Leave it to Dean Ambrose to provide the most intriguing Raw storyline in months. Do you remember how we all reacted when he returned from injury? “The hair! The expression! He’s not talking! He’s turning heel!”
The status quo took over for a bit, and I know I had to quash some disappointment. Now?
Now it’s getting good.
The Shield opened the show and WWE immediately set to work sowing the seeds of Shield dissension. Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins posed with their titles as Ambrose glowered in the background. Reigns also said that their titles mean that they’re holding “the keys to the kingdom.”
Uh...guess who has no title. Guess who has no key? Ambrose.
The Dogs of War pounced on the opportunity. At the Super Show-Down, Braun Strowman claimed, the Shield was going to have a hard time with the four of them. Their fourth wouldn’t be Corbin, by the way. No...it’d be Ambrose.
What followed was one of my favorite Dolph Ziggler performances ever, I think. It was reminiscent of the League of Villains trying to reason with Bakugo. Ziggler cracked some jokes for a moment before growing somber. Ziggler said that he saw Dean Ambrose become WWE Champion without any help on SmackDown Live. He also pointed out how quickly Rollins replaced him when he got hurt. Rollins and Reigns are his brothers, but he’s always had to live in their shadow to some extent.
You know what the best part of this segment might have been? How defensive Rollins and Reigns got. Rollins interrupted first, trying to pass off Ziggler’s accusations as ridiculous. Reigns interjected next when Ziggler asked Ambrose a question, telling the man to shut up.
And through it all, Ambrose said not a word.
There were multiple backstage segments furthering the hostilities. Ziggler approached Ambrose and kept planting the seed. Rollins cornered McIntyre next to make the reverse claim – that Ziggler and Strowman were using him. McIntyre got to Ambrose before the main event to tell him about what Rollins said.
All of it was intriguing.
The main event featured another storyline: Stephanie McMahon’s displeasure with Baron Corbin. After booking himself into a Universal Championship match last week, Steph scolded her acting general manager. If the Shield were causing him such trouble, she said, then he ought to find some partners and establish control in the main event. Corbin selected the AoP and with the Dogs of War at ringside, the scene was set to see what Ambrose would do.
The match was fantastic – as all these Shield 6-man tag matches are – and it set up an Ambrose hot tag in the waning moments where he did what he’s best at. He caused havoc for the opposing tag team and did what his team needed to win the match. After allowing Reigns to tag in to seal the victory, Ambrose sat outside the ring for a moment, halfway between the Dogs of War and his Shield brothers. He eventually slid into the ring to join his brothers, but I’d imagine we’re a long way from finished with this story. And with good reason – it’s already better than everything else going on with this show.
More matches like this, WWE
Wrestling is really simple, when you think about it. Put two talented people in the ring, give them a reason to fight, and sit back and watch the show.
With WWE’s ridiculously talented roster, that first part is already taken care of. It all boils down to giving people something to fight over – and that’s where WWE generally makes their mistakes.
When you put the Revival and the Dogs of War in a ring and let them fight over the Raw Tag Team Championships? That formula is mistake-proof.
You had to know the Revival was going to come out and try to steal the show. They don’t get matches like this every week and it’s a pleasure to watch them go when they get time.
This match got nuts near the end. What I really loved about it was that this match did two things for WWE. For starters, it made the tag division look fantastic. That’s not been the case, recently. It also helped to further the case for swaying Ambrose. Ziggler and McIntyre proved that, while they’re not his Shield brothers, they could have his back. You certainly can’t deny their success.
But yeah, more matches like this. Pretty please?
WWE’s killing it with Chad Gable
When WWE kills it with an undercard segment, I try to highlight it. And y’all, I’ve loved what they’re doing with Gable and Bobby Roode.
Roode’s been toeing the line between surprise and annoyance when it comes to his new tag team partner. Nothing has seemed to faze Gable. Full of exuberance and brimming with talent, the former Tag Team Champion has been outshining Roode and using his catchphrase. It felt like Roode was going to be turning heel on him soon...until this show.
Konnor of the Ascension got the better of Gable in a singles match. And now things get complicated for both men. Can Roode provide Gable with the perspective and guidance of a veteran? Will Gable’s confidence be crushed? Find out on the next episode of Dragonball Z Monday Night Raw!!!
...Hopefully. For real, though. I’m digging this storyline.
Finn Balor def. Jinder Mahal – Accompanied by Bayley and Alicia Fox, this was the first match of the night and essentially promoted the Mixed Match Challenge. And quite frankly, this match had no business being as fun as it was. Credit the Denver crowd for being extremely into this one. They were firmly in Finn’s corner throughout and came unglued when Bayley knocked Mahal and Fox down before hitting Sunil Singh with a Bayley to Belly. Balor would win with a roll up.
Also, the “Shanti!” gimmick is so much better when Fox is screaming bloody murder. So there was a lot to like about this segment. WWE needs to build on this and give these four more to work with in the coming weeks.
Riott Squad def. Bella Twins, Natalya – In theory, I think WWE had the right idea with this match. Natalya was a placeholder for the WWE Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey, and they’ll run this match back with Rousey at whichever special event they’re scheduled for. Taking the pin fall could embitter Natalya if Rousey’s able to overcome the Riott Squad. However...Brie knocked Liv Morgan out of the match with some nasty (and unintentional) kicks to the face. Her absence threw the entire pace of the match off.
Bobby Lashley def. Elias via DQ – Here’s another act that WWE’s doing a great job with: Lashley and Lio Rush. Rush has been a godsend for Lashley and it didn’t hurt that he was in his hometown. With Lashley providing the power and Rush the theatrics, this pairing has immense potential.
On the other end of things, Kevin Owens hasn’t exactly done much with his golden ticket on Raw. For a man who can do anything he wants, it’s been a bit tame so far. Hopefully that changes at Super Show Down.
Nia Jax def. Alicia Fox – After working with Mahal and entertaining early in the show, Fox got crushed with Bliss in her corner. This was much less fun.
This show was so desperately needed. I’ve complained lately about WWE promoting too many things, using too many retired people, and failing to provide any meaningful stories. This show was the exact opposite.
Triple H had a short promo backstage. WWE showed a video package of the old dudes that I could just ignore. Instead, they leaned on their talent and used some storytelling chops to sell these shows.
It wasn’t a perfect show, but it was a HUGE step in the right direction. I’m a sucker for good stories, so keep ‘em coming, WWE!