WWE
Tim Fiorvanti, ESPN.com 18d

Cesaro and Sheamus win gold as Raw sets stage for Survivor Series dream match

WWE

In June 2014, Seth Rollins destroyed Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose with a steel chair, putting an end to a red hot run for The Shield.

They wouldn't come back together for more than three years.

Five months later, after several weeks of vignettes, a new trio of Xavier Woods, Big E and Kofi Kingston debuted on SmackDown to a lukewarm response. It took a while, but they ultimately found their stride and became an equally popular trio.

There have been teases, tag team matches featuring some former members of The Shield against New Day, but until Monday night's edition of Raw, there had never been a clear path to pitting these two trios that have made tremendous impacts on the last five years of WWE content.

In the waning moments of Raw, as it appeared Rollins and Ambrose were ready to successfully defend their tag team titles against Sheamus & Cesaro, The New Day's music blared throughout the Manchester Arena. While the four men in and around the ring panicked (after another in a long line of strong matches involving the quartet), and Kurt Angle rallied the Raw troops and brought them out, New Day mocked everyone on Raw for not striking back after SmackDown had invaded a couple of weeks ago.

"Prepare for 'under siege' part two," Kofi said, as the Raw roster emerged from the back and circled the ring, looking for the rest of the SmackDown invaders, New Day waited until several members of the Raw roster started climbing the stairs towards them, and then retreated.

"Pump fake!" uttered Xavier Woods, as Sheamus suddenly charged to life, nailed a Brogue Kick on Rollins and secured the three-count and the Raw tag team titles before most realized what had happened.

With Sheamus & Cesaro now set to face The Usos at Survivor Series, the entire balance of the champions on each brand is officially as unbalanced as it could get. Raw and SmackDown have a full slate of traditionally heel champions, with the exception of maybe Brock Lesnar, and that should make for some fascinating interactions when all of the champions clash in Houston. There's theoretically a chance that AJ Styles (or Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable) could pull off an unlikely title victory Tuesday in Manchester, but otherwise, almost everything seems as locked in as it could get.

As the current card leaves out The New Day and The Shield (and especially with the not-so-subtle mention of Reigns' return to Raw next week), WWE seems to have accidentally backed themselves into what's likely to be a show stealer at Survivor Series. There's every reason to believe this was a consideration or part of their plans all along, but you could not have timed a Reigns return and a call to arms better than six days before the pay-per-view.

Even though the title change was the one that made the least sense in terms of heel/face balance, at this point, it's a matter of letting the rest of the build to Survivor Series play out and look deeper once the dust has settled on Nov. 20.

The rest of Raw was a strange, yet largely entertaining effort that defied most of the pitfalls of a pre-taped Raw and delivered on most fronts.

Braun gets his shot at The Miz, but Kane gets in the way

Manchester also saw a match between the two superstars who have been the biggest lynchpins Raw's success and most entertaining stories over the last six months, outside of The Shield's reunion. On the surface, you might not imagine an ability to do anything nuanced by putting The Miz and Braun Strowman in the ring together, but Miz once again proved he's the best at squeezing every ounce out of a moment on the entire Raw roster.

From the terrified look on his face and the begging on his knees he did when Angle closed out Miz TV, to the way he and Bo Dallas fruitlessly tried to cross up Strowman with misdirection, the moments leading up to the inevitable evisceration of all three members of the Miztourage set the stage for a fulfilling moment of utter destruction for Strowman.

Kane didn't let the match last for long, though, and completely no-sold both a running powerslam, from which he sat right up, and a clothesline, after which he landed on his feet. To make sure the fans didn't go away unhappy, Miz and Dallas tried to get a measure of revenge only for Miz to get a powerslam of his own.

When will Kane finally get sent away (or at least his active mayoral race in Tennessee)? It could go all the way to the Royal Rumble, conceivably, but no matter how convincingly they try to build Kane up against any and all who get in his way, there's only one way for this thing to end.

As Strowman himself shouted at Kane, "I'm the only monster on Monday Night Raw."

Balor, Joe and Jordan round out Raw men's Survivor Series team

In addition to a great tag team title match, Raw revisited the stellar NXT rivalry between Finn Balor and Samoa Joe. After Joe short-circuited his match with Titus O'Neil before it even began, Balor once again couldn't resist the call of an open challenge.

They went back and forth through multiple commercial breaks, seemingly timing their shifts in momentum perfectly so as not to allow the TV audience to miss any of the big moments. Joe and Balor, who were at each other's throats for months in the aftermath of their collective win in the inaugural Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, fell right back into step and energized a Manchester crowd that otherwise seemed unusually tepid for most of the night.

As "this is awesome" chants broke out, Balor failed to hit the coup de grace quick enough and paid for it. Joe locked on the coquina clutch, but Balor quickly fought his way out by using the turnbuckles and followed that effort by flying over the top rope to take out Joe. Joe dragged Balor up the ramp and threw him around like a ragdoll, and a somewhat disappointing double countout was the result.

But the bell did little to temper their war. Balor kept punching, Joe did the same and a serious pull-apart with several refs and a dozen security guards in the mix broke out. Angle announced both of them as teammates for Survivor Series, but Balor insisted on the last word as he went flying off the stage with a running start and hit Samoa Joe on the ground.

Angle then named Jason Jordan, who had defeated Elias in a guitar on a pole match -- the first of its kind since the Vince Russo era of Monday Night Raw -- as the final member of Team Raw for the men's 5-on-5 Survivor Series match. Between Angle, Strowman, Balor, Joe and Jordan, there's plenty of room for this unusual team to overachieve when the lights are brightest -- but will they?

Hits and misses

-- Asuka destroyed poor Stacy Coates in remarkably quick fashion, but more notably, hit a brand new set-up for her Asuka lock that looked like a combination of Beth Phoenix's glam slam and Bubba Ray Dudley's Bubba Bomb, which dropped both women into the perfectly prone position. It may have been an "aha" moment, and Asuka was named to the Raw women's team for Survivor Series.

-- After Sasha Banks and Bayley defeated Nia Jax and Alicia Fox, with Banks getting yet another submission win over Fox (while also experimenting with multiple set-ups for the Banks statement), Fox relented and put Banks on the Raw women's team as well. She fell short of adding Bayley, though, so there's still one spot up for grabs going into the final week before Survivor Series.

-- The Manchester crowd chanted for Neville, but Enzo Amore claimed to have run him out of the company. Instead, Pete Dunne made his Raw debut in his native England to a raucous applause, and the WWE U.K. champion hit Amore right in the mouth. Dunne eventually hit the "Bitter End" as well, completing a successful night in style.

-- Reigns won't be the only superstar returning on Raw. Just six days before Survivor Series, Lesnar will be in the building as well.

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