It’s a big night for RAW, the season premiere and the go-home for Hell in a Cell. As such, the card is stacked. Asuka defends the RAW Women’s Championship against Lana. Keith Lee takes on Braun Strowman. RETRIBUTION have an eight-man tag against The Hurt Business. Matt Riddle faces AJ Styles. Kofi Kingston faces Sheamus. Elias is promising a ‘concert for the ages’. The Firefly Fun House returns to RAW. And there’s a good chance that Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton will beat the hell out of each other at some point. It’s going to be a busy one.
I’m Amanda and this is the RAW review.
The Hurt Business def. RETRIBUTION
AJ Styles def. Matt Riddle
Asuka def. Lana
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax def. Lacey Evans & Peyton Royce, Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke, and The Riott Squad
Kofi Kingston def. Sheamus
Tucker & ‘El Gran Gordo’ def. The Miz & John Morrison
Braun Strowman def. Keith Lee
♦ Alexa Bliss introduced The Fiend to get the show proper underway. The lights went red and Fiend noises sounded while commentary were doing the longest opening housekeeping bit ever. Bliss stood statue-still in the centre of the ring through his whole entrance and he stood behind her when he got in the ring, then moved beside her and took her hand.
The lights came up, the ThunderDome crowd were replaced by the RETRIBUTION logo, and they arrived, complete with their leader, and with Reckoning (Mia Yim). They surrounded Bliss and The Fiend then the lights went down. Ali ordered them to attack, but Bliss and The Fiend were gone.
RETRIBUTION weren’t alone for long. The Hurt Business arrived and the ensuing brawl took us into the ads.
When we came back, after the brief diversion of a Matt Riddle introduction video, RETRIBUTION vs The Hurt Business got started. I still can’t believe they called them T-BAR, SLAPJACK and MACE. The match was decent, but The Fiend’s face appeared on the big screen just as went into the next ad break. By the time we returned, The Fiend’s face had gone and the action was back in the ring. T-BAR tapped out to Bobby Lashley’s Hurt Lock to end the match, which felt like a weird result. Then the lights went out and came back on red. The Fiend singlehandedly destroyed RETRIBUTION. T-BAR saved Mustafa Ali from a Sister Abigail, but there was no one to save him from the same fate. The Hurt Business just stood and watched.
To finish the segment, Alexa Bliss appeared on the big screen and said, ‘Let Me In’ in The Fiend’s voice.
♦ AJ Styles has a bodyguard. He had Jordan Omogbehin with him when he arrived for AJ Styles vs Matt Riddle, and the dude is HUGE. Before Riddle came out, Styles informed us he’s the new leader of the RAW locker room. When Riddle did arrive, Omogbehin wouldn’t leave the ring or let the ref disqualify Styles. He grabbed the ref’s hand when he tried to five count for a DQ. The ref pleaded with him and he eventually left. Omogbehin saved Styles from what looked like it was going to be a knee to the face from the apron, simply by stepping in the way. Riddle looked terrified, which is fair enough. The match was good, but it was the threat of Omogbehin that signalled the beginning of the end. Riddle was on the outside and Omogbehin walked over and made a fist. Riddle leapt back into the ring, got kicked in the head, and took the Styles Clash that ended the match.
♦ Charly Caruso interviewed Drew McIntyre. She asked him whether the fact Randy Orton has been in the cell before and he hadn’t, made a difference. In response, he took the mic and directed his responses to Orton. He said that since he met Orton, he’s been the most evil, sadistic, selfish and entitled person he’s ever known. He should have been done with him after Clash of Champions, but Orton took out the legends because he knew how he would react. Drew McIntyre has a temper problem, and he accepted the challenge for Hell in a Cell without thinking. For any other superstar, the fact it’s his first Hell in a Cell match would give Randy Orton a massive advantage, but he’s not any other superstar. He has defended the title with the honour and respect it deserves. This Sunday there will be no honour and no respect because Orton doesn’t deserve it. He finished by threatening to show up for Orton’s interview later.
♦ Asuka (C) vs Lana – RAW Women’s Championship match – was longer than I expected it to be. There was no way Lana was ready for Asuka, but she has improved considerably. She even got a few moments of offence and a token pin attempt. Then she got tapped out in an Asuka Lock.
Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler appeared after the match. Jax hit Asuka from behind. Baszler stopped Lana running away while Jax cleared the announce desk. Then Lana took her fifth trip through the announce desk. Back in the ring, Baszler grabbed Asuka, but Asuka kicked her in the stomach, hip attacked her out of the ring, and escaped before they could get back to her.
After the break, Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler argued a bit about how best to say they are a dominant team. They managed to agree that they are a dominant team though. Nia Jax issued a challenge. Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke answered it. So did Lacey Evans and Peyton Royce – Seriously? They split the IIconics then teamed Royce with someone else? – and finally, The Riott Squad joined them for their final RAW appearance.
Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler vs Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke vs Lacey Evans & Peyton Royce vs The Riott Squad broke down fairly rapidly. Heading into the break everyone was on the outside. Peyton Royce, Lacey Evans, Ruby Riott, and Liv Morgan got there via dives.
