By Steven Flora
In a reversal of what the WWE Universe witnessed last week, Braun Strowman interrupted Kane’s main event clash against Finn Bálor and crushed The Big Red Machine’s throat with the aid of a steel chair and the ring steps.
Strowman gets revenge on the Big Red Machine
Finn Balor def. Kane via DQ
Bálor came to Raw looking for a fight with Kane, and he wasn’t the only one. The first-ever Universal Champion had given The Big Red Machine such a battle that Kane hit Bálor with a chair to end their bout in a disqualification, but a grisly post-match beatdown on Finn led to the re-emergence of Strowman, who shrugged off a chair swing with such impunity Kane retreated in terror.
The Monster Among Men, of course, showed no quarter to his enemy, brutalizing The Big Red Machine outside the ring and delivering a Running Powerslam atop the steel steps before jamming the chair into Kane’s throat twice — turnabout from last week’s savagery. The Devil’s Favorite Demon was forced to flee through the crowd to escape Strowman, who surprisingly didn’t pursue the former WWE Champion to inflict more punishment. For now, it seems, getting even was enough. But that doesn’t mean he’s finished just yet. Winner: Balor via DQ.
Side Note: This match was OK for what is was, but it was too short, and Balor has become a pawn in the game between Strowman & Kane and he shouldn't be. Balor is a star on his own and deserves that treatment. Strowman & Kane closing the show two weeks in a row has been lackluster and the feud needs to culminate quickly as the presence of Kane in 2017 is not needed whatsoever.
Reigns' open IC challenge claims its first victim
Intercontinental Champion Roman Reigns def. Elias
Consider Reigns’ first week as IC Champion a success — with one big asterisk.
The win came in The Big Dog’s title defense against Elias, who put up a formidable fight in the biggest opportunity of the young Superstar’s career. Competing for his first title, Elias stuck to the ground-and-pound strategy that had brought him to the dance, and The Miztourage did their part at ringside, distracting Reigns as he pulled ahead and allowing his challenger to get back in the thick of things with a picturesque elbow drop.
Reigns tilted the contest back his way by reversing Drift Away into a roll-up attempt, and despite Elias countering one Spear with a knee to the face, The Big Dog’s second attempt at the move seconds later hit its mark and sent the champ home victorious. Winner: Reigns.
As for the asterisk? Right as Reigns was making his exit, he turned to thank the crowd once more and was bulldozed from behind by Samoa Joe, who trapped The Big Dog in the Coquina Clutch, delivering a stark reminder the life of a fighting champion is a long, hard one with no end in sight.
Side Note: Great match. It made Roman look strong but Elias got a good showing in this match and it made me a fan; I can't help but be entertained when he's in screen. Roman has started coming into his own as THE GUY … and whether you like or don't like him, he's putting on great performances.
Absolution confronts Sasha Banks
Payback will have to wait for Sasha Banks, Bayley and Mickie James against the trio of Paige, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, as the scheduled Six-Woman Tag Team Match was undone before it even began thanks to an attack from the team that is now calling itself Absolution.
Bayley and James were dispatched in the locker room before the bell even rang, mainly because Paige and her lieutenants wanted to make an overture to The Boss to join their ranks. Insisting they had pledged allegiance to Paige for trailblazing the Women’s Evolution before the likes of Charlotte Flair, Asuka or Alexa Bliss, Absolution gave Banks the opportunity to join them rather than suffer the same fate as Bayley and Mickie. (Alexa Bliss, who had planned on scouting the Six-Woman Match from commentary, made herself scarce in a hurry.)
Rather than join the trio, The Boss instead opted to throw hands with Paige, and Absolution quickly swarmed the former Raw Women’s Champion before feeding her into an emphatic Ram-Paige from the self-proclaimed “Matriarch.”
Side Note: Felt like this was an OK segment, but I couldn't help but cringe when Rose and Deville were on the mic. You can see they were nervous but in time they'll become naturals at it … I mean, it is their second time on Monday Night Raw. It's good they didn't rush into the match, now they have a back story and now Banks, Bayley and James are looking to teach Absolution a lesson in respect.
Rollins dispatches one half of the Raw Tag Team Champions
Seth Rollins def. Raw Tag Team Champion Cesaro
Cesaro & Sheamus were on top of the world two weeks ago after reclaiming the Raw Tag Team Titles, but it’s been rough going for The Bar ever since — and there might be rougher waters ahead yet.
One week after Dean Ambrose knocked off Sheamus, Seth Rollins piled on his partner’s success by defeating Cesaro in singles action, bringing it to three straight L’s for The Bar since they once again became champions. With Sheamus on sabbatical in Ireland and Ambrose away on his honeymoon, The Kingslayer and The King of Swing were both operating without their safety nets, and the match came down to a war of attrition in the final minutes.
