Reviews

The John Report: The WWE Raw Deal 01/02/23 Review

wwe raw deal jan 2

This week’s WWE Raw featured two championship matches to start off 2023 with Theory-Rollins for the US Title and Belair-Bliss for Raw Women’s Title.

Happy New Year for the first WWE TV show of 2023. It’s the 15th year that I have been writing about Raw, which is pretty insane as we head towards Raw’s 30th anniversary in a few weeks. In case you missed it, I posted my WWE Johnny Awards on New Year’s Eve covering everything about WWE in 2022. Please check that out if you haven’t done so already.

I am writing this on Tuesday morning after watching Monday Night Football last night in a game that was postponed because Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed after making a routine tackle on Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals. It was heartbreaking to see something like that in a game that I love to watch and have watched my whole life. You don’t see things like this. Suddenly, everything else doesn’t matter as far as the results of a game and I don’t know how they move on from this. Damar is just 24 years old. I hope and pray he can get through this. Kudos to Chris Jericho for making a donation to Damar’s charity as well as anybody that wants to help out. Good health and happiness to all.

This is the Raw Deal for episode #1544 of Monday Night Raw. It’s taking place at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Let’s get to it.

The Bloodline Arrives

The Raw intro video was playing, but then The Bloodline’s Sami Zayn, Solo Sikoa and The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) showed up at ringside. They beat up some security guards. The Bloodline tipped over the commentary table. Zayn looked into the camera saying that The Bloodline runs the show.

Kevin Owens made his entrance with a microphone. Zayn told Owens not to open his mouth or say a word. Zayn said they’re not in a very good mood tonight. Zayn said that “tonight is a hostile takeover of Monday Night Raw by The Bloodline.” Zayn told Owens that people will get hurt and it’s because of Owens. That led to Owens saying all he really wants to do is just punch Sami in the face.

Adam Pearce, the WWE Official, showed up saying that The Bloodline is not the authority on Raw because Pearce is. Pearce said that this has gone too far and it goes too far with Roman as well. Pearce said we’re not doing this tonight. Pearce told his security guys, who are clearly indy wrestlers, to take care of it.

As the security guys got into the ring, Solo Sikoa beat them all up easily. Owens decided he wanted to fight, so he went in the ring against the four Bloodline guys by himself. Pearce called for the Raw roster to come out, so the locker room emptied and a bunch of wrestlers like The Street Profits, Luke Gallows, Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali & Shelton Benjamin went into the ring to fight with The Bloodline.

The Bloodline tried to leave through the crowd. Pearce said it was time to put them to work because he’s putting all of them in matches tonight and that is official.

Analysis: An exciting opening to the show with some chaos leading to some matches being made later in the show. It continues the story of Owens being against The Bloodline and even some other members of the locker room are against The Bloodline too. Wild brawling around the ring is fun to watch, so I like it as a way to start the show off.

Bianca Belair, the Raw Women’s Champion, said that her friendship and relationship with Alexa Bliss is far beyond repair. Belair said that she is going to prove why the Raw Women’s Championship belongs to the EST of WWE, which was herself.

The commentary team of Kevin Patrick and Corey Graves was shown at ringside to hype up what’s happening on the show this week.

(Commercial)

They showed Adam Pearce backstage talking to the members of the locker room who all wanted to face The Bloodline in matches. Elias wanted to face a fight with Solo Sikoa so Pearce put Elias in a Music City Street Fight with Elias. Pearce said that Kevin Owens will team up with The Street Profits in a six-man tag team match. Pearce said The Bloodline thinks they run things, but it’s a new year in WWE and it’s time that we all start acting like it.

A singer named Hardy was sitting at ringside. A singer. I’ve never heard of him, but The Hardy Boyz are a cool tag team. No relation.

Alexa Bliss made her entrance for her title match as we saw a replay from two weeks ago when Bliss smashed a vase over Belair’s head while Belair wasn’t looking. Belair got a big ovation as the Raw Women’s Champion in her home state of Tennessee (she’s from Knoxville).

