WWE Raw results, recap, grades: Seth Rollins wants answers, Crown Jewel build mostly falls flat
One night after giving itself a rightful pat on the back for how fun and brilliantly executed its first all-women’s pay-per-view was, Monday’s episode of Raw would require quite the tightrope walk for WWE to keep the goodwill flowing in the go-home episode ahead of Friday’s Crown Jewel event. Despite a small handful of fun segments, including the fallout of Dean Ambrose’s heel turn on Seth Rollins, the task proved to be an impossible one. Not only did WWE fail to capitalize on the buzz from Evolution, but the decision to altogether avoid even mentioning the site of this weekend’s controversial event only stuck out like a sore thumb.
Not only did the closing segment involving four legends fall flat, WWE’s much-criticized decision to stay in business with the nation of Saudi Arabia despite a number of negative headlines became a part of the overall narrative that was hard to ignore, especially after John Cena was pulled from the card without explanation just as rumors circled that he refused to take part given the political turmoil.
Had Raw flipped its running order and closed with the action-packed segment involving Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar, who will compete at Crown Jewel for the vacant universal championship, it’s possible that the show could’ve ended on a much higher note. Instead, discerning fans were left to juggle the complicated feelings that surround the event and how blatantly Crown Jewel contradicts the message that Evolution delivered considering WWE’s top female stars will be nowhere to be found on Friday’s card.
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Seth Rollins seeks answers from Dean Ambrose
After thanking the fans on behalf of Reigns for all of the love they poured out, Rollins turned his attention to Ambrose regarding his attack to close last week’s episode of Raw. At first, Rollins openly pondered whether he was to blame for Ambrose’s actions, referencing his 2014 heel turn that originally broke up The Shield. Asking as a friend and brother, Rollins called his Raw tag team championship teammate out to the ring by saying, “You wanted the spotlight Dean, it’s all yours. Come down here and have it.”
Ambrose was initially a no show after his music hit before slowly appearing in the crowd with a crazy look on his face. Rollins screamed at him to at least have the same decency he did four years ago to stare into his eyes and face him like a man to explain himself. Ambrose just stared back as the crowd chanted “you sold out.” Rollins became angrier and yelled, “You know what man, you really are a cold-hearted bastard. … I am fixed on you for as long as I live, and I am going to make your life a living hell.” Rollins, who went on to call him a “soulless lunatic,” exited the ring to come after him just as Ambrose slowly walked off.
There was a ton to like here in terms of how WWE chose to follow up on last week’s stunning development. Keeping Ambrose quiet not only added an extra layer of deviance to his new character, but it allowed the storyline to continue another week without alienating the audience. One can also credit WWE’s writing team for Rollins’ multiple references to his own heel turn four years earlier, even going as far as blaming himself. If WWE plays its cards right, this could be a blood feud that extends to WrestleMania 35 as a main roster manifestation of the all-time great story being told in NXT between former teammates Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa. Grade: B+
Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman set the Crown Jewel stage
Acting general manager Baron Corbin opened the show with the vacant universal championship on his shoulder, bragging about how good the belt looked on him. Out came Brock Lesnar and advocate Paul Heyman, with the latter guaranteeing a victory for Lesnar on Friday in Saudi Arabia. “This is not a prediction, it’s a spoiler,” Heyman said. “It’s a clearer guarantee than if the results were predetermined.”
Out came Braun Strowman to promise Lesnar that he would “get these hands.” But after Corbin attempted to stop Strowman from getting in the face of Lesnar, Strowman pushed him and countered Corbin’s attack with a power slam as Lesnar laughed. Strowman then hit a second power slam on Corbin. With the crowd cheering “one more time” and Lesnar laughing and pointing, Strowman closed with a third power slam. Lesnar finally snuck up from behind to hit Strowman with an F5 before walking off.
Say what you will about Lesnar’s Q-rating with the WWE Universe after Vince McMahon spent the last year booking him as unlikable as possible to get Roman Reigns cheered, it was good to see a fit, bearded and interested Lesnar back on Raw. While Reigns’ leukemia diagnosis which pulled him from Friday’s triple threat title match is certainly disappointing, a Lesnar-Strowman match has all the makings to be a surprise hit should the physicality levels be off the charts. Reigns’ exit also gives Strowman a chance to get the deserved title push he has been overdue for nearly a full year. Monday’s go-home tease was a strong one. Grade: B
D-Generation X outsmarts the Brothers of Destruction
Kane and Undertaker closed the broadcast by cutting an evil promo focused on their plans to take the souls of Triple H and Shawn Michaels and send them “to the fiery gates of hell” in Saudi Arabia. “It won’t be swift, it will be slow, agonizing pain,” Undertaker said. “It will not just be the end of an era, it will be the end of your error.” Triple H responded to Kane’s challenge for a fight by coming out and pump-faking that HBK was right behind him. Instead, Michaels snuck up from behind on Taker inside the ring, and laid him out with Sweet Chin Music before escaping just as Kane came running. D-Generation X closed with dual crotch chops before Taker sat up to end the show.
