In case you didn’t notice, this week marked twenty-five years of Raw so the WWE decided to largely forgo the build up to Royal Rumble in favour of a simultaneous broadcast from the Barclays Center and the Manhattan Center filled with nostalgia acts, video packages, and backstage segments. Apparently, the live crowds were less than impressed with the lack of matches and having to watch most of the action on the TitanTron and I don’t blame them. considering the stacked roster Raw has and all the old guys they had come back, and with Royal Rumble on Sunday, they could’ve easily put on a lot more in-ring action.
Anyway, the show opens backstage with Faarooq and Bradshaw having locked themselves out of their makeshift office; those silly old fools!
After a whole load of video packages and shit, the show finally starts with Stephanie and Shane McMahon in the ring honouring their father with the cheapest little plaque you’ve ever seen. Vince McMahon struts out to a thunderous reaction and goes off on one, mocking his children and the crowd, only for BAH-GAWD! Stone Cold Steve Austin to come out and dish out the Stunners. Vince tries to beg off and they even share a toast but he still gets hit with the old Stunner. Good times…if only today’s stars were allowed to be that popular.
Next up, the WWE Six-Woman Tag Team Championship was up for grabs again as Asuka, Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Mickie James took on and defeated Nia Jax, Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, and Alicia Fox. Now, I realise that this was an eight-woman tag match and not a six but, come on now, seriously with the multi-person matches! The whole point of this was to make Asuka look strong ahead of the women’s Royal Rumble match, which she did when she took out everyone (including her team mates) after the match.
More wacky shenanigans backstage as Jonathan Coachman meets with Kurt Angle and they share laughs with Harvey Whimpleman, the Brooklyn Brawler, Teddy Long, Brother Love, and the Boogeyman in what can only be described as a parade of insanity.
Next up, despite the fact that his career was over at WrestleMania XXX and he basically all-but-retired at last year’s WrestleMania, the Undertaker makes his dramatic return and cuts an uninterrupted promo about how he’s beaten everyone who’s come his way. Apparently, this was supposed to be a setup for a WrestleMania match against John Cena but that had to be canned because of Samoa Joe’s injury (we’ll get to that later). Instead I guess this was just a “hey, look, it’s the Undertaker!” moment.
Meanwhile…Faarooq and Bradshaw play poker with Heath Slater, Rhyno, and the Million Dollar Man…then John Laurinaitis, William Regal, Eric Bischoff, and (randomly) Daniel Bryan came out for some cheers. Okay…
Oh my God, it’s a match! The Miz, with Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas, finally got his Intercontinental Championship match against DAH BIG DAWG! Roman Reigns. The Miz-tourage constantly tried to get involved and distract Reigns but, because he’s Roman Reigns and it was a big time match, Reigns took them out and kicked out of the Skull-Crushing Finale and then went for the Spear and…missed, got slammed into an exposed turnbuckle, and caught with another Skull-Crushing Finale and lost the match. Okay, wow, not only was that a pretty decent match but I honestly did not expect Reigns to lose here, much less lose the belt. I was certain they were going to go with the belt vs. belt match with Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. I actually almost wish they had done that as I was kind of hoping to see the Miz move away from the Intercontinental Championship (he’s an eight-time champion now) and the door for Reigns to once again win the Royal Rumble is apparently open a lot wider now, which would piss off a lot of people, I’m sure.
MVP, Jimmy and Jey Uso, and Jeff Hardy deal themselves into the APA’s poker game. Then Christian comes out to talk to Jason Jordan and Seth Rollins on the Peep Show. The crowd absolutely hated Jordan, especially when he kept going on about Kurt Angle. Sheamus and Cesaro interrupted looking for a fight and, although Rollins is able to fight them off, he accidentally took out Jordan as well. Apparently this is to setup for a WrestleMania match between the two, which sounds like a great opportunity for Jordan that I don’t believe the WWE will capitalise on and a major step down for Rollins, who really should have teamed with Finn Balor to setup a far more interesting match.
But whatever, it’s time for the big blow-off to the Bray Wyatt/Woken Matt Hardy feud with….a mediocre effort that was over in less than ten minutes. Check outside and look at the sky, though, because Wyatt actually won the match! I mean, I’m sure that it’ll mean nothing for him but he won, you know? Hopefully this will be like the Matt/Jeff feud in Impact Wrestling not that long ago where losing makes Matt snap more and we can go full-on crazy so these two can actually try to entertain us and not be left off the WrestleMania card.
Hey, look, it’s the Bella Twins, Maryse, Kelly Kelly, Lilian Garcia, Jacqueline, Torrie Wilson, Michelle McCool, Terri Runnells, Maria Kanellis, and Trish Stratus! What a time to be alive.
So, apparently, Samoa Joe is injured so the planned feud between him and John Cena has had to be shelved and who, I hear you ask, is Joe’s replacement? Balor? Undertaker? The Miz? Nope, it’s…Elias. Elias sings a song, generating some great heel heat, and Cena interrupts him for a bit of a scuffle that, surprisingly, Elias wins when he punches Cena in the dick, smashes him with his guitar, and takes him out with the Drift Away. I find Elias to be a bit bland, if I’m honest, but working with Cena might actually help him to improve and it definitely gets him a lot of exposure. He’s not much of a replacement for Joe, though, as until now he hadn’t really been doing much of anything.
Meanwhile…Bradshaw yells at Slater for cheating, the Million Dollar Man won the game, and then Mark Henry bumps into the Godfather and meets his wife. Riveting stuff. Oh, and Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews defeated Slater and Rhyno in a tag match; see, if they’d won against these guys two weeks ago and then got a fluke win over Sheamus and Cesaro and then got another fluke win maybe then I would get them suddenly being pushed but, as it is, not so much. But it’s okay because the Dudley Boyz came back and put Slater through a table with the 3D while Slater, Titus, and Crews celebrated.
Mean Gene Okerlund shows us how it’s done by interviewing AJ Styles, who vowed to defeated Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. More importantly, Triple H and Shawn Michaels come out to soak up the screen time and tell stories and bring out Billy Gunn, Road Dogg, X-Pac, and Scott Hall for yet another of their self-indulgent reunions. Finn Balor, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson pop out to share the “too sweet” gesture before their match with the Revival.
I blinked, the match is over. The plus side is that Gallows and Anderson won. The down side is that the match was about two minutes long and then the Revival got beaten up by everyone, which is exactly what I feared would happen last week. Remember when the Ascension got the shit kicked out of them a while back by all the old guys? Where are they now? The Revival are better than this; their match against the Club should have been a proper competitive affair, not some nothing squash and then a stomping. Literally, Titus Worldwide has more credibility as a tag team right now than the Revival.
So after all the backstage crap, Angle comes out with the APA and a bunch of veterans to bring out Braun Strowman, Kane, and Brock Lesnar. I dunno what their plan was but, as you’d expect, the three monsters all went at each other. Lesnar planted Kane with the F5 but than Strowman Powerslammed his lazy ass though the announce table and that, ladies and gentlemen, is about all the build up we got for Royal Rumble this week on Raw.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn open the show to brag about how they’ll be co-champions after Royal Rumble despite Shane McMahon putting the odds against them. AJ Styles pops out to dispute all this and then Daniel Bryan books AJ to face Owens and Zayn back-to-back later in the night. I don’t really get Bryan’s deal, to be honest; he’s all over the place and really should just stay out of this stuff.
Chad Gable took on Jey Uso, with Jimmy Uso and Shelton Benjamin at ringside, to help spice up their feud. This really worked as well as it was nice to see a single match rather than another tag team affair; Gable got the win, as well, furthering their momentum and also the apparent double-turn that we’re going to get at Royal Rumble.
Naomi defeated Liv Morgan and then, similar to Raw, all of the women had a big brawl because first-ever women’s Royal Rumble, people!
Shinsuke Nakamura took on Baron Corbin in a pretty fantastic big man vs. little man match; Shinsuke used his speed, landing his trademark strikes and trying to weather Corbin’s high-impact offense. Nakamura spun out of the End of Days into an Armbar, which was pretty spectacular, and was just about to his the Kinshasa when Randy Orton literally flew into the ring and laid his buddy out with n RKO to end the match in a disqualification. Afterwards, he planted Corbin as well. This was a pretty good match with an exciting, unexpected finish that protected everyone and setup some atmosphere for the Royal Rumble match and, potentially, Orton’s WrestleMania feud against Nakamura.
Bobby Roode and the New Day took on Rusev, Aiden English, and Jinder Mahal. I guess Mahal and Rusev have put aside their differences, then? For a six-man tag team match, this was criminally short as it was like a snapshot of what all these guys could do when they’re in the ring together. The only gripe I have is that Roode really should be setting up some feuds for the United States Championship he just won (and no, not against Rusev; Rusev needs to concentrate on his tag team with SmackDown! Live’s top heel, Aiden English).
AJ Styles tapped out Kevin Owens in less than two minutes; apparently Owens is injured, which I guess explains that, and then had to fight Sami Zayn straight away. Zayn finally got a chance to put on a showcase of his potential and what he is capable of thanks to the opportunity he got against AJ here, throwing everything he had at AJ and dodging the Styles Clash with ease and grace. Styles gets distracted tossing Owens off his stretcher, though, which led to Zayn hitting the Helluva Kick and planting Styles with the Blue Thunder Bomb and picking up a major win. This was a pretty great match, setting up that Zayn is a credible threat and has a win over the champion, that Styles is getting a bit distracted with this feud, and that Owens is hurt (I guess?)
WWE SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship Two-Out-Of-Three-Falls Match: The Usos (c) vs. Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin
The story going into this match is that Gable and Shelton have the Usos’ number and, of course, that there seems to be a double-turn coming as Gable and Shelton have upped their aggression in recent weeks and the Usos have started to play more to the crowd. I kind of like the idea of Shelton’s big comeback and randomly being put into this thrown-together team with Gable resulting in them winning the belts but, honestly, Shelton and Gable aren’t really impressing me that much. Having said that, I think a win for them would allow them the chance to thrive as a cocky heel team, similar to Sheamus and Cesaro, and I’m sick of seeing the Usos with the belts so I will pick Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable to win here.
WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match: Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan
Okay, I have to keep saying it, but Rollins really should have teamed with Balor after Dean Ambrose got injured. They have the history and the match between those two after the split is guaranteed to be a block buster. I’m all for Jordan getting opportunities but he should have realised them ages ago against the Miz and become the Intercontinental Champion. Instead, I have to assume that Jordan’s bullshit will cost them this match and that Sheamus and Cesaro will regain the belts, setting up the Rollins/Jordan WrestleMania feud and, hopefully, please God, a hard-hitting, no nonsense feud with either Balor Club or the Revival (or both! Anyone but Titus-fucking-Worldwide!)
WWE Championship Handicap Match: AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
Will this be allowed to be a match between three of SmackDown! Live’s top guys or will it be overshadowed, yet again, by Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon? The story should be that AJ has to have his game face on to face these odds but its not, is it? It’s all about Shane McMahon and why? Is it going too lead to WWE Champion AJ Styles and Shane McMahon facing Owens and Zayn at WrestleMania? Oh God, no, I never said that!! I think we’ll see either Owens or Zayn get the win through shenanigans and then Shane and/or Bryan will reverse the decision or restart the match and AJ Styles will retain.
WWE Universal Championship Triple Threat Match: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane
We could’ve got Balor vs. Lesnar but no, apparently the long-term plan for Finn was to not really do much but have squash matches, steal the show against AJ Styles, get buried by Kane, and then randomly team up with Gallows and Anderson right when the Shield is injured or busy with other stuff so, instead, we have this match. The best thing about all of this build up has, of course, been Braun Strowman; I used to call Finn bulletproof but the WWE have riddled him lately but Braun, on the other hand, is truly bulletproof right now. He can take the fight to both guys, destroy them both, and be taken out in a suitably over-the-top way and still look fantastic. I honestly believe that, were it not for Lesnar’s stranglehold on the belt, Strowman would have been the unstoppable dominant monster champion. I love Kane but he has no place main eventing in 2018 and he is really out of place in this match; he should be passing the monster torch to Strowman while Lesnar faces Balor but, instead, we have this. Oh, and Brock Lesnar is winning; hopefully Kane takes the fall.
First-Ever Thirty-Woman Women’s Royal Rumble Match: Naomi vs. Asuka vs. Ruby Riott vs. Natalya vs. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley vs. Mandy Rose vs. Sonya Deville vs. Carmella vs. Tamina vs. Lana vs. Liv Morgan vs. Sarah Logan vs. Mickie James vs. Nia Jax vs. Becky Lynch vs. Alicia Fox vs. Dana Brooke, and others
It’s history in the making, Michael! The first-ever women’s Royal Rumble match. I’m okay with it, honestly, but, similar to the women’s Money in the Bank match, I have to ask…where is the cruiserweight Royal Rumble? The Intercontinental Royal Rumble? The Tag Team…well, you get the idea. Rumours are rampant that Ronda Rousey is going to make her in-ring debut and possibly win this match but I’m going to go with Asuka to win seeing as she’s the one that’s been most heavily ear-marked for it and, after all her squash matches and build up, kind of needs it.
Thirty-Man Royal Rumble Match: Elias vs. Randy Orton vs. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. John Cena vs. Finn Bálor vs. Baron Corbin vs. Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Rusev vs. Aiden English vs. Apollo Crews vs. Titus O’Neil vs. The Miz vs. Tye Dillinger vs. Big E vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Xavier Woods, and many more
Honestly, this is the hardest Royal Rumble to predict in years; the last two or three years it’s clearly been Roman Reigns that was going to win but, this year, it hasn’t been that simple. Even when he had the Intercontinental Championship it seemed that the fastest, easiest way to setup the belt vs. belt match was to have Reigns win (again) and go on to face Lesnar (again). Now that he’s not got the belt so it seems like the door is open a bit wider for him to win but is the crowd really ready to cheer a Reigns victory? The thing is, though, who else has been built up to win this match? I’d want to pick Nakamura for a Nakamura/Styles match but his push has been really underwheleming; he was supposed to be one of SmackDown! Live’s top stars and, instead, he’s just treading water. Balor? I wish but it doesn’t seem likely since they want Reigns/Lesnar so…I hope it’s Nakamura or a SmackDown! Live guy but, let’s face it, it’s going to be Roman Reigns.