PITTSBURGH - Bad news first: Raw’s first show of the New Era began without a World Title to call its own, as Dean Ambrose won the Shield Triple Threat at WWE Battleground and took the WWE World Championship with him to SmackDown Live as a result. Good news second: Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon and General Manager Mick Foley came prepared by announcing the creation of a new WWE Universal Championship, hot-shotting Seth Rollins into one of the contention spots, and announcing two Raw Fatal 4-Ways to determine his opponent where the winners of those matches get each other in the main event of Raw; the winner of that match gets Rollins at SummerSlam; the winner of that match becomes WWE Universal Champion.
And, as for the title Raw already has — the WWE Women’s Championship — Foley also decreed that, thanks to her multiple submissions of current champion Charlotte, Sasha Banks would get her long-awaited title opportunity that night. Legit on all counts.
Well that’s one way to make a debut. Acrobatic, athletic and occasionally demonic WWE NXT standout Finn Bálor immediately established himself as a marquee player in Raw’s New Era by powering past Cesaro, Kevin Owens and Rusev to earn a spot in Raw’s main event. The win also gives him an opportunity to head to SummerSlam and face Seth Rollins for the WWE Universal Championship.
Despite Owens making it a point to brutalize Bálor from jump, the Irish-born dynamo hung tough among his heavy-hitting opponents. It looked like KO had the win in pocket after a Pop-up Powerbomb to Bálor, but Cesaro broke up the pinfall and attempted to lock Owens in the Cesaro Swing. Rusev put a stop to that, instigating a brawl between the King of Swing and Super Athlete that Owens broke up. As The Prizefighter began to gain steam, Bálor struck, dropkicking Owens into Rusev, delivering a second dropkick to the stunned Bulgarian Brute, and finally a Coup de Grâce to Rusev to pin him.
Well, that is also one way to make a debut: One of the NXT steals of the draft, Nia Jax came to Raw with a vengeance in her Monday night maiden voyage, obliterating a local competitor named Britt Baker, who may as well have been a Brawlin’ Buddy for all the threat she posed to the domineering Superstar. Give credit to Baker for her heart, but she was simply outmatched here. Jax instantly hoisted her foe into the Tree of Woe for a sequence of punishment. She then dropped a leg on Baker’s prone body … only to release the pin attempt at two for one last burst of offense before ending the match with a second leg drop.
He may be down, but he’s not out yet. Despite suffering the deciding pinfall at WWE Battleground, Roman Reigns is still in the World Title hunt, having won the second of Raw’s Fatal 4-Ways and punching his ticket to the main event against Finn Bálor as a result.
Those left in the dust of The Big Dog’s charge? Sami Zayn, Chris Jericho and Sheamus, all of whom tore each other apart with reckless abandon. The match was, honestly, anyone’s game. At one point, Sheamus Brogue Kicked Reigns, only to find himself Helluva Kicked instantly by Zayn — but it came down to Reigns and Jericho, who landed a Codebreaker and took his sweet time to mock Reigns’ signature war cry in the corner. Jericho’s sass backfired massively, as Reigns jumped clean over him, planted, and struck with a Spear to send himself to the main event.
In the NFL Draft, “Mr. Irrelevant” is a term used to describe the final overall pick of the proceedings, which makes Curtis Axel, as Raw’s final selection, the “Mr. Irrelevant” of the red brand. Unfortunately, despite The Ax Man’s attempt to reach the greatness of fellow Mr. Irrelevants past, Axel’s first outing with the new moniker was waylaid by Neville in his return from injury. Despite taking advantage of some early ring rust on the part of The Man That Gravity Forgot, the highflier overpowered Axel with kicks, flattened him with a German suplex, and ultimately, finished him off with a Red Arrow to begin Axel’s run as “Mr. Irrelevant” with a loss.
The New Day had a rough night against The Wyatt Family at WWE Battleground, but the good news, now that The First Family of Fear was split by the WWE Draft, is that ya boys are free to celebrate their status as the longest-reigning WWE Tag Team Champions of all time. Unfortunately, the celebration lasted about as long as a bowl of Booty-O’s (They make sure you ain’t booty. [Now available for pre-order at FYE. No, really.]) because Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson stopped their initial plan to christen a fan who was literally named Sonny Boy as an honorary member of The New Day. Gallows and Anderson struck from behind and left the champions laying. (Sonny Boy escaped unscathed, but barely.)
