12/26 Powell’s WWE Raw Live TV Review: The Last Raw of 2016

newrawlogo1By Jason Powell

WWE Raw on the USA Network
Live from Chicago, Illinois at Allstate Arena

[Q1] Raw opened with a “previously on” recap that focussed on Braun Strowman… The Raw opening aired… Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton were on commentary. Cole noted that there were 12,708 fans in attendance…

Stephanie McMahon made her entrance past a batch of Christmas trees set up on the stage. The broadcast team checked in and spoke about Strowman and Sami Zayn. Stephanie wished attendees happy holidays and said she gave Mick Foley a well deserved night off.

The fans chanted CM Punk. She told them if they can keep it up for two minutes and 15 seconds then they will have lasted one second longer than Punk did. Seth Rollins interrupted Stephanie. Once in the ring, he wished Chicago and Stephanie a Merry Christmas. Rollins brought up Triple H and asked if she gave him his manhood back.

Rollins wondered whether Stephanie had Hunter’s snowballs or the entire yule log in her purse. Stephanie spoke about Hunter’s role in management. Rollins said his wife has him all suit and tied up, and he’ll be remembered as the biggest coward of all time. Steph said she’s not her husband’s keeper. Rollin said he knew Hunter wasn’t there and Steph didn’t want him there.

Rollins said he came to Raw for a fight, and asked for a match against Strowman. Roman Reigns’ music played and he was greeted by loud boos. Stephanie assumed he wanted Strowman in a match too. Reigns paused to let the fans boo. There was another CM Punk chant. Rollins and Reigns bickered about which one of them should get the match with Strowman. Rollins said they could go backstage and teach him a lesson they used to teach people lessons. Reigns suggested powerbombing him through a table.

Stephanie got fired up and said, “Let’s do it.” She put her fist out for the Shield fist bump. They did not oblige. She noted that Smackdown Live is in the same venue, and Dean Ambrose might be in the area. Stephanie asked the fans if they should reunite The Shield. The fans popped and chanted Yes! She told the fans that’s too bad because it wasn’t going to happen.

Stephanie booked Rollins vs. Strowman, and said Reigns would have a match against an opponent of her choosing. She announced a tag title rematch would open the show. New Day made their entrance to a strong reaction. Big E used a ladle to scoop BootyO’s out of a bag and pour them onto fans at ringside…

Powell’s POV: WWE is pouring it on thick with teases for a Shield reunion. It’s the only thing that gets Reigns cheered and the fans want to see it. However, Reigns is challenging for the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble, and Rollins is presumably facing Triple H at WrestleMania, so I’m not sure when we’ll see it.

[Q2] [C] Sheamus and Cesaro made their entrance for the the tag title match…

1. Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston (w/Big E) for the Raw Tag Titles. Sheamus dumped Woods to the floor, and Woods sold knee pain heading into a break. [C] Woods went through the ropes and performed a tornado DDT on Cesaro at ringside. Kingston tagged in and hit SOS on Sheamus for a two count. Woods checked in again and hit a top rope elbow and went for a cover that Cesaro broke up.

[Q3] Cesaro tagged in and and performed the swing on Woods. E bickered with the ref, allowing Kingston to hit Trouble in Paradise on Cesaro. A short time later, Sheamus made a blind tag and caught Woods with the Brogue Kick for the win…

Sheamus and Cesaro beat New Day in 10:15 to retain the Raw Tag Titles.

Graves hyped Rollins vs. Strowman, and Cole hyped Goldberg and Brock Lesnar appearing in the Royal Rumble. Cole said they would take a look at what could be waiting for Goldberg after the break…. A video hyped John Cena’s return for Smackdown… [C]

Powell’s POV: A good tag title match with a lively crowd that was game for the near falls. There’s still some life left in this feud, which is good considering how damaged the other tag teams on Raw seem to be at the moment.

The broadcast team thanked the act who performed the Royal Rumble theme song, then set up a Brock Lesnar video package. It featured lines from Paul Heyman’s sit-down interview…

Goldberg was officially advertised for next week’s Raw…

Backstage, crew members fled from Braun Strowman. However, Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho were actually waiting for Strowman. Owens said Strowman decking people in the halls was festive. Jericho said he wouldn’t want to be on the list of Strowman. “Squash ’em down, man,” Jericho said.

Owens said once he beats Roman Reigns at the Rumble, then Strowman would be next in line for an opportunity. Owens told him to focus on Rollins and Reigns, and recalled what they said in the opening segment. Jericho claimed they said Strowman’s strikes were like being hit by a child. Jericho brought up Strowman vs. Rollins, and said there were rumors that Rollins called Strowman a one hit wonder, and called him a stupid idiot. Strowman said rumors are crap and so are Jericho. Owens and Jericho said rumors suck. Strowman walked off…

Backstage, Goldust and R-Truth were having a debate over the greatest Scrooge. Bayley showed up and asked for a hug, which Truth obliged. She gave Goldust a Dusty Rhodes bear (it had the polka dots) and spoke about how much she learned from his father. Goldust thanked her and hugged her.

After Bayley walked off, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson showed up and called them nerds. Anderson took the bear and ripped the head off before walking away. Goldust picked up the headless bear and looked emotional…

Powell’s POV: Owens and Jericho continue to be too entertaining to hate, and WWE just used the memory of Dusty Rhodes in the form of a toy bear to set up a throwaway tag match. Strange.

[Q4] [C] The broadcast team sat at their desk and spoke about the women’s championship match at Roadblock: End of the Line, and then set up a recap of last week’s Nia Jax and Sasha Banks angle…

Nia Jax made her entrance while a wrestler named Scarlet was interviewed at ringside. Scarlet spoke about being from Chicago and how the only thing that could make her Raw debut better is if tthe woman who inspired her to get in the ring, Sasha Banks, was present…

2. Nia Jax vs. Scarlet. The enhancement worker wore a Sasha t-shirt. Jax destroyed her and pinned her. Jax took the mic and told her to get a better role model, then leg dropped her…

Nia Jax pinned Scarlet in 1:00.

Saxton hyped a Bayley promo for after the break as she was shown backstage… [C]

Powell’s POV: Cole actually made a “Gone with the Wind” reference after the match. Is he playing to his boss or did the old man feed him that one? Frankly, my dear… Dammit, now they have me doing it.

Backstage, Charlotte thanked Stephanie for something and shook her hand before leaving the scene. Owens and Jericho entered the room to file a complaint regarding Mick Foley. Jericho still wasn’t happy about booked to be in a shark cage.

[Q5] Stephanie said she despises authority figures who abuse their power for personal benefit. She booked Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens for the U.S. Championship for later in the show. Jericho didn’t seem thrilled, but Owens tried to sell him on how “we” would win both championships.

Bayley made her entrance for a promo and waited until a soft “Bayley” chant broke out. She said she loves Chicago, which woke up the crowd a bit. She said Christmas came early because she pinned Charlotte for the third time in a row. She said she believes that makes her No. 1 contender.

Charlotte interrupted Bayley. “Thank goodness someone is here to class up the joint,” Graves said. Charlotte stood on the stage and “set the record straight” by setting up a video that showed her shoulder was up when Bayley pinned her last week. Charlotte said if that happened to someone like Bayley, she’d have to deal with the loss and move on with her life.

Charlotte said her father always told her to have a good lawyer on hand. Charlotte said her lawyer spoke with Stephanie last night, and Bayley’s win last week has been expunged from the record book, so it never happened. Charlotte entered the ring and said she was born with a silver spoon so she knows how the system works and she’s made it work for her.

Charlotte gave Bayley a shot to beat her on the spot. Just as the match was about to start, she said she was guaranteed a ref who would call it down the line. Dana Brooke came out wearing a referee outfit…

The broadcast team hyped Rollins vs. Strowman, Reigns vs. Owens for the U.S. Championship, and the women’s match… [C]

Powell’s POV: Bayley isn’t clicking the way she should be. Imagine how hot a Chicago crowd would have been for her a year ago. Granted, not everyone in the building would have been watching NXT, but those who did would have been loud enough to give her a great reaction. The fans like her, but she’s not the sensation that she was in NXT.

3. Charlotte vs. Bayley in a non-title match. Dana Brooke was the special referee. Bayley took out Brooke with a Bayley to Belly early.

[Q6] A second referee ran out. Bayley hit her finisher on Charlotte, but Brooke recovered and pulled the referee from the ring. Bayley put Brooke in the corner, but Charlotte rolled up Bayley from behind and put her feet on the ropes while Brooke made the quick count…

Charlotte defeated Bayley in a non-title match in 3:45.

Powell’s POV: A forgettable match, but I like the idea of putting Bayley back in the spot of being ganged up and picked on by the heels rather than making her dominant over Charlotte.

Backstage, Strowman was choking a man when Stephanie called him off. Strowman said the man said he didn’t know where Sami Zayn was. Strowman said he is multitasking and wants Zayn and Rollins. Stephanie guaranteed him he could face Zayn in a match next week.

