(Almost) Live Reactions to WWE RAW

So, we meet again. This time, it’s in the midst of a very strange time. Kevin Owens has lost his championship to Goldberg. So, the top belt in the company is now held by a 50 year old part-timer, which is exactly what everybody wanted to see. Don’t look into that, just take my word for it. Everybody. In the bigger picture, there’s nothing left in terms of PPVs before WrestleMania 33 (27 days). So, how would Bill’s 2017 championship reign kick off? Read on to find out.

Opening Segment

Chris Jericho was the first man out tonight. He talked up Owens’ betrayal a few weeks ago, and said that he wanted to know why Owens had done it. He asked Owens to come out and explain himself. The former champ did indeed enter, and dodged the question. Jericho nearly lost it, and demanded his answer. Owens said that stabbing friends in the back is nothing new to him. Owens said he only ever saw Jericho as a tool to help him keep his title. Jericho challenged Owens to a match at Mania, and Kevin was thrilled with that idea. Jericho offered to fight with Owens right now, and Owens agreed. They brawled. As Jericho got the upper hand, Samoa Joe joined the proceedings. Outnumbered, Jericho faltered. Sami Zayn ran out with a  chair to even things up, and the faces stood tall to close the segment.

Jericho and Owens are two of the best talkers around right now, and them promo-ing off on each other was great. Kevin was (thankfully) still in formidable heel mode, and he’s quite good at that. The logic didn’t quite work out, because I think Owens and Jericho had aligned a little before Owens won the title, but whatevs. Strong dialogue from both and good character work all around. Superb opener.

Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn

During the commercial break, all four men involved in the opener got put into matches.

Zayn was able to maintain an upper hand early, but that changed with a cannonball senton. Owens hit a Pop-Up Powerbomb out of nowhere, but didn’t make a cover. Owens hit a flip-over leg drop and a sick looking pumphandle neckbreaker. Another Powerbomb followed for the pinfall.

Tune in for Battleground, guys. You’re never, ever going to see Owens and Zayn in the ring again. I’m a little confused why this happened here, though. This was hardly the classic they’re capable of putting on, in fact it was pretty much a squash. If you’re going to have a match between these two, don’t make it the curtain-jerker, and give them more than five minutes. This is precisely what we were all worried about when they ended up on the same show.

Neville vs Rich Swann For The Cruiserweight Championship

Swann came out early with clotheslines and a dropkick, and tossed Neville into the barricade. Swann continued with chops and punches. Neville drove Swann head first into the side of the ring to finally earn a moment to catch his breath. Neville jumped right into a kick that sent him, limp, to the outside. Swann hit a big swanton dive to the ouside, and hit a michinoku driver for a two count. Neville caught Swann on the top rope and hit a superplex. Swann was stunned, but managed to roll to the outside to avoid any further offense. Back inside, they traded strikes. Swann hit a superkick for a two count. Swann whiffed an attempt at a Phoenix Splash, and Neville took the win with a Rings of Saturn.

After the match, Neville was interviewed by Austin Aires. Neville bragged about still being the champ after defending his title twice within 24 hours. Tension brewed between the two. Austin laid out Neville, who ran away from the onslaught.

Solid match, and a good way for Aires to announce his arrival to the division. If this signals a new philosophy of booking the cruiserweights on RAW, you can color me excited to see it. However, if I had to guess, I’d guess we’ll be back to three minute matches next week. But hopefully not.

Goldberg Has a Shiny New Belt

Goldberg held up his new belt, a conquering hero. He thanked the fans for their support to a somewhat mixed reaction. He said he was about to drop some kind of secret, and Paul Heyman entered. He said that he wasn’t here alone tonight, before bringing out his client, Brock Lesnar. Brock stepped in the ring to confront the new champion. Heyman talked up their upcoming match at Mania. Brock extended his hand in a show of respect and congratulations. Goldberg thought about it, and while weighing his options, Brock hit an F5 and left the ring, smirking.

I really struggled to write this evaluation. A Heyman promo and surprise Lesnar appearance? I dig both of those things. However, I don’t like that this is for the title. So, it’s hard for me to look past that, because I just don’t think this match needs that extra egg in the basket. Their names alone would have been enough to sell plenty of PPV buys. And as a result of two part-timers taking up the world title scene, guys like Owens get pushed down the card by default. The whole thing just kinda sits wrong with me.

The Club vs Enzo and Cass For The Tag Team Championships

Enzo and Cass got a rematch with The Good Brothers for… Reasons. They ran through their usual thing on the mic before the match started.

Enzo and Gallows started the match, and Enzo tagged out quickly. The champs were reeling just as Cesaro and Sheamus entered for… Reasons. The Club took control during the distraction. Anderson got a two count with a back suplex before tagging in Gallows while the third pair watched at ringside. Gallows got hit with a tornado DDT, and he made the hot tag to Cass. Cass hit an Empire Elbow, but Gallows broke it up. While Enzo and Gallows brawled outside, Enzo ran into Cesaro. Cesaro caused the DQ and all three teams brawled. Cesaro and Sheamus were left standing tall a the end.

