By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live on June 11, 2018 from North Little Rock, Arkansas at Verizon Arena
[Hour One] Raw opened with the Raw male and female Money in the Bank ladder match participants standing on ladders that were set up in the ring. Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Jonathan Coachman were on commentary. Some or all of the wrestlers had microphones in hand. Raw general manager Kurt Angle made his entrance.
Angle stood on the stage and hyped the MITB event and labeled the MITB ladder match the most grueling in history. He said it has its rewards because the winners can cash in anytime for for a title shot. Baron Corbin made his entrance with a shaved head and wearing regular clothing. He noted that he’s the constable and he represents Stephanie McMahon and was there to make sure the show ran smoothly.
Angle said he would be happy if the MITB contracts came back to Raw. Corbin said Stephanie wouldn’t be happy if they contracts didn’t come back to Raw. “And we don’t want to upset Stephanie, do we?” he asked. The women started bickering over which one of them would win the MITB match. Angle interrupted them and noted that Natalya had been medically cleared, but he wanted to make sure she was able to go in MITB. She said she was ready and wanted to win MITB on the same night her friend Ronda Rousey won the Raw Women’s Championship.
Owens started complaining about Strowman having an advantage because he’s taller than the rest of them. He the briefcase hung at a different level for Strowman. Angle said it would be the same for everyone. Owens praised Corbin’s haircut in hopes of getting his way. Strowman barked that he would win the contract and cash in on Lesnar. The men started bickering.
Alexa Bliss screamed until the men stopped talking. Bliss said her Mixed Match Challenge partner Strowman would win the men’s match. Sasha Banks said her MMC partner Finn Balor would win. Balor picked Banks to win. The men and women bickered until Strowman yelled enough. He said someone would “get these hands” on Sunday…
Cole hyped the men’s and women’s four-way matches involving the MITB entrants… [C]
Powell’s POV: First off, as a fellow bald guy, welcome to the party, Constable Corbin. Owens kept the segment entertaining, but the idea of the eight wrestlers bickering while standing on ladders was corny and didn’t do anything for me. The build to this event has been so drawn out that I’ve reached the point that I just want MITB to get here so we can move forward next week. I’m sure I’ll enjoy the actual event, but I’m more than ready for the build to end.
1. Ember Moon vs. Natalya vs. Sasha Banks vs. Alexa Bliss in a four-way. Cole played up Natalya’s “legitimate knee injury” next week. Natalya had her knee wrapped. Bliss sold the hamstring injury that she feigned last week. She left the ring, but Natalya was at ringside and ran her into the barricade. Bliss returned to the match and tried unsuccessfully to steal a pin heading into a break. [C]
They did a tower of doom spot with Natalya powerbombing Banks and Moon while Bliss remained on top. Natalya sold knee pain and rolled to ringside. Bliss went for Twisted Bliss, but Banks put her knees up heading into another break. [C]
Natalya continued to sell left knee issues with nearly everything she did. Moon put her down and then went up top and hit the Eclipse. Bliss took Moon to ringside and ran her into the steps. Bliss returned to the ring and covered Natalya, but Banks broke it up. A short time later, Natalya put Bliss in the Sharpshooter and got the submission win…
Natalya defeated Alexa Bliss, Ember Moon, and Sasha Banks in a four-way in 21:10.
Powell’s POV: A strong match with good work from all four women. That said, the four-way matches are the same “momentum” matches we’ve been seeing for weeks. In other words, they feel rather pointless since nothing is at stake. This match may have served as a preview of the MITB match in more than one way. Obviously, the four women involved will be in the MITB match, but they also took the approach of having two women sell at ringside while two women fought in the ring for the majority of the match, and I assume we’ll see quite a bit of ringside selling on Sunday too.
The broadcast team emphasized the “very special start time” which is the new start time for all non-Big 4 events. They discussed some of the other matches on the card…
Backstage, Kevin Owens offered Finn Balor some olives by noting that he loves that “healthy, gluten-free crap.” Owens tried to sell Balor on the idea of getting Bobby Roode to join them in taking out Braun Strowman in their four-way match so that he didn’t make it to MITB…
Graves hyped Roman Reigns vs. Jinder Mahal for later in the show. Coachman hyped Ronda Rousey and Nia Jax going face to face later in the show… [C]
2. Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler vs. Fandango and Tyler Breeze. At 2:45, McIntyre powerbombed Breeze onto the back of Fandango, who was on all fours at the time. McIntyre and Ziggler hit their finisher on Fandango moments later and then Ziggler got the win for his team…
Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler beat Fandango and Tyler Breeze in 3:15.
