Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The SmackDown Files: Trouble In Paradise - Sami Zayn's Near Excommunication From Kevin's Heaven (1-30-2018)

By: Keila Cash

Date: 1-30-2018
Location: Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philly Fatigue: Is It Super Bowl Sunday Yet?
Graphic Arts Overload: The night when the WWE Production Team had too much fun using graphics from Final Cut Pro X.

·        SmackDown Live kicked off with the winner of the 2018 men’s Royal Rumble describing how he kneed Sami Zayn, John Cena, and Roman Reigns in the face to punch his ticket to WrestleMania. Shinsuke Nakamura noted that AJ Styles would suffer a similar fate at Mania with the WWE Championship on the line.

·        Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn came out to burst Nakamura’s bubble because they were screwed out of the WWE Title thanks to an incompetent referee and Shane McMahon’s endless thirst for revenge. Owens and Zayn were entitled to a rematch which would derail the Styles vs. Nakamura dream match at WM.

·        KO and Zayn were about to double team Nakamura when Styles came to the rescue. Styles and Nakamura wanted a match against Owens and Zayn. The dastardly duo declined only for Styles and Nakamura to knock them off the ring apron as the opening segment came to an end.

·        In breaking news, Daniel Bryan made the tag team match official for later tonight while booking a blockbuster main event for next week. Owens and Zayn will face off in a number one contender’s match with the winner moving on to face Styles for the WWE Title at Fastlane in March. To say that the besties were not pleased with this news would be an understatement.

·        The opening segment was nothing special, but Sami Zayn continues to be the saving grace with his over-the-top antics.

·        Rusev made Kofi Kingston tap out to the Accolade and will face Bobby Roode for the United States Championship next week. The Fatal Four Way match featuring Jinder Mahal, Zack Ryder, Rusev, and Kofi Kingston was solid. The ending was strong as the bout broke down into a parade of finishes with Ryder dropping Mahal with the Rough Ryder and Rusev nailing Ryder with the Machka Kick.

·        Kingston tried to hit Rusev with Trouble in Paradise, but Rusev ducked out of the way. Kingston went for the SOS, but the Bulgarian Brute countered with the Accolade for the win.

·        This was Rusev’s biggest win in months which means only one thing…There will be many more Rusev Days to come!

·        The Usos cut a hell of promo touting their superiority over the tag team division. Jimmy and Jey were dripping with confidence and passion as they had me hooked from start to finish. They’ve grown so much as performers because they are being themselves which makes them stand out from the pack.

·        In a sign of things to come, The Bludgeon Brothers came out at the end of The Usos’ motivational speech to destroy a random tag team in 90 seconds with the double chokeslam.

·        Harper and Rowan & The Usos had a great feud a few years ago that set the tag team division on fire. If WWE plans to revisit this rivalry, I am all for it because both teams bring out the best in each other.

·        Charlotte avoided disaster when Carmella failed to cash in the Money in the Bank contract after she accidentally dropkicked the referee out of the ring.

·        The Riott Squad soften Charlotte by beating her ass in the ring. Ruby Riott had a decent script for a change and delivered her lines well, but her cadence was forced. It was too Villainess of the Week for my taste, but I digress.

·        Carmella tried to get the ref’s attention, but he was down for the count. Charlotte got to her feet and was ready to fight which caused Carmella to call off the cash in. This was a nice tease because the Princess of Staten Island has five more months to hold the briefcase before her automatic title shot becomes null and void.

·        Baron Corbin defeated Tye Dillinger with End of Days in a decent match. The crowd heat was virtually nonexistent for the most which made the bout a drag to watch from home.

·        The cracks are starting to show when it comes to the renewed friendship of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. This reunion was automatically set to implode from the moment Zayn saved Owens at Hell in a Cell. Once a backstabber, always a backstabber… Et Tu, Owens?

·        Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable defeated Breezango when Benjamin pinned Tyler Breeze with the Powerbomb/Diving Clothesline combination. The match was fine, but it was rough in spots as Gable and Fandango botched a couple moves midway through the match. The crowd couldn’t give two shits about either team as they started up a lukewarm Eagles chant. The Super Bowl can’t come soon enough…

·        AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn when Nakamura nailed Owens with the Kinshasa for the win. Zayn and Owens bickered throughout the match, but cooler heads prevailed when Zayn broke up a pin count on his best friend’s behalf.

