WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from May 21
The road to Money in the Bank rolled through another episode of Raw Monday, as the Superstars of WWE's flagship show jockeyed for position ahead of the June 17 pay-per-view.
Braun Strowman picked up a big win, Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens dominated the first hour, and Ronda Rousey and Nia Jax signed the contract for their upcoming title bout to round out a show that was often entertaining but also terribly bloated.
Sometimes less is more, a lesson WWE Creative must learn as it continues to toy and tinker with the show's three-hour format.
Find out everything that went down on the jam-packed episode with this recap of the May 21 broadcast.
Kurt Angle Kicks Off Raw
Raw general manager Kurt Angle kicked off the show and ran down the night's slate, including the contract signing between Ronda Rousey and Nia Jax and the latest qualifying bout for the women's Money in the Bank match.
The return of Stephanie McMahon, though, cut him off.
The Billion Dollar Princess said Angle could be an even greater leader if he just listened to her guidance.
Roman Reigns interrupted the proceedings, much to the dismay of McMahon. He accused Vince McMahon of playing favorites, mentioning Brock Lesnar by name. Stephanie denied that she plays favorites. She stood up to The Big Dog and reminded him that he lost his Money in the Bank qualifier.
Before the promo could drag on any longer, Kevin Owens interrupted and led the fans in a chant of "thank you, Roman," playing on Reigns eliminating Jinder Mahal from the Money in the Bank qualifier a week ago.
Owens was braggadocios and building momentum for himself...when he rested his forearm on Stephanie's shoulder, angering her enough to book a match between Reigns and Owens to start immediately.
Oh, look, another episode of Raw that starts with a promo that ends in the announcement of a match.
Stephanie suggesting she does not play favorites when Owens literally called her a week ago and got exactly what he wanted was a fun bit of hypocrisy and fit right in with her character.
With that said, Raw would probably be an infinitely better show if it broke free from the monotonous formula it has settled into over the last decade or so.
Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens
The product of the opening segment, Reigns vs. Owens began the in-ring portion of the show.
Owens overcame a focused and furious Reigns early and wore him down, grounding him and cutting off his momentum.
Reigns mounted a comeback, unloading on Owens with a series of corner clotheslines. The action broke down on the outside, culminating with a spear on the arena floor.
Jinder Mahal interfered, beating down Reigns. Owens joined in on the assault, leading to Seth Rollins hitting the squared circle and making the save for his former Shield teammate.
Reigns defeated Owens via disqualification
Reigns and Owens have strong in-ring chemistry—something we saw in late 2016, early 2017—and this was no exception. The non-finish was necessary, as Reigns cannot keep losing matches and Owens certainly cannot afford a loss either, particularly in the midst of a renewed push.
A strong way to kick off the in-ring portion of the show, even if it was a second consecutive setup segment.
A tag team match between these four is inevitable.
Reigns and Rollins vs. Mahal and Owens
The already-beaten-down Reigns found himself on the receiving end of a double-team attack at the hands of The Modern Day Maharaja and The Prizefighter.
The heels isolated Reigns as the crowd's anticipation for Rollins' entry into the match grew to a fever pitch.
The intercontinental champion finally exploded into the ring and took the fight to his opponents.
Mahal momentarily slowed him with a Khallas attempt, only to have his finisher countered with an enzuigiri from Rollins.
The action broke down and Reigns flattened Mahal with a Samoan Drop. Sunil Singh attempted to interfere, drawing The Big Dog's attention away from the match and allowing Owens to deliver a superkick. The former universal champion attempted a big Pop-up Powerbomb, but Rollins escaped.
Owens evaded one Blackout from The Architect but ate another, giving the babyfaces the victory.
A vengeful Mahal entered the ring after the bell, beat both victors down with a steel chair and talked trash to close out the segment.
Reigns and Rollins defeated Owens and Mahal
So much for maintaining Owens' momentum.
Mahal needed to be protected, especially as Reigns' next pay-per-view opponent, but it feels like Owens has more upward momentum at this point than The Modern Day Maharaja.
Wasting his momentum just to put Rollins and Reigns over feels like a creative misstep that could haunt the writing team in a few weeks when it again attempts to present Owens as a legitimate main event star.
A guy who cannot beat Reigns or Rollins at this point is doomed to be presented as a step below the measuring sticks on Monday nights.
Sami Zayn Invites the Lashley Sisters to Raw
Hellbent on exposing Bobby Lashley for the fraud he apparently is, Sami Zayn invited Lashley's sisters to the squared circle for a special in-ring promo segment.
