Live from Denny Sanford Premier Center, Sioux Falls, South Dakota!
Following a look back at last week, Raw opened with the entrance of Paul Heyman. Brock Lesnar’s advocate would promote the match between Brock Lesnar and Finn Balor, using his peerlessly way with words to put over the fact that in real life, David never beats Goliath. Saying this, Paul Heyman drew out a true “Goliath” in the form of Braun Strowman.
Braun Strowman looked down on Paul Heyman, showing no respect toward him or the Universal Champion. Strowman said that he knows Lesnar is feeling the pressure, taking delight in putting Brock in a position he has never been in before. Paul Heyman surprisingly accepted that Strowman was correct, saying that “you’re right, for the first time in his career… Brock Lesnar is running scared!” He would quickly clarify that Brock wasn’t afraid on Braun Strowman, he was afraid that he could lose his title to someone holding that “ridiculous briefcase” after he’s already competed.
However, being the great representative that he is, Paul Heyman made note that the reason that his meeting with Kurt Angle was so short is because he knows that Kurt doesn’t really pull the strings on Raw. Paul Heyman then announced that at Extreme Rules, he has negotiated that as part of Brock Lesnar agreeing to a pre-SummerSlam title defence, it was decided that Braun Strowman would be banned from the building at Extreme Rules. He would als inform Braun Strowman that Brock Lesnar would be at Raw next week, and Braun Strowman will also be barred from the building then. Braun Strowman was infuriated by this, and was told by Heyman to take it up with Kurt Angle. As Braun Strowman stormed to the back, Finn Balor made his entrance. As the two passed each other, there was a nod between them, as Finn Balor went to confront Paul Heyman.
Now Finn Balor spoke to Heyman, telling him that he’s looking at “Mr. 666… because Paul, I’ve got the number of ‘The Beast’”. Finn Balor talked about how long in the making his match with Brock Lesnar was, saying that it has been almost two years since he vacated the title. Paul Heyman would point out that there is a very different landscape in the WWE in 2018, saying that if Brock Lesnar was in that tournament two years ago, he would be into day 700 of his Championship reign. Finn disagreed, saying that he was on a roll, and he would have liked nothing more than to defend that Championship against Brock Lesnar. As Finn Balor continued to put over how much this opportunity means to him, he was cut off by Sami Zayn.
Sami Zayn told Paul Heyman that he is coming for the Universal Championship, a claim which was humorous to Paul Heyman. He then said that he had a much better chance of beating Lesnar next Sunday than Finn Balor, saying that the spot should have been his. Stirring the pot, Paul Heyman helped work up the aggression in both competitors, before eventually suggesting that they fight each other. This was deemed perfectly agreeable by both men.
Returning from the break, Kurt Angle was confronted by Braun Strowman, who questioned him about the claim from Paul Heyman that he would be barred from the building both next week and at Extreme Rules. Kurt was apologetic to Braun Strowman, making it clear that that particular decision was taken out of his hands. Strowman was understandably furious.
Kicking off the action for the evening, the two men in the ring went all out to put on an impressive opener. Going back and forth throughout the contest, both competitors managed a good amount of offence, coming close to a victory on a number of occasions. It was when Finn Balor appeared to be picking up momentum that this match was robbed of a decisive finish. Making his way out from the back, Kevin Owens decided to make his own impact on the match.
As Finn Balor set up for a Slingblade, Kevin Owens pulled him out of the ring “saving” his on and off best friend Sami Zayn from the move. This however cost Zayn the match, as the result of a DQ.
Finn Balor bt. Sami Zayn (DQ)
In the immediate aftermath of the contest, Sami Zayn didn’t know how to react to Kevin’s involvement, but it appeared that Owens had had a moment clarity. Slapping Zayn on the chest, Owens said “we’re going to do this… together!” adding “we need each other!” Fired up by this, Sami Zayn joined in the attack on Finn Balor, and the two men happily laid boots into him. Eventually, the save came - from an unlikely source.
Roman Reigns made the save, with the suggestion being made that he was looking to undermine Finn Balor. This had the desired effect, as a frustrated Finn Balor looked less than grateful for the help. Posturing in the ring, a smirking Roman Reigns made it clear that he was intentionally getting under the skin of the Number One Contender. Clearly, this had worked.
