By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to the final installment of The Raw Exposé for 2016. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago crowd is always raucous and I expect them to be extra pumped since it’s the day after Christmas. Plus, Braun Strowman is still on the loose after he laid out Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns last week. Did Strowman put anyone else on the injured reserve list? The answer to that question can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of Raw in no particular order.
· Stephanie McMahon threw some serious shade at CM Punk by saying that the fans chanting his name would last one second longer than he did during his UFC debut against Mickey Gall. The Punk 2:14 T-Shirts will not be sold on WWEShop.com
· Stephanie continued her troll job by teasing a Shield reunion, but she dashed the crowd’s hopes and dreams because they were so gullible. Stephanie is at her best when she antagonizes an audience when they are in hijack the show mode.
· The Raw Commissioner granted Seth Rollins’ request by booking him in a match against Braun Strowman. Roman Reigns would defend the United States Championship against an opponent of Stephanie’s choosing. She wrapped up the segment by announcing that a Raw Tag Team Championship rematch featuring The New Day vs. Sheamus and Cesaro would take place after the commercial break as the opening segment came to a close.
· This was a hot way to start the show. Stephanie McMahon was unbearable, but she played her part to perfection by getting under the crowd’s skin while Rollins made a few good digs about Triple H hiding behind his wife’s skirt. Reigns was showered with boos until Rollins agreed to kick Strowman’s ass Shield-Style.
· Reigns is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to fans cheering and booing him. If he’s with The Shield, he’s beloved. If he’s flying solo and within sniffing distance of the WWE Universal Championship, he’s jeered. A heel turn might be his only hope, but Vince McMahon is determined to make Reigns the biggest thing in professional wrestling. We are entering year three of this experiment and it has failed outside of Reigns kicking Triple H’s ass from pillar to post and punching McMahon in the face to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship last year on Raw. Let’s hope The Chairman of Board cracks the code next year because the boo birds are only going to get louder heading into WrestleMania season.
· Sheamus and Cesaro successfully defended their Raw Tag Team Titles when Sheamus nailed Xavier Woods with the Brogue Kick. The match was solid, but both teams had a better outing at Roadblock last Sunday. There a few rough transitions between spots, but the action was good for the most part.
· Kofi Kingston had a nice showing, but Big E’s interference down the stretch cost his team the win. It appears that The New Day is out of the Tag Title picture for now, but I expect them to be lurking in the shadows waiting for their next chance to become three-time champs. Just a hunch.
· Anderson and Gallows ruined a Hallmark moment between Bayley and Goldust as they ripped the head off the Dusty Rhodes Bayley Bear. That was easy heel heat which should lead to a match against The Golden Truth later in the show. The fans showing Rhodes respect in the background was a nuce touch.
· Poor, sweet Scarlett. Nia Jax is going to destroy her.
· Michael made a cringe-worthy pun by saying that Scarlett was Gone with the Wind. It was a sort of clever, but still…Bleh!
· As expected, Scarlett was mincemeat for Jax as she laid her out with a Samoan Drop followed by a leg drop because Scarlett chose Sasha Banks as her role model. The match was inoffensive and to the point.
· Chris Jericho looked slightly perturbed that Stephanie picked Kevin Owens to face Reigns for the United States Championship later tonight. Foreshadowing much?
· Charlotte defeated Bayley thanks to an assist from special guest referee Dana Brooke. Bayley had Charlotte beat with the Bayley-to-Belly, but Brooke pulled the replacement ref out of the ring to break up the pin count.
· Bayley chased down Brooke until they both made it back in the ring. Charlotte rolled Bayley up from behind while Brooke made the fast count. It should be noted that Charlotte had her feet on the ropes for extra leverage. The Queen got her win back while Bayley’s contendership status is in question.
· The match was fine while it lasted, but the heelish outcome was never in doubt. The climb to the top should be a long and arduous one for The Hugger Extraordinaire. It will make her coronation that much sweeter if everything is executed properly.
· Braun Strowman is a multitasker. Who knew?
· Strowman will face Sami Zayn in a Last Man Standing match next week on Raw. To give Strowman added incentive, Stephanie McMahon told Strowman to pretend that Rollins was Zayn. It’s almost like therapeutic transference. Very Freudish.
· Neville defeated TJ Perkins with an inventive roll-up by pressing his knee against Perkins’ head. Neville pulled the tights which watered the down finish, but it was still a nice visual.
· Neville and TJP had a decent match that actually had good heat at first, but it died pretty fast as the bout went on. Both men were doing spots instead of weaving together a cohesive match which caused the crowd to mentally tune out. This was a disappointing outing considering the talent involved.
· Enzo and Big Cass got a measure of revenge on Rusev and Jinder Mahal when they laid both men out to the crowd’s delight. Enzo’s promo was entertaining as always while Big Cass told Rusev that he wasn’t man enough to trap him in a room and beat him up like Enzo. Their feud continues, but it’s hard to feel sorry for the babyfaces because they tried to orchestra a booty call with a married woman. That’s not an easy thing to whitewash.
· Braun Strowman to the rescue! I love how WWE deliberately puts on bad matches only for Strowman to destroy everyone in his path. He spared the audience from seeing The Shining Stars vs. Darren Young and Bo Dallas. If Strowman keeps this up, he’s going to become a babyface by default.
· Braun Strowman vs. Seth Rollins was surprisingly entertaining. Strowman looked strong as the fans got behind him during the match. Rollins made him look like a monster, but it takes two to tango in order to pull off a good match. It wasn’t a technical masterpiece, but I thought both men did a nice job accentuating their strengths instead of exposing their weaknesses in terms of Strowman’s inexperience.
· Sami Zayn attacked Strowman from behind which led to the match being thrown out. Strowman and Zayn took their fight backstage while Chris Jericho made his way to the ring to pick the bones by nailing Rollins with a pair of Codebreakers as the segment came to an end.
· Strowman was made to look strong without Rollins eating the pin. It was a showcase match that showed how destructive Strowman can be. Most importantly, the fans believe that he is a legit badass who should be feared. WWE might have found their next monster if they play their cards right.
· Karl Anderson rolled up Goldust for the win in a decent tag team match. The 10:00 p.m. Lull Period of Death is starting to set in.
· Rich Swann made quick work of Ariya Daivari with a spin kick, but his celebration was short-lived when Neville attacked him from behind during his post-match interview with Charly Caruso.
· Neville took flight as he laid out Swann with the Red Arrow leading up to their nontitle match on 205 Live tomorrow night. It was a nice way to add heat to their bout, but Swann’s awkward promo undercut the impact of Neville’s attack.
· Jack Gallagher is so awesome. He is a star in the making and his duel against Daivari tomorrow night on 205 Live should be entertaining.
· Roman Reigns retained the United States Championship when he nailed Kevin Owens with a Spear for the win.
· Seth Rollins provided the assist when he attacked Chris Jericho at ringside after Owens scored a close near fall after dropping Reigns with a Codebreaker. Owens laid out Rollins and delivered the “Suck It’” chop, but the distraction gave Reigns enough time to set him up for the aforementioned finish.
· After the match was over, Rollins delivered the Pedigree to Owens followed by Reigns nailing Jericho with a Spear at ringside. KO falling on top of Y2J was a great spot as it appeared they were hugging each other after getting their asses handed to them. The show went off the air with Reigns and Rollins celebrating in the ring.
· Reigns vs. Owens for the US Title was a good main event match. The crowd hated Reigns, but they showed him a little love when he dropped Owens with a Powerbomb. Outside of that, he was booed mercilessly.
· The ending was also symbolic as WWE is starting to drop hints that Triple H is about to make his return to kick off the New Year. Football season is almost over which erases the company’s biggest competition on the ratings front. Raw is probably going to get killed during the College Football National Championship on January 9th, but it should be smooth sailing afterward as we head into WrestleMania season.
· Triple H’s presence should help Rollins get over as a babyface if he has good material to work with. They have been ready to pull the trigger on this feud for well over a year. Let’s hope it’s worth the wait.
· As for Reigns and Owens, I don’t see Reigns being the endgame when it comes to winning the Universal Championship. He is a placeholder for something bigger. It might be Owens vs. Jericho, but the title doesn’t have to be involved in order for them to have a good match. Reigns’ time will come, but I have a feeling that it won’t be at the Royal Rumble despite Jericho being trapped high above the ring in a shark cage.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was serviceable. It felt like a post-holiday house show that was televised on national television. The crowd was hot, but they were quick to chant for CM Punk when the show hit a rough patch.
· Raw was an appetizer compared to the main entrée that is SmackDown Live’s Wild Card Finals which takes place tomorrow night. The broadcast team hyped the blue brand‘s end of the year spectacular throughout the night which makes it a must-see show.
· WWE did hype next week’s show as Goldberg will kick off the New Year as Raw emanates from Tampa, Florida. Also, Braun Strowman will face Sami Zayn in a Last Man Standing Match. Strowman has looked strong over the past couple of weeks. His match against Zayn at Roadblock was a snooze, but I expect both men to have a better showing because there is no time limit restricting what they can do in the ring. This will be a big test for Strowman. Let’s see if the big man can rise to the occasion.
· 2016 is almost a wrap. With one more live show to go, The Road to WrestleMania can officially begin. It’s another year where some things are already set in stone in terms of matches, but there is an air of mystery behind what’s to come as well. Here’s hoping that Raw starts filling in the blanks next week. And so it begins…Again.
On that note, this wraps up the final Raw Exposé of 2016. I hope you enjoyed it and will be back tomorrow with another installment of The SmackDown Files to wrap up the year. See you later, boys and girls!