On Sunday night at Money in the Bank, Ronda Rousey removed any doubt as to whether she can hack it in the ring as a WWE superstar. The physicality she delivered and absorbed throughout her Raw women's championship match against Nia Jax proved that Rousey's WrestleMania performance was no fluke.
Despite it being just her second televised match with the WWE, fans at Allstate Arena and at home were ready for Rousey to walk out of that match as champion. That's not quite how it all worked out, though, as Alexa Bliss attacked Rousey and Jax with her newly won Money in the Bank briefcase, caused a disqualification and then cashed in her title shot to regain the Raw women's championship.
Having once again proved herself a worthy in-ring competitor, Monday was an opportunity for both Rousey and the WWE to prove they had a better grasp of how the former UFC women's bantamweight champion could work to her strengths outside of matches. In a matter of just 12 minutes to open Monday Night Raw, Rousey showed that her best approach to match promotion and storytelling in the WWE is a matter of actions over words.
Bliss opened Raw delighting in her subterfuge and disruption of the status quo, but as she ran through all the reasons why she had outsmarted everyone, Rousey came charging down the ramp with an intense look and a singular mission in mind. Kurt Angle held Rousey back, which Bliss took as an opportunity to brag about all of the attention she was getting instead of the "irrelevant" Rousey.
When Bliss finished making her point by calling Rousey an "over-hyped rookie," Rousey pushed past Angle and swept Bliss' legs out.
In a moment reminiscent of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Rousey's attack eventually swept Angle in the mix -- first with strikes that swung back and forth between Bliss and Angle, and then, when Bliss introduced the briefcase as a weapon, Rousey offered briefcase shots for all involved. Referees and officials were swept away, and Rousey eventually slung Bliss over her shoulders and powerbombed her through a table.
There was no smiling, happy-to-be-there Ronda Rousey -- it was get-down-to-business, scowl-on-her-face Ronda Rousey, more actions than words, destroying every obstacle that got in her way. The attack earned Rousey an in-storyline 30-day suspension, and after a terse interview as Rousey left the building, during which she promised to kick Bliss' "pink-haired" ass, that was that.
Whether the suspension was a means for Rousey to work on another project, work in the lab to continue to sharpen her WWE skills or simply a means to keep Rousey out of play as a title challenger until August's SummerSlam pay-per-view, the WWE finally seemed to get how best to tap into the skill set of a legitimate fighter. While she figures things out on the microphone, keep it short, sweet and to the point -- and let her actions and facial expressions do the work.
Seth Rollins flies too close to the sun, loses IC title to Dolph Ziggler
With Elias officially in Seth Rollins' rear-view mirror after Money in the Bank, the Intercontinental championship open challenge officially got back underway. When Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre walked out, the prospect of either man challenging Rollins was a welcome sight as another in a growing stretch of strong showings from Rollins.
When Ziggler ultimately stepped up, the match did not disappoint. Stretching well beyond two commercial breaks, Rollins and Ziggler predictably threw themselves and each other all over the ring and outside of it -- including a particularly crazy moment that came during a commercial break that WWE chose to replay no less than three times.
One of the key themes throughout the night on Raw was playing up the damage and fatigue factor of everyone who performed at Money in the Bank, and this was no different. Rollins and ZIggler were just starting to reach another gear when a single 10-second stretch brought the match to a jarring end with a shocking finish. One night after Rollins countered Elias' attempt at grabbing a handful of tights to secure a win, Rollins attempted to do the same after a distraction from McIntyre started a chain reaction that led to a pinfall attempt.
This time, however, Ziggler rolled through, grabbed tights and leverage and, to the shock of almost everyone watching, scored the three-count and the title win. The now-six-time Intercontinental champion -- tied for third in all-time reigns with Jeff Jarrett and Rob Van Dam, behind only The Miz and Chris Jericho -- rubbed it in by mocking Rollins' title whipping over his head. Then McIntyre rolled in the ring and added injury to insult with the Zig-Zag/Claymore combination.
As out-of-nowhere as this title change seems to be, it suits a number of different stories the WWE was trying to tell. It gives Ziggler and McIntyre credibility when they talk about tearing through the Raw roster, it makes Rollins vulnerable and gives him a hurdle to clear and, perhaps most importantly, it reiterates that almost any match can pull out a shocking ending every once in a while to keep things unpredictable.
Ziggler and Rollins will run it back next week, and there should be little doubt as to what we can expect to see.
Hits and misses
• After the first two segments of the show set a crazy tone for the night by turning everything on its head, things mostly settled down until the main event. Kevin Owens spent his night hobbling around with injuries after falling off a giant ladder and through a table Sunday night, but he was no less ready to try to manipulate everything around him. He tried to offer Braun Strowman an olive branch and congratulations for winning Money in the Bank, but narrowly avoided a powerslam once he stepped in the ring.
A backstage confluence of factors set up a main event that paired Owens with Baron ... err, Constable Corbin to take on Strowman and Finn Balor. Even though it appeared as though Raw was rolling toward a predictable, send-the-fans-home-happy ending, that's not how things played out at all. Strowman took several attacks from Corbin -- who wrestled in his dress clothes -- that left an impact. Ultimately, in a mad scramble at the end of the match, Corbin caught Balor, hit the End of Days and scored a tremendous, clean-as-can-be victory for himself and his team in the middle of the ring.
That win could help Corbin step into the still-yet-to-be-defined multiman match at Extreme Rules that will determine Brock Lesnar's next official challenger for the Universal championship. Bobby Lashley and Roman Reigns, who went nose-to-nose and then later teamed up to beat The Revival, are the first two men entered into that match, but we'll have to wait and see for the rest.
• After dropping the ball in a big way over the past few months, Bayley and Sasha Banks were reunited for a grand total of one match before a loss to the Riott Squad and further tension broke them apart for good. A shoving match in the ring begat a backstage brawl, which led to Bayley tossing a water bottle at Banks' fleeing car. Hopefully the in-ring performances can wash away some of the bad taste the build to this match has left behind so far.
• The B-Team did their best Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt impressions, and the resemblance between Wyatt and Bo Dallas is uncanny -- as it should be since they are actually brothers. Their attempt at trying to jump-cut out of the promo didn't work, forcing them to slowly drop out of the frame instead, and Dallas and Curtis Axel have done a good job thus far of straddling the line of silly and too much. We're still waiting to see when they'll get their Raw tag-team title shot.
• Jinder Mahal appeared to embrace part of his former pacifist character in a promo, before destroying Chad Gable in a far-too-short match for the latter, who seems to continue to slip further and further into the abyss by the week.
• Elias sang a sad song, but reveled in Rollins' loss and took pot shots at Brock Lesnar and the Grand Rapids crowd, which made him feel better.
• Mojo Rawley didn't get an entrance, but he did get a win over No Way Jose. There's no telling where this is going.