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It’s been a very interesting week in the WWE Universe thanks to two massive TV contract deals. Last week there was the news about USA Network re-signing WWE’s Monday Night Raw for what will likely amount to be about $240 million per year. They chose to pass on Smackdown, though, so Fox won the rights and is going to pay WWE around $205 million per year for five years to air on the main Fox channel, which is network television. That works out to over $1 billion for Smackdown for the length of that deal. If you combine the two deals it’s about $445 million per year for WWE’s two main shows from US TV networks. That is huge.

What this means is USA Network will obviously keep Raw on Mondays as a three-hour show because there’s no indication that it would go back to two hours. Smackdown will be a Friday night show and we assume it’s live, but there’s no official word on that yet. Those deals go into effect in October 2019, so Smackdown will remain a Tuesday night show until then. I wrote an in-depth column for The Comeback looking at the Smackdown deal from several different angles.

It’s a lot to digest in a week and the Smackdown move will lead to some changes for sure because they are going to a different network on a different night although that is 17 months away. The reality is this: WWE got an increase of three times the money for both Raw and Smackdown even though the viewership numbers for those shows are around the same level as where they were the last time their contracts were up. Why are they getting so much money now? Because live programming is at a premium for television networks in 2018. I’ll talk about the TV deals at length in the future. None of this is official yet, but it’s not like WWE is denying it. I’m sure they’ll announce something soon. Anyway, let’s get to Raw.

Live from Albany, New York, this is the Raw Deal for episode #1304 of Monday Night Raw. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top. Next week is NINE FREAKIN’ YEARS of The Raw Deal. Thank you for all the support and remember you can always pick up a TJRWrestling t-shirt to support the site as well.

There was a shot of the live crowd in Albany. Coming up on Raw is Nia Jax-Ronda Rousey Raw Women’s Championship contract signing and Sami Zayn doing some promo with Bobby Lashley’s sisters.

Let’s Hear From Kurt Angle

Kurt Angle, the Raw General Manager, walked out in a suit for a show opening promo as the crowd greeted him with “you suck” chants.

Angle talked about how Ronda Rousey is there for her contract signing with Nia Jax. Angle said he’s going to preside that contract signing. Angle announced a women’s 4-Way match with Natalya in it, but he was cut off by Stephanie McMahon’s music.

Stephanie McMahon, the Raw Commissioner, sauntered out there in a nice black dress. It’s her first time on Raw since the Raw after WrestleMania. Stephanie said what happened at WrestleMania is all water under the bridge and Kurt is forgiven because she’s a leader and business person that will always do what’s best for business. Fans chanted “you tapped out” at Stephanie, who admitted that she did tap out. Stephanie complimented Kurt for doing a phenomenal job since WrestleMania, but she claimed that he needs to listen to her. Stephanie said instead of Kurt, she will be presiding over the Jax/Rousey contract signing.

Angle said he could use some guidance sometime. Stephanie said that Kurt has been giving Roman Reigns far too much latitude and that needs to end tonight. Here comes Roman Reigns to a mixed reaction full of boos with some cheers in there too.

Reigns did a slow walk down to the ring and he got in the ring to join Kurt and Stephanie.

Reigns said if she’s going to say something about him, say it to him. Stephanie said she didn’t understand Reigns’ attitude. Stephanie said that Reigns was the big dog and the leader, but if he lets his Samoan temper get in the way then maybe he’ll be looking for a new line of work. Reigns said she should watch what she should say or he’ll beat up her favorite superstars in the back. Stephanie talked about how she manages revenue streams for this company and she doesn’t play favorites. Reigns complained about a revenue stream like Brock Lesnar, Stephanie said they’ve heard his concerns and he wanted her to cut out the corporate speak. Reigns said he knows they don’t want Reigns as Universal Champion or holding that Money in the Bank contract. Stephanie said that Reigns lost the Money in the Bank qualifier, so he can take it up with Jinder Mahal. Reigns said that he did.

Kevin Owens showed up to join the promo party. Owens said thanks to Roman taking out Jinder, Owens stepped up, grabbed the brass ring and he became the guy in the Money in the Bank contract ladder match. Owens said that is best for business. Owens stood on the apron to say that he actually really likes Roman Reigns. Owens told the fans to chant something that Roman needs to hear: “Thank You Roman.” Owens said that Stephanie was honest in saying that she doesn’t play favorites while adding that he has had issues with her brother and father. Owens said that Stephanie knows talent when she sees it. Owens put his arm on Stephanie’s shoulder. Stephanie told Owens not to do that ever again.

Stephanie did the most predictable thing possible by making a match for right now: Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns. A ref went into the ring and the show went to break there.

Analysis: It was the usual opening segment to set up a match after the break. Sometimes they set up the match for later in the show and sometimes they do it after the break. It’s not that original, but that’s what WWE does. There wasn’t a lot to the promo other than Stephanie’s return to television after being off TV for about six weeks. She’s a good talker, but I really didn’t miss her that much. Reigns vs. Owens is a big match that makes sense to do in the first half hour because it was before the NBA Playoff game started at 8:30pmET with Cleveland hosting Boston. That game will draw a big audience that will cut into the Raw audience and WWE knows that.

(Commercial)

The match began during the break.

Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens

Owens slapped on a headlock. Reigns ran the ropes and hit a shoulder tackle that knocked Owens down. Owens bailed to the floor. He went back in the ring and Reigns connected with an uppercut punch. Reigns with several more punches that knocked down Owens. Reigns whipped Owens into the turnbuckle, Owens with a boot to the face and Reigns hit an uppercut that knocked Owens over the top to the floor. Owens went back in the ring and bailed to the floor again. Reigns went for the Drive By dropkick on the apron, Owens with a superkick, Owens sent Reigns back in the ring and the match went to a break five minutes into it.

(Commercial)

The match returned with Reigns teasing a superplex on Owens, but Owens elbowed him down because Reigns doesn’t normally do a superplex. Reigns with three clotheslines in a row. Reigns hit his clothesline routine in the corner, he went for a boot, Owens moved and Owens hit a DDT for two. Reigns with a boot to the face, Owens ran the ropes and Owens hit a Samoan Drop for two. Sorry pal, you can’t win matches with that like Nia Jax because Nia isn’t like most girls. Reigns wanted a Superman Punch, Owens avoided it, rollup for Owens and a superkick for Owens. Owens charged going in going for the cannonball, Reigns came back with a Superman Punch for two and the crowd bought that as the finish even though Reigns doesn’t win with that move. It’s funny how that still works as a nearfall. Owens bailed to the floor again. Reigns left the ring and hit a Spear on the floor. That was the cue for Jinder Mahal and there’s Mahal with the punches from behind. It went about 13 minutes.

Winner by disqualification: Roman Reigns

Analysis: **3/4 The match was fine. They were on their way to having a complete match with a lot of nearfalls, but that ended thanks to the obvious cheap attack from Mahal. Aside from the crowd getting way too excited after a Superman Punch, there wasn’t really a moment in the match where it looked like it might end. It just felt like the usual Owens and Reigns match that they did a bunch of times in late 2016 and early 2017.

Mahal had his ribs taped up after Reigns attacked him last week. Mahal kicked Reigns in the head. Mahal sent Reigns into the ring. Owens went into the ring to join Mahal with punches for Reigns. Seth Rollins’ music hit and he ran out there for the save. Rollins took down Owens, Mahal and Sunil Singh with punches. They cut to commercial quickly as the crowd cheered loudly for Rollins.

Analysis: It was an obvious way to set up a tag team match between the four wrestlers. The creative team is mailing it in with predictable booking this week so far.

(Commercial)

A commercial aired for Total Bellas. I’ll be busy doing something other than watching that.

The tag team match was made official during the break. Shocking!

Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens and Jinder Mahal (w/Sunil Singh)

Rollins with a dropkick on Mahal, who bailed to the floor. Rollins hit a dive over the top to take out Mahal on the floor. Reigns tagged in with a back elbow on Mahal. That didn’t last long because Mahal dropped Reigns with an elbow and Owens tagged in with stomps to Reigns’ head. Mahal slapped the chinlock on Reigns. Owens tagged in with punches on Reigns followed by a chinlock. Owens with a kick and Reigns hit a clothesline leading to Owens doing a flip bump. Reigns tried to tag, but Mahal pulled Rollins off the apron and Mahal sent Rollins into the barricade. Owens with a cannonball on Reigns for a two count.

(Commercial)

The match returned with the heels continuing to work over Reigns with Owens connecting with punches. Another chinlock by Owens. Reigns broke free and hit a running boot to the face. Rollins got the hot tag against Mahal with Rollins hitting a springboard clothesline. Slingblade connected for Rollins, clothesline sent Mahal out of the ring and Rollins wanted a suicide dive, but Owens grabbed his foot. Rollins hit a suicide dive on Owens on one side of the ring and suicide dive on Mahal on the other side of the ring. Rollins with a Blockbuster off the ropes for a two count. Singh provided a distraction, so Mahal picked up Rollins and hit a gutbuster for two. Rollins with an enziguri kick. Owens tagged back in, Rollins sent Owens face first into the turnbuckle and Owens with a gut buster (knee to ribs) followed by a splash off the ropes. Reigns back in with a save. Owens superkick sent Reigns out of the ring. Rollins went for the knee, Owens avoided it, Rollins hit a superkick, Rollins went for The Stomp, Owens avoided it and Rollins went for it again and The Stomp connected. Rollins pinned Owens for the pinfall win after 14 minutes of action.