Raw Women’s Championship: Bianca Belair vs. Alexa Bliss

Belair was aggressive early with strikes along with a headbutt. Bliss got some offense with a dropkick to the back that knocked Belair out of the ring. Bliss tried a headscissors on the floor, but Belair swung her into the barricade leading to a break.

(Commercial)

Bliss with kicks to the body, but Belair came back with a shoulder tackle. Bliss stomped on the foot, then Bliss did a takedown leading to Belair doing a cartwheel to land on her feet. Belair dropkicked Bliss into the turnbuckle. Belair charged, Bliss moved and Belair hit the turnbuckle so Bliss celebrated that. Bliss did her step on the back move. Nice of Belair to crawl right into position for it. Belair tried a suplex, but Bliss got out of that and pulled back on Belair’s head for a backbreaker-style move. Bliss with punches, a knee and a dropkick. Belair blocked a DDT leading to Belair showing off her power leading to a vertical suplex. Belair sent Bliss into the turnbuckle repeatedly followed by three body slams in a row followed by Bliss rolling around, so Belair stomped on her and Belair hit a handstand into a standing moonsault for two. Bliss managed to send Belair out of the ring leading to Bliss hitting a flip off the apron and onto Belair on the floor.

(Commercial)

Bliss remained in control with a dropkick that sent Belair into the turnbuckle. Belair blocked a move attempt leading to Belair hitting a backbreaker. Belair punched Bliss repeatedly against the turnbuckle, which was really just Belair punching the turnbuckle and not even touching Bliss. Bliss pulled Belair out of the ring by the hair. There was a guy standing behind Bliss in a creepy mask, so Bliss stared at the guy. Bliss sent Belair back in, then Bliss looked into the crowd to see another fan with a creepy mask. As Bliss walked in the ring, there was the Wyatt logo shown repeatedly with Bliss grabbing her head. That led to Bliss tackling the referee Shawn Bennett and punching him with some weak-looking punches. I guess that’s the DQ ending. It went about 18 minutes.

Winner by disqualification: Bianca Belair

Analysis: *** A long match that was well worked for the most part, but then they did a finish that was all about pushing the angle that Bliss has lost her mind again. Belair wasn’t able to put Bliss away in a long match, which puts over Bliss a bit for being tough to beat. The post match angle was more important than the match in this case.

Post match, Bliss tackled Belair, sent her out of the ring and threw Belair into multiple objects on the floor. Bliss sent Belair into the steel steps. Bliss gave Belair a DDT on the steel steps and it looked like Belair was bleeding. Bliss dropped Belair with another DDT on the steps, which is really just Bliss taking the bump on her ass to protect Belair. Bliss walked to the back while a stretcher was wheeled down to the ring. Some referees and a trainer finally checked on Belair.

Analysis: It was an effective angle with Bliss continuing to dive back into her crazy persona that causes her to do some wild things like random attacks. This will probably lead to a rematch with Belair facing Bliss again.

(Commercial)

They recapped what happened before the break. Belair was getting helped to the back by her husband Montez Ford.

Austin Theory, the United States Champion, was interviewed by Cathy Kelley saying that 2022 was his year and 2023 will be his year too. Rollins said that Seth “Freakin” Rollins is the past while everybody knows that Theory is the now. Theory said he holds all the cards, he’s outplaying Rollins on every turn and his forever reign is just beginning. Theory: “Not so bad for a kid, huh Seth?”

Analysis: It was fine as a promo with Austin Theory feeling like he’s on top of the world as usual.

Elias was in the ring for a musical performance that didn’t get very far because Solo Sikoa made his entrance for their match.

Music City Street Fight: Elias vs. Solo Sikoa

There were musical instruments surrounding the ring. Solo worked over Elias with a shoulder tackle and punch to the face with Patrick pointing out that Solo is undefeated in singles matches since joining The Bloodline, which means on the main WWE roster. Solo blocked a hiptoss attempt with a clothesline. They left the ring, Elias blocked a cowbell attack and hit Solo with the cowbell. Elias chopped Solo. Elias went for a guitar attack, Solo moved and Elias hit the ring post with the guitar. Elias tossed Solo into a drum set at ringside. Elias hit Solo with a cymbal to knock Elias over the barricade. Elias barely touched him, but made a loud noise with it.

