Just a few days out from what's now a sold out Greatest Royal Rumble event in Saudi Arabia on Friday, you'd probably assume the bulk of Monday night's broadcast of Raw would be focused on what's essentially become WrestleMania part two. There were match promos throughout the night, of course, brief mentions in promos from various superstars throughout the night and a Paul Heyman/Brock Lesnar special in the middle of the ring.
But outside of those moments, and commercials that ran through the night, Monday Night Raw elected instead to focus on the fallout from the Superstar Shakeup. After the Raw tag team division was essentially gutted, with The Bar and Gallows & Anderson moving to SmackDown, five out of the seven matches on the night ended up being tag team matches. In both of the singles matches, the underdog came out on top with an unexpected victory via roll-up.
With so many fresh faces on the Raw roster, the Greatest Royal Rumble card all but locked in and Backlash having to wait until after Friday to set the rest of the show up, Raw took the chance to experiment. On a night where the stakes were low and any missteps would easily be forgotten amidst the hype around heading to Saudi Arabia, a few standouts took full advantage of the opportunity to step into the spotlight.
With Raw hopping all over the place, we'll do the same.
• The 10-bell salute, video tribute and post-show documentary about Bruno Sammartino were all intensely moving. Seeing Vince McMahon standing out there with the Raw roster was an emotional moment.
• The challenge of integrating Ronda Rousey into the Raw women's division was not an easy task by any means, but in the three weeks since her breakout WrestleMania performance, it's been paced and executed well. After taking Stephanie McMahon out of the picture, Rousey has come to Natalya's aid in consecutive weeks to fend off one-sided challenges from other women. This week, in the closing moments of a 10-woman tag team main event, Mickie James bore the brunt of Rousey's aggressions after taking a number of cheap shots at Natalya's expense. A hip toss and an armbar later, the final match of the night ended with a disqualification, but Rousey's on her way to working into the ongoing storylines.
• Before we get into the problematic portion of the Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns rivalry that once again seems to be nearing its natural conclusion, let's take a moment to appreciate another Paul Heyman promo.
"Brock Lesnar does not gloat," said Heyman, "Brock Lesnar conquers. Paul Heyman gloats. Paul Heyman gloats over that fact that Brock Lesnar used very non-PG era elbow smashes to scar up Roman Reigns' face. Paul Heyman gloats over the fact that Brock Lesnar took Roman Reigns to Suplex City. Paul Heyman gloats over the fact that Brock Lesnar hit multiple F-5s, left Roman Reigns in a heap like some piece of Samoan trash to be thrown out the next morning and pinning him in the biggest WrestleMania of all time. And none of this means anything to Brock Lesnar. Brock Lesnar does not dwell in the past."
Heyman also promised that Lesnar's desire to step into a cage was UFC-related, and that Lesnar would send Reigns home in "multiple boxes." Reigns walked out to a largely mixed reaction, promised to come home from Saudi Arabia with the Universal Championship in hand and that was that. No physicality, no nose-to-nose and no closing remarks from Heyman. No matter how Friday's main event ends, I think it's clear that both Reigns and Lesnar should move elsewhere from here -- there's nothing left to explore in this rivalry.
• As disappointing as it is to see Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn slide right back into a battle of wills with an authority figure, Owens and Zayn thrived with a few moments of their own talk show. They praised the departed Miz, took pot shots at Jason Jordan and Rusev and antagonized Kurt Angle and the crowd to a degree that their popularity was overshadowed by a significant chorus of boos.
The end result was a tag team match against Bobby Lashley and Braun Strowman that ended up being the match of the night. Owens and Zayn used their tag team expertise to isolate Lashley for the bulk of the match, and that set up Strowman and Lashley the chance to do what they do best in the ring. Strowman showed off his speed and aggression by running back and forth between the ring and the outside to absolutely decimate both Owens and Zayn. Strowman might have finally found himself a tag team partner that fills the void left behind by the departed Nicholas.
— WWE (@WWE) April 24, 2018
• Drew McIntyre, who made the most surprising Raw debut of all last week in Hartford alongside Dolph Ziggler, shocked us again with significant time on the microphone following him and Ziggler's win over Titus Worldwide. McIntyre ripped into a locker room that he claims has gone soft, with, "no fire, no ambition" that's collecting checks and making him sick. He's "dangerous" and a wake-up call that Raw desperately needed. Between vibes of the modern version Shawn Michaels and Diesel and a nasty combo finisher they displayed on Monday, Ziggler and McIntyre are setting themselves up for big things.
• Elias picked up a win over Bobby Roode, after Roode interrupted Elias before he could belt out a single note. After playing the punching bag for a long time, Elias picking up a victory over a guy that's clearly being positioned as one of the top players on Raw could be a big deal. Conversely, perhaps it's the start of Roode moving away from being a perpetually smiley babyface. The reason he attracted the attention of the WWE in the first place and shot up to stardom in NXT is that despite how fun his presentation is, Roode thrives when he's playing the jerk.
• Chad Gable stepped up on his first night on Raw with a win over Jinder Mahal. Briefly addressing Jason Jordan and moving on to singles competition is the right move for Gable. The American Alpha music making a return is a nice touch, and just like he did last year with fun matches against Rusev and others, Gable showed that he can really go in the ring.
— WWE (@WWE) April 24, 2018
• Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas didn't have a clear backup plan before abandoning The Miz last week, but their attempts to flatter and latch on to both Finn Balor and Seth Rollins were highly entertaining. For now, they still carry the Miz's name and music, but that doesn't seem likely to last in the long-term. Their tag match against Balor and Rollins wasn't much to write home about.
• Alexa Bliss' PSA about bullying was equal parts brilliant and troubling. Turning around her own bullying against Nia Jax and playing the victim was perfect, but there was also some serious fat-shaming going on.
• Despite slipping into his role as Matt Hardy's compatriot, Bray Wyatt is bringing some darkness to their partnership. The rapport and in-ring approach together are improving by the week.
• The 10-woman tag team main event had its moments, with Ember Moon's low-rope suicide dive on Liv Morgan and Nia Jax's dive onto the rest of the match's participants standing as highlights on the evening.