By Jason Powell
WWE Raw on the USA Network
Live from Laredo, Texas at Laredo Energy Arena
[Q1] Michael Cole opened the show by stating that they were on the road to WrestleMania. Cole was joined on commentary by Corey Graves and Byron Saxton…
WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens and U.S. Champion Chris Jericho were introduced by ring announcer JoJo. Owens came out with his arm bandaged, and still shots of the WWE Universal Championship match were shown. “My name is Kevin Owens and I am your WWE Universal (Jericho joins in) champion,” he said. Owens also introduced Jericho as the U.S. Champion.
Owens said most people didn’t think he would walk out of the Alamodome with his title, but he’s been proving people wrong his entire career. He said if he put all their names on a list, it would be longer than the List of Jericho. Owens said he proved Mick Foley wrong. He said Foley has been stacking the deck against them. A passionate Owens boasted that he beat Roman Reigns, and he is the one.
Owens said he was man enough to admit he had some help. He said he wanted to thank the man who helped him…Chris Jericho. Owens thanked Jericho for his support and hugged him. Owens said Jericho is now the greatest Royal Rumble performer of all-time. Jericho said he didn’t want to brag but he would. He said four hours, 56 minutes, and 12 seconds is the amount of time he has spent in the Rumble match, which is a record.
Jericho boasted that he was the 61-minute man this year. He told the fans to tweet hashtags about him. He said the only reason he didn’t win the Rumble is that he was suffering from vertigo due to being inside the shark cage during the Universal Title match.
Braun Strowman made his entrance to no reaction from a quieter than usual crowd. Cole said Strowman was the real reason Owens kept his championship. Owens said it’s funny Strowman just came out because he was just about to thank him. A “thank you, Strowman” chant started. Strowman said he did what he did because he can’t stand Reigns and because he wants the title shot he was promised.
Owens said interfering in a match doesn’t qualify him for a championship opportunity. Strowman said he had proof and showed footage of Owens saying Strowman was next in line after he retained the title at the Rumble. Strowman said Owens needed to give him a title shot tonight or he would break him in half. Fans cheered.
Mick Foley made his entrance wearing a horrible green plaid suit. Foley said Owens did promise him a title opportunity. Owens tried to talk of his way out of it, but Foley booked him in the match… Cole hyped Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn in a non-title match after the break…
Powell’s POV: I’ve been watching pro wrestling since 1980 and Mick Foley’s suit might be the most offensive thing I’ve ever seen. The crowd is tough. They came to life a little bit for the match announcement and there are some loud fans there, but they certainly weren’t as easy as most crowds are for the opening segment of Raw. Oh, and it sounds like WWE is back in “championship opportunity” rather than “title shot” mode this week.
[Q2] [C] 1. Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn in a non-title match. Cole put over Zayn lasting over 47 minutes in the Rumble match before being eliminated by Undertaker. Graves said it’s impressive, but he’s not a 61-minute man like Jericho. At 2:35, Jericho used the referee as a shield and then performed a springboard dropkick that knocked Zayn to the floor. Jericho slid to the floor and Zayn clotheslined him. Zayn performed a moonsault going into the break. [C]
Powell’s POV: It’s odd that neither Cole nor Saxton pointed out that Jericho spent a good portion of the 61 minutes in the Rumble hiding out at ringside. It makes sense that heel Graves would sing his praises. Instead, all three broadcast team members are gushing over his Rumble match accomplishments.
At 8:30, Jericho performed a huracanrana on Zayn, who was seated on the top rope. Jericho got cocky, only to have Zayn roll him up for a two count. A short time later, Jericho jumped off the top rope. Zayn grabbed him and performed the Blue Thunder Bomb for a two count.
Zayn set up for his finisher, but Jericho rolled to ringside. Zayn followed and wanted to do the dive through the ropes, but Jericho moved away from that too. Zayn chased Jericho back inside the ring and performed a DDT, then set up for his finisher again, but Jericho countered into a Walls of Jericho. Zayn teased tapping before reaching the ropes to break it.
