Seth Rollins opened the show this week, which is only fitting as he has been carrying Raw for the last year or so; he brought out Baron Corbin to call him out for the state of Raw (I wish we could pin all the blame on him…) and to accuse him of being incompetent. Rollins even mentioned what I (and, I am sure, everyone) has talked about concerning the Revival being buried in pointless matches with the Lucha House Party, the terrible angle the Authors of Pain have found themselves in, and Brock Lesnar’s constantly absenteeism. Corbin basically shrugged it off and ended up booking himself into a TLC match for the Intercontinental Championship, which seems a bit like overkill and the WWE lessening the impact of TLC, which is only a few days away. Although this was great for Rollins, as he painted himself as the number one babyface on Raw, it kind of felt like the WWE were desperately trying to make this Seth’s “pipe bomb” promo, and it therefore seemed a little forced. Also, considering all the issues he’s had with Corbin and his cronies, and the amount he was on the show last week, I kind of feel like Finn Balor should have gotten this mic time, especially as Seth’s concerns should be focused on Dean Ambrose and the Intercontinental Championship.
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable debuted their matching robes which, I honestly feel, is a really bad move, and look, for Gable; I cannot stress enough how much I wish these two weren’t stuck in the tag team division. Their abilities could really be put to better use in programs for the Intercontinental Championship; imagine heel Roode, plucky underdog Gable, mental Ambrose, charismatic Elias, super-face Balor, no-nonsense, ass-kicking Mojo Rawley, and even guys like Apollo Crews, Heath Slater, and Zack Ryder all vying for the belt and having exciting matches each week. But, no, Drake Maverick has to piss his pants so Vince McMahon can get his rocks off. Anyway, Maverick put himself into this match to make it a handicap match, which ended up costing the AOP the Raw Tag Team Championships as Drake got himself pinned. I’m sure it’s pretty depressing backstage when the AOP and the Ascension share their memories of “making it to the big time”.
Natalya was out next to talk about Ruby Riott; man, that one pair of what I am sure is thousands of pairs of sunglasses really meant a lot to Nattie! Anyway, Natalya vowed to teach Ruby some respect and dedicated their upcoming match at TLC to her late father, which brought out the Riott Squad, who came packing with a table, which Ruby then promised to put her through at TLC. Pretty basic stuff.
Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre went at it again; great, it’s only been a short time since they officially split up and they’ve already fought two weeks in a row! Dolph attacked right from the start but Drew quickly took over with hard-hitting offense, including a pretty nasty-looking Air Raid Crash. They tried repeating the count out tease from last week but, this time, when Drew beat the count, Dolph didn’t have the energy to capitalise so Drew hit the Claymore, won the match, and beat the piss out of him afterwards. I guess these means we will see them lock up again, probably at TLC, but hopefully that is a match purely for Dolph to bounce around for Drew and elevate him past this story.
Bayley and Alicia Fox went at it next, with Sasha Banks, Jinder Mahal, and the Singh Brothers all at ringside. Apollo Crews showed up mid-way through to help deal with Mahal and the Singhs, which was enough motivation to allow Bayley to hit the Bayley-To-Belly and get the win. This was purely here to hype the Mixed Match Challenge match involving all of these guys, so it wasn’t really much to write home about. It’s weird that the WWE only remembers that they were trying to push Apollo as an upcoming babyface when Balor is out with an “injury”; maybe if they kept his push consistent then he wouldn’t be so unfairly labelled as being bland.
Elias came out to play a song in which he took shots at Bobby Lashley and played up to the crowd and the town; that’s kind of weird, I think it would be better if face-Elias didn’t suddenly starting singing the praises of the crowd and whatever town he’s in and simply used his singing to run down his opponents. Anyway, this led to a match between Elias and Lio Rush (with Lashley at ringside, of course, and Heath Slater as the referee); Lio never really stood a chance here as he is a mere cruiserweight and Elias is…not…?….the WWE doesn’t really have much weight definition between cruiser-, heavy-, and super-heavy weight so I don’t know what you’d call him. Lashley interjected himself right as Elias looked to have the match won, smashing Elias with his guitar and forcing Heath to make the count.
Alexa Bliss hosted another of her “sessions”, this time between Nia Jax and Tamina, which was basically just an excuse for Nia to taunt Ronda Rousey and Becky Lynch and get some more heat (well, I guess “hate” would be the more appropriate word). Afterwards, Tamina went up against Ember Moon but, luckily for us, Ronda was there to neutralise Nia, and Ember picked up a well-deserved win over a far less capable competitor.
