WWE is in Detroit, MI at the Joe Louis Arena for tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw. After a terrible rating last week, Vince McMahon is making his return. But is he just showing up to say hi? Or, will he have more information about Smackdown’s GM, and the roster?
Plus, will WWE acknowledge Brock Lesnar’s win at UFC 200, and how will they use it to promote his match against Randy Orton at Summerslam? Also, The New Day are headed to The Wyatt Compound. What will happen there? All this plus lots more starting at 8pm EST. Be sure to join us here and on Twitter @RingRap!
Apparently it’s time for a Battle Royal to open the show. No idea why. About 20+ wrestlers are already in the ring. Apollo Crews’ music hits, and he walks out to his theme. The Miz interrupts the entrance from the announcer’s desk and welcomes us to the 98th day of The Miz’s Intercontinental Championship World Tour. Maryse looks at him lovingly as he puts over that the Battle Royal determines the #1 Contender for his championship at Battleground. He wishes them luck, since he’ll beat them anyway.
Battle Royal to become the #1 Contender to the Intercontinental Championship
Apparently Baron Corbin demanded his Andre the Giant trophy be at ringside as an intimidation factor. Aiden English is the first to be eliminated. Also in the ring, The Ascension, The Dudleys, Social Outcasts, The Usos, Dolph Ziggler, Darren Young, Alberto Del Rio, Jack Swagger, Golden Truth… it’s mostly tag teams.
There’s a whole-lot of nothing going on initially. Eliminations one by one as slowly the ring empties. Jey Uso tries to eliminate his brother. Or was it the other way around? They share a moment as the attempt failed, then team up to eliminate D’Von Dudley. We go to break.
Goldust is eliminated out of the break. See ya Bo Dallas. Darren Young nearly eliminates Dolph Ziggler. Corbin sends The Usos and Swagger flying.
Darren Young eliminates Bubba Ray and then walks into a Deep Six. Del Rio attacks Corbin with a kick to the head and an enzuigiri, but misses a follow-up one to Ziggler. Ziggler tosses Del Rio over the top but he lands on the apron and crawls back in. It’s Crews, Ziggler, Del Rio, Corbin, and Young. Del Rio hits a gut buster on Ziggler. He goes after Ziggler and goes through the second rope, landing on the floor. Ziggler thinks he may be out, but this is false. Corbin launches Ziggler over the top as Del Rio rolls back in. Ziggler and Corbin brawl near the ropes. Corbin whips Del Rio into the corner and Crews sends him over the top.
It’s Crews, Corbin, Young, and Ziggler.
Ziggler with the superkick, and a clothesline over the top, but no dice. They brawl some more, and Corbin tosses Ziggler over the top. Crews tries to take advantage of the situation. Crews runs at Corbin and both men go over the top, leaving Darren Young in the ring alone.
Winner: Darren Young to become the #1 Contender to the IC Ttitle
Bob Backlund is so excited he picks Young up and spins him around in a circle. Freaking amazing. The fans chant “Darren Young” as The Miz looks pissed.
The announcers plug Vince McMahon’s appearance later, then Brock Lesnar’s win at UFC 200. And then they plug New Day showing up at the Wyatt compound, which has all sorts of “The Final Deletion” overtones. We’ll see.
Shane and Stephanie McMahon are chatting backstage, wondering why Vince is heading to Raw. Shane is floored she has no idea why. Smackdown? Brock Lesnar? Mr. Robot? Fire someone? Steph feels like he’s coming to give a promotion. Seth Rollins steps in and says maybe he’s there to talk to him. He has a proposition, and says he has exclusive footage that he feels the entire world needs to see. Shane wants to use this during the Ambrose Asylum, which Steph doesn’t like. Rollins says he’s got some talk show experience, and wants to host the first ever “Rollins Report.” He promises that it’ll be great. Steph and Shane agree.
More stills from Brock Lesnar at UFC 200, and a plug for Lesnar vs. Orton at Summerslam. We see a clip from the UFC press conference, and then… at Battleground, Chris Jericho hosts The Highlight Reel with Randy Orton as his guest. Great… a talk show in the middle of a pay-per-view…
Zack Ryder is backstage. He walks up to Rusev and gets in his face. He challenges Rusev face to face for the US title. Out of nowhere, Sheamus attacks him from behind and says he’s got a scheduled match against him up next. Sheamus walks away, and Rusev and Lana walk over Ryder.
