Raw has been getting better with each week and the build for the Royal Rumble has been a good one because of it. This week is the go-home edition of Raw for the Rumble so there is plenty of story left to tell before the pay-per-view. So, does Raw continue to build on momentum or do they have a setback on the go-home edition? Let’s find out, shall we?
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Video
If there is one thing that the WWE is consistent with, it is their video tributes to Dr. King. They always do a great job in showing what the man was trying to do during the Civil Rights Movement and how much he was able to accomplish. Yes, racism is still alive sadly, but he did change the minds of many during that time period. I think the words he spoke then are even more relevant in today’s world because there is a lot of hate flowing right now and we need to remember to treat each other right and not with hate.
Paul Heyman and The Beast In-Ring
There are very few men in the history of professional wrestling that can hype up a match quite like Paul Heyman. He may say some things over and over again, but he is always captivating when he speaks. I wasn’t expecting to see Mr. McMahon during this segment but he did add a nice wrinkle to this. I didn’t expect him to continue to bash Finn Balor and I can’t help but wonder if this is a part of his push that has been rumored. Vince and Heyman had the lines of the night when Vince called Oklahoma City a “Hillbilly Land” and Heyman had the perfect line after of “You’re speaking to fast for them, Vince” and both had me dying. Strowman then came out and I noticed the pop wasn’t quite the same for him as it was in the past. I am getting the feeling that Strowman may not be as over as he once was and that is a shame. Strowman spoke some words and then Finn Balor made his way to the ring. Finn boasted about how he earned his shot and how Vince doesn’t believe in him and I really think this could lead to something. This all set up a match between Balor and Strowman that would be up next.
Balor Club vs The Monster Among Men
We all know how good of a worker Finn is and Braun is no slouch either, but the issue was that the booking of this match felt a bit off. Word going around is that Braun was pulled from his match with Brock because Vince doesn’t want him to lose again so being in a match with the number one contender feels odd. Finn can’t lose to Strowman since he has to look strong going into his match on Sunday, so they had to do something. The match itself was fine and told a good big guy versus small man story but there were some things that didn’t make since. I don’t understand how Brock suplexing Balor on the outside in clear view of the referee isn’t a disqualification but when he hits the F5 on Balor in the ring it is. Either way this finished off a hot start to Raw and that is a good sign going forward this night.
The Almighty Celebration
Lio Rush has quite simply helped redirect Bobby Lashley to being someone to care about in his second stint with the company. Lashley was quite stale on his own but ever since being paired with Lio, he has found another gear. I was surprised that Apollo Crews, who does look a lot like Lashley, came down to the ring. Apollo showed more charisma than he has during his time on the main roster and that was a welcomed surprise. If this is the Apollo we get from now on, he is someone I can see being more than a jobber/lower mid-card talent. The pose-off was hilarious and I suggest everybody check it out. This would lead to a match between the two that would take place after the commercial break.
Apollo vs Lashley
I expected a bit of a squash match, but we got something a bit more than that. Apollo is talented as heck in the ring and Lashley played well off of him. Lashley played the role of the strong man perfectly and Apollo played the underdog quite well. The match wasn’t long, but it wasn’t a squash either. Lio would cause a distraction that would allow Lashley to pick up the win. I actually wouldn’t mind if they could drag this out to Wrestlemania and have Apollo pick up the Intercontinental title off of Lashley. Seth came down to the ring for his match with Drew McIntyre and there was a bit of a stare down between he and Lashley. It could be foreshadowing or just an acknowledgement of two men that know how good the other is.
Seth Rollins In-Ring
I decided to separate this from the actual match because there was so much goodness to talk about here. I know Botch has said time and time again that Cedric Alexander is the bets in-ring worker in WWE right now, but I have to say that Seth Rollins is the best to me. The matches he is able to get out of whoever he works with is something only the greats have been able to achieve. Back to the promo and it was a good one. He quoted Dr. King to start off and it just built from there when he spoke about his recent tribulations in the ring. He spoke with fire and he seems ready to lead the company along with another man that would make his presence known. Drew McIntyre then came out and he, like Seth, is ready to lead the company. McIntyre spoke with the same fire Seth had and I will go out on a limb and say that these two men will be the top babyface and top heel in the company by the end of this year. Solid promos from both men prior to their match which would start right after.
McIntyre vs Rollins
I said in the DD that this is a matchup we should get used to seeing and after this match, I still stand by it. Both men are clearly getting positioned to be players in the main event scene, so we should expect many matches between them. Seth is the best worker in WWE and McIntyre has become one of the best as well. The trash talking he does in the ring is only matched by Kevin Owens on the main roster and now I want to see that match. This match was a great opening salvo in what will likely be one of many. Seth picked up the win with a roll up and that is good momentum to have going in the Royal Rumble match.
The Revival and Mr. McMahon Backstage
I know rumors are abound about whether or not the Revival asked for their release and what their future holds. All I have to say is that WWE would be fools to let them go because the more screen time they have gotten, the more personality they have shown. I love the way they pleaded their case for another title opportunity and asked for a special referee. Curt Hawkins being the one who would be the referee was an interesting call and I love how the Revival were quick to kiss up to him.
Dean Ambrose Promo
It feels good to see a quality Dean Ambrose promo and not what he has been giving us the last couple of weeks. He felt more unhinged and less like the moral compass and that is something that I feel he does best. He did mix in a bit of that moral compass, but it didn’t feel forced this time and felt more natural. This is the heel Ambrose we need to see more of, but I do wonder what he will do now that he is no longer champion.