The New Era has its first new champion, as Sasha Banks seized her opportunity and submitted Charlotte for the second time in two nights to become the brand-new WWE Women’s Champion. The route Sasha took was equal parts planning and luck. The planning came when The Boss softened Charlotte’s back up with a straitjacket hold early on, and the luck came when Sasha pulled an Eddie Guerrero and made it look like a lurking Dana Brooke hit her with the Women’s Title to get ejected. (Viva la Sasha?)
With Brooke gone, Sasha had to overcome both a rough landing from a suicide dive and a late-game push from Charlotte that included a Natural Selection and a Figure-Eight. Charlotte even managed to escape a first Bank Statement. But after Charlotte snarled that Banks would never beat her, The Boss did just that, trapping her dead in the middle of the ring with a second Bank Statement. Tap. Bell. New champion. Dream fulfilled. Legit.
No Family, no problem. Braun Strowman, the resident monster of The Wyatt Family just 24 hours ago, began his solo career with a grisly dismantling of a local competitor named James Ellsworth, who wanted nothing more than to make a name for himself. Despite Ellsworth’s belief that any man with two hands can pull off the upset, Strowman picked him apart before destroying him with a reverse chokeslam. We know this is Wyatt’s thing, but we’re pretty sure “Run!” still applies.
Hey, The Shining Stars are back! But unfortunately, the hibiscus-huffing ambassadors of Puerto Rico didn’t fare as well as they did in their last Raw appearance, coming up against a fully powered Enzo Amore & Big Cass, fresh off their defeat of The Club at Battleground. Even though The Shining Stars got the better of Enzo in the beginning, The Realest Guys in the Room ultimately continued their hot streak on the back of a rampaging offense by Big Cass. And an appearance by The Golden Truth helped, too, as they had been playing Pokémon Go all night and wandered to the ring for their latest catch. The interruption stopped the Stars cold, and Cass called it a day with a big boot to Primo.
Call it the Summer of Finn: Just hours after making his Raw debut, Finn Bálor is one match away from a heavyweight championship, having defeated Roman Reigns and earned a spot at SummerSlam as Seth Rollins’ opponent for the WWE Universal Championship. Reigns, for what it’s worth, held a sizable advantage over Bálor in the early goings, when he tossed the Irish Superstar about the ring to establish his dominance over the first-round Draft pick.
Bálor’s speed helped him even the playing field, and a double-stomp to Reigns’ knee left The Big Dog lagging right when he needed his strength the most. Reigns held tough against his challenger, but with his mobility limited to one leg, Bálor’s two feet went to work. The Big Dog was peppered with kicks and stomps to every area of his body before he unleashed one last sprint to put his foe down. A Superman Punch and two powerbombs later and Bálor still had life, cutting Reigns’ Spear off with a Sling Blade, running dropkick and Coup de Grâce. And it’s his birthday. You’re up, SmackDown Live.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Finn Bálor defeated Cesaro, Rusev & Kevin Owens in a Fatal 4-Way Match (20:27)
- Nia Jax defeated Britt Baker (1:20)
- Roman Reigns defeated Sheamus, Chris Jericho and Sami Zayn in a Fatal 4-Way Match (17:14)
- Neville defeated Curtis Axel (3:43)
- Sasha Banks defeated Charlotte (c) (w/ Dana Brooke) by submission to win the WWE Women's Championship (16:52)
- Braun Strowman defeated James Ellsworth (1:09)
- Big Cass & Enzo Amore defeated The Shining Stars (Primo & Epico) (1:54)
- Finn Bálor defeated Roman Reigns to be the #1 Contender for the WWE Universal Championship (13:52)
- Dark Match: John Cena & Dean Ambrose defeated AJ Styles and Seth Rollins
Debut on Raw roster (NXT):
- When Dean Ambrose retained WWE Championship on Battleground, Raw was left without a world title. At the result, Raw commissioner Stephanie McMahon and Raw general manager Mick Foley created the WWE Universal Championship to serve as the brand's top championship. According to Foley, the title was named in honor of the WWE Universe, the name WWE uses to refer to its fan base. In response, the WWE Championship was subsequently renamed to WWE World Championship on the following night of SmackDown Live.
- Beginning this episode, JoJo became new ring announcer on Raw following Lilian Garcia's second departure due to family emergency, while Greg Hamilton became new ring announcer on SmackDown Live.
Other on-screen talent