Kane is backstage on the phone with The Authority. Triple H says they are running late and wants to make sure Kane can hold down the fort. You know where this is going. Kane convinces them he can and thus the Director of Operations is in charge until Haitch & Steph can get to the arena. As soon as the conversation is over, Kane sends someone to let Seth Rollins know that he'll be in a Lumberjack match tonight against him.
The Raw intro airs and we're live in the Allstate Arena with Dean Ambrose making his way to the ring to kick off the show. This is a sweet change of pace. Ambrose bottom line's it and says he's looking for a fight. Randy Orton comes out and lets him know that they are partners at Hell In A Cell in a tag against Harper & Strowman. They start trading words with the heat building with each line. Ambrose says he doesn't trust Orton, Orton says he can't even trust himself, etc.
This leads to NEW DAAAAY! Big E, Kofi, & Woods are extremely humorous with their positive schtick as usual. They recall what they did last week when they laid out Cena, Ziggler, & The Dudleys. They say it's something The Shield never did then name all the stables Randy has been in (Evolution, Legacy, The Authority) and that none of them did it either. Orton's smirk when New Day made fun of how many groups he'd been in was a glorious thing to behold. I was lauhging so hard at this point. Woods says Orton brings a new meaning to the term "groupie" which was equally as fantastic. All this leads to Kane making a tag match that starts.. now!
1) Dean Ambrose & Randy Orton vs. Big E & Kofi Kingston (w/ Xavier Woods)
As you can probably guess, this was quite good. New Day is virtually incapable of having a bad match at this point. Between their charisma, satisfying moveset, and the best heat segment in the BIZ-I-NESS, they are making a true run for topping several lists in my Year End awards. To top all those attributes that the New Day has to their credit, the ongoing story of Ambrose & Orton's partnership being in shackles made this an interesting bout to watch unfold. The two get off the course and argue a few times here or there which ultimately leads to New Day taking over. They isolate Randy until they give him too much time to recover on the outside and Big E goes for the spear off the apron AND HE MISSES! NASTY SPILL TO THE FLOOR! Orton with the hot tag to Ambrose and he cleans house in awesome fashion as he sets the crowd ablaze. It doesn't last as he gets dropped which leads to Orton getting in for the final sequence. Stalling DDT to Kofi that he built to quite well with Woods stopping him at first so Ambrose hits a dive which allows Orton to reposition. This ends with Orton going for the RKO, Kofi pushes him off, and Orton knocks Ambrose out of the ring. This allows Kofi to roll up Orton for the win. Good stuff all around.
Match rating - ***1/4
LOOKING BACK: The history of the rivalry between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker is shown in prep for their match in two weeks at Hell In A Cell.
2) Nikki Bella (w/ Brie & Alicia Fox) vs. Naomi (w/ Sasha Banks & Tamina)
These two are known for not being the most smooth despite being athletic, but they were really able to mesh the two and put together a fairly crisp match here. Naomi hit an AWESOME dive over the top rope which was the definite highlight of the match. The crowd chanted for Sasha several times and it seems they expected it because they did a spot where Brie chanted with them as a way of distracting Naomi. Sasha gets her moment and knocks Brie off the announce table, but it was too late. Nikki hits Naomi with the rack attack for the victory. Perfectly fine match.
Match rating - **1/2
3) John Cena (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler - United States Championship Match
Great speech by Cena before the match as he mentions why he loves the All State Arena in Chicago. The challenge is placed. The door is open and who will accept? None other than the Show Off, Dolph Ziggler. They run through fun stuff to begin. Cena gets the upperhand and as Ziggler retreats to the outside, Cena grabs the mic for an impromptu recognition of a newly married couple in the crowd. BIG MATCH JOHN IS RUNNING WILD. Things get back going and before you know it, we're in a well spaced out final half with a number of big moves and great exchanges. Of these, you had Ziggler reverse out of the STF with a sleeper hold, an avalanche DDT off the top rope, an AA into a Fameasser, among other things. Highly entertaining match here as you can tell. After all the drama and near falls, Cena hits an AA out of nowhere for the three count to retain the title. As said before, super fun match, but agh, that's my least favorite finish that Cena has. Only because it feels so abrupt. Quality viewing here, none the less.
Match rating - ***1/2
4) The Dudleys vs. The Ascension
This happened. The Ascension charged The Dudley's at the bell. They get a nice little flurry before the inevitable happens. Bubba & Devon clean house and finish off The Ascension with the doomsday device.
Match rating - **
TONIGHT: Seth Rollins vs. Kane - Lumber Jack Match
5) Cesaro & Neville vs. Sheamus & Bad News Barrett
When I hear reports of Vince not thinking Cesaro has "it" or when I see him get tossed up and down the card with stop & start booking, matches like this are what come to mind and make me wonder who in WWE management is blind. Cesaro has been of TV for several weeks for NO reason whatsoever after getting pushed and main eventing Raw against John Cena. Despite his third and most recent fall from grace by no fault of his own, the Swiss Superman returns to television and steals the show. Not only did he steal the show, he was the STAR of this match and easily the most popular man involved. The crowd popped for every single thing he did and gave him multiple top notch ovations. He & Sheamus' exchanges ruled and his double team manuevers with Neville were cool as well. After Cesaro is done doing his thing, Neville gets in and BNB nails with a bullhammer from outside the ring which allows Sheamus to pin him.
Match rating - **1/2
UP NEXT: Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
6) Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
This is Strowman's first real singles match and I really enjoyed it. Reigns tends to have matches that are on the stiffer side and Strowman is the perfect opponent for that. Just by looking at him, I've come to that conclusion. Plus based off his performance here, it proved to be true. Braun dominates Reigns during the first half and never allows him to mount much offense. Reigns is finally able to get something going and starts firing through his moves. A stiff kick in the corner begins his big rally. Reigns lines up Strowman for the apron dropkick and STROWMAN HITS HIM WITH A CLOTHESLINE! The first time someone has countered that! They end up brawling around ringside. Reigns hits Harper with a superman punch then springs off the steel steps to hit Strowman with one. The move sends Strowman flying over the announce table. The ref's count is at nine when Reigns runs in the ring to get himself the count out victory over Strowman. Wyatt taunts Reigns after the match with the "Follow the Buzzards" pose only to get a shot to the face in return.
Match rating - ***
7) Rusev (w/ Summer Rae) vs. Ryback
The two big men do stuff for a few minutes before Ryback gets the win. This was all about what happened after the match. TMZ apparently "broke a story" on Rusev & Lana getting engaged so now Summer is pissed. She goes off on Rusev, slaps him, and storms away. So... Lana is going to be heel again when she returns?
Match rating - **
8) Kevin Owens vs. Kalisto
This mini feud between Owens and the Lucha Dragons is becoming a thing. I like. We get to see Big Kev do the "Lucha Lucha" dance, what's not to love? Lots of trash talk and bullying from Owens. Kalisto hits a new second rope springboard dive to the outside here, but it comes across weirdly as Owens half way counters it into a powerbomb on the floor. Kalisto flurries once they get back into the ring before getting caught in the pop up powerbomb. Pretty fun few minutes.
Match rating - **1/2
9) Seth Rollins vs. Kane - Lumberjack Match
Despite HHH telling Kane via phone to change this match, he doesn't. He just comes out as Demon Kane instead. A few purposeful spots early on to familiarize everyone with the premise of the lumberjack match such as Rollins running off and getting caught and thrown right back in immediately. Rollins & Kane go into the big guns pretty early. Diving knee from the top rope from Rollins yet Kane kicks out. A huge brawl breaks out between heel & face lumberjacks when New Day pulls Kane out of the ring. The heels beat down Kane which sets up for a hilarious spot where Big E hits the ropes and Kane sits up. This leads to more chaos. Kane cleans house with chokeslams. Rollins is back in and after a counter or two, gets planted with the tombstone piledriver that they've been teasing for weeks. Game over. Logically fine, but not interesting in the least for me.
Match rating - **1/4