Big E Taunted WWE Champion Bobby Lashley and Raw Tag Team Champion Randy Orton
Although I personally prefer for Money in the Bank cash-ins to be kept a surprise, I have to hand it to WWE: it was smart to announce ahead of time that Big E would cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase on this show considering it was up against the return of Monday Night Football. That's a hell of a hook. Everyone played their roles well here with Big E outright saying he was cashing in on either Lashley or Orton and then the two of them hyping up their WWE Championship clash for later on.
Raw Women's Champion Charlotte Flair def. Shayna Baszler in a Championship Contender's Match
After Flair already beat Nia Jax to retain the Raw Women's Championship last week and she has a title defense against Alexa Bliss scheduled for Extreme Rules, I didn't think Baszler had a shot in hell of winning here, not to mention that she's been booked like a loser for over a year now. Despite that, this was a quality contest and I'd be all for them having an extended feud at some point if Baszler can be built back up. Jax "inadvertently" cost Baszler the win, so they'll go one-on-one next week. Post-match, Alexa Bliss and Flair got physical and it was probably the best thing I've seen Bliss involved with all year. Yes, I realize the bar is low, but I appreciated that there was no supernatural silliness.
Drew McIntyre and The Viking Raiders def. Jinder Mahal, Veer and Shanky
This was the definition of filler. Seriously, what purpose was this supposed to serve? McIntyre finished his feud with Mahal and his cronies at SummerSlam when he beat him in a matter of minutes. Hell, he and Viking Raiders beat the three of them in a matter of minutes here as well. This had no business being on the show other than to kill time, even though it didn't last long. Additionally, McIntyre is obviously in a holding pattern until the Draft next month. A move to SmackDown is imperative.
United States Champion Damian Priest def. Jeff Hardy
You never know what you're going to get with Hardy in WWE. One week he's ending Karrion Kross' undefeated streak, and then he's off TV the next. Then he's chasing the 24/7 Champion before answering a United States Championship open challenge the following week. This dude has no business being as over as he is with how he's been booked lately, but the fans still adore him and it's encouraging to see. They were very much behind him here, but Priest received his fair share of cheers as well. This was an enjoyable affair even if the outcome was never in doubt.
Nikki A.S.H. def. WWE Women's Tag Team Champion Tamina
Ripley vs. Natalya was advertised a few days out for this show, but Nikki vs. Tamina was made official backstage literally moments before it happened. I could have done with just Ripley vs. Tamina because this was a total mess. The Nikki A.S.H. character sucks and Tamina is terrible in the ring. What more needs to be said? That botched finish with the referee counting three, Tamina's music hitting and Tamina being announced the winner was so bad it was funny. If the original finish was supposed to see Nikki lose, then things worked out for the better.
Rhea Ripley def. WWE Women's Tag Team Champion Natalya
Much like their last encounter a few months ago, this was very good. Natalya does nothing as a character for me at this point and WWE needs to get the tag titles off her and Tamina as soon as possible, but I'll give her credit where it's due: this was solid stuff. Ripley should absolutely not be losing to Natalya. With Ripley and Nikki beating the tag champs in back-to-back singles matches, I assume they'll get a title shot sooner rather than later, which makes no sense when you consider Shotzi and Tegan Nox have yet to get a title shot and they've beaten the champs on three different occasions.
AJ Styles, Omos, Mace and T-Bar def. The New Day, Mansoor and Mustafa Ali
This stemmed from Mace and T-Bar attacking the babyfaces teams in last week's Tag Team Turmoil match and Styles and Omos ultimately eliminating New Day. Raw's tag team division isn't completely devoid of teams, but most of them just don't matter. This was well wrestled, but I'd be lying if I said I was overly invested in it. The biggest takeaway was that Omos completely dominated all four members of the opposing team on his own. They're clearly trying to build him up and WWE has done a nice job of protecting him so far and keeping his offense limited.
Doudrop def. Eva Marie
I fully expected WWE to pull another fast one with these two and find some way to work around doing the match like two weeks ago. Doudrop got married over the weekend, so I assumed she'd miss the show and go on her honeymoon like a normal person. I guess she hasn't reached a level where she can do that yet, unfortunately. Their match was short, sweet and relatively harmless. Doudrop winning clean gives me hope she can finally move on from this story and do something else.
WWE Champion Bobby Lashley def. Raw Tag Team Champion Randy Orton; Big E Cashed in His Money in the Bank Contract on Lashley to Win the WWE Championship
Other than wanting to combat ratings, I was curious why WWE would give away their planned Extreme Rules main event on this show. Well, now we know. I enjoyed Lashley vs. Orton and it felt fresh because we've only seen it once before. With Lashley winning relatively clean, I don't see there being a need for a rematch outside of Lashley and MVP challenging RK-Bro for the Raw Tag Team Championship again one of these weeks. Of course, Big E cashing in his contract successfully was pure perfection. He'd been hyping it up all night long that I was starting to think it was either not happening or he'd lose, but I was happy to have been wrong. He got a massive reaction for winning the title. Personally, I would have either waiting a little longer to do it or build it up a bit more in advance, but Big E is without a doubt deserving of the honor and WWE did the right thing. Goldberg, Orton or almost anyone else taking the title from Lashley would've been dumb, and although I wanted Big E to cash in on Roman Reigns eventually, Raw needs a shot in the arm right now and this can hopefully help with that. This was a tremendous moment.
If you were wondering why WWE attempted to stack this show with the WWE Championship main event, Big E announcing his cash-in in advance, and Priest vs. Hardy for the United States Championship, it's because tonight also marked the return of Monday Night Raw. Didn't WWE realize that a week ago? Or was it AEW Dynamite's strong rating last week that caused them to hot-shot some stuff? Nonetheless, I enjoyed this edition of Raw more than most episodes because of the last minute changes and for what we got at the end. They can't and shouldn't do that every week, but it worked in this one instance. The middle was mediocre, but the big stuff delivered. Whether WWE can maintain this momentum and put this type of effort into every Raw is the question. I'm skeptical because it hasn't happened in a long time, but we'll find out next Monday night.