We kick things off just like you’d want any wrestling program to kick off – a performance review! Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley discuss his review and whether or not The Undertaker is planning on cheating on Smackdown and showing up tonight. Seth Rollins interrupts to say he’s entering the Royal Rumble which means we’ve got a lot more of those declarations to go in the coming weeks. Great moment with BRAUN interrupting starting a brawl between Braun and Rollins which was just a hectic, hilarious mess with Mick yelling about The Undertaker and Steph screeching. Wow, that sure was a start!
The 2 on 1 Handicapped US Title match pitting best friends Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho against champion Roman Reigns doesn’t start because BRAUN decides he just wants to come beat up Roman Reigns. It ends with a brawl between BRAUN, KO and Y2J vs Reigns, Rollins and some chairs but Stephanie comes out saying Raw won’t start this way! (It just did) and moves the US Title Match to a later hour and Seth Rollins vs BRAUN to – you betcha – up next!
OPENING CONTEST: Seth Rollins vs BRAUN
BRAUN interrupted Rollins volunteering as tribute in Stephanie’s backstage curtain office followed by Rollins helping Reigns against BFFs Y2KO so this match happened. I have to say this is another week I’m enjoying a BRAUN match. I give a ton of credit to Rollins of course who is absolutely transitioning into someone who could be a monster face (being chained to Reigns does him no favors and we really need to see evil HHH), but BRAUN really seems threatening every time he’s tossing people around. I would have liked to see a definitive winner here, but there was no way WWE would risk killing either guy’s momentum with a clean victory. Rollins hits the barrier trying to get BRAUN on the outside and from there BRAUN just tosses him around like as ragdoll until they’re both counted out. Rollins ends up back in the ring and succeeds in keeping BRAUN out with his trusty steel chair and we are out.
Winner: Double Countout
Backstage we get a segment with Bayley and Sasha that’s interrupted by Charlotte and then interrupted by Nia Jax. It ends with the faces down and Nia choking Charlotte against some crates. Nia Jax is not like most girls in this division Charlotte. She’s not going to blindly trust you and just wait for you to turn on her. The best part of this segment was Sasha implying she and Bayley could fight if she were to beat Charlotte for the title and Charlotte pointing out her great acting. A snake knows a snake!
CRUISERWEIGHT MATCH: Jack Gallagher vs Drew Gulak
Jack Gallagher is a star. He is so entertaining that he can get the crowd behind him while he’s primarily a mat specialist and not a high flyer. It’s a well wrestled match, but again I just wish they’d give it more time. I imagine we’ll get another short match with the cruisers later, and I am SO happy multiple guys are getting airtime, but this is turning into the Divas division where we’re giving them 3 minutes and ending it. Jack wins pretty easily.
There is a great interview segment with Jack after where he promises a parlay with Ariya Daivari on 205 LIVE. A star.
Winner: Jack Gallagher
Segment Saved by a Real Hero
HBK is out to remind me that I am old as hell and his Rumble wins happened 20 years ago. My Childhood memories are killed a little more as he promotes his new Christian movie which I will not promote here, but we’re saved by a real hero – RUSEV! He’s out with beautiful Lana and for some reason Jinder Mahal is still hanging around, and we get a really great segment where he demands HBK uses CGI to put Lana in the movie and it’s unfortunately ruined by the insanely over Enzo and Cass who at least save HBK’s face reaction. As I am not the biggest Enzo and Cass fan it takes a lot to get me to care about them and putting them against Rusev does NO favors. I will say I think they weaken the segment that they end by putting over the always popular SUCK IT and setting up a match between Big Cass and Jinder Mahal. Watch this segment from the time Rusev’s music hits to the time Enzo and Cass’s music hits and it is a monster success.
Big Cass vs Jinder Mahal
It is a match that happens. It isn’t necessarily sloppy, but it serves its purpose when HBK superkicks Rusev on the outside distracting Mahal and helping Big Cass pick up the win. They gave HBK a stage to promote his movie with two of the most over acts in the company so there it is. I’m sure it’ll do just great numbers at the box office.
Winner: Big Cass
CRUISERWEIGHT MATCH: Evil Neville vs Lince Dorado
I have always really enjoyed Neville, but evil Neville is a whole nother level. I liked this match more than the other Cruiserweight match, but I again wish they’d give them more time. Lince Dorado is really fun
to watch and Neville deserves the spotlight. Too short, and Neville pulls out a win with a submission.
Backstage we get Stephanie meeting up with Bayley and Sasha who are still hurting and demand a tag match with Nia Jax and Charlotte next week. Steph uses her powers of evil to verbally abuse both women and make the match tonight instead even acknowledging that Sasha is not physically ready. I love Steph but come on. You can’t tease if she’s good or evil, she’s evil!
