WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from April 17
One week after a brutal assault by Braun Strowman left Roman Reigns hospitalized, the monstrous big man was the talk of the wrestling world and at the center of the April 17 episode of WWE Raw.
The massive competitor was not the only Superstar to make his presence felt Monday night.
Seth Rollins and Samoa Joe were prominently featured on the same night a match between the two was announced for WWE Payback on April 30.
Raw tag team champions The Hardy Boyz looked to continue their unexpected run at the top of the division, Nia Jax sought another week of destruction as she staked her claim to the next Raw Women's Championship opportunity and intercontinental champion Dean Ambrose endured his first Monday night since the Superstar Shake-up.
What was the fate of those Superstars and how did their Monday night affect the march toward Payback?
Find out with this recap of Monday's USA Network presentation.
Braun Strowman Opens the Show
One week after decimating Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman addressed his actions to kick off the show.
He took great pride in injuring Reigns and announced to the audience the former three-time WWE champion would not be in attendance.
Cue the cheers.
Raw general manager Kurt Angle interrupted and scrutinized Strowman for his actions last week, to which the big man promised more destruction was to come. Angle threatened a suspension but instead announced Strowman vs. Reigns for Payback.
He gave Strowman the night off, much to the chagrin of the big man.
Strowman said he wanted more competition "or else." Showing no fear, Angle retorted. The two came face-to-face before Strowman backed down and exited the arena.
Angle can give Strowman the night off until he is blue in the face, but not once did this feel like the last time we would see the monster on the night's broadcast.
The big man continues to look like a star and fans are responding in kind. Can some of that response be attributed to the fact that Strowman is working with the polarizing Reigns? Absolutely, but he should be commended for the way he has seized the opportunity given to him and made an incredible impact on the company.
He will be a major part of WWE plans in 2017 and it is because of the momentum he has gathered for himself through his tremendous performances.
Chris Jericho vs. Samoa Joe
Chris Jericho sought revenge on Samoa Joe for a beating he endured a week ago. Unfortunately for Y2J, retribution would elude him for another week.
With Seth Rollins on commentary, Joe controlled the pace of the match, grounding and pounding Jericho. He caught the first-ever undisputed champion with a snap powerslam.
Jericho fought back into the match and applied the Walls of Jericho. Joe powered out and proceeded to catch his opponent in the Coquina Clutch. The former United States champion fought valiantly but ultimately had no choice but to tap out.
After the match, Joe addressed Rollins, who stood atop the announce table.
Joe said their match at Payback will be extremely personal, especially after what Rollins did to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon at WrestleMania. The Architect responded, saying he will use the attack that nearly ended his career to fuel him toward payback on April 30.
They stared each other down to close out the segment.
Samoa Joe defeated Chris Jericho via submission
Joe continued his successful singles run Monday, scoring a decisive victory over Jericho in a competitive, hard-fought match.
It is apparent that Jericho is headed back out on the road with his band Fozzy via the clean losses he has been enduring since WrestleMania 33, where he lost the United States Championship. He is never selfish and never allows an impending absence to affect the quality of his work. He is consistently solid, at the least, and Monday was no different.
The post-match promo was solid and put heat on the upcoming Joe-Rollins war. Why Joe feels personally offended by what Rollins did at WrestleMania is a mystery, but the work of both men was solid enough to forgive that one flaw.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
Originally scheduled opponents The Golden Truth were assaulted by Braun Strowman earlier in the broadcast, leaving former Raw tag team champions Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows without opposition. Not willing to watch from the sidelines, they demanded Kurt Angle find them some competition.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass answered, rekindling the rivalry between the two teams.
The babyfaces were on fire early, but the heels seized control and isolated Amore from his seven-foot partner. A big spinebuster from Anderson led to a solid near-fall.
Big Cass was the recipient of the hot tag and exploded into the match. He delivered The Empire Elbow for a two count, but the heels would not stay down. Too much momentum proved problematic as Cass delivered a big boot that sent both him and Gallows over the top rope.
