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WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW TV REPORT
JULY 12, 2021 (Recorded 7/6)
TAMPA, FLA. AT YUENGLING CENTER (THE “THUNDERDOME”)
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY BRUCE LEE HAZELWOOD (@B_Lee253), PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Commentators: Jimmy Smith, Byron Saxton, Corey Graves
Ring Announcer: Mike Rome
Backstage Correspondent(s): Kevin Patrick, Sarah Schreiber
Tonight after the show, join Wade Keller and I to break down the show with live callers and emails.
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(I’m back after a week off, and thanks again to Nate Lindberg and Kelly Wells for writing the alt-perspective reports. It’s WWE’s final week in the Tunderdome before they return to touring shows after Sunday’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view. As has been discussed on various Torch podcasts, the big question is how will fans respond to wrestlers beginning next week? Will they cheer or boo Drew McIntyre, Charlotte Flair, Rhea Ripley, Bobby Lashley, M.V.P., Riddle, Randy Orton, Nikki A.S.H., Alexa Bliss, and others?)
-They began with a “In Memory of ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Paul Orndorff” graphic as news of the legend’s passing circulated earlier today.
-They showed a video recap of last week’s events between Bobby Lashley, M.V.P. and The New Day, which saw the latter defeat the former in tag team action as Kofi Kingston pinned M.V.P. off Trouble in Paradise. This led to tonight’s Lashley vs. Xavier Woods match.
-The New Day’s music hit as they made their entrance for Woods’ match. They cut to the announcers as Jimmy Smith reminded viewers this is the last Thunderdome episode on Monday nights. Byron Saxton then hyped this Sunday’s WWE Championship match. They showed M.V.P. hyping Lashley up in Gorilla; I couldn’t hear him over the cadre of women yelling encouragement as well. Lashley’s music hit as he made his entrance. M.V.P. limped down with his cane in hand.
(1) BOBBY LASHLEY (c) (w/M.V.P.) vs. XAVIER WOODS (w/Kofi Kingston) – Non-title match
They locked up, but Lashley grabbed a single-leg and tripped Woods. He then tossed Woods and glared at Kingston. Woods applied a side headlock, evaded Lashley on a counter attempt, locked in another, gave Lashley a kick to the gut then the knee, and hit a step-up senton for a two-count. He applied a front facelock on the ground and hit some Pride FC knees to the head. However, Lashley lifted Woods in a military press and tossed him over the rope to the floor in front of Kingston. He followed, then hit his one-armed spinebuster, only kind of a gutbuster, onto the steel steps as they cut to break. [c]
(Hazelwood’s Take: Cut the crap and jump right into the match that was just recapped. I like the start to this taped show.)
They returned with Lashley punching Woods in a corner, then hitting some shoulder thrusts before backing up and hitting one like a defensive lineman coming off of the line of scrimmage. He went for another and hit in a different corner, sending Woods to the mat clutching his gut. Lashley went for a third, but Woods dodged and nailed a superkick to Lashley. Lashley went for a sidewalk slam that was turned into a tornado DDT by Woods. Lashley rolled outside.
Woods regained his footing and hit a tope con hilo to Lashley on the outside, much to Kingston’s delight. Woods brought Lashley back in the ring, but Lashley held onto a rope, then sent Woods to the apron. Woods hit an enziguri, climbed to the top, and hit a missile dropkick for a two-count. He immediately locked in a crossface in the middle of the ring. Lashley powered to his feet, lifting and slamming Woods to the mat. Unfortunately my stream froze for a bit, but came back at about 11 minutes with Lashley having lost to Woods. Replays showed Lashley hit a spear, but Woods hit an inside cradle for the pinfall victory. Please refer to Wade Keller’s report for more details.
WINNER: Xavier Woods in about 11:00 (inside cradle)
(Hazelwood’s Take: I missed the latter part of the match, so all I can really say is this is typical WWE booking that does no one any favors.)
