Happy WWE Royal Rumble week, my friends. Excitement is in the air because it is one of the most anticipated WWE PPV’s of the year. To get us all set for the Royal Rumble, please check out my breakdowns of the two Royal Rumble matches in articles I wrote exclusively for The Comeback in the past few days. Here’s my column the men’s Rumble match with my thoughts on the winner, the contenders, pretenders and possible surprise. Earlier on Monday, I also put the spotlight on the women’s Rumble match with this column where I noted there were only two choices for the winner and it might be a bit easier to guess on the surprises in the match based on what happened last year. We will have an in-depth Royal Rumble preview on Friday as well.

Prior to Raw going on the air, WWE announced that John Cena is dealing with an ankle injury and is now questionable for Sunday’s Royal Rumble. It could be a work since it’s WWE, but he was limping around a bit, so it might be legit. There were reports that Cena was starting to film a new movie on January 20 (yesterday), so that could be the reason too. Frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t get more ankle injuries in his wrestling career by wearing sneakers. That’s why people wear wrestling boots. Anyway, Cena may be out of the Rumble whether it’s a work or legit. UPDATE: Cena’s injury is just a storyline and he’s filming a movie in Vancouver starting this week.

In other news, my Los Angeles Rams are going back to the Super Bowl after 17 f’n years. OH HELL YEAH! (Insert Stone Cold drinking GIF here!) Let’s just say I’m still in a celebratory mood as a 30+ year Rams fan (from the Dickerson days) that watched this team lose for most of my life. Yes, New Orleans Saints fans, I know you got screwed by the blown pass interference call. I don’t have the power to change it. I’m glad the Rams prevailed and am very excited about the Super Bowl in less than two weeks. Beat those heel Patriots! I’ll save a prediction for another time, but of course I’m picking my team. Go Rams.

Live Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, this is the Raw Deal for episode #1338 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.

Raw began with a video about Martin Luther King Jr. since this show is on MLK Jr. Day. They do this every year, which is cool because Vince McMahon has called him a hero of his. They played clips of his famous speeches. The video lasted for about four minutes. They even did a ten bell salute for MLK. The crowd cheered to honor him when the video ended.

Let’s Hear From Brock Lesnar…or more likely Paul Heyman

Brock Lesnar, the Universal Champion, made his entrance in a Suplex City shirt and he had Paul Heyman by his side. Lesnar defends the Universal Title against Finn Balor this Sunday at the Royal Rumble. They were greeted with boos as they entered the ring.

Heyman did the usual introduction for Lesnar and himself. Heyman noted that last week on Raw, Finn Balor (crowd cheered) pinned John Cena while adding there was no fluke and no controversy. Heyman said that Balor stepped up and seized the moment so much so that Cena, the second greatest of all time (to Lesnar), said he believes in Balor. Heyman said that Cena should believe in Balor, so much so that the WWE Universe has stood up in unison that they believe in Finn Balor. Heyman added that he believes in Finn Balor too. Heyman noted that Lesnar was training to fight Braun Strowman while adding that he now has to defend the title against an opponent that he has not trained for and has a completely different style from Strowman. Heyman said that’s why Balor believes he can be the next Universal Champion.

Heyman said that Balor may have the voice that matters, but Heyman is the voice that martyrs. Heyman added that this Sunday, Lesnar will turn Balor into a martyr and sacrifice for the sin of making us believe that Balor can conquer the conqueror. Heyman said that Balor will be sacrificed for the sin of believing that he can slay the beast Lesnar. Heyman delivered the spoiler alert for Royal Rumble: Lesnar puts to bed the ridiculous notion that Balor even belongs in the ring with Lesnar. Heyman said it will be Balor on his back looking back, saying “Oh my God I believe in Brock Lesnar!”

Vince McMahon’s music started up. The WWE Chairman and CEO Vinny Mac made his way down to the ring with the fans cheering him.

Vince said that Heyman was going a little soft and he was being kind. Vince said that Finn Balor vs. Brock Lesnar, the only way anyone can believe in this is if they believe in the story of David and Goliath. Vince told his own version the story about David challenging Goliath, which led to Goliath beating the holy hell out of David until he was reincarnated as Finn Balor. Vince said no doubt Balor has fans, which drew cheers and said they were in “hillbilly land.” Vince knows how to work a crowd. They booed. Vince said if you think that Balor can beat Brock then you believe in fairy tales.

