WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction, Highlights After Backlash 2023
0 of 11
On the heels of an electric Backlash premium live event, WWE turned its attention to crowning a new World Heavyweight champion, beginning Monday night on Raw.
Who would have the first crack at establishing themselves as a contender to the newly introduced title, and who would see their early aspirations crushed?
Find out with this recap of a May 8 broadcast, emanating from the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, that also featured the latest appearance from Hall of Famer Trish Stratus.
1 of 11
Announced in advance for Monday's show:
- World Heavyweight Championship Quarterfinal: Cody Rhodes vs. The Miz vs. Finn Bálor
- World Heavyweight Championship Quarterfinal: Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Damian Priest
- The latest from Trish Stratus
Cody Rhodes Promo; World Heavyweight Championship Tourney Match
2 of 11
Cody Rhodes may have started the show by talking about the World Heavyweight Championship, fresh off a victory over Brock Lesnar at Backlash, but it was Seth Rollins who inched closer to actually winning it.
The Visionary defeated Damian Priest and Shinsuke Nakamura in an action-packed opener to cash his ticket to the night's main event and a semifinal round match. He will meet the winner of Rhodes vs. The Miz vs. Finn Bálor.
Rollins is the right guy at the right time to win this title, and this was the right way to start his journey to the top of the red brand.
Some will question Nakamura losing on the heels of a hot return to the company, and they have a point, but even then, Rollins has been hot for two years and bided his time for this opportunity.
The win was his.
Rollins defeated Nakamura and Priest
- Rhodes wasted little time recalling the time he spent in Jacksonville throughout the pandemic during his time with All Elite Wrestling, another not-so-thinly veiled reference to his former employer.
- Rollins interrupted Rhodes, engaging with The American Nightmare in a tense staredown that served as a callback to their rivalry from 2022.
- Priest said it took an entire island to keep him down at Backlash in his loss to Bad Bunny in their San Juan Street Fight.
- Priest sold his injured left knee from the said match. He was unable to deliver the Razor's Edge as a result of it and ate a storm from Rollins.
- Nakamura had Priest trapped in the kneebar, but Rollins delivered a frog splash from out of nowhere. A Pedigree to Nakamura ended the match and earned The Visionary the win.
- "You'll still be Imperium in five minutes, right?" Sami Zayn asked as Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci interrupted his and Kevin Owens' conversation.
- "What is with everyone having henchmen around here?" Owens asked.
Mustafa Ali vs. Otis (with Chad Gable and Maxxine Dupri)
3 of 11
Two weeks after Mustafa Ali defeated Chad Gable, the uber-positive competitor ran his win-loss record to 2-0 against Alpha Academy, defeating Otis.
The match was less about in-ring performance and more about the story of Maxxine Dupri attempting to win the affection of Otis from Gable. In that regard, the segment was positive as the reaction of the audience suggests it does actually care about the battle for the big man's attention.
Still, there was such little substance to the segment that it is impossible to grade it any higher than slightly below average. Kudos to Dupri, though, who has proved to be a more natural on-screen presence than it first appeared she would be when she made her debut last year.
The biggest question is where the Maximum Male Models are because that team has been hellishly fun across social media and definitely should have a place on WWE TV right now.
Ali defeated Otis
- Otis turned Ali inside out with a short-arm clothesline.
- The fans jeered Dupri and cheered Gable, proving the tug-o-war for Otis' affection is a story that is slowly gaining traction.
World Heavyweight Championship Tournament Match
4 of 11
The second of the night's World Heavyweight Championship Tournament matches did not live up to the quality of the show opener, but it was certainly more noteworthy.
In the closing moments of the Triple Threat Match between Cody Rhodes, Finn Bálor and The Miz, Brock Lesnar made his presence felt, delivering an assault to The American Nightmare that freed Bálor up to score the win and cash his ticket to the main event against Seth Rollins.
The post-match between Lesnar and Rhodes was well done, even if it was hardly on the better side of The Beast's promos. The outcome? Lesnar vs. Rhodes at Night of Champions in what the bruising heel referred to as "a fight."
This was the perfect way to get Rhodes out of the tournament and in contention for a title that is anything but the end game for the second-generation competitor. The American Nightmare loses without actually losing and either Rollins or Bálor is freed up to represent Raw in the eventual finals of the tournament to crown the world champion.
It is simple, effective booking that breeds the right outcome.
Bálor defeated Rhodes and The Miz
- Corey Graves rightly reminded the audience that Bálor and Seth Rollins previously battled to determine the first Universal champion. Wink, nudge.
- Lesnar emerged from the audience, pulled Rhodes to the floor and delivered an F-5.
- Back inside, Bálor capitalized by delivering Coup de Grâce to The Miz for the win.
Dana Brooke vs. Rhea Ripley
5 of 11
Dana Brooke's eagerness to prove herself was met with resistance Monday as she squared off with SmackDown Women's Champion Rhea Ripley in a non-title match.
Ripley squashed Brooke, driving her to the mat with the Riptide and tapping her out with the Prison Lock.
It was a one-sided match that did nothing for the babyface but did give fans a glimpse of the next feud for Ripley as Natalya returned to the Raw brand and came face-to-face with The Eradicator.
It is not necessarily the most explosive or dynamic feud possible, but the in-ring content should be damn good and The Queen of Harts is the perfect opponent to bring even better out of Ripley as she embarks on what has the makings of a defining title run.
Ripley submitted Brooke
- Brooke cut a pre-match, pre-taped promo about her untapped potential and revealed she asked for the opportunity against Ripley.
- A video package looked at the NXT stars that were called up as part of last week's WWE draft.
- Backstage, Zoey Stark cut a promo in which she called Nikki Cross a "weirdo" and challenged her to a match later in the night.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn vs. Imperium
6 of 11
Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn have a knack for driving wedges between factions, first with The Bloodline and after Monday's Raw, potentially Imperium.
With Gunther a week away from his Raw debut, Giovanni Vinci and Ludwig Kaiser made the mistake of picking a fight with Owens and Zayn and, despite a spirited performance from the heels, dropped their first red-brand match.
Owens and Zayn scored a competitive victory over Imperium, and while they need to stay hot and remain a vital part of WWE storytelling, one has to question the creative intelligence of booking one of the team's few credible tag teams to lose right out of the gate.
If it leads to some sort of storyline with The Ring General, good. If not, it feels like a rare misstep that only puts Kaiser and Vinci at a booking disadvantage earlier than necessary.
Owens and Zayn defeated Imperium
- Owens photo-bombed Kaiser and Vinci's entrance, waving and giving thumbs up behind his opponents' backs.
- After several minutes of KO going it alone, Zayn reappeared from out of nowhere and delivered a Helluva Kick and scored the win for his team.
Nikki Cross vs. Zoey Stark
7 of 11
It became abundantly clear quickly that Zoey Stark is a competitor the Raw brand will look to build its women's division around moving forward.
She was put over strongly on commentary and in the ring as Nikki Cross sold the NXT call-up's offense and ultimately did the favor as Stark rolled to her first main-roster victory.
A rare mix of athleticism and attitude, Stark has long appeared poised for success at a higher level than NXT was providing her toward the end of her run there. Now, she will have the opportunity to prove that she is capable of bigger and better on the grand stage.
Kudos to Cross for her selflessness in really making Stark look like a potential star in the making.
Stark defeated Cross
- Graves put Stark over hardon commentary, really hammering home her attitude and physicality. He made it a point to put the new potential star over on the headset.
- Stark delivered the C360 for an impressive victory over the former tag team champion.
- "As advertised, the genuine article," Graves said to wrap up Stark's victory.
Trish Stratus Promo
8 of 11
The overuse of piped-in boos reared their ugly head at times during Trish Stratus' promo on Becky Lynch, but there was no unnatural reaction necessary by the time the segment wrapped, thanks to The Man's surprise return.
