Raw opened to the tune of the new Intercontinental Champion, Roman reigns, who came out to recap the little streak he’s been on lately and to run down the Miz, to the ire of Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas. Rather than either of them challenging Reigns in defence of their loud-mouthed leader, the delegated Elias to be the first challenger to the belt. There are some positives to this: Dallas and Axel weren’t booked to be destroyed by Reigns here, or in a handicap match (they may be cannon fodder for the Miz but, without him there for them to defend, it wouldn’t be a great look for them), Elias finally got slotted into the Intercontinental Championship picture, and Reigns explicitly talked about his desire to be a fighting champion. This last part is what I’m most happy about, as I was almost certain that the WWE would have him win the belt and simply wear it as a prop on the road towards the Universal Championship.
Continuing from last week, and the seemingly never-ending issues between these two teams, Seth Rollins then took on Cesaro in what was, predictably, a pretty fantastic match. Rollins worked a fast-paced game throughout, only to be cut off at every turn by Cesaro’s superior strength and technical prowess, specifically targeting Seth’s back with the abdominal stretch, bear hug, and Sharpshooter. However, Rollins got the win after interrupting one of Cesaro’s uppercuts with a Superkick and the Ripcord Knee Strike. After the match, Rollins announces hat he and Dean Ambrose will enforce their rematch clause and challenge Cesaro and Sheamus for the Raw Tag Team Championships next week, so I guess we’re guaranteed at least one more match between these guys.
Samoa Joe then took on Titus O’Neil, which went about as well as you might expect. Fair play to Titus in that he got some good licks in; perhaps too many, as Joe absorbed a fair amount of punishment before slapping on the Coquina Clutch and tapping him out, he then did the same to Apollo Crews, I guess to show that there are guys other than Finn Balor who can be sacrificed before an unstoppable monster and have it be just as effective.
After Paige, Sonya Deville, and Mandy Rose christen themselves Absolution and vow to run through the entire Raw women’s division, Bray Wyatt came out to the ring to ramble about his poor upbringing only to be interrupted by Matt Hardy. This led to a short, noticeably uninspiring match between the two that saw Wyatt get the win with the Sister Abigail. Afterwards, Matt sulks in the corner before having a bit of a breakdown and yelling “Delete!” over and over. So, Wyatt got a win, and without any controversy or question, but the match was hardly anything to write home about. I said a similar thing last week but remember who, when Matt was fully Broken in Impact Wrestling, people raved about how great a match or a feud between him and Wyatt would be? If that’s what is on the cards following Matt’s breakdown, I hope they plan on stopping up the in-ring product. Also, isn’t it a bit weird how Matt, who has been teasing breaking ever since the Hardy Boyz came back and even got beaten up to the point where it would have been totally believable, only breaks after losing a crap match to Bray Wyatt? Apparently, he’ll be “Woken Matt Hardy”, which just sounds like a lame knock-off but, if it leads to some wacky Hardy antics and reinvigorates Bray’s career (and maybe even gets him some new disciples) then I’m all for it….as long as it’s to give Bray a new push towards the main event because, I’m sorry, but main eventer Matt Hardy has no place in modern-day WWE.
The cruiserweights all clustered into the ring for a number one contendership match, which saw Rich Swann outlast Noam Dar, Akira Tozawa, and Ariya Daivari in a match that still barely went past ten minutes and become the new number one contender to Enzo Amore’s Cruiserweight Championship. It wasn’t really a bad match or anything like that but, for a multi-man match like this, it really could have gone for twenty minutes of high-flying, fast-paced action; instead, it felt like a neutered exhibition, like all cruiserweight matches.
Axel and Dallas accompanied Elias to ringside for his big match against Roman Reigns, which saw Elias surprisingly take control in the early going. Interference from the Miz-tourage allowed Elias to regain control whenever Reigns tried to build up some momentum, grounding Reigns and trying to wear him down. However, Elias caught him in a Sit-out Powerbomb out of nowhere at one point and looked to have upset the “Big Dog”, only for Reigns to power out and land the Superman Punch, which Elias kicked out of so Reigns hit the Undertaker-killer Spear (the one off the ropes) to retain the belt. This was a surprisingly good showcase for Elias; he may have lost but he got a lot on in not only looked to have stolen the match but also kicked out of the Superman Punch; a lot of people do, to be fair, and Reigns rarely wins a match with just one, preferring a succession of punches, but that’s still a pretty big deal for Elias and he really shined in this match; hopefully he can carry that momentum into a feud with a likeable babyface and go back towards the Intercontinental Championship once its away from WWE’s poster boy. After the match, Samoa Joe randomly attacked Reigns from behind with the Coquina Clutch, so I guess that’ll be his next immediate feud on the road towards Brock Lesnar; I’m okay with that, as I see Joe as a veteran mechanic who can help make opponents look tough and strong through competitive losses and still believably be slotted into the main event without much fuss or fanfare.
