Five Stars From #WWE #RAW (1/29/18): Road To The Elimination Chamber
WWE Raw was live from Philly last night, the same site of NXT TakeOver & the Royal Rumble. WWE LOVES to talk about the ‘E’ in their name standing for entertainment. It’s true, and entertaining the fans is a major part of their success. Last night they focused on the second ‘W’, which stands for wrestling, and turned in one of their best shows in awhile. They have such a strong roster from a wrestling standpoint that I’m surprised they don’t do more shows like this. There were seven matches last night and almost all of them served a purpose, which is all you can ask for on a three hour wrestling show. Let’s get to the five stars!
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Braun Strowman, Forever & Ever
I feel like I type Braun Strowman’s name a lot in these posts, but it’s for a good reason. Braun and Lesnar duked it out for real at the Rumble and he was ready to cause more destruction last night. He fought Kane in a Last Man Standing match, which is pretty self explanatory. The only rule is that you win by beating your opponent so badly they stay down for a 10 count. Braun understands the rules of the match (which doubled as an Elimination Chamber qualifier) and beat the shit out of Kane. To ensure Kane wouldn’t get up, Braun flipped the entire announcing stage, table and all, on top of Kane. Braun flipping large objects continues to be one of my favorite things, and we even got this hysterical image out of it:
— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) January 30, 2018
There was an was odd exchange backstage where Kurt Angle was yelling at Braun for trying to kill Kane. Even though Angle is the one who put them in a LAST MAN STANDING match. What was he supposed to do? Sit on his chest for 10 seconds and hope he doesn’t get up? If you put Braun in that kind of match, two things are going to happen. 1. Something large is going to get flipped and 2. Braun will be the one walking away.
2. Women’s Elimination Chamber
One night after the amazing inaugural women’s Rumble, Stephanie McMahon announced the first ever women’s Elimination Chamber. That’s great news for everyone except Alexa Bliss, who will have to defend her title inside the structure. The announcement opened Raw, and also gave Asuka a spotlight to enjoy her Rumble victory. I doubt she’ll be in the chamber match since she’s already the #1 contender, but I’m excited to see who earns a spot.
Reigns vs. Miz
Roman Reigns and Miz had a rematch of their very good IC title match at Raw 25. The rematch was very good, but the finish wasn’t as creative. I did like that they played off their match last week, with Miz trying to remove the middle turnbuckle again. The ref caught him this time, but Miz was still able to retain thanks to distractions from the Miz-tourage. While the distraction finish is stale as hell, I do enjoy Miz winning by pitting his strengths against Reigns’ weaknesses.
Miz’s greatest strength is the numbers game, while Reigns is the prototypical lone wolf. Technically he’s in The Shield, but he and Rollins haven’t been together in a while. Plus, he just eliminated Rollins in the rumble. While Reigns can get by on his own most of the time, Miz is just good and crafty enough to eek out a win. The crowd was super into this match as well, which always helps. Now that Reigns has lost two weeks in a row and failed to win the rumble, he’ll probably win every match for the rest of the year (not kidding).
Asuka vs. Sasha – Match of the Night
In a night full of great pro wrestling, Sasha Banks and Asuka stood above everyone. This was easily Asuka’s best main roster match, and Sasha’s best match in a long time. This really had everything. Submissions, counters, cringe worthy strikes, near falls and Sasha Banks trying to murder herself:
This was so crazy holyyyyy pic.twitter.com/EF8GknRqFO
— WrestlinGifs (@WrestlinGifs) January 30, 2018
The move itself got saved because Asuka was countering the dive with a kick, but Jesus Christ, Sasha. She very rarely hits that move clean and she’s either overshooting it and folding herself in half or getting her foot caught in the ropes and almost decapitating herself. Sasha is way too good a performer to keep trying that move, and I’m sure she can come up something safer. I really loved this match and it put Sasha and Asuka on another level as in ring performers. I know Bliss is the champ and she’s a great character, but nobody tells a story in the ring like these two. It came down to Asuka being too talented and too resilient for Sasha, which is a lethal combination. No one is ready for Asuka.
Cena vs. Balor
John Cena took on Finn Balor in the main event. It was an elimination chamber qualifying match, and these two capped off a great night of in ring work. Balor is so solid, and he tows the line perfectly of delivering believable offense while making Cena’s moves look great. Balor put up a hell of a fight, and was only defeated when Cena hit his top rope AA. If you factor in Balor going almost an hour in the rumble last night and that he fought JOHN CENA, it makes a little bit of sense. That’s the glass half full theory.
Now, let’s talk the logical theory. I don’t like Cena beating Balor at all. I honestly don’t know what this accomplishes, especially if Cena isn’t winning the chamber match. Balor just had a memorable night in the rumble, so they follow that up by having John Cena beat him clean? It’s the same illogical booking as having Balor beat Styles in a MOTY candidate at TLC and then losing to Kane the next night on Raw. ESPECIALLY since he and the Balor Club had their ‘pass the torch’ moment with DX last week.
There’s still three Raw’s to go before Elimination Chamber, so maybe Balor still gets in, and I say that because who else would take his spot? There are three slots left, with one presumably going to Reigns. Who takes the final two? Samoa Joe is hurt. Dean Ambrose is hurt. Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan weren’t even on Raw. Kane? Apollo Crews? If you want Cena in the match, fine. Throw big match John in there. But to put him in there at the expense of Balor is insane. I hate it and it stinks.
Elias beat Matt Hardy to earn a spot in the Elimination Chamber. Yay for Elias and silent indifference for the dead in the water Hardy/Wyatt feud.
The Coach (Jonathan Coachman) replaced Booker T on commentary. A piece of wood would have been better than Booker, but Coach was great last night. I’m excited for him moving forward.
The Revival beat Heath Slater & Rhyno. Let’s hope Raw 25 was just a tiny bump in the road for the best tag team on the main roster.
The Bar retained the tag belts in fun match against Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews. Apollo got a chance to shine and took advantage of it. His move set is so dynamic that I’m not sure he isn’t spotlighted more often, but it was great to see last night.
The Dudley Boyz are the newest inductees into the WWE Hall of Fame. Congrats to Bubba Ray & Devon.