8/9 WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW REPORT: Hazelwood’s alt-perspective on Orton’s return, Lashley & Flair address their respective opponents, more

BY BRUCE LEE HAZELWOOD, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR


SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW TV REPORT
AUGUST 9, 2021
ORLANDO, FLA. AT THE AMWAY CENTER
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): Sarah Schreiber, Kevin Patrick 

Tonight after the show, join Wade Keller and I to break down the show with live callers and emails.

STREAM LIVE HERE ABOUT 5 MINUTES AFTER THE SHOW CONCLUDES
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[HOUR ONE]

-They began with with a live shot of the crowd in Orlando as Jimmy Smith welcomed viewers. Randy Orton’s music for his return to the show in what feels like over a month; his music received a good pop, and he received a little more subdued one as he entered with a mustache not as glorious as Robert Roode’s. He smiled a bit and soaked in the adulation and reception from the crowd, then implored them to make more noise. He walked to the ring (he’s wearing a branded zip-up hoodie and basketball shorts, looking a little like Kevin Owens) and entered, then did his customary pose on the second turnbuckle nearest the timekeeper’s area. Byron Saxton asked why Orton’s been away and why he chose tonight to return. Corey Graves then said it’s good to kickoff the show with The Viper.

Orton took a mic and let a “Randy” chant go for a bit. He said this is where he’s supposed to say, “Welcome to Monday Night Raw!” Before he could speak more, Riddle’s music hit as he sped to the ring; Orton looked like he was going to have an aneurism. Riddle said he missed Orton so much, bro. He asked bro, where’d you go? He thought Orton was on vacation like a big, girthy anaconda, but then he said he just missed Orton so much, bro. He said it reminded him that 25 years ago, his stepdad went to get some milk, got lost, and never came back.

The crowd started chanting “RKO” as Riddle said this means they can team, that they can be RK-Bro (the crowd said the last part). Riddle started a “Randy” chant as Orton looked annoyed. Orton asked what in the hell would make him think that he would want to team with him again? He said listen kid, we had a few matches, you made a few shirts, we both got a buzz on social media, but let’s be real, I work better by myself. He said Riddle works better by himself without Orton or his stepdad. Riddle asked sadly if that means Orton doesn’t want to team with him anymore.

Orton said past-tense, we were a good team. The crowd started chanting “RK-Bro,” but A.J. Styles’ music hit. The crowd cheered, then remembered they’re heels. Styles mocked Riddle, saying bro a bunch, then said this is embarrassing, like really, really embarrassing, so much so that you can taste it, and some would say it’s too sweet (he did the hand sign). He & Omos entered the ring as a “Too Sweet Ooh Ooh” chant started. Styles said Orton has a couple of nicknames: Viper, Apex Predator, Legend Killer. Styles said he’s used and abused everyone, and you think he’s going to be your fried? He said that’s just silly.

Styles said he thought when Omos broke the scooter or throw him around last week that would break Riddle, but he didn’t know it would be a broken heart from Orton. Orton told Styles to shut his freaking mouth. He said Styles’ ego is so big the only thing that’s bigger is that jackass right there as he pointed to Omos. Styles said that’s cap, then explained what cap is. He told the crowd to shut up. He then challenged Orton to a singles match. Orton accepted, then said he’s going to beat him with the three most destructive letter in sports entertainment, RK then went for the RKO as Styles slipped out. Orton stalked Omos, who turned around, then shoved Orton off. Riddle did Orton’s pose behind Omos, who was focused on Orton, then prevented Riddle from hitting the RKO and hit a big chokeslam. Riddle rolled outside and held his hand up or Orton to help him. Orton thought about it, then walked away. Riddle rose to his feet and stumbled after Orton.

-Saxton cut to replays of Drew McIntyre’s saga with Jinder Mahal, Shanky, & Veer, showing replays of last week when McIntyre used “Angela.”

-They cut to baron Corbin in the back as Kevin Patrick approached. Corbin said he doesn’t think people on Monday nights know how bad it’s been, so he needs to work. He said his crown is gone, his cars and house repossessed, his wife left with the kids, and now he’s basically homeless. He said he was staying in a production truck and received a call from Mahal with a chance to turn it around. He said he’s not thrilled about going in the ring with someone who can decapitate him with a sword, but it’s risk vs. reward. He said if beating McIntyre can get him out of these troubles, then so be it, sword or not. He made his entrance with the same dirty white shirt and even more unkempt growth on his face and head. They cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: We didn’t really get to hear from Orton as to why he was away or why he returned, even if they were only kayfabe reasons. I’m not sure if this breakup is supposed to be a ploy or legitimate, but I guess we’ll see as the night progresses. At least Orton vs. Styles should prove to be a great TV main event, presuming that’s when it takes place.)

