By Steven Flora
In John Cena’s first Raw match in more than a year, The Cenation Leader teamed with Roman Reigns to take on and defeat The Miz and Samoa Joe in an incredible main event. Also on the red brand, Braun Strowman attacked Brock Lesnar, setting the stage for a titanic Universal Championship match at WWE No Mercy!
Are John Cena & Roman Reigns on the same page?
Cena & Reigns def. Intercontinental Champion The Miz & Samoa Joe
The Miz got his main event moment, though likely not the one he expected, as The A-Lister suffered the deciding pinfall in Raw’s main event tag team match that pitted the Intercontinental Champion & Samoa Joe against the strange, uneasy alliance of John Cena & Roman Reigns. The Cenation Leader and The Big Dog never quite entirely got on the same page in the bout, though to be fair, Miz & Joe were struggling as well. The WWE Universe’s incessant chanting got in The Awesome One’s head early and often, nearly nullifying the pre-match strategy Joe had so intimidatingly laid out.
Despite the crowd noise, The Samoan Submission Machine was all business, cutting off a Five-Knuckle Shuffle attempt on The A-Lister and kicking off a brawl that nearly allowed Miz to claim the win after Reigns, who was seemingly aiming for Joe, accidentally Superman Punched Cena while he was trapped in the Coquina Clutch. But Miz took too long to set up his own Skull-Crushing Finale and was planted with a match-ending Attitude Adjustment for his troubles. Cena and Reigns didn’t seem much excited by their win, sharing a tension-filled moment in the ring wherein Reigns visibly said “my bad” for hitting Cena with the punch. By his partner’s look, it seemed like the apology would, for this time at least, suffice. Winner: John Cena & Roman Reigns.
Side Note: Great match to end the night and the raucous crowd helped add that “big fight field” that Michael Cole talks about 24/7. The interesting dynamic between Reigns & Cena is uncanny but are they really going to blow a WrestleMania main event match this early? This was pretty good overall, with the guys playing well off the rowdy crowd and their beach ball antics and even using it to allow Joe and Miz take control on Cena. I did hate that the Miz once again played “innocent” here. I still say and have since the move, that taking him off Smackdown was a bad move.
The Goddess confronts The Boss
The Brooklyn curse is broken, and Sasha Banks is once again Raw Women’s Champion. But she shouldn’t get too comfortable just yet: Alexa Bliss was quick to confront The Boss, invoking her rematch clause for next week’s Raw even though Banks invited her to throw down then and there.
Despite the way she lost the title at SummerSlam, Bliss perhaps has a reason to be optimistic about the potential encounter: While she does boast three previous reigns as Raw Women's Champion, Sasha has never successfully defended the title. In other words, there may yet be one hex left for The Boss to break.
Side Note: This was good. They set up a match for next week to give it a week’s build. I also loved that Bliss brought up Banks has a horrible track record in defending the championship. It’s real. It’s there to use and puts it in the fan’s head that Banks’ latest reign may be a one week wonder.
Rollins & Ambrose in dream match with the Hardy Boyz
Non-Title Match: WWE Raw Tag-Team Champions Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose def. The Hardy Boyz
The band is back together, and the dream matches have already begun. Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins opened their unlikely Raw Tag Team Title reign by declaring the evening to be a “party” and inviting any team in the locker room to step to them, seemingly expecting Cesaro & Sheamus to come looking for a rematch. Instead, they got a gentlemen’s challenge from The Hardy Boyz, and it was exactly as epic as you might have imagined. (Cesaro & Sheamus scouted from the locker room).
The Most Exhilarating Tag Team In History didn’t just hang with the younger tandem, they came awfully close to defeating the new champions after Matt Hardy hit The Lunatic Fringe with the Twist of Fate to tee him up for Jeff Hardy’s Swanton Bomb. However, Rollins superkicked Matt right after Jeff tagged in, and Ambrose got his knees up to block the Swanton, leaving The Charismatic Enigma alone to suffer the one-two combo of Rollins’ ripcord knee and a match-ending Dirty Deeds. Winner: Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose.
Side Note: I was all for making the match, and I am all for surprises, but also feel they should have at least given it a one week build to add to its importance and maybe even help the ratings. Anyway, the match was good overall as they fought through the middle point where they lost the crowd for a bit. They stayed to the plan, got them back and Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose pick up a big win to keep their momentum as champions rolling after last night’s big win. I’m not sure what the Hardys do now with the Revival out, right now they’re “just a team.”
