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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.

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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

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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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