By Graham "GSM" Matthews
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns Confronted Seth Rollins
Just we all expected, Rollins received a hero's homecoming when he made his entrance, and the reaction gave me chills. Holy shit. He started off his promo acting like a babyface, but he managed to turn the crowd (or at least a portion of the crowd) against him by talking about how he burned every single piece of fan mail that was sent to him while he was injured. Brilliant. I still think a double turn with him and Reigns is the right direction to take, but it makes sense to stick with him as a heel for now because that's what he was the last time we saw him. I'm glad they wasted no time in announcing the main event for the Money in the Bank pay-per-view and the Money in the Bank qualifying matches that would take place over the course of the night.
Sami Zayn def. Sheamus in a Money in the Bank Qualifying Match
Sheamus hasn't meant anything in ages, but as a former multi-time world champion and Mr. Money in the Bank, there was a chance he could have won here, especially given Zayn rarely wins when it matters most (which works for his character). They contested a good match and I liked the dynamic they had. I was happy Zayn won clean and he should be an excellent addition to the Money in the Bank Ladder match. As for Sheamus, he goes from winning it one year to not even being able to qualify for it the next. I can't say I'm surprised, but the commentators acknowledged that as well, so they're incorporating that frustration into his character. Him losing to a "New Era" wrestler such as Zayn sets up his apparent feud with Apollo Crews perfectly.
WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day def. The Social Outcasts (Non-title)
Remember when WWE used to hold special editions of Raw every one hundred episodes? I guess they stopped doing that after Raw 1000 back in 2012. That's what this segment reminded me of. Their pre-match promo was typical New Day fun and I really liked The Social Outcasts attacking them going into the commercial break, making them more of a threat to beat the babyfaces. Granted, they didn't, but they benefited from that little extra boost. Any guesses who will be next to challenge New Day for the tag titles? My money is on Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson following their win over The Usos at Extreme Rules.
Cesaro def. Intercontinental Champion The Miz in a Money in the Bank Qualifying Match (Non-title)
The promo Miz cut before the bout was pure gold and he couldn't have been any more right about being on a roll since Maryse joined his side the night after WrestleMania. He's in the middle of a career resurgence right now and he deserves all the credit in the world for rejuvenating his once-stagnant character. Him and Cesaro have been at odds for almost two months, so I liked how this was essentially the blow-off to their feud before they go their separate ways. They contested an enjoyable match and they told a solid story with Miz targeting Cesaro's injured shoulder (it's been months and he's still recovering from that in storyline?). Cesaro is a strong candidate to capture the briefcase, so he was the right man to go over whereas Miz can defend his title at the event.
Chris Jericho def. Apollo Crews in a Money in the Bank Qualifying Match
The commentators mentioned Sheamus attacking Crews backstage beforehand, though Crews didn't sell the attack at all during the match. I'd still say he was protected and lost nothing in defeat, and besides, he was on offense for a majority of the match. He had an impressive performance versus Jericho and has a ready-made feud with Sheamus going into the event. As for Jericho, he's been one of the best parts of programming for the past few months and definitely deserved to be involved in the match he helped create over a decade ago. On a side note, was Crews getting hit with the Lionsault a botch or what? Crews got back to his feet before Jericho connected with it, so it came off oddly.
Big Cass def. Bubba Ray Dudley
Words can describe how ecstatic I am that Enzo Amore is back. I know he wasn't gone for more than a month, but his presence alongside Big Cass has been sorely missed. Although he was in Big Cass' corner here, I wouldn't read too much into that as far as whether he's ready to return to the ring. He took a bump at ringside, so I assume he's cleared to compete. The match wasn't anything special and I like that this feud is picking up where it left off a few weeks ago, but The Dudley Boyz need to get the upper hand at some point. Otherwise, fans won't take Enzo and Cass' wins over them seriously.
WWE Women's Champion Charlotte Turned on Ric Flair
I figured Charlotte kicking her father to the curb was bound to happen at some point, but I didn't think it would happen this soon. Then again, I guess I should have seen that coming after Dana Brooke was added to Charlotte's act at Extreme Rules. He has been great in the corner of Charlotte since she turned, and I believe she's a strong enough heel now that she doesn't need him anymore. I could end up eating my words, but Brooke is a fine ally for her and Flair is a sympathetic character anyway. This segment showed Charlotte needs to become more comfortable on the mic, but her talking ability has certainly improved leaps and bounds during her title reign.
Dean Ambrose def. Dolph Ziggler in a Money in the Bank Qualifying Match
These two have always had fun chemistry and produced quality contests whenever they've worked together and this was no exception. Ambrose was more of a lock for the Ladder match than Ziggler considering Ziggler is still (sadly) feuding with Baron Corbin, but it was an entertaining affair, nevertheless. JBL made a great point on commentary how two former members of The Shield will be battling for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Money in the Bank and the third member will be battling for a chance to compete for the title. That's a stellar story they can continue to tell in the coming weeks if Ambrose is ultimately the winner.
Kevin Owens def. AJ Styles in a Money in the Bank Qualifying Match
Coming off his back-to-back pay-per-view losses to Reigns, I was wondering what would be next for Styles, and I had a hunch it would have something to do with Gallows and Anderson. That became apparent as soon as Styles blamed them for costing him the championship. Honestly speaking, their back-and-forth on the mic wasn't that great, but the basis of what they were saying was intriguing and I look forward to how the storyline plays out. I was pleasantly surprised they didn't interfere in the qualifying match as well. The second half of the bout was fantastic and the final few minutes were very well done. Owens winning clean was huge, and while I'm not high on Styles taking another loss, the commentators covered it nicely by saying he was recovering from his Extreme Rules match at Sunday night.
This was an excellent post-Extreme Rules edition of Raw that featured fallout from the event and began building towards Money in the Bank in phenomenal fashion. It was an awesome night of in-ring action and all of the qualifying matches (which I'm happy were brought back and the MITB field wasn't announced at random) were a treat. Additionally, we had the returns of Rollins and Enzo Amore, storyline progression in the women's division, and very little of Shane and Stephanie McMahon. Not to mention we'll have not one but two title matches on SmackDown this Thursday night. I realize it's only May, but I'd argue that WWE's summer season is already underway, and with John Cena back on the Memorial Day Raw, the next month should be a blast to say the least.