WWE Raw results, recap, grades: Stomping Grounds drama, Roman Reigns sends a message
The universal title match referee drama will continue into Stomping Grounds
With six days to go until the first-ever offering of the WWE Stomping Grounds pay-per-view, Raw touched down in Los Angeles and the Staples Center for its go-home show. Credit where it's due: Though the Stomping Grounds event has largely flown under the radar, this final television presentation for the flagship before this weekend's PPV was an enjoyable experience as the quest to find out who Baron Corbin would choose as the special referee for his universal title rematch against Seth Rollins was the central focus of Raw.
The non-answer ultimately provided Monday night may not have been the payoff fans were looking for going in, but you couldn't deny the rollercoaster ride to get to that point didn't catch -- and keep -- your attention. Let's take a look at everything that went down on Monday night's go-home edition of Raw.
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Stomping Grounds referee reveal ... will wait
Elias was seated in the ring to being the show, and after trolling the Los Angeles crowd over the Lakers' recent acquisition of Anthony Davis, took off his shirt to reveal a striped referee tank top. He said that Corbin had chosen him to be the referee for the universal title match this Sunday, prompting Rollins to instantly show up from behind and begin viciously assaulting Elias with a steel chair. The universal champ took the mic and declared that if anyone is considering taking Corbin up on his offer to serve as referee at Stomping Grounds, then this is the fate that awaits them.
Backstage shortly after, Corbin cut a backstage promo with Charly Caruso where he said that he'll reveal his new referee choice on a special edition of the "Kevin and Sami Show." He was immediately attacked by Rollins with the chair from behind. During the "Kevin and Sami Show" segment, Corbin announced that EC3 was the new choice for ref ... and, wouldn't you know, he, too, was taken out by Rollins. All three members of New Day interrupted as wild cards, and a six-man tag match ensued from there after they pulled some "Weekend at Bernie's" shenanigans with an unconscious EC3 to sanction the bout as a WWE official. For some odd reason, it became a 2-out-of-3 falls match.
The New Day def. Baron Corbin, Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn (2-0): Xavier Woods rolled up Zayn to give New Day the first fall, and it was a clean sweep for the babyfaces when WWE champion Kofi Kingston hit Corbin with Trouble in Paradise for the pinfall. Owens scuffled with Corbin during the second fall, leading to he and Zayn walking out on their partner.
Paul Heyman was out to cut an in-ring promo on behalf of the third piece of this universal title puzzle, his client and Money in the Bank winner Brock Lesnar. He again teased Lesnar possibly being in attendance in Los Angeles for Raw, or even this Sunday at Stomping Grounds. He said he doesn't know, we don't know -- but most importantly, the "soon-to-be former universal champion" doesn't know, either.
Corbin was shown backstage offering Eric Young the referee position, and after the two parted ways, Rollins approached Young. While he teased being cordial, Rollins cracked Young with the chair for even entertaining the offer from Corbin.
Seth Rollins def. Daniel Bryan via pinfall: The original edition of this match that was announced just hours prior to Raw beginning ended in a disqualification after instant interference from Rowan. Chaos then ensued as The New Day, The Usos, The Revival, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn all got involved as Rowan and Bryan were attempting to beat down Rollins. The match was restarted as a one-on-one affair, with Rollins earning the victory after the Stomp. As the champion made his way to the back, he was blasted by a chair shot from Corbin, who stood tall with the universal title to end the show following an End of Days.
I'll always give this company credit when it deserves it, and they do in this instance. Corbin challenging for the universal championship not once but twice is a hard sell, yet they've managed to keep it somewhat interesting with the help of the special referee stipulation as well as Lesnar's presence -- or lack thereof in the past couple weeks. On the surface, it would make no sense for Corbin to appoint the Money in the Bank winner Lesnar as his personally-chosen referee, though we have seen stranger things happen whether the storyline explanation makes much sense or not. Whatever the case, kudos to WWE for providing some solid hooks to get fans to tune in and see what takes place in the likely main event on Sunday. Grade: B+
What else happened on Raw?
- Ricochet won a Fatal 5-Way elimination match to become United States championship No. 1 contender. He'll face Samoa Joe at Stomping Grounds for the title after earning the win following the 630 splash onto Miz. After the match, Joe attacked Ricochet from behind but Ricochet stood tall after taking out the champion on the outside. Order of elimination: Braun Strowman def. Cesaro via pinfall; Braun Strowman def. Bobby Lashley via pinfall; Ricochet def. Braun Strowman via pinfall; Ricochet def. Miz via pinfall.
- Raw women's champion Becky Lynch called out Lacey Evans. The two bantered back and forth again, and as Evans was entering the ring, Lynch laid her out with the Becksploder.
- The Viking Raiders def. Russ Taylor & Randy Taylor via pinfall in a squash with the Viking Experience
- 24/7 champion R-Truth and Carmella were seated ringside in disguise. Upon being recognized, the usual slew of mid-carders were out but Truth and Carmella escaped.
- AJ Styles challenged The Good Brothers backstage. Styles scolded his buddies, clad in comedic doctor gear in the trainer's room, for becoming complacent. Gallows & Anderson got serious and told Styles to watch what they do to The Usos later.
- The Usos def. The Good Brothers via pinfall after stereo superkicks to Gallows. Styles was shown frustrated watching on the monitor backstage afterwards.
- Roman Reigns was out for a promo where he called for Shane McMahon to come out and face him like a man. McMahon, backstage hosting a party throughout the night with Drew McIntyre and Raw tag team champions The Revival, arrogantly declined. As McIntyre was cutting a promo, Reigns headed to the get-together. After taking out The Revival and McIntyre, Reigns chased McMahon to the ring where he delivered a Superman Punch followed by a spear. He told McMahon to let McIntyre know he's gonna whoop his ass on Sunday.
- Women's Tag Team Championship -- The IIconics (c) def. Nikki Cross & Alexa Bliss via pinfall to retain the titles. Bliss revealed to Cross earlier in the night that they'd secured the title match while again manipulating Cross into thinking Bayley isn't as kind as she presents herself. Bayley was out for this match and provided the distraction on Bliss, allowing Billie Kay to roll up Cross for the victory. Backstage after the match, Cross told Bliss she'll be in her corner for the SmackDown women's title match on Sunday.
- This weeks edition of "Firefly Funhouse" began with Bray Wyatt gardening as he compared our minds to gardens. He said he knows what it feels like to be left out, which is why he built the Funhouse, so we can all be together. Wyatt introduced what could be the newest "follow the leader" catchphrase for this character before images of Wyatt as "The Fiend" flashed on the screen along with other cryptic visuals and the familiar "let him in" message.
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