Welcome to another edition of the WWE Raw Deal review. Now that the NFL regular season is over (go LA Rams!), plus the college football championship is over, I can get back to writing this Raw Deal review live most weeks here on TJRWrestling. With Smackdown coming the next night, there might be some weeks where one is live and the other is the next morning, but I’m going to try to go live as much as I can. It’s better for page views for the site, plus it’s better for me to get it done while it airs. People want instant analysis after all, so that’s what I try to do.

The two big matches that WWE advertised going into Raw were the Intercontinental Championship triple threat with Dean Ambrose defending against Seth Rollins and Bobby Lashley after Lashley attacked Rollins last week to prevent him from winning the title. The other advertised match is Ronda Rousey teaming up with Sasha Banks against Nia Jax and Tamina.

Live Memphis, Tennessee, this is the Raw Deal for episode #1337 of Monday Night Raw. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. If you want to support us at TJRWrestling, here’s a Donate Link for our Paypal to contribute in some way to help us grow the site.

The show began with WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon arriving in a limo. He made the driver clean up a spot that he spotted on the side of the limo.

Let’s Hear from Braun Strowman

After a live shot of the crowd with Michael Cole welcoming us to the show, Braun Strowman’s music hit as the Monster Among Men walked down to the ring in his ring gear. The announcers for this show are Cole, Corey Graves and Renee Young.

Strowman was about to speak when the crowd greeted him with “Get These Hands” chants. Strowman claimed that Brock Lesnar has always been afraid of him. Strowman recapped past incidents where Lesnar was scared of him like at WWE Crown Jewel when Baron Corbin prevented Strowman from beating Lesnar for the title. Strowman told “Beasty Boy” Lesnar that he is all healed up with Strowman saying there is no one to save Lesnar. Strowman said that at the Royal Rumble, he will get the Universal Championship and the only thing Lesnar is going to get is “these hands.” Strowman led the fans in another “Get These Hands” chant.

Baron Corbin showed up for the interruption. Corbin said he may not run Raw anymore with Strowman pointing out that he got fired. Strowman led a “You Got Fired” chant at Corbin. Corbin said if he stands there for five minutes it will be longer than Strowman lasted against Lesnar. Corbin said that Strowman let them down before and he can’t beat Lesnar while Corbin claimed he would win the Royal Rumble match. Strowman left the ring and chased Corbin. That led to Corbin running backstage and Strowman went after him.

Strowman was shown walking backstage when he grabbed Sunil Singh and tossed him across a catering table. Strowman spotted a limo in the parking lot. Strowman walked down a hallway and then Elias was shown playing his guitar along with a song. Elias let Strowman know that Corbin was hiding down in that limo.

Strowman went up to the limo that was apparently the limo that Vince McMahon arrived in. Strowman grabbed the limo driver and tossed him over the hood of the limo. Poor drive. Strowman grabbed a metal pipe that happened to be nearby. Strowman smashed the window in the back of the limo and ripped the door off. Corbin went out the other side of the limo and ran away. Vince McMahon showed up wondering what happened with Strowman looking at Vince. The show went to commercial there as Graves said “there’s going to be hell to pay with Vince staring at Strowman.

Analysis: It was an adventurous start to the show with the backstage scene leading to Strowman destroying Vince’s limo. Good job of using Corbin to piss off Strowman and then they set up the commercial break spot leaving the audience to wonder what’s next. It fit Strowman’s gimmick of being an out of control madman that likes to destroy things, so at least he did something that fit his character.

(Commercial)

The show returned with Strowman and Vince outside by the limo. Strowman tried to put the door back on the limo. McMahon yelled at him for being an enraged woolly mammoth. McMahon was upset about what Strowman did to the car and said it would cost him $100,000. Strowman said that this piece of crap is not worth $100,000. Vince said that just for talking back at hime like that, the Universal Championship match with Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble is not happening now. McMahon left, so Strowman tried picking up the limo, there were multiple angles of the stunt and Strowman tossed the limo over. Strowman left angrily.

Analysis: The real story is that Strowman’s elbow injury and surgery will continue to keep him out of action for January 27 at the Royal Rumble, so WWE used this storyline to take Strowman out of the Rumble match against Lesnar. It’s unfortunate, but with the elbow surgery that Strowman had, there was always the concern that he wouldn’t be able to compete at the Royal Rumble. Strowman’s surgery was to remove bone chips from his elbow and not a “shattered elbow” like WWE said it was. For a guy as big as him, maybe it didn’t heal as fast as WWE would have hoped, so they are being smart about it to keep Strowman out of the Lesnar match. There could be a whole other reason like WWE changed their mind, so there is that option too. It’s unfortunate, but I don’t think Strowman was going to win the Universal Title at the Royal Rumble anyway.

UPDATE: Here’s the update on Strowman being removed from the Universal Title match: The short version of the story is that it wasn’t injury related and it was just Vince McMahon changing his mind. For the more detailed version, click the link and read the post.

Ronda Rousey entered first for the women’s tag team match followed by her Royal Rumble opponent, Sasha Banks. They were followed by Team Excitement (I gave them that name) of Nia Jax and Tamina. That begins after a break.

(Commercial)

There was a shot of Braun Strowman shown walking backstage with security following him and Strowman walked out the door to leave the building. Baron Corbin showed up laughing about what happened.

Analysis: It looks like the Strowman vs. Corbin feud will pick up whenever Strowman gets back in the ring.

Ronda Rousey and Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax and Tamina

Banks used her speed to take control early as she jumped on Jax’s back with a sleeper attempt, but Jax tossed Banks off her back easily. Banks with a knee strike to the head followed by a bulldog and a running knee for a two count. Rousey tagged in with punches, but Jax put Rousey against the turnbuckle and Tamina tagged in with a headbutt. Rousey went for an armbar, but Jax pulled Tamina out of the ring. Banks attacked Jax off the apron while Tamina continued to stall and the show went to break about four minutes into this match.

(Commercial)

The match returned with Banks as the face in peril as Jax hit a powerbomb and a rolling attack. Jax slapped on a chinlock while a 15-second commercial aired for the movie Glass with Jax still holding the chinlock. They time those ads well. Banks got a rollup for two on Tamina, who tagged back in. Tamina with a cheap shot that knocked Rousey off the apron. Banks kicked Tamina and Banks slapped on the Bank Statement submission on Tamina and Tamina tapped out for the submission win after 10 minutes.

Winners by submission: Ronda Rousey and Sasha Banks

Analysis: *1/2 It was a boring match with Banks not tagging out to Rousey and getting the win even as the face in peril, which is not common in a tag team match like that. The announcers didn’t put over the story of Banks not tagging out. Normally when Rousey is in a tag match she gets the win, so this was done to give Banks some momentum.

Rousey and Banks were interviewed by Charly Caruso in the ring. Rousey talked about how great it was to team with Banks. Rousey said that a win over Banks would be the best thing she could do as champion so far. Banks didn’t like that comment, then Rousey said she’ll tap Banks out at Royal Rumble and Banks said she tapped out Jax and Tamina. Banks told Rousey she can lose with class. Rousey and Banks continued to argue with Banks saying that she’s not scared of her while telling Rousey that the only loser will be her and Ronda can bank on that. Banks left while Rousey was left in the ring. Rousey left the ring to go up to Banks in the aisle. Banks told Rousey she’s the best around here and Banks did the “4” hand sign for the Four Horsewomen of WWE. Rousey chased after Banks.

Analysis: I like the way Banks stood up for herself when Rousey talked about how she was going to make Banks tap out. Banks should get upset by it. That’s a way to create some tension between the two women before their face vs. face match in less than two weeks. Banks flashing the “4” hand sign was a nice nod to her Four Horsewomen group with Charlotte, Becky and Bayley while Rousey has her foursome (Baszler, Duke, Shafir), so that’s something to think about later in the year perhaps.

There was a lineup of superstars outside of Mr. McMahon’s door. Jerry Lawler walked out of the office because they were in Memphis where Jerry lives and the crowd popped for Lawler being on camera. No Way Jose and his crew showed up dancing.

