WWE Raw results, recap, grades: Ronda Rousey lashes out, Roman Reigns seeks Shield reunion
Rousey sent a stern message to Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair ... as well as the fans
With 34 days and counting until WrestleMania 35, things are heating up. Major developments were aplenty on this week's episode of Raw as WWE set the stage for Sunday's Fastlane pay-per-view, which serves as the final stop on the road to the biggest night in sports entertainment.
Not only did Ronda Rousey's late run-in shake up the Raw women's title picture, a major reunion with possible WrestleMania implications proved to be the dominant story over Monday's three hours. Throw in one heck of a Triple H promo, and you've got yourself a fun night of pro wrestling.
Let's take a look back at the highs and lows from Monday's show in Philadelphia.
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Ronda Rousey silences Becky Lynch
An early backstage segment saw Stephanie McMahon call Rousey disrespectful for the "blasphemy" of laying down her Raw title in the ring last week. McMahon vowed she will do what's "best for business" by dropping all charges against Becky Lynch and lifting her 60-day suspension, provided she sign a "hold harmless agreement" later tonight to allow her to compete while injured at Fastlane. McMahon also stripped Rousey of her title, placing the vacant championship at stake for Lynch's match against Charlotte Flair on Sunday.
The final segment saw McMahon welcome Flair and Lynch to the ring before presenting Lynch with a contract to sign that leaves WWE not liable for any additional injuries to her left leg. Suddenly, a raging Rousey emerged from a car outside and marched to the ring. Claiming she never vacated the title, Rousey demanded it back. McMahon ultimately gave in but added the caveat that Flair will still face Lynch on Sunday with Lynch needing a victory to be added to a triple threat match at WrestleMania.
Rousey went on to cut a scathing promo against McMahon for valuing her wallet over her own pride. Saying she can go rogue whenever she wants because she makes too much money for WWE to be fired, Rousey then turned on the fans for booing her out of her home city in Los Angeles and for cheering Lynch throughout their feud. "I am done pretending. I am no longer here to entertain you," Rousey said. "I am not your dancing monkey, not anymore. Damn your fantasies, damn 'The Man,' screw the woo and no more Mrs. Nice Face." She kicked Flair out of the ring before laying a beating on Lynch, including multiple armbars, punches and even insultingly standing on her face. The crowd booed as Rousey held up her title and pointed to the WrestleMania sign. McMahon gave an interview backstage to close the show, explaining how Rousey showed her true colors as the animal she is and that punishment could follow.
Between the incredible social media exchanges of late between Lynch and Rousey and this development which presented Rousey in the best possible light as a badass who is too tough and dangerous to butcher another promo by stuttering, it's hard to ask for anything more in this case. Even with the final segment ending early and McMahon left forced to kill time by rambling in Gorilla position (as Rousey was overheard being told by a producer to hold up her title in the ring), all was forgivable due to the overall intensity of the segment. The road to an eventual triple threat match that could serve as the first women's main event in WrestleMania history became clear on this night, and Rousey's strong delivery of a quasi heel turn perfectly opens the door for the injured Lynch to make a dramatic run at the title. Grade: A
Roman Reigns spurs reunion of The Shield
One week after his comeback, Reigns told the Philadelphia crowd it's time "we take our yard back." But after calling Seth Rollins out and teasing that he might demand a title shot in the future, Reigns requested that they "get the band back together one last time" and cited how short life is with tomorrow never guaranteed. Dean Ambrose responded to their request to come out but was instantly attacked on the stage from behind when Elias broke a guitar over his back and fled. An angry Ambrose brushed Rollins off and left alone. Further attempts by Rollins and Reigns backstage to recruit Ambrose came up empty.
Elias def. Dean Ambrose via pinfall: Still injured from the guitar shot, Ambrose was too physically compromised to go over. He hesitated in jumping off the top rope and ate a flying knee. Elias followed with Drift Away for the pin, which sent Rollins and Reigns out to talk to Ambrose in the ring. But after Ambrose brushed them off and slowly exited through the crowd to boos, the heel trio of Baron Corbin, Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre came out to attack the remaining Shield members. Ambrose quickly returned to help them clean house, and after a long delay to mull it over, he joined Rollins and Reigns in uniting their fists in solidarity to a huge pop from the crowd.
All in all, this was fairly well booked by WWE, save for how overly-basic the setup was for Ambrose to make an obvious return. The writing in the opening segment stood out, particularly with Reigns doing well not just to fool Rollins initially but hammer home how important it is for their trio to come together one last time (not just because of Reigns' health scare but the subtle tease regarding Ambrose's exit from the company in April). Considering The Shield's reunion never quite had the opportunity to get off the ground over the past year, there's enough optimism that something memorable is coming, particularly involving what role Reigns and Ambrose will play in Rollins's title match with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. Grade: B+
Triple H addresses Batista's actions
One week after Batista closed Raw by attacking Ric Flair and ruining his 70th birthday party in order to get Triple H's attention, he explained in an Instagram video why isn't at Raw and might not be there next week. "We are going to play this game by my rules until 'The Game' is over," Batista said. "See what I did there? The Game is over." Triple H entered the ring to deliver a very serious promo in which he talked not about the character Ric Flair, but the real man Richard Fliehr, and was moved to tears reliving the highs and lows of their friendship.
Triple H went on to hammer Batista for some real-life offenses which including "crying online for two years" about his want for a WrestleMania match and quitting WWE each time he didn't get a response from fans that he hoped for. He closed with an intense rant challenging Batista to "have some balls and show up" at Raw, and reiterated that this isn't about storylines or anything they are selling. "When you look into my eyes, you ain't looking at the character," he said, "you are looking at the man."
Oh hell yeah. Let the jury disregard all that nonsense last year when Triple H teamed up with Shawn Michaels for a cringe-worthy feud with Kane and The Undertaker. This is the Triple H we want and deserve, bringing an intensity to his babyface role for this feud while cutting a strong promo that was aimed at removing the fourth wall and touching on real themes. Yet for as great as Triple H was in this mic-drop moment, Batista was even better. Gone are the days of tight pants Blue-tista who tried too hard to get the crowd on his side. This 2019 heel version is a cocky dirtbag in all the best ways. This program is hot right now and has potential to be a must-see affair at WrestleMania if WWE can avoid physical contact on the road there and deliver with next-level intensity come April. Grade: A-
What else happened on Raw?
- Bobby Lashley, Baron Corbin & Drew McIntyre def. Finn Balor (via pinfall), Braun Strowman & Kurt Angle: The highlight of this three-segment match came late when Lashley sidestepped a running shoulder tackle from Strowman outside the ring and the "Monster Among Men" ran through Lio Rush instead, obliterating him as both men crashed through the barrier wall into the timekeeper area. The spot was stiff and devastating as it gets in WWE. Lashley followed with a spear on a worn-down Balor for the pin. After the match, the three heels had their way with Angle and Balor, slamming the latter on top of the ring steps in the center of the ring.
- Natalya def. Ruby Riott via pinfall: This quick match came to an end when Riott broke free from a Sharpshooter with an inside cradle attempt, only for Natalya to reverse it for the pin. After the match, NXT call-up Lacey Evans made another unrelated entrance in which she interrupted someone else's segment and did a lap up and down the ramp without acknowledging anyone.
- Michael Che and Colin Jost named WrestleMania correspondents: In a trio of backstage segments that fell somewhere between forgettable and painful, the hosts of Weekend Update on "Saturday Night Live" were given WrestleMania roles by Stephanie McMahon. Jost's lame attempts at acting like a clueless heel drew disgust from McMahon and led to Braun Strowman choking him with two hands after Jost asked, "Is any of this stuff real?" In between, Titus O'Neil no-sold Jost's celebrity by asking him to take a picture of him and Che. Chasing celebrity is one thing, but giving said said celebrities too many lines and too much time on the screen is another.
- Heavy Machinery def. Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins, The B-Team and The Ascension in tag team gauntlet match: A backstage interview earlier in the night saw Charly Caruso show Otis video of the Raw locker room heckling him. Heavy Machinery's anger carried over into this match which saw them run the table with an assortment of power moves, with Otis getting the pin all three times.
- Tamina Snuka def. Sasha Banks via pinfall: This preview of Sunday's women's tag team title match was brief and powerful in favor of the heels. Despite a Meteora from Banks off the top rope and onto the floor to prevent Nia Jax from interfering, Jax got revenge shortly after by grabbing her leg. Snuka used the distraction to land a superkick for the 1-2-3.
- Raw Tag Team Championship -- Ricochet & Aleister Black def. The Revival (c) via disqualification: Predictable Raw booking saw an unscheduled appearance at ringside from Bobby Roode & Chad Gable lead directly to an unprovoked attack on Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder outside the ring to trigger the DQ finish. Roode and Gable then entered the ring to brawl with an angry Ricochet and Black until the NXT stars ran them out.
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