[Q3] Zayn came back with an exploder suplex into the corner. Zayn followed up with the Helluva Kick and scored the pin. Graves said Jericho was clearly exhausted from the Rumble to give Jericho a heelish out for the loss…
Sami Zayn defeated Chris Jericho in 11:45 in a non-title match.
Cole hyped Owens vs. Strowman, and Graves said they would show viewers what happened when Seth Rollins appeared at NXT Takeover: San Antonio to call out Triple H… [C]
Powell’s POV: A nice match and the previously quiet crowd was pretty lively once the talking ended and the bell rang to start the first match. The Fastlane show doesn’t take place until March 5, so it seems more likely that Zayn will get a title shot on television rather than waiting until the Raw pay-per-view.
More Rumble still shots were shown. The last shot showed Randy Orton looking at the WrestleMania sign…
Backstage, Cesaro and Sheamus were bickering about their actions in the Rumble match. Bayley showed up and got between them and brought up their mixed tag match against Charlotte, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson. She said they need to get on the same page with a group hug. Cesaro was down, but Sheamus hated life. Their opponents showed up. Anderson said the babyfaces were the Rumble loser support group. Gallows called them nerds. Charlotte called them failures.
Cole set up the video package on Seth Rollins and Triple H, while adding that Rollins and Stephanie McMahon would go face-to-face later in the show…
Backstage, Stephanie was on the phone telling someone “it is all set.” Kevin Owens entered the room and she ended the call. Owens was unhappy about having to face Strowman after what he went through the night before. He said he’s been trying to live up to Triple H’s expectations, but he had to be honest in saying he is hurt. Stephanie said she had no idea that Foley was going to book that match. She said she would talk to Foley after dealing with the Rollins business to see about getting his match cancelled…
Powell’s POV: After the Rollins business? Does that mean Stephanie won’t be around to have that conversation with Foley? I realize Orton is a Smackdown wrestler, but it’s odd that they haven’t spent time talking about the winner the night after the big event, especially since I assume his character could technically choose to challenge for the Universal Championship.
[Q4] [C] Cole boasted that there were 52,020 fans in attendance at the Royal Rumble…
2. Tony Nese vs. Mustafa Ali. Austin Aries replaced Byron Saxton for the cruiserweight match. They recapped Nese attacking TJ Perkins after losing to him on 205 Live. Cole mentioned that Neville beat Rich Swann to win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship at the Royal Rumble and will be coronated later in the show.
Nese turned Ali inside out with a nice clothesline at 1:50. Aries said it looked like Ali had Nese’s abs painted on his ring gear. Funny. Later, Nese went up top with his back to the ring. Nese cut him off and he fell to the mat. Nese followed up with a running knee to the head for the win…
Tony Nese pinned Mustafa Ali in 3:50.
After the match, Aries interviewed Nese on the stage and asked him him about critics who say he has clearance wrap charisma, and how he has washboard abs, yet talking to him is like talking to an actual washboard. Nese looked at Aries intensely and said he doesn’t have answer questions from his critics… Cole hyped the Stephanie and Rollins segment for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: They spotlighted Ali last week, and now it seems to be Nese’s week. Is there a real plan or is everyone just taking turns winning and losing? It was nice to see Nese get a rare win, but the post match angle accentuated his negatives. Are they setting up something for Aries or just using him to take shots at the cruiserweights?
[Q5] Seth Rollins made his entrance. Cole said he was backstage on Saturday at NXT and had never seen Rollins as angry as he was when he was dragged out by security. Rollins said he may have been banned from the building on Sunday, but he is on Raw. Rollins said he knows Stephanie wants to scold him for his bad behavior, but even billion dollar princesses don’t always get their way.
Stephanie headed to the ring to zero reaction. She said she was there to disappoint him on multiple levels. He fired back that’s what she does for her husband every night. She said Triple H wasn’t in the building. Rollins said he doesn’t care about Stephanie, and wants to know when she will let her coward of a husband off his leash.
