0 of 10
The Universal Championship picture became unmuddied Monday, thanks to a major announcement regarding Brock Lesnar‘s availability for the upcoming SummerSlam pay-per-view and the first two of three matches to determine his No. 1 contender.
Bobby Lashley, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Elias, Drew McIntyre and Finn Balor all had the opportunity to cash their own tickets to next week’s show but only two were successful.
Who emerged from Monday’s show one match away from headlining SummerSlam against The Beast Incarnate, the top prize on the Raw brand within their grasps?
Throw in an impromptu match from Dolph Ziggler, an unexpected appearance from Ronda Rousey and a huge announcement regarding her SummerSlam plans, and you had a noteworthy broadcast on the heels of an Extreme Rules pay-per-view extravaganza.
1 of 10
Just 24 hours removed from Extreme Rules, Raw general manager Kurt Angle kicked off the July 16 episode in the squared circle. He thanked the Superstars of Raw for showing up and competing at the pay-per-view, something Brock Lesnar has not done.
As Angle began to announce his decision to strip Lesnar of the Universal Championship, Paul Heyman interrupted, marking the first time the advocate for the Beast Incarnate had been seen since April.
Heyman admitted that Lesnar was not in the building but assured Angle that his client loves being in WWE, takes being universal champion seriously and wants to win the UFC Heavyweight Championship while representing WWE.
Angle announced Lesnar will defend his title at SummerSlam or he is no longer the champion. Heyman agreed and told Angle the only question now is who Angle will choose to be beaten by Lesnar.
Bobby Lashley interrupted the proceedings and said he accomplished his first goal of beating Roman Reigns at Extreme Rules and now, he wants to accomplish part two by beating Lesnar at SummerSlam.
Drew McIntyre interrupted and said phase one of his return was ensuring the Intercontinental Championship remained around the waist of Dolph Ziggler and now, he wants to accomplish phase two: win the Universal Championship.
Seth Rollins interrupted and came face-to-face with McIntyre before announcing his candidacy for a match with Lesnar.
Elias was out next as the stream of Superstars continued. He touted his debut album as the reason he should face Lesnar at SummerSlam.
Out next was Finn Balor, who used his status as the first universal champion to cement his status as a legitimate contender. Roman Reigns interrupted, the last man to enter the squared circle, drawing a huge chorus of boos.
Angle announced two Triple Threat matches (McIntyre vs. Reigns vs. Balor and Rollins vs. Elias vs. Lashley) and the winners would battle for the right to challenge Lesnar at SummerSlam.
The first of those Triple Threat matches would begin immediately.
Sure, it was another convoluted promo segment that set up two big matches but it at least introduced new blood to the title picture, including Elias and McIntyre, so all is forgiven.
Or most of it is, at least.
It was a long segment that could have stood to shave five-to-10 minutes off, and more Heyman but for what it was, there have been many worse and more predictable in-ring promos to kick off recent episodes of WWE television.
2 of 10
McIntyre, fresh off helping Dolph Ziggler successfully retain his intercontinental title at Extreme Rules, dominated the early moments of Monday’s opening contest. He used his drive, determination, focus and size to overwhelm Balor and toss Reigns around.
The sinister Scot controlled the bout heading into the break.
Reigns and Balor fought back into the match but it was an insane dive over the top rope by the big man that wowed fans.
Recovered, Balor paired off with Reigns as the Scotsman reeled at ringside.
Balor scaled the ropes for a Coup de Grace but McIntyre blasted him with a steel chair. The heel sent Reigns shoulder-first into the ring post ahead of yet another commercial.
McIntyre continued to dominate Reigns until Balor returned the favor from earlier, unloading with a chair across the back. An equal opportunity ass-kicker, Balor wore Reigns out with the chair as the crowd came alive for the first universal champion.
A dropkick sent McIntyre into the barricade as Balor rolled. Luckily, the former NXT champion moved out of the way as Reigns launched himself with a spear, crashing into McIntyre and through the timekeeper’s position.
Balor sprinted across the ring for a dropkick attempt but Reigns blasted him with a Superman Punch for a near-fall. Balor recovered and delivered the Coup de Grace but McIntyre pulled him out of the ring before the Irishman could score the pinfall victory on Reigns.
A Claymoore from McIntyre wiped Balor out, a Superman Punch sent the heel to the floor and a spear to Balor cashed Reigns’ ticket to next week’s No. 1 Contender’s match.
Reigns defeated McIntyre and Balor
The finish was not at all smooth but the action that preceded it was fantastic and representative of the three enormously talented Superstars involved.
Reigns bled hard way, unintentionally putting over the raw physicality of the match. McIntyre looked like a beast and Balor came out of the bout looking best of the three, coming one second away from pinning Reigns had it not been for the third man in the contest.
It is a testament to the booking and the performances of the three Superstars involved that any of them could have won and been credible enough to move onto next week’s No. 1 contender’s bout.
A great star to tonight’s show, which already feels more noteworthy and significant than any of the last month’s broadcasts.