-They returned with a replay as Corey Graves said, “In case you’re having trouble digesting what you just saw,” with Woods pinning Lashley and Kingston’s exuberant reaction. M.V.P. was walking in the back as Kevin Patrick approached saying he just received word Lashley has left the building. M.V.P. confirmed, but said it’s not as big a deal the “rumormongers” are making it out to be. He said Lashley just needed to blow off steam and would be in the V.I.P. Lounge later.
-They shifted to the announcers as they replayed last week’s events between Drew McIntyre, Jinder Mahal, and his cronies, Shanky & Veer. The latter three beat McIntyre down, Mahal hitting the Khallas and stealing the sword. They showed Mahal arriving on a custom motorcycle earlier in the day as Shanky & Veer greeted him with the sword.
ALEXA’S PLAYGROUND WITH EVA MARIE & DOUDROP
-They cut to Alexa Bliss on her swing as she said it’s such an exciting night as she competes in a fatal four-way match and this Sunday is the Money in the Bank ladder match. She said think of how much fun she could get into with the contract. Suddenly, Eva Marie interrupted (with Doudrop), and asked when they would be introduced. Bliss introduced them and said she liked the name Doudrop because it’s fun to say. Doudrop said it, and Marie told her to stop.
Bliss asked Doudrop to sum up her time on Raw in one word, and Marie interrupted saying “Eva-Lution.” Bliss said she was asking Doudrop and Marie was “a surprise bonus.: Marie was affronted, and said she was the biggest star on Raw. She said it would be the last time she stepped foot in this little dingy, dirty playground, but understood why Doudrop was invited. Bliss mocked Marie like a schoolgirl.
-Mahal made his entrance, flanked by his cronies. They cut to break. [c]
(Hazelwood’s Take: Marie’s acting was…not good in that scene.)
-They returned with a video recap of The ESPYS and Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair winning “Best WWE Moment.”
JINDER MAHAL IN-RING PROMO
Mahal said he had some time to reflect, and may have taken things a little too far by taking his sword even though McIntyre ‘s taken opportunities away from Mahal with no second thought. He said he knows McIntyre is proud of his heritage and that he has a lot on his mind with this Sunday’s match, but he’ll be the bigger man by inviting McIntyre down to the ring to apologize and return the sword. He asked for McIntyre multiple times.
McIntyre appeared on the Tron in the back. He said he knows Mahal is a tough bastard, but also a liar so cut the crap and get to the point. Mahal said he’s being honest, it’s him! He said he wanted to do it in person, but whatever. He said he had Veer & Shanky improve the sword. He removed a cloth to reveal a sword broken in half. McIntyre looked pissed, saying he should have expected it, and he did! He wasn’t mad; he expected it to happen since it was a replica.
He then pulled out a massive sword, saying this was the real thing. He then walked over the Mahal’s motorcycle, said it looked a little delicate, then pulled off an exhaust pipe and began bashing the vehicle. He pulled off the body, kicked off other parts, then told Mahal not to worry as it’s nothing a little elbow grease can’t fix. He kicked over the vehicle as his music played immediately after. Mahal just stood there looking impotent.
-They showed Nikki A.S.H. in Gorilla as Riddle approached, saying sweet outfit. He asked if she’s a superhero now, why doesn’t she just fly to the top to get the contract on Sunday? She said she loves superheroes, but she’s ALMOST a superhero, so no flying. Riddle interrupted her, saying something about not being able to wear shoes in space because there’s no oxygen. I got lost. A.S.H. looked lost, then her music hit as she said, “Time to fly!” Riddle said, “Wait, I thought she said she couldn’t fly?!”
(Hazelwood’s Take: All that segment did was make me think both McIntyre and Mahal are assholes.)
