Following a strong showing by Friday Night SmackDown, Raw wasted no time looking to assert its dominance during Night 2 of the WWE Draft, with first overall pick and Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch defeating Charlotte Flair to secure the evening’s first overall pick for Team Red.
For those of you keeping score, that means two straight No. 1 selections for Raw. Seth Rollins earned the No. 1 overall pick that would eventually be used on Lynch when he defeated Roman Reigns via disqualification last Friday, and The Man claimed yet another victory against her longtime adversary, who subbed in at the last minute for an injured Sasha Banks. And while Lynch and Flair acknowledged they’ve had more than their fair share of battles, time had clearly not dulled the animosity between the two WrestleMania main-eventers. Charlotte gained the early advantage with a sucker-punch that kicked off a pre-match brawl, but The Man clawed her way back, kicking out of move after move in a way that clearly frayed at Charlotte’s patience.
As The Queen seethed on the mat after Becky kicked out of a spear, Lynch struck with a crucifix roll-up that put Flair down for three. And while Charlotte’s this-ain’t-over gestures after the match would have been taken as empty threats two weeks ago, this match came with an interesting wrinkle. While The Queen was technically representing SmackDown in Banks’ place, she remained undrafted until moments after the bout when she was selected by Team Red with the night's third overall pick.
“Maybe I’ll get drafted to Raw and we’ll fight forever,” The Queen had said before the bell. That might just happen.
The first surprise of Raw’s WWE Draft came at the end of the first round when USA Network execs used the No. 5 overall pick to draft Andrade and Zelina Vega. The pick was something of a curious one: For all his remarkable talent, the former NXT Champion has been conspicuously quiet since driving Rey Mysterio to the brink of retirement a couple of months ago. But Andrade quickly surged back into the forefront moments after his number was called, notching a win over Ali that served as notice that Raw won’t be relegated to B-show status quite so easily.
The match was also a crash course for anyone who hasn’t seen enough of Andrade to know what made him worthy of a first-round selection. The former NXT Champion bent the rules, smashed his foe in the face where applicable and scored the win by executing the Hammerlock DDT after Zelina Vega incapacitated Ali behind the ref’s back. Ali, for his part, looked as impressive in defeat as he did against Randy Orton at WWE Hell in a Cell, and he put on enough of a showing that USA or FOX will undoubtedly be motivated to take a flyer on him. But in terms of immediate return on investment, it’s hard to beat Andrade — literally and figuratively.
For months, The Viking Raiders’ ascension to the Raw Tag Team Championships has felt like a matter of when, not if. And now, that time has come. Following a non-title win over Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode that got them a championship match, Erik & Ivar finally stormed into Valhalla by defeating the titleholders to notch their first reign as Raw Tag Team Champions.
Ziggler & Roode made it a fight by using the same strategy they employed last week, keeping Erik from tagging in Ivar. The champions did their best to wear down the smaller Raider with attacks to the outside that included a Zig Zag into the various debris of the timekeeper’s area. They even held Ivar at bay when he tagged in, continuing to work over Erik with an array of individual and combined finishing maneuvers. But Ivar once again came to his partner’s aid at the last second, taking out both champs with a springboard back-elbow and teeing Ziggler up for the fateful Viking Experience.
To say the new champions loom large is an understatement. If The Viking Raiders’ experience is any indication — they never technically lost the NXT Tag Team Titles before coming to Raw — the rest of the Raw Tag Team division has their work cut out for them. Unlike Erik & Ivar’s march to the top of the mountain, the idea of any team mustering up the will to dethrone them is looking like a matter of if, not when. A very, very big if.
When it comes to Aleister Black and Eric Young, it’s a tale of two draft picks. Despite their similar world-traveled credentials, the former was a highly-coveted pick (he went 10th overall on Night 2 to Raw), while the latter was an undrafted signee by Team Red in the wake of the Draft’s first night. And while “The World’s Last Maniac” certainly showcased his agility and cunning, Black proved to be the marquee player his high selection suggested.
In what turned out to be a frantic, quick victory, the former NXT Champion rolled with Young’s rabid offense and stood firm, catching his opponent with the vice-like Dark Ritual submission hold to end the bout with a tapout. If this match is any indication, Aleister Black might finally be unleashed on an unsuspecting roster, and his opponents might well find themselves wishing he stayed put in that room.
Once upon a time, the WWE Universe talked about Shelton Benjamin the way they talk about Ricochet now. So the pair’s match on Raw didn’t just have something of a generational flavor, it almost became the moment that Benjamin reclaimed his status as WWE’s resident five-tool player.
Ricochet was clearly caught unaware by the former Intercontinental Champion, who combined his late-career power game with the agility that never left him. But the former United States Champion had speed on his side, stopping The Gold Standard’s top-rope arm drag by landing on his feet and hitting the Recoil in short order. The USA Network executives are surely patting themselves on the back for landing Ricochet … and maybe taking a second look at Benjamin, too. After all, what’s a superhero without a mirror image?
Braun Strowman might be a SmackDown Superstar now, but one bit of business remains on Team Red: A contract signing with Tyson Fury for their marquee match at WWE Crown Jewel. And if you ask both Strowman and the undefeated heavyweight boxing champion, each has the other right where they want him.
In Strowman’s case, he’s fixing to hand Fury his first loss ever and prove he won’t let a boxer turn him into a stepping stone. Fury (whose family are Strowman fans, for what it’s worth), is looking to step into a WWE ring and knock out The Monster Among Men in a show of his own dominance. In terms of displays, Strowman proved to have the bigger one by smashing the table with his bare hands once pen had been put to paper. Fury merely made a show out of snapping a pen in half, but that might have been the more ominous showing. The undefeated pugilist left the ring with a satisfied smile on his face, his designs known only to him.
Right around the same time over the summer, Cedric Alexander and Buddy Murphy began to make long-awaited waves on Raw and SmackDown following months of inactivity in the wake of the Superstar Shake-up. Now, both former WWE Cruiserweight Champions are on Raw, and it looks like they won’t be relegated to the sidelines any longer. The two purple-brand veterans put on a barnburner in the middle of the WWE Draft that showcased what they’re all about … and why Murphy may hold the slight edge between the two.
Yes, Murphy — “The Best Kept Secret,” though we can safely say secret’s probably out now — walked away with the win, but what stuck was manner in which he did it. Alexander, who is known for launching himself headlong at his opponent, used his hybrid offense to impressive effect. But Murphy’s counters and strikes proved devastating. He blasted Alexander with a jumping knee right to the face, launched himself over the ropes and struck with Murphy’s Law to finally hand Alexander a hit from which he could not recover. And at this rate, the only way Buddy Murphy — or Cedric Alexander, for that matter — remains a secret of any kind is going to be simply because you refuse to pay attention.
It’s long been speculated that the most stringent rivals make the best partners, so it’s not that much of a surprise that Natalya selected SmackDown draftee Lacey Evans — the same Lacey Evans she’s been battling for a month — as her tag team partner against The Kabuki Warriors. Nor is it necessarily a surprise that The Warriors came out with the win. They’re the more established team and are the reigning WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, after all. What was somewhat surprising was that the pair turned out to be something of a perfect fit.
Evans, the powerhouse, absorbed the lioness’ share of The Kabuki Warriors’ attack, a walloping from Kairi Sane in particular, and the veteran Natalya served as the perfect closer — or she would have, had The Pirate Princess not rushed the ring to break up the Sharpshooter to initiate a casual dissection by Asuka. Evans eventually made her way back into the match to spell a drained Natalya and even connected with the Woman’s Right on Sane, but unbeknownst to Evans, Asuka had tagged in, and she pounced with a roll-up for the win. The two rivals made an excellent team, but with Natalya on Raw and Evans headed to SmackDown, it looks like the first and last word on this tag team will be "what might have been."
Seth Rollins is set to defend the Universal Championship against “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt in a Falls Count Anywhere Match at WWE Crown Jewel, and The Beastslayer is already taking the stipulation to heart. After vowing to take control of his destiny by finding Wyatt wherever he may be, the champion struck at the heart of his foe’s inner sanctum by invading the Firefly Fun House and burning it to the ground.
Of course, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt wasn’t actually present there; all Rollins got was the holly-jolly fellow in a cardigan. And Wyatt seemed somewhat surprised by Rollins’ attack, asking, “Why are you doing this to me?” It was a futile attempt to stop the champion. While the various Fun House friends looked on in terror and flashes of Wyatt’s alter-ego appeared onscreen, Rollins tore the Fun House apart, lit a match and reduced the whole thing to kindling. And while there is a poetic sense of symmetry to this latest attack, Rollins might have inadvertently done more harm than good. After all, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt’s sole purpose was to protect the Firefly Fun House. Now, there is no Firefly Fun House, and he’s free to do whatever he wants, wherever he wants.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Becky Lynch [RAW] defeated Charlotte Flair [SmackDown] where the Winning Roster Gets First Draft Pick (13:20)
- Andrade (w/ Zelina Vega) defeated Ali (5:50)
- The Viking Raiders (Ivar & Erik) defeated Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler (c) to win the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship (12:05)
- Aleister Black defeated Eric Young (1:40)
- Ricochet defeated Shelton Benjamin (4:45)
- Buddy Murphy defeated Cedric Alexander (9:20)
- The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka & Kairi Sane) defeated Natalya & Lacey Evans
- Dark Match: Seth Rollins (c) defeated The Fiend by DQ to retain the WWE Universal Championship
Other on-screen talent
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Becky Lynch v Charlotte Flair
Andrade v Ali
The Viking Raiders v Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode
Aleister Black v Eric Young
Ricochet v Shelton Benjamin
Braun Strowman and Tyson Fury signed their WWE Crown Jewel contract
Buddy Murphy v Cedric Alexander
The Kabuki Warriors v Lacey Evans & Natalya
Seth Rollins burned down the Firefly Fun House