Roman Reigns Announced His Leukemia Was in Remission
I don't think anyone expected Reigns to be back so soon after he announced his leukemia had returned in October, but it's amazing that he is. He was clearly speaking from the heart here and he came off great. The crowd was also super classy in and it was just a stellar segment all around. Based off Baron Corbin's comments afterward, I assume Reigns will be facing him in his first match back. This was the most positive start to Raw in many months.
Aleister Black and Ricochet def. Raw Tag Team Champions The Revival (Non-title)
As fun of a match as this was, I hate seeing the Raw Tag Team Champions lose decisively two weeks in a row. They're still the same losers they were before, except now they just have belts around their waists. Meanwhile, I'd rather see Black and Ricochet featured individually on the main roster, but it actually does make sense from a storyline standpoint for them to be teaming up. After all, they recently formed an alliance on NXT and from what I understand, that will be continuing in the coming weeks, so I have no problem with them being a unit on Raw and SmackDown Live for the foreseeable future.
Dean Ambrose Attacked Elias
I'd say Elias' new gimmick is constantly getting interrupted every week, but I guess that has technically been his shtick since getting called up to the main roster in 2017. First, Lacey Evans interrupted him to walk down the ramp before walking to the back, and then it was Ambrose demanding Drew McIntyre face him in a No Disqualification rematch from last week. Ambrose laid him out and that was that. If it wasn't already apparent, Ambrose is officially back in babyface mode.
Raw Women's Champion Ronda Rousey and Natalya vs. The Riott Squad Ended in a No Contest
I honestly rolled my eyes when we were told that Rousey would be teaming to take on The Riott Squad... again. I'm a Ruby Riott fan, but she's been made to look like a complete loser against Rousey in recent weeks. Thus, the match was a waste of time, but Becky Lynch showing up to lay out Natalya and brawl with Rousey was a good angle. Lynch getting arrested felt like something straight out of the Attitude Era, but I'm sure it'll only make her more popular. Rousey's confrontation with Stephanie McMahon was well done and she came off less robotic than usual.
Kurt Angle def. Jinder Mahal
Mahal issued an open challenge to anyone invited to Ric Flair's birthday celebration later in the night and got Angle as his opponent. I was fearful Angle would lose (I don't believe he has won a singles match since returning to WWE two years ago), but thankfully he pulled out the victory. It was a fairly basic outing and I was glad it didn't overstay its welcome. Now the question is what more the road to WrestleMania has in store for Angle.
Intercontinental Champion Finn Balor def. Lio Rush
Prior to this, Balor was a guest on Moment of Bliss and it was there that Balor manipulated Rush into challenging for the Intercontinental Championship so he could further drive a wedge between him and Bobby Lashley. Granted, the outcome was never in doubt, but I was pleasantly surprised by how competitive this was. Rush was able to score some credibility even in defeat.
Bobby Lashley vs. Braun Strowman Went to a No Contest
Lashley scolded Rush before the bout backstage and ensured he could trust him before they made their way to the ring. Strowman plowed through them both at ringside and that was the end of the segment, so the match never happened as advertised. Admittedly, I'm not terribly disappointed about that, but I still have no idea where this teased breakup between Lashley and Rush is headed. They're way better off together than apart.
Drew McIntyre def. Dean Ambrose in a No Disqualification Match
Needless to say, this was a vast improvement over their three minute squash match from last week. They made effective use of the stipulation and I liked how hard-hitting and physical it was. McIntyre winning was the right result, but the real focus was on what happened post-match. I figured there was a possibility of The Shield reuniting, but it actually happened when Rollins and Reigns came to the aid of Ambrose and took out McIntyre, Lashley, Corbin and Elias. The crowd ate it up. I love that Rollins and Reigns didn't immediately forgive Ambrose. That should be interesting when it inevitably happens.
WWE Women's Tag Team Champion Bayley def. Nia Jax
It was announced beforehand that Bayley and Sasha Banks will defend the tag titles against Jax and Tamina at Fastlane. Why? The heels did nothing to earn the title shot. On the bright side, at least it's happening at Fastlane and not WrestleMania (fingers crossed, anyway). This was a perfectly fine match, specifically whenever Bayley was on offense. It probably didn't need to last as long as it did, though.
Batista Crashed Ric Flair's 70th Birthday Celebration
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Bayley vs. Jax should have been cut short to give this segment more time. The entrances of Shawn Michaels, Ricky Steamboat, Angle and Sting felt rushed, but the video package and commemorative title belt were cool. Batista showing up and destroying Flair backstage was an awesome shocker and the perfect way to heat up his rumored WrestleMania match with Triple H.
Reigns' return kicked off the festivities on a high note and set an excellent tone for the rest of the show. It was quite the newsworthy night between that, The Shield (kind of) getting back together, and Batista's big return at the end. Even the stuff in the middle was more bearable than usual. I don't want to get too excited about this being the norm for the remainder of the road to WrestleMania, but this was a solid start in the right direction. Props to Atlanta for being much livelier than that lousy Lafayette crowd last week, too.
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