HIAC ended up being quite a weird show for me so I wondered how Raw was going to do in the show after. Lashley retaining was the right call but the way it happened was just off. Either way, I am excited to see how they build towards MITB and I hope this year’s match is filled with people who are yet to be established and could use something like the MITB briefcase to elevate their status. Let us jump in and see how Raw did this week.
MVP and Lashley started Raw this week in the VIP Lounge. They spoke about his win over Drew McIntyre and how they can finally move on from him. The New Day would then come out with a cart of toast and would begin to toss them in the ring because they wanted to participate. MVP would once again talk about how the New Day are a joke and the New Day said they would not leave. Kofi would then talk about how everybody will leave him once he beats him for the title but Lashley would say that he has no plans on losing it to anybody, including him. Kofi would then remind Lashley about how he beat Daniel Bryan and how he has already beaten Lashley. Kofi would challenge Lashley to a title match at MITB and he would accept. Lashley then said he wants a match with Xavier Woods and wants his match with Kofi to have no outside help. Woods then started listing off his accolades and how he wants his match with Lashley to be inside HIAC. Lashley would accept it even though MVP clearly didn’t like the idea. This opening segment got considerably better when New Day came in and I am all for this feud.
AJ Styles vs Ricochet (MITB Qualifier)
I already knew this would be a good match and that is what we got here. These two have awesome chemistry and it was on display again. The stuff between AJ and Omos with the Viking Raiders prior to the match pretty much telegraphed that he was not winning here. That is one gripe and the other is that the Viking Raiders would take out Omos on the outside which would distract AJ allowing Ricochet to get the win. Again, the action was great and the promo Ricochet cut prior to the match talking about what MITB would do for him really had me thinking a bit. He referred to himself in the third person and he did it quite well. I don’t know if I will pick him to win but he has my interest. Good match but the Viking Raiders distraction on the outside brings the grade down slightly for me.
Randy Orton & Riddle Backstage
This was a lot of fun and it was nice to see how Riddle played of a more intense Randy this week. Randy it completely focused on his MITB qualifier and didn’t seem to care for the zaniness of Riddle this week. Riddle did talk to him about the possibility of them fighting against one another in the MITB match and Orton would give him some simple advice; stay out of his way. Simple enough and I don’t think Orton is done with this partnership yet but he will not let his tag partner get in the way of his goals. I did like Riddle’s rambling this week on the MITB briefcase and how he will use it to hold his stash of Whoppers and I swear that was a play on words to really mean wrappers. Good stuff from RK-Bro once again this week.
Eva Marie & DuoDrop Backstage
Okay, I have made it clear I have no desire to see Eva but even I have to admit that this was a nice segment. Eva talking about how she got a mani-pedi and that she had a cold had me rolling my eyes because that was the same schtick she did five years ago. It wasn’t until she was asked about the former “Piper Niven” and her name where the segment got better. I love that she didn’t remember her name and based it solely on her ring gear. It makes sense and I do not like the name but it makes total sense that someone with the ego of Eva would not bother learning someone’s name and would rather just call them by whatever they want.
Asuka & Naomi vs Eva Marie & DuoDrop (MITB Qualifier)
As far as a match goes, this was nothing really special and the best parts were seeing Asuka dance to Naomi’s theme music and seeing DuoDrop refuse to tag in when Eva couldn’t get the easy win. Solid stuff from Drop, that will take some getting used to, and it is clear how good she is in the ring. Eva is playing her part well and it does endear you to Drop. Asuka and Naomi would win and qualify for MITB. I may not have cared about Eva before but I have to admit, she is doing a good job in this role.
Adam Pearce, Sonya Deville, Rhea Ripley & Charlotte Flair In-Ring
The lackluster grade isn’t because I thought the segment was bad, it is because this felt like a backstage segment but in the ring. Sonya and Pearce wanted Rhea to come out and Rhea explained why she did what she did to cause the DQ at HIAC. The scolded her over it but she didn’t want to hear it because she knew Charlotte Flair would have done the same thing. Charlotte would come out and pretty much say she can beat Rhea for the title. Sonya would then grant Charlotte her rematch at MITB and that was that. This really felt like something that could have been done in the office of Pearce and Deville rather than in the ring.
Tamina & Natalya Photoshoot/Interview
So, this was basically the same segment as last week but the roles are reversed. SKIP!
Randy Orton vs John Morrison (MITB Qualifier)
Not much of a match here which is a bit of a shame because these two could probably give us a really good one. Solid enough work and Orton looked to have the match won until the Miz would hit him with water from the “Drip Stick” and I love how Randy just sat there taking in that he was hit with water. Riddle would come out on his scooter to chase the Miz in his wheelchair but that would end up being too much of a distraction and would allow Morrison to get the surprise win. Orton was not pleased with Riddle and we shall see how this plays out.
