Due to the last episode being the go-home show, it is best to check out the Royal Rumble review rather than do a flashback here. Raw took place from the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. Announced segments were the first qualifiers for the inaugural Women’s Tag Team Championship Elimination Chamber match in three weeks, Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin and Drew McIntyre vs. Braun Strowman.
Seth Rollins Promo
Raw kicked off with the winner of the main event last night, ‘The Architect’ Seth Rollins. Rollins came out to a big pop and then cut a promo, the focus being on who he is going to face at WrestleMania, with his opponent being either Daniel Bryan or Brock Lesnar (the one that the crowd wanted). Rollins was unsure on who to pick, which led to Triple H coming out. Hunter tried to encourage Seth, telling him that he’s “the one”, and that at WrestleMania 35, he will “Burn It Down”. Dean Ambrose interrupted to claim Hunter was using Seth, and that he always believed in him. Hunter tried to interject, but Ambrose cut him off and demanded a match against Rollins right now. When HHH implied that he would head to the back to get the match approved, he was teased by the Lunatic Fringe, who claimed he needed approval from his stepfather. Triple H made the match immediately.
Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose
I cannot really suggest why, but this dynamic of babyface Seth Rollins vs. heel Dean Ambrose seems to produce such mediocrity between two talents that are much better than mediocrity. This was mostly a very standard TV match with Ambrose always being one step ahead of Rollins; his interception of dives was a key feature. However, Ambrose was unable to capitalise on the momentum he had gained, and Rollins pulled off a great sequence of moves to win the match, as he used a Bucklebomb, Superkick and Curb Stomp to get the three-count. Post-match, Nia Jax and Tamina came out and, after Nia had entered the men’s Rumble as #30, she would also get physical with Ambrose, throwing him out the ring. If the rumours are true that Ambrose is leaving after WrestleMania, they are making sure he goes out putting over as many people as possible.
Women’s Tag Team Championship Qualifying Match
Nia Jax & Tamina vs. Alexa Bliss & Mickie James
Again, this was a pretty standard TV match, and the first Women’s Tag Title qualifier of the night. Throughout this match, the focus was Nia and Tamina working over Alexa Bliss and Bliss trying to get the tag to Mickie, whilst using her acrobatics to gain the upper hand. Once Bliss tagged in Mickie, it looked to be that they were on their way to victory; that was until Nia Jax got back in the ring and hit a Samoan Drop on both Mickie and Alexa for the three-count. It seems WWE are trying to cool down and let Alexa get back into the swing of things after four months out, but with it being Mania season, I am shocked she has nothing going on, unless a face turn can change things up.
Backstage, we cut to Kurt Angle taking about the last six months in which he’s been tormented by Baron Corbin and Drew McIntyre, saying he still has not recovered mentally from tapping out to Drew.
Baron Corbin vs. Kurt Angle
It’s quite a big shock to actually see how tall Baron Corbin is when you compare him to Kurt Angle. For what it was, this was a pretty good match. Corbin was able to use his strength over Angle to gain an advantage, as well as hitting his sprint-around-the-ring-post clothesline, which is always a cool move. Angle was also able to get all his major moves in, with an Angle slam as well as the Ankle Lock, although Corbin escaped quickly. The match did end pretty abruptly though with Corbin winning with the Deep Six, a move he hasn’t won with in nearly three years. Post-match, Corbin would deliver a beatdown to Angle by hitting the End Of Days. I’m not really sure where they are going with Angle, whether it’s a ‘Can he still go?’ storyline or if he’s just putting the new talent over. Either way, it doesn’t affect him one bit but it just feels random.
We cut to Finn Balor backstage getting praise off Heath Slater and Rhyno, as well as Heavy Machinery, for his Universal Title performance against Brock Lesnar at Royal Rumble.
Finn Balor Promo
Very rarely, especially with fans in the current wrestling environment, does a loss actually push someone up the card, although that is the case for Finn Balor. Balor talked about how, despite losing last night, he saw it as a form of victory, as he made Brock Lesnar believe in Finn Balor, and that Balor could beat him as shown by the post-match attack. This led to the Intercontinental Champion Bobby Lashley and his mouthpiece Lio Rush coming out. Rush called it a disgrace that Finn Balor got a Universal Title match, and that Bobby Lashley is quicker, taller and stronger than Finn Balor. This would lead to a cheap shot from Lashley on Finn Balor before hitting his unique spinebuster variation on Balor three times in a row.
We were shown a short video package of Braun being taken out by McIntyre, Corbin and Lashley at the end of November to hype up their singles match for later in the show.
The Revival vs. Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder
This was built up from last week after Hawkins was the referee who got blamed for The Revival losing a Tag Team Title match to Bobby Roode and Chad Gable, and Zack (not Zach) helping Hawkins out. This was an average TV match, with a reference to Hawkins and Ryder being former Tag Champions back in 2008 being a nice highlight. However, despite their history, all it took was one Shatter Machine to make it 256 on Curt Hawkins’ losing streak.