Strowman said he would make sure Zayn can’t stand when he’s finished with him, so he wants him in a last man standing match. Stephanie agreed to the stipulation and said she wants him to return the favor by taking out everything on Rollins. Strowman laughed and walked away…

The broadcast team set up a recap of Neville’s promo from last week in which he said he would obliterate the cruiserweight division. Neville made his entrance for a match… [C]

4. Neville vs. TJ Perkins. Austin Aries sat in on commentary in place of Saxton for the cruiserweight match. The wrestlers did not shake hands before the match, so the ref called for the bell. Perkins went on the offensive early with a dropkick and a cross body block. The fans chanted for Aries.

Neville came back and ran Perkins into the barricade at ringside. Neville had Perkins in a chinlock when they cut to a shot of Aries delivering commentary regarding how Neville felt unappreciated.

[Q7] Perkins came back with a double chicken wing into a gutbuster for a two count around 4:00. In the end, Perkins went for his kneebar finisher, but Neville caught him in a pin and held the tights while getting the three count.

Neville pinned TJ Perkins in 4:55.

After the match, Charly Caruso interviewed Neville on the stage and asked him what he wants to do next. He said that when you leave a lane of bodies, suddenly everyone wants to talk to you. Neville said Americans usually only talk about him when they are insulting his accent or saying he’s too bland for television. The fans gave him the “What?” treatment.

Neville said it is the American ignorance and arrogance from appreciating him. Neville said the fans would have no choice but to appreciate him tomorrow because he will beat WWE Cruiserweight Champion Rich Swann and prove that he is the king of the cruiserweights…

Cole hyped Reigns vs. Owens for the U.S. Championship as the Raw main event. Cole said Owens and Jericho could use some sensitivity training. Of course, this led to a recap of the sensitivity training skits from last week.

Powell’s POV: Fortunately, the only thing they showed from those horrendous skits was Rusev and Jinder Mahal attacking Enzo Amore, and Lana slapping him. Meanwhile, Neville blaming Americans was a lame attempt at cheap heat, so this is one time when I can’t blame the fans for responding with the Steve Austin special. That said, I am looking forward to Swann vs. Neville on 205 Live. Join me for live coverage tomorrow night after Jake Barnett’s live coverage of the loaded Smackdown Live show.

A commercial aired for Smackdown Live and focussed on the AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler match for the WWE Championship… The broadcast team hyped Smackdown’s three championship matches…

Powell’s POV: Remember this the next time they have the broadcast team play up the rivalry between the brands. Don’t get me wrong, I think they should cross promote more, but I’d avoid this type of thing by having the broadcast team from the opposite show get a minute each week to promote their television shows or pay-per-view events.

Big Cass wheeled Enzo Amore out in a pimped out wheelchair. Enzo delivered his usual schtick before saying sensitivity training isn’t his thing. He said he already got his degree from Certified G University. He called Rusev and Jinder chickens. Enzo tossed his spiked hair wig into the crowd. A fan caught it and put it on.

Enzo told Cass to step in the box because he’s batting cleanup. Cass entered the ring and delivered a promo about how Rusev was a coward who didn’t have the guts to do what he did to Enzo to him.

[Q8] Enzo called out Rusev, who walked onto the stage with Lana. However, Jinder Mahal’s music played and he came out and walked to ringside with Rusev. Jinder slapped Enzo and then climbed onto the ring apron. Enzo stood up and pulled down Jinder. Cass and Rusev traded punches in the ring. Cass got the better of it and clotheslined Rusev to the floor. Enzo kicked Jinder into the wheelchair, then Cass launched him onto Jinder. Cass kicked Rusev again. Cole said Enzo and Cass set the trap this time…

Graves hyped Rollins vs. Strowman… [C]

Powell’s POV: The babyfaces finally came out of this not looking like the dumbest or most gullible guys in the room. Enzo played up a back injury the entire time, so he was still selling the beatdown he took from the sensitivity training skits, which is nothing like the beatdown that viewers received during that awfulness.

The broadcast team hyped the UK Title tournament…

5. The Shining Stars vs. Bo Dallas and Darren Young (w/Bob Backlund). Cole said the match came together because of a Facebook Live skit with the Stars offering Backlund a timeshare because he’s old. The babyfaces didn’t get a televised entrance, but they did show off their sensitivity training certificates.