This week’s main event saw Raw’s top (and, basically, only) belt, the Intercontinental Championship on the line in a TLC match. Corbin forced Slater to be the referee and then abused his power throughout the match by having Heath grab ladders, set them up, and even push Rollins off of ladders when he was making the climb. This match was all Seth Rollins, who threw everything he had into making Corbin look credible and capable; Corbin laid into him with chair shots, suplexes onto the ladder, the Deep Six, and a Chokelsam through a table and it genuinely seemed like he could win at any time. However, Rollins rallied back, took out Slater with a Superkick, Powerbombed Corbin through a table, hit the Stomp, and retrieved his belt. See, this is the issue I have with Corbin having this non-wrestling, ill-fitting authority role; he doesn’t get any time between the ropes to hone his craft and improve in the ring. He, Drew, and the AOP really should have been cast as Stephanie McMahon’s enforcers to capture Raw’s top gold and give her control of the show; instead, as much as I like Corbin’s look and tolerate his limited in-ring ability, he is being wasted away to nothingness by being this arrogant blowhard who gets rings run around him by vastly superior guys, no matter how many times he puts himself in matches with them.
Daniel Bryan and his big hunk of gold opened the show to accuse the people of being sheep and parasites who take everything from you and never give anything back; I mean, he’s not wrong, if you discount all the merchandise, ticket sales, and Network subscriptions. He vowed to destroy AJ Styles…in their straight-up singles match…and ended up being challenged by Mustafa Ali, of all people. Cruiserweights on both main rosters?! What is this anarchy!? Anyway, this ended up being the first match of the night, which saw Bryan talking trash and getting frustrated when he couldn’t take the cheap count-out victory. Ali threw all his fancy moves at Bryan, including the Spanish Fly, but crashed and burned on the Imploding 450, which allowed Bryan to tie him up in the Heel Hook and get the win. I make jokes but it’s nice to see surprise challengers being as thing; I’ve missed it from John Cena’s US Open Challenge days.
The Bar and the Usos had a rap battle; the Usos apparently were better so it descended into a brawl, that saw the Bar coming out on top. Afterwards, the Miz came out to the ring and begged Shane McMahon to team up with him; I don’t even really get why the Miz would want to team with Shane. I get rubbing up to “the boss” but is putting yourself in a position where you could lose matches really a winning strategy? I mean, it paid off here, as Miz and Shane managed to defeat a couple of jobbers; I say “Miz and Shane” but it was, of course, “the best in the world” himself who got the victory.
Rusev and Jeff Hardy then teamed up against Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura; there’s something about Nakamura and Joe I can actually get behind as a team. Also, yeah, if you had any doubt about Rusev’s current alignment then put those doubts aside because teaming with Jeff pretty much means you are a face, end of. Anyway, Nakamura went straight for Jeff, probably because he and Randy Orton are still in cahoots, which led to him taking the brunt of the attack for the match. He finally tagged in Rusev, though, who went wild, countered the Kinshasa into a Machka Kick, and got the win.
The main event this week saw Charlotte Flair and Asuka facing off, I think for the first time since WrestleMania, if you can believe that! After a bunch of counters, Asuka pretty much took over; every time Charlotte threw something at her, Asuka had a counter or an answer for it. Charlotte managed to get back control by targeting Asuka’s knee and locked in the Figure Eight; she then hit a Spear but Asuka blocked a Moonsault with her knees. Things were just heating up when, as the fight spilled to the outside, Charlotte attacked Asuka with a kendo stick and got herself disqualified, which I guess is a good way of protecting Asuka heading in to TLC.
SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship Match: The Bar (c) vs. The Usos vs. The New Day
I mean, this match is going to be on the pre-show, right? There’s no tables, ladders, or chairs involved and Vince clearly doesn’t give two shits about tag team wrestling these days so it’s inevitable. Anyway, what a surprise, the Usos and the New Day are back to fighting for the tag belts, right when it looked like we might get the Bludgeon Brothers, the Bar, and the Club getting some time to shine we’re right back to where we were this time last year (actually true given that, I believe, the Usos and the New Day were feuding or at least vying for the belts around this time last year). Anyway, because of that, and the fact that the Usos and the New Day are overplayed at this point, I want to give this one to The Bar and maybe, just maybe, we can get the Club back on television and into a feud with them. Please?
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match: Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Cedric Alexander
Okay, well, if the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship match doesn’t make it onto the pre-show then this definitely well, especially as the Cruiserweight Championship has only made the actual card once this year, I believe. Anyway, yes, it’s these two facing each other once again; I’m sure Buddy Murphy will retain, though, and hopefully move on to a fresh opponent.
Ladder Match with Elias’ guitar above the ring: Elias vs. Bobby Lashley
It is so weird seeing these two face off again, especially as their roles are now reversed; when Elias as the heel, he was quite cowardly and afraid to face Lashley head-on but, now that he’s a face, he’s all for it and right up in his grill. Of all the sudden face/heel turns since Roman Reigns sent Raw into a tailspin, this remains one of the strangest. I see Lashley dominating this match throughout; I also see Lio Rush getting involved and taking a massive bump; finally, I see Elias grabbing the guitar and escaping with a win.
Tables Match: Natalya vs. Ruby Riott
Boy, I sure hope Nattie is wearing her Dad’s sunglasses! Oh…wait…but seriously, this is one of the weaker builds to a grudge match I’ve seen in recent years. I am so sad for Ruby Riott, who seemed to be building so much momentum and on the path towards the belt; were it not for Ronda Rousey, she might even have it, or at least be feuding with Ember Moon for it. But, no, gotta capitalise on Ronda’s mainstream appeal, right? The WWE has a chance to course correct here, though, by having Ruby Riott win and use that momentum to challenge Ronda; Natalya can take the loss and will be a more sympathetic babyface for it, I’m sure.
Mixed Match Challenge Season Two Finals:
…okay, this one is weird; does the WWE not have enough storylines going on right now to put a better match on the TLC card? They couldn’t squeeze one more match out of Randy Orton and Jeff Hardy? Or, you know, put Shinsuke Nakamura against Rusev for the United Stats Championship? Okay, well, whatever…
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match: Seth Rollins (c) vs. Dean Ambrose
This match, and this feud, doesn’t need the belt in it; once again, the WWE has blinkered themselves and seemingly forgotten all the good that Seth has done for the Intercontinental Championship in favour of sticking needles into Dean’s ass and a gas mask on his face. Honestly, Drew McIntyre should have answered the open challenge the other week and Dean should have cost Seth the belt; their feud works much better without the belt involved and then Drew would have some gold to flaunt. Instead, we get this match, which has no other stipulation going for it and is, similar to Elias/Lashley, a strange role reversal situation. With all that in mind, I’m actually going to pick Dean Ambrose to win; hopefully, he will then make a big deal about holding the belt and rub it in Seth’s face so that Seth’s rematch is as much about the belt as it is about ending Dean.
Raw Women’s Championship Match: Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Nia Jax
I literally cannot believe that the WWE can’t find a better opponent for Ronda than this; Ruby? Ember? Hell, even Natalya! But, no, we are lumbered with this; they really need to shuffle some of the women from SmackDown! Live over to Raw in the next Superstar Shake-Up as matches like this really don’t help cover for Ronda’s weaknesses in the ring. Hopefully, this is a quick affair that sees Ronda Rousey retain and collide with Ruby Riott next so we can actually get a half-way decent match out of her.
TLC Match: Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin
The stipulation here is that, if Braun wins, he gets another Universal Championship shot but, if Corbin wins, he becomes the uncontested General Manager of Raw. Literally, there have never been higher stakes in wrestling! As of this writing, it’s still unknown is Braun will actually be healthy enough to compete; therefore, I imagine we’ll get Corbin in the ring forcing the referee probably Heath Slater) to do the ten count and, right before we reach ten, either Kurt Angle, Finn Balor, or Strowman will appear and the match will go on. However, given that I imagine Slater will be the referee and he seems to be on Corbin’s side, I actually think Baron Corbin will win and continue to make life hell for Raw’s faces so they have someone to rally against in Brock Lesnar’s absence.
SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship Triple Threat TLC Match: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair
Oh, hey, look, it’s Charlotte-bloody-Flair in a title match…again! I mean, has she ever not been involved in the title picture? I don’t think the WWE even knows how to book her if it’s not fighting for or defending a belt. I really am hoping that Asuka’s presence in this match is to help transition into a Becky/Asuka feud, so I’m going to pick Becky Lynch to retain, Charlotte to bugger off out of it for a while, and Asuka and Becky to start going at it with the end goal being Asuka’s much-deserved title win.
WWE Championship Match: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles
I still find it hard to believe that we’re getting this match again; it is so great to see Bryan getting such a push following his in-ring return. I am not necessarily a fan of his heel turn, or him buddying up with other heels, but his commitment to the role is amazing. This should be AJ’s swansong, a final farewell and gift to the fans, to really cement Bryan’s new position and heel turn. I’m not sure what is next for AJ after this, but Daniel Bryan should retain the belt here, though shenanigans, and maybe we’ll see the Miz and/or Samoa Joe and…I don’t know…Jeff Hardy?…added to the mix for the next title match.