Raw is often described as pro wrestling’s best weekly variety show, and the WWE’s flagship brand succeeded on Monday in providing the full spectrum of entertainment over three hours. From the wild and wacky to the nostalgic and fun, Raw may not have been consistent in terms of its quality, but it did deliver from the sense of keeping viewers engaged with such a vast variety of segments.
The episode will best be remembered for the long-awaited official reunion from The Shield and the announcement of a pay-per-view main event at TLC in October. “The Hounds of Justice” left a wake of destruction in their paths that felt like the days of old and had the Indianapolis crowd cheering.
But competing for headlines just the same was the official reveal that Sister Abigail is the evil spirit that takes over Bray Wyatt’s body (and not a physical person). Meanwhile, in the main event, Enzo Amore and the cruiserweight division took center stage for the third straight episode, this time ending in a title change.
The Shield officially reunites
After handing out Mizzie awards to Sheamus, Cesaro and Curtis Axel to open Raw, The Miz proclaimed himself WWE’s real “Big Dog.” Out came Roman Reigns, who gave them one chance to “get on up out of my ring.” Countering the Miz’s belief that The Shield reunion was nothing but a rumor, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins came out to join Reigns. Circling the ring, The Shield quickly took out the heels before cornering The Miz. After Ambrose connected with a Dirty Deeds, the trio hit their signature triple powerbomb. They then joined fists for the first time since 2014.
Inside the locker room, Raw general manager Kurt Angle told Miz he was booking a tables, ladders and chairs match for the main event of TLC on Oct. 22, pairing The Shield against The Miz, Sheamus and Cesaro. But things further escalated after Braun Strowman’s victory over Matt Hardy when The Shield returned to prevent Strowman from inflicting further damage. Rollins and Ambrose set Strowman up for a Reigns spear, and The Shield combined on a triple powerbomb of Strowman through the announce table.
During a backstage interview, Rollins deemed The Shield “back and stronger than ever.” Ambrose insisted they will destroy everything in their path. Reigns added that they “will take on the whole world if we have to” and that they are “the workhorses who run this business now.” Late in the show, Miz interrupted Angle backstage and referenced Rollins’ earlier statement that The Shield are willing to take on as many opponents as needed. “Words matter,” Miz said. Angle agreed and allowed Miz to add Strowman into TLC main event as handicap match.
You can say what you want about the predictability of the reunion and how safe it was executed. You can even call out how much WWE has milked the setup, including the convenient timing of releasing a new Shield T-shirt on Monday before the show. But this still worked in a big way. Not only was the crowd pop huge during the opening segment, the reunion brings needed buzz to the TLC card as a whole. And the addition of Strowman to the feud tilts the scales for The Shield from an all-star team of frontrunners to a trio of pure babyfaces who will need to rally to overcome.
If the prevailing theme since SummerSlam has been WWE’s reluctance to completely mail things in during NFL season, this marks another step in the right direction. No, it wasn’t perfect and overall feels a slight bit forced, but let’s not lose track of how good it feels that it’s merely happening.
Bray Wyatt becomes Sister Abigail
Finn Balor began his in-ring promo by calling Wyatt a poison who is “like a virus that keeps mutating with more lies and more mind games.” Claiming Wyatt is desperate for attention, Balor said he’s not afraid of him nor does he believe in Sister Abigail. “Bring on the whole family for all I care,” Balor said. The lights flickered and on the video screen, Wyatt sat down into a chair that was already rocking. Wyatt filled in some of the back story on Abigail, how “they turned her into some kind of monster” and that he was there for her last breath. “Now, the season of the witch is upon you,” Wyatt said to Balor. “She’s here.”
Wyatt’s face morphed into a creepier one with white face paint and a transparent cover. His voice then morphed into that of Abigail, who said he is different, special and has much to learn. “From a young age, I taught him that the world is a very evil place,” Abigail said. “I taught him a secret. I taught him that darkness is always stronger than the light and I taught him that I will always be by his side.” Abigail closed by saying Balor can’t beat Wyatt and that she is rising from the ashes to full her promise “to my sweet little prince.” After warning Balor to run, Abigail’s voice morphed back into Wyatt, who laughed uncontrollably. Later, in an interview with Renee Young backstage, a shaken Balor said he can hear Abigail’s words echoing through his head and that he “knows now what I have to do.”
