We open Monday night Raw with a small memorial for Mr. Fuji, who passed away this week.
Moving forward we have a video package explaining the current storyline with the Universal Championship. After Finn Balor won at SummerSlam, he had to relinquish the title due to his shoulder injury, so now Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Big Cass are going to be fighting it out in a fatal fourway to find out which of them is going to become the new Universal champ.
The four contenders are in the ring with Corey Graves to talk about the upcoming match. Seth tries to brag about injuring Finn Balor, but we don’t want to hear about that, so we move on. Kevin is so gleeful about the match, in this weird sarcastic way, but when Graves asks him to be serious, things start to get ugly. Kevin says that he always thought Cass was a really tall puppet with a string on his back that Enzo would pull, and Cass asks if Kevin thought of that himself or if Jericho wrote it for him.
Cass goes on to say that he knows he’s new but he’s going to make an impact anyway, and then very suggestively tells Seth that “size does matter”. Thank you for your contribution, Cass. I still don’t know why you’re in this match.
Seth back on the mic, comparing Kevin Owens and Jericho to Bert and Ernie, and telling Cass that even Enzo is betting against him tonight. However, when he goes to address Roman Reigns, Roman just looks back at him, then gets to his feet and slugs Kevin Owens in the face. This turns into a fourway brawl, ending with Seth eating a Superman Punch and Roman standing tall in the ring.
MATCH: Neville vs. Chris Jericho
I have been duly instructed to drink in the gift of Jericho, so I’m preparing myself, but I still kind of want to fight him over what he said at the WWE Live show in Sydney. Neville makes his way to the ring, and Jericho is backstage with Tom Phillips talking about his good friend Kevin Owens and how he’s going to beat up Neville tonight just as surely as Kevin is going to walk out of that fourway Universal champion.
- Neville is immediately in control of the match with strikes and a crossbody, then catching Jericho’s dropkick and catapulting him out of the ring.
- Jericho takes a moment to yell at the crowd, until Neville gets bored and follows him out of the ring to tap him on the shoulder and then a kick to the midsection, throwing Jericho back into the ring.
- Another crossbody from Neville into a lateral press for a two count, and Jericho crawls across the ring on his knees to cuddle the referee around the waist. The commentary team does not appear to know what to make of this, any more than I do.
- Jericho seems to be in control following the commercial break, but Neville regains the upper hand, countering an aerial move from Jericho with a big boot, into a standing shooting star press for a two-count.
- Asai moonsault from Neville to Jericho, then both men are back in the ring. A springboard missile dropkick from Neville gets another two-count.
- Running bulldog from Jericho is countered, with Neville throwing Jericho into the corner. I must transcribe this conversation from commentary – “That can’t be good for Fozzy!” “How dare you joke about Jericho’s band at a time like this?”
- Codebreaker is blocked, and Neville hits a superkick, taking Jericho to the mat, then Neville is up on the turnbuckle for the Red Arrow. Jericho rolls out of the way, then locks in the Walls of Jericho with his knee on Neville’s face. Neville taps, and Jericho wins.
Backstage, Bayley is walking through the hallways when she runs into the New Day. Xavier is so excited to see Bayley, and then the New Day are on their feet chanting “Hey, we want some Bayley!” and Bayley is gyrating talking about the tag-team championships. Dana comes in to be a buzzkill and talk about how unprofessional Bayley is, and so a challenge is laid down for what I think is a mixed tag match? It’s very distracting though because the New Day and Bayley are just so happy to see each other, and Xavier and Kofi are hoisting Bayley up on their shoulders in excitement. It’s just infectious!
We go straight from that into that KFC commercial with Dolph Ziggler and The Miz. I was starting to think I’d imagined that happening because I still can’t believe that it’s a thing.
MATCH: Nia Jax vs. Hyan
Nia Jax looks amazing as per usual, but I have to say that I’m getting a little tired of these local talent squashes, from both Nia and Braun Strowman. I don’t object to them as such, I’m just really looking forward to seeing something else.
- Surprising no one, Nia is in control the whole match, throwing her opponent around before ending with the fireman’s carry front powerslam.
Nia ends with a big smile, and we’re told she’s put the women’s division on notice. I look forward to seeing her fighting one of them, I really sincerely am.
Anderson and Gallows are cutting a promo about how they’re now in the retirement business. They’ve already done this for the Dudley Boyz, and now it’s the New Day’s turn. Dana comes out in a set of scrubs and a face mask, snapping on a glove with a smile.
We’re back in with a video about Seth Rollins, fighting for the Universal Championship tonight. Basically the general idea is that he’s amazing, and last week he beat Sami Zayn for his shot this week. Seth explains to us that he doesn’t consider “opportunist” an insult.
MATCH: Jinder Mahal vs. Sami Zayn
Mahal is waiting in the ring when Sami’s music hits, and commentary remind us that Sami hurt his ankle in his match against Seth last week. As though to punctuate this, we see Sami shake out his ankle as the bell rings to prepare himself.
- Sami goes straight into an armbar from the collar and elbow tie-up, but Mahal breaks out with an elbow. Spin kick from Sami, and he’s still selling the ankle as he lands.
- Jinder Mahal working Sami’s ankle, but Sami hits an exploder suplex into the corner, followed by a Helluva Kick for a three-count.
Sami celebrates his victory with a big smile, throwing his fists into the air, as we cut away.
Charlotte is on commentary, and we have a brief flashback to Sasha Banks being interviewed by Lita on the preshow; Sasha explains that she still knows that Charlotte is a coward who needs help from daddy Ric Flair or Dana Brooke, and when she’s back from her back injury, she’ll make that known. Charlotte starts to explain that neither Ric nor Dana were there, but is cut off by Big E’s voice, because…
IT’S A NEW DAY, YES IT IS!
MATCH: Kofi Kingston, Big E & Bayley (with Xavier Woods) vs. Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson & Dana Brooke
Bayley is wearing a unicorn horn as she makes her way down to the ring, and stops to give a fan and then Xavier a hug on the entry ramp. Xavier plays Francesca and the crowd doesn’t know whether to chant for the New Day or for Bayley. Another absolutely gold comment from commentary: “[Gallows and Anderson] are philanthropists.” “Do you believe the words coming out of your mouth?” “Says the guy who was excited about the inflatable men.”
- Dana and Bayley start things off in the ring together. We start with some mat wrestling, then Bayley bouncing Dana’s head off the turnbuckle while Charlotte on commentary explains that Dana “might be on a down right now” but “tries her best”, which is why she lost to Bayley last week.
- Big E and Anderson in the ring, then Big E tags in Kofi for some tag-team assault on Anderson, then Big E back in for a belly-to-belly suplex. Dana tries to get involved, distracting the ref, while Gallows gets in with strikes to the back of Big E’s head.
- Kofi back in with a boot drop, and leading the crowd in another New Day Rocks chant before backing Anderson into the corner for the Unicorn Stampede.
- Bayley tags herself in to join the stampede, hitting a dropkick on Anderson in the corner, before Dana comes in for the save. Dana, Gallows and Anderson look furious on the ramp as Bayley and the New Day twerk and gyrate in the ring together.
- When we’re back, Kofi and Gallows are in the ring together, and Gallows drapes Kofi over the top rope and following up with a dropkick.
- Anderson back in, but Kofi manages to get in with a double-stomp, then makes the tag back to Bayley.
- Bayley and Dana go at each other aggressively, but Bayley clearly has the upper hand. Bayley’s pin is disrupted by Karl Anderson pulling Dana out of the ring, and the New Day and the Club fight on the outside, distracting Bayley as she applauds her teammates and letting Dana get a roll-up.
- Bayley kicks out, and picks up Dana for the Bayley-to-Belly suplex, and Bayley gets the pin.
Charlotte in commentary explains a little bitterly that there’s “only so much” that she can do for Dana, as Bayley and the New Day celebrate in the ring.
Cesaro is backstage with Tom Phillips, explaining that he’s not really worried about facing Sheamus tonight, for a few reasons. One, because any day in WWE is a pretty good day. And two, because no one likes Sheamus. Harsh but fair, Cesaro. Harsh, but fair.
It’s a video about Big Cass! Big Cass has always dreamed about making his WWE debut and that happened only a few short months ago, so he’s more than excited about his title opportunity.
MATCH: Cesaro vs. Sheamus, Match 2 in the Best of Seven Series
Sheamus comes out first, and has a bit of a chat with Byron Saxton about he’s more interesting and good-looking than Cesaro. I’m sure your mother told you that many times growing up, Sheamus, but sometimes mothers try to spare our feelings.
- Back and forth early on, but Cesaro able to get the upper hand with a double-stomp on Sheamus’s chest and then throwing Sheamus over the ropes onto the apron.
- Sheamus appears to injure his elbow on the apron, and is really playing it up – screaming at Cesaro to keep his distance because his elbow hurts.
- The referee does not create separation, however, so Cesaro works the elbow hard, then takes Sheamus out of the ring with a dropkick, a clothesline, then a big boot.
- Irish Curse Backbreaker from Sheamus, then an attempt to transition into the Cloverleaf, but Cesaro able to fight out of it.
- Sheamus goes for a pin with his feet on the ropes for leverage; while Sheamus argues with the ref about this, Cesaro comes in with an uppercut and starts an uppercut train.
- Sheamus throws Cesaro into the ringpost, then drags him back into the ring for the Cloverleaf; Cesaro taps out.
That puts Sheamus up 2-0 in the best of seven series!
Video package to memorialize Mr. Fuji. There is little that I can say on this, so I will let this moment speak for itself.
Kevin Owens video package! He dismissed the idea of dreams, comparing them to fantasies, saying that he does what he needs to do in order to get to the top.
MATCH: Braun Strowman vs. Americo
Americo is a tiny masked wrestler, and I think I’ve hit my limit on caring about squashes against local talent.
- Strowman manhandles Americo, throws him around a little, three-count.
Strowman with an intense disrespect, ripping off Americo’s mask and raising it above his head tauntingly before leaving the ring.
Stephanie McMahon is walking through the halls looking serious! She’s demanded that Paul Heyman come out and explain Brock Lesnar’s actions, devastating Randy Orton and laying Shane out with an F5.
When we’re back from commercial, she’s making her way down to the ring. Apparently this is a historic edition of Monday night Raw because we’re not far away from crowning the first Universal Champion. Somewhere, Finn Balor just threw his uninjured arm in the air like, “Fine, Stephanie, guess I’ll just go fuck myself”.
But first, Paul Heyman has to explain Brock Lesnar’s behaviour. He asks Stephanie to indulge him a moment, but she cuts him off, insisting that he get in the ring and apologize, and demands that he stops calling her “Madame McMahon”. Heyman tries to excuse Lesnar’s behaviour by spinning it as Raw vs. SmackDown, which Raw comfortably won, but does concede that Lesnar crossed a line. That’s why he’s paying Lesnar’s fine… in singles.
Stephanie gets in his face, slapping the money out of his hands, and telling him that while Lesnar has some value, Heyman does not, and he’s going to have a hard time explaining to his family why he can’t provide for them anymore since he decided to patronize Stephanie.
After some substantial begging, Heyman implores Stephanie to accept his apology, and the apology on behalf of Brock Lesnar, which she quietly accepts and walks away. Heyman is making faces in the ring and I’m not sure what they’re meant to mean.
Time for Roman Reigns’s video package to round out the set. A montage of power moves from Roman against a variety of opponents, ending with beating Chris Jericho last week. We end on the line “the champion will be the guy”, and that’s just such a dreadful line, I’m sure we could have done better than that.
MATCH: Darren Young (with Bob Backlund) vs. Titus O’Neil
A reminder that last week, Titus and Darren got into it over Bob Backlund, and then both men make their way down to the ring. Commentary speculates that Titus is jealous of Darren’s life coach.
- Darren immediately on the offense, several strikes and then a swinging neckbreaker.
- Titus whips Darren across the ring, and over the top rope, where Darren lands on a photographer. Titus throws the remnants of the camera at the unfortunate photographer, before throwing Darren back into the ring.
