Raw was in Los Angeles this week and as expected, there were some big names in the house.
We're talking names like The Rock and Steve Austin. Heck, even Mario Lopez was in the building. A.C. Slater will always be my favorite character from Saved by the Bell.
However, none of them appeared during the three-plus hours of Raw Monday night.
Well, The Rock did appear before the live audience to film scenes for the Paige biopic his production company is producing, Fighting With My Family, but that was before and after the telecast.
Unfortunately, The Rock's appearances were the most notable things to occur at the Staples Center Monday night.
Raw wasn't quite the abomination it has been in the past, but it definitely was a step back from last week.
Despite the red brand taking a step back, there were some bright spots on the show, which I will get to in a moment, but first, here are the full match results from L.A.:
- Big Cass & Enzo Amore def. Sheamus & Cesaro
- Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson def. Roman Reigns via disqualification
- The New Day def. Rusev & Jinder Mahal
- Nia Jax def. Sarah Pierce
- Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair
- Kevin Owens def. Sami Zayn
- Braun Strowman def. Big Show
Owens, Brock Lesnar received their close-up
There must have been some sort of edict going around WWE last week to get close-ups of the talent during promos because the company used them twice Monday night.
In the show's opening segment, we saw Owens sitting in a chair that was placed in the middle of the ring while dressed to the nines and with the spotlight placed solely upon him.
The camera got an extreme close-up of Owens' face as he glared back into the camera while talking about Goldberg, whom he will defend his Universal title against at Fastlane.
Owens said that he was never fond of Goldberg back when he was running roughshod over World Championship Wrestling and isn't fond of him now. He said that he never cared about Goldberg nor has he ever impressed him.
Owens then said that Goldberg would not run through him at Fastlane like he's done all of his foes from the past because he will wrestle at his own pace, not at Goldberg's.
He went on to say that he would outsmart Goldberg at Fastlane because he knows how to "play the game better than anyone else."
When it came time to explain why he turned on his best friend, Chris Jericho, last week Owens said nothing. Instead, he dropped the microphone and left the ring.
This was fantastic and was what Owens has needed after being part of a humorous duo for the last six months. Owens couldn't be the cowardly, funny heel heading into a championship match against a man that has dominated Lesnar on multiple occasions in the past.
Owens needs to be what we saw last week and what we saw this past Monday night, and that is a champion that is dead serious in his tone and in his actions in and out of the ring.
Although Owens can be hilarious at times, this is the best version of him. This is the version that will make him more of a star than he already is.
A man that is already at the level of notoriety that Owens hopes to be at one day is Lesnar, and he had a talking segment of his own Monday night.
Instead of being in the ring, however, Lesnar was backstage with his advocate Paul Heyman for a sit-down interview with Michael Cole.
Cole never finished asking his first question before Heyman interrupted him and said that he should lower his tone because Lesnar had been on edge lately.
Lesnar then rose from his chair and took a step toward Cole, which was all that was needed to make Cole scurry away in fear. I guess Cole had flashbacks of the night after WrestleMania 31 replaying in his head.
With Cole gone, Lesnar took his chair, turned it around and sat right in front of the camera. He didn't say anything, though. Heyman did all of the talking while Lesnar glared into the camera.
With camera fixed mostly on Lesnar's scowl, Heyman said that if Goldberg were to defeat Owens for the WWE Universal championship at Fastlane and walk into WrestleMania with the title, it would be another thing added to the long list of things he would be taking away from Goldberg, along with his "health, well-being, reputation, legacy and career."
I don't think this was quite as good as Owens' segment earlier in the show, but I'll give WWE extra credit for shaking up the formula a little bit. Instead of having Lesnar just sit there as Heyman spoke his gospel, Lesnar looked daggers into the viewing audience while Heyman sat in the background, almost playing the role of a disembodied voice.
Goldberg is scheduled to appear on Raw next week, so I guess it'll be his turn to get his extreme close-up.
Big Show, Strowman stole the show
Those are words I never thought I would type, but I have to give credit where credit is due — Big Show and Strowman put on fine performances in the main event Monday night.
I must admit that I did not have high expectations heading into this contest. It didn't help that WWE hyped this match like it was the second coming of Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant.
That only made me lower my expectations.
However, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. From the sounds of it, so was Los Angeles.
On the surface, the purpose of the match was to further the story between Strowman and Reigns. But what was also showcased was Strowman's ability in the ring, which has improved by leaps and bounds since he debuted back in 2015.
Back then the guy could barely do anything in the ring mostly because he had no idea what he was doing.
On Monday night, we saw a prime example of how much he has progressed since then. He seemed more comfortable in the ring, which meant he could do more, including a kip up.
Now, I'm not advocating for guys the likes of Strowman and Big Show to be doing kip ups and chain wrestling, which was what they did Monday night. With that said, it was impressive to see a man in Strowman that weighs a biscuit or two shy of 400 pounds kip up with ease.
Strowman's still a long way from being Zack Sabre Jr., but he definitely impressed me Monday night.
Credit must also go to Big Show, who was clearly tasked with leading the way and making sure the young guy looked good. Also, seeing Big Show at less than 400 pounds was almost surreal.
Bayley stood her ground
If you recall, Bayley won the Raw Women's championship last week in somewhat controversial fashion, as Banks hit Charlotte with a crutch. To be fair, that did occur after Charlotte's useless protégé, Dana Brooke, interfered in the match as well.
Having Bayley accept a win like that almost goes against her character, as she represents everything that is good about professional wrestling. Her moral code is supposed to be of the highest degree, but that came into question Monday by Raw commissioner Stephanie McMahon.
McMahon told Bayley that accepting a win in that fashion was beneath her and that she should relinquish the title. Banks came out and tried to steer her friend in the opposite direction, saying that she worked her life to get that championship and shouldn't give it up.
Bayley looked like she was going to consider giving up the title, but emphatically decided not to and said that the title belongs to her and there isn't anything anyone can do about it.
I liked the fact that Bayley's moral code was brought into the story because it fits the narrative surrounding Bayley. I even wouldn't have minded if Bayley gave up the title. It would have fit her character. What I didn't understand was why McMahon was needed to be her moral compass of sorts.
Bayley could have wrestled with that decision on her own. Instead, WWE saw it as an opportunity to get some more heat on McMahon, which I don't think is necessary.
I know some people may think that Bayley holding on to the title goes against her character and I can see where those people are coming from. However, I don't mind that Bayley has a little bit of a rebellious nature in her.
Heck, someone has to. No one else does. Everyone simply does whatever McMahon says. At least someone defied her in some way.
Samoa Joe killed Sami Zayn … again
In a scene that was reminiscent of last week, Joe beat the living daylights out of Zayn again. This time, it was before Zayn was scheduled to meet his longtime rival, Owens.
Joe beat down Zayn while Owens calmly watched from inside the ring. Joe eventually tossed Zayn into the ring, which prompted the referee to ask Zayn if he wanted to still have the match. Zayn, being the valiant babyface that he is, said yes.
Owens showed no mercy for Zayn and gave him another beating. After pummeling Zayn, Owens hit the pop-up power bomb to pick up the easy win.
If this leads to Joe being some sort of protector for Owens, I am all in.
Certified No. 1 contenders
Big Cass and Amore are the new No. 1 contenders to the Raw Tag Team titles and will face Gallows and Anderson at Fastlane.
While that by itself was newsworthy, something else caught my eye. That something was Big Cass and Amore looking slightly heel-ish after their victory over Cesaro and Sheamus.
After the win, Amore decided to rub it in on the microphone, but Sheamus shut him up by hitting him with the Brogue kick. The fans even thanked Sheamus for doing so.