WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from August 21
On the heels of an epic pay-per-view that featured an explosive main event in which Brock Lesnar successfully retained his WWE Universal Championship against Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe in a Fatal 4-Way match, Raw hit the USA Network airwaves Monday with a show aimed at building on the momentum it gathered Sunday.
Not only was The Beast Incarnate in the house for another week, but general manager Kurt Angle promised the appearance of a celebrated Superstar.
That Superstar? John Cena, who exploded through the curtain and looked genuinely happy to be back on the flagship show. His interaction with Roman Reigns tipped the brand's hat toward a showdown between the industry giants somewhere in the relatively near future.
Which other former world champions made up Monday's broadcast and gave fans a hint at what they can expect from the red brand in the weeks and months to come?
WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman Kick Off the Show
In the wake of a title defense that saw him overcome injury at the hands of Braun Strowman to retain his Universal Championship, Brock Lesnar and advocate Paul Heyman kicked off Monday's show.
The Beast Incarnate was in a celebratory mood, but Heyman quickly turned the conversation to the grand conspiracy that faced his client at SummerSlam.
His rant was interrupted by Strowman, who hit the ring and laid Lesnar out, establishing dominance for the second time in as many nights.
The Monster Among Men held the Universal Championship high overhead to close out the segment.
If you want to convince fans that Lesnar is not invincible, book him to get his ass handed to him two nights in a row by a believable threat to his title.
This was a fantastic bit of booking that builds excitement for the impending showdown between the unstoppable force and immovable object.
The look on Heyman's face as his client was manhandled sold the improbability of the assault and really conveyed to the casual audience how rare a feat it is.
Brooklyn Street Fight: Enzo Amore vs. Big Cass
The never-ending rivalry between Enzo Amore and Big Cass was poised to write another chapter Monday night when potential tragedy struck the 7-foot-tall competitor.
Despite another promo from The Certified G, Amore was pummeled from the opening bell by his meaner, nastier, more physically superior opponent.
Cass even teased him, tossing a chair and daring him to mount a comeback.
Instead, the big man continued his assault.
He missed a big boot, though, and tumbled to the arena floor, where he appeared to hurt his knee. Back inside, something appeared off, and when his knee gave out on an Empire Elbow attempt, the referee called for the bell.
Cass was noticeably infuriated as Amore was awarded the win.
Enzo Amore defeated Big Cass by referee stoppage.
Before the unfortunate injury, this was every other "Enzo gets his ass kicked" segment we have seen in the last two months.
Enzo was the rag doll, Cass the aggressor and the crowd the unfortunate victim of overkill.
Here is hoping Cass' injury is not so serious that he will miss significant time. Judging by his actions as he pounded the mat, that is not the case.
Emma vs. Nia Jax
This match resulted from a backstage encounter in which Emma made the mistake of upsetting Nia Jax.
The Aussie took the fight to her opponent but wound up on the receiving end of elbow drops. A dropkick from Emma was a desperation last attempt at victory.
A massive Samoan Drop ended Emma's night and continued her losing ways.
Nia Jax defeated Emma.
Yes, Jax continued to look dominant, but the story here is Emma.
What, exactly, is the end game with her? She is a heel who thinks she deserves a greater opportunity. Does she turn babyface via a win over a monster opponent? Does she disappear after losing to everyone?
What is her story?
I am not convinced WWE officials know.
R-Truth vs. Elias
A week after Elias brutally assaulted R-Truth, the popular fan favorite sought redemption.
He took the fight to The Drifter early, catching him with a nasty heel kick that staggered him.
Elias fought back, delivering a back heel kick and finishing him with a twisting fisherman neckbreaker for the pinfall win.
Elias defeated R-Truth.
This was a strong win for Elias but hardly a quality one.
Everyone beats Truth. At this point, it feels like the guitar-toting Superstar is treading water as he waits on WWE Creative to come up with something more substantial for him to do.
John Cena Returns to Raw
GM Kurt Angle introduced John Cena to the Raw.
Cena went through his normal shtick before saying he wanted to confront a certain Superstar face-to-face. Roman Reigns made his way to the ring for a showdown with a Superstar fans have waited years to see him battle.
Reigns claimed the only time Cena wants to run his mouth is on Twitter.
A fight was about to break out when The Miz, flanked by his Miztourage, interrupted.
The intercontinental champion made a crack about working in front of an empty Barclays Center Sunday night, then unloaded with frustration on both Cena and Reigns for the moments they get and the moments he has been robbed of.
Cena proposed a tag team match with Reigns as his partner against Miz and one of his lackeys. Samoa Joe interrupted, said the only person to be Miz's partner tonight would be him and attacked Cena.
Reigns cleared Miz, dumping him onto Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas. Joe countered an Attitude Adjustment into his Coquina Clutch.
Reigns came to the aid of Cena, catching Joe with a Superman Punch that sent him scurrying to the floor.
In the span of one segment, Joe and Reigns added to their rivalry, The Samoan Submission Machine teased conflict with Cena, The Miz and his Miztourage ignited war with Cena and Reigns, and a main event for the night's broadcast was set up.
Any promo segment that can accomplish that without overstaying its welcome is a sign of strong creative work.
The conviction with which Miz spoke elevated the segment, and the tease of Cena vs. Reigns was, perhaps, the biggest takeaway from the entire ordeal.
8-Man Tag Team Match
Cedric Alexander, Rich Swann, Gran Metalik and Mustafa Ali battled Tony Nese, Ariya Daivari, Drew Gulak and Noam Dar in an eight-man tag team match featuring the stars WWE Creative cannot be bothered to properly define.
Swann was the babyface-in-peril throughout the match, selling for everyone but Dar, who would not tag in.
The former cruiserweight champion made the tag to Alexander, who exploded into the match with a flurry of offense.