After weeks of insults and the insistence by the Hall of Famer that she had driven Lynch away, the former women's champion attacked Stratus with a hard right hand and threw down the gauntlet for a fight.
A fight Stratus wanted nothing to do with.
That eventual match is a high-profile dream match that could easily headline a premium live event based on star power and historical significance alone. A few more weeks of Stratus perfecting that heel persona, and some fiery babyface promos from Lynch, should help create genuine excitement for a long-awaited showdown.
As for this, it was a solid angle that popped the crowd and made Stratus look like a cowardly heel, two things it likely set out to achieve.
- "Trish is wearing a missing poster on her shirt. That's functional fashion at its highest," Graves said in a funny line.
- "I don't care if you're Becky freaking Lynch...no one will steal my spotlight!" Stratus said before The Man's music played. The crowd reacted favorably, only to be dismayed when Stratus revealed it was a ploy.
- Lynch's music played a second time and the former women's champion appeared behind Stratus, then rocked her with a hard right hand.
- "The Man has come around to kick your ass!" Lynch said.
Xavier Woods vs. Dominik Mysterio
9 of 11
In a match made via backstage confrontation between the two combatants, Dominik Mysterio got the best of Xavier Woods, thanks in large part to expertly timed interference from Rhea Ripley at ringside.
The match was a competitive one that showcased Woods, but in the end, it was all about Ripley's involvement and Mysterio stealing a cheap win.
There may be a follow-up in the coming weeks, especially as Triple H and Co. figure out what to do with Woods, but this felt like a placeholder between one of the most hated heels on the roster and a guy in Woods who is perennially over but with no real direction at this point.
Mysterio defeated Woods
- Ripley was visibly shaken as Woods mounted a comeback, complete with a flipping clothesline.
- Woods attempted a coast-to-coast elbow drop, but Ripley pulled Mysterio to safety and Dominik took advantage, scoring the win with a rollup.
World Heavyweight Championship Tournament Semifinals
10 of 11
Finn Bálor once robbed Seth Rollins of a spot in the history books, defeating him to become the first Universal Champion back in 2016. Monday, The Visionary avenged that defeat, cashing his ticket to Night of Champions on May 27 and a shot at becoming the World Heavyweight champion.
The win came in a fantastic main event between two guys who could wrestle each other every week and deliver something fresh and enthralling every time. They have tremendous in-ring chemistry, which was one full display Monday night.
Rollins has earned this run to the World Heavyweight Championship, something that has evaded him since 2019. In an industry where "deserves" is thrown around like a buzz term rather than a reflection of one's hard work, he is one guy who absolutely deserves the championship opportunity.
Following Monday's show, he has to be the favorite to score the win and title in Jeddah. And rightfully so.
Rollins defeated Bálor
- "Let's fight. At Night of Champions, I accept," Cody Rhodes accepted Brock Lesnar's challenge while talking to Cathy Kelley backstage prior to the night's main event.
- Bálor delivered a powerbomb to Rollins, into the guardrail in the same spot that led to the former suffering a torn labrum and being forced to hand over the Universal Championship before his reign ever truly began.
- Rollins and Bálor traded kicks leading to a double-down spot.
- His arm injured over the course of the match, Rollins delivered a one-armed Pedigree for two.
- Rollins delivered an inverted stomp to the face, then the more traditional one for the win.
11 of 11
This week's show was a foundational one.
The emphasis was on the World Heavyweight Championship Tournament, obviously, but it also saw the introduction of stories and Superstars that will help define the future of the brand over the next year.
We saw the latest from Cody Rhodes vs. Brock Lesnar and Becky Lynch vs. Trish Stratus, were reintroduced to The Way featuring Johnny Gargano, Candice LeRae, Dexter Lumis and Indi Hartwell, and saw the ignition of a rivalry between Rhea Ripley and Natalya over the SmackDown Women's Championship.
Was the show always perfect? Absolutely not. In fact, the seemingly random nature of some of the matches and the lazy creative that went into necessitating the others was a bit too obvious at times and did little to help the talent that could really use it.
It was a C+ show at best.