·        However, the truce was short-lived when Styles shoved Owens into Zayn which knocked the latter off the ring apron and onto the floor. Zayn told Owens to kick rocks as he headed backstage. Owens put up a good fight, but it wasn’t enough to eke out the win.

·        Renee Young interviewed Zayn backstage as he voiced his frustration for only being known as Kevin Owens’ best friend. KO has experienced the thrill of victory while Zayn has been lingering in his shadow for far too long. He vowed to beat Owens next week and defeat AJ Styles at Fastlane to become the new WWE Champion as SD Live came to an end with Styles and Nakamura posing in the ring.

·        This was an interesting way to end the show. The tension between Owens and Zayn has come out of left field despite the fact that their renewed friendship was set to detonate at any time. It feels rushed, but I have a feeling that the creative team is swerving the audience. Perhaps Zayn and Owens will fight to the proverbial death in order to main event WrestleMania. Something tells me that both men have a plan up their sleeves that will come to fruition next week. If not, here comes Chapter 75 of the Owens-Zayn feud.

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was middling at best. The Philly crowd was emotionally spent after WWE held four shows in the same building over the past four days. The four for four deal is a great marketing ploy, but it will drain the audience by day three unless it’s WrestleMania weekend.

·        SD Live felt like an extended episode of Raw during the second hour because the in-ring action was lackluster until the main event.

·        Elsewhere, Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon got along this week which fanned the flames when it comes to both men jockeying for power. It’s been an on and off storyline over the past couple of weeks. Did WWE realize that it’s wrong to give fans false hope when it comes to Bryan being cleared to compete in the event McMahon turns heel or vice versa? If so, the creative team pumping the brakes makes sense. If not, they are playing a dangerous game that could blow up in their face. We still have a couple of months of television to see how it all plays out, but the situation looks dicey at the moment.

·        Next week’s show should be better as SD Live emanates from the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Owens vs. Zayn should be great if both men are given enough time to shine. I still smell a couple of rats plotting behind the scenes, but we shall see how it all plays out. It should be an interesting night, to say the least.

On that note, this wraps up another edition of The SmackDown Files. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back next week with a brand new installment of The Raw Exposé. See you later, boys and girls!

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Raw Exposé: Why Don't You Love Me? (A John Cena Story)

By: Keila Cash 

Date: 1-29-2018
Location: Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Post Royal Rumble Madness: Ronda Rousey wants to dance with the E.
Welcome to the Japanese Invasion: Shinsuke Nakamura and Asuka punched their ticket to WrestleMania like a couple OGs
WrestleMania Hustle: Welcome to the Second Chance Mania Sweepstakes starring {Insert Brock Lesnar’s Next Victim Here}

·        Here a few observations from the opening segment of Raw:

·        Stephanie McMahon is officially the Mother Hen of the Women’s Division.

·        Alexis Bliss will defend the Raw Women’s Championship in the first-ever Women’s Elimination Chamber match at the eponymous PPV next month.

·        Asuka vs. Sasha Banks will take place later tonight per the order of Mother Hen.

·        All in all, this was a good way to start the show as WWE put the spotlight on the ladies while hyping Ronda Rousey’s debut at the conclusion of the Women’s Royal Rumble last night.

·        Braun Strowman emphatically defeated Kane in a Last Man Standing match when he flipped the entire announcer table platform on top of The Big Red Machine. The referee skipped the obligatory ten count and crowned Strowman the winner. Strowman is the first man to qualify for the Elimination Chamber match. The bout was non-descript, but the ending was great.

·        Elias defeated Matt Hardy with the Drift Away to advance to the Elimination Chamber Match next month. Bray Wyatt provided the assist when he distracted Hardy with his Hocus Pocus which led to the finish moments later. Wyatt laughed at Hardy’s incompetence as the segment came to an end.

·        The Miz retained the Intercontinental Championship when he defeated Roman Reigns with a roll-up thanks to an assist from the Miztourage. Miz and Reigns had a very good match that featured hard-hitting action throughout. The turning point took place when Miz delivered a chop block to Reigns’ left knee when The Big Dog tried to nail him with the Superman Punch.

