It was an eventful episode of Raw this week with a surprising return and a major heel turn in the main event. It was also one of the longest episodes ever. Raw signed off at 11:18 p.m. ET following a 20-minute main event segment.

If you grew up watching the Monday Night Wars in the mid-to-late 1990s then you remember that WCW Monday Nitro liked to end five to 10 minutes after the top of the hour to give their show more time. WWE eventually copied that. Even though Nitro died in 2001, WWE has continued to go past the top of the hour. Usually it’s five to seven minutes past 11 p.m. ET, but this week they went 18 minutes past. Honestly, it’s too damn long and it’s ridiculous that the television show went 30 minutes longer than Sunday’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view. It’s one thing for a guy like me to sit there and watch every week because I write about it all the time, but I can’t imagine that casual fans love sitting through an average wrestling show every Monday.

Does that mean Raw is going to change to two hours any time soon? Nope. WWE gets a lot of money from USA Network and it’s their biggest source of revenue. Perhaps there will be a change in 2019 when the TV deal is up, but for now Raw remains a three-hour show that can sometimes go nearly 20 minutes longer like it did this week.

Here’s what happened in the main segments of the show.

Raw started with Roman Reigns announcing his intentions to challenge for the WWE Universal Championship at SummerSlam. Roman claimed that nobody in WWE could beat him in a one-on-one match while pointing out how he has beat the other guys. It came off like a heel promo, but that doesn’t mean that WWE will book him like a heel. I think they just did it that way because his character is a cocky guy.

Samoa Joe interrupted Reigns to note that Reigns has never beaten him in a singles match. Reigns noted that he never thought he would agree with Paul Heyman about something and said Joe wasn’t a true Samoan (like Roman’s family), he was just Joe. That led to Joe hitting him with a headbutt. Reigns came back with a Superman Punch and Joe bailed to set up the obvious match for later.

Samoa Joe defeated Roman Reigns thanks to the return of Braun Strowman

I thought this would be the main event, but instead it took place at the end of the second hour. I’m not sure if that’s because WWE knows people tune out in hour three due to show length or they simply wanted the main event angle to go last.

It was a very competitive match with a lot of good near-falls for both guys. You could tell the crowd wasn’t into it that much early on, but as the match got going and they built to those near-finishes, the fans bought into it. They were given a lot of time at around 18 minutes with Reigns hitting a Spear and Joe getting his foot on the rope just before the three-count. Joe rolled to the floor and went back in the ring before the 10-count while fans chanted “this is awesome” for the match. It’s funny how fans chant that for Reigns matches, even though they boo the guy. He’s not that bad, people. Pretty good, actually.

Then there was a distraction provided by an ambulance backing into the arena. It was shown on the video wall. Braun Strowman emerged from the ambulance. He’s back after missing over one month with an elbow surgery. Remember when WWE said six months? They lie. Anyway, that video distracted Reigns and Joe capitalized with the Coquina Clutch submission, leading to the win as Reigns passed out. Cheap win for Joe due to the distraction and it also gives Joe momentum going into the Lesnar match.

After the match, Strowman entered the arena while Joe left. Strowman delivered his “I’m not finished with you” catchphrase. Strowman picked up and slammed him down face-first in a reverse Chokeslam-like move. Strowman challenged him to a match: “If you think you’re man enough, then I’ll see you at Great Balls of Fire pay-per-view in an Ambulance Match.” Reigns was still out on the mat. The match was made official later in the show.

I’m glad Braun is back and I think he has some of the best facial expressions in WWE.

Strowman vs. Reigns in an Ambulance Match is interesting because I think Strowman has to win so he can go on to face Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. However, I’m not sure how they are going to finish it because Reigns losing clean is pretty rare. In their last PPV match, Strowman beat him clean because Reigns had the injuries he was selling. How do you do it this time? It wouldn’t shock me if somebody else attacked Reigns during the match to help Strowman win. I don’t know who that would be yet.

Big Cass turned on his partner Enzo Amore after an “investigation” was concluded

The main event of Raw featured General Manager Kurt Angle in the ring with Big Cass, Enzo Amore, Big Show and The Revival with Angle saying he needed to find out who attacked Enzo twice backstage and Cass backstage as well.

Big Show said that he was insulted that Angle would think it was him who attacked either guy. Show questioned whether he should still be on Angle’s show. I should point out that Big Show has turned heel/face about 15 times in his career, so this idea that he would never do a cheap attack is pretty silly knowing his history. Anyway, he left after that.

The Revival duo of Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson said they had nothing to do with it. Angle agreed that they had an alibi and let them go.

Raw announcer Corey Graves spoke up at that point. He said he thinks he knows who did it. Graves presented some black-and-white security footage from last week that showed Big Cass faked the whole thing. Nobody attacked him. He just moved some things around, made a noise when he kicked a box and laid on the floor after that. Graves said that nobody attacked Cass and said that Cass attacked Enzo.

