If the road to SummerSlam officially kicked off with Sunday’s Money in the Bank, than the episode of Raw that followed Monday provided a strong tease that this could be one heck of a fun summer in WWE.  Anchored by an edgy opening hour of big reveals and even bigger action, Raw picked up exactly where the previous night’s pay-per-view card left off in a strong episode that felt markedly different from those which followed WrestleMania 34 in April.  

Ronda Rousey was given prime placement in the opening block and produced one of the finest segments that WWE’s flagship show has produced this calendar year, building on the positive buzz that came from her title match against Nia Jax on Sunday. Raw also delivered an exciting title change that few saw coming. In addition, the seeds began to be planted as to who will end up facing universal champion Brock Lesnar as in a multi-person match announced for Extreme Rules in July.

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Ronda Rousey draws 30-day suspension for attack 

The show opened with general manager Kurt Angle presenting Money in the Bank winner Alexa Bliss with the Raw women’s championship, one night after she cashed in to defeat Nia Jax. After Angle revealed that Jax will enact her mandatory rematch at the next pay-per-view, Bliss thanked the fans before turning on them and rubbing her success in their faces. Bliss then called Ronda Rousey an irrelevant bully, which triggered the former UFC champion’s music.

An angry Rousey stormed the ring and needed to be held back by Angle. After Bliss called her an “overhyped rookie” who can’t handle when the attention isn’t on her, Rousey snapped and took down Bliss and pounded her. When Angle tried to break it up, Rousey hit him with a judo toss and eventually beat down both with the MITB briefcase. “What are you doing?” Rousey shouted at Angle. “You are not my friend.” Rousey fought off a group of referees attempting to corral her and closed by powerbombing Bliss through a table.

Backstage, Rousey scolded Angle and anyone else who keeps condescendingly telling her this isn’t UFC. Angle told her she doesn’t get it and apologized before suspending her for 30 days, a move he said could ruin her chances of being Raw champion. Rousey later told Renee Young that, when she returns, “I don’t care if [Bliss] is champion or not because I’m going to be back here kicking her pink-haired ass.”

It’s as if WWE took every suggestion on how to better present Rousey and instituted all of it during the same segment. This was near-perfection as Rousey kept her dialogue short and abrasive, allowing the focus to be on her legitimate fighting ability and bad-ass aura. This was Rousey channeling her inner Steve Austin but with even more of a sinister edge (if that’s possible) due to her anger. Assuming Rousey has a preexisting reason to step away from the product for a few weeks, her suspension was the perfect way to retain heat, avoid overexposure and set the stage for a big return. Grade: A

Intercontinental championship changes hands

One night after a physically taxing title defense against Elias, Seth Rollins brought back his intercontinental championship open challenge despite concerns from the announce team that he was still too sore. The call was answered by Dolph Ziggler, who hit the ring with Drew McIntyre by his side. The second half of the three-segment match produced a series of dramatic near falls, including Rollins kicking out of a Fameasser. A late distraction from McIntyre on the apron played a part in the finish as Ziggler and Rollins traded rollups for two until Ziggler rolled once more to steal the pin and trigger a sixth reign of the IC title. The two heels attacked Rollins afterwards with McIntyre mocking his “burn it down” catchphrase. They followed with their tandem Zig-Zag/Claymore finisher to lay Rollins out.

During a post-match backstage interview with Young, Ziggler bragged that “Monday Night Rollins has been cancelled.” Rollins had his own interview later in the show in which he offered no excuses for taking the match so soon after facing Elias and said he would invoke his rematch clause against Ziggler for next week on Raw.  

This wasn’t just the match of the night; it was so good that the tease for their rematch created a legitimate must-see match for regular television. The in-ring chemistry between these two was off the charts, which is why fans can only hope this is the beginning of a lengthy feud. The surprise reveal of the title change also proved to be a strong one, helping Raw produce an absolutely electric opening hour. Grade: B+

What else happened on Raw?