A commercial aired for Total Bellas on Sunday.

(Commercial)

The show returned with Natalya and Bayley backstage as they tried to separate their friends Ronda and Sasha from arguing. Natalya and Bayley separated the women, which led to Natalya and Bayley bickering about the situation. The Riott Squad showed up to make fun of them with Liv calling Bayley a “sad face emoji.” Riott said they like taking a bad situation and making it worse. Riott challenged them to a tag team match if they can find a third woman to team with.

Analysis: The creative team loves booking women to bicker on this show. The “sad face emoji” trash talk is representative of how lame the writing is on this show. Adults don’t speak like that.

The Lucha House Party entered for a match. The Revival did a quick promo to set up the match.

The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder) vs. Lucha House Party (Kalisto and Gran Metalik) w/Kalisto

No more Lucha House Rules is a good thing. Kalisto took down Wilder with an arm drag, Metalik tagged in and slammed Kalisto onto Wilder for a two count. Dawson tagged in, he held Kalisto and Wilder hit a dropkick. Dasha Fuentes was shown outside Vince McMahon’s office saying there’s a developing story about who will face Brock Lesnar at Royal Rumble. Apollo Crews did an interview about wanting an opportunity. Curt Hawkins was there too. EC3 was also there making his Raw debut. The match was going on while this was happening with Kalisto kicking Dawson away. Wilder tagged in, Metalik tagged in with a cross body block and a headscissors takedown. Metalik dropkick on Dawson. Double team suplex by the Revival, but Kalisto saved his partner with a roll through kick to the head. Dawson decked Kalisto with a clothesline. Metalik with a sunset flip on Dawson for two. Dawson with a DDT by the ropes, Metalik’s foot was on the ropes and Wilder pushed the foot off the rope, so the referee counted the pin to give The Revival the win after four minutes.

Winners by pinfall: The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder)

Analysis: *1/2 A quick match to give The Revival a win after some cheap losses against Gable/Roode in the last few weeks. The finish was weak since it’s only a DDT and you see a DDT in nearly every match in WWE, yet this one was able to win a match. I didn’t like the interviews with wrestlers during the match. It takes away from the action in the ring and I don’t like seeing that.

Back to Dasha at Vince’s office, Vince showed up and said he’ll make his announcement in the ring.

(Commercial)

Let’s Hear from Vince McMahon

Vince McMahon made his entrance to a big ovation from the crowd. He walked out there with a lot of energy and a suit. Vince was about to speak, but he was interrupted by a familiar song…it’s John Cena.

Cena entered the ring with McMahon. Cena said that we all know Vince just lost his Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble, so Vince is here right now to ask somebody to step up. Cena said 20 years ago when everybody left this man high and dry like Steve Austin, The Rock, Brock Lesnar – he didn’t know what to do. (It was less than 20 years ago by the way.) He claimed that Vince begged somebody to step up, Cena told him to give him a chance and he will not let him down. Cena said Vince gave him a chance, Cena didn’t let him down and more chances with Cena noting that he missed birthdays and funerals for this. Cena said that stepping up here is making this your life and loving every second of it. Cena told Vince to give him a chance because he will not let him down and Cena will be the 17-time WWE Champion. Cena said that he has something that no other WWE superstar has…ruthless aggression. That “ruthless aggression” phrase is what WWE used in the mid-2000s to define that era.

Drew McIntyre showed up for the interruption. McIntyre walked down to the ring saying he didn’t care about Cena’s 16 Championships, his new movies or whatever book he is currently writing. McIntyre complained about Cena standing in the ring with a straight face claiming that he still had ruthless aggression. McIntyre got in Vince’s face to say that this is what ruthless aggression looks like. McIntyre told Cena that his time is up and told Vince that his time is now. McIntyre says that just like Stone Cold, The Rock and Lesnar, Cena can leave.

Baron Corbin was the next man up in this interruption party. Corbin claimed that his life was threatened by Braun Strowman earlier tonight. He got into the ring saying that what’s best for business is that McMahon gives Corbin a Universal Championship match against Brock.

Finn Balor also joined the festivities saying he’s tired of being left out of these conversations. Balor said that he’s the only person out there that has ever been the Universal Champion. Vince told Balor he’s got extraordinary ability and speed, but against Brock Lesnar, he doesn’t know if he can beat Brock Lesnar. Balor told Vince he (Vince) never believed in him (Finn), but those people (the fans) do. Balor said he knows Vince is stubborn and nothing Balor says will change his mind, so let Balor show Vince. Balor punched Corbin and McIntyre knocked Cena down. McIntyre hit Balor with a Claymore Kick and he knocked down Cena with a Claymore Kick.

Vince said that he likes this. Vince said that we will find out tonight who will face Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. Vince left the ring with McIntyre standing tall.

That means the Fatal 4-Way match is McIntyre vs. Cena vs. Balor vs. Corbin.

Analysis: It was a fine way to set up a match for later. McIntyre continues to look impressive while Balor had a lot of crowd support. I think there was some truth in Balor saying that Vince doesn’t believe in him as much as the people and the booking of his character is proof of that.

Still to come: Triple threat IC Title match, Alexa Bliss talk show with Paul Heyman as the guest and Natalya teams with Bayley against The Riott Squad up next.

(Commercial)

There was a shot of Vince walking backstage with Jinder Mahal walking up to him. Mahal wondered why he wasn’t considered for the Fatal 4-Way match. Mahal pleaded his case while noting that he would have went out there, but Sunil Singh was attacked by Strowman earlier. McMahon said that Mahal can pick one of the guys that was in the ring earlier and if Mahal can beat him, he can take his spot in the 4-Way match. Mahal said he’ll choose Finn Balor and Vince wished him good luck.

Analysis: The twists and turns continue. Remember, this is a long show where they have a lot of time to kill.

The heel trio of the Riott Squad were out first for the six-woman tag. Bayley was up next, Natalya is on her team and Nikki Cross is making her Raw debut as their partner. It was noted by Cole that the “new” stars are not being assigned to a specific show yet, so they can appear on both brands until it is determined in the future.

Analysis: Nikki Cross is a very talented and experienced wrestler from Scotland. She’ll do well on the main roster wherever she ends up.

Riott Squad (Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan) vs. Bayley, Natalya and Nikki Cross

Cross with a dropkick on Logan, Morgan tagged in and Cross did a hair toss. Riott tagged in as all six women faced off with Nikki told her teammates that she wanted to play. Cross tackled Riott and the heels left the ring, so Bayley and Natalya hit sliding dropkicks. Cross used the apron to trap Riott and destroyed Riott with forearms to the chest as the show went to break.

(Commercial)

The match returned with Bayley hitting a cross body block on Logan, but Logan came back with a knee to the back. Morgan tagged in with a move where she slammed Bayley face first into the mat. Morgan hit a dropkick to the back of Bayley for a two count. Logan slapped on a chinlock on Bayley and sent Bayley into the turnbuckle. Bayley sent Logan face first into the turnbuckle. Bayley broke free and tagged in Natalya, who hit a dropkick and German Suplex on Logan followed by a spinning clothesline. Natalya slammed Logan face first into the mat for a two count with Riott breaking up the pin. Bayley took out Riott with a running knee Morgan with a hurricanrana on Natalya and Cross made the save. Morgan kicked Natalya into the turnbuckle, Cross tagged in and hit a clothesline off the top onto Morgan as Natalya held her. Cross with a neckbreaker on Logan. Natalya with a German Suplex on Riott. Cross with a bulldog on Riott and Cross hit a monkey flip on Logan leading to a Natalya dropkick. Cross hit a running cross body block on Riott on the floor. Morgan sent Cross in the ring, she got a rollup for two and Bayley tagged back in. Cross hit a neckbreaker off the ropes. Bayley went up top and hit a flying elbow on Morgan for the pinfall win after 12 minutes.

Winners by pinfall: Bayley, Natalya and Nikki Cross

Analysis: **3/4 It was a standard women’s tag team match on Raw. It feels like a repeat every week. I thought Cross should have got the win for her team in her Raw debut, but it’s not a big deal. I liked some of the teamwork shown by Cross and Natalya. Cross showed a lot of energy and the crowd was behind her. Cross can be an effective character as a heel or face.

Finn Balor was shown walking backstage. He walked by Dana Brooke and Mickie James talking to Lacey Evans, so that’s her Raw debut.

Jinder Mahal made his entrance with Samir Singh. No Sunil Singh because Braun Strowman threw him across a table earlier in the night.

(Commercial)

Dean Ambrose did a backstage promo where he complained about having to defend the title in a triple threat match. He said that nobody, especially Seth Rollins, is going to take away his title.

Analysis: It was a very generic heel promo with a champion complaining about having to defend a title.

Finn Balor made his entrance. Before Balor could enter the ring, Mahal attacked him outside the ring. Mahal whipped Balor into the barricade and into the side of the ring apron. Mahal sent Balor into the ring, the referee checked on Balor and Balor said it was okay to ring the bell to start the match.

Jinder Mahal (w/Samir Singh) vs. Finn Balor

The bell rang with Mahal hitting a kick to the face for a two count. Mahal continued his boring offense, Balor hit a dropkick and a kick while they battled on the apron. Balor went for a kick to Mahal on the apron, but Mahal caught his foot and slammed Balor face first into the mat. That led to a break.

(Commercial)

The match returned with Mahal still in control with multiple knee drops to Balor’s chest. Mahal with a hard whip into the turnbuckle. Balor countered a suplex into a cover for a two count. Balor got some momentum going with an overhead kick to the head. Balor with a forearm to the head followed by a double foot stomp to the chest of Mahal. Balor with a running dropkick to send Samir out of the ring and Balor hit a back body drop to send Mahal out of the ring. Balor hit a somersault dive over the top to take out Mahal on the floor. Balor hit a Slingblade on Mahal, a running dropkick and Balor went up top with the Coup de Grace double foot stomp to Mahal’s chest for the pinfall win after 10 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Finn Balor

Analysis: **1/2 It was a solid match with Mahal controlling 80% of the match and Balor hitting all his signature spots in the last two minutes. The crowd was firmly behind Balor. This was done to tell the story of Balor as the underdog in the 4-Way match that is going to have to find a way to win the match.

This means that Balor is still in the Fatal 4-Way with McIntyre, Cena and Corbin. I thought Balor would win when it was announced and even moreso after he had to face Mahal.

Lio Rush did a cell phone promo hyping up Bobby Lashley’s match with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose saying that Lashley will collect the Intercontinental Championship.

Dean Ambrose entered with the Intercontinental Title match. Renee Young complained about Lashley in this IC Title match saying that she didn’t think Lashley earned it. Graves said that her hubby’s title might go bye-bye and that’s up next.

(Commercial)

There was a glass shattering moment video about Shawn Michaels turning on Marty Jannetty and tossing him through the Barber Shop window. It was from January 1992. It’s sponsored by the movie Glass, which WWE promoted heavily all night long.

Bobby Lashley made his entrance with Rush wearing an “All Mighty” shirt and the back of the shirt says “Lashley” on it several times.

Seth Rollins was interviewed behind the curtain by Charly Caruso. He said you never know what chance will be your last, so you need to make the most of your opportunities. Rollins mentioned that his buddy Roman Reigns announced his leukemia and then a few hours later, Ambrose betrayed that embrace the Shield shared while noting they had six years of friendship. Rollins was impressed by Lashley’s physique, but what matters is what you do bell to bell and Rollins said nobody can compete with him bell to bell. Rollins said he’ll lay it on the line and take back his IC Title. Rollins was up next and he got a big pop from the crowd as usual.

Analysis: The promo was fine, but the problem with the “six years of friendship” line was that they spent a few years fighting eachother when Rollins was a heel that turned on Ambrose and Reigns. The fans know that, but WWE writing likes to skip the facts sometimes.

The wrestlers stood in the ring while ring announcer Mike Rome introduced the three competitors since it is a championship match.

Intercontinental Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. Bobby Lashley (w/Lio Rush) vs. Seth Rollins

Rollins was in control early with a cross body block on Ambrose off the top rope. Rollins tried to slam Lashley, but Ambrose got involved with punches on Rollins. Ambrose tried to work with Lashley as Lashley whipped Rollins into the turnbuckle. Lashley with a suplex on Rollins. Ambrose held Rollins as Lashley punched Rollins in the ribs. Ambrose hit a running forearm on Rollins. Lashley with a running shoulder tackle to the ribs of Rollins. Lashley missed a corner charge when Rollins moved, but when Rollins ran the ropes, Lashley decked him with a spinebuster. Ambrose shoved Lashley out of the ring, Rollins with a cradle on Ambrose for two and Rollins hit a suicide dive to take out both heels on the floor. Rush in the ring, Rollins tried to get him, but Rush avoided it and Lashley hit a spinebuster on Rollins on the floor. Ambrose tried to attack Lashley, but Lashley hit an overhead belly to belly suplex on Ambrose on the floor. That led to a break about six minutes into the match.

(Commercial)

The match returned with Rollins and Ambrose briefly working together against Lashley to keep the big man down. Double team clothesline Rollins and Ambrose sent Lashley out of the ring. Rollins and Ambrose used the top half of the steel steps to knock Lashley down. Rollins and Ambrose battled with punches leading to Rollins hitting a Falcon Arrow slam for two as Rush went into the ring to break up the pin in this match with no disqualification and no countout in triple threats. Rush tried to attack Rollins, but Rollins avoided that and Ambrose kicked Rush out of the ring. Rollins with a superkick on Ambrose, Lashley back in with a clothesline that sent Rollins out of the ring and Lashley covered Ambrose for two. Ambrose with a kick to Lashley, then an eye poke and Rollins back in with a clothesline off the top. Rollins with a step up enziguri kick to Lashley’s head. Rollins with a Frog Splash off the top on Lashley. Ambrose dumped Rollins out of the ring and covered Lashley for two. Ambrose sent Rollins out of the ring for a two count of his own. Some fans started a “this is awesome” chant although it wasn’t that loud. Rollins went up to Ambrose on the top rope, Lashley put Rollins on his shoulders and Ambrose hit a clothesline like Legion Of Doom. Rollins landed on his feet. Rollins with superkicks to Lashley and Ambrose. Rush held down the top rope to send Rollins over the top to the floor. Lashley hit a Spear on Ambrose and Lashley covered Ambrose for the pinfall win after 15 minutes. New champion!

Winner by pinfall and New Intercontinental Champion: Bobby Lashley

Analysis: ***1/2 That was a pretty good match with a bit of a surprising title change since Ambrose only had the IC Title for one month. Going into it, I thought Ambrose would keep the title, but I have no issue with the title change either.  A guy like Ambrose really doesn’t need that title. It’s the first time Lashley has held the title, so it feels like a bigger deal for him. They told a believable story with Lashley and Ambrose working together as heels against Rollins early, but then ego got in the way and it broke down. Rollins came close to winning a few times. In the end, Rush played a factor by sending Rollins out of the ring and Lashley capitalized for the win. It’s a bit of a cheap ending that was fitting for a new heel champion.

Post match, Lashley celebrated the win with Rush. It is Lashley’s first time as Intercontinental Champion.

Alexa Bliss is up next with A Moment of Bliss. Graves asked why Renee was quiet and she didn’t say anything about her husband losing.

There was a shot of Alexa Bliss’ dressing room and a guy showed up with her latte. The guy knocked on the door of her room, but no answer. He went in the room to see that she had her hands covering her breasts with her top underneath her hands. She got mad at him for entering the room. He put the latte down on a table and left.

Analysis: A woman covering her breasts with her hands? The Attitude Era is back! Kidding. Really, I am.

A video aired about the movie Glass, which WWE has promoted all show long.

(Commercial)

A Moment of Bliss with Paul Heyman as the Guest

Alexa Bliss walked out onto the stage for her talk show called “A Moment of Bliss.” She announced that the Women’s Tag Team Champions will be crowned at Elimination Chamber next month when three teams from Raw and three teams from Smackdown will compete in the Elimination Chamber to determine the first champions. Bliss unveiled the new titles, which are white and they looked good.

