By: Keila Cash
· Mick Foley cut his hair and beard! He looks nice.
· The debut of the Kevin Owens Show will take place later tonight with Goldberg as the first guest. Expect fireworks and physicality.
· After Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho called out Foley for abusing his power, Stephanie McMahon came down to the ring and laid down the law.
· Stephanie announced that Roman Reigns would defend the United States Championship against Chris Jericho. To ensure a definitive outcome, Reigns would lose the US Title if he was counted out or disqualified.
· Jericho and Owens wanted Seth Rollins banned from ringside while Foley wanted Jericho banned from his own match against Reigns. Stephanie had to step in and correct Foley’s hilarious faux pas and proceeded to chew out all three men because Raw lost to SmackDown Live in the ratings last week and wanted to reassert Raw as the premier brand by placing a special stipulation for the Owens vs. Rollins match.
· The loser of the bout would be banned from ringside during the US Title match between Reigns and Jericho. And with that, the opening segment came to an end.
· This was a good way to start the show. Owens and Jericho continue to be a laugh riot while Foley continues his streak of botching promos as of late. His passion tends to get the best of him sometimes, but Stephanie McMahon came to his rescue.
· At least Steph kept her ball snippers at bay as she chided Owens, Jericho, and Foley for bickering about frivolous things while they are embroiled in a ratings war with SD Live. I thought she was about to get slap happy to ring in the New Year. My fears have been quelled. For now.
· Owens made a costly error in judgment by hitting Seth Rollins in the stomach with the ring bell which resulted in an automatic disqualification. Rollins will be allowed at ringside during Reigns vs. Jericho while Owens is banned from supporting his best friend.
· Owens vs. Rollins was solid as the action picked up after the commercial break. It was an abbreviated match minus the drama and near falls, but they held the crowd’s interest throughout. I loved how a fan repeatedly called Owens a coward after he got disqualified. At least it’s still real to him, damn it!
· Karl Anderson picked up a tainted win against Cesaro via a neck breaker from the top rope. Sheamus tried to prevent Luke Gallows from interfering, but his plan backfired when Gallows caused Cesaro to slip groin-first against the top rope which led to the finish.
· Despite the loss, Cesaro shined throughout the match. His uppercuts were great as usual. However, his power and agility were the true stars as his running springboard crossbody was a thing of beauty.
· It appears that the next Tag Team Title program will feature Cesaro and Sheamus vs. Gallows and Anderson. This could be a very good feud if Gallows and Anderson keep the comedy to a minimum. If they do that, everything else should be gravy.
· The Last Man Standing Match featuring Sami Zayn vs. Braun Strowman was good. Zayn and Strowman had a much better match than the one they had at Roadblock last month. Zayn showed flurries of offense when he whacked Strowman with a pair of Kendo Sticks, a lead pipe, and a steel chair. The trifecta of foreign objects didn’t phase Strowman, but a crash through a table off the main stage briefly stunned the big man. By briefly, I mean less than five seconds.
· Zayn’s hopes at victory were dashed when Strowman flung him down the ramp followed by a running power slam on the floor. Zayn tried to get up, but Strowman kept knocking him down until he laid him out with another running power slam which kept Zayn down for the ten count. Strowman was declared the winner, but he wasn’t finished with Zayn quite yet.
· While the paramedics were putting Zayn on a stretcher, Strowman flipped the stretcher over and tossed him into the barricade while offering his own ashes to ashes, dust to dust benediction before heading to the back.
· Strowman looked like a monster while Zayn put up a valiant effort despite losing. Strowman is gaining momentum heading into the Royal Rumble in few weeks. Zayn will probably take some time off to sell his injuries. Hopefully, he will return with a fresh feud to sink his teeth into so he won’t flounder in the mid card scene.
· The video package recapping the Gentleman’s Duel between Jack Gallagher and Ariya Daivari was great. Charlie Chaplin would be proud of this tribute to vaudeville.
· The New Day announced that they will enter the Royal Rumble match and were about to reveal their New Year Resolutions until Titus O’Neil interrupted them.
· O’Neil wanted to be part of The New Day and had the audition of his life as danced, blew his whistle to the tune of “New Day Rocks”, and threw in a little twerking for good measure. He even wanted to be featured on a box of Booty-Os, but Xavier Woods slammed that idea by saying that O’Neil’s face should be on the back of a milk carton instead. That was some shade of the highest order.
· O’Neil had a good comeback by calling Woods the weakest link in The New Day. Woods challenged O’Neil to a match. O’Neil sucker punched Woods and accepted the challenge which took place after the commercial break.
· O’Neil and Woods had a decent match as Woods picked up the win via a roll-up.
· O’Neil was very entertaining during his promo and a part of me wished that he was The New Day’s manager because the fans actually liked his shtick before things went south. It would better than the ill-conceived Titus Brand gimmick that is currently swimming in the red.
· Bayley deserves a gold star for standing up to Stephanie McMahon as the Raw Commission shamed her for being ordinary. Stephanie almost showed compassion by booking Bayley in a match to determine who will face Charlotte at the Royal Rumble. However, her act of benevolence was short-lived when she revealed that Bayley’s opponent was Nia Jax.
· Despite her apparent disdain for the Hugger Extraordinaire, Stephanie had no problem singing “Hey, We Want Some Bayley.” under her breath. She is a closet fan at heart.
· Alicia Fox’s attempt to help Cedric Alexander failed when Drew Gulak beat Alexander via a roll-up with a pull of the tights for good measure. The match was nothing special, but it does forward Fox and Alexander’s relationship because her good intentions have a tendency to backfire which might put a strain on their budding romance. Plus, it opens the door for Noam Dar to take advantage of the situation because he wants Fox for himself.
· Roman Reigns successfully defended the United States Championship when he nailed Chris Jericho with a spear for the win. Jericho caused his own downfall when he rammed his head into the exposed turnbuckle that he uncovered in the first place which played into the finish.
· Jericho was in control during the first half of the match until Reigns got back on offense down the stretch. There were great counters and near falls as Reigns countered Jericho’s Codebreaker into a powerbomb only for Jericho to reverse it into a head scissors which turned into the Walls of Jericho. Reigns managed to escape the hold, but Jericho regained the advantage when he slammed Reigns into the ring post.
· This allowed Jericho to remove the protective covering from the top turnbuckle. The referee caught Jericho in the act, but it was a mere distraction for the big surprise Y2J had in store for Reigns.
· Jericho grabbed the US Title belt from the timekeeper’s area and tossed the belt to Reigns as he feigned getting hit with it. The referee caught Reigns red-handed, but Reigns convinced the ref that Jericho set him up. The ref decided not to disqualify Reigns.
· Realizing that his plan failed, Jericho nailed Reigns with a Codebreaker to win the match fair and square. Reigns kicked out and the match ended moments later with the aforementioned finish.
· Reigns vs. Jericho was very good as it had nice crowd heat throughout. Even though both men wrestled each other for the US Title a few weeks ago, they managed to shake things up to make it feel less repetitive in nature. Jericho’s ode to Eddie Guerrero was awesome and I’m glad Rollins didn’t interfere because his presence would have telegraphed the finish. This was the best match on the show so far.
· TJ Perkins made The Brian Kendrick tap out to the Kneebar in a short match. It was fine while it lasted, but the match was rushed and lacked heat. The 10:00 P.M. Lull Period of Death is starting to set in.
· Speaking of which, Big Cass fell a bit short during his 2-on-1 match against Rusev and Jindar Mahal when the numbers game caught up to him. Rusev nailed him with a kick to the head for the win. The match was nothing to write home about.
· Bayley is officially the number one contender for the Raw Women’s Championship when she dropped Nia Jax with a Bayley-to-Belly from the top rope to pick up the win. Jax controlled 90% of the match until Sasha Banks came out to distract her. This allowed Bayley to hit her finisher which popped the crowd because she channeled her inner She-Hulk to slam Jax onto the mat.
· Bayley will face Charlotte for the Women’s Title at the Royal Rumble while Banks will presumably have a match against Jax at the PPV as well. This woke the crowd up heading into the main event segment.
· The Kevin Owens Show turned into a sneak preview of the go-home show for The Royal Rumble in three weeks as Chris Jericho announced he was entering the Rumble along with Goldberg and Brock Lesnar. Owens was not pleased with this news because he would have to face his best friend for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania. Either that or he’s scared that Jericho would beat him for the title. Just a wild guess.
· Jericho reassured Owens that they would still share custody of the title despite the outcome. Before the lovefest got underway, Goldberg’s music hit as he made his trek to the ring.
· The crowd didn’t give him a huge ovation and I place the blame on how Owens was scripted to use superlatives to describe Goldberg only for him to troll the audience by saying he was talking about Jericho. That killed Goldberg’s pop because the fans were more excited about being on The List than cheering boisterously for him. It made Goldberg appear less over which damn near killed the heat in this segment. The next time WWE wants to get cute, they need to look at this segment as a reminder of what not to do when hyping up a marquee star.
· Goldberg told Jericho that he was first since he was entering the Rumble. Jericho threatened to put him on The List, but Goldberg countered by saying that he drop both of him and Owens with a Spear and Jackhammer.
· Owens was not impressed and told Goldberg take a seat in the lawn chair. Goldberg tossed the chair out of the ring. Once again, Owens didn’t back down as he tossed the rest of his furniture out of the ring. They were about to go at it until Paul Heyman made a surprise appearance.
· Heyman teased that Lesnar was in the building, but he trolled the audience which rendered them heatless once again. Heyman offered a spoiler for the Rumble. Lesnar would conquer and eliminate everyone in the match. Goldberg brushed off Heyman’s warning as Roman Reigns made his way to the ring.
· The crowd got back into the segment when Reigns went face-to-face with Goldberg as the two Alpha Males representing The University of Georgia and Georgia Tech stood toe-to-toe in the ring. The moment was broken up when Braun Strowman came down to the ring. Heyman cowered over in fear as Strowman grabbed the mic from his hand.
· Strowman declared that he was going to win the Rumble as Jericho and Owens exited stage left.
· Strowman, Goldberg, and Reigns were standing in the ring as the fans were lukewarm for this three-way showdown. They did pop when Goldberg and Reigns nailed Strowman with a double Spear as the show went off the air with Goldberg celebrating in the ring.
· The main event segment was good, but it could have been so much better if WWE didn’t kill their own heat. A great troll job is nice every now and then, but it becomes a hindrance when it fails to get a money segment over. Everyone played their parts well, but Owens swerving the audience with the fake Goldberg intro did more harm than good.
· Goldberg should be fine and his inevitable confrontation with Lesnar on the go-home show before the Rumble will make up for what happened tonight. The creative team learned a valuable lesson. Don’t play with the crowd’s emotions because it will come back to bite you in the ass when your key segment ebbs instead of flows.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was solid. The first couple of hours featured good action, but the 10:00 P.M. Lull Period of Death set in until the Women’s Match livened things up. As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, Raw would be tighter at two hours.
· The Cruiserweight matches were short-changed and seeing Perkins and Kendrick wrestle each other for the nth time did both men no favors. These matches are just a primer for 205 Live, but I wished the division was showcased more prominently on a three-hour show that desperately needs a spark in between segments. Hopefully, the Powers That Be can figure out the missing piece that is preventing the purple brand from thriving. Similar to the gestation of the Women’s Evolution, let’s hope our patience pays off.
· The rest of the show was fine and I like how WWE is promoting the Royal Rumble as a must-see event. It feels more important and special which builds anticipation for the PPV. The card looks good so far and one can only assume that there are more surprises in store.
· The company is smart to hype next week’s show as The Undertaker appears in New Orleans for the first time since his shocking loss to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX in 2014. I thought Taker was a part of the SD Live family and bled blue. What a turncoat! Just kidding. I think…
· Plus, Shawn Michaels will be on Raw plugging his new film The Resurrection of Gavin Stone which hits theaters January 20th. Michaels is always entertaining and it should be interesting to see who he interacts with. Most importantly, will he be involved in the Rumble since the show is taking place in his hometown? We shall find out soon enough.
· WWE is wise to book a big show against the National Championship Game between Alabama and Clemson. Their ratings will take a hit, but they shouldn’t hit historic lows if they put on an entertaining show. 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!