WWE Raw results, recap, grades: Hell in a Cell go-home show delivers some strong moments
The final offering before Hell in a Cell largely delivered on Monday night
Throughout a build to Sunday's Hell in a Cell pay-per-view that has seen more forgettable moments than viral ones, Monday's episode of Raw largely delivered, at the very least. Actually looking and acting the part of a PPV go-home show was a big reason as WWE overcame some fairly large missteps -- including the continually comical use of police in The Shield storyline -- to do a strong job setting the stage for Sunday's Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman and Ronda Rousey vs. Alexa Bliss title matches.
In between, the three-hour show also produced some strong moments, including a Kevin Owens promo which properly explained his motives and the continued use of traditional managers. There was all that, plus a pair of promos from legends Triple H and Mick Foley, to boot.
Roman Reigns gains violent revenge on Braun Strowman
The second half of Raw saw Strowman enter what he termed "Big Dog hunting" in search of Reigns after acting Raw general manager Baron Corbin told him that commissioner Stephanie McMahon wanted Strowman to take Reigns' universal championship on Sunday at Hell in a Cell. Strowman went on to trash the backstage area in search of Reigns and threaten several WWE employees, including a producer he held up by the throat before throwing onto a road case.
In the show's final segment, Strowman called out Reigns to face him in the ring like a man. He added that, on Sunday, he's "taking the title and sending Roman Reigns to hell and he's never coming back." Out came Reigns to face Strowman on the stage. After a Superman punch connected, Strowman repeatedly tossed Reigns into the video wall. Strowman then placed Reigns atop the announce table until a reversal saw the universal champion end the show by hitting a Samoan drop through the stage floor adjacent to the table.
With Reigns' dialogue kept to a minimum and Strowman perfectly setting the table by being a menace backstage, it's hard to take issue with the way the show closed as a strong tease for the kind of violence that is to be expected on Sunday. The closing high spot hit the mark perfectly and added yet another fun highlight to the growing Reigns-Strowman rivalry. Also, not reminding the audience that Strowman had already cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase weeks in advance for a title shot he likely had already earned turned out to be the best move. Grade: B+
The Shield evades arrest by outsmarting Baron Corbin
Raw opened with Strowman, joined by Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler, saying he "feasts on the bloody carcasses of The Shield" after last week's attack. He added that Reigns has his hounds of justice but Strowman has "my dogs of war." The trio stood in the ring as the majority of heels from the locker room surrounded it. Naturally, out came The Shield through the crowd to take out the ringside heels with ease. Dean Ambrose then pulled out a bag revealing three axe handles which helped them beat down Jinder Mahal inside the ring as Strowman, McIntyre and Ziggler glared from the stage.
Later on backstage, a group of police offers confronted The Shield before Corbin ran in to plead that we don't need a repeat of last week. Corbin offered that if The Shield dropped their weapons, they could avoid getting arrested again. "I want you competing on Raw and not destroying everything," he said. Corbin added that if the trio didn't vacate the premises they would forfeit their titles and go to jail. All three cooperated without issue.
Raw Tag Team Championship -- Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre (c) def. The B-Team via pinfall: Despite a series of hot tags and fun near falls, Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel came up empty in their contractually-obligated rematch. The finish came when McIntyre distracted the referee to allow Ziggler to rake Dallas' eyes. The duo then hit their Claymore/ZigZag dual finisher before McIntyre got the pin. Ambrose and Rollins then defied Corbin by running in to attack from behind. But after dumping McIntyre to the floor, Rollins' attempt at the stomp was missed when McIntyre pulled Ziggler out for the save.
Confronted by Corbin, Rollins accused him of having them arrested last week. Corbin countered by saying he was trying to prevent it until Rollins accused him of falsifying a police report. He then brought in a sheriff to read Corbin his rights and issue a warrant for his arrest. Corbin agreed to speak in private and a laughing Rollins told the sheriff not to press any charges. Later in the locker room, Corbin explained to an angry Ziggler that New Orleans is run by a Napoleonic code where "law gets complicated." Corbin closed by telling Ziggler and McIntyre they are defending their titles on Sunday against Rollins and Ambrose because Stephanie McMahon wants the show to be huge.
While Raw deserves credit for how nicely both the Reigns-Strowman and overall Shield storylines were weaved throughout the show, the flimsy nature of the police scenarios fell flat for the second straight week. If fans were led to believe last Monday that The Shield could be arrested for such comical reasons, should they be just as quick to accept that Rollins could use the services of an officer to blackmail his boss? All in all, the end product of a star-studded tag team title match is a strong result. But, unfortunately, it has been a messy ride to get there with an overbooked story. Grade: C
Kevin Owens explains his barbaric actions
His match with Tyler Breeze never officially started as Owens jumped him before the bell and went on to hit a stiff apron power bomb. Owens then provided an explanation for why he quit Raw two weeks ago, and revealed he only accepted Corbin's begging to return with the stipulation that he not be held accountable for who he hurts on the show. Calling himself "the true MVP of Raw," Owens blamed his recent actions on the "sick maniac" Bobby Lashley for "intentionally" injuring his friend Sami Zayn. He also called The Shield an embarrassment and said he was just doing his job in helping Strowman attack them last week. "I can do whatever I want, whenever I want and there's not a thing anyone can do about it," he said. Owens' maniacal promo closed with him saying Raw is still the Kevin Owens Show and you can expect three things: anarchy, agony and destruction.
