WWE Monday Night Raw returns tonight from Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, featuring WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman meeting face to face, as well as all the latest build to the upcoming Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, which is just three weeks away.
Reigns’ music leads off the show, and Toronto’s not exactly happy to see him. Remember, this is where Bizarroworld was born. Must be why he’s getting booed. Reigns silently soaks in the negative response for a beat before calling Strowman out. Braun laughs at the audacity of Reigns calling himself a “workhorse” when The Shield bailed him out last week. Reigns responds by saying that Braun can lift other objects with his hands, but his own hands have listed every belt there is to offer. Reigns says Strowman can have a title match tonight, but Braun says he won’t, because Ambrose and Rollins will just interfere. So instead, he’s going to cash in inside Hell in a Cell on September 16. Wait, is Reigns a heel or not? Dolph “The Hammer” Zigglintine and McIntyre interrupt and talk about Shield interference and whatnot, and the Toronto crowd is oddly subdued. Apparently, we’re getting Ziggler/McIntyre vs. Reigns/Strowman, who are suddenly buddies? Interim GM Corbin interrupts, and at least he’s getting a response. So Corbin makes the PPV match, as well as the tag match for tonight. Strowman hitting the catchphrase gets a suddenly loud reaction. Ahh, they muted the crowd mics intermittently, I see. This was kind of a dead opening bit. Corbin also makes himself against the human version of Finn Balor, right now.
Finn Balor vs. Baron Corbin
Balor falls for the Corbin slide-under-the-ropes-in-the-corner-slide-in-and-clothesline-the-guy spot. You’d think he’d have scouted it by now. Toronto lets Corbin know that he can’t wrestle. Since when was that a pre-requisite? Corbin applies The Silencer (half-Nelson/chinlock), named as such because it mutes the crowd remotely. Balor tries to mount a comeback, but gets boxed down by the former Gold Glover. Balor manages to get a Sling Blade at ringside as we hit commercial. Back from break, and Corbin’s got the Silencer reapplied. It really is like a troll move at this point. Balor makes the comeback with a takedown and double gut stomp. Balor ends another elaborate sequence with another Sling Blade. Frankly, I like JTG’s Shout Out better. Corbin introduces a chair into the match, and manages to use it on Balor’s ribs after a missed Coup de Grace. Ahh, but since Corbin’s the GM, he restarts the match. A chair to the back and an End of Days finishes. Ahh, the evil, corrupt boss trope, that’s a new one. Match was fine. **1/4
Recap of Triple H’s hype job for Greatest Global Warning. Let’s hope that Triple H can finally pin Undertaker, after his wins in August 2002 and February 2009 were apparently expunged.
We get testimonial videos to hype HHH/Taker from Flair, Nash, Foley, Jarrett, and Christian (aka TNA One Night Stand). I have to say that I miss when pay-per-views would get hyped six, seven, or eight weeks out, because I’m old.
Shawn Michaels is coming to Raw next week! That’s an intriguing Florida State/Virginia Tech game he’s gonna be missing.
Sasha Banks vs. Dana Brooke
Dana gets a jackknife pin and bridges up out of it on one. Apparently, Sasha “kicked out”. Alrighty then. Dana gets some athletic stuff, but runs into a knee and eats a top rope Meteora for 2. Banks Statement finishes shortly after. Fine for a short match. Crews is more concerned for Dana’s well-being than Titus, which seems to be a plot point.
Ambrose (who was apparently standing in the same spot for an entire commercial break) is approached by Jinder. Apparently, Mahal’s attempts to bring him inner peace didn’t take, since Ambrose is prepared to kick his ass. Well, he tried.
Rollins is out next for some talk time. It’s funny because the crowd chants “Burn it down” vigorously, but begins booing when he reminds them that he helped Roman keep his belt last week. It’s open challenge time from the IC Champ, and a certain Canadian is happy to answer. Kevin Owens goes on a tirade about his poor luck since coming to Raw. Seems to be a pattern. He yells at the crowd in French after proclaiming Montreal to be better than Toronto. In hockey success over the last three decades, absolutely.
IC Title: Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens
Rollins gets the early advantage after skipping over the ring steps outside the ring, then flying back over with a diving clothesline. Back from the early break and Owens is wearing Rollins down, working over the arm. Rollins low-bridges Owens over the top rope, but KO pulls him to the floor, before whipping him into the rail. The ensuing cannonball misses. Back inside, Rollins, bad arm and all, hits a sling blade, which sends Owens to the outside. Suicide dive follows, and then another, but a third is cut off with a forearm smash. Rollins fights back, getting the third suicide dive before we hit commercial #2. Back from break, and Rollins hits a frog splash for 2. Owens rolls away from the Curb Stomp, and sends Rollins into the ringpost. He gets the crossface, and as Rollins goes to grab the rope, Owens pulls the arm back into a modified cobra clutch. The crowd actually boos when Rollins gets his foot on the bottom rope. Guess insulting Toronto had no long-term effect. Strike fest develops, and a counter-sequence leads to a Rollins superkick. Owens comes back with a stunner and gets 2, which the crowd loved. Rollins managed to get a buckle bomb, but Owens bounces out with a superkick for 2. Crowd was living and dying on that near fall. Back up top, Rollins blocks the reverse superplex, but gets crotched on the step-up rana attempt. Owens moonsault misses, and Rollins finishes with the Curb Stomp. Match built into a helluva deal after the usual signature moves earlier on. ***1/2 Was kinda expecting some form of Ambrose screwiness in order to flesh out the “Shield protects each other” angle, but apparently they’re still noble babyfaces, despite last week’s ending. Alas.