Backstage, Mick Foley announced that Sheamus and Cesaro would face Enzo and Cass next week, with the winners earning the right to a title shot at Mania.

That was a mess. I know it’s really stupid of me, but I like it when the champs of a given division look like champions. I know, that idea isn’t seen as being worth much in the current year, but I’m convinced there’s something to it. Even in matches they win, Gallows and Anderson just come off as buffoons. They’re holding the belts, so I’m not saying they’re being buried or anything. However, anyone who’s seen any of their work in Japan will tell you that they work best as dominant powerhouses, not guys who need to get a DQ to get away with their titles.

Akira Tozawa vs Ariya Daivari

HWA! Daivari took control right away, with kicks and a big clothesline. They traded chops, and Tozawa called upon the power of the HWA! to gain the upper hand in the exchange. He hit a senton and sent Daivari to the outside. A suicide dive from Tozawa followed. Back inside, Tozawa hit the Snap German Suplex for the win.

He got on the mic and called out Brian Kendrick. Kendrick walked out and advised that Tozawa be careful what he wished for.

Man. A pointless squash match followed up by a promo that resulted in nothing but a plug for tomorrow. The match didn’t do anything, and nothing came of the promo. I don’t get it, guys.

The New Day vs The Shining Stars

Kofi and Big E were the representatives of The New Day. Kofi started the match, and got worked over by both Shining Stars. A Midnight Hour to (I think) Primo ended the match.

I have nothing to say about this.

Bayley Gets an Opponent For Mania

Bayley was welcomed to the ring by GM Mick Foley. Bayley was remorseful about the interferences that led to her retention of the title last night. She said that it didn’t feel right. Foley tried to console her, but it wasn’t very effective. Sasha Banks entered. She put herself forward as a contender. Charlotte entered as the crowd got behind the idea Sasha had presented. She accused Sasha of using Bayley and exploiting their friendship. Stephanie McMahon was out next, who advocated for Charlotte getting the match, and officially made that bout. Foley proposed a #1 contender’s match next week to resolve the situation. McMahon modified the idea: The match she made stood, and Sasha had the opportunity to earn her way into the match by having a bout with Bayley immediately.

This took way too long to get to a relatively simple point. Less talking, more wrestling on the wrestling show, please.

Sasha Banks vs Bayley

The friends-turned-temporarily-competitors locked up to begin the match and traded technical grappling maneuvers and mat wrestling to open the match. Sasha turned things a bit more vicious by wrenching on Bayley’s arm. Bayley responded with a snapmare, before returning to a headlock. Bayley went for a cover after every move, not wanting to battle her friend for a minute longer than was absolutely necessary. Sasha fired off a chop that echoed through the arena, and a stiff clothesline. A long series of near-falls commenced, but neither was able to secure the victory. Sasha began firing off forearm strikes and a double knee for a two count. Charlotte made her way from the commentary desk to ringside as Sasha continued to lead the match. Banks locked in the Bank Statement and Bayley tapped out.

After the match, Charlotte delivered a big boot to both competitors.

I really liked the story they told here. Bayley looking for an amicable way out, firing off cover after cover. Sasha getting increasingly desperate and escalating the viciousness of the match. Maybe a little slow for my tastes, but it was a good match regardless.

We Check In On Triple H and Seth Rollins

A video package was shown detailing Seth’s rehab program. He’s able to walk unaided and stretch his leg out, but he’s also quite stiff.

Triple H called in over skype to again call for Rollins to avoid showing his face at WrestleMania.

Both effective enough. Triple H didn’t have much material he hasn’t already hit, though.

Samoa Joe vs Chris Jericho

They traded blows right away. Joe launched a CCS enzugiri. Jericho managed to be just a bit craftier than Joe and avoided being dominated for too long. Joe hit a senton and moved into a fujiwara armbar. Jericho tried but was unable to obtain the Walls of Jericho. Jericho had Joe reeling with an enzugiri and a triangle drokick that sent Joe to the outside. Jericho followed outside and ran right into a Coqina Clutch. Joe choked Jericho out and left him lying outside, where he was unable to get back into the ring in time to beat the count.

Joe tried to continue the beatdown after the match, but walked right into a Codebreaker.

Good psychology on display throughout. With Joe playing the powerhouse to Jericho’s crafty veteran, and a high pace, this was a decent enough match for being as short as it was.

Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman Brawl Again

Strowman was quite cross, and called for Roman to settle things between them. As Roman’s music hit, *GONG*. Who should come out but the Undertaker, who entered for a very long time, as he does. Strowman backed down and left the ring, much to my surprise. Roman entered for real this time, and made his way to the ring. They stared each other down, and Roman staked a claim on the landscape of the WWE. Taker looked t the WrestleMania board for a moment, then Chokeslammed Reigns to close out the show.

I thought this was a decent edition of RAW. Nothing on it was spectacular, but it held my interest for the full three hours. And if a show can do that, I’m inclined to call it a success.

Be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below, or come tell me on twitter at @Ejdupras_VVV.

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