With Bayless away for a bit, I’ll be filling in on the Raw reviews for the time being.
Monday Night Raw
Date: January 15, 2018
Location: AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
Commentators: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Booker T.
It’s the go home show for the Raw 25th Anniversary Show which is the go home show for the Royal Rumble. That makes tonight almost the go home show for the pay per view, as next week’s show is going to have a completely different vibe. Tonight we have Asuka vs. Nia Jax so let’s get to it.
We open with a recap of Brock Lesnar fighting Braun Strowman last week until Strowman pulled a huge piece of the set down onto Lesnar and Kane. That’s quite the visual, but both Brock and Kane being conscious after a commercial hurt things a lot.
Here’s Strowman to get things going. He has a short story for us but it has a happy ending. Before he can get to his story though, Kurt Angle, flanked by security, cuts him off. Angle lists off all the obvious problems with what Braun did but Strowman says it could have been worse. Kurt gets in the always dumb sounding “unsafe worried environment” line with Strowman saying he did his job.
Strowman is ready to do whatever he wants and if that means ripping the walls off of Suplex City, so be it. Angle says Strowman is lucky Kane and Lesnar can still compete at the Rumble. As for Strowman though, he’s out of the match because HE’S FIRED. I’m not even going to bother getting all annoyed here because there’s no way they’ll do Kane vs. Lesnar as a one on one. Hardcore Holly was a more interesting (and believable) challenger back in 2004.
In the back, Braun leaves while threatening security.
Raw moment: Hugh Jackman is guest host.
Post break, a security guard orders Strowman to leave and the destruction is on. Braun promises to do even more.
The Bar vs. Titus Worldwide
Rematch from last week where Titus scored a fluke pin. Dana Brooke is in a very different top this week to prevent another instance of last week’s, uh, incident. Cesaro powers Crews into the corner to start but it’s quickly off to Titus for an exchange of chops in the corner. Cesaro uppercuts Crews down though and Sheamus adds a top rope clothesline as we take a break.
Back with Sheamus getting two off a middle rope ax handle and grabbing a chinlock on Crews. Apollo fights up and brings in Titus for the forearms to the chest and an impressive toss to Cesaro. Everything breaks down and Crews moonsaults to the floor just like last week but Cesaro is ready for him this time. An uppercut to Titus knocks him into a rollup for two, only to have the Neutralizer broken up. Apollo’s high crossbody and standing moonsault get two each but Sheamus picks him up for White Noise. Cue Jason Jordan for a distraction though, allowing Crews to roll Sheamus up for the pin at 10:48.
Rating: C-. Now that’s the right call, even if the ending didn’t need Jordan out there. I was nearly convinced that they would go with the 50/50 booking here but instead, they gave Titus Worldwide another win to make them even the slightest level players in the division. Now, even if they lose for weeks to come, there’s a more believable chance they could win and that’s what matters most. Good idea here, even in a not great match.
Seth Rollins comes out to ask Jordan what he’s doing.
Strowman kicks in the door to Angle’s office and breaks a lot of stuff.
Post break, Strowman wrecks catering and chokeslams Curt Hawkins through a table. He does however take a piece of chocolate cake from a nearly catatonic worker. I can appreciate a man with a taste for some cake and Strowman as the unstoppable monster is fun.
Tony Nese vs. Cedric Alexander
Before the match, Enzo Amore says he’s like Frankenstein and Cedric is like Dracula because he sucks. Goldust is in Cedric’s corner and says Cedric is a box office smash. After the title match at the Rumble, the one word to describe Cedric will be champion. Cedric says that between Amore’s face and his ankle, the only word to describe him is sawft. We’re joined in progress after a break, but not before seeing Strowman shoving a dumpster through the back.
That’s one thing that drives me crazy about WWE. Strowman is supposed to be destroying everything on a rampage, but he does it right after we get back from a commercial and before we get to this match. Go split screen to show him doing this at the same time or something, but find a way to make it feel more spontaneous.
Anyway, to the match. Cedric catches him with an ankle scissors but Nese knees him in the ribs as Booker talks about how Angle shouldn’t have fired Strowman live in the ring. We hit the neck crank on Cedric with Enzo talking so much trash that Goldust goes after him, even mocking the dance. Cedric fights up and hits the springboard clothesline for two, only to get slowed down by a headlock. Back up and Cedric elbow shim in the face, followed by the Lumbar Check (with a great sell job from Tony) for the pin at 5:52.
Rating: D+. Who in the world decided to put these two out there to die like this? The longer we wait on Cedric to get his big title shot, the less interesting he becomes. He’s beaten up all these same cruiserweights over and over and there’s no point in watching him do anything other than win the title. It wouldn’t surprise me to see WWE not even do that though, which would be one of the dumbest things they could do. Just find some more interesting villains for him to vanquish or give him the title already because this was a waste of time.
Angle is thinking about calling in a SWAT team but is told Strowman is heading towards the production trucks.
Post break Strowman goes into the truck and shoves a bunch of papers around before leaving without causing too much damage. The whole thing starts shaking though as Strowman has unhooked the semi from the truck and is trying to turn it over. Angle comes up to say he’s called the cops. His phone rings as Strowman leaves, only to come back and flip the truck over with the camera going spastic with cuts to hide how fake it looked, making it look worse in the process.
Strowman heads into the arena and goes after commentary, picking Cole up by one hand and carrying him over the stage. Angle and security shows up with Kurt saying he’s called the cops off. Stephanie has rehired Strowman and he’s back in the title match (because of course Stephanie can solve any problem in ten seconds while it’s caused Angle problems for an hour) if he lets Cole go. Braun does let him go, with a flying toss off the stage and onto the security guards. The Stephanie thing made me roll my eyes but Cole being picked up by the belt and carried away like a child was funny stuff.
Tom Phillips replaces Cole on commentary.
Nia Jax vs. Asuka
Asuka gets tossed around to start but comes right back with a Black Widow (ala AJ Lee) into something like an abdominal stretch. Nia calmly shoves Asuka’s leg off though and catches her with a backbreaker. A triangle choke cuts Nia off again until she lifts Asuka up for a powerbomb into the corner as we take a break. Back with Asuka fighting out of a bearhug and avoiding a sitdown splash. Asuka’s running kick to the chest drops Jax but she’s right back up with a hard powerbomb. Asuka grabs a kneebar to send Nia bailing to the ropes and they head outside. Asuka avoids a charge and sends Nia into the steps, only to have Nia get her knee caught between the ring and the steps. Nia beats the count back in but the referee stops it due to the knee injury at 10:45.
Rating: C. I’ve seen clowns who slip on banana peels less frequently than Nia Jax. It’s like she loses every match she has this way and that’s getting old. The match was a shortened version of what we’ve seen from these two every single time now with Asuka hanging in there and finding a way to survive. This was fine, but Nia needs to win something like NOW, as she still doesn’t have a big win.
Alexa Bliss comes out to check on Nia.
Jason Jordan comes in to see Angle, who is still upset over Braun. Jordan has been watching his dad’s back all night and wouldn’t have let Strowman do anything. He thanks Angle for the opportunities again but thinks Seth needs a warmup for next week. Say against Finn Balor tonight, which Angle makes for later.
The announcers talk about Martin Luther King Day.
Video on Martin Luther King.
Bliss blames herself for Nia’s injury when Enzo comes in to check on Nia as well. Nia tells Bliss that Enzo has this so Alexa leaves while not looking happy.
Revival vs. ???/???
Yes it’s an old school squash against nameless jobbers. Dawson suplexes jobber #1 and gives hi a hard clothesline for good measure. Dash comes in with a jumping knee to the face before sending it off to jobber #2. In a cool spot, Revival loads up #2 for something like a Snapshot (elevated DDT) but Dash flips him up like a backdrop, only to have Dawson send him forward in a gordbuster. The Shatter Machine ends #1 at 1:39. There’s something so great about jobbers not even having names because they’re not important enough.
Post match Revival brags about their tag team skills because too many people are worried about Instagram likes or video games. As for next week, Revival isn’t thrilled with meeting any of the veterans at Raw 25 because there’s nothing old school about beer bashes and crotch chops. They’re professional wrestlers instead of sports entertainers so WWE doesn’t want them to succeed. Next week at Raw 25, the superstars from around the world are coming to their universe and the Revival is setting the tone for the next 25 years. Good promo here but as always: FOLLOW UP ON IT.
Here’s Elias for a new song. He’s looking forward to the Royal Rumble but wants to eliminate Cena, along with 29 others. So he’s going to pull a Mil Mascaras and eliminate himself? Elias insults the San Antonio Spurs and introduces Miz and the Miztourage for a chat before their match.
Miz talks about the fans cheering him last week because they recognize greatness. The fans knew something was missing from Raw and it wasn’t Cena or Lesnar but rather Miz. Last week Miz and the Miztourage beat up Roman Reigns and it felt awesome. That spark is why he and Maryse are getting their own series on USA and next week he’s getting the Intercontinental Title back. It’s going to feel awesome. Maybe it’s just because he hasn’t been around lately but Miz has felt like a bigger deal in the last two weeks.
Roman Reigns vs. Miztourage
Non-title. Miz offers an early distraction to no avail as Reigns punches both lackeys down. Axel’s cheap shot allows the Miztourage to send Reigns into the steps and the beating is on. We hit the chinlock for a good while until Axel has to save his partner from a suplex. Instead Dallas gets two off a DDT, followed by some double teaming to keep Reigns slowed down.
