This week’s episode of WWE Monday Night Raw ended with a familiar match: Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens. It was the third time in the last month during which they had a match. First, Reigns beat him clean on the Nov. 28 Raw, then Reigns won by disqualification at Roadblock on Dec. 18 and here they were again, this time for the United States Title.
I don’t want to say that WWE’s Creative Team may have taken this week off since it’s the holiday season, but this was an example of a Raw episode where you can say that maybe they mailed it in.
Raw at its best was an unpredictable television show that was fast-paced, featured a lot of action, plenty of colorful characters and was just fun to watch. The 2016 version of Raw feels repetitive with the same matches happening all the time with very little in the way of interesting storylines. Smackdown does a much better job of developing characters. But at least Raw has those Emmalina teaser videos, which are going on three months now. Now that’s some storyline progression!
The show began with a Stephanie McMahon promo. She was quickly greeted by CM Punk chants in Chicago, which she shot down quickly in a vicious way. I’ll get to that later. Her speech led to Seth Rollins asking for a match with Braun Strowman. Roman Reigns, who was booed heavily, also wanted to face Strowman. Instead of booking a triple threat match that would have made sense, she gave Rollins the match with Strowman and told Reigns he has to defend the US Title against somebody of her choosing.
Who was the opponent that Stephanie chose for Reigns? Kevin Owens. What a shocking twist! (I am full of sarcasm this week.)
What bothers me about this whole thing is that Reigns is supposed to be mad at Strowman for attacking him last week, yet they had no segments together. The Strowman-Rollins match ended early because of Sami Zayn, while Reigns got no revenge at all. Does WWE forget how to book faces? If a guy is mad at a heel for being a jerk, then he should go fight him. That’s what Steve Austin did. It’s why we loved him. Meanwhile, Reigns does nothing to get revenge on Strowman. It’s weak booking.
Reigns defended the US Title against Owens in the main event. It’s the same match they always have, as they performed the same matches they usually do. It went about 15 minutes with Chris Jericho showing up at ringside to help Owens come close to winning a few times. Of course, Owens didn’t win because for whatever reason, WWE thinks it’s a good idea to keep the US Title on Reigns.
The finish was set up with Jericho interfering again. Seth Rollins ran down to ringside to stop him, even though Jericho hit Rollins with the Codebreaker two times in a row to take him out. It didn’t take him out, apparently. Rollins gave Jericho a Pedigree on the floor. Owens went out to the floor, hit a superkick on Rollins and knocked him down. When Owens got back in the ring, Reigns hit a Spear to beat Owens for the third time in a televised match and the second time via pinfall on Raw in the last month.
Once the match was over, Rollins hit a Pedigree on Owens and Reigns hit a Spear on Jericho on the floor to end the show. It was similar to the ending at Roadblock eight days earlier, except on that night they put Owens and Jericho through tables to end the show.
I’m not sure why WWE loves to repeat things so often. Best way I can explain it is to call it lazy booking. They might call it story development, but I call it repetitive.
I like a lot of the performers on this show. It’s just that they haven’t done anything that interesting since Triple H helped Kevin Owens win the Universal Title. That was four months ago. Next week’s Raw will hopefully have a new feeling to it since the Royal Rumble is on the horizon.
This Week’s Raw Matches
Here’s a look at this week’s matches, which were below average for most of the night. Some of the finishes felt like repeats too.
Sheamus & Cesaro defeated New Day’s Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods to retain the Raw Tag Team Titles
It was a rematch from Roadblock when Sheamus & Cesaro won the titles. They were given about 10 minutes for the match, which is about five minutes shorter than I would have liked. Give them a chance to have a good match! Instead, it was a bit rushed. New Day tried to use the numbers game to win, but Sheamus & Cesaro worked well together with Sheamus making a blind tag leading to a Brogue Kick on Woods for the win.
I’m not sure what’s next for New Day after this. Do they keep wrestling tag teams for the next few months, or is it time for the group to split up? I’d rather see them stick together. I just think WWE is going to go in the direction of a split. Big E could be a breakout singles wrestlers. Woods could be a star in the cruiserweight division. Kingston is always solid in the ring. Their talents could be spread out in different ways early next year.
Nia Jax defeated Scarlett
Easy win for Jax like she usually does. It took about one minute. The story was that she attacked Sasha Banks last week and there was no Banks on Raw this week.
Charlotte Flair defeated Bayley with Dana Brooke as the referee
They set up the match with a promo. Bayley celebrated her win over Charlotte last week, which led to Charlotte saying that she got her shoulder up. That was true. It led to another match between them with Charlotte picking the referee… her buddy Dana Brooke.
The match went about five minutes with Bayley hitting the Bayley to Belly suplex on Brooke early on. Another ref went into the ring, but Brooke pulled him out of the ring to prevent a Bayley win. That led to Charlotte doing the cheap rollup with her feet on the ropes and a fast count from Brooke to give Charlotte the win. This is likely building to a Raw Women’s Title match at Royal Rumble: Charlotte vs. Bayley.
Neville defeated T.J. Perkins
Neville got the cheap win after countering a knee bar attempt, sitting on top and pulling on the tights to prevent Perkins from kicking out. Short match that went about five minutes. After the match, Neville ripped on the fans to put over the fact that he’s a bitter heel now.
The Shining Stars vs. Bo Dallas & Darren Young
The match stopped after about one minute because Braun Strowman went down to the ring, beat people up and that ended it. Fans chanted “Thank You Strowman” because they didn’t want to see this match between wrestlers that are booked like losers.
Braun Strowman defeated Seth Rollins by disqualification
I didn’t expect a clean finish here. Strowman was on offense for much of it, Rollins got some offense in and was able to knock him off his feet, but it’s not like he came close to winning. Sami Zayn’s music hit, he attacked Strowman from behind and that led to the disqualification ending. It went about five minutes. Strowman isn’t booked to have regular matches, so it’s hard to tell if he’s any good.
Strowman chased after Zayn, who jumped the barricade and ran through the crowd to get away. It was announced earlier in the show that Strowman will face Zayn in a Last Man Standing match next week. That could be a way to beat Strowman without having him get pinned, but I think Strowman will win.
Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson defeated Goldust & R-Truth
Easy win for the heel duo of Gallows & Anderson. They can beat the loser teams like these guys, but lost many title matches this year. I think Gallows & Anderson will win the titles from Sheamus & Cesaro, but it might be a few months.
Rich Swann defeated Ariya Daivari
It was a quick win by Swann in a non-title match. The match was about two minutes long with Swann hitting a kick to the face for the clean win.
Post-match, Neville attacked Swann from behind. Neville sent Swann into the ring and hit the Red Arrow on him. Good job by Neville once again.
Roman Reigns defeated Kevin Owens to retain the United States Title
Reigns won cleanly, which I covered earlier. Both title matches on this show were not promoted beforehand. Maybe WWE should think about actually promoting title matches in the future.
Other Key Items From Raw
1. Stephanie McMahon Fires A Verbal Shot At CM Punk
During Stephanie McMahon’s show opening promo, fans chanted “CM Punk” at her. Why? Because it’s Chicago, which is the city that Punk is from and they love the guy. They miss him, so they chant his name. It’s been almost three years since he left, yet the chants continue.
How did Stephanie respond?
“If you guys can keep that up for two minutes, 15 seconds you’d last one second longer than Punk did.”
The crowd booed her heavily, which was her desired response since she is a heel. What was the fight time of CM Punk’s UFC debut, which he lost, in August? 2:14.
She knew the chants were coming and fired back at the crowd with a well-crafted line designed to rip on a man who had the guts to step into a cage for a real fight. It tells me that WWE is still upset with him for leaving the company.
My feeling on Punk is that as a fan I miss him because I thought he was an excellent performer who was arguably the best wrestler in WWE from 2009 to 2013. That five-year run was great. I wish it lasted longer, but if he was upset about things in the company and felt like he needed to go due to a lack of respect, then that’s okay. Do what makes you happy. I wish him the best.
When Punk returns to WWE in 10 years because he has a kid that wants to see him wrestle (he has no kids yet, but I’m using the Goldberg story), then perhaps he’ll be in the ring again. Until then, he’s gone and we should move on. Too bad Stephanie can’t seem to let go.
2. Former WWE Superstar Cody Rhodes Isn’t Impressed
There was a backstage segment in the show where Bayley gave Goldust one of her bears. It had polka dots on it as a tribute to Goldust’s dad, the late Dusty Rhodes. She told Goldust that she loved Dusty and he did a lot for her career because Dusty was a coach at NXT. Goldust thought it was great. That’s when Karl Anderson showed up with partner Luke Gallows. They mocked Goldust along with his partner R-Truth. Anderson ripped the head off the bear, which led to a tag match later.
Cody Rhodes, who left WWE earlier this year because he was frustrated with things there, was upset about it and let it be known on Twitter. He’s right to be upset, but it was just a stupid wrestling angle. If Goldust – Cody’s older brother – was willing to take part in it, then Cody should be okay with it too. I can understand him being sad about it because my dad passed away this year and if somebody made a joke about it, I’d be mad too.
This was one of those things where I would have not done the segment at all rather than upset somebody just to get a bit of heat in a tag match nobody cares about anyway.
3. At Least Enzo Didn’t Get Beat Up Again
The ongoing storyline between Rusev, Big Cass and Enzo Amore continued. Enzo was in a wheelchair selling the injuries from last week. Big Cass did an angry big man promo in the ring about how Rusev is a jerk for beating up Enzo all the time. It led to Rusev walking out with his new friend Jinder Mahal. Enzo ended up getting out of the wheelchair and getting some revenge on the heels while Cass knocked Rusev out of the ring.
The segment was okay, but this feud could have ended a month ago and they all would have been better off. It’s probably going to lead to Enzo & Cass vs. Rusev & Mahal in a tag match on Raw next week. Mahal will likely get pinned, since he’s there to put people over.
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’s what we know so far.
Royal Rumble Match: Bill Goldberg and Brock Lesnar are the first names announced for it. It’s expected to have 30 participants like usual.
WWE Universal Championship: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman Reigns with Chris Jericho in a shark cage above the ring.
That’s it for now. There’s plenty of time to set up the other matches.
It was a below-average episode of Raw, just like last week. In fact, it really felt like a repeat, since it was the third time they did Owens vs. Reigns and Charlotte vs. Bayley happened for the second week in a row as well. The tag title rematch was fine although it was shorter and not as good as their Roadblock match.
On a positive note, I have enjoyed the booking of Strowman and Neville in the last few weeks. It’s just too bad more characters aren’t as interesting as they are right now.
Next week on the first Raw of 2017: Bill Goldberg returns and Braun Strowman faces Sami Zayn in a Last Man Standing Match. I’ll be back next week for that review. Happy New Year!