Well Raw certainly had a good end to 2018 after announcing changes would happen and one had to wonder if they could continue to build on that momentum. The big story for tonight is that this is Hulk Hogan’s return to Raw and I will certainly address my feelings towards that during this Statement. Without further ado, let us see what Raw had for us in the first episode of 2019.
Frantic Start to Raw
It has been quite some time since we have had a brawl like this to start Raw. This was a good, hot way to get the crowd going and it looks like Lashley and Seth Rollins are about to enter a rivalry here in 2019. Seth has become someone who gets the best out of who he works with in the ring, so I expect the same to happen when he has his eventual match with Lashley. John Cena then made his way to the ring and he did his usual shtick that only he can do so well. He was interrupted by Drew McIntyre and by God does he just swim in everything that makes a wrestler the top guy in the company. He was able to hang with Cena, something not many can do, and even got the better of him at times as well. Lio Rush and Lashley then came down to complain about Seth Rollins and this led to a brawl as Seth came down to attack Lashley. Eventually Dean Ambrose and Finn Balor joined in along with Cena and McIntyre and this would lead into the opening match for tonight.
Six-Man Tag Team Match
As much as WWE overuses the six-person tag match, they do tend to deliver more often than not. This was another good one and Cena did a fine job in selling for the heels in this match. Finn was able to showcase why many of us believe he is a star that deserves to be at the top of the card. Seth did what Seth does and that was be one of the best in the ring. Lashley had a good showing as well and I think them moving away from the poses and making him a more dominant force is a good thing. That is what helped him get over at Impact prior to his return to WWE so why not do what has been proven to work. McIntyre was a beast during this match as well and I truly believe he will be Universal champion at some point this year. Seth picked up the win for his team by hitting the Blackout, aka the Stomp, on Ambrose for the win.
Seth and Triple H Backstage
After the match, Seth saw Triple H in the backstage area and he walked to the back with a purpose. He went to Triple H and demanded an Intercontinental title match with Ambrose tonight and Triple H would oblige him. Triple H told Seth “Welcome back” as it looks like Seth has embraced what made him the Architect once again.
RIP Mean Gene Okerlund
Between the ten-bell count, the fans chanting thank you Mean Gene and the video package highlighting his career, this was a very good tribute to him. Gene is undoubtedly one of the voices of professional wrestling and he will truly be missed. I always loved watching him conduct backstage interviews with every wrestler and he was just as much responsible for helping various acts get over as they were. He will truly be missed, and I thank him for all the memories that he was able to bless us with. With that being said…….
Hulk Hogan Returns
This did not need to happen, and I did not want it to happen. Many fans did not like that he was brought back, and I am one of them. Yes, Hogan and Gene were tied to the hip for many years, but he could have just been featured a lot during the video tribute. Which he was, and I cannot see any logic in bringing back the man that has come out as being racist to our television screens. I have said my feelings towards Hogan possibly coming back and they have not changed one bit. The fact that Vince McMahon used Gene’s death as a way to bring back Hogan just rubs me the wrong way. This should be the VERY last time we ever see Hogan on Raw because nobody is clamoring to see more of him. There was a line from The Last Jedi, a film I actually enjoyed, where Kylo Ren said, “Let the past die” and that is what WWE needs to do with Hulk Hogan. He did what he did for the wrestling and now it is time to move on from the man.
Olympic Glory vs The Revival
Very fun match and I am enjoying the chemistry these two teams are building. Roode and Gable have clicked, and they have become a joy to watch as a tag team. I do wish Roode could be an awesome heel and maybe this can lead to that, but I am no longer complaining. Anybody who watched NXT knows that the Revival are one of the best tag teams in the world and they were able to show it in this match. The lumberjack stipulation is one that I feel has outlived its usage and I don’t think it added much to this match. The Revival getting a rematch for the tag titles made sense and it seems like they may be getting a push here. They got screwed out of a victory on the final Raw of 2018 and they did here as well. The referee missed the foot on the ropes which led to Olympic Glory retaining their titles. This has the feel of a rematch at the Royal Rumble with some sort of stipulation involved and if that is the case, I look forward to that match.
