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By Josh Coulson @BristolBeadz
The Raw after Mania. Arguably the most anticipated Monday of the wrestling year. The crowd are always on fire, plus there’s always so much that needs to be unpacked following the night before. It’s effectively the beginning of a new wrestling year. So there are debuts, new rivalries and blockbuster announcements. We had a little of all of those on Monday night and the momentum from Wrestlemania 33 well and truly carried forward onto the latest edition of Monday Night Raw.
An amazing start to Raw as the cameras simply panned around the audience to the sound of the raucous crowd chanting Un-der-taker. Then came the man who sparked such a vociferous support for The Deadman just 24 hours prior, Roman Reigns, and that chanting quickly turned to a deafening wall of boos. The unique start to Monday night’s show then got even more crowd driven. Every time The Big Dog attempted to lift the mic to his lips the boos would resume and intensify, laced with a few less than favourable chants. This went on for some time with Reigns gesturing that he had his critics in the palm of his hand. Eventually Reigns did speak, simply saying that it was his yard now and taking his leave.
The best moment from Wrestlemania 33 may well have been the return of The Hardy Boyz. Matt and Jeff shocked the WWE Universe with their appearance and shocked us even further then they became Raw tag team champions on their first night back in WWE. No rest for the wicked though as the now seven time WWE tag champs had to defend their newly won gold in a rematch against former champions Gallows & Anderson. The veterans proved that their triumphant return is no flash in the pan. The match’s finale saw Luke Gallows suffer a twist of fate from each brother swiftly followed by a signature senton bomb from Jeff. Matt made the cover and The Hardys are still the Raw tag team champions.
Another man who managed to leave the Citrus Bowl with gold last night was Neville. The Geordie was in fine bragging form on Raw right up until a new challenger appeared in the form of Mustafa Ali. Although Ali put up a big fight against the champ it was Neville who left victorious for the second time in 24 hours. The cruiserweight champ continued to be the perfect heel. After the pop from the crowd once he scaled the turnbuckle thinking of a red arrow, he instead popped back down and finished the match by making Ali tap to the much less crowd pleasing Rings of Saturn.
You know when Vince McMahon shows up on Raw he’s going to have a big announcement to make. Well the chairman rocked up on Monday night and he had two. First of all Mr McMahon informed us that next week Raw and SmackDown Live will be subject to a ‘superstar shake-up’. What that means exactly is still unclear. The bigger announcement came afterwards when Vince officially introduced us to Mick Foley’s replacement as Raw general manager, Kurt Angle. Yes it was expected, but that didn’t take away from how terrific a decision it is. On a night of short promos, which is a good idea considering the crowd, Kurt simply exclaimed how good it was to be back on Monday Night Raw and we’ll have to wait and see what his first action as GM will be.
Wrestlemania’s hosts addressed the Orlando crowd informing them that while they enjoyed The Ultimate Thrill Ride, they were disappointed that why didn’t get to wrestle. So they set about fixing that by issuing an open challenge. Well the team that stepped would certainly not been who New Day were expecting. The Revival have officially arrived on Raw. The Raw after Mania was the perfect place to debut this pair. That being said overcoming the longest reigning tag team champions in WWE history is a pretty tall order for your first night on the job. Well they managed it. A Shatter Machine on Xavier Woods and the win was theirs. That wasn’t enough for Dash and Dawson though. The former NXT tag champs wanted to really make their mark right from the off and attacked Kofi Kingston following their win.
A lot of exciting changes witnessed in Raw’s tag division during the first half of the show, and around half way through came some of the same for the women’s side of things. Dana Brooke found herself in the unfamiliar role of Bayley and Sasha’s tag partner as they prepared to face the trio of Nia Jax, Charlotte Flair and Emma (finally!). Despite the unfamiliar teams it was a familiar scene that brought the match to a close, Sasha forcing Charlotte to tap to the Banks Statement. Flair was clearly pretty that her partners weren’t present when she was forced to tap and while Emma passively accepted the pushing and shoving, Nia did not. Jax flattened the four time women’s champion and planted her with a leg drop for good measure before leaving the ring.
Brock Lesnar finally did it. He managed to banish his one demon. The monkey on his back. Lesnar defeated Goldberg and he is the Universal champion. What he and Paul Heyman came out to address on Raw was who exactly is worthy be The Beast Incarnates first challenger. Well after Roman Reigns became only the second man in history alongside Lesnar to defeat The Undertaker at Wrestlemania it would appear that it was The Big Dog that Brock wants next. Well Roman did not answer Heyman’s beckoning calls, but Braun Strowman did. The Monster among Men had some choice words for the new champ, telling him that he’s the one who should have his attention, not Roman. Lesnar’s not one to back down from a challenge and after telling Braun to bring it was left disappointed as the former strong man vacated the ring. It looks like a clash of gigantic proportions is imminent, but we’re going to be made to wait.
Earlier I said that we’d have to wait for Kurt Angle’s first order of business as Raw GM. Well we didn’t have to wait long. Enzo and Cass pleaded their case to the Olympic Hero that the tag match at Mania wasn’t fair due to the addition of a fourth team in the form of the Hardys. Well I guess Kurt agreed as he made a number one contender’s match between Enzo and Cass and Sheamus and Cesaro. The former’s complaint and request to the GM back fired though. Sheamus and Cesaro defeated them fair and square and they’ll be the one who get to take on The Hardy Boyz next.
Kurt Angle was pretty swamped with requests and problems for his first night in the job. Following the tag request from Enzo and Cass, Sami Zayn and Jinder Mahal clashed in the new GM’s office. Jinder was of course not happy about the way the Andre the Giant Battle Royal came to a close on Sunday night. After arguing over who interrupted who, Angle interjected between Zayn and Mahal and suggested that the pair settle their differences in the ring, and that they did? Even though Jinder jumped Sami before the match it didn’t prove to be enough to notch up a win for Mahal as Zayn rallied and won using his Helluva Kick to finish things off.
The final and most important decision of Angle’s busy first night as GM was to find a new partner for Seth Rollins in the main event. Originally it was supposed to be Chris Jericho but after a brutal backstage attack from Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe, his opponents for later that night, he was rendered out of action. Well Kurt did a tremendous job in terms of finding a replacement as a returning Finn Balor emerged to pair up with Seth. Rollins and Balor made quite the formidable partnership. Seth did extremely well during the early goings but his high octane offence coupled with a still injured knee meant Finn had to then step up, and that he did. The former Universal champion quickly went to work on the new United States champion and finished the match with a signature coup de grace to the Canadian. Finn is back and evidently he’s not missed a beat.