Given the ending of last week’s Raw, you could imagine Rusev was very much looking forward to facing Randy Orton in the opening match of this week’s show. Unfortunately, things didn't quite go as expected. Not only did Orton and King Corbin jump the former United States Champion before the match even started, but Bobby Lashley appeared on the TitanTron in the middle of the pre-match brawl while wearing Rusev’s robe and apparently broadcasting live from The Super Athlete’s bedroom.
As The All Mighty made a show of climbing into Rusev’s bed, he pointed out that something was missing … and right on cue, Lana walked in, wearing a scant-looking shift. “Everything we own is now in my name, and we don’t have joint checking accounts anymore. It’s all mine,” said The Ravishing Russian as she slid beneath the covers next to the former Intercontinental Champion, who scolded Rusev for sending money to his family in Bulgaria rather than spoiling his wife before turning out the lights.
Orton and Corbin had quite the laugh at The Super Athlete’s expense, and he made them pay, ferociously attacking both his foes around the ringside area with steel steps and kicks. Saying he “snapped” would be putting it mildly, but the state of Rusev’s marriage aside, there is a silver lining where the Team Hogan-Team Flair rivalry is concerned for Crown Jewel. As bad as things have gotten for Rusev, he is certainly motivated to dish out some punishment.
“We are at the end of the road,” Lacey Evans announced moments before her Last Woman Standing Match with Natalya, flanked by a trash can spray-painted with The Queen of Harts’ name. And at the end of the road, “the trash gets taken out for removal.” The Sassy Southern Belle was of course referring to the former SmackDown Women’s Champion, but she might have overestimated her chances. Not only did Natalya earn the decisive victory in the rivalry, she did so in epic, come-from-behind fashion and left Evans in a heap next to the stage.
Even though Natalya came out swinging, The Lady of WWE dominated large chunks of the match and answered Natalya’s early aggression with a series of contraptions and implements. She even strapped Natalya to an announce chair by using a Kendo stick as a seatbelt. The Canadian simply refused to stay down, however, and a frustrated Evans looked to put the match away with a suplex off the side of the stage.
Natalya escaped, countered with a suplex of her own atop the ramp and executed a giant powerbomb off the side of the stage that sent Evans through a table and rendered her unable to answer the count of 10. And for all the very real abilities Evans showed during this match and rivalry, Natalya got the last word thanks to an old-school lesson the newcomer has likely learned the hard way: It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
About the best thing you can say for Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode in their battle with The Viking Raiders is that they didn’t lose the Raw Tag Team Titles. Mercifully, their bout against Erik & Ivar was a non-title affair, but that didn’t stop the former NXT Tag Team Champions from treating the champs like their own personal, Ren Faire-themed punching bags from the word “go.” By the end of the match, Ziggler & Roode were looking like they only remained champions by the grace of Odin, and given Erik & Ivar’s long, long resume, even that grace seems like it’s eventually going to have a breaking point.
Before then, however, the Raiders were happy to settle for breaking the champs themselves. Ziggler & Roode wisely tried to outmaneuver their opponents, having seen The O.C.’s unsuccessful attempts to outpower them. They certainly had their moments of control and had one or two opportunities to claim the win, most notably when Roode and The Showoff combined for a spinebuster and Zig Zag, respectively. But they could only stave off the inevitable for so long. After Erik escaped the Glorious DDT and leveled Roode with a fist to the jaw, he reached Ivar on the apron, and the pair executed the Viking Experience on Ziggler in short order. It's been said for months that The Viking Raiders are Raw Tag Team Champions in waiting, and this victory is only likely to intensify those predictions. After all, Erik & Ivar seem to have become the most dangerous kind of tag team in WWE: One that recognizes opportunities and converts on them without exception.
Over the past year, Aleister Black spent much of his time waiting for the fight to come to him. Now, with the WWE Draft fast approaching, The Ominous Man From Amsterdam seems to have flipped the switch. The former NXT Champion was the one seeking competition on the final episode of Raw before the draft, and he made quick work of The Singh Brothers after finally leaving his hidden enclave to see who wanted a piece of him.
Ironically, Sunil & Samir actually decided to take Black up on his offer moments before The Dutch Destroyer appeared — what better way to raise their Draft stock than by taking on someone like Black — but the Bollywood stars seem to have misjudged how this movie would end. Black divided and conquered quite effortlessly and even showcased an expansion to his repertoire, dropping Samir Singh with Black Mass and submitting Sunil with what appeared to be a standing modified dragon sleeper. Suffice it to say, with the Draft around the corner, the end of 2019 will have one key difference from the beginning where Aleister Black is concerned: He won’t have any shortage of people knocking on his door.
It’s been some rough sledding for The O.C. recently. Yes, AJ Styles staved off Cedric Alexander to retain the United States Championship, but Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson have been rolled over for a couple weeks by The Viking Raiders, and Braun Strowman knocking out The Phenomenal One at WWE Hell in a Cell certainly didn’t help matters. But the good brothers got a break this week thanks to a win over Lucha House Party that put some much-needed wind back in their sails.
They certainly had to work for it. The good brothers were noticeably vulnerable when the match began, as even Styles found himself outmatched by Kalisto in the early goings and near the end of the match when The King of Flight came within spitting distance of the Salida del Sol. If not for an all-out brawl that encompassed both teams, Styles might have found himself embarrassed for the second time in as many nights. But Styles found his opening to hit the match-ending Phenomenal Forearm on Kalisto and led his teammates in a post-match beatdown of Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado, the latter of whom suffered a Styles Clash from the second rope. If the victory wasn’t a message enough, the attack surely was. Anyone who mistook a bad few weeks for the end of The O.C.’s magic is sorely mistaken and will be dealt with accordingly.
The match between Becky Lynch & Charlotte Flair and The Kabuki Warriors was billed as a Champions’ Showcase in which the Women’s Champions of each brand competed against the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions. And indeed, it was a showcase for the new tag champs, who earned a big win over The Man and The Queen, but a pair of former champions wanted in on the action as well.
At the end of a match that seemingly showcased several rivalries at once — Charlotte and Becky were trying to passive-aggressively show each other up; Lynch still owed Asuka one after losing to her at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view — Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross made their presence known, attacking The Kabuki Warriors just seconds after Asuka blinded Becky with the green mist to tee up Kairi Sane for a match-ending pinfall. The former WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions clearly hadn’t forgotten their own experience with the green mist and made a beeline for the tandem that dethroned them, expelling The Kabuki Warriors to hold the ring while Charlotte and Becky stewed on the outside. Obviously, the WWE Draft is set to change the picture of the Women’s division, but wherever Asuka & Sane end up, there’s at least one team who isn’t letting them go so easily.
It was a battle of the blue-chippers on Raw when Ricochet went to the mat with Apollo Crews in a pre-Draft “showcase” match meant to show Raw and SmackDown’s select committees what these two “legit best friends” can do. Obviously, they can both do quite a bit. In fact, the two are in many ways mirror images of each other, with perhaps Crews possessing the slight size advantage. But even a showcase has to have a winner, and that proved to be Ricochet after he caught his opponent with a Recoil. That isn’t to say either of their stock will drop by any means as a result of this match. If nothing else, Ricochet and Crews have both shown what they're made of; to say nothing of their motivation to stick it to the side that chooses to overlook them.
Much was made of the open mic that the always unpredictable Tyson Fury would be given during his appearance on Raw following a confrontation with Braun Strowman on Friday Night SmackDown. As it turned out, neither was in the mood to do much talking. Fury’s demands for an apology quickly led to fighting words with The Monster Among Men and then an actual fight, in which Strowman and the undefeated lineal heavyweight boxing champion battled their way through two platoons of security guards to get at each other.
The WWE locker room fared slightly better in that at least none of the Superstars dispatched to quell the madness were sniffing canvas by the time all was said and done. But a group that included former champions, strongmen and a WWE Hall of Famer still wasn’t enough to keep The Gypsy King and Strowman from throwing whatever hands they could. Strowman seemed to relent, returning to the backstage area for a brief interview with Charly Caruso where he promised Fury would get These Hands before all was said and done. But the pause turned out to be a brief one, as Strowman charged back into the fray to fight as Raw went to black, both on a mission to give These Hands and clearly thrilled to have found someone who'll give them back.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Natalya defeated Lacey Evans in a Last Woman Standing Match (17:09)
- The Viking Raiders (Ivar & Erik) defeated Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler (16:35)
- Aleister Black defeated The Singh Brothers (Sunil & Samir Singh) in a 2-on-1 Handicap Match (1:06)
- The O.C. (AJ Styles, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson) defeated Lucha House Party (Kalisto, Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado) in a Six Man Tag Team Match (9:29)
- The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka & Kairi Sane) defeated Becky Lynch & Charlotte Flair (11:28)
- Ricochet defeated Apollo Crews (4:00)
Other on-screen talent