Not to be too optimistic but, I feel WWE may slowly but surely following the New Year new me trend. The company is slowly rebuilding RAW into a show that can compete with the other two better appreciated shows they air. We saw a new contender emerge ahead of the Rumble, another high quality match between Mysterio and Almas and some surprise appearances from some familiar faces. Now let’s get into it.
Fast and Furious: WWE Edition
What is a sure-fire way to get yourself kicked off of the Royal Rumble PPV? Well trashing your boss’s limo works a charm. Braun Strowman managed to lose his Universal Title shot because of a chase with Baron Corbin.
When Braun dropped a promo, Corbin answered and ended up running for his life. Corbin was able to get away and hide backstage but an Elias song gave away his hiding spot and Braun was once again back on the warpath. Braun even mauled the Singh Brothers on his journey. It was revealed that Corbin was hiding around Vince’s limo. Braun started smashing it up to get to Corbin but the former GM was able to get away unscathed. Vince shows up, fines Braun and takes him out of the Universal Title match. Braun doesn’t fight back when the boss is there but flips the limo once he leaves and storms off. Braun is out and a new contender would take his place later in the night.
Ronda Rousey & Sasha Banks defeat Nia Jax & Tamina via Bank Statement
RAW breaks the mould by giving us a tag match featuring two people in a title match and not having them mess it up and lose. The match was nearly all Sasha as the heel team worked to cut her off from the tag. Turns out they were wasting their time as Sasha managed to win with the Bank Statement and send the heel team packing. Ronda celebrates with her and the two are interviewed. Ronda mentions how she’s gonna beat Sasha in a positive way only for Sasha to snap back and spit some barbs of her own. She came back with the fact that she can tap people out and that she was going to teach Ronda to lose with class. Ronda tries to make peace but Sasha flashes a pose and leaves.
The Revival defeat Lucha House Party via Pin Fall
With matches like this it really doesn’t surprise me that the Revival may have requested their release. This familiar match was set up so the Revival could get some modicum of revenge after the weeks of handicap matches they had to endure. Once again there was some lucha spots but the Revival were in control for a lot of the match and they got a win by calling back to the way they were screwed over. The Revival got the win due to Dash knocking Gran Metalik’s foot off the rope after a DDT from Dawson. It was a shallow win but at least they won. The obvious FTR branding seems to be like a cry for help and no one could blame them for wanting them to be free.
Nikki Plays and Other Less Successful Appearances
Natalya, Bayley & Nikki Cross defeat the Riott Squad via Elbow Drop
Since Sasha and Ronda were arguing and had already had a match, Natalya and Bayley were in a pinch. Their current friends and tag partners were busy and they had been approached by the Riott Squad for a match. Natalya agrees and they need to find a partner. This partner would be Nikki Cross. She was given the spotlight for the most part as she showcases her crazy offence, her manic character and the fact she wanted to fight the whole Riott Squad at once.
The face team win after Nikki helps set Liv Morgan up for an Elbow Drop with her rope hung Twisting Neckbreaker and Bayley followed up. This was an excellent way to show off Nikki as she got to enjoy a large portion of a match with a crowd that was into it.
The other appearances of the NXT call ups were a bit odd. For the most part they were either standing around backstage doing nothing more than really being there. Heavy Machinery had it worst as we got to enjoy Otis looking like creepy instead of comedic. He interrupted the later Moment of Bliss segment, spouted some nonsense and drooled over Alexa Bliss only to be dragged away. It was not a good look. Fortunately they got a slightly better showing the following night as they were making a devilish protein shake with the New Day that Becky Lynch ended up drinking.
The Almighty Champ
Bobby Lashley defeats Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins via Spear on Ambrose
Well this was a surprise. Not only was it an incredibly fun triple threat match but we saw a new champion crowned. Lio Rush and Bobby Lashley were all menace and Dean and Seth tentatively worked together to try and deal with him. Seth seemed laser focused on attacking Rush and would often leave the ring to deal with the speedy mouthpiece. Lashley would end up getting the win after a failed Tower of Doom attempt with Dean backfired and Seth would get taken out of the ring by Rush. With Seth out of the equation, Lashley breaks Dean in half with a Spear and takes the title for himself. This is just the thing Lashley needs as the heel character is really starting to come to life and he should be a pretty decent monster heel to keep the IC title scene hot.
The Big Reveal
Otis intrusions aside, a Moment of Bliss succeeded at one thing, revealing the Women’s Tag titles. During the reveal she also announced that they would be contested for in a tag team Elimination Chamber match. This will feature three teams from both shows with the last team standing being crowned the inaugural Women’s Tag champions. There wasn’t much else to the segment so that and Otis sum it up.
