Winners: The Bludgeon Brothers, Daniel Bryan, Bobby Lashley, Seth Rollins, Alexa Bliss, Roman Reigns, Carmella, AJ Styles, Alexa Bliss (cash in), Braun Strowman.
Brothers vs. brothers to open the show as the Bludgeon Brothers defended the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championships against the Club. This was like a preview of what I really wanted from a feud between these guys as, after weeks of dominating victories, Harper and Rowan finally faced a physical threat as Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson took it to the champs in a way that hasn’t been seen since their repackaging. I mean, sure, it was all for naught as the Bludgeon Brothers got the win but it sure helped to remind people why all four of these guys are bad-ass ass kickers.
Big Cass attempted to destroy Daniel Bryan’s big comeback, constantly cutting off and grounding Bryan’s speed and strikes. He busted out a Bearhug for some luke-warm heat and tried putting him away with the Bossman Slam but Bryan was able to start working the knee over and setting Cass up for the Heel Hook. Cass also did himself in by missing the Big Boot and crotching himself, but landed the Big Boot on his next try and went for the Torture Rack, only for Bryan to counter out, hit the Running Knee, and get Cass to tap out to the Heel Hook. Unfortunately, Cass’ potential will not be realised in the near future as, mere days after this match, which saw Bryan carry Cass to a level a lot of people probably doubted he could compete at, Cass was unceremoniously fired by the WWE because of his drinking and backstage attitude. But it’s perfectly okay for Randy Orton to shit in people’s bags and for Jeff Hardy to be arrested for driving under the influence.
One of the worst feuds in recent memory comes to a head as Bobby Lashley finally got his hands of Sami Zayn. Zayn ran away to begin with and tried to get the cheap win via count out, but Lashley beat the count and started tossing Zayn all over the place. He landed that daft delayed Suplex, hit a Back Breaker, and then pinned Zayn after another Delayed Suplex. At least it’s over but, again, I really wish that Lashley had been put on SmackDown! Live where he could stand out more in Raw’s land of the giants.
Seth Rollins continued to work his magic, upping Elias’ in-ring game and carrying him to a pretty competitive match for the Intercontinental Championship. Elias began by working Seth’s neck but ended up targeting the leg after Seth once again “tweaked it” during his rampage. Elias almost got the win after landed an admittedly-impressive Macho Man Elbow Drop but eventually lost when Rollins desperately rolled him up and grabbed a handful of tights. Interesting that Rollins came across as desperate enough to cheat to win here, especially against a sub-par performer like Elias, but maybe the WWE are sowing the seeds of a bit of a tweener edge to Rollins.
The women’s Money in the Bank ladder match turned out to be a bit of a wild clusterfuck but an entertaining one, almost as if they were trying to out do the effort from last year. The surprising stand out here was Lana, who actually took some bumps off the ladders and nearly stole the victory a few times. In the end, though, despite a good effort by Ember Moon, Becky Lynch was inches from victory when Alexa Bliss cut her off and took the briefcase. I’ll talk about this a bit more later but, as much as I love Alexa, this was really the wrong call; Alexa has pretty much dominated the Raw women’s division for a long time and this was the perfect moment to push some fresh new talent in the division.
Roman Reigns and Jinder Mahal got to go out next, giving the crowd a chance to bugger off for a piss break or hang around and bombard both guys with chants, taunts, and jeers. As always, Reigns took a beating and worked a long heat spot as Jinder worked him over, taunted, and bored everyone with his dull offense. After taking out Sunil Singh, though, Reigns was free to put Jinder away with the Superman Punch and Spear combo. I guess the WWE thought that people would definitely, definitely cheer Reigns over Jinder but, nope, they just did not care and, again, it’s so weird and frustrating to see them continue to force Reigns into this role that nobody is buying him in.
Carmella put the SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship on the line against perhaps the toughest challenger she could face, Asuka. Surprisingly, Carmella held her own against Asuka, who actually struggled a bit to build some proper momentum. Just when she looked to be in control, someone dressed in robes and wearing one of Asuka’s masks got up on the apron and apparently seemed to mesmerise/hypnotise Asuka, as she couldn’t take her eyes off them. A quick mask removal reveals James-fuckin’-Ellsworth, which apparently put the fear of God into Asuka and caused her to fall to a Superkick from Carmella. The whole bit with the interference and the reveal of Ellsworth dragged on for seemingly forever and really made Asuka look like a complete tool as she just stood there like an idiot and then dropped a load in her pants when the mask came off, though I have no idea why.
AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura went head-to-head…again…this time in a Last Man Standing match for the WWE Championship and if you thought that AJ would have learned to wear a cup by now then you world be wrong, mate! The feud is apparently so intense now that these two fought out of the ring and into the crowd, which is a nice change as that hardly ever happens these days, and Nakamura mostly maintained control to keep AJ on the defensive. Nakamura got a close win when he hit the Kinshasa of the announce tables, so AJ looked to pay him back with a Powerbomb through them and just ended up being Suplexed onto the table right in the gut, which had to suck. Back in the ring, AJ tried for the Calf Crusher but Nakamura still made to his feet, despite the state of his leg at this point, ad lands that patented Low Blow. AJ beats the ten count and eats another Kinshasa; after he beats that ten count, Styles kicks Nakamura in the grapefruits and hits a springboard onto him, through an announce table, to finally put him away. I really question why the WWE had Nakamura win the Royal Rumble if he wasn’t going to win the WWE Championship; it’s as though they knew about Nakamura and AJ’s reputation and matches from Japan and through they could manufacture hype for WrestleMania by putting on that match with barely any build and then, after wards, they just gave up on Nakamura. At this point, he’s not much of a threat as all he can do is hit you in the dick and lose again and again.
Nia Jax put the Raw Women’s Championship on the line against Ronda Rousey who, again, really shouldn’t be chasing the belt just yet. It’s just too much, too soon; you can’t really say that she’s acclimatised to the WWE lifestyle yet as she’s barely been in the ring and hasn’t done much to establish herself beyond smiling like a goof or putting on that grumpy cat face. Anyway, this was a pretty frantic brawl right from the bell, as Nia worked the power game and Ronda matched her beat for beat, trying to tie her into the Arm Bar and Judo Tossing her all over the place. Ronda finally got Nia in the Arm Bar but Alexa Bliss ran out and attacked them both with the briefcase, cashed in, and stole the belt after hitting Twisted Bliss on Nia. So we went from Alexa as champ, to Nia as champ, right back to Alexa again? She’s apparently now been a five-time women’s champion in two years and, again, I really don’t get why the WWE felt the need to put the belt on her. She, or someone else, could have won the briefcase, interfered, and then been fought off by Ronda and Nia and we still could have gotten the disqualification finish. I can only suspect that the WWE consider Alexa a safer, more suitable worker for Ronda to go up against in her pursuit of the belt and I can only assume that Nia will shoot down the pecking order now.
The men’s Money in the Bank ladder match was next and, despite rumours to the contrary, it was Kofi Kingston selected to be in the match, which was a bit odd. Honestly, any of the New Day would have been odd additions to this match but I actually believed this would be a decent showcase for a serious Big E push; putting Kofi in is literally just so he can be a spot-monkey, as he always is in these matches, and nobody ever expects him to ever win. Anyways, everyone kicks things off by burying Braun Strowman under a bunch of ladders; however, he makes a monster comeback and starts attempting to murder everyone. Kevin Owens attempted to climb the giant ladder but Strowman intercepted him and tosses him to his death before Chokeslamming Kofi to the hospital too. The Miz worked the sneaky game, getting in shots here and there and trying to weasel to the briefcase, so Samoa Joe put an end to that shit; Finn Balor took Bobby Roode out of the equation by hitting a massive Coup de Grâce off the ladder. In the end, it came down to my two picks as Balor and Strowman climbed up the ladder in a race for the briefcase; Kofi leapt onto Strowman’s back in and attempt to climb over him so he pushes Balor off, shakes off Kofi, and grabs the briefcase! Honestly, I did not expect Strowman to get it but, hopefully, this is a good sign that the WWE will finally make good on all his momentum and have him cash in after Reigns defeats Brock Lesnar and steal the belt to a huge, deafening pop.
Kurt Angle kicks things off to brag about how Raw won both of the Money in the Bank ladder matches. Alexa Bliss interrupts to gloat so Ronda Rousey pops out to get all up in her face, to the point where she attacks Bliss with some weak-ass-looking strikes and the briefcase. When Angle tries to calm her down, she attacks him and lays into him, then she attacks some referees and Powerbombs Alexa through a table. Afterwards, Angle reluctantly suspends Ronda for thirty days….just in time for a title match at Summerslam, no doubt. I guess this is all part of the WWE’s attempt to shape Ronda into a female Stone Cold Steve Austin but, instead, she kind of just looked like a pouty little girl throwing her toys out of the pram.
Seth Rollins puts the Intercontinental Championship up for grabs against whoever is man enough to answer his challenge, which turns out to be Dolph Ziggler (accompanied by Drew McIntyre). Rollins, who opened his challenge by stressing how Elias took him to the limit, was clearly supposed to be feeling the effects of his match and, with McIntyre a distraction at ringside, this was apparently enough for Ziggler to roll him up, grab the tights, and win the belt! Well, that was…surprising? I thought the WWE were going to primarily push Ziggler and Drew as a tag team (which they really should given the amount of joke teams on Raw) but, if Seth was going to lose the belt, why not to Elias through shenanigans or to McIntyre? Instead, Ziggler randomly gets a singles title at a time when he’s running with a buddy and Elias is now completely directionless. I guess Rollins can flirt with the main event again, though?
