WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from December 4
The budding rivalry between intercontinental champion Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe engulfed the red brand Monday night and led to an explosive episode of WWE Raw.
Joe wasted little time issuing a challenge to Reigns for a match, only to be overlooked in favor of Jason Jordan, who unsuccessfully battled The Big Dog in the night's opener.
The Samoan Submission Machine would vow to put Reigns down later in the night but instead, cost his rival's Shield partners, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, the opportunity to capture the Raw Tag Team Championships.
That program was not the only at the forefront of the show as Absolution continued to target the women's division, not only attacking Sasha Banks but setting their sights on Alicia Fox as well.
Then there was Braun Strowman, who obliterated Elias, then found out he will meet Kane in seven days in a much-anticipated showdown.
Sprinkle in some cruiserweight action, Finn Balor and Asuka and you have a show that was both effective in furthering stories and laying the foundation for the show as 2018 draws near.
Roman Reigns Promo
Raw general manager Kurt Angle kicked off this week's show, ready to announce the Superstar who will challenge Roman Reigns for the Intercontinental Championship this week. Before he could officially announce the opponent, Jason Jordan hit the ring, obviously trying to persuade his father to choose him for another shot at gold.
Greeted by a largely negative reaction, Jordan told his on-screen father that he was ready to step up to the plate and challenge Reigns.
This brought out The Big Dog to a surprisingly mixed ovation. Him and Jordan exchanged some barbs before an unimpressed Samoa Joe entered the fray.
Before Joe could follow up on a threat to Reigns to revoke his open challenge, Jordan attacked Reigns, dropping him on his head.
A furious Reigns demanded a match with Jordan tonight.
Jordan's constant quest to prove his worth to his father was at the forefront here but the fans just do not care about him. till, the interactions with Reigns and the injection of Samoa Joe into the equation and the tease of his involvement in the match later in the night is a strong hook that should engage the viewers who want to know what they can expect from the blossoming Reingns-Joe vendetta.
Not perfect, but a stolid enough segment to keep fans interested in what is coming up next on a night when the popular Pittsburgh Steelers are starring on Monday Night Football.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Roman Reigns vs. Jason Jordan
The intercontinental champion controlled the majority of the bout early, overwhelming the lesser experienced championship competitor Jordan.
Jordan launched himself into Reigns, delivering several corner shots and standing tall ahead of the commercial break.
The challenger worked the arm of his opponent but Reigns, ever resilient, fought his way out of an arm bar, delivering a big headbutt.
Jordan scored a near-fall off a rollup and Reigns answered with a two-count of his own following the Superman Punch. The former collegiate wrestler delivered two straight suplexes but Reigns recovered and delivered another Superman Punch and spear for the win.
After the match, Samoa Joe appeared and suggested Reigns was tired. He attempted to attack him but Reigns cleared him from the ring with a Superman Punch. The heel vowed to put his newfound rival asleep later in the night.
Roman Reigns defeated Jason Jordan to retain the Intercontinental Championship
The problem with Jordan's presentation is not his in-ring performance. He has been capable of, and delivering, matches of this quality since his singles push.
It was, unfortunately, another instance of a Superstar demonstrating his ability to shine under bright lights but continuing to lack the character development and personality to connect with audiences.
The one-dimensional, illegitimate son of Kurt Angle is not a gimmick that will get him over with the WWE Universe in the long run, regardless of how many of these strong in-ring efforts he produces.
The continued developments between badass Joe and Reigns, once again, served as a strong hook.
Sasha Banks vs. Paige
Raw women's champion Alexa Bliss sat in on commentary while Mickie James and Bayley accompanied Sasha Banks, hoping to keep potential interference from Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose at a minimum while The Boss battled Paige.
The Anti-Diva grounded the ferocious Banks, trapping her in a front face lock coming out of the break. She continued to target the head and neck of her opponent. A quick rollup attempt by Banks was answered with a big kick from Paige.
A boot to the charging second-generation competitor fueled Banks' comeback, though.
Banks took the fight to the ropes, attempting a superplex. Paige countered with a sunset flip powerbomb for a near-fall.
Paige found herself trapped in The Bank Statement late but was able to get her foot on the rope, forcing a break. As Deville and Rose attempted to check on her, Baley and James entered the picture and a brawl between the four competitors broke out.
The distraction allowed Paige to deliver a big kick and the Ram-Paige for the pinfall victory.
After the match, Deville and Rose attacked Banks and the three members of Absolution stood tall to close out the segment.
Paige defeated Sasha Banks
The match itself may not have lived up to expectations given the quality of workers Paige and Banks are but this was more about the continued establishing of Absolution as the lead heel faction of the Raw women's division.
Paige capitalizing on the distraction allows Banks to maintain credibility and creates the aura of invincibility for Absolution as it continues to build its connection with fans.
A quality segment, even if there is a better match to be had between Banks and Paige.
Fatal 4-Way Match: Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali vs. Drew Gulak vs. Tony Nese
A week after Rich Swann won a Fatal 4-Way match to advance to next week's No. 1 Contender's match, Cedric Alexander, Drew Gulak, Tony Nese and Mustafa Ali battled for the right to meet the former cruiserweight champion.