Winners by pinfall: Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns

Analysis: ***1/4 It was a pretty good tag match with Rollins on fire after he got the hot tag. Rollins has been on a major roll for a few months now while putting on consistently great matches on a regular basis. We know that Rollins and Reigns know how to put on an entertaining tag team match because they have done it so many times. Owens getting beat is a bit disappointing, but it didn’t surprise me at all. Mahal was fine in the match although he continues to bore me most of the time.

After the match, Rollins and Reigns shook hands.

Analysis: Owens and Reigns were on the show for the first 45 minutes or so. That’s a lot of screen time.

Rollins and Reigns left together as the victors, but Mahal showed up with a steel chair. Mahal hit Rollins in the back with a chair. Mahal hit Reigns in the gut with a chair. Mahal hit Rollins in the back with a chair again to knock him off the stage. Mahal hit Reigns in the ribs with the chair. Referees ran onto the stage. Mahal hit Reigns in the ribs with the chair again. Mahal celebrated his cheap attack. The camera stayed on Reigns and Rollins as they sold the back injuries.

Analysis: It was a cheap heel attack from Mahal that will likely set up a match between them at Money in the Bank.

The announce team of Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Jonathon Coachman were shown on camera.

There was a clip of that weird Bobby Lashley interview from two weeks ago where he talked a lot about his three sisters. Sami Zayn will interview Lashley’s sisters tonight…or so he claims.

(Commercial)

It was announced that Roman Reigns will face Jinder Mahal at Money in the Bank. Graves said, “Kurt Angle didn’t waste any time making that one.” Actually, he wasted two weeks when it was obvious it was going to happen.

Analysis: I think the crowd is going to hate that Reigns vs. Mahal match. Good luck to them.

Let’s Hear From Sami Zayn Exposing Bobby Lashley’s Stories

Sami Zayn made his entrance with his unique dancing skills. Graves mocked Cole for saying four sisters before the break and Cole said it was three sisters.

Zayn was in the ring talking about how Lashley’s interview two weeks ago was not entirely accurate. Zayn said he’s going to expose Lashley’s lies. Zayn said he’s invited Lashley’s nice sisters.

The three “women” walked out there and they were actually men dressed like women. One of the “sisters” even had a mustache. They entered the ring. Zayn said that he sees the resemblance to Lashley.

Analysis: My initial thought was this is going to be bad as soon as I saw the dudes in drag and I felt bad for Zayn trying to make this work.

Zayn talked to “Cathy” to explain what happened. That led to Cathy saying she couldn’t defend herself, so she grabbed a broom to swat Lashley away from her.

The mustache sister “Frances” complained about Lashley hitting her, so she bought a helmet and Lashley couldn’t hit her on the head anymore. Zayn said good for her.

The third sister “Jessica” talked about Lashley made her cry, so she cried in a towel and it became a sopping wet towel. This is awful.

The sister Cathy said that Lashley only loves himself. Frances said their parents hated Bobby and were ashamed of him for being disrespectful until one day they had to ship him off to reform school. Jessica said that Lashley was a brat, so they would call the cops on Lashley. Zayn summarized that Lashley is a liar, cheater and a menace to society.

Bobby Lashley’s music hit to a mild pop to the crowd. Lashley had a big smile on his face while greeting the fans on his way down to the ring.

Lashley went into the ring. Lashley told Cathy he can’t believe how she is still single. Lashley said Jessica’s outfit was fabulous. Lashley pointed out Frances’ mustache. Lashley said that Sami is an amazing, great friend and thanked him for doing this for him. Zayn said maybe he would like it more if he hit a Helluva Kick on Lashley and tossed him out of the ring like garbage because Lashley’s family thinks he is garbage.

Zayn tried to run away, Lashley grabbed him and the “sisters” punched Lashley at the same time. Zayn punched Lashley, but Lashley powered out of it with punches and clothesline for the sisters. Lashley punched Frances with the helmet. Lashley dumped Cathy out of the ring. Lashley kicked Jessica and grabbed the dirty towel. Lashley nailed a huge spinebuster. Lashley used the broomstick to crotch the last guy and dumped him out of the ring. Zayn went up the ramp while Lashley’s music played to end it.

