By Jason Powell
WWE Raw on the USA Network
Live from Sacramento, California at Golden 1 Center
[Q1] The Raw opening video kicked off the show and pyro shot off on the stage with a unique handheld camera view from behind it… Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Booker T were on commentary. JoJo was the ring announcer…
Mickie James, Dana Brooke, Emma, Nia Jax, Sasha Banks, Alicia Fox, and a pouting Bayley were standing in the ring where a small podium was set up. New Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss made her entrance while the broadcast team narrated still shots of the title change at Payback.
Bliss said a lot of people come out and refer to themselves as queen, but the queen is dead. Bliss said she deserves a coronation. She also said there were people she wanted to thank. She started with James, saying she has been watching her since she was a kid and she’s great. She said that even though her contemporaries Mae Young and Fabulous Moolah are in a better place, “you’re still here.”
Alexa thanked Sasha, but noted that she heard what she said about not knowing who she was. She introduced herself as the Raw Women’s Champion and the one who pinned her to get to where she’s at. Bliss looked up at Jax and acted intimidated. She rushed and said she’s naturally gifted and looked forward to teaming with her.
Bliss took her spot on top of the podium and then addressed Bayley. Alexa noted that Bayley’s entire family was in the crowd and said it was adorable. She said that when the referee raised her hand, she saw Bayley’s nephews and they were crying. Bliss said it almost threw her off, but she didn’t let that happen. Bliss said Bayley’s family now has a real role model to look up to. Bayley pushed over the podium and Bliss landed on her microphone, which broke. A brawl broke out as they cut to break… [C]
Powell’s POV: Bliss continues to shine on the microphone and she’s coming off what may have been the best match of her young career. Bayley played her part well by not hiding her disappointment and finally snapping once she had enough. The crowd fired up when Bliss and Jax first made eye contact. It would be an odd match with Jax as the babyface and Bliss as the heel due to the size difference, but I could see them going there if they sense there’s interest.
A Backlash commercial aired and focussed on Shinsuke Nakamura…
1. Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, Emma, and Alicia Fox vs. Bayley, Sasha Banks, Mickie James, and Dana Brooke. Cole said Kurt Angle booked the match during the commercial break (presumably replacing the previously advertised tag match).
[Q2] Bliss barked orders from her corner. Nia said something to her and Bliss gave her an “excuse me” type of condescending response. The two teams bickered at ringside heading into a break. [C]
Bayley got her hands on Bliss and worked her over around 12:00. Bayley had Bliss pinned, but Jax broke it up. After most of the women were cleared from the ring, Bayley pulled Fox away from Sasha, who then fought to ringside and continued to brawl with Fox. Bliss raked the eyes of Bayley and then DDT’d her and pinned her…
Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, Emma, and Alicia Fox beat Bayley, Sasha Banks, Mickie James, and Dana Brooke in roughly 14:00.
The broadcast team discussed Braun Strowman beating Roman Reigns at Payback and said he was able to take advantage of Reigns being injured. They aired footage of Strowman crashing into the ambulance door and then of Reigns slamming another door into Strowman…
Graves hyped Seth Rollins addressing what’s next for him… A shot aired of Enzo Amore and Big Cass backstage while Cole said they won their match over Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Cole said Gallows would seek revenge against Enzo after the break…
Powell’s POV: Crowd pleasing action in the women’s match. Bliss getting the better of Bayley again is the right move. Bayley is at her best when she’s a sympathetic underdog, and the last 24 hours have put her in that position.
[Q3] [C] Enzo and Big Cass made their entrance and delivered an in-ring promo. Gallows and Anderson attacked them from behind. Enzo and Cass cleared them from the ring. Cole said he was confident the singles match would take place after the break… [C]
2. Luke Gallows (w/Karl Anderson) vs. Enzo Amore (w/Big Cass). Enzo suffered a cut on or above his eyelid. Gallows dominated the bulk of the offense. Enzo came back with punches and delivered a dropkick to the gut. Enzo kicked Gallows in the face and then played to the crowd. He turned back into an uppercut from Gallows.
