WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from May 22
One week after the announcement of a Fatal 5-Way No. 1 contender’s match shook the foundation of Raw and set Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt and Samoa Joe on a collision course, the flagship show of WWE hit the airwaves with each of those competitors jockeying for position ahead of the June 4 Extreme Rules pay-per-view.
With an advertised match of Balor vs. longtime friend Karl Anderson keeping The Demon busy, what fate awaited his Extreme Rules opponents?
They may have dominated the headlines but secondary stories such as the Raw Tag Team Championship feud between The Hardy Boyz and Cesaro and Sheamus earned screen time, as did the intercontinental title rivalry pitting Dean Ambrose against The Miz.
On the heels of a noteworthy SmackDown Live pay-per-view event, how did Raw followup?
Find out now with this recap of the May 22 episode, complete with grades, highlights and analysis.
Bray Wyatt Kicks Off Raw
1 OF 12
Bray Wyatt kicked off the night’s show, guided to the ring by his lantern and the thousands of fireflies that lit up the arena.
He began his promo by discussing The Beast, an obvious reference to Brock Lesnar. Wyatt started to discuss his Extreme Rules opponents when Roman Reigns interrupted.
The Big Dog promised Wyatt would fall in his yard come June 4. A tense face-to-face ultimately ensued before general manager Kurt Angle arrived on the scene and booked a singles bout to kick off the show.
One guy cuts a promo that offends his rival.
Said Superstar interrupts.
Match is booked.
That is a tired formula that WWE has beaten into the ground for the better part of 15 years, but even more so over the last five, and this was no different.
Nothing of any particular interest was said, nobody looked any better or worse because of it and the result is a meaningless segment of television that is a reflection of the mediocre storytelling that has all-too-often accompanied the company’s flagship show.
A shame given the wealth of talent involved in the main event story right now.
Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt
2 OF 12
The opening match of this week’s show saw Reigns and Wyatt rekindle their rivalry.
The action spilled to the arena floor as The Big Dog caught The Eater of Worlds with a hard right hand that and tossed him back inside the squared circle.
Wyatt, like a predator stalking its prey, targeted the injured ribs of his opponent.
Samoa Joe interrupted the proceedings and demanded Wyatt rise to his feet while standing over the injured Reigns.
Wyatt pummeled Reigns before Joe caught him in the Coquina Clutch. This drew out Seth Rollins, who hit the ring with great fury. He chased Joe off, leaving Reigns to catch Wyatt with a Superman Punch.
The former WWE tag team champions stood tall as the crowd erupted for the unofficial Shield mini-reunion.
Joe seethed from ringside as the segment came to a close.
Roman Reigns defeated Bray Wyatt via disqualification
While there was no official announcement of a tag team match for later tonight, this is exactly the same segment we have seen on Raw numerous times over the years. Multiple guys interfere, forcing a union between heels and babyfaces that ultimately ends in a tag team main event.
It is lazy booking, even lazier than booking Reigns vs. Wyatt in a throwaway match the writing staff knew damn well was not going to have a conclusion.
It is not clever or even particularly good storytelling and undermines a show in desperate need of a creative spark.
At least Joe attacked Wyatt as a followup to last week’s show-closing segment, which saw the former WWE champion lay out the Samoan Submission Machine.
Akira Tozawa vs. Ariya Daivari
3 OF 12
Two cruiserweights usually featured on Monday nights squared off in singles competition.
Tozawa controlled early with an array of strikes but Daivari cut him off with a nasty lariat to turn the tide in his favor.
The Japanese competitor did not stay down for long, fighting back into the match and scoring the victory off a falling senton.
After the match, cameras caught The Brian Kendrick backstage, who issued a few words of warning for Tozawa ahead of their Street Fight on Tuesday’s 205 Live.
Akira Tozawa defeated Ariya Daivari
The match itself may have been a sprint of a squash but the segment itself did an effective job of spotlighting the aforementioned showdown between Tozawa and Kendrick on Tuesday night.
