What’s good everybody, this is your boi Xavier aka Dre here to breakdown the very first RAW of 2018. Hopefully everybody had a very blessed and safe New Year and were able to share spend the Holidays with friends and loved ones. RAW provided some really cool moments, really good matches and some very hilarious moments this week. So let’s dive into this week’s RAW shall we.
BACKSTAGE SEGMENT WITH ALEXA BLISS & KURT ANGLE
Was a bit strange to see RAW start off with a backstage segment but I figured they wanted to change things up a little this week.
Alexa did her best to try and weasel her way out of her scheduled match with Asuka in true Alexa Bliss fashion and Kurt was having none of it. Even though this was a non-title match, I was really surprised to see WWE pull the trigger on a Asuka vs Bliss so soon. I guess Vince wanted to start the new year off with a bang and give us a marquee match up that we haven’t seen yet.
IN RING SEGMENT WITH KURT ANGLE, THE BAR, JASON JORDAN & SETH ROLLINS
Was a bit surprised to here Kurt announce that the women’s Royal Rumble would include 30 and not 20 participants. You won’t get any complaints out of me. WWE seems fully committed to seeing the woman’s revolution through and facing them get in par with the men so kudos to them. Seeing how RAW and Smackdown combined don’t have 30 women expect to see a few NXT woman enter and a few woman from the past make an appearance.
To follow up Kurt’s announcement, the Bar, in typical heel fashion, came out to complain to Kurt about being robbed last week of their tag titles and accusing Kurt of showing favoritism to his son then following that up with demanding a rematch. Soon after Jordan came out to boost about winning the titles. From what I’ve been hearing from various dirtsheets, Jordan’s heel push will be halted until further notice but he still came off a bit heelish here on the mic yet seemed very comfortable in this segment. I’m glad JJ is settling in and finding his stride.
Seth was out next to have a veteran to rookie pep talk with Jordan about jumping the gun and getting in the Bar’s face and being so cocky when he’s outnumbered. I’ve always been a sucker for seeing the vets go OG on the younger guys so I got a kick out of Seth schooling Jordan a bit on what it takes to be a tag champion and a true partner.
JASON JORDAN VS CESARO
Solid match between these two. Cesaro is sniper-like when he’s in between those rioted picking apart his opponent and working on a body part and he was no different here. Jason Jordan did a hell of a job of selling for Cesaro during this match. Sheamus got involved but Seth was there to make the save giving Jordan the opening he needed to pick up the win.
I enjoyed this match and wish they could of got 5 or 6 more minutes to work here because the chemistry between these two is there. Despite me wanting to see these two go for a few more minutes, I still enjoyed this match.
BACKSTAGE SEGMENT WITH ROMAN REIGNS
This was your standard vengeful babyface promo seeking retribution against a heel who injured a friend/teammate from Roman. Nothing to write home here about.
APOLLO CREWS VS BRAY WYATT
Just wanted to give a quick shout out to Dana Brooke tonight. She was rocking those glasses she was wearing on Monday. My boi Mitchell brought out how much she resembled Terry Runnels in WCW days when she worked under a gimmick known as Alexander York. Really accurate comparison I must say.
Back to Wyatt/Crews. I didn’t expect this one to go long and when the match started to go started going longer then I anticipated, I found myself thinking that Crews might actually pull off the upset via a Woken Hardy distraction or something. Fortunately for Bray, that wasn’t the case here but this was a much better match then I expected it to be and Crews was able to get in some offense here.
WOKEN MATT HARDY VIGNETTE
This was some funny stuff. Woken Hardy started talking about turning fireflies into Woken Warriors or something like that then said Wyatt can’t escape his Woken wisdom and even made mention of Sister Abigail (which likely means Bray will be channeling her presence soon).
Loved Hardy breaking out into typical laughter as the screen split into multiple screens. Bray’s weirded-out face was hilarious. He sold that whole thing well. This was brief but very entertaining. I can’t wait until we get to see Woken Hardy live, I’m sure that’ll receive a massive pop.
BACKSTAGE SEGMENT WITH NIA JAX & ALEXA BLISS
Was kind of funny to see Enzo’s trip to the hospital merged into this segment. Alexa basically made Nia choose to either back her tonight in her match against Asuka or visit her man Enzo in the ER who apparently was texting her to bring him some Chicken noodle soup. Nia blew Alexa off, of course, because ain’t nothing stopping her from seeing her man. I’ll dive deeper into the Enzo/ER a little later on in my recap.
ASUKA VS ALEXA BLISS
This was a match up that I was certain we wouldn’t see until WrestleMania. However, just when you think you have all the answers, Vince changes the questions. While I would have loved to have seen this on a bigger stage, I can’t get to mad because giving away marque matches for free sometimes does definitely make for a better overall RAW viewing experience and shows at the very least that Vince/HHH/creative are putting forth an effort (as of late) to keep RAW from feeling phoned in.
This match didn’t disappoint although I think this could of been even better if it weren’t for the slow start. They really played up the fact early on that Alexa wanted no part of Asuka. Things however did pick up afterwards as both ladies went back and forth throughout most of the match with Asuka eventually picking up a clean submission victory over Alexa in this non-title match. Good showing by both ladies here.
I was shocked that we got a clean finish here with no outside interference. With Asuka going over here decisively, I think there’s a real possibility that WWE may go ahead and strap her soon, have Ronda enter and win the Women’s Rumble (as some source have claimed may be the case), and go with Asuka/Ronda at Mania. It would explain why Asuka is now using the armbar as her finisher. But who knows honestly.
BACKSTAGE INTERVIEW WITH SAMOA JOE
I’m just going to go ahead and say it. Samoa Joe is the best on the mic right now, period! The intensity, the anger and the wit is all blended together so beautifully in his promos. Joe talked about how he owns Roman in 1 on 1 matches then proceeded to completely ether (for those who don’t know what that word means, your assignment for the day is to look that up on Urban dictionary) Dean Ambrose right in front of Renee’s face calling Dean a stay at home husband living off his wife’s paycheck. That’s a mic drop moment right there.
BRAUN STROWMAN VS RHYNO
If this was apart of Rhyno’s plan to help Slater toughen up, it back fired big time. Strowman rag dolled Rhyno before grabbing a mic and, in what I nominate as the top moment of RAW, told Heath Slater that he can continue to be Slater’s cheerleader on the sidelines or he could step into the ring like a man and “GET THESE HANDS”. It was at this moment that this segment became gold. Seeing Strowman go hood on the mic literally made my week. Who did he learn that phrase from anyway?
Prior to this segment, the crowd was pretty dead for RAW but they really came to life for Strowman completely obliterating Rhyno and Slater. The fans were eating this up. It was like watching King Kong destroy buildings and swatting down helicopters.
This match/segment was so much better then it had any business being. It was just one of those things that worked really well.
BACKSTAGE SEGMENT WITH ROMAN REIGNS, SETH ROLLINS & JASON JORDAN
This was pretty funny, as Reigns and Rollins were talking among themselves about Samoa Joe Jordan interrupted to tell Roman that him and Seth had his back then shiming in with “BELIEVE THAT”, it was awkward and corny in a really good way. Seth and Roman’s faces after Jordan left were priceless, Seth looked embarrassed and Roman had that “is this yo manz” look in his face. Good stuff from Jordan here.
I know the biggest knock on Jason Jordan is that he lacks charisma and personality but he displayed plenty of both in this brief segment and continues to flesh out an identity for himself as the over eager, arrogant and naive daddy’s boy.
BACKSTAGE SEGMENT WITH KANE & BRAUN STROWMAN
Talking Kane just doesn’t work. Especially when he’s asking Braun for help to attacking Brock. It’s not something Kane’s character should be doing. Strowman pretty much told Kane to kick rocks.
BACKSTAGE SEGMENT WITH FINN BALOR AND THE GOOD BROTHERS
Balor officially announced that he would be competing in the Royal Rumble but the big news here was that Balor recruited the services of Anderson & Gallows to face Elias, Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel later in the evening.
It took long enough to finally pair the three of them back together but it’s definitely the boost all of them needed. With RAW’s tag division being reduced to a tug of war between two teams, it would be refreshing to see a newly turned face Anderson and Gallows added to the mix as apart of the Balor Club. This would be a great way to insert Balor into the IC title scene along with Roman, Joe and a returning Miz. Perhaps a Balor Club/Miztourage feud is on the horizon.