Analysis: I think the Elimination Chamber is a good way to debut them. We still don’t know if they will be on both Raw and Smackdown or there will be separate titles. I guess that can be determined at a later date where if a Raw team wins then they can add new Tag Team Titles and vice versa.

Paul Heyman introduced himself and said it was an honor to be her guest. Heyman reminded us he was the advocate for Universal Champion Brock Lesnar. Heyman talked about the Fatal 4-Way match for later while going over the four wrestlers in the 4-Way match later in the show. Heyman talked about John Cena as the guy that Lesnar built Suplex City on. Heyman said they all should have their eyes on Drew McIntyre, who can be a future Universal Champion, but just not now. When Heyman wondered if it might be Baron Corbin, the Heavy Machinery tag team member Otis Dozovic wandered onto the stage. Otis did some funny mannerisms as his partner Tucker Knight tried to calm him down. Bliss said that is a Moment of Bliss, not a Moment of Otis. Referees and producer Adam Pearce showed up to take Otis to the back. The talk show ended there.

Analysis: There wasn’t much to the talk show after the Women’s Tag Team Titles announcement. I’d rather see Otis in tag team action instead of a segment like that, but it’s a way to show off his quirky character.

Ring announcer Mike Rome announced that it was time for the Fatal 4-Way main event and that led to a break.

(Commercial)

This week on Smackdown: The Miz hosts a birthday party for Shane McMahon.

The entrances took place for the main event: Finn Balor was up first followed by Baron Corbin, Drew McIntyre and John Cena was up last.

Fatal 4-Way: Finn Balor vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Baron Corbin vs. John Cena

The winner faces Brock Lesnar at Royal Rumble for the Universal Championship. No countouts or disqualifications in a 4-Way match.

Cena and McIntyre went brawling out of the ring. Balor went up top against Corbin right away, but Corbin caught him and hit a Chokeslam backbreaker. Cena faced off with Corbin and McIntyre as the show went to break.

(Commercial)

The match continued with Corbin going shoulder first into the ring post. Balor hit a running dropkick on McIntyre outside the ring. Balor went for a running attack, but Corbin punched Balor off the apron. Cena jumped off the middle ropes with a DDT on Corbin for two as McIntyre broke up the pin. Cena hit two running shoulder tackles on McIntyre, plus a spinning slam. Cena connected with the Five Knuckle Shuffle fist drop. Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment on McIntyre for two as Corbin broke up the pin. Balor went back into the ring for a double team suplex with Cena on Corbin. Cena and Corbin set up for a double team superplex, which set up McIntyre to slam Cena and Balor down. McIntyre set up for a superplex on Corbin, but Corbin crotched him on the top rope to send McIntyre upside down in the Tree of Woe. McIntyre powered back up as he slammed Corbin down. Nice show of strength by McIntyre there.

(Commercial)

Balor went for an attack on the guys on the floor, but Corbin went back in the ring and hit End of Days on Balor. McIntyre broke up a pin attempt. McIntyre with a Glasgow Kiss headbutt on McIntyre. Cena went up top and went for the leg drop, but McIntyre countered to a Powerbomb. It’s crazy that 41-year-old movie star Cena is still doing that spot and taking that bump, so give him credit for busting his ass out there. All four guys staggered to their feet leading to a slugfest. Cena and Balor cleared the ring, Balor boots to the face of Cena and Balor went up top, but Cena punched him to stop Balor’s momentum. Cena went to the middle ropes going for the Attitude Adjustment, you could see Cena talked to Balor about what spot was next and Cena hit the AA off the middle rope. Corbin snuck back into the ring, pushed Cena out of the ring and covered Balor for a two count with Balor kicking out. Corbin grabbed a chair and hit McIntyre in the ribs with it. It took 17 minutes for somebody to grab a chair. Corbin stood over Balor with the chair and hit Balor in the back with the chair two times leading to a two count from Corbin as Cena broke up the pin. Corbin punched Cena in the ribs. Cena countered Corbin’s attack with the Attitude Adjustment. McIntyre with a Claymore Kick on Cena. Balor with a leaping DDT on McIntyre to send him out of ther ing. Balor went up top and hit a Coup de Grace double foot stomp on Cena for the pinfall win after 19 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Finn Balor

