The road to Survivor Series continues to be a bumpy one for WWE with equal amounts of promising storylines and head-scratching execution depending upon your preference. The same can be said for a busy episode of Raw on Monday which saw everything from the dramatic returns of Braun Strowman, Stephanie McMahon and Samoa Joe to another tour de force from Kane that featured less-than-desirable booking.
But there was a little bit of something for everyone on this night over three-plus hours, from a pair of title bouts to a trick or treat street fight. Let’s take a look back at what took place.
Braun Strowman gains brutal revenge
In a recurring backstage story that dominated the majority of the episode, The Miz became increasingly paranoid of Strowman’s presence after smelling a trash bag in the locker room. Attempts to recruit Kane, Sheamus and Cesaro to help proved unsuccessful as fellow heels told Miz he was on his own (save for Miztourage cohorts Curtis Axel and a returning Bo Dallas). The Miz, who defended his intercontinental title against Matt Hardy and was scolded by Raw general manager Kurt Angle early in the episode for arriving late to the arena, saw his desperate attempt to exit the arena blocked by Angle. Once the final match came to a close, The Miztourage loaded their bags into a limo and hopped in. But a garbage truck backed up to block them. Strowman, who hasn’t been seen or heard from since being thrown into the truck at TLC, emerged from out of nowhere with a scream.
Strowman chased the Miztourage back to the arena, where he tossed Axel and Dallas across the stage. After throwing Miz into the video wall, Strowman followed him into the ring. He fought off the Miztourage again, hitting Dallas with a running powerslam before landing four consecutive slams on Axel as Miz crawled away. With the crowd egging him on, Strowman carried Axel up the ramp to the announce table where he landed one more powerslam through it to close the show.
This segment more or less summed up WWE’s recent booking issues. For as fun as Strowman’s havoc wreaking was visually, his emergence from the garbage truck (and the suspension of disbelief necessary to assume he had been hiding there for a week) was comically childish. It also failed to make much sense that Strowman particularly targeted The Miz considering it was Kane who turned on him at TLC and was most responsible (along with Cesaro and Sheamus) for throwing Strowman into the garbage truck.
Stephanie McMahon, Daniel Bryan make appearances
Angle opened the show by apologizing to the locker room for putting them in harm’s way during last week’s SmackDown “under siege” attack ahead of Survivor Series by misdiagnosing Shane McMahon’s actions as “friendly competition.” Angle promised it would never happen again. Out came Raw commissioner Stephanie McMahon, who hasn’t been seen in months, to enthusiastically welcome the crowd and praise Angle. Stephanie’s praise quickly turned to insults, however, as she verbally accosted Angle for allowing the “shallow, conniving and manipulative” Shane to take advantage of him. As a punishment, Stephanie made Angle the captain of Raw’s Survivor Series team. “I expect results, I expect victory and I expect total annihilation,” said Stephanie who promised to fire Angle as GM if he loses.
Later on, without Shane’s knowledge, SmackDown general manager Daniel Bryan snuck into Raw and approached a scared Angle backstage. Bryan apologized for SmackDown’s behavior, saying he was equally blindsided by Shane. Angle left Bryan with a message to send to Shane: “I’m bringing my gold medals, I’m bringing my Raw roster, and we are going to take Shane out and we are going to take out SmackDown. Oh it’s true, it’s damn true.” Bryan’s night ended backstage when the lights turned out inside Angle’s office and Kane showed up to attack him, sending his former tag team partner home on a stretcher.
Raw is doing its best to retroactively plant seeds as a means to make sense of SmackDown’s abruptly brutal attack last week (while filling a few plot holes here and there). Bringing back Stephanie McMahon was a nice touch although her negative trend although her long absence was never explained. Her habit of instantly burying lead babyfaces also continued. But the best development continues to be the growing rift between Shane and Bryan and what that might mean entering Survivor Series. Will it lead to Bryan’s eventual in-ring return? Dear WWE, you have our full attention.