Reigns fights up and hits a Samoan drop, followed by knocking Dallas off the apron. We get the always stupid spot of someone accidentally DDTing his partner with Axel getting spiked. The Superman Punch drops both guys and Miz’s distraction fails, allowing Reigns to spear Axel for the pin at 8:16.
Rating: D-. This was reaching new levels of boring as it really didn’t need to be even half this long. Reigns isn’t threatened by these two and there was little reason to have him be in this kind of trouble. Throw in Reigns being down after five minutes of offense from Axel and Dallas and this was a combination of really boring and unbelievable, in the completely wrong way.
Sasha Banks vs. Sonya Deville
The rest of Absolution, Bayley and Mickie James are at ringside. As we get started, Paige is officially ruled out of the Royal Rumble. Nothing is mentioned beyond that though. A very early Bank Statement attempt send Deville bailing to the ropes but Mandy offers a distraction so Sonya can get in a few shots.
We hit a chinlock with a body vice as Booker compares Sonya to Ken Shamrock in a rare name drop. Banks fights up and goes to the middle rope, only to dive into a kick to the chest for the completely clean pin at 2:26. That’s exactly the way this needed to go. Oh and welcome to the doghouse Sasha. Bayley can keep you company (for whatever reason).
Some wrestlers were at the National Civil Rights Museum last week.
Rollins tells Jordan to calm down and stop trying to be his spokesperson. This story hasn’t been bad but my levels of not caring whenever either of them show up is growing in a hurry.
Matt Hardy vs. Heath Slater
Joined in progress with Matt hitting a splash to Slater’s back and hammering away. Matt sends him into the ropes and laughs a lot so Slater heads outside for a meeting with Rhyno. Back in and Matt bites the hand before launching Slater into the corner. Matt thinks Slater must be deleted so it’s the ten rams into the buckle and a Twist of Fate for the pin at 3:37.
Rating: D+. Matt is changing his style up enough and that’s the best thing that could happen for him. He wasn’t really getting far with the nostalgia run so let’s see what he can do with this character. Unfortunately I’m not sure what exactly he can do with it but maybe he’ll surprise me like he did in TNA.
Goldberg is official for the Hall of Fame so it’s time for a long video package.
We look back at Strowman’s path of destruction earlier tonight.
Royal Rumble rundown.
Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins
Jordan, Gallows and Anderson are at ringside. Balor armbars him to start but gets armdragged away, followed by a kick to the back. Seth gets sent outside though and a kick to the chest puts him down as we take a break. Back (after a Raw moment of the 1-2-3 Kid pinning Razor Ramon in a huge upset) with Rollins hitting the Blockbuster but hurting his knee. It’s fine enough to try the suicide dive though and Balor is down again.
They get back inside with Rolling hitting a forearm to the back but having Balor slip out of the Falcon Arrow. The Sling Blade takes Rollins down, only to have Seth come back with his own. Balor gets in another Sling Blade but charges into a superkick for two. I really wouldn’t emphasize how they both use the same move like that but have it their way. The Wind-Up knee is countered with a forearm so Rollins enziguris him down. Seth has to roll through the Phoenix splash and gets caught with the shotgun dropkick in the corner.
The Coup de Grace is broken up with the superplex into the Falcon Arrow for two more and both guys are down. Seth’s frog splash hits the knees though and Balor rolls him up for….two apparently but here’s the Bar to interrupt. The brawl is on at ringside with Anderson and Gallows fighting the Bar until Balor hits a flip dive to take all four out. Another kick to the head sets up the Coup de Grace but Rollins rolls away. Cesaro’s distraction allows Jordan to trip Balor and Rollins hits the curb stomp (WHERE IN THE WORLD HAS THAT BEEN???) for the pin at 15:18.
Rating: C+. Seth’s eternally present knee selling issues aside, this was the kind of main event match that always works. They were pushing the idea of the messed up fall quite a bit here and that leads me to think we’re heading for a rematch. I’m really not sure about the idea of Balor losing so soon after his renewed push but that’s WWE for you.
Balor is rather shaken up and the camera stays on him for a long time to end the show.
Overall Rating: C+. This show started off great with Strowman running wild but they made sure to cut that off after an hour because it was getting too interesting. It felt like an hour of one show and two hours of the regular show, which kind of feels like a warmup for next week’s show. This show had some good booking choices (Deville winning, Revival getting a squash win, Titus Worldwide winning again etc) but the wrestling wasn’t exactly thrilling. That being said, the next two weeks are all that matters so we’ll see what they really have to offer then.
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