[Q4] A short time later, Enzo was distracted while up top by Anderson. Gallows ended up putting Enzo away moments later. Gallows and Anderson celebrated on the ramp. Anderson pointed at Enzo and gleefully told Gallows, “Look at his eye”…
Luke Gallows pinned Enzo Amore in 5:40.
Backstage, TJ Perkins asked Neville what happened at Payback, recalling him saying that Austin Aries is not on a Neville level. Perkins said others are saying Neville had to resort to grabbing the referee and getting himself disqualified. Neville told him to tread carefully because while he respects him, he will not allow anyone to slander the king. Neville blamed the referee for not letting him put an end to “our” Aries problem. Neville asked Perkins how he will become No. 1 contender with Aries in the way. TJP said that’s a good question. Neville said TJP would have a match with Aries and suggested he make the most of it…
Graves hyped Seth Rollins appearing after the break… [C] An ad for Smackdown hyped Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens in a rematch for the U.S. Championship…
Powell’s POV: The babyface duo won at the pay-per-view, so Enzo returns the favor on Raw. The Perkins and Neville relationship is interesting in that Neville is clearly using him to do his bidding. Yet while Perkins is apprehensive when it comes to offending Neville, he also seemed to confront him about the match finish. Jericho’s band begins its tour on Friday, so take that for whatever it’s worth heading into his match with Owens on Smackdown.
A graphic boasted that WWE Payback was the most socially active show on television on Sunday night…
Seth Rollins made his entrance and delivered an in-ring promo. He played to the crowd and said that despite getting his butt kicked a bit the night before, he was doing good. He said the fans have been with him through the highest of highs and lowest of lows. Rollins said everyone has been in a spot where they want to give up, but you can’t do that. Rollins said you have to look in the mirror and figure who you are and who you want to be.
Rollins said he sleighed the King of Kings and he got some payback on Samoa Joe. Rollins said there’s really only one thing left for him to do. “I want the beast,” Rollins said. The fans responded with a Yes! chant. “I want Brock Lesnar, I want the Universal Championship,” Rollins said. He added that he’s been to Suplex City and he’s not afraid to go back.
Finn Balor’s music interrupted Rollins and he headed out with a microphone in hand. Balor said he respects Rollins for being the one-legged man who won at WrestleMania. Balor said he’s the one-armed man who became the first Universal Champion. Balor entered the ring and recalled beating Rollins despite the fact that his arm was hanging at his side.
Balor said he never lost the championship, so no offense to Rollins, the line starts with him when it comes to facing Brock Lesnar. Dean Ambrose’s music played and he headed out with the Intercontinental Championship. Ambrose headed to the ring and mocked them for saying, “Brock, Brock, Brock” and said they sounded like a couple of chickens. Ambrose said Lesnar fights when he wants and where he wants, which isn’t very often. Ambrose said he’s a fighting champion and his title is the number one championship on Raw. The Miz’s music interrupted and he and Maryse walked out and headed toward the ring.
[Q5] Miz said Rollins and Balor hadn’t earned anything, and Ambrose is an embarrassment as a champion. Miz said that if anyone deserves the IC Title it’s him. Balor said he’s the latest member of the “Finn Balor just kicked my ass club.” Miz said Balor cheap-shotted him and is a coward. Miz said Rollins hobbles around like a gimp on one leg. Rollins said he can run circles around Miz.
Miz said it’s not a running contest, it’s a WWE ring where he beats people up. Miz said people hate him because he’s the biggest threat on Raw. The babyfaces told him to stop. Ambrose said he’ll face anyone, anytime for the IC Title, and everyone likes to see Miz get beat up. Ambrose polled the crowd on who they wanted to see beat up Miz.
Ambrose pulled out his phone and called Kurt Angle. Ambrose hung up and said Angle wasn’t happy that he had his number. Ambrose said Angle booked Miz vs. Rollins vs. Balor to determine the number one contender to the IC Title…
The broadcast team set up a video on the Strowman vs. Reigns match from Payback. Cole hyped details on the aftermath of Reigns vs. Strowman for later in the show… [C]
Powell’s POV: If the Ambrose character is such a fighting champion, then why didn’t he defend the title at Payback or just ask to face all three men in a four-way? Anyway, the segment was solid and filled with some fresh matchups (minus Ambrose vs. Miz). I kept waiting for Samoa Joe to attack Rollins, but I’m guessing we get that during the Triple Threat. Meanwhile, WWE is doing a much better job of making Strowman vs. Reigns feel epic after the fact than they did while building to the match.