·        The injury allowed Miz to put Reigns in the Figure Four. Reigns managed to reverse the submission hold which caused Miz to grab the rope in order to break the hold.

·        From there, both men traded near falls as the crowd popped accordingly. Miz tried to remove the middle turnbuckle behind the referee’s back, but he got caught this time. However, the distraction allowed Miz to thumb Reigns in the eye which set up the Skull Crushing Finale for a near fall. Reigns countered with the Superman Punch for another two-count.

·        Sensing that their boss was in trouble, Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel came to Miz’s rescue. Reigns kicked their asses as he nailed Axel with a Superman Punch before dropping Dallas with the Spear. Once again, Miz capitalized on the chaos which led to the aforementioned finish.

·        This was Reigns’ last chance to regain the IC Title which means only one thing…He’s one step closer to punching his ticket to WrestleMania. Next Step: Qualify for the Elimination Chamber Match.

·        The Revival defeated Heath Slater and Rhyno when Dash Wilder pinned Rhyno with the Shatter Machine in a quick match. Slater and Rhyno put up a good fight, but the outcome was never in doubt.

·        Asuka defeated Sasha Banks with the Asuka Lock in a good match. Things started off slow, but they picked up the pace after the commercial break. Banks nailed Asuka with the double knees from the middle rope for a near fall before transitioning to the Bank Statement moments later. Asuka managed to break the hold which to the sickest moment of 2018 so far. Banks went for a dive, but she didn’t clear the ropes which caused her to take a terrible spill on the floor. Asuka grazed her head with a kick, but the fall did most of the damage.

·        Asuka briefly checked on Banks before she tossed her back in the ring to destroy The Boss with a series of vicious strikes. It was hard to watch, but glorious at the same time.

·        The fact that Banks had the wherewithal to continue was amazing to see. She dropped Asuka a pair of double knees, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Empress of Tomorrow.

·        Banks locked in the Bank Statement once again, but Asuka countered with the Asuka Lock for the win.

·        The match wasn’t perfect due to some rough spots and muted crowd heat, but it was memorable due to Banks damn near killing herself.

·        Sheamus and Cesaro defeated Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews to retain the Raw Tag Team Championship when Sheamus pinned Apollo Crews with White Noise in a solid match. O’Neil and Crews defeated The Bar in two non-title matches, but the third time wasn’t the charm on this night. Michael Cole is going a bit overboard hyping tonight’s in-ring action. It’s been fine for the most part but, the four-day lull is starting to set in for the Philly crowd.

·        John Cena defeated Finn Bàlor with the Super AA from the middle rope to secure a spot in the Elimination Chamber match with the winner moving on to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania.

·        Cena and Bàlor had a good match, but it was strange to watch at times. A disturbance in the crowd detracted from the bout early on, but things got better after the commercial break.

·        Cena was selling frustration as he couldn’t understand why the fans hated him for wanting to main event Mania. Jonathan Coachman emphasized that on commentary which helped propel the match from a storytelling standpoint.

·        Cena’s overzealousness got the best of him when he taunted the crowd with the Too Sweet sign before delivering the AA to Bàlor for a near fall.

·        Bàlor countered with a running dropkick in the corner which put Cena in the drop zone for the Coup De Grace. Cena rolled out of the way as Bàlor landed awkwardly on his left leg. Cena took advantage by putting Bàlor in the STF. Bàlor broke the hold by grabbing the middle rope. He kicked Cena in the head and climbed to the top rope to hit his finisher. However, Cena cut him off and dropped him with the Super AA for the win.

·        Raw went off the air with Cena pointing at the WM sign as he tried to convince himself that he belonged in the main event as the fans showered him with a mixture of boos and cheers.

·        This was a nice way to end the show. Finn Bàlor might’ve lost the right to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title at WM, but it’s probably for the best because he was going to eat the pin at Elimination Chamber anyway. Delaying the inevitable would’ve pissed the fans off even more, so I understand the booking logic in this case. I’m sure WWE has a feud lined up for him that will serve as a make-good for not having a prominent role at next month’s PPV. The Demon King will have his WrestleMania moment in New Orleans. Against who? We shall find out soon enough.

