WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from April 8
The night after WrestleMania has, traditionally, been one of the most explosive episodes of WWE Raw, so imagine the fans' surprise when the April 8 broadcast was relatively low key.
Sure, Becky Lynch talked about her historic victory in the main event of WrestleMania 35, only to be interrupted by Lacey Evans ahead of a jump-start to their rivalry.
Yes, Alexa Bliss returned to the ring, Lars Sullivan attacked Kurt Angle, and Sami Zayn lashed out at fans, but none of that was reflective of the earth-shattering debuts or unforgettable angles that have become associated with the show.
Throw in a clear case of bait-and-switch by WWE Creative, and you have a very up-and-down episode that more than anything served as a placeholder ahead of next week's Superstar Shake-up.
Universal Champion Seth Rollins Kicked Off Raw
Just 24 hours after conquering Brock Lesnar and capturing the Universal Championship, Seth Rollins kicked off Monday's show to a thunderous ovation. Chants of "full-time champ" rained down on him as he basked in the celebratory nature of the night.
He admitted he used questionable tactics, but he didn't do anything The Beast Incarnate wouldn't have done himself.
Before Rollins could continue, New Day's music played, and new WWE champion Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods and Big E made their way to the squared circle to an equally loud reaction.
Kingston said he was watching the Winner Take All match Sunday night and saw how well that worked for Becky Lynch, so he decided to challenge Rollins to a Champion vs. Champion match there and then.
Rollins accepted, and the night after WrestleMania suddenly became very interesting.
The WWE faithful are used to an explosive post-'Mania episode of Raw, and this continued that trend, laying the groundwork for an enormous, high-stakes main event on a night in which the show faced stiff competition from the NCAA men's basketball championship game.
Surely, WWE Creative would not be stupid enough to book one of the Superstars over the other, right?
Killing Kingston's or Rollins' momentum would undo all the goodwill the company gained with Sunday night's show. Hopefully, it would turn out to be a means of debuting a new act in a red-hot, show-closing angle—or a way to earn Baron Corbin or Drew McIntyre more heat.
Raw Tag Team Championship Match: Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins vs. The Revival
Just 24 hours after winning the Raw Tag Team Championships as part of the WrestleMania Kickoff Show festivities, Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins defended their newly won titles against former champions The Revival.
Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder cut off Hawkins from Ryder and worked him over. They pummeled the lovable loser, utilizing a ground-and-pound attack in an attempt to regain the titles they probably never should have lost.
A hot tag to Ryder sparked the babyface comeback, and shortly thereafter the action broke down.
Ultimately, the champions retained when Hawkins scored a schoolboy roll-up on Dawson for a second, consecutive upset.
Hawkins and Ryder defeated The Revival
This was not as long as Sunday's match, and as a result, it did not have time to develop.
The Revival still showcased the same tag team chemistry that earned Dawson and Wilder recognition as the best team in wrestling, and the champions were consummate fiery babyfaces. The result was an enjoyable enough match.
And hey, Ryder made it through the night after WrestleMania with his title intact, so that's something.
Baron Corbin Celebrates Retiring Kurt Angle
One night after defeating Kurt Angle in the Olympic gold medalist's retirement match, Baron Corbin made his way to the squared circle to boast about his victory.
He did just that before declaring he should have his own gold medal.
That brought out Angle, who feigned respect for The Lone Wolf and wished him luck...bad luck. He dropped Corbin with an Angle Slam and trapped him in the ankle lock.
Just as it appeared as though the Hall of Famer would have the opportunity to leave with his head held high, Lars Sullivan made his long-awaited debut.
The Freak marched to the ring and delivered his Freak Ending to Angle, following up with a diving headbutt.
The newcomer, and NXT export, exited with a smile adorning his face.
Angle redeemed himself after Sunday night's loss, silencing Corbin in a moment he deserved after such a lackluster goodbye at WrestleMania.
The debut of Sullivan was executed perfectly, the crowd responded as desired and he obliterated the Olympian to generate great heat on his first night.
Angle was the perfect first victim for The Freak, a legend with the respect of the audience. How WWE Creative continues to build momentum for the former NXT star going forward, and who it programs him with, will ultimately determine his main roster success.
Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss
After hosting WrestleMania 35, Alexa Bliss posted on social media that she could beat Sasha Banks or Bayley and, probably, both at the same time.
Little Miss Bliss made her way to the ring and watched as Bayley answered her challenge for a one-on-one match.
