perfect, this is the kind of badass heel promo work we all wanted and the kind that best capitalizes on her strengths. WWE was smart to face the reality that Rousey is simply better as a heel who takes crap from no one. The content she delivered was well-written and the violent nature in which she handled both Brooke and a group of referees was next-level vicious. Don't let the vocal minority upset that Rousey is "exposing the business" lead you astray -- the business has been exposed for three decades and this right here is great stuff.  Grade: B+ 

What else happened on Raw? 

  • Seth Rollins def. Shelton Benjamin via pinfall: Raw opened with The Shield entering through the crowd for the final time after the victory at Fastlane. Following a hug and mutual well wishes, they agreed to go their separate ways. Rollins's subsequent promo was interrupted by Paul Heyman. Shortly after, Benjamin attacked Rollins from behind with German suplexes. Their post-commercial match saw Heyman reveal on commentary that Brock Lesnar would return to Raw next week. Rollins hit a stomp for the 1-2-3 in a segment that exposed how badly WWE needs Lesnar -- and not just the threat of his future presence -- during WrestleMania season. 
  • Intercontinental Championship -- Bobby Lashley def. Finn Balor (c) via pinfall: The haphazard nature in which WWE presented both this title bout and the belt changing hands only devalued the entire situation. As Balor climbed the top rope to attempt his Coup de Grace, Lio Rush rang the bell and hijacked the IC title. Balor knocked him off the apron with an Enziguri kick but his springboard splash attempt back into the ring was intercepted by a Lashley spear to become the new champion.  
  • Aleister Black & Ricochet def. Bobby Roode & Chad Gable via pinfall: The pair of NXT superstars continued their near-flawless booking in this fun match that saw Black secure the victory after hitting Black Mass on Roode. As Black and Ricochet were celebrating on the ramp after the match, The Revival attacked from behind. The Raw tag team champions then retreated as Roode and Gable came near.  
  • Alexa Bliss revealed as host of WrestleMania 35: During an incredibly brief "A Moment of Bliss" segment, Bliss came out feigned surprise after she announced her hosting gig on April 7. Although it wasn't mentioned during the segment, Bliss shot down rumors last week on Twitter that she continues to nurse an injury that has kept her from the ring. 
  • Braun Strowman destroys gift from Colin Jost: Asked during a backstage interview about his interaction with WrestleMania 35 correspondents Jost and Michael Che last week, Strowman laughed and said he enjoyed jacking Jost up by the neck. A production assistant interrupted him to let him know his car was outside. Strowman found a sports car with a bow on it and a snarky letter from Jost asking for a truce. Strowman proceeded to break the doors and seats, punch the windshield and detach the hood, handing it to the assistant before saying, "Give this to Michael and Colin and the next time I see them, it's going to be 'Live from New York' and they are going to get these hands." 
  • Elias has enough of interruptions: After taunting the Pittsburgh fans, Elias began to play a song before he was interrupted by No Way Jose's party entrance. Elias caught Jose with a baseball slide dropkick as he approached the ring and continued by beating down members of the conga line. Elias finished matters with a Drift Away on Jose on top of the steel ramp.  
  • Nia Jax def. Natalya via disqualification: With tensions still high from Jax and Tamina Snuka's attack at Fastlane, WWE Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix came out to get Natalya's back. It didn't take long until Snuka held Natalya's legs and Phoenix ran in to attack Jax, triggering the DQ finish. After Phoenix cleaned house against both heels, Jax and Snuka retreated to Gorilla position where they were jumped by Sasha Banks & Bayley. A brief and intense pull-apart brawl ensued.  
  • Kurt Angle def. Apollo Crews via pinfall: Beginning with an in-ring promo in front of his home fans in Pittsburgh, Angle announced that his final match will come at WrestleMania. Before that takes place, however, he also announced he wanted one more match on Raw in his home city. Crews sold throughout most of the match and missed a splash off the top rope that allowed Angle to hit a patented Angle Slam for the 1-2-3. An emotional Angle received a standing ovation from the crowd and a hug from Crews.  
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Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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