WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from April 22
One week after the 2019 Superstar Shake-up shuffled the rosters of Raw and SmackDown Live, the red brand hit the USA Network airwaves determined to establish its new identity and give fans a look at the reinvigorated product.
Or so the audience hoped.
With new contenders to the brand's top titles in question and the storyline directions for newcomers like Ricochet and AJ Styles uncertain, the fanbase eagerly anticipated plenty of answers.
What went down on Monday's broadcast, and what might it mean for the show's future?
Seth Rollins Kicks Off Raw
Triple H kicked off Monday's show and wasted no time introducing universal champion Seth Rollins.
The Beastslayer, Iowa's hometown hero, hit the ring to a thunderous ovation. Rollins acknowledged Triple H's decision to hold two Triple Threat matches, the winners squaring off to determine the new No. 1 contender to Rollins' title.
United States champion and new Raw acquisition Samoa Joe interrupted the proceedings. The Destroyer discussed being a dual champion until Rey Mysterio interrupted. Drew McIntyre, The Miz, Baron Corbin and AJ Styles all followed, each having a few words for the Superstars.
Styles promised it would be him versus Rollins at Money in the Bank.
Unfazed, the new champion said it did not matter who he faces because he will burn it down regardless.
There are lots of new faces on Raw, all gunning for the same prize, but this still felt like a lazy way to introduce the top contenders to Rollins' title.
Yes, it gets the Superstars on television for those who may have missed last week's show, but nothing was really accomplished beyond what Triple H announced moments before Rollins made his way to the ring.
It felt like a waste of time, and that is hardly how one wants to kick off a relatively significant show like this one.
AJ Styles vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Samoa Joe
In what would have been a dream match as early as a decade ago, three of the best wrestlers of their generation–Rey Mysterio, AJ Styles and Samoa Joe–squared off in a Triple Threat match to kick off this week's show.
Late in the contest, Mysterio fired off a seated senton and crucifix bomb for a two-count, as Styles broke up the pin. Styles was dumped to ringside in short order, and Mysterio tried for the 619. Joe dodged it and applied the Coquina Clutch. Styles interrupted with a Phenomenal Forearm attempt but found himself trapped in the same hold.
After more back-and-forth, Mysterio blasted Joe with the 619 and tried for a springboard. He flew right into the arms of Styles, who caught him with a nasty powerbomb, hoisted him back up and delivered another powerbomb, this time onto Joe.
A third lift ended in the Styles Clash onto the prone U.S. champion, and The Phenomenal One scored the pinfall victory.
Styles defeated Joe and Mysterio
This was a hell of a free television match that saw each Superstar spotlighted before Styles' impressive, aggressive finish.
The Phenomenal One was the obvious choice to go over here, as Styles is poised to be one of the biggest stars on the red brand. While it is unlikely he squares off with Rollins this soon in his run with the brand, a win here established him as one of the faces of Raw going forward.
Furthermore, Joe looked like a monster, and Mysterio continued to showcase his incredible athleticism at age 44.
Most importantly, all three stayed involved throughout the match, avoiding the tired formula of one Superstar powdering on the arena floor while the other two do battle.
Naomi vs. Billie Kay
One week after jumping to Raw in the Superstar Shake-up, Naomi squared off with one-half of the women's tag team champions, Billie Kay.
Kay and IIconics tag team partner Peyton Royce mocked Naomi, reminding her she has no one to watch her back.
The former SmackDown competitor responded by countering interference from Royce and scoring a roll-up for the sudden pinfall victory.
Naomi defeated Kay
Naomi proving she can succeed on her own after a year of teaming with Asuka and Carmella is a nice touch, but this feels like an excuse to find her another partner and challenge The IIconics for the titles.
This was a match for match's sake, with little in the way of storyline advancement and no time to develop.
The Miz vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Baron Corbin
The second Triple Threat match of the evening saw The Miz, Baron Corbin and Drew McIntyre battle for the right to square off with AJ Styles for a shot at the Universal Championship.
A heated, back-and-forth match saw Miz survive an early assault to fire up and unload on McIntyre and Corbin, delivering a springboard double ax handle and a series of kicks about the body.
McIntyre cut it off, though, and tried for a superplex attempt. Corbin interjected himself and instigated a Tower of Doom spot that downed both opponents.
Late in the match, Corbin recovered from a blind charge into the ring steps and tried for End of Days. Miz escaped and delivered a DDT for two. He dumped Corbin to the floor but ran right into a Claymore Kick from McIntyre.
An alert Corbin re-entered the ring, tossed McIntyre to the floor and covered Miz to win the match.
An irate McIntyre watched on as the man he had been closely associated with over the last six months celebrated a victory that should have been his.
Corbin defeated McIntyre and Miz
It sounds strange, but Corbin had the most momentum coming out of WrestleMania, so him going over here makes the most sense. Should he defeat Styles later in the show, it will likely infuriate fans tired of his character. But as a placeholder at Money in the Bank, where the real challengers will compete for the right to cash in whenever they so please, it's essentially no harm, no foul.
McIntyre still looks like an unstoppable beast of a competitor, losing only after his finisher led to the pinfall.
Throw in the oddity of Miz firing up as a babyface, something we have not seen in six years, and you have a match that was tons of fun, fresh and told a quality story.
Sami Zayn Addresses the WWE Universe
Sami Zayn hit the ring next, ready to address the WWE Universe's accusations that he is bitter.
He said he has been the only one with the guts to call out the fans for the way they are. He relived the 10 months of his life away from the ring and how it was the happiest time of his life. He showed off photos from vacation and claimed his return to the squared circle brought about depression and anxiety.
Not because of the guys in the back or their enormous egos but, rather, because of the fans.
He said he is going to hold the WWE Universe accountable before telling the people of Des Moines, Iowa, to take a field trip...to hell.
This is Sami Zayn at his absolute best.
Unloading on fans in a wholly unique and fresh way, in which he criticizes them for their lofty expectations and online trolling, has created a heel character unlike any other on the show. He has expressed what is likely his very real frustration in a way that generates consistent heat unhampered by chants of "What?!" or boredom.
He sucks the crowd in, elicits the reaction he desires and delivers the exclamation point at the end of the promo to great effect.
He has been the undisputed highlight of the show since his return, and his evolution is one this writer is more than excited to watch.
Cedric Alexander vs. Cesaro
Cedric Alexander made his Raw brand debut Monday, battling Cesaro in singles competition.
The Swiss Superman, a late addition to the red brand earlier in the afternoon, grounded Alexander. The former cruiserweight champion fought back and delivered a big Michinoku Driver for a near-fall.
He delivered a nasty kick to the back of the head and wiped out Cesaro at ringside following a high-risk dive.
Back inside, Alexander tried for a springboard, but Cesaro caught him in midair with an uppercut for the win.
Cesaro defeated Alexander
This was a hard-fought match that showcased both men's athleticism, but the outcome was what stood out the most.
So much was made of Alexander's arrival on Raw, including two video packages highlighting his abilities, that it was interesting to see him lose clean to a guy who wasn't even supposed to be part of the red brand at the end of last week's Superstar Shake-up.
Cesaro is an elite in-ring competitor, and if this win leads to an extended push, good. If not, the booking here was curious, at the very best.
The Lucha House Party vs. The Viking Raiders
The Lucha House Party's Kalisto, Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado found themselves on the receiving end of a brutal beating at the hands of Erik and Ivar of The Viking Raiders.
A double powerbomb downed Kalisto and Dorado before The Viking Raiders' finisher left the latter down and out on the mat.
The current NXT tag team champions stood tall to close out the abbreviated segment.
The Viking Raiders are badasses who can dominate and destroy anyone.
That was the takeaway from this one, and Lucha House Party was the perfect babyface team to put on the receiving end of the beating in that the trio can bump around to make the newcomers look that much more impressive.
Hopefully, we are not subjected to weeks of beatdowns like this and, instead, get to watch Erik and Ivar wow with their incredible agility and athleticism.
Becky Lynch vs. Alicia Fox
The Man came around Monday, entering the arena to a thunderous ovation. Becky Lynch, the Raw and SmackDown women's champion, addressed Lacey Evans and her upcoming match with the NXT export at Money in the Bank.
Becky 2 Belts said she has made a career of smacking down blondes favored by management, and Evans is no different. The Sassy Southern Belle interrupted and vowed to take both titles at Money in the Bank.
Alicia Fox's music played, and her match with Lynch was underway.
An aggressive Lynch took the fight to the floor, but Fox turned the tide and dropped The Man. Back inside the squared circle, Fox scored a near-fall, but Lynch soon fired off a comeback and tapped her out to the Dis-arm-her.
After the match, Evans immediately entered the ring and knocked out Lynch with the Woman's Right. She walked off to a chorus of boos.
Lynch defeated Fox
There was nothing really to the match, but this segment was more about putting heat on Evans as a legitimate contender to Lynch's title, and for the most part, it was successful.
Getting over Evans' Woman's Right is a smart move on the part of the booking team. It is that rare finisher that can be hit from out of nowhere, adding credibility to Evans. It also creates a scenario in which Lynch must watch out for the finisher, perhaps opening her up to further attack and maybe costing her the title.
The potential stories to be told within the context of a match just because of the strike, which WWE Creative has put over strongly, are limitless.
Also, Lynch is very easily the best babyface on the entire roster right now, and it was on full display here. She is an asset WWE Creative would be very smart to keep available to both shows while she is at her hottest.
Ricochet vs. Robert Roode
The newly repackaged Bobby Roode, now competing under the name "The Glorious" Robert Roode and sporting a quality mustache, squared off with Ricochet in singles competition.
The One and Only stunned Roode with a dive heading into the break, but it was the former NXT and tag team champion who wrested away control of the bout, grounding his high-flying opponent.
Ricochet mounted a comeback, capitalizing on Roode's hubris to seize an opening. Roode cut it off as the action continued back-and-forth.
Late, Roode tried for a Glorious DDT, but Ricochet countered and delivered a TKO into a knee to the face for a two-count. Ricochet tried for the 630, but Roode rolled out of the way. After sending his opponent into the corner, Roode followed with a Glorious DDT for the pinfall victory.
Roode defeated Ricochet
And...the interesting booking decisions continue.
Yes, Roode is talented and deserving enough of a reboot. He deserves another push to prove himself, but why start it at the expense of Ricochet?
Up until Monday, The One and Only appeared unstoppable. His athleticism and fearless aerial assaults had him rolling. Now, without Aleister Black by his side, he just suddenly loses to a guy who was an afterthought heading into WrestleMania.
Because Roode has a mustache now?
Was literally everyone else but Ricochet busy?
The Firefly Fun House
Bray Wyatt returned to television...as the host of a Blue's Clues-like children's show called the "Firefly Fun House."
Wyatt creepily addressed the WWE Universe as if they were kids and said goodbye to his former self, hacking a cardboard cutout with a chainsaw in a surreal image.
The segment also introduced the buzzard puppet and creepy doll from prior vignettes, leaving the WWE Universe dumbfounded by what it just witnessed.
Was this absolutely absurd? Hell yes.
Was it an improvement on whatever WWE Creative was doing with Wyatt the last time we saw him? Hell yes.
It is too early to decide whether this will be a success and finally bring Wyatt to the level of stardom his charisma is deserving of, but one thing is for sure: The writers and the performer himself have put in the work to make it a success.
Whether it strikes a nerve going forward is the question.
If not, Wyatt and Co. could be back to the drawing board much sooner than they expected.
AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin
The No. 1 contender to the Universal Championship was crowned in Monday's main event, as AJ Styles battled Baron Corbin.
The physically superior Corbin worked over Styles, dropping him across the guardrail heading into the final commercial break of the night. The former Raw general manager dominated the action, grounding Styles and mocking him as he dealt a beating.
Styles mounted a comeback and, after some back-and-forth, tried for a Styles Clash. The alert Corbin fought out, kicking his way out of the hold. Styles answered, countering an End of Days attempt with the Calf Crusher. Corbin fought off the desire to tap out and the match continued.
Styles, though, was a relentless pitbull of a competitor and eventually delivered the Phenomenal Forearm to score the win.
After the match, Seth Rollins made his way to the ring and engaged Styles in an intense show of respect to close out the show.
Styles defeated Corbin
Remember that time this writer suggested it was too early for Styles to earn a match with Rollins?
Styles' victory was a bit of a surprise and sets up a Universal Championship match that may overshadow the ladder matches in terms of sheer wrestling fan excitement. Styles vs. Rollins is a match that has not been held on a major televised wrestling show of any sort. Booking that match for Money in the Bank is a bold move on the part of a writing team that easily could have held off on that level of a match until next year's WrestleMania.
Instead, fans will now have the opportunity to witness two of the best of their era battle for the top prize on Monday nights.
The aggressive handshake from Rollins suggests things will not remain friendly, and one has to wonder if it is the first hint at a potential heel turn for either man as they embark on a run in which both are expected to be the faces of the brand.