WWE held it’s 25th anniversary celebration for it’s flagship show last night. I wouldn’t say it was a bad show, but filming in two different locations proved challenging. This was also the go home WWE Raw for the Rumble, so WWE was mixing nostalgia with also trying to build to it’s second biggest pay per view. The actual 25th anniversary was January 11th and I think doing this show last week would have been more beneficial. The returns of Austin, Undertaker and DX took up a ton of time, which made segments with the tag champs and Universal title picture seem rushed. There were some bright spots though, so let’s get to the five stars!
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5. Austin Got McMahon!
WWE Raw started in the best possible way. Stephanie, Shane and Vince opened with a promo celebrating Raw’s historic feat. Vince then dove into his Mr. McMahon character and instantly got the crowd to turn on him. The crowd chanted ASSHOLE while Vince took sole credit for the success of Raw while claiming he didn’t need anyone else’s help to make the show such a success. That cued the best sound in the world: glass shattering followed by Stone Cold Steve Austin death marching to the ring swearing up a storm.
If you’re a younger fan that didn’t watch Austin on a weekly basis during the Attitude Era, you got a small sense of how much crowds love him last night. Austin didn’t speak a single word, yet had the crowd on the edge of their seats for the entire first segment. He stunned Shane (twice) and Vince, and even had a few Steveweisers along the way. Also, this picture belongs in a museum somewhere:
— Shane McMahon (@shanemcmahon) January 23, 2018
4. No One Is Ready For Asuka
The 8 women tag wasn’t anything special, but I did like the post match angle. If Asuka is in a match, whether it’s singles, tag or a battle royal, she should be the favorite to win. Her NXT run was done so perfectly and no other women on Raw has been built to even be in the same ballpark as her. I love Sasha Banks and Nia Jax, but Asuka is on a different level, and she should be portrayed that way. I’m glad she was the one to make the statement last night by tossing Mickie, Sasha and Bayley over the top rope. The match would’ve benefited from being on a regular Raw as it needed more than a few minutes, but that wasn’t happening last night. Asuka should go into the first ever women’s Rumble as the odds on favorite. I’ll be shocked if she doesn’t win.
3. The Miz
The best match by a mile was Miz vs. Roman Reigns for the IC title. Miz is coming off a landmark 2017, and in his first match in 2018, he won the IC title for the 8th time. This outcome could mean that Reigns wins the Rumble and main event’s WrestleMania again, but I’m focusing on the positives for now. This was a really good match that I think benefited from time constraints. Reigns’ best matches are always in the 10-15 minute range. When they go longer than that there’s usually a lot of stalling. When they don’t you get matches like last night where everything matters.
Miz had a game plan that obviously featured Axel and Dallas causing as many distractions as they could. While Reigns was seemingly able to overcome them, he turned his back on Miz one too many times. Miz was able to uncover the middle turnbuckle and use Reigns’ habit of constantly running at you to his advantage. He knows that Reigns loves the spear and the Superman punch. Miz positioned himself perfectly in front of the exposed turnbuckle, moved out of the way and let Roman knock himself out. One skull crushing finale later and Miz is your new IC champ. Reigns doesn’t look bad because he lost a 3 on 1 battle and knocked himself out. Miz looks great because he used his surroundings and stable mates to his advantage. Great stuff.
2. Walk With Elias
On Christmas day Elias and John Cena had a really good match. Elias has been one of the better parts of Raw for awhile now, so it was cool to see him interact with John. Unfortunately Elias lost, but he proved he could hang with big match John. Last night Elias got put on The List by Chris Jericho and hit John Cena with a guitar. Not too shabby. The Jericho bit was a lot of fun and I wish those two would be interacting more. I’d honestly watch them argue about the perfect amount of scarves all day. When Cena first came out I was worried he was going to shoulder block and AA Elias and that’d be it. That ALMOST happened, but Elias got out of the AA and hit a mean low blow. He followed that up with a guitar shot to the back and then hit the Drift Away.
Now, this is obviously going to set up Elias vs. Cena at Elimination Chamber and/or Mania. Does that make me nervous for Elias? Yes, yes it does. I’ve seen Cena take the L on a random Raw or B level PPV too many times. I’ve also seen him win the match with the biggest possible audience watching too many times as well. Rusev and Bray Wyatt, I’m looking your way. Could that happen with Elias? Of course. Best case scenario is Cena eliminates Elias in the Rumble. That costs Elias a title shot at WrestleMania and Cena gets revenge for last night. If they do fight at WrestleMania, Elias should go over, whether it’s clean or not. Or Cena wins LOL.
1. DX + Balor Club = Too Sweet
The final segment & match from the Manhattan Center was a lot of fun. If you’re a a fan of The Revival you weren’t thrilled they got beat up. The Manhattan Center audience was there for D-X though, so you knew it was coming. The only thing I would have changed is the finish of the match. While Gallows & Anderson aren’t a bad team, they’ve never been consistently built up on Raw. The Revival are the best tag team on the roster and should very rarely lose normal tag matches. I enjoyed the post match stuff, and The Revival can do much worse than getting beat up by D-X, Scott Hall and the Balor Club.
I’m glad they’re finally doing something meaningful with Balor, and this struck me as a passing the torch moment for he and the Club. While the moment was cool, it won’t mean a thing if they don’t keep building him up moving forward. I doubt Finn wins the Rumble, but he should be entering very early and stay in for awhile. If Gallows & Anderson are also in the Rumble, they can help him fight off elimination. The Revival can dump them out somehow, and Finn is eventually eliminated after a historic showing. Win win for everybody.