Elias and Baron Corbin opened Raw this week to set up the theme of the night: people auditioning for the special guest referee spot at Stomping Grounds. Seth Rollins ran down and beat the hell out of Elias with a steel chair, warning that anyone who even thinks about being the referee would get the same treatment. For no real reason that I can understand, the Miz, Bobby Lashley, Cesaro, Ricochet, and Braun Strowman all then came out and hit their finishers on Elias…which was very strange….
Those five guys then jumped immediately into a number one contender’s match to decide the next challenger for Samoa Joe’s United States Championship; it was an elimination match that saw Strowman wipe out the majority of the competition. This continued the weird heel/face alignments as Lashley and Cesaro jumped back into the match to attack Strowman and help Ricochet eliminate him. In the end, Ricochet pinned the Miz to get the shot, which is great news for him but throws even more dirt on the Miz’s face turn, push, and legitimacy as I don’t think he’s won any matches (or, at least, he’s only won a handful) since turning and now won’t even get a title shot to make up for being beaten by Shane McMahon over and over.
After Bekcy Lynch and Lacey Evans had a bit of a confrontation in the ring and Rollins laid out Corbin with a steel chair backstage, the Viking Raiders decimated a couple of jobbers. AJ Styles also called out Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson backstage and encouraged them to man up and rediscover their passion, before the New Day took on Baron Corbin, Sami Zayn, and Kevin Owens in, of course, a six-man tag team match…with a twist! It was a two out of three falls contest, which helped to spice things up a bit, and saw the New Day take an early lead by pinning Zayn before the heels isolated Big E for the middle chunk of the match. In the end, though, Big E made the hot tag to Kofi Kingston, who ran wild and, after Kevin and Zayn left Corbin high and dry due to a miscommunication, resulted in victory for the New Day.
Rollins continued his assault by laying out Eric Young for even considering taking the referee job, before the Club lost to the Usos; so much for turning things around, but this seemed to be setting things up for a reunion between Gallows, Anderson, and AJ. Afterwards, Roman Reigns called out Shane McMahon and was taunted enough to head backstage, beat up the Revival, smash Drew McIntyre through a table, and chase Shane to the ring to hit him with all his signature moves.
Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss then teamed up against the Iiconics; although Nikki and Alexa started off strong, the Iiconics took over and eked out the victory after Alexa got into an argument with Bayley.
Raw finished up with Daniel Bryan taking on Seth Rollins; the match ended in a disqualification in less than two minutes after Rowan interfered and a big brawl kicked off between the Usos, the Revival, the New Day, Owens, and Zayn so the match was restarted after everyone was sent to the back. An actual, decent match finally happened, with both guys being somewhat evenly matched for the most part. In the end, Rollins fought out of the LeBell Lock, hit the Stomp, and got the win but was promptly beaten down by Corbin with a steel chair afterwards.
After being distracted on Raw with the Universal Championship scene for the second week in a row, the New Day got back on track with Kofi Kingston’s issues with Dolph Ziggler on SmackDown! Live. Ziggler vowed to capture the belt and reclaim his place on top and then jumped into a match with Xavier Woods to demonstrate his focus and ability; interestingly, despite Ziggler targeting Woods’ knee and busting out a lot of heel clichés, this was actually quite a back and forth match, with Xavier putting up a decent fight before falling to a Superkick.
Alexa Bliss and Bayley got into it again on A Moment of Bliss, casting further shade on Bayley’s goody-too-shoes persona and, potentially, setting up for a Bayley heel turn after their match at Stomping Grounds, and which ended with Alexa laying Bayley out and vowing to take her championship.
Heavy Machinery then destroyed the B-Team (remember when they were beloved faces…and a thing?) to, apparently, set up their SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship match at Stomping Grounds that I am not sure I remember how they earned and, afterwards, Seth Rollins bashed the B-Team with his trusty steel chair.
The Miz and Shane McMahon got into yet another war of the words, with Miz using Roman Reigns’ recent actions to throw insults at Shane and Drew McIntyre (because it’s not as if the Miz can claim that he’s managed to best them, is it?), which led to a reunion with R-Truth and an elimination take team match pitting the two of them against Elis and McIntyre. The 24/7 rule was waved for the match (I can’t help but notice how often that happens…), which allowed Elias to pin and eliminate R-Truth without him losing the coveted 24/7 Championship. Of course, this led to the Miz being taken out by a Claymore (and two more post-match) because…you know…screw the Miz…I guess…
During that match, Shelton Benjamin also stole the 24/7 Championship so, a little later on, R-Truth went out to find it and ended up being pinned by Drake Maverick and having his car stolen. Truly riveting stuff.
The night ended with another two out of three falls match (so, within two nights, the WWE have driven two out of three falls and elimination tag matches into the ground), this time pitting Kofi Kingston and Seth Rollins against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. I can’t help but think that this friendship (or, at least, mutual respect) between the Universal and WWE Champion must be setting up to some kind of heel turn or unification match later down the line. Anyway, Kofi got the early advantage by pinning Zayn with a Trouble In Paradise in the first ten seconds. Things calmed down a bit, with Rollins being worked over for a change, before Kofi got the hot tag and the two of them cleaned house and got the win…which was a bit of a sad way to end things for Owens and Zayn ahead of Stomping Grounds.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Triple Threat Match: Tony Nese (c) vs. Drew Gulak vs. Akira Tozawa
Tony Nese is still the Cruiserweight Champion, right? Well, in any case, it’s nice to see the WWE mixing the Cruiserweight Championship up a bit by having more than two competitors involved in a title match…even if they are all pretty familiar faces to the title scene. Either way, I’m going to say that Tony Nese will retain one more time.
SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship Match: Daniel Bryan and Rowan (c) vs. Heavy Machinery
As mentioned, I must have missed when Heavy Machinery earned this title shot but…here we are. Daniel Bryan and Rowan haven’t really done much since winning the belts except talk shit about audiences, do some commentary, and….talk more shit so I’d like to think that their reign still has some legs to it. Plus, as dominating as Heavy Machinery have appeared to be (look at the adjective: appeared), they have only really been beating jobbers and we all know how well a strong semi-push against jobbers worked out for the Authors of Pain so I’m going to pick Daniel Bryan and Rowan to retain.
WWE United States Championship Match: Samoa Joe (c) vs. Ricochet
I’m pretty much 100% sure that the only reason Ricochet has gotten this opportunity is because Rey Mysterio is currently injured, so the WWE is out one plucky, underdog high flyer for their United States Championship scene. I was going to say that it would’ve been nice to see Ali get this shot and a run as a consolation prize for his main event run being completely dropped but then I realised that he’s on SmackDown! Live, which leads me to ask…where the hell is Finn Balor and the Intercontinental Championship? Anyway, this match only just got thrown together and Ricochet’s chase for the belt could make for a decent story so I think Samoa Joe will win here and we’ll see a rematch, maybe in a ladder match, that Ricochet can win.
Big E and Xavier Woods vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
It seems to me that Kevin Owens has become a bit distracted lately; it wasn’t that long ago that he was challenging for the WWE Championship and it seemed as though he was going to be woven back into that role to challenge Kofi Kingston but, instead, he’s been teamed back up with Sami Zayn (seriously, keep these guys separated for a bit!) and is in random tag team matches rather than being the special guest referee (or one of two…or even three…) and getting his foot back in the door in the title hunt. Anyway, I see Big E and Xavier Woods winning here, as Big E needs to re-establish himself since his return, and I see Owens and Zayn popping up again later in the night.
SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship Match: Bayley (c) vs. Alexa Bliss (with Nikki Cross)
So, lately, the bulk of Alexa’s beef with Bayley has centred around her claims that Bayley isn’t as nice as she seems…which Bayley hasn’t really denied and she’s even stated that she’s taking her role more seriously now that she’s the champion, which has led some to speculate that we might see a double turn in this match. Personally, I am not really feeling that, and think it’s more likely that this is all a ruse to get into Bayley’s head. I think that, and Nikki’s presence, will lead to Alexa Bliss captured the belt; I’m not sure if I really want that but it seems to make sense. Alexa wins, reveals she’s been chatting shit, ditches Nikki in a way that gets her off television for a bit and laughs about using her, defeats Bayley with big heel tactics in a rematch, and gets bested by a returning, babyface Nikki Cross later down the line.
WWE Championship Steel Cage Match: Kofi Kingston (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler
I do find it amusing how often the WWE takes Ziggler off of television for weeks or months on end, with no mention of him, and then brings him back and throws him right into a World Championship match and it often works. The only issue I really have with that is, as I said, it seemed like Kevin Owens was going to by Kofi’s first challenger and it also seems like this could have been a fatal-four-way between Kofi, Ziggler, Owens, and Zayn but, in any case, it’s nice to see the WWE dust off the cage match for a change. I still think we might see Owens be the one to unseat Kofi, though, so this will be another strong win for Kofi Kingston that showcases his talent and ability.
Raw Women’s Championship Match: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Lacey Evans
Lacey Evans is quickly becoming one of the most annoying people on WWE television, to be honest, and yet I am just happy to see a new face challenging for the belt. As a result, I could totally see Lacey actually getting the win here and feuding with Becky a little more as she tries to get her belt back, but I still don’t think Becky’s run is over yet so I’m going to pick Becky Lynch to win and hope that the WWE continues to throw new challengers at Becky until the time is right for her to lose.
Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre
And we’re right back here again with Reigns facing the man who should currently be the Intercontinental Champion but, instead, has been reduced to one of Shane McMahon’s many stooges. What is Drew gaining from his association with Shane? He could have easily been in this match without Shane so wouldn’t it be better if he was challenging for the Universal Championship, or at least in the running for that belt? Instead, he’s just another guy for Roman reigns to run through…also….isn’t Drew a Raw guy? So does that make this an inter-brand match or a Wildcard match?
WWE Universal Championship Special Guest Referee Match: Seth Rollins (c) vs. Baron Corbin
So the WWE have teased a special guest referee but haven’t actually named who it will be yet; some people are saying it’ll be Brock Lesnar, which could be an interesting choice, but I don’t really think we’ll see him in the white and black on this night. Instead, I think it’s very likely that we’ll see Owens, Zayn, or Elias (or even all three guys) as the special guest referee, which will led to too many cooks being in the kitchen and Seth Rollins getting the win. Or, maybe that will still happen and all the heels will beat Rollins senseless, leading to Brock Lesnar cashing in but…please, God, no!