-They returned with A.S.H.’s music still playing as she stood in the ring. The announcers hyped the women’s MITB match, with one woman still to be revealed. Asuka made her entrance next, last year’s MITB winner, the “Climbing the Corporate Ladder” edition. They played a pre-recorded promo where Asuka said tonight, she builds momentum to win MITB for the second consecutive time and that NO champion in WWE is ready for her; give me Asuka vs. Roman Reigns you cowards. Naomi entered next, followed by Bliss. Smith called her a “wildcard,” but not the rule.
(2) NIKKI A.S.H. vs. ASUKA vs. NAOMI vs. ALEXA BLISS – Fatal Four-Way match
Naomi immediately hit a double dropkick to A.S.H. and Asuka, then went after Bliss. She hit some corner shoulder thrusts, but Bliss hit a stiff right hand. She sat in the second rope off of an Irish whip, then leaped off into a crossbody for a two-count. Asuka entered and punched Bliss, but A.S.H. rolled up Asuka for a two-count, then Naomi with an O’Conner Roll for a two-count. Naomi and Asuka hit a double dropkick, removing A.S.H.
The two traded strikes, then dodged a bunch of strikes before hitting simultaneous head kicks, dropping each other. Bliss surfaced, crawling into the ring. A.S.H. joined her, posing as a superhero. She slapped Bliss’ hand away, then countered Sister Abigail and hit a dropkick. Graves nearly climaxed as they showed Marie entering, with Doudrop, and stopping halfway down the ramp. Bliss and A.S.H. stopped and stared at them, allowing Naomi to hit a big dropkick on A.S.H. Asuka hit a running hip attack on Naomi, but Bliss hit a DDT on Asuka for a two-count.
Bliss waved at Marie & Doudrop, then exited the ring. Marie sent Doudrop ahead of her, but Bliss just tapped her on the shoulder and went around. Marie grabbed her heel in defense, but Bliss just yelled at her. Doudrop then attacked Bliss, driving her over the barricade to Marie’s delight. Marie walked over to check on Bliss, but she had disappeared. They cut to break. [c]
They returned with a shot of the briefcases hanging above the ring and Smith informing viewers Bliss disappeared. Asuka was kicking away at both of her remaining foes, then hit a leg-trap German to Naomi, followed by a running hip attack in the corner. She gave a head kick to A.S.H., then a running bulldog to Naomi. She covered both women separately for two-counts.
Naomi used a rebound kick to gain the advantage, then hit a bulldog into the corner to Asuka. She lifted and dropped A.S.H. with a TKO, then a belly-to-back to Asuka next to her other foe, then hit a split leg drop to both for a two-count. She then hit a Disaster Kick to Asuka for a two-count. A.S.H. hit a tornado DDT to Naomi out of the corner, but the pin was broken up by Asuka.
Asuka was sent outside, then A.S.H. went for the La Magistral cradle, only for Naomi to reverse into a sunset pin. A.S.H. kicked out, but Naomi locked in a sub. Asuka broke it up and locked in an armbar. After about 20 seconds, A.S.H. hit a senton to break the sub. She went to the top and hit a crossbody to Asuka, but the pin was broken up by Naomi.
Naomi was sent to the apron, hit a head kick on A.S.H., but Asuka knocked her off. A.S.H. tried for an inside cradle, but Asuka kicked out. Asuka tried for the Asuka Lock, but A.S.H. countered into a stacked pin for the win.
WINNER: Nikki A.S.H. at 12:59 (stacked rollup pin)
-They cut to last week’s A.J. Styles vs. Riddle match and the shenanigans involved with The Viking Raiders. They cut to Sarah Schreiber in the back, who welcomed said team. She asked about their separate singles matches. Ivar said Styles has insulted their way of life, but the truth is, Vikings are some of the most rugged and fantastic people on the planet…and they have fantastic hygiene. He said tonight, Styles will learn respect for the Viking culture after he gives a phenomenal beating.
Erik said he has the very tall task of tackling the colossus, Omos, who would have given Bjorn Ironside a run for his money in battle. He said it’s Omos’ first singles match, so he will find the cracks in his armor and carve his name into the armor. They said they will once again raise the Tag Team Championship next week.
