WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reactions and Highlights from July 30
Brock Lesnar made his return to WWE television for the first time since April's Greatest Royal Rumble, beginning his journey to SummerSlam and a date with Roman Reigns for The Beast's Universal Championship.
Fellow UFC alum Ronda Rousey returned from injury and immediately set her sights on Raw women's champion Alexa Bliss, whom she will challenge August 19 in Brooklyn, New York.
Throw in an Extreme Rules rematch pitting Finn Balor against Constable Baron Corbin and a showdown between Seth Rollins and Drew McIntyre, and the red brand was poised to have its most newsworthy broadcast in weeks.
What went down and how might it affect the flagship show going forward?
Find out with this recap of Monday's USA Network broadcast.
Roman Reigns Kicks Off Raw
New No. 1 contender to the Universal Championship Roman Reigns kicked off the night's broadcast, thanking the fans in Miami for their enthusiastic energy and immediately questioning Brock Lesnar's manhood.
After claiming Lesnar would not come out and face him man-to-man, Reigns was proved correct as Paul Heyman answered.
Heyman said The Beast will appear when he is good and ready, and after SummerSlam, he will go back to UFC and fight to become a two-sport champion.
The Big Dog claimed Lesnar will go back to UFC, but it will not be as champion. It will, instead, be as Reigns' b---h.
This was more of the same we've heard out of these two every other time Reigns has been slated to face Lesnar.
The grade reflects the quality of Heyman's work but also that of Reigns, who was more solid than normal. Perhaps that is because his words did not feel as force-fed as usual. When that is the case, he typically shines.
A predictable, if solid enough, taste of things to come later in the night.
Finn Balor vs. Constable Corbin
At Extreme Rules, Finn Balor upset Constable Corbin in singles competition. Monday night, they met in a rematch, with the latter attempting to avenge the humiliating loss.
Corbin controlled the majority of the bout, utilizing his size and strength advantage to ground the Irishman and punish the smaller competitor.
Balor countered a powerbomb and delivered a double stomp to the midsection, though, to mount the comeback. Corbin cut him off and again worked over him, then flooring him with his trademark Deep Six.
Balor mounted a comeback, delivering a running dropkick to Corbin on the floor. A corner dropkick back inside gave way to a Coup de Grace attempt. Corbin rolled out of the way and followed with End of Days to score the win.
Corbin defeated Balor
Corbin and Balor have really good matches, but there's something that has prevented both this and their Extreme Rules bout from achieving the overall quality their talents are capable of.
Corbin winning was another terrible example of WWE's 50-50 booking, his victory meaning seemingly little in the grand scheme of things other than to rehab his character after his loss.
Unfortunately, it is Balor who needs most rehabbing because he is quickly earning the reputation of the guy who loses big matches or, worse, the ones he needs to win the most.
Natalya vs. Alicia Fox
Alexa Bliss accompanied Alicia Fox to the ring Monday night for her match with Natalya, who had close friend Ronda Rousey by her side.
Fox controlled the match, taunting Rousey from the ring as she worked over Natalya.
The Queen of Harts mounted a comeback, though, delivering a basement dropkick and a discus clothesline as she sought a quality win.
Fox cut her off with a Northern Lights suplex for two. She took a swipe at Rousey, allowing Bliss to hit Natalya. Fox scored the win moments later.
After the match, Rousey hit the ring and challenged Bliss to join her. She leveled Fox and took off around the squared circle after her SummerSlam opponent. The former UFC star ended up the recipient of an attack that saw her slammed into the barricade.
The heels left to a chorus of boos as Rousey watched on, with a look of pure rage across her face.
Fox defeated Natalya
The match was fine for what it was, but the attention here was really on Rousey and Bliss.
If WWE Creative opts to book the build to the SummerSlam match in this fashion, it could succeed in building real heat for Rousey vs. Bliss. The question is whether there are enough interesting angles to keep the fans' attention or if Creative will become bored with the formula and turn on the program before August 19.
