WWE Raw Results: Finn Balor Builds Momentum and Biggest Takeaways
The final episode of Raw before Money in the Bank brought with it plenty of in-ring content but questionable creative, continuing the theme of the last six weeks.
Despite the disappointment of fans expecting a more explosive and compelling show just six days out from the pay-per-view extravaganza, there were still several worthwhile takeaways from Monday's broadcast.
From booking woes to the misuse of The Riott Squad, the heavy drama of Ronda Rousey's attack on Nia Jax and Finn Balor's rise late in the show, the talking points were plentiful.
Finn Balor Builds Momentum on the Road to Money in the Bank
Though he shared the ring with three other Superstars, all of whom had their own unforgettable spots in Monday's Fatal 4-Way main event, Finn Balor stood out as the Superstar building momentum ahead of Sunday's Money in the Bank ladder match.
The former universal champion rolled late, delivering a Sling Blade and corner dropkick that had the monstrous and otherwise unbeatable Braun Strowman reeling. A Coup de Grace appeared to be Balor's final blow en route to a massive victory, but the alert Bobby Roode broke up the pin.
That spelled the end for Balor, but not for his chances at winning Sunday night in Chicago.
Keep this in mind: No one Superstar has been presented as more of a threat to Strowman in the weeks ahead of Money in the Bank than Balor. He has worn the big man down and nearly defeated him in both singles and multiman matches, and Monday night was one Roode interruption away from pinning the monster's shoulders to the mat.
For all the complaints fans have about Balor's use and his high-profile losses since the beginning of the year, the Irishman has been portrayed as the equals of guys like Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman.
Do not be surprised if, and when, he rolls into Chicago Sunday night and leaves with a briefcase that will take him one step closer to the title he introduced to the Raw brand and never received a proper rematch for.
Long-Term Booking Woes Haunt Money in the Bank Build
If you ever questioned WWE Creative's ability to write six weeks of compelling television in between pay-per-view events, you had your suspicions confirmed on this long, excruciatingly dull build to Money in the Bank.
The quality of WWE television peaked two or three weeks ago, and Monday night's broadcast was proof positive of that. Another lackluster episode of Raw that featured wrestlers wrestling for wrestling's sake, with no real spark of energy or excitement, hit the USA Network airwaves and left fans wondering what there is to anticipate about Sunday's pay-per-view extravaganza.
Sure, there is a mystery as to which Superstars will leave Chicago with the Money in the Bank briefcases, but that is the case every year. There is some intrigue as to how Rousey will perform against Jax, but that is less the response to storytelling than general curiosity.
Despite having at its disposal a longer-than-normal period to flesh out stories and create angles that drum up genuine interest for one of the most popular pay-per-views of the year, WWE Creative opted to book matches between the same four Superstars every week.
While the in-ring content was good-to-great, the overall quality of the show suffered, and the result is an ice-cold product just days before a Money in the Bank event WWE desperately wants to join Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Survivor Series as the most significant of the year.
The Riott Squad Is Most Underutilized Act in Raw Women's Division
Since their arrival on the SmackDown roster in 2017, The Riott Squad has quietly developed into the premier trio of female wrestlers in WWE. Yet, despite the quality of their work and their ever-growing confidence under the bright lights and in front of the cameras, they somehow remain underutilized by management.
Yes, they appear on television every week and have been given some quality victories over extraordinary opposition, but there is still so much more potential for the group to add to the division that management has, to this point, been unable to capitalize on.
It does not matter how strong a social media following Liv Morgan has, how steadily consistent Sarah Logan has been or how many times Ruby Riott has proved to be one of the most talented performers on the roster. They consistently remain on the outside looking in at the usual suspects like Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Bayley as those women receive championship opportunities and high-profile pay-per-view bouts.
Monday night, Riott defeated Bayley in singles competition, clean in the center of the ring. While that should be a huge win for the former Heidi Lovelace, it is likely to result in her and her partners eating a pinfall at the hands of the huggable competitor or The Legit Boss sometime in the immediate future.
Until they become a priority for WWE Creative, they will remain criminally underrated and underappreciated by a writing staff that could use a strong heel force on Raw with the de-emphasis of Alexa Bliss, the uneven booking of Mickie James and the tweener nature of current Raw women's champion Nia Jax.
The Riott Squad can be that.
Should be that.
Ronda Rousey's Early Success Should Be Built on Short, Explosive Matches
Monday night, we got a taste of what will help Rousey succeed early in her in-ring career with WWE during her face-to-face confrontation with Jax.
Rousey attacked suddenly, trapping Jax in an armbar and using the drama of "will she, won't she tap" to create a reaction from fans. In that one brief moment of explosion from Rousey, she created more of a pop from the fans than the entire promo exchange that preceded it.
And therein lies the key to Rousey's in-ring success this early in her career.
She is limited in what she can do and what she feels comfortable doing. Using her raw athleticism, her explosive attack and drama will help mask what she can't do. We have already seen as much in her performance at WrestleMania 34, where she earned rave reviews for her mixed tag team match with Kurt Angle against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
Paul Heyman once said in the 2004 WWE Home Video release The Rise and Fall of ECW that his business philosophy was "accentuate the positives, hide the negatives." If WWE management and Rousey adopt that line of thinking as she continues to grow and evolve, hers will be a story of success rather than disappointment and ultimate failure.