By: Keila Cash
Location: AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas
Recurring Theme: Welcome To the Danger Zone (AKA Braun Strowman’s Rallying Cry)
Throwback Machine Monday: The Return of the Curbstomp!
· Kurt Angle fired Braun Strowman after he tried to kill Brock Lesnar and Kane last week. To say that the fans hated Angle’s announcement would be an understatement.
· This was a shocking way to start the show. Strowman cut the best promo his career while Angle was showered with the dreaded “What?” chant. On top of that, the “You Suck” chant actually generated heel heat because of his controversial decision to fire Strowman two weeks before his Universal Championship match against Kane and Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. Despite what happened, I have a feeling that Angle’s decision will be overturned before the end of the night. Just a hunch…
· Security tried to escort Strowman out of the building, but one of the dudes made the costly mistake of putting his hands on Strowman which lead to a 1-on-5 ass whopping. It was a glorious sight to behold.
· For the second week in a row, Apollo Crews and Titus O’Neal defeated Sheamus and Cesaro when Crews rolled up Sheamus for the win thanks to an assist from Jason Jordan.
· Sheamus and Cesaro had Crews dead to rites when Jordan appeared on the main stage. The distraction gave Crews enough time to pin Sheamus as Dana Brooke celebrated at ringside.
· Seth Rollins came out to chide Jordan for unnecessarily poking the bear two weeks before the Rumble. Because of his actions, The Bar has extra incentive to kick their asses. Jordan’s slow-burn heel turn continues…
· Poor Curt Hawkins. Braun Strowman put him through the catering table before eating a piece of chocolate cake to satisfy his hunger for violence and revenge.
· Cedric Alexander defeated Tony Nese with the Lumbar Check in a good match. The crowd was invested in the action which was refreshing to see for a change. Goldust provided some star power as he taunted Enzo Amore at ringside. I am not a fan of Goldust being a part of the cruiserweight division because it’s a clear admission from WWE that the concept has failed on the main roster. However, Goldie still gets a pop from the crowd which might transfer to Alexander if he develops a personality.
· Braun Strowman barged into the production truck and scared the shit out of everybody. No one was hurt, but he separated the tractor from the truck and flipped it over thanks to a slick edit from the production team. The irony is not lost on me that the same crew Strowman traumatized minutes ago still made him look good on television.
· Strowman appeared on the main stage and made a beeline towards the announce table. Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Booker T tried to get the hell out of dodge, but only two made it out alive as Booker sacrificed Cole by giving him a hip bump that left him in the direst of straits.
· Strowman grabbed Cole and was about to destroy him when Kurt Angle came out to defuse the situation. Angle told Strowman that Stephanie McMahon overturned his termination which puts him back in the Triple Threat Match at the Rumble.
· Strowman dropped Cole, but he wasn’t finished with him as he tossed Cole off the stage. The security guards broke his fall, but the spot was still cool.
· This entire segment was batshit crazy. Strowman was awesome. The tractor flip was hokey as hell, but I still loved it. Cole almost getting got made my night as well. All in all, this was a classic Raw moment that will be part of the WWE Network Collection for years to come.
· Asuka defeated Nia Jax when Jax was no longer able to compete after suffering a knee injury. Prior to the finish, Asuka and Jax had a good match that had the crowd hooked from start to finish. Jax dominated the action, but Asuka had a few hope spots by putting Jax in various submission holds. Jax powered out each time and took the action to ringside as she slammed Asuka back first into the ring apron.
· Jax grabbed Asuka and tried to pull her up the steel steps when Asuka kicked her in the thigh. Jax lost her balance and slipped between the steps. She took a bad spill on the floor, but she made back in the ring before the count of ten.
· Jax tried to stand up, but she fell to the mat. After falling down a third time, the referee called for the bell and awarded Asuka the win. The fans weren’t happy with the finish, but it was a competitive match while it lasted.
· Jason Jordan continues to push his luck by putting Seth Rollins in unfavorable situations. Jordan asked Kurt Angle to book Rollins in a match against Finn Bàlor. Angle agreed and set the bout for later tonight. I’m sure Rollins is overjoyed at this news.
· This year’s MLK Day package was great. The WWE production team continues to be first-class.
· The Revival defeated a random tag team with the Shatter Machine in quick and decisive fashion.
