As thrilling as Finn Bálor’s ascension to Intercontinental Champion was, it may have been, in hindsight, on borrowed time. Yes, he won the title off Bobby Lashley in a Triple Threat, but Lio Rush took the pinfall, and Bálor’s only title defense — which was very close — was against The Man of the Hour. All of which seemed to suggest Finn’s grip on his title was perhaps less secure than he seemed to think, and his time finally ran out on Raw when Lashley finally got his one-on-one rematch, bestowed upon him off the strength of his pinfall victory in last week’s Six-Man tussle.
Even what would seem like a competitive edge on paper — Bálor, after all, did not get rolled by The Shield last night — seemed to be paying little dividends, as Lashley’s power turned this bout one-sided in a hurry. The Irishman fought back to set up Lashley up for the Coup de Grâce in what could only be described as a miraculous rally, at which point Rush made his presence known by clanging on the ring bell, distracting the titleholder from his perch atop the turnbuckle. Finn disposed of the interfering hype man on the ring apron, but Lashley made good on his recovery time with a massive Spear that knocked Bálor to the ring mid-springboard and put him down for the victory. So Lashley gets his gold. The once-disgraced Rush gets his groove back. And while there might be an asterisk to this victory, The All Mighty and Rush don’t seem likely to care. One wanted his title back. The other wanted his good standing back. They both walked away happy, and Finn Bálor barely walked out at all.
For all Triple H’s gravitas and larger-than-life mystique, the 14-time World Champion found himself at an odd crossroads during his face-to-face with Batista — their first encounter since The Animal savaged Ric Flair two weeks ago — as none of his usual taunts seemed to faze his former running mate. Commands to “be a man” and fight him? Nope. Threats to Big Dave’s security detail? Nothing. Even an insult to Batista’s fashion sense didn’t find purchase; against all odds, Batista seemed to have done what he promised and actually bent the situation to his will by refusing to leave until The Game gave him what he wanted.
What he wanted, as it turned out, was a match at WrestleMania against the man he said continuously underestimated and undervalued him throughout his career. That’s why he ambushed “The Nature Boy,” and that’s all he’s been asking for: A chance to end both his career, and The Game’s, on his own terms. If The King of Kings was somewhat outplayed by his rival, however, he still got the last word by declaring the match would be No Holds Barred. The stipulation is fitting: Whatever line there was in this rivalry has long since been crossed. Might as well make it official.
For months, Drew McIntyre has been claiming that he singlehandedly broke The Shield. As we saw at Fastlane, that was far from the truth, but if The Scottish Psychopath couldn’t singlehandedly send The Hounds of Justice packing as a collective, he made quite the statement at the expense of two of them on Raw.
First, the former NXT Champion ruined Roman Reigns’ planned return to singles action against Baron Corbin by blasting The Big Dog with a pair of Claymores — the second of which sent Reigns careening face-first into the ringpost. And when Dean Ambrose took up his brother’s honor by demanding (and receiving) an anything-goes, Falls Count Anywhere Match with McIntyre from Triple H, the Scot handed Ambrose a grueling defeat in an environment that was seemingly tailor-made for The Lunatic Fringe.
The Scotsman’s stated mission, as he growled in Ambrose’s ear, was to tear The Shield apart one by one, and he certainly did his part here. What began as merely a madcap contest — they fought into the concourse, destroying the concession stand and the merch table — quickly turned grizzly when the fight took its fateful path to the commentary table, where McIntyre drilled a pencil into his opponent’s temple and lawn-darted The Lunatic Fringe into the LED board. The finishing touch was threading Ambrose’s torso through the guardrail of a staircase, where he was easy pickings for a baseball-slide Claymore that ripped the railing from its foundation and put Ambrose down for a three-count on the arena floor.
The Lunatic Fringe made it back to the stage even as McIntyre basked in his victory, but it was a poorly thought, if bold, decision: The Scot drilled Ambrose with a final Claymore to send Raw off the air, leaving his opponent in a heap. If there was one takeaway from tonight, it’s that The Shield might not be as certain of their way forward as they thought. Drew McIntyre, on the other hand, certainly is.
In other action … Shelton Benjamin attacked Seth Rollins after The Shield’s farewell address … Seth Rollins def. Shelton Benjamin … Dana Brooke confronted Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey … Aleister Black & Ricochet def. Bobby Roode & Chad Gable … Alexa Bliss revealed the host of WrestleMania 35 on “A Moment of Bliss” … Braun Strowman tore apart the car that Colin Jost sent him … Nia Jax def. Natalya via Disqualification … and Kurt Angle def. Apollo Crews and revealed the date of his farewell match.