Back inside, Anderson caught Amore midflight, sent him into the turnbuckle and scored the win.
Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows defeated Enzo Amore and Big Cass
This was a strong, convincing victory for Anderson and Gallows. Their win over Amore and Cass will prove to be one of two things: proof of WWE Creative's devotion to Gallows and Anderson despite losing the tag titles at WrestleMania or a forgettable victory erased by a loss next week.
What is the endgame with Amore and Cass?
That is the question management should be asking itself. The duo is wildly popular, but they can only lose so much before their credibility is called into question. At some point, they have to be validated via a high-profile victory.
Miz TV with Dean Ambrose
Intercontinental champion Dean Ambrose joined The Miz and Maryse for this week's edition of Miz TV.
As the hosts do all too often, they ridiculed and mocked Ambrose, calling him names and questioning his character. Ambrose responded to this by admitting he is not all about image, nor does he care about branding. He lives for the fight and that is why he wrestles—not for the sake of fame, fortune, movies or celebrity.
Maryse referred to Ambrose as a "street rat" at one point, leading to Ambrose casually taking off his jacket and championship before proceeding to unload on Miz with a flurry of rights and lefts.
The villains retreated, leaving a fired up Lunatic Fringe standing tall.
This was the best Ambrose has been in eight months. His promo was focused and it felt like he was invested in the content. He meant what he was saying and did not appear to be going through the motions, as was the case so often during his SmackDown Live tenure.
While the initial idea of Miz vs. Ambrose was not appealing given how many times they worked each other on the blue brand this year, the continued investment from the latter will lead to an engaging program that inspires fans to care.
At the end of the day, that is half of the battle.
Jack Gallagher vs. T.J. Perkins
A week after undergoing a heel turn that put him in the center of the rivalry between Austin Aries and Neville over the cruiserweight title, T.J. Perkins battled Gentleman Jack Gallagher in singles competition. Both Aries and Neville made their presence felt at ringside, ensuring the likelihood of a clean finish was low.
Gallagher overwhelmed, outsmarted and embarrassed Perkins for the majority of the match.
Late, Neville wiped out Aries at ringside, providing a distracting that allowed Perkins to kick the ropes into the eyes of Gallagher.
From there, he delivered The Detonation Kick and picked up the win.
T.J. Perkins defeated Gentleman Jack Gallagher
If you expected Perkins to shine Monday night, you were sadly disappointed.
Despite a heel turn that best suits his personality and his placement in the middle of the cruiserweight title feud, Perkins was made to look like a fool Monday night as he was thoroughly embarrassed by Gallagher and his wacky tactics.
Not even the presence of Aries and Neville at ringside could save a segment of television that missed its mark.
Fatal 4-Way Number One Contender's Match
Hometown heroine Alexa Bliss was the crowd favorite Monday night as she battled Mickie James, Sasha Banks and Nia Jax in a Fatal 4-Way match to determine the next No. 1 contender to Bayley's Raw Women's Championship.
With Jax and Bliss at ringside, a good portion of the early part of the match was devoted to Banks and James squaring off.
As the match progressed, Bliss found herself on the receiving end of The Bank Statement. She was saved by the presence of James, who again squared off with Bliss.
Jax would make her presence felt moments later, knocking James to the arena floor and executing a huge Samoan Drop on Banks. Ever the opportunist, Bliss delivered a short dropkick that sent Jax to the floor and covered an unconscious Banks to score the win.
Alexa Bliss defeated Mickie James, Sasha Banks and Nia Jax to become No. 1 contender
This match was perfectly pieced together by whichever agent was in charge of it.
Banks and James are traditional workers whose bodies of work speak for themselves. They shined her, carrying the weight of the match on their shoulders. Rightfully so. They are the two women management could trust to piece the thing together.
Jax got her power moves in and continued to look like a beast, losing only after Bliss seized an opportunity and scored the win.
