By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live on May 21, 2018 from Albany, New York at Times Union Center
[Hour One] Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Jonathan Coachman were on commentary. Cole said it was a historic night and then turned it over to Graves, who hyped a contract signing between Nia Jax and Ronda Rousey. Coachman hyped the Sami Zayn segment with Bobby Lashley’s sisters…
Raw general manager Kurt Angle made his entrance. Angle hyped the contract signing between Jax and Rousey. He also announced a four-way Money in the Bank qualifier with Natalya and… Before Angle could finish, he was interrupted by the entrance music of Raw commissioner Stephanie McMahon. Cole noted that it was her first Raw appearance since Rousey injured her arm on Raw the night after WrestleMania.
Stephanie said that what happened at WrestleMania was water under the bridge as far as her relationship with Angle is concerned. She said she is a leader and a business person who will always do what’s best for business. The fans chanted, “you tapped out.” She silenced them by saying it’s true that she tapped out and she’s forgiven everything.
Steph said Angle lets his emotions get in the way at times, so she said she would replace Angle in presiding over the contract signing between Jax and Rousey. Stephanie said Angle has been giving far too much latitude to Roman Reigns and it needs to end.
Roman Reigns made his entrance to a mixed reaction. Cole said there were rumors that Reigns was having issues with management. They spoke about Reigns spearing Jinder Mahal through a wall last week. Cole said there may be consequences for interrupting Stephanie. Reigns entered the ring as Cole spoke about how Reigns feels he’s the uncrowned WWE Universal Champion.
Reigns said that if Steph was going to say something about him then she should say it to him. Steph said she didn’t understand his hostility. She said that if he was going to continue to let his Samoan temper get the best of him then he might have to find a new line of work. “Maybe you should watch your tone when you talk to me,” Reigns said. He threatened to take his Samoan temper and go backstage and destroy all of her favorite superstars. Stephanie said she doesn’t play favorites.
Reigns brought up Brock Lesnar. Stephanie said they’ve heard every word he’s said and she took it to her father. “Cut the corporate crap,” Reigns told her. He said they don’t want him anywhere near the WWE Universal Championship or the Money in the Bank ladder match. Stephanie pointed out that he lost and told him to take it up with Mahal. “I already did,” Reigns said.
Kevin Owens’ music played and he made his entrance. Owens said it’s time for Reigns to hear the truth about how people feel about them. Owens said he really likes Reigns, which drew some boos. Owens encouraged the crowd to chant, “Thank you, Roman.” He told Reigns he tried. Owens said he is living proof of Stephanie not playing favorites given his own history with her father and brother. Owens put his arm on Steph’s shoulder and said she knows talent when she sees it. Stephanie told him not to touch her ever again. Stephanie booked Owens vs. Reigns as the opening match… [C]
Powell’s POV: There was no mention of the Reigns vs. Owens match being for the Money in the Bank spot that Owens won last week. Of course, they could still get there by having Reigns win tonight and then announcing a rematch with that stipulation next week. Owens trying to lead the crowd in chanting for Reigns was hilarious. The tease of “major announcements” from Angle was nothing more a way to set up the surprise appearance of Stephanie. Even so, the hook of having her preside over Rousey’s contract signing is a good one.
1. Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens. The match was joined in progress. Reigns controlled the bulk of the offense for the first five minutes, but he missed a Drive By and then took a kick to the face from Owens heading into a break. [C] Reigns got a near fall of a Superman Punch. They went to ringside where Reigns speared Owens. Jinder Mahal showed up and attacked Reigns from behind for the apparent DQ.
Roman Reigns beat Kevin Owens by apparent DQ in roughly 13:00.
After the match, Mahal, Sunil Singh, and Owens worked over Reigns. Seth Rollins ran out and cleared the heels from the ring… [C]
Powell’s POV: A solid television match that ate up a lot of time. The crowd was really hot for Rollins making the save.
2. Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens and Jinder Mahal (w/Sunil Singh). This match was joined in progress too. Cole said it was made official during the commercial break. Mahal had his ribs taped, presumably to sell the Reigns’ spear from last week. The heels isolated Reigns for a few minutes. Owens got a near fall on Reigns heading into a break. [C]
The heel duo continued to work over Reigns in the corner coming out of the break. Rollins finally took a hot tag and worked over the heels and performed suicide dives on both men. Rollins set up for the Stomp on Mahal, but he was distracted by Singh. Mahal capitalized with a nice gutbuster for a nice near fall. Rollins took another gutbuster from Owens, but Reigns broke up the pin. In the end, Owens avoided one Stomp, but then Rollins a Stomp on the second try on Owens and pinned him…
Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins beat Kevin Owens and Jinder Mahal in 14:00.
After the match, Rollins and Reigns went to the stage and looked back to the fans. Mahal popped out and struck both men with a chair to the back. Mahal then focussed on Reigns by hitting him a few more times with the chair. After Mahal headed backstage, Rollins returned to the stage to check on Reigns. The fans cheered. Roman’s music played. The fans booed…
Powell’s POV: The bulk of the match was Reigns selling for the heels. They worked up to Rollins tagging in and it was hot from that point on. All signs point to them going with Reigns vs. Mahal at Money in the Bank. I am looking forward to seeing how the Chicago crowd reacts. My guess is they cheer Mahal, but I can’t rule out the possibility that they completely turn on the match.
The broadcast team spoke as they stood behind their desk. They setup footage from Bobby Lashley’s bizarre interview about his sisters… Graves hyped Sami Zayn interviewing Lashley’s three sisters in the ring… [C]
Coachman announced that Reigns vs. Mahal is official for Money in the Bank…
[Hour Two] Sami Zayn hosted the interview with Lashley’s sisters. Zayn said Lashley’s interview about his sisters was not entirely accurate. He said therefore he will expose Lashley and his lies. Zayn introduced the sisters. Three men came out dressed in drag and one of them had a mustache. The crowd was silent.
Zayn interviewed “Cathy” about the broom story. Cathy claimed she had to use the broom as self defense against Bobby. “Frances” (mustache) said she wore a helmet as protection from Bobby slamming his knuckles over her head. “Jessica” said she carried a towel everywhere because Bobby made her cry and tissues weren’t enough. The sisters claimed Bobby’s parents didn’t like him and had to call the cops on him.
Bobby Lashley made his entrance and was all smiles as he played to the crowd. He stopped and slapped hands with kids at ringside. Lashley entered the ring and acted impressed by his sisters while intimidating them. Lashley told Zayn he is a great friend and he loved it. Zayn asked if Lashley would like it more if he Helluva Kicked him in the face and threw him out of the ring like the garbage his family thinks he is.
Lashley’s face turned serious and he approached Zayn. The “sisters” attacked Lashley from behind and held him while Zayn took a shot at him. Lashley broke free and clotheslined all three sisters. He waved the towel and looked to the crowd, which received no reaction. Lashley dumped the sisters over the top rope and received a mild reaction…
Powell’s POV: Painfully awful. Zayn did the best he could with this mess, but the live crowd was bored to silence and eventually a few boos. NBCU and Fox executives should ask for a few million to be knocked off the television rights price after watching this segment alone.
The broadcast team set up footage from the lame angle from the NBC Upfronts with Jax offering Rousey a title shot… Ember Moon made her entrance. Cole said she would face Alexa Bliss after the break… [C]
Renee Young interviewed Bliss backstage before she made her entrance…
3. Alexa Bliss (w/Mickie James) vs. Ember Moon. Bliss used a James distraction at ringside to fling Moon shoulder first into the barricade early on. [C] James entered the ring and took off her shoe. The referee caught her and she acted innocent only to be ejected from ringside. Moon punched her. Bliss rolled up Moon and held her tights for a two count. A short time later, Moon hit the Eclipse for the win…
Ember Moon defeated Alexa Bliss in 8:40.