Gulak and Nese felt the pressure to live up to the pre-game speech from current champion Enzo Amore but found themselves at odds with each other, allowing Ali to deliver a high cross body block for a near-fall.
After the break, the action broke down.
Alexander and Mustafa engaged in an exchange that saw them knock each other out, the former landing on top of the latter. Nese made a last-gasp effort to break up the pin, saving the match for the heels.
Ali delivered a big Spanish Fly to Alexander and Gulak saved the match with a jawbreaker.
An alert and aware Gulak delivered a knee to Alexander and scored the upset victory.
Drew Gulak defeated Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali and Tony Nese
The match was the entertaining, fast-paced bout everyone expected with an interesting winner.
Gulak has low-key become one of the most entertaining Superstars on the roster. His work as a heel, anti-high-flyer has been nothing short of spectacular so booking him to go over was a smart move and worthwhile reward.
Whether he stands a chance of actually beating Swann and challenging Amore remains to be seen but for now, it is nice to see Gulak enjoy a big win after his work in recent months.
Braun Strowman Destroys Elias
Elias made the mistake of angering Raw general manager Kurt Angle during a backstage segment earlier on the show. As he took to the ring for a special concert for the fans in Los Angeles, he was unfortunately greeted by the presence of Braun Strowman.
The Monster Among Men obliterated Elias, delivering a big powerslam and heading to ringside, where he destroyed the ring steps. Before he could do any more damage, Kane's music played and The Big Red Monster appeared on the video screen.
Kane announced the long-awaited match between the two Superstars for next week's match before vowing only one monster will emerge.
It could be argued that Elias should be protected but it is so fun watching Strowman demolish people that the booking curiosity can be forgiven.
The announcement of Strowman vs. Kane is the culmination of a month of booking that has encompassed Raw.
The match itself may not be pretty but it should be an interesting battle of heavyweights, if nothing else. As long as Strowman goes over and continues to build on the momentum he has enjoyed throughout 2017, all will be well.
Asuka vs. Alicia Fox
The competition continued to increase for Asuka, who battled her Survivor Series captain Alicia Fox in singles action this week.
Fox got a few shots in on Asuka but The Empress of Tomorrow ultimately trapped her in an armbar for the submission win.
After the match, Absolution made their way to the ring.
Paige addressed Fox, calling her a best friend.
Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose attacked her and left her lying to close out the segment, another victim of the united front.
Asuka defeated Alicia Fox
The respect shown to Asuka by Absolution is an excellent bit of booking by WWE Creative that protects the destructive aura of The Empress of Tomorrow.
Attacking Fox, someone Paige considers a close friend, demonstrates how unforgiving and unrelenting the trio is.
It also puts another competitor opposite Absolution in the war for women's division dominance.
Finn Balor vs. Bo Dallas
Interference from Curtis Axel allowed Bo Dallas to seize control of his match with Finn Balor, a showdown between former NXT champions.
The third-generation star surprisingly controlled the majority of the match, talking trash as he ferociously planted kicks to the midsection of his fallen opponent.
Balor built momentum for himself, though, fighting back into the match with the Slingblade and a corner dropkick.
The Coup de Grace finished Dallas off as Balor picked up a much-needed win.
Finn Balor defeated Bo Dallas
WWE Creative's use of Finn Balor has been the biggest travesty of the second-half of 2017.
How the company can continue to justify throwing him in useless matches against the likes of Dallas when he should be fighting for top titles against Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, Samoa Joe and Brock Lesnar is a mystery only the crack creative staff can answer for.
This was fine for what it was but hardly something anyone will remember beyond the next segment.
Raw Tag Team Championship Match: The Shield vs. The Bar
The Raw Tag Team Championships were up for grabs Monday night as Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose sought to regain the gold from Sheamus and Cesaro, less-than-one month after dropping the titles to The Bar.
Ambrose found himself at the mercy of the heels, isolated from Rollins and beaten down for the majority of the bout.
A hot tag to Rollins late, though, led to the action breaking down and an increase in the drama surrounding the bout.
The Kingslayer escaped an attempt at The Neutralizer by Cesaro and was en route to a victory when Sheamus hit the ring. An attack despite the warnings of the referee gave way to a disqualification finish.
Kurt Angle appeared, announcing the restarting of the match under No Disqualification rules.
Rollins and Ambrose dove through the ropes, wiping their opponents out and beginning an onslaught that saw them come within seconds of winning the titles.
Samoa Joe hit the ring, attacking Ambrose and Rollins. This drew out Reigns, who sent Joe packing but it was a Brogue Kick from Sheamus to Ambrose that secured the champions the victory.
Sheamus and Cesaro defeated Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins
These two teams are incapable of having a bad match. For three-quarters of the way through, Monday's main event was exactly what you would expect from the talent involved.
The interjection of Samoa Joe, the screwy finish and the restart hurt the flow and led to an overbooked mess late. With that said, it was still a quality capper to a show that was consistently entertaining throughout.
The only question now is whether or not Sheamus and Cesaro will continue their rivalry with The Shield or if they move on to a different team.
For the sake of preventing fatigue, hopefully the latter is the case.