Asuka plowed through Dana Brooke and, afterwards, Absolution teased attacking her….anyway…Kane’s got people to kill, as he took on Jason Jordan in a match Jordan demanded in order to prove that his knee injury was legitimate and that he can do with Braun Strowman can’t. instead, Kane tossed his ass across the ring and Jordan powdered to the outside selling a leg injury and getting himself counted out. So, as you’d expect, Kane beat the hell out of him after the match only for Finn Balor to make the save and get his own match against Kane. Balor wastes no time and unleashes all of his signature offense before Kane can even react and looked to have the match in full control before Kane attacked him with a steel chair for the disqualification. He then continued the attack, preparing to break Balor’s neck, before the biggest babyface on Raw today, Braun Strowman, interrupted and got a little payback from last week by slamming Kane’s throat into the chair. A lot of good things happened here; Jordan appears to be taking steps towards a self-entitled, whiney heel role similar to that of Kurt Angle’s early days, Balor got a measure of revenge against Kane, and Strowman appears to have become a full-fledged babyface or, at the very least, a face-orientated tweener, similar to Lesnar’s babyface turn back in 2002.
SmackDown! Live’s top babyface, that hot young talent Shane McMahon, once again opened the show to complain some more about Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Daniel Bryan comes out to explain that he didn’t fire Owens and Zayn because he admire them trying to make an impact and doesn’t want Raw poaching them; Shane and Bryan appear to make up but Shane makes sure to make the Owens/Randy Orton match no disqualification and also to ban Zayn from ringside. It’s interesting to see Bryan and Shane at odds as them being on the same page had been working pretty well compared to Stephanie McMahon constantly undermining her co-authority figure but I am so sick of Shane hogging screen time; couldn’t this have been Owens and Zayn bragging about how their untouchable, then getting into an exchange with Orton that leads to a brawl, and Shane or Bryan then making it no disqualification out of frustration? Also…how can Zayn be banned from ringside if the match is no disqualification?
Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin then took on the New Day but, of course, they don’t actually get the win. All four guys put on a decent match, with Gable and Benjamin continuing to impress and grow as a tag team, but what is the point of them losing this match when they’re supposed to be the number one contenders to the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championships? Could it possibly be because we can’t go two weeks without the New Day winning a match and bringing out a new t-shirt? Seriously, this loss made no sense; if it was to shoehorn the New Day into a three-way tag team match for the belts, then why the hell didn’t the WWE do that before with the Club on Raw or Breezango on SmackDown! Live?
Apparently, the Hype Bros didn’t get enough of a beating last week as they once again took on the Bludgeon Brothers who, like so many of their NXT brethren, have no lost their first names. As you could guess, Harper and Rowan made short work of their opponents, hitting their double crucifix-thing on Zack Ryder and getting a decisive win. After the match, Zack laments the loss and says that things have to change for the Hype Bros only for, shock!horror!, Mojo Rawley to attack Ryder from behind, beating him down, and calling an end to their team. Talk about striking when the iron is stone cold; this has been teased for what feels like months and, honestly, means almost nothing at this point. Similar to when Goldust turned on R-Truth, I very much doubt we’ll see much out of this angle; maybe one or two matches, if we’re lucky, which no doubt will do very little to win Rawley over as a heel. It’s such a shame as, when he won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale, it seemed like the WWE wanted to make a single star out of him but, no, he got lumbered with Sheamus and never got the right push towards the upper mid-card or main event…oh, wait, that was Cesaro…
AJ Styles then took on both of the Singh Brothers in a handicap match. Jinder Mahal attacked him before the match started to help even the odds a bit but, awhile the Singh’s did pour on the numbers game, Styles was still easily able to overpower them and got the win after landing a top-rope Styles Clash on one Singh onto the other in an impressive visual. After the match, Mojo attacked Ryder…er, I mean, Jinder planted both Singh’s with the Khallas out of frustration, apparently cutting his ties with them. He lost his grip a bit on one of them and looked like he might have killed him, it was amazing! But I’m not sure how severing his ties with his flunkies will help Jinder, unless he plans on adopting a more aggressive and proactive approach to his in-ring work.
SmackDown! Live’s newest women, Ruby Riott, Sarah Lohan, and Liv Morgan (the “Riott Squad”) looked to make an impact and establish themselves as a legitimate force by taking on, and defeating, Natayla, Charlotte Flair, and Naomi. While this worked, it wasn’t as though they were facing a team of women who are known to all be on the same page; however, a big win over three former Women’s Champions can only help to legitimise the Riott Squad.
The main event was the previously-announced no disqualification match between Randy Orton and Kevin Owens, which saw Owens take control soon into the beginning and attack Orton with a kendo stick. He then switches his game plan towards targeting Orton’s knee and cuts off any offense that Orton tries to build by leaving the ring. As they brawl up to the stage, Sami Zayn arrives and attacks Orton with a chair (I guess the stage doesn’t count as being “ring side”), allowing Owens to take Orton back to the ring, land a Superkick, and finish with the Frog Splash. I am not sure that I have ever seen Owens win a match with the Frog Splash, so I appreciate that finish, and was equally happy to see that Owens didn’t go for the Pop-Up Powerbomb at any point, emphasising that he can win a match through a variety of means. However, I was absolutely overjoyed to see that Orton didn’t just randomly hit the RKO and win this match; Owens desperately needed this win and I think it, in conjunction with his previous issues with AJ Styles, could be used as enough of a basis for him to challenge for the WWE Championship. No doubt, though, Orton will steal back his win next week or later down the road and completely negate that but, for now, this was a great win for Owens.