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was decent at best. The in-ring action ranged from decent to very good as WWE began to promote next month’s Elimination Chamber PPV. John Cena vs. Finn Bàlor wins best match of the night honors while Sasha Banks vs. Asuka takes second place due to the death-defying feats of Banks. The bump she took will be in her Hall of Fame highlight reel twenty years from now. It was that gnarly.

·        The Philly crowd was low key most of the night. After NXT Takeover: Philadelphia and the Royal Rumble PPV, the euphoria didn’t carry over into tonight’s broadcast. They popped for certain spots, but it appears that they’re saving their energy for the Super Bowl when the Eagles square off against the Patriots on Sunday. Here’s hoping SmackDown Live ends things on a high note when WWE emanates from the city of Brotherly Love for the fourth and final time tomorrow night. Fingers crossed!

·        Quick side note: Jonathan Coachman has the capability of being a good color commentator. However, I am not here for The Coach playing a game of 20 Questions with Corey Graves for three hours. He needs to take off his ESPN hat and fully immerse himself in the WWE product.

·        His affiliation with the E over the past few years should arm him with enough knowledge to put over the wrestlers while schooling Cole and Graves at the same time. I know it’s week one, but his line of questioning and off-putting remarks rubbed me the wrong way. Let’s see how the Jonathan Coachman Experiment fares next week before I pass further judgment.

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! 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The SmackDown Files: From Kinshasa to Washington D.C. - All Aboard The RKO Express (1-23-2018)

By: Keila Cash

Date: 1/23/2018
Location: Capital One Arena in Washington D.C.
Prelude to the Royal Rumble: It’s a bird…It’s a plane…It’s an RKO out of nowhere!

·        SD Live kicked off with a needlessly long opening segment featuring Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and AJ Styles arguing about who has the advantage heading into the 2-on-1 Handicap Match for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble on Sunday.

·        Styles showed confidence heading into the title bout, but Owens and Zayn wanted to soften him up by using Styles’ words against him. They tossed to a video clip of Styles stating that he was willing to fight both men on the same night during an in-ring interview with Renee Young two weeks ago.

·        KO and Zayn wanted Styles to be a man of his word. Before he could respond, Daniel Bryan appeared on the main stage. Bryan was about to wax poetically on Styles’ behalf, but Styles cut him off mid-sentence. Styles didn’t trust Bryan’s motives and decided to accept Owens and Zayn’s challenge to fight them in back-to-back matches as the opening segment came to an end.

·        Zayn’s over-the-top character saved this segment from being a total bore and that’s all I have to say about that.

·        Chad Gable defeated Jey Uso with a German Suplex in a solid match. Gable’s amateur wrestling came into play early on until Jey turned up the volume after the commercial break when he laid out Gable with a dive.

·        Jey went for the Splash, but Gable moved out of the way. Jey countered with a Samoan Drop only for Gable to catch him with a sick rolling kick followed by the German Suplex for the win. This was a nice way for Gable and Shelton Benjamin to build momentum heading into their 2-out-of-3 Falls Match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship at the Rumble on Sunday.

·        Naomi defeated Liv Morgan with a Sunset Flip in a decent match. It was rough in spots, but I got a kick out of Morgan dodging Naomi’s enzuigiri like a human windmill before getting kneed in the face.

·        After the match was over, Ruby Riott and Sarah Logan attacked Naomi from behind. Becky Lynch made the save as Natalya, Carmella, and Lana joined the fray as the ladies offered a preview of the women’s Royal Rumble match. Natalya was the last woman standing until Naomi and Lynch made her leave the ring.

·        In a surprising turn of events, Lynch tried to throw Naomi over the top rope, but her plan backfired as Naomi caught herself on the ring apron. Both ladies exchanged a glance as Charlotte appeared on the main stage.

·        The Queen admired Lynch’s moxie and warned the ladies that friendships and alliances are thrown out the window when it comes to getting an automatic title shot at WrestleMania. Charlotte wished them good luck as the segment came to an end.

