The Universal Champion Is Finally Sighted
To say that the opening segment of this week’s RAW was surprising would be a major understatement. For starters, the show opened with Brock Lesnar’s music and Lesnar actually walked out. Given the rarity of his appearance he was almost attaining the status of a myth.
We are still to let Finn Balor’s sudden push sink in and tonight we were in for more surprises as Balor was actually treated as a big deal and a legitimate star that he is.
It is always good to see Vince McMahon these days. Braun Strowman came out and looked rather placid as we expected him to tear Brock Lesnar the first time he laid eyes on him. However, as usual it was Brock Lesnar’s advocate – Paul Heyman who stole this part of the show. He perfectly laid out why Balor is in the position he is in and how he could be the most legitimate challenger yet but it will all come to naught on Sunday.
We had always maintained that Balor deserved his big shot and when he has finally got it, we can’t help but have a sense of trepidation. What if this is just a ploy to have all the big names in the Royal Rumble match itself while giving Lesnar someone worthwhile to fight on Sunday?
We will only celebrate all of this if Balor actually wins ‘his’ championship again. As far as this segment goes, it was the perfect way to build up the biggest title match on Sunday.
Finn Balor’s David Overcomes Strowman’s Goliath
Finn Balor vs. Braun Strowman: The whole Balor and Lesnar match is being built up as a classic David vs. Goliath fight and this match was the precursor to that.
We have said this many times in the past and we will reiterate. Braun Strowman is the most gifted performer among the big men when it comes to in-ring prowess even surpassing the great Undertaker. Tonight he hung in there with Balor, one of the most agile wrestlers around.
This match could have easily headlined any PPV. This was also the match where we saw Lesnar finally do something offensive in some time. This match of course could not end normally as Lesnar was involved in it rather inadvertently and Finn Balor won via disqualification.
Balor actually looked like a very strong threat which means that WWE is actually backing him as the contender. We will have to wait and see how far this backing goes but for now this was the perfect way to build up the bout between Lesnar and Balor.
Winner: Finn Balor via DQ
Bobby Lashley Is A Posing Champ?
Last week Lashley defeated two of the most prolific wrestlers of the modern era to become the Intercontinental champion and how did he celebrate? He posed for us yet again though this time it was on a podium. We do not want to sound like a broken record but all this does is undermine the Intercontinental championship yet again.
Bobby Lashley vs. Apollo Crews: Crews came out to relieve us and his pop n lock posing was actually quite fun to watch. The match that followed was a huge disappointment as Crews lost rather easily.
The problems here are two fold. No one wants to see Lashley showing off his physique every chance he gets apart from some perverted member of WWE creative. Second is the way Crews is being treated. The whole pose-off showed that he could make for a great rival here but WWE just brushed him aside.
We hope that this isn’t the end of him but this whole segment and match highlighted everything that is wrong in the way WWE treats its deserving talents. The post-match stare down between Rollins and Lashley was fun though and shows us that there is still something left there.
Winner: Bobby Lashley
Is Seth Rollins Even Human?
There was a time not that long ago where every match featured a million near falls to the point where the finishing moves of most wrestlers were being rendered sting-less. Thankfully WWE dialed back on that trope. However, there is a place for such matches which when used sparingly can actually lead to awesome matches.
Seth Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre: This match reminded us of that industry-shifting match between Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat from WrestleMania 3. There were so many near-falls and done convincingly in this match that by the half-way point we were being taken on a roller coaster ride where we were unsure as to what was going to happen next.
This is something that most matches cannot pull off these days. More than Rollins who is expected to work at this rate, not unlike Strowman earlier, it was surprising to see the bigger Drew McIntyre not only keep up with but match Rollins move for move was impressive.
Seth won and staked his claim for the Royal Rumble. This was also the perfect way to build up the Royal Rumble instead of some pointless Battle Royal as is normally the trend with WWE.
Winner: Seth Rollins
Run Of The Mill Backstage Segments And Singh Brothers Get Some In-Ring Action
This was the part of the show where WWE acted like we needed a breather and for once they were right. The action had been so enthralling so far. The Revival were granted a title shot for later in the night with Curt Hawkins as the special guest referee.
Dean Ambrose gave a rather boring promo which shows that his heel turn hasn’t been anything like everyone including we imagined and this might go down in history as a failed experiment like Stone Cold’s heel turn but for very different reasons.
