By Jake Barnett
WWE Raw on the USA Network
Live from Tampa, Florida at Amalie Arena
The show opened with Mick Foley in the ring sporting new look. He acknowledged the change in appearance, and said he had taken up the habit of writing the city he was in on his hand to avoid any future mistakes. He did his “right here” bit and started to call out the wrong city, but then looked at his hand and made the correction for a laugh. He then said part of his new vision for the new year had started before he left, and he recognized the shark cage on the stage. It wasn’t long before he was interrupted by Jericho and Owens.
Owens picked on Foley and asked him if he thought hanging Jericho 100 feet above the ring funny. Jericho referred to himself as a sexy pinata. Owens then called Foley out for abuse of power for giving Roman Reigns another title shot. Jericho then complained about Seth Rollins brutalizing him backstage, and said that Rollins was rewarded with a match. When he pulled off some strategic genius when he saved Kevin Owens’ universal championship at Roadblock, Foley punished him by putting him in a shark cage. Both Owens and Jericho said that the abuses of power ended tonight, because they wouldn’t stand for it.
Foley said he agreed, and that he had heard about the Kevin Owen’s Show, but never saw it. So he wanted to see if he has the chops, and said the first ever Kevin Owens show would debut tonight, with his first guest Goldberg. Owens said he liked it, but it was a little weird that Mick Foley was booking his guests. Owens asked what Foley was going to do about Roman Reigns, when Stephanie McMahon interrupted.
She walked to the ring and quickly took control of the segment. She said Mick isn’t going anywhere, and he wasn’t abusing his power, but she wished he would have spoken to her about the shark cage. Mick said he wished she would have consulted him about Sami Zayn being put in a last man standing match with Braun Strowman. Owens said nobody cares, and wanted them to address their issues with Reigns and Rollins, because he and Jericho are national treasures. Stephanie then booked a match between Jericho and Reigns for the US Championship, and if Reigns gets counted out or disqualified, he loses the title. Owens then asked for Rollins to be banned from ringside.
Foley then flubbed a line, and demanded that Jericho be banned from ringside, but clearly meant Owens as Jericho was the one booked in the match. Stephanie set things right and said that Owens would face Seth Rollins, with the loser being banned from ringside for the main event. Stephanie said that she was upset about losing to Smackdown in the ratings last week, and said she was tired of hearing about it being the land of opportunity. She told Foley to get his act together, Jericho to get ready for his match, and Owens to stay where he was, as his match with Rollins was next…[c]
My Take: Foley’s haircut and flub were brutal. He looks like a Juggalo had a baby with a Jehovah’s Witness. Owens and Rollins will be good, but haven’t we seen it enough lately?
Seth Rollins made his entrance.
1. Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins: Rollins jumped out to an early advantage and dumped Owens out to the floor. He then splashed him out on the floor, and hit some strikes before tossing him back in. Owens fired back with some knees and punches, and the match took on a back and forth cadence. Rollins hit a nice neckbreaker from the second rope for a near fall…[c]
Owens regained control during the break, but Rollins quickly fired back with a series of punches. Owens tossed him out to the floor and demanded the ref begin the count. He then decided to dish out more punishment on the outside, but missed a cannonball against the barricade. Back in the ring, both men went back and forth with punches until Owens sent Rollins into the ropes. He attempted a pop up Powerbomb, but got a Enziguri instead. Rollins fired up and hit a slingblade and setup for the pedigree, but Owens got out of it. Owens charged at Rollins, but got low bridged out to the floor. Rollins followed up with a suicide dive, and then wailed on Owens from the time keepers area.
Rollins entered the ring to break the count, and then returned to Owens, who hit him in the gut with the ringbell. The ref then called for a DQ.
Seth Rollins defeated Kevin Owens at 15:49.
After the match, Owens argued with the ref. Rollins entered the ring and went for a pedigree, but Owens escaped up the ramp. We got a plug for Zayn vs Strowman later…[c]
My Take: An ok match, but it felt like a rerun. Owens and Jericho continue to be treated like a running gag instead of the top heels on the show. All four of the main event competitors on this show are actively harmed by WWE’s booking approach, because Rollins gains nothing from this either.
Cesaro made his entrance, along with Sheamus. Cesaro continued to the ring and Sheamus joined on commentary. Gallows and Anderson then made their entrance, with Anderson competing.