- Powerslam from Titus O’Neil, and Darren is looking in very rough shape.
- Darren just manages to kick out of another cover, then reverses the pin, getting Titus’s shoulders down for a successful pin.
Backlund and Darren celebrate in the ring, when Titus comes in to assault Darren some more, hitting him with Clash of the Titus. Titus makes his way out of the ring, while Darren and Bob suffer in the ring.
Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon are backstage. Foley apologizes for not having been there to support her with Paul Heyman, which she brushes off because she can take care of herself. They discuss the idea of banning all friends and tag partners from ringside, because as the first Universal Championship match, they need a clear winner. Poor Finn. This revision is not doing well for him.
Seth comes out to promise Stephanie that he won’t let her down, and they embrace. It’s a lovely moment, really.
MATCH: Roman Reigns vs. Big Cass vs. Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens – Universal Championship Elimination Fatal Fourway
Stephanie and Mick Foley are at ringside to observe the match; Roman, followed by Kevin, then Seth, then Big Cass make their way to the ring. I still don’t know what Big Cass is doing here. I mean, I love Enzo and Cass, don’t get me wrong, but this just confuses me.
- The first thing that happens is that Kevin just slides straight out of the ring. No one goes after him; the other three immediately go after each other.
- Big Cass and Roman looking eye to eye, but then Kevin and Seth come in again from behind to assault the both of them, Seth fighting Big Cass and Kevin fighting Roman.
- As things go on, Big Cass and Roman get into it, both men toppling over the top rope. Seth dives after them, then Kevin comes in, picking up Seth in a fireman’s carry.
- Seth going for a splash on Cass in the corner, but interrupted with a clothesline by Roman. The two former Shield members go back and forth, when Kevin comes in with an attempted interruption and Cass hits a big boot on Roman.
- Big splash from Cass on Seth and Kevin in the same corner, then Kevin thrown over the top rope. Seth with an attempted roll-up, but Cass kicks out and hits Seth with the Empire Elbow.
- Cass eliminated with a splash from Kevin Owens!
- Roman takes down both Seth and Kevin with a powerbomb, but cannot successfully get a pinfall from either of them.
- Roman with corner clotheslines to Seth, then Seth ducks a Superman Punch and sends Roman over the ropes. A second Superman Punch is ducked, and Seth hits a Falcon Arrow, but Roman kicks out.
- Pedigree is countered, then Seth goes to the top rope but jumps into a Superman Punch. However, Seth kicks out of the cover.
- Roman calls for the Spear, but runs into a knee, then an enzuigiri. Kevin back into the mix with a superkick to Seth, then a cannonball to both men.
- A third cannonball attempt meets a Superman Punch, but Kevin kicks out of the cover.
- Another Spear attempt from Roman meets a boot, then a Pop-Up Powerbomb attempt; Roman counters and lays Kevin out with another Superman Punch.
- Powerbomb to Seth, for another nearfall. The crowd is chanting “This is awesome!” and they are not wrong.
- Drive By to Seth, then a Superman Punch to Kevin and a Spear to Seth – but all three men are outside the ring, so Roman has to get them back in the ring!
- Triple H appears as if from nowhere, Pedigrees Roman Reigns, then throws him and Seth in the ring together. Seth gets the pin, eliminating Roman Reigns.
- Triple H throws Kevin back into the ring as well, then motions Seth to his feet. But hold on a moment – Triple H pedigrees Seth!
- Kevin looks up at Triple H in confusion, but wastes little time getting the pin. Kevin Owens is the new Universal Champion!
As Kevin is handed the title, he still looks like he doesn’t know what happened. He and Triple H embrace, before Triple H makes his way out of the ring. Stephanie looks confused, and Mick Foley looks livid. But it’s Kevin Owens holding the title, hoisting it above his head as he stands on the turnbuckle. It’s the era of Kevin Owens!
The crowd breaks out into a chant of “You deserve this!” and I just don’t even know what to say. My heart is still racing from that ending, I don’t know what happened but I think I loved every minute of it.