Nia Jax, Shayna Baszler & Reginald Backstage
I have made it clear how I feel about Nia but she was solid here. They spoke a bit about how they do not fear anybody backstage but that Alexa Bliss is definitely different than anybody backstage. Nia said she would never hurt Reginald and I liked how Shayna asked him if he was scared. Solid enough stuff here and probably the best I have liked Nia in some time.
Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross vs Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler (MITB Qualifier)
First things first, I dig Nikki’s new gimmick and that is before learning that she has been wanting to do this and finally got the green light. People who will crap on it are also the same fans that dug the Hurricane, Might Molly and Super Hero in Training Rosey so they should give this a chance. I like it and I think this could be a great way for Nikki to get over. The match itself was fine and I like how they didn’t tease any sort of dissention between Nikki and Alexa. Alexa would try to hypnotize Reginald multiple times but it didn’t work so well. Solid work in the ring and Nikki would pick up the win to continue her momentum. I really am thinking this is the time for Nikki and she will win MITB and this will be the gimmick to get her to the top. Again, the superhero gimmick was Nikki’s idea and I am willing to see it play out.
Drew McIntyre Backstage
So, is Drew’s new wrinkle in his character is that he is a history buff? That is what it seems like because he keeps giving us history lessons each week. The segment itself was fine and pretty much what you expected from this. Drew was approached by Sonya and Pearce about competing and said he is good to go after going through hell the previous night. He knows this is his way back to the title and is game for his match. Solid stuff but this history stuff really feels like it came out of nowhere.
Jinder Mahal, Jeff Hardy, Cedric Alexander & Sheamus Backstage
The best parts of this segment were Sheamus and Jinder. Jinder, Cedric and Jeff all voiced their displeasure over not being in any of the qualifier matches but Sonya and Pearce would tell them that all the matches were final. Sheamus would then complain and Pearce was quick to ask him about him being able to defend the US Championship because he is okay with being in a qualifier. Sheamus was quick to change his tune and I loved it. I also liked that Cedric was eyeing the title as soon as Sheamus opened up his coat to show it. Jinder would then tell them to consider him an alternate if someone were to not be able to compete in MITB and I liked that he name dropped Drew McIntyre here. I have been saying how a Jinder/Drew feud makes total sense and this could be the road to get to something both men are clearly game for.
Riddle vs Drew McIntyre (MITB Qualifier)
This was a really fun match and the best of the qualifiers on Raw. Really good stuff and I love that Drew sold the damage that was done to his back from HIAC throughout the match. Riddle also came with the smart gameplan of attacking the back and area around it whenever he found himself in some trouble. Really solid stuff in this match and Randy Orton would even come down to the stage during the match to watch it. McIntyre seemed to have Riddle set for the Claymore but it would not take place. The back and forth continued and Riddle would get the surprise win over McIntyre. So far, the men have three members that are in the midcard for the MITB match on the Raw side of things and I like it. Orton not fist bumping Riddle after the match has me intrigued and I hope they aren’t fast tracking a split between them before they have a chance to be tag champions.
Jaxson Ryker & Mansoor Backstage
This was such a strange segment that was about to get a skull but thankfully Mustafa Ali came in to slightly save it. Ryker was smacking himself with a strap and Mansoor would ask him what he is doing and if he had any advice. He would talk about not letting your enemies escape and how he will have a strap match with Elias next week. I guess that will be their blow off so there’s that. Ali would then give Mansoor some real advice about seizing the opportunity when it isn’t given to you and I continue to be intrigued about where they are going with this.
Xavier Woods vs Bobby Lashley (Hell in a Cell)
The hype train that I have seen growing for a Xavier Woods push is surely to grow after this awesome match. The man has been given a shot to put on matches and has looked great in every single one. Woods and Lashley actually have some really good chemistry and this was a great match. This HIAC was better than the one on Smackdown in my eyes and did more from a story standpoint as well. Woods brought it to Lashley and Lashley was able to whether the offense. Woods hit an impressive elbow to Lashley through a table and actually overshot by a smidgen. Lashley would end up getting the win and would continue attacking Woods after the match. I love that MVP locked himself and Lashley in the cage so Kofi could watch from the outside as Lashley had Woods in the Hurt Lock. This is great storytelling and much needed for Lashley’s reign since he has been stuck in the feud with McIntyre. Great main event to cap off a rather solid episode of Raw.
Overall, this was actually a solid episode of Raw this week. The only real low points were the backstage segment between Natalya/Tamina and Dana/Mandy and the stuff with Ryker. The Mansoor/Ali interaction was great though but that stuff with Ryker was just meh. The Charlotte/Rhea rematch announcement was fine but just felt like it was in the wrong setting. The main event and McIntyre/Riddle match were the best of the night easy. I actually like the Nikki Cross superhero stuff and am willing to see where it goes and, I know this is hard to believe, I may be into this Eva/DuoDrop stuff. All in all, good episode of Raw this week and that is rather refreshing.