The match that followed between the Lucha House Party and the team of Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers was actually quite fun mostly because we saw Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers being tossed around. This match might not mean much in the grand scheme of things but it was fun and we occasionally need matches like these as well.
Winners: Lucha House Party
Elias Is Just Magic Waiting To Happen
If by the end of 2019 Elias doesn’t become one of the biggest things in wrestling then WWE would have done injustice by yet another deserving wrestler. Him walking past EC3 while the latter was posing was a nice touch and a great teaser of possible things to come.
For now he is in a feud with Baron Corbin and as much as we hate to admit it, it is actually working and something we can be invested in.
Elias vs. Baron Corbin: The pre-match banter was awesome and showed how good Elias is at manipulating the crowd and his mic skills are at par with some of the very best we have seeing in a wrestling ring. He made Baron Corbin look like a fool and Renee Young’s timely jabs on commentary showed how less is more when it comes to commentary in WWE.
Corbin got back at Elias during the match where Elias lost but not in a manner that undermined him. This is not the feud Elias needs or deserves as this point but it is the next best thing.
Winner: Baron Corbin
Women’s Royal Rumble Gets Some Hefty Performers And Heavy Machinery Picks Up A Win
The women’s Royal Rumble had been lacking some punch and it seemed like WWE would again have to rely on past performers to spice things up but the Royal Rumble got a huge boost with the announcements that Alexa Bliss and Lacey Evans are also going to take part.
This was the perfect segment where everything that is wrong with the women’s division was highlighted against what it can be. All the women like Nia Jax, Alicia Fox, Mickie James, The Riott Squad, Dana Brooke, and Tamina tried to sell their spots but it fell flat. Then Evans walked out and delivered a fiery promo that made you sit up instantly and pay attention. At least now we have a couple of reasons to be excited for the Women’s Royal Rumble.
Heavy Machinery vs. Ascension: Heavy Machinery made their main roster in-ring debut against the Ascension and there was nothing to brag or complain about this one and it was what it was.
Winners: Heavy Machinery
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable Retain Their Titles Under Dubious Circumstances
This is what happens when a tag team is not built up nicely. You end up doing things that are all over the place. We were left confused when Curt Hawkins was announced as the guest referee here and we were left more confused when he eventually helped the faces win by stopping his count multiple times.
Such tactics work when it is in favor of the heels as it makes them seem villainous and increases our hate for them. When such tactics favor the faces, it only makes them look weak and undeserving of their spots.
We hope there is some kind of payoff down the line but the championship reign of Roode and Gable continues to be unimpressive which is a shame.
This looks like a way to insert Hawkins and Zack Ryder into the title scene and while that could be interesting, this was not the best way to see that happen. Having said that, if you take out the heel and face dynamic, this was quite an enjoyable and funny segment and gets a pass.
Winners and still RAW Tag Champions: Bobby Roode and Chad Gable
WWE Raw Main Event: Ronda Rousey & Natalya vs. Sasha Bank & Bayley
Normally when two wrestlers are made to face each other out of the blue via some rivalry that blossoms out of nowhere, it generally does not work. However, in this case it somehow feels that the beef between Ronda Rousey and Sasha Banks is real despite the two never really having crossed paths in any significant manner before last week.
This possibly has to do with the way Banks has been lumbering the no-man’s land since as far as we can remember. This is working so much so that even the treatment of Natalya and Bayley as second fiddles here didn’t get us bothered.
This again could just be a way to get the title onto the show but it is better than nothing and could actually elevate Rousey’s standing as a legitimate wrestler. Sasha Banks and Bayley winning means that Banks will be the one pinned on Sunday but she at least gets to be on the show in a significant manner and given the year she has had, it is actually good.
Winners: Sasha Banks and Bayley
Overall Review: Normally the go home shows before big PPVs like the Royal Rumble end up being too crammed up with action that it comes across as phony. Tonight was different as there were no Battle Royal or other cheap ways to build up the Royal Rumble.
For once, WWE let the wrestlers rather than the match type build up the event and it worked brilliantly. We are excited not just for the Rumble but for the other bouts on the card as well. The only gripe is Bobby Lashley as the IC champion and we hope WWE makes some changes to the storyline sooner than later.
Also, if you didn’t get to watch this week’s RAW then we strongly recommend watching the bout between Rollins and McIntyre as it was one of the best matches of recent times.
Match of the Night: Seth Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre (duh.)
Overall Rating: 3.9/5