3 of 10
At Extreme Rules, Dolph Ziggler narrowly escaped a 30-Minute Iron Man match with the Intercontinental Championship still in his position, thanks to Drew McIntyre’s well-timed interference costing Seth Rollins the victory.
He made his way to the ring Monday in a celebratory mood, the championship hugging his waist.
Ziggler referred to himself as Iron Man and took credit for legitimizing the Intercontinental Championship and ensuring it headlined its first pay-per-view in 17 years. Bobby Roode interrupted the proceedings and challenged Ziggler to a match. The champion refused to put the title on the line but he did grant him a match.
Roode took the fight to Ziggler, capitalizing on a competitor sure to be exhausted following his Iron Man match performance just 24 hours earlier. Ziggler turned the tables with a big dropkick and grounded the veteran competitor.
Roode fought his way back into the match but Ziggler delivered a drop toe hold that sent his opponent face-first into the bottom turnbuckle ahead of the break.
Ziggler continued to control the bout and even delivered a Zig-Zag at one point but was unable to keep Roode’s shoulders pinned to the mat. Roode attempted a comeback and came off the ropes but appeared to tweak his knee. Alert, the IC champion caught him with a superkick to score the hard-fought victory.
Ziggler defeated Roode
The heat for this one was nearly nonexistent but on the heels of a fantastic opener, and with a Roode who has been persona non grata for weeks, it is not difficult to see why.
The action was solid enough, the transitions were strong, but no one really bought Roode as a threat to win the match. That is, perhaps, one of the biggest indictments of the writing team given how incredibly good that guy is.
A strong, clean victory for Ziggler that should silence some critics who claim he can only pick up the win when McIntyre interferes on his behalf. If not for that, this probably would have struggled to maintain the C+ grade.
4 of 10
Moments after Mojo Rawley confronted Bobby Roode backstage, the former Hype Bro battled Tyler Breeze in singles competition.
The former Green Bay Packer ran over Breeze, overwhelming his fellow NXT alumnus with his strength and ferocity.
The match proved little more than a squash as Mojo delivered a version of Monty Brown’s Pounce finisher, followed up with a running corner punch and finished him off with a modified Alabama Slam.
Rawley defeated Breeze
This was meant to showcase the new, aggressive and intense side of Rawley and it succeeded much more than the recent string of matches the former Arizona Sun Devil had with No Way Jose. That can probably be attributed to the fact that Breeze is a better worker and has a history of making opponents look good.
Rawley has the raw ability and has discovered the serious side of himself that will lead him to greater success than his hyped gimmick would have. More wins like this, where he bowls over the opposition, will only help his cause.
5 of 10
Kurt Angle ordered Bayley and Sasha Banks to get along during their match with Dana Brooke and Alicia Fox or one would be shipped to SmackDown Live. It was against that background that the teams took to the squared circle for the first women’s match of the evening.
Bayley did the majority of the work for her team early, pairing off with Fox first, then Brooke. It was a big clothesline by Brooke that flattened Bayley. At ringside, Banks came to the aid of her partner, taking the fight to both of her opponents.
The referee called for the bell, awarding the match to Brooke and Fox via disqualification as a result of Banks’ unforgiving attack.
The Boss stomped off to the locker room as Bayley watched, unsure of what to make of her former friend’s actions.
Brooke and Fox defeated Bayley and Banks via DQ
Just let Bayley and Banks beat the hell out of each other in matches every week. That is a much more welcome alternative than the nonsense fans have had to endure out of this program to this point.
Forget the therapy. Forget threats from Kurt Angle about getting along. Just let them have a feud so fans can witness the awesomeness that is Bayley vs. Banks rather than forcing them into vignettes that all-too-often expose their weaknesses.
And if you absolutely must book those sorts of angles, at least have the matches make sense, which this absolutely did not.
6 of 10
New Raw tag team champions Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas hit the ring to a sizable pop, just 24 hours after upsetting Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt to win the titles at Extreme Rules. Their opponents? The Ascension, riding their own wave of momentum after winning their first televised match in two years a few weeks ago on Main Event.
Konnor and Viktor dominated during the break but Dallas and Axel strung together their own offensive onslaught. They finished Viktor off with a double-team maneuver, netting their first successful title defense.
After the match, Hardy and Wyatt announced their rematch for next week’s show and vowed to delete the B Team in seven days.
B-Team defeated The Ascension
The match was nothing special, the fans did not care and the reaction for the upcoming rematch between The Deleter of Worlds and the new champions was nowhere near what management had to have expected.
The whole thing came across as flat, as has the show in the wake of that opening Triple Threat match.
7 of 10
Raw women’s champion Alexa Bliss made her way to the squared circle, her arrogance at an all-time high as she grabbed a microphone, Mickie James by her side.
Braggadocios following her victory, she claimed to have defeated every woman in the locker room.
The WWE Universe unleashed a “Ronda Rousey” chant that was soon met by an appearance from the UFC Hall of Famer. Rousey blocked Bliss’ exit and confronted the champion. She grabbed hold of James, laid her out and teased her arm bar finisher.
Bliss and several referees pulled James to safety until Rousey wiped the whole mass of people out. She grabbed Bliss by the hair, took her to the squared circle and prepared to unleash hell on the champion. Kurt Angle appeared and ordered Rousey to go home.
