By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. This the first of two go-home shows for the Royal Rumble PPV which takes place from the Alamo Dome in San Antonio, Texas on Sunday. Goldberg is on tap to sell the Rumble match to the hilt. Did a certain Beast make an appearance to remind the world that his 86 Seconds to Hell and Back Tour is in full effect? The answer to this question can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of Raw in no particular order.
· The biggest news that took place during the opening segment was Kevin Owens forcing Chris Jericho to defend the United States Championship against Roman Reigns. Jericho was not pleased with this news because he talked himself into a fight he didn’t want. Owens tried to convince his best friend that everything was going to be okay, but Jericho didn’t look convinced.
· The rest of the segment was pretty light in terms of material, but it was harmless for the most part.
· Luke Gallows and Cesaro had a solid match, but it was marred by outside interference thanks to Sheamus and Karl Anderson. Cesaro showed off his strength and agility by hoisting Gallows up and dropping him with a beautiful Vertical Suplex followed by a Tornado DDT from the top rope.
· Sheamus helped Cesaro when he nailed Gallows with a clothesline from outside the ring. Cesaro took advantage of the situation by locking Gallows in the Sharpshooter, but Anderson ran back to ringside and drilled Sheamus with the Rocket Kick from behind which caused The Swiss Superman to break the hold. The distraction allowed Gallows to nail Cesaro with a big boot followed by the Fireman’s Carry Flapjack for the win.
· The shenanigans between both teams will come to an end when they face off in a rematch for the Raw Tag Team Championship at the Royal Rumble Kickoff Show on Sunday. Two referees will preside over the match to keep things under control.
· Bayley had some base in her voice as she emphasized the importance of facing Charlotte for the Raw Women’s Championship at the Rumble. She has two wins over The Champ, but Charlotte is 15-0 in title matches that take place on PPV. Will the streak stay alive or will it fall at the Alamo Dome? We shall find out soon enough.
· Seth Rollins and Sami Zayn will fight for a spot in the Rumble match thanks to an executive decision by Stephanie McMahon. The match should be very good, but the outcome is bound to suck because both men deserve a spot in the Rumble.
· As expected, Rollins and Zayn had a very good match that was filled with near falls and high drama throughout. Both men took some stiff shots with Zayn nailing Rollins with a sick Michinoku Driver midway through the match. Rollins returned the favor when he rocked Zayn with a kick to the face followed by a Running Knee.
· Zayn dropped Rollins with an Exploder Suplex in the corner and was about to nail him with the Helluva Kick from outside the ring, but Rollins cut him off at the pass and drilled Zayn with a Pedigree on the ring apron. Rollins was about to pick up the win when Triple H’s music hit.
· The crowd erupted, but it was a false alarm as The Game never showed his face. The distraction allowed Zayn to pin Rollins with an Inside Cradle to secure his spot in the Royal Rumble match.
· Lame finish aside, this was the best Raw television match of the year so far. The production team trolling Rollins per Stephanie’s orders was creative, but it hurt Zayn’s pop because his win felt cheap and tainted. Plus, the bait and switch of Triple H not appearing didn’t help matters either. Zayn will be fine long-term, but the booking did him no favors tonight.
· As for Rollins, WWE was smart not to put him in the Rumble match because fans would have been treated to a replay of Triple H eliminating his enemy for the second year in a row. The Rollins-HHH confrontation should take place separately in order to build to their inevitable match at WrestleMania.
· The six-man tag team match featuring Ariya Daivari, Tony Nese, and Drew Gulak vs. TJ Perkins, Mustafa Ali, and Jack Gallagher was fine, but it lacked crowd heat due to the previous match. Ali picked up the win for his team when he pinned Gulak with the Inverted 450 Splash.
· The annual “I’m Going to Win the Royal Rumble” schmooze took place with The New Day, Enzo & Big Cass, and Rusev proclaiming victory on Sunday. For reasons unknown to mankind, Titus O’Neil came out to announce that Mick Foley booked an eight man tag match featuring The New Day (Minus Xavier Woods) and Enzo and Big Cass vs. Rusev, Jinder Mahal, O’Neil, and Braun Strowman which took place after the commercial break.
· The eight man tag team bout quickly broke down into a parade of finishes which kept the match short and sweet. The match came down to Enzo and Strowman as fans popped for the David vs. Goliath encounter. Enzo put up a good fight, but Strowman dropped him with a Running Powerslam for the win.
· After the match was over, The Big Show made his way to the ring to confront Strowman, but the latter wanted no part of the showdown because he wanted to fight Big Show on his terms.
