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Five Stars From WWE Raw (1/1/18): Finn Balor, Asuka, Braun Strowman & More!

Happy new year, wrestling fans! 2017 was a great year for professional wrestling and 2018 kicked off with Raw live from Miami, Florida. Last night’s show featured the return of Universal champ Brock Lesnar and a pleasantly surprising amount of wrestling. Asuka and Braun Strowman dominated, Bray Wyatt looked competent again and Finn Balor reunited with old friends. Here are the five stars from the 1/1/18 episode of WWE Raw.

Average Nobodies note: make sure to follow us on Twitter – @averagenobodies and like us on Facebook – Facebook.com/AverageNobodies. We love talking pro wrestling, so you can comment on this post or reach out to us on social media if you want to join the discussion. You can also find all of our wrestling content by clicking the ‘wrestling’ tab under the banner on our home page.

5. Bray Wyatt

On the November 27th Raw, Bray Wyatt took on Matt Hardy. Wyatt won and Hardy had a post match break down which lead to his new ‘Woken’ character. The ‘Woken’ Matt Hardy is a take on his Broken Brilliance character that was one of the more popular acts in wrestling in 2016-17. Hardy vs. Wyatt has been a dream match up ever since Hardy’s ‘Broken’ character took off, and it looked like we were finally going to see these two do battle. Since the 11/27 Raw, the build has been mainly dueling backstage promos and extended laugh offs. Needless to say, it hasn’t been the best thing in the world. While last night’s Wyatt/Crews match isn’t going to end up any best of lists, it was a step in the right direction.

Wyatt and Crews had a good, competitive match that attempted to restore how tough and dangerous Wyatt can be. I loved that he hit the Sister Abigail as a reversal to Crews, as that move is always more effective without a drawn out setup. The post match Hardy promo was more of the same, but at least we got to see Wyatt in action. Moving forward I’d like to see Hardy and Wyatt stay away from each other inside the ring and add some creativity to the mind games.

4. No One Is Ready For Asuka

Similar to the Wyatt/Crews match, Asuka/Bliss was a good showcase for how skilled and dangerous Asuka can be. While the match started out slow, it had a good pace once the action started. This was also a rare example of a ‘challenger beating the champion’ story actually being a good thing. Asuka is the most dominant wrestler on the roster and is an obvious pick to win the first ever women’s royal rumble. If she does win, she’ll get to challenge the women’s champion, who in all likely hood will be Alexa Bliss. While it goes without saying that Asuka can destroy Bliss, it’s always nice to see it played out in a match.

I like the addition of Nia Jax being too preoccupied with Enzo to help Alexa too, as that eliminates Bliss’s ultimate backup plan. Asuka could probably beat Alexa with Nia in her corner, but when you take Nia out of the equation, Bliss is running for her life. Asuka continues her undefeated streak by beating the champion clean, and Bliss’s title reign is now in the most jeopardy it’s ever been in.

3. Braun Strowman

The best news from this week’s Raw is that Braun Strowman is back to being the resident bad ass. He was scheduled to take on Rhyno, but after Heath Slater annoyed him at ringside, he took it upon himself to make it a handicap match. A few power slams later and he was victorious, but that was only the beginning. The crowd wanted more power slams after the match and Strowman was happy to oblige. I don’t understand why Strowman doesn’t do something like this every week, because the crowd obviously loves it. I highly doubt he wins the title at the Rumble, but I’m glad he’s back to being the biggest ass kicker on Raw again.

2. Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns

Samoa Joe took on Roman Reigns for the IC title last night, and it was easily the match of the year. All joking aside, Reigns and Joe have incredible chemistry, and the best part of the late 2017 and now early 2018 Raw’s are Reigns defending the IC title in good to great matches. Last week’s match was ended prematurely due to a dumb DQ, but this match was better by a mile. Joe has the best diving forearm through the ropes on the roster, and Reigns always excels at taking a beating. Reigns won, because obviously of course he did, but the more of these matches he pulls off the more shocking it will be when someone does beat him. There are no shortage of guys who could take the IC belt off of Reigns and Samoa Joe should be at the top of that list.

1. Finn Balor

When Gallows and Anderson signed with WWE and Finn Balor was bumped up to Raw, the obvious move should have been to put them together. They were wildly popular as part of the Bullet Club in Japan, so it would make sense for WWE to capitalize on that and make them a dominant faction. Instead, Gallows and Anderson have been a dud and Finn Balor has been answering Curt Hawkins’ open challenges. While last night could have been a one off, I’m hoping it leads to a permanent reunion between the three with the charismatic Balor as their leader. Finn is too talented to be anywhere but the upper mid card, and I’m hoping this feud with continues when the Miz returns next week. Miz/Balor with the Miz-Tourage and Gallows/Anderson could be entertaining and feature some good in ring work.

-Ryan

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Five Stars From WWE Raw 12/25/17: Elias, Asuka & New Tag Team Champions!

WWE Raw was live on Christmas day for the first time ever last night. John Cena made his Raw return in the opening segment with the criminally underrated Elias. Plus, Asuka confronted Alexa Bliss, Roman Reigns fought Samoa Joe and The Bar defended their tag team titles. Here are the five stars from the 12/25/17 edition of WWE Raw.

Average Nobodies note: make sure to follow us on Twitter – @averagenobodies and like us on Facebook – Facebook.com/AverageNobodies. We love talking pro wrestling, so you can comment on this post or reach out to us on social media if you want to join the discussion. You can also find all of our wrestling content by clicking the ‘wrestling’ tab under the banner on our home page.

5. Elias Plus A Little Bit Of John Cena

Before I get into why I love Elias so much, I want to point out the greatness of John Cena the person. His character has always been too inconsistent for my tastes, but he’s clearly a great guy. The latest example of that is last night on Raw, when he gave a kid in the crowd the shirt off his back. It’s a small gesture to Cena but probably meant the world to that kid and his dad. That it happened on live TV on Christmas made it all the more special. Before Cena could get too hokey he was interrupted by Elias, who is becoming my favorite part of Raw.

Elias has his character figured out better than anybody else on the show, and he’s starting to get rewarded for it. While it would have been nice for him to win, beating John Cena on Christmas isn’t going to happen. Elias still got the first 30+ minutes of the show with Cena and lost a highly competitive match. He got to shut down a CM Punk in Chicago, even though Cena’s insistence on blowing the Chicago crowd was infuriating. He continues to improve on the microphone and in the ring, and has risen to the occasion with every big name they’ve put him with. The key moving forward for him is continued momentum, so hopefully he continues to be featured in important segments.

4. Hideo Itami

Hideo Itami made his main roster debut last week and continued to impress against Brian Kendrick last night. It’s only a matter of time before he’s challenging for the cruiserweight title, and I hope it’s against Enzo. Cedric Alexander gets hit title shot next week, but I think the Zo Train will be able to assist Enzo in retaining the title. Itami destroying Enzo would be a lot of fun to watch and Itami might actually knee his head clean off his shoulders. Bonus points to Itami for performing the GTS in Chicago.

3. Samoa Joe

If Samoa Joe is featured on Raw, there’s a solid chance he’s going to make this list. Last night was no exception, as he challenged Roman Reigns for the IC title. Joe had a quick but great pre- match interview with Renee Young where he talked about injuring Dean Ambrose. Dean will be out for nine months, and Joe said at least he’s home enjoying the holiday with the ones he loves. He said this to Renee Young, Dean’s real life wife. That’s a next level dickhead move.

The match was very good, as are all Reigns/Joe matches. The DQ finish is always frustrating, but I’ll take that over Joe losing clean. Reigns defending the IC title on a regular basis is always great, especially when it’s against true threats like Joe. With Rollins & Jordan winning the tag titles, Reigns will continue to be a singles star. The Reigns/Lesnar showdown should begin after the Rumble, so it’ll be interesting to see if Roman keeps the IC belt. There are no shortage of guys who could run with the title if Reign loses it, and Joe is near the top of that list.

2. Asuka

Asuka officially entered the women’s Royal Rumble last night, and her winning should be the biggest no brainer of 2018. She’s been running in place since debuting on Raw, but Rumble/WrestleMania season is the time to let her loose. The most dominant woman on the roster should be the one to win the first ever women’s Rumble. From there you can have her stalk Alexa Bliss, who still has Nia Jax in her corner. Nia would be able to shift the odds in Alexa’s favor just enough to make the feud competitive. If the women’s division goes any other route but Asuka winning the Rumble and the title at WrestleMania they’re out of their goddamn minds.

1. New Tag Team Champions

With the length of Dean Ambrose’s injury confirmed, WWE pulled their favorite audible. Whenever someone is injured and gets replaced by someone else, there’s a good chance the new person is winning. Zack Ryder won the IC title as a last minute fill in at WrestleMania 32. More recently, Cedric Alexander won the #1 contender spot after Rich Swann was arrested. While those decisions have good shock value, they’re not always the best move for the story. In this case, I think Jordan and Rollins winning the tag titles could work.

Jason Jordan keeps getting opportunities, and although Kurt Angle insists it’s not because he’s his son, it’s getting harder to believe that. Jordan is consistently put in high profile matches and is being rewarded for being a complainer. He finally came through last night, and now he and Rollins are the tag team champions. I’m on board for this IF Jordan continues to perfect his character of a freak in the ring who doesn’t necessarily deserve all the chances he’s getting. I think the best story to tell moving forward would be for Jordan to get a big head from finally winning, which causes issues with Rollins. If WWE is committed to turning Jordan bad, back stabbing Rollins would be the best way to get there.

-Ryan

WWE Raw 12/4/17: Five Stars

WWE Raw was live from Los Angeles California last night. The show featured Roman Reigns defending his IC title and The Bar defending their tag titles. Asuka & Braun Strowman murdered their opponents and we also got a great fatal 4 way cruiserweight match. As a reminder, this won’t be a traditional review of Raw. Instead, I pick out the five best things from the show (could be a match, promo or a specific wrestler) and explain why it was one of the best parts of Raw.

Average Nobodies note: make sure to follow us on Twitter – @averagenobodies and like us on Facebook – Facebook.com/AverageNobodies. We love talking pro wrestling, so you can comment on this post or reach out to us on social media if you want to join the discussion. You can also find all of our wrestling content by clicking the ‘wrestling’ tab under the banner on our home page.

And now, the five stars from the December 4th, 2017 edition of WWE Raw.

5. Roman Reigns vs. Jason Jordan

Anyone who complained about Roman Reigns winning the IC belt has watched his matches the last two weeks. I never understood the Reigns hate, especially from an in ring standpoint, but I love what he’s done for the IC title already. The only things you can ask of a mid card champion is to defend the title consistently and put on good matches. Reigns checked both of those boxes off for two weeks in a row, and I hope this trend continues.

As solid as Reigns has been, Jason Jordan has proved to be every bit his equal inside the ropes. His character still needs SOMETHING, but you cannot deny how great he is at the actual wrestling part. He’s quick, strong and is learning to sell on offense, which is something too few people do. His rolling northern lights Suplex into a pin that he tried to pull off with one leg was phenomenal, and I’m glad he’s getting a chance to wrestle these kind of matches. Similar to the match with Elias last week you knew Reigns was going to win, but that shouldn’t have affected how much you enjoyed the match.

I’m glad we didn’t get the Reigns/Joe match last night, because that’s a match where both guys deserve to be fresh. I’d prefer those two fight one on one, but adding Jordan into the mix isn’t the worst thing in the world either.

4. Cruiserweights

It’s crazy how much more enjoyable the cruiserweight division has been now that they have a little direction and are given time to perform. I enjoyed this week’s fatal 4 way more than last week’s match, and if you needed proof that Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali deserve to be stars, watch this match. They were both tremendous here and there’s no reason the cruiserweights shouldn’t be given this amount of time every week. WWE is at it’s best when they give us a show with variety. Spotlighting guys like Alexander & Ali, who can do things few other people can do, is a no brainer. It also separates the cruiserweights from the rest of the show, which in turn makes them seem more special.

Tony Nese and Drew Gulak were great complementary players in this match as well, and I’m glad Gulak picked up the win. Gulak vs. Swann has more of a story than Swann vs. Cedric or Ali, and it sets up two interesting possibilities. If Swann wins next week, Enzo has a legit exciting challenger who could beat him for the title any day of the week. If Gulak wins, maybe he gains enough confidence to try and take Enzo’s title from him. All in all this was an awesome match that sets up two more matches that fans should be excited to see.

3. Braun Strowman

Raw went off the air last week with Braun Strowman trying to murder Kane’s throat. Kane has had a great career but he doesn’t need to be heavily featured in 2017. Braun has so many more compelling matchup’s on the roster, and he’s more enjoyable against smaller guys who know how to sell. Case in point: Braun vs. Elias. Braun destroys everybody, so it makes sense that he would stomp on Elias, but he still got some good shots in on the monster. I like Braun versus someone like Elias over Kane because he can utilize his full arsenal in those type of matches. When he’s fighting Kane he can show off his strength, but when he fights a smaller guy he can show off his strength AND speed.

Someone as big as Braun should not be as fast he is, but I’ll never get tired of watching him run guys down and mow them over. Kane appeared on the big screen post match and set up a match against Braun for next week. Hopefully that’s the blow off to this feud so Braun can focus and gain as much momentum as possible heading into Royal Rumble season.