Apparently, Owens never left the ring, not during commercial break nor the backstage stuff that preceded it. He announces simply, “I quit”, and walks out. Well, he’s definitely working All In on Saturday. Backstage, Renee is so stirred by this sudden development that she benignly interviews Ziggler and McIntyre.
The B-Team vs. The Revival
Non-title, apparently. Scott Dawson’s tweet to Jim Cornette and company is actually acknowledged on air, which is kinda cool. B-Team takes control early, and looks competent in the process. Doesn’t that contradict the gimmick? Naturally, the heels took over during commercial, which seems to be an epidemic around here. Dallas gets isolated and beaten on as Graves compares the Revival to teams like the Brain Busters. Don’t think any of those duos were stymied by a comedy team. Wilder cuts off a hot tag attempt with some enthusiasm, but Dallas counters a tornado DDT with a rope-hung neckbreaker. Dallas gets the hot (?) tag to Axel. Crowd’s been lost over the past two hours, and they were so hot for Rollins/Owens, too. Dawson blocks the Perfect Plex, and they do the wacky small package flipover sequence, but it doesn’t finish. Shatter Machine finishes Axel. Fun little match, even if the crowd is comatose. **1/4. Assume this is gonna lead to a PPV match. After the match, Shatter Machine lays out Dallas. They even do the belt-toast with the B-Team’s belts after.
Elias segment follows, which at least has woken the crowd up a tad. His minute-long strum session gets a big applause. Elias gets ready to play his new song, but balks when he remembers that Toronto is garbage. Hey, Drake called it “the bottom”, so there you go. But who should interrupt Elias but Trish Stratus? Well that’s random. She rebukes Elias’ Toronto-bashing, but that doesn’t stop him from insulting their Stanley Cup woes. Trish notes that’s kinda like him winning a WWE Championship. Well, she’s got a point. Trish plugs her Evolution match with Alexa, which Elias assumes is going to be a lingerie pillow fight. Well, Hunter did say the “era” was coming back. Elias informs her that he doesn’t date women in their sixties, which earns him a smack. Decent little segment.
Natalya vs. Alicia Fox
Alexa’s got words for Trish before the match, and announces that she’s invoking her rematch clause at Hell in a Cell. Alexa brings out Mickie for additional back-up, which is fine with me. Alicia avoids an early Sharpshooter, and takes control while she has an apparent mental breakdown throughout her dominant sequence. Nattie regains control by flinging Alicia back in over the ropes, and the Sharpshooter finishes. 1/2* Nattie clearly dedicates the match to her father afterward in a nice moment.
The victorious trio of babyfaces meets up with the Bellas (crowd: booooo), and the Bellas announce they’re back in action (crowd: BOOOOO).
More legends weigh in on Taker/HHH, including Austin, Booker, Big Show, and DDP. Apparently no footage exists of their match at WrestleMania 17. Also, why does the Australian pay-per-view have better music than all of the American ones.
Corbin calls Lashley in to tell him he has a match up next, but with an unnamed opponent. Lashley playfully smacking Corbin’s arm before glaring at him is pretty humorous.
Bobby Lashley vs. The Ascension
This seems unfair. For the Ascension. Where’d they find the Ascension, anyway? The forgotten duo gets early control, which is good because I was expecting a 20 second squash. Viktor gets thrown off of a front facelock, and Lashley takes control for good, finishing Viktor off with the rolling cutter. This was there. 1/2*
Dean Ambrose vs. Jinder Mahal
Jobber entrance for Jinder, as we’re pressed for time. Graves makes a decades-old Jon Olerud reference that me and seven other people would appreciate. Ambrose beats Mahal outside the ring, and flings Sunil into the barricade. Mahal jumps Ambrose as he re-enters the ring as this match is taking longer than I was expecting. Mahal gets a V-Trigger for 2. Ambrose counters the Khallas into Dirty Deeds for the quick-enough pin. Was what it was. 3/4* Afterward, Graves has to explain Megadeth to Coach. Earlier, we learned that Cole doesn’t know who Rob Halford is. Meanwhile, Graves doesn’t know how “punk” works. What a trio.
Roman Reigns/Braun Strowman vs. Dolph Ziggler/Drew McIntyre
This third hour has dragged like a well-endowed snail. The bell rings at 11:02 EST, and I feel like it’s Wednesday. Roman clotheslines Ziggler to the outside, and follows with an early Drive-By. I assume this is the accelerated formula. McIntyre boots Reigns down at ringside, and gets the tag, as Reigns is our imperiled (alleged) hero. Cole calls Ziggler’s dropkick “best in the business”, which I’m sure make Paul Roma twitch for reasons that are a mystery to him. Ziggler has a sleeper applied, which I think may be a microcosm of some sort. The heels keep Reigns from tagging, and Ziggler yells, “Do something!” like he’s Cena. Superman punch floors Ziggler. Tags are made to McIntyre and Strowman, but Braun chooses not to enter. Instead, he watches Ziggler and McIntyre beat Reigns down for the random DQ. ** Strowman finally enters and stares both men down, before turning his focus onto Reigns. Strowman begins beating Reigns down, and implores McIntyre and Ziggler to aid him. So apparently Strowman’s the heel? Ambrose hits the ring and gets mauled by the trio, and a pained Rollins endures the same fate. Strowman raises the hands of Ziggler and McIntyre, making Braun the bearded version of Becky Lynch.