Analysis: This was bad. Really bad. I was dreading it last week and the execution of it was poor. It was one of the worst segments on Raw in a long time. I understand what WWE was going for by having an over the top heel by Zayn trying to get heat and get the fans to rally behind Lashley, but this was poor. The comedy aspects of it weren’t funny. The fans really didn’t get behind Lashley that much. As good as Zayn is on the microphone, I don’t think any wrestler was going to save this mess of a segment. This Lashley return has been flat. This horrible segment isn’t going to help him either. This should lead to Lashley vs. Zayn at Money in the Bank next month.

A clip aired of last week’s segment in NYC with Nia Jax challenging Ronda Rousey to a Women’s Title match at Money in the Bank. Contract signing is still to come.

Ember Moon made her entrance for a match against Alexa Bliss.

(Commercial)

Alexa Bliss was interviewed by Renee Young in the gorilla position area. Bliss told some story about the element of surprise. Bliss said she didn’t know Ember Moon was there on the night when she made her Raw debut and Moon beat Bliss, but this time Bliss will be ready for her.

Bliss made her entrance with the always lovely Mickie James by her side. Bliss and Moon are in the Money in the Bank contract ladder match on June 17.

Alexa Bliss (w/Mickie James) vs. Ember Moon

Bliss was in control early with her stomping on the back by the ropes. Bliss had some tape on her left shoulder area, so she must be dealing with an injury that hopefully she can work through. Bliss left the ring, Moon went after Bliss, James distracted and Bliss sent Moon shoulder first into the barricade. Back in the ring, Bliss with an arm-wringer takedown for two as the show went to break.

(Commercial)

The match returned with Bliss working on the left arm/shoulder of Moon while making angry faces at the referee when she got two counts. Bliss slapped on an armbar. James slapped the mat to try to get the crowd into it, but the crowd was quiet. Moon countered an armbar with a rollup for two. Moon with a punch followed by a sidewalk slam. Moon with kicks followed by a running dropkick. Bliss grabbed the ring apron to distract, the ref was occupied with that, so James went into the ring and tried to attack with her high heel shoe. The ref spotted it, so he ejected James from ringside. James threw a tantrum, which was funny. Moon with a forearm knocked James out of the ring. Bliss with a rollup while grabbing the tights for two. Moon nailed a kick to the ribs while on the apron. Moon up top and she hit the Eclipse (stunner off the top) for the pinfall win after about eight minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Ember Moon

Analysis: **1/4 Good effort. Moon is very good at selling an injury during the match, so having Bliss work on the arm was smart. It was also nice to see Moon get the win since she’s still new on the Raw roster and she needs the wins more than Bliss. It doesn’t mean much in terms of the title picture. This is about “building momentum” as WWE likes to say all the time leading up to Money in the Bank. I enjoyed Mickie’s tantrum. Moon’s Eclipse finisher is one of the best finishing moves in WWE.

Stephanie McMahon was in her office, which included a framed photo of her daddy Vince McMahon and a fruit basket. Finn Balor and Braun Strowman walked into the room. Stephanie pointed out the changes to the office now that she took it over from Kurt while saying that Vince was a handsome Irishman like Finn. Strowman got an apple from the basket. Finn said they wanted a rematch against Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler. Stephanie pointed out that at Money in the Bank they are against eachother. Stephanie thinks that Finn might blame Braun for coming up short in their match last week. Stephanie announced a match: Finn Balor vs. Braun Strowman. Strowman crushed the apple in his hand and said that he likes competition. Balor was stunned by it.

Analysis: What a waste of a good apple! Welcome to WWE, where two people appear in a scene together and get put in a match. It happens all the time. It’s so repetitive. At least they finally announced a main event match for the show.

No Way Jose and his conga line made their entrance to watch Jose lose a match.

(Commercial)

Baron Corbin made his entrance for this match with No Way Jose.

No Way Jose vs. Baron Corbin

Corbin did his slide out of the ring move early, so Jose hit him with a dropkick and a forearm over the top. Corbin with a running clothesline off the apron. Corbin whipped Jose shoulder first into the steel ring post. Corbin slapped on an armbar. Jose got back into it by sending Corbin shoulder first into the ring post. Jose with elbows, punches, a boot to the face and a clothesline. Jose put Corbin on his shoulders and slammed him down. No reaction from the crowd as that got a two count. Jose got a rollup for two. Corbin with the Deep Six slam. Corbin with the End of Days and that’s it for the pinfall win. It went about four minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Baron Corbin

Analysis: * Easy win for Corbin as expected. The crowd was dead for most of the match, which isn’t that surprising. There was obviously no plan for Jose on the main roster. He’s there to lose matches.