Brooklyn Street Fight ends in unfortunate injury for Cass
Brooklyn Street Fight: Enzo Amore def. Big Cass after Cass couldn't continue due to injury
Enzo Amore, who may well have more heart than sense, challenged Big Cass to a third singles match under Brooklyn Street Fight rules, and once again felt the brunt of his old partner’s power. But Muscles Marinara stumbled into the win nonetheless when the seven-footer went to put the match away and ended up injuring himself, injuring his knee after he missed with a big boot and tumbled over the ropes.
Cass still rallied to set Enzo up for the Empire Elbow, but his knee gave way as he attempted the move, leading the referee to call the match off and award the victory to Amore. Winner: Enzo Amore.
Side Note: The match wasn’t good before the injury, which is bad news for Cass. Hopefully the injury isn’t too bad, but reports are it is legit, but undetermined as of this writing. He’s scheduled for an MRI tomorrow.
Emma gets another chance
Chalk this week up to a learning experience for Emma, who grumbled about Nia Jax stealing her opportunities backstage within earshot of the imposing Superstar and was “given a chance,” as it were, to back up her words. It did not end well.
Emma, to her credit, knew she was somewhat doomed from the jump, so she slapped Jax in the face and threw hands instantly. Unfortunately for her, the opposition was too strong. While Jax didn't quite brutalize her foe to the point of "#GiveEmmaCPR" as she promised during their confrontation backstage, she quickly put Emma away with a brutal Samoan Drop nonetheless. Winner: Nia Jax.
Side Note: Simply a squash match. This does nothing for Nia, who needs to get the title fast, and as for Emma, all I can say is #RIPEMMASCAREER.
Other notable moments
The Beast Incarnate managed to stave off The Gift of Destruction (and Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe) despite being put through two tables and buried under a third by Strowman at SummerSlam, but The Monster Among Men made it quite clear the Universal Champion wasn’t out of the woods yet in Raw’s opening moments. After Lesnar and Paul Heyman sufficiently crowed over the successful title defense, Strowman emerged and obliterated The Beast without speaking a single word, preferring to let a pair of bone-jarring Running Powerslams and a pose with the Universal Title do all the talking necessary. Fittingly enough given the announcement later in the night, you could almost say he showed no mercy.
Elias vs R-Truth: They brawl to begin, with Truth controlling until Elias cut him off with a back elbow. Truth cuts him off with the leg lariat. Elias fights back, and hits drift away for the win. Winner: Elias.
Drew Gulak, Tony Nese, Noam Dar, and Ariya Daivari vs. Mustafa Ali, Rich Swann, Cedric Alexander, and Mustafa Ali: The Cruiserweight division is once again Neville’s kingdom, but the WWE Cruiserweight Champion has no shortage of potential challengers to his throne. Eight of them squared off in an epic tag team contest on Raw, and two on the victorious team — Gran Metalik and Cedric Alexander — made the strongest impression. The former opened the contest against flight-averse Drew Gulak and helped Alexander seal the victory, taking Gulak out during an apron-clearing brawl, at which point Cedric defeated Tony Nese with the breath-taking Lumbar Check that sent The Premier Athlete careening into the air before crash-landing on the canvas. Despite that display, Neville seemed unconcerned about the security of his reign during a post-match interview. But when Akira Tozawa invoked his rematch clause for 205 Live tomorrow, his tune quickly changed. Winner: Mustafa Ali, Rich Swann, Cedric Alexander, and Mustafa Ali.
Finn Balor vs. Jason Jordan. So Jason Jordan wants competition. Finn Bálor, to be precise. And even though the gold-blooded Superstar came up short in the match he asked his father and Raw General Manager Kurt Angle to grant, it was still one of the most high-profile showcases of Jordan’s abilities to date. If nothing else, Jordan proved he can not only survive, but thrive on Team Red, countering Bálor’s striking and high-flying with amateur-style wizardry that grew more and more intense as the match raged on. He even managed to land one charge into the corner, but Finn thwarted the Angle Slam-neckbreaker combo and reclaimed the advantage. When Jordan again went to set up the sequence after charging Bálor all around the ring, the Irishman countered and nailed the chest-caving Coup de Grâce to seal the victory. Winner: Finn Balor.
Overall Raw Rating: B-
Things to look forward to next week
What's next for Emma?
How will Tozawa bounce back after his championship loss at Summerslam?
Will we see Cena & Reigns in the future?
Can the Goddess reclaim her Raw Women's Championship next week?
How long will Cass be injured for?
What's next for the golden boy Jason Jordan?