A hot crowd helped fuel a stellar episode of Monday Night Raw, highlighted by a dynamic interview segment with Charlotte Flair and Bayley, a standoff between Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman and a show ending that thankfully featured no announcers.
The buildup to the #RoyalRumble is picking up momentum and all signs indicate that #WWE bookers are keeping their options open for the outcomes of all matches, including the Rumble. That makes for some exciting television.
Let's dive into our Raw Report Card with the enthusiasm of the Little Rock, Arkansas crowd and the force of a Kevin Owens power bomb of Roman Reigns onto an announcers table.
Brock Lesnar Destroys The World
Brock Lesnar returned for like a minute and did what we all hoped he would do: destroy Roman Reigns. This was an epic opening segment, with all the top guys taking part. The crowd was hot for everyone in this segment: Lesnar, Seth Rollins, Reigns, Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, Braun Strowman, even Paul Heyman. It was a great melee to start the show. The Lesnar vs. Strowman face-off was awesome. And it's nice to see Sami Zayn back in the picture with the top stars.
Enzo & Big Cass vs. Rusev and Jinder Mahal
Enzo is out of his wheelchair and he and Big Cass entertained the crowd with an understated, yet effective S-A-W-F-T promo. Enzo isn't really that bad of a worker. He got the win here, pinning Mahal, in a match designed to build heat for Rusev vs. Big Cass. Rusev unfortunately is stuck in this mid-card feud, because if life were fair, he'd be the one feuding with Braun Strowman, not Zayn.
Lince Dorado vs. Ariya Daivari
This was an excellent match. Dorado, making his Raw debut, dazzled with his amazing, high-flying moves. The WWE is doing the Rey Misterio legacy proud, featuring Luchadors such as Sin Cara, Kalisto and now Dorado. Daivari got the win via submission to set up his "I Forfeit" match with Jack Gallagher, who was doing ringside commentary.
Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows vs. Cesaro & Sheamus
These four guys are wrestling too much without any real storyline. Cesaro and Sheamus have cooled off since they won the tag team titles. There's something about these four that doesn't make for great chemistry. Anderson and Gallows actually pinned Cesaro for the championship here after a second referee ran in and made a three count, but the decision was reversed after the original referee, who was accidentally knocked out by Sheamus, ordered a disqualification. Yes, we got a Dusty Finish in 2017.
Neville Attacks Rich Swann
Before the eternally happy Swann's match could get started, he was attacked by Neville. Swann briefly turned the tables, only to get hammered by Tony Nese, Swann's original opponent. Neville took care of him too, then finished off Swann.
Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka Tribute
The WWE gave Snuka the A-lister treatment, showing clips from his heyday and portraying him as one of the sport's biggest icons. Snuka had fallen out of favor in recent months with the WWE after authorities filed murder charges and he joined a concussion lawsuit against the company, but clearly the WWE felt something special in its heart for the Superfly.
Titus O'Neil Challenges The New Day
Man, somebody in the WWE corporate offices does not like O'Neil. The company keeps making a fool out of him every week. O'Neil can't sing. He can't dance. And he can't talk either. So why have him do these things? He has been pestering The New Day for a few weeks now wanting to join the group. The New Day just laughs in his face. The best part of his segment was Xavier Woods, who has great facial expressions. Anyway, Titus tried to dance while saying "Titus Rocks." This wasn't pretty.
Titus O'Neil vs. Big E
The match was only slightly better than the interview segment. Big E. got the win. The stipulation was, if O'Neil won, he would take Big E's spot in the Royal Rumble. Total burial of O'Neil here and a total waste of Big E.
Charlotte & Bayley Steal the Show
People always say that pro wrestling is a soap opera. Well, tonight that statement was true. Charlotte and Bayley poured their hearts out and somehow made this match feel meaningful in a way that few others have. Charlotte, who possesses sort of an emotionally sad quality about her when she talks, killed the segment in a great way, blasting Bayley for being "an average fan" who made it big. She trashed Bayley for growing up idolizing pro wrestlers. Charlotte compared Bayley to her own pedigree, the daughter of "royalty," and someone who was born into the business. She showed photos of a teenage Bayley taking photos with John Cena, RVD and Bret Hart and then showed a clip of her reading poetry.
Charlotte said while Bayley was writing poetry in her bedroom, she was being recruited by Division 1 schools in volleyball. Bayley then came out and interrupted the verbal assault, chasing Charlotte out of the ring. Bayley turned the tables and touched the hearts of every wresting fan in America. She said that she didn't have a famous father, but that what her father did was take her to see WWE wrestling shows, even when the family didn't have any money. They sat in the cheap seats, behind the Titantron, because they loved the show. For anyone who has ever scraped up $25 to see a WWE show, this line would have made you love her.
Their Royal Rumble match just got really interesting.
Nia Jax Smashes Sasha Banks During a Facebook Warmup
Sasha Banks was warming up before the show started when Nia Jax ran in and pounded her, to the horror of the trainers who were evaluating whether Banks could wrestle on the show. This was a cool gimmick because it was televised on Facebook Live and was something we have not really seen before. Jax gloated after the beatdown. "The aura around the boss is now done and people will see the truth," she said.
New United Kingdom Champion
We got a recap of last weekend's two-day tournament for the new United Kingdom Championship. Give the #WWE props for essentially creating its own independent organizations to compete with the real ones. Tyler Bate won the title and the WWE has a new #NXT on its hands.
Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Sami Zayn vs. Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens and Braun Strowman
This match was great because the announcers didn't talk during the last few minutes. Rollins was clearly the best worker in the match. He and Sami Zayn did double splashes over the top rope in a cool segment. Strowman got the win after pinning Zayn (of course), but then things got really good.
Strowman brought Zayn to the announcers table, forcing the announcers to flee. So, we got a closing segment free of commentary, which made the moment feel all the more special. Everybody got speared, punched and hit with a chair, except for Owens, who ended the segment putting Reigns through the announcers' table with a power bomb. Owens looked mad after the move, like there was still some ounce of manhood left in the guy who has been turned into a comedy character since winning the WWE Universal Championship.