Thankfully, the intensity of Rousey and the fantastic heel work of Bliss should prevent that from happening.
Elias Attacks Bobby Lashley
Elias was in the ring and wasted little time bragging about the success of his debut album, Walk with Elias.
He brought up Bobby Lashley briefly, which brought the former ECW champion out to the ring.
Elias insisted Lashley wanted to sing with him, something the amateur wrestling great denied.
The sinister songster started a tune but decked Lashley midway through. Lashley fought back and cleared the ring of Elias, standing tall as the top-selling music artist backed his way up the ramp.
Lashley vs. Elias is a rivalry that has almost no positive outcome for the Superstars involved.
Elias is charismatic enough to overcome a loss, but for the sake of his in-ring credibility, he cannot really afford one. Lashley is still seeking to put the underwhelming program with Sami Zayn behind him, not to mention his most recent loss to Roman Reigns.
Whatever happens, whoever loses comes out of the program worse off for it.
That is hardly the product of a quality story.
Braun Strowman vs. Jinder Mahal
The result of Braun Strowman's attack on Jinder Mahal from a week ago, the match between The Monster Among Men and The Maharaja was marred by interference right from the get-go.
Kevin Owens appeared early, grabbing the Money in the Bank briefcase and taunting Strowman. The big man chased him around the ring and retrieved the briefcase but not before being counted out.
Michael Cole and the announce team put over the idea that if that same outcome occurs in Brooklyn, Strowman will lose his guaranteed title opportunity to Owens.
Mahal defeated Strowman via count-out
This was a simple, fantastic way to put over the idea Strowman well could lose his championship opportunity at SummerSlam if Owens can get him to shift his focus just long enough to get counted out or disqualified.
Effective and different from most of The Monster Among Men's TV angles of late, this did exactly what it had to, and the result was the best angle of the night's broadcast to this point.
Apollo Crews vs. Akam
The Authors of Pain have had Titus Worldwide's number in tag team action in recent weeks, but Monday night, Akam battled Apollo Crews in singles competition.
Akam overwhelmed Crews early, but the quicker, more agile Crews fought from underneath. A big boot, an enzuigiri kick and a standing moonsault continued his comeback.
A missed charge into the corner by Akam allowed Crews to roll him up for the upset victory.
Crews defeated Akam
Too little, too late.
After weeks of The Authors of Pain dominating Titus Worldwide, one of them losing a singles bout to Crews is hardly a way for the babyfaces to rebuild their credibility.
This was a win that no one will remember a week or a month from now as long as Akam and Rezar continue to beat them down week after week.
Seth Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre
Drew McIntyre's focused fury proved problematic for Seth Rollins as they took to the squared circle, continuing the rivalry between The Architect, the Scot and intercontinental champion Dolph Ziggler.
McIntyre seized control heading into the first break of the night, dropping Rollins throat-first on the exposed ring apron.
The determined Rollins, though, fought back by launching himself through the ropes and onto McIntyre at ringside. With Ziggler watching from ringside, The Architect delivered the Falcon Arrow for a close two-count.
McIntyre, not down or out, delivered a big spinebuster that halted Rollins' late-match momentum.
The two continued to counter each other's offensive arsenal, including a near-fall from Rollins off a roll-up. After several attempts, Rollins finally successfully executed The Stomp. Before he could score a rare pinfall victory over McIntyre, though, Ziggler hit the ring and drew the disqualification.
After the match, Rollins overcame the numbers game momentarily, leaving the heels seething as he backed up the ramp, the winner of the match.
Rollins defeated McIntyre via disqualification
Rollins is so money right now he could have a match with a broomstick that would captivate the audience. Add that to a big, intense, nasty McIntyre who is as good as he has ever been in the ring, and you have a recipe for a great wrestling match.
Would it have been nice to have a clean winner? Sure, but neither man could really afford the loss, and the finish we got only built tensions between Rollins and Ziggler ahead of the SummerSlam pay-per-view.
