Kofi Kingston challenges Seth Rollins to a Winner Take All Match
If there was anything to be learned from WrestleMania, it’s that if you place a mountain in front of Kofi Kingston, he will eventually find a way to climb it. This time, the new WWE Champion sought out a new summit on his own, crashing the #RawAfterMania to challenge freshly-crowned Universal Champion Seth Rollins to a Winner Take All Match.
Kofi’s presence came as a surprise to The Beastslayer, though perhaps it shouldn’t have: Rollins has made much of his desire to be a fighting Universal Champion, and as Kofi mentioned, the main event of WrestleMania was certainly an inspiring moment. So, as far as he was concerned, it was the perfect time and place to go title for title. Rollins agreed, and the match was, apparently, on. The bad news, of course, is that one of these inspiring WrestleMania moments might end up with a very short shelf life. But a blaze of glory is its own form of history, too.
The Revival put Hawkins & Ryder’s new win streak to the test
Curt Hawkins finally won a match at WrestleMania Kickoff and the Raw Tag Team Titles, too, much to the chagrin of The Revival. But was Hawkins & Zack Ryder’s win a fluke or a harbinger of things to come? All indications point to the latter, as the new champions successfully defended their titles against Dash & Dawson in a rematch, thanks in large part to a repeat of the play-possum strategy that snapped Hawkins’ infamous streak in the first place.
The Prince of Queens’ initial attempt to feign an injury – a tweaked hammy, this time – nearly landed him a roll-up victory, but a later canny bit of strategy earned him the win when he tagged in on Ryder moments before the “Top Guys” pummeled The Ultimate Broski with the Shatter Machine. Hawkins made himself scarce until Scott Dawson went to cover the downed Ryder, then he struck, tossing Dash Wilder from the ring and rolling up Dawson to earn the pinfall. Misdirection and subterfuge is a strategy that can only work so many times, as The Revival are starting to find out. But for Curt Hawkins, at least for now, it’s a winning one.
Lars Sullivan makes his Raw debut by destroying Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle got a second chance at a fond farwell on Raw, and for the second night in a row, The Olympic Hero’s exit from WWE ended in disaster. While the WWE Hall of Famer did manage to turn the tables on Baron Corbin by dropping his cocky conqueror with an Angle Slam, his victory lap was interrupted by the appearance of Lars Sullivan, the long-awaited colossus from NXT who immediately made a statement at the Olympian’s expense, flattening him with the Freak Accident and a top-rope headbutt. No one would have begrudged Angle a mulligan on his exit from WWE, but clearly, with Lars Sullivan in the picture, fairytale endings will be hard to come by.
Bayley answers Alexa Bliss’ open challenge on Raw
As fun as it’s been to see Alexa Bliss blaze a trail on the talk show circuit, The Goddess has been conspicuous by her absence as an in-ring competitor these last few months. As it turns out, she hasn’t lost a step between the ropes – or, on the keyboard, as The Goddess used social media to prod The Boss n Hug Connection to send out one or both members of their team to the ring for her return match.
The unlucky volunteer was Bayley, and despite her recent success, The Huggable One found The Goddess to be as obstinate an opponent as ever. Bliss was so hard to put away that Bayley got uncommonly aggressive, executing a sunset flip powerbomb that bounced Bliss’ head off the turnbuckle like a basketball and may have spelled the end for Alexa had she not grabbed the rope during the pinfall attempt. The five-time Women’s Champion still had one ace in the hole: A wicked DDT for a sudden 1-2-3 that signalled her return to the WWE Universe and let The Boss n Hug Connection know that there is a long gap between blocking someone on Twitter and getting them to shut up.
Lacey Evans makes her move against Becky Lynch
Even by the standards of champions, Becky Lynch has it pretty good these days.
She has a historic main event win at WrestleMania, two titles on her shoulders, a catchy theme song and even a new rival. The Man had just finished her victory lap (complete with an open offer of a rematch to Ronda Rousey) when she ran afoul of Lacey Evans, who has made a show of strutting up and down the entrance ramp in recent weeks. This time, however, The Lady of WWE made her move, blasting Lynch in the jaw with the Woman’s Right. The fist briefly staggering the champion, but wasn’t enough to drop her, instead instigating a brawl up the ramp that ended with Lynch getting the upper hand by ensnaring Evans in the Dis-arm-her. And for all The Irish Lass Kicker’s accomplishments over the last few days, she may have inspired Evans to follow one very specific lesson of her main-event journey: To be The Man, you have to beat The Man.
Roode & Gable debut new attitude on Raw
Bobby Roode & Chad Gable have played it pretty straight-and-narrow in the ring over the last several months, but the well of success has recently run dry, and as far as they’re concerned, the good-guy shtick has all but run its course. Now, the former Raw Tag Team Champions have thrown out the rulebook, and along with it, any pretence of decency and sportsmanship.