-They returned with a graphic for “Up” by Cardi B as an official theme of SummerSlam.

-Corbin was waiting on the outside as they cut back to ringside and showed some split-screen photos of Corbin losing his crown to Shinsuke “Kingsuke” Nakamura two months ago. Patrick then approached McIntyre in Gorilla asking about Corbin being hired help. McIntyre said they’re scared of him and he just can’t think of why (he pointed at his claymore). McIntyre asked if anyone feels sympathy for Corbin, and the audience booed. McIntyre said he’s known Corbin for years and that he’s a terrible human being. He relayed a story where Corbin beat up a homeless dude, took his money, then stole his dog.

Patrick asked about the sword being used last week. McIntyre said his sword is named after his mother, who died young, diagnosed with a disease in her 20s, told to abort McIntyre or die, and then said karma’s a bitch, and if Corbin came for him, Angela will come for Corbin. He made his entrance, again slamming the sword into a prop and then retrieving it, holding it up as he walked down the entrance ramp. McIntyre is getting better pops than story time McIntyre.

(1) DREW MCINTYRE vs. BARON CORBIN – Singles match

Corbin immediately put his hands up and said he has to do this even if he doesn’t want to, then tried to land a sucker punch. McIntyre took him into a corner and beat away, then hit a chop. He whipped Corbin off the ropes and hit a back elbow. He lifted Corbin, then whipped him hard into a corner, dropping Corbin. They showed Mahal and his cronies watching in the back as McIntyre hit a snap suplex for a two-count.

They hyped Alexa Bliss vs. Doupdrop (w/Eva Marie) as McIntyre clotheslined Corbin over the top by the announcers. He hit a big chop against the announce desk, but Corbin hit a big right hand Kane style, then drove McIntyre back-first into the apron. He rolled McIntyre back into the ring, hit a gut knee twice, then tossed McIntyre over and to the outside. Corbin followed and rushed only to be caught with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex into the timekeeper’s barricade as they cut to break. [c]

Corbin was climbing the ropes to meet a seated McIntyre on the top. Corbin hit a second rope superplex to McIntyre, then crawled himself over for a two-count, hooking the outside leg. Corbin beat on McIntyre with body shots in a corner, then whipped McIntyre over, slid out of the ring, and reentered only to be hit a Glasgow Kiss. McIntyre hit a flurry of strikes to Corbin in a corner, then hit two clotheslines and an overhead belly-to-belly off a rope run, then another from a corner. He ducked a Corbin punch and landed a leaping neckbreaker.

He set for the Claymore as Corbin pleaded for mercy. Corbin was on his knees. McIntyre asked for a mic and said Corbin’s absolutely pathetic. Corbin just sadly nodded in agreement. McIntyre said he’s feeling a little bad and asked how much money Corbin needs to get by for a few days. Corbin said a hundred thousand dollars. McIntyre laughed, then said that’s reasonable, so how about two hundred thousand, three hundred thousand, then counted down and hit the Claymore for the victory. He popped up after pinning Corbin and said into the mic he was still holding, “Good night Corbin!”

WINNER: Drew McIntyre at 9:47 (Claymore)

-After the match, Mahal and his cronies made their way, but stopped halfway down the ramp when McIntyre grabbed Angela and pointed it at them. Mahal backed them away as McIntyre turned his back to them and tried to entice them to attack. He pointed at Mahal, said his ass belongs to him, then posed for the crowd.

-Orton was walking in the back as Riddle rode up and said he knows that Orton doesn’t want to be partners, but can they be friends? He asked if he could be in Orton’s corner because Omos will be out there. Orton didn’t respond, looked at Riddle, then the USA player decided it needed to buffer on me right there, so yeah…it came back. Orton said he is serious, and don’t call him bro. He walked away.

-Jeff Hardy’s “No More Words” hit as he made his entrance to a good pop. He had rainbow face paint and sleeves. They cut to break hyping his match with Karrion Kross. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: McIntyre is doing much better as a simple badass going after a bonafide heel. It doesn’t hurt that people don’t like Mahal. His pre-match promo, though, was strange. It didn’t answer Patrick’s question, and it also seemed an ill-advised spot to go into such a personal story. Hopefully, it worked for the fans in attendance and those watching, but it was just weird.)

-They returned showing Hardy’s victory over Kross in Kross’ debut several weeks ago. Kross then made his entrance. They played a pre-recorded promo where Kross said Hardy ruined his debut by cheating him out of victory and he’s spent the past few weeks plotting Hardy’s demise. It panned out to show him staring at an hourglass and said Hardy will fall and pray.

(2) KARRION KROSS (c) vs. JEFF HARDY – Non-title match

Hardy immediately hit some punches, but Kross hit a boot to the head. He put Hardy in a corner, then hit a clothesline-back elbow-exploder suplex combo. Kross then tossed Hardy outside as they crowd had dueling chants for both. Kross tried whipping Hardy into the steel steps, but Hardy reversed and sent Kross knees-first. He then used the steps to hit a modified Poetry in Motion to Kross, sending him into the barricade.

Hardy sent Kross back into the ring and followed, hitting a side Russian legsweep. He then went to climb the top rope, but Kross intercepted and crotched him, sending him to the mat as they cut to break. [c]

They returned with Kross in control, but Hardy landed a flurry of strikes and a DDT. Both men took time to regain their footing, but Kross was first. Hardy countered and hit an inverted atomic drop and his leg drop across the chest, basement dropkick, and splash for a two-count. Kross reversed an Irish whip, but Hardy hit some boots to plant him. Hardy then hit a second rope splash, and the player decided to buffer again (I’m having some real issues with the USA player tonight). Kross kicked out at two.

Kross stopped an Irish whip, but was hit with a sitdown jawbreaker. Hardy rolled Kross up and used the tights, but Kross kicked out. Hardy went for Whisper in the Wind, but Kross caught him on the ropes and hit his Doomsday Saito suplex and quickly locked in the Kross Jacket for the tapout victory.

WINNER: Karrion Kross at 8:15 (Kross Jacket)

-After the match, Kross feigned exiting the ring only to reenter and hit another Doomsday Saito and a Kross Jacket. Graves said that was a message to the whole roster. Kross had a malicious grin on his face as the crowd chanted “You suck!” at him.

-They cut to replays of Tamina defeating Doudrop last week and Bliss/Lilly’s involvement with the subsequent beating of Bliss by Doudrop later in the night. Bliss made her entrance and her big Tron is something. She got a pretty big pop. They also had an augmented reality version of Lilly. They cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Kross showed the same trick won’t work on him twice, at least with Hardy, and emphatically got the victory back. It’s still 50/50 booking, but having it be more decisive and definitive should really help reassert Kross…if fans overlook that he’s now 2-2 in four matches on Raw as he traded wins and losses with Hardy and Keith Lee.)

-They returned with a graphic that they now have 80 million subscribers to their YouTube channel. They panned the crowd a bit as the watermark appeared two minutes before the top of the hour. Smith then cut to a video package recapping the relationship between Orton & Riddle and their RK-Bro team. They showed some humorous moments, each using the other’s finisher, Riddle’s introduction of RK-Bro gear, a lot of the awkward promo moments.

[HOUR TWO]

Patrick approached a sulking Riddle in the back and asked if it was really the end of RK-Bro. Riddle said today’s been a real emotional rollercoaster. He said he doesn’t know what to do or how to feel, but if Orton wants to be on his own, he has to respect that. Riddle said he’s a stallion and has to do what stallions do and ride. He sped off.

-They cut back to the ring where Bliss was talking to Lilly. Marie’s music then hit as she made her entrance with Doudrop. Graves said to just trust the process with Eva-Lution (as a Sixers fan, I resent that).

(3) ALEXA BLISS vs. DOUDROP (w/Eva Marie) – Singles match

The bell rung as Marie tried to stay in the ring. The ref started counting and Marie left. Bliss hit a leg kick, then another, but Doudrop just pushed her away. Bliss started doing her weird crawl thing like she’s in The Ring, then locked in a sleeper hold. Doudrop flung her off, but missed a senton. Bliss then hit a kick to the back and one to the chest as they showed Lilly in the corner. Bliss pinned for a one-count, then flung herself off the rope for a crossbody and a two-count.

Bliss rolled outside and sauntered over toward Marie with her hands behind her back. Marie threw a horrible punch that Bliss caught, but Doudrop attacked from behind. She then threw Bliss into the ringside barricade before rolling her back into the ring. She gave Bliss a stiff kick to the back, then rammed her into the corner turnbuckle head-first. She whipped Bliss across and hit a corner avalanche.

Doudrop taunted Bliss, then turned and taunted Lilly. Bliss was back in that crawling position. They did a closeup of Lilly, who winked at Doudrop, freaking her out. Bliss rolled her up and stacked her for the victory. Marie & Doudrop were arguing on the outside as Bliss celebrated in the ring. Marie even gave Doudrop a few of those “come on” slaps upside the head.

WINNER: Alexa Bliss at 3:30 (stacked rollup)

-They cut to a recap of last week when Damian Priest foiled Miz Tv and then beat John Morrison only to be jumped by Sheamus. Ricochet made the save, turning it into a tag team match, which saw the faces win. They showed The Miz & Morrison in the back, the latter stretching. Morrison the thing about Priest is that he’s “dry.” Sheamus approached saying he can’t stand gobshites with city hair, obnoxious outfits, and silly catchphrases. He said he’s talking to Morrison, the waterhead who cost them the match last week. Morrison said he must be tripping, and now he’s going to make it dripping as he held up a Drip Stick. Sheamus said he has smaller things to worry about as he crushes that rat Ricochet tonight. He told Morrison to take care of business or that he’s in for a hell of a drought. Way too many puns there.

-Sheamus made his entrance with his dope AR graphics. The Tron even had some rain falling in a visage of an alley in Dublin. They cut to break. [c]

-They played a video postcard of Orlando and its sights as they returned from break. Sheamus was ring, jacket over his shoulder, waiting for his for. Ricochet’s music hit to, well, not much reaction. Graves said these two are no strangers to each other as they showed split-screen photos of their WrestleMania Backlash match.

(4) SHEAMUS (c) vs. RICOCHET – Championship contenders match

Ricochet hit a go-behind, but Sheamus flung him off. They locked up, but Sheamus just muscled Ricochet into a corner. Ricochet hit another go-behind, hit some strikes, but ate a back elbow and haymaker across the back. Sheamus hit a side headlock takedown and kept the hold locked in. Ricochet fought to his feet and flung Sheamus off the ropes, but ate a shoulder tackle. Ricochet then hit a leapfrog, dodged a clothesline, and hit a head scissors followed by a dropkick that sent Sheamus outside.

Ricochet waited in the ring and Sheamus finally reentered. Sheamus hit a gut kick and gut knee, then brought Ricochet down to the mat and worked the left arm. Ricochet worked to his feet and landed some body shots, then two shots to the head, but Sheamus just uses one strike to regain the advantage. He hit a big bodyslam, but Ricochet hit a leaping knee facebuster Triple H style, then slipped out of a White Noise attempt. Sheamus missed a Brogue Kick as Ricochet ducked, sending Sheamus outside. Ricochet then hit a sliding baseball kick and followed with a springboard splash to Sheamus onto and across the announce desk. They cut to break. [c]

Sheamus had a rear chinlock applied as they returned, but Ricochet was fighting out with strikes. He went for a move off of the ropes, but Sheamus landed an Irish Curse. They showed a split-screen replay of Ricochet’s splash before the break. Sheamus once grounded Ricochet with the latter using back elbows to fight out, about 25 of them! Ricochet then flung Sheamus through the ropes to the outside.

Sheamus climbed to the apron and Ricochet punched him in the face, but he hurt his hand. Sheamus climbed to the top, but Ricochet hit a leaping enziguri. He then climbed, but Sheamus pushed him away. Ricochet backflipped onto his feet, then leaped and hit a rana to Sheamus. He then hit a springboard clothesline and Lionsault/Asai Moonsault for only a two-count!

Ricochet tried lifting Sheamus for Recoil, but Sheamus fought out with back elbows. Sheamus got caught with a basement dropkick to the knee that sent him into the turnbuckle. Ricochet climbed and leaped, but Sheamus used a facebutt so the mask hit Ricochet in midair. He followed with a Brogue Kick for the victory. On replay, Sheamus clearly aimed to hit with his head.

WINNER: Sheamus at 10:35 (Brogue Kick)

-After the match, Sheamus looked annoyed as he stared at the entrance. Priest’s music hit as he entered for his match. He really soaked up the fan’s reaction, then marched straight up to Sheamus. Sheamus yelled at him, but Priest showed no fear, staring confidently eye-to-eye with the United States Champion. Sheamus, backed away, then tried a sneak attack only for Priest to send him over the top rope. Sheamus was irate. Morrison’s music then hit and Graves said some more horrible moist puns. Sheamus told Morrison to take care of business as they cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: Since these two feuds are somewhat intertwined, I’ll give a longer take after the Priest-Morrison match.)

(5) DAMIAN PRIEST vs. JOHN MORRISON (w/The Miz) – Singles match

They began the match shortly after returning from break. Morrison hit a go-behind, but Priest hit a side headlock takedown. Morrison fought out with a gut knee on their feet, but Priest tossed him into a corner and landed some body shots before landing an uppercut that dropped Morrison. Priest grabbed Morrison, but Morrison hit a modified Pele kick, then a sliding knee for a two-count.