(Commercial)

They went towards the entrance stage area with more weapons around leading to Solo tossing Elias into a drum set that was there. Solo used a steel piece of the drum set to hit Elias in the head followed by a headbutt. They were back in the ring, Elias hit Solo with a keyboard I think and then Solo came back with a Samoan Drop. Elias was on the floor, he used a tambourine to hit Solo in the face and they went back into the ring. Elias hit Solo twice with a keyboard for a two count. Elias grabbed a brief headlock that Solo turned into a belly-to-belly side slam. Solo charged, but he took way too long, so Elias moved and Elias hit Solo with a tambourine to the head a few times. Elias two splashes against the turnbuckle followed by a spinebuster. Elias gave Solo a clothesline over the top to the floor. Elias hit Solo in the back with the keyboard again. Hardy at ringside gave Elias a guitar, so Elias went into the ring and Solo hit Elias with a superkick. Hardy went into the ring while Solo was punching Elias in the corner. Hardy hit Solo in the back with a guitar, but Solo no-sold it while Hardy left the ring. The fans popped big for the Hardy spot. Elias hit a jumping knee for two. Elias went off the top with a broken guitar, but Solo hit him with a Samoan Spike to the throat. Solo hit a Spinning Solo slam (more like a uranage) off the apron onto a piano on the floor. Solo pinned Elias on the piano. Solo grabbed a guitar looking for Hardy, but he was gone.

Winner by pinfall: Solo Sikoa

Analysis: **3/4 A long match that probably would have been better if it was around ten minutes instead of being close to 15 minutes because I doubt anybody watching this thought that Elias was going to win. It dragged a bit. Some of the weapons used made it feel like a comedy street fight instead of some vicious fight. At least the finish was good with the slam onto the piano. Involving Hardy into the match did get the crowd into it more because they reacted big to it. Solo continues to look dominant as he picked up another win.

A video aired of last Friday’s Smackdown with Kevin Owens & John Cena beating Roman Reigns & Sami Zayn. Cena was barely in the match as his team got the win with Owens pinning Zayn. Owens is likely against Reigns at the Royal Rumble so it made sense for KO to win.

(Commercial)

The introductions took place for the six-man tag team match. The Bloodline’s Sami Zayn and The Usos were up first. The Street Profits were wearing some gear similar to the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and they were joined by Kevin Owens.

The Bloodline – Sami Zayn, Jimmy Uso & Jey Uso vs. Kevin Owens and The Street Profits (Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins)

It started out as a brawl right away with the six guys exchanging punches right away. Dawkins hit Jimmy with a jumping back elbow, a corner splash and a jumping kick for two. Ford tagged in with a dropkick on Jimmy, Dawkins was back in and after a distraction, Jey kicked Dawkins in the back of the head to take control. The Bloodline made some quick tags as they worked over Dawkins in their corner. Dawkins broke free with a punch leading to Owens getting the tag with an elbow smash and a running senton. Ford didn’t look like he was focused on the match because of what happened to his wife Bianca Belair, so that allowed The Bloodline to isolate Owens in their corner.

(Commercial)

Jimmy was in control against KO with an uppercut punch. Jey was back in for the team with a superkick on Dawkins while Ford didn’t seem focused on the match. Owens with a superkick on Jey while Owens was looking to make the tag, but Ford didn’t stick his hand out. Owens slapped Ford bring him in, then Ford was on fire with a cross body block on two guys (Sami & Jimmy) along with a belly to back suplex. Ford hit a standing moonsault on Sami for a two count. Ford went up top, but Zayn stopped him with a forearm. Zayn tried a superplex, Ford punched him down and Ford hit a top rope Frog Splash for a two count as Jey made the save. Dawkins tossed Jey out of the ring followed by Dawkins hitting a Pounce on Jey on the floor. Ford sent Jimmy and Sami out of the ring. Ford ran the ropes leading to a somersault over the top to the floor. Solo Sikoa showed up at ringside to hit Dawkins with a Samoan Spike (the referee didn’t see it). Owens went after Solo, so Jey hit Owens with a superkick. Ford sent Zayn back into the ring, Zayn punched Jimmy to knock him off the apron and Zayn hit a Helluva Kick on Ford for the pinfall win after 12 minutes.

