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Monday morning, Big E posted a tweet stating his intentions to cash in his Money in the Bank contract to become the new WWE champion. Needless to say, this sent the internet into a spiral of speculation and hope.
The official WWE.com preview hyped the WWE title match between Bobby Lashley and Randy Orton for Raw. Did Big E spoil the fun for both men by winning the title?
We also saw Damien Priest issue an open challenge for the U.S. title that was answered by Jeff Hardy; Shayna Baszler face Charlotte Flair in a non-title bout; The New Day team up with Mustafa Ali and Mansoor to battle Omos, AJ Styles, Mace and T-Bar; and Rhea Ripley take on Natalya.
Let’s take a look at everything that happened on Monday’s Raw.
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The show kicked off with Big E, Orton, Riddle, Lashley and MVP coming to the ring to talk about the situation with the title match. MVP wanted to know how The Viper got their title clash moved from Extreme Rules to tonight.
Orton said he went to management, and they granted his request just because he is Randy Orton. Big E watched them argue with a huge smile while holding his Money in the Bank briefcase.
The All Mighty threatened both men and knocked the briefcase out of E’s hand. Orton hit the champ with another RKO out of nowhere to end the segment.
Not only did WWE and Big E tease all of this throughout the day, but WWE used this storyline to start the show and hype the WWE title match. This was just smart booking all-around.
Creating a feeling of unpredictability is the only way to get fans excited these days, but doing it in a way that allows you to advertise a potential surprise is a fine line to walk. AEW did it with CM Punk, and WWE is doing it with Big E’s cash-in.
Everyone did their job well and got the crowd hot for the upcoming WWE title bout. You can’t ask for much more from a non-wrestling segment.
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Charlotte gave a quick interview backstage before she made her entrance to battle Baszler in a non-title match. Nia Jax did not accompany her tag team partner to the ring. We saw a video from earlier in the day that showed Jax confronting her and Baszler walking away without resolving the issue.
The Queen sent her out of the ring and hit a slingshot crossbody to take her down as the show went to a break. We returned to see her throw The Queen of Spades with a fall-away slam.
She climbed up to the top turnbuckle, but Baszler tripped her and hit a kick to the head for a two-count. She grabbed Charlotte in the Kirifuda Clutch, but The Queen countered with a side suplex.
Baszler dropped her with a German suplex and a boot to the face for another near-fall. The MMA fighter hit a few more kicks before The Queen knocked her down with a clothesline. Charlotte used Andrade’s signature spinning elbow to get another two-count.
She climbed up to the top rope and hit a moonsault to the floor to take out her opponent. Jax came down, and the distraction allowed Baszler to throw Charlotte into the steps.
We returned from a break to see both women trading shots as Jax paced at ringside. The Queen of Spades hit another German suplex before The Queen took her down with a chop block. Jax got on the apron and distracted Baszler, allowing Charlotte to hit a big boot for the pin.
Alexa Bliss came out with a gift in hand for the winner. Charlotte tried to refuse the gift, but Bliss insisted. The crowd chanted for Charlotte to open the box, and when she did, she found her own version of Lilly named Charly. The crowd immediately started a Charly chant.
Charlotte and Bliss ended up fighting, and Bliss got the upper hand to win the exchange.
Baszler and Charlotte had a good, competitive exchange that made The Queen of Spades look more dangerous than she has since she won the Elimination Chamber match last year.
Giving them three segments to work with allowed both women to use most of the signature moves in their respective arsenals. This is easily the most time Baszler has had in a singles match in several months.
The repeat ending with a distraction wasn’t the most ideal outcome, but it makes sense for the storyline WWE is building between the tag team partners. Everything else worked.
The stuff with Bliss got over with the crowd, especially when she started swearing a little bit.
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We returned from a break to see Veer, Shanky and Jinder Mahal before Erik and Ivar had made their entrance. The Vikings ran down to clear the ring so the match could get going.
Erik and Veer started for their teams. Erik hit some big strikes right away before Veer took him down with a diving Thesz press. The Maharaja tagged in and continued the beatdown while also taking a cheap shot at Drew McIntyre.
Quick tags from the heels kept Erik isolated until he managed to roll out of the way of an elbow drop. McIntyre and Mahal both tagged in, and The Scottish Warrior ran him over. He took out Veer and Shanky before going back to work on his rival.
Shanky got the tag, and McIntyre slammed him with a Michinoku driver. He nailed the Claymore for the win.
This was a short match that didn’t even have time for Ivar to be legal for a single second, but what we did see had great energy.
Mahal, Veer and Shanky could be a force to be reckoned with in the tag team division, but WWE is still going with this feud against McIntyre for right now. Adding The Viking Raiders gives hope that Veer and Shanky will start having their own feuds soon.
With a few more minutes, this could have been much better, but it was fun for what it was.
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Corey Graves confirmed that whoever won this match would face Sheamus at Extreme Rules. Damien Priest gave a pre-match promo about being able to face someone he actually respects tonight.
The Celtic Warrior came down to watch from the commentary table. Jeff Hardy tried to hit a shoulder tackle, and Priest ran him over with his own. The Charismatic Enigma used his speed to hit a few moves, but Priest was able to avoid the Twist of Fate.
The Archer of Infamy nailed a jumping elbow before Hardy took him down with a low dropkick. Priest hit a rolling senton to the floor before he came face to face with Sheamus as the show cut to a commercial.
We returned to see Hardy having his ears boxed before Priest tried a super side suplex. Hardy reversed the momentum and landed on him for a two-count.
Priest kicked out of a few more pin attempts before he hit a spinning heel kick to turn things around. Hardy almost stole the win before Priest hit the Reckoning for the win. Sheamus attacked him as soon as the match was over. He took out Hardy for good measure before Priest nailed him with a boot to the face.
Priest and Hardy showed great chemistry in this match. This is their first time really working together, and other than one or two minor missteps, everything looked great.
Seeing Hardy chase the 24/7 title last week was a little confusing, so it’s nice to see him look like a contender for a more important title this week. He could be put right back into the WWE title picture and nobody would bat an eye.
Priest is a future world champion if he plays his cards right. The crowd loves him and he has a marketable personality.
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After a backstage fight almost broke out between both teams, Sonya Deville booked Nikki A.S.H. vs. Tamina in addition to Natalya vs. Rhea Ripley. We’re grouping these two matches together because they are basically two chapters of the same segment.
Tamina vs. Nikki took place first. Tamina took Nikki and threw her across the ring by her head to immediately take control. She hit a series of body shots before Nikki was able to hit a low dropkick to bring her to one knee.
Tamina leveled Nikki with a massive right hand before the Almost Superhero began to build some momentum. She hit a tornado DDT for the pin, but it looked like Tamina may have kicked out in time and the ref made the call to count it as three. The announcer said Nikki won by mistake.
Tamina attacked Nikki after the bell. Natalya prevented Ripley from getting involved so Tamina could swing Nikki into the barricade. After a break, Ripley vs. Nattie was already taking place.
The Queen of Harts had control for quite some time before Ripley was able to turn the tables. She kicked Nattie out of the ring. When she tried to hit a dropkick, she hit Tamina instead, allowing Natalya to take her down with a neckbreaker.
We returned from a break to see Ripley escape an abdominal stretch. The Nightmare hit a few headbutts and a low dropkick as she built up a head of steam. She hit a northern lights suplex for a close two-count.
Nikki came back out after being checked for injuries and tripped Natalya while the ref was distracted. She stopped Nattie from using the ropes for leverage, allowing Ripley to lock in her trademark submission for the win.
Grade: Nikki vs. Tamina C, Natalya vs. Ripley B-
The match between Tamina and Nikki was a little clunky, especially at the end, but Ripley vs. Natalya made up for it with some great physicality.
WWE may have booked three women’s matches and gave them a good amount of time as a response to so many people being upset about the women’s bout being bumped from SmackDown. If that is the case, this show helped make up for it.