·        Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin ended abruptly when Randy Orton nailed Nakamura with an RKO out of nowhere in an incredible spot. Nakamura was about to hit Corbin with the Kinshasa when Orton hit him with his finisher in mid-stride. The crowd went insane as Orton sailed into the air like a gazelle.

·        Corbin suffered the same fate as Orton put the SD Live roster on notice that he was going to win the Rumble in back-to-back years.

·        Before the batshit crazy finish, Nakamura and Corbin were having a good match. It started off slow, but the action picked up after the commercial break. This was one of their better matches as the near falls were on point down the stretch. The non-finish helps both men save face heading into the Rumble despite getting owned by Orton. Will The Viper become a three-time Rumble winner? The Magic 8-Ball says: “Very Doubtful”.

·        The New Day (Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) & Bobby Roode defeated Jinder Mahal, Aiden English, & Rusev when Woods pinned English with an Elbow Drop. The match was short, but fun while it lasted.

·        AJ Styles defeated Kevin Owens when he made Owens tap out to the Calf Crusher in a quick match. Owens has been working a reduced schedule in order to nurse some nagging injuries over the past couple of weeks. This was WWE’s way of giving KO an out heading into Sunday’s PPV which should give him enough time to heal up.

·        Sami Zayn defeated AJ Styles with the Helluva Kick-Blue Thunder Bomb combo in a good main event match. It was fairly one-sided as Zayn dominated the action until Styles made a babyface comeback towards the end.

·        Owens was being treated by medical personnel at ringside while the match was going on. Styles took a cheap shot at Owens that cost him early on when Zayn laid him out with a clothesline.

·        Towards the end of the match, Styles decided to leave the ring on his own power and flip Owens off the stretcher which set up the finish moments later. Styles’ overzealousness got the best of him which puts the Phenomenal One at a serious disadvantage on Sunday.

·        SD Live went off the air with Owens and Zayn standing over Styles as the prospect of them becoming co-WWE Champion is damn near plausible. I doubt it’s going to happen, but all three men will deliver the goods on Sunday if they are given enough time to shine.

·        As for Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon, their power struggle was on full display as McMahon questioned Bryan’s ability to do his job as General Manager. Expect both authority figures to play a role in the 2-on-3 Handicap Match on Sunday. Who’s turning on who? We shall find out soon enough.

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was decent at best. This show was miles better than the dreck that aired last week. The in-ring action was solid as WWE hammered home the key matches taking place at the Royal Rumble on Sunday.

·        The hype for this year’s Rumble has been disappointing. The company has been shilling the card for weeks, but there are no clear front-runners on the men and women’s side at the moment. Maybe the creative team is banking on a few surprise entrants from both matches to justify the so-so buildup thus far. In any event, it should be a good show if it’s timed properly. The Royal Rumble sells itself, but it would’ve been nice if the E put in more effort from a promotional standpoint.

·        Selfie videos can only do so much when it comes to securing one of two spots at WrestleMania. Everyone else is fighting for scraps on the table which should make the scrum towards Fastlane exciting to watch come March. Here’s hoping SD Live delivers compelling television in the weeks to come because the show has been duller than dishwater as of late.

On that note, this wraps up another edition of The SmackDown Files. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back next week with a brand new installment of The Raw Exposé. See you later, boys and girls!

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Raw Exposé: Motown 25 > Raw 25 (1-22-2018)

By: Keila Cash

Date: 1-22-2018
Primary Location: The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Secondary Location: The Manhattan Center in New York City, New York
Happy Anniversary: Raw Turns 25!
Rest of the Show: Meh…

·        Shane and Stephanie McMahon kicked off Raw 25 with a video package recapping the most memorable moments over the past 25 years. Afterward, Shane and Stephanie introduced Vince McMahon so he could take a bow for creating a wrestling juggernaut.

·        Vince was moved by the ovation, but things quickly went south when his kids gave him a plaque commemorating the occasion. Apparently, Shane and Steph set up a GoFundMe page which resulted in limited donations coming in. Vince was offended that the gift was so cheap before running down the city of Brooklyn because they had plaque on the teeth and arteries for eating too many hot dogs.

·        Vinnie Mac decided to thank himself for being the mastermind behind Raw and took credit for the show being a success. Before he could continue, Stone Cold Steve Austin came out to a raucous ovation.

