By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Laredo Energy Center in Laredo, Texas. The Royal Rumble PPV was another polarizing event for wrestling fans. It wasn’t Scorched Earth bad, but Roman Reigns entering the Rumble at Number 30 pissed off a lot of people. Fortunately, Randy Orton saved the day by eliminating Reigns to become the 7th man to win the Rumble twice.
Where does that leave the denizens of Raw? The answer to that question is not clear at the moment, but everything will come into focus soon enough. In the meantime, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of Raw in no particular order.
· Kevin Owens’ words came back to haunt him when he promised Braun Strowman a shot at the Universal Championship after he defeated Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble. Strowman helped Owens retain the title by attacking Reigns last night and was ready to cash in on his championship opportunity. Owens denied that he made such a promise, but the video footage said otherwise.
· Mick Foley came out and made the match official for later tonight as the opening segment came to a close.
· This was a nice way to kick off the show as WWE used continuity to justify Strowman’s Universal Title shot. It made sense and proved that words can come back to bite one in the proverbial ass. The Mutual Admiration Society featuring Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho was cute while Strowman added a hint of danger when he crashed the party. The match between Strowman and Owens should be very interesting from a stylistic standpoint.
· Sami Zayn defeated Chris Jericho with the Helluva Kick in a very good match that featured great action and crowd heat throughout. Jericho looked sharp after declaring himself the 61 Minute Man after his Royal Rumble performance last night. Zayn might be in line for a United States Title shot since he beat Y2J in convincing fashion.
· Luke Gallows eliminating the word “Nerd” from his vocabulary would do him a world of good. That term is so fifth grade...
· Tony Nese picked up a statement win over Mustafa Ali when he nailed Ali with a running knee in the corner. WWE telegraphed the finish when they showed Ali hitting the Inverted 450 Splash from last week because it was a clear sign that he wasn’t going to dazzle the audience with his finisher tonight.
· The post-match interview featuring Austin Aries and Nese was very similar to Jerry Lawler’s segment with Dolph Ziggler on SmackDown Live from a couple of weeks ago as Aries asked Nese questions in a condescending manner only for Nese to respond matter-of-factly. Nese is a gifted athlete, but he is dead behind the eyes when it comes to projecting his personality on camera. Let’s hope he can pull it together because he is very talented in the ring.
· The face-to-face confrontation between Stephanie McMahon and Seth Rollins was very good as they traded a few verbal barbs at each other that elicited a few oohs and ahhs from the crowd. Rollins had a great parting shot when he stated that he had nothing else to lose. He wasn’t afraid to crash a board meeting knowing that it would piss off Wall Street and Vince McMahon. Rollins was bold enough to claim that he would come to Stephanie’s house to kick Triple H’s ass. He vowed to slay the King as Stephanie backed away from the verbal exchange. The Raw Commissioner did have the final word when she announced that Triple H was on his way to the building to confront Rollins as the segment came to an end.
· Rollins cut one of his better promos as he showed passion and fire throughout. Most importantly, he didn’t get slapped by Stephanie. Her ball snippers were kept at bay. For now...
· Cesaro, Sheamus, and Bayley defeated Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows, and Charlotte when Bayley dropped Charlotte with the Bayley-to-Belly to pick up another nontitle win against the Raw Women’s Champion. The Six-Person Mixed Tag Team Match was fun as Cesaro made a nice recovery after he slipped off the top rope while trying to lay out Anderson and Gallows with a springboard cross body. It wasn’t pretty, but he finished the move like a pro.
· Bayley has been diagnosed with Sasha Banks Syndrome. The key symptom is one’s ability to beat Charlotte on Raw, but failing to close the deal on PPV. It’s a trend that’s likely to continue until WrestleMania. Let’s hope The Hugger Extraordinaire can crack the code by then.
· The Coronation of King Neville was decent, but it lacked crowd heat despite the performances of Neville and Rich Swann on the mic. It’s disheartening because Neville has been doing fine work as of late. Also, Swann cut one of his better promos as he spoke like a normal human being for a change. It will help get his fun-loving character over by showing different shades of his personality.
· Braun Strowman just took out Chris Jericho by choke slamming him through the announce table. Owens no longer has Jericho as his security blanket to bail him out of trouble. This could get ugly.
· Roman Reigns saved Owens’ Universal Championship when he came out to attack Strowman which drew an automatic disqualification. Reigns nailed him with a series of Superman Punches before dropping the big man with a sick spear while using the steel steps as a launching pad. He also nailed Owens with a Spear for good measure before heading to the back.
· Owens vs. Strowman was a nice match that was gnarly in nature. Strowman held his own while Owens had enough hope spots to save face as a fighting champion who happens to be a wimp under pressure without his best friend bailing him out of trouble.
· The Championship bout ending via DQ makes sense because Reigns wanted to get revenge on Strowman for costing him the Universe Title last night. It appears that Reigns and Strowman will face off at Fast Lane in March. That should be quite the spectacle.
· Brock Lesnar challenged Goldberg to a final match at WrestleMania to determine whose legacy will stand the test of time. Paul Heyman cut a great promo describing how some of the greatest wrestlers and athletes have had amazing careers, but there was always a certain foe that blemished their otherwise spotless resume. Andre The Giant had Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, John Cena, and Kurt Angle, had Lesnar, and Ronda Rousey had Holly Holm. Lesnar’s greatest adversary is Goldberg and he plans to attach the dreaded “Yeah, but” phrase to his legacy at WrestleMania. Heyman did a wonderful job driving that point home which pushed the segment over the top.
· Nia Jax absolutely destroyed Sasha Banks. It was a vicious display which saw Jax lock Banks’ bad knee in a nasty submission hold. The timekeeper rang the bell to stop the match, but the damage was already done. In terms of getting Jax over as a monster heel, this was her best performance to date.
· Enzo Amore and Big Cass defeated Rusev and Jinder Mahal when Enzo pinned Rusev with the Rocket Launcher. It appears that this feud is finally over since the Bulgarian Brute was pinned clean as a sheet.
· Samoa Joe didn’t show up at the Rumble last night, but his presence was felt tonight when he acted as Triple H’s mercenary when he attacked Seth Rollins during the final segment.
· Triple H delivered a long soliloquy about how he gave Seth Rollins the world by plucking him out of obscurity and making him The Man in WWE. Rollins stood by HHH’s side as they made history together. However, their relationship turned sour when Rollins suffered a devastating knee injury in October 2015 which caused to him to relinquish the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Triple H considered that a spit in the face because Rollins was weak in the face of adversity and decided to teach his protégé a lesson by turning his back on him last August.
· Hunter has tried to show restraint by ignoring Rollins’ insults, but that all changed when Rollins invaded NXT Takeover: San Antonio. NXT is The Game’s creation and anyone who steps foot on hallowed ground with a score to settle was in for a rude awakening. Triple H was tired of hiding behind a suit as he removed his jacket and tie as he called out Rollins.
· Rollins came out, but he was blindsided by Samoa Joe. Triple H put his jacket back on as he watched Joe dismantle Rollins. HHH headed to the back as Joe choked out Rollins with the Coquina Clutch as Raw went off the air.
· This was a great way to end the show. The delayed instant gratification of seeing Samoa Joe on the main roster was worth it because he made such a memorable debut. It should’ve happened last night, but I digress. Joe acting as Triple H’s heavy is a great way to stall the physical confrontation between Rollins and HHH for the next month or so.
· Joe is in the big leagues now and it should be interesting to see how he interacts with the other badasses on Raw once he gets settled in.
· Rollins will have to go through Joe before he can get to Triple H. Joe vs. Rollins should be great as The Creator of NXT and All Things Professional Wrestling watches from his ivory tower. WWE provided the element of surprise that was lacking last night at the Rumble. Let’s hope there are more twists and turns on the horizon as the Road to WrestleMania continues.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw was solid. The first couple of hours zipped by, but the show hit a wall during the Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Rusev and Jinder Mahal match. Fortunately, the 10:00 P.M. Lull Period of Death was quelled by the surprise appearance of Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar. It kept the crowd awake heading into the main event segment.
· WWE is starting to plant seeds for WrestleMania, but there is still a mystery surrounding Kevin Owens’ next opponent for the Universal Championship. Things should become clearer over the next few weeks once the creative team addresses the situation.
· Goldberg will respond to Lesnar’s WrestleMania challenge as Raw emanates from Portland, Oregon next week. It should be a fun night as Mania season heats up.
On that note, this wraps up another edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back next week with a brand new installment of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls!