The return of Bill Goldberg was the main attraction of the first Monday Night Raw of 2017.
With the Royal Rumble set to take place on Jan. 29, there’s a bit of excitement in the air because the road to WrestleMania is officially here. Does that mean that Raw was a better show this week? Not necessarily.
It felt like more of the same on Raw this week with repeats of matches we have seen before, as Kevin Owens faced Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns defended the US Title against Chris Jericho. I like all four guys quite a bit, but they have wrestled each other so many times that it feels like they are going through the motions during the matches. We know what spots are coming because we have seen them repeatedly.
Raw started with the General Manager Mick Foley looking sharp with a new haircut and a shaved beard that left only a goatee. He was interrupted by the comedic duo of Universal Champion Owens and Jericho. Then Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon showed up. There was a point where Foley was confused about what match Jericho was actually in as he tried to ban him from his own match! It was a mess and a reminder once again that Raw needs to change the format of the show because the 15-minute opening promos are so boring.
Rollins faced Owens with the stipulation being that the loser of the match would be banned from ringside for the Reigns vs. Jericho match later. They went through their usual match, you could tell that neither one was going to get beat, and Owens ended up getting disqualified when he hit Rollins with the ring bell.
The loss by Owens meant that he couldn’t help Jericho win the US Title, which is a way to show how selfish Owens is. I thought they made a mistake by not following up by having Jericho complain to Owens that he messed up for getting disqualified.
Reigns defended the US Title against Jericho at the top of hour three with the stipulations in place that if Reigns was disqualified or counted out, then he would lose the title. I thought Jericho was going to win in some cheap manner because Reigns doesn’t need the US Title and is probably going to win the Universal Title at the Royal Rumble. Might as well get the US Title off Reigns, right? Nope. I was wrong about that.
There was a funny spot in the match where Jericho took off a turnbuckle pad, the ref went to put it back on and Jericho grabbed the US Title. Jericho tossed the belt to Reigns with Jericho bumping to the mat, so that when the ref turned around, he saw Reigns holding the belt. It was an old Eddie Guerrero trick. I wish the crowd started an “Eddie” chant, but not enough of them caught on. Anyway, Reigns ended up winning clean with the Spear in predictable fashion.
The main event segment featured Kevin Owens hosting the “Kevin Owens Show” talk show with Jericho as his sidekick. There was also a guy in the ring that had a Kevin Owens shirt as well as the “Kevin Owens Show” logo on his head. I thought it was hilarious.
During the first part of the talk show, Jericho announced that he’s going to be in the Royal Rumble match. Owens freaked out about it and seemed worried about it because it would mean that Jericho could face Owens for the Universal Title at WrestleMania. It might happen, but I doubt Jericho wins the Rumble and I think Owens is losing the title to Reigns at the Royal Rumble. Jericho vs. Owens at WrestleMania does seem very likely, though. Jericho will probably turn face within the next month or two to set it up.
Bill Goldberg made his entrance to a good ovation from the crowd. He got in the face of Jericho telling him that he’s “first” in terms of who Goldberg is targeting in the Rumble match. Goldberg told Jericho and Owens that he had a Spear and Jackhammer ready for them. Owens didn’t back down when Goldberg got in his face.
Paul Heyman, the advocate of Brock Lesnar, showed up to say that Lesnar was going to win the Royal Rumble. He delivered a spoiler for the Rumble match noting that Lesnar would do the following: “Eat. Sleep. Elimination. Repeat.” Goldberg told Heyman that he would take care of Lesnar in the Rumble match.
Roman Reigns showed up to tell Owens and Jericho that they won’t win anything at the Royal Rumble. That was the cue for Owens and Jericho to leave because Reigns and Goldberg had a long staredown. There wasn’t a big reaction for it, but it was okay. Goldberg is nearly 20 years older than Reigns, but they both have a badass presence about them.
Braun Strowman, who earlier in the show defeated Sami Zayn, interrupted the staring contest to say that he’s going to win the Royal Rumble.
When Strowman went into the ring, Reigns and Goldberg looked at each other and did a double Spear on Strowman. It was a cool spot because the Spear is a move that Reigns uses as a finisher while Goldberg uses it as his setup move. Both Reigns and Goldberg are former football players that had brief NFL careers before making it big in wrestling, so they have a connection for that reason. Raw ended with Strowman down while Reigns left and Goldberg celebrated.
The most surprising thing about the whole main event segment is that Owens and Jericho didn’t get beat up. I’m happy that they avoided getting attacked because it has happened so much in the last few months. It’s also surprising that Strowman would get taken out like that, but he was protected because it took two guys to do it rather than one of the faces knocking him down.
It was a solid ending to the show. There was nothing special about it, but I can see why WWE would book it like that to make Reigns strong like usual as well as Goldberg.
This Week’s Raw Matches
Seth Rollins defeated Kevin Owens by disqualification
I covered this earlier. It was their usual match with neither man hitting any of their signature move. Cheap ending with Owens using the ring bell to get disqualified. At least Owens didn’t get pinned in a non-title match again. See that? I try to think of the positives!
Karl Anderson defeated Cesaro
It was a relatively clean win by Anderson after he hit a diving neckbreaker off the middle ropes. I liked the match because they each hit some cool moves before the finish. Sheamus accidentally cost his tag team partner Cesaro the victory, although it wasn’t done in a way that led to them arguing about it.
The win by Anderson was likely done to give him and Luke Gallows some momentum as tag team title challengers against Sheamus & Cesaro at the Royal Rumble.
Braun Strowman defeated Sami Zayn in a Last Man Standing Match
Great match. Highlight of the show. It’s the best Strowman match there’s ever been, which is a credit to him improving as a performer, but mostly for Zayn selling a beating as well as anybody in wrestling. They brawled all over the arena with Zayn getting the advantage, thanks to repeated chair shots as well as kendo stick strikes.
Strowman took a small bump off the stage onto a table that happened to be right there. It maybe a two-foot bump, but it sounded good at least. When they got back to the ringside area, Strowman dominated. Strowman won after hitting a couple of Running Powerslams (his finisher) on Zayn on the floor. I still have a tough time buying that as a finisher, but at least it’s safe. Davey Boy Smith used it as a finisher about 20 years ago.
After the match was over, Zayn did a stretcher job to sell the beating. If WWE plays it right, they can tell an amazing story with Zayn by having him in the Royal Rumble match as one of the first guys in the ring, have him last near the end and even win it to show how resilient he is. I don’t see him winning, but it would work well. I’m not sure if management is as high on him as I am or as some fans are. I just think he has all the talent and they need fresh faces to be moved up the ladder on Raw.
As for Strowman, he continues to look like an unbeatable monster. He’s my pick to win the Royal Rumble at this point because I think Reigns will win the Universal Title at the Rumble to set up their WrestleMania match. I could change my mind, though.
Xavier Woods defeated Titus O’Neil
It was set up after O’Neil called Woods the “weak link” in New Day. Boring match that the crowd wasn’t into. Woods won with a sunset flip that came out of nowhere leading to no reaction.
Drew Gulak defeated Cedric Alexander
The cruiserweights only got about three minutes with Gulak getting the victory, thanks to a rollup. It was caused by Gulak’s buddy Tony Nese trying to get involved while Alexander’s on-screen girlfriend Alicia Fox tried to prevent the interference. I think Fox will turn on Alexander to join up with the heel Noam Dar, but I don’t think anybody is going to care. Give them more time to have the actual match, please.
Roman Reigns defeated Chris Jericho to retain the US Title
I covered this one earlier. Clean win for Reigns like he usually does. Jericho loses so much, it’s amazing that he can still get a reaction. That’s a testament to his greatness.
T.J. Perkins defeated Brian Kendrick
Here’s another match that felt like a repeat because they’ve done it so many times in the last few months. Perkins won clean with a knee bar submission. Perkins faces Neville on 205 Live this week.
Rusev & Jinder Mahal defeated Big Cass
This match was also short at about three minutes. Cass was alone because Enzo has some injury. The heels did some distractions leading to Rusev hitting a superkick for the win. Cass rarely gets pinned, but he was protected because it’s a handicap match.
Bayley defeated Nia Jax
Jax was on offense for a few minutes. Sasha Banks showed up on the ramp to distract Jax while Jax was on the middle ropes, so Bayley hit Jax with the Bayley to Belly suplex off the middle rope to win. Boring match with Bayley only getting offense at the end. It was quick at about three minutes.
The win means that Bayley will challenge Charlotte for the Raw Women’s Title at Royal Rumble, which was obviously the direction they were going in.
Other Key Items From Raw
1. Stephanie McMahon Doesn’t Like Bayley
There was a backstage segment in Stephanie McMahon’s “office” with Bayley there to talk to her. I liked the segment because Stephanie is a good heel that was used to put over the fact that Bayley is a normal girl. Bayley being a normal girl who is living her dream is what makes her appealing to fans. She is the role model for little girls watching the show and the guys out there respect her as well.
It makes sense for Stephanie’s character to hate Bayley similar to when Stephanie and Triple H hated Daniel Bryan two years ago. They ripped on Bryan for being boring, for being a normal-looking guy and being a “B+ player” all the time. Charlotte is similar to Randy Orton during his feud with Bryan. It’s basically going to be a copy of that. That’s WWE creative these days. They don’t really do original things anymore.
I hope that Stephanie insulting Bayley is something that happens regularly. Bayley should beat Charlotte at WrestleMania rather than the Royal Rumble. It will be a big moment for Bayley that needs to be happen at the most important show of the year, which is WrestleMania.
2. The Undertaker And Shawn Michaels On Raw Next Week
The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels are both going to appear on Raw next week in New Orleans. Part of the reason is to help boost viewership on Raw, but also because WWE is likely going to announce New Orleans as the host of WrestleMania 34 in 2018.
I assume that The Undertaker will announce that he is a part of the Royal Rumble match as well. I find it weird that he would be on Raw after he was on Smackdown in November saying he isn’t going to let WrestleMania define him, yet he was off television for nearly two months. Make up your mind, Deadman!
As for Michaels, he’s not going to wrestle again. It wouldn’t shock me if they used him as a guest referee at the Royal Rumble for Owens vs. Reigns, though. Michaels is from San Antonio, which is where the Royal Rumble is taking place, so having him there could limit the boos for Reigns if/when Reigns wins the Universal Title that night.
If you’re wondering, still no sign of Emmalina. Poor Emma has been waiting for her “premiering soon” moment for the past four months.
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.
30-Man Royal Rumble Match: The names announced so far are Brock Lesnar, Bill Goldberg, Big E, Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston, Chris Jericho and Braun Strowman.
WWE Championship: AJ Styles vs. John Cena
WWE Universal Championship: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Roman Reigns with Chris Jericho in a shark cage above the ring.
Raw Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair vs. Bayley
That’s it for now. Plenty of time to add more matches.
It was another average episode of Raw. There were times where the crowd in Tampa were so quiet you might have thought they were asleep. I don’t blame them, though, because the action was boring at times. The ending was a fun sequence and I liked the Last Man Standing match. Other than that, it was an uneventful night.
That’s all for this week. As mentioned earlier, next week’s Raw has appearances from The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. I’ll be back later in the week for another WWE column.