By Steven Flora
As a jam-packed Californian crowd filed into the famous Staples Center Monday night, they witnessed an episode of Raw that saw a night full of shocking events. As the Great Balls of Fire PPV airs in two weeks, power and authority became the primary focus for the superstars of Monday Night Raw.
The Boss runs the gauntlet in historic match
No. 1 Contender Women’s Gauntlet Match: Sasha Banks def. Nia Jax
The big story coming out of Raw was the first-ever No. 1 contender Women's gauntlet match that main-evented Raw this week. After last week's shambles in which the women of Raw only received five minutes out of three hours of television, it seems as though WWE wanted to reinforce their belief that women truly are the main event.
Bayley and Nia Jax will begin this. Bayley looks to hit and run, but Jax cuts her off with a snake eyes. A clothesline follows as Jax takes control and works over Bayley in the ropes. Bayley sidesteps a charge and fires away on Jax, heads up top and hits an elbow drop, which gets 2. Bayley lays in strikes and kicks, and then tries to attack the leg. Jax kicks her away to the corner, but Bayley hits a kick and heads up top but Jax cuts her off and sends her to the mat; the Samoan drop finishes Bayley. Mickie James is in next. Jax works over James, and locks in the bear hug. James escapes, but Jax gets her back in the bear hug. Thrilling. James escapes, fires up with rights and then a dropkick. She lays in some kicks, James up top and hits the seated senton for 2. James hits the head kick but Jax tosses her away on the DDT attempt, and then hits a big charge and James is done. Dana Brooke is now out. Dana tries to charge her, and then Jax swats her away, hits the running leg drop and Dana is done. Emma is next, stuns Jax in the ropes and hits basement dropkicks, covering for 2. Emma up top, but Jax catches the high cross and hits the Samoan drop to eliminate Emma. Sasha Banks is the final competitor. Banks attacks right away, slaps Jax and then low bridges her to the floor; Banks flies with a suicide dive but Jax catches her. Banks slips out and posts Jax, and then hits meteora to the floor. Jax is back in control and tosses Banks to the floor. Banks beats the count, and fires up hitting the corner knees on Jax, but Jax levels her with a clothesline and covers for 2. Jax again tosses Banks to the floor, Banks sells her leg but manages to break the count. Jax attacks as soon as she makes it back in, scores a few near falls and again tosses Banks to the floor. Banks to the apron and stuns Jax off the ropes but Jax quickly cuts her off and then chokes her out in the ropes. Jax then repeatedly slams the head of Banks to the mat, and then attacks the leg. She again tosses Banks to the floor. Banks back in, Jax works the bear hug again. Banks then looks to use the guillotine, but Jax counters out with a suplex, covering for 2. Banks counters out of a suplex, looks for a roll up but then Jax misses the leg drop. Banks struggles to her feet, and looks for the banks statement, but Jax escapes and hits the Samoan drop and Banks rolls to the apron. Jax then pulls her back in, takes too much time to yell at her and Banks fights out of the Samoan drop and pulls Jax to the mat with a modified Banks statement and Jax finally taps. Winner: Sasha Banks.
Side Note: This more than made up for the colossal mess from last week. First things first, the women did themselves proud, they more than deserved to be the main event this week. They undoubtedly had so much TV time this week, I felt like I was watching an episode of Smackdown Live. Back to the match itself it was very well executed with the idea Jax runs through the whole division and then Sasha Banks takes advantage of a weakened Jax to get the submission victory. Bayley's quick exit was very worrying indeed and I do fear for her future in WWE. Dana Brooke should've never gone up to the main roster as quick as she did because you can clearly see how green she is when it comes to wrestling. Emma put up a great fight but undoubtedly got beaten by a bigger and strong women in Jax. Mickie James' experience couldn't thwart Jax's attempts to crush her. Sasha Banks put up a strong showing against Jax and with Jax being in the ring for over 20 minutes, a fresh Banks getting the win over a tired Jax seems logical in this situation. Sasha Banks being in the title picture with Alexa seems like a great match on paper and with Banks' experience of being champion, I wonder whether or not Alexa's title reign will be in serious jeopardy.
Samoa Joe finally locks in the Coquina Clutch on Brock Lesnar
Heyman is here and discusses that Joe doesn’t fear Lesnar, noting he used a cheap shot on Lesnar, but admits it was smart, but then Joe kicked Lesnar in the face while others held Lesnar back. Heyman then called Joe a Samoan dumb-ass. Heyman then told Joe that now was the time to start fearing Lesnar. Heyman brings out Lesnar … and as he makes his entrance, JOE ATTACKS AND LOCKS IN THE CHOKE ON THE RAMP! Lesnar fights and slams him into the LED screen, but Joe keeps it locked in and Lesnar fades as referees, The Revival & The Club arrive to pull Joe off of Lesnar.
Side Note: What a great segment! WWE is doing one hell of a job building up Samoa Joe as a legitimate threat to Lesnar and his WWE Universal title. As each week comes and goes, I get even more thrilled with watching this match live on the WWE network in two weeks. Both Joe and Lesnar are doing an excellent job and I really hope they kill it at Great Balls of Fire in Dallas.
Braun resumes his rivalry with Reigns
The Big Dog is a bit upset over BRAUN not being finished with him last week, but the LA fans want to see Strowman. Reigns says Joe put him in the clutch and put him to sleep and then called BRAUN a coward for his attack last week. He accepts the challenge for an ambulance match, and promises to take BRAUN to hell because this is his yard. BRAUN arrives in an ambulance; I like to imagine that he just travels the country in one now, finding old enemies and informing them that he’s not done with them yet. Reigns makes his way toward the ambulance, opens the door but finds nothing because BRAUN is smarter than the average bear and jumps him from behind. They brawl on the stage, and BRAUN tosses him into the ambulance. BRAUN then tossed Reigns into the ambulance and shuts the door. I think BRAUN disputes Reigns’ claim to ownership of the yard.
