(Almost) Live Reactions to WWE RAW

The Royal Rumble is only six days away. The most unpredictable one… Ever? There are like, six or seven guys who could reasonably win it, which is nigh unprecedented. So, how did WWE handle their go-home RAW before the road to Wrestlemania officially kicks off? Read on to find out.

Opening Segment

A video package reminded the audience of how Owens and Jericho have run roughshod over the flagship show over the last few months. Following that, Roman Reigns made his way to the ring to cut a promo. The shark cage that Jericho must inhabit come Sunday was set in the middle of the ring. He didn’t say much before Owens and Jericho interrupted him. Owens bragged about his destruction of Reigns last week. Roman responded that he would “whoop” Owens at the Rumble. Jericho called him a stupid idiot and bragged about how he beat Reigns for the US title. Roman took Jericho’s threats as reason enough to invoke his rematch clause. Owens, not Jericho, OK’d the contest for later in the night.

Roman did alright in this segment, and I am glad to see that. This only lasted about ten minutes, so it wasn’t the usual tedious promo we get most Monday nights. Short and to the point, this segment accomplished it’s purpose and got out of the way. And really, what more can one ask for in a RAW opener?

Luke Gallows vs Cesaro

Apparently, The Club and Cesaro & Sheamus is happening on the kickoff show at the Royal Rumble? Why is that? Who decided this was the correct decision? Don’t put title matches on the kickoff show, WWE.

Cesaro landed a gut-wrenching suplex on the 290-pound Gallows to open the contest. Psychology, folks. Gallows took control with a back body drop. After a big boot by the big man, we headed to commercial. We returned to find Gallows in charge with a chinlock. A sideslam had Cesaro down for a two count. Cesaro managed to lift and throw Gallows with a vertical suplex. Cesaro began to throw uppercuts and landed a tornado DDT. Cesaro went for a giant swing, but Gallows managed to roll out of the ring. Sheamus hit a clothesline to Gallows on the outside. Cesaro pulled him back in and applied a sharpshooter. Gallows tapped, but the referee was busy dealing with Anderson and didn’t catch it. Gallows hit a fireman’s carry flapjack to win the match.

Sami Zayn vs Seth Rollins

Sami Zayn interrupted a phone call between Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon to ask if he could enter the Rumble. Foley was happy to agree, but Stephanie insisted that Zayn would have to earn his way in by defeating Seth Rollins later tonight.

Backstage, Foley to Rollins that if Sami Zayn defeated him, not only would Zayn get a place in the Rumble, he would get Rollins’ spot.

The match had a somewhat slow start as Rollins attempted several forms of roll-ups to get an early victory. With the stakes so high, neither man really let themselves get too aggressive until Rollins launched an elbow strike into the face of Zayn. Zayn responded in kind, and things began to heat up with a suicide dive by Rollins. Zayn countered a jumping knee into a blue thunder bomb for a two count. Zayn hit a Michinoku driver, but Rollins again kicked out at two. Rollins hit his blockbuster for a near fall. Rollins landed a superkick and a falcon arrow, but neither managed to finish off Zayn. Both men traded attempts at their finishing moves, with Rollins missing a pedigree, Zayn whiffing on a helluva kick, and Rollins again missing the pedigree, sending The Architect crashing to the arena floor with a back body drop. Rollins hit a pedigree onto the ring apron, but as Rollins went to make the cover, Triple H‘s music hit. The distraction allowed Zayn to get a surprise roll-up, and the victory. Rollins ran backstage in a fury and yelled at Mick Foley, who promised to get answers.

Great match, first of all. The stakes, the action, the ending, everything worked out here. Yes, the ending was a little predictable, but we’ve all been waiting on some advancement to the Trips/Rollins story for… well, months now, so it was great to finally see that. It’s a shame Seth won’t be able to add his star power to the Rumble match itself, as he was a viable option to win the whole thing, but hey, it can’t all be perfect. Honestly, the biggest critique I can put forward about this is that it should have been higher up on the card.

Six Man Cruiserweight Match

Mustafa Ali, TJ Perkins, and Jack Gallagher took on Tony Nese, Drew Gulak and Airya Daivari in a six-man tag match. Gallagher and Gulak started things off. Perkins tagged himself in and did battle with Tony Nese, who had the upper hand. Mustafa tagged in and quickly won the match with an imploding 450 splash.

Daivari literally did not tag in during this match.

It was way too short to really accomplish anything. If this was supposed to be an introduction to Mustafa Ali, it didn’t work because he didn’t do anything other than pick up the win in a match his team was already dominating. I can think of about a hundred ways this segment could have been done better.

A Bunch of People in an 8-Man Tag Match

While The New Day explained once again that they planned to win the Rumble, Enzo and Cass cut them off. The charismatic duo announced that they would enter the Rumble. Rusev entered with Jinder Mahal in tow and made fun of the face squad. Rusev officially entered the Rumble match. Titus O’Neil entered and informed everybody that there would be another tag match coming up, pitting Kingston, Big E, Cass and Enzo against Titus, Rusev, Jinder and Braun Strowman.