While it's hard to forgive and forget so quickly for the creative botching of KO's recent exit and anticlimactic return the following week, give WWE credit for its effort in this segment. Not only did Owens address all of the plot holes associated with his storyline, he did a nice job tying them together. He also returned in terms of swagger to the sadistic heel he operates best as. Provided he gets the best of Lashley in the long run, it's possible this angle just turned from zero to hero right before our eyes. Grade: B+
What else happened on Raw?
Nikki Bella def. Ruby Riott via pinfall: A social media video posted early Monday showed the Bella Twins enter their locker room only to find that it was trashed with graffiti by the Riott Squad. Nikki took out her anger throughout the two-segment match, fighting off outside interference from Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan. The finish came when Nikki caught a Riott Kick and picked the squad's leader up in a fireman's carry. Just as Brie prevented Morgan from interfering by pulling her outside the ring, Nikki hit the Rack Attack 2.0 for the pin.
AOP def. Ronnie Ace & Nathan Bradley via pinfall: With new manager Drake Maverick returning -- sans tactical vest -- by their side, Akam & Rezar were presented for the first time as just "AOP" and not Authors of Pain. The squash match which followed against a pair of local enhancement talent was as quick as it was violent. Looking to send a message to the rest of the locker room, AOP hit a Super Collider before Rezar secured the pin.
Triple H responds to The Undertaker: One week after the "Deadman" confronted Shawn Michaels, Triple H entered the ring for a rebuttal in his second promo in three weeks as WWE continued to make their Super Show-Down match in Australia a priority. After entering to babyface cheers and chants of his name, Triple H's promo was short and to the point, focusing on how Undertaker "lost respect for himself" by not showing up to confront Triple H to his face this week. "Deadman, you said one thing last week that was true -- 'Now it's personal,'" Triple H said. "So in Melbourne, out of the last little bit of respect that I have left for you Deadman, I will put you down." He dropped the mic and stared at the camera with intensity as his face pulsated. The material wasn't great but the delivery kept the chains moving.
Management for Bobby Lashley?: A video shot earlier in the day showed Lashley doing curls in the gym with low weights while he nurses a rib injury. 205 Live performer Lio Rush then appeared as his possible new hype man by saying, "This man smells like money and he looks like money." Happy with what he heard, Lashley asked him to continue.
Bobby Roode & Chad Gable def. The Ascension via pinfall: In their second tag team match, the story of an over-anxious Gable threatening to steal the show continued to play out. Gable tagged himself in to open the match, just as Roode was prepared to begin. He did the same before the finish as Roode was setting up his finishing move. Gable hit Viktor with a German suplex and a bridge for the 1-2-3. After originally making a face, Roode gave in and celebrated wildly with his new teammate.
Ronda Rousey & Natalya def. Mickie James & Alexa Bliss via pinfall: The final build to the Raw women's title rematch between Rousey and Bliss is complete following this entertaining match which saw Bliss constantly mock Rousey's mannerisms. Bliss attempted an armbar on Natalya as a way to taunt Rousey, and was nearly pinned following a roll up. After Bliss responded by slapping Rousey, a chase ensued with Bliss ending up on the wrong end of a Hart Attack as Natalya lifted her up for Rousey to hit a clothesline as a tribute to Natalya's late father Jim Neidhart. Rousey sold a rib injury late following a beatdown outside the ring. After she produced a tapout from James via armbar, Rousey's celebration was interrupted by Bliss' super kick to the ribs. After the match, an angry Rousey told Charly Caruso backstage that she won't pull out of Sunday's match and never pulled out of a fight in her life. "It's not because I've never been injured, but because on my worse day I'm still the best," Rousey said.
Mick Foley announces role in Hell in a Cell main event: Following an earlier video package celebrating the 20th anniversary of his epic HIAC match against The Undertaker, Foley interrupted Elias on guitar inside the ring. An annoyed Elias went on to verbally attack Foley by calling him "a broken man who is singing the same sad song, has been for the last 20 years and he barely remembers the words." Foley responded with an emotional speech that ended with him revealing he approached Stephanie McMahon about coming back for Sunday's PPV. "How can I feel alive as I was on that night 20 years ago when I was almost dead?" he asked. Foley said he will serve as guest referee for Reigns vs. Strowman. After Elias ordered him to leave, Foley shared that McMahon allowed him to make one match as GM for old time's sake, and he booked Elias against Finn Balor at that moment.
Finn Balor def. Elias via pinfall: This last-minute match came to an end after Balor rolled through a missed Coup de Grace attempt from the top rope and caught Elias in an inside cradle for the 1-2-3. Raw announcer Michael Cole called the storyline victory a "much-needed win" for Balor in a statement that couldn't have been more true.
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