By Steven Flora
The Monster Among Men returned to Monday Night Raw to unleash total destruction on Intercontinental Champion The Miz, Bo Dallas and especially Curtis Axel. Plus, one week after Raw was brought under siege by SmackDown, Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon returned to take strong issue with Raw General Manager Kurt Angle, while SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan suffered a brutal assault courtesy of Kane.
Braun Strowman takes out the trash
It was all but a given last week that Strowman’s literal disposal would keep him out of action for weeks, if not months. But, much like the last time someone attempted to take him out with a vehicle, The Monster Among Men returned ahead of schedule and very, very angry.
He came for The Miz, too, leaving a bag of trash in the locker room as a warning The A-Lister (correctly) interpreted as a harbinger of The Gift of Destruction, though he was unsuccessful in securing help from Kane or The Bar to prepare for Strowman’s return. Things only got worse when Kurt Angle prevented Miz from leaving early and forced him to stay for the entire show as punishment for his late arrival, leading The Awesome One to attempt a hasty exit following the conclusion of the main event.
The A-Lister’s limo was blocked by another garbage truck, from which Strowman emerged to chase The Miz and The Miztourage back to the ring. Miz and Dallas managed to escape relatively unscathed, but Axel suffered five Running Powerslams ("Powerslamming for reps"), the last of which was delivered through the commentary table. Is it coincidence the monster returned just before Halloween? Maybe. But either way, Strowman is back, and no one is safe.
Side Note: Such a great ending, once again intertwining with Alexa's championship victory, telling a story but also allows a viewer to being annoyed by Alexa, to being excited to seeing Strowman. The way Strowman came out and destroyed Axel, Bo & Miz was great and just made for great TV. The crowd was behind it, Strowman was over and it was an overall good end to a decent Raw show.
Kane attacks SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan
There was one person on SmackDown Live who wasn’t on board with Shane McMahon’s march through the Raw locker room: Daniel Bryan. Attempting to somewhat restore the peace before Survivor Series, the SmackDown General Manager snuck onto Team Red behind Shane’s back for a parlay with Kurt Angle that didn’t quite go the way he envisioned. Angle rejected Bryan’s olive branches and demanded he deliver a message to Shane on SmackDown: He’s bringing his gold medals and his roster to Survivor Series for payback.
The Olympic Hero offered his blue brand counterpart one act of kindness by insisting Bryan stay in his office rather than risk walking through an arena filled with Raw Superstars who were hungry for payback. But even that ended up becoming a nightmare, as the lights cut out and Kane struck in the darkness, grabbing Bryan by the neck and subjecting him to an apparent Chokeslam as the illumination of Bryan's phone went out. When the lights returned, Bryan was being loaded onto a stretcher by a team of medics, who transported him to a local medical facility.
Side Note: This was unexpected and I have no reason for this motive. Though both were tag team champions under the name Team Hell No, Kane's destructive warpath seems to include former best friends & tag team partners. This could be Raw's payback for what SmackDown did last week, however Shane McMahon will definitely have something up his sleeve next week that's for sure.
Samoa Joe sends a message to the Raw Locker Room
Samoa Joe def. Apollo Crews
On a night full of comebacks, it’s safe to say Samoa Joe was a little excited for his own Raw return: Not only did he not even wait for Nia Jax to exit after the previous match before his music hit, but both his savage condemnation of the WWE Universe and the results of The Samoan Submission Machine’s first match back proved he hadn’t lost a step despite a two-month layoff.
The brave soul to challenge the two-time NXT Champion was Apollo Crews, who was looking for some redemption after being the first Superstar felled in the SmackDown Live siege last week. Crews took advantage of Joe’s rust with a display of athleticism that briefly put the big man on his heels, but a failed attempt at the Spinning Sit-out Powerbomb allowed Joe to power his way to a match-ending Coquina Clutch on Crews for the tapout victory. And then, he locked in another one on Titus O’Neil when the former WWE Tag Team Champion attempted to step to Joe after the bell.
Side Note: This return was highly anticipated and the fact he didn't even wait for Nia Jax to leave the stage, was quite something, seeing storylines intertwined. Joe did what Joe does best, assault everyone in his path and wreak havoc amongst the WWE locker room. It was effective and it looks like it's going to continue with Joe being on Team Raw at Survivor Series.
Nia Jax is the first member of the Raw Women's Survivor Series Team
Nia Jax def. Bayley
Last week, Alicia Fox hit Bayley with her own move en route to defeating The Huggable One and Sasha Banks to become the Women’s team captain for Raw at Survivor Series. This week, instead of competing in her initially scheduled contest with Bayley, Miss Fox decided instead to scout talent, swapping herself out for a returning Nia Jax under the pretense of focusing on her duties as captain.
Jax’s return was a world of trouble for Bayley, especially after an early onslaught that seemed to spell an early end for the former Raw Women’s Champion. Tripping up Nia on the ropes allowed Bayley a good bit of breathing room, but Nia powered out of a guillotine to bulldoze her opponent with a low shoulder block and a running leg drop to the throat. Nia’s emphatic victory impressed Fox, who immediately gave Jax a place on her squad at WWE’s fall classic.
Side Note: Great to see Nia back, especially after her nagging injuries and other responsibilities. She deserved that win and the response from the fans was quite something to hear. Bayley has been dead in the water for a while now and I believe the only way to save her, is to do what she probably doesn't want to do … turn heel.