While all involved would be better served from some character development, it is better to have some screen time than none at all as the cruiserweight division continues to drag itself out of the deep, dark despair of creative bankruptcy.
Dean Ambrose vs. “The Drifter” Elias Samson
4 OF 12
Elias Samson made his in-ring debut Monday night but may have drawn the short straw, tasked with battling intercontinental champion Dean Ambrose in non-title action. The Miz and Maryse sat in on commentary, continuing to build heat for Miz’s championship opportunity against The Lunatic Fringe on June 4.
Samson worked over the head, neck and shoulder of Ambrose and even cut the champion off as he attempted to mount a comeback.
The Drifter continued to wear down Ambrose, never letting him gain any type of advantage while shifting his focus to the champion’s injured shoulder.
A big neckbreaker finally allowed Ambrose to create separation. He fired off a series of clotheslines and tried for his top-rope elbow drop but Samson caught him with a midair knee.
Miz hit the ring and attacked Samson, drawing a disqualification loss for his rival Ambrose.
Ambrose chased after his No. 1 contender and grabbed hold of him momentarily before The Drifter caught the IC champion with The Roll of the Dice and stared Miz down.
Elias Samson defeated Dean Ambrose by disqualification
Anyone with a keen eye and strong memory would recall Samson appearing in several backstage segments involving The Miz. Monday night, things got even more interesting as he helped the Hollywood A-lister lay out Ambrose.
Is there some sort of arrangement between the two or will Miz find himself on the receiving end of Samson’s fury after the cheap shot he endured Monday?
The Ambrose-Miz feud has been surprisingly entertaining and this was a nice addition to their program, even if nothing happened to further the story.
Paul Heyman Confronts Finn Balor
5 OF 12
Before Finn Balor’s scheduled match with former Bullet Club teammate Karl Anderson, Paul Heyman made a glorious return to television, addressing one of the potential top contenders to his client Brock Lesnar’s WWE Universal Championship.
Heyman confirmed that, no matter which Superstar emerges from Extreme Rules the winner, Lesnar plans on making them the next victim.
The advocate for the The Beast Incarnate put Balor over to the roar of the crowd, stating “I believe in my heart you are the most talented in-ring performer in WWE today.”
Heyman admitted that he is most intrigued by Balor vs. Lesnar as he continued to sing the praises of the leader of Balor Club. The potential No. 1 contender took a pot shot at Lesnar for not being there, then talked a little trash before Anderson and Luke Gallows interrupted ahead of the scheduled match.
The best way to sell a match to any audience is by strongly putting over the participants.
Brock Lesnar is the most protected Superstar in WWE, so he does not need help.
Balor may be the first Universal champion in Raw history but there is still that sense that he could be a bit more over with the fan base. Enter Heyman, who put him over as the biggest deal on the roster and endorsed him.
No matter how long he has been around, Heyman’s words still ring true. By admitting his desire to see Balor vs. Lesnar, he has drummed up excitement for the prospective battle.
Balor’s response, though somewhat hesitant, did just enough to keep intrigue for a potential showdown alive.
Finn Balor vs. Karl Anderson
6 OF 12
Back from commercial break, Anderson trapped Balor in a headlock, wearing the first universal champion in Raw history down and keeping him grounded.
Anderson cut Balor’s attempt at a comeback off with a textbook backbreaker for a count of two, then reapplied that vise-like headlock.
Balor finally mounted his comeback, firing off a series of forearms, wiping Gallows out at ringside with a big kick and scaling the ropes for The Coup de Grace. He was unable to execute the move, though, and soon found himself on the receiving end of a powerbomb attempt.
He countered out, delivered a double stomp and followed up with the Sling Blade.
The aforementioned Coup de Grace followed as Balor rebounded from last week’s loss to Roman Reigns with an impressive victory.
Finn Balor defeated Karl Anderson
The match was about as basic as they come but not without effort from the Superstars involved. Good friends away from the squared circle, Balor and Anderson demonstrated an in-ring chemistry that allowed for a crisp, well-wrestled match even if the action within was not the most explosive.
The outcome was the right one as Balor scored a victory in what amounted to a spotlight bout for the Irishman. After such a strong promo from Heyman in which The Demon was put over to the extent he was, this was icing on the top of Balor’s proverbial cake Monday night.
Sasha Banks vs. Alicia Fox
7 OF 12
Sasha Banks attempted to end this week’s rematch with Alicia Fox early, trying for The Bank Statement only for her opponent to flee under the bottom rope and to the arena floor, where boyfriend Noam Dar waited for her with open arms.
Fox took control of the match, trapping Banks in a pedestrian headlock, of which there have been many on this show. The heel halted Banks’ comeback, sending her face-first into the corner.
Banks fought back and scored the win with her signature corner double knees.
After the match, The Boss and Dar got into a verbal confrontation that ended with the former women’s champion blasting him with a slap to the face. Fox saw the opportunity to avenge her loss and delivered a vicious scissors kick to leave Banks lying.
Sasha Banks defeated Alicia Fox
It remains a mystery as to what, exactly, WWE Creative is doing with Banks. Yes, she is not the focus of the title picture so it makes sense to move her into a secondary rivalry but are Mickie James and Nia Jax that busy that Banks cannot work with them?
That is not a knock of Fox, who has probably earned more television time than she has enjoyed, but it definitely feels like a substantial step down for one of the most popular female performers in the company.
Fox getting heat at the end at least suggests, for the time being, that WWE Creative is interested in booking her as a credible opponent to The Boss.
Kalisto vs. Apollo Crews
8 OF 12
Born of a backstage segment, the match between Kalisto and Apollo Crews was an action-packed battle between two of the most athletically gifted Superstars on the roster.
Late in the match, a ranting and raving Titus O’Neil, who was at ringside in support of his client Crews, inadvertently provided just enough of a distraction for Kalisto to deliver Salida del Sol for the win.
A frustrated Crews endured the yapping of O’Neil afterward.
Kalisto defeated Apollo Crews
O’Neil continues to be detrimental to the career of Crews rather than beneficial, a story that will ultimately end one of two ways: with O’Neil converting Crews to the heel side of things or Crews striking out and re-establishing himself as a pure babyface by laying his associate out.
A solid enough segment when it comes to furthering that story.
Matt Hardy vs. Sheamus
9 OF 12
Matt Hardy battled Sheamus Monday night for the right to pick the stipulation for the Raw tag team title bout at Extreme Rules.
Sheamus sent Hardy crashing into the guardrail, turning the tide in his favor. The Celtic Warrior withstood a flurry of offense from his opponent to retain control of the match heading into the commercial break.
A well-timed distraction by Jeff Hardy allowed Matt to create separation for himself with a beautiful tornado DDT.
The Irishman countered Hardy’s signature moves, including the Twist of Fate and the Side Effect and blasted him with a knee to the face.
Moments after Jeff prevented Cesaro from interfering in the bout, Matt was able to deliver the Twist of Fate and score the victory.
After the match, Charly Caruso caught up with The Hardy Boyz, who revealed their match against Sheamus and Cesaro at Extreme Rules will be a Steel Cage match.
Matt Hardy defeated Sheamus
Because he is a product of the WWE system, Sheamus’ work tends not to be appreciated as much as it should. He is an underrated performer who will be better appreciated years from now than he currently is.
The Hardys continue their one-sided rivalry with their top contenders, scoring another win. It is almost to the point where Sheamus and Cesaro have to win at Extreme Rules or this entire month of followup to the heel turn at Payback was for naught.