Braun Strowman’s music played and he grabbed a tree off the stage and struck a diving Dallas with it. Strowman worked over members of both teams. Epico hit Strowman from behind with a chair, but Strowman no-sold it and clotheslined him. Strowman ran Young into Backlund on the floor. Strowman took the ring steps and threw them at the Stars and Dallas. The fans chanted, “Thank you, Strowman.” They followed that up with “Strowman” chants.

The Shining Stars fought Bo Dallas and Darren Young to an apparent no-contest in 1:00.

Cole hyped Strowman vs. Rollins for after the break… [C]

Powell’s POV: Is Vince McMahon booking Strowman to interrupt the worst matches on Raw knowing that he will be cheered so that he has an excuse when the WrestleMania crowd inevitably cheers for Strowman and boos the hell out of Roman Reigns?

Footage aired of Strowman attacking Rollins and Reigns during last week’s Raw main event… Rollins made his entrance…

[Q9] 6. Braun Strowman vs. Seth Rollins. Strowman tossed Rollins across the ring to start the match. Rollins caught Strowman with a kick. Strowman charged at Rollins, who moved, and Strowman went through the ropes and into the post. Rollins threw a couple of flying knees off the top rope, but Strowman stayed on his feet. Rollins went for another move off the top, but Strowman caught him.

Rollins caught Strowman with two kicks while sitting on the ropes and then performed a blockbuster. Strowman came right back by tossing Rollins to ringside. Strowman ran out and clotheslined Rollins on the floor, then rolled him back inside the ring. Sami Zayn’s music played. Strowman stood on the floor and faced the entrance. Zayn emerged through the crowd and struck Strowman from behind for the DQ.

Zayn landed a few more shots and then left the crowd with Strowman chasing him. Chris Jericho entered the ring and performed a Codebreaker on Rollins. Several referees ran out to help Rollins. Jericho teased leaving, but then turned and hit Rollins with another Codebreaker. Jericho posed and received more cheers than boos…

Braun Strowman defeated Seth Rollins by apparent DQ in 3:30.

Backstage, Owens was smiling as he watched the backstage monitor. Caruso interviewed Owens about his U.S. Championship match against Reigns. He said he tuned her out once her mouth started making noise. Owens said Jericho took out Rollins, so that means there will be a new U.S. Champion “and their name is Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho.” Jericho entered the scene and joined in on teasing the idea that they would own the U.S. Championship… [C]

Powell’s POV: A good segment with the right finish. Strowman shouldn’t lose right now, and Rollins should also be protected, so this was a logical finish. Meanwhile, the Owens and Jericho interview was a nice hook in terms of teasing the idea that Reigns is flying solo and is therefore vulnerable.

[Q10] The latest Emmalina teaser aired. They showed photos along with a voiceover of her telling fans they have waited so long and have been so good, and it will be worth the wait. She is still listed as premiering soon…

Gallows and Anderson were in the ring. Footage aired of them destroying the Dusty bear from earlier in the show. Truth and Goldust received a televised entrance…

[Q10] 7. R-Truth and Goldust vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Goldust eventually checked in and aggressively worked over both opponents. However, Anderson rolled him up from behind and pinned him…

Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson defeated R-Truth and Goldust in 3:45.

Rich Swann was shown walking backstage and Cole said his match was coming up next… [C]

Powell’s POV: That seemed like it was more about filling time than building up Anderson and Gallows. It will be interesting to see if they do something to heat them up because you’d think they would be next in line to feud with Shemaus and Cesaro once the New Day feud runs its course.

The video hyping John Cena’s return to Smackdown aired again… The broadcast team hyped the three title matches for Smackdown Live again…

8. WWE Cruiswerweight Champion Rich Swann vs. Ariya Daivari. Aries was on commentary for the match. Cole hyped Swann vs. Neville and noted that it would be a non-title match on 205 Live. Daivari did his usual handshake by shoving Swann’s hand aside. Daivari jumped out to the quick start, but Swann avoided his top rope frogsplash. Swann put him away with a kick…

Rich Swann defeated Ariya Daivari in a non-title match in 1:25.

[Q11] After the match, Caruso interviewed Swann on the stage. Swann said Neville claims to be the King of the Cruiserweights, but he’s actually a royal sourpuss. Swann said under the greed and bitterness, Neville is still one of the best athletes in WWE. Swann said that if Neville wants a fight, a fight he will get.

