Once a Shield brother, always a Shield brother. Sidelined since December, Dean Ambrose made a surprise return during Monday Night Raw while Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler were signing the contract for their Intercontinental Championship Match at SummerSlam. With The Lunatic Fringe in his corner at The Biggest Event of the Summer to counter the threat of Drew McIntyre, is The Kingslayer primed to unseat The Showoff?
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Rousey pays tribute to Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart
GREENSBORO, N.C. — In the wake of the passing of Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Ronda Rousey opened Raw by taking to the ring and offering a eulogy for her friend Natalya’s father. “Our fathers are our pillars of strength in a hostile world,” said Rousey. “They are our reassurance that everything is going to be okay. But when that reassurance is ripped away, we have to face the fact that our fathers have been raising us to be the pillars of strength our families need when they’re gone.”
As a final message to her friend, Rousey added, “Stay strong, Natalya Neidhart. We all love you.” The WWE Universe did the rest, raining down chants of “Nattie!” as a tribute to The Queen of Harts and her family.
Chaos erupts during Bliss vs. Ember
Is it too heavy-handed of a metaphor to say that there are cracks in Mount Olympus? Maybe, but while self-proclaimed Goddess Alexa Bliss has steadfastly denied that she’s destined to lose her Raw Women’s Championship to Ronda Rousey on Sunday, very little went right for Miss Bliss on Monday. Her personal security — approved by Constable Baron Corbin — was decimated by Rousey, and Bliss’ match against Ember Moon ended in a somewhat surprising defeat for the five-time Women’s Champion.
Despite the presence of Alicia Fox in Bliss’ corner, it quickly became clear that Bliss’ main focus was on Rousey, who posted up as backup for The War Goddess. Alexa even mixed it up with Rousey outside the ring, attacking her challenger from behind and hurling her into the barricade during a brief scrap before wandering straight into the path of a tilt-a-whirl gutbreaker from Ember.
The Eclipse seemed to spell the end until Alicia rushed the ring and broke up the pinfall, earning a disqualification win for Ember and opening the door for Rousey to return to the ring, where she sent Fox tumbling head-over-heels with a series of judo throws until the former Divas Champion managed to escape — or, more likely, until Rousey decided she was done. Alexa might not be so lucky on Sunday.
Corbin handpicks Breeze as his opponent
As part of the lead-up to his SummerSlam match against Finn Bálor, Constable Baron Corbin sanctioned individual contests for himself and The Extraordinary Man. The Lone Wolf, perhaps looking to select someone of similar build to Bálor, selected Tyler Breeze, and while the former United States Champion notched the victory, he turned out to be a bit more overconfident than he should have been.
Corbin based his entire strategy around a ground-and-pound game plan that made good use of his size advantage, but Prince Pretty didn’t go down without a fight, even landing an enziguiri on the outside that left The Lone Wolf stunned. An overzealous Breeze went to follow up and sprinted headlong into the Deep Six, which was enough to put Breeze down.
But whereas Corbin went to great lengths to select a Superstar who would give him a comparable look to Bálor, he had no problem stacking the deck when it came to The Extraordinary Man’s opponents. Claiming to have selected a match appropriate for a Superstar who considers himself a “big man,” Corbin revealed he had scheduled a Handicap Match that pitted the first-ever Universal Champion against Kevin Owens & Jinder Mahal.
Strowman joins Bálor, but Corbin gets the last word
But wait! While Baron Corbin may have been willing to use his authority to place Finn Bálor in an unwinnable situation against Kevin Owens & Jinder Mahal, Kurt Angle was quick to act as a check on The Constable’s power, transforming Corbin’s original contest into a tag team match that united Finn with Braun Strowman.
Obviously, this arrangement worked out much more favorably for the Irish high-flier. Even though KO & Mahal isolated The Extraordinary Man, Strowman flipped the script the second he tagged in, charging KO into near unconsciousness on the outside and handing Mahal a long-awaited Powerslam for the pinfall. So Finn gets the W, and Braun proves he can control his temper and avoid the kind of loss-by-technicality that would cost him the Money in the Bank contract if it happens on Sunday.
Of course, all this isn’t to say Bálor escaped unscathed; following the pinfall, Strowman chased Owens up the ramp, and Corbin pounced on his exhausted opponent, dropping The Extraordinary Man with an emphatic End of Days.
Elias-inspired local attacks Lashley, pays dearly
Elias may have evaded Bobby Lashley’s clutches tonight. His local-competitor lookalike, however, did not.
Lashley had been scheduled to face a local named Ricky Roberts, who turned out to be so devoted to The Living Truth that he came to the ring with a guitar and promised to one day become a talented enough musician that he would earn the respect of Elias. The guitarist emerged to insist that all he wanted from Ricky was to beat Lashley — and, maybe, throw down $5 for a Walk With Elias wristband on WWEShop.com.
Lashley soon followed, and Roberts decided to make himself famous, Kabonging the former ECW Champion over the back with his guitar. Alas, that did little besides make Lashley angry, and the dominant Superstar hoisted Roberts into the air and pummeled him into the ring with a one-handed spinebuster. Rough night for Elias and those he inspires, but the good news is that he should hopefully be able to turn his fortunes around at SummerSlam, where he will follow up his concert at Gramercy Theatre by debuting “his greatest song to date.”
