This weeks episode of WWE RAW comes from the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
RAW opens up with a tribute video for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The video includes a ten-bell salute.
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman came down the ring, and Heyman recapped last week’s events, where Finn Bálor pinned John Cena and Cena in turn said he believes in Bálor. Vince McMahon interrupted Heyman and compared Bálor-Lesnar to David and Goliath. Braun Strowman came out and told Lesnar if he still has the belt after Sunday, he’ll be waiting to tear him apart. Bálor then came to the ring and said he knows McMahon doesn’t believe in him, but he believes in his ability to beat Lesnar. Before he could leave the ring, McMahon announced Bálor would take on Strowman next.
One of Heyman’s better hype jobs in recent memory. He does well when he has something new to talk about.
Finn “David” Balor defeated Braun “Goliath” Strowman via disqualification. Lesnar F-5’d Bálor after he hit the Coup de Grâce on Strowman.
Fun little opening match with Balor getting a chance to do some cool stuff on both of the big guys. Nothing ground-breaking, but fun enough. Balor vs. Lesnar is pretty much a typical Rumble title match where the champion’s expected to go over, and I’m not sure how they’re going to make people think Finn can actually win without using explosives or something. All we’re hoping for is a good match, which seems doable given Lesnar's past matches with smaller opponents in Styles and Bryan. (**)
Bobby Lashley celebrated winning the Intercontinental championship by posing. Apollo Crews broke up the celebration by challenging Lashley to a match. Lio Rush said he isn’t in Lashley’s league, but said if he could beat the champ in a pose off, they might give him a match. Lashley attacked Crews, but he reversed the champ and tossed him out of the ring. Rush then tried to hit Crews, but Crews picked him up and threw him out of the ring onto Lashley.
Bobby Lashley defeated Apollo Crews. Lio Rush caused a distraction, and when Crews picked him up over his head, Lashley connected on the spear for the pinfall. Seth Rollins walked out to the ring during Lashley’s victory celebration.
Apollo did some funky stuff, but this didn’t get enough time to go anywhere. Not a huge fan of having two straight matches end with a competitor beating up a person at ringside until somebody hits a finisher. (*1/2)
Seth Rollins said even though he’s a longshot, he’s going to win the Royal Rumble. Drew McIntyre came out and offered a rebuttal. He said there is a zero percent chance Rollins would win the Rumble because of his wrestling style.
Two passionate men here. I’ve gotta say that was the best promo I’ve seen from Rollins since…well…ever? He needs performances like this one if he’s going to re-take the top position on Raw.
Seth Rollins defeated Drew McIntyre. Rollins pinned McIntyre with a rollup in what was a really good match for Raw.
I’m guessing some will say I’m underrating this one. It was solid, but was missing a little something to hit that “this is awesome” level for me. I’m sure these two have it in them, and we’ll see it at some point. This was a nice little match with some big moves towards the end. (***)
The Revival talked with Vince McMahon, where they requested one more shot at the tag titles. Curt Hawkins tried talking with McMahon, but McMahon said he wouldn’t get a match, but could try putting up the ring or being the guest referee for the Revival.
Dean Ambrose said he owns the Road to WrestleMania and the Royal Rumble will be his one shining moment.
Lucha House Party defeated Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers. Gran Metalik defeated Sunil Singh by pinfall following a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker.
I’m a pretty big fan of the lucha style, and those guys are fine performers. But man do I have zero reason to care about anything they’re doing right now. Just flips for the sake of flips and lucha lucha lucha, typically against people that can’t work the style. Give me something to work with here, guys! (*)
Elias tried to play a song, but Baron Corbin kept interrupting him.
Baron Corbin defeated Elias. Corbin connected on the End of Days for the pinfall.
Alexa Bliss announced the Women’s Royal Rumble participants. Bliss invited out Nia Jax for a Moment of Bliss, but Ember Moon, Alicia Fox, Mickie James, the Riott Squad, Dana Brooke, Tamina Snuka and Nikki Cross all came out to the stage to stake their claim as the winner of Sunday’s rumble. The women brawled from the stage into the back before Bliss announced she is returning to the ring for the Royal Rumble match. Lacey Evans then walked out and announced she’s going to win the match, not Bliss.
Most of this was just kinda there for me, but I’m all about Lacey vs. Alexa. Bliss has been so good with her character work that people kinda want to cheer her anyway, and finally somebody’s come along with a persona that’s even more stuck-up & annoying. It’s the classic “Yeah, she’s an asshole, but she’s our asshole” situation.
Titus O’Neil attempted to explain why he’s going to win the Royal Rumble.
Heavy Machinery defeated The Ascension. Heavy Machinery landed the Compactor on Viktor for the pinfall.
Squash city, as it needs to be if we’re going to take the new guys seriously. Nice to see the Ascension’s still alive though.
Monday Night Raw tag Team Title Match: Bobby Roode and Chad Gable (c) defeated The Revival with special guest referee Curt Hawkins. Gable rolled up Scott Dawson after Hawkins broke up Dash Wilder tried to hold him up through the ropes. After the match, the Revival attacked Hawkins and Zack Ryder made the save.
I liked the story here. The Revival have had a valid complaint for the last few weeks, and this week they pulled out all the dirty tricks they could think of & couldn’t get the job done. Now they’re actually heels! It makes sense! The in-ring was pretty solid too. Somebody should tell somebody important that Roode & Gable are actually kind of fun as a team in the ring. (***)
Ronda Rousey said Sasha Banks is too busy being a boss than learning what it takes to be a champion.
Sasha Banks and Bayley defeated Ronda Rousey and Natalya. Banks tapped out Natalya with the Banks Statement.
I liked the layout of this match, with the champion & challenger on Sunday getting the best opportunities to look good, while Bayley & Natalya played their role & backed their partners up well. Much like the Universal Title match, it’s tough to see the challenger winning on Sunday. Sasha’s got other stuff going on and it’s not like anybody expects Ronda to lose the title anytime soon. That being said, they did more to sell us on Sasha winning than they did Finn winning. (***)
End of show.
Overall thoughts: Not a bad go home show. Raw has been a mess for the last few months, but over the last 2 weeks it's done a decent job with the Royal Rumble build. I don't follow the betting odds articles in order to avoid any spoilers, but it wouldn't surprise me if Rollins is the leading candidate to win the men's match. When Vince has you be the guy to mention Martin Luther King as your inspiration on the mic, you know you are in line for a push. I loved the fire Ronda showed in her promo. It was a bit awkward and raw at times, but that's what made it authentic. All in all, I'd say I am fairly optimistic about this Sunday's event. WWE booking can ruin any kind of card, but potentially it looks very promising. Even if it sets up Charlotte vs Ronda with Becky nowhere in the picture.