Monday Night Raw hasn’t always been kind to Roman Reigns.
On the one hand, it’s where he first rose to the top of the heap of the WWE universe as a member of the wildly popular stable The Shield. On the other it was where he struggled to resonate as a singles competitor, saddled with appalling dialogue and contrived storylines like his war against the Authority. After spending 2020 and 2021 so far reinventing himself and dominating Friday Night SmackDown, Reigns and The Usos brought the Bloodline to Raw on September 20.
The show kicked off with a six-man tag match between The New Day and the Bloodline.
WWE champion Big E first addressed the Raleigh, North Carolina audience. He thanked them for their support leading up to his big win, and paid tribute to late friend Brodie Lee. The perennial popularity of the New Day is fueling the goodwill towards Big E’s championship run. But also creates a burden of proof for him: Can he continue to thrive without their signature cohesive teamwork? And can he leave behind their antics to be a more serious competitor?
Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods traded off handling the Usos, which they did with the well honed cohesion which makes the New Day iconic, as well as familiarity with Jimmy and Jey Uso, whom they have faced many times. Big E tagged in to help Kingston, who was being harshly dealt with by Reigns, who’d plunged him through the announce table and rushed him into the post.
The next prize for E to pursue would be the Universal Championship, and when he and Reigns met in the ring, it seemed to be a visual tease of what that pursuit would look like.
E came in on the offense, manhandling the usually dominant Reigns with three belly to belly suplexes. Reigns managed to turn the tables and get Big E down for a cover, but he kicked out at two.
After quickly knocking the Usos off the ropes, E hit a splash on Reigns and while he lay prostrate led the audience in a chant of “New Day rocks”. A Big E sought his ‘big ending’ finisher, Jimmy Uso ran in to interfere with a kick. E intercepted him, throwing him out of the ring and tagging in Woods. E then launched Kingston over the ropes onto the Usos outside the ring, sending them crashing to the floor. Reigns’ Superman punched E off the apron, but was met with a knee to the face by Woods as he entered the ring. Woods knocked Reigns off his feet with a well timed superkick and covered him, but Reigns stayed alive.
An enraged Bobby Lashley entered, attacking any member of the New Day or the Bloodline he could get his hands on.
The Almighty showed he’s still furious over losing the WWE championship. Reigns capitalized on the distraction, and hit Woods with a spear, scoring a pinfall victory.
Although the New Day weren’t victorious, the match introduced the optics of a Big E vs. Roman Reigns angle. It showcased how Big E’s considerable strength would fare against Reigns. It also established that Lashley is far from done with E. In fact, Lashley’s attack led into the night’s main event, a triple threat between himself, Big E, and Roman Reigns.
“Bros” on Razor scooters, dripstick sneak attacks, and demonic dolls are not going to keep Raw relevant during the ascent of All Elite Wrestling. AEW boasts a roster of some of the most dynamic pro wrestling performers alive. They also prent an athletically driven approach to their presentation. However, matches like the Lashley v. Reigns v. Big E triple are a welcome reminder of when Raw was, indeed, at war.
Once again, E roughed up Reigns with belly to belly throws. Reigns’s visibly gave way to bafflement at being overwhelmed.
However, Lashley also had a go, lifting Reigns in a standing vertical suplex. Big E managed to catch both Lashley and Reigns at a low ebb, line up his supine opponents and launch himself from the ropes into a splash on both men. Kudos to both Lashley and Reigns for recovering quickly, Lashley to hit a spine buster on E and cover, his pinfall broken by Roman Reigns, who knocked Lashley outside and covered Big E, himself. E kicked out, to Reigns’s consternation.
E evaded Reigns’s Superman punch, lifted him overhead and slammed him to the canvas, seeking a cover, but was pulled through the ropes by Lashley, and dropped through the announce desk. The crowd loved every second of Lashley’s brutality. He returned to the ring, seeking a spear on Reigns but was met with a Superman punch. Reigns covered, Lashley stayed alive. As the two caught their breath, the Raleigh crowd chanted, “This is awesome!”
Reigns unleashed his signature wolfish howl signifying that he’s about to wrap things up.
But Lashley intercepted him with a spear and covered, only for E to crash into his pinfall. Lashley retaliated with his inescapable Nelson, the ‘Hurt Lock’. Reigns broke Lashley’s lock on E with a Superman punch. E kicked a prone Lashley out of the ring. Then, he speared Reigns off the apron, rolling him back into the ring. He managed to hit a ‘Big Ending’ on Reigns. Lashley interrupted E’s cover on Reigns with a chair shot. Lashley continued to brutalize Big E with a steel chair, inciting the condemnation of the crowd, before being hit with a spear and covered by Reigns, for a pinfall victory.
Both matches were well-crafted bouts powered by the popularity and talent of the performers involved: Big E’s WWE championship has become a celebration of the beloved New Day. While Roman Reigns’s and the Usos’s reinvention as the Bloodline has turned to gold whatever it touches. Then there is Lashley, whose stunning physical strength and fearsomeness always touch a nerve.
September 20’s episode of Raw is probably not a return to form for the troubled show. However, it did provide the red brand with two genuinely thrilling matches. Thanks to a reinvented Reigns and evolving Big E.
(Cover Photo courtesy of metro.uk)
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