Braun Strowman was next. Strowman stood on the apron while Vince asked him what he was doing out there. Lesnar was in the ring smirking at Strowman. Lesnar moved back, so Strowman entered the ring. Strowman said that last Monday was the worst night of his life because of Baron Corbin costing him $100,000 and cost him his Universal Title match at the Royal Rumble. Strowman said that last Monday was the luckiest night of Lesnar’s life. Strowman said that if Lesnar still has the Universal Champion after Sunday, he’ll rip Lesnar apart like another one of Vince’s limousines. Vince said that Strowman is lucky to be employed.

Finn Balor was up next for this interruption fest. It took him 15 minutes to get out there. He was dressed to compete in his ring gear as the crowd cheered and posed with him for his entrance.

Balor entered the ring saying this was the same old Monday Night Raw. Balor said Braun was doing Braun things, meanwhile he was the guy that beat three other guys last week including the “greatest of all time John Cena” and Heyman noted that Cena was second greatest after Lesnar. Balor said he earned the opportunity to face Brock. Balor said that he knows Vince didn’t believe he could beat Brock, Vince said he didn’t believe in fairytales, but Balor said he believes and the Balor Club (his fans) believe. Balor said that he’s going to beat Lesnar. Strowman said he didn’t know if Balor could beat Lesnar, but he hopes he does. Balor told Strowman he’s going to do something he’s never done, beat Brock Lesnar. Lesnar and Heyman left the ring.

Balor told Vince that David stood in the shadow of a giant and they laughed in his face. They didn’t know who David was or who he was made of and Goliath fell face down in the dirt. Balor noted that no one was laughing then.

Vince said he had an idea. He said that Lesnar should have a seat at ringside with Heyman and suggested a match between Balor and Strowman. Vince said it will be very interesting. The show went to break at 24 minutes after the top of the hour.

Analysis: It was a longer than usual opening segment that went about 20 minutes after the video tribute aired. Heyman’s promo went a little too long, but they like to give him time to make his point. Vince showed up to get some crowd support for Balor to say he didn’t believe Finn should win. Strowman was really just there to be in the ring to set up the match against Balor. I thought Balor defended himself well while sucking up to the fans the right way by noting that they believe in him even if Vince doesn’t believe in him. Vince ripping on the crowd as “hillbillies” pissed them off and it was a reminder of how Vince was always great as a heel. I think they could have shaved five minutes off of this segment because it felt too long. Raw is three hours, though, so I doubt they care about time for the first segment.

(Commercial)

The match started during a break. Lesnar and Heyman watched from ringside. This is Strowman’s first match in about two months after elbow surgery.

Braun Strowman vs. Finn Balor

They started during a break. Balor hit a dropkick and a kick to the head. Strowman came back with a hard punch to the chest of Balor and then he kicked Balor out of the ring. Strowman ran over Balor with a running body attack. Back in the ring, Strowman hit a running splash against the turnbuckle for a two count. Strowman with a headbutt that sent Balor out of the ring. Strowman went for a running attack, but Balor dropped him with a Slingblade neckbreaker. Back in the ring, Balor hit Strowman with forearms followed by a sleeper hold. When Strowman broke free, Balor elbowed him repeatedly and a double foot stomp to the chest. Balor went up top near where Lesnar was, he stared, which allowed Strowman to get up and shove Balor into Lesnar. Lesnar hit Balor with a belly to belly suplex on the floor. The referee checked on Balor. That should be a DQ, but obviously, they have more to do. Lesnar went on the apron, Balor got back up, tripped him up and dropkicked Lesnar into the steel ring post. Balor hit a somersault dive over the top to take out Lesnar on the floor. Balor hit a Slingblade to Strowman and a dropkick on Lesnar on the floor. Balor with a running dropkick that sent Lesnar into the barricade. Strowman tossed Balor back into the ring, Strowman charged, Balor moved and Strowman hit the ring post with his shoulder. Balor with a dropkick into the turnbuckle. Balor up top and he went for a Coup de Grace double foot stomp. Balor connected with it, but Lesnar went into the ring and hit the F5. That led to the DQ finish after about eight minutes.

Winner by disqualification: Finn Balor

Analysis: **3/4 It was an entertaining match for the time given with a predictable ending. Normally that suplex by Brock on Finn on the floor would be a DQ, but they kept going because they wanted to do the Lesnar interference finish. I didn’t expect either guy to get pinned in that match and with Lesnar at ringside, the attack on Balor made a lot of sense. Strowman did well in terms of selling Balor’s offense. Lesnar also sold well. Balor really had the crowd behind him and he’s performing at a high level. I thought it was well booked. The DQ finish didn’t bother me because I expected it as soon as the match started.