Kurt Angle was in the hallway trying to use his cell phone. Chad Gable walked up to Angle asking him what was going on because he tried finding him in his office, but Stephanie was there. Angle said he wanted to give her an office and he liked it out there although the cell phone service sucks. Angle said he wanted Gable to replace Mahal last week, but management had other plans (Owens). Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre showed up. Ziggler said he knew Angle wouldn’t be in the gym, at least not these days. McIntyre said they liked beating Finn Balor and Braun Strowman last week and they’d love to do it again, but that decision is above Kurt’s pay grade. Gable said they think they are special. McIntyre said they are. Ziggler said that Gable’s claim to fame is that he’s a great amateur wrestler, then Ziggler said who isn’t? (Ziggler was a good amateur wrestler as well and we all know Kurt Angle was a gold medalist too.) Ziggler said the difference between him and Gable is he’s not sitting around waiting for a handout. Gable said he’s not waiting around. Angle put Ziggler and Gable in a match for later. McIntyre and Ziggler left while Angle said “jackass” at them.

Analysis: It was a fine way to set up a match. The dialogue in that segment was actually better than most of those types of segments.

The B Team duo of Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas walked out with their makeshift “B Team” shirts with the letter “B” on them. The “B” means best or so they said last week. They also have a theme song.

This week on Smackdown: Daniel Bryan vs. Jeff Hardy for the first time ever.

(Commercial)

Later on Raw: Finn Balor vs. Braun Strowman

The Breezango duo of Tyler Breeze and Fandango made their entrance. A cell phone promo aired from Breezango earlier about how their new shirts being hot.

Breezango – Fandango and Tyler Breeze vs. The B Team – Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel

Axel got a rollup for two. Dallas tagged in, Breeze tripped him up and Fandango tagged in with an elbow smash off the top. Axel made a blind tag, Dallas lifted up Fandango and Axel did the neckbreaker, so it’s a double team neckbreaker for the pinfall win after two minutes. It went less than two minutes.

Winners by pinfall: The B Team

Analysis: 1/2* A quick match to put over Bo and Curtis in their “new” B Team persona.

After the match, Dallas and Axel did an over the top celebration with Dallas tackling Axel. They even hugged the referee John Cone. They celebrated up the aisle. They walked over to the announce table, Axel jumped on it and Dallas hugged Graves. Dallas grabbed one of the chairs from the announce table, Axel jumped on him and they fell around the ringside area.

Analysis: The celebration was fun and it may have lasted longer than the match. I didn’t time it. Sorry. I was too busy celebrating. Maybe.

The Jax-Rousey contract signing is next.

(Commercial)

Raw Women’s Championship Contract Signing

Stephanie McMahon, the Raw Commissioner, was in the ring with the red carpet, the table, the contract, the microphones and two chairs. Stephanie hyped up Jax as the Raw Women’s Champion and talked about Ronda Rousey as one of the biggest stars in UFC history.

Nia Jax entered first with the Raw Women’s Title on her shoulder. With Jax in the ring, Stephanie said that Jax has boldly chosen her next opponent.

Ronda Rousey got a nice ovation. She was in her usual black leather jacket and she greeted fans at ringside in the aisle. Rousey got into the ring. Rousey: “Hey Steph.” Stephanie told her to sit. Rousey asked how the arm is. Stephanie said that her arm is great and it’s doing pretty well.

Stephanie asked Rousey how does it feel to leapfrog the entire women’s division because Ronda said that a lot of the women deserve that title shot? Rousey said that she knows a lot of other women deserve a title shot, but Jax challenged her.

Stephanie said she thinks Jax challenged Rousey because Nia is trying to make a name for herself at Rousey’s expense. Stephanie said she personally knows that Rousey put on a great showing at WrestleMania, but Rousey has yet to compete in a singles match in WWE. Steph pointed out that Jax knows that Rousey fought bantamweights and flyweights and there is no weight division in WWE. Steph talked about how Nia is bigger, more powerful and stronger. Steph added that Jax knows that Rousey doesn’t like to lose very much. Steph said that Jax knows if she beats Rousey then Rousey will tuck her tail and leave WWE forever, which will make Jax the baddest woman on the planet.

Stephanie moved over to Rousey’s side to say that Rousey knows that Jax took 15 to 20 minutes to beat little Alexa Bliss (it was maybe ten minutes) and wondered why it took Jax so long to beat Bliss. Stephanie said that maybe Ronda knows the truth that Jax is lazy. The crowd let out a big “ooohhh” for that. Stephanie said that if Jax is lazy then how long will it take Rousey to put the armbar on her. Stephanie wondered if Rousey can even put the armbar on Jax.