·        Stephanie immediately left the ring while Shane stuck around like a lamb being led to slaughter. Vince tried to calm Stone Cold down by claiming that he was a senior citizen suffering from a number of health ailments. Because of his AARP status, Vince appointed Shane to fight Austin on his behalf.

·        Shane-O-Mac tried to make nice with The Rattlesnake, but he got bit with a Stunner instead.

·        Vince grabbed a couple of cans of Miller Lite and shared a toast with his arch nemesis. The beer drinking continued until Austin dropped Vince with the Stunner as the crowd popped something fierce. Austin celebrated by drinking some Steveweisers as Shane McMahon regained consciousness.

·        Shane tried to share another toast with Austin, but he got nailed with another Stunner as the opening segment came to an end with Austin giving the audience the double middle finger salute.

·        This was a great way to start the show. Vince McMahon and Stone Cold had another classic encounter while Shane was thrown to the wolves by his own father. Just like old times!

·        Sasha Banks, Bayley, Mickie James, and Asuka defeated Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Nia Jax, and Alicia Fox when Banks made Fox tap out to the Bank Statement in a decent eight-woman tag team match. However, Asuka reminded her tag team partners that it’s every woman herself at the Royal Rumble when she tossed James, Bayley, and Banks over the top rope. Is this a sign of things to come? We shall find out soon enough.

·        The Undertaker appeared at the Manhattan Center and cut an ominous promo about the future. It wasn’t a retirement announcement but left me very confused, to say the least.

·        The Miz became an eight-time Intercontinental Champion when he defeated Roman Reigns with the Skull Crushing Finale in a good match. The Miztourage (Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas) paid dividends at ringside as they took cheap shots at Reigns behind the referee’s back. Reigns eventually nailed both men with the Drive-By. The diversion allowed Miz to remove the covering from the middle turnbuckle which played into the finish.

·        Reigns nailed Miz with a Superman Punch and was about to finish him off with the Spear when Dallas grabbed Reigns’ leg. The ref caught Dallas red-handed which led to him and Axel being tossed from ringside.

·        The distraction allowed Miz to hit Reigns with the Skull Crushing Finale for a near fall. Reigns charged after Miz, but the A-Lister moved out the way as Reigns slammed his head against the exposed turnbuckle which set up the finish moments later.

·        The crowd popped for the finish because they hated Reigns. This was the perfect setting for Reigns to drop the title which should lead to his presumed Universal Championship match against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania.

·        Jason Jordan generated the third-most heel heat on the show as he couldn’t get a word in edgewise during his appearance on Christian’s Peep Show. Seth Rollins looked on in astonishment as Jordan died on the proverbial vine.

·        Cesaro and Sheamus came out to tell Jordan that he sucked which led to Jordan attacking Sheamus. The brawl was on as Rollins laid out Sheamus with a tope. Jordan held Cesaro so he could take a flying knee from Rollins, but the Swiss Superman moved out of the way as Rollins took out Jordan instead. To say that the crowd was overjoyed would be an understatement. All in all, this was a nice way to hype the Raw Tag Team Championship Match at the Rumble.

·        Bray Wyatt defeated Matt Hardy with Sister Abigail in a subpar match. The Manhattan Center is getting the short end of the stick when it comes to seeing quality in-ring action.

·        Nice cameo by Chris Jericho as he put Elias and his scarves on the list. Y2J deserves a full segment, damn it!

·        The oddest feud of 2018 is John Cena vs. Elias. Elias was singing a ditty when Cena interrupted him. Cena was in the middle of cutting a promo when Elias told him to shut up. He blamed Cena for ruining his moment. Cena told him to do something about it.

·        Elias told him that he doesn’t answer to Cena or the scumbag fans in Brooklyn as he headed out of the ring.

·        Elias tried to sneak attack Cena, but he was dropped with the Five Knuckle Shuffle instead. Cena went for the AA, but Elias wiggled out of the move as he nailed Cena with a low blow. He grabbed his guitar and struck Cena in the back before hitting the Drift Away to wrap up the segment.

