By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, Arkansas. The Royal Rumble is two weeks away and it’s time for WWE to kick things into high gear. Brock Lesnar is in the building which means that everybody needs to take cover because a storm of the F5 variety is brewing. Who incurred The Beast’s wrath as he embarked on his 86 Seconds to Hell and Back Tour? 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.
· The annual Martin Luther King Jr. video montage continues to hit me in all the feels. The WWE Production Team is always first-class when it comes to tributes like this. Stellar stuff.
· The opening segment started off innocently enough with Roman Reigns admitting defeat and vowing to win the Universal Championship from Kevin Owens at the Royal Rumble because Chris Jericho will be suspended high above the ring in a shark cage.
· Paul Heyman made his way to the ring and recited Brock Lesnar’s Royal Rumble mantra of Eat, Sleep, Eliminate, & Repeat. Reigns noted that Lesnar must be eating and sleeping because Heyman was left all by his lonesome.
· Before Reigns could get his hands on Heyman, Owens and Jericho came out to refute Reigns’ claim. The Canadian Brothers from another mother had a minor disagreement regarding who would leave WrestleMania as the Universal Champion. Jericho assumed that they would share custody of the title regardless of the outcome while Owens questioned his best friend’s mathematics.
· Seth Rollins came out to proclaim that he was winning the Royal Rumble and reminded Heyman and Reigns that anything could happen during the main event of WrestleMania.
· Braun Strowman decided to join the party only for Brock Lesnar’s music to hit moments later. While everyone was ready to face off against Lesnar, Sami Zayn snuck into the ring and jumped Strowman from behind.
· A melee broke out as Owens and Jericho taking a powder break. Reigns, Rollins, and Zayn stunned Strowman with a Superman Punch/Running Knee /Helluva Kick combo.
· After they laid out Strowman, Lesnar nailed Rollins with a clothesline and took Reigns and Zayn on a trip to Suplex City. The Beast wanted Strowman, but the big man backed down and decided to bide his time until the Rumble.
· The distraction allowed Reigns to drop Lesnar with a Superman Punch. Owens and Jericho tried to sneak in the ring to double team Reigns, but he nailed them both with a Superman Punch as well.
· Lesnar was the last man standing as he laid out Reigns with an F5 to demonstrate what could happen at the Rumble.
· The promos leading up to the brawl was nothing special, but the physicality was on point which turned the segment around. Lesnar is at his best when he is destroying people and I’m glad Heyman didn’t stand in the ring to cut a promo while his client snarled like a bull for a change. He has plenty of time to hype up his Beast during the go-home show next week which should lead to another epic encounter with Goldberg. Overall, this was a good way to kick off Raw.
· Enzo Amore and Big Cass defeated Rusev and Jinder Mahal in a decent match. Enzo’s offense wasn’t pretty, but his energy makes up for his lack of in-ring finesse.
· Big Cass wisely didn’t attempt the East River Crossing on Mahal and opted for a body slam instead. He followed things up with the Empire Elbow, but Rusev broke up the pin.
· Cass nailed Rusev with a Big Boot and tagged in Enzo to win the match with the Rocket Launcher. Is this feud over or will it lumber toward the finish line at the Rumble in a couple of weeks? We shall see.
· Ariya Daivari made Lince Dorado tap out to the Cobra Clutch for the tap out win. The match was solid while it lasted and the crowd was receptive to Dorado’s flashy offensive flurry. However, this was all about Daivari gaining momentum heading into his “I Forfeit” Match against Jack Gallagher on 205 Live tomorrow night.
· Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson won the Raw Tag Team Championship, but their victory was short-lived because the referee overruled his stand-in because Sheamus should have been disqualified after nailing him with a stiff elbow shot to the face. Therefore, Gallows and Anderson won the match via Disqualification while Cesaro and Sheamus retained the Tag Team Titles.
· Gallows and Anderson didn’t take the news well as they dropped Sheamus with The Magic Killer. Despite the outcome, this was a very good match which featured a nice balance of smash mouth and technical wrestling. Cesaro was great as always, but everyone turned in a good performance which elevated the title match as a whole.
· The finish was creative because Sheamus’ emotions got the best of him when he accidently knocked out the referee which cost his team the match. Gallows and Anderson have a legitimate gripe because they won the titles fair and square until the original ref overturned the decision. This was the perfect way to set up a rematch at the Rumble in a couple of weeks. Plus, it gives them a mean streak in order to get over as badass heels. Let’s hope their heat is sustained this time around.
· Now playing the role of Dean Ambrose is Sami Zayn. The backstage segment featuring Zayn, Rollins, and Reigns was something else.
· Neville jumped Rich Swann from behind before his match against Tony Nese got underway. Swann fought back until a group of officials broke things up.
· Nese decided to make a name for himself by attacking Swann, but Neville pulled Nese off the Cruiserweight Champion because he wanted to do the honors. Nese didn’t get the message and went after Swann once again. Neville grabbed Nese and tossed him out of the ring. The self-proclaimed King of the Cruiserweights nailed Swann with a sick kick to the head to send a message that he was ready to take his seat on the throne with the Cruiserweight Championship in tow.
· Titus O’Neil completed The New Day Trifecta by losing to Big E in a serviceable match. O’Neil had a few hope spots, but the outcome was never in doubt as Big E dropped O’Neil with the Big Ending for the win. Let’s hope this is the end of their mini-feud because it has sucked for the most part.
· Bayley will not be winning the Poet Laureate Award anytime soon, but she stood up to Charlotte by cutting a heartfelt promo about how her dad took her to every WWE Live Event he could at the SAP Center in San Jose, California when she was growing up. She talked about her dreams of being a professional wrestler and how she planned to win the Raw Women’s Championship from Charlotte at the Royal Rumble in two weeks. Bayley got slightly booed for her ho-hum poems, but she turned things around as the segment came to an end.
· Charlotte did a nice job setting up Bayley’s promo, but the material she was given to work with was weak. The “What?” chants didn’t help matters, but The Queen had a snappy comeback when she called an annoying fan in the front row “Four Eyes.” That’s a line straight out of the Ric Flair Playbook. Simple, but effective.
· Cedric Alexander and The Brian Kendrick had a hard hitting match that lacked crowd heat, but they popped for Alexander’s finisher when he drilled Kendrick with the Lumbar Check for the win.
· Alicia Fox provided the assist in her attempt to patch things up with her former boyfriend. When she tried to hug it out with Alexander, he dissed her which played into Fox’s Psycho Ex-Girlfriend Lifetime Movie of the Week Persona.
· Welcome home, Kurt Angle! Angle is the first inductee announced for the 2017 WWE Hall of Fame. The video package chronicling his career was awesome and I loved how the fans chanted “You Suck” when Angle’s theme music hit. It’s a nice homage because Edge started that chant a long time ago during his feud with Angle in 2002. Here’s hoping that Angle’s Hall of Fame induction doesn’t prevent him from wrestling periodically if he is medically cleared to do so.
· The six-man tag team match featuring Reigns, Rollins, and Zayn vs. Jericho, Owens, and Strowman was very good. Zayn and Strowman added a breath of fresh air to the proceedings because they shook up the formulaic quadrangle between the main event players. Otherwise, the match would have been a bore to get through despite the talent involved.
· The babyfaces tried to chop Strowman down to size, but they came up short when Strowman defeated Zayn with a Running Powerslam.
· After the match was over, Strowman hoisted Zayn on his shoulders and carried him to the announce table. Rollins came to the rescue and nailed the big man with a chair shot to the back followed by a wicked Spear by Reigns. Reigns and Rollins were about to put Strowman through the table when Owens and Jericho intervened. Rollins nailed Jericho with a Pedigree on the main stage only to eat a chair shot to the back by Owens seconds later.
· Reigns also got hit with a chair shot to the back before getting power bombed through the announce table by Owens as Raw went off the air.
· Reigns being laid out two weeks in a row means only one thing: He’s winning the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble. It’s becoming more apparent by the week. The odds have been stacked against Reigns lately which plays into his never ending coronation arc. Mixed reaction be damned!
· The creative team is at full throttle as we head into the big showdown at the Alamo Dome. Reigns vs. Owens doesn’t feel like a big match on paper, but I expect both men to deliver the goods at the Rumble. Jericho will play a role in the outcome despite being caged like a sexy piñata high above the ring. Most importantly, will Reigns finally thrive as a strong babyface champion representing the universe at large? We shall find out soon enough.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was decent. The in-ring action was solid with the six man tag winning match of the night honors with the Tag Team Title Bout coming in a close second. The opening segment set the tone for the evening as Brock Lesnar put everyone on notice that he is winning the Royal Rumble. Goldberg has something to say about that and he will get his chance to do so as the go-home show emanates from Cleveland, Ohio next week.
· The Little Rock Crowd was hot until the 10:00 Lull Period of Death. The Cruiserweight matches were short, but several storylines were forwarded in a meaningful way. By doing this, it gives fans a reason to watch 205 Live in order to see the fallout from Raw. The rest of the show was okay, but WWE is saving the big guns for next week’s show. It should be an electric atmosphere in The Land if the creative team is on their A-Game. Fingers crossed!
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!