For as red-hot as Raw has been in the episodes that followed SummerSlam, inevitably the streak had to come to an end. Consider Monday night the "heat check" moment for the red brand's recent surge as WWE put forward a safe and fairly pedestrian offering in the go-home episode ahead of Sunday's loaded No Mercy pay-per-view card.
Roman Reigns delivered a memorable final promo ahead of his dream match with John Cena, and big men Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar traded unpleasantries in a verbal joust leading in to their universal title match.
But the only developments on Monday came in the form of Bayley's surprise (and rather anticlimactic) return from injury in her hometown of San Jose, leading to her late addition into the women's championship match on Sunday. The Miz also secured an opponent for his intercontinental title match at No Mercy after Jason Jordan won a six-pack challenge in the main event.
Roman Reigns lands final jab before No Mercy
With John Cena absent Monday, Reigns fought off boos to open his promo by hailing Cena as possibly the best talker. "But the thing is, sometimes he says stupid shit," Reigns said. He went so far as referencing the real-life backstage heat Cena had with former WWE superstar Alex Riley (with some believing Cena pushed behind the scenes for Riley's booking burial). But unlike Cena, Reigns said he lets his actions talk for him. He also called Cena "the biggest hypocrite to ever step foot into a WWE ring."
Reigns then tossed to a flashback of a promo delivered by Cena in 2012 during his feud with The Rock ahead of WrestleMania XXVIII. During the video, Cena ripped The Rock for his Hollywood aspirations and predicted he wouldn't come back to WWE full-time. "On Sunday it's going to be just like that WrestleMania, only this time he's going to be beaten by a different Samoan," Reigns said. He then dropped the mic, mouthed an insult in which he called Cena a bitch and walked away.
Let's not fall victim to the fear of hyperbole when admitting that might have been the best promo of Reigns' career. Seriously. Reigns perfectly outlined why fans of Cena should see through his self-serving ways before delivering a perfect sendoff. Outside of his more powerful promos that were designed to be short and sweet, this was as confident, bad ass and comfortable as Reigns has appeared undressing another opponent.
Jason Jordan gets his title shot
The son of Kurt Angle's path to a shot at The Miz's intercontinental title at No Mercy began in the opening segment when Miz interrupted the Raw general manager to insult his parenting skills and demand more opportunity. "I'll be a better father than you ever could be and I'll be a better champion than you ever were," The Miz said. Jordan came out to defend his father and suggested Angle add The Miztourage to this evening's Fatal 4-Way. After one more snide comment from The Miz, Jordan attacked him with a takedown and fought off an attack from Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel.
Angle pleaded with Jordan backstage to control his anger and not worry about the whispers from others of nepotism. He then shot down his son's defiant responses with a pep talk about it taking more strength not to fight back at times. "The best way to get back at Miz is to win tonight and beat him at No Mercy," Angle said.
The match was a wild mix of near falls and late saves, including both Hardy Boyz attempting to steal victory over each other. The Miz made his presence felt by attacking Jordan outside and throwing him into the barricade wall. He then dove into the ring to break up a pin attempt by Jeff Hardy after he landed a Swanton Bomb on Axel. Jordan then snuck in to hit an elevated neckbreaker finisher on Axel to steal the pin. After a brief stare down with The Miz, Jordan ducked a cheap shot to hit a pair of suplexes. But The Miztourage beat him down and Miz landed a Skull-Crushing Finale. "After No Mercy, I'm going to still be champ," Miz said. "Kurt Angle will still be a terrible father. And you will still be a bastard."
Not only was Jordan's victory painfully predictable, the rehash of a multi-person qualifying match to produce The Miz's next title challenger was a gimmick WWE just used in recent weeks with Jeff Hardy. With that said, the overall story was well told and stretched out across the entire episode. The attention to the tiny details like Jordan's lack of control over his own tempo in the opening segment and the tease of the uneasiness between father and son in their new relationship planted a few seeds regarding how this storyline might end.
What else happened on Raw?
- Nia Jax def. Alexa Bliss via pinfall: An early run-in from Sasha Banks prevented Bliss from running away. Jax then dominated this non-title bout, ending it with a Samoan Drop. Banks attacked Jax, who got the upper hand, leading ot Bayley's surprise return. The three smaller women linked up to spear Jax. Bliss tried to celebrate with the babyfaces and was taken out via Bayley-to-Belly. Later on, Bayley was added to Fatal 5-Way match at No Mercy.
- Sheamus & Cesaro def. Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose and Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson via pinfall: This nearly 20-minute match featured many near falls and big spots, including tandem back-to-back suicide dives from Rollins and Ambrose on opposite sides of the ring. In the end, Sheamus got a blind tag on an oblivious Ambrose and stole the pin on Anderson after Ambrose hit Dirty Deeds.
- Apollo Crews def. Curt Hawkins via pinfall: Hawkins announced he was healthy for the first time and ready to snap his 114-match losing streak. Crews finished off the short squash match with his sit-out powerbomb for the 1-2-3.
- Michael Cole moderated on-screen interviews with Braun Strowman and the tandem of Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. Strowman said his actions speak for his words, asking how many men have left Lesnar laying week after week. He later interrupted Heyman by saying, "I'm going to walk into Suplex City and stomp it to the ground." Lesnar finally spoke his first words to close the debate, thanking Strowman for backing him into a corner and challenging him. "That's when I'm at my best," Lesnar said. "Suplex City, bitch."
- Bray Wyatt def. Dustin Rhodes via pinfall: Rhodes begged general manager Kurt Angle for the match, wishing to put aside the Goldust gimmick to prove he's the same man without the paint. Rhodes got his shots, but Wyatt abruptly connected with Sister Abigail. Finn Balor then appeared on the big screen, warning Wyatt of how he'll have to deal with the man who created the demon at No Mercy. "If the demon is a creation of the man," Balor said, "which one is more dangerous?"
- Asuka vignettes continued: It would make sense for her to debut shortly after No Mercy.
- Strowman flattened Enzo Amore after interrupting Amore's promo by steamrolling him on the ramp. After dragging his limp body to the ring, Strowman hit a massive chokeslam and running powerslam. Out came Neville to land a Red Arrow before taunting Amore's lifeless body.
- Neville def. Gran Metalik via submission: Neville showed his mean streak by ripping Metalik's mask and briefly exposing his face. The angry luchador went on an instant tear of acrobatic aerial moves. But his moonsault attempt was stuffed with two feet from Neville to the face. Metalik quickly tapped due to Rings of Saturn.