WWE Raw was live last night from Des Moines, Iowa. John Cena vs. Elias vs. Braun Strowman was the main event. Asuka took on Bayley in an NXT women’s championship rematch, plus there were two more Elimination Chamber qualifying bouts. Let’s get to the five stars!
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5. No One Is Ready For Asuka
WWE LOVES to give wrestlers catchphrases. John Cena says ‘you can’t see me’. Roman Reigns says the ring is ‘his yard’. Asuka’s most famous one is ‘no one is ready for Asuka’ and it’s probably the most accurate catchphrase in WWE history. Asuka retired as the undefeated NXT women’s champion, and she’s kept that streak going while on Raw. She literally hasn’t lost a match since debuting, which was in OCTOBER OF 2015. Last week she had a sensational match against Sasha Banks and followed it up with another strong win over Bayley.
This is the best Bayley has looked in awhile, and I’m glad Asuka took Bayley seriously in this match. Bayley has never defeated Asuka, but she’s come close twice, so Asuka was not messing around here. There were a ton of hard kicks and strikes, but Bayley hung around and put in a valiant effort. Asuka won in the end, because no one is ready for Asuka.
After the match Asuka shook Bayley’s hand, bringing their feud full circle. Fantastic character work.
April 1, 2016: Asuka barely acknowledges Bayley.
August 20, 2016: Asuka helps Bayley back up.
February 5, 2018: Asuka respectfully offers Bayley a handshake. pic.twitter.com/SwH7eAxU4N
— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) February 6, 2018
4. The Miz vs. Apollo Crews
The second elimination chamber qualifying match (the first being Reigns vs. Wyatt which we will not speak of) saw Miz take on Apollo Crews. Before the match Miz cut a great promo, because at this point he’s incapable of doing anything else. Miz is the master of bringing up something factual but twisting it just enough to make him look like a jerk.
For example, he talked about how Raw 25 had the best ratings in three years (true) and the sole reason for that was him (not true). It’s part factual part braggadocios, and he tip toes that line wonderfully. He also talked about his daughter being born right around WrestleMania (true) while making sure the focus is still on him by saying his daughter will be born just in time to see him become the dual IC/Universal champ.
The match that followed was a great example of how Miz’s in ring skills have caught up with his mic skills. Miz understands that he only looks good beating Apollo Crews if Crews looks good in defeat. Apollo is stronger and faster than Miz, and he used those attributes to his advantage to score a few near falls on the IC champ. Miz’s main advantage is his experience, so when Crews went for one high risk move too many, Miz hung him up on the ropes. One Skull Crushing Finale later and Miz is in the Elimination Chamber match while Crews looked legit in defeat.
3. Jason Jordan Ruins Everything
Before Raw went on the air, Kurt Angle announced Jordan & Rollins would challenge The Bar for the tag titles. The stipulation was that if Jordan/Rollins lose, they’ll never get another shot at the titles as long as The Bar are champs. While Jordan reassured Rollins he’d be OK to wrestle, he backed out last minute (he is actually injured). Luckily for Rollins, Roman Reigns was able to step in and replace Jordan.
Reigns and Rollins had a good match going with The Bar until Jordan showed up at ringside. Reigns shooed him away to the back, but Jordan stuck around to temporarily block The Bar from bailing on the match. Unfortunately for Reigns and Rollins, Jordan took Cesaro’s bait and punched him, causing a DQ and allowing The Bar to retain.
I truly believe Jason Jordan is hitting his role out of the park. It sucks that he’s injured and we can’t watch him wrestle every week, but his character has continued to improve. He plays the entitled do gooder so well, and the writers continue to find unique ways for him to get involved while continuing to piss of Rollins and Reigns. Plus, The Bar holds on to the tag belts, and hopefully they’ll now move onto a fresh team.
2. Nia Jax
Nia Jax had herself quite a night. First, Kurt Angle announced that she would take on Asuka at Elimination Chamber. If Nia defeats Asuka, she will be added to the match of whichever title Asuka decides to go after at WM. She also got a nice squash win over poor Vanessa Floyd. I’m not sure why WWE doesn’t utilize these squash wins more often, but they always seem to work. Nia is a monster with a big match coming up at Elimination Chamber, so why not feed her a few easy wins and make her look like a star? They’re already doing that with Asuka beating Sasha and Bayley back to back weeks, so hopefully Nia continues to look good so their match at Elimination Chamber has the ‘either women can win’ type feel.