Stephanie said Hunter is afraid – of what he might do to Rollins. Steph said she asked Hunter to stay home. Rollins wasn’t buying her story. She spoke about how they rode high when he was the face of the company, but now he lost a match and was out of the Rumble and was even banned from the building. Stephanie said he should be apologizing, not to the fans but to her. The fans chanted “no.”
“I’m sorry that over the last two months that I have exposed your husband for the gutless snake that he is,” Rollins said. He said Hunter’s legacy is going up in smoke because he won’t face him. Rollins said he went to NXT to call him out in his own house, yet he had security do his dirty work. Rollins said the guy in the suit is not Triple H. “That’s a scared dude is what that is,” Rollins said.
Rollins added that he’s the greatest threat to his legacy that he’s ever seen. Rollins said that he knows it, the fans know it, and Steph knows it to given the way she’s always looked at him. Stephanie said she looks at him with disgust. Stephanie said if Rollins plays the game then he’ll be the architect of his own demise. Rollins said he has nothing left to lose.
Rollins said that if showing up at NXT was bad for business, how will her father feel when he shows up at WWE Headquarters. Rollins asked how Steph’s kids will feel when he shows up at their door. Stephanie said she lied. “Triple H is on his way to this arena right now,” she said. “Triple H is coming and he’s coming for you”…
The broadcast team recapped the angle, then set up footage from earlier in the show of Strowman demanding a title shot… The broadcast team hyped Owens vs. Strowman for the Universal Championship, and the mixed tag match… [C] An ad for Smackdown hyped John Cena returning as WWE Champion (no mention of Orton and the Rumble win)…
Powell’s POV: I actually wish they would have had Rollins show up at WWE Headquarters and do other things make life miserable for Triple H. That could have been fun. The way they build up Triple H and his return actually makes him feel like the great returning babyface.
[Q6] 3. Bayley, Cesaro, and Sheamus vs. Charlotte, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson in a mixed tag match. Cesaro wore tassels on his wrists. WWE is selling small inflatable versions of the inflatable tube men, which is presumably why Saxton tweaked the Family Guy tribute line he used when they popped up on the stage. Cole said Charlotte is the first WWE wrestler to start 16-0 on pay-per-view. Cesaro was dumped to ringside before an early break. [C]
The heels were still working over Cesaro, who eventually made a hot tag to Sheamus. Late in the match, Bayley leapt off Cesaro’s back and clotheslined Charlotte, then had Cesaro got for a springboard dive onto the tag champs on the floor. He slipped and then regrouped and performed the move again, only to not get much help and he landed hard on the floor. In the ring, Bayley hit the Bayley-to-Belly on Charlotte and pinned her…
Bayley, Cesaro, and Sheamus defeated Charlotte, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson in 7:30.
Backstage, Stephanie McMahon questioned Foley about booking Owens in the title match against Strowman. Stephanie got upset and asked if he had a brain fart. She questioned if he didn’t tell her intentionally. Foley said she hired him to do a job. He recalled Hunter’s music playing last week even though he was nowhere to be found. Stephanie blamed the production team. Foley said he looks stupid tonight, but he asked her not to treat team like he is stupid. She gave Foley her word that Hunter would be at the show. Foley pitched his match and said it should be a great match unless someone plays Hunter’s music and he doesn’t show. Foley held up his hand for a high five, but Stephanie just glared at him until he walked away…
Graves hyped the Neville coronation for after the break…
Powell’s POV: Cesaro seemed fine afterwards, but that was ugly. It looked like Gallows did his best to break his fall, but Cesaro still landed hard.
[Q7] [C] More Royal Rumble still shots were shown… Neville headed to the ring for a promo and said he is the King of the Cruiserweights. Neville said the fans never supported him, but look at him now. Rich Swann’s entrance music interrupted Neville. Swann said the people are not out to get him. He said that fight is happening in Neville’s head.