Graves hyped the Triple Threat between Rollins, Balor, and Miz as the main event… Ring entrances for a cruiserweight match took place…
[Q6] 3. Rich Swann, Akira Tozawa, and Jack Gallagher vs. Noam Dar, Brian Kendrick, and Tony Nese. Gallagher brought out three umbrellas and gave one to his partners while keeping one for himself. Cole said this is what 205 Live is all about. Huh? The babyfaces had the heel trio down at ringside heading into a break. [C]
The heels isolated Tozawa. Swann picked him up in suplex position and tossed him onto the ropes. Later, Gallagher caught Nese with a headbutt. Kendrick took advantage of a weary Gallagher by applying a submission hold that Tozawa broke up. Tozawa and Swann dove onto Dar and Kendrick on the floor. Gallagher caught Kendrick with a running dropkick in the corner and pinned him…
Rich Swann, Akira Tozawa, and Jack Gallagher beat Noam Dar, Brian Kendrick, and Tony Nese in 10:35.
Powell’s POV: Graves told us the cruiserweight division is all about action. Cole said it’s about three men holding umbrellas. As ridiculous as Cole’s line was, I’m tired of all of the broadcast team members repeatedly telling viewers what the division is all about. I’m also tired of Cole’s insincere enthusiasm such as telling Graves that sometimes he is jealous that Graves calls 205 Live every week. I’m also tired of the ridiculous slogan that 205 Live is the most exciting hour on television. It all sounds so fake.
The broadcast team recapped The Hardys defeating Sheamus and Cesaro to retain the Raw Tag Titles, and the post match attack by Sheamus and Cesaro. They also aired footage of Sheamus kicking the tooth out of Jeff Hardy’s mouth. A shot aired of a serious looking Sheamus and Cesaro while Cole said the duo would explain why they attacked the Hardys…
[Q7] [C] Sheamus and Cesaro made their entrance. Sheamus mocked the crowd by thanking them for their reaction. He said it felt good to be free after living in a fog of delusion the last couple months. He said he never really liked any of them. Sheamus said the fans have treated him like a redheaded stepchild from the beginning. Sheamus said Cesaro had his section and believed he could be better with their support.
Sheamus said WrestleMania was the turning point when the Hardys were added to the match and stole their moment. The fans chanted delete. Sheamus said that was cute. Cesaro said the fans felt a rush of nostalgia just like they do every time someone shows up when they should appreciate the people standing in front of them.
Cesaro said they proved that the Hardys are just a novelty act that doesn’t belong in the ring with them. “That’s the tooth of it,” Sheamus said. “Sorry, Jeff, that’s the truth of it.” They said they don’t just set the bar, they are the bar.
Matt and Jeff Hardy made their entrance and delivered a promo from the stage. Matt thanked them for the explanation. He said he knew they were waiting for their response. He made the “delete” motion and then they charged the ring. Sheamus and Cesaro split before there was any physicality…
Powell’s POV: A flat followup to the strong post match angle. The Sheamus and Cesaro promo was logical, but there was no spark to it.
Backstage, Charly Caruso asked The Miz about the Triple Threat match. Miz spoke about how Seth Rollins cost Finn Balor eight months of his career and the Universal Championship. Ambrose showed up and asked Miz if the hair gel gets in his eyes when he wrestles. Miz and Maryse walked off. Ambrose sent it back to “Gene and Bobby” at ringside… [C]
[Q8] 4. Heath Slater (w/Rhyno) vs. Apollo Crews (w/Titus O’Neil). Before the match, footage aired of Apollo Crews talking with Slater about having seven kids. Rhyno said it was seven that he knew of. Titus O’Neil showed up and wasn’t happy about Crews talking with them. He told Crews to come to him if he wanted a match. Crews performed a sit-out powerbomb for the win. Titus took a selfie with Crews, and Rhyno photobombed it afterward…
Apollo Crews beat Heath Slater in 3:40.