2. Asuka

Similar to Braun Strowman in the men’s division, Asuka has been a one woman wrecking crew for her entire NXT/WWE tenure. She beat Dana Brooke last week in literally three seconds, and while Alicia Fox got in a little offense last night, Asuka still won easily. I’m glad WWE is going this route with Asuka, especially when it comes to Absolution. I wrote last week about how the way Asuka is portrayed in the ring and the way Absolution treads lightly with her separates Asuka from the pack. While the post match segment was pretty identical to last week, I liked that Absolution did take out Alicia Fox. Asuka should be treated differently from an Alicia Fox or a Dana Brooke, so I’m glad WWE is going out of their way to show that to their audience.

I’m sure Absolution will pounce on Asuka one day when the time is right but the slow burn of that attack is the right move for now.

1. The Bar vs. Rollins & Ambrose

The Los Angeles crowd was hot all night, and I’m glad they saved some energy for the tag title main event. The Bar/Rollins & Ambrose have already proven they have great chemistry and that was on full display here. The DQ/restart never does much for me, but it’s a good move to pull for a live crowd who clearly wanted to see these two teams fight all night. Besides the actual match, my favorite part of this segment was how it tied into the opener. Reigns and Samoa Joe still have unfinished business, so what’s the best way for Joe to get back at Reigns? Take out his Shield buddies and cost them the tag titles. Joe’s interference brought out Reigns and caused just enough chaos for Sheamus to Brogue Kick Ambrose and steal a victory for The Bar.

This finish leaves the door open for another tag title match down the road. It could also give us a 6 man tag in the near future, which sounds like the best possible thing.

-Ryan

Asuka Will Make Her Main Roster Debut At #WWE TLC on October 22nd

Asuka hasn’t wrestled since successfully defending her NXT Women’s title at TakeOver Brooklyn III on August 19th, but now we know when she will finally make her long awaited main roster debut. During last night’s No Mercy pay per view, WWE aired another hype video for the undefeated Empress of Tomorrow, but unlike the other hype videos we’ve seen, this one ended with a warning: Asuka is coming to WWE TLC on October 22nd. There’s no word on whether or not she’ll have a match at the show, but anytime Asuka shows up, beautiful chaos follows.

-Ryan

WWE Celebrated Asuka With A Look Back At Her Historic #WWENXT Career

Asuka was, unquestionably, the most dominating superstar in NXT history. She’s also had one of the most successful two year runs in WWE history, and she heads to Raw with an undefeated streak dating back to October 7, 2015 and a never-to-be-broken record of 523 days as NXT Women’s champion. Every other big name superstar that was called up to either Raw or Smackdown went out on their back: Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Charlotte, Bayley, Sasha Banks; but that was not the case with Asuka. She suffered a legitimate injury during her title defense against Ember Moon at TakeOver Brooklyn III, and relinquished the title a few weeks ago on NXT.

While it may be wrestling tradition to put the next man or women over before you head elsewhere, there was nothing traditional about Asuka. She changed the entire dynamic of NXT, and reinvented what it meant to be a dominant champion. While her in ring work was superb, her entire aura was what drew you towards her. She would dance to the ring with her mask on (which I unashamedly own) and almost lull you to sleep with her calmness. Then she would get in the ring and kick your ass or choke you out. There will never be another superstar like Asuka in NXT, but I’m glad that we’ll get to see the next chapter very soon on Raw.

For now, enjoy this pitch perfect promo that signifies the impending doom that every women’s wrestler on the Raw roster must feel right now.

-Ryan

Asuka Relinquished Her NXT Women’s Title At Last Night’s NXT Taping #WWENXT

Asuka is unquestionably the greatest champion in NXT history, and will go down as one of the best title holders in all of WWE. She’s undefeated dating back to October 2015 (!) and has had the NXT Women’s title since defeating Bayley at TakeOver Dallas in April 2016. Unfortunately one of those streaks has come to an end, as Asuka relinquished her NXT Women’s title at last night’s NXT taping. It was rumored that Asuka suffered a collarbone injury during her match with Ember Moon in Brooklyn, but even with the 6-8 week timetable for recovery I thought Asuka could get by without losing the belt. Turns out that won’t be happening, and it’s a very interesting move.

It’s been NXT tradition to have a champion drop the belt to a deserving challenger before moving on to the main roster (the latest example of that being Bobby Roode) but it’s been clear for a long time that Asuka was different from anyone else who has ever performed in NXT. Asuka truly was so dominant that I don’t think anyone should have taken the title from her, and while Ember Moon came the closest to dethroning her, I’m OK with her leaving NXT with a perfect record. Plus, Ember will eventually be on the main roster too, and Asuka hammering home the point that Ember never defeated her will make for a great third act in this rivalry.

-Ryan

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