There was also the rather odd segment before this that had an assistant walk in on a half-dressed Alexa Bliss. The assistant was bringing Bliss a coffee and did knock but got no answer. Instead of waiting the person entered and the camera focuses on Alexa who is covering up with a top. It was a weird shot that spent way too long lingering on Bliss. It just felt creepy and had no context.
Fixing the Opponent Problem
Finn Balor defeats Jinder Mahal via Coup de Grace
Finn Balor defeats John Cena, Drew McIntyre and Baron Corbin via Coup de Grace on Cena
This was a big night for Finn Balor. He had to defend his position in the Fatal Four Way after Jinder Mahal tried to barge his way into the match. Balor was attacked during his entrance and was thrown into the barricade. He was selling a rib injury throughout the match but fought through to overcome Jinder, take out the Singhs and hit the Modern Day Maharaja with a Coup de Grace for the win.
The main event was even more explosive as all four men involved were prepared to bring it. All four men were hitting finishers, interrupting finishers and cancelling moves throughout. Corbin tried his best not to be outclassed but ended up bringing a chair into the mix as an equaliser. The finish of the match saw a chain of finishers conclude with Cena eating a Claymore from Drew, Drew then eating a DDT from Finn and lastly Cena eating the Coup de Grace. Finn got the win and is going on to fight Brock at the Rumble. He got approval from Cena after the match with Cena singing his praises, raising his arm and the two hugging it out. It was an excellent main event for RAW, gives us an amazing match at the Rumble and obviously Finn gets the rub for beating two main eventers and Baron Corbin.
Becky Lynch defeats Peyton Royce via Disarm-Her
Asuka defeats Billie Kay via Asuka Lock
Want to make a point, drag out the IIconics and have them destroyed. Both Becky and Asuka were attacking each other verbally when the Aussie duo came out to criticise the behaviour of the two and make a claim at the Women’s Tag Titles. They don’t get to talk the talk without walking the walk as Becky demands a match. Peyton reluctantly starts a match, eats an instant throat punch and manages to last a few minutes with Becky before getting caught in the Disarm-Her and tapping out. WWE are really building the Disarm-Her as an out of nowhere finisher as it is being applied in more and more creative ways.
Asuka, not to be outdone, tries to get Billie Kay to fight and ends up throwing her in ring before she can run away. Asuka destroys Kay in less time than Becky and even tries to tap her out with the Disarm-Her. When Kay escapes that, Asuka applies the Asuka Lock and Kay almost instantly taps. Both women stare each other down again and the segment ends.
Andrade defeats Rey Mysterio via Top Rope Hammerlock DDT
Ignoring the jarring name change of Andrade Cien Almas to plain Andrade this was an amazing match. Rey and Almas have amazing chemistry and were not afraid to go high risk for the sake of entertainment. There was another Destroyer used by Rey, Almas ate a Hurricanrana to the outside and 619’s were once again reversed. This match was well paced, fun and definitely worth watching. The finisher saw Rey finally dial in the 619 but was distracted by Zelina Vega as he is going for the follow up Splash. Andrade gets up, socks Rey and puts him away with a Hammerlock DDT off the top rope. It was fast, vicious and Almas gets another win over a lucha legend.
Fighting in the fans
It was a good time to be at the concession stand this week as AJ was giving out free merch. This was in direct response to the rant Daniel Bryan went on last week in the same area. AJ retorted everything Bryan had said as he threw different merch out into the crowd. Eventually he is attacked by a hoodie clad Bryan and the two brawl behind the tables. The two have a short exchange before AJ gets the upper hand and puts Bryan through a table full of hotdogs and sodas and condiments. This was a short segment but did it’s job perfectly. AJ really looks like a legitimate threat since his attitude change and to see a wrestler giving out free merch out of spite was an interesting concept.
Speaking of threats, Samoa Joe completely destroyed Mustafa Ali before their match could start. He beat the former Heart of 205 Live around ringside then launched him into a ring post. Ali flies into the post head first and is knocked out. Medics try to attend to Ali and shoo Joe only for Joe to come back and repeats the process. Ali takes another flight into the ring post and this time Joe decides he’s done enough and skulks off. Until he comes back teases a Powerbomb through the table but changes his mind. Another short and sweet segment that did exactly what it needed to do as it gives Mustafa Ali his first feud and his first hurdle to overcome. It should also said that Ali is one hell of a seller as he flew at those ring posts and took what looked to be two horrific bumps.
Hotel Room “Secrets”
Welcome to the cringe section of Smackdown. This whole story has been quite awful as Mandy Rose has basically been trying to get at Naomi by breaking up her marriage. This week’s attempt saw her lure Jimmy to her hotel room by sending him a key. Jimmy decides to oblige and goes to the room. Mandy attempts to be seductive and the two are photographed together by a hidden photographer. See this makes no sense since the whole thing is on video anyway since there is a camera crew present. Mandy tries to have a villain moment as she reveals her master plan only for Jimmy to be one step ahead and let Naomi in. The two brawl across the hotel room, throwing punches and each other into the wall/furniture. Mandy ends up coming out on top and bails so Jimmy is left tending to his wife.
Happy Birthday Shane
The Miz defeats Sheamus via Roll Up
As nice as it is to see the Miz and Shane on the same page heading towards Rumble; did we really need this long of a segment? It’s Shane’s birthday and the Miz wanted to throw him a party. The ring was decorated with banners, cake and presents to set the mood. Even the Best in the World Trophy made an appearance. The two chat back and forth, Shane gushes over a pair of Nike Jordans (with self-lacing technology for peak performance!) and a happy birthday sing a long is ruined by the Bar. The Bar run their mouths and are about to leave when Shane decides to make an impromptu match between the Miz and Sheamus. The Miz isn’t thrilled but Shane talks him into it. It was a short match that saw Cesaro fall through a table and Miz win with a Roll Up. The celebrations continue as Shane makes the save after a post-match attack, hits a Coast to Coast through cake to Sheamus and the show ends.
Street Profits defeat Metro Brothers via Frog Splash
NXT opened with a tag team squash match between a fired up Street Profits and the unfortunate jobber team of the Metro Brothers. The Profits were full of attitude and aggression as they got in the faces of their opponents and knocked them down with ease. They made light work of the Metro Brothers and were celebrating the victory when they are ambushed by the Forgotten Sons. They destroy both members of the Street Profits as a way to send a message to the NXT universe that they are here and they won’t be forgotten. It also gives both teams a feud whilst they aren’t included in the title scene.
Feast Your Eyes Again
Dominik Dijakovic defeats Adrian Jauode via Feast Your Eyes
The second match from the newly repackaged Dijakovic saw him in a less one-sided match as Jauode used his technical knowhow to bring the big man down and ground him. Dominik would devastate with strikes whenever he gained the upper hand and sent Jauode flying with a release Suplex. Dijakovic eventually had enough of the submission and technical wrestling so hit a couple more strikes then finished Adrian off with the Feast Your Eyes Knee Strike. It was a much more even match that showed Dijakovic can sell as well as strike. The man is incredibly intense and so far this repackaging is doing a good job of introducing him to the NXT crowd. Hopefully they will soon get to see just how diverse a wrestler Dijakovic is as he gets longer matches and more opponents.
Johnny Gargano defeats Humberto Carrillo via Slingshot DDT
This seemed like less of a Johnny Gargano match and more of a Humberto Carrillo showcase. The luchador was busting out all sorts of fast paced offense and strikes to control the match. Gargano had to play it smart to take get the eventual win as he cut Carrillo down and finished him with his usual suspect moves. He hit a Superkick, Lawn Dart and finished Carrillo off with a Slingshot DDT. It was a nice break as Carrillo can clearly go and with him being introduced on 205 Live, a match like this will definitely raise his stock. Another solid match on a show filled with solid matches.
Ohno to Revenge
Kassius Ohno defeats Keith Lee via Rolling Elbow
The main event saw Keith Lee go one on one with Kassius Ohno in an attempt to avenge the attack on Matt Riddle. These two had a brutal match that saw them trading stiff strikes and agility based offence from Lee. Keith Lee was in control for a lot of the match but Ohno used his ring IQ to gain the advantage. Eventually Ohno cut Lee down with a roll out from the corner that caught Lee’s knee. This gave Ohno control and he punished Lee until he got the knees up on Ohno during a running Senton. Lee would mount a comeback, hit a pounce and two handed chop on Ohno. After a little more offense the ref is struck, Lee goes to check on him and Ohno hits a Low Blow. This is followed by a Rolling Elbow and a pinfall. Matt Riddle comes out after the match but Ohno runs away before he takes any damage from Riddle.
So as you can hopefully see, it has mostly been a good week for WWE. RAW was fun and yielded a few surprises even if the Revival are still lost in the fold. Smackdown gave us an incredible match between Almas and Rey that once again pushes what we think WWE would let on TV. NXT is NXT so it offered excellent matches and pushes on towards it’s next Takeover. It’s encouraging to see RAW improving and hopefully that will keep happening as weeks go on.
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