Analysis: ***3/4 Great match. The right guy went over in Balor and he also pinned the right guy by beating Cena, who did the right thing by putting Balor over like that. Kudos to Cena for that and whoever decided that was the finish because they got it right. The match was well booked will all four guys getting a chance to shine, there were several finishing moves and believable nearfalls, but it was Balor that found a way to get the job done. Balor wrestled for over 30 minutes on this show, yet he found a way to get the job done. That’s how you book a babyface with a lot of heart. The fans love Balor as much as ever and when he hit that Coup de Grace, the place went wild. Perfect finish and exactly the reaction that WWE wanted too.

John Cena did a post match promo to Finn Balor saying that earlier tonight, Balor proved himself. Cena noted that Vince McMahon said he didn’t believe in Balor, but Balor said that the people believe in him. Cena said that he believes in Balor. Cena told Balor to give Lesnar hell at the Royal Rumble. Cena raised Balor’s hand in the air and gave him a hug. Balor posed to end the show.

Analysis: That was great too. Cena verbally putting over Balor is huge for him. It’s the definite of giving a guy “the rub” as they say in wrestling. Cole was quick to call Cena the greatest of all time, so that puts it in the mind of the fans that the greatest guy of all time (in WWE’s eyes) is saying Balor is ready for Lesnar.

Do I think Balor will beat Lesnar for the Universal Title at Royal Rumble? Absolutely not. I think it will be a competitive match where Balor falls short, but it will be fun to watch. I think Lesnar loses the title to Seth Rollins at WrestleMania, which is fine with me.

 

Three Stars of the Show

  1. Finn Balor
  2. John Cena
  3. Seth Rollins

 

The Scoreboard

7.5 out of 10

Last week: 5.5

2019 Average: 6.5

Last 5 Weeks: 5.5, 6.5, 5.5, 5.5, 5, 4.5

2019 High: 7.5 (January 14)

2019 Low: 5.5 (January 7)

 

Final Thoughts

I give this week’s Raw a 7.5 out of 10.

That was a pretty good Raw with some quality in-ring action all night long. The last hour was awesome because the main event went 20 minutes with a lot on the line as Finn Balor got a big win and then the IC Title match at the top of the third hour was really good too. That was 35 minutes for two matches in that last hour and both matches were awesome. We don’t get to see that very often on Raw, so I’m glad that WWE gave us that this week.

I wasn’t tired watching this show at all. There were some promos, but they weren’t that long and everything seemed to make sense. The storyline explanation to take Strowman out of the Rumble match was good enough without having Vince take a bump. It sucks for Braun, but it ended up being a great story by the end of the night with Finn Balor standing tall.

This was the kind of show that Raw can be if they focus on the in-ring action more and cut out some of the goofy shit they tend to do. I liked this Raw a lot.

Here’s the lineup for the Royal Rumble on January 27 from Chase Field in Phoenix.

30 Man Royal Rumble Match (John Cena, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Samoa Joe, Drew McIntyre, Kofi Kingston, Big E, Xavier Woods, Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin, Elias, Jinder Mahal, Jeff Hardy, Bobby Lashley, Andrade “Cien” Almas, Rey Mysterio, Mustafa Ali, R-Truth at #30)

30 Woman Royal Rumble Match (Natalya, Naomi, Bayley, Ember Moon, Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan, Alicia Fox, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Zelina Vega, Mickie James, Carmella at #30)

WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Finn Balor

WWE Championship: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles

Raw Women’s Championship: Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Sasha Banks

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Asuka (c) vs. Becky Lynch

Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Bar – Sheamus and Cesaro (c) vs. The Miz and Shane McMahon

WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Kalisto vs. Hideo Itami

You can contact me using any of the methods below. See ya next time for the Smackdown review. Go Los Angeles Rams, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs. They’re all good! Thanks for reading.

John Canton

Email: mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter: @johnreport

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