Neville attacked Swann from behind and put the boots to him. Neville brought Swann to ringside and ran his back into the edge of the ring. Neville brought Swann inside the ring and then hit the Red Arrow on Swann’s back…

Cole hyped Goldberg’s return on next week’s show and teased a video on his return to WWE… [C]

Powell’s POV: The Neville attack was well done and makes Swann look vulnerable heading into the non-title match. I get that the focus is on Swann and Neville, but couldn’t they have found someone else to put over the cruiserweight champion in short order? They’ve done a nice job of making Daivari feel more relevant in his feud with Jack Gallagher, and losing so quickly was a step back for him.

Backstage, Caruso interviewed Daivari, who blamed his defeat on the possible interference by “that scoundrel” Jack Gallagher, who showed up and gave him a chance to “retract your slander.” Daivari repeated the line. Gallagher challenged him to a duel. Daivari asked if he was Alexander Hamilton. Gallagher said he’s more like Aaron Burr, then slapped him with a glove…

Powell’s POV: Forget what I wrote about Daivari. Gallagher is so damn fun that I’m totally into the match or duel or whatever it is they plan on doing.

The broadcast team was shown laughing. Graves said that might have been his favorite moment of the year on Raw, then giddily hyped a duel. Cole set up the Goldberg video package. After the video, Cole hyped the Royal Rumble, then Saxton hyped Goldberg’s return to television for next week. Graves hyped Strowman vs. Zayn in a Last Man Standing match for next week…

Kevin Owens made his entrance for the main event. Cole hyped Chris Jericho appearing on the weekly ESPNews segment.

[Q12] [C] Cole and Graves hyped Swann vs. Neville in a non-title match, and the first ever “gentlemen’s duel” between Gallagher and Daivari for 205 Live… Roman Reigns made his entrance to more boos. Cole hyped the Universal Title match for the Rumble and mentioned the shark cage stipulation…

9. Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens for the U.S. Championship. JoJo delivered in-ring introductions for the title match. Owens received more boos than cheers. Reigns received even more boos than Owens, who stalled to start the match. At 3:00, Reigns caught Owens with a clothesline. Jericho ran out and distracted Reigns. Owens kicked Reigns and DDT’d him for two. Owens followed up with a senton for a two count. [C]

Reigns was in control coming out of the break and he threw some clotheslines in the corner than fans chanted along with. Owens slipped away and caught Reigns with a kick, then followed up with a cannonball in the corner, which led to a two count.

[Overrun] Owens applied a chinlock. Jericho yelled that Reigns should give up before he got hurt. Reigns got back to his feet, but Owens ended up tossing him to ringside. Owens followed and ran Reigns into the barricade. A short time later and back in the ring, Reigns hit his ten clotheslines in the corner, a Samoan drop, and got a two count.

Owens regained control by clotheslining Reigns via the top rope and then performed a Backstabber for a two count. Reigns came back with a sit-out powerbomb for two. Owens ducked a Superman Punch and rolled up Reigns for two. Reigns connected with the punch and got a two count of his own.

Reigns went to the corner and shook the ropes, which led to loud boos. Jericho climbed onto the apron. Reigns chased Jericho off the apron, then turned into a Codebreaker from Owens for a near fall. Seth Rollins ran out and attacked Jericho. Owens went to ringside and caught Rollins with a superkick. Owens returned to the ring and was speared and pinned by Reigns…

Roman Reigns defeated Kevin Owens in 16:15 to retain the U.S. Championship.

After the match, Rollins did a crotch chop that the production crew cut away from. Rollins performed the Pedigree on Owens. Reigns went to ringside and speared Jericho. Rollins and Reigns celebrated their win to close the show…

Powell’s POV: A solid main event. It didn’t leave me anxious to see their rematch at the Royal Rumble, but fortunately the shark cage gimmick with Jericho being afraid of heights (even though he gets credit for creating Money in the Bank) has already won me over. The babyfaces standing tall at the end is just par for the course if Strowman isn’t involved. Owens and Jericho feel like upper mid-card heels, not main eventers due to all of the comedy and the fact that they are not positioned as threats to the top babyfaces unless they have numbers advantage.

Overall, though, Raw gets a huge thumbs up! Okay, so it wasn’t a hot episode, but this beat the hell out of the usual Vince McMahon holiday fun show that we tend to get at this time of the year. We didn’t get the holiday nonsense last week and I didn’t think they’d run the risk of turning off the Chicago fans tonight, but there was no way of knowing for sure given that they didn’t advertise anything going in. I’ll always take the straight forward approach over sports entertainment holiday madness. I will have a lot more to say about Raw in a special late night edition of the All Access Daily Podcast coming up late Monday night. Thanks for watching along with me, and check back on Tuesday for another All Access Podcast and my WWE Raw Hit List.

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