-Styles made his entrance, accompanied by Omos. Graves went over Styles’ accolades, being the quickest Grand Slam Champion in WWE history. They cut to break. [c]
(Hazelwood’s Take: This was one of those matches where they just wanted to get their share of participants in the ladder match on the show. I’m not sure how much it sells A.S.H. as a legitimate threat, and Bliss’ disappearance was never thoroughly explained. Further, will there be any repercussions for Marie & Doudrop? Probably not; after all, no DQ.)
-They returned with Styles in the ring. He had a mic and said before they put on an absolute clinic, he needs to get something off of his chest. He said he’s said some things about Vikings that Erik & Ivar might find offensive. He said he should have never said they were barbarians; he said he should have said they were hairy barbarians and a bunch of other stuff who should have never came off of the boat. He said The Viking Raiders have been sticking their noses in their business and cost Styles an opportunity at MITB. He said tonight, he’s going to take Ivar’s leg and break it in the Calf Crusher, that he will tap to the Calf Crusher, and after that, Omos will have his first-ever singles match on Raw where he will “destroy” Erik so badly that he’ll wish he never took off his ridiculous horned helmet. He said they’ll destroy The Viking Raiders, tearing them limb from limb, on Sunday. The Viking Raiders music hit as they entered.
(3) A.J. STYLES (w/Omos) vs. IVAR (w/Erik)
Styles began with a kick to Ivar, then a chop. Both he and Erik countered each other’s backbody drop attempt by rolling over the back. Ivar beat on Styles in the corner, then hit a running Bronco Buster to a seated Styles for a two-count. Styles slipped out of a bodyslam attempt, but ran right into a big shoulder tackle that floored him. Ivar ran to the ropes, but was distracted by Omos on the other side. Styles hit a enziguri to the back of the head.
He kicked on Ivar in the corner a bit, kicked Ivar’s leg on the rope, then hit a DDT out of the corner for a two-count. Smith complimented Styles’ ability to pick apart an opponent as Styles cinched in a rear chinlock. Ivar threw Styles off, then hit a backbody drop and a falling sidewalk slam, followed by a crossbody splash to a seated Styles. Ivar looked for a vertical suplex, but Styles slipped out. He pushed Ivar off into the ropes, but Ivar cartwheeled away from the clothesline and landed his own for a two-count.
Styles was in a corner and kicked away Ivar as a counter. He went to the apron, attempted a sunset flip, then hit a Pele Kick. He rushed Ivar in the corner who used the ropes to hit a seated senton to a running Styles. He sat on top and pinned Styles for the victory. They cut to break. [c]
WINNER: Ivar at 3:44 (seated senton)
(4) OMOS (w/A.J. Styles) vs. ERIK (w/Ivar)
They returned and started the match with Erik hitting a go-behind and attempting to lift Omos. Omos just no-sold before tossing Erik aside. Omos looked pleased and asked for more. Erik dodged clumsy haymakers, hit some leg kicks, but then was floored by a running shoulder tackle. Omos grabbed Erik by the back of the neck, tossed him into the ropes, then lifted Erik. Erik slipped out and hit a leg kick, which Omos no-sold.
Omos rushed at Erik, ate a kick, then caught Erik in midair for a bearhug. He cranked for a bit, really selling the pressure with his facial expressions. Erik fought out with some strikes, causing Omos to drop him. Omos hit a (assisted) biel, but Erik dodged a charging Omos in the corner and hit a barrage of strikes, followed by two running forearms, a running knee, and then was floored by an Omos lariat.
Omos yelled at Erik, a little turnabout is fair play, then stood over him for a bit. Styles told Omos to finish Erik, which brought forth a laugh from Omos. He lifted Erik into a two-hand chokeslam before slamming him to the mat from seven feet in the air for the victory.