Stephanie was shown backstage smelling a rose from a gift basket. Finn Balor and Braun Strowman showed up seeking a rematch against Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler. Stephanie said they’re not a tag team and they’ll actually be competing against each other at Money in the Bank. Steph tried to stir the pot by saying Balor might blame Strowman for coming up short in the tag match. She booked them in a singles match against one another for later in the show. Strowman, who grabbed an apple from the gift basket, squished it in his hand and said, “I like competition”…
No Way Jose and the Rosebud Rejects made their entrance while Cole hyped Jose’s match against Baron Corbin for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: I’m still trying to regain any sense of interest in this show following that Lashley sisters segment. Anyway, a nice clean win for Moon over the former Raw Women’s Champion. Meanwhile, I’m happy they’re not going with a tag team rematch. The heel duo don’t need to give their win back and they should save Strowman vs. McIntyre for when it matters as a singles match somewhere down the road.
4. Baron Corbin vs. No Way Jose. Graves said Corbin collects human skulls. Cole confirmed he told them that earlier in the day. Corbin won clean with End of Days…
Baron Corbin defeated No Way Jose in 4:10.
Powell’s POV: Human skulls? Can this show get any weirder?
Backstage, Angle was messing with his phone. Chad Gable approached and said he was looking for Angle in his office. Angle said he let Stephanie have his office, but it’s okay because he liked being wherever he was because it was quiet. He complained that the cell service sucks. McIntyre and Ziggler showed up and boasted about beating Strowman and Balor. McIntyre said they would love to do it again, but apparently it’s over Angle’s pay grade. Gable said they think they’re special. “Because we are,” McIntyre told him. Ziggler said he doesn’t wait for a handout. Gable said he doesn’t and challenged him. Angle said they would settle it in the ring…
“The B-Team” Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas made their entrance. They crowd didn’t react despite the fact that the London crowd rallied behind them last week… [C] Breezango made their entrance after the break. Footage aired of their review of the B-Team’s fashion. They mocked the B-Team shirts and praised their own new shirts…
5. Fandango and Tyler Breeze vs. “The B-Team” Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas. In the end, Axel and Dallas hit a double team move on Fandango and then Axel pinned him. They celebrated like they won the Stanley Cup in the ring and then took the celebration to the broadcast table. Dallas took one of the chairs and sat on it, then Axel climbed on and they rode it to ringside…
The B-Team beat Fandango and Tyler Breeze in 1:40.
The contract signing is up next… [C]
Powell’s POV: The crowd has been flat ever since the Lashley sisters segment and this wasn’t enough to bring them back. The over the top celebration was fun and I still believe the B-Team has a chance to click as a fun mid-card tag team.
Stephanie McMahon stood in the ring by the contract signing table and chairs. Stephanie introduced Nia Jax first. Jax was all smiles and walked to the ring carrying the Raw Women’s Championship.
[Hour Three] Stephanie excitedly introduced Ronda Rousey, who slapped hands as she made her way to the ring. “Hey, Steph,” Rousey said. Stephanie said hello and pointed out where her chair was located. Rousey asked about her arm. Stephanie smiled and said it’s great. Both women sat down. Stephanie asked how Rousey feels about leapfrogging more deserving women.
Rousey said she knew what Stephanie was trying to do. She said Jax challenged her. Stephanie said Jax challenged her to make a name for herself and Jax also knows that Rousey has never competed in a singles match in WWE. “You, my friend, are ripe for the picking,” Stephanie said. She added that there are no weight divisions in WWE. She said Jax is bigger, stronger, and more powerful than Rousey. Stephanie said Rousey doesn’t like to lose and would leave WWE forever if Jax beat her, which would make Jax the baddest woman on the planet.
