This week’s Monday Night RAW from Atlanta, GA opens with footage from the October episode of RAW where Roman Reigns publicly announced his fight with leukemia. But he’s here tonight, live and in person.
The first Reigns says to the WWE Universe is “thank you” before also letting them know he’s missed them. Because “there is no other job like this.” Reigns
But now for the actual update on Reigns’ state: “We didn’t just swing for the fences, man—we hit a home run.” Roman Reigns is in remission. “’The Big Dog’ is back!”
Aleister Black & Ricochet def. The Revival (Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder)
Last week’s RAW saw Aleister Black, Ricochet, Tommaso Ciampa, and Johnny Gargano make their main roster debuts. Ciampa and Gargano even defeated the RAW Tag Team Champions The Revival in a non-title match. This week, Black and Ricochet look to do the same thing. And The Revival certainly know that, as they make sure to jump this duo before the match even begins… though Black and Ricochet manage to get the early advantage with somewhat surprising—they have teamed together a number of times in NXT, despite being more known as singles competitors—tag team chemistry.
The Atlanta RAW crowd is absolutely hot for this match. (Less hot for this match are Bobby Roode and Chad Gable backstage, watching the match and still waiting to get a chance at a RAW Tag Team Championship rematch.) In fact, the action is so fast-paced it’s pretty impossible to call (or for the WWE cameras to follow). There are some moments when Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder are in dominant positions, but they honestly don’t last all that long. And then a Black Mass from Black to Dawson puts the RAW Tag Team Champions on the losing end of things for the second week in a row.
Charly Caruso interviews Baron Corbin about how he “made light” of Roman Reigns’ leukemia back in October, saying the WWE Universe should “move on” and that he hoped Roman would never come back. But Corbin tries to say he never said that, a point Charly immediately disputes by noting they have the footage. After that, Corbin instead tries to blame the stress of working as General Manager for the things he says, which leads to Charly asking if he’s calling his former job more stressful than what Roman had to go through. Now with no other excuses to reach for, Baron Corbin says one last thing before storming off: “For Roman’s sake, I hope our paths don’t cross.”
Also, the Superstars—like Shawn Michaels, Johnny Gargano, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat—are out tonight for Ric Flair’s 70ths birthday celebration. There’s also a video tribute from Snoop Dogg before Elias’ performance…
…a performance that is immediately interrupted by “The Lady of WWE” Lacey Evans making a walkthrough…
…and then Dean Ambrose, who’s “feeling good” because of Roman’s current state. And an Ambrose who’s “feeling good” is “feeling dangerous,” and now he wants to challenge Drew McIntyre to a rematch—a No Disqualification match. But Elias wants to perform his song about loving Atlanta. (JK—he doesn’t actually love Atlanta.) Ambrose actually came out to make a request: “Dirty Deeds.” Well, more like Dirty Deeds, which he hits on Elias when Elias tries to cheapshot him with a guitar.
After that, Ambrose leaves, and Elias looks like he might recover to perform still… until The Riott Squad come out for their scheduled tag team match against Ronda Rousey and Natalya. So much for walking with Elias.
Ronda Rousey & Natalya vs. The Riott Squad (Sarah Logan & Ruby Riott) went to a No Contest
This week’s RAW saw Rowdy Hart—Ronda Rousey and Natalya—in tag team action against those eternal thorns in their side—The Riott Squad. But it also saw a brawl between Ronda and “The Man” Becky Lynch and an ultimatum for the entire McMahon clan. You can read all about that here.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin offers video birthday wishes to Ric Flair.
But you know who doesn’t? Jinder Mahal, because he wasn’t invited to the party. (You would think any Superstar at RAW would be technically invited, but okay.) So he challenges any Superstar who was invited to face him one-on-one, because that’s how you prove you’re not a party pooper, right?
Kurt Angle def. Jinder Mahal
The Superstar who answers the open challenge? Kurt Angle. Once the bell rings, the Singh Brothers immediately distract Angle to give Mahal an early advantage. But their interference—then and eventually toward the end of the match—is no match for the Olympic gold medalist, who taps Mahal out to an ankle lock and then German suplexes both Singh brothers back-to-back.
And now, for “A Moment of Bliss.” With special guest Finn Balor! But before Balor comes out, Alexa Bliss takes a moment to diss Ronda, saying she “would have never” disrespected the RAW Women’s Championship like Ronda just did. Rude. And that if the McMahons are looking for someone to replace Ronda at WrestleMania, they know where to find her. The vultures are definitely going to be swarming tonight.
But now for Balor Club. Bliss congratulates Balor for winning the Intercontinental Championship, but she hates that the title covers up his abs. Bliss is right about to make a “You show me yours, I’ll show you mine” deal with Balor and his abs, but Lio Rush shows up to interrupt the show. Yes, another interruption. (Elias knows that feeling.) “This whole talk show is a sham,” Rush says. Because Bobby Lashley deserves to be the Intercontinental Champion, not Balor.
But Balor basically flips things around—and Rush calls it out—to say that Rush wants to challenge Balor for the title (and that he even thinks he deserves it more than Lashley). So he offers Rush a title match, even though Rush is the one Balor pinned to win the title, not Lashley.
Also, somehow, Alexa Bliss has the authority to announce that this title match is “right now.”
Meanwhile, in Ric Flair birthday news: Titus O’Neil is going to try to get Sting and Ric Flair into Titus Worldwide, isn’t he?
