Liam Hoofe reviews this week’s edition of Monday Night Raw…
This week’s Raw wastes no time in getting started, with Roman Reigns heading down to the ring for tonight’s Elimination Chamber gauntlet match. Roman starts talking about winning the match before Rollins interrupts and gets the match underway. Rollins and Reigns go at it for a good twenty minutes to kick things off here and the in-ring action is great. These two share a great chemistry and I’d love to see them have an extended feud once again after Wrestlemania. Rollins picks up the surprise victory when he reserves a roll-up into one of his own. This was a great opening pairing for the match, and it really set the tone for what was to come.
Reigns extends a fist to Rollins after the match but John Cena interrupts and Rollins now has to face WWE’s other golden boy straight away. Rollins and Reigns had a great encounter to set the tone but Cena and Rollins blew the roof off the place. This match was excellent. It was the classic Cena near-fall routine but the psychology here was brilliant and the two men did a great job of selling what is essentially just a section of a much bigger bout. The two men ended up fighting for a total of 36 minutes, in what could have easily been a PPV main event match. After plenty of near falls, one of which involved Rollins hitting Cena with an AA, Rollins picked up the victory after hitting the curbstomp. This was awesome, and it made Seth look like a million bucks.
Elias immediately runs down to attack Rollins and the two men go at it for just under 10 minutes. Rollins sells his fatigue well here and eventually, Elias picks up the win. Rollins wrestled for a total of 64 minutes though and instantly elevated himself back into Raw’s main event scene. Seriously, Rollins needs to be back competing for the title after Mania. The opening hour was also a nice reminder of just how good Roman and Cena are as well.
Finn is down next for a battle with Elias. The two men have a good back and forth bout for nearly 20 minutes, taking this match’s run time up to 84 minutes, with two men still left to enter. Finn picked up the win with a coup de grace after what was a solid piece of in-ring action.
The Miztourage are down next to distract Balor, which allows The Miz the chance to attack his opponent. Again, these two men put on a solid, upper mid-card bout which manages to maintain the excellent tempo set in the early goings. Rumours are floating around that these two men will feud at Mania, and I’m down with that. There were plenty of shenanigans here, and the Miztourage manage to distract Balor enough for The Miz to get the victory. I enjoyed Balor’s little run in the match, and the inclusion of The Miz and The Miztourage later on in the bout managed to keep things feeling fresh. At this point, the match had been going for 1 hour and 35 minutes.
Brauuuuuun is down next to decimate The Miz. The match between the two lasts about 10 minutes, and The Miztourage played their part here once again. The Miz hit the skull-crushing finale, just to tease a big surprise, but Braun recovered and won the match with the running power-slam. He then proceeded to destroy The Miztourage after the bout. (Grade: A) 1 hour and 45 minutes of straight wrestling to start Monday Night Raw, and I loved every single minute of it. The opening hour, with Seth Rollins as the focus, was incredible, and the stuff afterwards was enjoyable, and well laid out. I enjoyed the interviews that were taking place, and this match featured plenty of variety to keep things fresh. This was a great idea to build hype for the Elimination Chamber, which despite having a predictable result, you can now colour me well and truly excited for.
To give the fans a break from in-ring action, Asuka is out next to discuss her match with Nia Jax at Elimination Chamber. This segment was so-so. Asuka is awesome but she’s not all that great on the mic. Nia attacked her halfway through and left her lying in the ring. The segment did a good job of building Nia as a legitimate opponent for Asuka at the Elimination Chamber, and it will be interesting to see how they book that encounter.
Titus Worldwide Vs The Bar is up next. This match feels like it solely exists to set up a match at Elimination Chamber. Titus Worldwide pick up yet another surprise roll-up victory against the tag champs, which means they will be facing them this Sunday night. This match was pointless really, and it never really got out of first gear (Grade: E). Raw clearly has a tag team problem at the moment, and they really need to elevate The Club and The Revival to championship standards in the next few weeks.
Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy cut some of their weird promos to promote their announced match for Elimination Chamber. Fairly standard stuff from the duo.
Mickie James, Sasha Banks and Bayley Vs Alexa Bliss, Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose, is the night’s main event. As main events go, this match felt like it should have been in the first hour of the show. It never really gained any momentum, and everything after the initial opening gauntlet just felt kinda flat. The match was fairly standard, and the faces picked up the win after Banks put the Banks Statement on Bliss (Grade: C-). The match didn’t really do much to hype the chamber match, though the unlikely alliance of Bliss and Mickie from the end of the match could have some interesting ramifications going into Sunday night.
Verdict: This was an excellent episode of Raw, for the first two hours at least. That gauntlet match was an awesome way of building hype for the Chamber, and Seth Rollins really stole the show last night. The rest of the show felt like an afterthought really, but it is still worth checking out for that opening match.