The announcers plugged what was coming up. Lesnar left standing tall with Heyman by his side.

(Commercial)

The announce team of Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Renee Young were shown on camera for the first time. They shilled WWE Network for us.

Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush Want to Celebrate

Bobby Lashley, the new Intercontinental Champion, and Lio Rush entered for a promo. Lashley was in his wrestling gear. Rush said that Lashley isn’t going to do an open challenge. Rush said that Lashley is a professional fighter and he fights for money. Lashley stood on a small podium in the center of the ring while a spotlight was on Lashley in the ring. Rush put the title around Lashley’s waist while Lashley did some posing.

Apollo Crews showed up in his wrestling gear looking ready for a match. Crews said that these people aren’t there to see Lashley posed. Crews said he knows it won’t be a championship match, but maybe they can have a match. Rush said they can have a pose off with Crews saying he didn’t know how to pose. Rush said based on his track record, Crews doesn’t know how to be a champion either.

Lashley stood on the podium for his posing routine as the fans booed him. Crews went onto the podium to do some dance moves leading to some posing while the crowd cheered him. Crews did some traditional posing. Lashley did some more posing. I’m sure Vince McMahon thinks this is the greatest thing ever. When Crews did more posing, Lashley tried to go after him, so Crews tossed Lashley out of the ring. Crews tossed Rush onto Lashley on the floor to end this segment, which likely means a match.

Analysis: That was boring, but it was a way to show off some personality for Apollo, which is needed. Giving Apollo a chance to be on TV more is a positive thing because he’s got a lot of potential. I have never wanted to watch a pose off in my life. I’m sure Vince McMahon loved it, so that’s all that matters to him.

This week on Smackdown: Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles will have a face to face confrontation with Vince McMahon moderating their meeting.

(Commercial)

Bobby Lashley (w/Lio Rush) vs. Apollo Crews

This is not for Lashley’s IC Title.

Crews was in control early with a dropkick followed by a clothesline. Graves was doing the over the top heel schtick saying Lashley wasn’t ready for a match even though he’s got his regular ring gear on. Crews got a rollup for two. Crews picked up Lashley for a Gorilla Press Slam, but then he collapsed and dropped Lashley to sell a back injury. Crews went for it again and dropped Lashley properly. Crews with a jumping kick to the head. Rush on the apron, Crews brought him in the ring, went for a press slam and Lashley hit a Spear on Crews for the pinfall win after about three minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Bobby Lashley

Analysis: *1/4 That was quicker than I thought it would go. I’m not sure if Crews messed up the press slam spot or if it was supposed to go that way to sell a back injury. It seemed like it was a sell of the injury. No disqualification for Rush in the ring because he didn’t attack Crews, so Lashley capitalized with a Spear for the win.

Seth Rollins made his entrance. He had a long staredown with Lashley on his way down to the ring while Rush smiled at Rollins. Rollins has a match with Drew McIntyre at the top of hour two.

(Commercial)

There was a commercial for Total Bellas. It looked awful. The Bellas are on the Tonight Show this week. I’m busy that day.

Seth Rollins was in the ring talking about how we celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Rollins said that one quote stuck with him while talking about challenges and controversy. Rollins said that a few months back, he had two titles in his hand, two brothers by his side and now he’s got two titles and a broken family. Rollins said that we have to focus on what we do have, so that’s why he’s going to focus on his first love and his last love…this…all of us. He said that as long as he’s in this ring, he’s got this microphone in his hand and this fire in his eyes he can tell us that he’s going to win the Royal Rumble match this Sunday. Rollins said that it’s a long shot, but he doesn’t give a damn. Rollins noted that he’s not as big as Drew McIntyre or Bobby Lashley, but he’s a kid from a midwestern town and his folks did all they could to put food on the table and put a roof on his hand. He said he could be working in a factory or driving a truck, but the only reason he’s not doing that is because of what’s in his heart. He said call it heart, passion, love, determination and he said that it is ingrained in his soul. Rollins said that it was in every fiber of his being. Rollins said that when the dust settles at the Royal Rumble, there will be one man left standing, one man going to WrestleMania and that man is the man…Seth Freakin’ Rollins.

Drew McIntyre made his entrance to reply to Rollins while noting that Rollins has a 0% chance of winning the Rumble. McIntyre said that it’s his style of flying around the ring and inevitably he’ll be eliminated. McIntyre said that if you had that heart and put it into the body of a 6’5” terminator, you would get Drew McIntyre. Drew said he hopes and prays that they are in the ring together at the end of the Royal Rumble because he wants Rollins to hear the ring announcer say that the Rumble winner is Drew McIntyre. That match is next.

Analysis: Good promos from both guys. Rollins is doing the traditional babyface promo every week talking about his heart, his passion and his desire to be the best. That’s something the fans like to hear, so it’s nice to see him getting the chance to do that. It will only help his popularity. McIntyre did well, as usual, showing how ready he is to be a top guy. I don’t mind hearing promos from top contenders in the Rumble match. More people should get to do promos about the Rumble match too.

(Commercial)

Seth Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre

The match started during the break. When they came back, Rollins hit a suicide dive on the floor and then a top rope clothesline for a two count. Rollins with a back body drop that sent McIntyre over the top to the floor. Rollins stood on the ring post, jumped off, McIntyre moved and Rollins went throat first into the barricade in a Randy Savage tribute bump. Cole mentioned the Cena ankle injury and credited McIntyre for it. McIntyre slapped on an armbar. Rollins with a jawbreaker, but Drew came back with an elbow to the face for two. McIntyre whipped Rollins into the turnbuckle with Rollins doing an upside-down bump. McIntyre with a belly to belly suplex across the ring. When Rollins tried a move by the ropes, McIntyre kicked him out of the ring. McIntyre picked up Rollins and gave him a reverse Alabama Slam where he slammed Rollins face/stomach first to the floor. That’s an impressive move and a painful looking bump.

(Commercial)

The dudes with black hair and beards continued their match with Rollins hit a blockbuster neckbreaker off the middle rope for a two count. Rollins got a rollup for two. McIntyre wanted a Powerbomb, but Rollins hit a hurricanrana for a two count. Rollins hit a Falcon Arrow slam for a two count. McIntyre avoided The Stomp from Rollins, who kneed McIntyre into the turnbuckle. Rollins set up Drew on the turnbuckle for the Tree of Woe. That led to Rollins going to the top, but McIntyre came back to toss Rollins off the top, which is a spot he does all the time. Rollins missed a running attack, he hit the turnbuckle, McIntyre wanted a Claymore Kick, but Rollins beat him to the punch with a superkick for two. The fans chanted “this is awesome” for them. They got into a slugfest in the middle of the ring with McIntyre hitting the Glasgow Kiss headbutt to Rollins. You can see Drew getting his hand in there, but it still sounds good. McIntyre picked up Rollins and hit a White Noise slam like Sheamus for a two count. McIntyre followed up with a sitout Powerbomb for a two count. McIntyre went for a move, but Rollins got the dreaded ROLLUP OF DEATH~! for the pinfall win after 16 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Seth Rollins

Analysis: ***1/4 Great match as usual from these guys. It seems like I review it once a month, which is okay with me. It’s not a complaint, but more of an observation. The second half of the match was a lot of fun with some believable nearfalls for both guys. I didn’t know who was going to lose because WWE wants to protect both of them, so Rollins going over with a ROLLUP OF DEATH~! instead of a finisher, it comes across as more of a fluky win instead of a dominant victory with a finisher ending.

Rollins celebrated the win while McIntyre was pissed off in the ring. The announcers talked about Rollins building momentum.

Analysis: Does this mean Rollins isn’t a favorite at the Rumble? He is still going to be my pick. WWE is not using the “win on TV, lose on PPV” theory with thier booking as much as they used to. There are more instances of people winning on TV and then winning on PPV. Trust me, I pay attention to this stuff, but not enough to have stats for you.

There was a shot of The Revival backstage talking to Vince McMahon. The Revival were complaining about getting screwed out of recent matches. They asked Vince for a Raw Tag Team Title match. Curt Hawkins showed up, Vince told him not to ask for a match because he’s lost too many and Vince suggested that Curt is the referee for the match. Curt said that he has seen a lot of three counts. Vince left as The Revival sucked up to Curt with Dawson saying he has lost weight.

Analysis: That was a nice line by Hawkins saying that he has seen a lot of three counts. There are stories about The Revival asking for a release from WWE, but WWE not granting them, so it might lead to more screen time and a push for The Revival. I am all for that because they’re a good team.

(Commercial)

Dean Ambrose did a promo to while standing by a cage. Ambrose complained about losing the IC Title, but said he blames Rollins and Lashley (he called him “Bend Over Bobby”) for it, so he’s going after them in the Royal Rumble. Ambrose said last year wasn’t great for him, but he’s going to win the Royal Rumble. Ambrose said that on Sunday, justice will be served.

Jinder Mahal, Sunil Singh and Samir Singh vs. Kalisto, Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik

All six guys were in the ring as the match began. Mahal hit a body slam on Dorado. Sunil Singh tagged in and he tossed Kalisto out of the ring. Mahal back in with a headlock and then Sunil tagged in. Graves claimed this team were the biggest stars in all of India. Heels lie. Kalisto hit a spin kick on Sunil that didn’t connect, but Sunil sold it anyway. Metalik tagged in to no reaction with dropkicks for everybody followed by a backbreaker for two and that was enough for the pinfall win after three minutes.

Winners by pinfall: Kalisto, Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik

Analysis: * Boring match with a weak finish. Lucha House Party are not getting over with the crowd. They are exciting wrestlers with great moves, but this match ended with just a backbreaker. Perhaps somebody was late on the save, but that was likely the planned finish. They should end it on something more impactful than that.

There was a video package about EC3 coming to the main roster.

EC3 was shown backstage looking in a mirror while posing. Dana Brooke showed up to him saying he looked great and asked him about bodybuilding. Elias was shown walking in the background. Elias is up next.

Analysis: I’m not sure if EC3’s “debut” will be in the Royal Rumble match, but that would be a good place for it. I don’t think Brooke talking to EC3 will lead to them as a pairing although it would give her something to do. It just seems like EC3 will be more of a solo act preferably as an egotistical heel. Hopefully he does more than Lex Luger’s narcissist gimmick from 1993.

(Commercial)

Elias did his in-ring promo with his catchphrases. Before he could get to his song, Baron Corbin showed up for the interruption.

Corbin is still wearing the TGI Fridays gear when he was trying to run Raw. The fans booed Corbin, who said that last week Elias almost got him killed when Strowman chased after Corbin. The fans were booing Corbin a lot, so he asked the fans what’s wrong with them and he called them hillbillies while saying Vince was right. Corbin said he’s going to put Elias in his place. Elias said that Corbin can’t just do stuff like that, so Elias is going to sing a song right now. Elias told “Lance” to cut Corbin’s microphone, so Corbin’s microphone was cut off.

Elias did a song about Baron interrupting his performance while wondering if it’s ever going to end while asking if we need to see him against Baron again. Elias said that Corbin doesn’t stand a chance at the Corbin while telling him to shut his mouth. Elias mentioned that nobody cares about Corbin while asking why he wears that stupid vest while noting that Corbin got fired. That was a good line. Fans cheered. Corbin went into the ring, Elias swung the guitar and Corbin left. Cole yelled that we have Elias vs. Corbin next.

Analysis: They had Elias say that Corbin can’t just make a match, yet there’s Cole saying that match is next. I guess the idea is that Elias told Corbin he can’t interrupt his singing, so here comes the match after the break. The best line from Elias was the one about Corbin still wearing the vest. I assume Corbin still wears the vest because somebody in WWE (Vince or somebody else) likely doesn’t like Corbin’s look in his old gear, so they want to keep his upper body covered.

(Commercial)

Elias vs. Baron Corbin

They battled on the apron with Corbin kicking Elias into the steel ring post. Corbin shoved Elias into the ring post. The fans chanted “you got fired” at Corbin, who was sent out of the ring and then slid back in for his usual spot leading to a clothesline. Elias with a shoulder tackle, knee to the jaw and a swinging neckbreaker for two. Corbin with a palm thrust to the throat (or maybe a punch) that the ref didn’t see because he was holding Elias back and then the End of Days slam for the pinfall win. It went about three minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Baron Corbin

Analysis: *1/4 A quick match to put over Corbin going into the Royal Rumble. Elias did not look like much of a star in this match. I’m surprised it was so short. Elias might be in the doghouse or it’s about trying to elevate Corbin.

Alexa Bliss is up next to host “A Moment of Bliss” talk show.

(Commercial)

A Moment of Bliss with Alexa Bliss

Alexa Bliss made her entrance looking nice in black. She opted for the pants this week instead of the skirt look.

Bliss noted that this Sunday at the Royal Rumble is the women’s Royal Rumble match with Bliss noting the winner can challenge the Raw or Smackdown Women’s Champion at WrestleMania.

A graphic was shown of the women’s Royal Rumble match participants while Bliss said the names of the women. Bliss introduced her guest that used to be her best friend, then her enemy and she’s the odds on favorite for the Rumble match…Nia Jax.