Later in the evening, Finn Balor made his annoyance clear, as he confronted Roman Reigns in the back. Tired of the two men bickering, Kurt Angle had the idea to put them together, making a tag team match featuring the two of them, against the equally turbulent team of Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn.
While they agreeing to work together once more, there were still a few issues between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, who nonetheless were much more cohesive as a team than their opposition. Despite this, the individual talent of Roman Reigns and Finn Balor shined through, most evidently in the decisive moments. As Finn Balor set up to hit Sami Zayn with a Coupe De Grace, Kevin Owens returned to the ring. Spotting this, from his position on the outside, Roman Reigns showed his agility by quickly entering the ring, hitting Owens with the move. This allowed Finn Balor to hit his finishing move to Sami Zayn, scoring the victory for his team.
Finn Balor & Roman Reigns bt. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
After the match, as Roman Reigns celebrated in the ring, Finn Balor looked towards him, annoyed to see Reigns “taking the credit”. When the referee raised the hands of the two men, there was a clear tension between them. As Roman Reigns continued to enjoy the victory, Finn Balor hit him from behind, dropping “The Big Dog” with a Sling Blade. Standing over Roman Reigns, Finn Balor looked down with disgust at his rival, making it clear that their success as a tag team changes nothing between them.
This wasn’t the end of their interactions on the evening, as Finn Balor got heated in the office of Kurt Angle. He was told by Kurt Angle that he would get what he wanted, and he would face Roman Reigns next week - 6 days before his Universal Championship match with Brock Lesnar.
Much earlier in the night, another thread of this week’s Raw began, as Chad Gable and Jason Jordan prepared to team together for the first time in a year.
While Jason Jordan looked extremely upbeat about the prospect of beating the buddies of Gable’s attacker, there was some clear apprehension on the part of Gable. Initially it seemed that this was due to him feeling the pair may be taking a step back, but after American Alpha defeated the team of Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel, Gable approached General Manager (and father of Jason Jordan) Kurt Angle.
Not wanting to make an accusation of his boss’ son, Chad Gable simply told Angle that something felt “off” about Jason Jordan, and he didn’t feel like he was teaming with the man he once held tag team gold with. Kurt Angle was hurt by this, saying that he sees so much of himself in them when they’re teaming together. Despite this, Chad Gable wasn’t convinced about their future together. He also confided in Kurt that he didn’t believe Elias was behind the attack on him last week.
These feeling were perhaps compounded later on, when Elias approach Chad as he left the medical room. Initially skeptical, Chad eventually heard Elias out, as he claimed that Chad’s suspicions were correct, and it wasn’t him who attacked Gable, but Jason Jordan. Elias told Gable that only one man profited from Chad Gable not being in that match last week, adding “and you know exactly who I am talking about…” With that, Elias was gone, having sown a seed of doubt deeper in the mind of Chad Gable.
Having opened the second hour of Raw, The Deleters of World - the current Tag Team Champions - decided that they would call out The Authors of Pain, after the newcomers attacked them last week.
The Authors of Pain were happy to join Hardy & Wyatt in the ring, but they were not there for a chat. Immediately getting physical with the Champions, The Authors of Pain initiated a brawl which went all the way around the ringside area. Able to focus on Bray Wyatt, the pair were able to drop Matt Hardy’s partner, resulting in the “Woken Warrior” being left to fight The Authors of Pain alone. Now by the commentary table, Akam ran the announcers off, as Rezar set up for a Powerbomb. Assisting the move, Akam ensured that Matt Hardy was slammed through the table viciously, leaving him out cold. After a slow start to their Raw careers, The Authors of Pain stood tall - having made their mark this Monday night.
Also out to make a name for herself was Ruby Riott, as she faced Ember Moon - ahead of her Women’s Championship match at Extreme Rules. Nia Jax joined commentary for the match, and when The Riott Squad were able to assist Ruby in scoring a victory over Ember Moon, Jax was clearly not happy. Staring down from the top of the ramp, Nia Jax made it clear that she was ready to face all three members of The Riott Squad, if that’s what it would take to retain her Championship.
Not quite as united as The Riott Squad, the issues between Titus Worldwide continued this week, as Apollo Crews was spotted talking to Dana Brooke. Lacking an explanation, Apollo fuelled the rumours that he was ready to leave Titus Worldwide, signing to be represented by Dana Brooke instead. While Crews denied this, it was clear that his head was not in the game, as he fell to defeat against Mojo Rawley.