Austin Aries vs. Tony Nese
10 OF 12
Austin Aries geared up for his upcoming Cruiserweight Championship match with Neville at Extreme Rules, a Submission match, by squaring off with Tony Nese while the self-proclaimed King of the Cruiserweights watched from ringside.
Nese benefited from the presence of Neville, seizing control of the match after a brief distraction caused Aries to take his eye off the competition.
Aries fought out of a standing vertical suplex with a guillotine choke, then put Nese away moments later with his Last Chancery finisher.
After the match, a frustrated Neville trapped the beaten Nese in his Rings of Saturn finisher, his message to Aries falling on deaf ears.
Austin Aries defeated Tony Nese
This was a smartly laid-out match that shined a spotlight on the submission arsenal of Aries.
Not only does he have his well known Last Chancery, he also employs a guillotine that could just as easily put Neville down at Extreme Rules. Constantly seeking a submission nearly cost Aries the victory against a game Nese but in the end, he was able to one-up his rival.
Appearing unimpressed as Neville beatdown Nese surely infuriated the champion and added an intensely competitive edge to their ongoing feud.
Mickie James vs. Alexa Bliss
11 OF 12
Ahead of a Kendo Stick on a Pole match in which she defends the Raw Women’s Championship against Bayley, Alexa Bliss squared off with Mickie James in the continuation of their story, which began on SmackDown Live last winter.
Bliss controlled the early portion of the match but six-time women’s champion James fought back with a neckbreaker for a count of two and a series of crossface strikes that left Bliss reeling. A big boot had the champion in danger of a non-title loss.
An ugly finishing sequence saw Bliss deliver a DDT for the win.
After the match, Bliss caught James with a nasty kendo stick shot until Bayley hit the ring with a stick of her own. Before she could use it, Bliss fled to the arena floor and up the ramp.
Alexa Bliss defeated Mickie James
If I am Alexa Bliss, I am scrubbing this match from my memory as soon as possible. It was ugly, from start to the horrific finish.
The only thing that worked about this segment was the kendo stick attack and Bayley’s arrival, which served to put over the championship bout at Extreme Rules.
Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt and Samoa Joe
12 OF 12
Ah yes, the tag team match featuring partners who don’t like each other, set up by the most menial segment from earlier in the night.
Seth Rollins found himself on the receiving end of a beatdown courtesy of Samoa Joe and Bray Wyatt during the first third of the match. The Kingslayer ultimately fought back and made the hot tag to Reigns, who exploded into the match amongst a chorus of boos from the WWE Universe.
Eventually, Joe and Wyatt isolated Reigns and beat him down two but failed to put him away.
Rollins received the second hot tag of the match, exploding into the match with a suicide dive that wiped out Joe and Wyatt at ringside.
Corey Graves referred to Wyatt as Jason Voorhees in what was the most apropos comparison in recent memory. After all, Voorhees always finds himself on the receiving end of a huge push but ultimately gets his ass kicked by weaker competition.
Late in the match, Joe dodged a Superman Punch and Reigns blasted teammate Rollins with it instead.
Joe capitalized on an argument between the babyfaces and applied the Coquina Clutch to The Architect, who passed out.
Backstage, Kurt Angle announced Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe vs. Bray Wyatt and Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns for next week’s show to close things out.
Samoa Joe and Bray Wyatt defeated Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins
The match quality was strong and the spot with Reigns blasting Rollins by accident, costing them the main event was a nice alternative to the smiling good guys winning the match. Joe and Wyatt putting their differences aside to secure victory was a nice take on the old “tag partners who hate each other” trope while the announcement that they will battle, along with Balor, in a Triple Threat match next week added a must-see element to the Memorial Day broadcast.
While the match still adhered far too closely to WWE’s stale booking methods, it was a quality match to close out an action-packed broadcast.
Overall, not a bad RAW. They are building up now to Extreme Rules… these RAW shows are just the “build up” shows leading to the next PPV. There not always the best… but usually give us a taste of things to come!