1. The Main Event
The main event was a ‘winner enters Elimination Chamber last’ match which I really enjoyed. The WWE has three weeks until the Chamber, so having these type of matches with a consequence attached to it is great for the build up. Too often they’ll just have the guys who will be in the chamber fight each other for no reason other than they’ll be in the same match at the PPV. Putting together this match gives each guy a reason to fight with a game plan and a sense of urgency. That’s why Cena and Elias teamed up to take out Strowman early on. They knew if they didn’t, chances are Strowman would take them both out and win the match.
I thought the finish was good too, because it gives Elias the technical advantage of entering last while reinforcing that Braun is still the most dangerous guy regardless of when he enters. I don’t know how many times WWE can give Strowman these title opportunities and not pull the trigger, but he’s ready to be the top guy. The crowd loves him, he’s turning into a super worker and has a different vibe than almost anyone else. While it’s great that he continues to dominate, eventually it’s not going to be enough that he dominates and loses. If Reigns is still the guy they want to dethrone Lesnar, Strowman needs to be the first guy up after that.
I’m an optimistic wrestling fan. That’s not something you see a lot of on social media, but I’m one of them. That”s why I think Ronda Rousey coming to the WWE is going to be fantastic. While Rousey has made only one WWE appearance it has generated a lot of reactions.
Ronda Rousey Debuts in the WWE
Firstly, let’s look at what the detractors are saying. Sasha Banks & Nia Jax are seemingly unhappy with Rousey’s arrival and subsequent spotlight. Those comments have triggered WWE fans into thinking that Rousey isn’t well liked and therefore won’t succeed. Let’s get real for a moment. This is the WWE. The athleticism, injuries and insane skill that go into being a pro wrestler are very real. Wrestlers getting fans to start conspiracy theories via Twitter and interviews are not. While I appreciate it still being real to some people, you have to think logically.
Rousey vs. The World
Nia Jax is the women’s division resident monster. Sasha Banks is The Boss. They don’t call her that because she loves giving other women the spotlight. The Nia tweet everyone is focusing on is this one. Now, would it be smart for WWE to get some feuds going via Twitter and interviews or should everyone just be ecstatic that Rousey is there? The WWE is better than almost anyone at utitlizing social media, and if Rousey is still training for her first match, why not use the power of the internet to stir the pot?
Is Rousey going to take someone’s spot? Of course she is. The same way Asuka took someone’s spot when she debuted. The same way Ember Moon took someone’s spot in the women’s royal rumble. If Rousey was in the WWE for a one and done I would understand the uproar. She’s not, as she’s signed to a multi year deal and already has great name value. I’m sorry if I don’t fall apart when she takes Bayley or Mickie James’ spot.
Maybe the dumbest ‘point’ being discussed is that Ronda Rousey will only succeed if she’s built up properly. Uhh, ya think? Same goes for literally every other man and woman that debuts on the main roster. If her character sucks and they put her in story lines that don’t maximize her strengths she will not succeed. If her character is good and they do maximize her strengths, she will succeed. Those two things have nothing to do with Ronda Rousey.
Here’s the thing. While it’s fun to think the women’s revolution is due to contributions from past stars, it’s just not true. The reason women are in the main events of Raw, Smackdown and pay per views is because of women like Ronda Rousey. Same goes for the women’s TLC, cage, royal rumble and elimination chamber. If Rousey didn’t prove that people will pay to watch talented women fight, the WWE would not have followed suit. Rousey has legit fighting skills that will only be enhanced as she continues to train in the Performance Center. More importantly, she knows how to sell and perform in big time events.
She’s headlined multiple UFC events that have earned over 1 million PPV buys. While her career as a UFC fighter might be over, her career as a WWE star is just beginning. That’s great news for everyone involved.
The night before the Royal Rumble is no longer the final day of preparation. Thanks to the success of NXT, fans now get an NXT TakeOver event that sometimes outshines the main roster PPV. While it’ll be tough to outdo the Royal Rumble, TakeOver does have a solid card set up. Let’s get to the preview and predictions!
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The Velveteen Dream vs. Kassius Ohno
This match was just added last night, and it’s between two guys who need a big win. NXT loves to back themselves into this corner, but I have faith the match will deliver. The build reminds me of Ohno/Itami, where Itami insulted Ohno, lost a match, then Ohno gave him the ‘I told you so’ treatment. Dream did that when Ohno lost to Gargano, then Dream lost to Gargano, then Ohno confronted him backstage and now we have a match. Dream had the match of the night with Aleister Black at the last TakeOver, so he has a lot to live up to Saturday night. The key for him is going to be avoiding the KO and using his athleticism to his advantage. I’m not sure how much longer Kassius is going to hang around in NXT, so I think Dream should go over here.
Prediction: Velveteen Dream picks up his first big win at an NXT TakeOver
Extreme Rules Match: Adam Cole vs. Aleister Black
NXT doesn’t usually venture into gimmick match territory for their TakeOver specials. That’ll change when Undisputed Era’s leader Adam Cole takes on Aleister Black in an Extreme Rules match. These two first squared off on the December 13th episode. Black defeated Cole in that match, earning a spot in the #1 contender Fatal Four Way. Cole took offense to not being in the match and more or less cost Black his chance at a title shot by attacking him. A few weeks later Black and Roderick Strong were challenging Fish & O’Reilly for the tag belts. Once again Cole interfered and cost Black a win.
Usually an Extreme Rules match would favor the guy who REALLY wants to hurt the other guy. While that would be Black in this case, the no DQ stipulation means that Fish & O’Reilly can interfere throughout.
The positive for Black: Undisputed Era has made A LOT of enemies. If Fish & O’Reilly interfere, don’t be surprised if Roddy Strong or Sanity come out to even the odds. Aleister Black is still undefeated in singles action, so this will be a very interesting outcome.
Prediction: Aleister Black
NXT Tag Team Title Match: Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish (C) vs. Authors of Pain
Remember when I said Undisputed Era has made a lot of enemies? Well none are more vicious and powerful than the Authors of Pain. The Authors were the most dominant team in NXT for a long stretch of time, and they’ll be looking to regain that distinction against the tag champs. The Authors don’t have as much experience as Fish/O’Reilly, but they make up for it in size and strength. They’ve beaten a who’s who list of all time NXT tag teams, including The Revival & DIY. Fish & O’Reilly have been more opportunistic than dominant, but they certainly know how to win. I do think that Black beats Adam Cole, which makes it hard for me to pick against the champs here. Undisputed Era has been impressive since debuting and I don’t think having all three guys lose at a live special is the right call. Plus, Authors of Pain need to be on the main roster wrecking people ASAP.
Prediction: Fish & O’Reilly
NXT Women’s Title Match: Ember Moon (C) vs. Shayna Baszler
Poor Ember Moon. She’s been a star in NXT since her debut, but could never win the big one against Asuka. Asuka moved to Raw still undefeated, but Ember continued to scratch and claw her way to the top. She competed in the Fatal Four Way match for the vacant title at WarGames and FINALLY won the title. How is she rewarded? A match against Shayna Baszler, who has been murdering women for weeks on NXT TV. Moon is definitely up to the task, but this is a hell of a first title defense.
The build for this match has been perfect. Ember is not only a fighting champion, but she’s a champion with a moral code. Shayna Baszler has been terrorizing the women’s division for weeks and the only person to stand up for the fallen has been Ember. Just like in the movies, the hero is only as good as the villain, and Shayna is one hell of a villain. I love that she has an actual MMA background, because it makes everything she’s doing seem a bit more dangerous. While Ember has the wrestling advantage, all it takes is one misstep for Baszler to apply the Kirifuda Clutch. If that happens Saturday night, Ember’s reign will be a short one. Shayna has a ton of potential, but Ember deserves at least a few successful title defenses.
Prediction: Ember Moon
NXT Title Match: Andrade Almas (C) vs. Johnny Gargano
It’s not often that the main event steals the show at TakeOver, but that’s exactly what’s going to happen in Philly. These two have already fought twice, including the off the charts match at TakeOver: Brooklyn. Interestingly enough, that match is what started Almas on his current hot streak. Since defeating Gargano in Brooklyn, Almas has been the star of NXT and enters TakeOver as the NXT champ. Gargano went in the opposite direction post Brooklyn and honestly owes his spot in the title match to a little bit of luck. Gargano was given a spot in the Fatal Four Way #1 contender’s match after Velveteen Dream was injured. To his credit, he earned the victory in that match, and now goes on to fight someone he has never defeated.
There are two people to remember heading into this match. Candice LeRae just signed with WWE less than two weeks ago. She is Gargano’s real life wife, and also someone who could even the odds if Zelina Vega gets involved. The other is Tommaso Ciampa. He was injured in May after turning on Gargano, and his expected return is early 2018. Last time I checked, it was early 2018, and what better time to return than when Gargano is in a title match? He’s also been selectively active on Twitter lately. IF Ciampa is healthy, NXT would be crazy to do anything but Gargano vs. Ciampa for the NXT title at the WrestleMania show. In order for that to happen, Gargano would have to win Saturday night.
Prediction: Gargano wins, Ciampa attacks post match similar to Owens/Zayn after Sami won the NXT title.
Wrestling fans, rejoice! All the hard work put in from post WrestleMania to now will soon be rewarded, because the 2018 Royal Rumble is this Sunday from Philadelphia. In addition to the men’s rumble, this year will feature the first ever women’s rumble. The best part? It’s the same rules as the men. 30 women, over the top rope eliminations only with the winner earning a title shot at WrestleMania.
Four title matches will round out the 4 hour event, with both rumble matches probably taking up over two hours. Without further ado, the preview and predictions for the 2018 Royal Rumble
Smackdown Tag Team Championship (2 Out Of Falls): The Usos (C) vs. Gable & Benjamin
From a pure wrestling standpoint, the two tag title matches should absolutely steal the show. The one with less shenanigans will probably be the better of the two, so I’m picking that one to be the Smackdown match. The Usos have been as good as it gets for almost a year now, and their transition to the ‘day one’ characters has really paid off. They put on a slew of classic matches with New Day, and now they’re matched up against Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin. While Gable & Benjamin haven’t been teaming long, they’re both tag team specialists. American Alpha were one of my favorite teams in NXT, while The World’s Greatest Tag Team had that name that for a reason.
The last time these two teams met there was some controversy, so hopefully WWE lets them have a 3 fall classic this time. I’m going to start with an upset pick.
Prediction: Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin
Raw Tag Team Championship: Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan vs. The Bar
The team of Rollins and Jordan has been an odd one. It’s not often that a team wins the tag titles on the first night they’re paired together, but that’s exactly what happened Christmas Day. With Dean Ambrose on the shelf for awhile, The Shield has dissolved for the time being. Reigns was doing his own thing as IC champ (before losing on Raw) while Rollins and Jordan have formed an uneasy partnership. I’ve really enjoyed the Jordan character during this run. He’s dorky and annoying and obnoxious, but he doesn’t quite know it yet. Combine that with his skill level in the ring and you have a character with some promise.
On the other side you have The Bar, a team forged out of toughness and competitiveness. They’re a much better team than Rollins/Jordan, but they haven’t figured out how to beat them yet. I don’t know how long Rollins and Jordan will be partners, but I do want to see The Bar feud with The Revival. If that feud happens over the tag belts, that would be even better.
Prediction: The Bar.
WWE Championship Match: AJ Styles (C) vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
Under any other circumstance, if you put Styles, Owens & Zayn in a WWE title match, it’s aces. Unfortunately the build for this has been lackluster, mostly because Shane McMahon & Daniel Bryan have been heavily involved. When you have three guys with this much talent, you don’t need to add in an authority figure angle too.
If they stick with Owens/Zayn as the heels, they should definitely win. From there you could have them be co-champions and continue to sarcastically piss off the fans and Shane. The only problem with that is the fans don’t want to hate Sami and Kevin when they’re together. They don’t want to hate Styles either, but it wouldn’t be too hard to turn him into an overconfident dick. Add in Shane helping Styles win, and you have a new “corporate champion”. Plus, Owens aligned with two of the easiest to root for good guys would be a great foe for Styles.