2. Cesaro vs. Karl Anderson: I really wish this match was taking place in Tokyo, but that’s a conversation for another day. Cesaro grabbed a headlock, but Anderson reversed into an irish whip and then hit a back elbow. He then went for a catapult, but Cesaro landed on his feet, and fried back with a huge euro uppercut. Cesaro followed up with a gutwrench suplex, and followed up with an upppercut to the back of the neck. Gallows offered a distraction as Cesaro got on the apron, which allowed Anderson to hit a single leg dropkick that sent him to the floor…[c]
Cesaro hit a very impressive dead lift suplex, and followed it up with some uppercuts. He went for a running uppercut in the corner, but Anderson got out of the way and hit some knees. He then hit a big lariat and covered Cesaro for a two count. Anderson grabbed a headlock, but Cesaro shoved him off into the corner, and followed up with a running uppercut to the back of the head. The brawled in the corner, and Anderson got the best of it. He tossed Cesaro into the opposite corner, but Cesaro used it as a springboard into a splash for a near fall. Gallows attempted to offer another distraction, which caused Sheamus to head to ringside. Anderson picked up Cesaro in a fireman’s carry, but he escaped and hit a springboard back elbow. Cesaro then went for a Neutralizer, but Anderson reversed. Cesaro then tried for a sharpshooter, but couldn’t sink it in. Anderson jumped up on the turnbuckle, but Cesaro knocked him down with a dropkick and an uppercut. Sheamus then set up for a superplex in the corner.
Gallows jumped the apron, and Sheamus pulled him down, but in the melee Cesaro got crotched on the top rope. Anderson then hit a top rope neckbreaker, and covered for the win.
Karl Anderson defeated Cesaro at 13:53.
After the match,we got a video package that put over Braun Strowman ahead of the last man standing match coming up next…[c]
My Take: Anderson and Cesaro put on an entertaining match. I’d like to see Anderson and Gallows do something truly evil though. Enough of these heels that call people dorks and are a general nuisance. Babyfaces should have motivation to get angry, and we don’t see it nearly often enough. Strowman is one of the few examples of this in WWE. He feels uniquely dangerous, and Sami Zayn has a lot to gain in terms of reputation by simply hanging with him.
We got a video package for Goldberg, highlighting his win at Survivor Series, and his promise to enter the Royal Rumble. In the arena, Sami Zayn made his entrance, followed by Braun Strowman.
2. Braun Strowman vs. Sami Zayn in a Last Man Standing Match: Sami grabbed a Kendo Stick out of the gate, but Braun shrugged it off initially and tossed Zayn across the ring and out to the floor. Zayn found another Kendo Stick out on the outside and peppered Strowman with shots. He then ran towards the barricade and went for a moonsault, but Strowman caught him and dropped him head first on the barricade. Braun ran at Sami, but crashed into the ringpost. Sami then shoved him into the post two additional times. He set up for his tornado DDT through the ropes, but Strowman caught him coming through with a huge elbow.
In the ring, Strowman hit huge clotheslines and shoulder blocks. We’ve had a few ref counts thus far, but none of the counts have gotten particularly high. Zayn ate a big shoulder block, and crawled out of the ring to use the floor as a base to stand up. He answered the count at seven. Strowman got out of the ring and stalked him at ringside…[c]
The match was near the stage, and Strowman tossed him into the announce table. He used the stage to balance himself, but Strowman continued the assault with clubbing blows. The assault continued backstage, where Zayn used some boxes to stand up. Sami grabbed what looked like a plastic tube of sorts, and wailed on Strowman with it a few times. Braun grabbed the tube and tossed it aside, and then tossed Zayn onto some equipment boxes. He grabbed another box to toss it at him, but Sami avoided it. He then found a chair, and wrapped it over Strowman’s back a few times as they walked back towards the arena. Strowman tossed Sami and the chair onto the stage, where he tossed him into the video screen several times. Sami slipped out of a slam attempt and grabbed the chair again. He knocked him towards the edge of the stage, where Zayn splashed him and put him through several tables.
Strowman got up at a five count, and Zayn hit him a few more times with a chair. Strowman raged out and threw Zayn down the ramp. He then hit a big lariat, and a running powerslam on the floor. The official began counting, and Zayn used the barricade to reach his feet at 9. Strowman continued the assault with repeated knees to the chest. It didn’t appear that Zayn was going to get up, but Strowman picked him up at a count of 8, and then hit another powerslam. The ref counted again, and Zayn didn’t answer the count. Strowman was declared the victor.
Braun Strowman defeated Sami Zayn at 16:56.
Zayn was placed on a stretcher after the match, but was knocked off of it by Strowman and then tossed hard into the barricade. He laughed as he left up the ramp. The announce team went into somber mode when discussing Zayn’s condition. They then plugged Jericho vs. Reigns for later. They then threw to a video package of Jack Gallagher’s Gentlemen’s Duel from last week’s 205 Live, which was put to some circus music.