·        Elias is such a great asshole. His personality continues to shine and he’s in a high profile feud with John Cena. Their first match on Christmas night left a lot to be desired, but their second outing should be much better once they work out the kinks. Hopefully…

·        Heath Slater and Rhyno vs. Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews ended abruptly when the referee called for the bell after both teams were disqualified for kicking too much ass.

·        The Dudley Boyz helped ease the pain when Bubba Ray and D-Von put Heath Slater through a table. It was a beautiful moment that made the previous match worth enduring.

·        Mene Gene Okerlund interviewing AJ Styles was a nice surprise. Styles impersonating Hulk Hogan was surreal, but he sold it like a champ.

·        The DX Reunion was cool as Triple H and Shawn Michaels paid homage to Ravishing Rick Rude and Chyna before introducing The New Age Outlaws. X-Pac made a surprise appearance followed by Razor Ramon. For some reason, WWE cut to commercial which made Ramon’s entrance super awkward.

·        Fortunately, Ramon had a chance to address the crowd before The Bàlor Club came out. Both factions joined forces for a Too Sweet Salute as the crowd popped for the moment. Billy Gunn was about to say his signature line when The Revival came out to interrupt.

·        Gallows and Anderson defeated The Revival when Karl Anderson pinned Dash Wilder with the Magic Killer. The match was nothing special, but it was a means to an end as Dash and Dawson took a parade of finishes from the DX-Bàlor Club Kliq. Billy Gunn finally said his catchphrase as the crowd joined in on the “Suck It!” chant. This was nice a dose of nostalgia that sent the Manhattan crowd home happy.

·        Meanwhile, all hell broke loose at the Barclays Center when Brock Lesnar nailed Braun Strowman with a wicked clothesline at ringside before hitting Kane with the F5. Strowman went back on the attack as he knocked Lesnar out of the ring with a clothesline.

·        Strowman tossed The Beast against the barricade before power slamming him through the announce table as the crowd popped for the spot. Raw 25 went off the air with the Monster standing tall while the Beast and the Machine licked their wounds at ringside.

·        This was an abrupt way to end the show. Lesnar was on the warpath until Strowman put in that work. Strowman has been unstoppable over the past few weeks. However, the outcome heading into the Triple Threat Match on Sunday remains the same. Lesnar will retain the Universal Championship and face Roman Reigns for the title at WrestleMania 34. Anything less would be a shocker. I would love to see WWE swerve us all, but that is highly unlikely unless something crazy happens. Kane will eat the pin while Strowman maintains his street cred for being a badass. Consider it a guaran-damn-tee! I think…

·        Overall, I thought Raw 25 did a nice job paying tribute to past while putting a spotlight on the future. The show dragged at times as the in-ring action left a lot to be desired. Roman Reigns vs. The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship wins best match of the night honors by default because WWE had a tough time serving two masters as the action was dry at the Manhattan Center until DX came out during the third hour.

·        The company running two shows in two different location seemed like a good idea on paper. However, the execution was so-so as the fans had to watch half the show on the big screen while feeling cheated if certain stars didn’t show up at their venue. It was a hot ass mess, to say the least.

·        My favorite part of the show was the poker game involving the APA (JBL can still kiss my ass after blocking me on Twitter), Heath Slater, Rhyno, Ted DiBiase, MVP, The Usos, Natalya, The New Day, and Jeff Hardy. It was mindless fun as Slater kept getting bad beats until he had to resort to cheating in order to win a hand. Dana Brooke busted him which resulted in The Million Dollar Man taking down the pot with a royal flush.

·        The presentation of former Raw General Managers was cool as well as the women from the past getting their moment in the spotlight. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a few of them appear in the Women’s Royal Rumble on Sunday.

·        The Rock not appearing on the show was a letdown, but his production schedule is super busy these days. Batista making a cameo appearance would’ve been sweet as well, but it wasn’t meant to be.

·        Raw 1000 remains one of the best Raws of all time. Raw 25 had too many lull spots which prevented the show from being an all-time classic. Here’s hoping Raw 30 has a bit more bite in 2023 because the future is bright if the E doesn’t wet and shit the bed.

·        Until then, the Road to WrestleMania kicks off with the Royal Rumble on Sunday. Who will punch their tickets to New Orleans? We shall find out soon enough. And so it begins…again.

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!