With competition outside of WWE as hot as ever, Raw just two days after All In was clearly attempting to be ambitious standpoint of big reveals including a title change, the surprise return of a legend and a managerial debut. WWE succeeded in eliciting a number of different emotions over the span of three hours in what turned out to be a quick-moving show with plenty of intensity. Normally, that would be considered a success. This time, however, it was hard to walk away from the show's close without feeling anything but disappointment.
An overbooked mess of a final segment felt a lot like late 1990s WCW and left many viewers questioning the psychology what they just saw. The finish, which included The Shield continuing their feud against Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre, also overshadowed some strong moments throughout the show, most notably a war of words between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker.
The Shield returns from arrest, gets brutal beating
The show opened with Braun Strowman joining Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre inside the ring to show highlights of the beating they gave The Shield last week. "You see that? That's what I call justice," Strowman said. "Big Dog, I've got a pack of my own now and I'm going to show you that this is my yard." Ziggler added that the trio will be the most dominant force in WWE history before The Shield arrived through the crowd just as acting general manager Baron Corbin sent out members of the locker room to prevent a brawl from breaking out.
The Shield quickly dispatched the first two groups, including Dean Ambrose throwing Finn Balor face-first into the apron. An in-ring melee ensued between The Shield and the three heels until the entire locker room pulled them apart, leading to more mini-brawls up the ramp. After commercial, The Shield were placed in the back of a police wagon and arrested. Throughout the evening, Raw's Mike Rome tweeted updates of how they appeared before a judge and were formally charged with inciting a riot, criminal damage and disorderly conduct before posting bail and being released on their own recognizance.
Meanwhile backstage, Balor secured a main event match by challenging Corbin's manhood. Later on, however, Strowman and the duo of Ziggler and McIntyre threatened Corbin and demanded he provide them with competition now that The Shield was gone (with Ziggler stating "this is our show"). Corbin fixed the Strowman problem by telling Balor he was too busy as GM to have the match. He also allowed Ziggler and McIntyre a title shot after they attacked The Revival brutally backstage and threw them into road cases.
Raw Tag Team Championship – Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre def. The B-Team (c) via pinfall to win the titles: After The Revival's music hit but they never showed, their replacements were largely dominant against Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel. McIntyre hit Axel with his Claymore kick just as Ziggler landed a ZigZag to get the pin.
Braun Strowman def. Finn Balor via pinfall: Balor's mid-match rally saw him hit a tope con hilo on Strowman, Ziggler and McIntyre outside the ring. But his sloppy triangle choke attempt not only looked bad as Strowman oversold a move that was visibly obvious wasn't even fully applied, it led to Strowman lifting him up and slamming him hard. Strowman followed with a powerslam to get the pin and another one after the bell. After Balor was tossed outside the ring, an attempt by the heel trio to set up their own version of The Shield's triple powerbomb onto the stairs was interrupted by police sirens.
A police van was then backed into the arena with Roman Reigns driving. But after The Shield jumped out and approached the ring, the entire heel locker room ran out led by Kevin Owens to take them out. In what became a vicious attack, Strowman hit Reigns in the face with the ring steps and Rollins was violently thrown off of the stage and into the side of the police van. Ambrose, who was stomped on the announce table in front of his wife Renee Young on commentary, then had his head slammed into the van door by Ziggler. McIntyre hit a Claymore on Ambrose, Ziggler hit a super kick on Rollins and Strowman closed by powerslamming Reigns to the floor while the entire heel locker room rejoiced.
This was about as overbooked as anything WWE has produced since an eerily similar close to TLC last year when Kurt Angle joined The Shield in Reigns' absence. The fact that Strowman could turn so quickly from a beloved babyface who doesn't need help to a generic heel who enlists the help of half the locker room to beat down three guys just goes to show how far Vince McMahon is willing to go to help Reigns draw sympathetic cheers. Everything that made Strowman over and unique has been thrown out in favor of a convoluted mess.
While WWE deserves credit for weaving the main storyline throughout an entire three-hour show to build suspense, The Shield's arrest was comically without justification considering how often the pull-apart brawl has become an overused crutch on main roster programming. Meanwhile, any bonus points WWE achieved for how brutal the closing brawl was (including Rollins badly bleeding from his arm) was quickly overshadowed by the shoddy psychology of Owens coming to the aid of Strowman just two weeks after ending a feud against him. This was painful to watch on many levels.
To make matters worse, Balor somehow spent the evening jobbing out to everyone he came in contact with, either heel or babyface. Not all was awful on this night as McIntyre and Ziggler not only came across as strong in manipulating their way to the Raw tag team titles, they carried with them a Kevin Hall and Scott Nash vibe in doing so that almost felt like prime nWo. Grade: D+
The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels go face-to-face
Michaels entered the ring to share how surprised he was that many of his Hall of Fame friends picked Undertaker to defeat Triple H at WWE's upcoming Super Show-Down pay-per-view in Australia considering the WrestleMania unbeaten streak is over. But after Michaels took it one step further by saying, "the 'Cerebral Assassin' is going to cerebrally assassinate the Undertaker," out came "The Deadman" to pop the crowd with a long entrance.
The Undertaker claimed Michaels' ego couldn't accept that "I took the one thing from you that was most important – your career." But HBK fired back with an intense promo about how he been the only superstar who has refused to come back from retirement despite the constant cries of fans "because I am a man of my word, a man of honor and a man of integrity." Most importantly, Michaels said he hasn't come back because of the respect he has for The Undertaker. After countering by asking whether it was respect or fear, Undertaker said he would put Michaels down again should he decide to come out of retirement and that he plans to do the same to Triple H in Melbourne. Mic drop.