Out of the break…
Sheamus vs. Zack Ryder
Ryder immediately goes on the offense. The brawl spills outside. Sheamus tosses Ryder into the barricade. Back in the ring, Ryder, hits a dropkick off the apron to Sheamus outside. Sheamus backs up into the corner, pleading for Ryder to relax. Ryder kicks him and lays into him with elbows in the corner. He beats Sheamus down and lines him up for the Broski Boot. Sheamus counters with a clothesline. Sheamus misses a shoulder in the corner. Two-count.
Sheamus nails Ryder with a Brogue Kick and scores the pin. It’s over.
Rusev heads out to the ring looking pissed. Sheamus just simply walks away. Ryder spins into Rusev with elbows, but Rusev his a belly to belly suplex, then locks in his modified Accolade. He yells that he accepts the challenge.
Drew’s Take: Ryder has been building some credibility over the past couple of weeks, and the aggression he’s been showing has been helping his character, but I can’t help but feel like this took a lot of the wind out of his sails.
Back from break, and it’s tag team time.
Breezango (Tyler Breeze & Fandango) vs. Lucha Dragons
Some cool stuff here, with The Lucha Dragons keeping control until Fandango yanks Breeze out of the way. Sin Cara eats a boot to the face for two. Sin Cara nearly misses a springboard moonsault on Fandango. Hot tag to Kalisto and Breeze. Kalisto misses a springboard dive and Breeze capitalizes, but Kalisto hits the second one. Short hurricarana to Breeze. Breeze goes for a rollup on a distracted Kalisto. Breeze cradles Kalisto up in an awkward position head wedged in the corner, kicks him in the face, and gets the win.
Drew’s Take: The Lucha Dragons are usually on point with their offense, but tonight they both looked a little sloppy. It’s to be expected with the high-flying style. Mistakes happen, and thankfully noone got hurt.
Up next, The Rollins Report!
Seth Rollins heads out for his fancy little talk show. Rollins talk trash to all of the talk show hosts out there – Anderson Cooper, Jon Stewart, etc. He says he’s obtained exclusive footage of a 1-on-1 interview between himself and Roman Reigns, and he had the guts to ask the hard hitting questions. He asks the fans if they’re ready for it, and he introduces his video.
It’s a sit down interview style, and it’s clearly two different interviews cut together. In one shot Reigns is wearing a tank top, the next a t-shirt. He takes excerpts of interviews to fit in with loaded questions. Rollins makes it sound like Reigns is proud for what he’s done. “It is what it is” Reigns says in response to a completely different question.
After the “interview” Rollins looks very smug. Rollins demands taking Reigns out of the Triple Threat match at Battleground. And then Dean Ambrose, the champ, interrupts. Ambrose says the video was good, and commends Rollins for pulling the stick out of his ass and having some fun for once. Rollins says Ambrose’s reign is a joke to him. “You didn’t win that, you snuck up behind me and you stole it from me.” He calls Ambrose a coward, says he can’t beat him one on one for the title. Rollins says noone could beat him for the title. At Battleground, it’s going to be about who’s the best between the three of them. “Who’s the best member of The Shield?” Rollins says he’ll prove he was better than Ambrose before The Shield, during The Shield, and after. He’s going to take back the title Ambrose stole from him at Money in the Bank.
Ambrose says he likes to have fun and a good time, but he’s the champion and the top man in the industry. “I proved a long time ago that I’m more than just a joke, more than just a utility player. No matter how many guys came in and washed out, or got themselves suspended, or went to chase fantasies in another sport, when the smoke cleared at the end of the day, I’m the guy still standing here, I’m the backbone of this industry, I’m the king of this company, it’s been that way for a long time now and now the whole world knows it.” Ambrose is fired up. He holds the title up high. “So yeah, it’s fun!” He paces, and says Seth has known him for a long time. “You know exactly what kind of person I am, you know how many buckets of blood I’ve spilled.” He says Seth knows the miles of crap he’s crawled through to get there. “If I was willing to go through all that to get this, how far do you think I’d be willing to go to keep it?” Seth looks concerned. Ambrose says “Rest assured Seth, it’s not a joke when I tell you that you, Roman Reigns, Vince McMahon, or God Himself are going to have to pry this out of my cold dead hands. You think a one on one match at Battleground is going to change that? Uh uh son, it ain’t happening at Battleground, it ain’t happening ever!”
Ambrose says Rollins disgusts him, and tells him if he wants a one on one match, any time any place. Rollins says Detroit is as good a place as any, but not tonight. “I’ll see you next week.” And with that, Rollins bails out.
