This week’s episode of Raw featured the television return of Brock Lesnar after “The Beast” stayed home for two months following his surprising Survivor Series loss to Goldberg. Lesnar was part of an explosive opening segment that teased some possible scenarios for the Royal Rumble in what was the best part of the show.
I enjoyed the opening segment a lot because it was about pushing the Royal Rumble match, as well as Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns at the Rumble event. Most of the time, these opening promos are boring because Raw’s Commissioner Stephanie McMahon or General Manager Mick Foley is going over things we already know while setting up a match for later in this week.
It was refreshing to see a Raw without an authority figure on the show at all because they really aren’t necessary to further storylines. They have the authority figure as part of the show because WWE’s creative team is so set in their ways that they don’t know how to run a wrestling show without people trying to emulate what Vince McMahon did so well in 1998 and beyond.
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) January 17, 2017
Roman Reigns, the former US Champion, opened the show by talking about his loss in the handicap match last week. He didn’t seem too upset losing a title he barely carried. Fans booed heavily when he said he’d win the Universal Title at Royal Rumble and headline WrestleMania for the third year. Hey, Vince McMahon — make this man a heel. It’s been three years. Time to listen to the fans.
Paul Heyman entered to talk about how his client Brock Lesnar is going to be there and he’s going to win the Rumble.
Chris Jericho, the new US Champion, and his buddy Kevin Owens, the Universal Champion, interrupted Reigns. They had a very subtle disagreement about what they want to happen at the Royal Rumble event with Owens not liking the idea of Jericho winning the Rumble to go after KO’s Universal Title at WrestleMania. They’ll likely have that WrestleMania match, but we don’t know what title may or not be on the line there.
The interruptions continued with Seth Rollins stating that he knows how to make his presence felt at WrestleMania, so he thinks he will win the Royal Rumble. No sign of Triple H on this show, although he should be back to cost Rollins in the Rumble match.
Braun Strowman joined the picture to have a staredown with Reigns. That led to brawl with Sami Zayn joining in after he jumped on Strowman’s back. It also led to Brock Lesnar showing up.
When Lesnar arrived, the crowd went wild. He has the kind of superstar power that can excite a crowd and you could hear it in the building. Lesnar ended up cleaning house with suplexes for everybody. Lesnar hit Reigns with a F5, which the crowd loved.
There was a long staredown between Lesnar and Strowman. It looked like there might be a brawl between them, but Strowman backed away like the heel that he is. It was a nice tease for what might happen during the Rumble match. The whole thing was really well done.
Lesnar only appeared during the opening segment for what amounted to about two minutes of airtime. I was hoping he’d show up during the main event, but that didn’t happen.
The opening segment also set up a six-man tag match main event.
Braun Strowman, Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho defeated Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins & Sami Zayn
As soon as this match was announced, my prediction on Twitter was that Zayn or Jericho would get pinned. The other four guys are protected so much that you knew none of them were taking the loss.
Strowman was put over strong in this match. He got the victory for his team after about 15 minutes with a Running Powerslam on Zayn. Can we call it the Strow Slam? I don’t know. I think it’s a weak finisher for such a big guy, but it’s a safe move to do and it seems like it is getting a reaction from the crowd.
After the match was over, Strowman wanted to put Zayn through the announce table. Zayn was saved by Rollins and Reigns, which led to Strowman and Zayn getting out of the picture. Owens and Jericho joined the mix with Jericho taking a Pedigree from Rollins on the stage. Owens nailed Rollins with a chair to the back as well as chair shots to Reigns. He then picked up Reigns and drove him through the announce table with a Powerbomb. That’s how Raw ended, with Owens standing over a fallen Reigns.
— WWE (@WWE) January 17, 2017
The post-match segment was good. While Owens and Jericho were triumphant over Reigns last week, I don’t think there’s been enough of a spotlight shined on Owens. By having him put Reigns through the table, it makes Owens look strong and gives him positive momentum heading into the Rumble in two weeks.
As far as the Royal Rumble goes, I still think Reigns wins the Universal Title at Royal Rumble and Strowman wins the Rumble match. Remember, it’s not what I want. It’s what I think WWE is going to do.
This Week’s Raw Matches
Big Cass & Enzo Amore defeated Rusev & Jinder Mahal
Is this the end of this awful feud? I hope so. This issue with Rusev and the tag team has been going on for a few months. They brought Jinder Mahal into it so he could do the job in the match that ended this feud. I hope it’s over now that Enzo pinned Mahal. Here’s hoping WWE can figure out how to book Rusev properly at some point.
Ariya Daivari defeated Lince Dorado
The crowd was dead for this match. Daivari got the win with a Cobra Clutch submission after about three minutes. It was a match that was done to put over Daivari heading into his “I Forfeit” match against Jack Gallagher on 205 Live on Tuesday night.
Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson defeated Sheamus & Cesaro by disqualification
This was a tag team title match with a cheap finish known in wrestling as a Dusty Finish, since Dusty Rhodes used to book stuff like this often when he was running the NWA in the 1980s. All four guys were in the ring, Sheamus was throwing punches, the ref got near him and Sheamus accidentally decked the ref with a punch to the face. Another ref went into the ring, Gallows & Anderson hit their Magic Killer, made the cover and won. However, the ref that was knocked down (John Cone) waved off the other ref to say that it was a disqualification.
I assume this was done to set up another Raw Tag Title match at the Royal Rumble, although that hasn’t been announced. Gallows & Anderson may win the titles there because they have lost so many title matches. Gallows & Anderson winning the titles at the Rumble and dropping them to Enzo & Cass at WrestleMania would make the most sense.