Cass admitted it was him, yelling “You’re damn right I did it!” The Cass promo explained things well. It makes a lot of sense for Cass as a character to attack Enzo since they couldn’t win the tag titles together. Also, Enzo kept running his mouth to get him in trouble with Cass always having to clean up the mess, as he mentioned. Cass told Enzo that he was holding him back and preventing him from reaching his full potential. Fans may not like it because the Enzo & Cass team was popular, but from a creative standpoint I thought it was well done.

When Cass was done talking, he hit Enzo with a boot to the face and left while Angle checked on Enzo to make sure he was okay. That’s how Raw ended 18 minutes past the top of the third hour. Cass ended it with the duo’s “and you can’t teach that” hand gesture.

The big picture here is that Vince McMahon has always loved the taller wrestlers. Cass is a legit seven-footer with a lot of untapped potential. When Vince sees him, he has dollar signs dancing in his head because Vince will want to do everything he can to make Cass into a big money star. I’m not surprised by the turn or when it took place. Look for Cass to destroy Enzo every time they have a match because Enzo is not the future, Cass is. Also, there should be some Big Cass vs. Big Show matches where Cass beats the veteran big man because Show is there to put over the younger guys like he did with Strowman.

I thought it was well done. I predicted it a few weeks ago because the timing was right. While I’m surprised that Enzo & Cass never won the tag titles, it was also because the Hardys returned at WrestleMania. If the Hardys weren’t back for that show, then I think Enzo & Cass would have won the gold that night. Since they failed to win the titles, it made for a good story with Cass blaming Enzo for their failures. The story makes sense and now we can see what Cass can do as a heel on his own. I think he’ll do well and it was a smart move by WWE.

This Week’s Raw Matches

Unfortunately, every other match from Monday night was average or worse.

The Hardy Boyz defeated Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

It was a solid tag match with the Hardy Boyz getting the win when Jeff hit Gallows with a Swanton Bomb. There was no story advancement for the Hardys’ quest to get back the Tag Team Titles from Sheamus & Cesaro. I assume this win will mean they get another title shot and they are owed a rematch as former champions, but that was not announced on this show.

Gallows & Anderson have been without a meaningful storyline for months on Raw. It would be nice if they had something more to do. Can we move American Alpha over to Raw and put these teams in a feud? It would help both teams.

Finn Balor defeated Bo Dallas

Balor made his entrance as Elias Samson was teasing one of his songs in the ring. Samson just left without incident, but that wasn’t the last time we saw him.

Dallas attacked Balor before the bell, showing a lot of aggressiveness. Balor said he was okay to start the match, so Dallas was on offense for a couple of minutes until Balor made the predictable comeback and won after four minutes. It was not the last time we’d see Dallas in the ring.

Later in the show, Balor was being interviewed in the backstage area and Samson attacked him. I assume that will mean Balor vs. Samson at Great Balls of Fire on July 9.

Akira Tozawa defeated TJP

It’s rare to see a cruiserweight match get over 10 minutes on Raw, but that’s what they got. Titus O’Neil was out there serving as a hype man for Tozawa because he is trying to get him to be a part of the Titus Brand. TJP was on offense for most of the match, Tozawa made the comeback, the crowd was behind him and he won with a senton splash off the top.

After the match, Neville talked trash to Tozawa because O’Neil claimed that Tozawa was going to beat Neville for the Cruiserweight Title. O’Neil responded by telling Neville he will be annihilated by the “Powa of Tozawa” (or power). I like O’Neil being added to the mix with Tozawa because he brings some personality doing his LaVar Ball-style heel promos.

Cesaro & Sheamus defeated Titus O’Neil & Apollo Crews

It was a quick match where the crowd was dead for all of it since they’re all heels except for Crews, who is a face that gets no reaction. Cesaro & Sheamus did a double-team White Noise move for the win. It would be nice if O’Neil and Crews got a decent tag push because I like them together, but this was not the time for them to get a win. At least it was kept short at four minutes.

Nia Jax defeated Sasha Banks by disqualification

The “match” went about one minute. Emma chased Alexa Bliss into the ring, went to kick her and kicked Jax instead, so the ref ended it with the disqualification. Other women joined the fray like Mickie James, Dana Brooke and Bayley. It ended with the faces knocking the heels out of the ring, so Sasha, Bayley, Mickie and Dana were left standing tall.

This was not planned well. It’s bad enough that WWE waited two hours and 50 minutes to get the women on the show, but then they made them take part in this waste of time that didn’t help anybody. What a joke this was and incredibly rushed too.

Other Key Items From Raw

1. Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe talked trash in an outstanding video package

Brock Lesnar wasn’t on Raw, but he did appear in a nearly five-minute video package hyping up his Great Balls of Fire match with Samoa Joe. The video featured highlights of the Joe attack on Paul Heyman from a few weeks ago followed by the Lesnar/Joe fight last week. It also had Lesnar and Joe sitting down talking about how ready they are for this match.

