WWE Raw results, recap, grades: Seth Rollins defends title ahead of TLC, new champions crowned
Rollins put his IC title on the line just six days before Sunday's pay-per-view
WWE's flagship program may not be where it could be from an entertainment standpoint, but if there's a silver lining to be found in this forgotten run in recent months, Raw is at the very least moving in the right direction.
A far cry from the rock-bottom creativity two weeks ago, Monday's episode whet the appetite just enough to keep interest strong in Sunday's TLC pay-per-view card. No, this wasn't three hours of perfection or anything close, but a strong main event provided enough of a tease that a major title change could take place.
Let's take a closer look at the highs and lows from Monday.
Also, don't forget to listen to our audio preview of TLC from the In This Corner with Brian Campbell podcast, and be sure to subscribe at the link in the player below. We will have an instant analysis immediately after WWE TLC on Sunday night.
Seth Rollins survives a scare ahead of TLC
The show started with Rollins challenging acting general manager Baron Corbin to "come out and get a dose of reality." After Corbin arrived, Rollins began to cut a promo blaming him for everything that fans currently dislike about Raw -- from urination segments to Lucha House Party rules matches and record-low ratings. "Under your leadership, Monday Night Raw has sucked and it has sucked because of you," said Rollins, who went on to call Corbin's reign "an abject failure." Corbin was dismissive in his response, saying, "Raw is my show, and if you don't like it, that's too bad. If you think it's bad now, it's only going to get worse for a guy like you."
Corbin refused Rollins' push for a TLC match against him tonight. But after Rollins repeatedly called him a coward, Corbin accepted and added that it will be a title match. Later on, Rollins explained to Dasha Fuentes that it wasn't a smart move but he must show the locker room he's a leader by standing up to Corbin "if I consider myself a real champion." Dean Ambrose later told Charly Caruso that Rollins is an idiot madman whose "big fat ego" got him into trouble again. Asked about Roman Reigns, he could only counter with, "Who cares?"
Intercontinental championship -- Seth Rollins (c) def. Baron Corbin in a TLC match: Corbin appointed a reluctant Heath Slater as referee for the main event. Rollins, whose third suicide dive attempt saw Corbin intercept and choke slam him through a table, went on to accidentally hit Slater with a chair. A Rollins' frog splash off the top rope and through a table proved to be the match's biggest spot. But Slater intercepted Rollins' attempt to win by tipping the ladder over. Corbin rallied and appeared to have the belt at his finger tips before Rollins caught up and power bombed him through a table. Slater apologized to Rollins but ate a superkick for his troubles before Rollins hit a stomp on Corbin and climbed the ladder to win. Ambrose walked out on the ramp to stare him down and tease their TLC match on Sunday as the show went off the air.
Give credit to Rollins and Corbin for selling out and producing a PPV-quality match filled with multiple dangerous spots in a Raw main event. But the key element of why this storyline worked, even with the clunky dynamic of Rollins being duped into nearly losing his title, was because of how honest the dialogue was in the opening segment. Rollins was allowed to cut a promo in the voice of every fan who has been disappointed by Raw's tanking ratings and substandard creativity. Corbin, meanwhile, dismissed him in a manner that could only have been written and instructed by Vince McMahon himself. The jury is still out as to whether this type of meta fourth-wall removing will actually lead to better content on a week-to-week basis, but it was refreshing nonetheless to know that WWE is listening to its critics. Grade: B+
What else happened on Raw?
- Raw tag team championship -- Bobby Roode & Chad Gable def. AOP & Drake Maverick (c) via pinfall to win the titles: So much for AOP's push as a dominant force. With this feud centered more upon Maverick's urine than the titles actually mattering, it took an unnecessary 3-on-2 handicap match for the belts to change hands. After AOP hit a neckbreaker/powerbomb combo to take out Gable, Maverick tagged himself in so he could pin a prone Roode. But after he mocked the "Glorious" hand mannerisms, Roode reversed into a rollup of his own for the 1-2-3.
- Natalya, Ruby Riott hype tables match at TLC: Natalya cut an in-ring promo on Riott's lack of respect for the business. Her speech turned emotional when saying she would dedicate Sunday's PPV match to her late father, Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, whose sunglasses were broken by Riott. Out came Riott, who told Natalya "you don't represent your family, you disgrace them." She unveiled a table with Neidhart's image painted on it as "a gift" for Natalya. Riott then promised to put Natalya through it "so you and your dad can be closer than ever." Despite high potential for this to bomb, both women played their roles effectively.
- Drew McIntyre def. Dolph Ziggler via pinfall: A pre-match selfie promo from Ziggler saw him nearly steal Roman Reigns' catchphrase by saying, "Just so there is no confusion, I'm not the good guy here, and I'm not the bad guy. I'm Dolph Ziggler." While the match was good, it felt wasted for the second straight week. The finish came when McIntyre kicked out of a ZigZag and immediately followed with a Claymore kick for the pin. Afterwards, he stomped on Ziggler outside the ring. As referees and road agents tried to hold him back, McIntyre broke free to hit a basement dropkick for good measure.
- Bayley def. Alicia Fox via pinfall: In a match which served as nothing more than an infomercial for the Mixed Match Challenge, Bayley fought off interference from Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers with the help of Sasha Banks and a late run-in from Apollo Crews. Banks was even catapulted by Crews into the trio of heels outside the ring. Fox then walked into a Bayley-to-Belly suplex for the pin.
- Lio Rush def. Elias via pinfall: Slater's debut as a Raw referee after being demoted by Corbin saw his integrity come into question. Elias appeared to have the match won with a sit-out powerbomb until Bobby Lashley ran in to attack. But a plea from Lashley not to be disqualified kept Slater from ringing the bell. Lashley then broke a guitar over Elias' back before Rush jumped in for the pin as Lashley screamed at Slater to count the 1-2-3. Sunday's Elias-Lashley bout was later announced to be a ladder match with a guitar hanging above the ring that can be used as a weapon.
- Ronda Rousey-Nia Jax faceoff fails to materialize: Jax stole the mic from Alexa Bliss' hands inside the ring and began to cut a long and particularly stale promo on Rousey that failed to gain any kind of reaction from the crowd. Jax called herself "the embodiment of the anti-Rousey" and a "6-foot tall, 300-pound Samoan woman who is Rousey's worst nightmare." Mixing in ill-timed screams, she also guaranteed she would win Rousey's title on Sunday. Out came the Raw women's champion. "I did not come here to hit my poses and talk about fighting, I came here to fight," Rousey said before dropping the mic and entering the ring. Just as Jax and Tamina Snuka began to corner Rousey, she was rescued by Ember Moon.
- Ember Moon def. Tamina Snuka via pinfall: This impromptu match felt like a retread from the tag team offering the week before. Rousey prevented Jax from interfering by pulling her off the apron and tossing her over the ringside barrier. Moon then hit her Eclipse on Snuka for the pin.
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