Sasha Banks and Natalya Brawled
I loved Banks bringing up all the rumors surrounding her absence and how she reportedly wasn't being happy with her spot in the company, but I was surprised she went as far as to outright bury the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship. We know they don't mean anything, but should talent really be acknowledging that on television? Nevertheless, I wasn't a big fan of her delivery here. She has cut better heel promos in the past, so hopefully that's something she can improve on going forward. The brawl was fine and served as a nice preview of what to expect in their match later in the night.
Ricochet def. Drew McIntyre in a King of the Ring First Round Match
Both of these guys are terrific, so I'm not at all surprised that their first ever one-on-one encounter was excellent. This had a great pace and featured strong showings from both men. McIntyre wasn't my pick to win the whole thing, but I did think he'd go farther than the first round. Thus, Ricochet winning in clean fashion was really cool to see. I have no idea what that means for McIntyre, but on the bright side, Ricochet vs. Samoa Joe (in a rematch from Stomping Grounds) should be a blast.
Baron Corbin def. The Miz in a King of the Ring First Round Match
While this wasn't on the same level as Ricochet vs. McIntyre, I enjoyed this outing for what it was and thought Corbin did especially well (considering most of his matches bore me to tears these days). Before last week, Corbin hadn't been on Raw in over a month, so he actually feels fresher now that he's back and not at the forefront of the show. I don't think many people cared to see either one of these guys advance, but Corbin made more sense. Miz has been in a massive slump since losing to Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 35 and I honestly don't know what it will take for him to recover.
SmackDown Women's Champion Bayley def. Nikki Cross (Non-Title)
This stemmed from Bayley interrupting Moment of Bliss last week on SmackDown Live. Bayley's rivalry with Cross and Bliss only ended at Extreme Rules, so I'd say it's still too soon for Bayley to be facing off with either one of them again. The match was perfectly fine but nothing worth going out of your way to see. At least Bayley picked up a non-title victory for a chance and wasn't immediately attacked by Charlotte Flair.
Bobby Roode & Dolph Ziggler def. Heavy Machinery, Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins, The Revival, The Lucha House Party, The O.C., The Viking Raiders, and The B-Team in a Raw Tag Team Championship No. 1 Contender's Tag Team Turmoil Match
It's been a while since we had a good Gauntlet match on Raw, but it's a shame that most of these teams currently lack credibility. The O.C. and Viking Raiders getting themselves intentionally disqualified was weak, but at least they were protected in defeat. I lost interest after that, even though the final fall with Roode and Ziggler beating Heavy Machinery was solid. There's something off about two makeshift tandems meeting in a matchup for the Raw Tag Team Championship at Clash of Champions. Roode and Ziggler have quality chemistry together, but I'd rather see Roode focused on in the singles ranks.
Sasha Banks def. Natalya
I'm sure Banks and Natalya could go out there and kill it, but this was all about establishing Banks' new aggressive persona. Natalya scored some offense, but Banks mostly dominated and ended up beating her decisively within a matter of minutes. From Banks locking in the Bank Statement on Natalya after the bell to Becky Lynch sitting this one out, I thought this was handled perfectly.
Cedric Alexander def. Cesaro
There wasn't a storyline reason behind this bout happening aside from Alexander getting a chance to continue building momentum as he prepares to take on Corbin in a King of the Ring quarterfinal match next week. These two actually clashed a few months ago on Raw and Alexander won, so I was happy that Alexander was able to avenge that loss here. It was a very well wrestled affair with a sweet-looking finish. Alexander selling a knee injury must mean that Corbin will take advantage of that in their matchup en route to victory.
United States Champion AJ Styles def. Raw Tag Team Champion Braun Strowman by Disqualification
Call me crazy, but I truly believe that a competitive Styles vs. Strowman match with no shenanigans has the potential to be spectacular. What we saw here was a lot of fun, at least until the closing stretch when the referee got knocked out. I fully expected Seth Rollins to run down to ringside and make the save for Strowman, but apparently not. Instead, the referee threw the contest out because he "heard" Strowman use the chair on Styles (don't they technically have to see it happen in order for it to be official?) and then Strowman laid out the entire O.C. I hate how the faction has been made to look weak in recent weeks, but I guess it's more important to build up Strowman as a legitimate threat to the Universal Championship with Clash of Champions right around the corner.
I don't want to jinx it, but Raw has been on the ascent as of late and it's been a real breath of fresh air. That isn't to say that the program has drastically improved in every aspect, but I have found myself getting through the three hours a lot easier than I have in the past. The King of the Ring tournament has been the best thing to happen to Raw from an in-ring standpoint in some time and I'm digging what they're doing with Banks. The jury is still out on the O.C., Rollins and Strowman feud in my opinion, but at least for one week, it held my interest. Two more matches were confirmed for Clash of Champions as well, so there was plenty of effective storyline advancement on this show.
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