Giving the two non-champions the win here is a good sign that they will be the next challengers for the women’s tag titles.
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Mansoor danced with Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods during their entrance while Mustafa Ali looked annoyed by his young partner.
Mansoor took control of AJ Styles right away and brought him to his corner so the babyfaces could use quick tags to keep him grounded with the Unicorn Stampede.
Mace and T-Bar were able to take out everyone on the opposing team by themselves. Styles acted tough once they had done the dirty work for him.
After a break, Woods and Kingston were finally able to tag in and reverse the momentum of the match in their favor. They took the fight to Styles while fending off people from the other team.
Ali made the blind tag and took down Styles, but then he saw Omos tag in. The Colossus dominated him until Mansoor, Kingston and Woods tried to help. He single-handedly dispatched everyone before he finished off Ali with a two-handed chokeslam.
It’s hard to juggle eight people in one match effectively, but the way they laid everything out allowed everyone to have a couple of moments to show off their skills. This was a solid match for everyone involved.
The way WWE has protected and booked Omos indicates the company has big plans for him in the future. For now, pairing him with Styles is the best way to mask his inexperience.
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Doudrop was out first for her rematch against Eva Marie after she left her former mentor beaten down two weeks ago when they were originally supposed to fight.
Eva tried to take control early, but Doudrop overpowered her and sent her to the corner. She dodged Doudrop and slammed her head into the top turnbuckle a few times.
Eva tried to roll her up, but Doudrop didn’t budge. Doudrop hit a senton and a low crossbody to get the win over Eva.
Even though Eva got in more offense than expected, this was still mostly a one-sided fight. For the story they are telling, Doudrop winning easily made more sense than making this competitive.
That said, it was still a short match with little to highlight the strength of either performer. It was little more than a squash.
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As soon as the bell rang, Orton rolled out of the ring to play some mind games with the champ. Lashley didn’t try to chase him right away, and when he was distracted by Riddle, The Viper went for the kill.
He slammed The All Mighty into the steps, barricade and announce table, but Lashley kicked out at one. Orton sent the WWE champion into the ring post, but when he went for a DDT, Lashley backdropped him out of the ring.
The Legend Killer dropped him on the barricade and clotheslined him into the timekeeper’s area. We returned from a break to see Orton score a close two-count with a superplex.
Lashley picked him up and ran him into the ring post. He hit a huge Spear in the corner to make Orton double over in pain and then hit a neckbreaker for another near-fall. The Legend Killer hit a snap powerslam for yet another two-count before he spiked the champ with a rope-hung DDT.
Lashley countered the RKO and hit a Spear, but he couldn’t get the pin. Orton avoided the Hurt Lock and hit the RKO, but MVP pulled Lashley toward the ropes. Orton went out and hit him with the RKO, too.
The All Mighty nailed him with a Spear to get the pin and retain the WWE Championship. He put Orton through the announce table after the match, but he appeared to hurt his knee. That is when Big E’s music hit, and he ran down with a ref and the briefcase.
WWE cut to a commercial before the match could begin. When we returned, Big E slapped Lashley as the ref called for the bell. Lashley tackled him and started unloading, but Big E took out his injured knee. Lashley countered the Big Ending and hit a Spear, but Big E kicked out at the last second.
Big E got to his feet and hit the Big Ending for the win. We have a new WWE champion! Woods and Kingston ran down to celebrate with him as he celebrated with the belt.
The match between Orton and Lashley could have taken place at any PPV and been well received. Both men put their full effort into making this a fun performance. The crowd ate it up.
The champion retaining the way he did was a great way to end the match. It somewhat protected Orton while giving Lashley a mostly clean win.
Ending the show with Big E winning the WWE Championship was the perfect way to cap off this show. This is just the beginning of his main event run.
This week’s show was pretty good overall. Most of the matches were decent, and the ending was amazing. Is this what it feels like to enjoy Raw again?