On last week’s Raw, Finn Balor became the new #1 contender after Braun Strowman was stripped of the Universal Title opportunity he won at TLC. Balor was able to do this by winning a fatal four way against Drew McIntyre, Baron Corbin and John Cena. In addition, Bobby Lashley won his first singles title in WWE for 11 years after dethroning a rather lacklustre Dean Ambrose reign with assistance from Lio Rush in a triple threat bout, which also included Seth Rollins; and on A Moment Of Bliss, the introduction of the Women’s Tag Titles were announced, with the inaugural Champs being crowned inside the Elimination Chamber next month.
Raw took place in the Chesepeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The only segments announced were Sasha Banks and Bayley facing Ronda Rousey and Natalya. The show would kick off with a graphic celebrating Martin Luther King Day.
Brock Lesnar Segment
Your eyes do not deceive the majority of fans as the Universal Champion made an appearance the week before his first Universal Title defence since recapturing he title back in November. As expected, Heyman got “things down to business”, claiming Balor winning last week’s #1 contender’s match was “no fluke” and that he respects Finn Balor. However, this Sunday, Finn Balor will become a “martyr” according to Lesnar’s advocate, and that he will be sacrificed with “miracles even fearing the Conqueror”, as Finn Balor does not belong in the same ring as Lesnar. This would lead to Vince McMahon coming out, warning Heyman not to underestimate Finn Balor and referencing the story of David vs. Goliath. This would lead to the former #1 contender Braun Strowman to come out claiming “last week was the luckiest night of your life, and I’m going to rip your arms out!” This would lead to Balor coming out, who was hyped very well by the commentary team, to claim that even though Vince does not believe he can beat Brock, “I know I can beat Brock Lesnar”. This would lead to a singles match taking place right there between Balor and Strowman.
Finn Balor vs. Braun Strowman
This match can be seen as an early indicator of what this Sunday will be, with the focus being very much the pace of Balor against the strength of Strowman in a cat and mouse scenario. Balor was able to dodge the Monster Among Men, until an attempt to lift him that Braun easily dealt with. Strowman nailed the majority of his power moves, including the running shoulder tackle that got a grin off Lesnar. Balor would start to gain some momentum with a slingblade, as well as a sleeper hold. The finish of the match was quite confusing, as Balor would be thrown to the outside to be caught by Lesnar, who would suplex him in front of the referee without giving a DQ. The DQ was instead given after Balor took out both Lesnar and Strowman and, when seeming to have Strowman down for the Coup De Grace, Finn was then took out by the Universal Champion with an F5, giving him the win.
Bobby Lashley Intercontinental Title Celebration
This promo started similar to the one that opened the show, in that the champ did not utter a word and let the manager do the talking. Lio Rush claimed that Lashley was “better than those two clowns”, and that open challenges are for “kids”. Lio asked Lashley to stand on a pedestal in the middle of the ring to do his poses, which brought out Apollo Crews. Apollo congratulated Lashley, but claimed the “fans did not pay to see this” and that he wanted a match with Lashley. This still ended with Lashley doing his posedown with Apollo now watching, before Apollo was asked to do this, giving me flashbacks to the crap build-up to Triple H vs. Scott Steiner at Royal Rumble 2003. This ended with Apollo being blindsided by Lashley, before Crews fought back to stand tall, leading to a match being announced during the commercial break.
Apollo Crews vs. Bobby Lashley
This match started during the break with Lashley in control, but not for very long as Apollo was able to get back in with a right hand and a schoolboy. Apollo was even able to hit his gorilla press military slam, which is quite impressive. The finish to this match would come quickly as Lio attempted to get involved and was put in the gorilla press slam position, from which the All-Mighty was able to capitalise by hitting the spear for the three-count. At the end of the match, Lashley planned to do his posedown again, this time without Apollo being involved, but Seth Rollins appeared and Lashley disappeared into thin air.
Seth Rollins Promo
Rollins would start his promo praising Martin Luther King before claiming that he is going to win the Royal Rumble match. Rollins focused on heart, passion and love, and that “when the dust settles, only one man will be standing”. This would bring out the Scottish Psychopath in Drew McIntyre. McIntyre said that Rollins has no chance of winning the Royal Rumble, and he would inevitably be thrown over by the winner of the Royal Rumble – himself.
Seth Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre
This was a very entertaining TV match, which is not surprising as these two have been feuding on-again off-again since June. Some of the best spots saw Rollins going for a dive off the top of the ring post before crashing and burning to the outside, as well as McIntyre doing a reverse Alabama slam on the outside, which only took us to the break. That may sum up wrestling in 2019 exceptionally well. McIntyre hitting big power moves and throwing Rollins around the ring would dominate the match, with the commentary linking the John Cena ankle injury announced prior to the show on Drew. Rollins was able to get some momentum with an array of his own special moves, including a top rope blockbuster, a superkick and a falcon arrow. The crowd chanted “This is Awesome” when Rollins hit a superkick out of nowhere after Drew had belly-to-belly suplexed Rollins across the ring. Drew would take back control with a Scottish Kiss head-butt, followed by a second rope Celtic Cross. The finish would come with Rollins able to nick a schoolboy rollup on McIntyre, showing his intelligence to get one over in a very enjoyable match.
Following this, we would cut to a backstage segment with The Revival pleading with Vince McMahon that they were robbed in their last title match two weeks ago, and that they deserved another opportunity. Curt Hawkins then appeared, wanting to be in the Rumble to end his streak. Instead, Vince gave The Revival their Tag Team Title match for later in the show, with special guest referee Curt Hawkins.
Dean Ambrose Promo
We followed up one backstage promo with another, as we cut to Ambrose in a dark part of the arena. Ambrose’s focus was to eliminate both Rollins and Lashley from the Rumble, and to get his revenge.
Lucha House Party vs. Jinder Mahal & The Singh Brothers
Oh God! We are back to more LHP, and here it was all three of them. This episode took a very sudden turn from Rollins vs. McIntyre. The bout was pretty much the LHP controlling Samir Singh until they trapped Kalisto. The finish seemed to have come out of nowhere as after Gran Metalik tagged in, he only hit two moves, with a dropkick sending Mahal and Sunil to the outside, before a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker got the three. Well at least it was short.
Cut backstage to the modern-day Narcissist, EC3, staring into a mirror and talking to Dana Brooke. Well, she did the talking; he remained silent.
Elias vs. Baron Corbin
This started the way one would expect, with Elias cutting a promo about Corbin and being incredibly over with the crowd whilst doing it. Elias would call 2019 a great year, but was then interrupted by Corbin who claimed that Elias nearly killed him last week, and to agree with Vince, Oklahoma is “full of hillbillies”. Once the match started, Elias would be in control, dropkicking Corbin to the outside and ramming him into the barrier. Corbin would start to take control soon after following his clothesline around the ring post. Elias regained the upper hand with a high knee (Booty Man be proud) and a reverse neckbreaker for a two-count, but in the end Corbin would beat Elias again following a throat chop and End of Days.
A Moment Of Bliss – Royal Rumble Edition
For the third week running, we were treated to another Moment Of Bliss. The first guest was Nia Jax, but before Nia had the chance to say anything, the show was interrupted by the whole of the Raw women’s division, who came out claiming they are going to win the women’s Rumble. This caused Alexa to stand on top of her chair claiming that this is ruining “my reputation as a talk show host!” A brawl would ensue, involving everyone bar Alexa. This would follow on to some pretty big news as Alexa announced her entry into the Women’s Royal Rumble. This is not only due to Alexa being one of the major starts in the women’s division and the Raw brand, but that it will be her first televised match since Hell In A Cell against Ronda Rousey. Fans inside the Chesepeake Arena were happy with this announcement. However, Alexa was interrupted again by new NXT call-up Lacey Evans, who would call every woman in the Royal Rumble apart from herself a “runt”; this made Alexa angry, further teasing a face turn for her.
Titus O’Neil announced his entry into the Royal Rumble, in which I am fully expecting another slip and fall.
Heavy Machinery vs. The Ascension
It is good to know that the Ascension are still around, but this match was to highlight the newest tag team on the main roster in Heavy Machinery. The two hit all their big moves, with Dozovic hitting the Caterpillar on Viktor followed by the Compactor for the quick three-count.
Raw Tag Team Championship Match (Special Guest Referee: Curt Hawkins)
Bobby Roode & Chad Gable (C) vs. The Revival
As with their previous encounters, this was a very good tag title match; the focus was on The Revival targeting Gable, with Chad trying to use his quickness and highflying ability to outpace The Revival’s constant attacks. An example came when Roode chucked Gable over the top rope onto both Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder. Throughout the match, The Revival tried to cheat by using the middle rope and pulling the tights, in a reverse to their previous bouts, but Hawkins would stop both attempts. The finish saw Gable win with a rollup, as The Revival lost clean for the first time in three attempts against the Champs. Post-match, The Revival questioned Hawkins’ decisions as referee before beating him down two-on-one; this brought out Zack Ryder to help Hawkins and send The Revival packing. The return of The Major Brothers was an interesting move to go for, and hopefully it gets Hawkins his first win.
Ronda Rousey & Natalya vs. Sasha Banks & Bayley
Before this match started, Ronda Rousey cut a backstage promo calling Sasha entitled and saying that she is “the Boss’ Boss”. The promo was a lot more confusing than expected due to it being live and Rousey being a lot better in the ring than on the mic. The match would start with Banks and Bayley dominating Natalya in their corner, until Rousey came in giving a clothesline to both. Following the commercial break, the focus would turn on Bayley being worked over by Natalya, with a nice snap suplex being used. This would change with Banks being tagged and a nice hurricanrana/Meteora combination. Rousey and Banks would have little interaction between them before Sunday, but from what they showed, I would be expecting a top match at the Rumble, with Ronda hitting the Rouseybuster and Banks getting in the Banks Statement only for Natalya to break it up. The finish would see Ronda’s first loss since arriving to WWE as Natalya tapped out to the Banks Statement, giving Sasha a huge chunk of momentum for this Sunday.
Overall, Raw had a solid go-home show to Royal Rumble, with enough good moments to be excited for. However, these were all spaced in weird positions. giving unnecessary filler that is not warranted for this type of show. Raw gave a good performance, but it could have been a lot better if time had not been wasted in matches not needed to promote the Rumble.