The Miz retains his title over the "Broken One"
Intercontinental Championship Match: The Miz (c) def. Matt Hardy
Side Note: Decent match with a great end sequence. I liked the idea that Miz won without the Miztourage interfering again. Though Matt Hardy himself seems lost in the shuffle, I hope he can at least break out on his own and reinvent himself on this current Raw roster.
Other notable moments
Asuka vs. Stacie Cullen: Give local competitor Stacie Cullen this: She is very, very brave. Scouted off the streets of Baltimore to face Asuka, the young Miss Cullen put up as good a fight as can be anticipated. Which is to say, not all that effective of one. The undefeated former NXT Women’s Champion decimated her opponent with reckless abandon; Cullen barely landed so much as a punch before The Empress of Tomorrow chopped her down to size and put her away with the excruciating Asuka Lock. The streak continues. Winner: Asuka.
Finn Balor vs. Cesaro: Bálor’s foray against a Machine didn’t end so well last week, but he fared much better against a Cyborg. Raw’s resident "extraordinary man" rebounded from his trouncing at the hands of Kane by defeating Cesaro in a thrilling singles contest that was nonetheless overshadowed by another late-game appearance from The Devil’s Favorite Demon. Bálor’s victory was certainly hard-earned, as The King of Swing unleashed the full bounds of his power against his much quicker opponent. Finn turned the tide at record speed, taking out his foe and the lurking Sheamus with a dive to the outside before ending the bout with a top-rope double stomp to the back of Cesaro’s head. And then Kane emerged to attack Bálor atop the ramp, dropping him with a Tombstone Piledriver on the stage moments before the arrival of The Shield, whose Seth Rollins was scheduled for a bout with Kane next.Winner: Finn Balor.
Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson in an All Hallow’s Eve Trick or Street Fight: With all apologies to Drew Gulak, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson may have won Halloween with their tag team costume as Southpaw Regional Wrestling's Tex Ferguson & Chadd 2 Badd. That said, they were unable to win the WWE tradition of an All Hallow’s Eve Trick or Street Fight against Heath Slater & Rhyno, who dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus for the occasion. (Proving he would not be upstaged by Tex and Chadd, The Man Beast did not spare the blush.) Give the good brothers credit for their creative — haunting, even — offense, but they got a little too cute for their own good when they put pumpkins over their own heads. Alas, Anderson’s impeded his vision and Gallows put his on backwards, allowing The Man Beast to catch Anderson off the turnbuckle and plunge him through a table with a spinebuster. A win for him and Slater, and plenty of candy for the kids. Winner: Heath Slater & Rhyno.
Kane vs. Raw Tag Team Champion Seth Rollins: Once upon a time, Kane was Rollins’ bodyguard, backup and Director of Operations. These days, he’s Rollins’ tormentor. Minutes after ruthlessly attacking Bryan (another former ally), The Devil’s Favorite Demon showed no mercy to Rollins in a singles bout on Raw. Kane all but shut out The Kingslayer’s offense save for a late stretch that stymied The Big Red Machine momentarily, or at least until Cesaro & Sheamus jumped Dean Ambrose at ringside, causing Rollins to take his eye off the ball. The Architect paid for his distraction with a Chokeslam that cost him the match, and a 3-on-2 assault of The Shield by Kane and The Bar nearly cost him much more than that, as The Big Red Machine administered a ruthless Tombstone to Ambrose. When Rollins attempted to crawl atop his partner to protect him, The Devil’s Favorite Demon Tombstoned him as well. Winner: Kane.
WWE Raw Women's Championship: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Mickie James: Dressed in her finest Chucky cosplay for Raw's main event, Alexa Bliss may indeed be a “bad gal.” That said, she’s as dominant a champion as ever. Forced by Angle to defend her Raw Women’s Title against Mickie James once again after insinuating the Raw General Manager should cut the six-time Women’s Champion, Alexa faced as formidable a challenge from James this time around as she did at WWE TLC. Little Miss Bliss adjusted her offense accordingly, ratcheting up the intensity to stave off her opponent. James answered in kind, and the champion briefly attempted to take a count-out loss, only to be dragged back into the ring. But when James turned to the ref after a flurry of pinfall attempts, Bliss put her down quickly and ruthlessly with a right hand to the face. The win was hardly child’s play, but love Alexa or hate her, she might just have deserved it. Winner: Alexa Bliss (c).
Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon confronted Raw General Manager Kurt Angle: With the arena under heightened security, The Olympic Hero attempted to open Raw with a mea culpa to his roster following last week’s raid by the SmackDown crew, but Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon resurfaced for the first time on Raw since WrestleMania to take her General Manager to task for failing to circle the wagons properly. Stephanie claimed Shane only brought SmackDown behind enemy lines to “pick on her” and save his reputation following his failure at WWE Hell in a Cell, and she made sure Angle would shoulder the responsibility of payback by naming him team captain for the Raw squad in the Men’s Survivor Series Match. Stephanie demanded nothing less than “total annihilation” from Angle and all but declared that The Olympic Hero’s job security hinged on the outcome of the contest.
Overall Raw Rating: B
Things to look forward to next week
What will Braun Strowman do next?
Is Asuka setting her sights on the Raw Women's Championship?
Can Kurt Angle assemble a team that can defeat Team Smackdown Live?
Where is Neville?
What's next for Mickie James?
Who will Samoa Joe's next victim be?