There was a lot of arguing and bad-tempered tags. Rose and Brooke nearly got the pin on Jax, but Baszler got there just in time. The Riott Squad almost got the pin on Evans, but Baszler dragged Riott out of the ring, put her to sleep with the Kirifuda Clutch, then rolled her back in so Jax could tag in. Nia Jax delivered a Samoan drop to Lacey Evans and got the pin.
♦ Elias had a full band and backing singers out for his concert. His album ‘Universal Truth’ is out next week. It really is a new era. He got to finish his songs, but Jeff Hardy was the man who took the guitar at the end. Elias didn’t notice until Hardy played it a bit then swung it at him.
A little later, Elias challenged Jeff Hardy to a match at Hell in a Cell.
♦ The Miz is unhappy that Mandy Rose isn’t grateful to him. Tucker is not happy that Miz and Morrison are trying to rule Otis’ life. He said he’s going to find a partner and challenged them to a match. They accepted but laughed at the idea he’d be able to find a partner.
♦ Xavier Woods is not coping very well with the separation from Big E. Sheamus made sure to make fun of both of them when he came out for Kofi Kingston vs Sheamus. Kingston assured him that the fact they were on different brands didn’t mean the New Day was over, just that they were spreading the seeds of positivity across both brands. Big E was in the ThunderDome crowd. Kingston was struggling when Woods told him E was watching and that was the start of his comeback. Sadly, the comeback didn’t take. The match was far from over, which is fine because it was great. Kingston had to struggle to the ropes in a cloverleaf, kick out of an Alabama Slam and half a dozen other things, but he kept getting up and coming back. Eventually, it paid off and the Trouble in Paradise got him the win.
♦ Mustafa Ali said his power isn’t strength in numbers, it’s causing chaos. All he needs is a laptop, a cell phone, a secret, and he can make anyone’s world come crashing down. He’s learned to embrace that power. While he was sat at home the past year because ‘this corrupt company couldn’t figure out how to make a buck off of someone named Mustafa Ali’ he wasn’t just watching the show he was watching each and every one of the ‘spineless’ superstars as they plotted and backstabbed each other to get ahead. And he learned all of their secrets. He was the mysterious hacker on SmackDown, and he did it he wanted the entire world to know that this sick place is infecting everyone with greed and corruption. Because of that, good talented individuals are being abandoned and forgotten. Their dreams are left to die. But he found them and united them and promised them that their truth will be heard. So, if anyone tries to stop the truth from being heard they will shut them down.
♦ Titus O’Neil wants to join The Hurt Business and take it ‘Worldwide’. They let him think he might have a chance, then beat him up.
♦ The Miz & John Morrison vs Tucker & ‘El Gran Gordo’ (Otis in a bright pink mask and gear) was preceded by LOT of talking, mostly by Miz. It was all about why Otis isn’t champion material and people only like him because he’s the underdog, which is code for feeling sorry for him. He’s trying to take the contract to bring prestige back to it… Miz is awesome on the mic. It was brutal. Splitting Heavy Machinery has to be temporary. Neither of them are likely to be huge single’s stars, but they’re a good and entertaining team. Fun match, but not a long one. R-Truth ran through the ring mid-match. The chasing pack kept to ringside and Lucha House Party stopped to acknowledge Gordo. El Gran Gordo got the pin on Miz, as he should.
Mandy Rose brought El Gran Gordo a ham while he and Tucker were celebrating with New Day.
♦ The Firefly Fun House is back on RAW and at least as weird as ever, maybe weirder. Bray Wyatt is sad to leave his friends on SmackDown, but he can’t wait to make new friends on RAW. He was overlaid with The Fiend’s attack on RETRIBUTION and stare-down with The Hurt Business. Alexa Bliss turned up. She has a smiley side too. I’m not going to try to explain. Just watch.
♦ Braun Strowman vs Keith Lee was short and a little disappointing. Strowman was rubbing his ribs on the way to the ring, still feeling his match against Roman Reigns on SmackDown. This was their first official match because the one two weeks ago was an exhibition match as Strowman wasn’t on the roster then. It finished after only a few minutes when Strowman felled Lee with a low-blow headbutt, then kicked him in the face and pinned him.
Keith Lee kicked Strowman in the nuts when he got up and yelled at him. This one isn’t over.
♦ Randy Orton’s ‘Address from Hell’ closed the show. They lowered the cell just so he could do it. Orton locked himself in, or locked McIntyre out. He said he wanted to come out and reflect and remember. Ever since he’s been with WWE, he’s heard that anyone who competes in the cell leaves a small part of themselves behind. He’s had seven matches and he’s never left anything behind. If anything, he’s just understood himself better each and every time, what he’s truly capable of. This Sunday he faces Drew McIntyre, and it will be his eighth time in the cell, but as he sits there he remembers. He recited his Hell in a Cell wins and said despite Drew McIntyre saying he’d never earned a damned thing in his life, he remembers standing and looking the Dead Man in the eyes and earning his respect.
He was talking about legends when McIntyre arrived. Orton was smug until he told McIntyre to come and get him and McIntyre produced bolt cutters and cut the chain. Orton was in the ring with a chair. McIntyre slammed the cage door behind him… and that was the end of the show.
If the season premiere is anything to go by, the new look RAW might actually be fun for a while. Lots of potentially interesting stuff going on, we’ll just have to see what Hell in a Cell throws at us.