This isn’t the worst situation to be in, especially with the talent involved. But sometimes less is more, and I think people would be much more excited for a classic triple threat match.
Prediction: AJ Styles
WWE Universal Title Match: Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane
Raise your hand if you’re excited for a Kane title match in 2018? No hands? Good. I’ll be the first to admit that Strowman vs. Lesnar was not great at No Mercy. If you think adding Kane to that match is going to make it better, you deserve to be tarred and feathered.
Braun is as ready as anyone to be Universal champion. He’s been ready since he flipped Roman Reigns’ ambulance. In a perfect world, he would pin Kane here and WWE would spend the next 2+ months building the third and final match between he and Lesnar at Mania. Also in this perfect world, Roman Reigns doesn’t exist. As great as Lesnar is, his time as champ should be coming to a close. Raw is a three hour show every week, and the champ needs to be there more consistently. Unfortunately, I don’t think his reign ends here.
Prediction: Kane. LOL. Just kidding, Lesnar retains, hopefully by beating Kane so badly he becomes mayor of Knox County, Tennessee.
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
This a huge and overdue accomplishment for the women of the WWE. I don’t think I’m alone in saying the division is not where it needs to be, but it absolutely deserves some of these spotlight matches. There are 18 participants listed for the match, which leaves 12 spots open for legends/NXT women. If I had to split that 6/6, here are the 12 I’d choose.
NXT – The Iconic Duo (Billie Kay & Peyton Royce), Nikki Cross, Ember Moon, Shayna Baszler & Kairi Sane
Legends/Surprises – Trish Stratus, Michelle McCool, Torrie Wilson, Kelly Kelly with my two dream spots going to AJ Lee and Ronda Rousey
The NXT picks speak for themselves. The Iconic Duo are the best pure characters in NXT and should have been on the main roster months ago. Nikki Cross is the most exciting/unpredictable woman in NXT, which is perfect for a Rumble match. Ember Moon is the NXT women’s champ, while Shayna Baszler is the #1 contender. Kairi Sane is the exciting new recruit who has a championship reign in her near future.
Trish, Michelle, Torrie and Kelly were all at Raw 25. It would make sense to have all of them in the rumble, although I won’t be upset/surprised if they pick other women from the Attitude Era and beyond. Same goes for AJ and Rousey. AJ is more of a long shot than Ronda, but Rousey is the only surprise that could be brought in and win the match.
I love Asuka and think she should enter at 1 and eliminate the other 29 women, but Ronda Rousey is a worldwide attraction. It’ll definitely piss off the die hard fans if she wins over Asuka, but I’d understand it from a business perspective. She’s also different from your average celebrity, as she has the real life fighting credentials to back up any win(s) she picks up. On the other hand, Asuka is the most unique performer they have, and should be fighting for or defending the women’s title at WrestleMania.
Men’s Royal Rumble Match
There are 17 participants listed for the men’s rumble match. That leaves 13 spots open for current roster members, NXT guys and legends.
There will be definitely be more main roster guys added. The first three names that come to mind are Roman Reigns, US champ Bobby Roode and a returning Dolph Ziggler. With Enzo Amore fired and the Cruiserweight title up in the air, you could add guys like Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali and Drew Gulak. Other fillers could be Curt Hawkins, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows. Hopefully NXT guys like Lars Sullivan and Kassius Ohno are given a shot, too. I don’t know if WWE will bring back any legends for this, but I don’t think they’re needed. If you add the names I listed you’d have 28 and there are always guys who fight earlier in the night who end up pulling double duty.
Regardless of how WWE rounds out the 30, there are only a handful of guys who could win. My list would be Finn Balor, Roman Reigns, Shinsuke Nakamura and Dolph Ziggler. Dolph is definitely the longest shot, but hopefully they’ve been keeping him off TV this long for a reason. Roman is the most obvious choice, especially after dropping the IC belt on Raw. The most intriguing choices are Balor and Nakamura. They’re so close to being breakout stars, and a rumble win plus being in a major title match at Mania could be exactly what they need.
Prediction: Head – Roman Reigns. Heart – Finn Balor.
The 2018 Royal Rumble is this Sunday from crazy town Philadelphia. To get everyone in the spirit WWE announced the date and location of next year’s show. It’s a doozy.
