Here we are at the Raw after Survivor Series and what a solid show that was. The build wasn’t all that special but the card pretty much delivered. It is always interesting coming out of Survivor Series because the feuds and stories are somewhat put on hold so we shall see which ones they decide to pick up. There is Nikki Cross versus Alexa Bliss to look forward to and that story has been built up rather nicely. So, let us see what Raw had for us this week and what Botch and I thought of this week’s episode overall.
In-ring segment – Adam Pearce & Team Raw (Sheamus, Riddle, Keith Lee, AJ Styles, Omos, & Braun Strowman)
I really wish I could grade this segment higher because of what Lee, Styles, Sheamus, Riddle and Pearce brought to it but I do have to downgrade it because of how it ended. Pearce has been nailing his role as an authority figure and he did more of that here. He introduced every member and gave them props on their win at Survivor Series. I loved how AJ still wants to be referred to as captain but nobody wants to hear that noise. Sheamus was vocal about it and that he is really good friends with the champion Drew McIntyre. I loved how AJ mentioned that he hopes Sheamus isn’t trying to get a title shot because he is friends with Drew. Lee would chime in as well and so would Riddle. Riddle is so dang good with his character that I just cannot help but love the guy. Then we have the reason I dropped the grade and that is Braun Strowman. Braun really was offended by what Pearce said and would headbutt him. That felt so out of place and just kind of killed the opening segment overall.
This really was going very well. I’m actually going to miss this Raw team because of how completely mismatched they all are. They’ve really played that up and it’s been high-larious. I kind of enjoyed the back and forth about who should CHALLENGE! for the championship. Riddle was a riot. He always is. Even Keith couldn’t hold it back when Riddle was talking. I agree that Braun losing his mind was completely out of nowhere and made zero sense. He just got mad because of “last but not least”. Like…why? It’s a commonly-used phrase that he’s surely heard before. He flipped because…reasons. Queen seems to think they may be tweaking his character a bit and I hope she’s right but this isn’t really how you do it.
P.S.: Finally, Jordan has a name! We didn’t know what to call him because WWE wouldn’t give him a name but this week, they finally did it. Nice, simple, and effective.
Backstage segment – The Hurt Business & The New Day
I can talk on and on about how great the New Day on the mic because they are all great at it. The Hurt Business would approach them and they gave them gripe over losing to the Street Profits. They spoke about how they aren’t worthy enough to be champions and that they should give them the titles. I loved how Woods and Kofi were quick to point out that they beat them last week. That wasn’t lost on the Hurt Business as they would do their best to goad them into giving them another shot. Cedric would get in Woods’ face and bring some nice fire here. Woods would eventually give in and agree to give them another shot at the titles.
Man, if the Hurt Business isn’t becoming quite hate-able. We saw really good fire from Cedric. I haven’t seen that since he was in CWF before he signed to WWE. They wanted yet another shot at the titles – even though they absolutely didn’t deserve it. I graded this as I did largely based on Cedric’s unexpected fire and how good New Day were at dealing with the transparent goading. I also don’t mind getting this match again because they absolutely tore it up the first time.
The Hurt Business (Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin) w/ MVP vs The New Day (Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods)
Last week they had a great match and this week was no exception. All four men are extremely talented in the ring and know exactly how to bring it. This match was a great back and forth affair for the tag titles. I also liked that old school mentality of isolating a member of a team as well from the Hurt Business. The New Day and Hurt Business would eventually get counted out and that seemed like it was it for the match. MVP would then get on the mic and try and talk the New Day into restarting the match. I loved how Woods didn’t mind taking that as a win but MVP would eventually talk them into restarting the match.
The goodness would continue and the Hurt Business did more of their isolation game on the New Day. They would damage Kofi’s knee throughout and he did a good job in selling it. You could see Woods was aching to get in and when he did, he came in with plenty of momentum for the hot tag. Woods might have one of the best hot tags because he really gets going. Some more great back and forth action in the match but the New Day would pick up the win when Woods would roll up Shelton for the win.
This. Went. DOWN! I knew this would be good and it was. I really liked New Day heading up the ramp being perfectly content to take the double count-out and move on with their lives. Still, they didn’t and the match was restarted. The match had a very classic flow as Sam mentioned above. They took out Kofi’s knee and worked on it and Woods got the “hot tag”. Kofi sells damage really well and Woods’ fire on “hot tag”s is undeniable. All four were in this totally. Cedric and Shelton make a really good team and they have excellent chemistry. ‘Course, they could both probably work with broomsticks as tag partners and make it compelling. Really fun match! Not sure where Hurt Business (Shelton & Cedric) go from here though. They were decisively beaten so another match would make little sense. We’ll have to wait and see.
Backstage segment – Adam Pearce & Bobby Lashley
I liked that bruise on top of Pearce’s head to sell the headbutt from Strowman. Charly was asking him what was next for the WWE Championship and he mentioned that Strowman was escorted from the building. He wanted to fire him but the brass felt like that would have been too much. Right when it seemed like he would say what the plans were, Bobby Lashley would come in. Lashley voiced why he needs to have a talk with Pearce and Pearce seemed opened to it. Lashley still isn’t the best on the mic but you can see some improvement because of his time with MVP.
Adam plays the beleaguered managing role really well. I loved how well he sold the damage he took from Braun. His voice was lower because of the “headache” and his head was sufficiently bruised up. Lashley did what he needed to do here too in order to make his case for the match we’d get later.
Backstage segment – Adam Pearce & Randy Orton
Charly was back again to ask Pearce what the plans were but this time he would be interrupted by Randy Orton. Orton looked like a man who had no plans to convince Pearce of anything. Rather, he was someone who was going to tell Pearce what was going to happen next and Pearce reluctantly agreed to listen to what he had to say. We shall see how this all plays out.
If Charly’s not quite the bugaboo tonight. LOL! Again, Adam did well here. Randy is a good bit more menacing than Lashley is and we got that here. I do wonder what case Orton is supposed to make to get another match. We found out later but at this point, I had questions.
Backstage segment – Lana
You know what? I am all for this Lana stuff right now and I did not think I would be. Sure, Lana did luck out in being the sole survivor but they put her in that position. She was still on cloud nine over the result and she didn’t even want to talk about the possibility of facing Asuka yet because she doesn’t want that moment to end quite yet. Solid stuff from Lana here and I am all aboard the Lana train.
Lana was most fine here. I was kind of hoping for a little more “bouncing off the walls” from her but it was fine. She was ultra-face here and I really liked it. I also really like her. I’m all in for where this goes.
Backstage segment – Adam Pearce
Pearce was finally able to tell us what the plans were for the WWE Championship and we are having a few matches to determine the number one contender. Riddle, Sheamus, Orton, Lashley, Styles and Lee will all face off in one-on-one matches and the winners will face off in a triple threat match next week. That sounds like a fun idea to me and I cannot wait to see the matches tonight and that triple threat next week.
Yeah, this wasn’t going to be anything but fun. I’m normally not much for tournament nonsense because of how WWE overdoes it but this one had the makings of pure, unadulterated fun. Pearce nailed this too – doing only what was called for and not going overboard.
Riddle vs Sheamus
I struggled between 4.5 and 5 but I ultimately went with the latter. This was my match of the night and this honestly might be one of Sheamus and Riddle’s best matches as competitors to date. This match was given around 20 minutes and it was fun all the way around. This is one of those matches that needs to be seen with your own eyes because nothing I type will do it justice. Great physicality in the match and great back and forth as well. I was certain that Sheamus would pick up the win here but Riddle would come out the victor. I know I didn’t speak much on the match but that is because it truly is that great of a match. Riddle is that dude or that bro and Sheamus is probably putting on some of the best matches he has ever put on in recent memory.
These two showed incredible chemistry. How could you not love this? This really was as physical as Sam said it was. Sheamus definitely wore the battle wounds from it on his chest. Each hit the other with everything they had respectively. I also like that Riddle took it, though Sheamus came out of this one looking great.
Backstage segment – Lana and Asuka
Asuka looks like she is having so much fun out there that it is hard not to smile whenever she does someone on the screen. Lana would bump into her and I loved how Asuka was quick to offer up a match between the two. Lana looked like she did not want any part of that but Asuka would accept the challenge anyways. Lana has a shot at becoming champion and looks like they really are leaning into her lucking into things, aren’t they?
Lana is a whole fool and I am here for it all day and twice on Sundays. No one does promo work like Asuka. Lana was pushed into accepting the match and her reaction to it was very charming. WWE wants Lana to be an über “babyface” and that’s exactly what’s happening. She’s all in and I am too.
Firefly Fun House – Bray Wyatt & Alexa Bliss
The Friendship Frog completely stole the show here and I loved how he caught them all off guard. You would think that Bray and Alexa would know who is in the Fun House. This was just a ton of fun and these two continue their great chemistry. I loved how they spoke so ill of friendship and how quickly Alexa disposed of the Friendship Frog as well. I loved the in memorium as well and it was just hilarious. The creativity that goes into the Fun House is amazing and makes me wonder what they will do next.
Friendship Frog is life…or he was. He’s kinda dead now…maybe. In the Firefly Fun House, Ramblin’ Rabbit has been worked repeatedly, only to come back to life so maybe it can be the same for Friendship Frog. In reality, Windham (Bray) does all the voices for these fun creatures and he really does breath individual life into each one. Very talented individual. Alexa was decidedly not having Friendship Frog and she was the one who ended him. I do enjoy the Firefly Fun House less with Alexa there but it is still enjoyable. As I’ve said before, it’s not that Alexa’s doing a bad job; it’s just that I feel Bray should be alone in there.
Lana vs Asuka
This was not much of a match here as it would end quickly and a bit strangely to me. Nia and Shayna would come down to join the commentary team much to the chagrin of Lana. Asuka would end up getting attacked by the tag champs when she dumped water on them and that just felt so strange. Lana would help her before she could get put through the table and seems obvious, we are heading for a tag match.
Yeah, the odd interaction between Nia/Shayna and Asuka was odd. It was another thing that kind of came out of nowhere. There wasn’t much to the match because of how short it was before Nia/Shayna got involved. I do like that the table spots involving Lana have ended. We’re at nine now. She finally got one over on Nia & Shayna and I love that.
Backstage segment – R-Truth, Akira Tozawa, & Drew Gulak
I fully expected this to be a regular ad but it never can be that so long as Truth is the 24/7 Champion. He spoke about the specials and then a referee would pop up. Drew Gulak, who was the Gobbledy Gooker by the way, would appear from behind it looked like he would pin Truth. That was until the familiar Fiend music would play and Truth would book it out of there with the referee. Gulak would leave too when he saw what appeared to be the Fiend but it was just Akira Tozawa in a Fiend mask. Akira would take a 24/7 Championship pillow and that was that. It is stuff like this that makes me say that R-Truth is a Hall of Famer. The man is an all-time great comedy act and you cannot deny that.
R-Truth is life itself. This was total silliness and I am here for silliness. It doubled as merch promo and the obligatory 24/7 segment that USA wants each week. Loved Tozawa dressed up as The Fiend. Gulak is a total fool too. This couldn’t have been done any better.
Lana & Asuka vs Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler
This match was pretty fun and I just wondered how much of Lana we would see in it. We all know how great Asuka and Shayna are in the ring. Nia is what she is and that is all I will say on that. Lana does show signs of improvement in the ring and you saw it here. One thing she has always had though is a nice kick and she showed it again here. This was fun and the biggest question was whether Lana would get put through the table again. Lana would fight out of it this time and Nia would over the table. That distraction would allow Asuka to roll up Shayna and they would win. I loved how Lana noped right out of there and I will not mind if Asuka and Lana win the tag titles from them.
Table spots for Lana still knotted at nine. It wouldn’t happen here either. This was a decent match. Lana really is getting a little better. Nia is such an excellent bully and Shayna is a decent “hop on”. I love that Lana & Asuka took the win too. Normally, I hate it because of the devaluing of the championships themselves but this time, it made sense in storyline. Nia’s face told the story and told it really well.
Backstage segment – Riddle & MVP
If you want more proof that Riddle is that dude, here it is. Riddle came in with all his charisma and was pitching ideas to MVP. MVP did his best not to crack but you could see that he came close when Riddle let out some disappointment when he said wasn’t his bro. Riddle is a star in the making and he has all the tools to be a top guy. I still don’t buy all that stuff about him having heat because he is still being placed in good spots. This feels like it could be a tease for a possible Riddle/Lashley feud down the line and I would not be opposed to that idea.
Sam’s right. I saw MVP almost lose it this time. I’ve never seen him come this close to corpsing but that was close one. Riddle’s concerned “oh” just killed me. Riddle is very off-beat and, like Asuka, he has a style all his own. Yeah, the dirt-sheet chatter about him having heat is clearly just that: chatter. It clearly isn’t affecting him. If Sam’s right about a Lashley/Riddle feud (and I think he is), I’d be all for that. The promo work between MVP and Riddle would totally be worth the price of admission.
Keith Lee vs Bobby Lashley w/ MVP
This is a match that would please Big E because it was big meaty men that were slapping meat – his words, not mine. This was two big boys having themselves a good match on Raw. Lee is athletic for his size and Lashley did show off a bit of his as well. Some good physical action in this one and I was rooting for Lee because I wanted to see him, Riddle and Styles face off if Styles beats Orton. Lashley would get bloody on his head at one point and I would have to figure it was during the ring post spot prior to a commercial break. Solid back and forth in this match and Lee would pick up the win when MVP would attack him. Probably not the finish I would have picked but they did that to try and protect Lashley so I get it. Also, how awesome is Lee’s new theme? So much better than that generic WWE2K music he had prior.
Thank goodness they switched out Keith Lee’s theme. It was absolutely awful when he got to the main roster. They took way too long to fix that. Oh well, it’s gone now. Kudos to Def Rebel and Keith for really getting it right now. As for the match, this was a straight-up “hoss fight”. Lashley caught some damage outside of the ring as Sam said and he bled a little but he wasn’t wearing a Crimson Mask (thanks, Gordon Solie). MVP got involved and screwed up so that Lashley took the loss. Both came out of this looking great and Lee advances which, like Sam, is precisely what I wanted. Now, we’ll get Styles vs. Riddle vs. Lee. Next week can not come fast enough.
Backstage segment – Nikki Cross
Nikki is done trying to be nice with Alexa and she is ready to beat her up if that is the only way to get through to her. I love this from Nikki because she is realizing she can’t be nice with her anymore as Alexa she isn’t the same person right now. I also noticed that smile of came out from when she was the “Twisted Sister of NXT” but she pulled it back rather quick. Maybe she will go back to that because it will be the only way she can bring back Alexa. It will be interesting to see and she nailed this promo.
This was fine. I couldn’t tell if Nikki was just throwing in the towel and deciding to hurt Alexa or if she was going to mollywhop her to try to help her. No matter. Nikki delivered with passion here and I saw some of the old Nikki creep out.
Nikki Cross vs Alexa Bliss
This match was not about the in-ring work but rather about the story being told. I know some people may not like that but it is the truth. The ring work was fine but the story was fantastic. I just loved how Alexa kept smiling throughout the match at whatever offense Nikki threw at her. It totally reminded me of when Nikki was her crazed self in NXT and I wonder if Alexa took any inspiration from that. Nikki did pretty much all of the offense and it looked like she got through to Alexa when she broke down and started to apologize to her. They embraced but it was a ruse as Alexa would hit her with a move and earn the win. Amazing story told in this match and I doubt this is the last we see of these two.
I agree with Sam. The ring work wasn’t bad at all but this was all about storyline. Alexa has become a perfect female Bray Wyatt. She takes most of the damage and smiles as she takes a lot of it. Of course, Alexa conned Nikki into thinking she was having a moment of clarity and that resulted in the end of the match. Very well done by both of them. I wonder where this will lead next.
Randy Orton vs AJ Styles w/ Omos
This match was probably the weakest of the qualifying matches but that doesn’t mean it was bad. The other two, especially Riddle/Sheamus, were just that special. These two have met in the past and they have some good chemistry. AJ’s associate, Omos, would also play a role in the match as well as he would help AJ at various points. AJ worked over Orton’s leg and Orton did a good job in selling it. The match was pretty back and forth and I wondered who would come out on top. I was of course rooting for AJ because I wanted the triple threat of him, Riddle and Lee to happen. Orton would get spooked by the Fiend on the outside when he would appear from behind the barricade. Orton would brush that off and seemed poised to win when the Fiend would again pop up behind him in the ring corner right as he was prepping AJ for the RKO. That distraction would prove too much and AJ would hit him with the Phenomenal Forearm to earn the final spot in the triple threat. Bray’s laugh would fill the arena as Raw came to a close and looks like he may want some payback over what his “friend” Randy Orton did to him years ago.
Very solid match but I agree with Sam – not as good as the others. It almost couldn’t be. The others two were just so good. Orton has been the Orton we’ve always wanted to see since the COVID-19 era and he’s been just fantastic. His selling here was right on the money here. Both have good chemistry together and turned in a very nice match. The Fiend played a part here as Sam has already said and that’s going to be fun. Orton and Bray have history so I’m good to go back to that once more. Now that Orton’s not in the title hunt, they can do it. Full speed ahead, I say.
Overall, this was a darn good episode of Raw this week. This week had some really great match with Sheamus/Riddle being the real standout of the bunch. Stories are starting to be set up and are moving forward towards TLC. Riddle’s star continues to shine and the story between Nikki and Alexa keeps getting better. I am looking forward to what we see from Bray and Orton this time around because both men are in such a different place from when they last met. The only real headscratcher was the Strowman stuff because it was so out of left field and out of place. I will say though that Pearce is continuing to prove his worth as an authority figure and he is very much closer to a William Regal in NXT than the ones we have gotten previously in WWE. All in all, great episode of Raw this week.
Solid episode of “Raw” tonight. There were no bust segments this week at all. That makes two whole weeks of solid segments. Thank goodness. Riddle is really nailing his character. I remember openly hating him when he debuted in NXT because the character wasn’t quite there and it was just going over like a lead balloon. It slowly but surely came to life there and it’s really working here as he’s less stoner and more fun. I agree with Sam that the only thing that was really off was Strowman flying off the handle over absolutely nothing. Otherwise, a winner all around.
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