Buried No More…

Raw kicks off with a recap of last week’s contract signing between Seth Rollins and WWE Champion Drew McIntyre.

Style, Sophistication and Class!

After the intro, and the confirmation of Drew McIntyre vs Murphy tonight, MVP is shown in the ring with this week’s instalment of the VIP Lounge. He states that this week we will return to, “style, sophistication and class” by inviting the women involved in the MITB Ladder match. A recap of Shayna, Nia and Asuka’s brawl last week is shown ahead of their arrival to the ring. Side note… Samoa Joe is back on commentary and maybe for the foreseeable future, which is always exciting.

Asuka is out first, dancing around and being as entertaining as ever. MVP begins to speak to her in Japanese and she replies, with MVP stating that she said she is very happy. Shayna is out next, sitting on the opposite side of the ring while staring at Asuka. Nia comes out, comedically pushing over the rope barrier cordoning off the ramp. Asuka is shown hilariously singing along to Nia’s theme song, showing exactly why the fans love her (outside of her obvious exceptional wrestling skills).

MVP states that Nia is without question, “the most dominant force in this matchup,” leading Shayna to question that call with her hand and facial expressions in the background (since we all know that Shayna is probably the one to be afraid of, if her NXT and Raw run have been anything to go by). It’s really fun to watch Shayna’s expressions throughout Nia’s promo as she states how dominant she’s been since her return a few weeks ago.

MVP asks Asuka if she has anything to say to Nia, in which she cuts a promo in Japanese which mentions Kairi Sane, Nia being “very rude” and more. MVP asks Shayna how her unique skills will help her win the MITB match, which is met with a slow reply from the former number one contender, who simply states “Opera non-Verba”, which translates to “Deeds, not words.” MVP states that he needs to brush up on his Latin, prompting Baszler to “spell it out” for them all by stating that she does all of her talking with her actions.

She prompts Asuka to reply as the two stand in the middle of the ring, staring each other down. Nia stands up between the two and is swiftly kicked out of the ring by both of them, leading to MVP standing in between Shayna and Asuka, telling them to save it for later. The segment ends with Asuka dancing in the ring as Shayna stares on in disgust and Nia with frustration on the outside.

Grade: B

A decent and entertaining segment, but not one that added too much going into the ladder match, however, the dynamic between the three is interesting and it’s great to see their differing styles shine in a segment.

A recap of Apollo Crews’ match and injury against Andrade is shown. A Last Chance Gauntlet Match to determine Crews’ replacement in the MITB match is announced, as Bobby Lashley looks set for action after the break. It’s announced that Becky will confront the winner of the MITB contract on Raw next week.

Risen From The Dead…

It’s time for the gauntlet match, with Bobby Lashley out first. According to commentary, Bobby Lashley requested that Lana not be with him at ringside in order for him to concentrate and not be distracted by her beauty, continuing that storyline. Now, who is Lashley’s first opponent in this ladder match? It’s none other than Titus O’Neil, who hasn’t been in an actual wrestling match on TV for a very long time… let’s see how long this lasts.

The pair traded blows in the corner, but this lasts mere seconds before Lashley hits a Spear for the first elimination. Akira Tozawa is out next and gets some offence in, but after a few seconds, Lashley hits another Spear for another quick victory. Shelton Benjamin is Lashley’s next opponent, and we can see how this is going can’t we. As Shelton’s name is being announced, Lashley hits him on the apron, although Shelton does get the upper hand. He tricks Lashley into going to the outside, hitting a great looking knee while he’s attempting to get back in on the apron. Shelton looks great here, until Lashley slams him into the barricade multiple times. He gets him back in the ring and attempts a Spear, but Shelton actually manages to jump over it… but not the second one, leading to another Lashley win.

It’s time for Lashley to be challenged, and this may come in the form of Humberto Carrillo. The show returns from a break with Lashley firmly in control. He manhandles Carrillo, until he escapes a Powerslam attempt, landing a kick, Dropkick and a Standing Moonsault to Lashley. Lashley kicks out of the next cover, later managing to throw Carrillo across the ring from the top turnbuckle. Lashley goes back to dominating in the corner, even going so far to ignore the referee who attempts to pull him off Carrillo. At this point, the referee has enough and calls for Lashley to be disqualified from the match after he puts his hands on him. Lashley, clearly angry at the decision, continues to beat down Carrillo, hitting a Spear and beating him down as other officials run in to stop the attack.