Finn Balor def. Lio Rush, for the Intercontinental Championship
Unlike most of his matches in WWE, Finn Balor doesn’t have the speed and athleticism advantage here: Lio Rush does. But Balor does have the size and power advantage for once, and he uses it well. Balor goes after Rush’s midsection early, but Rush smartly goes after Balor’s legs, bringing the bigger man down. He goes for a huge frog splash, but Balor gets his knees up… which doesn’t actually help Balor out, because as mentioned, Rush was smart enough to go after Balor’s legs.
It’s the left knee specifically that really frustrates Balor, something he has to deal with after every bit of offense he gets in. That attention to the hurt limb gives Rush time to recover and go after Balor’s knee even more. Even when Balor recovers a bit, it takes him so long to get up to the top rope for the Coup de Grace that Rush is able to stop him and hit a hurricanrana for a nearfall. Now it’s a strike-off, and Rush keeps going after that injured leg. But Balor countering a springboard stunner attempt with
Backstage, The Ascension mock the “fresh meat” known as Heavy Machinery. Well, one-half of Heavy Machinery, as it’s Tucker Knight who runs into them. They fat shame Otis Dozovic, but Tucker tells them Otis has a big temper. And then Otis shows up, only to prove Tucker right and knock The Ascension out. “That’s what you get for messing with Heavy Machinery!”
Also, Bobby Lashley is furious with Lio Rush for failing at getting him a title shot. He wonders if Rush can do anything right. “Can I trust you,” Lashley asks Rush, and Rush says he can. So after that match against Balor—and just to be clear, Rush is obviously still hurting—Rush has to now come out with Lashley for the former Intercontinental Champion’s match against Braun Strowman.
Bobby Lashley vs. Bobby Lashley went to a No Contest
Unsurprisingly, Lashley attacks Strowman from behind as soon as he gets in the ring, before the bell even officially begins. But Strowman fights back—and again, the match hasn’t even started, and the referee even runs out of the ring—and ends up taking both Lashley and Rush out on the outside. Braun promises he’ll “never forget” and is coming for all three of them—Lashley, Corbin, and McIntyre—so they better get ready to get these hands. No match, it seems.
Backstage, Charly Caruso interviews Seth Rollins, who’s “got a little pep in [his] step.” (I was actually going to say that myself, but good ol’ Charles beat me to the punch.) That’s because his brother is back, so, “Tonight is about love. Tonight is about celebrating.” And knowing Roman, “it’s time to go burn it down,” in an adult beverage sort of way.
And guess who’s here now? “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, baby!
Drew McIntyre def. Dean Ambrose, in a No Disqualification match
These guys don’t even wait to both be in the ring to start fighting, as Ambrose charges up the ramp to meet McIntyre and brawl with him. But this brawl does at least lead to an actual match, as they soon enough get into the ring. And because this is No DQ, Ambrose is ready to get things going with his own belt. (Luckily, it ends up being one of two belts he was apparently wearing.) McIntyre prevents Ambrose from using it, before using it himself on Ambrose.
Once Ambrose gets some momentum back, he makes sure to use that belt. And it’s a beautiful sight. Almost as beautiful as the Glasgow Kiss McIntyre hits him with immediately after. McIntyre then tries to run Ambrose over with the steel steps, but Ambrose ends up avoiding the attack and using the steps on McIntyre instead. But it’s No DQ, which allows Elias to attack Ambrose from behind with a guitar shot to no resistance from the referee. After that, McIntyre sends Ambrose back to the ring and hits him with the Claymore Kick for the win.
…but the party doesn’t really start until Corbin and Lashley come out, and then it’s a four-on-one attack on Ambrose. Before any permanent damage can be done though, Seth Rollins comes out with a chair. But that’s not his only back-up—“The Big Dog” has got his back too. Now it’s Superman Punches, a stomp, and a spear for all. All except for Ambrose, who they leave lying in the ring—bygones aren’t exactly bygones, now are they?
Or are they, as Rollins and Reigns stop on top of the ramp to look back at Ambrose. But is The Shield back?
Bayley def. Nia Jax
Bayley dominates the early stretch of this match, even using Nia Jax’s momentum to hip toss the larger competitor. But this dominance is unfortunately short-lived for one-half of the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions. Then, Bayley has to rely on her speed and averting Jax’s attacks, going after Jax’s knee to slow and bring her down. But Jax is able to bulldoze through Bayley, then it looks pretty much like the beginning of the end, as she ragdolls Bayley around the ring. But Bayley’s wrestling ability and resilience outweighs Nia Jax’s brutality—and Tamina’s attempted interference and attack on Sasha Banks—and Bayley puts the challenger away with the top rope elbow drop.
It’s almost time to celebrate Ric Flair’s birth, and you know what? Stephanie McMahon doesn’t look so stressed out anymore. We’ll see how long that lasts.
It actually also looks like the whole roster is here to celebrate Ric Flair’s birthday—which is being hosted by Stephanie McMahon and Triple H—so it really makes no sense that Jinder Mahal apparently wasn’t invited. But ooh! Cake! And first up on the guest list: Shawn Michaels. Then, it’s Steamboat, Angle, and Sting. And they don’t just have a cake for Flair, they have a present: a custom-made WWE World Heavyweight Championship. So, without further ado, here comes Ric Flair.
Or not. Not at all. Instead, backstage, here comes Batista… dragging Ric Flair’s lifeless body out of his dressing room. “Hey, Hunter—do I have your attention now?” That would be a resounding yes, as Triple H runs to straight to the back. But Batista is gone, as Triple H and the WWE officials tend to Flair.