Kane’s unconscionable renaissance continues
If last week’s attempted murder of Strowman and a squash match victory over Finn Balor weren’t enough, 50-year-old Kane returned to wreak havoc on even more of the Raw locker room. After disposing of Bryan in the dark, Kane entered the arena at the conclusion of Balor’s clean, strong victory over Cesaro. He proceeded to kick Balor in the face and hit a tombstone piledriver on the stage. During a singles match against Seth Rollins which followed, Kane continued his dominance by getting off the majority of offense before finishing Rollins with a chokeslam for the pin. Dean Ambrose instantly attacked from behind, but Kane dramatically sat back up. With help from Sheamus and Cesaro, Kane began to maul the babyfaces and hit both Rollins and Ambrose with piledrivers.
What year is this again? The obvious reality that Kane is being propped up to be fed to Strowman doesn’t fix the fact that watching him destroy prime babyfaces with such ease does much more damage than it does good. WWE’s preference for 50/50 booking continues to be the reason why the company lacks crossover stars and its handling of Balor, in particular, over the past eight days has been everything from painful to puzzling.
What else happened on Raw?
- Nia Jax def. Bayley via pinfall: Bayley’s original opponent, Alicia Fox, came out to announce she’s too busy as Raw team captain for Survivor Series and sent in Jax as replacement. Jax turned things around late with a leg drop for the 1-2-3, and Fox made her the first Raw team pick.
- Samoa Joe def. Apollo Crews via submission: Joe opened his surprise return by cutting a promo on the crowd for not reaching out to him during his injury. He tapped Crews out with his Coquina Clutch, then attacked Titus O’Neil from behind after the match with the same move.
- Intercontinental Championship — The Miz (c) def. Matt Hardy via pinfall: With the Miztourage at ringside, Miz won clean by rolling out of the ring after being hit with the Twist of Fate and then applying his Skull-Crushing Finale for the win.
- Asuka def. Stacie Cullen via submission: After struggling to a pair of victories over Emma in her first week on the main roster, Asuka was finally given the squash match treatment. The unbeaten former NXT champion dominated this jobber from start to finish before applying the Asuka Lock for the tap.
- Finn Balor def. Cesaro via pinfall: This was one heck of a free TV match. Cesaro scored near falls after a massive pop-up uppercut and a stunning superplex (in which he lifted Balor from the ring apron). Balor, who was forced to fight off constant interference attempts from Sheamus, hit a beautiful Tope Con Hilo onto both heels outside. Balor immediately followed with a stomp to the back of Cesaro’s head inside the ring to finish him off. Afterwards, Balor was attacked by Kane and ate a tombstone piledriver onto the stage.
- Rhyno & Heath Slater def. Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows (Trick or Street Fight): If you lowered your expectations enough, this may have entertained you. If not, this gimmick match — which featured four guys in costumes — was more like trick or trash. After a flurry of pies in the face and pumpkin heads, Rhyno hit a spinebuster on Anderson through a table for the 1-2-3.
- Jason Jordan gets revenge on Elias: While showing a replay of his guitar assault on Jordan last week, Elias sang a song disparaging him in the lyrics. Out came Jordan, still nursing his bruised left arm, to run Elias out of the ring. He then stomped on Elias’ guitar and threw the remaining pieces at him.
- Kalisto def. Drew Gulak via pinfall: With cruiserweight champion Enzo Amore by his side, Gulak cut a promo on Kalisto with one word to describe him — S-O-F-T. Kalisto closed out a short match with a pretty Salida del Sol after walking up the ropes. Afterwards, Amore beat Kalisto down and danced over his body.
- Women’s Championship — Alexa Bliss (c) def. Mickie James via pinfall: After a flurry of late rollup attempts from both including James sticking a beautiful bridge for two, Bliss hung on for the abrupt win. All it took was one right hand to the chin for the champion to knock James cold.