Carrillo’s cousin, Angel Garza, is out next and accompanied by Zelina Vega. The show returns from a break with Garza in control, he continues his offence before pulling off his wrestling trousers. He hits a Dropkick for a two count, but continues to cause damage to Carrillo after as a backstage segment with Bobbly Lashley and Lana is shown. Lashley looks frustrated and snubs Lana’s statement that if she was out there it may not have happened, with Lashley replying, “not now.”

Back in the ring, Garza is still dominating, for a time, as both begin to exchange big moves and covers. Carrillo hits a Moonsault but Garza has his knees up; after a cover, Garza starts to wear down Carrillo again. Garza gets frustrated and starts attempting to force pins on Carrillo, who constantly kicks out. Vega calms him down, as he hits a Moonsault for another two-count. Garza attempts to get Carrillo into the Wing Clipper, however, Garza is immediately rolled up by Carrillo and eliminated.

After some complaints by Vega about a fast count, the next challenger is Austin Theory, another one of Vega’s associates. As expected, Theory also controls the early moments of this match. Carrillo hits a sweet looking Elbow Strike, but is met with a Dropkick to the knees in retaliation. Carrillo hits another Elbow Strike later and escapes a Suplex attempts; he goes for a cross body but is caught with a left hand in mid-air. Theory gets Carrillo to the top rope and hits a suplex but is immediately caught and rolled up for another Carrillo win.

Now we get to the big surprise of the night, which is the return of AJ Styles, who isn’t dead after being buried alive at Wrestlemania. The show returns with Carrillo hitting a Dropkick and pummelling AJ in the corner. Styles hits some knees and stomps Carrillo on the ground, going for a cover later on for a two-count. He stretches and attacks the ribs of Carrillo, who manages to get to the ropes. AJ’s offence is aimed at damaging the legs of Carrillo, setting up for a possible Calf Crusher later. Carrillo manages to catch AJ in a DDT, hitting AJ with some kicks to the face.

AJ goes for a Moonsault, but lands on his feet, and is rolled up into an Inside Cradle pin by Carrillo. He kicks out and the two trade Clothesline’s in the middle of the ring. Styles hits a Pump-Handle Gut Buster and then the Calf Crusher, forcing Carrillo into submitting. AJ Styles has qualified for Money in the Bank.

AJ Styles wins the Gauntlet Match to qualify for Money In The Bank – Grade: B

AJ continues to attack Carrillo after the bell, slamming his legs against the ring post and saying, “hope you learnt something today.” An odd gauntlet match, but nice to see AJ in the MITB, I’m excited to see him compete as a serious contender for the briefcase; if only we didn’t have to slog through the early Lashley sections which felt very unnecessary. Styles cut a promo in the ring, stating that he’s gonna do anything to get that briefcase, even if he has to throw Aleister Black or Rey off of the roof.

A top 10 moments in Money in the Bank history is shown, and throughout the rest of the night, similarly to the Triple H moments last week.

Seth Rollins comes out to the ring for an exclusive interview with Charly Caruso. They discuss Drew, who is, of course, the focus of this segment. He reiterates the same points he made in the past about Drew not being the leader WWE needs right now. He states that he is trying to unburden Drew by taking the weight off his shoulders and save him.

Brendan Vink & Shane Thorne are backstage with MVP ahead of their match against Ricochet & Cedric Alexander, he gives them some words of encouragement. Edge and Orton are announced to return next week in Raw, the first time since Wrestlemania. Murphy is interviewed backstage by Charly, asking why he’s been loyal to Seth. He states that he took him under his wing, that he’s learned and developed and that one day he may be as good as or better than Seth Rollins. He then talks about Drew, stating that he knows he can beat him.

A Shock Win!

Vink & Thorne are already in the ring ahead of their match with Cedric Alexander & Ricochet. Vink and Cedric start odd the match, which starts with both delivering equal offence until Thorne is tagged in. Ricochet and Cedric perform multiple tag team moves, tagging in and out. Thorne manages to take out Cedric on the apron after a distraction by Vink. Vink then continues to attack Cedric on the outside by throwing him into the barricade, continuing to be dominant in the ring until Alexander connects with a kick to the face.