WINNER: Omos at 3:32 (two-handed chokeslam)
-They shifted to a replay of Humberto Carrillo breaking Sheamus’ nose six weeks ago. They showed Sheamus in the office of Adam Pearce & Sonya Deville. Sheamus said he got their voicemail about defending his title or being stripped. He yelled at them asking if they care about the wrestlers, about his face! Deville smiled, and Sheamus asked what was funny. He said what’s funny is they keep giving Carrillo title shots. He said well, here he is, ready to defend his title. They asked if they’re on the same page now, and Sheamus said, they’re on the same page ominously as he walked away. Saxton hyped the Sheamus-Carrillo United States Championship match for later. They cut to break. [c]
(Hazelwood’s Take: Well, what do you know, 50/50 booking in WWE! The big issue with WWE in the micro is NO one is really likeable on the roster.)
-They returned with another replay of Woods’ victory from the opening match of the night. They showed The New Day in the back as Lucha House Party approached. Woods asked about the SummerSlam party, they said they got locations, then wished Kingston luck. Schreiber approached, and Kingston said say it again, Xavier Woods just beat the All Mighty WWE Champion baybee! Schreiber informed them that Lashley returned. Woods asked why Lashley is back in this building after losing to “the video game guy.” Kingston said he doesn’t care what kind of champion Lashley wants to portray himself as because of the dubious circumstances surrounding how he won the title. He said being WWE Champion is about being on the best grind, and that’s about to happen again when he becomes the two-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
-They shifted to the announcers, where Saxton said there’s no better situation for Kingston heading into this Sunday’s match. Smith said, “Money in the Bank is life changing and career changing.” They played a video with Smith narrating about the MITB match. They showed some successful cash-ins from the likes of Edge, Carmella, Sheamus, Bayley, Kane, and Seth Rollins, “the heist of the century.” Miz Girl made an appearance! The video showed all but the unnamed participant before Saxton hyped the show on Sunday and what platforms it can be viewed.
-They suddenly cut to the back where Sheamus was assaulting Carrillo, throwing him into equipment crates and poles, yelling at WWE officials to shut up as they came to intervene. He knelt down and told Carrillo he has a big United States Championship match next. He walked away, glaring at Damian Priest, who was there for some reason. They cut to break. [c]
-They returned with an ad about returning to touring with tickets on sale for Madison Square Garden, Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and more. If you’re in the areas and can attend, don’t forget about being an on-site correspondent!
-They showed replays of Sheamus’ assault on Carrillo prior to commercials. Sheamus’ music hit as he made his entrance for his scheduled United States Championship defense. They showed Pearce & Deville with Carrillo, who said he has to compete. Pearce said they could move the match, but Carrillo said he’s been waiting for months, and Sheamus will just have another excuse. He said he will fight. Priest just nodded along in encouragement, then seemed to walk off with Carrillo. He entered without Priest, clutching his neck. Rome gave formal ring introductions as Sheamus looked annoyed.
(5) SHEAMUS (c) vs. HUMBERTO CARRILLO – United States Championship match
Carrillo immediately collapsed trying to step forward, then ate a Brogue Kick. That’s that. Smith said there’s no other way to say it, Sheamus insulted Carrillo twice.
WINNER: Sheamus at 0:17 (Brogue Kick) to retain the United States Championship.
-He stepped over Carrillo on his way out of the ring. He touched his facemask for a few seconds, then reentered the ring. He stomped away at Carrillo (where’s Priest?). He yelled at Carrillo about breaking his face, then said he was going to break his. As he was about to stomp on Carrillo’s face, he stopped his foot because Priest’s music hit. Instead of stomping, he fled as Priest ran to the ring. Priest stared down Sheamus, then helped Carrillo to his feet.