Not even a loss to Aleister Black & Ricochet could dim the impact of the newly-refocused tandem; Roode & Gable looked as great in defeat as they ever did in victory. The One and Only barely put the match away after connecting with a leaping, one-legged Codebreaker to Gable, but Roode & Gable immediately stomped out the high-flier following the match looking none the worse for wear. As well they shouldn’t. The night seemingly wasn’t about winning or losing. It was about a statement. Consider it made.
Lashley leaves Ambrose in a heap in Lunatic Fringe’s final WWE match
Dean Ambrose’s tenure in WWE ended not with a match, but a fight, as Bobby Lashley decided he’d rather make lewd remarks about Renee Young than have a legitimate match against the former WWE Champion.
He underestimated his man, of course, as a nothing-to-lose Ambrose immediately threw hands against The All Mighty and spiked him atop the ramp with Dirty Deeds. Thanks to a distraction by Lio Rush, however, Lashley made it to his feet and countered with a Spear to Ambrose and a one-armed spinebuster that drove him through the commentary table. His business concluded, Lashley made his exit while Renee and WWE officials tended to Ambrose.
So Lashley sets out for further vindication after a less-than-ideal WrestleMania, while Ambrose goes out on his proverbial shield. The Grand Slam Champion was a lunatic who ran the asylum and went out in a heap of limbs and shattered pieces of table. It couldn’t have ended any other way.
Returning Sami Zayn to WWE Universe: “See you in hell”
Sami Zayn is back! But he’s a little different this time. The changes were apparent at first: This wasn’t the skanking Sami Zayn of NXT lore, or even the snarky Sami Zayn of just a year ago. This was a slightly quirkier Sami Zayn, with a shaved head, a loose, irreverent attitude and a few inexplicable dance moves. He also very nearly had the Intercontinental Championship after Finn Balor answered his oddly deferential open challenge (“My schedule’s wide open!”) and struggled to come up with an answer for the former NXT Champion.
But after The Extraordinary Man narrowly retained his championship, the full extent of Zayn’s transformation over the past nine months or so became apparent. Sami didn’t just shave his head and change his gear; he underwent a top-to-bottom enlightenment during his time on the shelf and formed some less-than-savory opinions about the WWE Universe. Stating that the audience is not the “voice of reason” they fancy themselves, Sami lobbed off insult after insult at the Barclays faithful and their inherent, unchecked “ugliness” before declaring he would carry a new mission statement upon his return: To “come out here week after week and hold each and every one of you accountable”. As if to drive the point home, Zayn concluded his return with a biting sign-off: “See you in hell.”
The Undertaker confronts Elias on Raw
Even the most strident of Elias doubters has to feel for him after two years of near-constant interruptions, but he objectively asked for this one: Having set aside some time to perform the rock opera that The Dr. of Thuganomics clowned at WrestleMania, The Living Truth ominously warned (during an oddly impressive freestyle, no less) that the next person who interrupted him would be a “dead man” – and just such a man answered the call.
As if summoned by The Living Truth’s ill-advised trash talk, The Undertaker emerged from whatever hereafter he’s been lurking in to step to the guitarist. Elias didn’t back down from The Deadman, though he might have been better off getting out while the getting was good: He was met with a swift boot to the face when he attempted to charge The Last Outlaw, and a chokeslam-Tombstone combo spelled the end of this performance. Elias certainly doesn’t lack for boldness, creativity, or skill, but he might do better to pick his battles – and his words more carefully.
Rollins & Kingston join forces to take down The Bar in reconfigured main event
The main event of Raw between Seth Rollins and Kofi Kingston was scheduled to be Winner Take All. And the two winners of WrestleMania did take all, though not in the way they expected: The Bar crashed the match (technically handing Kofi a disqualification win) in what was either some kind of pre-Superstar Shake-up power play or just an attempt to refocus the conversation on themselves. If it was the latter, they succeeded: Both the Universal and WWE Champion turned their gazes toward Cesaro & Sheamus, instantly reconfiguring the main event into a bout between the two champions and one of SmackDown LIVE’s deadliest tandems.
The new titleholders stepped up accordingly. The Bar – who came inches from winning the SmackDown Tag Team Titles at WrestleMania – held an early advantage as an established team, but the WWE and Universal Champions had too much momentum to be denied. Once Sheamus was dispatched on the outside, Cesaro was ripe pickings for a one-two combo of Trouble in Paradise and the Stomp.
The final moments of Raw were markedly more civil than the start of the show had been – Rollins & Kofi bumped fists and posed with their titles – but somewhat open-ended all the same: With next week’s Superstar Shake-up looming in the distance, the fate of both champions is somewhat unclear.
But with due respect to a game Cesaro & Sheamus, whatever standard is set at their ultimate destination might have to be adjusted: There’s no denying who sets the bar.