After the match, Ziggler took the mic and said their loss in the tag team battle royal was a fluke. McIntyre said Breeze and Fandango were proof of that. Ziggler said they’re not just hype. He pointed at Breeze and Fandango and told the other tag teams that “this is your future.” McIntyre said they will take out every other team…
Powell’s POV: Man, I was really hoping that McIntyre was going to blast Ziggler with a Claymore Kick as punishment for costing them the battle royal last week. They’re a solid tag team and all, but McIntyre is more than ready to be a player as a singles wrestler.
Roman Reigns was interviewed by Charly Caruso backstage about his match with Jinder Mahal. Reigns was asked if he was surprised that Mahal wanted to face him six days before their match at MITB. “No, Jinder’s an idiot,” Reigns replied. Reigns noted that Mahal is only reason he’s not in the MITB ladder match. Cole hyped Reigns vs. Mahal for after the break… [C]
Cole noted that Brock Lesnar set the new record for longest WWE World or Universal Title reign at 435 days. Graves noted that people have pointed out that Lesnar hasn’t defended the title as often as people would like. Graves said Lesnar is a prize fighter and Paul Heyman is a promotional genius…
Powell’s POV: They must have “forgotten” to mention that CM Punk held the previous record. That’s strange because Graves sure seemed to remember Punk over the weekend.
Jinder Mahal made his entrance and cut a promo until he was interrupted by the entrance music of Roman Reigns, who received more cheers than boos.
[Hour Two] Just as the match was about to start, Sunil Singh handed Mahal the mic. Mahal said Roman’s own failures are starting to cloud his judgement. “Oh, you thought you were going to face me tonight?” Mahal asked. He introduced Roman’s opponent as “The Great… Sunil Singh.” Singh looked surprised…
3. Roman Reigns vs. Sunil Singh. Reigns punched Mahal off the ring apron. Reigns won quickly after a spear. Mahal attacked Reigns from behind after the match and left him lying…
Roman Reigns pinned Sunil Singh in 1:15.
Coachman hyped that he would be in the ring with Rousey and Jax later in the show… [C]
Powell’s POV: A basic angle designed to put heat on Mahal heading into a match where the host city’s fans will never cheer his babyface opponent.
The broadcast team set up a sponsored recap of the tag team battle royal from last week…
4. Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas vs. Heath Slater and Rhyno. Slater wore a t-shirt that read, “Rhyno Made This”. Dallas and Axel hit a double team neckbreaker on Slater, and Axel pinned him for the win…
Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas beat Heath Slater and Rhyno in 1:50.
After the match, Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy appeared on the big screen and were clapping for Axel and Dallas. Hardy said it was marvelous. “We’re here,” Wyatt said. The duo appeared on the stage. Wyatt told Axel and Dallas that they are surrounded by fireflies. Hardy said they will eat them and delete them. Axel and Dallas looked intimidated…
Powell’s POV: This was bad. I don’t get what they are going for. The B-Team is a fun underdog duo that’s finally getting some wins, but apparently fans are still supposed to view them as the heels. This isn’t helping Hardy and Wyatt either, as I don’t get the feeling that the live crowds know how to react to any of this.
Backstage, Elias said he was going to do his best, but he’s not used to performing in front of a bunch of Arkansas hillbillies. He strummed his guitar while the broadcast team sent the show to break… [C]
A graphic noted that footage from over 10 different promotions is available on WWE Network…
Elias played his guitar in the ring and told the crowd they are seeing a once in a lifetime performer and his final performance before he becomes Intercontinental Champion. The fans booed, then yelled along when he led them in the Walk With Elias bit. Rollins sang a song about Seth Rollins having the worst nickname around and worked in an insult about the host city.
Elias swapped out guitars and was air bushed for him with his name and the IC Title on it. He claimed it was given to him by John Mayer. He raved about how it was a custom made thing of beauty. Elias said he would play the guitar next week and would have the IC Title around his waist.
Seth Rollins made his entrance and quickly cleared Elias from the ring. Rollins took the mic and told him to stop being such a coward. Rollins said he was begging for a fight. Rollins said he really wants to like Elias because he can do it all and he has a cool thing going.
Rollins looked at the custom guitar in the corner. Fans picked up on it and started chanting Yes. Elias started saying off mic that he would come get the guitar. Rollins said he wanted a closer look. Rollins picked it up and said it was really nice and he would hate to see it go to waste. Rollins suggested they have a charity auction on the spot. Rollins acted like he was going to leave the guitar alone. Rollins teased stomping it while Elias pleaded with him from ringside. Rollins stomped the guitar, then picked it up and acted like he was playing it…
Powell’s POV: A fun segment with Elias drawing good heat and then Rollins working up the crowd before destroying the guitar. I’m looking forward to their IC Title match on Sunday.
