With Roman Reigns out of commission after Strowman's savage attack of a week ago, the boastful giant opened Raw only to get checked by new general manager Kurt Angle. While this opening salvo left a little bit to be desired, Strowman's promise of sowing chaos and making Angle pay in the same fashion as previous GM Mick Foley paid off throughout the night.
And it ended with Strowman's second iconic moment in as many weeks -- a deadlift superplex on the Big Show -- which caused just the third complete ring collapse spot in WWE history Monday night.
The coming two weeks will go on to tell if this is just another mirage, with Strowman built up again as just another tool for a banged up Reigns to overcome the odds yet again, in a spot where nobody else could get the job done.
But regardless of the ultimate outcome, Monday was a night to celebrate that, under the right circumstances and with a proper effort, the WWE has been able to produce a homegrown monstrous talent that was born through patience and creative storytelling.
For the second straight week, an "Attitude Era"-esque chaos rained down on the rest of the Raw roster as Strowman tore through the backstage area attacking unsuspecting superstars. As Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson walked to the ring (and "The Drifter" Elias Samson made the first of two random appearances of the night), it appeared to be a straightforward pre-commercial walk to the ring cut as The Golden Truth made a rare appearance and joyfully sauntered toward their entrance. Strowman cut them off though, tossing each man around like a rag doll and throwing Goldust through a chain-link fence.
But he was just getting started. It took Strowman dragging Kalisto by the arm and dropping him into a dumpster to draw the Big Show out of the woodwork and set the stage for the fireworks that followed. In all, an ability to interweave many characters and storylines with one another without having to dip back into the done-to-death "roster vs. McMahons' authority" well was as refreshing as anything else that went on.
From the foreshadowing of having referee John Cone confront Strowman with a message from Angle, only for him to take the nastiest bump of all during the ring collapse, to the involvement of upward of a dozen superstars who otherwise wouldn't have appeared, Strowman was the glue that held together a show that was otherwise shaky at times. As the glow of post-WrestleMania and the "Superstar Shakeup" fades, Raw is going to need a lot more creative ideas to keep energy levels up heading into the summer.
We learned last week, and confirmed it again Monday night, that when all else fails, Strowman is a pillar to be leaned on in times of trouble.
Alexa Bliss makes immediate splash on Raw
The Raw women's division had some great matches and rivalries after the brand split, but it was also clearly in need of some fresh blood after WrestleMania. The "Superstar Shakeup" certainly provided just that, and Alexa Bliss helped prove in just her second night how valuable a resource she will be moving forward on Monday nights.
Everything about the Fatal 4-Way match to crown a new No. 1 contender for Bayley's Raw women's champion was made to feel like a big deal. Each of the four competitors got a comprehensive hype package in the lead-up to the match, and the stakes felt high. It felt as though Bliss, Sasha Banks or Nia Jax each could have won, based upon their histories and chemistry with Bayley, and that sense of not knowing really helped fuel the contest in its late stages.
Everyone had their moment to shine, including an awesome-looking spinning sideways tope suicida by Banks. Jax once again showed some real ring presence, and leaned on both her size and skill set to impress, literally piling up bodies on multiple occasions. While playing up the size differences in this match was fun, especially with the disparity compared to Bliss, it's worth noting that only Jax had her weight announced during pre-match introductions; if the WWE truly wants a level playing field with the men, it has to be an across-the-board practice (even if they have to fudge certain numbers, like they've done in the past with wrestler heights).
The finish of this match, which saw multiple false finishes, including a Banks Statement on Bliss, appropriately ended with Bliss snaking the victory from Jax to become the No. 1 contender. Over the course of just one match, Bliss made enough of an impression to make future rivalries with Bayley, Banks and Jax all seem like enticing propositions -- and that's plenty enough of a reason to give her an early shot at the title.
Hits and misses
Regardless of how you feel about them revisiting a rivalry that carried on for quite a while, there's no doubting the verbal chemistry between Dean Ambrose and The Miz. Monday's edition of Miz TV allowed the titular star to run down Ambrose for the way he looks and acts, and for Ambrose to retort in much the same way. With the Universal championship out of the question, at least for the next few months, The Miz taking back the Intercontinental championship and freeing Ambrose from the burden of holding a title that the WWE seemingly don't know what to do with seems a solid solution.
Samoa Joe got his biggest win since getting the call-up to Raw, against Chris Jericho via submission, with a Coquina Clutch. It was the right kind of jolt heading into his Payback match with Seth Rollins, as the pair revisits what should have been a great pre-WrestleMania rivalry. The two former NXT champions should have one of the better matches on what's already shaping up to be a stacked pay-per-view card.
It was good to see Finn Balor back to answer Curt Hawkins' call, amidst rumors of a potential concussion last week against Jinder Mahal. Balor did seemingly get a little dinged up again, but as long as it's something a couple of Band-Aids can fix rather than top-level surgeons, Balor fans will all sleep a little sounder. Balor's next likely opponent, Bray Wyatt, spent his week focusing his energy in a pre-taped promo ahead of his "House of Horrors" match against Randy Orton for the WWE championship. The constant cuts and spooky imagery were fun, but it felt like it leaned a bit too heavily on familiar "greatest hits" from Wyatt, and didn't land flush.
Getting a Cesaro vs. Jeff Hardy ahead of their Raw tag team title match was a welcome surprise. Hardy is finally showing some sign of his age, and all the miles on his body, but that didn't take enough away from the match to make it feel less special.
The cruiserweights division brought it again this week, with a TJ Perkins vs. Jack Gallagher match. But even as each character is given more leeway to develop, and the matches get tighter, it appears that gimmicks like Gallagher's umbrella "William III" is more over than a lot of the acts going on. That's disappointing.
Gallows & Anderson insisting on "a couple of nerds" to replace Golden Truth as their opponents led to a brief moment of hope that NXT's next tag team in the wings, #DIY, could've been called up to fill the spot left behind by The Revival (after Dash Wilder had his jaw fractured over the weekend, putting the team on the shelf for about eight weeks). But alas, it was Enzo & Cass.
I don't know what the Alicia Fox-Dana Brooke-Emma backstage segment was supposed to be, but if it gets Fox back into active competition or leads to Emma bringing in backup to take on Brooke (in the form of NXT's Billie Kay and Peyton Royce), I'll take a few more of these awkward moments with ease.
Quote of the night
- WWE (@WWE) April 18, 2017
"Roman Reigns is garbage ... and now you are too!" -- Strowman, expressing a sentiment that likely connected on a deep level for a certain portion of the audience, before unceremoniously dropping Kalisto into a dumpster.
Move of the night
On a night when the ring collapsed, I think it's only appropriate to call the whole thing off. How can you really beat that?