Elias vs Baron Corbin
Elias delivered another stellar promo prior to his match with Corbin and I have run out of ways to compliment the man on his promo game. He is just that good and he can control the crowd like very few have been able to do so naturally. Corbin gave a promo as well and he has become utter slime and he relishes in it. The match was fine enough, and I am beginning to wonder if Elias and Corbin are two people who rise to their level of competition and aren’t ones who bring people up. Corbin picked up the win rather clean over Elias and I feel like we will see more of this in the weeks leading up to the Royal Rumble.
Ambrose Backstage Promo
This promo was better than last week’s but that isn’t saying much. Dean should be a fantastic heel, but I am not feeling it from his promos. There was more conviction in his voice this week when he wasn’t speaking about being the moral compass and focused more on being unhinged. An unhinged, heel Ambrose is what we need, and I hope that is what we get moving forward.
This feud has no heat and I put most, if not all, of that blame on a champion that is never there. The bad thing is that Strowman wasn’t good on the mic this week and it showed. The script and delivery were poor, and it made Strowman look like he was regressing and not moving forward. If I were to be honest, this was as skippable as skippable can be.
Ashanti vs Apollo Crews & Ember Moon
Alicia Fox is a riot and she plays her character as good as anybody can play a character. Jinder had a few good lines that gave me a chuckle and that was a pleasant surprise. Ember and Apollo are two of the best workers in the company and I hope 2019 can be a big year for them. The match was okay as it felt like a filler match and Apollo and Ember would pick up the win. Also, Alicia’s sell of the Eclipse was stellar and one that everybody has to witness.
A Moment of Bliss
As much as I looked forward to Bliss’ debut episode of her talk show, the actual talk show part fell flat. Ronda pandered to the crowd by mentioning that Sasha Banks deserves a shot at the title and it felt very forced. The fact that she continues to name drop Charlotte and Becky has certainly influenced my pick for the women’s Royal Rumble and I have a good idea where WWE is going with it in my mind. Sasha came out and there was a fire in her that hasn’t been seen in quite some time. Then Nia Jax came out and she kind of brought the whole segment down. Nia is not very strong on the mic and she wasn’t able to hang with Sasha in this instance. Sasha called her out and challenged her to a match which would happen next.
Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax
Solid match between these two and they played their roles quite well. Sasha took some serious bumps in this match as well and some looked rather rough. Bayley had come down to be in Sasha’s corner when Tamina came down to be in Nia’s corner and that played a role in this match. Both Bayley and Tamina would get taken out by the other at different points in the match so they played their parts well. Sasha would go on the defeat Nia and earn a shot at Ronda Rousey at the Royal Rumble. That is a match I am looking forward to because Ronda hasn’t been matched up with someone like Sasha, so I am interested to see how they book it.
Falls Count Anywhere Intercontinental Championship Match
Well this match certainly made up for their match at TLC and then some. Seth kicked off the match by attacked Ambrose as he made his entrance and that is the Architect at play. This was a fun match from start to finish and they actually fought everywhere. The took it to the backstage area and made the most out of it. They even fought on the stairs in the stands and that feels like a subtle reference to their Shield days. They would eventually make their way back to the ring and fought in there as well. They made use of the outside area around the ring as well and it looked like Seth was about to reclaim the Intercontinental title after hitting a Blackout but Lashley would make his presence known. He beat down Rollins and hit his finisher and Dean was able to pin him to retain his title. Lashley and Lio Rush then set up a table and Lashley put Seth through it with his high angle spinebuster. Lashley and Lio stood tall at the end of Raw and it looks like posing Lashley is done for now and a more intense, dominant one is here for 2019.
Besides the nonsense that was Hogan’s return, Raw was fairly good this week. Not many low points during this Raw as each match was given time to shine for the most part. The only low points not named Hulk Hogan were the Strowman/Lesnar segment and a Moment of Bliss. All in all, this was a great start for Raw in 2019 and I look forward to see if they can continue the momentum from this. This is Sovereign S.A.M. and make sure to join me next week for another Sovereign Statement.