2019 WWE Royal Rumble Announcement
WWE today announced that Chase Field in Phoenix will host Royal Rumble on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. This marks WWE’s debut at Chase Field and the first time that the Royal Rumble has ever been held at a baseball stadium.
In addition, as part of Royal Rumble Weekend, Phoenix will host the following events at Talking Stick Resort Arena:
While holding big events in smaller venues has it’s charm, I’m a fan of the big arenas. Or is this case, outdoor baseball parks. Chase Field is home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and it’s gorgeous.
Pro wrestling at baseball stadiums isn’t a new idea, and there have been some iconic moments in the past. It is new for modern day WWE however, and it’ll be interesting to see how they figure out the logistics. Another cool part of WWE’s marketing strategy is how the Rumble is more than a one day affair. NXT TakeOver will be the night before, while Raw and Smackdown will be the Monday & Tuesday after. Those three shows will take place at the Talking Stick Resort Arena, which housed last year’s Elimination Chamber.
Make sure to stayed tuned to our site as I’ll have previews and predictions for TakeOver and the Rumble on Friday.
Raw was live from San Antonio, Texas last night. This is the best time of year to be a wrestling fan. We’re less than a week away from the 25th anniversary show and less than two weeks away from the Rumble. WrestleMania is so close you can taste it. It’s wonderful. If you’re going to remember one thing from this show, it’s going to be Braun Strowman. BRAUN STROWMAN in the biggest possible capital letters. There were other segments, including Nia Jax vs. Asuka, The Revival vs. local competitors and Rollins vs. Balor in the main event. Without further ado, the five stars from the 1/15/18 edition of WWE Raw.
5. BRAUN GODDAMN STROWMAN
The start and end of the Braun Strowman story line was pretty silly. Braun opened Raw with a quick, impactful promo about his destruction last week and his desire to win the Universal title. He’s interrupted by Kurt Angle, who fired him for almost murdering Lesnar and Kane. Strowman took this in stride and calmly exited the building. Just kidding, he tried to kill everybody and everything. Throughout multiple segments he tossed around security guards, beat up people in catering, ate a piece of chocolate cake, flipped a production truck and threw Michael Cole off the stage. That was the fun part.
The lame part is that after firing him earlier in the night, Angle rehired Strowman and put him back in the title match at the Rumble after being told to do so by Stephanie McMahon via mysterious phone call. I understand the firing led to all the fun and cool stuff we love about Strowman, but I think they could have come up with something more interesting than “Stephanie called and said you’re rehired”. Also, that’s not a great precedent to set. Next time someone gets fired, they should try to burn the building down until Stephanie agrees to rehire them.
Even though the story was a little lame, that doesn’t change the fact that Strowman is THE MAN. It bums me out that he probably won’t win the title at the Rumble, because there is no one on the roster more ready for a title than Braun Strowman.
4. Cedric Alexander
Cedric Alexander still isn’t getting the crowd reactions, but you can’t deny his ability in the ring. He took on Tony Nese last night in a fun, competitive match with a clean finish. That’s all you can ask for when you’re building up a title challenger. I also love how the Lumbar Check is turning into a finisher opponents should fear. When Cedric hits that move, it’s lights out. He went for it a few times during the match but Nese was able to escape. Once he was softened up enough, Cedric was finally able to hit it and pick up the win.
The Cedric/Enzo story has dragged out due to real illness and fake injuries, and the Rumble result is anyone’s guess. Enzo is the main attraction for 205 Live, and he loses most of his shine without the belt. Cedric has been the main challenger for months now. If you don’t put the title on him at the Rumble, you have to move on. I know he just signed today, but I’m all for Enzo and the Zo Train holding the belt until Ricochet is ready to blow everyone’s minds on the main roster.
3. The Revival
The Revival beat the snot out of local competitors, and it’s impossible to explain how much better the tag team division is when they’re involved. They’re the best TEAM on the roster by a mile, and they somehow make technically sound wrestling exciting. After the match, they issue a warning to all the returning legends coming back for next week’s 25th anniversary show. They also call themselves ‘professional wrestlers’ which could be seen as tacky, but I liked it because it’s true. The Revival wrestle in trunks, elbow and knee pads. They have a simple entrance theme, simple catchphrases and let their in ring work do the talking. The only downside is how often they’ve been injured on the main roster, but hopefully that’s a thing of the past.