When Bliss asked Jax a question, Ember Moon showed up for the interruption. Bliss complained about Moon showing up. Moon said that she is tired of waiting for an invitation that was never going to come. Moon said that this Sunday, she is going to win the Royal Rumble.

Alicia Fox showed up to say that she is the captain of this division and said that she is setting course on the road to WrestleMania.

Mickie James, my favorite woman in the match, showed up to say that she has stolen the show at WrestleMania before and she is going to do it again. Cole called James the “former friend” of James, which was pretty weird since there was never a breakup or anything like that. The Riott Squad showed up along with Dana Brooke, Tamina and Nikki Cross.

Bliss stood on her chair complaining that this was her show. Bliss complained about them ruining her reputation as a legitimate talk show host. Bliss told them to calm down. Jax shoved Moon and that led to a brawl by the women on the stage.

The women brawled on the stage with referees showing up to break it up. The women spilled into the backstage area with cameras showing them. They continued to fight as the camera went back to the women backstage.

Alexa Bliss was back on the stage to announce that she is competing in the Royal Rumble match.

Lacey Evans showed up to say that they were nasty, classless little girls. Lacey said that luckily for the WWE Universe, the winner of the Royal Rumble match will not be a sawed off girly runt (like Bliss). Evans said that the winner of the Royal Rumble match will be her – a classy, sophisticated lady Lacey Evans.

Analysis: That was a bit of a mess, but it was a way to get a bunch of the women on the show. I wish Mickie James had a bigger role on TV going into the Rumble because she has a lot more credibility than the others. I’m glad that Bliss is returning to the ring after about three months on the shelf due to concussion issues. In my column about the women’s Rumble, I mentioned that I expected her back. I also thought that Lacey Evans would be in the match, so I’m looking forward to what she will do in there.

The Heavy Machinery duo were shown walking backstage because they are up next.

(Commercial)

Titus O’Neil was shown backstage in a suit doing a promo about being in the Royal Rumble match. A guy walked into the screen and O’Neil got mad about being disrespected. The announcers made fun of O’Neil’s slip at the Greatest Royal Rumble.

Analysis: I think we can pencil in a scripted fall for O’Neil at the Royal Rumble where the announcers will laugh about it a lot. O’Neil getting mad at the guy interrupting him could set up O’Neil turning heel because he feels disrespected. At least it would give him something new, but maybe WWE wants to keep him as a face since he does a lot of charity work.

Heavy Machinery (Tucker Knight and Otis Dozovic) vs. The Ascension (Konnor and Viktor)

The announcers put over the credentials of the Heavy Machinery guys. Knight with a lateral press on Viktor. Dozovic and Knight with a running double knee on Viktor and running shoulder tackle on Konnor. Dozovic did a one-foot dance into an elbow drop. Dozovic splashed Viktor against the turnbuckle. Dozovic hit his version of The Worm called The Caterpillar leading to an elbow an elbow drop. Knight knocked Konnor off the apron. Knight ran into the back of Dozovic with a front slam called The Compactor and Knight covered Viktor for the worm. It went about three minutes.

Winners by pinfall: Heavy Machinery (Tucker Knight and Otis Dozovic)

Analysis: * It was a decent match with the crowd responding well to Heavy Machinery as a new face duo. Dozovic doing The Caterpillar spot drew a big pop, so that’s going to work well for them. I like The Compactor as a finish. Whether they get a big push as a team on Raw, I don’t know, but it was fine for a debut.

The Tag Team Title match is up next.

(Commercial)

There was a WWE 24 commercial about WrestleMania 34 last year. They showed some clips of some wrestlers backstage. It’s a cool documentary they do every year and is worth checking out. It debuts after the Royal Rumble this Sunday on WWE Network. Watch it on demand after that.

The Revival duo made their entrance for their title match opportunity with Curt Hawkins as the referee. Cole noted that The Revival whined to Vince McMahon about getting a match, which is likely a bit of a nod to what happened in reality last week when The Revival asked for their release and Vince didn’t give it to them. The Raw Tag Team Champions of Bobby Roode and Chad Gable made their glorious entrance.

Raw Tag Team Championships: Bobby Roode and Chad Gable vs. The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder)

Curt Hawkins is the referee of the match.

Wilder did a hair pull to take down Gable when Hawkins was making Roode stay in the corner. Dawson hit Gable with a forearm to the chest. Running uppercut by Dawson sent Gable out of the ring. Revival sent Roode to the opposite corner, but Gable came back with a top rope clothesline. T-Bone suplexes by Gable and Roode on both Revival guys. Roode with a back body drop that sent Gable over the top onto Wilder on the floor. Dawson decked Gable with a clothesline as the heels took control.