The storytelling was superb and now fans are left with two stories to pay attention to. There is the centralized battle between Bliss and Bayley for the title but also the budding tension between the heel and her fellow villainess, Jax.
A solid way to introduce Raw fans to the new-look women's division.
Finn Balor vs. Curt Hawkins
Having learned nothing from his last few open challenges, Curt Hawkins stood in the center of the ring and laid down another challenge to any Superstar from the Raw roster willing to face him one-on-one.
Finn Balor, thought to be recovering from a concussion, answered the challenge.
He would make short work of the New Yorker.
A series of dropkicks, Sling Blade and the Coup de Grace earned Balor an impressive victory.
Finn Balor defeated Curt Hawkins
While waiting for Bray Wyatt to wrap up his issues with Randy Orton at Payback, there are worse ways for Balor to spend his Monday night than by pummeling helpless jobbers in short order.
It was surprising to see the Irishman back in action given the concerns about the concussion he received at the hands of Jinder Mahal on last week's show. A good surprise, though, given that a healthy Balor is the best Balor.
Jeff Hardy vs. Cesaro
Ahead of a Raw Tag Team Championship match at Payback pitting The Hardy Boyz against former champions Sheamus and Cesaro, "Charismatic Enigma" Jeff Hardy battled The Swiss Superman in singles competition Monday night.
Cesaro controlled the match, sending Hardy to the floor at one point, then following up with a massive running uppercut that generated a smattering of cheers from what Michael Cole referred to as the Cesaro Section.
Hardy would answer later, crotching Cesaro on the top rope and catching him with a dropkick. The former WWE champion would deliver Whisper in the Wind, collapsing Cesaro's knees under him. From there, he would land a dropkick but miss another.
Cesaro set Hardy up for The Neutralizer but the tag champion countered with a Twist of Fate and Swanton Bomb for the impressive victory.
After the match, Matt Hardy and Sheamus hesitantly shook each other's hand.
Jeff Hardy defeated Cesaro
This was a fun clash of styles that was sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly, but always entertaining.
Cesaro does not get nearly the credit he deserves for being as great as he is. Yes, he is a celebrated performer among the internet fanbase, but he is so gifted when it comes to his athleticism that there is arguably no other Superstar who is capable of the things he can do between the ropes.
The biggest criticism he receives is his perceived lack of charisma. That is the biggest cop-out of them all because Cesaro's act is full of charisma. While he may not cut the most confident promo, and he may appear dumbfounded by some of the more over-the-top elements of sports entertainment, there is no one whose in-ring work is as brimming with charisma as Cesaro's.
Hardy winning was fine, but it did nothing to elevate his already incredible star power.
The Big Show vs. Braun Strowman
A battle of behemoths headlined Monday's broadcast as Braun Strowman and Big Show looked to replicate the success of their first Raw main event with another titanic clash.
Strowman's overwhelming strength was on full display here as he tossed Big Show around with reckless abandon. The World's Largest Athlete fought back, though, nearly putting a flying Strowman down for the count after catching him with his trademark Knockout Punch.
But Strowman was unflinching in his determination to score the victory.
He caught Big Show on the top rope and proceeded to set up a superplex spot.
With both men on the ropes, the audience watched in awe as Strowman executed a massive superplex. As Big Show hit the mat below, the ring imploded, sending referee John Cone to the arena floor. The fans erupted into a thunderous ovation as both men laid lifeless in the center of the ring.
That is, until Strowman stood up, looked into the hard camera and screamed to close out the show, his power on full display for the world to see.
Strowman's star-making turn continued Monday as he obliterated any and all unfortunate souls he encountered. That he was booked to stand after demolishing the ring, shaking off the spot as if it had never happened, only helped matters.
The ring-implosion gimmick is one that has not been seen since 2011 when Mark Henry delivered the same move to Show. The spot is still relatively fresh and has never been seen before by a large portion of the WWE Universe.
Given the reaction from the fans, it was a spot greeted with open arms.
Using it to put Strowman over is the type of decision that shows WWE Creative can make them when the time is right.