Backstage, we were shown WWE Champion Daniel Bryan and his new associate Erick Rowan (see the Rumble review for why they’re now together) being interviewed by Charly Caruso. When asked about Seth Rollins, Bryan went on an environmental rant, talking about how to “Burn It Down” destroys the environment.
Elias has turned heel again! This switch seemed out of the blue, with Elias being quite a comfortable babyface beforehand, though he is a much better heel. However, before Elias could play “for himself”, he was interrupted by JE double F JA double R e doubt T, Jeff Jarrett. Jarrett would mention that he wanted to have fun and was still in pain after Elias hit him with the guitar at Royal Rumble. That was not all though. as out came Road Dogg Jesse James. It was like we had turned time back to 1995, with Jarrett and his Roadie on Raw. This then led to the pair singing With My Baby Tonight, which really does show the power of Something To Wrestle With Bruce Prichard to get this over. However, Elias would take both James and Jarrett out with guitar shots, despite Jarrett nearly catching Elias with one of his own.
Backstage, as Natalya and Dana Brooke prepared for their Tag Title qualifier against The Riott Squad. Natalya was bummed that Ember Moon was been ruled out with an elbow injury, but Dana assured her that she was better than Ember, as well as Natalya (laugh emoji). We then had Mojo Rawley cutting a promo backstage, shouting that “you’ve cost me so many opportunities, and now that is going to change”, with Mojo actually shouting at himself in the mirror.
Women’s Tag Team Championship Qualifying Match
Natalya & Dana Brooke vs. The Riott Squad
This match didn’t really get a long time to get going and felt pretty rushed. The big moments were Natalya going ham on The Riott Squad, hitting all her main moves, but a distraction by Ruby after Natalya locked in the Sharpshooter led to the roll-up win for the heels.
Ronda Rousey Open Challenge
The Raw Women’s Champion came down to the ring and, for the second week in a row, did not cut the best promo. Rousey would go on awkwardly to talk about “big ridiculous dreams” (no, she wasn’t talking about AEW fans) and how much she has accomplished, in what seemed to be in quite an arrogant manner. Ronda’s opponent came out, and it turned out to be The Hugger herself, Bayley, attempting to do what her best friend Sasha Banks could not do.
Raw Women’s Championship Match
Ronda Rousey (C) vs. Bayley
For how much stick I may give to Ronda on the mic, she has come on leaps and bounds in the ring, and she put on another great match with Bayley. Both competitors tried to target a limb on their opponent, with Rousey going for Bayley’s left arm and Bayley going for the left leg on Ronda. Some big spots in this match were Bayley hitting a Bayley To Belly onto the barricade, a leg lock which was very similar to the heel hook applied by Daniel Bryan, as well as her top rope elbow which came very close to earning a three-count. Ronda was also able to connect with her big moves, with the Superman Punch being a highlight, before Bayley nearly won with the Bank Statement. The finish to this would be a copy of the Evolution main event, as Rousey was able to reverse a move off the second rope (the most dangerous rope according to OSW) and locked in the armbar for the win.
Post-match, Bayley and Ronda would shake hands, but then things heated up because THE MAN CAME AROUND. The women’s Rumble winner Becky Lynch made an appearance and made her intentions clear, saying “Ronnie, I told you I would find a way back to you again”. Becky said that at WrestleMania 35, she will be challenging Ronda Rousey for the Raw Women’s Title. Ronda would respond to Becky and the hostile crowd by saying she “could kill Becky with her bare hands if (she) wanted to”, and that she’s been the pinnacle of female sport for ten years whilst Becky was still training to wrestle. This Mania match has a big-time hype to it.
Braun Strowman vs. Drew McIntyre
I was quite shocked that this would be happening on Raw, as this is a PPV quality match-up and, in the right circumstances, a PPV main event. However, this match went the exact way one would expect. Both McIntyre and Strowman were able to hit power moves, with Strowman throwing McIntyre off the ring apron being the highlight, before Baron Corbin got involved to give Strowman a DQ win. This would lead to Strowman taking out both Corbin and McIntyre post-match, but when it seemed that he was going to get revenge on Corbin for the steel stairs attack, McIntyre provided the rescue.
Seth Rollins/Brock Lesnar Segment
For the closing segment on Raw, the Universal Champion Brock Lesnar and his advocate Paul Heyman hit the ring. Heyman congratulated Rollins on winning the Rumble and said there was only one title he could go for, which was that of Daniel Bryan. This was because Seth Rollins would not be having a “sports entertainment” match with Brock Lesnar, but a “fight”. This would lead to Rollins coming out, who at first stared down The Beast Incarnate before hitting him with a low superkick and attempting the Curb Stomp. However, Lesnar caught Rollins and hit him with the F5. Lesnar would go on to do this five more times to end the show.
Overall, Raw was a pretty solid show, with every segment having a reason to be there and building up to something. However, it can be quite disheartening when the highlight of the show was a SmackDown star appearing, but with Becky Lynch moving to Raw, I cannot complain on the road to both Elimination Chamber and, of course, WrestleMania 35.