Monday Night Raw results: Raw hits its stride as gambles pay off

Jason Jordan pushed all the right buttons and once again pushed Roman Reigns to the limit in an Intercontinental title challenge. He was the lynch pin for the first hour of Raw, and may finally be on a path to becoming a real player on Raw. Courtesy of WWE

Without knowing any of the context, if someone told you going into Monday Night Raw that the first 50-plus minutes of the show would be centered around a Jason Jordan storyline, you'd be forgiven for thinking things might go off the rails in a hurry. But a funny thing happened along the way -- Jordan, alongside Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe and his father Kurt Angle, took the opportunity given to him and kicked off a show Monday night that seemed to pay off every gamble that Raw was willing to take.

There was a lengthy, high-profile one-on-one match between Sasha Banks and Paige, who hadn't competed in a WWE ring since June 2016 that far exceeded expectations. They finally pulled the trigger by allowing broken, err, woken Matt Hardy go all out with the character that returned him to prominence and put the Hardys back on the WWE radar.

As the calendar drifts further into December, WWE has set the stage for its final three editions of 2017 well. The stories are fresh, dynamic and, perhaps most importantly, all seem to intertwine within a single overarching show -- a rare feat in the three-hour-Raw-era. There's plenty of room for the train to go off the tracks in the next seven weeks, to be sure, but in this moment Raw finally seems to be hitting its stride.

Jordan gets himself into the middle of the Reigns-Samoa Joe war

The LA crowd inside of the Staples Center was hot the moment that Kurt Angle's music hit to open the show, and rarely slowed down over the next three-plus hours. One of the rare exceptions was when the general manager was interrupted by Jordan, "his son", as commentary must remind us at least three times a broadcast. Jordan rightfully mentioned all the guys he's been able to push to the limit, while failing to note that he's lost every single time out. As he began to go into his almost Christian-esque "one more match" plea, Reigns entered the fray and dismissed Jordan in a heartbeat.

Reigns' mind was squarely focused on Samoa Joe, who had blindsided Reigns following his Intercontinental championship defense against Elias last Monday. Jordan got lippy with the champ, as Reigns told him not to run to his daddy every time he wanted something, by calling Reigns out as management's "golden boy". As Samoa Joe inserted himself into the equation to accept Reigns' challenge, to the biggest pop of the night, Jordan stepped up to the plate and delivered an overhead belly-to-belly suplex on Reigns to the surprise of almost everyone -- and it was on.

It was the perfect moment, as Reigns finally decided to shut the kid up, as it allowed the fire between Reigns and Joe to simmer while still staying actively involved with each other. Joe's involvement in the main event, in costing Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins the Raw tag team titles, sets up another perfect roadblock on the way to an eventual IC title match. Can they stretch it all the way to the Royal Rumble? Only time will tell.

Jordan was allowed to step up to the plate and once again prove his slick athleticism in a primary spotlight to open the show. Whether the WWE is taking the lessons they've learned in the misadventures of Reigns to try to make Jordan the whiny golden child, bound to eventually rebel against his father, or they still genuinely want to push him forward as a Reigns-esque good guy, matches like the one on Raw Monday night can only help in either endeavor.

Over the course of three segments, Jordan went from getting brutalized on the outside of the ring to pushing Reigns to his physical limits. No matter how sideways Jordan's character has gotten since his move from NXT, there's no doubting his physical gifts inside of the ring -- and they were all on display in this match. He dodged half a dozen Superman punches from Reigns, turned Reigns' momentum into four or five different kinds of suplexes, including his chained double Northern Lights suplex, and though Jordan eventually fell, he did everything right.

Jordan even went above and beyond by thwarting a Samoa Joe attack on Reigns post-match, but his goody-two-shoes routine wore on both Reigns and Joe as he got a Superman punch for sticking his nose in Reigns' business in the ring, and got attacked backstage when begging Angle for a match against Samoa Joe by the man in question. All in all, a good night's work for Jordan -- but there will have to be a whole lot more where that came from to make a real dent going forward.

