Liam Hoofe Reviews last night’s WWE Raw…
Welcome to Monday Night Raw, or has it appears to be becoming once again, The Stephanie McMahon Show. This week’s episode began, like many before it, with Stephanie McMahon coming out to the ring to address the fall out of Survivor Series. She officially branded Raw as the A-Show before confirming that Kurt Angle is 1000% (not possible, Steph) staying on in his role as Raw GM. She was then joined by her husband Triple H, who was quickly followed by Kurt Angle.
Angle instantly got in Hunter’s face before Jason Jordan’s music hit to zero response and the former American Alpha member hit the ring to challenge Triple H to a match. Triple H took off his blazer and claimed that he was scared of no-one before Braun’s music hit and out comes the monster among men. Braun immediately squared up to Triple H, forcing The Game to promptly leave the ring, with Stephanie making a match between Braun and Jordan for later in the night.
While this segment was a logical progression from the stuff from last night, it’s just impossible not to let out a sigh whenever the show opens with Stephanie in the middle of the ring. We’re getting back to the days of The Authority, and quite frankly, nobody wants that. The end of Survivor Series was a massive mess and this just indicates to me that we should be bracing ourselves for another 4 months of these segments. The crowd, however, ate it up, and at least it made Braun look strong. Jordan just looks and sounds so out of place in the ring with these guys.
Samoa Joe and Finn Balor are out next and the two men give us another great match to kick the show off from a wrestling perspective. These two have a great chemistry in the ring and I’m more than happy to see this feud extended over the coming weeks. After a strong series of back and forths and some great in-ring sequences, Joe picked up the win when he choked Balor out with the Clutch. While it may seem overdone, I’m actually quite a fan of the choke-out finish, it keeps the move looking dangerous and it makes Joe look ruthless. The former NXT champion has looked awesome since he has returned from injury and I’m hoping he can be given a decent feud heading into Mania season. For now, though, I’m happy to see this little feud extended for the time being. (Match Rating: *** 1/2)
We get a little backstage segment involving Angle and Jordan, with Jordan telling Angle he’s not 100 % but he can beat Strowman and after the match, Strowman will be the one telling people horror stories about Jordan. This was as lame as it sounds. Jordan’s heel turn is being accelerated, it would seem, but quite frankly, I don’t care. Jordan bores me, and the company will still continue to push him if he’s face or heel and either way, he won’t be eliciting much of a response from me. I actually enjoy the majority of his in-ring stuff, but his promos are just painful to listen to- chucking him in with the likes of Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and Angle, three of the company’s best mic workers, just exposes that more.
Up next, Asuka Vs Dana Brooke. After weeks of misuse, Asuka finally got to look dominant at Survivor Series last night and it was nice to see the company continue that on Raw. The Empress of Tomorrow squashed Brooke in a little over two minutes, finishing her off with a big roundhouse kick to the head. This is the Asuka we all want to see, and the fact she is putting superstars away with different moves is a nice touch. (Match Rating: **)
Out next is The Miz for MizTV with Roman Reigns. The Miz begins the segment by addressing Baron Corbin in a very condescending manner. It was a nice touch from The Miz, one that instantly regained his heat after the defeat. Then The Miz calls Reigns out, only he doesn’t just get Reigns, he gets The Shield. The Miz and The Shield exchange jokes, with The Miz telling The Shield they owe him a thank-you for helping them rejoin. The crowd were eating this up, with The Miz picking up the majority of the chants, something which didn’t go unnoticed by everyone in the ring. The Miz is awesome and he dealt with this excellently. After that, Ambrose and Rollins talked about reclaiming the title belts, prompting Reigns to challenge The Miz to a match for his belt. Bo Dallas, bless his little cotton socks, told The Shield they would have to go through him first, while The Miz, rather comically, ran away from the ring. The Shield then proceeded to beat down Dallas. This was a great segment. Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel played their characters to perfection here and The Shield, and The Miz were super over, with a crowd who, it must be said, were red hot for the majority of the night. Reigns Vs The Miz is made for later in the night.
Dean Ambrose Vs Sheamus is up next, which means that with Survivor Series out of the way, we are back at the team-mate vs team-mate stage of a tag team title feud. The match itself was fine, with Ambrose and Sheamus both putting on some good work between the ropes. The booking of the match was a little chaotic at the end, though, with Rollins and Cesaro rather predictably getting themselves involved. Ambrose picked up the win with dirty deeds after a perfectly acceptable bout (Match Rating: ** 1/2 ). Expect Cesaro Vs Rollins next week, a 6 man match involving the teams the week after, a non-title victory for The Shield the week after that and then a rematch for the gold following that. These guys are awesome together in the ring, I just hope the WWE can show a little more creativity in their story this time around.
Next, there is a little backstage segment between Jason Jordan and Matt Hardy. Hardy has been in no-man’s land since Jeff got himself injured. It’s such a shame considering the wave of momentum he arrived on, hopefully, Jeff’s return gives the duo a little boost.