-They shifted to Ricochet’s springboard splash to John Morrison a few weeks ago over the barricade. They then showed last week’s match where The Miz prevented Ricochet from entering the ring to break the count. They cut to the back where Ricochet was approached by Riddle, zooming in on his scooter. Riddle said he was going to the ring with Ricochet. Ricochet said he was excited for Sunday, and Riddle agreed, saying he was going to make his famous Western spaghetti burrito, then watch his favorite Western, Toy Story.
Riddle said if he wins, he’s going to surprise Orton and cash in for the Tag Team Championship. Ricochet said Orton would have to be there with him. Riddle said he’d invite him over for that spaghetti. Morrison & The Miz strolled by, calling them “splasholes.” They rode over Riddle’s foot with The Miz’s wheelchair. Morrison then entered for his match.
-They returned with Morrison pacing in the ring. Ricochet’s music hit as he made his entrance.
(6) JOHN MORRISON (w/The Miz) vs. RICOCHET – Falls count anywhere match
They began with Ricochet using his quickness to gain the advantage, hitting a big arm drag. He unfortunately ate a big kick from Morrison on the apron, the Morrison use the ropes to hit a neckbreaker across the ring apron to the floor for a two-count. He methodically kicked Ricochet, writhing on the ground, then hit a backslide with an assist by placing his feet on The Miz for a two-count. He hit a running knee to Ricochet’s face as he sat against the barricade.
Morrison grabbed Ricochet and placed him face-first into the barricade, giving him a back kick and then pinning him for a two-count. He tossed Ricochet back into the ring and hit a stomp and kick before setting for Starship Pain. Ricochet grabbed Morrison on the way up and hit a deadlift German suplex for a two-count. Impressive.
Morrison knocked Ricochet outside, then hit a parkour flipping senton onto Ricochet from the apron to the outside for a two-count. They went over the barricade, and Ricochet countered Morrison by tossing him into the screens. He tossed Morrison back over, but ate a kick. Morrison and Ricochet both stood on the barricade, but Morrison slipped and fell, hurting his knee. Ricochet improvised and hit a 450 off of the barricade for the two-count.
Back in the ring, Ricochet went for a springboard, but Morrison rolled outside. Ricochet ran to the corner, climbed up, then leaped off the ring post with a Shooting Star Press to Morrison on the outside as they cut to break. [c]
They returned with Morrison pulling out a ladder as Ricochet lay on the floor. Morrison set it up along the ring apron and announce table. He tried whipping Ricochet into it, but Ricochet slid under. He leaped on the apron and then off onto Morrison for a two-count, avoiding the ladder.
Ricochet rammed Morrison back-first into the apron, then rolled Morrison into the ring. Morrison crawled right back out, so Ricochet went for a tope only for Morrison to pull The Miz in the way. Ricochet regrouped and hit a tope con hilo over The Miz onto Morrison for a two-count. Ricochet then threw Morrison into the barricade, then hit a European uppercut on the ramp.
On the stage, Morrison fought back, but Ricochet countered with a gut kick and a suplex attempt. Morrison blocked, hit a gut knee, and went for his own. Ricochet slipped out, then hit a running rana to Morrison on the stage for a two-count. Morrison grabbed his left knee. Ricochet tried tossing Ricochet into the staging Tron, but Morrison blocked and went into Gorilla.
He hit Ricochet with a superkick as Ricochet entered, then a gut kick. He grabbed a chair, set it, kicked Ricochet into it, seating him, then hit a running knee for a two-count. He brought Ricochet back out the stage, The Miz egging him on. They looked pleased until Ricochet hit a superkick, then punched Morrison down the ramp. He turned to The Miz, took the wheelchair, and rolled him down the ramp, using the wheelchair to launch himself into Morrison for a two-count.
Morrison entered the ring, but Ricochet dropped him from the apron. He set for something, but The Miz sprayed him, distracting him. Morrison hit a rollup for a two-count, then Moonlight Drive for another two-count. Riddle rode down all of the sudden and grabbed The Miz’s wheelchair. He placed the chair on its back with The Miz in it, and The Miz just flailed. Morrison tried for a springboard, but Ricochet countered with Recoil. Morrison rolled to the apron, ate a kick from Ricochet, fell onto the ladder, then ate a big splash as Ricochet hit one from the top rope for the victory.