With teams like the New Age Outlaws and Dudley Boyz returning next week, I hope The Revival get to shine against a legendary duo. Also, if there is a God, The Bar and the Revival will be feuding over the tag belts in a hoss off very soon.
2. Elias, The Miz & The Miz-Tourage
What Braun Strowman accomplishes with physicality and violence, Elias does with a guitar and words. Elias is one of my favorite parts of the show, and most of the time it has to do with his ballads. You can tell he’s having a blast out there, and I hope he, The Miz and the Miz-Tourage continue to stay together. Elias always gets a reaction out of the crowd, too. Right now it’s loud boos whenever he makes fun of the city he’s in. I wouldn’t be surprised to see those boos turn to cheers once people start to appreciate how entertaining he is.
He pairs perfectly with Miz and the Miz-Tourage, and hopefully he’ll continue to play the Miz to the ring. Miz cut another great promo, and if you want examples of why Elias and Miz are two of the best talkers on Raw, watch this segment, Unfortunately it’s followed by Roman Reigns easily beating Axel and Dallas with Miz helping them, but you can’t have everything.
It does irritate me that WWE is doing the same thing with Reign’s IC title run that they did with Cena and the US belt. Yes, the open challenge is great. It’s also great to see Roman wrestling competitive matches and giving guys a spotlight. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to build up one challenger and have him beat Reigns for the title, though? When Cena was US champ, they had him beat everybody in competitive matches. No singular guy gained any momentum, and he eventually lost the belt to a returning Alberto Del Rio.
Maybe Reigns loses it to Miz next week, or maybe he loses it to a random challenger between now and WM, Either way, that’s not as effective as building a story with a challenger people want to see win the belt. They’re being predictable by not being predictable, if that makes any sense. It’s cool because literally anyone could dethrone Reigns. On the other hand, WWE is having surprise challengers instead of building someone who can keep the momentum Reigns is generating. If the plan is still Reigns/Lesnar at WM, put the IC belt on Miz, and turn Elias face to challenge him.
1. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor
Finn Balor took on Seth Rollins in the main event. It was a rematch from their Universal title match at Summerslam that Balor was unfortunately injured in. Before I get to the match, I need to mention something. The Extraordinary Man Who Can Do Extraordinary Things is the worst nickname of all time. Balor is electric and basically markets himself, but that’s the best WWE could come up with? It makes him sound like a circus performer. Anyway, Balor, Gallows & Anderson finally have some purpose now that they’re paired together, which is a great thing. Balor and Rollins have great chemistry together as well, and WWE is out of their minds if both guys don’t get ample time in the Rumble.
Balor loses, but only after Jason Jordan trips him up which allows Rollins to finish him off with the Curb Stomp. I can’t explain how much of an upgrade the Curb Stomp is to Rollins’ B version of the V-Trigger. It’s a true knock out blow, especially when guys sell it like Balor did last night. With Balor leading the Balor Club and Rollins getting the Curb Stomp back, they should be two of the top guys to win the Rumble. Ambrose is out for awhile and Jordan is reportedly hurt too, which could open up Rollins for a single’s run.
If I’m settings things up for WM season, here’s how I’d set up the title pictures. Reigns, Miz and Elias focusing on the IC belt. The Bar, The Revival, Gallows/Anderson focusing on the tag belts. Everyone chasing Asuka for the women’s belt. Balor, Rollins & Strowman trying to dethrone Lesnar.
WWE Raw was live from Cleveland, Ohio last night. The main event featured Kane vs. Braun Strowman in a Universal title #1 contender’s match. Samoa Joe, Cesaro & Sheamus were all in singles action against members of The Shield while WWE had to pull a 180 with the cruiserweight division due to Rich Swann’s arrest. As usual, I’ll be spotlighting the five best things from last night’s show.
And now, the five stars from the 12/11/17 edition of WWE Raw.