Winners by pinfall: The Bloodline – Sami Zayn, Jimmy Uso & Jey Uso

Analysis: ***1/4 A big win for The Bloodline in an entertaining match. Montez Ford was not really invested in the match because of what happened to his wife Bianca Belair earlier in the night, so that played into the match. When Ford got the tag, he did have some offense although he was off in this match. That’s the story at least. Whether that continues with him, I don’t know. I think Zayn getting the win was a way to build him back up after losing on Smackdown.

Post match, the four Bloodline guys attacked Owens. Solo grabbed a chair, Sami wanted to use it and that led to Drew McIntyre & Sheamus showing up to attack The Bloodline. Drew and Sheamus sent Solo into the barricade. They went into the ring to brawl with The Usos as Sheamus hit a knee on Jey. Drew hit a headbutt and clothesline on Jimmy to knock him out of the ring. Sheamus, Drew and Owens stood tall in the ring while The Bloodline was out on the floor.

Analysis: I believe the best friends Sheamus & Drew live in Nashville, so it was not a big travel day for them to be on Raw. It’s also The Usos vs. Sheamus & Drew for the WWE Tag Team Titles on Smackdown this Friday. This did a nice job of building up to that as well.

(Commercial)

At the Royal Rumble on January 28th, Bray Wyatt will face LA Knight in The Pitch Black Match.

The announcers talked about how AJ Styles has a broken ankle that won’t require surgery, but it will be the longest time he’s ever been out of the ring. They showed AJ’s tweet about it. AJ suffered the injury during a recent WWE live event.

Analysis: There’s no timeline announced although it might be a few months for him. No surgery is a good thing at least. AJ has been very durable throughout his career. Best wishes to him coming back from that.

Dexter Lumis vs. Chad Gable (w/Otis)

Lumis did some mind games early as usual leading to a Thesz Press followed by some punches. Lumis scared Otis as well. Gable sent Lumis throat-first across the top rope. Gable knocked down Lumis with a knee to the ribs followed by an armbar. Gable hit a Northern Lights Suplex for two. Lumis made the comeback with punches, a corner clothesline and a bulldog headlock. Lumis with a belly-to-back suplex followed by a leg drop for two. Gable came back with a German Suplex, Lumis to the floor and Gable sent Lumis into the ring post. Otis charged, but Lumis moved and elbowed the ring post. Back in the ring, Gable got a cradle, Lumis countered it and sat on top for the pinfall win.

Winner by pinfall: Dexter Lumis

Analysis: *3/4 A close win by Lumis over Gable, who is ridiculously talented in the ring, but rarely gets wins in WWE these days. The crowd was dead for most of it because Lumis isn’t that interesting to watch.

Cody Rhodes Road To Recovery Video

A video package aired about Cody Rhodes showing his WrestleMania 38 return to WWE. Cody talked about how he didn’t think he was coming back, but he feels like coming back at WrestleMania, everybody understood the path. Cody said he gets another shot to live the first dream he ever had. They showed images of Cody with his late father Dusty Rhodes and Dustin Rhodes was in some of the videos. They showed that promo he did about how he can’t put the WWE Title on his late father, but he can put it around his waist. Cody said that the American Nightmare is the extension of the American Dream. Cody said it’s a perfect alignment of all the stars. They showed Cody dealing with a torn pectoral muscle going into Hell in a Cell last June with Cody saying that no human being could keep him from the ring. Cody said it’s like oxygen, he needs it. To be continued.

Analysis: I think WWE could have just kept Cody out of the spotlight and brought him back at the Royal Rumble, but I think airing videos like this to build his return is a smart way to do it. There will probably be other surprises anyway. It will be interesting to see if they bring him back to TV before the Rumble itself or just wait until January 28th. It is believed that Cody is ready physically to come back, so it’s just a matter of when. Obviously, Cody is one of the favorites to win the Men’s Royal Rumble as well.

They showed Bayley and Damage CTRL walking backstage. It was also interesting to see former members of The Hurt Business like MVP, Shelton Benjamin & Cedric Alexander talking to Adam Pearce.