Jax stood up to say that the truth is that Rousey can’t get the armbar on Jax. Jax said she’s sick and tired of hearing the lazy crap. Jax said she will make a name for herself because she will beat Rousey at Money in the Bank. Jax signed the contract.

Rousey signed the contract to make the Money in the Bank match officially official.

Rousey pushed the table over to the other side of the ring. Rousey said that she’s happy the truth came out. Rousey extended her hand for a shake and Jax shook it. Rousey: “I am going to take your title.” She paused. “And your arm.” They had a staredown in the ring with Stephanie in the background with a grin on her face. Rousey’s music played to end it.

Analysis: It was obvious that WWE didn’t really trust either woman to deliver a great promo, so Stephanie did about 90% of the talking with Ronda and Jax only have small lines at the end. I don’t mind it, though. Stephanie did great as the instigator that was there to stir the pot a bit by talking about things from Jax’s perspective and from Rousey’s perspective as well. It’s possible that Jax could turn heel to side with Stephanie in her feud with Rousey, but I think that might happen after Rousey wins the title at Money in the Bank. I’m going with Rousey for the win for now.

Chad Gable vs. Dolph Ziggler is next.

(Commercial)

The match began during the break.

Dolph Ziggler (w/Drew McIntyre) vs. Chad Gable

Gable with an arm drag early on followed by a headlock. Ziggler made it to the ropes to force a break. Ziggler with a dropkick followed by a headlock to give him control of the match. Ziggler kept Gable grounded with a submission holding back Gable’s arms. Gable tripped up Ziggler and rolled through for a two count. Gable got another two count. Ziggler kicked the knee of Gable and went for a slam, but Gable escaped and wanted a suplex. Ziggler managed to hit a neckbreaker. Gable with an elbow followed by a rollup using his legs. Ziggler missed a corner splash, he hit the turnbuckle and Gable nailed a bridging German Suplex for two. Ziggler held onto the ropes, he managed to connect with a headbutt followed by a superkick for the pinfall win after four minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Dolph Ziggler

Analysis: ** The match was fine for the time given. The crowd was dead for most of it and didn’t even react when Gable got a nearfall. I liked the finish with Ziggler using his veteran savvy to hit that surprising headbutt followed by the superkick for the win.

Post match, McIntyre picked up Gable and nailed the running Claymore Kick to take down Gable.

Analysis: The duo of McIntyre and Ziggler continue to dominate. This could lead to Jason Jordan returning as Chad Gable’s partner, but I think Jordan is better suited as a heel when he comes back and WWE may want Gable to be a singles wrestler on Raw.

A women’s 4-Way MITB qualifying match is up next.

(Commercial)

The Riott Squad trio made their entrance. Dana Brooke was already in the ring. Natalya made her entrance with Cole putting over Natalya’s friendship with Ronda Rousey.

Money in the Bank Qualifying Match: Natalya vs. Dana Brooke vs. Sarah Logan vs. Liv Morgan (w/Ruby Riott)

Morgan hit a face crusher on Natalya off the middle ropes for a two count while Brooke and Logan were paired off in the corner. Logan sent Brooke onto the apron and Brooke hit her with a forearm. Natalya with a snap suplex on Logan for two. Natalya with a running dropkick on Morgan for two. Logan got back into it with a knee to Natalya’s face for two as Brooke broke it up. Brooke with an elbow in the corner on Morgan and a clothesline on Logan. Morgan with an enziguri kick on Brooke sent Brooke out of the ring. Logan and Morgan were alone in the ring. They stared up at the Money in the Bank briefcases above the ring and then they double teamed Natalya. Morgan worked over Natalya with kicks and Logan hit Natalya with a forearm. Brooke pulled Morgan out of the ring. Brooke and Morgan did a clothesline at the same time, so they were both down on the floor. Natalya with two clotheslines on Logan, a legsweep and Riott on the apron, so Natalya knocked her down. Logan hit a surprising kick for two as Brooke broke up the pin. Logan whipped Brooke shoulder first into the ring post. Natalya with the spinning clothesline on Logan. Natalya slapped on the Sharpshooter on Logan and Logan tapped out to give Natalya the win after about five minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Natalya

The win by Natalya means she joins the women’s Money in the Bank match on June 17. The other women in the match are Ember Moon (Raw), Alexa Bliss (Raw), Charlotte Flair (SD), Becky Lynch (SD) and three others.

Analysis: *3/4 It was a quick match for a four-way with Natalya winning as the obvious choice because the other women just aren’t at the same level as her in terms of their level of star power. The crowd was dead for most of it other than when Natalya slapped on the Sharpshooter.

Post match, Natalya was interviewed by Charly Caruso, who asked if experience is a big factor for Natalya. That led to Natalya saying experience is important, but she has Ronda Rousey as her training partner and after Money in the Bank, Ronda will be the new Raw Women’s Champion and Natalya will be Miss Money in the Bank.

Analysis: They are really pushing the Natalya friendship with Rousey like they did before the match and in that promo after the match. That suggests that Rousey might win the Raw Women’s Championship at Money in the Bank and Natalya could win the MITB contract and beat Rousey that same night while turning heel at the same time. Remember, Natalya was a heel on Smackdown for a couple of years and she’s better in that role. That could be where this is headed. I’m not sure if that’s the plan, but it’s certainly a possibility.

Bobby Roode vs. Elias is up next…again.

(Commercial)

Elias was in the ring doing his pre-match singing routine. He talked about how WWE’s stock has risen 150% since he started on Raw and the stock is trading at an all-time high. Elias said that the entire world, NBC Universal and everyone there tonight knows that WWE stands for…Walks With Elias (the fans said it twice). Elias sang a song telling the fans to say they loved Elias, which led to him saying he doesn’t feel the same way as them. Elias talked about all the famous places in Europe he visited last week and now he’s in a dump like Albany, which got him some cheap heat.

Bobby Roode’s music interrupted him. Roode made his entrance and he’s a part of the Money in the Bank match on June 17.

Elias attacked Roode while Roode was posing in the ring. The match didn’t begin when Elias attacked him. The referee made Elias go back into the corner while he checked on Roode, who said it was okay to start the match.

Elias vs. Bobby Roode

The bell rang, Roode threw his jacket at Elias and worked over him with punches. Roode worked over Elias with chops followed by a clothesline and another clothesline that sent Elias over the top to the floor.

(Commercial)

Back from break, Elias with a running clothesline gave him control. Elias with a belly to back suplex. Elias grounded Roode with an armbar as Cole said Elias has been so impressive in his career. I still can’t remember a significant win that Elias has had. Roode made the comeback with a back elbow, clothesline and a forearm smash. Roode with a corner clothesline followed by a spinebuster that got a two count. The crowd woke up for Roode’s “glorious” pose and Elias got a two count. Roode with a boot to the face, he missed an attack off the ropes and hit a swinging neckbreaker. Roode up top and Elias tripped him up. Elias pulled Roode to the middle of the ring and hit the Drift Away neckbreaker for the pinfall win after about nine minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Elias

Analysis: **1/4 It was a competitive match between two guys that have wrestled a lot in the last month. There were some boring parts to it, but the last few minutes were good. I was mildly surprised by Elias getting the win because Roode is in the Money in the Bank ladder match while Elias isn’t in it, so it would have made more sense for Roode to go over.

Elias was at the top of the ramp with his guitar on his shoulder. Braun Strowman’s music hit and Strowman hit a running shoulder tackle on Elias to knock him down. That was fun.

Strowman waited in the ring for his match to begin after the break.

(Commercial)

Next week on Raw in Richmond, VA: Seth Rollins vs. Jinder Mahal for the Intercontinental Title match.

There’s also a “Last Chance Qualifying Gauntlet Match” for a spot in the women’s Money in the Bank match. The women are: Sasha Banks, Sarah Logan, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Mickie James, Bayley and Dana Brooke.

Analysis: I’d like to see Mickie win that in her hometown of Richmond, but WWE isn’t pushing her that much. It will probably be Banks or Bayley with an outside shot that it may be Riott.

Finn Balor made his entrance to a good reaction from the crowd. Balor is in the men’s Money in the Bank ladder match along with Strowman. Others in the match are The Miz, Bobby Roode, Kevin Owens, Rusev, one member of The New Day (that’s expected to be Big E) and another name from Smackdown to be determined.