5. Samoa Joe
Joe vs. Ambrose was my least favorite of the three Shield matches, but I’d be a stupid idiot if I didn’t give Joe the praise he deserves. Raw opened with Joe in the ring berating Roman Reigns and talking about how he’s beaten and/or injured each member of The Shield. Joe always talks with a purpose and shy’s away from the cookie cutter language that a lot of other guys use. When Joe speaks, it sounds like something he would say rather than something that was written for him. That’s as high of a compliment you can give a WWE promo nowadays. I also love the pairing of Joe and The Bar, and the 6 man with The Shield sometime down the line is going to be off the charts.
The Joe/Ambrose match was OK, but fell short compared to Rollins/Sheamus & Reigns/Cesaro. Jason Jordan continuing to stick his nose in everyone’s business is a nice addition to the story, and gives the crowd an actual reason to boo him. I could’ve went without the ref distraction being the reason Ambrose lost, because his top rope offense couldn’t do maximum damage to a newborn baby. I will take the Joe choke out win though, because Samoa Joe should always win.
4. Finn Balor
Finn Balor picked up another win against the Miz-tourage, this time defeating folk hero Curtis Axel. It’s far from the best use of Balor, but I’ll take this over losing clean to Kane any day. It’s a little mind boggling that WWE doesn’t know how to use Balor, especially since he debuted and immediately won the Universal title. If these matches against Dallas & Axel lead to a Balor/Miz feud, I will be very happy. The Miz is WWE’s miracle worker and it’d be as pure of a baby face/heel matchup WWE has had in a while.
3. Seth Rollins vs. Sheamus
My second favorite Shield match last night was Rollins vs. Sheamus. These two have great chemistry whether it’s a singles or tag match, and I loved Sheamus’ strategy. Rollins is quicker and can take Sheamus out with high flying moves. How does Sheamus counter that? Brutalize Rollins knee, which is the same body part Seth uses for his finisher. It’s a simple story but it works, and Rollins is always better when he’s fighting from underneath as a fan favorite. His move set caters to the live crowd, specifically the top rope Suplex into the falcon arrow, which should be a finisher. Fun, competitive match with a clean finish. You can’t ask for much more than that.
2. Cesaro vs. Roman Reigns
Speaking of fun, competitive matches with a clean ending, Cesaro vs. Reigns was the best match of the night. Every time Cesaro is given time he shines, and I can’t explain why he’s not consistently in a main event spot. Similar to Sheamus working Rollins’ knee, Cesaro worked Reigns right arm, which is the key to his Superman punch and almost all of his offense. Once again Reigns was stellar as well, and his run as IC champ has been successful so far. You know he’s not losing the title on a random Raw, but his title defenses have all been great, and he’s elevating everyone he’s in the ring with.
I don’t know how long The Bar will be a thing, but WWE could do a lot worse than to make Cesaro IC champ. His physicality in this match was great, which always brings out the best in Roman. Cesaro deserved to win the match, but the time isn’t right for a title change. Hopefully he’s in the conversation when it’s time for Roman to move on to the Universal title again.
1. Cedric Alexander (and the rest of the cruiserweights)
So. A few weeks Kurt Angle set up a multi week storyline to find a new #1 contender for Enzo Amore. It consisted of two fatal 4 way matches, with the winner from each match facing each other. The winner of that match would be the new #1 contender. Rich Swann won one fatal 4 way and Drew Gulak won the other, so they would be one of two guys to fight for the cruiserweight title. The only problem with that is Rich Swann was arrested over the weekend for kidnapping and false imprisonment. Slight hiccup. Swann has been indefinitely suspended, so a second chance fatal 4 way took place on last night’s show with the winner of that match moving on to face Gulak. Got it?
The match was once again a standout moment for the cruiserweight division. They’ve proved for three weeks in a row that if you give them time, they will shine™. While Mustafa Ali is a personal favorite of mine, it’s hard to argue that Cedric Alexander doesn’t deserve to be a star in the cruiserweight division. He’s so dynamic and every move he executes has a beautiful crispness to it. I think he and Gulak will be put on a good match as well, and I like that they’re teasing some dissension within the Zo Train. It’s also nice to have the cruiserweights be an important part of Raw. There is way too much talent for them to be an afterthought.
In case you missed it, I wrote about the potential the Matt Hardy/Bray Wyatt feud has. Hopefully they move beyond dueling backstage promos soon, because both guys are too good to be boring.
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.
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.
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.
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.