The heels dominated Kingston to kick off the match. And yeah, Titus again hit a Dominator two minutes into the match. I love that move, you don’t get to just use it as a throwaway move. Cass tagged in and went nuts before total chaos broke out between all eight members of the match. Strowman tagged in to take on Amore, who had nobody else to tag in. Strowman destroyed Enzo within just a moment, picking up the win.

After the match, The Big Show (who had entered the Rumble match earlier today) made his way to the ring to confront Strowman. The very svelte Big Show faced down Strowman in the ring. Strowman exited the ring after they paced around each other for a moment.

Eh. Another way to phrase everything I’ve written here is that nothing of consequence happened. Strowman beat Enzo Amore? How shocking.

Chris Jericho vs Roman Reigns For the US Title

Roman took control immediately, tossing Jericho about the ringside area, into the barricades and apron. A drive-by dropkick had him firmly in control as the show took to commercial. When we came back, Owens had joined the commentary team and Jericho had taken control of the match. Jericho nailed a good dropkick and shared an air-high-five with Owens on the other side of the arena. Jericho repeatedly slapped Roman across the face, drawing the ire of the Big Dog. Roman landed three consecutive clotheslines and a Samoan Drop. Roman went for a superman punch, but Jericho countered with a dropkick. Owens went for a codebreaker, unsuccessfully. Instead, Roman planted Jericho with a sit-out powerbomb for a two count. Owens left the commentary table and attacked Reigns, drawing the DQ finish.

The shark cage was lowered as the heels continued to beat on Roman. The heels attempted to place Reigns into the cage but didn’t manage. Instead, it was Owens who ended up locked in the cage. Owens ascended inside the shark cage and could only watch as Roman speared a now alone Chris Jericho.

After the break, Owens was released from the cage and it was revealed to him that his match against Reigns on sunday will be a no DQ match. Owens reacted predictably.

Roman’s reaction here was indicative of what made him such an atrocious US Champion a few weeks ago. In the last few weeks, he lost the title, then failed to gain it back in the rematch. His reaction to both instances? A shrug. The match itself was less than stellar, but Kevin Owens was a riot on commentary, essentially shooting on fellow commentator Byron Saxton’s inability to make it as a wrestler.

Nia Jax vs Ray Lyn

Jax murdered some local talent in a quick squash match.

Afterwards, Jax got on the microphone and dedicated her victory to the “recently deceased career” of Sasha Banks. As she began to trail, Sasha entered, hobbling on a crutch. However, it was a ruse and Banks beat on Jax with it.

This was fine, I suppose. The match accomplished nothing, and the post-match brawl wasn’t decisive or long enough to help out this storyline in any meaningful way. It didn’t hurt any to see some progression of the feud, but this probably wasn’t the most efficient way to do it. It’s announced that these two will have a match on the Royal Rumble kickoff show.

I get that they’re trying to make the kickoff show a big deal, and it’s a stacked card and all, but Banks was the women’s champ a month ago. There’s no reason she needs to be on the kickoff show.

Rich Swann vs Noam Dar

Both men rolled and ran about the ring to open the match. Swann had the advantage in the early going, but Dar took control with a dropkick as Swann was coming back into the ring. After the break, Swann was in control and landed an huge head scissors from off the top rope, then won the match with the Swann kick. Afterwards, he called out Neville, calling him a jester. Neville was happy to oblige, or so it seemed. After making it to the apron, Neville began to turn. Swann insisted and pursued Neville. Neville again retreated, bringing and end to the segment.

I don’t have much to say about the match. Noam Dar is really awesome, but boy howdy, you wouldn’t know that if you’ve only seen him in the WWE. For anybody who’s interested in seeing what the guy can do when allowed to shine, I’m going to put one of the better matches I saw last year below, which features him against Jay Lethal for the ROH Title. Please watch it if you dig wrestling matches.

Goldberg

I love his updated entrance, as he walks through the backstage area with the rest of the roster standing to the sides in awe. Rather than try to do a straight rehash of his previous iconic entrance, they’ve updated it and it looks great. It feels like a monumental deal every time he walks out, which is exactly how it should feel.

He grabbed a microphone and flubbed his opening lines. He ran down the situation of the Royal Rumble, and found his groove, blood running down his forehead and covered in sweat. Paul Heyman entered the arena. He yelled for a minute, before revealing that Brock Lesnar was indeed present. The Beast Incarnate entered as Heyman built up his client. Goldberg cut off Heyman and demanded that Lesnar get into the ring and face him. Brock made his way down the ramp to the ringside area. Brock had just entered the ring when *GONG*. The lights went out and when they came back up, The Undertaker was standing in the ring with the other two. RAW closed on that image.

A decent episode of RAW, all things considered. Rollins and Zayn put on a great match, and Reigns/Jericho wasn’t too shabby either. Most of the other segments were your standard go home stuff, and the closing segment had lots of big names but accomplished very little. We already know that all three are going to be in the Rumble, so what’s the point of having them all just stand there and stare each other down?

What were your thoughts about RAW this week? Did you enjoy that Dar match I gave you? Excited for the Rumble? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below, and have a good one!

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