By Steven Flora
Always one of the most outrageous nights on WWE's calendar, the #RawAfterMania saw Ronda's wrath, shocking returns, NXT arrivals and huge buzz over next week's WWE Superstar Shake-up.
Rollins, Balor & Jeff Hardy conquer The Miz & Miztourage on the #RAWAFTERMANIA
Unlike WrestleMania, The Miz had no reservations about using The Miztourage to his advantage in Raw’s main-event Six-Man Tag Team Match. And yet, the result remained the same for the former Intercontinental Champion.
A stomp to the mat from Seth Rollins ended Miz’s night once again, though having his understudies at his side paid significant dividends for The Awesome One. The Miztourage did their work to take Finn Bálor out of the equation, and the returning Jeff Hardy took as much out of himself as he did his opponents upon entering the fray.
That left Rollins to shoulder the load, and The Kingslayer answered the call, sprinting around the ring and taking out Miz and The Miztourage with a suicide dive. His partners helped clear the ring of interference, and a stomp to The Awesome One handed the Intercontinental Champion the win.
A train of finishing maneuvers from all three to Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel sent the WWE Universe home happy. The moment was somewhat tinged with uncertainty: Come the Superstar Shake-up next week, one, or all, of these Superstars might be competing on a different show. But given their big win, it’s hard to begrudge Rollins, Bálor & Jeff for letting the good times roll while they can.
Side Note: Great main event to send the fans home happy after a crazy yet epic WrestleMania weekend. I do hope they keep Jeff with Woken Matt because when they're separate, they're not as good. Rollins & Balor to feud for the IC Title going into Backlash for sure!
Ronda Rousey attacks Stephanie McMahon
Having been duly humbled and arm-barred into submission by Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania, Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon arrived on Raw with her arm in a brace and an olive branch in hand for The Baddest Woman on the Planet as they move their relationship into the future. But the only thing the future holds, apparently, is more armbars.
Awash in a sea of “You tapped out!” chants from the #RawAfterMania crowd, Stephanie attempted to recast her tapout as a triumph, proclaimed it was her crossover performance that motivated Rousey to become the best version of herself and offered to put the full weight of the WWE machine behind Rousey to move forward as allies.
Rousey didn’t seem to mind the offer; she even embraced Stephanie with a smile on her face. But as soon as they broke, the smile faded, Ronda rolled Stephanie onto the mat, tore off her elbow brace and put her in another armbar. Stephanie may have thought she’d signed her newest golden goose, but given that WWE medical officials had to escort her behind the curtain, it’s looking more and more like she might have her own “Stone Cold” Steve Austin instead — for better and for worse.
Side Note: Stephanie got absolutely mauled out there! Such crazy fans! Ronda got her revenge but I do suspect she will pay for her actions. How? That I'm not so sure off.
Bobby Lashley returns
Man, this was exactly how I remembered Bobby Lashley, intense personified! Lashley looked in great condition as he took out Elias, who was getting a great response from the crowd, and you can only see the returning Lashley going after Brock Lesnar in the near future.
Samoa Joe confronts Roman Reigns
At last year’s #RawAfterMania, Roman Reigns walked out into the WWE Universe with the perfect words for the occasion. This year, he was at a loss, but somebody else knew exactly what to say.
Not only was The Big Dog somewhat dispirited after his grisly Universal Title loss to Brock Lesnar, he was more than a little angry that nobody had clued him into The Beast’s new contract or their upcoming Universal Title Steel Cage Match at the Greatest Royal Rumble event. Add The Beast's continued absence to that equation, and Reigns was unhappy to say the least. Despite all this, Reigns remained confident he’d take the title from The Beast eventually — though Samoa Joe wasn’t sold.
The returning Samoan Submission Machine didn’t let Reigns off the hook for failing to make good on his yearlong boasts that he was the only one who could topple The Conqueror. Joe claimed Reigns’ continued shortcomings only served to diminish his legend while lining The Beast’s pockets, but he was here to let Reigns know his suffering was nearing its end because, after Lesnar was done with The Big Dog at the Greatest Royal Rumble, The Samoan Submission Machine would be waiting at WWE Backlash to finish whatever was left of him.
Side Note: Though what happened to Reigns was shocking and brutal I couldn't help but agree with what Joe said. Reigns lost yet gets a rematch for the Universal title in Jeddah on April 27. Yet he's out here moaning about how Lesnar isn't here again. Joe picked apart Reigns to the point you almost felt sorry for Reigns. If Reigns can outlast Lesnar a second time in a month, a date at Backlash with Samoa Joe awaits.
Overall Raw Rating: A
Other Notable Moments:
Raw Women's Champion Nia Jax & Ember Moon def. Alexa Bliss & Mickie James: Now that Nia Jax has come into her own as a confident champion, anyone looking to knock her off her perch will have their work cut out for them, especially since she already has a friend at her side. Former NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon made her exhilarating Raw debut as Jax’s impromptu partner against Mickie James and deposed former titleholder Alexa Bliss, who attempted to re-cast Jax as a bully who only won the title at WrestleMania because her pre-match attack on James left Bliss in “emotional distress.” Clearly, Ember wasn’t buying it: The War Goddess looked pleased as punch to enter the fray once Jax tagged her in, and Moon didn’t hesitate to administer her astonishing Eclipse maneuver to Bliss to claim the victory for her squad. Rumors are floating that Alexa and Mickie have lobbied to be sent to SmackDown in the upcoming Superstar Shake-up in the wake of WrestleMania. It might be the best thing for them: The Raw Women's Title is looking to be a more unattainable prize than ever for The Goddess, and her list of enemies has already grown by one.