Analysis: I think we’ll see The Hurt Business return soon. It’s not like they put the trio in the background for nothing. Bobby Lashley has been off for a few weeks, but he has teased the group’s return in recent interviews. I’m all for it.

(Commercial)

Let’s Hear from Damage CTRL

Bayley and the Women’s Tag Team Champions Dakota Kai & IYO SKY made their entrance. Bayley got some boos calling it Trashville instead of Nashville while Bayley mentioned that Damage CTRL was born in Nashville at SummerSlam. Bayley said they need to address the Irish elephant in the room while pointing out that she beat Becky Lynch. Bayley laughed about it saying it was fun while adding that she did it by herself.

Becky Lynch showed up with the crowd popping big for The Man. Lynch trashed Bayley for being a coward and a fraud that is unable to do anything by herself. Lynch told Bayley it took her years and years to get out of somebody’s shadow, but only took one year to put herself back there. Lynch said that Bayley is taking all of the glory while adding that it’s only a matter of time until somebody turns on somebody else. Lynch said when she loess, she doesn’t get upset, she gets better. Lynch challenged Bayley to a match, so Bayley laughed at her. Bayley turned that down saying that she already beat her. Bayley told Lynch to find a partner to face Kai & Sky. Lynch went towards the ring to have a handicap match…or so it appeared.

Analysis: A simple way to set up a match like we have seen many times on Raw for 30 years.

(Commercial)

Damage CTRL – Dakota Kai & IYO SKY (w/Bayley) vs. Becky Lynch

Lynch with a running kick to knock down Sky followed by a kick to Kai. Lynch with a neckbreaker on Sky against the ropes. Lynch with a kick to the head for a two count leading to Sky getting a rollup for two. Kai tagged in with a running kick attempt, but Lynch avoided it and hiptossed Sky into Kai. Lynch with multiple leg drops on Kai. Sky caused a distraction leading to Kai hitting a running kick on Lynch for a two count. Lynch was sent out of the ring leading to Sky making the tag and hitting a clothesline on the floor. Kai tagged back in with a chinlock along with a leap onto the back. Sky worked over Lynch on the floor by sending Lynch into the ring post. Kai tagged in to work over Lynch, but Mia Yim (the announcers were calling her “Michin” a lot, so I guess that’s the name again) ran out there to team with Lynch.

Analysis: So the logical question is why wouldn’t Mia Yim go out there earlier? What took so long? Why did nobody else want to team with Lynch? It took about ten minutes after Lynch agreed to the match on her own. I know we can’t ask logical questions watching wrestling shows sometimes, but as a viewer, this is what I’d be asking.

Damage CTRL – Dakota Kai & IYO SKY (w/Bayley) vs. Becky Lynch & “Michin” Mia Yim

Michin got the tag with two kicks on Sky, a drop toe hold on Kai and Michin hit a flapjack. Michin with a running dropkick on Sky for a two count. Lynch jumped off the apron with a punch on Kai. Michin hit a suicide dive onto Sky on the floor leading to a break.

(Commercial)

Kai with a Scorpion Kick on Michin followed by Sky getting the tag leading to some tag team moves including a running dropkick to the back. Sky applied a crossface on Michin, who rolled out of it and sent Sky out of the ring. Michin kicked Sky into Kai, Sky prevented a tag and Michin hit a neckbreaker on Sky. Lynch tagged in against Kai, who was legal and Lynch gave her a bulldog on the floor. Lynch whipped Kai into the ring post. Lynch sent both opponents into the barricade. Back in the ring, Lynch hit a missile dropkick off the top for two. Lynch and Michin hit a double superplex while on the middle rope leading to Michin getting a two count on Kai because Sky made the save. Sky punched Lynch out of the ring, Michin with a kick to Sky and Michin gave Kai a hurricanrana-like move for two because Bayley put Kai’s foot on the rope. Lynch attacked Bayley with punches. Michin hit Kai with Eat Defeat, but Sky was legal and did an Over The Moonsault off the top on Michin for the pinfall win. Lynch was unable to make the save in time. It went 14 minutes from the start of it when Lynch was solo.

Winners by pinfall: Damage CTRL – Dakota Kai & IYO SKY

Analysis: ***1/4 A good tag team match featuring four talented veteran wrestlers. I thought the champions would lose since this was non-title, but they managed to pick up the win, which is the right decision. No surprise that Lynch wasn’t pinned to keep her strong. Since Michin’s Eat Defeat move requires her to bump on her back after doing the move, it put her in the perfect spot for Sky to hit the moonsault off the top to win. I get why the finish was done like that, but it makes Michin looks foolish too. Anyway, I’m glad the heels won.

Damage CTRL celebrated the win. The replay showed that Michin didn’t see Sky make the blind tag, but the referee did.

Seth “Freakin” Rollins was interviewed by Cathy Kelley with Seth asking Nashville if they’re ready to sing tonight. Rollins said that Monday nights belong to him and in just a few minutes, that US Title will belong to him too. Rollins said that as good as Theory is and as good as he’s going to be, he’s not going to be Rollins. That lead to Rollins busting out his nicknames while saying there will be a party on Broadway (famous Nashville street) tonight.

Analysis: A lot of confidence from Seth Rollins as usual.

(Commercial)

They showed singer Jimmie Allen at ringside. I don’t know who that is either. Sorry country music singers.

There was a replay of Alexa Bliss attacking Bianca Belair earlier in the show.

Alexa Bliss was in a hallway with Byron Saxton trying to talk to her. Bliss said that she didn’t lose control, she gained control over Bianca’s headspace and she knows Bliss is a threat. Bliss said that Raw Women’s Championship belongs with her.

Analysis: I assume they go with Belair vs. Bliss at Royal Rumble probably in a gimmick match of some kind.

There were highlights shown of Dominik Mysterio getting “arrested” by shoving his father Rey on the front porch of Rey’s parents’ house. That was on Christmas Eve. Rey’s wife Angie also slapped Rhea Ripley in the face after blocking Ripley’s attempt to slap Rey. The cops arrested Dominik.

They showed Dominik Mysterio in some room by himself in tank top. Dominik talked about what prison was like. Dominik said he served hard time and he survived. Dominik spoke about how prison changes a man and you might think it’s over him, but he’s just getting started. Dominik had a toothpick saying he’ll see “Mami” aka Rhea Ripley soon. Graves screamed about how Dominik had street cred now, which is silly.

Analysis: That made me laugh more than anything because the arrest was so ridiculous at first. It was a cheesy promo, but I think that was the point of it.

Austin Theory made his entrance as the US Champion for the main event.

(Commercial)

A video aired about Bronson Reed, who returned to WWE two weeks ago to help The Miz beat Dexter Lumis in a ladder match. They showed highlights of Reed’s dominance in NXT.

It was announced that Hardy performs the song “Sold Out” at the Royal Rumble on January 28th.

Seth “Freakin” Rollins made his entrance to a good ovation along with the fans singing his song on the way to the ring as usual. The wrestlers stood in the ring as the ring announcer Mike Rome did the championship introductions.

United States Championship: Austin Theory vs. Seth “Freakin” Rollins

Seth is the guy that’s done it all in WWE at 37 years old while Theory is the “kid” at 25 years old, but don’t call him “kid.” There was a lot of time left for the match. Rollins started off quickly with a Slingblade neckbreaker along with a clothesline over the top to the floor. Rollins dropkicked Theory into the barricade. Rollins avoided a trip attempt and hit Theory with a running knee. Rollins suplexed Theory onto the top of the barricade followed by Rollins doing a knee drop to the back of the head.

(Commercial)

The match continued with Rollins chopping Theory repeatedly on the floor. Back in the ring, Rollins hit another knee to the head. Theory did a necksnap against the top rope followed by Theory hitting a dropkick. Theory worked over Rollins for a bit including a hard whip into the turnbuckle with Rollins taking a sternum bump. Theory hit a backbreaker for two. Rollins with a belly to back suplex. Rollins missed a corner attack leading to Theory applying a chinlock. Rollins gave Theory a jawbreaker, then a boot to the face and Theory dumped Rollins over the top to the floor. Theory sent Rollins into the commentary table, the ring apron and over the table. Theory showed Rollins the US Title while telling Seth that Rollins will not disrespect Theory.