Bobby Roode made short work of Curt Hawkins, continuing his losing streak and helping nobody, and Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt sent a shite message to the B-Team by squashing Heath Slater and Rhyno. Afterwards, Jinder Mahal and Chad Gable fought…again…seriously, how many time sis this now? And Mahal came out on top this time to cap off a trilogy of lacklustre matches.
Sasha Banks and Bayley tried one last time to put their issues aside and take on Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan, however it wasn’t enough to get a win. Afterwards, Sasha shoved Bayley over in frustration and, when she tried to sort it all out backstage, it all ended in a big brawl. The announcers put this over as having been stewing for a while now but I’m pretty sure we saw them snap and brawl weeks, if not months, ago.
Afterwards, Roman Reigns and Bobby Lashley have words; Lashley reckons he deserves a shot at Brock Lesnar because…reasons…why Reigns believes that he deserves a shot because “management is holding me down!” Randomly, the Revival decide to get involved, which leads to a tag team match. Now, you would think that the Revival, as a career tag team, would have the edge over these two guys who haven’t ever teamed regularly, if ever, but no; despite not really being on the same page, this was just a squash for the super team that ended when Lashley tagged himself in and hit the Spear for the win. The announcers try to claim that Lashley stole Roman’s finisher but, again, no as he was killing fools with a far better version of the Spear down in Impact Wrestling.
Mojo Rawley makes a triumphant return to Raw in a match against No Way Jose, making short work of the fool but nobody really gives a shit, before the main event saw Finn Balor and Braun Strowman face off against Kevin Owens and Baron Corbin. Owens is still selling the effects of the Money in the Bank ladder match and Corbin has gone all Corporate Kane by wearing casual trousers in the ring. Strowman and Balor were a much better cohesive unit than Reigns and Lashley, mainly because Balor apparently works super well with everyone, but he ended up alone when Strowman Speared Owens through the barricade. Corbin managed to catch him with the End of Days and score a pretty impressive win; now that Cass is gone, maybe some of his big man push will be transferred onto Corbin.
Carmella opens SmackDown! Live because, again, anything Raw can do, the Blue Brand can do just as redundantly. She brags about defeating Asuka and then welcomes back James Ellsworth, which eventually results in Asuka trying to attack and getting cut off. This leads to a match between…Billie Kay and Becky Lynch? Okay, well…good…especially for Becky, who got to get a win after being denied the Money in the Bank briefcase.
Afterwards, SAnitY finally make their main roster debut, right when the Bludgeon Brothers need new challengers to be built up. To emphasise this, SAnitY brawled with the Usos and decimated them before a bell could even ring. Maybe we’ll see a variant of what I wanted on Raw and get a hardcore (sorry, “extreme rules”) match between the Bludgeon Brothers, SAnitY, the Club, and…yeah, the Bar. Speaking of which, Paige was apparently so happy with the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship match that she booked a rematch. The Bludgeon Brothers won again, in a shorter and honestly less impressive match, but I think it would’ve been better if the Club had kicked too much ass and gotten disqualified or something just to keep them hot and the feud alive.
The main event saw the Miz, Samoa Joe, Daniel Bryan, Rusev, and Big E (there’s that big singles push but…why? If Kofi Kingston got to be in the Money in the Bank ladder match then why is he not in this match for a shot at the belt?) battle for a shot at AJ Styles. Bryan worked his technical wizardry, perfectly playing the underdog babyface who was clawing for everything he needs, while Rusev and Joe played the big man murder machines. It seems as though a lot of Cass’ push is going to Joe, while we’re on the subject, as he was apparently trying to kill Bryan in this match. Big E looked pretty great here, too, hitting a big-time Suicide Spear onto Bryan before being eliminated by Bryan. Bryan also caused Joe to be counted out after he tried to choke him on the outside, but the Bludgeon Brothers randomly interfered and attacked Bryan, which led to him being pinned the Skull-Cushing Finale to keep fanning the flames of that ongoing feud.
In the end, though, it came down to the Miz and Rusev and, despite Miz countering the Accolade into a DDT, Rusev hit the Machka Kick and forced Miz to tap to the Accolade. After the match, AJ Styles came down to the ring and shook hands with Rusev; he also took out Aiden English when he tried to get involved. This was another shocking turn of events; I never would have pegged Rusev to be the next challenger but it’s a smart, smart move. Rusev is mega popular right now and the finish even painted him as, at the very least, a tweener; I’m very happy to see him finally get a main event push, especially as it wouldn’t have surprised me at all to see the WWE randomly toss Randy Orton into the mix.