WINNER: Ricochet at 15:58 (top rope splash through a ladder)
-They cut to Natalya & Tamina in the back as Schreiber approached asking what Natalya wants to prove tonight against Rhea Ripley. Natalya said she’s the standard bearer, but she wants to be better and set a new goal: to hold all three women’s titles simultaneously. Natalya said she’s cashing in as soon as she wins. They got irked by Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke laughing it up in a room adjacent to them. They asked what was so funny and Rose said a foolproof plan can’t be good if it comes from a fool. Brooke said they don’t like the odds of Nataly & Tamina retaining their titles. Tamina said she likes the odd of her kicking their teeth down their throats. She shoved Brooke and walked away. They cut to break. [c]
(Hazelwood’s Take: I don’t think that feud needed a falls count anywhere match, regardless of how badly they booked the finishes in prior weeks to get to the match. It was fine, nothing special.)
-They returned with a replay of the McIntyre-Mahal interaction from earlier in the night. They cut to McIntyre in the bag as Patrick approached. McIntyre said he’s not going to pat himself on the back for foiling Mahal’s plan. He said the MITB match might be his last chance at the WWE Championship. He brought up Icarus, said that he’s “Tricky Icky” and the briefcase is the sun. He went on, saying not the seven other individuals or the sun will stop him. He walked off.
(Hazelwood’s Take: He really said “Tricky Icky.” McIntyre is officially irredeemable.)
-The announcers ran through the announced card for Sunday. They then shifted to the feud between Ripley and Charlotte Flair with last week’s interaction between the two where they had a crutch fight. They showed Ripley in Gorilla as Schreiber approached asking why she agreed to tonight’s match. Ripley said Natalya challenged her and she’s not someone who says no to a challenge. She said she already exposed Flair as the drama queen she is, so after Sunday, she’ll give Flair a reason to have crutches. Why is EVERYONE so unlikeable in WWE?! She made her entrance. They cut to break. [c]
-They returned with a video on Ripley promoted by Corona Extra. Ripley was standing in the ring, obviously waiting for the camera before raising her title. Natalya’s music hit as she made her entrance with Tamina.
(7) RHEA RIPLEY (c) vs. NATALYA (w/Tamina) – Non-title match
They began with Ripley working the arm and rubbing her forearm across Natalya’s face. She had an arm-wringer, but Natalya flipped out into a rollup for a two-count. She maintained control with a go-behind and then grabbing the arm, then countered a Ripley reversal into a sunset flip for a one-count.
Ripley came off of the ropes, then stopped as she and Natalya looked at each other in respect until Ripley mocked her with the thumb on the nose. They traded pin attempts in a number of good sequences until Ripley landed a headbutt. She went for Riptide, but Natalya rolled out and looked for the Sharpshooter. Ripley kicked her away, out of the ring, then followed and landed a dropkick to Tamina as Natalya sidestepped. Natalya then hit her Nattie By Nature discus clothesline as they cut to break. [c]
They returned with the two on the top rope, Ripley fighting off Natalya finally with a headbutt, then hitting a missile dropkick to Natalya. Natalya sidestepped Ripley, but Ripley landed a double kick out of the corner for a two-count. She grabbed a cavate and hit a few knees to the face, then a bridging Northern Lights for a two-count. Ripley climbed to the second rope to grab Natalya on the apron, but Natalya slammed Ripley’s head into the post, then used her position to hit a running sitout powerbomb for a two-count.
Natalya went for a Sharpshooter, but Ripley kicked out again. Natalya used the ropes for her slingshot atomic drop, then did her running stomp and basement dropkick, though Ripley countered into Prism Trap. Natalya escaped and finally locked in the Sharpshooter to Ripley.