ROMAN REIGNS(c) VS SAMOA JOE
You know whenever Reigns and Joe collide, they’re gonna produce some high quality matches. This week’s episode might have been their best match to date. This was one hell of a battle.
I loved how Samoa Joe focused his attack on Roman Reigns’ elbow because it was the same elbow that Joe injured last night. That’s great storytelling right there and great continuation of the Joe/Reigns saga from last week. I loved watching Joe taunt Roman with “this was for Dean” and “this is for The Shield” as he bashed in Roman’s face against the steel steps. I swear between Joe’s intensity and trash talking he reminds me of the Clubber Lang character in Rocky III.
The spot with Joe shoving Roman into the ref to try and bait the ref into DQ’ing Roman was brilliant. For a second, I really thought Roman was losing the title then and there. Then soon after, Joe hit Roman with the sidekick for a near fall in which I thought Roman may be dropping title again. Eventually Roman was able to connect with the spear for the win in a very good match.
I was surprised that this week’s Roman/Joe match didn’t with Joe getting DQ’ed this week to set up a no DQ match between the two at the Rumble. Not sure who Roman’s opponent will be at the Rumble or where Joe goes from here. Nonetheless, both Roman and Joe brought their A game. Their chemistry is off the charts.
BACKSTAGE SEGMENT WITH KURT ANGLE & PAUL HEYMAN
This segment featured a very subtle tease for Roman/Brock which is likely happening at WM34 with a close up shot of Heyman watching Roman on the screen as he celebrated his victory over Samoa Joe. Heyman did put over how Brock and he said this was proactive and not reactive in response to the possibly of Kane & Strowman trying to attack Brock later.
IN-RING SEGMENT WITH DREW GULAK, ARIYA DAIVARI, CEDRIC ALEXANDER & GOLDUST
Gulak continues to be one of the more entertaining aspects of RAW every week. I always enjoy watching Gulak do Enzo’s shtick in the whitest way possible. I’m curious as to the type of reaction he’ll get once he finally breaks away from Enzo.
I wish Cedric just had a 4th of the charisma that Gulak had. He literally got no reaction when he came out and as much as I hate to say it, the segment went down a couple notches when he entered until Goldust came out. However, I did get a kick out of Cedric lighting up with joy when Goldust call him his friend and said he wanted to tag with him tonight. It’s probably the most emotion Cedric has displayed since being on the main roster.
CEDRIC ALEXANDER & GOLDUST VS DREW GULAK & ARIYA DAIVARI
While nothing of any particular note stood out during this tag match, we finally did get a small taste of the Cruiserweights mixing it up with the Heavyweights. Goldust and Cedric picked up the win here as expected.
Before I move on, I want to talk about Enzo. Enzo was originally scheduled to be at RAW tonight to defend his title against Cedric Alexander. Obviously this didn’t happen with Enzo being at the hospital. All sorts of rumors were swirling. Some sources said that he had the flu and others claimed he partied to hard to bring in the New Year. I just really hope Enzo wouldn’t be disrespectful enough to do something like that knowing he was scheduled to have a match because that’s highly unprofessional if true.
IN RING SEGMENT WITH ELIAS, BO DALLAS & CURTIS AXEL
This was pretty funny, but that’s what I’ve come to expect from Elias. He’s great at burying a live crowd on the mic and understands heel philosophy so well for someone who’s only been on the main roster for 8 months. He just gets it. If anyone hasn’t seen yet, I suggest checking Elias singing “Hotline Bling” at a house show recently. It’s right here and its hell of entertaining:
THE BALOR CLUB (FINN BALOR, LUKE GALLOWS & KARL ANDERSON) VS ELIAS & THE MIZTOURAGE (BO DALLAS & CURTIS AXEL)
This was pretty much just a squash match but it’s hard to complain really. This was about Balor reuniting with Gallows & Anderson so they needed to look good here to get the ball rolling a little. With the Miz scheduled to return next week, it’s safe to assume that the Balor Club and Miztourage will be mixing it up very soon. The 25th RAW anniversary special in a few weeks wouldn’t be a bad place to do it
IN RING SEGMENT WITH BROCK LESNAR, PAUL HEYMAN & KANE
Heyman is so good and so convincing on the mic that he could sell fire in hell or water to a whale but even he’s not convincing enough to put over this triple threat match between Brock, Strowman and Kane. It doesn’t help that Kane’s latest run has been really lack luster or the fact that the Brock/Strowman match at No Mercy didn’t live up to its potential.