Whether seeing two WWE legends of this stature trade promos in 2018 gets you fired up for nostalgia or has you remembering their combined age is 106, it's hard to deny the intensity delivered by both in this segment. Both the theme and dialogue were simple and powerfully delivered, with more than a tiny tease that a possible trilogy match between Taker and Michaels at WrestleMania 35 just might be in the cards. While Michaels revealed he will be in attendance in Australia on Oct. 6, what isn't known as of yet is what part he might play in the match or storyline. Either way, this was a move in the right direction for a Triple H-Taker match that up to this point has felt like nothing more than a desperate attempt to sell out a giant stadium overseas. Grade: A-
Alexa Bliss gains revenge on Ronda Rousey
Elias opened an in-ring segment on guitar to point out how much he strongly dislikes women who hit men as a reference to Trish Stratus' return last week. He then began to insult the Columbus crowd before Bliss, Mickie James and Alicia Fox crashed the party. Bliss elicited cheers from her hometown fans by pointing out that she graduated high school in the same building and leading an "O-H-I-O" chant. She then quickly reminded she's a heel by turning on the crowd and calling them "mindless Ohio imbeciles." Just as Bliss began to flirt with Elias by asking him to finish his song "because I want to walk with Elias," Rousey's music hit to welcome her and Natalya.
Alexa Bliss def. Natalya via submission: The match was quick and to the point. Smart referee distraction from Bliss allowed James and Fox to attack Natalya in the corner. Bliss followed with a DDT and then pointed at Rousey at ringside as she slowly set up an armbar. Natalya quickly tapped to end the match and after Rousey checked on her, Bliss' initial attempt to attack from behind was met by a punch to the midsection. Rousey then fought off a Fox attack to deliver three brutal arm drags. But Bliss chop blocked Rousey and eventually threw her into the steps outside the ring.
Later on backstage, Rousey consoled Natalya, who moaned that she's "sick of the games" and doesn't feel like herself. As Natalya walked away, the Bella Twins slid in to shower Rousey with praise. Brie declared there is no one like Rousey in WWE while Nikki said she will go on to become "the greatest WWE champion ever" and that Rousey inspired their comeback. The Bellas then offered their services as training partners to which Rousey politely turned down because of how "fantastic" Natalya has been.
Bliss' handling of her home crowd and the brilliance at which she swerved from babyface to heel in her interaction is worth mention as one of Raw's highlights (as was her flirting with the former "Drifter"). Bliss was just as brilliant from a psychological standpoint in how her character adapted the armbar as a means to get in Rousey's head. Strong psychology was also in play from the Bella Twins after the match with a continued tease of a heel turn against Rousey after buttering her up. Grade: B
What else happened on Raw?
- The Bella Twins def. The Riott Squad via pinfall: The first match together for Nikki and Brie Bella on Raw in three years turned out to be a forgettable one for Brie. In her first post-pregnancy match since the inaugural women's Royal Rumble in January, Brie badly botched a pair of suicide dive attempts. Brie was caught up in the ropes during her first try before crashing to the floor in front of a late-arriving Sarah Logan. Her second try was much more dangerous as Brie was lucky to avoid serious injury when she came up short of the target and fell onto her face. Nikki, however, appeared to be in mid-season form despite her own absence from the ring and looked great following a hot tag before finishing Liv Morgan with the Rack Attack 2.0.
- Bobby Roode & Chad Gable def. The Ascension via pinfall: The first outing of this surprise new tag team saw Gable synchronize himself perfectly into Roode's entrance. It also saw way too much cheesy smiling from both considering the pair have barely anything in common to make this team feel like a natural pair. Before the match even started, Konnor cut a promo in which he called Roode "a flash in the pan who couldn't make it in the singles division" and Gable "a sawed off duck butt." (Yes, you read the latter correctly.) Gable capped the fairly forgettable match with a beautiful German suplex and bridge to pin Viktor.
- Authors of Pain def. Keith Thompson & Jimmy James via pinfall: Comically dressed just like them in a tactical vest, 205 Live general manager Drake Maverick made his debut as AOP manager and vowed before the match that he is going to make them Raw champions. The subsequent match against a pair of tiny local enhancement talent was as quick as it was violent. A Super Collider took out both before Rezar recorded the pin.
- The Boss 'N Hug Connection def. Dana Brooke & Ember Moon via pinfall: One week after Brooke came up empty against Sasha Banks, teaming up with Moon didn't help her cause. The storyline of Titus Worldwide getting in Brooke's way continued as she was distracted enough by their constant coaching to yell audibly, "Enough, I've got this!" Brooke then missed a flipping splash into the corner and Banks followed with a hurricanrana roll up for the 1-2-3.
- Kevin Owens returns to attack Bobby Lashley: One week after his kayfabe quitting when he walked off the set of Raw, Owens' return was rushed and wasted. Lashley emerged from a meeting with Corbin in which his performance review called for an in-ring meditation intervention with Jinder Mahal. After Lashley cut a backstage promo that made him sound crazy, he joined Mahal and Sunil Singh by donning a scarf and sitting in the ring to breathe deeply. Owens ran in to crash the party by hitting a super kick and apron powerbomb on Lashley before screaming out in anger.