The road to the Royal Rumble continued this week on Raw as Roman Reigns was forced to defend the US Title in a handicap match. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t able to overcome the odds. In other major news from Raw, The Undertaker informed us that he will be a part of the Royal Rumble match on Jan. 29.

The start of Raw looked like they were going with Reigns defending the US Title against Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho in a handicap match that was advertised. However, the match didn’t take place because Braun Strowman wanted to attack Reigns for his double-team Spear that he did with Goldberg one week earlier. Seth Rollins ran out to save Reigns from a 3-on-1 attack. The US Title match was pushed back later in the show while Stephanie McMahon told Reigns he would defend the title later.

That’s something that WWE does occasionally called a bait-and-switch, or you could even call it a swerve. Advertise something early in the show, don’t do it and save it for later. Since the college football championship game was head-to-head with Raw, I thought they might do the US Title match early. Saving it later was fine too.

Reigns tried to bring the fight to Owens and Jericho before the match began. He attacked them in the aisle. It proved to be a bad move because Owens and Jericho worked well together to slow down Reigns. They sent him into the steps to weaken him some more. The ref asked Reigns if he should start the match and Reigns said he was okay.

The match was mostly about Owens and Jericho working together to keep Reigns down. There were moments where Reigns made comebacks such as hitting the Superman Punch repeatedly. He never wins with that move, though. Reigns was able to hit the Spear on Jericho and he went for a cover, but Owens was there to break up the pin.

I thought the finish was well done. Owens held onto the foot of Reigns by the ropes, Jericho hit a Codebreaker on Reigns and Owens followed up with a devastating Powerbomb on the ring apron. The heels rolled Reigns into the ring, Jericho hit another Codebreaker and Jericho pinned Reigns to win the US Title. That means it took double-teaming and three finishing moves to finally beat Reigns, in case you are wondering. Talk about protecting a guy.

The reaction to the Jericho win was funny on Twitter, as Rusev made a comment and Jericho talked smack back to him.

What does this prove? It proves that a lot of wrestlers lost a lot of matches to Roman Reigns during his boring run as US Champion.

The win meant that Jericho captured the only title that escaped him in WWE. He’s also held both versions of WWE’s World Title, the Intercontinental Title more than anybody, and the Tag Team Titles. He even held the European and Hardcore Titles, which don’t exist anymore. He’s had an incredible career and still keeps performing at a high level in his mid-40s.

The title loss was expected for Reigns. No reason for him to hold that title for much longer. I think he’ll beat Owens for the Universal Title at the Royal Rumble. Owens will be mad about it, perhaps blame Jericho for it and that will lead to Owens attacking Jericho. That would set up a face Jericho vs. his former best friend Owens for the US Title at WrestleMania. Have Owens win the title there because Jericho is likely going to take time off following WrestleMania to work with his band Fozzy.

I’m still not sure who Reigns will face at WrestleMania. My guess remains Braun Strowman. Reigns walks in as Universal Champion and has to beat the undefeated Royal Rumble winner in Strowman. It’s not a match a lot of people want to see, but it is fresh and Vince McMahon is going to do what he wants. If he wants Reigns to have to topple the giant, then that’s what will happen.

This Week’s Raw Matches

I thought this was one of the worst weeks for matches on Raw. Most weeks, I can point to two or three matches as being above average. This week everything was average or well below average.

Seth Rollins vs. Braun Strowman ended in a double countout

This is the kind of match that gets booked where you know neither guy is going to get beat, so they do a disqualification or countout finish. Maybe I’ve watched too much WWE in my life, but it just feels so predictable all the time. Strowman did his power moves early. Rollins got some momentum using his speed. Rollins missed a Macho Man-like attack outside the ring, crashed into the barricade and they were counted out. Rollins avoided a chair attack after the match and Strowman retreated.

Both guys are in the Royal Rumble match. Strowman is my pick to win at this point, while I think Rollins will get screwed in the match by a returning Triple H.

Jack Gallagher defeated Drew Gulak

It was an easy win for Gallagher with a corner dropkick. It’s not a deadly finisher by any means because so many wrestlers use a dropkick, but that’s what he uses. They only got about three minutes.

Big Cass defeated Jinder Mahal

Terrible match set up by Shawn Michaels doing a promo that was interrupted, which I’ll cover later. Rusev tried to interfere and Michaels made him pay with a Superkick. They messed up a big move towards the end where Cass was supposed to hit the East River Crossing slam and it looked bad. Then Cass won with the Empire Elbow. Thankfully, it only went three minutes. I’m not a fan of an elbow drop finish. I didn’t like it when The Rock used the People’s Elbow either.

Neville defeated Lince Dorado

Neville won easily after about three minutes by using the Rings of Saturn submission. Great move for him to use. He needed to add a submission to his arsenal, so I’m glad he has something unique.

After the match, Neville attacked Dorado and Rich Swann made the save. I assume this will lead to Swann vs. Neville at Royal Rumble for Swann’s Cruiserweight Title.

Sheamus defeated Luke Gallows

I’m not a fan of heel vs. heel matches. When the crowd has nobody to root for, they tend to be silent. That’s what happened with this match. It went about 10 minutes with a commercial break in between. Sheamus got the win with a Brogue Kick after their partners Cesaro and Karl Anderson had a brief altercation on top of the ramp.

The result continues this tag team feud. Anderson beat Cesaro last week, so Sheamus beat Gallows this week. Typical Raw booking where people trade wins all the time.

Nia Jax & Charlotte Flair defeated Bayley & Sasha Banks

Banks was selling a left leg injury with a brace on her leg. Bayley and Banks asked Stephanie McMahon if they can have the match next week, but Stephanie made them do it this week. That led to Jax dominating the finish by knocking Banks off the apron and pinning Banks easily with a leg drop. I’m sure Hulk Hogan loved that finish, brother.

Keep in mind that Bayley is the number one contender to Charlotte’s Raw Women’s Title and will face her for that title at the Royal Rumble. This made Bayley look like such a loser. Once again, it’s another example of bad booking on Raw where they don’t know how to build up faces or title contenders.

Kofi Kingston defeated Titus O’Neil

The setup to this match was so bad. One of the most boring and useless segments in a long time. Kingston won with the Trouble in Paradise kick after about four minutes. O’Neil is probably the most poorly booked superstar in all of WWE right now. Poor guy.

The main event was the US Title change that I already covered.

Other Key Items From Raw

1. The Undertaker Will Be In The Royal Rumble

The Undertaker returned at the top of hour three. Leading up to that, Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon kept asking GM Mick Foley if he would be there. They kept acting as if it was just a rumor, even though WWE basically advertised him for the show for several weeks. It makes you wonder how inept some people are in the creative team when they forget what they advertised for a show.

Undertaker kept it basic by announcing he would be in the Royal Rumble. That was expected. He also made it clear to Stephanie and Mick that he doesn’t answer to anybody and he can do what he wants. In other words, he is not a part of Raw or Smackdown Live. He can be on either show.

What was notable about the promo was Braun Strowman was shown watching on a monitor backstage. Does that mean Strowman could face Undertaker at WrestleMania? It’s certainly possible. I just think it’s going to lead to some face-to-face showdown during the Rumble match. Strowman is my pick to win. Maybe Undertaker is the runner up.

2. Shawn Michaels Promoted His Movie

Shawn Michaels appeared at the top of hour two to promote his new movie “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.” It’s a new WWE Films production that is released on Jan. 20, which Michaels set up a few times. Michaels was interrupted by Rusev, Lana and Jinder Mahal. I thought Rusev was funny in making some jokes towards Michaels, and Michaels was funny firing back at him. Enzo & Cass interrupted to set up that boring Cass vs. Jinder match I mentioned earlier.

I was disappointed that Michaels’ appearance didn’t lead to more. I don’t expect him to have a match at the Royal Rumble because he retired nearly seven years ago. I just think his presence would have helped to sell the Rumble match more. It’s in his hometown of San Antonio, which he mentioned, but he should have talked about how big it can be for your career because it led to his first WWE Title win in 1996.

It was a nearly 15-minute segment that was used to set up a boring match that went three minutes. Can’t they make better use of HBK’s presence on the show? I would hope so.

3. Brock Lesnar Returns To Raw Next Week

It was announced during Raw that Brock Lesnar will return to the show next week. Goldberg was there two weeks ago, this week had Undertaker, and next week has Lesnar. It shows WWE is relying on legendary wrestlers competing in the Rumble match to show up every week to try to bring in viewers. The last Raw before the Royal Rumble on Jan. 23 is likely to feature all three of them.

Where was Lesnar on Monday night? In Winnipeg at the Winnipeg Jets game with his sons and his wife Rena, aka former WWE diva Sable. Lesnar lives in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan these days, so it’s not too far from home for him.

Good to see Lesnar having fun. His WWE character doesn’t allow him to show much personality.

Looking Ahead To The Royal Rumble

wwe-royal-rumble-logo

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: Some of the names in the Rumble match are Bill Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, The Undertaker, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman, Baron Corbin, Big E, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston.

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

WWE Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena

Raw Women’s Championship: Charlotte (c) vs. Bayley

That’s it for now. I think some other likely matches will be Swann vs. Neville for the Cruiserweight Championship and Cesaro/Sheamus vs. Gallows/Anderson for the Raw Tag Team Titles. There should be some others from Smackdown Live as well.

In Closing

I thought this week’s show was below average and a significant step back after last week’s average show. People get excited during Royal Rumble season, but it doesn’t mean the shows are any better. The in-ring action wasn’t that strong and some of the promos were really bad. It was nice seeing Undertaker again. I wish Michaels did something more meaningful. Jericho winning the US Title was a cool moment at least.

Next week, Brock Lesnar is back with Paul Heyman talking about how deadly Lesnar is even though Goldberg beat Lesnar in under two minutes less than two months ago.

Please check out my first WWE column from this week here on The Comeback, looking at 10 performers that should win their first main roster WWE gold this year. I’ll be back later in the week with another WWE column.

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.