Monday Night RAW: Hell, Fire and Brimstone Returns

“This is shaping up to be one the greatest RAWs of all time,” the announcers all agree at the top of the show. The episode definitely lost some momentum midway through with some lackluster Cruiserweight action, but they definitely weren’t wrong that this was a great RAW, and it packed enough excitement in those beginning and end of show surprises to make up for whatever bumps they hit along the way. If you didn’t watch, you’ll have to wait just like everyone watching did to find out what the biggest surprise was, but I can start with the first one, which isn’t too much of a shock but still very exciting:

THE SHIELD IS OFFICIALLY BACK IN ACTION. All three members of The Shield are back together, and it’s insane how excited I was to see it. Despite Rollins and Ambrose having made up and become a tag team again, there’s nothing like seeing all three of those guys in their Shield costumes standing in the middle of the ring and shaking down Kurt Angle. Also? The audience was decidedly on Roman Reign’s side for the first time in… Hmm… Maybe three years? What a weird coincidence.

The waters continue to get a little muddy when it comes to who’s going to be in the big TLC main event – why does it feel like everyone is coming out of the woodwork to hate Shield? I guess The Miz is convinced there’s strength in numbers, because he wants to make their main event 3-on-5 and he wants his team to consist of him, Cesaro, Sheamus, Braun Strowman, and probably also Curtis Axel since he’s hanging around a lot. Kurt Angle gives them an offer they can’t refuse: if Roman Reigns wins tonight’s steel cage match, the TLC lineup goes back to 3-on-3. But if Braun Strowman wins, The Miz will get his way. Rollins and Ambrose has a tag team match coming up tonight as well, with their titles on the line, and somehow the stakes don’t feel nearly as high for that match. Except, also, Kurt Angle is putting a ban on anyone standing ringside for either match.

Jason Jordan and his new tag team partners had a quick 6-man tag team match that was fast, fun, and efficient. I get the sense Jordan’s push wasn’t working for him as well as they’d hoped. Not his fault, if you ask me – they seem to have him a little all over the place in terms of drawing up feuds and trying to sink his teeth into RAW. I think placing him in a stable might be a good move to better establish him and integrate him into the show and once he’s where he needs to be, there’s plenty of room for him to shine storyline-wise.

Speaking of people who are going to need a change of pace for their storyline to go anywhere: Emma. Emma is endlessly frustrating and is only repeating herself at this point. Her “social media queen who started the women’s revolution” schtick is REALLY tired. They need to give her something more exciting to do! Alexa Bliss worming her way into the situation to convince Emma to help her take on Mickie James and fight her battles for her was a nice spin, and made for an interesting matchup.

Not giving the Women’s Championship to Mickie at TLC would be probably one of the cruelest things the WWE could do to her – and she’s endured a lot of cruelty in her decade-long career. I’m not sure where this feud will leave Emma, Bayley, or Alexa Bliss, but Mickie James winning could shake up the women’s division just enough to let some of them stretch their legs a bit more.

MizTV happened at some point, and I’m sorry to say that I didn’t pay a lot of attention because The Miz grates on my nerves just that much.

Sasha and Alicia Fox had a great match and I wish it would have been longer, but Banks is an expert who does what she needs to do and gets it done. Once again, Fox taps out. Not content to take this second defeat lying down, Fox assaults Sasha Banks backstage in what was honestly a pretty brutal ambush. The kind where you’re genuinely concerned for Sasha because it looks like she may have hit her head a few times. Alicia Fox is screaming about how she’s not going to be disrespected by Banks any longer, and shoves a referee who tries to interfere. Fox gets fined for pushing the ref, and we’ve got an exciting new storyline with a sharp heel turn for Alicia Fox that hopefully takes her to newer, more unhinged heights.

After getting off to a rough start with the rest of the cruiserweights over at 205 Live, Enzo Amore has finally gained acceptance and gathered an army around him, for the sole purpose of attacking his new enemies. Kalisto gets attacked by a bitter Enzo and his new cronies: pretty much everyone else in 205 Live. Mustafa Ali tries to jump to his defense and begins cleaning house before he, too, is stomped out by Enzo’s new crew. It doesn’t seem like the fans are happy with Enzo’s overreaction to losing his title, although I have to say, of all the cutting insults I’ve heard from him, calling Kalisto a “big bad Beetleborg” was very funny. It sounds like Enzo might be paying these guys to do his dirty work, based on some of the comments he was yelling at them while they beat up Kalisto and Mustafa, so I guess we’ll have to see if that’s the case.

Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins V. Sheamus and Cesaro was exactly as fun as you would think it is, and I am continually hooked on watching Ambrose and Rollins work together. They are SUCH a good team. Sometimes there are tag teams that seem like two guys got together just for the sake of having a leg up in matches, but these two are totally attuned to each other and read each other expertly. They were executing simultaneous suicide dives and synchronizing their punches from opposite sides of the ring. A good match and a good outcome for Ambrose and Rollins, who retain their titles.

Finn Balor’s Demon has a message for Sister Abigail, and he can’t wait to meet her. I have to say, that original message from Sister Abigail was very creepy and I am in love with this paranormal/supernatural angle that Balor and Bray Wyatt are playing up. I sincerely hope that something exciting happens during their match at TLC that would be a good payoff, and would make the match more exciting than simply “a possessed guy fights a possessed guy.”

Backstage, Curtis Axel gets too amped up and goes to pick a fight with Roman Reigns and is later found hanging upside, beat up pretty bad. Nobody knows how he got there, but it’s determined he is in no condition to fight at TLC. The Miz laughs this off, because it was never his intention to put Curtis Axel in the match. Who is his fifth man then?

Finally, the main event: a steel cage match between Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman. The match is a little clunky at spots but it’s mostly exciting; the audience is actually cheering for Roman Reigns when he goes to execute a superman punch and I’m simultaneously in awe and completely bewilderment. In his defense, he got some air on it and it was a really good punch. He’s landing a lot of punches and Strowman seems all but defeated. But remember when I said people were coming out of the woodwork to pick on The Shield?

Fucking KANE literally rises up out of a hole in the mat and into the ring. There are no disqualifications, and Kane is in the ring now, and his sights are set on Reigns. He and Strowman take him down with ease, and The Miz announces that Kane will be the fifth man on his team for TLC this Sunday.

Sunday can’t come soon enough.