(Commercial)

The heels were in control with Wilder going for a slam, but Gable broke free and Roode tagged in. Roode with a back body drop on Wilder and a side slam on Dawson. Roode with a shoulder tackle to Wilder, clothesline on Dawson and Roode hit a spinebuster on Wilder. With Wilder on the apron, Roode wanted a suplex, Wilder landed on top and Dawson held the leg of Roode and Hawkins saw it. Dawson with a forearm to Roode, Wilder with a rollup with his feet on the ropes and Hawkins saw that, so he stopped the count. Gable was the legal man with a cross body block on Dawson that got a two count for Dawson because Hawkins saw the hand on the tights. Hawkins has caught Revival cheating three times. Dawson shoved Gable. Gable with a rollup on Dawson after Wilder tried to hold Dawson’s hands and Gable rolled up Dawson for the pinfall win after nine minutes.

Winners by pinfall: Bobby Roode and Chad Gable

Analysis: **1/4 The match was okay although it was not at the level of what these teams could do if they had a long match. It is frustrating to see how The Revival has been booked with controversial finishes every week, but at least there was a storyline purpose with it. Hawkins did his job well as the referee that spotted the cheating. The rollup finish was not exactly like the ROLLUP OF DEATH~!, but it was close to that.

After the match, The Revival complained to Hawkins about what happened. They replayed the three spots where Hawkins stopped The Revival from cheating three times. When Hawkins tried to leave, Wilder and Dawson attacked Hawkins with punches. Zack Ryder made the save for his former tag team partner and his best friend Curt Hawkins. That drew cheers from the crowd. Ryder attacked the heels with punches and he cleared them from the ring. Ryder helped Hawkins to his feet as the fans cheered.

Analysis: That was nice to see as a post match angle. Raw needs more tag teams, so putting Ryder and Hawkins back together is a smart move that needed to be done months ago. They are best friends that are solid in-ring performers. They also have a podcast together about action figures. I don’t listen to it because it’s not something I am interested in, but I know a lot of people that like it. They can also build to Ryder and Hawkins actually having success as a team, so Hawkins can end the losing streak gimmick. I wish this team well.

Ronda Rousey was interviewed backstage by Charly Caruso. Rousey said she didn’t owe Sasha Banks an apology. She noted that Banks insulted Rousey after Rousey was the one that challenged her. The promo had some weird dialogue about Banks cutting her hair and Ronda washing her feet with it? Huh? Weird. Rousey complained about Banks being so high on her so hype instead of being hungry. Rousey said that she’s the boss’ boss, the HBIC (Head Bitch in Charge) and the Raw Women’s Champion.

Analysis: Some of the dialogue was awkward. That happens sometimes with Ronda. Give her some dialogue that she is more comfortable with. That’s a problem with overscripting everything on this show.

Ronda Rousey made her entrance for the main event with the crowd giving her a big ovation. Rousey defends the Raw Women’s Title against Sasha Banks this Sunday at the Royal Rumble. Tag match after the break.

A commercial aired for NXT Takeover Phoenix on Saturday. It’s going to be an awesome show. I will review it either live on Saturday or on Sunday morning.

(Commercial)

The entrances of the other women took place for the main event. Natalya tried to calm down Ronda Rousey in her corner. Sasha Banks and Bayley were up next.

Sasha Banks did a promo asking who Ronda thinks she is. Banks bragged about her performance in the Royal Rumble while Banks noted that Rousey didn’t give her anything and Banks said she earned it when she beat Jax by making her tap out. Banks said she’ll make Rousey tap out at the Royal Rumble. Natalya calmed Rousey down.

Ronda Rousey and Natalya vs. The Boss ‘N Hug Connection (Sasha Banks and Bayley)

The bell rang at 10:48pmET to start the match, so they only have 12 minutes if they go right to the top of the hour. Banks knocked Rousey off the apron with a punch. Bayley and Banks hit a double team suplex on Natalya. Bayley with a forearm on Natalya and Banks with a kick. Rousey had enough, so she went into the ring, knocked Bayley did and did an arm wringer takedown on Banks. Bayley and Banks left the ring, Rousey trash talked Banks and that led to a break.

(Commercial)

The match returned with Natalya in control of Banks, Rousey tagged in and they did the Hart Attack double team clothesline with Rousey doing the clothesline. Natalya tagged back in, Bayley sent Natalya to the turnbuckle and Banks hit a double knee attack on Natalya. Bayley with a hurricanrana on Natalya out of the corner and Banks hit a meteora double knee attack on Natalya. Natalya had Banks on her shoulders, Rousey tagged in and Banks managed to get out of a Rousey hold leading to Banks slapping on the Bank Statement submission. Natalya saved Rousey from that predicament. Rousey kicked Banks down, but Banks kicked her down. Banks with a Backstabber on Rousey, Bayley wanted her belly to belly, but Rousey took her down with a hiptoss takeover. Rousey kneed Bayley in the chest followed by a kick into the turnbuckle. Rousey punched Bayley reportedly. Bayley caught Rousey by the foot and sent her to the turnbuckle. Banks up top with a double axe to the arm on Rousey. Banks with a takedown and she grabbed the arm of Banks, but Banks rolled to the ropes. Rousey was forced to break. Banks kicked Rousey and Natalya tagged in. Natalya with a suplex on Banks and a step on the back followed by the dropkick. Natalya slapped on a Sharpshooter on Banks, but Bayley saved Banks. Bayley knocked Rousey off the apron and Natalya hit Bayley with a clothesline. Natalya lifted Banks up and it looked like Banks pants were pulled down, so the screen went black, Banks pulled the shorts up and slapped on the Bank Statement submission on Natalya. That led to Natalya tapping out. That ended the match after 12 minutes.

Winners by submission: The Boss ‘N Hug Connection (Sasha Banks and Bayley)

Analysis: **1/2 The match was okay with Banks showing a lot of intensity, which is what she needed to do because this was all about building to her match with Rousey on Sunday. I believe it’s the first time Rousey lost a match although she was not pinned or submitted obviously. It’s not like WWE pushes the undefeated thing anyway. Bayley and Natalya did a good job in their supporting roles. Banks beating Natalya or Rousey beating Bayley were the finishes that made the most sense, so they went with the first choice. Rousey was barely in the ring, but when she was in there, she looked dominant for most of it. Rousey is always protected out there. Banks was the best performer in the match.

After the match, Rousey and Banks got in eachother’s faces as they argued and their partners held them back while the referee tried to keep them apart as well. That’s how Raw ended right at 11pmET.

Analysis: Am I more interested in the Royal Rumble match between Banks and Rousey after this match and post match argument? Yes, so I think it was effective in that regard.

The “wardrobe malfunction” by Banks was unfortunate. I’m sure it’ll be all over the internet for people that want to see it. I’m not going to post it, but I feel bad for her that it happened. It was a slip by Natalya when she grabbed Sasha’s tights, but give Sasha credit for getting through it as if nothing happened.

 

Three Stars of the Show

  1. Seth Rollins
  2. Drew McIntyre
  3. Finn Balor

 

The Scoreboard

5.5 out of 10

Last week: 7.5

2019 Average: 6.17

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, January 21)

 

Final Thoughts

I give this week’s Raw a 5.5 out of 10.

It was an average Raw this week and a step back from last week’s great show. The only great match was Rollins/McIntyre while the first 35 minutes were entertaining. Everything else was just average stuff while some of it was boring. The main event was okay as a match and an angle to get over Sasha’s aggressiveness.

I thought Finn Balor had a good showing in the opening segment and then in his match. Braun Strowman did okay too. Even Brock Lesnar was out there for way longer than usual.

It felt like this show was about taking some small steps to help the tag team division, so that’s an encouraging sign for the future. Build up some more tag teams. Let’s get more of a real division instead of just three or four teams.

In terms of building to the Royal Rumble PPV, it was okay. The build for Lesnar/Balor and Rousey/Banks was very good. The men’s Rumble match wasn’t pushed enough because only a few guys mentioned wanting to win it. We need more of that. It’s supposed to be a big prize, so treat it as such. Hopefully they can promote it better on Smackdown this week.

Here’s the lineup for the Royal Rumble this Sunday, January 27 from Chase Field in Phoenix. We’ll have an in-depth preview on Friday.

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, Rey Mysterio, Mustafa Ali, R-Truth at #30.

30 Woman Royal Rumble Match – Alexa Bliss, Natalya, Bayley, Ember Moon, Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan, Mickie James, Alicia Fox, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Zelina Vega, Charlotte Flair, Naomi, Tamina, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Dana Brooke, Lana, Nia Jax, Lacey Evans, Nikki Cross, Carmella (#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

United States Championship: Rusev (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

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

Personal Facebook and TJRWrestling on Facebook