By Steven Flora
Battling one-on-one for the first time since the inaugural Universal Championship Match at SummerSlam 2016, Seth Rollins and Finn Bálor held nothing back in a competitive Raw main event that concluded with a rare move from The Kingslayer's arsenal. But what role did Jason Jordan play in the bout’s outcome?
Finn Balor blackouts over loss to Seth Rollins
Raw Tag Team Champion Seth Rollins def. Finn Balor
Jason Jordan is at it again. Not only did Kurt Angle’s son swing a loss for Cesaro & Sheamus, he talked his tag team partner Seth Rollins into a match against Finn Bálor to give The Architect a chance at payback from their defeat to The Bálor Club last week. For his part, Rollins didn’t mind what Jordan did so much as the way he did it, but his partner’s meddling proved to be as clutch as possible when it came to Rollins’ main-event clash with Raw’s resident Extraordinary Man.
In a semi-rematch of the first-ever Universal Title tilt (remember, Bálor was “The Demon” in that one), Rollins came out swinging, and Bálor answered, targeting The Kingslayer’s surgically-repaired knee in the hopes of rendering his offense one-dimensional. Rollins opted instead to battle through the pain, forcing Finn to fight from underneath.
With the match escalating to something of a dead heat, Rollins went big with a Frog Splash, and Cesaro & Sheamus emerged with punishment in mind for Jordan. Some clever maneuvering from the young champion led to a brawl between The Bar and the good brothers that Bálor thwarted with a soaring plancha. As Finn attempted to finish off Rollins, Jordan tripped Bálor up on the sly, and Rollins dug deep into his arsenal, planting Finn face-first into the mat for the victory with a move we’ve seen him use to win many big matches.
As Bálor staggered to his feet with Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson at his side, Rollins departed with a thrilling victory thanks in no small part to what his partner did, to say nothing of the way he did it. Winner: Seth Rollins.
Raw General Manager Kurt Angle fires and rehires Braun Strowman
Last week, Braun Strowman used pure strength and a literal grappling hook to pull a piece of the backstage rigging down on Kane and Brock Lesnar. It was astounding even by Strowman’s standards, and it changed the entire complexion of the trio’s Universal Title Triple Threat Match in one swoop. And now, it’s gotten Strowman fired.
The Monster Among Men was in the middle of gloating over his complete obliteration of both the Universal Champion and The Devil’s Favorite Demon when Raw General Manager Kurt Angle arrived to reprimand Strowman by relieving him of his position as a Raw Superstar. The decision left the WWE Universe in an uproar, but Strowman took it far worse than the audience: After appearing to acquiesce to Angle’s wishes and heading to the backstage area peacefully, Strowman savaged the entire team of security guards The Olympic Hero had hired to escort him from the building before marching away from the scene with very bad intentions on his mind.
No one can say Strowman’s time on the unemployment line was uneventful, though thankfully for the Raw roster, it was short-lived. The Gift of Destruction tore apart the backstage area for the entire hour after Angle pink-slipped him, rampaging through the catering area and tipping over the tractor of the production truck in a blind fury.
All of this devastation led to Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon pulling rank on her beleaguered General Manager and ordering The Monster Among Men rehired. Angle enacted her wishes just in time, as Strowman had Michael Cole in hand at the commentary table when The Olympic Hero emerged to give him his job back, including his position in the Universal Title Triple Threat Match. Strowman celebrated the good news in his singularly devastating fashion: By throwing Cole off the stage and onto a pile of security guards anyway.
Side Note: The best thing on the show bar none. Honestly, at this moment, Strowman is so over he doesn't even need the Universal title and his incredible feats just keep on coming. I feel as though this won't still hype people up for the Royal Rumble triple threat match because Lesnar winning is pretty much certain though Braun will be the star in this match.
Nia wasn't ready for Asuka or her injury
Asuka def. Nia Jax
Last week, Nia Jax jumped Asuka from behind, putting her (and every Superstar in the Women’s Royal Rumble Match) on notice and earning herself a match against The Empress of Tomorrow. Jax posed the most formidable challenge yet to Asuka’s undefeated streak, but thanks to a flawless game plan and a little bit of luck, the former NXT Women’s Champion rolled on, and Jax officially joined the ranks of the fallen — with an asterisk.
Jax unsurprisingly relied on her power, looking to impose her will on the cruelly clever Empress of Tomorrow. But Asuka had her opponent scouted perfectly, whittling away at The Irresistible Force with a variety of torturous submissions — an octopus here, an armbar there — and, later, her speed, to sap Jax of her strength.
It seemed Asuka would earn herself a count-out win after trapping Jax’s leg between the steel steps and the ring post. But while Jax barely beat the count back into the ring, the referee was forced to call the match off due to injury. The sight of the hobbled Jax even brought Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss — the same woman who tried to pit Asuka against Jax in the first place — to assist her to the locker room, though Nia turned down care from The Goddess in favor of another Superstar: Enzo Amore. Winner: Asuka.
Side Note: This was the best ending for both women. On one hand you can't have Asuka lose as you've built her up as this indestructible monster. On the other hand, you have Nia Jax who is one impressive superstar who cannot be beaten as easily as others. Nia losing via countout works as she injured herself, and continues the unlikely relationship between her and Enzo. WWE loves to intertwine stories at times.
‘We're not Sports Entertainers, We're Professional Wrestlers’ - The Revival 2018
The Revival def. Local Competitors
The revival of The Revival continues, as Dash & Dawson put on an (accurately) self-described “tag team wrestling clinic” against a pair of intrepid locals who found themselves on the receiving end of a picture-perfect Shatter Machine in mere minutes. But The Revival’s post-match interview quickly became the focus of their evening, as they had a few choice words for the Legends scheduled to appear at next week’s Raw 25th anniversary show. Winner: The Revival.