· Dash and Dawson prided themselves on being PROFESSIONAL WRESTLERS who didn’t care about playing video games backstage. They were students of the game and vowed to school the likes of the APA, New Age Outlaws, Shawn Michaels, and Stone Cold Steve Austin next week as Raw celebrates its 25th anniversary. Something tells me that a Fameasser, Clothesline from Hell, Sweet Chin Music, and Stunner is in their not too distant future.
· Roman Reigns defeated Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel in a 2-on-1 Handicap Match when Reigns nailed Axel with a Spear for the win. The Miztourage dominated the action early on, but the outcome was never in doubt despite The Miz’s outside interference. The San Antonio crowd was pro-Reigns which is a marked improvement from last week’s so-so response in Memphis.
· The Brooklyn and Philadelphia fans are going to boo him mercilessly over the next couple of weeks, but that’s par for the course at this point. Perhaps the short-term Shield reunion garnered some goodwill amongst hardcore fans. Nah!
· Sonya Deville defeated Sasha Banks with a kick to the ribs after catching Banks in midflight. It was a great spot that made Deville look badass. Paige was at ringside cheering on her fellow Absolution member. There was no mention of her probable retirement from in-ring competition.
· Perhaps WWE is saving the announcement for a later date because there is so much going on between Raw 25 and the Royal Rumble. Here’s hoping the company offers some kind of confirmation because the internet streets are talking.
· Matt Hardy defeated Heath Slater with the Twist of Fate in a quick match. Slater’s deletion went off without a hitch.
· Seth Rollins defeated Finn Bàlor with the CURBSTOMP in a very good main event match. The match started off slow, but the action picked up after the commercial break. The counters were on point as Rollins and Bàlor traded slingblades and superkicks down the stretch.
· Bàlor went up to the top rope to hit the Coup De Grace, but Rollins caught him with a superplex from the top rope followed by the Falcon Arrow for a near fall.
· Balor countered with an inside cradle for a 2 ¾ count. Instant replay showed that the ref’s hand hit the mat three times, but he was out of position which played into the controversial finish.
· Sheamus and Cesaro came out to attack Jason Jordan, but Jordan found himself in a tight squeeze when he bumped into Gallows and Anderson at ringside. He ducked out of the way as The Bar inadvertently went after Gallows and Anderson. Bàlor broke things up with a flip dive before heading back to the top rope to hit his finisher.
· Rollins rolled out of the way and bounced off the ropes to charge after Bàlor. Jordan tripped Bàlor behind Rollins’ back which set up the throwback finish moments later.
· Jordan and Rollins celebrated on the main stage while Bàlor tried to gather his bearings in the ring. The camera stayed on Bàlor, Gallows, and Anderson for an uncomfortable period of time until the show went off the air.
· This was a very strange way to end the show, but it left the door open for a rematch between Bàlor and Rollins because the ref botched the pin count. They could have a great feud with the babyface-heel roles being reversed this time around. Their in-ring chemistry is off the charts and I hope both men get more chances to shine because they bring out the best in each other.
· Rollins being unaware of Jordan’s shady tactics will cause this team to blow up sooner or rather than later. Jordan is trying to act chivalrous, but he’s a snake in the grass who is only using Rollins in order to get ahead. It’s a brilliant storyline that’s playing out perfectly. Jordan still needs to generate legit heel heat, but he’s well on his way based on his actions tonight.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was decent at best. Braun Strowman’s rampage carried the first hour as he destroyed people and inanimate objects with the greatest of ease. It was campy, but fun to watch nonetheless. The in-ring action ranged from decent to very good as Asuka vs. Nia Jax delivered the goods while the cruiserweights didn’t die on the proverbial vine thanks to the star power of Goldust. That is not a typo.
· The San Antonio crowd was hot all night which helped the show breeze by for the most part. The show hit a lull during the third hour, but the main event ended the night on a high note.
· Next week is the biggest episode of Raw since the flagship brand celebrated its 1000th episode five years ago. Raw 25 promises to be a stacked show from top to bottom. It should be a special evening filled with nostalgia while offering a glimpse into the future at the same time. WWE can’t cling to the past by relying on legends and part-timers in order to get over the hump in 2018. The well is running dry and it’s time for the company to bank on the future because they have the talent to pull it off.
· This year’s Royal Rumble should be a sign of what’s to come. Fresh Faces! Innovation! Deviation from the norm! Here’s hoping the creative team keeps that in mind while paying homage to the past. Fingers crossed!
On that note, this wraps up another edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back tomorrow night with a brand new installment of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls!