Well into what was becoming a fairly lopsided beatdown Monday Night, Roman Reigns impossibly recovered with enough strength to land a one-armed sit-up powerbomb on his opponent, Cesaro, that eventually led him to a victory.
It was an amazing show of strength from Reigns, who had spent a majority of his time face first on the mat with Cesaro tearing apart his right shoulder.
Earlier in the night, Seth Rollins was visibly laboring after his surgically repaired knee was taking a pounding from Sheamus before Rollins converted an incredible superplex-Falcon Arrow combo on one leg that ultimately propelled him to a win as well. And then there was Dean Ambrose, who lost to Samoa Joe in singles competition but had a couple of his own highlight-reel spots.
It was further evidence that Raw would be lost without The Shield, who continue to carry the show during these slower periods, and likely will for months to come. But the series of matches also reminded us how effective The Shield members are when they perform individually, building their own narratives and credibility.
Is it possible the parts are greater than the sum of The Shield?
Their reunion has garnered a lot of attention, and we've seen how dominant they are as a single entity, but together they have a much harder time establishing their own identity. Together, they have no choice but to spend copious amounts of time in the ring with the likes of the Miztourage or The Bar & Co. that we forget how valuable Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose are doing the solo thing.
Yes, there's room for both. There's no shortage of wrestling real estate given they show up for work nearly every Monday and for a growing number of pay-per-views.
We're not suggesting The Shield should abandon their partnership, but there's something to be said about allowing each member to perform in a vacuum without the backdrop of a greater team-centric storyline.
Reigns has already proved that by recently winning the Intercontinental title, but you could argue his belt and grand slam achievement has been largely overshadowed by the overall presence of his reconciled "brothers." Reigns is also in a good spot presently with Samoa Joe looming as his next rival. No doubt that will be an entertaining high-end feud for weeks to come.
We can only hope that Rollins and Ambrose can maintain individual identities while working together to regain the tag-team titles and with Reigns as the invincible Shield threesome. Rollins and Ambrose have struggled on that front since the official homecoming with Reigns, but Monday night showed us it's not too late to lay out the blueprint for respective singles success.
Strowman, Kane and a meh main event
There are a handful of unwritten rules in the wrestling business: babyfaces never cheat, it's OK to get down and dirty in jeans, a birthday celebration will never end without a cake in someone's face and ... a main event should never, ever end in a double-countout.
Your bad, Monday Night Raw, for breaking the latter law of the letter as Braun Strowman's match against Kane ended with both lying outside the ring for a 10-count. What was the point, especially with the stakes so high? The winner of that match would be awarded the No. 1 contender and face Brock Lesnar at January's Royal Rumble.
So what now? A do-over? Triple-threat (please, oh please say that's not the case) or some other stipulation that we'll find out presumably next week. Whatever the fallout, the bottom line is that this was no way to end a pretty decent episode of Raw. Win or lose, at least the fans can go home with some kind of visceral feeling of elation, sadness or anger. But a de facto tie? At that point, just give us Curt Hawkins-Apollo Crews to end the show.
First off, the idea Kane is a justifiable rival to Strowman has been silly since he returned to raw in mid-October. But be that as it may, if you're going to reinsert any semblance of his supernatural, bulletproof aura, then make it mean something.
- WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) December 12, 2017
Yes, the chair clobbering and steel-stair ramming was pretty cool after the bell rang, and Strowman slamming Kane through the announcer's table ended the show with authority, but it would serve everyone well if Strowman would finally hurdle past his current opponent and truly begin a build toward Lesnar we can get excited about.
They fought at No Mercy in a hastily cobbled encounter, but this time, the WWE has a chance to do it right, and on a much bigger stage at the Royal Rumble. While that might still materialize, it's important to plant smart stepping stones along the way and keep the audience intrigued.
A double-countout was a double-misstep Monday night. There were so many better options. Curt Hawkins, where are you when we need you?
Hits & misses
I wish the creative team would let a little more time pass before it started building toward an Asuka-Absolution showdown. Let Asuka and, specifically, Paige establish themselves as unbeatable for a while instead of intertwining their storylines so soon. To make matters that much more confusing, the entire women's roster banded together (that's right, Bayley and Alexa Bliss stood side by side in unison) as they chased off the Absolution, who had beaten down Alicia Fox backstage ahead of her match against Asuka.
I totally understand the Absolution wants to create an imperious, invincible threesome, but it would be so much more effective if they did so more methodically instead of interfering in every women's narrative on the show. Patience, Paige & co.
Good to see the WWE mention its decision to take away Rich Swann's cruiserweight title shot, but wish they'd be more open as to why (even in vague parlance) and also mention its zero-tolerance policy. I understand this is a serious charge with real-life legal ramifications, and thus can't talk specifics in the alleged incident, but it doesn't mean the show should shy away from what could be a teachable moment for anyone who thinks this is even remotely tolerant, even in a pugilistic business like the WWE, to harm another human being.
So does Nia Jax really dig Enzo Amore or is this some kind of nefarious ruse that will eventually cost the loudmouth cruiserweight champ his title? Here's hoping the lust is legit, because why not? Imagine the symbiotic, even romantic, relationship they could establish in helping each other down the road. Who knows, but Jax could very well play a role in Emore's next title defense, which will come against either Cedric Alexander, who won a Fatal 4-way Monday night, or Drew Gulak with the winner then facing the champ for the title.
How far Finn Balor has fallen. Last week, he was relegated to Bo Dallas duty and this week it was Curtis Axel. He's so much more than that, even if he doesn't fit into the Samoa Joe-Shield-Bar plans at the moment. After winning the (short-lived) inaugural Universal title more than a year ago, Balor has had an overall disappointing existence since coming back from a long injury hiatus. Even a longer, more earnest feud with Bray Wyatt without the demon-esque gimmicks would have served him well.
Thank goodness the WWE needs to dig deep for elements to fill up a three-hour show, because if it didn't, who would have remembered Anderson and Gallows were still part of the Raw Roster? As Dana Brooke was being introduced as the latest addition of Titus Worldwide, Gallows and Anderson made a nonsensical appearance into the segment, which was cut short by a roaring Braun Strowman who bulldozed his way past the other performers on his way to the ring. What was the point of the Anderson and Gallows even showing up? Too bad they've been relegated to class-clown status because there wasn't one men's tag-team match all night -- which shows the lack of depth in that division.
What to make of a "woken" Matt Hardy? Not sure what it means in the ring, but his demented state gave us some knee-slapping chuckles Monday night as he and Bray Wyatt exchanged a long series of loony laughs. I mean just look at this mug. What more can we say?
"The soul of Sister Abigail has existed for eternities...And now, her HORRENDOUS soul is the prominent passenger of the vessel known as @WWEBrayWyatt!" - @MATTHARDYBRAND #RAW pic.twitter.com/theeEvIALy
- WWE (@WWE) December 12, 2017