The theme of this week’s Raw focused on the ongoing rivalry between Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho against the likes of Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns with Braun Strowman added to the mix. It’s no surprise that Strowman played a bigger role, since he’s a guy to keep an eye on heading into 2017 with the Royal Rumble as the next WWE pay-per-view.

Raw started with Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens celebrating the fact that Owens is still the Universal Champion. That’s when Raw General Manager Mick Foley showed up and botched the name of the city by saying Pittsburgh, even though it was Columbus and everybody had a laugh about that.

Foley announced that Owens will face Roman Reigns again at Royal Rumble on Jan. 29 for the Universal Title. The stipulation is that Jericho will be above the ring in a shark cage to prevent him from interfering. Jericho freaked out and said he was afraid of heights. There were some funny moments in this opening promo.

It was also announced during the opening segment that Jericho and Owens would face Reigns and Rollins in the main event of Raw, which was very predictable.

Later on Raw, Braun Strowman was shown destroying things backstage. He told Mick Foley he wanted a match with Sami Zayn or else. Foley told him that he gave Zayn the night off, so Strowman continued to wreck things.

They teased a match between Titus O’Neil and Sin Cara, but Strowman showed up to beat them up before it could really get going. That’s not a bad thing, considering that match would have been bad. Strowman tossed Sin Cara off the staging area onto a table which had Christmas presents on it. Strowman shoved over some Christmas trees because he was so mad.

The main event was a nearly 20-minute tag match with Rollins and Reigns doing their best to fight back against the heel buddies Owens and Jericho. There was a lot of time spent on the heels working on Reigns. Rollins came close to getting the win for his team when he got the hot tag. Just when Rollins was about to tag Reigns, the angry big man Braun Strowman showed up. The ref called for the bell for the disqualification finish.

After the match was over, Strowman slammed Reigns on the floor. Jericho and Owens were happy to see Strowman. The two bailed to show that they weren’t working with Strowman, but liked what he did. Strowman dropped Rollins with a Running Powerslam and then he did it to Reigns as well.

Strowman is the kind of wrestler that Vince McMahon loves. He’s a new giant for him to book as an unbeatable monster. It’s the same thing we have seen many times over the last 20 years with the likes of Undertaker, Kane, Big Show and Mark Henry. Although Henry is shorter than those guys, he’s still considered a larger-than-life guy. Vince loves the idea of having a monster heel that the fans buy into as being unbeatable, only for some face wrestler to come up as the guy that beats them.

This week’s ending makes me think that Strowman might win the Royal Rumble match. If Roman Reigns wins the Universal Title from Kevin Owens, which I think will happen, then it would set up Reigns to defend the Universal Title against Strowman at WrestleMania. (I would have Reigns lose the US Title before Royal Rumble in a cheap manner, by the way.)

Reigns vs. Strowman is not a match I want to see and I think it’s a bad idea because Reigns is booed so much, but this is what Vince loves. Remember when Reigns had to beat Big Show a bunch of times? That was when he was booed too. It didn’t work, yet Reigns is still a face nearly two years later and still going to be matched up with a giant.

I could be off on that prediction. I just think Strowman as Reigns’ WrestleMania opponent makes sense. The other main pairings for Raw would be as follows:

** Brock Lesnar vs. Bill Goldberg set up in the Royal Rumble match when they take each other out.

** Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho. Owens can blame Jericho for his title loss, Jericho would take a beating, he would turn face, and he can put over Owens at WrestleMania. Then Jericho goes away (even though we would miss him) for his Fozzy commitments after WrestleMania.

** Seth Rollins vs. Triple H. It’s obvious they are going with this. I think Hunter will cost Rollins the win in the Rumble match to set up their WrestleMania match.

After those three matches, where does it leave Reigns? Remember folks, he’s a priority of Vince McMahon. Matching him up with Strowman makes a lot of sense. Once again, it’s not what the majority of fans are going to want, but it’s what Vince wants and that’s all that matters. In WWE’s eyes, they know they are going to have a near-sellout at WrestleMania, so they can do what they want.

It’s not a sure thing by any means. It’s just what I think might happen based off what happened on this week’s Raw. Time will tell if I’m right on this prediction.

This Week’s Raw Matches

This week’s matches were set up mostly by promos prior to the matches. There was nothing announced before the show, yet three matches were set up with promos. It’s as if nothing would happen if these people didn’t talk. Please come up with new ideas to set up matches.

Rusev defeated Big Cass by disqualification

The match went about one minute with Cass getting disqualified for punching him too much. The ref tried to stop him, but he wouldn’t stop. I assume this is being done to make Cass look tougher. Yawn. This feud is bad.

Cedric Alexander defeated Noam Dar

Awful job by WWE trying to showcase these guys. It started, they wrestled for one minute, there was a break and the finish took place one minute later with Alexander winning with the Lumbar Check. Two minutes of a five-minute match was shown. We don’t need a commercial in a five-minute match! This show is over three hours long. Time the commercial breaks better, so the talent can actually show us what they can do.

Post-match, Dar said he wanted to hook up with Alicia Fox, who is Alexander’s on-screen girlfriend. Dar said: “All I want for Christmas is you.” Congrats to some cruiserweights for getting some storylines.

Cesaro, Sheamus, Big E & Kofi Kingston vs. Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, Primo & Epico

Cesaro and Sheamus were given new Raw Tag Team Titles backstage by Mick Foley. They had a red background to counter Smackdown’s titles with the blue background.

This was set up by a long promo with New Day congratulating Cesaro on the title win, but not Sheamus. They were interrupted by Gallows & Anderson followed by the Shining Stars for more trash talk.

