Since Braun Stowman struck out on his own two years ago, he has been a force of nature that few people could slow down, let alone stop. The occasional loss to Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns and, weirdly, Kalisto, aside, Strowman has been charging hard toward the top of the pecking order on Monday Night Raw, which presents some unique issues with a character who has been as dominant as he has.
When Lesnar was holding the Universal championship, his sporadic appearances meant that Strowman holding the briefcase wasn't much of an issue. But with Reigns having won said title at SummerSlam, it's hard to explain Strowman being anything but the persistently forward-moving movie monster that won't stop until its achieved its goal -- and that's exactly what we got near the close of Monday Night Raw.
Just as Reigns was about to vanquish Finn Balor, who finally received his years-in-the-making rematch for the Universal championship only to fail to tap into the demon in his most important moment, Strowman's music hit. Reigns emerged from the chaos with title still in hand, but Strowman, as promised, moved to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase. It got as far as the cash-in getting announced, but before the bell could ring The Shield's music hit and Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins came rushing down to the ring in Reigns' defense.
Strowman did his best to stifle the three-on-one attack, but a spear from Reigns led to a Shield triple powerbomb and the second official Shield reunion in a year, after the first fell apart due to injuries and misfortune.
There had to be a bold move to slow Strowman's momentum without something cheap like Kevin Owens' interference costing Strowman the title shot and burning the opportunity away -- and this was as bold as it gets.
In many ways, this was the ultimate heel move. Strowman gave forewarning that he was going to cash in and did exactly what he said he was going to do. He also didn't use any weapons or blindside Reigns -- Strowman charged straight forward. By stifling that cash-in with outside help, Reigns proved he couldn't handle Strowman on his own in that environment.
Now, I could be very wrong about how this conflict will play out going forward, but it seems unlikely that Reigns, the newly conquering hero, will be presented as a bad guy. Similarly, with the overwhelming support Strowman is receiving from fans right now, he's not really the bad guy either. In reality, WWE has taken four of Raw's hottest acts, including the new Intercontinental champion and the white-hot returning star, and put them up against one another.
If Rollins and Ambrose are to merely play support in propping up Reigns and preventing a cavalcade of boos every week, it's a dangerous path to travel for very long. Both Rollins and Ambrose are in the midst of their most popular runs in recent memory, and outside of Strowman, they are receiving the purest babyface reactions of anyone on the Raw roster.
Bold moves come with risks, to be sure, and the dynamic between The Shield and Strowman should be fascinating to watch in the coming weeks. No matter the result, positive of negative, a dramatic shift in power is now in progress.
Ronda gets Stephanie in an armbar
One night after winning the Raw Women's Title at SummerSlam, Ronda Rousey forces Stephanie McMahon to tap out after grabbing her by the arm.
Hits and misses
- Speaking of shifts in power, Ronda Rousey's impassioned speech in support of the rest of the Raw women's division inadvertently caused a dramatic change in leadership. Rousey locked in an armbar on the returning Stephanie McMahon and got a big reaction from the crowd, to be sure. But just before the start of the main event, McMahon sent General Manager Kurt Angle away on vacation and put Constable Baron Corbin in power indefinitely. This ends poorly for Balor, Reigns and a whole mess of others.
- Paul Heyman came calling for Angle early in the show, and suggested Lesnar get his rematch at Hell in a Cell on Sept. 16. Angle seemingly dismissed that notion, but it is important to note that Lesnar seems as though he will be back at some point in the future.
- Triple H made a rare (of late) appearance on Monday Night Raw to cut a promo on his history with The Undertaker and their final match to come at WWE's Super Show Down in Melbourne, Australia on Oct. 6. One of his biggest reactions were tied to NXT, which should come as little surprise.
- Outside of the main event, only a couple of matches registered much in the way of significance. Ambrose had his first one-on-one match since mid-December and defeated Dolph Ziggler in a solid effort. They found their old chemistry late in the match and had a cool finish to set up the Dirty Deeds. What Ziggler and Drew McIntyre will do in light of The Shield's reunion is anyone's guess.
- The lone women's match of the night was a fun six-woman tag team match featuring Bayley, Sasha Banks and Ember Moon against The Riott Squad. Moon and Liv Morgan continued to show off a strong in-ring dynamic against one another, while Banks and Ruby Riott continued to be the impressive bump machines they've been shown to be on a regular basis. The Riott kick to Banks' head to seal the match for Ruby and her squad looked particularly brutal.
- Curt Hawkins tried to end his perpetual losing streak against Elias in front of a friendly crowd in Brooklyn, but fell short once again. The crowd was solidly behind Hawkins, and likely will be in his sporadic appearances on Raw until he finally finds a win.
- The less we say about Baron Corbin and Bobby Lashley's opening match, the better. In fact, forget I said anything about it at all.
- Authors of Pain put away Titus Worldwide in dominant fashion, and it appeared we got a tease of Apollo Crews and Dana Brooke breaking away. At least there was some forward momentum.
- The B-Team finally lost. But they were individual singles matches against each of the members of The Revival. Outside of the result, the only action of note was Dash Wilder's insane finisher, which started out looking like a Gory special but eventually led to Curtis Axel going face-first into the mat.