The "sisters" were men dressed as women, and the joke was met with silence, the revelation not at all impressing the fans.
Zayn asked each of the sisters about their troublesome life with brother Bobby, and they responded, but the fans were largely quiet.
Lashley interrupted and laughed the whole thing off, mockingly calling Zayn a great friend.
The imposters eventually joined Zayn for a four-on-one beatdown of Lashley, but the former amateur wrestler used his strength to escape and pummel them. He stood tall as Zayn retreated up the ramp.
The single redeeming quality of this segment? Sami Zayn's mic work.
As a heel, Zayn has been so much fun, a revelation. He is loudmouthed, unlikable and smarmy. You cannot help but want to see him shut up. Just giving him mic time would have helped make Lashley more likable, but instead WWE Creative opted to go this route, booking a poor excuse at terrible humor, and the result was a feud somehow worse off than it was prior to the show.
Lashley continues to flounder early in his return, through no fault of his own.
Ember Moon vs. Alexa Bliss
Already qualified for the Money in the Bank Ladder match on June 17, Ember Moon and Alexa Bliss battled in singles competition, with the ex-Raw women's champion seeking revenge for a loss she suffered to the former NXT standout the night after WrestleMania.
Bliss controlled the match coming out of the break. Moon mounted a comeback, but Bliss slowed it by grabbing hold of the ring apron. With the referee's attention seemingly diverted, Mickie James attempted to interfere. The referee caught her and banished her to the backstage area.
Moon delivered the Eclipse for the win moments later.
Moon defeated Bliss
It is interesting to see the manner in which management is utilizing Bliss at this point.
She lost at WrestleMania, lost at Backlash, won a Money in the Bank qualifier last week and is right back to losing this week—in a match of no real significance to Moon.
It does nothing for Moon because it only came after the screwiness of the James ejection.
The match was good enough for what it was, but neither of these performers is involved in anything particularly interesting heading into Money in the Bank, and given their talents, that is a disappointment.
No Way Jose vs. Baron Corbin
The rivalry between No Way Jose and Baron Corbin inexplicably continued into this week's show, as the former NXT stars battled in singles competition.
Corbin controlled the pace of the match heading into and coming out of the break, working Jose over. The fun-loving NXT export mounted a comeback and tried for his windup punch.
Corbin countered and delivered the Deep Six seconds later.
The End of Days finished off Jose and, hopefully, brought the rivalry to a close.
Corbin defeated Jose
The effort was apparent, but no one really bought into Jose winning the match. Corbin appears to be a booking treadmill of sorts, moving neither up nor down. He wins some, he loses some, but he has yet to be on the receiving end of a push that lives up to the hype surrounding him.
That is not on him.
Corbin's work has improved consistently with every passing year.
A more focused and committed push from WWE Creative would benefit him tremendously and earn him some of that main event credibility he lacks, especially on the flagship show that is Raw.
Breezango vs. The B-Team
A week ago, Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel scored their first victory as a team, defeating Fandango and Tyler Breeze in a relative upset. The two teams clashed again Monday in a rematch.
The brief tag team battle saw the heels work over Breeze before the hot tag to Fandango.
The ballroom dancer made the mistake of taking his focus off beating his opponent, opting to dance over Dallas.
Axel snuck in and scored the win, the B-Team's second victory in as many weeks.
The B-Team defeated Breezango
Another big win for The B-Team, but it comes in a match far too short to mean anything.
Plus, WWE Creative has so gloriously botched Breezango's act that they have zero credibility anyway.
If we are to buy Dallas and Axel, they need to beat a more legitimate team and score their most impressive upset to date.
Nia Jax and Ronda Rousey Sign Their Raw Women's Championship Contract
The contract signing for the upcoming Raw Women's Championship match pitting Nia Jax against Ronda Rousey was up next.
Stephanie McMahon presided over the ordeal and did a masterful job of stirring the pot, so to speak.
She pointed out Rousey has only wrestled one match in WWE and has yet to be in singles competition. She said Jax wants to beat her and drive her out of the company, leaving her the baddest woman in wrestling.
She also mentioned that others think Jax is lazy, bringing up the amount of time it took her to beat Bliss.
Jax said she is tired of hearing the "lazy" comments and will prove her doubters wrong by beating Rousey at Money in the Bank. She signed the contract. Rousey vowed to take the title and her arm.