A strong match, a solid enough continuation of the program and a hot crowd make for a great segment.
The Deleters of Worlds vs. The Revival
Charly Caruso interviewed The B-Team about its recent success.
Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel bragged until Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy appeared out of the darkness. They rambled on, cutting their typical promos, until The Revival appeared and insisted former champions The Deleters of Worlds step aside so it could challenge Axel and Dallas for the titles next.
A match was made between Hardy and Wyatt and The Revival.
The abbreviated match saw Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson work over Hardy before a tag to Wyatt sparked a babyface comeback. Unfortunately for the former champions, their momentum was unsustainable.
With Hardy subdued at ringside, The Revival delivered Shatter Machine on Wyatt for the win.
The Revival defeated The Deleters of Worlds
If nothing else, this reintroduced The Revival to championship contention, a place it should never have left.
Hardy and Wyatt have lost tremendous momentum in recent weeks, the uniqueness of their characters erased in favor of capitalizing on the goofy B-Team.
It is unlikely WWE Creative will undo the effort put into Axel and Dallas, but Wilder and Dawson having the opportunity to remind fans of their greatness is always worth a bit of excitement.
Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. The Riott Squad
The Bayley and Sasha Banks sage continued Monday as the friends-turned-enemies-turned-friends battled Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan of The Riott Squad in tag team action.
Logan and Morgan controlled early, working over Bayley until a tag to Banks allowed the babyfaces to take control into the commercial break.
The heels isolated Banks and beat her down, wearing down the smaller of their two opponents.
The hot tag to Bayley led to a spirited, energetic and exciting closing few moments.
Banks came off the top rope with her double knees, scoring a near-fall. Ultimately, a Bank Statement from The Boss gave way to the Bayley-to-Belly suplex on Morgan for the win.
Banks and Bayley defeated The Riott Squad
The Riott Squad is essentially the Miztourage of the women's division. Despite being on television every week, Morgan and Logan almost never win. They are the tackling dummies for whichever female act WWE Creative is trying to get over that week, and Monday it was the reunited Bayley-Banks team.
It worked, as the babyfaces looked like a well-oiled unit in ways they have not in months. It is a sign of their strengthening bond, which hopefully will mean even more when one eventually turns on the other.
Hopefully, that is the end game here because another six months of Bayley and Banks as tag team partners is the least interesting option.
Brock Lesnar Returns
Raw general manager Kurt Angle called Paul Heyman to the ring for an answer to the ultimatum he laid down earlier in the night: Either Brock Lesnar comes to the ring, or Heyman is fired.
After announcing The Beast would not appear, Heyman attempted to suck up to Angle, saying he tried to mold Lesnar into someone like the former Olympic gold medalist.
Having heard enough from Heyman, Angle fired him, only to be interrupted by Lesnar's music.
A chorus of boos rained down from the stands as Lesnar made his way to the squared circle, stepping into a WWE ring for the first time in three months. "Do you have a problem with me?" he asked Angle, coming face-to-face with his former in-ring rival.
With that, Lesnar delivered an F-5 that left Angle lying in a heap.
Heyman had a good laugh but soon found himself in the grasp of his charge. Lesnar choked his advocate down to the mat as an overwhelming chant of "we want Roman" spilled from the audience.
Lesnar's music played and the champ exited having sent his message to Heyman loudly and clearly.
The entitled champion turning on everyone from the GM to his longtime advocate is exactly the character Lesnar has to portray on this road to SummerSlam if the chants for Reigns late in the show were any indication.
WWE has tried for so long to get fans to support The Big Dog that the hint it may finally be happening at the end of the show has to be rewarding.
Lesnar has somehow become so unlikable that fans in Miami were ready to throw their support behind Reigns Monday.
It will be difficult replicating that success week after week, but Monday, the company may have discovered the formula for getting its desired reaction come August 19.