With fewer segments than normal and an increased focus on long and exciting matches, Monday’s episode of Raw felt more like a pay-per-view considering how much was at stake in each bout. And with a decreased PPV schedule in 2018, that’s far from a bad thing.  

But if the episode is ultimately remembered for a single thing, it just might be how far Jason Jordan has come as a superstar with limitless potential.  

It may have been Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe, whose insertion into an exciting Raw tag team championship main event, that proved to be the principle figures when the show went off the air on Monday. But the first hour of it was all about Jordan, setting the tone for a strong evening to come.

Jason Jordan carries opening hour  

Raw general manager Kurt Angle opened the show ready to announce Roman Reigns’ opponent for tonight’s intercontinental title match. Out came Jason Jordan who, amid a chorus of boos, challenged his father to give him a shot at Reigns. Despite Angle’s concern about his injured knee, Jordan begged and claimed, “I can beat Roman Reigns, I just need a chance, dad.” Reigns ran in to tell Angle he wanted Samoa Joe instead before ripping Jordan for how he handled himself. “Don’t come running to your dad,” Reigns said, “step up and take it.” Jordan countered by calling Reigns the poster boy for everything WWE management wants. Out came Samoa Joe to accept Reigns’ challenge before offering him five seconds to withdraw it and avoid embarrassment. 

Jordan interjected to cut a promo on Joe, saying he doesn’t have to act tough because he’s willing to challenge people to their face. His attempt to challenge Joe was halted by Reigns, who pushed him back. But just as Reigns told Joe “the five seconds are done,” Jordan hit Reigns with a belly-to-belly suplex. An angry Reigns grabbed the microphone and told Joe he can wait until after tonight because “Jordan can get it right now.” He then ordered Angle to book it. After commercial, their three-segment match lasted just over 20 minutes with one dramatic near fall for Jordan after another. Jordan, who reaggravated his knee, came the closest following a pair of Northern Lights suplexes until Reigns countered with a Superman punch and spear for the 1-2-3.  

Joe, who watched from the stage, heckled Reigns before attacking him and applying his Coquina Clutch. Jordan broke it up from behind and hit a suplex on Joe before Reigns laid out Jordan with a Superman punch from behind. Angle angrily shot down Jordan’s backstage plea for a second match against Joe tonight, explaining that people are going to think he’s playing favorites. Joe then surprised Jordan and laid him out.  Later on, Elias threatened Angle backstage that “your bias to your bastard son will be the end of you.”  

Talk about a coming-out party for Jordan. The former American Alpha member was the focal point of the first 47 minutes of the show and failed to disappoint a single time. In fact, his exchanges with Reigns on the microphone proved to be the best segment of the show. Jordan continues to get handed the ball and simply improves each week.  Jordan’s whiny persona is a proven heat seeker which should pave the way for an effective heel turn. And while he has overachieved on the microphone, his in-ring work continues to be top shelf. Jordan’s push on Raw isn’t anything new for anyone who has watched each episode. But he has been more of a supporting actor at best in recent weeks. This was the week Jordan became a leading man.

Woken Matt Hardy makes official debut 

It took eight months since Matt Hardy’s return to WWE for his “Broken” character, which set the wrestling world on fire with TNA Impact Wrestling in 2016, to show up in full bloom. But after a recent settlement with Impact parent company Anthem Sports (and a “Delete” tease last week after his loss to Bray Wyatt), “Woken” Matt Hardy appeared. Using most of his “broken” catchphrases and voice inflection, Hardy traded barbs with Wyatt during a unique segment of dueling video promos. Hardy stated that “due to my condition, I have laid dormant inside this vessel called Matthew Hardy. But now, thanks to the consumer of terrestrial entities, I have been woken.” Wyatt countered by calling him a fraud and countering that it was he who hit his breaking point last week. “My fire will not cleanse you, my fire will not save you,” Wyatt said. “My fire will make sure all of your burn.” Hardy closed by telling Wyatt he left him with no choice but to “sentence you to deletion” before both traded evil laughs.  