Backstage, New Day was getting some dueling lessons from Jack Gallagher. They started gyrating and Gallagher took that as an opportunity to fade out of frame. Cole plugged New Day’s New Year’s resolutions for next….[c]
My Take: A fun example of a walking brawl from Zayn and Strowman. They can get overdone quickly, but I think it made for a better match in this case, as Strowman just isn’t going to make a long form match entertaining without some shortcuts. Zayn, despite losing, actually gains something here but getting in a surprising amount of offense, and the conclusion leaves not doubt about Strowman’s ruthlessness and disregard for his opponents. Well done all around.
New Day made their entrance, and began to speak before hitting the ring. They talked about their year, and becoming the longest reigning WWE World Tag Team Champions. Big E said in order to ring in the New Day right, they will dip their sticks in the 2017 Royal Rumble Match. Kofi then brought up their New Year’s Resolutions, and then Titus O’Neill interrupted by doing a mockery of their own entrance.
He then gyrated and headed out on stage. He said in order for them to reach all of their 2017 goals, he said they needed a new member of the New Day. He said they were probably wondering whoooooo…..whooooo, and offered up himself as a new member. He demonstrated his ability to their catchphrase, but was stopped when he reached for Francesca. Woods told him nobody touches his girl but him. He said he came prepared, and played their catch phrase on his whistle.
Big E stopped him, and said we all know that he blows. Titus asked them to imagine his face on the box of Booty-O’s. Woods then told him that people would rather see him on the side of a milk carton. Titus said that was strong joke coming from the weakest link in the New Day. Woods stepped up and said he would show him how weak he is, and said they could have a match if he was man enough. Titus sucker punched him, and rolled to the outside. He then said they were on, and asked for a referee….[c]
My Take: New Day’s stock is currently cratering after being put in a feud with Titus. All kidding aside, Titus is terrible but that segment was a lot better than I expected. Hopefully they move on from this after one match, as it could get all kinds of terrible in a hurry.
3. Titus O’Neill vs. Xavier Woods: Titus started out hot with a big boot and a body slam for a two count. Titus remained in control, and nobody in the crowd cared. Woods fired back eventually, but the crowd had already been lost. They piped up a bit for a somersault plancha, but it was still a muted reaction. Woods then went for a crossbody, but Titus caught him and hit a backbreaker, and then just tossed him aside. Titus went to put him away with his sit out Powerbomb, but Woods reversed with a sunset flip and got the win.
Xavier Woods defeated Titus O’Neill in 4:11.
Backstage, Bayley asked Stephanie McMahon why she let Dana Brooke be the referee of her match last week. Stephanie said Charlotte’s lawyers have her no choice, but truth be told, she didn’t really want her on Raw in the first place. Charlotte has pedigree, class, and star power, but she’s just Bayley. She’s ordinary, and that’s not good enough to be the face of Monday Night Raw. Bayley said she may not have the last name, and she didn’t grow up in the business like Stephanie or Charlotte, but she belongs in WWE and on Raw. She’s just Bayley, and that’s good enough for her, and she’s not going to let anything stand in her way.
Stephanie said fine, she’ll give her a chance, and put her in a #1 Contender Match for the Women’s Championship. But her opponent will be Nia Jax. Elsewhere, creep Noam Dar approached Cedric Alexander and Alicia Fox. He told Cedric he wanted to apologize, but Cedric told him he needed to apologize to Alicia. Instead, Dar called her sweet cheeks, and ran off like a 10 year old boy….[c]
My Take: Lots of cringe here. The match between Titus and Woods was just kind of there. Nobody cared, and they didn’t have any reason to. Why isn’t Bayley pissed off about Stephanie telling her she is going to go out of her way to make sure she’s not the face of the Raw women’s division? She delivered her lines with no passion or inflection whatsoever. This is something she fought her entire life for, and now on the big stage she’s being sabotaged and she can’t summon any fire? That was weak as hell, and should have been produced a lot better. Noam Dar as mini Vince McMahon has been a bit silly.
Cedric Alexander made his entrance. Drew Gulak was already in the ring.
4. Cedric Alexander vs. Drew Gulak: Austin Aries was on commentary for this match. Gulak slammed Cedric and dropped his legs on the top rope. Tony Nese was at ringside, along with Alicia Fox. Aries said you know a man is tough when he doesn’t wear kneepads, but said nothing about what is says about his intelligence. After controlling the match with holds for a bit, Cedric found his stride and toll control with a dropkick. Tony Nese jumped up on the apron, and Alicia Fox pulled him off. This caused Cedric to be distracted, and he got rolled up by Gulak and pinned for the win. Gulak had the tights right in front of the referee.