No Way Jose def. John Skyler: Prepare the conga lines: No Way Jose, the “Dominican Dancing Machine” of NXT, has arrived on Monday Night Raw. Trailed by a train of revelers, Jose certainly cut an unmistakable figure as he made his way to the ring and an imposing one inside it — he dispatched local opponent John Skyler with a pop-up punch to the face within seconds before conga’ing his way out of the ring. This will be fun.
The Revival def. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson in a Tag Team Eliminator Match: Alas, Braun Strowman & Nicholas the fan’s Cinderella run with the Raw Tag Team Titles has come to an end. Due to the young champion’s scheduling conflicts — as Strowman helpfully pointed out, he’s in the fourth grade — the champs relinquished their titles on Raw, setting up a two-week tournament that Raw General Manager Kurt Angle dubbed the Tag Team Eliminator, where the winner battles Cesaro & Sheamus for the vacant titles at the Greatest Royal Rumble event. First to advance? The Revival, who began their Raw journey at last year’s #RawAfterMania and did not waste the opportunity to hit reset on a Team Red run that has been haunted by injuries. To wit, they powered relatively quickly past Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson thanks to a strategy that zeroed in completely on The Suntan Biker Man’s leg. When Anderson was forced to turn on the jets, The Revival used his frenzy to their advantage, scoring a sneaky tag and sending him stumbling headlong into a waiting Shatter Machine for the 1-2-3.
Sasha Banks def. Mandy Rose; Paige announced her in-ring retirement: Four years ago, Paige made her debut in New Orleans and won the Divas Championship in her first match on Raw after WrestleMania 30. The Raw after WrestleMania 34 saw her return with a very different bit of business on her mind. But first, her Absolution crew notched a big win over Sasha Banks, thanks to the fraying relationship between The Boss and Bayley that continued to weigh them both down. Bayley reared her head at a few crucial junctures of Banks’ battle with Mandy Rose of Absolution, stealing her spotlight by making her entrance seconds before the bell and inadvertently cold-cocking The Boss on the outside of the ring after Mandy provoked Bayley into taking a swing. The argument led to a flustered Sasha walking straight into a leaping knee from Rose that won the match, but a chagrined-looking Bayley made her exit before any more damage could be done. (They'll get a chance to settle the score in earnest next week on Raw.) The moment was a bittersweet one for Absolution, however: Paige took center stage after the match and announced that, due to injuries, she would no longer be able to perform as an in-ring competitor. In the same arena where she made her Raw debut four years earlier and with the WWE Universe showering her in thanks, the former Divas Champion offered gratitude to the rest of the female Superstars, as well as Daniel Bryan (whose return from a neck injury gave her hope) and Edge (who showed her there was life outside WWE). She departed by leaving her T-shirt in the ring, though not before offering one final message to the fans: “This will always be my house.”
The Authors of Pain def. Heath Slater & Rhyno: Being left out of the Tag Team Eliminator has Heath Slater pretty steamed, though he may want to shy away from any open challenges, given that his boasts ran him and Rhyno afoul of Raw's newest tag team. After daring any team behind the curtain to try their hand against the inaugural SmackDown Tag Team Champions, Slater & Rhyno found themselves face to face with The Authors of Pain, the twin mammoths who Paul Ellering guided to a near-indomitable reign as NXT Tag Team Champions. They seem destined for similar supremacy on Raw: They dispatched Rhyno off the apron and flattened Slater with the Last Chapter in a display that was so flawless they seemed to think they were better off without Ellering’s guidance. Akam & Rezar seemingly dismissed the legendary manager at ringside after the match, thereby closing the book on their story’s prologue and turning the page to whatever lies ahead.
“Woken” Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt def. Titus Worldwide in a Tag Team Eliminator Match: Last night, Bray Wyatt rose from The Lake of Reincarnation to help “Woken” Matt Hardy win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, signifying the beginning of a wonderful new partnership. On Raw, the two former rivals made it official, teaming up for the first time and notching a Tag Team Eliminator victory that doubled as the start of their “Expedition of Gold.” With Wyatt “rid of the succubus known as Sister Abigail” and Hardy bolstered by the presence of Humongous Wonder Number Eight, they were near-flawless against Titus Worldwide, despite having never competed together. The Eater of Worlds seemed to have picked up a few of Hardy’s mannerisms as well — he decreed Apollo’s athletics to be “Wonderful!” — but Wyatt still relied on his punishing power moves to take the wind out of Apollo’s sails. A Sister Abigail-Twist of Fate combo landed Hardy & Wyatt a victory, The Expedition of Gold is officially a go, and The Revival await.
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn ended in a No Contest: A returning Daniel Bryan thwarted Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn’s hopes of rejoining the SmackDown roster at WrestleMania, but they have nobody to blame but themselves for missing out on a Raw contract. Literally. Owens and Sami arrived to Raw suited up and hat in hand to ask Kurt Angle for a job on Team Red, were told they’d have to fight it out for the sole roster slot The Olympic Hero had to offer, and no clear winner emerged. Much like they always do, the longtime friends fought to a dead heat and matched each other blow-for-blow, though, unlike most of their other encounters, nobody managed to close the deal: Sami’s old never-say-die attitude helped him land a Helluva Kick while Owens was perched atop the turnbuckle, and while KO answered with a package suplex, both men were too spent to answer the count of ten. The ensuing No-Contest decision meant neither man would receive a Raw contract, a disappointing ruling for the Superstars that nonetheless seems appropriate: One way or another, Owens and Zayn really are destined to fight forever. For the first time in a long time, however, where they will fight remains to be seen.
Things to look forward to next week
Who will go on to face The Bar for the Raw Tag Team Championships in Jeddah?
What actions will Ronda Rousey face for attacking the commissioner of Raw?
Will Paige still lead Absolution into the future of the Women's evolution?