Swann said he may not like Neville, but even he has to admit that Neville is one of the very best in the ring and he proved it at the Rumble. Swann said he has to respect him for that, then offered him a handshake. Neville put his title belt down and asked when Swann is going to get it. Neville said you can’t offer your hand to the king, you bend a knee and bow. There were scattered boos from the crowd.
Swann drop the mic and started to leave. Neville told him not to turn his back on his king and tried to stop him. Swann punched Neville and eventually worked him over with several punches. Neville got up and Swann caught him with a kick. Neville went to ringside. Swann dove onto him and threw more punches. Swann went back to the ring and pointed at the cruiserweight championship…
The broadcast team hyped Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Rusev and Jinder Mahal, and the WWE Universal Championship for later in the show… [C]
Powell’s POV: A decent segment that the live crowd didn’t give a damn about. It’s a shame. I don’t mind Neville calling himself the king of the cruiserweights, but I wish he would tone down the king lines in favor of being more realistic and less cliche WWE king.
A WrestleMania video aired. We are 62 days away… The broadcast team recapped the Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax match as still shots were shown…
[Q8] Backstage, Sasha was getting her knee wrapped for a match against Jax. Bayley suggested she wait until her knee is fully recovered and then go after her. Bayley told her she has nothing to prove. Sasha said she has everything to prove, and unlike some people she’s not okay with coming up short…
The broadcast team finally spoke about Randy Orton winning the Royal Rumble as still shots aired of him pointing at the sign. Cole said he was sure they would talk more about this on Smackdown on Tuesday. Ugh. They focussed on Goldberg and Brock Lesnar in the Rumble match…
Powell’s POV: Sasha sounded quite heelish with that line. For once, it was actually intentional. Meanwhile, they finally addressed the Rumble match, but how silly is it that we’re nearly two hours into the show and they haven’t brought up one of the major talking points of the show – Roman Reigns and Undertaker?
Backstage, Owens was stressing out over having to face Strowman. He told Jericho they need to keep the Universal Championship again. Jericho said he’s been through a lot over the last couple nights, and Owens was out there for his match with Zayn. Owens said he was trying to get his match with Strowman cancelled. Owens asked if Jericho still wants to main event WrestleMania together. Jericho said yes. Owens said it wouldn’t happen if he lost the title. He asked Jericho if he has his back. Jericho said he does. Cole said the Universal Title match was coming up next… [C]
Ring entrances for the Universal Title match took place. Owens and Jericho walked to the ring together while Graves spoke about how he had an uneasy feeling. Jericho stopped and opted to join the broadcast team. Owens wasn’t happy about it, but Jericho reassured him and pointed at his own head. Jericho assured the broadcast team that he had a plan. Still shots aired from the title match at the Rumble. Jericho said being in the shark cage was one of the worst experiences of his life, but he to see his best friend kick the crap out of Reigns and win fair and square, so it was worth it.
Strowman made his entrance and stopped on the stage to stare at Jericho. Strowman walked over and kicked Jericho, then chokeslammed him through the broadcast table. Strowman pointed at Owens, who looked petrified. JoJo delivered in-ring introductions for the title match. Jericho was helped backstage by trainers and referees…
4. Kevin Owens vs. Braun Strowman for the WWE Universal Championship. Owens fled to ringside when the bell rang. It didn’t take long for Strowman to knock him down in mid-ring.
[Q9] Strowman clotheslined Owens, who rolled to ringside. Strowman followed and knocked Owens down. They headed back to the ring and Strowman hit him with the club to the chest. Owens rolled back to the floor. Strowman ran after him, Owens moved, and Strowman grazed the ring post with his head. Owens performed a cannonball against the barricade.
Strowman beat the count to get back in the ring. Owens performed a summersault legdrop, a senton, and then a top rope splash for a near fall. Owens went to the top rope, but Strowman caught him and power slammed him.
Roman Reigns’ music played and he headed to the ring and stared Reigns down from the ring apron. Reigns entered the ring and hit the Superman Punch on Strowman for the DQ.
Braun Strowman defeated Kevin Owens by DQ in 4:45.