Soon after Heyman’s promo Kane came out to confront Brock. The choke slam to Brock with Brock sitting up to mock Kane was kind of cool but other then that this segment fell completely flat. Even the locker room clearing brawl with other wrestlers trying to pull Brock and Kane apart did very little to get anybody into this. I can’t remember the last time RAW had such a lack luster ending.
I’m not one of those fans who rips every and criticizes every move or decision that Vince makes just for the sake of complaining but Vince would of been better off going with the original plan of Lesnar vs Balor. With Balor aligning back up with Gallows and Anderson that would of been a compelling enough of a story to draw fans in.
This RAW was pretty up and down. Roman/Joe was exceptional, Bliss/Asuka was pretty good, Thr good chemistry between JJ and Rollins so far (shockingly) The reunion of Balor, Gallows and Anderson was noteworthy and watching Strowman throw hands with Slater and Rhyno was so much fun. But a very so-so Miami crowd mixed into with a really bad ending to this show weighted RAW down a bit. Still wasn’t a bad show by any means though, RAW did enough to keep my attention for the most part this week. Let me know what you guys thought of RAW this week.
RAW’S CHAMPIONS/WEEKLY TOP 10
BROCK LESNAR (WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPION) – Can’t remember the last time a Brock title defense has generated so little buzz. Even Heyman seemed disinterested on the mic trying to hype Brock’s Rumble title defense up.
ROMAN REIGNS (INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION) – At this point it’s a disservice to say Roman is improving in the ring. Roman is straight up workhorse now and his IC title run so far has more then made up for his forgettable US title run. Him and Joe tore the house down this week.
ALEXA BLISS (RAW’S WOMAN CHAMPION) – It was good to see Alexa back in action this week, seemed like she hasn’t wrestled in RAW in forever. She more then held her own against Asuka tonight.
ENZO AMORE (CRUISERWEIGHT CHAMPION) – Not in action this week
SETH ROLLINS & JASON JORDAN (RAW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS) – it’s only been a week since they won the belts but I did enjoy the back and forth dialogue between Seth and Jordan. So I’ll give this off pairing a chance
RAW’S TOP 10
1. BRAUN STROWMAN (Last Week’s Ranking: 2) – Braun is the hero we need but the hero we may not deserve right now.
2. ASUKA (Last Week’s Ranking: 3) – I really enjoyed her match with Alexa this week. I’m starting to wonder of WWE creative is thinking about putting the belt on her soon
3. SAMOA JOE (Last Week’s Ranking: 1) – Even in defeat Joe came out of this week’s RAW like a boss. Joe is probably the best thing going on RAW right now. The character work is great, he’s pissed off at the world for no reason all the time and it’s great.
4. FINN BALOR (Last Week’s Ranking: 4) – Lets hope that Finn being paired with Gallows and Anderson is such a huge step in the right direction for him
5. KANE (Last Week’s Ranking: 9) – The Big Red Machine is a legend no doubt about it but there hasn’t been anything really memorable about his latest run
6. WOKEN HARDY(Last Week’s Ranking: Not Ranked) – I’m enjoying the hell out of Woken Hardy so far. Can’t wait to see him appear live
7. ELIAS (Last Week’s Ranking: 10) – Despite not having been in a extended feud since being called up Elias continues to thrive and find ways to stay relevant with hod segments.
8. PAIGE (Last Week’s Ranking: 4) – Any momentum that Paige and Absolution build up when they first debuted seems lost now.
9. CEDRIC ALEXANDER (Last Week’s Ranking: 7) – Tagged with Goldie this week. His title shot is on hold for now.
10. BRAY WYATT (Last Week’s Ranking: Not Ranked) – His program with Hardy has been a lot of fun so far. I’m hoping he can recapture some of the magic he once had when he was feuding with Orton on Smackdown leading up to his match at WrestleMania last year.