Stephanie moved to Rousey’s side of the table and started questioning why it took Jax so long to defeat Alexa Bliss. She asked if Rousey knows that Jax relied too much on her power and is lazy. She asked Jax how long it will take Rousey to apply the armbar. Stephanie moved to Jax’s side of the table and questioned whether Rousey could even apply the armbar on Jax. Stephanie asked Rousey if she could apply the hold.
“No!” Jax shouted. Jax stood up and said she’s can’t apply the armbar on her. She said she’s sick of hearing the lazy crap. She said she would beat Rousey at Money in the Bank, then signed the contract. Rousey stood up and signed the contract. Rousey turned the table sideways and picked up a mic and approached Jax. She said she’s happy the truth came out. “But that’s okay,” she said. Rousey offered Jax a handshake. Jax accepted. “Because I am going to take your title… and your arm” Rousey added. They had an intense staredown while Stephanie could be seen smirking…
The broadcast team hyped a pair of previously advertised matches… [C]
Powell’s POV: A good segment with WWE wisely leaning on Stephanie McMahon to handle the bulk of the mic work. Stephanie played her pot stirring promoter role perfectly. Rousey came off well with her brief comments on intensity.
6. Dolph Ziggler (w/Drew McIntyre) vs. Chad Gable. Neither wrestler received a televised entrance and the match was once again joined in progress. Late in the match, Ziggler headbutted Gable coming out of a rope break. Ziggler followed up with a superkick for the win. After the match, McIntyre picked up Gable and gave him a Claymore Kick…
Dolph Ziggler beat Chad Gable in roughly 4:30.
Graves hyped the four-way women’s MITB qualifier… [C]
Powell’s POV: Another week closer to McIntyre blasting Ziggler with that Claymore Kick. Okay, so I have no idea when they will pull the trigger and I’m actually all for them trying to rebuild Ziggler, but I have no idea why this team exists when there is immediate money in McIntyre as a singles act.
7. Liv Morgan vs. Sarah Logan vs. Dana Brooke vs. Natalya in a four-way Money in the Bank qualifier. Brooke’s entrance was not televised. Ruby Riott was at ringside for Morgan and Logan. They aired photos of Natalya and Rousey together on the European tour and noted that they teamed together.
With Natalya and Brooke at ringside, Morgan and Logan looked at the MITB briefcases and then at one another. They laughed and then went after Natalya rather than fight one another. Logan threw double knees at Natalya and blasted Brooke with a forearm before running her through the ropes and into the post. However, Natalya put her in the Sharpshooter and got the submission win…
Natalya defeated Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan, and Dana Brooke in a four-way in 4:00 to qualify for the Women’s Money in the Bank match.
Afterward, Charly Caruso entered the ring and congratulated Natalya for entering her third MITB match. She asked if experience is the key for her. Natalya said is is along with having Rousey as her training partner. Natalya said Rousey would be the Raw Women’s Champion and she would become Ms. Money in the Bank…
Graves hyped Bobby Roode vs. Elias (yes, again)… [C]
Powell’s POV: The mad scramble to make Rousey and Natalya seem like besties continues, this time via photos from Europe. Logan had a couple of impressive moments in the match. Hey, maybe heel Elias can bring this crowd back from the dead.
Ring announcer JoJo introduced Elias, who played his guitar in the ring. Elias boasted that the WWE stock has risen at 150 percent since he arrived in the company. He said it’s trading at an all-time high and there’s no such thing as coincidence. He said NBC Universal and everyone else knows what WWE stands for. The fans filled in the “Walk With Elias” part. He played a song that consisted of him saying “I love Elias” and the fans saying “Yes, I do.” Elias finished the song and said it feels good to be loved. “Now let me make one thing clear, I do not feel the same way about any of you,” he said. Awesome. Elias spoke about visiting great locations in Europe and now being in “a dump called Albany.” Bobby Roode made his entrance…
8. Elias vs. Bobby Roode. As Roode was doing his pre-match bit, Elias attacked him from behind. The ref called him off and eventually started the match once Roode was ready. Roode threw his robe at Elias and then worked him over. Roode clotheslined Elias going into a break less than a minute into the match. [C] Roode played up a knee injury after leaping off the ropes and landing on his feet. Roode slowly climbed the ropes. Elias cut him off and hit Drift Away for the win…
Elias defeated Bobby Roode in 8:30.
