John Cena Addressed Universal Champion Roman Reigns
Cena hasn't been tied to one brand or the other in years, so I have no problem with him appearing on both brands heading into SummerSlam (though I believe he's likely be relegated to SmackDown for the most part). He cut his typical Cena promo here that the crowd ate up every word of where he put Reigns on notice and promised to see him on Friday night. We haven't seen Cena interact with the new crop of talent at all, so his brief interaction with Riddle was cool. I could have done without some of the insider talk from Cena about Reigns, though. AEW does it from time and time and it annoys me when they do it, too.
Riddle and The Viking Raiders def. John Morrison and Raw Tag Team Champions AJ Styles and Omos
Now that Money in the Bank has come and gone, I think it's safe to start wondering when Randy Orton is going to return. He's not injured as far as I know, so hopefully he'll be back any day now to kick off the build to Styles and Omos vs. RK-Bro at SummerSlam. This was a fun six-man tag team match with Viking Raiders once again being made to look competitive. This was a nice rebound win for them and I could see them getting another opportunity at the Raw Tag Team Championship before RK-Bro eventually challenge for it.
Jaxson Ryker def. Elias in a Symphony of Destruction Match
Despite this stipulation being used as the blow-off to feuds I couldn't care less about, Symphony of Destruction matches tend to deliver and, admittedly, this was entertaining as well. Granted, Ryker and Elias do absolutely nothing for me at this point and their storyline has been beyond abysmal, but the crowd was into this, for whatever that's worth. They made the most of it and used the instruments as weapons in some pretty cool ways, but this needs to be it for these two. Please, WWE, put them back on Main Event so we don't have to be subjected to seeing them on Raw every week.
Rhea Ripley Confronted Raw Women's Champion Charlotte Flair
I can understand some fans getting bored of this feud (especially because the character work with the two of them has been terrible and WWE hasn't given fans many reasons to want to cheer for Ripley), but their match at Money in the Bank was so strong that I have no issue with this lasting through SummerSlam (which is what I expected when it started after WrestleMania 37). This segment served to set up the rematch, not for SummerSlam but rather the main event spot later in the night. I felt bad for Ripley in this segment because the crowd was clearly hoping for a Becky Lynch return.
WWE Women's Tag Team Champions Natalya and Tamina def. Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax in a Championship Contenders Match (Non-Title); Reginald def. Akira Tozawa to Win the 24/7 Championship
I've seen Natalya and Tamina vs. Baszler and Jax so many times since WrestleMania 37 that I care even less now than I did then and that's saying something. This women's tag team division is dead in the water, and breaking up teams left and right isn't helping. That said, I would've been happy if Baszler finally split away from Jax after all the losing she's been doing as Jax's partner this past year, but instead, they severed ties with Reginald. Hey, it's a step in the right direction, but the Baszler and Jax pairing ran its course a while ago and Baszler gains nothing from being with her still. Reginald being involved in the 24/7 Championship garbage is fitting considering both he and the title are channel-changing material for me.
United States Champion Sheamus def. Humberto Carrillo in a Championship Contenders Match (Non-Title)
WWE has been doing non-title matches for decades, but only now are they starting to call them "Championship Contenders" matches, meaning that the challenger will get a title shot if they beat the champion. AEW has referred to that an "eliminator" over the last year, but who knows if WWE got that idea from them or not. Either way, this was Carrillo's chance at redemption after being screwed by Sheamus last week, but he ultimately fell short. They had a well-wrestled match, but I'm ready for Sheamus to move past Carrillo. Thankfully, it looks like Damian Priest will be next up for Sheamus. SummerSlam would be the perfect place for Priest to win the United States Championship.
WWE Champion Bobby Lashley def. Keith Lee in a Championship Contenders Match (Non-Title); Goldberg Returned
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Lashley's open challenge originally advertised as being for the WWE Championship? And then it was changed to being non-title before the commercial break? That was lame. What wasn't lame was Lee returning after a five-month layoff. I was starting to think he was never coming back or that he was never getting cleared or whatever the hell the situation was, but I'm happy he's finally returned. Granted, he didn't have a stellar showing here and he was beaten decisively in five minutes, but at least he was made to look more competitive against Lashley than Kofi Kingston at Money in the Bank. What followed was what we all expected: Goldberg returning and challenging Lashley to a title match at SummerSlam. It was rumored last week after WWE's talks with Brock Lesnar apparently fell through for whatever reason, which is a massive shame. There's a lot I can say about Goldberg being back in the title picture, but I'm simply say for now that it makes zero sense given that he contended for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble and lost to Drew McIntyre, so him getting another shot for no reason at all is illogical from a storyline standpoint and does little to help Lashley (who beat the man who beat Goldberg multiple times).
