Five Stars From #WWE #RAW (1/15/18): Braun Strowman Destroys Everything
Raw was live from San Antonio, Texas last night. This is the best time of year to be a wrestling fan. We’re less than a week away from the 25th anniversary show and less than two weeks away from the Rumble. WrestleMania is so close you can taste it. It’s wonderful. If you’re going to remember one thing from this show, it’s going to be Braun Strowman. BRAUN STROWMAN in the biggest possible capital letters. There were other segments, including Nia Jax vs. Asuka, The Revival vs. local competitors and Rollins vs. Balor in the main event. Without further ado, the five stars from the 1/15/18 edition of WWE Raw.
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5. BRAUN GODDAMN STROWMAN
The start and end of the Braun Strowman story line was pretty silly. Braun opened Raw with a quick, impactful promo about his destruction last week and his desire to win the Universal title. He’s interrupted by Kurt Angle, who fired him for almost murdering Lesnar and Kane. Strowman took this in stride and calmly exited the building. Just kidding, he tried to kill everybody and everything. Throughout multiple segments he tossed around security guards, beat up people in catering, ate a piece of chocolate cake, flipped a production truck and threw Michael Cole off the stage. That was the fun part.
The lame part is that after firing him earlier in the night, Angle rehired Strowman and put him back in the title match at the Rumble after being told to do so by Stephanie McMahon via mysterious phone call. I understand the firing led to all the fun and cool stuff we love about Strowman, but I think they could have come up with something more interesting than “Stephanie called and said you’re rehired”. Also, that’s not a great precedent to set. Next time someone gets fired, they should try to burn the building down until Stephanie agrees to rehire them.
Even though the story was a little lame, that doesn’t change the fact that Strowman is THE MAN. It bums me out that he probably won’t win the title at the Rumble, because there is no one on the roster more ready for a title than Braun Strowman.
4. Cedric Alexander
Cedric Alexander still isn’t getting the crowd reactions, but you can’t deny his ability in the ring. He took on Tony Nese last night in a fun, competitive match with a clean finish. That’s all you can ask for when you’re building up a title challenger. I also love how the Lumbar Check is turning into a finisher opponents should fear. When Cedric hits that move, it’s lights out. He went for it a few times during the match but Nese was able to escape. Once he was softened up enough, Cedric was finally able to hit it and pick up the win.
The Cedric/Enzo story has dragged out due to real illness and fake injuries, and the Rumble result is anyone’s guess. Enzo is the main attraction for 205 Live, and he loses most of his shine without the belt. Cedric has been the main challenger for months now. If you don’t put the title on him at the Rumble, you have to move on. I know he just signed today, but I’m all for Enzo and the Zo Train holding the belt until Ricochet is ready to blow everyone’s minds on the main roster.
3. The Revival
The Revival beat the snot out of local competitors, and it’s impossible to explain how much better the tag team division is when they’re involved. They’re the best TEAM on the roster by a mile, and they somehow make technically sound wrestling exciting. After the match, they issue a warning to all the returning legends coming back for next week’s 25th anniversary show. They also call themselves ‘professional wrestlers’ which could be seen as tacky, but I liked it because it’s true. The Revival wrestle in trunks, elbow and knee pads. They have a simple entrance theme, simple catchphrases and let their in ring work do the talking. The only downside is how often they’ve been injured on the main roster, but hopefully that’s a thing of the past.
With teams like the New Age Outlaws and Dudley Boyz returning next week, I hope The Revival get to shine against a legendary duo. Also, if there is a God, The Bar and the Revival will be feuding over the tag belts in a hoss off very soon.
2. Elias, The Miz & The Miz-Tourage
What Braun Strowman accomplishes with physicality and violence, Elias does with a guitar and words. Elias is one of my favorite parts of the show, and most of the time it has to do with his ballads. You can tell he’s having a blast out there, and I hope he, The Miz and the Miz-Tourage continue to stay together. Elias always gets a reaction out of the crowd, too. Right now it’s loud boos whenever he makes fun of the city he’s in. I wouldn’t be surprised to see those boos turn to cheers once people start to appreciate how entertaining he is.
He pairs perfectly with Miz and the Miz-Tourage, and hopefully he’ll continue to play the Miz to the ring. Miz cut another great promo, and if you want examples of why Elias and Miz are two of the best talkers on Raw, watch this segment, Unfortunately it’s followed by Roman Reigns easily beating Axel and Dallas with Miz helping them, but you can’t have everything.
It does irritate me that WWE is doing the same thing with Reign’s IC title run that they did with Cena and the US belt. Yes, the open challenge is great. It’s also great to see Roman wrestling competitive matches and giving guys a spotlight. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to build up one challenger and have him beat Reigns for the title, though? When Cena was US champ, they had him beat everybody in competitive matches. No singular guy gained any momentum, and he eventually lost the belt to a returning Alberto Del Rio.
Maybe Reigns loses it to Miz next week, or maybe he loses it to a random challenger between now and WM, Either way, that’s not as effective as building a story with a challenger people want to see win the belt. They’re being predictable by not being predictable, if that makes any sense. It’s cool because literally anyone could dethrone Reigns. On the other hand, WWE is having surprise challengers instead of building someone who can keep the momentum Reigns is generating. If the plan is still Reigns/Lesnar at WM, put the IC belt on Miz, and turn Elias face to challenge him.
1. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor
Finn Balor took on Seth Rollins in the main event. It was a rematch from their Universal title match at Summerslam that Balor was unfortunately injured in. Before I get to the match, I need to mention something. The Extraordinary Man Who Can Do Extraordinary Things is the worst nickname of all time. Balor is electric and basically markets himself, but that’s the best WWE could come up with? It makes him sound like a circus performer. Anyway, Balor, Gallows & Anderson finally have some purpose now that they’re paired together, which is a great thing. Balor and Rollins have great chemistry together as well, and WWE is out of their minds if both guys don’t get ample time in the Rumble.
Balor loses, but only after Jason Jordan trips him up which allows Rollins to finish him off with the Curb Stomp. I can’t explain how much of an upgrade the Curb Stomp is to Rollins’ B version of the V-Trigger. It’s a true knock out blow, especially when guys sell it like Balor did last night. With Balor leading the Balor Club and Rollins getting the Curb Stomp back, they should be two of the top guys to win the Rumble. Ambrose is out for awhile and Jordan is reportedly hurt too, which could open up Rollins for a single’s run.
If I’m settings things up for WM season, here’s how I’d set up the title pictures. Reigns, Miz and Elias focusing on the IC belt. The Bar, The Revival, Gallows/Anderson focusing on the tag belts. Everyone chasing Asuka for the women’s belt. Balor, Rollins & Strowman trying to dethrone Lesnar.