Morrison mounted Priest and landed some elbows, then shifted into side control with some more elbows, then transitioned to to the other side and applied a modified side choke. Priest used his free left arm and leg to fight out, particularly with the latter. He dodged a punched, landed a thunderclap, then hit a combo of strikes that ended with a big lariat.

Priest stalked his foe, then looked for a Broken Arrow. Morrison escaped and hit a strike combo. Both men then went through a bevy of block and countering strikes in a nice, almost movie-like sequence that ended with both men landing capoeira kicks on each other simultaneously. It was a pretty good sequence. Priest rose to his feet first, but Morrison sent him out and landed a kick between the ropes. He then hit a spinning crossbody, maybe a 720, to the outside. He then dodged a strike from the apron and landed a kick, but his springboard ended with Priest landing a spinning heel kick. He set for The Reckoning, but The Miz sprayed him. Priest just smiled, landed the move, and won.

WINNER: Damian Priest at 4:07 (The Reckoning)

-After the match, Priest went outside to The Miz, who wheeled backwards. Priest thwarted Morrison. The Miz grabbed a Drip Stick, but then Priest grabbed one and sprayed Morrison. He did the same with another, then another. He then pointed at The Miz, now Drip Stickless, who backed into the steel steps. He pushed away Priest, standing in the process, revealing he isn’t injured. The Miz looked mortified. Priest just laughed and grinned. The Miz then turned and booked it to the back.

Priest reentered the ring and took a mic. He said Orlando, for months we’ve all seen Sheamus come out here, run his mouth, pick apart his opponent when they’re not looking, then Sheamus interrupted saying to say it to his face. He said he would expect that from these people, but not Priest. Priest said something in Spanish that drew a laugh from some fans. He said straight up, Sheamus is a bully, but like he’s dealt with every bully in his life, he’ll deal with Sheamus, but it’s different because he’s challenging him to a title match.

Sheamus said maybe he is a bully and maybe he likes it. He said he doesn’t care what Priest or the people think, but he’ll put Priest in his place because at SummerSlam, it’s on, he accepted the challenge. Priest turned around and Brogue Kicked Morrison. He said that’s going to be Sheamus at SummerSlam. He threw the mic down, then posed at different turnbuckles to pretty good pops.

-Smith & Graves shifted to Mace & T-Bar defeating Mustafa Ali & Mansoor last week. They cut to Mansoor in the back apologizing for last week and said he wanted to make it up to Ali and bought him a jacket. It was similar yet different from Mansoor’s. Ali said it’s OK to make mistakes, but Mansoor needs to learn. He said tonight, all Mansoor needs to do is watch and learn.

-Mace & T-Bar’s music hit as they made their entrance for T-Bar’s match with Ali. They cut to break hyping the singles match between the former Retribution members. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: I foresee The Miz & Morrison trying to cause Priest the match, but Priest thwarting them like he did tonight and winning the United States Championship. The Draft is soon after, so there’s a possibility they do the opposite and have Sheamus retain, moving Priest to Smackdown, but I think Raw needs Priest more. He seemed to get some good reactions tonight, and when he made his challenge, the pop was audible. Maybe Ricochet moves into a feud with The Miz & Morrison building off of their previous matches and inserting The Miz? Who knows, but maybe they just forget about Ricochet again, unfortunately.)

-They returned with a graphic hyping Reggie’s leaping entrance on TikTok as drawing over 33 million views.

-In a pre-recorded promo, Mace & T-Bar said the only lesson that matters, that teeny tiny animals like Ali & Mansoor need to learn, is that size always matters. Ali & Mansoor made their entrance, this week with much less of a crowd reaction not being in Chicago.

(6) MUSTAFA ALI (w/Mansoor) vs. T-BAR (w/Mace)

They locked up to begin, but T-Bar just tossed Ali into a corner and hit a big elbow. He then whipped Ali hard acros the ring and hit a big backbody drop for a two-count. Ali tried fighting back, but suffered a gut knee. Ali ducked a strike, then hit a dropkick that sent T-Bar outside. He went for a slingshot splash, but T-Bar held on and rolled through. He hit a knee to the kidney, then spun and tossed Ali into the barricade.

He tossed Ali back into the ring and hit his discus boot that won the match last week for only a two-count; Ali sold the hell out of that. Ali was sent into a corner, but he got a boot up. He tried for a tornado DDT, but T-Bar turned it into a chokebreaker. Ali got his foot on the rope, then mace flattened Mansoor. Ali countered a wheelbarrow and rolled out, then hit a tornado DDT, but T-Bar kicked him as he was on the top rope. T-Bar used the position to then hit Feast Your Eyes for the victory.

WINNER: T-Bar at 3:03 (Feast Your Eyes)

-After the match, they went to double chokeslam Ali, but Mansoor hit a missile dropkick to T-Bar’s back, then hita bevy of strikes to Mace. Mace clumsily went to the apron as Mansoor evaded, then Mansoor hit a triangle dropkick to send Mace to the floor. The heels retreated as the fans chanted “You suck!” at them with the faces in the ring.

-They cut to the back with Reggie posing for photos in his 24/7 Championship. They showed an obvious Akira Tozawa approach as a package deliverer. He rolled up Reggie, but an obvious R-Truth in a janitor’s outfit broke up the pin. They chased Reggie, who was doing a lot of acrobatic stuff to escape, including flipping off a storage crate. They cut to break hyping Bobby Lashley responding to last week’s Goldberg interaction. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: I like the story they’re telling with Ali & Mansor, but not sure how effective it is when Ali tells Mansoor to learn from him and then he promptly loses. In Vince McMahon’s world, it is all about size, but that’s not how the real world works; Roger Huerta knocked out a dude over a hundred pounds heavier than him on the streets years ago; Huerta fought at lightweight, 155 pounds. I do like seeing Feast Your Eyes, at least, one of my favorite finishers since I first saw it in Ring of Honor years ago when T-Bar was in the Top Prospect Tournament.)

[HOUR THREE]

-They returned with a graphic hyping both John Cena and The Rock for their roles in the #1 and #2 movies in the world. Patrick was in their makeshift ring in the back as he welcomed Styles & Omos. Styles sarcastically said he’s so glad Orton’s back, and Patrick naively said really? Styles said, he doesn’t care that Orton’s back, but what he does care about is Orton walking through the door and thinking he can go to the top of the mountain after being away for so long. He said Orton made a colossal mistake and they’re going to have to put Orton back on the sidelines for good. They hyped their singles match for later tonight, Orton without Riddle in the graphic.

-Lashley’s intense and awesome intro video and lightning hit. He received a hearty round of boos when he made his entrance. Graves cut to a video recap of last week’s interaction that saw M.V.P. talk some smack to Goldberg’s son, Gage, only to be speared (not a good one) by Goldberg. They showed a graphic for the title match.

BOBBY LASHLEY & M.V.P. IN-RING PROMO

M.V.P. asked for the WWE Universe to rise and show the proper respect to the All Mighty WWE Champion. They booed loud as Lashley just posed. M.V.P. said last week, Lashley was gracious enough to bless everyone with a blockbuster of a match at SummerSlam between him and Goldberg, but sadly, that announcement has been mired in controversy with false narratives (“Goldberg” chants started). M.V.P. said if Goldberg wanted a fight, Lashley was there, but he didn’t wisely, and left the ring, but he returned and savagely, like a coward, hit him with a spear. M.V.P. then said Goldberg lied and said it’s because M.V.P. was threatening his 15-year-old son. He said they both have sons so he would never do that; he was just acting in a humanitarian capacity. He told Gage if you really love your father, tell him to stop this foolishness or his career is over.

M.V.P. said he’s been slandered before, but if you slander him, you also slander the All Mighty. He said being hit a spear by Goldberg is like being hit with a Mac truck, and he has four bruised ribs, two cracked, to go along with his torn meniscus. He said they’re violent men by nature, fashionably violent, then said he shouldn’t brig his son around (he grimaced in pain selling the cracked ribs). A “What?” chant started. M.V.P. said since Goldberg wants to involve his son in his battles, this message is for Gage: please stop your father or you’ll see your father humiliated and destroyed in a way like never seen before because Lashley will end Goldberg’s career.

He said at least the upside is that Gage will have his dad to go to all of his games. He said they could sit on the couch and watch Raw and reminisce and have al the father-son time they want. Lashley said that’s beautiful, but this is a message for Goldberg: don’t let your son watch SummerSlam because the destruction he inflicts on Goldberg will lead to Goldberg not being next, but done. M.V.P. raised Lashley’s arm, they posed a bit in the ring, then Smith cut to a different topic.

-They shifted to last week’s no holds barred match between Nikki A.S.H. and Charlotte Flair. They recapped Flair defeating A.S.H. in A.S.H.’s first match as Women’s Champion two weeks ago, the rematch challenge, then clips from last week’s brutal match.

-They showed Rhea Ripley walking in the back as Sarah Schreiber finally appeared. Ripley said like she said last week, nothing’s more brutal than a no holds barred match. She gave props to A.S.H., but said almost isn’t good enough to stay the champion. She said as a former Women’s Champion she understands the balance between light and dark to hold onto the title and questioned if A.S.H. has a dark side. She said she’s going to unleash a nightmare on A.S.H. tonight and at SummerSlam to become the new Women’s Champion. She made her entrance. They showed split-screen photos of Ripley defeating Asuka at WrestleMania to become Women’s Champion. Ripley did her full choreographed entrance as they cut to break. This match was not hyped as a championship contenders match. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: I really, really just want to see the Lashley-Goldberg match go exactly as M.V.P. & Lashley laid out with utter domination. M.V.P. did well to combat the what chants, and Lashley was short and sweet with his comments. Am I more excited for the match? No. Am I more excited for Lashley & M.V.P.? Yes.)

-They showed a graphic with Titus O’Neil giving away 30 thousand backpacks filled with school supplies from ABC News.

-They cut back to Ripley in the ring, posing. They showed A.S.H. in Gorilla (to a good pop) as Schreiber approached. A.S.H. said almost being a superhero she has to be prepared for things to not go her way. She said you still have to believe in her dreams, and even though tonight her dream might turn into a nightmare, she has her trusty nightlight: her drive. She said she knew Flair and Ripley would be in her way and that last week, she didn’t almost beat Flair, she did beat Flair, and tonight she’s almost certain she’ll beat Ripley. She said she knows the odds are stacked against her, but she’ll do all it takes to remain Women’s Champion. She posed, then made her entrance. They showed a graphic for the title triple threat.

(7) NIKKI A.S.H. (c) vs. RHEA RIPLEY – Non-title match

A.S.H. had her ribs taped over her gear instead of under. Ripley went for a body kick, but A.S.H. rolled her up for a one-count. A.S.H. applied a side headlock, then countered into a side headlock takedown. She used the ropes to leap off and maintain the hold on Ripley. Ripley finally threw her off with a belly-to-back front suplex, then a body kick. Ripley then hit a few body shots in the corner and rammed A.S.H. into another corner. She tossed A.S.H. by her hair across the ring, then shoulder thrusted into the corner.

A.S.H. tried fighting back, but Ripley grounded her with one strike, then whipped her face-first into the corner. Ripley then tossed A.S.H. outside, followed, then lifted and dropped A.S.H. across the apron belly-first as they cut to break. [c]

Ripley dropped A.S.H. and placed some knees to the small of the back as they returned. Ripley worked A.S.H. in a corner, but the latter fought out with strikes. She countered a backbody drop with an awkward-looking DDT that spiked Ripley. The crowd was still apathetic. A.S.H. hit some forearms to the face, then hit a tilt-a-whirl head scissors, then a wheelbarrow into a victory roll for a two-count. Ripley then grounded A.S.H. with one gut kick.

She went for Riptide, but A.S.H. turned it into a splash for a two-count by shifting her weight onto Ripley. Ripley hit a capoeira kick from the mat, then took it to A.S.H. in a corner with body shots before lifting her to the top. She climbed for a superplex, finally drawing a reaction from the crowd, but A.S.H. fought it off with forearms that sent Ripley crashing to the mat.

A.S.H. steadied herself, but Flair appeared and knocked her off the top for the DQ. Flair then gave Ripley a big boot and A.S.H. an exploder. She hit Natural Selection on Ripley, then grabbed the title and held it up, posing to end the segment as he music played with both foes laid out. They cut to break. [c]

WINNER: Nikki A.S.H. at 9:18 (DQ)

(Hazelwood’s Take: The crowd was NOT into that match. They worked hard, but the crowd just wasn’t buying into the match. I think A.S.H.’s pre-match promo may have had to do with it; who wants to get behind someone who ALMOST thinks they can win?)

-They returned with video of Elias in a swamp or something, then walking up to a little fire. He looked into it with his guitar over his shoulder, the video with a “Walk with Elias” piped-in over footage of him bashing people with the guitar. He threw it into the fire. He said WWE stood for Walk with Elias, but Elias is dead.

-Smith recapped the ending of the previous match and Flair taking out her foes. They showed Flair walking in the back as Schreiber approached. Flair said she attacked them because she saw a strategic opportunity to rub salt in the wound. She said she doesn’t have to be pinned (or submitted) to lose the triple threat, so she’s not taking any chances. She said anyone who’s been on top and stays on top knows they’re always a target. She said last week she showed a little bit kindness and then one loss wiped away everything she’s done. She said she’s the most decorated women in WWE and while everyone can pray for her demise, she’s walking out as Women’s Champion.

-Patrick approached Orton about distancing himself from Riddle. Orton said it’s simple: he works better alone. He said he’s going to beat Styles tonight alone, all by himself. His music played as he made his entrance with an AR viper snapping at the screen. They cut to break hyping the main event.

(Hazelwood’s Take: I’ll admit, when Elias first made the jump from NXT, I was behind him. I even watched his little WrestleMania documentary performance thing on the WWE Network. However, the past several years have just been grating; my friend calls him The Grifter, so yeah, that gives you an idea. I’m intrigued where this goes insofar as I want to see what this new character will be, but not holding out hope that it will be anything that gets him beyond the space he currently occupies on the card.)

-They returned with a video brought to you by Sonic on Orton. It highlighted a lot of his highlights throughout the last decade, including many RKOs. Orton was pacing in the ring with his music still going as they cut back to the ring. Styles’ music hit as he made his entrance with his tag team partner behind him, who only enters after Styles does his typical entrance pose and pyro.

(8) A.J. STYLES (w/Omos) vs. RANDY ORTON – Singles match

Smith said this is Orton’s first appearance in seven weeks as the bell rung with just over 12 minutes left to the top of the hour. Orton came out hot, beating Styles all over the ring. Styles hit a few chops, but Orton hit a quick European uppercut. He then hit a gourdbuster to Styles along the top rope, draping him before Styles fell to the mat. Orton eyed Omos, then stomped at Styles’ appendages, first both of his hands, then his head as he maliciously grinned at Omos.

He forced Styles outside by the announce desk and Omos, who just stood there unmoving. Orton looked for his belly-to-back, but stopped because of Omos. He fought off a Styles sneak attack, but got distracted again and was hit with a baseball slide. Styles hit a slingshot forearm to Orton on the outside as they cut to break. [c]

Styles had Orton in a side headlock as they returned, then hit a double throat chop and an enziguri, followed by a running forearm to a seated Orton for a two-count. Orton was clutching his throat as Styles locked in the Randy Orton Special, a mid-ring mid-match rear chinlock. Orton pulled back on Styles’s hair to break the hold, then hit a headbutt.

They traded punches in the middle of the ring with Orton landing more, then a big clothesline and another. He hit his snap powerslam for a two-count after Styles came off of the ropes. Styles landed a stiff leg kick as he rose to his feet, but Orton landed his signature backbreaker/neckbreaker combo for a two-count. Orton limped around after that one kick, but lifted Styles to the top rope. He punched him so hard Styles almost fell, or at least Styles sold it as such. Orton blew a kiss at Omos, but Styles slipped out and took out Orton’s leg, causing him to land on the turnbuckle.

Styles rolled through for the Calf Crusher, which Orton momentarily blocked, then broke by reaching the bottom rope. Styles was sent to the apron, but hit a forearm. He went for the Phenomenal Forearm, but stopped because Orton moved. Orton then hit a clothesline to Styles on the apron and used that to hit his draping DDT. He then pounded the mat in preparation for the RKO, but Omos shoved Styles to the corner. The ref yelled at Omos instead of disqualifying him.

Orton taunted Omos, who took off his jacket, allowing Styles to hit an enziguri. Suddenly, Riddle appeared from the crowd and shoved Omos into the post. He climbed for a sleeper, but Omos backed Riddle into the post. Styles tried for the Phenomenal Forearm, but Orton turned it into an RKO for the win.

WINNER: Randy Orton at 11:19 (RKO)

-After the match, Riddle entered and tentatively celebrated with Orton. He had his hands up in a pleading way, then put his arms out for a hug. Orton looked incredulous, then tried to exit the ring. Riddle stopped him, then implored him. Riddle egged the fans on, who cheered for the hug. Orton acquiesced, the crowd popped, and Orton looked annoyed. He then hit the RKO on Riddle, then smiled and laughed. The show ended.

(Hazelwood’s Take: A good match, good story, and everything finally coalesced. While the breakup felt rushed because of Orton’s absence and his lack of explanation, the micro story told over the course of the night worked to build up to the end. Orton kept saying he wanted to do everything on his own, but Riddle stubbornly wouldn’t listen. Now I’m guessing we see Orton vs. Riddle at SummerSlam, but who does that then leave for Styles & Omos? Do they not appear on SummerSlam?

FINAL THOUGHTS: The first hour was utter garbage, but the second and third hours helped, particularly the Sheam-Ricochet, Priest-Morrison, and main event. I still don’t know if A.S.H. is going to work long-term, but I also don’t see her as Women’s Champion beyond the next pay-per-view. The thing to keep in mind with all of this is the draft happens shortly after SummerSlam, so rosters will be different after August. Until then, it’s just treading water on Monday nights.

EDIT: Thanks to the commenter for reminding me that the Draft was pushed back to October. I’ve had so many things going on I haven’t kept up with all of the news. Sorry about that.

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