Constable Baron Corbin appeared and demanded Angle reprimand Rousey for her actions. After further back and forth, Angle announced Rousey will challenge Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship at SummerSlam if she can behave for the remainder of her suspension.
The announcement drew a strong reaction from fans and Rousey stood tall to close out the segment.
The next time you have the overwhelming urge to claim WWE Creative does not know how to book its Superstars anymore, look no further than Rousey, who has been booked to perfection thus far in her run.
This was another stellar angle that saw Rousey get her hands on Bliss and James, look like a total badass while doing so and benefit from her relationship with Angle. Her WrestleMania tag team partner essentially rewarded her for breaking the rules and the crowd ate it up.
Rousey, an outsider, has been received extraordinarily by an increasingly cynical WWE fan base, further proof of the connection the MMA icon has forged with them.
The announcement of Rousey vs. Bliss gives SummerSlam a high-profile title bout that is every but the summer blockbuster that pay-per-view has been built on since 1988.
8 of 10
The rivalry no one asked for another chapter in continued Monday night as Titus Worldwide’s Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews sought to be the first team to knock off The Authors of Pain in tag team competition on the main roster.
With O’Neil neutralized at ringside after being sent into the steel post, Akam and Rezar demolished Crews, overwhelming him and ending the night with a victory following the Last Chapter.
The Authors of Pain defeated Titus Worldwide
This was the same squash match we have seen out of The Authors since they arrived on the main roster, just with more established competition.
The problem here is that there is clearly no real plan whatsoever with the team. Akam and Rezar were called up before WWE Creative knew what to do with them, they lost manager Paul Ellering and the result has been and uneven, at times nonexistent, push.
Now that they are back on television, one would think that would be a good thing. Unfortunately, it is still obvious that management has no idea what to do with them and a result is an act that should be far more over than it is.
9 of 10
Liv Morgan failed to knock off Ember Moon two weeks in a row. As a result, her Riott Squad teammate Sarah Logan would battle the Shenom in singles competition, hoping to turn around the fortunes of the rebellious team.
The intense Logan controlled the match as commentator Michael Cole told a little bit of her story, including her interest in the Vikings and their lifestyle.
After several moments with Logan on the offensive, Moon sought to create separation. She did, blasting the Kentuckian with a hard right hand that left the heel checking for any missing teeth.
Moon followed up with a nasty knee lift. Morgan attempted to get involved but Moon blasted her. Morgan capitalized for a rollup that scored a near-fall.
A suicide dive from Moon left Logan reeling at ringside. Logan recovered, capitalized on interference from Morgan and scored her first singles victory in WWE.
Logan defeated Moon
The match was not always pretty, the result of rushed offense and two competitors not always on the same page, but the women recovered and the result was an entertaining match that furthered the blossoming rivalry.
Logan is the epitome of a pro, a solid in-ring hand whose personal achievements have been sacrificed for the betterment of the Riott Squad as a whole. Her big moment and victory not only was a personal achievement but one that enhances her character and helps create a connection with the audience.
Moon will continue her war with The Riott Squad, presumably all the way up to Riott’s return and a series with the tattooed leader of the group.
For now, she will seek vengeance against Logan, who stole one from her Monday night.
10 of 10
Seth Rollins, Elias and Bobby Lashley battled in the second Triple Threat match of the night, the right to challenge Roman Reigns in seven days for a shot at Brock Lesnar’s Universal Championship at stake.
Elias jumped Rollins before the bell, putting The Architect at a disadvantage right out of the gate. Lashley made him pay and Rollins hammered the point home with a big clothesline on the arena floor.
Back in the ring, Lashley paired off with Rollins, working the mat against the former intercontinental champion. The action picked up heading into the break. After the commercial, Rollins delivered a big frog splash to Lashley but Elias intercepted him and sent The Architect heading to the floor.
A pin attempt of his own failed to keep Lashley’s shoulders to the mat.
After driving Lashley into the corner with a buckle bomb, Rollins delivered a superplex onto Elias and followed up with a Falcon Arrow for a count of two. Rollins was rolling as the match progressed, unloading on the opposition with two consecutive suicide dives.
A big side kick to the jaw of Elias had Rollins moments from a victory. A well-timed breakup of the pin attempt by Lashley kept his dreams of battling Lesnar at SummerSlam alive.
Just as Reigns did earlier in the night, Lashley would ultimately deliver a spear and earn the victory, setting up a rematch with The Big Dog for next week’s show.
Lashley defeated Elias and Rollins
Not quite up to the level of the opener, this was still a strong main event that gave us the expected outcome.
There will be some who complain about the predictability of another Reigns-Lashley match but it makes sense given the fact that those two have been the two top challengers to the Universal Championship so now that we finally have a return date in mind for Lesnar, letting them go at it to determine the top contender is exactly as it should be.
Rollins, as usually, stood out here and certainly has an argument to graduate into the universal title scene sooner than later. Unfinished business with Dolph Ziggler should keep him busy come SummerSlam, though.