So … this was interesting. Was it great? Honestly, no. It was babbling and confusing at best, producing more fuel to the fire (no pun intended) for those who are sick of Wyatt’s inane shtick. But was it great to have Hardy back in a character that produced the best work of his career? No question about it. And that’s ultimately the key. The fear in this case is that due to the already bizarre nature of Hardy’s persona, putting him opposite an equally bizarre heel in Wyatt to start will convolute what makes it great. As of now, consider me cautiously intrigued that WWE will allow Hardy the creative freedom to have the kind of impact (pun intended) that he had last year.

What else happened on Raw? 

  • Paige def. Sasha Banks via pinfall: Incorrectly announced by Jojo as a submission match, this one was given prime real estate (more than 20 minutes over three segments including entrances). In her first match in more than a year, Paige dominated early and was pushed late to pick up the tempo by Banks. After Paige’s Absolution stablemates Mandy Rose and Sonia Deville took care of Bayley and Mickie James outside, creating a distraction for Banks, Paige hit a superkick and her Rampaige finisher for the win. Absolution followed by further beating down Banks and standing tall. 
  • Drew Gulak def. Cedric Alexander, Tony Nese & Mustafa Ali via pinfall: In one of the better cruiserweight matches to air on Raw, Gulak secured a No. 1 contender match against Rich Swann next week for a shot at Enzo Amore’s title. The 18-minute match featured thrilling high spots including an absurd springboard Spanish fly from Ali on Alexander. It also featured countless late saves to prevent a finish. In the end, Alexander hit a Lumbar Check on Ali but Gulak ran in to hit a running knee and steal the pin.  Earlier in the show, there was an interesting moment backstage between Amore and Nia Jax.
  • Elias attacked by Braun Strowman: Taking umbrage with Elias’ song, including a lyric that there’s no bigger star than him in WWE, Strowman ran in to inflict damage. He even no-sold a guitar strike to the back and finished Elias in the center of the ring with a running powerslam. Kane’s music hit and, during a backstage video promo, he challenged Strowman to a match next week. “Together we will ascend into the abyss but only one monster will emerge,” he said. 
  • Asuka def. Alicia Fox via submission: Fox cut a pre-match video promo claiming she’s “not Dana Brooke” and will avoid a squash match defeat. She succeeded but not by much. Asuka avoided a scissors kick to land two kicks of her own before transitioning beautifully into an armbar to produce a tap. Out came Absolution to surround the ring but Asuka laughed as she walked away for the second straight week. Paige then put over how Fox as her best (and only) friend in WWE last year. “I love you,” Paige said. “I just don’t think Sonia and Mandy feel the same way.” Deville and Rose landed running knees on Fox before all three grabbed arms to stand tall over her.  
  • Finn Balor def. Bo Dallas via pinfall: Balor regained his shine following a relatively brief victory designed to make us forget how many times Kane has destroyed him in recent weeks. Balor combined a slingblade with a missile dropkick late in the match to set up a Coupe de Grace, leaping halfway across the ring, for the 1-2-3.   
  • Raw Tag Team Championship — The Bar (c) def. Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins via pinfall to retain the titles: In the fourth match of the night to be given 20 minutes of in-ring time, this one was constant drama throughout with a pay-per-view feel. The long build to a hot tag of Ambrose was rewarding, as was the gluttony of near falls. This one had tremendous potential to be overbooked but somehow retained a fun and exciting feel to the finish. Sheamus was initially disqualified for mercilessly pounding Rollins while not the legal man as The Bar attempted to purposely end the match in order to retain. But Angle interrupted their celebration on the ramp by restarting the match with a no disqualification clause. Just as the babyfaces appeared on the verge of victory, with Cesaro barely kicking out of an Ambrose clothesline and Rollins splash, Samoa Joe ran in to take them out. That brought out Reigns, who hit a Superman punch on Cesaro and chased Joe through the crowd. But the distraction hurt Ambrose instead as Sheamus connected with a Brogue kick and threw Cesaro on top for the pin.  

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