Lesnar is at his best in a setting like this. He has a lot of credibility as a badass, so when he says he’s going to beat up Joe you tend to believe it. Joe was fantastic as well because he said that facing off with Lesnar is all he’s ever wanted and he’s excited to show what he did. Lesnar ended it by saying he would take Joe to Suplex City… bitch.

The WWE production crew has always been a strength. They proved it again with this video.

2. Seth Rollins celebrated WWE2K18 video game cover and took out Bray Wyatt

It was announced earlier on Monday that Seth Rollins will be on the cover of the WWE 2K18 video game. Rollins thanked the fans for all their support. He spoke about how he used to be a bad guy who didn’t deserve their support (talking about his heel run 2014 to last year), but he has learned from it and he’s going to be better for it. I thought it was a good promo where he sucked up to the fans a lot like he should. That’s something he needs to do more of as well as some of the other faces on the show.

Bray Wyatt appeared on the video wall doing his usual promo about being a god. Rollins said he wasn’t a god, so Wyatt was mad about it. Wyatt went down to the ring, Rollins was waiting for him and Rollins jumped on him off the top rope and took him down. Rollins left while Wyatt was done. Rollins had a small cut on his cheek that required stitches, but he’s fine.

It was okay, but it felt like a repeat of past Wyatt storylines. Isn’t that how every Wyatt feud is? He says he’s a god, the other guy says he’s not and that’s the feud. It’s so lame.

3. The Miz recruited Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas to be in his entourage while Maryse remained angry at Miz

After Bo Dallas lost to Finn Balor earlier, he was in the locker room looking angry. Curtis Axel, his old stable buddy who Bo turned on a few months ago, was there to cheer him up. The Miz showed up, said they were both great in the latest Marine movie with him and now they are bit players on Raw. Miz told them to join his entourage and he could make stars of them. Miz left while the two guys were left to ponder.

This week’s Miz TV segment featured The Miz sucking up to his lovely wife Maryse because he made some mistakes in the last two weeks. There were two guys in bear costumes in the ring as well. This week, he fixed the grandfather clock he broke a few weeks ago. They had champagne in the ring when Dean Ambrose showed up. Miz shoved Maryse in front of him and she ended up spilling champagne all over. She left angrily. Miz was mad that he screwed up again. While that was going on, the guys in the bear costumes attacked Ambrose, revealing themselves as Axel and Dallas. The three heels beat up Ambrose with Miz dropping him with a Skull Crushing Finale.

I like the move to make Axel and Dallas part of The Miz’s entourage. They are talented guys who have had nothing to do for so long. If they can become a legit tag team out of it, then that’s even better. The Miz is a cheap heel who should have buddies there to take a beating for him. I like the possibilities of this grouping a lot.

4. Goldust invited R-Truth to a “movie premiere” next week in Los Angeles

There were promos from Goldust and R-Truth for the fourth week in a row. Goldust invited Truth to come to Raw for a movie premiere of “The Shattered Truth” next week since Raw is in Los Angeles, aka Hollywood. Truth did a promo to accept the invite.

That means a guy who is on Raw every week invited another guy on Raw every week to appear on next week. Got it? Sure. I don’t know if it means they will have a match or just a confrontation.

Looking Ahead To Great Balls of Fire

The next Raw pay-per-view event is called Great Balls of Fire and it takes place on Sunday, July 9 in Dallas, TX. There are only two matches announced so far.

WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe

Ambulance Match: Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman

That’s all for now. I assume Rollins vs. Wyatt and Balor vs. Samson gets added to the card as well. There could be another Miz vs. Ambrose match, plus Cass vs. Enzo (or Big Show), perhaps Cesaro/Sheamus vs. Hardys again, Neville vs. Tozawa and some sort of women’s match too.

It’s not a bad card. Better than the other Raw PPVs from this year. I’m really looking forward to Lesnar vs. Joe, even though it’s obvious Lesnar will win.

In Closing

I thought Raw was above average this week, but not like a great or must see show. It was an interesting show that had some good storyline developments and an excellent match between Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns. I’m glad Braun Strowman is back. I’m happy that Big Cass turned heel because I thought his team with Enzo had run its course. Some of the smaller stuff like Dallas and Axel working with Miz makes sense because it gives them something to do. My biggest gripe is that they went nearly three hours and 20 minutes, yet they still rushed some segments like what they did with the women. They could have cut some other stuff out to make it all fit better.

I’ll be back Wednesdaywith a review of Smackdown Live featuring the fallout from Money in the Bank.

About John Canton

John has been writing about WWE online since the late 1990s. He joined The Comeback/Awful Announcing team in 2015. Follow John Canton on Twitter @johnreport or email him at mrjohncanton@gmail.com with any comments or questions. For more of his wrestling opinions, visit his website at TJRWrestling.net. Cheap pop!