Alexa Bliss is out next to address her loss to Charlotte. Alexa was doing a great job here of recovering after her loss. She claims that she only had a few days to prepare for Charlotte and that the SmackDown women’s champion just got lucky. It was a nice bit of character work from Bliss. This prompts Mickie to come out to stake her claim for the title, followed by Bayley, then Sasha, and finally Alicia Fox. All 4 women present their argument for their challenge and so out comes Kurt Angle to announce a fatal 4 way between the women for next. Cool segment, but surely Asuka has the biggest claim to the title?
Alicia Fox Vs Sasha Banks Vs Bayley Vs Mickie James gets underway for a few minutes when all of a sudden, Paige’s entrance music hits. The crowd popped like crazy for Paige here and it was great to see her getting such a positive reaction, especially after all the backstage heat she has accumulated during her 12-month absence. Paige gets on the mic and tells the women in the ring ‘I’m backkkkkkk’. The crowd goes wild for her once again. She then reveals that she isn’t alone, and the ring is ambushed by Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. Paige then joins the two NXT stars and delivers a beat down to the women in the ring. This was a great segment. I’m a sucker for factions and these three women together will make a great addition to the Raw roster. Paige was a judge on the Tough Enough season involving these two stars, so it will be interesting to see whether the WWE chooses to mention that. The duo then beat up Alexa backstage, which was a nice touch and it was an awesome way for Paige to return to the ring. This was also a nice way of distracting the audience from Paige’s out of the ring issues, giving her a big return gives fans something else to talk about.
Jason Jordan Vs Braun is next. Jordan begins by slapping Braun and running away before Braun finally catches him and throws him around like a rag doll. The match never really gets going, though, as Kane comes out and beats Braun down with a chair, hitting him with the old chair to the windpipe trick on the steel steps. While I’ve not got that much of a problem with this mini-feud, I’d like to see Braun decimate Kane at the end of it, and providing that is what happens, then fine. Braun is an absolute monster, and he is on fire right now, while Kane is, well, Kane. Jordan’s heel work at the start of the match was yet another indication of his upcoming turn.
The ‘Zo Train’, Drew Gulak Tony Nese, Ariya Daivari, and Noam Dar are out next with Enzo Amore for his title celebration. Of course, this brings out Mustafa Ali, Rich Swann, and Cedric Alexander who claim they want a shot at Enzo’s title, leading to a match between the 6 men, with Enzo on the outside.
Mustafa Ali, Rich Swann, and Cedric Alexander Vs Drew Gulak, Ariya Daivari, Tony Neese and Noam Dar is another typical Cruiserweight match, with Enzo doing his usual shenanigans on the outside. The match itself had some nice moments, but the crowd just really weren’t into it and it was the first time this crowd, who had been notably impressive all night, went dead (well, except for Jason Jordan’s entrance.) The company need to stop with these big tag-team matches and try and build individual stars from within the division because these matches are basically just a piss-break at the moment. (Match Rating: **)
Elias comes out next to play everyone a tune. Matt Hardy interrupts and the two brawl. Not really much to say about this, so yeah. I’m actually a fan of Elias, I just wish the company would find him something more interesting to do.
The Miz Vs Roman Reigns is up to close the show. The Miz was excellent here and the two men put on a great match to close the show. Even though Roman would eventually pick up the win, The Miz was still given plenty of offence in the match and picked up a series of near falls towards the end of the bout. Inevitably, The Shield and The Bar joined in the action late on, with Sheamus very nearly costing Reigns the match, distracting him so The Miz could hit his skull crushing finale. Reigns eventually picked up the win with a spear and amazingly, the crowd audibly cheered. (Match Rating: ***)
While many will no doubt be pissed that Reigns beat The Miz, I don’t mind all that much. The Miz hasn’t done anything interesting with the title for some months now and like it or not, Reigns has had an excellent 2017, so giving him the belt seems reasonable to me. It does also make Reigns a grand-slam champion, with The Big Dog having now won The US, Tag Team, WWE and Intercontinental titles, which I’m sure the WWE universe are happy about.
Final Verdict: After an explosive month in the build to Survivor Series, this week’s Raw had a lot to do in terms of establishing storylines and shifting the focus away from the brand warfare. In many ways, the show succeeded and definitely give us plenty to talk about. Paige’s explosive return and Reigns’ Intercontinental title win were both big moments, while Finn Balor and Samoa Joe tore it up in the match of the night.
Sadly, though, the show’s third hour was difficult to get through. The cruiserweight stuff failed to inspire, and the Braun/Kane stuff wasn’t all that interesting this week, with Elias and Matt Hardy’s pointless segment being the icing on the cake. It was saved by the main event, but it needed something big like that, just to wake the audience up again.
Photo credit: wwe.com
What did you think of Raw? Let us know in the comments below, and let Liam know on Twitter @liamhoofe