Elias Accepted Intercontinental Champion Roman Reigns' Open Challenge
I don't know how wise it was to announce from the get-go that The Shield wasn't going to be a part of the show due to Dean Ambrose being on his honeymoon, but at least they weren't falsely advertised. I can't say I was surprised by the relatively positive reaction Reigns received because he was cheered more than he was booed last week as well. This was a solid segment establishing his open challenge gimmick as Intercontinental Champion and setting up Elias as his first challenger.
Seth Rollins def. Raw Tag Team Champion Cesaro
I questioned WWE's decision regarding The Shield not appearing in full on this show in the previous paragraph, but I will give them credit where it's due because it was smart to position this as the opener to the episode. There was nothing on the line (why not say ahead of time that the tag team title rematch was happening next week and the winner of this bout would be able to choose the stipulation?), but they were given a ton of time and it was a quality contest that gave the challengers another momentum boost before they invoke their rematch clause next Monday night.
Samoa Joe def. Titus O'Neil
I guess Joe's issues with O'Neil and Apollo Crews were never resolved after he ambushed them both a few weeks ago and quickly transitioned into a rivalry with Finn Balor, but I would assume this was designed to be the blow-off to their short-lived program. O'Neil scored more offense than I thought he would, but Joe picked up the win within minutes and that was what mattered most.
Absolution Attacked Sasha Banks
This was supposed to be a six-woman tag team match with the stable now known as Absolution (Paige, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville) taking on Banks, Bayley and Mickie James, but Bayley and James were ambushed backstage by the heel trio. I'm glad Paige explained her actions (she essentially said she started the Women's Revolution), but I wish Rose and Deville would have talked more about their background instead of cementing their spots as lackeys for Paige. Nonetheless, this angle has promise and has me intrigued.
Bray Wyatt def. Matt Hardy
Wyatt's pre-match promo did absolutely nothing for me because it was the same shtick as usual. His delivery was well done, but he fails to elicit heat because everyone is aware by this point that his words hold no merit and he'll never win when it matters most. The real story here was Hardy and how dejected he looked before, during and after the average outing. He started doing the "Delete!" chants non-stop with Michael Cole questioning whether he was on the verge of a breakdown. Well, you can't break what's already broken! Fingers crossed it's already happening.
Rich Swann def. Noam Dar, Akira Tozawa and Ariya Daivari in a WWE Cruiserweight Championship No. 1 Contender's Fatal 4-Way Qualifying Match
Most fans couldn't care less about the Cruiserweight matches on Raw from week to week because... well, why would they? Thankfully, there was a reason for fans to invest in this matchup because the winner would advance to a No. 1 Contender's match against whoever wins next week's Fatal 4-Way (will the No. 1 Contender's match take place on next Tuesday's 205 Live show?). It wasn't anything on the level of what you would have seen in the Cruiserweight Classic, of course, but it was a fun Fatal 4-Way with a nice final stretch. Swann is the most relevant of them all, so him coming out on top was logical. I predict he'll end up facing his tag team partner Cedric Alexander for the No. 1 Contender's slot.
Intercontinental Champion Roman Reigns def. Elias
Reigns is a on a totally different stratosphere compared to Elias, but I appreciated how the commentators put over Elias big time as a legitimate threat to the title. I wouldn't have bought into that in NXT, but Elias has won more matches than he's lost on the main roster and he's gradually grown on me. The outcome was never in doubt, but Elias looked awesome in defeat. It was also excellent that Reigns' next opponent was basically confirmed when Joe attacked him afterward.
Asuka def. Dana Brooke
I scratched my head when Brooke emerged as Asuka's opponent, asking myself why anyone would want to see it again after Asuka already killed Brooke last week. We got our answer when the bell rang and Asuka forced her to tap out literally in a matter of seconds. I would have just left it at that, but Absolution showed up and surrounded the ring. Asuka leaving without demanding a fight was uncharacteristic of her, but we'll see what it leads to. Personally, I'd hold off on Asuka and Paige clashing one-on-one until WrestleMania 34.
Kane def. Jason Jordan by Count-out; Finn Balor def. Kane by Disqualification
Both matches were virtually inconsequential, so I figured I would bunch them into one paragraph. Jordan is undoubtedly on his way to turning heel, so him playing up the knee "injury" once again and barely getting himself counted out made sense. Balor then facing Kane, though, did not. I know they have bad blood from a few weeks ago, but he came across like an afterthought here with Kane battering him with a steel chair and then Braun Strowman coming to Balor's aid and brutalizing Kane. Their underwhelming feud continues, but here's hoping it culminates sooner rather than later and isn't dragged out all the way until the Royal Rumble.
I might be in the minority here, but I enjoyed this edition of Raw. It wasn't a home run of a show by any means, but there are at least a handful of storylines that piqued my interest. The women's and tag team divisions are heating up again and the Intercontinental title is giving Reigns more direction, but Strowman vs. Kane isn't exactly lighting the world on fire and we still don't know who will be facing Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble. All that said, Raw is in a decent place these days.
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