Lucha House Party vs Team Ashanti
The Lucha House Party are great workers, but this match was so meh and felt like filler. It was so random and felt like something we would see on Main Event. The ring work from the Lucha House Party was fine enough and seeing the Singh Bros get time in the ring was a nice sight. Though the ending had to be a botch, and someone had to have missed their cue because even the announce team was surprised a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker won the match for the Lucha House Party.
EC3 is a fantastic talker so I have no idea why they haven’t let him talk yet since his call up. I get the posing because they are trying to play up that he is in the top 1% but let the man talk. I did love that Elias walked by him and I hope we get a program between the two because that has money written all over it.
Elias has slowly showed a bit more versatility in his guitar playing and he either has worked hard to get better or he has some guitar skills but has held back on them for the sake of his character. I say it time and time again that Elias is one of the best talkers in WWE right now because he knows how to control a crowd like few do. Baron Corbin came out to interrupt and has he become quite the heat magnet. The good thing is that it is the right kind of heat and no the go away heat we have seen from superstars the crowd rejected. I love that Elias cut the mic from Corbin and he played a song for him. Corbin had a great line when he tried to enter the ring to attack Elias and Elias took a swing with his guitar at Corbin and he yelled to a fan, “he almost hit me with that guitar”.
Elias vs Baron Corbin
As much as I have enjoyed these two from a promo perspective, their matches are another thing. I don’t know what it is, but their matches have fallen flat to me. Maybe they just lack chemistry with one another and that happens from time to time in wrestling. Corbin would pick up another win over Elias and I don’t know what direction is left in this feud because it lacks any sort of heat.
A Moment of Bliss
Well this was certainly better than the previous two Moment of Bliss segments but that isn’t saying much. I really don’t know what it is about this because on paper it should work but it hasn’t yet. Nia Jax was her guest and before she could really get a word out, Ember Moon came out to interrupt the segment. This would lead to the rest of the women in the back to come out and a brawl ensued. The best part of the brawl was Nikki Cross’ face that simply told that she was happy to see a fight break out and that she was ready to play. Alexa announced that she would be in the Rumble and that seemed to be the end, but Lacey Evans has something to say. She came out and completely owned the moment and I wouldn’t mind seeing a program between her and Bliss because that could be money.
Heavy Machinery vs the Ascension
Otis is simply a riot and I love how Tucker plays off him. This was a pretty paint by the numbers squash match as Heavy Machinery got in their moves and picked up the easy win. I think they have a chance to get over with the crowd in a big way and I hope they do. The Raw tag division needs the depth and they can certainly provide it.
The Revival vs Olympic Glory 3
These two teams have built up some solid chemistry with one another and this was a very solid match. Curt Hawkins was the special guest referee and we all knew something would happen with that stipulation. There was some good back and forth in this match and it looked like the Revival would be able to cheat to win the belts, but Hawkins was having none of it. He stopped the Revival every time they tried to cheat to win and would be the Revival’s downfall. Gable would pick up the win for his team with a roll up and the Revival couldn’t believe their eyes. They attacked Hawkins after the match and right when it looked like they would really beat him down, Zack Ryder would come in to save his former tag team partner. I could get behind a Ryder/Hawkins team up as they aren’t doing much with either and they were a solid tag team when they were the Major Brothers and the Edgeheads.
Flustered Rousey Promo
I really don’t know if Ronda took a single breath during this promo and some of it worked while some of it didn’t for me. I did love that she played the flustered and somewhat angry role during this but the fact she was speeding through her lines had her stumble a bit. She has been hit or miss during her promos and that happened during this one. She is getting better on the mic and I do enjoy that she is speaking more in the now rather than her past accomplishments.
Boss Huggers vs Rowdy Harts
Sasha Banks cut a promo prior to the match that really harkened back to her days when she was the Bo$$ of NXT and that was a sight for sore eyes. When she gets in that character, she is right up there with The Man Becky Lynch on the mic. I love that Ronda and Sasha were ready to fight each other from the start and that played out well in the match. Ronda does do well in the ring when she takes it slow, but she still shows shades of green. The Hart Attack her and Natalya executed on Bayley was rather rough and it looked like Ronda hit it too high. This was a good back and forth match that saw Sasha pick up the win by tapping out Natalya with the Bank Statement. We saw a stare down and face-to-face shouting match with Sasha and Ronda after the match to close out Raw and the intensity in that was sold well. I am aware that Sasha suffered a wardrobe malfunction during this match but that was blacked out on my feed, so I didn’t see it. The fact that so many sites and such posted the pictures of it is something I do not like and feel like it is something they did just to draw traffic to their sites because they knew it would.
This was probably the best go-home for a pay-per-view that Raw has done in quite some time. Really was a solid show from start to finish and did its job in building towards the Royal Rumble this Sunday. The highlights were definitely the Seth and McIntyre promos and match, the Apollo/Lashley pose-off and the whole opening segment. Lacey Evans completely owned her moment when she came out and that was a real highlight for me. The only real low points were the Lucha House Party vs Jinder & the Singh Bros match because it felt random and the ending felt like a botch and the Elias vs Baron Corbin match. This was another solid Raw and I hope you can join us for NXT Takeover on Saturday and the Royal Rumble on Sunday. This is Sovereign S.A.M. and I will see you next week for another Sovereign Statement.