Bobby Roode was checking himself out in the mirror when Kevin Owens showed up and made his pitch about working together to take out Strowman in the four-way match. Roode looked like he was considering it after Owens walked away…
Bayley made her entrance. A shot aired of Riott Squad walking backstage. They threw a box of chips and other items around. Riott stopped and cut the necktie off a guy who acted taken aback by their behavior… [C]
Powell’s POV: There’s no word yet as to whether Riott Squad’s antics passed the Corey Graves punk rock test.
5. Bayley vs. Ruby Riott (w/Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan). There was an odd spot where the Riott Squad members were huddled on the floor. Bayley went for a move under the bottom rope and came up short. Riott grabbed her leg and didn’t sell it, but Bayley came right back with a side suplex on the floor. [C]
Late in the match, Morgan and Logan both distracted Bayley. Riott recovered and whipped Bayley through the ropes and into the post. Riott followed up with a Riott Kick and scored the win. Afterward, Riott pulled out a marker and drew on Bayley’s face and chest, then drew an R on her abdomen…
Ruby Riott beat Bayley in 11:25.
Backstage, Natalya told Ronda Rousey that Nia Jax was trying to prove a point and she is capable of anything. Rousy said she would be ready. Coachman said he was heading to the ring and their segment was up next… [C]
Powell’s POV: A match that filled a decent amount of time even if it felt like filler in that there was no storyline purpose behind the match. The new bit at the end with Riott drawing on Bayley struck me as being more than a one-off gimmick.
An ad for Smackdown hyped Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the first time ever in a singles match…
Coachman stood in the ring with three office chairs. He introduced Ronda Rousey first and she entered to a positive fan reaction.
[Hour Three] Cole noted that Rousey will be entering the UFC Hall of Fame in July. Coachman introduced Nia Jax, who came out wearing her own t-shirt. Coachman and the women sat down on the office chairs. Jax admitted to purposely hitting Rousey’s buttons over the last few weeks just to see how she would react. Jax said Rousey is beautiful and has a huge following, she is still very new in WWE. She said the rules are very different in WWE compared to UFC and Strikeforce and offered some flawed examples.
Rousey said she doesn’t game plan, she improves. “And I’m going to improvise your arm off,” Rousey said. She added that she is confident and has earned that right. Jax said pointed out that Rousey’s one match resulted in a victory of a part-time businesswoman. Jax said that since Rousey wanted to take her arm, she would take her reputation and then be known as the baddest woman on the planet.
Jax said she knows she’ll beat Rousey and that’s why she challenged her. “At the end of the day, you’re just not ready,” Jax said. Rousey stood up and pointed out various times she proved people wrong when they said she wasn’t ready for something. She said people claimed she wasn’t ready to be UFC Champion and now she’s going into the Hall of Fame. “I am Ronda Rousey and I was born ready,” Rousey said.
Jax stood up and held up her title belt in front of Rousey. Jax tired to throw a punch, but Rousey blocked it and held her arm. Jax headbutted Rousey. Graves said that’s not legal in UFC but it is in WWE. Rousey applied an armbar. Jax blocked it and powered up Rousey and slammed her down. Rousey maintained the hold and broke Jax’s block. Jax immediately tapped out. Graves said we know that Rousey can apply the hold on Jax and that changes everything. Cole questioned what that does psychologically for both women…
A shot aired of Curt Hawkins backstage. No Way Jose and the Rosebud Rejects conga danced by him while Cole pimped an article about what drives a man who has lost 200 consecutive losses… [C] An ad aired for the Hardys: Woken special that will follow MITB. It included Impact footage at one point and the GWN graphic was displayed on the corner of the screen…
Powell’s POV: A decent segment that made Rousey look strong heading into the title match.
Cole hyped some blonde woman’s appearance on Undercover Boss for Friday night on CBS…
Powell’s POV: Wait, that’s Stephanie McMahon?!? That cheap wig and glasses really fooled no one.
6. No Way Jose vs. Curt Hawkins. Jose made his entrance and then Hawkins’ music played. Hawkins didn’t come out. Instead, he appeared in the ring dressed up like one of the conga dancers and went for a rollup. Jose escaped and scored the popup punch for the win…
No Way Jose beat Curt Hawkins in 0:27.
Powell’s POV: You had to know something was up when it looked like Hawkins was going to get a televised entrance.
