By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Stephanie McMahon Confronted Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose
Ambrose opening the show was a refreshing change of pace and it's been great to see him properly spotlighted going into the WWE Fastlane main event. I worried when the match was first made a few weeks ago that he would be afterthought during the build for the bout, but he has been anything but. It was fairly obvious Brock Lesnar wasn't coming out when it was made clear ahead of time he wasn't in the building, but the promo with Stephanie was well done. I questioned recently why The Authority wasn't forcing Ambrose to put his title up for grabs at every turn, so having her do that in the subsequent match made perfect sense.
Kevin Owens def. Dean Ambrose, Tyler Breeze, Dolph Ziggler and Stardust in a Fatal 5-Way to Win the Intercontinental Championship
Have we ever had a Fatal 5-Way in WWE before? I'm sure we have at some point, but definitely not in the last decade or so (with the exception of the infamous Scramble match). Stardust and Breeze were random participants, but they had their moments to shine and they only added to the entertaining action. The whole match was a treat, but the final few minutes were especially exceptional and I love the move to put the belt back on Owens. It adds more interest to the Fastlane main event since Ambrose now has a bigger chance of winning and it gets Owens back on track.
WWE Tag Team Champion Big E def. Mark Henry
I liked how they followed up the events of last week with this match instead of completely forgetting about Henry walking out on The New Day in their tag match. That said, this was a match I didn't need to see. It was mediocre while it lasted and the finish came off awful. It sucks to see Henry is injured (again), but it might be time to call it quits. On a side note, The New Day on The Peep Show at Fastlane should be comedy gold. Plus, it's nice promotion for the new Edge and Christian show debuting immediately after the pay-per-view.
Divas Champion Charlotte Interrupted Brie Bella
Rumors have been running rampant lately that Brie might be leaving WWE soon to start a family (yes, for real this time), so I assumed this would be her swan song. That didn't happen, but what could be seen coming was Charlotte interrupting. Their back-and-forth was fairly decent and I'm glad Charlotte showed more aggression toward the end because she sounds like a robot on the mic. Brie has always been a natural babyface, but that was evident years ago when she feuded with Stephanie McMahon.
AJ Styles def. The Miz
Miz's recent matches with Styles have been some of the best he's had in a long, long time. He isn't a bad worker whatsoever, but his matches are more memorable when he's in the ring with a great worker like Styles. They contested a competitve back-and-forth bout that saw Styles score the hard-fought victory. The interaction between Styles and Chis Jericho afterward was excellent and did an effective job of giving viewers a reason to watch SmackDown to see what his answer will be to Styles' Fastlane challenge.
The Dudley Boyz Addressed the WWE Universe
Although this was more of the same from their SmackDown promo, it was important for them to reiterate to the Raw audience that they're done doing it for the fans, and at least they referred back to the promo so it's not like it didn't happen. I'm all on board for this Dudley Boyz heel turn and what I enjoyed even more was how The Usos were left off the show. I don't know if they'll be facing each other at Fastlane, but The Usos have been so overexposed as of late that they could benefit from having a week off.
Summer Rae def. Paige
This marked the first time Summer Rae has wrestled a televised match since last summer, and the first televised win she's had since November 2014. And you would have never known because she's rarely showcased. She's a fine talent in the ring, but after being passed around from Superstar to Superstar, she feels like damaged goods. It was nice to see her score the upset victory, but we'll see if they pay more attention to her in the future.
Paul Heyman Called Out Roman Reigns
I'm shocked it took them this long to get Heyman on WWE TV for one of his glorious promos. As I said with Miz, Reigns is at his best on the stick when he's sharing the ring with a tremendous talker like Heyman. They finally gave Reigns some focus after being overshadowed in recent weeks and he made the most of the time he had on the mic. The Dudley Boyz attacking him afterward came out of nowhere, but of course the only purpose it served was setting up Ambrose making the save. Teasing tension between the two was long overdue, but it set the stage for the tag match on SmackDown.
Heath Slater def. Zack Ryder
The Social Outcasts are quickly becoming one of my favorite parts of Raw each week. I'm not even sure where they're headed, but they're so entertaining I'm not thinking about that. In all honesty, this was a match that belonged on WWE Superstars, but it was passable filler following the hot segment with Reigns, Heyman and Ambrose. Hopefully WWE does more with them once they realize how fun the group can be.
League of Nations def. Neville and The Lucha Dragons
Perhaps it's because they've faced off multiple times in the last month alone, but I'm already bored by the Del Rio vs. Kalisto feud. Their matches, including this one, have been solid, but they haven't gotten any mic time before now, so why should the casual viewer care? It doesn't help that their title match has been bumped to the Kickoff show despite being 2-out-of-3 Falls, but on the bright side, it should be the last match they have for a long while and Kalisto (who will hopefully retain) can move on to fresh faces to defend again.
Becky Lynch def. Naomi
If Team B.A.D.'s ambush on Lynch prior to Raw was so important, why did it take WWE so long to address it? Holding the match so late in the show definitely didn't help matters, but at least the crowd was behind Lynch for as long as the match lasted, which was barely two minutes. In that case, they shouldn't have even bothered. Other than that, this tag team feud has been well built in recent weeks and the Fastlane match has the potential to be quite good if given the time it deserves.
Big Show def. Braun Strowman by Disqualification
I held out hope that they were going to close out the show with a major angle (possibly even an Undertaker return), but no such luck. Instead, we were relegated to a flat, short-lived match between Show and Strowman that ended in the most predictable way possible. I honestly couldn't care less about a Show, Kane and Ryback vs. Wyatt Family match, so I'm stumped as to why WWE would give away all the great aspects about this Raw early on and save the garbage for the final hour.
The show was off to a strong start with the unexpected title change, but by the end of the night, there was too much talking and the third hour jumped the shark. Most of the matches served a purpose in hyping Sunday's card, but there are other ways of accomplishing that without having so many promos. I remain excited for Fastlane, but I wouldn't blame anyone who isn't after this go-home quickly took a turn for the worse with the lackluster third hour.
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