Drew’s Take: That was one of the best promos I’ve heard in a long time, and certainly one of Ambrose’s finest. It all felt real, which helps in ways I can’t even describe. And, it felt like the least-scripted promo I’ve heard from Ambrose in ages. Rollins was great here too, make no mistake, although that video was a joke.
We come back from break to breaking news that Dean Ambrose will defend the WWE Championship against Seth Rollins next week on Raw!
Back in the arena, Sami Zayn comes out to his music. Seems like he’s sitting ringside for a match.
Kevin Owens vs. ???
Well, Owens’ music hits, but he doesn’t come out. Backstage, Owens says he’ll go out there as soon as Zayn is gone. Stephanie McMahon orders the referees to “remove” Sami. Sami says he’s got authorization to be there from Shane. The referees talk him into going backstage.
Owens comes out to the ramp
for the match to gloat. The two immediately start to brawl. The referees split them and Owens rolls into the ring. He talks trash, but the match never seems to happen.
Vince McMahon pulls up in his limo. Renee Young asks him why he’s there, and he takes a deep breath and says it’s the “Detroit fresh air.” He’s also there to name the new COO of Smackdown Live. Vince says they need something bigger… the Commissioner of Smackdown Live! Vince says he may change his mind, but we’ll all find out tonight.
Back from break…
Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro
The two lock up. Cesaro goes for a gutwrench and drops Owens. Cesaro hits a hurricarana (!) and goes for the swing. Owens bails out. Cesaro hits a running cannonball off the apron outside.
Cesaro goes for a running uppercut, and Owens dodges it, sending him over the barricade. Owens breaks the count and sends Cesaro back in. Running senton for two. Owens talks trash about Sami, and Cesaro counters. He blocks a suplex attempt, and counters with his own. Cesaro flips over the top rope for a counter, Owens elbows him and sends him crashing to the floor as we go to break.
Back from break, Owens has control. He lays into Cesaro with a clothesline, then misses a cannonball in the corner. Cesaro dodges a pop-up powerbomb and hits a springboard uppercut of his own. Two-count. Cesaro heads out of the ring and grabs JBL’s hat, runs around the ring, and hits an uppercut. He goes up top and hits a cross-body for two. He teases a swing, which Owens kicks out of. Owens counters, going for a tornado DDT. Cesaro catches him and sets him up for a dropkick, then heads up top. Owens crotches him on the ropes. He hits a burning hammer-like finisher for the win.
Winner: Kevin Owens
Owens starts to talk trash over the commentary mics, and out of nowhere, Sami Zayn leaps through the crowd and attacks Owens. He slams Owens head into the table. Owens retreats to the ring, and naturally, Cesaro is there waiting for him. He hits a Cesaro Swing on Owens.
Drew’s Take: Another solid bout between these two. Part of me hopes they end up on different brands, because we’ve seen it a lot, but on the other hand, it’s always good. I’m torn. The post-match angle with Sami is just fine, as well.
The announcers plug the Cena/Club feud, including the help from Enzo and Cass. Backstage, AJ and The Club answer Renee Young’s question. They say it’s a rookie mistake from Enzo and Cass thinking that Cena is for anyone but himself. AJ says Cena isn’t even there – he’s getting ready to host the ESPY’s. Luke Gallows asks, “Like practice?” They have a back and forth joke, and say they are gonna take care of Enzo and Cass, crash the ESPY’s, and… Beat up John Cena!
Heath Slater (w/ Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel) vs. Titus O’Neil
The announcers acknowledge the past history of Slator Gator. Slater hits Titus with a chop. Titus shrugs it off and returns the favor.
Anyhow, Titus tosses Slater around like a rag doll, and picks up the win here.
Winner: Titus O’Neil
Renee Young interviews Sasha Banks about her match tonight against Dana Brooke. Sasha talks about all the people that want her to shut Dana Brooke up. She says she doesn’t get mad, she gets real.
Lucha Underground The Final Deletion The Wyatt Compound.
We see a very heavily produced video of The New Day arriving in a field, surrounded by cars. One of them rams their truck, and The Wyatts get out. They start fighting each other in an open field, and have weapons, including garbage can lids, and axes. Yes axes. Xavier Woods hits behind a tree, and Bray hits said tree with an axe, before chasing him around and attacking him. He carries Woods off. Meanwhile, Rowan/Strowman fight Big E and Kofi in a mud pit. Strowman throws a tire at one of them. We also see a clip of Strowman charging and hitting the windshield of the car. Bray drops Xavier in the grass, then the three attack Kofi and Big E. Out of nowhere, Woods attacks. They toss Woods into a car and smash the class windows with an axe. New Day manage to regroup, but they are surrounded by a bunch of people wearing sheep masks and holding lanterns. New Day bails out, and Bray says “Follow the buzzards.”