Cole hyped the aftermath of the Reigns and Strowman match at Payback… [C]
Powell’s POV: I have no idea when Titus and Crews officially united, but I guess they are a thing now. Did I miss something on WWE Main Event?
An ad for 205 Live hyped Lince Dorado vs. TJP, Mustafa Ali vs. Drew Gulak, and Rich Swann vs. Noam Dar…
The broadcast team stood behind their desk and spoke about the Reigns and Strowman match. Cole spoke about how Reigns fought valiantly despite being less than 100 percent…
Raw general manager Kurt Angle headed to the ring to update the situation. Angle said the match between Reigns and Strowman had to be one of the most physical he had ever seen. Angle said a match like that has consequences. Angle said Reigns re-injured his ribs and had other internal injuries and Strowman tore his rotator cuff.
Angle said he spoke with both men and they made it clear they are not done with each other. Angle said it’s up to him to look out for them, WWE, and the WWE Universe. He started to say they would have answers later, but he was interrupted. Bray Wyatt made his entrance while Cole recapped the House of Horrors match.
[Q9] Wyatt joined Angle in the ring and said they haven’t had the pleasure of being properly introduced. Wyatt introduced himself and offered a handshake, which Angle accepted. Wyatt said he understood Angle’s apprehension, but he meant him no harm. “I am not here for destruction… not yet.” Wyatt said he was there as a savior.
Wyatt said he closed the chapter on Orton, who will forever be trapped inside his house of horrors (or Smackdown). Wyatt said he is reborn from the hell of his own creation like an angel with burnt wings.
Wyatt told Angle that he needs him. Wyatt asked Angle if he will allow him to do his work. Wyatt asked if he would walk by his side or stand in his way. Angle said he doesn’t know what Wyatt has planned, but Raw is his show. Wyatt laughed maniacally and said it may be Angle’s show, but it’s his world. The Wyatt video flashed and they went to break… [C]
Powell’s POV: An unexpected and interesting segment that ended just when it was starting to get good. I guess the Wyatt video flash at the end was their way of saying to be continued. Meanwhile, the Roman injuries sounded like typical storyline injury fodder. The line about Strowman suffering a torn rotator cuff isn’t something they typically use for storyline injuries. Hopefully it’s not legit.
Backstage, Dean Ambrose stuck a microphone in Rollins’ face. Rollins asked what was happening and noted that it wasn’t scheduled. Ambrose said there were cameras in there and it would be weird if they were there and they didn’t have an interview. Ambrose threw out names for a WWE Network show, including names of existing talkshows.
Ambrose asked whether Rollins thinks he has what it takes to take the title away from him. Rollins said Ambrose should know what he’s capable of when he has his eyes on a title. Ambrose said he also knows how far he will go to keep a title. Rollins said he’s learned new tricks and maybe Ambrose will be surprised. “No, Dean Ambrose was surprised once, it can’t happen again,” Ambrose said. “Back to you, Gorilla”…
5. Austin Aries vs. TJ Perkins. Aries worked over TJP with early punches. Neville was shown watching the match on a backstage monitor. Aries performed a missile dropkick for a two count. TJP blocked a Last Chancery attempt, the cut off Aries on the top rope.
[Q10] TJP had Aries in the tree of woe and worked over his left knee heading into a break. [C] TJP remained in control and continued to target the bad knee. Aries came back with a suicide dive. Aries worked over TJP with some of his signature offense and got a two count off an elbow to the back from the second rope.
Aries went for the five-arm, but TJP caught him with a kick to the knee. TJP set up for a Detonation Kick, but Aries avoided it and countered into the Last Chancery and got the submission win. TJP clipped the bad knee afterward and then applied the kneebar…
Austin Aries defeated TJ Perkins in 11:25.
Powell’s POV: Good work from the wrestlers, very little reaction from the crowd, though they did come to life with some boos for Perkins after the post match attack.
Finn Balor was walking backstage when Ambrose approached him with a mic and asked if he was nervous about the biggest match he’s had since returning. Balor said he produces results and the IC Title will be coming to Balor Club. Ambrose handed him a donut and said, “For the love of God, man, eat a carb.” He said it was like there was a vein in Balor’s stomach. Balor took a bite and walked off. “The Drifter” Elias Samson played the guitar while Ambrose nodded along. Ambrose asked if he knew any Pearl Jam, but Samson kept walking and playing the same song. “I like it,” Ambrose said… [C]
[Q11] [C] Backstage, Goldust and R-Truth tried to sell Angle on “The Golden Quest.” Goldust said it would be the big hit of the spring. Angle said he couldn’t give them a tag title match because their won/loss record wasn’t good enough. Goldust said Angle has lit a fire under them and they just need a chance to prove they can be great again. Angle said they would have a tag team turmoil match next week to determine the number one contenders to the Raw Tag Titles. Goldust and Truth thanked Angle…
The broadcast team set up footage of Kurt Angle wishing Chris Jericho well in his move to Smackdown. Angle said this may be the best Chris Jericho he has seen…
Ring entrances for the main event took place starting with Balor… [C] The Miz and Maryse were out next, followed by Seth Rollins…
[Q12] 6. Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins vs. The Miz (w/Maryse) to become No. 1 contender to the Intercontinental Championship. Cole noted that Booker is a former IC Champ and asked him to describe the importance of the title. He said everyone knows your name and you are in line for a future world title shot somewhere down the road.
Miz rolled to ringside to star the match. Eventually, Rollins and Balor chased him and ended up surrounding him in the ring. Miz begged off and tried to talk Balor into joining forces. When that failed, he made the same offer to Rollins. No luck for Miz. Later, Miz hid behind Maryse to avoid moves from both opponents. However, he got cocky and Rollins dove from the ring and onto him. Miz ended up pushing Rollins off the top rope to the floor heading into a break. [C]
Footage aired of a triple clothesline spot from during the break. Balor worked over Miz while Rollins sold at ringside. Miz caught Balor with a knee to the gut and played to the crowd for heat. Rollins returned to the match with a springboard dive at Balor. He took a really rough landing, but he popped right up. The broadcast team was legit frightened for him and marveled over him getting back to his feet so quickly.
Rollins carried on and then held the arm at his side and sold it. Balor worked over both men and cleared both men from the ring. Balor kicked Miz in the face from the apron, then ran around ringside and dropkicked Rollins into the barricade. Inside the ring, Balor performed a reverse DDT and covered him, but Miz broke it up.
[Overrun] Miz picked up a good near fall off a DDT on Rollins, who sold his bad knee after having Miz kick it. Miz targeted the knee and applied a figure four. Balor returned and threw a phantom kick at Miz, who ducked early. Rollins came back and scored a near fall on Balor off a superkick.
Rollins performed a frogsplash on Balor for a two count. Rollins superplexed Miz and then went right into the Falcon Arrow for another great near fall. Rollins performed suicide dives on both men. Samoa Joe showed up at ringside and performed a uranage on Rollins while Cole pointed out that Triple Threat matches are no DQs.
Balor caught Miz with a sling blade clothesline, a running dropkick, and then went to the ropes for his finisher. The Wyatt video flashed. Bray Wyatt showed up on the apron and shoved Balor down. Wyatt hit Balor with Sister Abigail. The Wyatt video flashed again and Wyatt was gone. Miz covered Balor for the win…
The Miz defeated Seth Rollins and Finn Balor in 21:50 to become No. 1 contender to the Intercontinental Championship.
Powell’s POV: A very good match that had the live crowd rocking. The interference sets things on the expected course with Ambrose vs. Miz, Rollins vs. Joe, and Balor vs. Wyatt, but it was a fun road to those matches and closed the show on a hot note. It wasn’t the hottest three-hour show, but they were missing some key players without Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman. I will have more to say about Raw in my audio review and WWE Raw Hit List tomorrow. Be sure to check out the Ross Report podcast on Tuesday night for my appearance with Jim Ross.