This was nothing short of brutal. Forget whatever nostalgic positives could be derided from this tired feud that’s completely void of anything close to a compelling storyline. This is the physical embodiment of the greed surrounding WWE’s latest venture to Saudi Arabia, and nothing short of a bastardized way to end Michaels’ retirement of eight years. Triple H, who has been brilliant in his dual role in recent years as the suited heel authority of Raw and the babyface patriarch of NXT, is simply too old at 49 to be tossing neon glow sticks to the crowd and waving his hands at his genitals. What a waste of time. Grade: D
What else happened on Raw?
Finn Balor def. Bobby Lashley via disqualification: Lio Rush taunted Balor with a pre-match promo that called him “lucky” for his “fluke” win over Lashley last week. Rush then provided an annoying presence throughout the match by screaming “Lashley” into the microphone and constantly threatening interference. Twice Rush shoved Balor off the top rope late to prevent the Coup de Grace, and the second time caught the referee’s eyes for the DQ. Afterwards, Lashley beat Balor down and held back his arms as Rush repeatedly slapped and taunted him.
John Cena ruled out of Crown Jewel: Shortly after Lashley’s victory, he joined Rush in responding to Corbin’s summoning to the trainer’s room. After Corbin congratulated Lashley for beating up Balor, he named him the replacement for Cena at Friday’s World Cup in Saudi Arabia. Although no reason was given beyond Corbin’s dismissive mention that Cena was someone who didn’t qualify for the tournament, the news appears to coincide with reports that Cena pulled out as a protest of WWE’s involvement with Saudi Arabia amid heightening political tensions. Later on, Kurt Angle cut a video promo promising he isn’t too old or crazy to win the tournament. The brackets were also released featuring first-round matchups Seth Rollins vs. Bobby Lashley, Angle vs. Dolph Ziggler, The Miz vs. Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton vs. Rey Mysterio.
Lita, Trish Stratus, Natalya, Bayley & Sasha Banks def. Mickie James, Alicia Fox & the Riott Squad via submission in a 10-woman tag match: This one felt like a gratuitous greatest hits package for everything that happened the night before at WWE Evolution. The babyfaces took turns taking part in tandem moves, and most repeated Sunday’s big spots including an elbow drop from Bayley and another Litasault. The finish came on another retread as Natalya hit a Hart Attack on Fox to honor her late father, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, and forced the tap out via the Sharpshooter.
Elias def. Jinder Mahal via pinfall: Elias opened on guitar by claiming he’s “the living truth, and the truth shall set you free.” He then looked for revenge on Corbin for attempting to sabotage his performance last week, which led Elias backstage to look for him. After turning down Dana Brooke’s request for a song, Elias played a tune outside of Corbin’s dressing room with lyrics that mocked him. Mahal snuck up from behind to brutally attack him, including a running soccer kick to the face. Corbin instantly booked them for a match, and after commercial, Elias was forced to work from underneath as a newly-turned face. Despite interference from the Singh brothers, Elias won the match with a late rally and his Drift Away finisher.
Bobby Roode & Chad Gable def. The Ascension via pinfall and AOP in triple threat match: This one was surprisingly fun for as long as it lasted. AOP was attacked by both teams before it even started. The finish came when Gable hit a sunset flip suplex on Viktor just as Roode followed up with a neckbreaker for the 1-2-3. After the match, AOP stood tall by taking out all four, including hitting a Super Collider on Roode & Gable.
Nia Jax def. Ember Moon via pinfall: This match was booked earlier in the night when Jax took issue with Moon getting asked too many questions during a backstage interview, and went on to accept Moon’s challenge. The two former friends continued to break apart as Jax largely dominated despite a dangerous swanton bomb onto the floor from Moon off the top rope. The match was interrupted late by Tamina Snuka’s music, causing both wrestlers to stop and stare. Jax then caught Moon with a sneaky elbow and pinned her after a leg drop. Snuka and Jax went nose to nose before Snuka smiled and walked off.
Kalisto & Lince Dorado def. The Revival via pinfall: This random appearance from 205 Live’s Lucha House Party featured some fun spots, including a suicide dive from Dorado. The brief match came to a close when Kalisto hit a Salida del Sol on Scott Dawson for the pin just as Dorado hit a flying cross body to intercept Dash Wilder’s attempt to run in.
Dolph Ziggler def. Apollo Crews via pinfall: A strong pre-match promo saw Ziggler initially give respect for Angle ahead of Friday’s World Cup, saying he looked up to him for most of his life as an amateur wrestler. But the turn back to heel came quick as Ziggler reminded he’s “the best damn thing that ever happened to this business. I am the best in the world.” The match saw Crews get a good run of early offense and a near fall following a press slam and a standing moonsault as part of his recent push. But Crews could only find a pair of knees on a frogsplash attempt from the top rope, and Ziggler followed with a super kick for the win.
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