Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman return
We kicked off this episode of Raw with the WWE Champion Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman who came out together and Heyman held a promo after his usual introduction. He questioned who would challenge Lesnar at the Royal Rumble for the WWE Championship and explained that he asked exactly that Lesnar who has answered that nobody on Raw, SmackDown or NXT would be man enough to face him.
Heyman added that anybody who would want to face the Beast could fight him in the Rumble match and announced that Lesnar would be part of it. Heyman went on by saying that Lesnar would be the first entrant of the Royal Rumble match. He noted that Lesnar would enter the match as the first one and would be the last one who survives the Royal Rumble. His final words were that this wouldn’t be a prediction, but a spoiler before they walked away.
Opinion: Raw currently has no single wrestler except Seth Rollins who would be ready to face Lesnar, so this is a logical way as Rollins is in a different storyline, is a heel and we had this match too often within the last time. However, since Lesnar is someone who doesn’t work long matches but still should look like one of the strongest competitors in all of WWE, it will be interesting to see what his role in the Royal Rumble match will be. Heyman did a great job as usual.
Andrade (C.) (w/ Zelina Vega) vs. Rey Mysterio for the United States Championship
This was one of the most entertaining matches within the last weeks since these two really harmonise together and showed off a great match. However, the end was a bit weird. Andrade was at ringside and Rey Mysterio jumped on him, but Andrade caught him, tossed him over his head and Mysterio crashed into Zelina Vega who went down. Just a few moments later, Andrade set Mysterio up for his Hammerlock DDT, but the ref stepped in and Mysterio fell to the mat and rolled to the ringside to check on Vega. He returned to the ring where he received a kick from Andrade followed by the Hammerlock DDT for the three count. After the match, El Idolo took Mysterio’s mask and went to ringside to present it to Vega.
Opinion: I’m not sure what the goal of this ending was and if it was planned like that. Why did the ref step in and why did Rey check on Vega. As Jerry Lawler noted, it seemed as Mysterio would care more about Vega than Andrade. Anyways, except that situation, it was a great match.
Backstage segments to set up the main event
Backstage, Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe got interviewed by Charly Caruso. KO explained that he would have Joe’s back and the other way around. Joe challenged Rollins and AOP to face “the three of us” while Owens had no idea what Joe was talking about. Joe explained that he would have a guy and that their rivals should be worried.
Just moments later, Caruso approached Rollins and AOP to tell them about the challenge and Rollins explained that they would live for challenges. He said that the WWE Universe chose him to be the one who should bring Raw to the next level and called himself the messiah of Monday nights.
Opinion: Good way to set up the main event around the most important storyline currently on Raw since the WWE Champion is almost never on the red brand.
“The Viking Raiders” Erik and Ivar (C.) vs. “The OC” Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson vs. “The Street Profits” Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins in a Triple Threat Match for the Raw Tag Team Championships
This match took about 15 minutes and at some point of the match it really looked like the Street Profits would have a real chance to win the Raw Tag Titles. However, in the end, Erik hit Anderson with a Powerbomb followed by a Splash by Ivar from the top rope. The Viking Raiders took away the victory to defend their championships.
After the match, we once more saw Caruso who interviewed Joe as Owens came into the picture because he wanted to know who their partner would be. Joe led Caruso and Owens to a locker room where Owens peaked inside and started to smile. Joe blocked Caruso from looking inside while Owens noted that they would be good.
Opinion: Good title match and no surprise at all that the Viking Raiders defended the titles. Such fights are much better for them compared to the typical squash matches.
Becky Lynch’s promo
Next, Becky Lynch made her entrance in street clothes and held a promo in the centre of the ring. She recapped her defeat against Asuka and added that over the holidays she had time to think about what it means to be the Man. She started to explain what she figured out, but suddenly Asuka’s entrance theme played to interrupt her. Asuka came out and spoke in Japanese while she went down the ramp. She entered the ring while Lynch was looking down on the mat, but suddenly the Man punched Asuka and then left the ring.
Opinion: They continue to let this feud look interesting as it seems like Asuka would be the first woman to really be a threat for Lynch but as I already noted in the past: it would be muc more interesting if Asuka was able to held a real promo.
Erick Rowan vs. KJ Orso
Erick Rowan walked through the backstage area as Mojo Rawley asked him if he could take a look at what would be in his animal cage. Rowan warned him and said that he shouldn’t tell anybody. Rawley took a look, jumped back and screamed “what is wrong with you, man?” while Rowan laughed and walked away.
After that, we saw the match between Rowan and an enchantment wrestler. Rowan took his opponent to the ringside and asked him if he would like to take a look into the cage. KJ Orso denied it and went back to the ring. Rowan destroyed him in less than one minute to pin him and then he took Orso to the ringside and forced him to take a look into the cage. Orso started to scream and ran away with something red in his face.
Opinion: A weird turn in the story around Rowan as until now he got upset when anybody wanted to look into the cage and now he force his opponents to do so. I’m really curious about where this will lead.
AJ Styles vs. Akira Tozawa & the segment with Bobby Lashley and Lana
This match didn’t take even three minutes, but the interesting thing is that after the Phenomenal Forearm, Styles performed the Rope Hung DDT and the RKO (the two signature moves of Randy Orton) to the pin Akira Tozawa. After the match, he made several times Orton’s typical pose.
Then, Bobby Lashley and Lana came out to finish the wedding as a minister pronounced them as man and wife. After that, Lana complained about the interruptions during their wedding on last week’s episode of Raw. Lashley explained that Rusev wasn’t man enough to keep his own wife, but suddenly the Bulgarian Brute showed up on the big screen in a Hawaiian shirt in front of a beach backdrop. He said that he went on his own honeymoon and that he would have a wedding album for them as we saw several images from last week’s wedding.
Lana told Rusev that he would hate him as he ruins everything and suddenly Lashley told her to shut up. Lana looked confused while Lashley challenged Rusev to a match for next week’s episode of Raw. Rusev got serious and excepted the challenge.
Opinion: Good work by Styles as his moves really looked good and a solid angle to set up a match between Orton and him. The most interesting aspect of the following segment was that Lashley told Lana to shut up. However, I’m curious if this will be finally the end of this whole feud.
Liv Morgan’s appearance and Charlotte’s spot
Caruso started to interview R-Truth in the backstage area as suddenly Liv Morgan stepped into the picture and explained that next week Lana will be in Lashley’s corner what means that she’ll be in Rusev’s.
After that, Charlotte made her entrance for her match against Sarah Logan who was already in the ring. Logan attacked Charlotte before the match even started and a brawl between the two women broke out. At some point, Charlotte was at ringside while Logan took the Queen’s rope in the ring and slammed it onto the mat. After that, Charlotte completely destroyed Logan to then put back on her robe and leave.
Opinion: Not much to say about both segments. That Morgan will be in Rusev’s corner makes quite sense while the angle with Charlotte was completely senseless.
Drew McIntyre vs. No Way Jose and Aleister Black vs. Shelton Benjamin
Ahead of the match, Drew McIntyre attacked some of No Way Jose’s goofs and finished his actual opponent after less than two minutes off. He even led a countdown for the final Claymore Kick before he pinned No Way Jose. After the match, he took the mic and asked if the crowd who double dared him to do another Claymore Kick. He once more led a countdown to hit No Way Jose with another Claymore. He took the mic and explained that he never had a world championship opportunity and added that he wouldn’t give a damn who in the Royal Rumble is.
Next, Aleister Black faced Shelton Benjamin, but this fight also didn’t take long as Black quickly finished his opponent off with the Black Mass Kick. After the match, Buddy Murphy attacked Black and performed at ringside a knee to a chair which Black held under his chin. Murphy sat down cross-legged on the barricade while refs checked on Black.
Opinion: I quite like to see McIntyre with the mic. Besides, he’s in my eyes the favourite to win the Rumble if Roman Reigns doesn’t win. Meanwhile, I’m curious what there plan with Black and Murphy is as I thought that this feud would be over. Hopefully, they will be able to bring both over at the same time.
Seth Rollins and “AOP” Akam and Rezar vs. Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe, and Big Show
Rollins, Akam and Rezar already were in the ring while KO and Joe also made their entrances and suddenly the Big Show’s music hit as the World’s Largest Athlete came out. So, he was the partner of Owens and Joe for this match and the crowd absolutely loved it.
However, the match was quite short as after about 10 minutes, as Big Show seemed to perform a double Chokeslam against Akam and Rezar, but suddenly got hit with a chair from behind by Rollins leading to a DQ. Then, Rollins was ready to perform a Curb Stomp against the Big Show, but Owens grabbed his foot. The Architect broke free just to eat a Knockout Punch by Show. After that, Akam and Rezar dragged Rollins up the ramp.
Before the show closed, they advertised for next week Orton vs. Styles, Black vs. Murphy, Brock Lesnar appearing, Lashley vs. Rusev and Big Show, Kevin Owens & Samoa Joe vs. Akam, Rezar & Rollins in a Fist Fight (whatever that is).
Opinion: Good main event even though I hoped that the match would take longer. Anyways, great to see the Big Show back and this was clearly a surprise.
All in all, a great episode of Raw with two great championship matches some good squash matches and a solid main event. While Raw has too many superstars which they want to bring over and because of that put them in squash matches, SmackDown has a lack of superstars (which they hopefully can fill with Sheamus, John Morrison and the Usos). Anyways, the upcoming episode of Raw also has some potential in it when we look at the scheduled matches, but I’m not sure if I should look forward to the Fist Fight since I don’t know what to expect.