  • Bobby Roode def. Curt Hawkins via pinfall: Roode wore tape on his ribs to further sell the Coup de Grace that Finn Balor hit from the top of a tall ladder at Money in the Bank. The match was a brief squash as Hawkins, following a two-count on a rollup attempt, ate a spinebuster and Glorious DDT for the 1-2-3.  
  • Braun Strowman rejects Kevin Owens’ offer: Strowman brought his briefcase to the ring and announced that as soon as universal champion Brock Lesnar shows his face again, “The Beast is going to get these hands.” Out came a visibly hurt Owens, who was limping after being thrown from the top of a tall ladder by Strowman the night before. KO congratulated Strowman and offered a scenario in which they use each other to get ahead. Strowman not only didn’t accept the offer, he shook Owens’ hand and attempted a powerslam until Owens escaped.  
  • The Deleters of Worlds def. Rhyno & Heath Slater via pinfall: Before the match began, the B-Team appeared on the big screen dressed as Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy (with Bo Dallas doing a particularly hilarious impersonation of his real-life brother). The B-Team alternated comedy with letting the champions know they aren’t scared and are coming for the titles. The match turned into a virtual squash as Hardy and Wyatt combined to hit a Kiss of Deletion on Slater for the pin.
  • Jinder Mahal def. Chad Gable via pinfall: Mahal sounded more like Tony Robbins as he cut an odd promo on the way to the ring about how people like Gable need to “see the light” and be open to change. As soon as the bell rang, Mahal’s positive demeanor turned vicious as he attacked Gable. Despite the short length of the match, it featured intensity and big spots thanks to Gable, who hit a late moonsault for two. Mahal countered with his Khallas finisher for the win.  
  • The Riott Squad def. Sasha Banks & Bayley via pinfall: The on-again, off-again friendship between Banks and Bayley took a few more turns after Bayley approached Banks in the locker room to offer a new start for both. The duo came up short against Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan, however, as Bayley inadvertently cost them the match by trying to stop Logan from interfering. After the referee turned his back on the action to discipline Bayley, Logan knocked out Banks to set up Morgan’s pin. Bayley’s attempts to apologize were met with shoves inside the ring. Finally, Bayley snapped backstage and got the worst of a wild brawl. Later in the parking lot, Banks told Bayley, “I’m done helping you and I’m done being your friend.” Bayley threw a water bottle at Banks’ car as it drove away.
  • Roman Reigns, Bobby Lashley added to No. 1 contender’s match: After Angle openly admitted to the crowd he had lost control of the show, he announced that commissioner Stephanie McMahon had come to an agreement when Lesnar would defend his universal championship next. Out came Reigns, the “uncrowned” champion, to argue he should get the shot. Lashley quickly followed to do the same, delivering a promo on Reigns for his inability to beat Lesnar after three years. Angle revealed that both Reigns and Lashley would be added to a multi-person match at Extreme Rules in July to produce Lesnar’s next opponent.  
  • Roman Reigns & Bobby Lashley def. The Revival via pinfall: Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder interrupted the argument between Reigns and Lashley to insult their entitlement and challenge them to a tag team match. Reigns appeared to have the match won after hitting Superman punches on both. But as he set up his finishing spear, Lashley tagged himself in and showed up Reigns by hitting a monstrous spear that flipped Wilder head over heels to set up the pin.  
  • Mojo Rawley def. No Way Jose via pinfall: The match was brief and powerful from the standpoint of Rawley getting over his intentions to take his career more seriously. Rawley used a running forearm to set up his finishing slam, the Hyper Drive, for the 1-2-3. During an in-ring interview with Charly Caruso, Rawley said, “I used to be known for staying hyped but now I’m about staying focused.”  
  • Elias debuts new song: Appearing in the ring with his guitar, Elias played a lengthy song featuring a chorus of “What would Elias do?” in which he insulted the Grand Rapids, Michigan, crowd and announced his hope to challenge Lesnar.
  • Kevin Owens & Baron Corbin def. Finn Balor & Braun Strowman via pinfall: After Owens crashed a backstage conversation between Angle, Constable Corbin and Balor, Strowman snuck up behind to get Balor’s back and challenge the heels to a main event tag team match. Angle declared Raw a “runaway train” and stormed off. The match gave plenty of shine to Corbin, who curiously wrestled in street clothes. Balor largely wrestled from underneath until the hot tag to Strowman, including a kick out on two following a Deep Six from Corbin. The beef between Owens and Strowman escalated when KO got scared while trying to break up a pin attempt by Strowman and backpedaled. Strowman eventually chased him outside to hit a shoulder tackle into the timekeeper’s area. The removal of Strowman gave Corbin room to win the match, however, as he intercepted Balor’s Coup de Grace attempt and hit an End of Days for the 1-2-3.
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