Rich Swann vs. Tony Nese didn’t happen because of Neville
Nese was in the ring. Swann made his entrance and the evil Neville attacked Swann from behind. It put over Neville as a dastardly heel. His title match against Swann at the Royal Rumble should lead to a really good match.
Big E defeated Titus O’Neil
O’Neil wanted to take the spot of one of the New Day guys in the Royal Rumble, so Big E said he would face him. Big E won easily just like Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods beat O’Neil in the last two weeks.
I can’t decide if this was worse than the Rusev feud with Enzo & Cass. Both were painfully bad angles to watch in the last month.
Cedric Alexander defeated Brian Kendrick
It was a clean win by Alexander with the Lumbar Check in a match that went about four minutes. His ex-girlfriend Alicia Fox, who Alexander storyline dumped last week, helped him get to the ropes during a submission. After the match, Fox wanted a hug and Alexander ducked it to show he doesn’t want to be with her anymore. It’s probably going to lead to Fox getting involved with Alexander’s main rival Noam Dar.
Other Key Items From Raw
1. Kurt Angle will be inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame 2017
There was some big news on Monday afternoon as WWE announced that Kurt Angle will be the headline name at this year’s WWE Hall of Fame ceremony on Friday, March 31 in Orlando just two days before WrestleMania. It was a bit of a surprise since Angle hasn’t appeared on WWE television in 11 years, but it’s one of those things that makes a lot of WWE fans happy.
After the video aired on Raw, fans at the event in Little Rock chanted “you suck” when his music played. They did that because during most of his WWE run from 1999 to 2006, he was a heel, so fans chanted that during his song.
Angle is one of my favorite wrestlers ever. He transitioned so well from being an Olympic Gold Medal wrestler in 1996 to a WWE superstar that started in late 1999. His WWE run lasted seven years, and I think it’s fair to say he is one of the best all-around performers they ever had. In terms of in-ring performance alone, I think he’s in the discussion among the best ever along with the likes of Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and Ric Flair.
I'm coming home! #itsdamntrue
— Kurt Angle (@RealKurtAngle) January 16, 2017
For most of the last decade, he was in TNA Wrestling and had a lot of great matches there as well. But most fans are going to remember his performances in WWE. The feuds he had with top WWE names like Shawn Michaels, The Rock, Steve Austin, Brock Lesnar, Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, Edge and others are legendary.
There’s no indication that he will wrestle for WWE. At 48 years of age, he can’t work a full-time schedule anymore. However, I think it would be a great idea to give him a Brock Lesnar-like schedule with a few matches per year along with appearances on TV. He can still have good matches – just not as often as he used to do them.
Between now and the Hall of Fame, I’ll write a long article about Angle’s great career in WWE because it’s important that people know how good he was. He’s one of the best wrestlers ever and one of my favorites as well.
2. Charlotte’s feud with Bayley feud is average like their promo on Raw
Charlotte did a promo at the top of hour three about how she’s genetically superior like she always says and Bayley is average. She ripped on Bayley for being average, just like the stupid fans. (Yes, she means you.) It was a way for Charlotte to come off as a jerk against Bayley, who is living her dream as a fan that made it to WWE. Simple story that works.
What I didn’t like was that Bayley fired back with some poems to say she’s going to win the Raw Women’s Title. She did that because Charlotte shared some poems that Bayley wrote as a kid and made fun of them. The crowd rallied behind Bayley a bit, but I thought it was a weak effort.
The promos that the women get to do feel more personal, they use more colorful language and you can sense there’s animosity between the characters. This felt like it was directed towards 10-year-old girls. Maybe it was because WWE sees Bayley as a woman that young girls can look up to. I just thought it was a lame promo that didn’t make me any more excited about their match at Royal Rumble.
3. Sasha Banks was attacked by Nia Jax before Raw
Prior to Raw, Sasha Banks was in the ring getting looked at by WWE’s medical team to see if her knee was fine. Nia Jax showed up in her ring gear and knocked her down with a running body attack. Nobody helped Banks right away, so Jax hit a splash on the injured left knee of Banks. This was shown on WWE’s social media channels before the show and replayed twice during Raw. Jax did a promo bragging about how dominant she was.
It’s possible that Jax will face Banks in a match at the Royal Rumble. It’s not official yet, but it would make sense to do something like that.
Those two women’s segments meant that there was no women’s match on Raw. I guess the “women’s revolution” thing that WWE shoved down our throats in 2016 isn’t carrying over well into 2017.
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: Some of the names in the Rumble match are Bill Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, The Undertaker, Chris Jericho, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman, Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, The Miz, Sheamus, Cesaro, Big E, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston.
Those are the names from the Royal Rumble page on WWE.com. There are 15 names there, so that’s half of the match.
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
Cruiserweight Championship: Rich Swann (c) vs. Neville
There still might be a Raw Tag Title match added, with Cesaro and Sheamus defending the gold against Anderson and Gallows. Some more women’s matches from both shows are possible as well.
It was an average show once again. If I was watching the show as a casual viewer, I’d only focus on the strong opening segment and the entertaining main event match with the post-match attack. Everything else was boring for the most part.
Next week’s Raw will be the last episode before the Royal Rumble. Goldberg and Brock Lesnar will be there, so it will be their first time potentially meeting face to face since Goldberg beat him in under two minutes at Survivor Series two months ago. The Undertaker could be there as well for the final Raw push heading into the Rumble.