Taking full advantage of the live mic they were offered, Dash & Dawson took aim at veterans from “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to Shawn Michaels to The New Age Outlaws by designating themselves as “professional wrestlers” instead of “sports-entertainers” who were molded by a boardroom. Proclaiming that "beer baths" and "crotch chops" had turned WWE into a mockery, The Revival promised they would never be pressured to change from their old-school mentality and presentation, and left with a message that was clear, simple and across the board: This is their Universe now.
Side Note: Well I have a sneaky feeling this great team is going to be jobbed out by WWE legends next week at Raw 25. Regardless, this was an excellent promo by The Revival.
Roman Reigns eyes up the The Miz ahead of their championship clash at Raw 25
Intercontinental Champion Roman Reigns def. The Miztourage (Handicap Match)
Roman Reigns may not have defended his Intercontinental Title on Raw, but the fighting champion had a fight all the same against The Miztourage just one week before he fields a challenge from their ringleader, The Miz, on Raw 25. (“It will be awesome,” Miz promised after another intro from Elias.)
That is then, however. For now, The Big Dog can roll into the red brand’s quarter-centennial with a dominant performance under his belt, despite a strong opening from The Miztourage after Miz laid hands on Reigns’ title to distract him and galvanize Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel into an early advantage. The Miztourage traded tags and stomped The Big Dog into the corner, and Dallas emerged as an early star of the match for his team. Once Reigns decked him off the apron, however, Axel was turned into the proverbial deer in headlights as The Big Dog began to rev up.
Things got dire enough that The Miz attempted to interfere, though Reigns quickly dispatched Dallas with a wicked Superman Punch on the outside and attempted to drag Miz into the ring. Axel sprang with a rollup in the fray, but The Big Dog escaped the pinfall attempt and sealed the win with a rib-busting Spear — much to the dismay of a furious Miz, who stewed and proclaimed Reigns’ title would be his. Despite the unfavorable result tonight, Miz might have himself an awesome Raw 25 yet. Winner: Roman Reigns.
Side Note: A flat match in all honesty though it did tie in with the Raw 25 match with Reigns & Miz. Reigns was always going to get the victory, even if The Miz tried to interfere, however, I suspect The Miz may win the title because there is no way Reigns is walking into Rumble as champion. I just can't see it.
Other notable moments
Titus Worldwide vs. Sheamus & Cesaro: Again! After Cesaro & Sheamus suffered an upset loss to Titus O’Neil & Apollo Crews last week, The Bar got a rematch looking to regain some ground in advance of their Raw Tag Team Title rematch against Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan at the Royal Rumble event. And for the second week in a row, Titus Worldwide claimed a win, though they do have Jason Jordan to thank for the assist. The combination of Crews’ athleticism and O'Neil's power had given Titus Worldwide an edge, though The Bar managed to battle back. They’d even learned from their mistakes, thwarting the same sequence that cost them the match last week. But right as they were about to execute a tandem maneuver to dispatch Crews, Jordan’s music hit, and Crews rolled up a distracted Sheamus for a win that left The Bar quite dismayed — to say nothing of Seth Rollins, who emerged atop the ramp to scold his partner for interfering in the match. Winner: Titus Worldwide
Cedric Alexander vs. Tony Nese: Enzo Amore retained the WWE Cruiserweight Title due to an injury and subsequent count-out loss to Cedric Alexander last week, but once again, Cedric has himself a second chance. And before the ascendant Cruiserweight officially challenges for the crown jewel of 205 Live at Royal Rumble, Alexander dispatched Enzo’s abdominally-gifted lieutenant Tony Nese — described as the “garlic” to Muscles Marinara and back in the good graces of The Zo Train following a brief excommunication. He might just end up back in the doghouse. With Goldust once again providing emotional support, Alexander subjected Tony Abs to an in-ring mincing despite an impressive display by Nese. Enzo’s constant barking at ringside certainly energized Nese into the advantage … at least until Goldust lurked up behind the champion and sent him scrambling, cutting off Nese’s momentum and opening the door for an Alexander resurgence. Nese still held his opponent at arm’s length, thwarting the Lumbar Check at every turn until Cedric found an opening, reversing Nese’s pump-handle slam and finally executing his agonizing signature move. Winner: Cedric Alexander.
"Woken" Matt Hardy vs. Heath Slater: For the last two weeks, Heath Slater has watched his partner Rhyno fight to the very end in an effort to teach The One-Man Band about toughness. Consider the lessons taken to heart: Slater certainly fought hard against “Woken” Matt Hardy, but the former SmackDown Tag Team Champion suffered defeat — or deletion, rather — at the hands of the multi-dimensional Superstar all the same. Despite a strong opening by Slater, Hardy once again obtained the advantage by gnawing at The One-Man Band’s hand and subjected him to the “deletion process,” culminating in a wonderful Twist of Fate. Winner: "Woken" Matt Hardy.
Sonya Deville vs. Sasha Banks: Due to a neck injury, Paige will be unable to compete in the first-ever Women’s Royal Rumble Match. That said, Absolution doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, as Sonya Deville got her first singles victory in WWE at the expense of Sasha Banks as the historic contest approaches. Deville showcased her pinpoint timing and punishing power in the surprisingly quick victory, wrapping The Boss up in an array of submissions and dropping her with a savage kick to the stomach as Banks came off the turnbuckle. Winner: Sonya Deville.
Overall Raw Rating: C
Things to look forward to next week
Will Jason Jordan & Seth Rollins ever get along?
How will Kane & Lesnar stop Strowman at Royal Rumble?
Will Cedric Alexander get his rematch for the Cruiserweight title?
How will the Raw tag team division react to The Revival's promo
Have #TeamRude finally broken up?