Raw Recap: Braun Strowman attacks Lesnar, John Cena arrives and the great beach ball debate

Reigns felt like he played a full football game after SummerSlam (2:23)

WWE Superstar Roman Reigns shares how he is feeling after being a part of WWE SummerSlam's main event and compares the matchup to his earlier years of playing football. (2:23)

The night after any major pay-per-view is bound to have some impactful moments, and the Monday Night Raw that followed SummerSlam was no exception.

  • Braun Strowman destroyed Brock Lesnar, cashing in on the fan excitement that built up during Sunday's main event and setting up a one-on-one Universal championship match next month at No Mercy.

  • The return of John Cena to Monday Night Raw gave fans their first-ever face-to-face between Cena and Samoa Joe, along with the first taste of a Cena-Roman Reigns rivalry-to-be.

  • The Miz got a legitimate spot in the main event and a chance to cut a heartfelt promo that popped a crowd that was as down as ever on Cena and Reigns soaking up the spotlight.

But when all was said and done, the primary thing anyone will remember from the night after SummerSlam in 2017 was an infestation of beach balls and the peak of the worst kind of fan behavior that somehow always seems to find its way to the surface during these multiday runs at Brooklyn's Barclays Center.

Whether it was desperation at losing control and losing the attention of the audience, or simply a way to show just how much fun a WWE audience can have at a WWE Live event, the WWE fanned the flames by featuring the balls bouncing through the crowd at various points during three separate matches on Monday. The main event that featured Cena and Reigns vs. Joe and Miz included the most outright pandering to the disruptions, though it may have already been out of control. Jason Jordan vs. Finn Balor carried on for a bit longer than it probably should have, but fans still got into the entrances and ending of the match.

Most puzzlingly, it also happened during a tag team match that, on paper, everyone should have loved, featuring the new Raw tag team champions Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins taking on The Hardy Boyz. There was even a "this is awesome" chant.

The escalation may very well have come because Cesaro hopped into the crowd and destroyed one of the beach balls that bounced around in the crowd during a Raw tag team title match that, for all intents and purposes, featured an incredibly well-executed story to that point.

The blame can go a number of places -- the "look at me" nature and embracing of trolling that's not exclusive to the WWE, or a third hour of Raw that really pushes fans and their attention spans to the brink (especially during pay-per-view weeks), or even the propensity to cash in on short-term payoffs in deference to what's "best for business" in the long term. That Cena got on the microphone after Raw went off the air and thanked the fans (and got down on security guards) for this type of behavior indicates it won't go anywhere anytime soon, especially with SummerSlam set to return to Brooklyn in 2018.

If it was a case of just a few fans, or playfully batting the ball around a few times, it'd be one thing, but when two or three or four superstars are in the ring going full speed, performing their best, and the only thing getting over are chants that somehow make the fans feel as though they're controlling the show, fans that paid their money to go and actually watch a wrestling show face a hopeless battle as they attempt to focus on something other than people trying to put themselves over.

I'm sure there are plenty who think it's simply harmless fun, and that anyone who pays to see a show should be granted a lot of leeway to do whatever they'd like once they're in the building -- and that argument holds a lot of water. Vince McMahon got their money, just like everyone else's, and the superstars still collected their paychecks. But that's also the reason, more than any other, that if any of those same fans think this kind of behavior is going to lead to any dramatic change in the storylines for the better, or competitors who get the spotlight, they realistically have no chance.

Hits and misses

  • It never stops being remarkable to see how plugged in Paul Heyman is to an audience, especially a New York crowd. He had them eating out of his hands and had them satisfied that his promo with Lesnar would be more than enough to stand on its own merits. That only helped to juice up the pop that Strowman received upon entering, and after two running powerslams to the champion, the mercurial audience couldn't have been more behind Strowman. Mission accomplished.

  • Kudos to whoever came up with the idea of Joe and The Miz as the opposite end of the Reigns/Cena cooldown. There's plenty of history, and it allowed Miz to cut his best potent kind of promo -- where he gets a chance to hit on his raw nerve and channel his feelings of being constantly underutilized while Cena and Reigns get "all of the moments."

  • Cena taking everything and then some from Baron Corbin, only to immediately roll over to Raw and leave him in the dust, doesn't bode well for Corbin. Cena also happened to pick up the pinfall win in Monday's main event. Coincidence? Probably.

  • For those backstage and around the world wondering who between Cena and Reigns would assume the mantle of beloved and universally cheered good guy once they went face to face, the answer was "neither of them," according to the admittedly polarizing crowd. "You both suck" was the chant of the day.

  • Sasha Banks will defend her newly won Raw women's championship next week in Memphis against former champ Alexa Bliss. To date, Banks, who is a four-time Raw women's champion, has never successfully defended that title on TV or pay-per-view. Could that possibly continue?

  • Big Cass' leg injury looked like bad news, and the abrupt ending to the match did little to offer hope in the long term. Here's to hoping there's a little bit of storyline involved, but the odds don't look good. On a similar note, WWE's news of Asuka's broken collarbone from Saturday night might have short-circuited some plans of a call-up to Raw or SmackDown for the time being, but only time will tell.

  • The eight-man cruiserweight tag team match was fun, but until Gran Metalik's middle rope springboard moonsault to the outside and Cedric Alexander's brutal lumbar check to Tony Nese, nothing really registered with the audience. With Neville vs. Akira Tozawa set for 205 Live Tuesday night, it's never been clearer. Either take the training wheels off these guys or seriously consider absorbing them into the rosters of Raw, SmackDown and NXT.

  • Ambrose and Rollins vs. the Hardys was fun but doesn't seem likely to come to much going forward.

  • Nia Jax had one of the lines of the night after standing behind Emma backstage, letting Emma run her down verbally. "Forget #GiveEmmaAChance. After tonight, it's going to be #GiveEmmaCPR". After a one-minute match, it could have helped.

  • Is it me, or has Elias gotten considerably better at playing the guitar?