And then we suddenly go back to the arena. Michael Cole asks how they psychologically deal with something like that.
Drew’s Take: The comparisons to what TNA did last week are undeniable, but this was far more serious, far less comedy, and as much as I hate to admit, it fits within the narrative of what The Wyatt Family is. That said, the film was way overproduced, and the cheesyness of what we were seeing was hidden heavily by filter effects, scratchy film, and clever edits. I’m ok with it in this context, but if this is something that occurs more frequently than tonight, it will get old VERY quickly.
The Club (Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson, w/ AJ Styles) vs. Enzo & Cass
The Club come out first. Enzo and Cass come out next, full intro. Cass says everyone on the roster is gunning for John Cena’s spot. “I want his spot, Enzo wants his spot, and you want his spot. But the difference is, if we’re gonna take his spot, if we’re gonna knock John Cena off his spot, we are going to earn it.” He says The Club comes out here week after week to “Beat up John Cena.” They use the numbers game to get the advantage. Enzo says they have no backbone. Cass says “boneless!” Enzo says “Chicken tenders!” Cass says it’s only a matter of time before they try to eliminate them. “You’re gonna try to take food off our tables? Nah.” Instead of sitting back and waiting, they stepped up and joined the fight. AJ says it’s a cute store, but like they said, Cena isn’t there. “You know why? Because he don’t care about you!” He gives them a final warning to turn and walk away. “Once you step into this ring, my boys are going to drop you where you stand.” Enzo says they’re walking into the ring right now. Cass spells out S-A-W-F-T. We go to break.
Enzo and Anderson are in the ring first. Enzo reverses a wrist lock. Anderson gains control, keeping him cornered. Gallows tags in to work Enzo over, then tags Anderson back in. Enzo manages to tag Cass in, and he lays into Anderson with chops. Tag to Enzo and Enzo becomes a flying battering ram. Enzo doesn’t see the blind tag to Gallows, though. Gallows sends him into the ring post as we go to break.
Back from break, Enzo is still getting his ass kicked. Gallows tags in legal, and hits a running splash in the corner for two. Enzo hits a desperation DDT, and makes the hot tag to Cass. Cass and Anderson now, and Cass is on fire. Bodyslam and Empire Elbow. He hits a fallaway slam, a splash in the corner, and a big boot. Tag to Enzo and Cass launches him in the air. AJ yanks the ropes on Cass and Cass goes over, giving Gallows a chance to break the pin, meanwhile AJ tosses Cass over the barricade.
Winners: Enzo & Cass via DQ
The Club surrounds Enzo, who is on the ground when, out of nowhere, John Cena’s music hits. John Cena heads down to the ring and evens up the odds as Cass comes back in. They clear The Club from the ring and all three rally the fans. HUGE Cena chant from the crowd.
Drew’s Take: Good tag match with a predictable finish, but Cena arriving was a nice surprise.
The announcers plug NXT this week, featuring Finn Balor vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, and the Cruiserweight Classic airing after NXT.
Dana Brooke (w/ Charlotte) vs. Sasha Banks
A pretty solid chant for Sasha from Detroit. Sasha lays into Dana with an elbow to the face. Brooke bails out of the ring to regroup. Back in the ring, Sasha slaps Dana in the face. Sasha maintains control until Dana lures her through the ropes. She kicks Sasha off the apron, and her face bounces off the side of the ring as we go to break.
Dana has control out of the break. Dana does a handstand into a choke. She hits a series of shoulders in the corner. Sasha catches Brooke with a pair of boots and starts ramping up with dropkicks. She hits double knees across the ropes for two.
Dana sets Sasha up for a superplex off the top, Sasha fights free. She hits a press for two. From behind, Sasha hits the Bank Statement, but when Dana reaches for the ropes, Sasha pushes off of them with her feet and rolls backwards into the center of the ring. Dana taps out.
Winner: Sasha Banks
Charlotte congratulates Sasha after the match, and says that she must think she’s a worthy competitor, but anyone can get lucky once. She says she needs to face Dana once more on Smackdown, and then maybe she’ll be worthy of a title shot.