The Revival run roughshod, but B-Team retain
Facing long odds and a fearsome pair of challengers to their hard-won Raw Tag Team Titles, The B-Team seemed all but certain to go down in a blaze of glory at the end of Raw’s Triple Threat title match. But against all odds, Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel survived the storm of The Revival and The Deleters of Worlds, escaping the three-way dance with their championship reign intact.
They did all this despite a stupendous effort by The Revival, who had an answer for everything, and we do mean everything: They even recovered after a lengthy, wild brawl among all the teams to hit the Shatter Machine on Bray Wyatt. Little did they realize, Axel had tagged in on Scott Dawson without the latter realizing, and the champion hauled Dawson off The Reaper of Souls, threw him out of the ring onto Dash and claimed the pinfall for his (B) team. That said, their efforts weren’t exactly for naught: The “Top Guys” were granted a Raw Tag Team Title Match of their own at SummerSlam Kickoff.
Heyman offers Reigns his services as advocate
Paul Heyman’s not up for an Emmy, but maybe he should be. As bereft and bleary-eyed as Brock Lensar’s advocate seemed last week after being manhandled by the Universal Champion, it turned out that he’d simply participated in an elaborate con designed to lull Roman Reigns into the falsest sense of security possible going into the Universal Title Match at SummerSlam.
It was a swindling so convincing The Big Dog wasn’t even able to sniff it out this week, when Heyman, still playing the part of a free-agent kingmaker, returned to seemingly offer Reigns his services as advocate, complete with inside info on Lesnar’s gameplan for SummerSlam. Reigns was understandably suspicious, so Heyman repeated a lesson The Big Dog’s father imparted on them both (in the native Samoan, no less) before producing an agreement in principle that he asked The Big Dog to consider.
But Reigns never really got to take a look at the paper, as Heyman attacked the three-time WWE Champion with pepper spray he had concealed in his suit. That opened the door for Lesnar to emerge, unannounced, and annihilate the blinded Reigns with a barrage of knees to the chest, a suffocating guillotine that put the challenger to sleep and, when Reigns dared to stir, a furious F-5.
Roode & Titus Worldwide topple Rawley & AOP
Mojo Rawley and The Authors of Pain have made their names lately on cutting a one-man (or one-team) swath through anybody that crossed their path. So how did Bobby Roode & Titus Worldwide beat them? By working together. The Glorious One and his teammates picked their moments perfectly in a Six-Man Tag Team Match that united the various rivals. Roode proved to have the best timing: After Rezar broke up a pinfall attempt by Roode, Titus O’Neil knocked him out of the ring, and Rawley took his eye off the ball to expel The Big Deal as well. Roode sprang with a Glorious DDT, and that was that.
Ruby dismantles Sasha in return match
Last week, Ruby Riott threw a wrench into the Raw Women’s division when she returned and cost The Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection a match against The Riott Squad. It looks like she’s just getting started.
Ruby made her in-ring return in a singles match against Sasha Banks this week, and she wasted no time getting back to her ruthless bona fides, trapping The Boss’ hand in the steel steps and blasting it with a kick. Having one working hand didn’t stop The Boss from putting up a fight, but it did stop her from effectively applying the Bank Statement — not that Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan were taking any chances on that front.
The rest of The Riott Squad attempted to interfere, which led to Sasha taking both of them out with a suicide dive and Bayley providing the assist at ringside. Unfortunately, Sasha was still banged up and was therefore easy pickings for a roll-up from Ruby as she attempted to re-enter the ring.
Ambrose returns to Rollins’ side in dramatic contract signing
The problem hasn’t been that Seth Rollins can’t beat Dolph Ziggler so much as that he hasn’t had an answer for Drew McIntyre. But thanks to some shrewd negotiation and waiting until the opportune moment, The Kingslayer may have finally evened the odds against the Intercontinental Champion.
With Rollins supposedly waylaid by travel issues, Raw General Manager Kurt Angle was left to negotiate alone with the Intercontinental Champion and his heavy in advance of the planned Ziggler-Rollins contract signing for their SummerSlam match. It was all smooth sailing, save for one curious development: If Ziggler wanted to keep Drew McIntyre in his corner, he would have to agree to a contractual proviso that allowed The Kingslayer to have a second of his own.
With Roman Reigns laid up by Paul Heyman’s pepper spray and Tyler Breeze destroyed by Constable Baron Corbin (thus thwarting the prospective formation of “CrossFit Breeze-us” for a second week), Rollins seemed to be all alone. That cleared the runway for Ziggler to reveal why he’d been able to one-up Rollins all this time: The Architect fights for the WWE Universe, and Dolph gave up on them a long time ago. These days, he places his faith instead in McIntyre, who truly has his back no matter what. The Showoff signed the contract, and Angle seemed ready to call it a forfeit until Rollins finally made his entrance.
As it turns out, Rollins had been in the arena for a while; he just wanted to wait until Ziggler signed the deal so the champion couldn’t back out. And he had that proviso put in for a very specific reason, and the travel issues weren’t exactly his. And he already had his backup: A buzz-cut, bulked-up, and frothing-mad Dean Ambrose, who returned from injury to join Rollins in a joint beatdown of Ziggler and McIntyre before The Kingslayer finally signed his contract. It appears Rollins finally has his answer, and Dolph Ziggler might just have a problem.