WWE Raw was live from my hometown of Providence, RI and I was in the crowd to enjoy the show. WWE shows are always better live, mainly because you don’t have to listen to Michael Cole on commentary for three hours. Highlights from last night include the debut of Hideo Itami, the return of The Revival & a special Women’s Royal Rumble announcement.
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Here are the five stars from the December 18th, 2017 edition of WWE Raw.
5. Seth Rollins vs. Jason Jordan
The setup of this match was confusing, but the match itself was another example of Jordan’s in ring ability. The Providence crowd booed him mercilessly, but I thought he handled it well. It seemed like he fed into the ‘boring’ chants, which is great to see. A lot of guys would get flustered in that situation and try to do too much, but he held steady. I’m not sure why they advertised Joe/Rollins when this was the plan, but I do think the match made up for it. I LOVE Jordan’s rolling northern lights Suplex, and once again Rollins is at his best when he’s selling and making a comeback. I hope WWE continues to roll with Jordan as a selfish guy who keeps getting and failing at these opportunities. He’s embracing that role, and he’ll continue to get better at the character part of it.
4. Samoa Joe, Cesaro & Sheamus
Samoa Joe’s “belle of the ball” comment gave me a legit chuckle, and I continue to love his pairing with The Bar. The six man tag had an odd flow to it, which made more sense when it came out that Ambrose was injured. Rollins took the majority of the punishment, and the crowd was waiting for a hot tag that never came. The post match beat down should write Ambrose off TV for awhile. That could lead to The Bar finding new challengers and Rollins continuing to feud with Joe and Jordan. The negative to Ambrose’s injury is that we probably won’t get a six man with The Shield against Joe/The Bar. That’s disheartening, but I hope Joe, Cesaro & Sheamus continue to beat the crap out of people.
3. Hideo Itami
Before I talk about the main roster debut of Hideo Itami, I want to point out that Finn Balor got one of the loudest pops of the night. It’s mind boggling that he’s not in a main event role, and WWE is wasting his talent by sticking him in pointless mid card feuds. I did enjoy the Balor/Itami NXT call back though, as Finn Balor’s NXT debut saw him saving Itami from a 2 on 1 beat down. The roles were reversed here, and after Itami made the save he and Balor took on Axel/Dallas in a tag match. The match was by the numbers, but it was pretty cool to see an Itami GTS in person. He should be a 205 live main eventer in no time.
2. The Revival
Here was my reaction to being in the crowd for the return of The Revival:
The Top Guys have been one of the best tag teams in the world for a few years now, but haven’t been healthy since moving to Raw. Last night’s return couldn’t have come at a better time, as the Raw tag division is paper thin. The only two viable teams are The Bar & Ambrose/Rollins, but that could change with Ambrose’s elbow injury. The Revival are a special treat, especially if you’re there live. When you watch them on TV you don’t get to see all the work that the guy on the outside is doing. Whether it’s Dash or Dawson, they’re never just standing on the apron. They’re always working to make sure they have an advantage and they have impeccable timing that make even a quick squash match entertaining.
If Ambrose is out for a while, give me Revival vs. The Bar forever.
1. Women’s Royal Rumble
The main event of Raw was scheduled to be Bayley, Mickie James & Sasha Banks vs. Absolution. The match ended extremely short via the worst possible decision: excessive fighting. IN A WRESTLING MATCH. Anyway, Nia Jax followed by the rest of the women’s locker room came out to fight Absolution in a replay of last week. After some brief fighting, Stephanie McMahon’s music hit and she announced a Women’s Royal Rumble match while ALL the women celebrated with each other in the ring. I loved and hated this segment. The announcement taken by itself was awesome and long overdue, but it was presented terribly.
Absolution vs. the rest of the women on Raw has been the main women’s storyline on Raw since Absolution’s debut. WWE has dedicated multiple segments per show to it. Alexa Bliss is the women’s champion but it doesn’t seem like anyone on the roster cares because all they do want to do is beat up Absolution. I know Stephanie is important and wants to be the face of the Women’s Revolution. That’s understandable. But having these women who have been tearing each other apart for weeks stop fighting just to listen to her was dumb. Again, I love the decision and it’s a huge moment for the women’s division, but I hate that the only reason everyone was on the same page was because they’re all women.
Shouldn’t they be happy about the opportunity but still be at odds with each other? Why would Paige, Mandy and Sonya want to hug it out with Sasha Banks and Nia Jax? Why would Asuka want to do anything but kick people’s heads off? It was a great decision that was executed poorly from a character standpoint. I’m assuming next week everyone will go back to normal and hate the people they’re supposed to hate, but I wish they would have done that last night.
If Peyton Royce debuts, wins the Rumble and a title shot at WrestleMania, ignore everything I just wrote.
Supplementary Star – Matt Hardy
I hope that Hardy vs. Wyatt eventually leads to some in ring competition, which looks like it might begin on the 205 Live tour. I would have to be a cold hearted monster not to enjoy Hardy playing chess against a goldfish named Napoleon Bonaparte, though.
— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) April 30, 2015
— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) April 30, 2015
The NXT live specials have become sort of a sacred thing over the last year or so, and the next one on May 20th should be no exception. In addition to Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks for the NXT Women’s Title and Big Cass/Enzo Amore vs. Blake & Murphy for the NXT Tag Team Titles, we now know what the two main matches will be. Finn Balor, Hideo Itami and Tyler Breeze will square off in a Triple Threat Match to determine the #1 contender to whoever wins the main event, which is NXT Champion Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn. The amount of talent in these two matches alone are unreal, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.
My pick for the #1 contender’s match is Hideo Itami. Balor is going up on the main roster after this live special, and I think Breeze follows him shortly thereafter. Both guys are main roster ready, and while it took Breeze some time to adjust to wrestling a WWE style, Balor came into NXT as a five tool player ready to take over the company. Itami had the biggest learning curve out of the three as his style was too ‘stiff’ for the WWE product. The funniest part about Itami is that the moves he used in NJPW were also being used in WWE, as CM Punk used his GTS finisher and Daniel Bryan used his running knee. After his WrestleMania moment in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, I can see Itami winning here and challenging the NXT Champion.
As for the NXT Championship match, it really depends on how long the Owens/Zayn feud is going to last. If this is going to be a long term feud, then I think Zayn wins here. Zayn already lost the belt to Owens fair and square, so another loss here would have to put him out of the title picture for awhile. If Zayn wins, I think the loss sends Owens into a tailspin where he just destroys everyone in NXT until Regal gives him another title shot. We haven’t seen a loose cannon Kevin Owens yet, but if he loses the belt to his blood rival, I think he’s going to snap. The best thing about NXT is that as a fan, you have confidence that not only are they going to develop good stories, but they’re going to end them the right way as well. No matter who wins or loses on May 20th, it’s going to be an awesome show.
The former KENTA will now be the first out of the current crop of NXT talents to have his WrestleMania opponent, and there really wasn’t a bad choice in the bunch. NXT is full of guys who are already main roster ready, and Neville, Breeze and Balor will up on Raw in no time. I have to imagine Itami will get a mini showcase in the Battle Royal, and while he may not win it, this is probably the first time he’s wrestled in front of 70,000+ people and it will be a night he’ll never forget. Best of luck to Itami and the rest of the guys on the card. Sunday should be a special night.