The former three-time women's champion made light of her opponent's loss at WrestleMania and immediately found herself on the receiving end of a frustration-fueled onslaught. She tripped up her opponent, though, and seized control of the bout.
Bayley fought back and delivered a sunset flip powerbomb into the corner, but Bliss grabbed the bottom rope to break the pin. Seconds later, Bliss delivered a DDT to score the pinfall victory.
Bliss defeated Bayley
This was a solid reintroduction to Bliss the in-ring performer.
The former champion was physical and took a strong bump in the corner to prove any concerns about her health were unnecessary.
The match itself was nothing special, but at a time when Becky Lynch reigns over the women's divisions on both brands, she will need challengers. Bliss has history with her—favorable history—and would make a solid first contender.
Becky Lynch Celebrates Raw, SmackDown Women's Championship Victory
After making history by winning the Raw and SmackDown Women's Championships in the main event of WrestleMania, Becky Lynch took to the squared circle to a raucous standing ovation.
The crowd continued to rain down chants, song and adulation on The Man.
She said she will always persist and will always overcome. She issued an open challenge to Ronda Rousey in the wake of Sunday's controversial finish.
Lacey Evans interrupted the proceedings, walking to the ring as she has done countless times over the last three months. This time, Lynch met her. A tense staredown gave way to a big right hand by Evans and a nasty brawl between The Man and The Sassy Southern Belle.
Evans eventually escaped the grasp of the women's champion, and Lynch stood tall to close out the segment.
The best episodes of these post-WrestleMania Raws are the ones that give fans a taste of what they can expect in the weeks to come.
This not only set up Evans vs. Lynch, but it also foreshadowed the eventual return of Rousey and a big-money match with The Man.
The crowd's response was further proof of just how immensely popular Lynch is right now and why WWE management went ahead and pulled the trigger on her monumental evening. Strike while the iron is hot, and WWE did just that.
As a result, Evans will have the opportunity to get over with the masses by working with the most over competitor on the entire roster.
Aleister Black and Ricochet vs. Bobby Roode and Chad Gable
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable sought to build momentum for themselves ahead of next week's Superstar Shake-up. To do so, they would have to upset the red-hot team of Aleister Black and Ricochet, both of whom were seeking to put their WrestleMania disappointment behind them.
Ricochet delivered a moonsault to Roode on the outside, while Black flattened Gable on the floor with a double knee heading into the break.
The One and Only found himself isolated from Black but soon made the hot tag, sparking the climactic portion of the bout. The Dutch Destroyer unloaded on the opposition and delivered a springboard moonsault to both opponents.
Ricochet re-entered the match, and as the action broke down, with Black and Roode fighting to the floor, he delivered a codebreaker to Gable to score the pinfall victory.
Ricochet and Black defeated Roode and Gable
It really is unfortunate that the crowd picked this particular moment to break out the wave because this was a fine match between two of the better tag teams in WWE.
Roode and Gable looked every bit the equal of Black and Ricochet and nearly pulled off the upset more than once.
The win was a solid one for Ricochet and Black, but at some point, the question becomes when is WWE going to allow them to break free of the tag team division and enjoy success as singles stars. Both are better in that role, which is saying something given the quality of their work of late.
Dean Ambrose vs. Bobby Lashley
Dean Ambrose made his way to the squared circle for a match that was billed as his final one in WWE.
His opponent, Bobby Lashley, entered the arena with an uncharacteristically quiet Lio Rush. At a loss for words, Rush handed the mic over to The All Mighty, who vowed to take care of Ambrose's wife when he leaves.
That sparked a fire in Ambrose that led to a nasty brawl around the ringside area and up the entrance ramp. He dropped Lashley with a DDT on the stage and cleared off the announce table.
The former IC champion recovered, blasted The Lunatic Fringe with a spear and put him through the table.
Renee Young checked on her fallen husband as the segment came to an end.
This felt less like a going-away for Ambrose and more like the start of a rivalry, which is interesting given what this was billed as.
Perhaps Young saying she didn't believe her husband was leaving was a foreshadowing of sorts, especially since she played a key role in the angle itself.
After weeks of being sure Ambrose was on his way out, this certainly feels like the tide has turned and the former WWE champion may stick around. At least in the short term.
If not, it was a curious way to send him off.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Finn Balor vs. Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn made his long-awaited return Monday on Raw and wasted little time issuing a challenge to anyone who wanted a match with him. New intercontinental champion Finn Balor answered the call, and we had a dream bout of sorts on our hands.
