WWE Raw results, recap, grades: Massive star power not enough to save lackluster show
Monday's live showing was not an overall great effort for this 'new era'
Facing a third-and-long up against the College Football Playoff National Championship, WWE chose the path of least resistance on Monday by punting. With an episode heavy on star power yet lacking in terms of redeemability, Raw presented three hours of largely formulaic booking which served as the antithesis to "new era" promises made by on-screen management in recent weeks.
Outside of a brief (and exceptional) segment involving Triple H, the remainder of the McMahon family was nowhere to be found. And from a brawl in the opening segment which evolved into a predictable six-man tag team match to a main event that appeared to fit the bill as the kind of mandatory title rematch Triple H had previously said was outdated, this episode felt very much like a mail-in job.
Seth Rollins prevented from regaining IC title
The show opened with Rollins attacking Bobby Lashley backstage as a response to the motivational speech delivered by Triple H last week. The two brawled out onto the stage before agents and mid-card talent were able to break them. After John Cena entered the ring to enter himself into the Royal Rumble match, Drew McIntyre was out to cut a promo on him. Before the two could fight, Lashley and Lio Rush barged out to say they will get a lawyer if nothing is done to stop Rollins. An attack from behind by Rollins led to a full-on brawl which included Cena, McIntyre and the late-arriving Dean Ambrose and Finn Balor.
Seth Rollins, John Cena & Finn Balor def. Dean Ambrose (via pinfall), Drew McIntyre & Bobby Lashley: Taking up most of the first hour, the match ended with a hot tag to Rollins and an eventual Stomp on Ambrose for the pin. When Triple H was shown on the big screen during the winners' celebration, an angry Rollins stormed backstage to knock the coffee cup out of Triple H's hands. Rollins boldly demanded an Intercontinental title rematch tonight. "You want Ambrose? You got him. Tonight. Falls count anywhere. Welcome back," Triple H said before embracing Ambrose.
Intercontinental Championship -- Dean Ambrose (c) def. Seth Rollins via pinfall in falls count anywhere match: Rollins attacked on the ramp before the match even began. After a backstage brawl, Rollins slammed Ambrose through the announce table during a commercial break. Finally, Rollins appeared to have the match won after hitting a superplex, buckle bomb, superkick and a Stomp in succession, but Lashley ran in to foil the finish. He threw Rollins into the barricade outside the ring twice before hitting his finishing move and a spear inside of it. Ambrose crawled over to pin a prone Rollins as Lashley flexed beside them. Lashley then powerbombed Rollins through a table to close the broadcast.
Consider the passion which leaked from the backstage interaction between Rollins and Triple H as the high point of the show in general, and an intriguing tease regarding where that storyline is headed. Things slowly went downhill from there. Although the main event match was both physical and entertaining, the copy-and-paste way in which the match ended with Lashley's obvious retribution succeeded in producing the apathetic response it received from the crowd. Talk about letting the air out of the balloon. If the spoiling of what would have been a massive pop in Rollins regaining his title wasn't enough of a buzzkill, the reminder that his feud with Lashley isn't finished certainly was. Grade: C
Sasha Banks secures shot at Ronda Rousey
Rousey took her seat on the stage as the first guest of Alexa Bliss' inaugural "Moment of Bliss" segment and proceeded to put over Banks as "the unsung hero" of Raw. Out came Nia Jax to accuse Rousey of having a "girl crush" on Banks before challenging Rousey to a rematch. Banks came out say she's honored before flashing some heel tendencies by saying she'll teach Rousey "how to lose with dignity and class." Banks then countered Jax's comment about getting in line by yelling, "Bitch, what line?" She then challenged Jax to an immediate match with the winner drawing a title shot against Rousey at the Royal Rumble.
Sasha Banks def. Nia Jax via submission: The match was given plenty of time and space to fill, featuring a handful of near falls. The smaller Banks sold for the majority and took a stiff military press onto a road case. Bayley and Tamina Snuka largely canceled each other out by brawling multiple times on the floor in support of their friends. Banks forced Jax to tap out via Banks Statement for the finish, earning herself a title opportunity at the Royal Rumble later this month.
You want the good news or bad news first? Let's start with the good. Rousey facing off with Banks in a pay-per-view title match is something worth being excited about, and may end up stealing the show at the Royal Rumble. But the bad? The talking segment that built this reveal involving Rousey and Jax was about as cringe worthy as things get on WWE. Not only did Rousey regress in terms of both her delivery and the quality of dialogue in which she spoke, Jax is finding new ways to produce the "X-Pac heat" that leaves fans wanting her to go away for good. From Jax's ill-advised "girl crush" wisecrack to her poorly delivered "I'm the bitch, I'm not a bitch" comeback, it was enough to spoil nearly everything which followed it. Grade: C-
What else happened on Raw?
- Hulk Hogan pays tribute to "Mean" Gene Okerlund: In his first Raw appearance in nearly four years, and first WWE appearance overall since last year's Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia, Hogan received a mixed and somewhat muted reaction from the crowd. He then tossed to a well-constructed video package honoring the late WWE Hall of Fame announcer. Hogan closed by delivering one more "well, let me tell you something, 'Mean' Gene," before cutting a promo on what Okerlund might be doing in heaven. While the tribute was touching, Hogan's return -- for reasons unconnected to Okerlund – felt very inconsequential in the end.
- Raw Tag Team Championship -- Bobby Roode & Chad Gable (c) def. The Revival via pinfall in a lumberjack match to retain the titles: The theme surrounding the heel Revival not getting a fair shake only continued. An inside cradle from Scott Dawson on Gable was reversed when Roode helped flip them over from outside the ring. Gable then scored a pinfall despite the referee not seeing that Dawson's leg was on the ropes.
- Baron Corbin def. Elias via pinfall: Corbin interrupted Elias' pre-match song and went on to join him in adding his name to the Royal Rumble match. The finish came when Corbin threw Elias into the direction of the referee. Elias pulled up short to avoid him, and the distraction set up a right hand and End of Days from Corbin for the pin.
- Brock Lesnar refuses to tangle with Braun Strowman: What was billed as a face-to-face standoff between the two giants ahead of their universal title match at the Royal Rumble turned out to be just another wasted appearance in Lesnar's part-time contract. Strowman challenged Lesnar to come out, and Paul Heyman declined during a backstage response on the big screen. In nothing short of an awkward promo egging him on, Strowman finally managed to lure Lesnar with insults. Yet after circling the ring while laughing, Lesnar made his way up the ramp and avoided confrontation. What a waste of time.
- Ember Moon & Apollo Crews def. Alicia Fox (via pinfall) & Jinder Mahal: Mahal's pre-fight shtick saw him take on a darker tone than his recent tranquil ways as he heckled a handful of ringside fans in a disrespectful manner. This virtual squash match ended with Moon hitting an Eclipse for the pin.
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