Liam Hoofe reviews this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw…
This week’s Raw opened with Samoa Joe standing in the ring addressing Roman Reigns. Joe is scheduled to face Ambrose later in the night but says it is Roman he wants. He runs down all three members of The Shield, bragging about putting Rollins out of action, and choking Reigns out last week, he says that Ambrose has just been hiding from him this whole time.
We see Rollins and Ambrose watching the TV backstage, Rollins tells Dean that they need to get ‘The Big Dog’ in one of the cringiest lines of the night. Reigns shows up and says he’s got this. Reigns heads to the ring and him and Joe begin brawling. The Bar attack Reigns as well and Joe locks in the clutch. The Shield runs out for the save but they get beaten down as well and Joe and The Bar are left standing in the ring. This was a great opening segment again from Raw. Joe is on fire at the moment and everyone is looking good in this six-man feud right now. It sets up the matches later in the night quite nicely as well.
Bayley and Mickie James Vs Mandy Rose and Paige is the night’s first match. The faces make their way to the ring first, followed by Absolution. Paige talks about beating a boss last week, and how Absolution is going to beat two more former champions this week. The match was a fairly solid affair and Paige, in particular, was made to look strong throughout, especially in the closing stages. Paige picks up the win for her team in what was another solid outing from the group. (Match Rating: ** 1/2) Absolution are being made to look strong so far, I’m expecting Paige to enter the title picture very soon.
We get another Bray Wyatt and Woken Matt Hardy segment here, complete with Matt’s new title card. The segment was good fun once again, with Matt talking about how he has worked with Sister Abigail in the past but now she is stuck inside the vessel of Bray Wyatt. Both men laughed maniacally to close the segment. Once again, this was really good fun, and it’s nice to see Wyatt being used in a feud that actually makes sense for him. If this whole thing plays out right, this could really help give The Eater of Worlds a much-needed new lease for life in the company.
We then get a backstage segment with Drew Gulak and Enzo. Drew says that Rich Swann’s opportunity tonight has been revoked, and Enzo tells Drew that he must be prepared for anyone. Enzo lists superstars and says Nia Jax, and Drew calls him on it. Enzo looks puzzled and Drew presumes he was saying it because he said he had to be prepared for anyone. Amusing little segment here, I really enjoy Drew Gulak as a character and partnering him up with Enzo has been a good way to introduce him to the bigger WWE universe.
Here we go again, Finn Balor is out this week for a match against Curtis Axel. Axel and Dallas mock Finn’s entrance, which was quite amusing, and then the duo jump Balor before the bell rings. Once the ref clears the ring, Balor disposes of Axel inside two minutes, after a brief bit of offence from Axel. (Match Rating: *1/2) Balor didn’t look as weak as last week here, due to the pre-match attack justifying Axel’s slight dominance. Presumably, he will face the two in a handicap bout next week before The Miz returns to take on Balor in January. I do enjoy Dallas and Axel’s character work, and it’s a nice way of keeping The Miz involved.
Kane is on the big screen hyping his bout with Braun Strowman later in the night. He points out that he has never faced Lesnar in his career.
Seth Rollins Vs Sheamus is the first of the three matches involved The Shield and their rivals tonight and it was a nice way to get the matches started. It has been reported online this week that Sheamus has been suffering from a fairly serious neck injury, but you wouldn’t have thought it looking at this bout. We have seen this match plenty of times before, with WWE persisting on as many singles match as possible when a tag team is feuding but this was a solid, and fairly lengthy encounter, and one of Sheamus’ better solo outings for some time. Rollins picked up the clean victory after the big knee. (Match Rating: ***1/4)
Tony Neese Vs Aryia Daivari Vs Cedric Alexander Vs Mustafa Ali is next in a second chance bout for the Cruiserweight number 1 contendership, to determine who will face Drew Gulak next week. Once again, for the third week running, the cruiserweights delivered a solid display here, and this was a match made even more enjoyable by the presence of Drew Gulak on commentary. Gulak is excellent on the mic, and the guy sounds like he could definitely have a future in the commentary booth. The match was the standard, entertaining, Cruiserweight affair, with plenty of high spots and near falls. Alexander picked up the victory to advance to Gulak next week. (Match Rating: ***)
Drew and Enzo are talking backstage. Drew says he is ready to face Enzo for the title, and Enzo runs him down. Enzo says Gulak’s presentations are ‘Sawft’ and Drew says that they are ‘informative’. Nia arrives and says she likes Drew’s presentations and Enzo says they were just talking about that. Drew leaves and Enzo flirts with Nia. I enjoyed this more than I should have done. Enzo and Drew are great together and hopefully, we get to see the duo have a feud in the coming weeks because their mic work is great.
Roman Reigns is out to defend his title against Cesaro next. This was a great bout, with both men putting in a solid display and working the crowd quite nicely. It’s easy to forget how great Cesaro is a singles star when he’s delivering top-notch tag matches every week with Sheamus, but this was a nice reminder of his talents. Reigns is nothing if not consistent in the ring, and I’d happily watch these two have a feud in the future. This was the best match of the night for me. Reigns eventually picked up the win with the spear. (Match Rating: *** 1/2)
Asuka is out next for a match, and Alicia Fox’s music hits. Fox doesn’t arrive, though, and Absolution make their way to the ring to finally address Asuka. Paige mocks her ‘no-one is ready for Asuka’ phrase and the trio get in the ring to beat her down. Asuka fights them off well but the group over-power her. Then Sasha’s music hits and the women’s roster come out and beat down Absolution. I liked the storyline progression here and it was good to see the faces fighting back. There were a total of 11 women involved in this segment, which hopefully means we could be seeing a tease for the rumoured Rumble match, especially with SmackDown having a lumberjack match at Clash of Champions.
Jordan is backstage talking with Kurt. Jordan apologizes for last week and asks why he isn’t getting a match this week. Angle points out that he keeps giving Jordan opportunities, and he keeps losing. Jordan walks out and calls him Kurt, instead of dad. I was fine with this segment, it’s nice that this storyline hasn’t taken the central stage for once on TV.
Joe Vs Ambrose is next. Jason Jordan is sitting on the ramp at the start of the match, and he lingers over the bout like a bad smell. Joe and Ambrose put on an okay match but it was clear that Jordan was going to get involved at some point. He did, of course, and his distraction cost Ambrose the match, with Joe capitalising and choking out Dean. (Match Rating:**1/4) It’s a shame this match was hampered by Jordan because this could have been the bout of the night.
Next, we see a brief interaction between Dana Brooke, The Titus Brand and The Club. Braun screams his own name and marches through them in easily the funniest moment of the night.
Braun Vs Kane is the night’s main event, and the winner will go on to face Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. The duo goes straight for the standard big man moves and it isn’t long before they’ve spilt onto the outside. Braun charges Kane through the barricade and the duo get counted out. (Match Rating:*) The two continue beating each other down with an array of weapons after the bell, and the night finishes with Braun putting Kane through a table. This felt like a hugely anticlimactic way to end the night, and there is every chance both men will now face Brock in a triple threat at the Rumble.
Final Verdict: While this was not quite on the same level as last week’s Raw, it was still a solid outing for the show. The night was let down a little by the closing hour, but it still delivered some strong matches in the early goings and there was plenty of logical storyline progression.
What did you think of Raw? Let us know on Twitter, and let Liam know on Twitter @liamhoofe