Metalik laid out Gulak and Daivari at ringside with a moonsault, creating a one-on-one situation for Alexander and Nese.
Alexander delivered the Lumbar Check for the win.
Cedric Alexander, Rich Swann, Gran Metalik and Mustafa Ali defeated Noam Dar, Ariya Daivari, Drew Gulak and Tony Nese.
Why should fans care about this match when officials cannot be bothered to care about the men involved?
205 Live may feature quality in-ring action on a weekly basis, but until the characters are explored in greater detail than they have been to this point, they will continue to be met with silence.
And that is a shame because so many of these men are in the primes of their careers. Seeing them so haphazardly thrown together feels like a monumental missed opportunity on the part of the management.
Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose vs. The Hardy Boyz
Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose's Raw Tag Team Championship address was interrupted by Matt and Jeff Hardy, who were conspicuously absent from the main card.
The Hardys issued a gentlemanly challenge to the new champions, which Ambrose and Rollins accepted.
Cesaro and Sheamus were seen watching from the backstage area as the teams traded early control of the match. Eventually, champions Rollins and Ambrose isolated Jeff, preventing him from making the tag to his brother.
A desperation Whisper in the Wind allowed Jeff to tag in Matt, who erupted with an onslaught.
The Hardys survived a double-team from Rollins and Ambrose, thanks to Jeff breaking up a pinfall.
At one point, Matt caught Ambrose with the Twist of Fate for a close two-count. Ambrose survived a superplex attempt but found himself on the receiving end of the Twist of Fate.
A Swanton Bomb by Jeff failed as The Charismatic Enigma landed across the waiting knees of The Lunatic Fringe.
With a knee to the face from Rollins and Dirty Deeds from Ambrose, the new champions scored the huge victory.
Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins defeated The Hardy Boyz.
Rollins and Ambrose were introduced as the face of the division with a quality win over the most over team on the roster. Matt and Jeff are future Hall of Famers who have been fairly protected during this current run. Beating them means something.
The tease of Sheamus and Cesaro watching from backstage suggests their rivalry with the champions will continue.
Perhaps finding a way to fit the Hardys into the equation, creating a three-way program between the last three sets of champions, would be the best option while The Revival recovers.
Sasha Banks Championship Address
Just 24 hours after winning the Raw Women's Championship for the fourth time in her career, Sasha Banks returned to Barclays Center for a championship celebration of sorts.
Banks wished a speedy recovery to Ric Flair and admitted that she has left her heart in Brooklyn for the last three years. She denounced Alexa Bliss' "goddess" moniker and said she does not need anyone but the fans to support her.
Bliss interrupted her and rightly revealed that Banks may be a four-time champion but she has never successfully defended one of those titles.
Banks offered to defend her title tonight but Bliss backed down, to the dismay of the fans. They will do battle next week in Memphis.
This was fairly by-the-numbers. The only thing of substance to come from it was the revelation of the rematch for next week's show.
Bliss noting that Banks has never successfully defended any of her titles was a nice touch and created doubt that the new champion can do it next week.
Finn Balor vs. Jason Jordan
Jason Jordan squared off with Finn Balor in a rare battle of the babyfaces Monday night.
Each man flexed their muscles and gained the upper hand heading into the break, suggesting the match would be a competitive one.
Jordan utilized a suplex-based offensive onslaught to wear down Balor, but he could never quite seize momentum for himself. He would have the former universal champion reeling late, but Balor fought back, delivered Sling Blade and the corner dropkick, and finished him off with the Coup de Grace for the win.
Finn Balor defeated Jason Jordan.
It is clear that WWE is trying to build credibility and legitimacy for Jordan through a competitive match against a respected Superstar in Balor, but too much damage has been done with the illegitimate son storyline.
He is the butt of a joke, booed from the get-go because of poor execution and a lack of believability.
Suddenly taking the Chad Gable approach by having him hang with the best the brand has to offer only reeks of desperation to save him from total failure.
He looked sharp here, but WWE Creative has a long, long way to go before he is accepted in any meaningful way.
Roman Reigns and John Cena vs. The Miz and Samoa Joe
John Cena may have been on a roll of bad comedy Monday night, but he was at the mercy of Samoa Joe and The Miz through the first half of this week's main event.
The heels worked over the franchise star while Reigns watched impatiently from the ring apron. When he finally received the hot tag from Cena, he unloaded on his opponents until a Uranage from Joe halted his momentum.
A cheap clothesline by the interfering Bo Dallas kept things in the heels' favor.
The second hot tag of the night went to Cena, who hit his signature stuff. Joe, again, cut off the babyfaces' momentum by ducking a wild swing and applying the Coquina Clutch.
An errant Superman Punch from Reigns left Cena down and teased dissension between the two.
Miz, seeing an opening, attempted the Skull-Crushing Finale. Cena countered and delivered the Attitude Adjustment for the win.
After the match, Cena and Reigns continued to tease tension.
John Cena and Roman Reigns defeated The Miz and Samoa Joe.
Cena and Reigns are clearly headed for a showdown, even if it does not occur in the immediate future.
The tension that exists between them is palpable, and the desire to see them do battle in a high-profile match is at an all-time high. It is a big-money match whether it happens at WrestleMania or No Mercy and has the potential to be that great Match of the Year candidate the company has lacked over the course of 2017.
There are better ways to get there, though, than by sacrificing Miz and Joe's heat for the sake of putting them over.
Miz is a phenomenal heel, and repeatedly reminding fans that he is a step below the main event is the surest way to undercut him. It is part of the reason his WWE title run was a failure and a major indictment on management.
Joe, on the other hand, has cooled significantly since Great Balls of Fire.
A quality match to close things out that lacked the red-hot show-closing angle I expected.