Luke Gallows vs Sheamus
In order to make sure EVERYONE is satisfied we get the opposite of last week and Gallows vs Sheamus. Karl Anderson is on commentary and is very put off by Cesaro joining him, and so most of this match is spent listening to them bicker about who’s more globally appealing. I almost think Anderson mentioned Japan so much as an acknowledgment of all the attention NJPW has gotten this week. It’s a battle of big men and it does make me more interested in their upcoming tag title bout but mostly because eventually the Cesaro/Anderson bickering won me over. They distract their partners by scuffling at the announce table, and Sheamus pulls off the win while Gallows watches Cesaro get the swing ready at the
top of the ramp.
THE GREAT UNDERTAKER MYSTERY
Throughout the night Mick Foley has been asking random backstage nobodies if they’ve seen Undertaker which of course nobody has. If it were me I would have looked in more dimly lit areas or maybe found Kane and asked if he’d seen him. I know Kane’s on Smackdown, but if Taker can show up I figure rules don’t matter. Except he doesn’t show up – instead we get what we were hoping for right at the beginning of Raw – a performance review! Stephanie is very clearly about to fire Mick Foley before The Undertaker really DOES show up and there really is nothing like that gong is there? He comes out and says that he’s declaring HIMSELF for the Royal Rumble and that nobody controls The Undertaker. He pointedly says it to Steph too. He’s dug 29 holes for 29 souls. He’s here to stay, yadda yadda. I will tell you this, I have loved The Undertaker before, but I don’t think I need him winning the Rumble. My biggest takeaway is wondering if Stephanie McMahon ever thinks to herself “Huh, this guy tried to make me his dark bride once. We’re cool now.”
There’s a great backstage here that has KO and Y2J angry about Roman Reigns and promising to take his US Title later. KO also mentions his displeasure that The Undertaker can just show up and declare himself for the Rumble and Goldberg can just show up and ruin his set. All valid complaints.
Bayley & Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax & Charlotte
It’s pretty much just Bayley vs Nia Jax and Charlotte while Sasha’s on the outside. Bayley looks pretty strong for a while, but after Nia knocks Sasha off the apron it’s not long before Charlotte and Nia pull a sneaky tag and take Bayley out. It was a decently timed match, so that was nice and I thought Nia and Bayley both looked pretty good. Charlotte always does so that goes without saying.
Winners: Nia Jax & Charlotte
New Day and Titus O’Neil Segment
This is just three guys making fun of a less fortunate man and I am not okay with it. Titus can be pretty funny, but his wrestling isn’t going to be good so this really can’t go anywhere can it? They show an old NXT video of him fumbling a game they used to play with a keg and give him a chance to re-try it but he mucks it up by dropping the keg before crossing the finish line. I have no idea where this is going. Right now just to a match.
Kofi Kingston vs Titus O’Neil
The match is basically a Titus squash until he lets himself get distracted by New Day on the outside dancing and playing the trombone. It of course causes him to lose all composure, let Kofi recover and get the Trouble in Paradise.
Winner: Kofi Kingston
THE MAIN EVENT! Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho vs Roman Reigns for the US Title
The problem with this match is that they’re still trying to make people feel sympathy for Roman Reigns, and people just do NOT feel sympathy for him. Maybe the kids do, but the audience is not being won over – especially when a majority of the people booing him are cheering for his opponents. Don’t get me wrong, KO and Jericho play despicable heels and do a great job of it, so I think booing them is the right move. But if you don’t believe in your “superhero” then it’s never going to work. KO and Jericho attack Roman before he even makes it to the ring, but the match eventually starts and it’s a beat down from the heels for almost the whole match. In an actual surprise for me, KO and Jericho pull off the victory! Wow, I can’t believe Superman Reigns didn’t come back from that. Except I can because now that probably wraps him up for a win against KO at the Rumble. When given small rewards, we must repay. It’s still a great moment, and it sets up some more tension for these two now that there isn’t one, but TWO new US Champions.
Winners: NEW US Champion(s) Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho
Final Thoughts: I didn’t think it was a terrible Raw until I read back to see what my favorite match of the night was and realized there really was no contest. I think it did alright continuing the set up for the Rumble, but the matches while more good than bad were just too short to really say were great. I also thought both appearances of the legends was anticlimactic and wasted. Why couldn’t Taker have announced his appearance in the Rumble on Smackdown? Just because of the ratings? Yeesh. If you’re wondering if you should watch it, I’d say no. Go on and skip this one.
WATCH THIS MATCH: BRAUN vs Seth Rollins – I never thought I’d be giving Braun Strowman my favorite match for the first two weeks of this, but looking through I’m not sure there is a better choice. I enjoyed the ending of the main event MUCH more, but it wasn’t an exciting end and it was a very one sided match anyway. So it goes to Braun and Seth! I thought Seth looked great again and Braun in this spot is doing really well. If you have to watch something, watch this.
SKIP THIS MATCH: Big Cass vs Jinder Mahal – but watch that Rusev segment before. Do yourselves a favor.
Well that’s it. I watched Raw! Maybe you did too or maybe you DVR’d it and watched the very good parts which were unfortunately few and far between. We’re headed for the Rumble and Wrestlemania season – we can only hope they amp this up.
If you just need to find me to talk about wrestling or other things I like which are pretty limited – you can find me at Hm_pufnstuf on twitter. Keep on keeping on wrestling people!