Backstage, Balor approached Roode and asked if Owens spoke with him too. Roode confirmed he did and then asked if Balor trusted him. Balor said no, but he questioned whether it was a smarter play to go with the devil you know or the monster among men. Roode said maybe they should keep one eye on Owens. Balor said he would keep one eye on Owens and one eye on Roode…
The production crew was shown setting up an obstacle course that Sami Zayn had come up with for Bobby Lashley. The broadcast team set up a video package on one of the female athletes who will compete in the Special Olympics… [C]
Renee Young stood on the stage where the U.S. and various flags were positioned along with the ladder set for MITB. Young introduced Zayn and asked why he challenged Lashley to the obstacle course. Zayn recalled asking if Lashley was ever in the Army. Zayn said people bombarded him with pictures and records of Lashley in the Army. Zayn said he couldn’t validate what they sent him, so the only way he’ll believe Lashley was in the Army is if he could run the Army-style course faster than him.
Zayn walked viewers through the course, which included a tire on the stage, a low crawl, three walls, a horizontal ladder, and a rope climb. Zayn claimed he ran the course in 90 seconds earlier in the day despite having an injured right hand. Young introduced Lashley and then handled the coin toss to determine who would run first.
Lashley lost the toss and had to run first. They had an image of Sgt. Slaughter on the timer graphic shown on the big screen. Lashley ran the course in 45 seconds. Zayn attacked him from behind. He waited for Lashley to get up and then blasted him with a Helluva Kick. Several referees came out to keep Zayn away from Lashley…
Powell’s POV: A silly segment that put some heat on Zayn. It’s probably not going to matter since it wouldn’t be surprising if the Chicago crowd cheers Zayn over “Smiling” Bobby on Sunday.
Backstage, Owens tried to come up with a strategy for taking out Strowman, but Balor and Roode weren’t playing along. Strowman showed up and said: “I’ve got a great idea. Why don’t the three of you team up on me?” Strowman laughed and then let out a primal scream. Graves said the match was up next… [C]
Ring entrances for the main event took place. The broadcast team also hyped some MITB matches…
7. Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor vs. Bobby Roode in a four-way. Strowman charged at Owens to start. He ended up roughing up all three opponents with ease during the opening minute, including a phantom punch to the chest of Balor. All three of Strowman’s opponents were down at ringside heading into a break. [C]
Owens, Balor, and Roode worked over Strowman briefly. He came back and worked them all over again. They ended up on the stage and Strowman continued to dominate. Strowman pushed a ladder over and then chased off the broadcast team from their desk, which he cleaned. Cole and company kept talking through their headsets from the floor just behind their part of the stage.
Owens, Balor, and Roode worked over Strowman again and placed him on the broadcast table. Owens went to the top of the ladder and frogsplashed Strowman through the broadcast table heading into the final commercial break of the night. [C]
[Overrun] Balor and Roode fought in the ring while Strowman and Owens were still down from the table spot. Balor had Roode down and started toward the top, but Owens returned and stopped him long enough for Roode to recover and crotch Balor. They did a tower of doom spot with Owens on bottom and Balor on top.
Strowman was shown getting to his feet on the stage and the crowd started to get fired up. Owens looked like he was on the verge of tears as Strowman limped toward the ring while holding his ribs. Balor and Roode went out to meet Strowman and they both took punches.
Strowman entered the ring while Owens fled. Strowman chased Owens into the crowd where Owens tripped. Strowman brought Owens back to ringside and clubbed his chest. Strowman delivered soft shoulderblocks on Balor and Roode and then hit a better one on Owens.
Balor tossed Owens back inside the ring and set up for his finisher, but Roode pulled Owens down. Strowman sandwiched them in the corner. Balor caught Strowman with a kick to the head and then double stomped his back. Balor charged toward Strowman, who shoulder blocked him. Strowman scooped up Balor, but Owens caught him with a superkick, Roode clipped his knee, and then Owens superkicked him again.
A short time later, Balor dropkicked Strowman into the corner and then hit his Coup de Grace finisher and got a good near fall that Roode broke up at the last moment. Roode tossed Balor to ringside and Balor’s hip hit the post on the way out. Roode hit a Glorious DDT on Strowman, but Owens broke it up. Owens frogsplashed Strowman and covered him for a near fall.
Owens pulled out a small ladder and rammed Strowman with it a couple times. Strowman stopped him the third time and then chokeslammed him. Strowman rubbed and pounded his injured ribs, then scooped up Owens and gave him a running powerslam on the ladder before pinning him…
Braun Strowman beat Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, and Bobby Roode in 25:55.
Powell’s POV: A strong main event. Nothing was at stake, but the story of three men trying to keep Strowman down at various points was entertaining and well executed. Some of the late near falls on Strowman were very good and they were believable due to the abuse that Strowman took. This easily the highlight of the night. Overall, though, I’m happy the build to Money in the Bank is almost over. They raced through the qualifying matches and it’s been a lot of wheel spinning “momentum” matches since then.
Check out the latest Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast below with Matt Koon joining me to discuss the future of CM Punk and much more.