Paige finds herself in absolution

There's been a buzz in the air in recent weeks since Paige made her return, but even as she's brought chaos to the Raw women's division in the form of her new triumvirate Absolution, questions lingered. She hit the Ram-Paige in consecutive weeks, but hadn't had so much as a single minute of match time of any kind since last June.

And rather than putting Paige into a six-woman tag team match, as they teased last week, they threw her right into the fire with a high-profile one-on-one match with Banks, one of the centerpieces of the Raw women's division. Another big gamble led to a thrilling payoff, as Paige and Banks put on a physical 15-minute match that showed little sign of Paige's time away from the ring. Outside of one misstep on a sunset flip powerbomb, the match exceeded any and all expectations without much in the way of interference until the very end of the contest.

Paige walked out with a big victory over the four-time Raw women's champion, thanks to a ringside brawl causing a distraction, and the match hammered home just how big a force to be reckoned with that she, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville will be going forward.

That theme continued later in the night, after Asuka made short work of Alicia Fox. Absolution walked down to the ring to tease an attack for the second straight week, only to let Asuka escape, and then took iout their anger on Fox, with Rose and Deville showcasing a new tag team finisher. With champion Alexa Bliss watching from afar, there are a lot of ways for the Raw women's division to go, but it's been great to see in-depth storytelling return in a big way.

Matt Hardy has awoken

Whether Vince McMahon was married to the nostalgia act of the Hardy Boyz, or the WWE was worried about lingering legal issues, the last few months of Matt Hardy's career have been a bit forgettable. After he and Jeff Hardy's shocking return at WrestleMania, and a handful of big matches, it seemed all of the momentum they had before coming back to WWE had completely evaporated.

Last week proved to be a breaking point, or awakening point, if you prefer, as Matt was finally given the green light to embrace his fully "woken" persona. In a single promo, which cut between his insane ramblings and Bray Wyatt's, Hardy got an audience more excited than they'd been at any point for him since his music hit inside Camping World Stadium back in April.

How far will it ultimately go? Will there be trips to North Carolina along the line of "great wars" and "final deletions"? Appearances from King Maxel or Senor Benjamin? It still remains to be seen, but with a single word -- delete -- a fandom was instantly awoken.

Hits and misses

- Amidst all of the Jordan drama, he's pushed Angle to his breaking point, and Elias paid the price for calling out his bias towards his son. That price being a match with Braun Strowman, which never really began, and even a guitar shot couldn't do much to stop the monster. Kane saved Elias' hide by happenstance by interrupting the proceedings, and set up another match against Strowman for next week. Could it provide some finality in a rivalry that hasn't seemingly done much for the ever-popular Strowman?

- The Raw tag team title match was solid, and really picked up in the late stages of the contest. The restart and addition of a No-DQ stipulation got the crowd excited for a potential title change, and though Joe foiled those plans, a six-man battle between Samoa Joe/Sheamus/Cesaro and The Shield should be a fun interlude.

- The cruiserweights got as big of a crowd reaction as they've had in months during a Fatal 4-Way match to determine the second half of a No. 1contender's match for the title. Drew Gulak, Mustafa Ali, Cedric Alexander and Tony Nese put on quite the show, and Gulak got the biggest win of his WWE tenure to set him up on a date with Rich Swann and destiny. He was gold on the microphone post-match, and even more so backstage.

- Speaking of the cruiserweights, there was a tease backstage of a potential Nia Jax and Enzo Amore pairing, potentially carrying on a WWE tradition unlike any other -- strange couplings. It would be wild If Jax could, instead, ultimately be after the cruiserweight title instead -- but we'll see.

- Finn Balor beat Bo Dallas and seems to potentially be on a collision course with The Miz, once he returns from filming The Marine 6 with Becky Lynch and Shawn Michaels.