The star of this was not Rousey or Jax but McMahon, who was brilliant as she attempted to create further tension and dislike between the competitors.
Given the complete lack of history between them, this segment needed McMahon to instigate, and she did, to great effect.
Rousey and Jax were both fine, neither being the strongest talker, and the segment was merely OK as a result. Without McMahon, it could have been significantly worse, dooming the title match at Money in the Bank before it even happened.
Chad Gable vs. Dolph Ziggler
With Drew McIntyre watching from ringside, Dolph Ziggler squared off with Chad Gable.
Overcoming a fast, furious onslaught from Gable earlier, The Showoff blasted him with a dropkick and seized control.
Gable used counter-wrestling and near-falls to keep Ziggler off guard. However, the alert former world heavyweight champion delivered a headbutt to Gable and a superkick for the win.
After the match, the ever-dangerous McIntyre delivered the Claymore to Gable and stood tall with Ziggler.
Ziggler defeated Gable
The idea of Gable vs. Ziggler is an appealing one, and while the athleticism was there, this was nowhere near the level one would expect from them. The time constraints did not help matters.
With every passing week of the Ziggler-McIntyre experiment, it becomes more and more imperative that WWE Creative gives fans a taste of where the story is heading. It hasn't done that yet, doing only enough to draw comparisons to Shawn Michaels and Diesel. To avoid the pairing becoming "two guys doing things" every week, it must advance things before fans grow bored.
With that said, Ziggler and McIntyre have been phenomenal to this point and should be major players on Raw for the foreseeable future.
Money in the Bank Qualifier
Natalya, Dana Brooke, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan met in a Money in the Bank qualifying match Monday.
The action was fast-paced throughout, with none of the four women gaining a sustained upper hand.
Late, Natalya was rolling when Ruby Riott attempted to interfere on behalf of her Riott Squad teammates. Logan nearly took advantage but was unable to keep The Queen of Harts down.
With Brooke and Morgan down at ringside, Natalya fought her way back into the match and applied the Sharpshooter for the win.
Natalya defeated Brooke, Morgan and Logan
Natalya has benefited from her return to Raw, winning matches and being positioned as the best friend of Rousey. Her win here brings a veteran presence to the upcoming Money in the Bank match, but one cannot help but wonder if Morgan or Logan would have benefited from appearing in the bout.
Especially considering how over they were as part of the ongoing rivalry with Bayley and Sasha Banks.
Bobby Roode vs. Elias
The rivalry between Bobby Roode and Elias continued this week, as they met in singles competition for what felt like the umpteenth time.
Elias attacked Roode prior to the bell. Resilient, Roode ordered the match started and took the fight to his opponent.
The sadistic songster wore Roode down, working a headlock for the majority of the match. Roode fought back and called for the Glorious DDT.
Elias survived and benefited from Roode's tweaked knee. He crotched the former NXT champion on the ropes and delivered Drift Away for the win.
Elias defeated Roode
Michael Cole ending the segment by reminding fans Roode is still in the Money in the Bank match is such an indictment on WWE Creative at this point that he may not even know he's doing it.
Roode just lost a match clean in the center of the ring, but Cole brushed it off, reminding fans he is still in the ladder match, like the loss Monday means nothing.
It is backward booking and essentially renders Elias' victory meaningless.
Why management continues to implement that kind of booking when it clearly benefits no one is a question only it can answer.
Finn Balor vs. Braun Strowman
A week after teaming together in a loss to Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre, Braun Strowman and Finn Balor squared off in the night's main event.
Strowman manhandled Balor, his size and strength too much for the leader of Balor Club to overcome.
Instead, the Irish-born Superstar used his opponent's momentum against him.
Strowman took off sprinting around the ringside area, preparing to shoulder tackle Balor into oblivion. Instead, the former universal champion delivered the Sling Blade. He followed up by depositing The Monster Among Men in the audience and returning to the ring, content to take a count-out victory.
Strowman recovered and bowled over Balor, eventually finishing him with his running powerslam.
After the match, Strowman showed a sign of respect to Balor, standing him up in the corner before pointing at the briefcase to close out the show.
Strowman defeated Balor
This was a fun main event that told a strong story, made Balor look like a gutsy competitor and further established Strowman as the growing face of WWE in 2018.
The Monster Among Men may not have the push of a Roman Reigns, but he has the crowd behind him and even a brief flirtation with working as a heel here did not stop chants of "get these hands" from being audible.
A solid conclusion to a sometimes overly stuffed episode of Raw.