Rollins edged Cesaro by the narrowest of margins, super-kicking his opponent out of the air in the middle of a springboard spinning uppercut and landing a ripcord knee for the pinfall. As if the loss wasn’t enough for The Swiss Cyborg to stomach, Rollins made it very clear after the match The Shield remained a united front, and he and The Lunatic Fringe would be invoking their rematch clause against Cesaro & Sheamus on next week’s Raw to potentially land a title for all three Hounds of Justice. Winner: Rollins.
Side Note: Good match, plain and simple. These two are so dependable they can be put out on any time on the match card and deliver a stellar performance. Was a pleasure to watch and can imagine the tag title match next week will be even better.
Has Hardy finally become Broken?
Bray Wyatt def. Matt Hardy
Matt Hardy claimed last week he was edging closer to his "breaking point." Ironically, Bray Wyatt may have gotten there first and taken Matt with him. The Reaper of Souls addressed the WWE Universe for the first time in weeks, claiming they had failed to listen when he tried to show them the way and that they were all “dead” in their subsequent ignorance, cackling madly in the dark before Hardy emerged for their match. As for Hardy, his gutsy effort against the former champ ended in a missed moonsault and a Sister Abigail. But his evening concluded on a far more ominous note, as he slumped over in the corner, slashed his fist through the air and screamed “Delete!” over and over again long after Wyatt had left the ring. Winner: Wyatt.
Side Note: Matt is finally BROKEN! WONDERFUL! I'm guessing Impact have stopped fighting for the rights to the "Broken gimmick" and it looks like WWE have full creative control over the gimmick. If done right, the WWE Universe will not know what is about to happen.
Other notable moments
Elias and The Miztourage confronted Reigns: The Intercontinental Championship may have gone from The A-List to The Yard, but Reigns isn’t about to let it sit idly in his trophy case. Agreeing with The Miz’s assertion that the Intercontinental Title was worthy of the biggest possible spotlight, The Big Dog kicked off his first Raw as champion with something of an open challenge, only to be confronted by The Miztourage. Left adrift after their leader was defrocked and sent to the shelf by a Shield Triple Powerbomb after Raw went off the air last week, Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel introduced a Superstar who was more than willing to answer The Big Dog’s call: Elias.
Samoa Joe vs. Titus O'Neil: Survivor Series may have gotten in the way, but there’s still unfinished business between Joe and O’Neil. Unfortunately, The Big Deal’s attempt to avenge The Samoan Submission Machine’s sneak attack from weeks ago (which was itself some intended payback for a similar jumping of Apollo Crews) ended in disaster. Titus did manage to escape one Coquina Clutch and rain open-palm slaps on his foe in the long-gestating match, but when the ref attempted to hold back one overly-aggressive press from The Big Deal, Joe dropped Titus with a straight right over the official’s shoulder and reapplied the Coquina Clutch to submit O’Neil. Joe punctuated his evening with yet another assault on Crews, who stepped up to Joe and found himself ensnared in the Coquina Clutch as well. Winner: Samoa Joe.
Rich Swann vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Noam Dar vs. Ariya Daivari: With all the drama surrounding Stephanie McMahon and Triple H in recent weeks, Raw General Manager Kurt Angle admitted he let the Cruiserweight division get away from him a little bit. So, with Enzo Amore running the show and The Zo Train watching his back, Angle sanctioned a pair of Fatal 4-Ways, with the winners to meet in two weeks to determine Enzo’s next challenger. The first to advance? Rich Swann, who overcame a steep deficit against Akira Tozawa, Noam Dar and Ariya Daivari with a monstrous Tower of Doom on his fellow Cruiserweights that instigated a four-way sprint to the finish line. After Tozawa dispatched Daivari with the big senton and Dar took out Tozawa with a running kick to the head, Swann hauled The Stamina Monster out of the pinning position, enziguiri’d The Scottish Supernova in the mush and swooped down for the win with an incredible Phoenix Splash. Winner: Swann.
Asuka vs. Dana Brooke: Brooke demanded and received a rematch against Asuka, much to her detriment, but a near-flawless display by The Empress of Tomorrow led into an unusual sight once Absolution came calling. Despite Brooke’s assertion Asuka was a slow starter, the undefeated former NXT Women’s Champion made immediate work of her opponent — armbar, tap — but the sight of Absolution quickly changed the complexion of the proceeding. As Paige, Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose encircled the ring, The Empress of Tomorrow and her foes seemed to size up their options, leading to what appeared to be a silent, mutual understanding that their clash would have to wait. For how long, of course, is the big question. Winner: Asuka.
Overall Raw Rating: D
Things to look forward to next week
What's next for The Miz & Miztourage after his Intercontinental title loss?
Will we see Absolution in action next week?
Has Matt Hardy become Broken?
How will Kane avenge Strowman after the assault made by the Monster among Men?
Who will be the next challenger for Brock Lesnar's Universal Champion?