Ricochet and Thorne are tagged in, with Ricochet running wild on both Vink & Thorne before tagging in Alexander, who hits a Whirlwind DDT after some double team offence. Vink breaks up the pin but is forced out the ring by Ricochet. Alexander and Thorne grapple in the ring, though both Ricochet and Vink are eventually tagged in. Ricochet hits a Superkick to Vink’s midsection, while Thorne runs in and hits a devastating looking Cannonball on Cedric in the corner. Vink surprises Ricochet with a Big Boot, leading to Thorne & Vink picking up the shock victory.

Brendan Vink & Shane Thorne defeat Cedric Alexander & Ricochet via Pinfall – Grade: B-

Cedric and Ricochet still looked good here, but I question the decision to make them lose against the Raw newcomers, though I’ll wait and see how this plays out before I judge too harshly. I’ve like Vink & Thorne so far, and I’m interested to see how this turns out.

Fight of the Night!

Street Profits are out to face, arguably their biggest rivals, the Viking Raiders. They want to finally prove they can beat the Raiders, something they haven’t been able to do, in NXT or Raw. The Profits cut a quick promo in the ring about the Performance Centre, stating that it’s where they met and became brothers. The Viking Raiders then make their entrance as the show goes to a break.

We return as the match begins, and it’s almost an explosive one with Erik charging at Montez. Montez looks especially impressive, as always. Erik knocks down Montez while Ivar demolishes Dawkins on the outside. The Raiders dominate Ford in the ring, hitting a hug Splash and cover, with Ford somehow kicking out. He manages to get to Dawkins on the apron, who runs wild in the ring. Montez is tagged back in… but so is Erik, as the Raiders continue to deliver some devastating offence to Montez, who kicks out of another cover.

The Raiders continue this run of offence on Montez for some time before Ford manages to get a roll-up and a tag to Dawkins who cleans house once again, hitting an Exploder Suplex and a Bulldog to Erik in the ring. Erik attempts to dive to the outside but is hit in the face by Dawkins, who then pounces on Ivar. The Profits stay strong as the show returns from a break, with Montez tagging in Ford, who lands an impressive Dropkick where he lands straight onto Erik for a cover. Dawkins is back and on top until a hit to the face and a dominant performance by a newly tagged in and surprisingly athletic Ivar, who takes out Dawkins and Ford after a Cartwheel and a Clothesline.

Dawkins is alone in the ring to face the Raiders, who deliver heavy Knee Strikes to the tag champ. Dawkins recovers and counters with a Gut Wrench Suplex. Ford & Ivar are tagged in, with some athletic performances and moves on display. Dawkins is tagged in and the pair perform some double team moves in an attempt to put away Ivar, who kicks out. Ford is tagged back in but Ivar takes out both of them before tagging in Erik.
Ford manages to hit Ivar on the top turnbuckle but is attacked by Erik in the ring. The Raiders go for the Viking Experience, but Dawkins hits a Spear to Erik followed by Ford hitting a DDT on Ivar. The Profits go for their finisher, the Cash Out, which is a Spinebuster/Frog Splash combination. They hit it, but Erik runs in and strikes Ivar with a devastating knee. The Raiders take control and hit the Viking Experience on Dawkins to win the match.

The Viking Raiders defeat the Street Profits via Pinfall – Grade: A-

An excellent match and the best of the night, made me believe both teams could win and sets up a match for the titles on PPV, both teams were fantastic here. The Raiders are interviewed backstage by Charly Caruso, they state, “this is not success, this is dominance.”

Aleister Black appears in a great promo segment in a dark, misty room. He asks AJ how it felt to be buried alive, reigniting their feud just in time for Money In The Bank. He says that AJ should pray that Black doesn’t get back up if AJ manages to take him down: “when that happens, you’ll wish that you’d been buried deeper than just six feet.” Rey Mysterio also cuts a promo, this time in a more familiar backstage setting. He talks exclusively about the match and how unique it is, as well as how risky the match will be; “the risk is worth the reward,” he states.

The Queen of NXT

Charlotte Flair is out now, the NXT women’s champion will face Io Shirai this week on NXT for the title. She cuts a promo in the ring about the fact that she’s working double duty on Raw and NXT. She talks about Io Shirai and what she had to do to get this match for the title, she also brings up the fact that Io mentioned that this was a dream match for her, prompting Charlotte to state, “that makes me happy because I get to make Io Shirai’s dream come true when she has the privilege of bowing down to the queen.”

Charlotte is then interrupted by Liv Morgan, coming full circle from the moment Liv initially took a break and reinvented herself, since that came after her match with Charlotte. She talks about Charlotte having a silver spoon up her a… in her mouth. Liv challenges Charlotte to a match, which commences after Raw returns from the break but not before a Jinder Mahal video package is played.

The match is official, with Charlotte taunting Liv by drawing a line in front of her in the corner, which Liv stands on kicks behind her like sand. Commentary talks about that moment when Liv and Charlotte squared off last year.

Charlotte remains dominant, taunting Liv and mocking the referee too. Liv hits some strikes and a Dropkick in the corner; the pair trade more offence before Liv hits another Dropkick, this time off the ropes. Liv is thrown into the corner and stomped on by the NXT champion. She remains dominant as the show comes back from another break.
Liv starts getting in more offence, taking down Charlotte multiple times, stomping on the back of Charlotte in the corner, she gets a two-count for her efforts. Charlotte regains control of the match, stomping on Liv in the ring. Morgan hits the Queen with double knees to the face but fails to take advantage as Charlotte hits a Powerbomb and a cover for two. Charlotte starts to chop Liv in the corner, then placing Liv in the Boston Crab. Morgan gets to the bottom rope and breaks the submission, sending Flair into the rope with a Drop Toe Hold.

Charlotte turns it around but not for long as Liv hits her with another double knee, this time from the top. Charlotte kicks out of the next few covers, frustrating Liv. Liv then attempts to hit Oblivion but is placed into the Figure Eight for a Charlotte Flair win.

Charlotte Flair defeats Liv Morgan via Submission – Grade: B

Decent match with the correct booking ahead of the NXT title match on Wednesday. Liv showed some great offence here, but she never looked like she’d actually pull off the win.

Drew McIntyre makes his way to the ring for, as he puts, “Main event time!” Murphy is out soon after, accompanied by Seth Rollins who stares at Drew at the top of the ramp as Murphy makes his way to the ring. Rollins stays at the top of rank with an intense stare on through this match.

Drew immediately forces Murphy outside of the ring, barging Murphy to the ground a little later on. Murphy attempts to go to Seth but turns around to find Drew behind him on the ramp. He is met with a boot and is dominated, being slammed over and over into different barricades outside.

Drew continues to dominate outside the ring, right in front of Rollins. Drew throws Murphy back into the ring, as he and Seth stare down. This short distraction allows Murphy to perform a Dropkick through the ropes and slam Drew into the barricades and the ring post. Drew gets back in the ring and is hit by a Meteora from Murphy, which Drew kicks out of at one.

Drew no-sells Murphy’s offence, delivering a de estate game chop of his own that sweeps Murphy off his feet. Seth has slowly edged his way to the bottom of the ramp. Murphy gets some fast-paced offence here but is rewarded with a Glasgow Kiss while being berated by Drew who tells him to get to his feet. Murphy stuns McIntyre with some kicks, but is knocked off the top rope and into the barricade by Drew. Drew jumps off the top rope and takes down Murphy, grabbing him and taking him up to the top. Murphy turns this around and manages to hit McIntyre with a kick to the face and a Powerbomb, which Drew again kicks out of at one, much to the shock of Murphy.

Murphy goes to taunt Drew in the corner, parodying his 3, 2, 1 count but is met with a Claymore Kick as Seth sighs on the ramp. McIntyre gets the win as he stares at Seth, who has his eyes closed on the outside.

Drew McIntyre defeats Murphy via Pinfall – Grade: B+

Rollins makes his way up the steps to the ring and onto the apron as Drew tries to get him to fight him. However, the Messiah just jumps down and walks away, staring back at Drew as he goes behind the curtain… but not for long, as he runs around and hits McIntyre in the face with a Superkick, shouting “this is not about you Drew… this is bigger than you, this is bigger than me!” Seth stops himself and picks up the WWE title, staring at it before throwing it to the corner and attempting to go for a Curb Stomp.

He is instead caught by a hand to the throat via McIntyre who hits a Glasgow Kiss, asking Seth to get up. He goes for the Claymore but Seth slides out of the ring and stumbles up the ramp, Drew stands tall to end the show as the two stare down.

I’m personally really enjoying this feud and I loved the dynamic between the two during the final moments of the show. Drew looks strong and is being booked as a dominant champion, rightly so in fact. I can’t wait for their match this weekend.

Overall Grade: B

An enjoyable night of wrestling, but not one without its faults. The tag match between the Viking Raiders and the Street Profits was a personal highlight, and seeing Drew shine as the champion always brings a smile to my face.

By Jimmy Ioannou

Images provided by WWE.com

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