This week’s WWE Raw followed Payback and had a main event match that was better than any of the matches from Sunday night. I didn’t hate Payback by any means (read about it here), but it was a show without a lot of big moments that was hurt by the awful House of Horrors match. Thankfully, Raw was more about the in-ring action and they were back to putting on an excellent show after last week’s poor effort.
The two men who headlined Payback were Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns. Neither appeared on Raw, although they were featured in video packages. The reason they weren’t on is because they were selling injuries from Payback, which is fine because it’s important to sell big moments like that.
So Monday’s main event featured The Miz, Seth Rollins and Finn Balor in an exciting triple threat match.
At the top of the second hour, Seth Rollins did a promo about how he beat Triple H at WrestleMania, beat Samoa Joe at Payback and wanted to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title. The crowd loved that idea, but there was no sign of Lesnar of course.
Finn Balor interrupted Rollins to say that while Rollins was a one-legged man that won at WrestleMania, Balor was a one-armed man that beat Rollins to become the first Universal Champion at SummerSlam last year. Balor said that he wanted to get his Universal Title back.
Dean Ambrose said that he knows that Lesnar only fights when he wants to, so Ambrose considered himself the top champion on Raw since he was the Intercontinental Champion who was willing to fight anybody at any time.
The Miz and Maryse interrupted them, which drew a lot of boos since they were the only heels in the situation. The Miz did his usual bit about how he made the IC Title relevant last year, which is true. Balor reminded Miz that he (Balor) beat up Miz at Payback. Miz said it was a cheap shot. The Miz kept on rambling on, so the three faces told him to shut up in unison. Well played.
Ambrose decided to take matters into his own hands by calling Raw GM Kurt Angle (who was backstage) while joking that Angle wasn’t happy that Ambrose had his number. Ambrose announced, via Angle, that it would be Balor vs. Rollins vs. Miz to determine the No. 1 contender for the IC Title held by Ambrose. It was the same thing they did on Smackdown a few weeks ago when AJ Styles beat Sami Zayn and Baron Corbin to get a US Title shot.
Later in the show, Ambrose interrupted a Miz interview about the match, which led to Miz walking away. Ambrose also interviewed Rollins, which led to Rollins reminding Ambrose that he’s beaten him plenty of times before. He then talked to Balor backstage and suggested he try a donut to get some carbs. Balor took a bite of a donut and left. The Drifter showed up, Ambrose asked him if he knew any Pearl Jam, which got no reply and the main event was up next.
The Miz defeated Finn Balor and Seth Rollins to become the No. 1 Contender to the Intercontinental Title
This was a great match that featured three talented performers who are all about the same size, wrestling at a fast pace. They also played to their strengths perfectly. Miz was the smarmy heel who talks a big game all the time and doesn’t back it up because he spent a lot of time out of the ring letting the other guys fight. Rollins was on fire doing his fast-paced offense and the crowd loves him for it. Balor’s mix of speed and strikes is always entertaining to watch. They had very good chemistry together.
The match went 22 minutes, which is one of the longest Raw main events in a long time. I can’t remember one longer this year so it’s been a while, I guess you could say. There were several “this is awesome” chants during the match. It’s pretty good when you can go that long, have none of them hit their finishing move and still put on a compelling match. Triple threat matches are good for that because it’s usually about one guy trying to pin another and the third guy is there to break it up. They know how to build these kinds of matches up well.
But the finish was cheap. After Rollins went on an offensive flurry, Samoa Joe showed up and hit a Uranage slam on Rollins outside the ring. Balor battled Miz in the ring and was about to finish him off, but Bray Wyatt turned the lights off and showed up at ringside to knock Balor off the top rope. Wyatt hit the Sister Abigail neckbreaker on Balor. Miz, who did nothing to weaken Balor, crawled over for the fluke win that fits his character perfectly.
I like that The Miz had to earn the title shot. If they just named him the No. 1 contender, that would have been fine too but it’s better to see people winning matches to determine title shots. It also elevates the Intercontinental Title to see three men fighting for a title shot, even though Rollins and Balor both asked for Universal Title shots earlier in the night.
What this match also did was set up three key rivalries on Raw: Wyatt vs. Balor, Rollins vs. Joe (part two) and Ambrose vs. Miz for the IC Title in a repeat of their Smackdown rivalry from earlier in the year. Those three matches should be a part of Extreme Rules on June 4.
It would be nice if Raw ended with great matches like this more often. It’s a three-hour show, which means there’s plenty of time to build up to 20-minute matches. Please give us great matches like this more often, WWE. Listen to the crowd. They loved it and want more matches like that in the main event. I do too.
This Week’s Raw Matches
Good show for in-ring action. Here’s a rundown of what happened.
Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, Emma & Alicia Fox defeated Bayley, Mickie James, Sasha Banks & Dana Brooke
The women started the show in the ring with Alexa Bliss calling herself a “goddess” since she is the new Raw Women’s Champion. Bliss noted that she was the first woman to hold the Smackdown and Raw Women’s Title. Bliss insulted her old ally Mickie James, trash-talked Sasha Banks, said she was good with Nia Jax and insulted Bayley by saying that her nephews have a new role model to look up to. Bayley attacked, which set up an eight-woman tag match after the break.
The faces worked over Fox for a few minutes leading to a commercial after all eight women argued on the floor. That led to the heels working over Banks for a few minutes. Bayley got the hot tag, cleaned house and the other women all went to the floor. The finish saw Bliss gouge Bayley’s eyes right in front of the ref even though the announcers said the ref didn’t see it. I’m not calling for a disqualification, but that’s pretty lame. Anyway, Bliss hit a DDT on Bayley. She needs a better finish than a common move like that. I like her top rope splash instead. Bliss is still limited in the ring, though, so they just gave her something basic to beat Bayley with in the last two nights.