What in the wide world of sports was happening on my television? While I’m never completely against the idea of WWE implementing supernatural storylines provided that everything makes sense and the chance is worth taking, this one was far too creepy and poorly executed to do anything but shake your head. This just plain stunk. And it was so bad that fears of whether the once great Wyatt character can survive the damage done to it in 2017 through poor booking and absurd storylines is a legitimate concern. Give Wyatt credit for committing to the storyline, as he did during the infamous “House of Horrors” match against Randy Orton in May. But this is a joke.
Kalisto gets the best of Enzo Amore
Amore ripped Angle for allowing Kalisto to assault him last week despite the clause promising dismissal to any cruiserweight who touches him. Angle explained that Kalisto had not yet been signed to the division. Visibly annoyed, Angle told Amore he won’t have to wait until TLC to defend his title against Kalisto and that it will take place tonight in a lumberjack match. To make things worse, he also lifted the clause on the rest of the division.
During their main event match, Amore was routinely thrown back into the ring by his unhappy 205-pound bretheren. Eventually, a brawl broke began outside the ring between cruiserweights. Kalisto took advantage by superplexing Amore onto the mob below them. Amore went on to counter Kalisto’s finisher and connect with his own — the JawdoneZo — but Mustafa Ali reached in to break up the pin. After Amore laid out Ali with a clothesline, Kalisto countered into his Salida del Sol finisher — from the top rope — to win the championship.
There is not a planet in this solar system where the idea of trotting out Amore and the cruiserweight division into the main event of Raw for three straight weeks would seem like something that could realistically happen. I’m not sure how they pulled this off but once again they did. Amore was great all show in delivering one-liners, and their main event match, highlighted by Kalisto’s spot of the night off the top rope, retained a PPV feel in terms of drama. The division is ultimately better with Amore competing for the crown – something that didn’t seem possible just weeks ago — which leads one to believe this was an early title change in a much longer story to come.
What else happened on Raw?
- Jason Jordan def. Karl Anderson via pinfall: Luke Gallows was unsuccessful in providing enough of a ringside distraction for Anderson to win. Jordan took out Gallows on the ring apron and delivered his neckbreaker finisher on Anderson for the 1-2-3.
- Elias def. Apollo Crews via pinfall: Titus O’Neil interrupted Elias’ song before the match by bringing out a banjo and playing a painfully bad tune to introduce Crews. Elias went on to win their brief match using his Drift Away neckbreaker finisher. He also performed The Undertaker’s “old school” maneuver, which the announcers called “Walk with Elias.” Suffice to say, it did not draw universal praise.
- Braun Strowman def. Matt Hardy via pinfall: Hardy’s late rally included a back-to-back tornado DDT and Twist of Fate but Strowman kicked out on one and threw Hardy across the ring. He followed with a running powerslam for the pin. Afterwards, Strowman carried Hardy’s body to the stage and was intercepted by The Shield. Wearing their new T-shirts, they hit Strowman with a triple powerbomb through the announce table.
- Mickie James confronts Alexa Bliss: After cutting a promo on Bliss for not making her welcome on Raw, James called the women’s champion out to the ring. Bliss responded by showing a black and white video (narrated by an old-time announcer) of James’ career highlights. After James countered that age is just a number, she challenged “little biscuit butt” to a fight. Bliss pump faked and as she turned to leave, James pulled her into the ring. They brawled until Bliss escaped.
- Jack Gallagher & The Brian Kendrick def. Cedric Alexander & Mustafa Ali: This brief and unremarkable cruiserweight tag team match ended sloppily in front of a dead crowd following a partially botched Sliced Bread No. 2 by Kendrick on Ali for the pin.
- Emma def. Sasha Banks (via pinfall), Bayley, Alicia Fox & Dana Brooke in a Fatal 5-Way elimination match: The winner earned a shot at facing Asuka in her main roster debut at TLC. Bayley eliminated Brooke following her finishing suplex. Fox then pushed Banks into Bayley before hitting the latter with an axe kick to get the pin. Banks then forced Fox to tap to the Banks Statement. Seconds later, an advantageous Emma rolled up Banks to get the 1-2-3 and a match with the unbeaten former NXT champion.