WWE fans have been trained to expect the unexpected when it comes to the annual episode of Raw after WrestleMania. Yet for the second straight year, Monday night turned out to be a letdown. For as hot as this year’s Raw initially was over the first two hours, just 24 hours removed from Sunday’s WrestleMania 35 card, the main event of Monday’s show from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, provided the hangover to remind you the magic of WWE annual showcase failed to carry into the third hour.
But despite an almost unforgivable end to the broadcast, there was plenty to like on this show from the beginning of what could be an electric women’s title feud to the surprise return of a legend and the debut of an NXT monster. Let’s take a closer look at the good, bad and ugly from Raw after Mania.
Check out our audio analysis of WrestleMania 35 from the State of Combat with Brian Campbell podcast below. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you get podcasts.
WWE Raw results, grades
A celebration and epic challenge: Seth Rollins opened Raw with the universal championship on his shoulder and corrected the crowds chants of “you deserve it” by saying “we deserve it.” He excused his dirty actions of hitting Brock Lesnar low the night before by saying Lesnar would’ve done the same to him. He also proclaimed his wish to be a fighting champion everyone can be proud of. Out came The New Day. After announcing the Superstar Shakeup wouldn’t start until next week, new WWE champion Kofi Kingston challenged Rollins to a “winner take all” match later tonight. “No Shield, no New Day,” Kingston said, “just you and me, one-on-one, title-for-title.” Rollins accepted and the crowd exploded.Grade: A-
Raw Tag Team Championship— Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder (c) def. The Revival via pinfall to retain the titles:The unlikely champions scored a sneaky victory to keep their reign alive just 24 hours after pulling the upset at WrestleMania. The fact that this automatic title rematch was supposed to be the kind the McMahon family announced last fall was outdated wasn’t addressed on commentary. The match was quickly paced and featured a number of late near falls to pop the crowd. The Revival hit a Shatter Machine late on Ryder, but Hawkins had secretly tagged himself in seconds earlier and ran in to roll up Scott Dawson from behind for the pin.Grade: B
Former NXT star makes smashing debut: Baron Corbin entered the ring to boos and “shut the f– up” chants as he bragged about retiring Kurt Angle. Out came the former Olympic gold medalist to tell Corbin he was the better man last night. He also extended his left hand for a shake and wished him luck. “Bad luck,” Angle added, before hitting Corbin with an Angle Slam and applying his ankle lock. After Corbin escaped, Lars Sullivan’s music hit. The hulking “Freak” stared down Angle before hitting him with a one-arm slam and landing a flying head butt halfway across the ring from the top rope.Grade: B-
Alexa Bliss def. Bayley via pinfall:After a lengthy break from televised competition amid rumors of a lingering injury, Bliss made her in-ring return just one night after hosting WrestleMania. The match was short but physical with Bliss having the back of her head slammed into the second turnbuckle after Bayley hit a sunset flip slam. After Bliss got her leg onto the rope to break the subsequent pin attempt, she hit a DDT out of nowhere for the 1-2-3.Grade: C+
Lacey Evans gets Becky Lynch’s attention:Lynch entered the ring holding both titles as a hot crowd greeted her with a chant of “Becky Two Belts” and loud singing of her theme song. Lynch mentioned she had worked at a bar nine years ago not far form the Barclays Center. She also cut promos on Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair. Out came Lacey Evans who, after feigning she was walking away, turned back to deliver a stiff Women’s Right to Lynch’s face. Lynch chased her down on the ramp to start a stiff brawl of believable strikes. The action spilled onto the stage as Evans, who fought in a dress with heels, broke free from the Dis-Arm-Her just as a group of referees swooped in to break them apart. Talk about an amazing introduction after weeks of cryptic and increasingly annoying run-ins.Grade: A+