Drew Gulak defeated Cedric Alexander at 2:12.
Chris Jericho vs. Roman Reigns was plugged for next, meaning The Kevin Owens show with Goldberg is in the Main Event slot.
My Take: The old distraction with temporary referee blindness finish. Gets them every time.
Roman Reigns made his entrance, followed by Chris Jericho. We got full ring introductions for the Title Match.
5. Chris Jericho vs. Roman Reigns for the United States Championship: Jericho hit some really soft looking punches, and backed Reigns into the corner for some knees. He then tossed Reigns across the ring, but he popped out of the corner and hit a lariat. Reigns followed up with a Samoan Drop that got a two count. Jericho hit a missile dropkick and covered him for a two count. He then draped Reigns over the second rope and set him up for choke, but Reigns got out of the way. Reigns went out on the apron, and Jericho took the opportunity to hit a springboard dropkick that sent him to the floor. Jericho avoided a Reigns lariat attempt on the floor, and he crashed into the post. He responded to the ten count at 9, barely preserving his title…[c]
Reigns took control and sent Jericho into the corner. He hit multiple lariats and then a back suplex for a near fall. He lifted Jericho up for a powerbomb, but Jericho reversed out with a headscissors and applied the Walls of Jericho in the center of the ring. The crowd cheered loudly for this. Reigns reversed out of the hold and rolled up Jericho for two. Jericho went up top and jumped directly into a superman punch for a nearfall. Jericho got to his feet and untied the turnbuckle pad. While the ref was tied up putting back on, he ran and got the US Championship belt and gave it to Reigns. He then flopped, a la Eddie Guerrero.
Reigns pled his case with the ref, who didn’t disqualify him. Jericho hit a codebreaker while Reigns arguing with the ref, and covered for a near fall. Jericho charged Reigns as he recovered in the corner, but Reigns moved and Jericho hit the exposed turnbuckle, except the camera caught that he didn’t even come close. Reigns then hit a spear for the win.
Roman Reigns defeated Chris Jericho at 14:18.
After the match, Jericho took the walk of shame up the ramp. Nia Jax vs. Bayley was plugged, as well as Goldberg’s appearance later in the show.
My Take: There were a couple of spots in that match where the crowd came alive. The stipulations and gimmicks helped shake up the formula enough that the match was entertaining to watch. I’m not excited to see this match again any time soon, but it was entertaining for what it was.
Brian Kendrick made his entrance, followed by TJ Perkins. Aries joined on commentary in place of Byron Saxton once again.
5. Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins: Kendrick jumped Perkins right at the bell. TJ flipped out of a back suplex attempt and hit a springboard kick, followed by a seated dropkick. Kendrick grabbed TJP’s arm and jumped through the second rope, causing TJP to hit the ropes face first. Kendrick then hit a bridging leg hook back suplex for a near fall. They both ended up on the top rope, and Perkins was able to knock back Kendrick. They brawled to the other corner, where Kendrick went for Sliced Bread. TJP caught him in a fireman’s carry into the detonation kick. He then applied the kneebar for the tap out victory.
TJP tapped out Brian Kendrick at 4:38.
After the match, we saw a video package for the WWE UK Tournament coming up January 14th and 15th. Backstage, Enzo and Cass were shown coming to the ring…[c]
My Take: The cruiserweight division feels like less of an afterthought now that Neville is getting some attention in video packages, but these matches continue to be produced at the same pace as other matches on the card. It leads to the feeling that it’s just any other match, just with smaller competitors. I’m struggling to grasp the strategy in homogenizing the approach to match building.
Rusev and Jinder Mahal were in the ring. Jinder looks like a brick shithouse. Enzo and Cass made their entrance, with Enzo in a wheelchair. He did his shtick from the chair, which was mildly funny.
6. Cass vs. Jinder Mahal and Rusev in a Handicap Match: Cass took it to Jinder early on, backing him into a corner and hitting strikes. Cass missed a blind tag, but quickly recovered. He forced Mahal out of the ring and hit a big boot on Rusev. Mahal went after Enzo, which led to Cass running him off. He caught Rusev’s attempt at a kick and shoved him away. Mahal jumped up on the apron, which caused another distraction, and led to Rusev hitting a jumping sidekick to Cass’s face. He then covered for the win.
Rusev and Jinder Mahal defeated Big Cass.
