WWE Raw review: Kurt Angle takes centre stage as Finn Balor makes return after WrestleMania

Coming just 24 hours after Wrestlemania, this episode of the weekly show is traditionally the most eventful of the year, played out in front of a packed house

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The Independent Online

Finn Balor returned to WWE on a lively edition of Raw from Orlando that saw Hall of Famer Kurt Angle also confirmed as the brand’s new General Manager.

Coming just 24 hours after Wrestlemania, this episode of the weekly show is traditionally the most eventful of the year, played out in front of a packed house of largely European fans who’d made the trip for the week’s big events. The night of action didn’t disappoint and neither did the audience.

They relished in Balor’s return after eight months out through injury – he was a surprise tag team partner in the night’s main event for Seth Rollins as the two triumphed over Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe, the latter pair having disposed of Chris Jericho backstage earlier in the night. 

Angle, meanwhile, steps into Raw’s vacant on-screen General Manager role after Mick Foley was given his marching orders a couple of weeks ago. Vince McMahon was even on hand to deliver the news in person, his arrival only serving to whip the crowd into an even bigger frenzy. Angle had been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame just days just days prior and is a popular choice for this role – time will tell whether he’ll eventually transition back into a wrestling role but his early backstage interactions with Raw superstars proved he’ll provide plenty of entertainment.

The night kicked off with the crowd paying tribute to the Undertaker following his retirement on Sunday, before they were interrupted by Roman Reigns, the villain of that piece. Reigns soaked up the vitriol from the 16,000 or so in attendance before brilliantly delivering a simple five-word promo in the middle of the ring: “This is my yard now!”

It’s been evident that Reigns has been searching for some purpose in WWE over the last few months and, while the departure of the Deadman proved to be emotional, the fact that Reigns is the man behind it may yet be the storyline he’s been searching for. He oozed a natural arrogance and charisma that can take him far. 

There were more surprises in Orlando. McMahon, before introducing Angle, confirmed that Raw and Smackdown will be involved in a roster ‘shake-up’ next week that’s likely to see talent switching between the shows – and among those involved will be The Revival, the former NXT Tag Team Champions who made their main roster debut with a hugely-impressive victory over Raw mainstays The New Day. 

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Elsewhere, newly-crowned Universal Champion Brock Lesnar was in attendance as a future showdown with Roman Reigns was teased, before Lesnar was interrupted by Braun Strowman in what proved to be another interesting face-to-face, though the pair stopped short of any physicality. 

There was a big win for Sami Zayn on the night while the team of Women’s Champion Bayley, Sasha Banks and Dana Brooke downed the combination of Nia Jax, Emma and Charlotte Flair. Post-match, Jax took out Flair to set-up a what would be a watchable programme between the two.

A week is a long time in WWE – with a roster shake-up looming and Tuesday’s live episode of Smackdown Live looming, there’s little to be sure about when it comes to the landscape of personnel come this time in seven days. One thing is certain, though – Reigns is top dog.

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