WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from February 25
Roman Reigns returned to Raw for the first time since October, Ric Flair celebrated his 70th birthday and the newest additions to the main roster continued to impress in a noteworthy February 25 episode.
What did The Big Dog have to say as he addressed the WWE Universe at the top of the show?
Would Becky Lynch make her presence felt during Flair's celebration, or would an unexpected assailant ruin the festivities?
Monday's show answered both of those questions and gave the WWE Universe a taste of what to expect from the product as it continues down the Road to WrestleMania 35.
Roman Reigns Returns
Just five months after he announced leukemia would force him to the sidelines and necessitate the forfeiture of the Universal Championship, Roman Reigns returned to Raw, kicking off Monday's broadcast.
The Big Dog entered the arena to a thunderous ovation and spent nearly 10 minutes acknowledging the fans around ringside and throughout the building. He soaked up the cheers and adulation of fans who were eager to greet him with respect and adoration.
Reigns admitted to missing the WWE Universe and then declared the squared circle "our yard." He thanked the fans for their support and promised to use the WWE platform to create awareness.
He moved on to his update, revealing "we didn't just swing for the fences, we hit a home run," referencing a line from his promo when he left in October.
He announced he is in remission, drawing an enormous pop and chants of "Yes!" before thanking the fans one more time. Seth Rollins joined him on the ramp to close out the segment.
This was the news fans waited for from the moment Reigns announced his departure months ago. He is in remission, he is cleared to return and the heart of the Raw brand will be back to work imminently.
The fans treated the moment with respect, reacted accordingly to his announcement and left the former universal champion genuinely speechless.
The reunion afterward with Rollins was nice, but the absence of Dean Ambrose suggested The Lunatic Fringe may be the first hurdle The Big Dog has to clear in his path back to the top.
Aleister Black and Ricochet vs. The Revival
The team of Aleister Black and Ricochet sought to continue the recent NXT call-ups' winning ways. To do that, they would have to defeat Raw tag team champions The Revival.
As it turned out, it was not as difficult as it seemed.
The newcomers frustrated and outwrestled Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder in what was a sprint of a match.
Late, Ricochet wiped out Wilder while Black blasted Dawson with Black Mass to score the pinfall victory.
Black and Ricochet defeated The Revival
If WWE thinks putting the tag titles on The Revival and then jobbing the duo out every week to the new faces on the block is going to convince the team to stick around and re-sign with the company, management may want to re-examine things.
This did nothing to help Dawson and Wilder. If anything, it devalued the titles for the second week in a row as two singles stars from NXT with no real experience as a team just squashed them in a few minutes.
Did it make Black and Ricochet look strong? Sure, but it was at the expense of an act the creative team should be heating up.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Elias
Elias was center stage, ready to grace the WWE fans with a stirring rendition of...whatever the hell it was he was about to play.
Unfortunately for him, Lacey Evans' music played and she interrupted the proceedings, walking to the ring and back to the locker room without any rhyme or reason.
Next out was Dean Ambrose, who laid down a challenge to Drew McIntyre for a No Disqualification match later in the show. The Lunatic Fringe gave The Scottish Psychopath a taste of things to come by dropping Elias with Dirty Deeds to close out the segment.
There was a certain charm to this segment. While it still wasn't the most original, it did accomplish three things in one.
It continued Elias' streak of interrupted performances. It kept the Evans character in the minds of fans. Most importantly, it set up the proposed No DQ match for later in the night.
That may not seem like much, but the lightning-quick pace of the entire ordeal was a welcome change.
Ronda Rousey and Natalya vs. The Riott Squad
The Riott Squad sought to continue making life a living hell for Raw women's champion Ronda Rousey Monday night, as Ruby Riott and Sarah Logan battled Rowdy and her partner, Natalya, in a high-profile tag bout.
Riott and Logan attacked Natalya and beat her down until The Queen of Harts made the tag to Rousey. Surprisingly, the heels' control of the bout continued. Natalya tagged back in and built momentum until Liv Morgan interfered from ringside and tripped her up.
Rousey marched around the ring and blasted her heading into a break.
Back from the break, the heels isolated Natalya as Rousey watched on from the apron. They teased a hot tag to the champion on multiple occasions, but the heels kept the third-generation opponent out of her corner.
Rousey tagged in and unloaded on the opposition. Natalya floored Riott, and Rousey delivered Piper's Pit on Logan just in time for Becky Lynch to appear. The Man leveled Nattie, and a brawl between her and the former UFC star erupted.
The women engaged in a heated pull-apart that ended with producers, security and police officers separating the two before Lynch was ultimately placed in handcuffs and hauled out of the arena.
Lynch was spot-on here, creating chaos and antagonizing Rousey. So determined was she to get her hands on the champ, she threw away friendship with Natalya by laying her out on the outside.
Being hauled off in handcuffs was the natural next step for a character that is resembling Steve Austin more and more every week.
The only question after this? Would Lynch return in time to crash Ric Flair's birthday party?
Stephanie McMahon Confronts Ronda Rousey
An irate Ronda Rousey called out Vince McMahon, but instead of The Chairman of the Board, his daughter Stephanie hit the ring to confront the Raw women's champion.
Rousey fiercely expressed her desire for a match with Becky Lynch, going as far as to demand The Man be reinstated so they can have the fight the fans want to see.
The Baddest Woman on the Planet reminded McMahon she's not her worker. She's not someone the McMahon family can throw money at to keep coming back.
Rousey called the title a "gaudy accessory" and laid it at the feet of The Billion Dollar Princess before walking out, leaving McMahon standing in disbelief at the events that had just unfolded.
Rousey was especially strong here.
There will be those who criticize her promo style, but it comes off as far more real—awkwardness and all—than any of the scripted promos others are forced to spout off.
The segment added a wrinkle to the story, as Rousey has forced the McMahons' hand, making it absolutely necessary for them to reinstate Lynch if they want a main event for WrestleMania. It is an interesting twist and not necessarily one many would have thought of.
Dare I suggest it was creative at a time when that is not a word one would readily use to describe the WWE product.
Kurt Angle vs. Jinder Mahal
Kurt Angle returned from a few weeks' hiatus Monday night, looking to reverse his fortunes of late by battling fellow former WWE champion Jinder Mahal.
The Modern Day Maharaja controlled the majority of the match, but Angle fought from underneath by delivering a big German suplex.
A brief distraction by The Singh Brothers nearly cost him, but the 1996 Olympic gold medalist countered out of the Khallas and applied the ankle lock to earn the tapout victory.
After the match, Angle obliterated Sunil and Samir to put an exclamation point on the segment.
Angle defeated Mahal
Remember a few weeks ago when Angle was in the midst of a career crisis, humiliated and disgraced by Drew McIntyre? Remember how it looked like he might be nearing retirement and, possibly, a storyline fans could invest in on the Road to WrestleMania?
That was undone with this win.
Why even book this match?
Angle did not look particularly good, and beating Mahal is essentially meaningless now. It did nothing to benefit anyone and felt more like a placeholder than anything.
'A Moment of Bliss' with Finn Balor
Alexa Bliss welcomed intercontinental champion Finn Balor to this week's "Moment of Bliss." Before she could get into any sort of conversation with The Extraordinary Man, Lio Rush interrupted her.
Rush called Balor a sham of a champion, saying the rightful champion is Bobby Lashley. He said that, while Lashley is getting ready for Braun Strowman, he would take the IC title from the Irishman if necessary.
Balor played mind games with Rush, goading him into a match that Bliss announced would happen next.
If a promo segment has to set up a match on Raw, this was at least quick.
No one was particularly good, nor did the promo itself do anything to create interest in the match.
But it did not overstay its welcome, and that is a blessing.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Finn Balor vs. Lio Rush
Lio Rush proved a tougher challenger to Finn Balor than the IC champion could have imagined.
The smaller competitor unleashed two suicide dives and an Asai moonsault before targeting the injured knee of his opponent.
Balor showed tremendous fortitude, fighting from underneath. Everything he tried, though, was countered by a challenger far more invested in his opportunity than any Rush we have seen on Monday nights to date.
A late springboard cutter was countered, though, and Balor flattened him with the 1916. The Coup de Grace finished Rush and preserved the Irishman's title reign.
Balor defeated Rush
Rush looked really good here.
No one thought he would actually unseat Balor, but he put on a strong enough showing that suggests—at least to the main roster fans unfamiliar with his work—he is a talented in-ring competitor.
Balor won a hard-fought match and proved, even hobbled, he can fight through the pain in order to retain what is his.
Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley
Before the announced match between Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley could get started, the latter attacked his opponent from behind.
Lashley beat down Strowman, attempting to get an early advantage on The Monster Among Men.
Strowman, though, utilized a big splash and a forearm to the chest to halt the assault.
At ringside, The Monster ran over both Lashley and Lio Rush before standing tall on the ramp to abruptly close out the segment.
It makes sense that WWE would want to hold off on a potential Strowman-Lashley showdown because, like both guys or not, theirs is a potential pay-per-view bout.
With that said, there was nothing accomplished here that could not have been done backstage, if for no other reason than freshening things up and taking them away from the squared circle for once.
No Disqualification Match: Dean Ambrose vs. Drew McIntyre
Dean Ambrose was passionate and intense as he took the fight to Drew McIntyre early, hellbent on avenging a humbling defeat at the hands of The Scottish Psychopath from last week. He beat the Scot around the squared circle before a big boot stopped him cold.
After being whipped by his opponent, McIntyre turned Ambrose's own belt against him. He punished the former WWE champion, delivering a nasty suplex on the arena floor.
Ambrose fought back into the match, but McIntyre stunned him with a headbutt. The Lunatic Fringe recovered and dropped McIntyre face-first into the steps with a drop toehold. Just as he was finally building momentum, Elias attacked, paying his newfound rival back for the Dirty Deeds from earlier in the night with a guitar to the back.
The Claymore Kick followed as McIntyre picked up the win.
After the match, Baron Corbin and Bobby Lashley hit the ring. The heels beat down Ambrose until Seth Rollins (with chair) and Roman Reigns made the save.
Reigns delivered a Superman Punch and flattened McIntyre with a spear before leaving Ambrose in the center of the ring. Tension was teased as Reigns and Rollins stared back at their former comrade to close out the segment.
McIntyre defeated Ambrose
Make no mistake about it: The Road to WrestleMania for Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose will be paved with teases of one last Shield reunion before the latter departs the company.
This was a great way to plant those seeds while simultaneously setting up a big multi-man tag team match for Fastlane, if that is the direction the newly remade creative team opts to head.
The crowd again greeted Reigns with a thunderous ovation. It will be interesting to see how long that is maintained as The Big Dog resumes his role as the unquestioned face of WWE.
Bayley vs. Nia Jax
On the heels of the announcement that Nia Jax and Tamina Snuka will challenge Bayley and Sasha Banks for the Women's Tag Team Championships at Fastlane on March 10, The Huggable One squared off with Jax in singles competition.
Bayley flustered The Irresistible Force early, but the power advantage reared its head, and the tag champion found herself flung to the floor.
Jax overwhelmed Bayley, tossing her around the squared circle like a rag doll. She squashed Bayley in the corner and was en route to a victory when she took her eye off her opponent, grabbing Banks at ringside.
Tamina charged The Boss but crashed into the steel steps. Back inside the squared circle, Bayley delivered a flying elbow to score the upset victory.
Bayley defeated Jax
Bayley and Jax always have strong in-ring chemistry. Their styles fit each other well and, to a lesser extent, are reminiscent of Sting vs. Vader from 1993 to '94 in WCW.
The outcome was a bit of a surprise given how much the company prefers to protect Jax, but keeping heat on Bayley, as well as Banks, is the right move given their status as the first-time champions.
Expect the heels to leave the champions lying in reaction to this week's loss leading into the Fastlane pay-per-view.
Ric Flair Celebrates His 70th Birthday
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon made their way to the ring to cap off this week's show, with the entire Raw roster lining the stage in preparation for Ric Flair's 70th birthday celebration.
Stephanie introduced Shawn Michaels, Ricky Steamboat, Kurt Angle and Sting to the audience before throwing to a phenomenal video package celebrating The Nature Boy's iconic career. They revealed a custom-made World Heavyweight Championship with what appeared to be his 16 reigns listed on side plates.
Triple H introduced Flair, but a backstage camera caught Batista heading into Naitch's locker room. Emerging from inside, he dragged the unconscious body of the legendary competitor into the hallway and asked The Cerebral Assassin if he had his attention now.
The WWE executive sprinted backstage to check on his fallen hero while producers called for a doctor.
And with that, a WrestleMania program was born.
The image of Batista standing over the fallen body of Flair is so uncharacteristic it is hard not to stare at the screen and scratch your head at what just unfolded.
Throughout his career, Batista has repeatedly stated his love for Flair and attributed all of his growth and early development to learning under Naitch.
Just go back to SmackDown's 1,000th episode in October and the respect he showed his mentor for proof.
Why would he attack Flair just to get Triple H's attention when he clearly already did just that at the aforementioned SmackDown milestone?
On that night, he was clearly the babyface to The Game's obvious heel.
The uncertainty surrounding the impending program, the surprise of Batista's return and the dramatic conclusion earn the segment the grade. Hopefully, the creative team has an answer to the above question. Otherwise, this one could get messy quick.