It’s nice to see the new champion Bliss getting the win. Normally they have a new champ lose on Raw, so it’s refreshing to see something different.
Luke Gallows defeated Enzo Amore
Bad match after about five minutes with Gallows applying rest holds for most of it. Enzo was distracted by Karl Anderson later in the match and Gallows won with a slam. This feud needs to go away because these teams have wrestled so often. I thought Enzo & Cass should have been moved to Smackdown weeks ago. I still feel that way.
Jack Gallagher, Akira Tozawa & Rich Swann defeated Tony Nese, Brian Kendrick & Noam Dar
The six cruiserweights had an exciting tag match that was given about 12 minutes. I thought the announcers did a good job of trying to put over how exciting the cruiserweights are. Swann stood out the most in this match with his high-flying offense. The heels worked on Tozawa for most of it, Swann cleaned house, which led to him and Tozawa taking out Kendrick and Dar on the floor. That left Gallagher alone with Kendrick, leading to Gallagher getting the pinfall win for his team thanks to a running dropkick in the corner. Good enough.
It’s hard for the crowd to get emotionally invested in these matches, but at least they were given time this week. I’ve complained about the cruisers getting under five minutes many times, so this is me giving WWE credit for giving them more time.
Apollo Crews defeated Heath Slater
Both guys are faces, so there wasn’t much heat in the match. The fans seemed to be more interested in something going on in the crowd. Crews won with his Sitout Powerbomb after about three minutes. After the match, Titus O’Neil celebrated with Crews since he is allies with him now, even though O’Neil is a heel and Crews is a face. Hopefully, this story doesn’t fail miserably like most of O’Neil’s angles in the last few years.
Austin Aries defeated T.J. Perkins
It was another cruiserweight match that was more of a technical wrestling match rather than a high-flying spectacle. Aries still did some cool aerial moves. There are a lot of people who do suicide dives in WWE, but Aries is probably the best at it. He’s also most at risk for injury when he does it because it looks pretty vicious. Anyway, Perkins worked on the knee for much of it. When Perkins went for his Detonation Kick, Aries countered into a takedown, leading to the Last Chancery submission for the win. Good match that went about 11 minutes.
Post-match, Perkins attacked the left leg of Aries again with a chop block. Perkins applied a knee bar submission after the match. It was a reminder that Perkins is a heel ally of Neville now and there will probably be an Aries/Perkins match again soon.
Other Key Items From Raw
1. Bray Wyatt Introduced Himself To Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle, the Raw General Manager, was in the ring talking about how Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman were injured, but they made it clear to him that their issue wasn’t finished. That likely means we’ll get Reigns/Strowman 3 at Extreme Rules on June 4.
Bray Wyatt interrupted Angle’s promo. Wyatt did his full entrance, then introduced himself to Angle, which led to them shaking hands. Wyatt made a quick reference to House of Horrors, which was fine because it happened, but I’m glad they didn’t spend much time talking about it. Let’s just forget it happened, all right? Anyway, Wyatt told Angle he meant him no harm. Angle reminded Wyatt that Kurt was running the show and Wyatt responded by saying it may be Angle’s show, but it is Wyatt’s world. The segment ended abruptly at that moment.
I got the vibe that the point of this was to remind us that Wyatt is going to do what he wants and he showed it in the main event by attacking Balor.
2. Sheamus and Cesaro Explained Their Devious Actions At Payback
Sheamus and Cesaro turned heel at Payback by attacking the Hardys after the Hardys beat them in their awesome tag match. It wasn’t a shocking turn because the seeds were planted weeks ago. I thought the angle was well done, though.
Sheamus and Cesaro did an in-ring promo with Sheamus saying it felt good to do that because he hated the fans and knew that the fans hated him. Sheamus also mocked Jeff Hardy for losing his tooth after Sheamus kicked him in the face. Cesaro, who has been a face for a few years, talked about how the Hardys are a novelty act that can’t compare to a Warrior like Sheamus and Superman like Cesaro.
The Hardys made their way onto the ramp to thank Sheamus & Cesaro for the explanation. Matt claimed that they were hurting from the attack at Payback and had a response. Matt did the “Delete” hand gesture although he didn’t say the word. The fans said it for him. When the Hardys got into the ring, Sheamus and Cesaro left the ring in order to set up a fight for another day.
It was a solid segment. I’m glad that Sheamus and Cesaro were given a chance to explain themselves in the ring rather than a backstage segment or something else.
Looking Ahead To Extreme Rules
The next Raw pay-per-view event is Extreme Rules on Sunday, June 4 in Baltimore. There are no matches announced yet, but several of them are likely based on this show.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman in a stipulation match like Last Man Standing or possibly an Ambulance Match.
Samoa Joe vs. Seth Rollins should happen again.
Bray Wyatt vs. Finn Balor is likely.
Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz for the Intercontinental Title will likely take place there as well.
It was a very good show this week, thanks to four above-average matches and one of the better Raw main events this year. Maybe the best main event so far. I liked how the women’s tag and cruiserweight tag matches both got over 10 minutes while Aries vs. Perkins was solid too. The promos were all pretty solid too.
Last week’s Raw was poor. This week was a lot better and I’m optimistic about things heading into Extreme Rules next month.
Next week on Raw: A tag-team turmoil match to determine the No. 1 contenders to the Raw Tag Team Titles.
I’ll be back Wednesday with a review of Smackdown Live featuring Chris Jericho defending the US Title against Kevin Owens.