Why, if it isn’t DAH BIG DAWG! Roman Reigns opens Raw this week to run down Samoa Joe before Jason Jordan and, eventually, Seth Rollins pop out so we can bicker about how Jordan is no Dean Ambrose, is nowhere near Ambrose’s league, and how he was the worst replacement of a partner. The guy who should have been Rollins’ partner, Finn Balor, heads out with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson (now, officially, collectively referring to themselves as Balor Club) to remind the former Shield guys how dominant their little threesome used to be and end up being booked into a six-man tag team match for the main event.
But why wait until the main event for multi-man action as Bayley and Sasha Banks (with Mickie James) took on, and defeated, Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose (with Paige). It’s nice to see Bayley getting wins, even if it was her team mate who secured the victory, considering the recent rumours the that WWE have “given up” on her, which is bullshit, but is it just me or has Absolution very quickly fallen to the sting of 50/50 booking?
Matt Hardy makes his in-ring debut as Woken Matt, with new messed up entrance music to boot, handing Curt Hawkins his 153rd loss with the Twist of Fate (which the announcers seem to have set up to be renamed “Control, Alt, Delete!”). Afterwards, Bray Wyatt heads to the ring and the two laugh at each other in their unique maniacal ways. I really hope that the match/es between these two actually deliver; Matt’s not getting any younger and Bray really needs a decent rub to become a serious contender again.
The wait is over, it’s finally time for Enzo Amore to put the WWE Cruiserweight Championship on the line against Rich Swann…err, I mean, Cedric Alexander. The match ended when Cedric flew over the top rope and took Enzo out in a move that seems to have injured Enzo’s ankle and, ultimately, resulted in the count out victory for Cedric. Too bad if Enzo’s injured as we’ll be denied the big pay off of seeing him drop the belt (again, I mean…since they already did all that with Kalisto).
Sheamus and Cesaro got absolutely screwed over next as they took on Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews in one of the handful of times they have ever actually followed my advice and been a tag team and ended up losing! The finish was presented as a fluke (Sheamus missed the Brogue Kick and got rolled up out of nowhere) but still, this is some fresh bullshit right here. Titus and Apollo have been completely irrelevant for ages now but now we’re supposed to take them seriously just because of a fluke win? It’s such a cheap way of pushing them into relevance rather than actually bothering to build them up properly. Also, Titus and Apollo can win this match but creative have nothing for the Revival to do? Crazy.
Brock Lesnar favours us with his presence; hope he wasn’t too inconvenienced by having to get out of bed and go to work. Anyway, Paul Heyman hypes up how unstoppable Lesnar is only for Kane to ambush them at the top of the ramp. Kane and Lesnar brawl backstage and Braun Strowman pops up, throwing Lesnar through a table and straight-up murdering Kane by throwing one of those huge production boxes at his head! Then, right, then, he finds a grappling hook, chucks it over the rigging and yanks the whole structure down on both men! Fantastic!
Samoa Joe chokes out Rhyno in no time at all to build some momentum for his upcoming Intercontinental Championship match against Reigns and vows to win the Royal Rumble. Again, Rhyno really should have taken Finn’s place a while back when Kane was on his rampage; he’s a solid guy for bigger guys to go toe-to-toe with and is reasonable credible as an opponent. Oh, afterwards, Nia Jax beat the snot out of Asuka before their match could actually start; wasn’t Nia a face a while ago? I don’t even know anymore.
Balor Club took on Reigns, Rollins, and Jordan in a match whose sole purpose was to hammer home that Jordan is a complete annoyance to the Shield boys; his over enthusiastic attempts to prove himself and be a part of the team ended up with him in an argument with Reigns that led to Balor getting a huge win over Rollins. Afterwards, the Miz and the Miz-tourage attacked Reigns. If this was the plan for Balor all along then I approve of his renewed direction but what a fucked up, half-assed way to go about it; have Gallows and Anderson hardly ever on television and lose when they are, decreasing in relevance every week, then bury Finn for no reason, then slap them together. They’re not even selling it like the three are coming together to address those issues (yet, anyway) but I find it extremely telling that the Club is winning and relevant now that Balor is on the team. Now, have Gallows and Anderson win the Raw Tag Team Championships and Balor the Intercontinental Championship (I’d say the Universal Championship but let’s be realistic, shall we?) and have them go through a tear having feuds with the fully-healthy Shield, Bray and some followers (SAnitY, or whoever) and make them stars.
AJ Styles opens the show for a literal sit-down with Renee Young in the middle of the ring. He questions Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon’s decision-making skills in light of last week and, naturally, gets interrupted by Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. They vow to walk out of Royal Rumble as co-World Champions (which, honestly, might be an interesting new storyline leading to the inevitable break up of their team) and end up being booked into a three-on-two handicap tag team match by Shane.
Becky Lynch makes her triumphant in-ring return against Ruby Riott in a match that happened. Becky is capable of more. This was followed by the Bludgeon Brothers steam-rollering over the Ascension in a throwaway match that, hopefully, spells the end of this weird little thing between these teams. It’s literally done nothing but made jobbers out of Breezango, reminded everyone that the Ascension aren’t taken seriously, and reintroduced Harper and Rowan (oooooooooh! Maybe that was the plan?)
The Hype Bros explode…again…in another match in the United States Championship tournament with Mojo Rawley making short work of Zack Ryder. It’s not like anyone thought Ryder had a chance and he played his role well as a face in peril but I hope they use this as an opportunity to do something with Mojo’s new heel turn (a name and attire change would help a lot) and keep these guys away from each other rather than fighting endlessly.
Speaking of Breezango…they beat Rusev and Aiden English out of the blue and completely randomly. Very similar to Titus and Apollo’s random roll-up win over Sheamus and Cesaro, this really raises more questions that it answers; so Tyler Breeze and Fandango can’t even stand up against the Bludgeon Brothers but they can score fluke wins over Rusev and English and pin Rusev, no less, a man who has still only been beaten by a handful of names. This seemed to do more harm to Rusev than good for Breezango and it seems as though the WWE is suddenly rushing to slap artificially make all their tag teams relevant, almost as if they wasted 2017 spinning their wheels on the divisions.
AJ Styles, Randy Orton, and Shinsuke Nakamura teamed up against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in the main event. Once again, what could (and should) have been a massively competitive and engaging match between some of SmackDown! Live’s top stars is completely overshadowed by Shane’s shenanigans: when Owens and Zane walk out on the match, Shane makes it no count out; when they start bringing in the chairs, Shane makes it no disqualification. It all adds up enough for Nakamura and Orton to hit the KinshasssssssssssAH~!! and RKO combination on Sami to get the win. I just really, really could do without Shane and Bryan’s shit taking away from these kinds of matches.