Ripley crawled to the corner as Tamina cheered on her partner. Ripley rolled through, causing Natalya to hit the back of her on the turnbuckle. She caught Natalya with a capoeira kick from the mat to the head, then the Riptide for the victory.
WINNER: Rhea Ripley at 9:31 (Riptide)
-After the match, Ripley was chop blocked from Flair. Flair attacked the knee and locked in the Figure Four, crawling to the apron and draping herself over onto the ground for extra leverage on Ripley’s knee. She released the hold, rose to her feet, taunted Ripley, and said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Ripley pounded the mat in frustration as they showed replays.
(Hazelwood’s Take: Serviceable match, but having Natalya lose here makes her look weak heading into her Tag Team Championship match in my opinion, though I don’t think anyone expects them to lose.)
-They showed another replay of Woods defeating Lashley in the opening match. M.V.P. was in the back talking to the cadre of women saying it needs to be the best V.I.P. Lounge ever, with smiling and back rubs if needed. They said they were ready and headed out as they cut to break. [c]
-They returned with replays of Flair’s attack on Ripley. Flair was in the back and Schreiber asked if that was a preview for Sunday. Flair said it’s about the players in the game, and she learned from the best.
V.I.P. LOUNGE WITH BOBBY LASHLEY
M.V.P. and the ladies were in the ring dancing with champagne in their hands. M.V.P. said it’s bittersweet because it’s the last one from the Thunderdome, where everyone saw the rise of the All Mighty WWE Champion. He said it was so special, he refers to it as the “Lashleydome.” He reminded viewers about returning to the road next week. He then said it was his honor and privilege to introduce Lashley. Lashley’s music didn’t hit. M.V.P. repeated his name, but still no WWE Champion.
M.V.P. asked for Lashley to come out, then did a more formal introduction in his Tony Chimel voice. He had the women join him in saying Lashley, then the music finally hit. Lashley appeared with no blazer, sleeves rolled up, tie lose, vest unbuttoned, and looking pissed. M.V.P. looked concerned as the women cheered. He asked where Lashley had been and asked if he was OK.
Lashley took the mic and said M.V.P. had said enough, then excused the ladies. They left looking concerned. He said he doesn’t even want the women here. He said he was thinking about what Kingston said. He thought it was just trash talk and getting into his head at first, but he said Kingston’s right about M.V.P. making Lashley soft. He said he lost to Woods, and he should have decimated that little twerp. He said he’s furious, and M.V.P. is trying to cheer him up with champagne and women?
He said he’s thankful for all that M.V.P. has done for his career, but this bullshit stops now. He said the only enjoyment he wants now is to destroy every single soul that steps up for his WWE Championship. He started destroying the set, throwing out sofas with his own strength, telling M.V.P. to get off of him. He glared at M.V.P. in anger, almost as if he was so angry he could cry. He grabbed his title, glared at M.V.P., and picked up the mic.
He addressed Kingston and said he’s going to do this weekend what he should have done weeks ago: tear him in half. He said he’s going to walk in the All Mighty WWE Champion, and that’s how he’s leaving. He said he hopes Kingston brings his family, friends, and the entire WWE Universe because he is going to dismantle Kingston. He said he hopes Kingston is ready to fight for his life because he’s going to bash his skull in, wring his neck, and send him to the circus with all the other little clowns. He said he’s dead serious, and after this Sunday, so is Kingston’s career.
Lashley glared at the hard camera, then looked at M.V.P., and left the ring as the show ended. M.V.P. looked very concerned.
(Hazelwood’s Take: Language about killing someone aside, that was a good, fiery segment to reestablish both Lashley and M.V.P. We have a new mission statement from Lashley, and he should win on Sunday.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: A decent go-home show, but nothing special. There are just too many unlikeable characters on this show to have much investment, and tonight didn’t help McIntyre, Ripley, or Flair. Carrillo showed heart, but also a lack of situational awareness. Lashley ending the show was a bright spot, at least.