Ricochet & Aleister Black def. Bobby Roode & Chad Gable via pinfall:Tremendous pace and work rate was shown in this match, primarily between Ricochet and Gable. Ricochet hit an insane moonsault off the second turnbuckle outside after running up the ring post from the floor. A series of dramatic near falls late kept the intensity building, including Black diving in to barely break up a pin after Ricochet was hit with a neckbreaker/moonsault combo. Ricochet came right back to hit a codebreaker on Gable to get the pin. After the match, Roode briefly attacked Ricochet in a tease that a feud between teams is just beginning with Roode & Gable becoming a full heel team.Grade: B
Bobby Lashley lays out Dean Ambrose in final WWE appearance:Ambrose didn’t quite leave the territory on his back, which is often customary in the pro wrestling business. He did go through a table and finish on his stomach, however, during his last Raw match, which never officially got started. Lashley grabbed the mic before the match and told Ambrose he would take care of his wife, Renee Young, after he leaves WWE. Ambrose instantly attacked to spark a brawl that continued onto the stage. Lashley bounced back from a DDT to hit a spear before slamming Ambrose through the announce table. The crowd changed “thank you Ambrose” as Young and a pair of referees attended to him.Grade: B-
Intercontinental Championship— Finn Balor (c) def.f Sami Zayn via pinfall to retain the title:Zayn’s Raw return saw him offer an open challenge that was answered by Balor (and quickly made a title bout for unexplained reasons). The lengthy, two-segment bout came to a close after Zayn missed a Heluva kick and Balor hit a Coup de Grace for the 1-2-3. After the bout, Zayn feigned a babyface promo about the crowd missing him and came back with one heck of a heel burn on the crowd. “It generally seems like you missed me,” Zayn said. “I can honestly say from the bottom of my heart, I honestly did not miss any of this or any one of you.” Zayn called WWE a “super toxic environment” because of the ugliness of the crowd and the satisfaction they get for being critics. He vowed to hold the crowd accountable every week “because nobody else will.” He closed with, “see you in hell.” Incredible delivery.Grade: A-
Dana Brooke is ready to step up:In a slow and plodding promo, Brooke twice congratulated Lynch on being the Raw and SmackDown women’s champion — at the beginning and end of her backstage segment. In between, she let Lynch know that she was in line on the list of contenders for her titles.
The Undertaker returns:After cutting a promo on John Cena for Sunday night’s attack and sharing his own rap bars about the topic, Elias closed by saying, “Mark my words, the next one to interrupt me is a dead man.” Out came The Undertaker, who appeared to be in his best shape in years despite a noticeably deeper receding hairline. Elias slowly tiptoed toward the ropes twice before attacking and running into a big boot. Taker followed up with a chokeslam and a tombstone piledriver before a mock pin counted by the adoring fans. Once again, WWE used the once red-hot Elias to job out to a legend in a non-match.Grade: C-
Winner Take All— Kofi Kingston (c) def. Seth Rollins (c) via disqualification:What began as a “winner take all” match with good chemistry ended with a typical Raw trope as The Bar, who were completely disconnected to the storyline of either wrestler winning the other’s respective title on Sunday, ran in to attack Kingston (WWE champion) and force the end of the match. After a brief brawl ensued, Rollins (universal champion) challenged Sheamus & Cesaro to a tag team match and predictably enlisted Kingston as his teammate.
Seth Rollins & Kofi Kingston def. The Bar via pinfall:Did anyone remotely believe Raw was going to end with a two-belt champion? No. An interference of some kind was all but guaranteed. But instead of using this time to debut a fresh act from NXT like the Undisputed Era or have someone whose actions would’ve been justified to some degree within the story (think Daniel Bryan and Rowan) run in to break up the match. Instead, we got The Bar and we got a meaningless tag team match to close the show. The crowd rightfully hated it and chanted everything from “bullshit” to “A-E-W” and “CM Punk.” Kingston hit Trouble in Paradise on Cesaro and Rollins followed up with a stomp for the pin as both champions shared a fist bump after the match and hoisted their title. This one didn’t have to be perfect to be good. But choosing to go with the kind of Raw ending that would’ve been expected any other Monday of the year but the Raw After Mania was an insult to the expectations this show has annually created.Grade: F
WWE Raw highlights
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