· Chris Jericho vs. Roman Reigns for the United States Championship was solid, but the fallout told the real story.
· Kevin Owens tried to will Jericho to victory on guest commentary, but he realized that actions spoke louder than words and ran down to the ring to help his best friend by attacking Reigns. The referee disqualified Jericho, but Owens continued to beat down Reigns.
· Owens called for the shark cage to be lowered in the ring. He tossed Reigns inside the cage and attempted to lock him up, but Reigns fought back and turned the tables on Owens by locking him the cage instead.
· Reigns gave the thumbs up sign to raise the cage as Jericho grabbed hold of the apparatus while Owens took flight. It was a great comedic spot, but the fun and games came to end when Reigns nailed Jericho with a Superman Punch and Spear as Owens watched from above the ring.
· Owens was freed from the cage but received more bad news when Charly Caruso announced that his Universal Championship Match against Reigns is now No Disqualification affair. Owens and Jericho were pissed off to the nth degree, but the added stipulation might work in their favor because Jericho can find a way to interfere despite being suspended above the ring like a sexy piñata. This curveball could also be a sign that Reigns is not walking out of the Alamo Dome as the new Universal Champion. In any event, the match should be very good since the rules are thrown out the window.
· Nia Jax made quick work of Miss Lynn, but Sasha Banks had the last word from a physicality standpoint when she attacked Jax with her crutch followed by the Double Knees from outside the ring. This was a nice way for Banks to get a measure of revenge against Jax leading up to their match at the Rumble Kickoff Show.
· Rich Swann nailed Noam Dar with a Spin Kick to pick up the decisive win heading into his Cruiserweight Title match against Neville at the Rumble.
· Swann called out Neville and the challenger obliged. Neville backed away, but Swann laid him out with a suicide dive followed by a serious of punches to send the so-called King of the Cruiserweights a message that he was tired of the sneak attacks. Their match should be very good if they are given enough time to shine. The crowd being into the action wouldn’t hurt either.
· Quick Side note: Swann needs better dialogue because he turns the crowd off every time he says something corny. Not a good look.
· Goldberg cut his worst promo to date when he forgot his lines which almost killed his heat dead. He managed to salvage things until Paul Heyman interrupted him. Heyman dreamed up a list of opponents Goldberg could face during the Rumble match. He threw out names such as Randy Orton, Braun Strowman, The Undertaker, and Brock Lesnar.
· Lesnar came out as the Heyman Hype Machine continued to spew out facts and other assorted figures. Goldberg was fed up and called out Lesnar to fight like a man instead of standing on the stage like a dumbass.
· Lesnar made his way to the ring and was about to go toe-to-toe with Goldberg until The Undertaker’s Gong hit. The lights went dim inside The Q as the crowd popped for The Undertaker. When the lights came back on, The Dead Man was standing between Goldberg and Lesnar. Raw went off the air with all three men sizing each other up in the ring with Taker being positioned as the Top Dog heading into the Rumble match.
· The Undertaker cameo saved the closing segment. It made everybody forget about Goldberg’s botched promo and built anticipation for the Royal Rumble match as well. Goldberg is not an orator, but his recent mic work felt real and organic. Unfortunately, he let the moment get the best of him which hindered the delivery of his promo. The crowd didn’t shit on him, but he was ripe for the picking if the yammering continued.
· Despite that minor hiccup, everything worked out in the end with Undertaker saving the day. The Rumble match should go down as an all-time classic due to all of the star power involved. Throw in the usual surprise entrants and we have ourselves one hell of a spectacle. Scorched Earth III might be avoided if everything goes according to plan. Fingers crossed!
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was decent. WWE did a nice job hyping the Royal Rumble PPV which is shaping up to be a great show. The in-ring action was mundane outside of the excellent Seth Rollins vs. Sami Zayn match.
· The company hyped the two-hour preshow leading up to the PPV which will feature the Raw Tag Team Title match between Cesaro and Sheamus vs. Gallows and Anderson along with Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks. The upper tier matches look strong on paper which should provide an easy transition into the Rumble match.
· SmackDown Live will have the final word heading into Sunday’s PPV. Goldberg talked a big game about going after the Universal Championship, but he forgot someone from the blue brand might ruin his plan by earning a WWE Title shot against the winner of the Elimination Chamber match next month. Therefore, a Raw Superstar winning the Rumble is not a stone cold lock. The stars of SD Live will have their say tomorrow night. Get your popcorn ready because the Road to WrestleMania is coming into full view.
On that note, this wraps up another edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back tomorrow night with a brand new installment of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls!