We’re a little under three weeks away from Money in the Bank, and the card is really starting to take shape. The women’s ladder match is all set after tonight’s qualifying gauntlet match, the men’s match only needs an announcement from New Day and a winner from the ROH showdown between Samoa Joe and Daniel Bryan. The WWE Championship is on the line in a Last Man Standing match. Both women’s titles are on the line, with Raw going big with Ronda Rousey’s first title shot—we’ll just ignore that there’s no kayfabe reason she should be getting that shot, and the angle of Nia just challenging her is weird—while Asuka looks to snag her first main roster championship from Carmella. Roman Reigns vs. Jinder Mahal, Sami Zayn vs. Bobby Lashley, and the Bludgeon Brothers vs. Gallows and Anderson fill out the rest of the card at this point.
That’s a packed card, and the relative finality of it makes this week’s Raw feel rather sluggish. It’s not a terrible show, and there’s an encouraging lack of Lashley “sisters,” but it’s one that feels predictable and familiar. It’s a show that struggles to up the ante when it comes to anything that doesn’t take place in the ring. It’s a show that swings wildly between compelling matches, and ones that belabor the narrative beats we’ve seen in the last few weeks.
Rehashing Braun Strowman vs. Finn Balor
Those wild swings in quality are evident most predominantly in the first half of the show. In the first 90 minutes, Raw is pretty evenly split between matches and segments that work, and ones that fall flat. The first 30 minutes or so is dedicated strictly to Braun Strowman and Finn Balor, who have a promo-off to determine who wants the Money in the Bank briefcase more. That leads to a match, which may look familiar to some because it happened in the main event last week. There’s really only so much you can do with that match, and so there’s nothing new to see here.
Long live Kevin Owens
Except for Kevin Owens. He’s the lone highlight of what’s otherwise a dull start to the show. He sits in on commentary, shouts “inspirational” words into a mic during the match, and then takes an opportunity to attack both Balor and Strowman. The attack on the latter doesn’t go so well though, as Braun nearly kills him with a ladder, which leads to a hilarious segment where Owens tries to escape the arena, yells at a valet, and is ordered to stay by Kurt Angle. It’s delightful because it’s Kevin freaking Owens, and he’s a work of art every time he’s in a segment. He spins nothing but gold.
Seth Rollins burns it down…again
Outside of Owens though, that first stretch is disappointing. No show should start with a pointless rematch from the week before. Thankfully, Raw immediately hands over the reins to the show’s surest thing, Seth Rollins. His match against Jinder Mahal takes awhile to get going—as always, Mahal looks real slow against anyone who isn’t Randy Orton—but once it hits that final stretch, it’s beautiful. There’s nothing better than Rollins in pure, urgent babyface mode right now, and the structure of the final stretch, which sees Jinder come close to winning the Intercontinental Championship after a chair shot behind the referee’s back, is perfect storytelling. I’m not big on the DQ ending, with Rollins getting “retribution” by hitting Jinder and Sunil Singh with a chair, but it’s perfectly fine at the end of a real good match on a Raw that feels like filler.
The Boss goes to the Bank
The other good match of the night is the main event, which sees seven women in a gauntlet match vying for the final spot in the Money in the Bank ladder match, but the stretch before that has very little to talk about. This is where the show switches into pure filler mode. It’s good to see Drew McIntyre get a singles win, but it’s still just a part of a larger story that hasn’t formed yet. There’s a fun comedy segment when the B-Team throw a BBQ, but coupled with a match between Hardy and Wyatt and The Ascension, it underlines how little action there is in the division as a whole. Roode vs. Owens is fine, and Sami’s apology to Bobby Lashley is another example of Zayn doing his damndest to carry this feud opposite a man who seems allergic to charisma, but there’s really nothing here to get excited about.
The gauntlet match can’t top the Rollins match from earlier in the night, but it gets the job done. It’s too predictably plotted in the early going, as Bayley defeats Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan, only to then be attacked and left for the pin when Ruby Riott comes out next, but after that things pick up. Mickie James, returning to her hometown, gets in a good chunk of time against Riott, and then Riott and Banks finish it all off. It’s a solid main event, capping off a Raw that missed the mark more often than not.
- There’s a surprising amount of good comedy tonight. The best moment is either Rhyno eating ALL the sandwiches, or Dana talking about what it takes to win the gauntlet match while pointing at random equations on a whiteboard.
- Braun Strowman wants Brock, and he says as much in a really great opening promo.
- I hate this Nia Jax-Ronda Rousey feud so much. It defies all kayfabe logic, in terms of Nia just challenging Rousey out of nowhere and Nia suddenly turning heel shortly after being the face of anti-bullying and self acceptance.
- Elias asks for the lights to be dimmed because “this crowd tonight is particularly disgusting.” A+.
- Elias vs. Rollins at Money in the Bank for the Intercontinental Championship? Yes please.
Finn Balor defeated Braun Strowman via DQ; Jinder Mahal defeated Seth Rollins (c) via DQ (Intercontinental Championship match); Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy defeated The Ascension; Kevin Owens defeated Bobby Roode; Drew McIntyre defeated Chad Gable; Sasha Banks defeated Ruby Riott, Mickie James, Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan, and Bayley (Gauntlet match, Money in the Bank qualifier).
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