Side Note: This was great opening segment with Reigns getting annihilated, which is always a great sight to see for the WWE Universe. It sets up their match perfectly and I can imagine Reigns making an appearance next week coming out from the back of the ambulance that Strowman put him in. This should be an underrated match heading into Great Balls of Fire.
The Hardy Boyz & Balor gain momentum heading into Dallas
Finn Balor & The Hardy Boyz def. Elias Samson and Sheamus & Cesaro
The Hardys work over Sheamus to begin, hitting poetry in motion and a double team suplex. Post break, Josh Duhamel joins commentary as Balor woks over Cesaro. He’s doing a WWE Studios film with Sheamus. Speaking of Sheamus he tags in and works the clubbing strikes in the ropes and Samson gets in a cheap shot. He tags in and works over Balor, but Balor battles back but Sheamus tags in and cuts him off and works a back breaker, but Balor escapes and tags in Jeff who hits the leg drop to the balls, and Sheamus then posts himself. Jeff up top but Cesaro pulls Sheamus to the floor. Hot tag to Matt, he works over Samson and beats him down in the corner. The bulldog follows and then the side effect, but Sheamus makes the save. He posts Matt, and Cesaro helps him hit a double team white noise as Balor makes the save. Matt hits the jawbreaker and tags in Balor. He cleans house, hits Samson with the apron PK and tosses Sheamus. Balor then wipes out the tag champs with a dive, back in and sling blade to Cesaro, the shotgun dropkick follows and then the Hardys take out Sheamus & Samson, the double stomp finishes Cesaro. Winner: Finn Balor & The Hardy Boyz
Side Note: Your typical six man tag match that was really good, much better than I expected. Samson and Balor are keeping their feud afloat with Balor getting much more offense as WWE are in favor of pushing Balor as their next top star, hopefully. As for The Hardy Boyz, I don't expect them to win the tag titles again, instead I'm assuming WWE may use them as enhancement talent, in order to get other tag teams over. Perhaps The Revival could be the next #1 contender's to the Raw tag team titles?
Cass destroys Enzo
Enzo is Here to Talk, and Possibly Cry: Enzo did his intro, and admits that he’s not doing really good. He’s still wearing an Enzo and Cass shirt, and says he has been trying to get a hold of Cass all week, and even tried to get to him through his mother. He wants to talk things out man to man. Cass then makes his way out to the ring and Enzo says the reaction from the fans hurts Cass, just like what Cass did hurt Enzo. He accepts Enzo for who he is and Enzo won’t change him. He agrees that they are brothers, says he is sorry … for everything he said, did and for the past 5 weeks. They shake hands and hug … and then Cass says they won’t throw away a lifetime of friendship … and all seems to be well for now. BUT WAIT Cass attacks Enzo on the ramp as they celebrate, he asks the crowd if they want Enzo and he tosses him down the ramp like a sack of garbage and leaves.
Side Note: I was really hoping it was just a misdirection to get more heat on Cass and to toy with Enzo’s emotions, because it would have sucked if they backtracked after such a great turn last week. This was a good segment and follow up to last week, there is nothing left to like about Cass (if you’re an Enzo fan) because he not only turned on him last week, but he totally hit him emotionally tonight and then tried to kill him. Not as good as the angle from last week, but certainly a strong follow up.
Other notable moments
It was 6 man tag galore this Monday night as Dean Ambrose, Heath Slater & Rhyno took on The Miz (c), Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel. The faces cleared the ring and we took a commercial break. Post break, team Miz was working the heat on Slater. Miz smartly made Axel & Dallas did the heavy lifting, as proper lackeys should do. Miz laid in the kicks to Slater, and then Dallas & Axel kept working him over with ease and without the interruption of any real crowd reaction. Slater hit a desperation neck breaker, and then the leg lariat to Miz and tagged in Rhyno. Rhyno runs wild on Dallas like it’s WWE Main Event on Hulu. The spinebuster follows for 2. Ambrose chases Miz, allowing Axel to cheap shot Rhyno and Dallas rolls him up for the win. Winner: The Miz (c), Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel.
Seth Rollins took on Curt Hawkins in a pretty short match. Hawkins attacked at the bell, hitting a clothesline and some ground and pound. The belly to back suplex followed, and then another suplex and Hawkins ten found a way to work in a chin lock variation in this short match. Rollins quickly escaped, fought back and hit a suicide dive. Sling blade followed back in the ring, and then the blockbuster. Rollins hit the superkick to the kneeling Hawkins, and then the ripcord nee strike finished Hawkins. Winner: Seth Rollins.
The WWE Cruiserweight champion Neville took on Lince Dorado in a Non-Title match. It’s all Neville early, slamming Dorado from corner to corner. Dorado fights back, but Neville cuts him off and grounds him. Dorado then fires back with chops, sends Neville to the floor and hits a suicide dive. Back in and the high cross follows for 2. Neville fires back, hits the running kick and the rings of Saturn finishes it. Winner: Neville (c).
Goldust finally met R-Truth in the ring however their match ended in a no contest.
You may have noticed I haven't included Miz TV in this week's Raw review. Well to be honest, the less said about that, the better.
Overall Raw Rating: B
Things to look forward to next week
How will Enzo respond to Cass' betrayal?
Where is The Revival?
How will Alexa Bliss neutralise the challenge of Sasha Banks?
How will Lesnar respond to the threat of Samoa Joe?
Will The Miz ever get rid of Dean Ambrose?