OH MY GOD, IT’S JOHHHHHHHHHHHHHN CEEEEEEEEEEEEENA!! And in a whole new attire that he promptly gives to a Make-A-Wish kid as a gift, in case you forgot that he’s the nicest guy that ever lived. Whatever Cena has to say has to wait, though, as Elias shows up to crash the party and sing a song trashing the Chicago crowd. Ironically, considering some of the raps he used to perform, this gets Cena all riled up and they end up having a bit of an impromptu match. Apparently, Cena is still the machine he always was and hasn’t missed a step, working his ass off to make the Drifter look like a million bucks. Elias manages to fight out of the STF and hit the Drift Away, but Cena kicks out and lands all of his traditional offense before putting Elias away with the Attitude Adjustment. Although Elias didn’t get to kick out of the AA, like most of Cena’s challengers do, this was still a pretty good match for the Drifter; he controlled the majority of it and looked better than he has since debuting on the main roster. Somehow I doubt that that the WWE will capitalise on such a good showing but it was a good showing, nonetheless.
Hideo Itami has his first-ever main roster singles match, taking out The Brain Kendrick with the GTS for a strong win. Itami is a nice breath of fresh air for the cruiserweight division, a face that people know and who they can get behind, but I’m sure it won’t be long before he becomes just another face in the sea of cruiserweights. This was followed by Paige, Mandy Rose, and Sonja Deville re-establishing their dominance in the women’s division ahead of the women’s Royal Rumble match by beating Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Mickie James in a six-woman tag team match. Paige got the win, hitting the Ram-Paige on Bayley, which I always love to see.
WWE finally remembers that Heath Slater works for them, feeding him to Kane; after the match, Kane gets into a brawl with Rhyno and ends up Chokeslamming his ass. Where the hell was this match when Finn Balor was getting his legs cut off by Kane a few weeks back? Surely the idea of Kane decimating Slater and then having a hoss brawl with Rhyno is better than Balor being sacrificed to Kane’s alter? Speaking of Finn, he gets to beat Curt Hawkins following this match…I don’t know why or what the hell this was all about? Why waste Finn in this kind of match, against a guy nobody gives two shits about?
It’s okay, though, because we then got our traditional six-man cruiserweight tag team match, which saw Cedric Alexander, Akira Tozawa, and Mustafa Ali beat Drew Gulak, Enzo Amore, and Ariya Daivari in less than ten minutes. I guess we can forget all about Tozawa’s involvement with Titus Worldwide, then? Also, is it too much to ask that Enzo just has a one-on-one feud or, like, utilises his partnership with Drew Gulak to have a face go up against the odds to get a one-on-one title match? Must we constantly be exposed to his throwaway multi-man matches every week?
Roman Reigns makes his return to Raw to defend the Intercontinental Championship against Samoa Joe. I’m glad to see that Reigns is actually defending the belt on a regular basis and not just carrying it around like a prop but what did Joe do to earn a title shot, again? Maybe I’m missing or forgetting something. Then again, this was a pretty good match; these two work really well together, throwing stiff attacks and really letting the action escalate. It’s just a shame that the match went to a disqualification; after the match, Reigns attacked Joe with the steel steps but Joe managed to escape before any real damage could be done. If this was all to set up another match, or a feud between these two, to keep Reigns busy on the road towards facing Brock Lesnar, I’m all for it.
Braun Strowman destroyed Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas. Afterwards, he destroyed them some more. Did Strowman and Balor fall victim to 2K Sports’ dodgy MyPlayer mode and randomly swap opponents and career paths this week? Well, whatever; afterwards, Asuka puts the fear of God into Alexa Bliss by announcing that she is officially entering the women’s Royal Rumble match.
The main event this week saw Sheamus and Cesaro putting the Raw Tag Team Championships on the line against Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan, as Dean Ambrose is out with an injury for, like, nine months. Interestingly, this thrown together team manages to work as a cohesive unit; I say “interestingly” as it was only, like, last week that the Shield weren’t too thrilled with working with Jordan. Anyway, they worked so well that Jordan was able to take advantage during the late-match chaos to hit his weird, unnamed Pop-Up Neckbreaker thing on Cesaro to get the win for his team, becoming a champion alongside Rollins. This was….very surprising, considering that Jordan has been whining and complaining and seemingly heading towards a heel turn but has now, randomly, course-corrected towards a championship after his chances at facing the Miz were just forgotten about. My main issue with this, though, is that I would have much preferred to see Rollins’ substitute partner by Finn Balor. Strowman could have destroyed Hawkins, Angle could have booked Jordan to face the Miz-tourage or someone else to get his foot back in the door of the Intercontinental Championship scene, and then Balor could have teamed up with Rollins, playing into their history, and formed a super-team capable of beating the tag champs. Balor would be elevated back into a position where he could do something more than just beat losers, we would have gotten a dream team of Rollins and Balor, Jordan could continue towards his heel turn, and Ambrose could have entered into a feud with Balor upon his return and subsequent heel turn. Instead, though, Jordan gets the spot because, apparently, Jason-friggin’-Jordan is more over than Finn Balor?
Daniel Bryan opens the show to announce that, since Dolph Ziggler has officially relinquished the United States Championship, he’s announcing a tournament to crown a new champion starting tonight. Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin then came out to, rightly, complain that they haven’t had a straight up match for the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championships, which they deserve after pinning the champions. Rusev and Aiden English and the New Day come out to also stake their claim to the belts, so Bryan books them all into a triple threat match to determine the number one contenders, which was subsequently won by Gable and Benjamin. The match itself was pretty good, with Rusev locking the Accolade onto Gable and Xavier Woods at the same time, Big E spearing Shelton through the ropes and to the floor, and Gable ultimately pinning Big E after the Doomsday Bomb. Glad to see some payoff to the Gable and Benjamin team up, and that the New Day didn’t win.
The Bludgeon Brothers were seconds away from murdering Tyler Breeze and Fandango before the Ascension run in to save them, resulting in a disqualification. Afterwards, the Ascension announces that Breezango will challenge them again next week…not sure what that was all about, maybe the Bludgeon Brothers are going to end up fighting the Ascension? But…surely some wins for the Ascension would help build interest in that match, considering they haven’t had a match in….months?
Ruby Riott defeated Naomi and, afterwards, the Riott Squad beat her up until Charlotte Flair, Natalya, Lana, Tamina, and Carmella chased them off. Are these latter women all friends again now? Whatever, there are no friends in a Royal Rumble match!
The United States Championship Tournament officially begins with Bobby Roode defeating Baron Corbin in a decent enough match; Corbin worked a slow and steady pace, grounding Roode and wearing him down and building up to bigger, more impactful moves. It was all for naught in the end, though, and manages to roll Corbin up to get the win. As much as I would love to see Corbin get more of the spotlight and have his push renewed, it’s time to utilise Roode to the best of his ability and, having him win and, perhaps, become the United States Champion would really help with that.
The second match in the tournament happened immediately afterwards, with Jinder Mahal defeating Tye Dillinger. Tye put in a good effort, hitting all of his signature moves, but ultimately fell to the Khallas. I would have liked to see Tye win as I feel he’s also underutilised and could be a great addition to the United States Championship scene, but this was a great way of keeping Mahal relevant after his time with the WWE Championship. I don’t really expect Mahal to win the WWE Championship again or even be a main eventer again unless injuries leave a hole he could fill but, definitely, he should remain a credible heel after all the effort the WWE put into his title reign.
AJ Styles gets one more match against Kevin Owens to main event the show. Like all of their previous matches, this was actually shaping up to be something really special; Styles and Owens don’t necessarily have the greatest chemistry, it’s true, but it’s difficult to really generate that chemistry and get into their matches when they are constantly playing second fiddle to McMahon-related shenanigans. In this case, Shane McMahon came down to eject Sami Zayn after he distracted AJ, only to end up distracting the referee from seeing AJ’s pin fall attempt, therefore allowing Owens to roll up AJ for the win. Afterwards, AJ is visibly mad at Shane as Kevin and Sami celebrate; didn’t we already see this happen? Shane and AJ had a match, didn’t they? Why are we seeing the same shit happening within the same year? AJ needs to be kept away from Shane and all this crap to concentrate on walking into WrestleMana with the WWE Championship.