Well here it is, a new year – a new Raw recap. I bet you didn’t think you wanted one of those did you? Well, you were wrong. What a pleasant surprise for anybody out there reading this! We’re going to go ahead and get into this and give positive thoughts out that WWE is going to kick things off in this New Year with a great Raw.
Show Opening Promo:
Mick’s in good spirits if not with a terrible haircut that looks more like he’s wearing a wig and it is very distracting. He reminds us of Kevin Owens vs Roman Reigns set for the Rumble and to everyone’s delight Kevin Owens and our favorite scarfed villain Chris Jericho are out. In between them complaining about Mick’s abuse of power, we get Mick promising a Kevin Owens Show segment tonight with Goldberg and Stephanie coming out- both to defend Mick’s decision making, and also because we have a 4 person minimum in the opening promo. There’s a bit of tension between Mick and Steph over not running plans by each other, and she appeases the heels still in the ring by announcing a match later: Jericho vs Reigns for the US Title where Reigns will lose his title if he’s counted out or DQ’d. There’s a jumble here where Mick forgets who’s even in the match, suggests banning Jericho from ringside during his own match and Stephanie has to reign it all in and announce one more match – Owens vs. Seth Rollins tonight where the winner is banned from ringside during Reigns/Jericho. That match – you guessed it – is up first.
Opening Match: Seth Rollins vs Kevin Owens
This match was set up to see who would be banned from ringside during the main event tonight, and really for me it’s always a treat to see these two square off. It was a pretty good match, though if you were watching it thinking there would be anything but a screwy ending you haven’t watched Monday Night Raw in many years. Seth Rollins is FLYING into the New Year and really showing off the kind of arsenal that should, and hopefully will, lead to monster facedom. KO continues to be the heel most just wish they could be and helps get the crowd firmly behind Rollins. It ends as we could only imagine it would – with a DQ finish when KO hits Rollins with the ring bell. This brings about a moment that will be hard to top the rest of the evening – a man screaming at KO “BOO YOU’RE SUCH A COWARD KEVIN” right after the ref calls for the bell. It reminded me of the old woman booing at Buttercup in the Princess Bride and well, it was pretty good.
Winner: Seth Rollins by DQ meaning KO is banned from ringside during the Jericho/Reigns match.
Cesaro vs Karl Anderson
A lot of how enjoyable this match was is owed to just how good Cesaro is. He makes every move look devastating. We start off with Sheamus on commentary and Gallows ringside which didn’t seem like it would become a problem at all…but then it was! Gallows interfered leading to a near fall and a Sheamus guard dog running to ringside, but Cesaro stayed alive to continue a great performance before Gallows jumped on the apron leading Sheamus to inadvertently knock Cesaro crotch first onto the ropes and straight into an Anderson win. Also in this match Byron Saxton mentioned Paula Abdul so he is over like rover with me right now.
Winner: Karl Anderson via pinfall.
Sami Zayn vs Braun Strowman LAST MAN STANDING MATCH
It’s sad that the first week I do this recap I have to watch the death of Sami Zayn. I’m going to sound repetitive, but I liked this match too. It was basically Braun killing Sami, but Sami had big moments of resurgence as well that actually had me asking “what if?” There was a spot off the stage, but both competitors shook it off so quickly it wouldn’t stand up in the greatest spots of all time. I did like Braun throwing Sami clear across the entrance ramp when he brought him back up after that fall. It’s about a 15 minute match of Braun handling Sami with shining moments of Sami trying to pull off an underdog victory but it is in vain.
Winner: BRAAAAAAAAAUN. After the match Braun knocks Sami off the stretcher that Mick brought out and I’m left wondering WHY this match wasn’t left for the Royal Rumble. I have faith that there could be a great reason, but I don’t see it yet. This same outcome could have happened with Braun then dominating in the Rumble, and maybe Sami even making it back for a late spot to show how much he can persevere.
We get a great little segment here that sees Jack Gallagher showing New Day how to duel, and it’s great to see that Gallagher is getting over with the crowd and I have to think people backstage. New Day is still one of the most over acts WWE has and it can’t be seen as nothing they’re giving Gallagher time with them
Titus O’Neil vs Xavier Woods
Titus interrupts New Day declaring themselves entrants in the Rumble and says he wants to join the New Day. He talks crap about them and then calls Xavier the weakest of the group, earning him a challenge and a questioning of his manhood and he PUNCHES Xavier, and I have got to tell you nothing is going to make me excited for a Titus O’Neil match, but that didn’t stop it from happening. It wasn’t a terrible match, and Woods actually looked pretty good which made it a worthwhile for me.
Winner: Xavier Woods with a roll up.
BACKSTAGE MAYHEM: Bayley talks to Stephanie about making Dana Brooke the special guest referee last week and Steph insults Bayley before mentioning attorneys and that she doesn’t really like Bayley anyway. Bayley gives a pretty great rebuttal saying Steph is right she is “Just Bayley” and that’s good enough. She gets a #1 Contenders match with Nia Jax for her trouble, and we move into an Alicia Fox/Cedric Alexander backstage with Noam Dar where I wonder how long it’s going to take for Alicia to reveal she’s joining up with Dar after all. Why isn’t Alicia Fox a Sensational Sherri style manager at this point? She could be a great in that role.
Cedric Alexander w/Alicia Fox vs Drew Gulak w/Tony Nese
This was a good if not short match. I like that they are giving Alexander some personality by adding Alicia to his corner, but she would be better off managing a heel wrestler. Gulak shows off his submission prowess and Cedric continues to impress, but in a short span of time it’s hard to say it was a stellar outing. Tony Nese jumps on the apron causing Alicia Fox to yank him down and distract Cedric who is distracted and loses.
Winner: Drew Gulak via pinfall. His celebration after was worth the watch alone. HE DID IT! HE WON!
US Title Match Roman Reigns (c) vs Chris Jericho
Why even tease that Seth Rollins might interfere earlier to help Reigns and then not have him do it? I thought this match was good. There was no road I looked down that didn’t have Reigns winning so there was no suspense, but the match was fine. Jericho pulled an “Eddy” and did a spot where he distracted the ref so he could throw Reigns the title and then flop on the ground as if Reigns had hit him, so that was a nice call back. It didn’t work and Reigns took it home further cementing himself as you know, THE guy. I will say that the crowd was firmly behind Jericho outside the lingering Reigns cheers when the match opened.
Winner: Roman Reigns via pinfall. STOP trying to make Reigns happen. He’s never gonna happen!! Unless of course they let him be his smug self and be heel. Ah, whatever you’ve all heard this old record before. I don’t get Reigns as a character in this ongoing saga because it is clear he either A) needs to be recast or B) needs a character revamp. Now, I watched a lot of soap operas and I’m telling you we can pull this together.
THE Brian Kendrick vs TJ Perkins
I have to say this might have been my least favorite match of the night. I really like THE Brian Kendrick, but it was a rehash of matches before, and both men lacked the fire they’ve had in previous meet ups. Kendrick tapped pretty easily when it always seemed like he was crawling for a victory at all costs.
Winner: TJ Perkins as angry Neville looks on from backstage.
Foreigners are always the bad guys Match: Rusev and Jinder Mahal vs Big Cass w/Enzo
I should get it out of the way and say that I am not the biggest Enzo Amore fan. I can understand why he is so popular, but I remain on the outside of his fan club. He’s in a motorized wheel chair for this match and Cass is taking on both big bad foreigners by himself. It mercifully does not last long, and Rusev kicks Cass while he’s distracted by Jinder.
Winners: Rusev and Jinder Mahal
The Main Event that is not really the Main Event: Bayley vs Nia Jax #1 Contender for Women’s Title match
Charlotte is out on commentary, and we get a quick and our only women’s match of the evening. I like Nia Jax as a dominant female competitor. I know she’s still green, but I’m appreciative of what she brings to the table. That being said, she didn’t need the win here and with a feud with Sasha looming on the horizon – I didn’t expect one. Nia dominates most of the match until Sasha’s music distracts her while she’s going up the ropes. Bayley climbs the ropes and brings Nia down with the Bayley to Belly and she’s going to The Rumble!
Winner: Bayley via pinfall. Sasha and Nia stare down after the match, Charlotte vows not to lose to Bayley. Gonna be a good match. Nia pops up right after the pinfall and kind of no sells the Bayley to Belly, so I hope someone reminds her about selling.
The Talk Show Segment that IS the Main Event: The Kevin Owens Show
Kevin Owens can be in every segment and it would take me a good long time to complain about it. The best part about this segment was the man with the Kevin Owens sign on his head during it. KO and Jericho play around like they normally do before Goldberg interrupts and destroys some furniture and then KO destroys some furniture to fit in. They’re interrupted by Paul Heyman! Who says Brock isn’t here. But he will be at The Rumble! They’re then all interrupted by Roman Reigns which the crowd just hates, and he stares down with Goldberg before they’re both interrupted by BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUN! Braun says he’s winning the Rumble and in one more attempt to make the crowd love Reigns, he and Goldberg spear Braun together. Everyone else just kind of walks away. And we are back next week with HBK and Taker who is on Smackdown but for some reason now on Raw.
Final Thoughts: I thought it was a solid Raw! I didn’t like the end segment, but I rarely like talking segments to end the show. It could have been saved, but continuing to end the show trying to put Reigns over is just exhausting. I like Reigns! I think he really does have the potential to be the superstar they’re looking for but it is NEVER happening if he doesn’t go heel first. Mick has GOT to get it together. I think he’s getting nervous about being out there every week, or he’s just never really been comfortable with scripted promos.
WATCH THIS MATCH: Braun Strowman vs Sami Zayn. I thought it was a good solid effort that should have been saved for a big show. I think there’s obviously more there, but I liked this a lot. I still think Braun has some growing to do, but I really do enjoy him.
SKIP THIS MATCH: I’d say Rusev and Jinder vs Big Cass, but I love Rusev so let’s say THE Brian Kendrick vs TJ Perkins. I like both guys, but I think their time could have been combined with the other Cruiserweight match and I would have been happier.
Heather Miller (@hm_pufnstuf)