Powell’s POV: Elias did the trick. The live crowd was up for his musical bit and I love the way he pulled the rug out from under them at the end. The match started in a fun and energetic way, so why cut to commercial less than a minute in?
Elias was walking backstage after his win when Braun Strowman’s entrance music played. Strowman came out and gave Elias a shoulder block on the stage and then headed to the ring for his match… [C]
Cole announced Rollins vs. Mahal for the Intercontinental Championship for next week. Graves announced a Last Chance Women’s MITB qualifying match gauntlet match featuring all of the women who came up short previously. They showed Sasha Banks, Sarah Logan, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Mickie James, Bayley, and Dana Brooke on the graphic… Finn Balor made his entrance for the main event…
9. Braun Strowman vs. Finn Balor. Strowman put Balor down early and barked, “You got pinned last week.” Not what he holds a grudge or anything. Balor targeted the knee of Strowman, who shook it off and punted him to ringside. Strowman followed and tossed him back inside the ring. Strowman pointed at the MITB briefcases hanging above the ring and said “That’s mine” before punching Balor in the gut.
[Overrun] Balor sent Strowamn to ringside and went for a kick from the apron, but Strowman knocked him down again. Back in the ring, Strowman clubbed Balor in the chest with a forearm and asked if he’d had enough. Strowman told Balor he was doing playing with him. Balor punched Strowman, who fired back with a shot of his own. Balor went back to ringside. Strowman ran around the ring for a shoulder block, but Balor caught him with a sling blade clothesline.
Balor followed up with a running dropkick that sent Strowman tumbling over the barricade. Balor leaned with his back to the barricade. Strowman emerged monster style behind him, but Balor caught him with a kick. Balor delivered a double stomp off the apron to the back of Strowman. Balor performed a leap of the barricade and double stomped Strowman on the floor.
Strowman returned to the ring to beat the ref’s count. Balor charged at Strowman, who knocked him down with a shoulder block. Strowman ran Balor into the corner and charged. Balor moved and Strowman crashed into the post. Balor delivered a running dropkick to the head. Balor went up top for his finisher, but Strowman recovered and grabbed him by the troat and brought him back down to the mat. Strowman slammed Balor and followed up with his running powerslam for the clean win…
Braun Strowman defeated Finn Balor in 10:35.
After the match, Strowman scooped up Balor, but in a sign of respect he set him in the corner on his feet rather than deliver another powerslam. Strowman played to the crowd while Balor sold in the corner to end the show…
Powell’s POV: An entertaining match. It was laid out to give Strowman the vast majority of the early offense with Balor coming back with a late flurry only to have Strowman win decisively in the end. The broadcast team was quick to praise the effort of Balor and I like the sign of respect from Strowman after the match.
Overall, this was a rough show. The main event and the contract signing were the highlights. There were a couple of other decent moments, but the crowd was flat for a long time following that dreadful Lashley sisters skit. And while that segment was obviously atrocious, it’s not like it was completely to blame. A big problem continues to be the shortage of heels who fans view as serious threats to the top babyfaces on Raw. Let me know what you thought of the show by grading the show on the main page. I will be by with a members’ exclusive audio review later tonight and with the Raw Hit List on Tuesday. Join Jake Barnett for live coverage of Smackdown on Tuesday night
Check out my interview with Conrad Thompson of the “Something to Wrestle With… Bruce Prichard” podcast in the latest Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell below.