(Commercial)

There were about ten minutes left as Rollins hit two clotheslines, kicks and a clothesline that led to Theory rolling out of the ring. Rollins ran the ropes leading to a suicide dive. Rollins sent Theory back in with Rollins hitting a sunset flip for two along with a backbreaker for two. They exchanged some moves, Theory with an elbow to the head and Rollins countered Theory into a rollup for two. Rollins went for a Powerbomb, but then he collapsed and grabbed his right knee. Rollins picked up Theory again, Theory held onto the turnbuckle and Theory was on the top rope leading to Rollins jumping off the top with a superplex. Theory came back with a cradle suplex driving Seth’s head/neck onto Theory’s knee. Theory with kick, Rollins with a superkick, Theory with a forearm and Rollins with a jumping kick to the head. They were both down selling after that sequence of moves. After selling those moves, Rollins took control with a hard elbow to the face followed by a forearm to the back. Rollins went for The Stomp, but then he sold his knee injury while Theory moved out of the way. Theory teased leaving the match with his US Title, but Rollins chased after him. Rollins brought Theory back into the ring and hit him with a superkick. Rollins jumped off the top with a Frog Splash for two. The replay showed that it was more like a one-legged Frog Splash since Seth’s right knee wasn’t on the top rope when he jumped. Theory shoved Rollins into the referee, who bumped. Rollins hit a Pedigree, sold his right knee some more and Rollins covered Theory while a second referee Eddie Orengo went into the ring to count the two count. Rollins went for The Stomp, Theory shoved Rollins towards the referee, who covered himself and Theory hit a low blow uppercut. Theory with a chop block to the knee followed by A-Town Down onto the knee for the pinfall win after 22 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Austin Theory

Analysis: **** A fantastic match with the heel Theory cheating to win with the low blow that was undetected. Rollins putting over Theory was the right move even though it wasn’t completely clean, at least it was a pinfall win and Theory standing tall by the end of it. The story of Rollins dealing with the right knee injury helped the match a lot because Rollins was selling it so well and fighting through the pain a lot that it played a part in the match when Rollins was trying to do offensive moves as well. There were a lot of good nearfalls by the end of it. The way Theory won was cheap, but that’s what heels do and what Rollins did many times in his career as well. Nice job by Rollins putting over Theory again since he was pinned by him at Survivor Series and here as well.

Austin Theory celebrated with his US Title. There was no time left for replays. Graves: “It’s not about how you became champion, it’s how you remain champion. It’s 2023, welcome to the New Year, welcome to the now.” End show.

Three Stars of the Show

  1. Seth Rollins – I know Austin Theory won, but Rollins was the star.
  2. Austin Theory
  3. The Bloodline

The Scoreboard

7.5 out of 10

Last week: Taped show.

Final Thoughts

I thought it was a good show with a lot of long matches including the main event between Austin Theory and Seth Rollins. Theory cheated to win in a back-and-forth match that likely ends the rivalry for now. Going over 20 minutes in the main event isn’t easy, we’ve seen Rollins do it many times and Theory showed how talented he was by doing it here as well. They have certainly elevated the value of the US Title in the last few months with some great matches with that gold on the line. I’d still rather see the WWE or Universal Title have a presence on Raw, but they are booking the US Title well at least.

The Raw Women’s Championship match was also a long match that ended when Alexa Bliss went into aggressive mode and attacked Bianca Belair after the DQ. Alexa’s aggressiveness was nice to see while Belair sold it well. The women’s tag team match with Damage CTRL beating Lynch/Michin was an entertaining match too.

It was nice to see The Bloodline booked well as heels that were hated by the crowd and the locker room, which led to a big brawl to start the show. The Bloodline won their two matches with Solo Sikoa beating Elias and The Usos/Sami Zayn beating Kevin Owens & The Street Profits. Some of the other matches were a bit flat, but good action for the most part. I also liked the Cody Rhodes return video with more to come next week as well.

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Thanks for reading.

John Canton

Email: mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter: @johnreport