Finn Balor vs. Braun Strowman

They had a staredown to start the match with Strowman laughing at the smaller man. Strowman took control early with a clubbing forearm to the chest of Balor. Strowman sent Balor into the corner with a hard whip. Balor with a running dropkick to the knee of Strowman, but that offense didn’t last because Strowman took him down with a palm strike to the chest for a two count. Strowman punted Balor out of the ring. Strowman launched Balor back into the ring. Strowman with a punch to the ribs. Strowman: “Look at his smile, isn’t it pretty?” Then he punched Balor in the chest. Strowman charged at Balor in the corner, Balor got his feet up to the face and Strowman missed a corner charge, so Balor nailed a kick to the face. Balor with a chop to the chest. Strowman came back with a headbutt. Strowman with a boot to the face. Balor sent Strowman out of the ring, dropkick by Balor and a running kick to the chest was blocked by Strowman, who sent Balor face first into the apron. Strowman with a punch to the chest knocked down Balor again. Balor with a hard slap to the face, so Strowman responded with a punch leading to Balor leaving the ring. Strowman ran around the ring, but Balor was ready for him with a Slingblade takedown that took down Strowman. Balor with a running dropkick that sent Strowman over the barricade and into the crowd (or the WWE Universe as the announcers are told to say). Strowman back up and Balor kicked him down. Balor back in to break the ref’s count. Balor with a double foot stomp to the back of Strowman on the floor. Balor with a double foot stomp off the barricade onto Strowman on the floor. Balor back in the ring to break the count again. Strowman stumbled back into the ring before the ten count. Balor charged at Strowman again and Strowman nailed a running shoulder tackle to take him down. Strowman with a running shoulder tackle, Balor moved and Strowman hit the ring post. Strowman does that in every match. Balor with a dropkick. Balor up top, Strowman grabbed him and Strowman hit him with a powerslam. Strowman picked Balor up and hit a Running Powerslam for the pinfall win after about 11 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Braun Strowman

Analysis: **3/4 It was a solid match that went longer than I thought. The outcome was expected because Strowman rarely loses especially in a singles match. It’s nice to see Balor getting in some offense and Strowman sell for the smaller man the way that he did. Balor didn’t have a nearfall spot where people thought he was going to win, but he did get a lot of offense in and nearly got the win a few times in the match. It was no surprise that Owens got the win.

Strowman celebrated the win and he stared at the Money in the Bank briefcases above the ring like WWE superstars are instructed to do this time of year.

Strowman picked up Balor, put him up against the turnbuckle and Strowman did his yell. Strowman pointed at the MITB briefcases above the ring. Strowman’s music played to end it.

Analysis: The match meant nothing in the big picture because it was just two guys in the Money in the Bank building momentum, so if you missed it you really missed nothing.

 

Three Stars of the Show

  1. Kevin Owens
  2. Seth Rollins
  3. Roman Reigns

 

The Scoreboard

5.5 out of 10

Last week: 6

2018 Average: 6.02

Last 5 Weeks: 6, 6.5, 6.5, 5.5, 7

2018 High: 8 (February 19)

2018 Low: 4.5 (March 26)

 

Final Thoughts

I give it a 5.5 out of 10.

It was a very average show with not a lot of exciting moments. I would even say below average because of the short matches that took place and because of how bad that Zayn/Lashley segment was.

The first hour was full of Reigns and Owens while Rollins put on an impressive performance as usual. Those two matches were pretty good with Rollins and Reigns looking like they hadn’t missed a beat from their Shield tag team days.

I feel bad for Zayn and Lashley being a part of that awful segment. It was one of the worst segments of the year. It reminds me of Alexa Bliss having to do that “This is Your Life” skit for Bayley last year that was awful. I also remember “The Old Day” from two years ago. These things are so bad even though WWE’s creative probably thinks they are funny. They are not. Do better.

The build to Money in the Bank has been okay. In three hours this week, they only added Natalya to a Money in the Bank match and announced Reigns vs. Mahal, which was obvious. The tag team division has largely been ignored, which is a shame.

The next WWE PPV is Money in the Bank in Chicago on June 17. Here’s the lineup so far.

WWE Championship: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (Nakamura gets to pick the match stipulation since he beat Styles on Smackdown last week.)

Raw Women’s Championship: Nia Jax vs. Ronda Rousey

Men’s Money in the Bank Match: Braun Strowman (Raw) vs. Kevin Owens (Raw) vs. Finn Balor (Raw) Bobby Roode (Raw) vs. The Miz (SD) vs. Rusev (SD) vs. one member of The New Day (SD) and one more SD guy.

Women’s Money in the Bank Match: Ember Moon (Raw) vs. Alexa Bliss (Raw) vs. Charlotte Flair (SD) vs. Becky Lynch (SD) vs. Natalya (Raw) vs. one more woman from Raw (Gauntlet qualifying match next week) and two more women from Smackdown (Billie Kay vs. Lana this week).

Roman Reigns vs. Jinder Mahal

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Carmella vs. Asuka

Other likely matches:

Sami Zayn vs. Bobby Lashley

You can contact me using any of the methods below. See ya next time for the Smackdown review. Go Los Angeles Rams. Thanks for reading.

John Canton

Email: mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter: @johnreport

Personal Facebook and TJRWrestling on Facebook

 

 

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