Drew McIntyre Attacked Jinder Mahal, Veer and Shanky
I knew it was unlikely, but I was hoping McIntyre vs. Mahal would be blown off on this edition of Raw to make way for something bigger for McIntyre at SummerSlam. Well, no such luck. Mahal has no heat in my book and McIntyre getting the better of him and his goons here hardly helped matters. Crowds are still behind McIntyre for the most part, which is a positive sign, but this feud screams lower-level to me because Mahal hasn't been a prominent player in years. Sure, it should lead to an easy win for McIntyre, but then what? This was a fine segment, but the storyline doesn't excite me any.
Jeff Hardy def. NXT Champion Karrion Kross (Non-Title)
Man, so much can be said about this, and I've already seen people trying to defend the decision, but here are my thoughts. First of all, advertising Kross' first appearance on Raw earlier in the evening wasn't the worst idea, but it would have gotten a bigger reaction had it been a surprise. That's merely nitpicking, but the rest is inexcusable. His entrance was lame without Scarlett and it didn't have all the bells and whistles it did in NXT. That's a huge part of his appeal, and without the fancy entrance, he's dead in the water. Then came the match itself. As a Hardy fan, I was stoked to hear him bring back his old entrance theme and get a great reaction from the crowd. The problem is, regardless of the fact he's a season veteran, he's been booked to look like a loser since coming to Raw late last year. He hasn't been positioned as anyone important, so Kross losing to him means nothing. I'm not confident it will lead to a push for Hardy and the fact he cheated as a babyface was weird. This was a whopping two minutes long, sending the message that Kross is no one special despite being the NXT Champion. I'm a big proponent of waiting and seeing where things lead, but first impressions are everything and we were basically just told that this guy is a non-factor. Even if Kross kills him next week, what was gained from having him lose his first match in over a year in such forgettable fashion? Everything about this was awful and is exactly what's wrong with WWE today.
Rhea Ripley def. Raw Women's Champion Charlotte Flair by Disqualification; Nikki A.S.H. Cashed in Her Money in the Bank Contract on Flair to Win the Raw Women's Championship
You had to know something was going down if WWE was booking the rematch between these two one night removed from Money in the Bank and not waiting until SummerSlam. It wasn't on the same level as their excellent match from the pay-per-view, but it was still entertaining in the time they were given. The non-finish was fine and the crowd popped for Nikki cashing in her contract to become the new Raw Women's Champion. I've always liked Nikki, but as I've said before, the superhero gimmick isn't championship material. I could certainly see it getting over long-term with the kids, but what's so superhero-like about beating someone when they're down or winning the briefcase by sneaking up on everyone else? The booking is horrid and it's hard to care. Yes, Nikki was involved in the Raw Women's Championship picture a month or two ago, but the idea of a Triple Threat between her, Ripley and Flair doesn't intrigue me at all.
What a roller coaster of a show. I wasn't getting my hopes up after such a hot weekend of wrestling from SmackDown to Money in the Bank to even IMPACT's Slammiversary pay-per-view as I'm well aware of Raw's track record, and I'm glad I didn't because this was all over the place. For every good thing they did, there were another two bad things to go along with it. For example, I'm super happy Lee is back, but then he had to lose in a matter of minutes to Lashley and get overshadowed by Goldberg (again!). Plus, Hardy getting a rare win was nice, but did it really have to come at the expense of the newcomer Kross? What a creative mess this show is. Sure, having fans back definitely made the three hours more bearable, but the booking decisions are largely still the same. What's even more mind-blowing is that SmackDown and NXT, which also fall under the WWE umbrella, are infinitely better. This wasn't the worst show I've ever seen, mind you, but there were a handful of decisions that left me scratching my head. I guess I shouldn't be surprised or even bothered by this point, instead just accepting it as the norm and moving on.