Video was shown of Braun Strowman dismantling Sami Zayn earlier. Charlotte then joined on commentary…[c]
My Take: Jinder Mahal looks like a walking drug store at this point. This program is so bad, Enzo and Cass look completely bored to death. It’s unfortunate that they’ve cooled off to the level they have. WWE has given other one note acts a lot more opportunity.
Bayley made her entrance, followed by Nia Jax.
7. Nia Jax vs. Bayley: Nia hit a shoulder breaker, followed by a lariat in the corner. Nia covered and got a two count. Nia applied a cobra clutch, but Bayley escaped and shoved her into the corner. Nia took a run at Bayley and crashed into the post when Bayley moved. Nia recovered and hit a running body block, followed by an elbow drop, and a leg drop. She then climbed to the second rope, and Sahsa Banks music hit. Nia was distracted watching Sasha, which allowed Bayley to hit a Bayley to Belly out of the corner for the win.
Bayley defeated Nia Jax at 3:39.
After the match, Bayley and Sasha stood on the ramp as Charlotte held up the Women’s Championship. The KO Show is next…[c]
My Take: I guess they needed a shortcut to give Bayley a victory, but I’m not sure I’d have given anyone a pinfall victory over Nia Jax at this point. That should have been saved for a big moment, and there is no stuffing the toothpaste back in the tube on that one. We’ll have to play wait and see on this program. I don’t think they took enough time and effort to turn Bayley into a successful character on the main roster. Her lack of fire earlier in the show was a little troubling, as well as seemingly taking no issue with getting an assist in earning her title opportunity.
Owens made his entrance with Jericho. There was a guy in the ring wearing a sign on his head that said “The Kevin Owens Show”. He looked pretty tall and in decent shape, so he will in no way get involved in the segment. Owens said his guest was a huge star that just has to enter an arena to get people to chant his name over and over again, and then introduced Chris Jericho. Jericho then put Tampa Bay on the list for chanting for Goldberg. Owens was then about to introduce Goldberg, but Jericho interrupted him and said he had big news. He then announced his entrance into the Royal Rumble. Owens got upset about the possibility of Jericho winning hand having to fight his best friend at WrestleMania, but Jericho said no matter who wins they both remain the WWE Universal Champion.
Goldberg’s music hit and he interrupted the argument with his entrance. He was already sweating profusely while making his entrance. He grabbed a microphone from a cheap lawn chair setup in the ring. He asked if he had it straight about Chris Jericho being in the Royal Rumble match, and said he’s first. Owens asked him to cease the hostility. Goldberg took off his coat and threw some furniture. Jericho threatened to put him on the list, and Goldberg got in their face and said Spears and Jackhammers are next.
Owens threw around some furniture and refused to be intimidated, and got in Goldberg’s face and asserted that it was his show. Paul Heyman then walked out, and said Brock Lesnar would eliminate and repeat ad nauseam at the Royal Rumble. Goldberg then told Owens and that it didn’t matter whether it was him or Roman Reigns, they had a date at WrestleMania. Cue Roman Reigns, who told Owens and Jericho that they would win nothing at the Rumble, and then turned his attention to Goldberg. They had a staredown, but it didn’t register as a big moment with the crowd.
Braun Strowman then entered, and said if anyone was winning the Rumble, it was him. He then got in the ring, and ate a double spear from Reigns and Goldberg. They both gave each other a nod, and Reigns left. Goldberg celebrated on the ramp to close the show.
My Take: A busy segment to close the show. I liked the interaction between Goldberg and Owens, as it was the first time he’s shown a spine in a while. Reigns and Goldberg didn’t do anything for anyone, as it got a polite response but not an overwhelming one for their staredown. Assing out Strowman there doesn’t really hurt him in the long run, considering what it took to put him down, and it sent the crowd home happy. Overall, this show had some bright spots, but it was still a long three hours and several segments felt like they dragged. I don’t really feel like they have found a way to have the Cruiserweights feel like an organic part of the show yet, and the women’s division continues to lack strong character development for anyone but Charlotte. Emmalina feels like a running gag at this point, and Nia Jax took a very visible loss, with potentially even more in the near future during the feud with Sasha Banks. Seth Rollins felt like a complete afterthought on this show, especially when he had no involvement in the Main Event segment. If the rumored match with Triple H is indeed happening, they should find him something else to do until they are ready to start it, even if it’s not a match every week. His character is not in a position where it feels like he’s speaking truth to power and tearing down the WWE power structure in order to draw out Triple H. He’s just another guy at this point, who gets DQ victories over comedy heels.