After the break, it was announced that Foley made the match. Of course he did. The heels worked on Kingston for the majority of the match, Cesaro ended up getting a tag for his team and made Epico tap out to a Sharpshooter for a predictable finish. It was a basic match that felt like something we have seen before.

Bayley defeated Charlotte in a non-title match

Charlotte showed up to do a promo. She bragged about winning the Women’s Title again. Bayley said it’s time for them to start their rivalry. Bayley said she remembered what Charlotte did to her at Survivor Series when she attacked her. Really? Because she did nothing about it for one month. Anyway, it led to an impromptu match because that’s what WWE loves to do.

Since it’s non-title, it’s as if WWE is telling you that Charlotte is going to lose this match and that’s what happened. Bayley won after about 15 minutes of action. It was a slow-paced match with neither woman hitting their finisher or even coming close to that. The finish saw Bayley win with a backslide, even though Charlotte’s right shoulder was up. The ref missed it, which the announcers pointed out on replay.

This should lead to Bayley getting a title shot at the Royal Rumble. I think the smart thing to do is have Bayley win the Raw Women’s Title at WrestleMania. That would be the best time to snap Charlotte’s streak where she hasn’t lost a singles match on a PPV. Can WWE wait that long? I’m not sure, but they should.

Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho ended in a disqualification

I covered this earlier. It wouldn’t surprise me if they did this match again next week or in January with Reigns and Rollins winning cleanly.

Other Key Items From Raw

1. Sasha Banks Has A New Rival

Sasha Banks did a promo earlier in the show. She had a knee brace on her left knee and used a crutch to walk down to the ring. Banks called out Charlotte Flair to tell her that she was the better woman after Charlotte’s win ended the feud at Roadblock on Sunday.

Instead of Charlotte, the biggest woman in WWE, Nia Jax, showed up. She insulted Banks for being hurt, called her a little girl and kicked away the crutch. Jax threw her across the ring so that Banks’ leg hit the ropes, which led to Banks selling pain again. Jax left instead of hurting her more.

I like it as a new rivalry because Banks is the talented face that is the physical underdog against Jax, who towers over her. It will be good for Jax to have a feud after five months of this brand split where she had nothing to do.

2. Neville And Kendrick Have Issues With Swann And Perkins

Neville is back as a heel with a heel beard to go along with the new attitude. He ripped on the fans for not liking him enough. It was weird because he was pausing to try to get reactions from the crowd, yet there wasn’t a lot of noise for any of this.

The Cruiserweight Champion Rich Swann interrupted to wonder what Neville was done. It led to Neville telling Swann that he taught him everything he knows. Brian Kendrick showed up leading to the heel beatdown with Neville and Kendrick beating up Swann. T.J. Perkins ran down to the ring. Neville knocked him out with a kick and Kendrick dropped him with Sliced Bread #2 to give the heels the advantage.

It was an angle to set up Neville and Kendrick vs. Swann and Perkins on 205 Live Tuesday night on WWE Network. It’s fine as a match for that show. I like Neville in the heel role. I’m just glad they finally found something to do with him.

3. Enzo Amore Gets Beat Up Again

Enzo Amore is booked to be the dumbest guy on this show week after week. He received a letter leading to some “sensitivity training” skits.

There were a few skits on the show with Enzo in a room with other midcard wrestlers like Bo Dallas, Jinder Mahal, Darren Young, and his mentor Bob Backlund. A woman was there to teach them about sensitivity. There were a few funny lines by Enzo, but mostly it was a waste of time.

After the wrestlers were given their certificates, Enzo was confronted by his rival Rusev and Jinder Mahal. It led to Rusev beating up Enzo again, thanks to Mahal helping him. Lana showed up to slap Enzo as well. Rusev put Enzo through a table. The assumption is that Big Cass left the arena earlier in the night, so Enzo was all alone.

I assume this was being done to set up Big Cass & Enzo Amore vs. Rusev & Jinder Mahal as his partner. That way, they can have Jinder take the pin because then Rusev is protected. I never said it was a good idea. I just think that’s where it is going.

Looking Ahead To The Royal Rumble

The next WWE pay-per-view is the Royal Rumble on Jan. 29 at San Antonio’s Alamodome. Here are some matches announced.

** Royal Rumble Match: Bill Goldberg and Brock Lesnar are the first names announced for it.

** WWE Universal Championship: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman Reigns with Chris Jericho in a cage above the ring.

That’s it for now. Nearly six weeks to go until that show, so there’s plenty of time to build up to it.

In Closing

I thought it was a poor episode of Raw. The matches weren’t that interesting and some of them felt like repeats, which is a big problem on Raw week after week. The only thing that felt fresh about the show was Strowman going after main eventers like Rollins and Reigns. Is that the right guy to be put in a main event picture? I don’t think so, but Vince McMahon and WWE Creative are going to do what Vince wants. I’m just hoping for the best.

That’s all for this week. Merry Christmas to those of you that celebrate like me and happy holidays to everybody in general over the next couple of weeks. Enjoy your time with your family and friends as best you can. I’ll be back next week for Raw and an article looking back on some big moments from 2016 that should be posted before the new year.

About John Canton

John has been writing about WWE online since the late 1990s. He's written for WhatCulture, Bleacher Report, Layfield Report, Rajah.com and many other places. You can follow John Canton on Twitter @johnreport or email him at mrjohncanton@gmail.com with any comments or questions. For more of his wrestling opinions, visit his website at TJRWrestling.net.