The match featured strong back-and-forth action that saw a late Coup de Grace attempt by Balor countered into a roll-up by Zayn. The challenger followed up with an exploder suplex into the corner and set up the Irishman for the Helluva Kick.
As he sprinted across the ring, Balor blocked and delivered another Coup de Grace for the pinfall victory.
After the match, a fed-up Zayn revealed he didn't miss the fans and claimed WWE is a toxic environment because of them. He said everyone wants to be a critic, and beginning now, he is back to hold each and every one of them accountable for their actions. "See you in hell," he ended the promo.
Balor defeated Zayn
The match was but a tease of what a longer, more significant feud between Balor and Zayn could be. It was a setup for the promo that came after, and damn, did Zayn deliver big time.
The Underdog from the Underground picked up where he left off prior to his injury, unleashing venomous promos on the unsuspecting fans, a great heel at a time when the Raw brand desperately needs him.
It will be interesting to see how he plans to hold fans accountable and whether he can do as he has done so many times over the course of his career and get the persona over. And what does Zayn's hell look like?
The Undertaker Returns and Interrupts Elias
Frustrated over John Cena's interruption of his grand WrestleMania performance, Elias vowed to prove how easy it is to rap. He delivered some rhymes and claimed the next person to interrupt him would be a "dead man."
Cue the gong.
The Undertaker made his way to the ring, his first Raw appearance in nearly eight months. He stood ominously in the center of the squared circle while Elias decided whether to physically confront him.
He chose wrongly.
Chokeslam, Tombstone—and Undertaker exited to a steady ovation from the WWE faithful.
The interruption gimmick has featured two enormous payoffs in a row with Cena and Undertaker. Hopefully, that is the culmination of it and Elias can return to actually competing in matches.
The constant interruption and the humiliation of the last two nights, in a perfect world, would lead to a more aggressive and focused Elias than we have seen to this point.
Instead, it will probably lead to another failed attempt at a concert, broken up by someone like Apollo Crews.
An Undertaker appearance is always welcome, but one has to wonder why WWE Creative opted to keep him off what would have been his 18th consecutive WrestleMania.
Winner Take All Match: Kofi Kingston vs. Seth Rollins
WWE champion Kofi Kingston put his newly won title on the line against universal champion Seth Rollins and his own newly captured gold in a Winner Take All match to cap off a strong post-WrestleMania broadcast.
Some solid, competitive action gave way to interference from The Bar just as the match peaked.
The beatdown of Kingston drew a no-contest and inspired Rollins to pitch a tag team match, which Sheamus and Cesaro were eager to accept.
WWE spent the entire episode of Raw building a Kingston vs. Rollins match for both titles and delivered...the setup to a tag team match.
It was a blatant bait-and-switch, the likes of which you would expect from the dying days of WCW.
What a disappointment.
Did there have to be a definitive winner? No, but what could have been a great, action-packed way to cap off the show was used to set up a tag team match that wouldn't even be a satisfying main event of a house show.
Kofi Kingston and Seth Rollins vs. The Bar
Sheamus and Cesaro worked over Rollins coming back from the break, using their raw physicality to wear down a competitor who was brutalized by Brock Lesnar just 24 hours previously at WrestleMania.
Rollins eventually punched and chopped his way out of the oppressive beatdown and sent The Celtic Warrior shoulder-first into the ring post. The separation allowed him to make the hot tag to Kingston, who exploded into the match and eventually grounded Sheamus with S.O.S.
The action continued to break down and, eventually, Kingston blasted Cesaro with a Trouble in Paradise that set up the Stomp from The Architect for the hard-fought victory.
Rollins and Kingston celebrated, the new champions of the New Era, as the show went off the air.
Kingston and Rollins defeated The Bar
The WWE Universe was understandably frustrated and greeted this match with chants of "AEW" and multiple attempts to introduce beach balls in the stands. The atmosphere was hurt significantly, but the action between the ropes maintained its above-average quality, due completely to the extraordinary performers involved.
Sheamus and Cesaro do not get nearly enough credit for their ability to consistently deliver from any spot on the card, against any opposition. Both The Celtic Warrior and Swiss Superman are fine professional wrestlers who deserve far more appreciation from crowds for how exceptional they are.
This was all about spotlighting Kingston and Rollins to close out their first night as the faces of WWE. There will be some who argue against the idea, claiming it was a dud of a way to end the post-WrestleMania Raw, but on the heels of a show that crowned them as the kings of the ring, this was a fine (if admittedly uneventful) way to highlight them.
That bait-and-switch, though...inexcusable.