The O.C. Confronted "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Raw Tag Team Champions Braun Strowman & Universal Champion Seth Rollins
I thought having Austin serve as the "moderator" for a contract signing we already saw last week was a questionable idea coming into this show, but it ended up working out excellently. In fact, this was the strongest segment on the entire episode and the crowd ate it all up. Being there live, I can tell you the reaction Stone Cold received when he made his entrance was one of the loudest I've ever heard in person, and that's saying something. The dude is still a star and he's been out of the business for over a decade and a half. He played his role very well along with everyone else, especially AJ Styles. At one point several years ago, Styles wasn't the greatest talker, but he's absolutely in his element on the mic as a heel. The crowd also went nuts for that Stunner to Styles, something you never thought you'd see three or four years ago (let alone in Madison Square Garden). This kicked off the night on a high note, to say the least.
Cedric Alexander def. United States Champion AJ Styles by Disqualification (Non-Title)
I was really looking forward to this match because of how it was fresh and how it had the potential to steal the show, but I wasn't disappointed that it never reached that next gear simply because it was clear they were holding off until Clash of Champions. It was a good match while it lasted and the non-finish made sense, leading to The Viking Raiders making the save and laying out The O.C. For those curious, there really wasn't any storyline reason for why Viking Raiders decided to turn face, aside from how the jobbers they faced last week were heels. That said, I think turning them is a positive move because they weren't getting over previously.
Raw Women's Champion Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair def. SmackDown Women's Champion Bayley and Sasha Banks
Personally, I would have waited to have all of the Four Horsewomen share the same ring until a later date (I don't think we've seen that yet on the main roster), but this was a terrific tag team match. They were given plenty of time to work with and the crowd was invested in the action. My only issue with this was that Flair beat Bayley clean one week removed from Bayley's hot heel turn, but I understand that was done to make viewers believe that Flair has a chance of winning the SmackDown Women's Championship at Clash of Champions. I also appreciated that Lynch and Flair didn't get along easily because of their past but still managed to coexist enough to secure the victory.
Rey Mysterio def. Gran Metalik
I figured this would be a standard squash match and that Mysterio would win within a matter of minutes, so I was pleasantly surprised that it was instead treated as a competitive contest. I couldn't tell you the last time I saw Metalik wrestle in a singles matchup on Raw, but it was awesome to see him showcase his skills for a change and take Mysterio to his limit. This was a lot of fun and I'd definitely be down for more matches between them in the future.
Baron Corbin def. Samoa Joe and Rey Mysterio in a King of the Ring Semifinal Match
Of course, a Triple Threat in the semifinals of any tournament makes no storyline sense, but I can't complain because this was a very entertaining outing. I assumed Corbin was destined for the finals a week ago, but Ricochet and Joe's nearfalls were believable enough and there was never a dull moment. Corbin would be a fantastic foil for Chad Gable in the finals and I really hope all the teasing from Corbin that he's winning this thing means that he will ultimately lose. He continued his strong streak of above-average matches with this win, but that doesn't mean I want him as King of the Ring.
Natalya def. Lacey Evans
On a show that was filled with major matchups, this was the only one that felt like filler. It wasn't completely random as they did face off on last week's episode, but that's just it: We've seen it before, and it didn't light the world on fire the first time, so the crowd had zero reason to care about it this time. With nothing out of the ordinary about it whatsoever, the bout basically existed. Worse yet, Natalya already got her win back over Evans, so neither woman is better off than they were before this feud started.
Raw Tag Team Champions Braun Strowman & Universal Champion Seth Rollins, The Viking Raiders and Cedric Alexander def. The O.C., Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode
It's hard to blame the crowd for getting restless during this match considering they had already seen everyone involved earlier in the evening, but it was a poor time for the wave. I understand if it's the night after WrestleMania or a horrendously boring main event, but this was neither one of those things, so it came across as unnecessary. Thankfully, to the Superstars' credit, they got the crowd back into it and delivered an exciting final stretch. Alexander pinning Styles was the right call, as that earns him a shot at Styles' United States Championship at Clash of Champions. Stone Cold's post-match beer bash with the babyfaces was a hell of a way to close out the show. This didn't make the air, but Stone Cold delivering another Stunner to Styles afterward was a super cool moment.
I was also in attendance for this year's post-WrestleMania Raw back in April and I thought this show was way more enjoyable. As I've said before, Raw has been on the upswing over the past month or so and this might have been the best episode yet. Most of the matches delivered and served a purpose, Stone Cold's appearance was a special treat, and there was an ample amount of build for Clash of Champions this Sunday. The crowd being hot all night long only helped matters and I'm glad I made the decision to go. WWE never ceases to bring the goods in the Garden and I'm happy I was there to see it.
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