Vince McMahon struts to the ring as we go to break.
Shane McMahon heads out to the ring first. Stephanie McMahon heads out next. The two stare each other down, before Vince heads out to massive applause. Vince takes the mic and says the two of them have been doing a pretty fair job, but he’s a little disappointed in both of them. He says it’s as if neither came from his loins. Vince makes fun of Stephanie for getting along with Shane and being passive aggressive. She takes offense and says she’s not sweet. Vince says Shane lost his match at Wrestlemania and shouldn’t even be there, but he’s there because the fans respect him after his leap off the Hell in a Cell. Vince says one of them should’ve stabbed the other in the back or “slit the other’s throat” by now. He wants competition.
Vince asks them to convince him to be the commissioner of Smackdown. Steph starts talking about the WWE Network, the revenue they’ve made quarter after quarter, but she talks about Shane leaving WWE, what he said on the podcast, and calls him a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Vince turns to Shane, and asks to be convinced. Shane starts to speak but Steph interrupts. Shane takes her mic and says he returned five months ago in this very arena to an ovation that humbled him and rocked him to his core. He thanks the fans. Shane says he represents change, and that’s why he should be in charge. He would change the way the show looks and is shot, and says everything they did is choking the life out of the business. “I am the only one, and deep down in your guts, you reluctantly respect the fact that I am the only one in this business that tells you exactly what is on my mind in a very respectful way, but without kissing your ass.” Shane says change is difficult, but change is what is needed here in WWE. “So Chairman of the Board, if you still have the grapefruits…” He asks Vince to take the word of the fans. He asks them to vote for Steph, and they boo. He asks to vote for him and the place goes nuts.
Vince doesn’t care what the people think, and one of them has to be named commissioner of Smackdown Live. He asks for a drum roll, then announces Shane McMahon as the new commissioner of Smackdown.
Shane sells it like he just won a Wrestlemania main event. Vince says he needs to curtail the celebration, and says he’s relieving him of his duties on Monday Night Raw, and announces the Commissioner of “the flagship, the 3-hour flagship of WWE” is Stephanie McMahon. Steph goes for a Yes chant that gets no traction.
Vince says he’s not finished. He wants them to compete, and he means for real. He wants them to compete for ratings, social media, live event attendance, everything. He says one of them just might inherit the “keys to the kingdom” and he doesn’t care if they break the law as long as they don’t get caught. He then tells them they need to pick a general manager for their shows as well, because they need someone to run the day-to-day operations, and they’ll do that next week. Vince says “Let the games begin!”
Vince leaves the ring and Shane and Steph stay behind. Steph says she’s had to work twice as hard for twice the recognition, and now she’s going to show him what that feels like when she buries him and buries Smackdown. “I’m going to make you wish you were never even born.” Shane says she said that with a lot of conviction and venom, and usually when she speaks that way she’s hiding something. Shane says he knows her better than anyone – he says she’s scared. Shane says she’s seen this play out her entire life, and it’ll be him she’s looking up at at the end of it all. “Game on.”
Steph says there’s only one Game in this business, and she’s married to him. She slaps Shane across the face, then steps out of the ring. Steph stumbles on the bottom step and walks it off amongst the fans booing her for the stumble. She blows Shane a kiss and walks away. Shane thanks Detroit and says he wouldn’t even have a shot in the game without them. The show comes to an end with Shane signing autographs at ringside.
So after weeks of television, what we expected to happen is exactly what happened – Steph runs Raw, Shane runs Smackdown. The element of a GM for each brand adds a layer of depth though that I wasn’t anticipating. Do we get a GM and Commissioner that see eye to eye, or butt heads? It stands to reason that each will pick someone that will follow their lead, but it can lead to a story down the line.
Speaking of stories, that Triple H reference was a bit heavy handed and sure seemed to imply we’ll be seeing he and Shane step in the ring together at some point.
Shane’s comments about changing the look of Smackdown leave me with hope that we’ll get fresh camera angles, maybe even a new producer, to give the show a different look. If they want to truly make Smackdown different, it’s needed. Otherwise, it’s the same show in blue.
That all said, Vince’s comments about Raw being the flagship left me shaking my head. It was years of talk like that that caused the brand split to fail last time.
What did you think of the show? We have a reader poll up on the main page, won’t you check it out! I’ll be by tomorrow afternoon for Around the Ring with Ring Rap for my thoughts on this plus lots more! Thanks for reading!