The May 15 episode of WWE Raw is in the books, and fans now have an extraordinary main event of Extreme Rules on June 4 to look forward to.
With the announcement of Braun Strowman’s untimely injury came with the revelation that Roman Reigns, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt will battle for the opportunity to challenge Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship.
Those five men found themselves at the heart of the broadcast Monday night, but it was five feet of fury that earned “biggest winner” honors as Alexa Bliss stole the carpet out from underneath her male contemporaries.
Less lucky were the cruiserweights, who unluckily earned the “biggest loser” status.
Hardly a strong in-ring product this week, Raw did feature a strong match between Balor and Reigns that captivated audiences and evened their series at one victory apiece.
Delve into this week’s show, find out why each performer earned the status they did and what the biggest takeaway from the May 15 broadcast was with this recap of the USA Network presentation.
Biggest Winner: Alexa Bliss
The May 15 episode of Raw was won by the current women’s champion Alexa Bliss.
A smart, charismatic and engaging performer whose ability to connect with the audience on the microphone has made her invaluable to the women’s divisions on both Raw and SmackDown Live, she has emerged as the face of the flagship show’s female roster.
Monday night, she carried the promo segment designed to set up the Kendo Stick on a Pole match between herself and Bayley at Extreme Rules and, in the process, shut down an audience seemingly hellbent on hijacking the segment.
Chants of “what?” rang out in the arena as Bliss tried to get her promo underway. “Failure says ‘what,” she said, interrupting them. Any seven-year-old knows how that played out and, more importantly, how crappy it feels to get caught up in such a juvenile insult.
Bliss silenced the audience before it could adversely affect the segment and proceeded to deliver another verbal performance that set the stage for what should be one of the higher-profile matches on the Extreme Rules card come June 4.
A performer who once may have been timid or shy in front of a snarky or hostile crowd, Bliss has shown an ability to seize the spotlight, shut up the audience and force it to pay attention to her. That is a mark of a phenomenal performer and one that will ultimately ensure her place as one of the elite women in all of WWE.
Biggest Loser: The Cruiserweight Division
The cruiserweight division has been as woefully mismanaged and underwhelmingly booked as imaginable since its introduction in September 2016.
A lack of relatable characters and intriguing stories has left it the purple-roped outsider of the Raw brand. Never was that more obvious than Monday night when four of the top competitors on that roster were rejected by a vocal audience in Newark, New Jersey, who was none too excited about the action unfolding before them.
Make no mistake about it: Jack Gallagher and Austin Aries vs. Neville and TJP was a strong wrestling match that did not lack in effort or intensity. No, fans did not care because WWE Creative has done such a poor job of constructing compelling rivalries.
That, coupled with one-dimensional characters, has doomed the division to sub-mediocrity and created a “bathroom break” nature to the division.
That will not change anytime soon. As fantastic as the in-ring product involving Aries and Neville has been, the stagnant nature of the feud is a perfect representation of what has plagued the division to this point in its existence.
Best Match: Finn Balor vs. Roman Reigns
Last summer, Finn Balor and Roman Reigns had one of the best “free TV” matches of 2016. Monday night, they met for their rematch.
Though the bout failed to live up to the standard set by those former world champions, it was still a fantastic bout that played to the strengths of the Superstars involved. Both have the innate ability to garner sympathy through their selling, then turn right around and punish their opponents with a calculated attack.
They swapped roles and the result was a more interesting contest than the typical “good guy vs. bad guy” formula that is utilized in most matches.
Reigns ultimately scored the win, dealing Balor his first main roster defeat and tying their series at one win apiece.
Considering the Fatal 5-Way Extreme Rules No. 1 contender’s match that will unfold on June 4, this is not the last time Balor and Reigns will share the ring. That is a very good thing for fans who enjoy witnessing the leader of The Balor Club and The Big Dog do battle for Raw supremacy.
Best Moment: Goldust Betrays R-Truth, Turns Heel
Moments before a scheduled tag team bout between The Golden Truth and Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, Goldust stunned the wrestling world with a brutal and unexpected attack on R-Truth.
The beatdown, which spilled from the squared circle to the floor and back, brought an end to an undercard tag act and sparked the ruthless and unforgiving side of Goldust that fans have not seen since the 1990s.
Monday night, the fun-loving Bizarre One shed his comedic demeanor and reintroduced to the wrestling world a vile and villainous character that once earned him the reputation as the most original persona in the sport. While the likelihood that he reverts to the highly controversial Goldust character is low, he does has the opportunity to channel his frustrations into a quality midcard act in time for one last great singles run.
The fact of the matter is The Golden Truth was limited to the undercard. It was a team that filled a need at the bottom of the card but never had the chance to improve its spot because of the wealth of tandems above them.
Now the talented Goldust, still a superb worker at age 48, can prove to the audience the level of performer he is at this point in his career, with the comedic R-Truth holding him back.
Worst Moment: The Titus Brand Nonsense
Yes, it was nice to see Enzo Amore explode through the curtain and get a chance to run down his list of catchphrases and one-liners in front of his friends, family and fans in New Jersey Monday night.
With that said, everything that followed made for awful television. From Titus O’Neil’s forced mockery of the hometown hero to the disastrous battle of the big men between him and Big Cass (which was made fun of by Michael Cole the moment the bell rang to signify the conclusion of the bout), the segment felt like a placeholder of sorts.
Sure, the argument can be made that it was cut short for time purposes, but it still planted the seeds for Titus and Apollo Crews vs. Enzo and Cass going forward, but even then, that program lacks the spark one would hope the immensely over babyfaces would be part of.
On a night where almost everything else was a hit, this was a rushed mess of a match and segment that continued to strip O’Neil of his credibility at a time when WWE Creative is attempting to get his new character over.
Biggest Takeaway: Universal Championship Hype Is Back and Better Than Ever
The biggest takeaway from the May 15 episode of Raw was the sudden reshuffling of the Extreme Rules card that was necessary after the announcement of Braun Strowman’s significant elbow injury.
Booking suggested Strowman vs. Reigns was the planned main event of the June 4 show, and without The Monster Among Men available, that match was forced to undergo significant change, as was any chance of Strowman challenging Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship.
With no new No. 1 contender obvious, a Fatal 5-Way Extreme Rules match was booked for upcoming pay-per-view.
Reigns, Balor, Seth Rollins, Bray Wyatt and Samoa Joe were entered into contention, and the WWE Network presentation suddenly had a star-studded bout to build around. It also suddenly lacked a deep roster beyond that match, creating questions as to which matches and rivalries would fill out the rest of the card.
Only time will tell but one can expect the upcoming episodes of Raw to be heavily built around the five men who will compete for the honor (?) to face The Beast Incarnate as some point in the near future.