Having only appeared in a video package that appeared to be designed to “re-reintroduce” him last week, Bobby Lashley was interviewed at the top of the ramp by Renee Young.
Bobby Lashley’s general comment was that his first few months back in the WWE have been up and down, saying that everybody knows that he was sent out here to “connect with the people”. Bobby Lashley said that he loved being in front of the WWE Universe, but added that his true love was the competition in the ring. For that reason, Lashley declared that as of this moment, his focus wasn’t on connecting with the fans, but connecting with the jaws of anybody wants to step in the ring with him. He asked if that is what the WWE Universe want from him. As he gauged the response, Bobby was confronted on the ramp by Baron Corbin.
Baron Corbin’s message to Bobby Lashley was clear, as he told “The Destroyer” to just “stop talking!” Bobby Lashley squared up to “The Lone Wolf”, but Corbin had said his piece, and headed to the back.
Bobby Roode’s struggles continued on Raw this week, as Jinder Mahal defeated him. After the match, it was clear that this defeat had effected him more than any other thus far.
Having not appeared on last week’s Raw, an update came from Alexa Bliss (and Mickie James) with the two women reporting back to the show while on vacation.
Making the decision, to allow Mickie James to recover from her injury - sustained at the hands of Ronda Rousey - Alexa Bliss said that the two would be back on Raw “sooner rather than later” and would continue to expose Ronda Rousey. Alexa put over the fact that they were not on vacation, saying that the main focus of their trip was the rehabilitation of Mickie James’ left arm. Despite this, the two women appeared to be relaxing on the beach, drinking cocktails. While dressed in summer clothes, Mickie James still had her arm in a sling.
Meanwhile, another major storyline featuring female Superstars developed, as Bayley performed a sit-down interview “Earlier in the Week”.
Emotional throughout, Bayley said that she felt a part of herself had been torn out, feeling that the last couple of years have been a lie. She said that there was no going back now, and the attack two weeks ago broke her heart. Bayley said that part of her wanted to run away from what happened, but she knows that she can’t let it lie. Saying that the time for hugs are over, Bayley promised to fight for anybody who has ever been screwed over by someone they considered a friend.
Watching the interview in the back, Sasha Banks was asked for an immediate reaction to the emotional scenes. She showed zero remorse for her actions, calling Bayley an “annoying little sister” who needed to be put in her place. Speaking coldly, Sasha said she was sick of Bayley’s crying already, making it clear that she is more than willing to face her in the future.
Following that, Rhyno scored a victory over Curt Hawkins, taking the opportunity post-match to challenge Drew Galloway and Dolph Ziggler on behalf of his team.
In the Main Event, Drew Galloway and Dolph Ziggler would make an appearance, ignoring the challenge of Slater & Rhyno. Instead, they appeared to accept the Open Challenge of Seth Rollins. Not making it clear which one of them was taking the opportunity, Dolph Ziggler was able to catch the Champion off guard with a Superkick. This confirmed Ziggler as the challenger for the title.
Intercontinental Championship Match
Despite being at ringside, Drew McIntyre played a very small part in the match, showing his trust in Dolph Ziggler to get the job done. Throughout the match, the history of the two men involved was put over, citing some of their matches from the past. Clear that the bad blood is still raw, this match was both athletic and brutally physical. This blend saw both men going all out for victory, scoring near falls on a number of occasions. Eventually, Seth Rollins was able to pick up yet another win, with a lightning quick final sequence brought to a conclusion via a Curb Stomp to Dolph Ziggler.
Seth Rollins bt. Dolph Ziggler
After the match, Seth Rollins stood tall in the ring, as Drew McIntyre carried Dolph Ziggler over his shoulder. Leaving up the ramp, Drew McIntyre turned back to Rollins when he reached the top, showing he had one eye on the Intercontinental Championship.
Finn Balor bt. Sami Zayn (DQ)
American Alpha bt. Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel
Ruby Riott bt. Ember Moon
Jinder Mahal bt. Bobby Roode
Finn Balor & Roman Reigns bt. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
Rhyno bt. Curt Hawkins
Apollo Crews bt. Mojo Rawley
Seth Rollins (c) bt. Dolph Ziggler [Intercontinental Championship]