By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. To combat the National Championship game between Alabama and Clemson, WWE decided to load up the show with appearances by Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. Plus, Roman Reigns defended the United States Championship in a 2-0n-1 handicap match against Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho. Did the company do enough to provide good counter programming against the biggest college football game of the year or did they wilt under the pressure? The answer can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of Raw in no particular order.
· Mick Foley with the clean cut. Much better than last week.
· Well, that escalated quickly. I love how Braun Strowman roars to make his presence known before he appears on camera.
· Seth Rollins throwing a tree-like plant at Strowman is quite poetic considering the big man’s weapon of choice during the holiday season.
· Outside of Stephanie McMahon screaming a like a banshee, this backstage segment to kick off Raw was fine as Foley addressed the Undertaker rumors while Strowman wanted to get his hands on Roman Reigns and Goldberg after getting nailed with a double Spear last week. Rollins was upset that Strowman interrupted him which led to their brawl.
· Strowman wasn’t done yet as he came out before the 2-on-1 handicap match featuring Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho vs. Roman Reigns for the United States Championship. Reigns took the fight to Strowman, but he got swamped by Jericho and Owens which tipped the scales in the heels’ favor.
· Rollins ran out to make the save with a steel chair and attacked Jericho and Owens with several chair shots to the stomach and back. Roman Reigns joined in as he and Rollins forced Strowman out of the ring after playing an improvised game of Whack-A-Mole.
· Stephanie McMahon came out and announced that the show wouldn’t start or end on such a sour note. Reigns will defend the US Title later in the show while Rollins vs. Strowman was booked after the commercial break.
· Rollins vs. Strowman ended in a double count-out after Strowman failed to get Rollins and himself back in the ring before the count of ten. The match was fine as Strowman was on offense for the most part. Rollins showed flashes of offense including a frog splash from the top rope which resulted in a near fall.
· Rollins went for broke as he tried to take Strowman out from the outside while the monster was lying against the barricade. Strowman moved out of the way as Rollins crashed and burned. Strowman had Rollins dead to rites, but he failed to get him back in the ring in time to finish him off.
· Strowman grabbed a steel chair from the timekeeper’s area and was about to attack Rollins, but Rollins recovered in time to hold him off.
· As I mentioned several weeks ago, Strowman shouldn't be racking up wins against former World Champions yet. The moment should be saved for a big show that takes the crowd by surprise. Strowman’s signature win will come soon enough. Meanwhile, Rollins did the Yeoman’s work to make Strowman look like a beast.
· Jack Gallagher defeated Drew Gulak with a running corner dropkick. The match was fun while it lasted as Gallagher engaged the crowd with his lighthearted in-ring antics.
· Unfortunately, the fans gave Gallagher the “What?” treatment during his post-match interview with Charly Caruso. Gallagher invited Ariya Daivari to a parley tomorrow night on 205 Live to work out their differences. I wonder if tea and crumpets are on the menu because it’s customary to have those items on standby when gentlemanly negotiations take place.
· Shawn Michaels delivers the goods when it comes to his special appearances. Michaels had a movie to promote, but he still hammed it up as he tried to temper the “One More Match” chants when he took a trip down Royal Rumble lane.
· Rusev came out and demanded that Michaels put Lana in his new movie. HBK said that wasn’t possible because the film was shot months ago. The banter between Rusev and Michaels was good. Rusev has a great sense of humor and knows how to improvise on the spot. Whenever WWE decides to turn him babyface, he will be a fan favorite because he is charismatic as a performer.
· Enzo Amore and Big Cass came in to bat cleanup on the promo front, but their “How You Doin?” shtick ran out of gas when they ran down popular movies to describe the partnership between Rusev and Jinder Mahal. I guess the fans didn’t get the “Blow” reference because that joke died a thousand deaths.
· Rusev threatened to put Big Cass and Michaels in a wheelchair like Enzo. Cass challenged Rusev to a match and The Bulgarian Brute accepted by replacing himself with Mahal. The bout was set to take place after the commercial break.
· Big Cass vs. Mahal wasn’t pretty, but Michaels made things better when he nailed Rusev with Sweet Chin Music at ringside.
· Big Cass dropped Mahal with the second worst East River Crossing of all time followed by the Empire Elbow for the win. The East River Crossing is a great finisher, but the execution can go haywire at times. Bubba Ray Dudley didn’t take the move well last year during an episode of SmackDown and Mahal suffered the same fate tonight. I think that finishing maneuver is going back on the shelf until further notice.
· Neville vs. Lince Dorado was fine despite being shortchanged on time. Dorado had a few hope spots, but Neville had things in control once he targeted Dorado’s arm. He eventually made the high flyer tap out to a variation of the Rings of Saturn.
· He locked in the hold after the match was over only for Rich Swann to make the save. Swann showed nice aggression as he beat down Neville. Neville escaped certain doom by getting out of the ring before Swann nailed him with the Spin Kick. The crowd was dead for the match and run-in, but this was a nice way to forward the Swann-Neville feud leading up to their presumed Cruiserweight Championship match at the Royal Rumble.
· Stephanie McMahon made Sasha Banks and Bayley feel three sizes too small after belittling them backstage. Banks was a little abrasive when she demanded that Stephanie book her and Bayley in a tag team match against Charlotte and Nia Jax next week. Stephanie mocked Banks’ Boss Moniker and decided that both ladies would get their match tonight as a form of punishment. Oh, joy!
· Sheamus defeated Luke Gallows with a Brogue Kick despite Karl Anderson attacking Cesaro at the announce table. Sheamus was distracted long enough for Gallows to drop Sheamus with the Fireman’s Carry Flapjack for a near fall. Cesaro recovered and attempted the Big Swing to Anderson on the main stage, but Anderson wiggled his way out of the hold.
· This caused Gallows to become distracted which led to the finish. This could have easily gone the other way, but 50/50 booking reigns supreme. In this case, it’s more forgivable because the Tag Team Champs being duped two weeks in a row would have stalled their momentum a bit. Anderson and Gallows need the heat, but it can only go so far if they are still portrayed as jokesters instead of legit badasses.
· Before Stephanie McMahon could give Mick Foley an F for his mid-year performance review, The Undertaker came out to save the day. Taker announced that he will be entering the Royal Rumble Match. Plus, he made it clear that he answers to no one as he can bounce between Raw and SmackDown Live. He made Stephanie feel a little less omniscient after she dogged out Sasha Banks and Bayley earlier.
· Taker has dug 29 holes for 29 souls. If anyone gets in his way from main eventing WrestleMania, they would all rest in peace. And with that, The Dean Man left the ring like a true OG as the segment came to an end.
· Undertaker’s promo was short and to the point. He put Stephanie in her place with a single glance which made my night. I teased him for betraying SD Live by appearing on Raw, but it’s all good. The man has earned the right to hop brands with the greatest of ease. He brings a little unpredictability to the festivities and it is going to be quite the sight at the Alamo Dome if Taker, Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, and Braun Strowman are in the ring at the same time. That’s a Kodak Moment that will stand the test of time.
· Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Charlotte and Nia Jax was okay, but the outcome was never in question because Stephanie booked the match despite Sasha and Bayley not being at 100%.
· Jax laid out Sasha midway through the match which allowed the heels to take advantage. Charlotte made the tag to Jax, but Bayley rolled up The Queen up for a visual pin that the referee waved off. Jax laid Bayley out with a running body avalanche followed by the leg drop for the win. The match served its purpose in terms of the babyfaces facing adversity due to Stephanie McMahon abusing her power, but the in-ring action was ho-hum for the most part.
· The throwback footage of Titus O’Neil failing the keg challenge from NXT: Season II is a reminder of how far NXT has come as a brand over the past 6 years.
· Titus O’Neil is 0-2 against The New Day as Kofi Kingston laid him out with Trouble in Paradise for the win. I guess O’Neil will run the table when he loses to Big E next week.
· The numbers game finally caught up to Roman Reigns as he lost the United States Championship thanks to Codebreaker by Chris Jericho followed by a powerbomb on the ring apron by Owens. This weakened Reigns long enough for Jericho to drop him with another Codebreaker for the win. Jericho completes the Career Slam by winning every major championship in WWE.
· The 2-on-1 handicap match was one-sided as Reigns put up a good fight, but it wasn’t enough to combat the dynamic duo of Jericho and Owens. Reigns dropping the US Title makes sense because he didn’t do much to elevate the belt. He wore it as an accessory and defended the title against established stars that didn’t need the rub. Jericho winning the championship might give the beleaguered title some shine if an up and coming star steps up to the plate. If anyone can get Old Glory over, it’s Y2J.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was lukewarm at best. There were some bright spots here and there, but the show felt pointless and lifeless outside of The Undertaker’s appearance during at the top of hour three.
· The in-ring action was middling with the main event winning match of the night honors by default. That’s not high praise.
· Fortunately, Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman will make their presence known in Little Rock next week since it is the penultimate episode leading up to the go-home show on January 23rd. Heyman will provide the noise while The Beast will bring the heat. Hopefully.
On that note, this wraps up another edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will back tomorrow night with a brand new installment of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls!