In the opening moments of Raw, Roman Reigns emerged to announce that he had been living with leukemia for 11 years and the disease's return would force him to relinquish the Universal Championship and take a leave of absence from WWE.
Dressed in street clothes, The Big Dog mingled briefly with fans at ringside before dropping the persona of Roman Reigns to address the WWE Universe as Joe and detail his history of living with leukemia. In an emotional but optimistic address, Reigns recounted his initial diagnosis and remission in late 2008 and thanked the WWE Universe for making his dreams come true. He said he was going to go home to focus on his family and health, but he made one thing clear on the way out: “This is by no means a retirement speech.”
Speaking of the “faith” that had carried him through his life, Reigns promised the WWE Universe that he would return to “swing for the fences” at whatever curveballs life threw at him, with a final signoff before a tearful embrace with The Shield atop the ramp: “I will beat this, and I will be back, so you will see me very, very soon.”
If anyone ever doubted that Finn Bálor is The Extraordinary Man Who Does Extraordinary Things, consider his accomplishment on Raw — perhaps the most unlikely achievement he's ever recorded: He got Lio Rush to stop talking.
How did Finn pull it off? The only way one gets Lio Rush to drop the mic these days: He defeated Bobby Lashley. That, of course, was extraordinary in and of itself, given that The Rocky Mountain-Made Machine's revamped attitude has rendered him near-unstoppable over the last few weeks, and his constant disrespect of Bálor seemed to be reminiscent of the kind of demoralization that befell Kevin Owens and Tyler Breeze.
As it turns out, Lashley might have been better off not to brush Bálor aside. Hints mounted throughout the bout that The Extraordinary Man would not be as easy to put away as Lashley believed he would be — he even quieted Rush with a late-game rally — but Lashley still put himself in position to win when he evaded the Coup de Grâce. However, when he went to scoop up Finn, the Irishman ensnared Lashley in a rollup to keep the big man down for three. And for Lio Rush, who sings Lashley's presence so effectively, it was nothing but the sounds of silence.
The return of Sasha Banks may have given Natalya a much-needed equalizer against The Riott Squad — The Queen of Harts will team with Banks & Bayley to face the Squad at WWE Evolution — but any expectation that The Boss would get right back to her winning ways was dashed by Ruby Riott on Raw in Banks’ singles return.
The Riott Squad's ringleader knocked off the four-time Women's Champion just six days away from Evolution, taking advantage of The Boss’ rust and benefitting from some clutch interference from the rest of The Riott Squad. Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan had been conspicuous by their absence for most of the match, but that changed once Sasha locked in the Bank Statement. Logan rushed the ring to draw out Bayley, igniting a brawl that quickly roped in Natalya and Morgan.
After the Squad got the better of their foes, Banks left the ring to throw hands, only to find herself booted face-first into the ringpost by Ruby when she attempted to return to the ring. One punishing Riott Kick later, and it was over. The Boss will go into the history books on Sunday no matter the outcome, but with the momentum at Ruby & Co.’s back, Sasha’s road to victory at Evolution is looking longer by the second.
Two big elements seem to be hanging over the first-ever battle (really!) between D-Generation X and The Brothers of Destruction at WWE Crown Jewel: That Triple H & Shawn Michaels are either afraid of their opponents or are too “nostalgic” (read: old) to pose a threat to The Undertaker & Kane. It was a hard “no” on both counts from DX, who brushed aside the “idle threats” of the brothers’ last dispatch and countered that “old” was just another word for “better.”
Enter The Brothers, who appeared on the TitanTron, flanked by faux tombstones for The Game and HBK, to deliver yet another message: “Pride goes before destruction and arrogance precedes the fall. Your arrogance will be the vessel of your total annihilation.” Standing over the stones, Undertaker & Kane promised nothing less than eternal humiliation and suffering — in other words, they’d never rest in peace.
In Roman Reigns’ absence, the Universal Championship picture for WWE Crown Jewel has been set: Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar will battle for the vacant title, and both The Monster Among Men and Lesnar's advocate Paul Heyman wasted no time in a mad scramble for momentum.
First out was Heyman, who praised the now-former titleholder (“It is humbling to … have been in the presence of such courage and such greatness”) before arguing for Lesnar as the Superstar who could best carry on the legacy that Roman Reigns brought to the title — both in the ring and, potentially, the Octagon. That drew out Strowman, who bristled at the notion that he wasn't in Brock Lesnar's league, category or stratosphere. The Gift of Destruction promised that he would be the one to defend the title on a weekly basis and that Reigns would be first in line for an opportunity when he returned. But for now, the only thing awaiting Lesnar at Crown Jewel would be These Hands.
However, the words had barely gotten out of Strowman's mouth before he was suddenly leveled by These Feet, a.k.a. an incoming Claymore from a "monster-hunting" Drew McIntyre, who had hinted he'd be making his move on Strowman following the dissolution of the "pack" last week. Clearly, if Braun beats Lesnar, he might have a problem waiting for him the second he gets back from Suplex City.
The good news for Apollo Crews is that, after last week, Elias knows who he is. This is also the bad news. The Living Truth, predictably, did not take kindly to his upstaging last week, dispatching the former Titus Worldwide standout in a hard-fought match that came down to the kind of persistence and timing you'd expect from a guitarist. After taking nearly all of Crews’ hardest-hitting maneuvers and kicking out, The Living Truth threw his opponent through the ropes and caught him with a leaping knee to the face as Apollo attempted to re-enter the ring. Drift Away followed, and that was all she wrote.
As it turns out, there is no one — no one — Elias will allow to steal his spotlight. Even the Acting General Manager of Raw. After his victory over Apollo Crews, The Living Truth had reassembled his set-up on the Raw stage to perform the concert that Crews had interrupted with his entrance, only to be silenced by the arrival of Acting General Manager Baron Corbin, who pulled rank to cut off Elias’ mic and force him off the stage when he found himself on the receiving end of a musical insult. This, of course, was a mistake: After seemingly retreating without incident behind the curtain, The Living Truth roared back onto the stage, guitar in hand, and smashed it to smithereens over the GM's back.
Coming into Raw, it looked like Nikki Bella might have riled Ronda Rousey up so much that she might not wait until WWE Evolution to fight her. On Monday, she crossed the line so brazenly that The Baddest Woman on the Planet seemingly decided to do something even more ominous: Take her time.
Seeking retribution after Rousey's very personal insults last week, Nikki went in on a familiar relationship of Rousey's when the champion said that allowing The Bellas to beat her up, even with one arm tied behind her back, would be something her mother would be ashamed of. Nikki zeroed in on that target with ruthless efficiency, saying Rousey had already let her mother down with her mixed-martial arts losses, and it would only get worse when she lost her title to a “Diva.” She then slapped Rousey clean across the face after the contract was signed.
The red-faced Baddest Woman on the Planet took a moment to compose herself, then delivered a final message with a smile on her face: “Come this Sunday, I will end you. I give you my word.”
The field for WWE Evolution's Battle Royal filled up fast, and despite Dana Brooke's pre-emptive powerplay last week, another competitor quickly cemented herself as a Superstar to watch in the high-stakes free-for-all. Facing presumptive favorite Nia Jax, eternal hopeful Brooke and comeback player Tamina, Ember Moon made the statement of the night in a Fatal 4-Way, biding her time until she sprang with an Eclipse to drop Tamina and claim the win. An impressive achievement to be sure, but it won't be as easy as 1-2-3 come Sunday.
Six days away from WWE Evolution, Titus O’Neil took the stage to advocate WWE's hopes to achieve another bit of history and help end breast cancer once and for all. The former WWE Tag Team Champion, whose grandmother lost her fight with breast cancer in 1995, was overjoyed to share the stage with six women who didn't just survive breast cancer, they beat it: Claire DiCenzo (four months pregnant!), Lindsay McGloughlin, Susan Lane, the just-married Monique Costa, Patrice Shelton and Cheryl Cuddy. To join the fight, save lives and contribute to the fight against breast cancer, text WWE to 50555 to donate $5 to Susan G. Komen.
How do you properly honor Roman Reigns as he takes his leave of absence to battle leukemia? According to Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins, there is only one option: To win. And, competing under the name of The Shield, they did just that — and then, Ambrose went into business for himself.
Yes, The Lunatic Fringe finally snapped after weeks of in-house tension among The Hounds of Justice, unloading a torrent of fists on The Kingslayer after the two brothers in black dethroned Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre to become Raw Tag Team Champions — thanks in no small part to an assist from Braun Strowman, who came seeking vengeance against Drew McIntyre and effectively took The Scottish Psychopath out of the match, leaving Ziggler ripe for a Stomp that sealed the match.
What was shaping up to be an emotional celebration in Reigns’ honor, however, turned into Ambrose's moment in a horrifying hurry. The Lunatic Fringe dropped Rollins with Dirty Deeds and, seemingly unable to believe was he was doing, slowly and methodically beat his fellow champion around and outside the ring, before finally administering a second Dirty Deeds on the exposed concrete of the arena, ditching his black shirt, and walking up through the crowd they had come through. On a night when Roman Reigns made the ultimate sacrifice as a Raw Superstar, his brothers had, seemingly, pulled out all the stops to honor him. Now, Reigns has left. Ambrose has come undone. Those are the facts. Beyond that, it's difficult to say what anybody should believe.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- The Shield (Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins) defeated The Show (Drew McIntyre & Dolph Ziggler) (c) to win the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship
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