Reigns clotheslined Strowman and they went awkwardly over the top rope. Reigns continued to work over Strowman on the floor and speared him after leaping off the ring steps. Reigns returned to the ring and speared Owens before making his exit. Cole said Reigns made a statement. Cole mentioned that Reigns eliminated the Undertaker. Graves pointed out that Strowman took multiple superman punches and a spear, yet was already back on his feet…
The broadcast team set up footage of Stephanie telling Rollins that Triple H was coming for him… Outside the building, Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman were shown arriving… [C]
Powell’s POV: The Reigns interference was no surprise, yet completely logical. I’m still disappointed that they haven’t played on the big “It’s my yard now” line he delivered to Taker.
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman headed to the ring. Heyman said he was the advocate for the crestfallen beast. He started to say “there is a time in everyone’s career when you have…” Heyman stopped when a Goldberg chant started out. Heyman said there is a disturbing truth that every all-time great has an opponent who has his number.
[Q10] Heyman said Andre the Giant was undefeated for 15 years, but then he faced Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III. Heyman said Ronda Rousey beat everyone’s ass in UFC, but then she got her face smashed in by Holly Holm. Heyman said Undertaker was undefeated at WrestleMania until he stepped into the ring with Lesnar.
Heyman brought up Kurt Angle going into the Hall of Fame. Heyman said you say Angle, he says Lesnar. Heyman said when he brings up to his children that he’s an advocate for Lesnar, his kids say yeah, but Goldberg beat him in a minute and 26 seconds at the Royal Rumble. A Goldberg chant started. Heyman said he’s been getting “yeah but” all day from fans who point out that Goldberg eliminated Lesnar from the Rumble match with ease.
Heyman said that whenever he says Lesnar’s name, it seems like someone is saying, “yeah but Goldberg.” Heyman said he hates “yeah but.” Heyman said the “yeah but” must be eradicated. Heyman said this is the part where you hit the record button. Heyman said Lesnar challenges Goldberg one final time. Lesnar and Heyman both pointed at the WrestleMania sign, then Heyman confirmed they wanted the match for WrestleMania. Heyman said the odds are in Goldberg’s favor to be standing over the vanquished victim. Heyman said his client offers Goldberg “yeah but”. Heyman tossed the mic and then he and Lesnar left the ring together… [C]
Powell’s POV: That’s the strongest Heyman promo we’ve heard in some time. He’s never bad on the mic, but there are times when he’s truly great and this was one of them.
5. Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks. Sasha had her knee wrapped to sell her injury. Banks dropkicked Jax’s knee to start. Jax charged her in the corner, but Sasha moved. Jax went to ringside to regroup and Sasha caught her with a kick, then went for a slid kick that Jax caught. Nia grabbed her in a full nelson and whipped her bad knee into the post twice.
Jax rolled her back inside the ring and kicked the bad knee. Jax also at the back of Jax’s legs and then wrenched on the bad knee until she got the submission win. After the match, Jax put Sasha in a submission hold again. Bayley came out to help Sasha, and Jax left the ring to boos…
Nia Jax beat Sasha Banks in 2:05.
The broadcast team hyped Enzo and Cass vs. Rusev and Jinder in a tornado tag match… More still shots aired from the Rumble…
Powell’s POV: I really like what they are doing with Jax, Banks, and now Bayley. Jax looks like a remorseless monster, Sasha’s frustration is growing, and it looks like Bayley will eventually be the target of that frustration.
[Q11] A trainer and Bayley helped Sasha Banks into the trainer’s room…
Lana stood in the ring and said she wished she could say she was happy to be in the city, but it was just a small village. Funny. She introduced Rusev, who was accompanied by Jinder Mahal. Rusev is wearing the face shield due to his broken nose. Enzo and Cass came out and did their schtick. Enzo did the haters bit. Cass asked what was on Jinder’s skin. “Are those veins?” he asked. They also mocked Rusev’s face shield, and “wicked witch” Lana…
Powell’s POV: Is it really a good idea for WWE to point out Jinder’s physique? Bold.
6. Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Rusev (w/Lana) and Jinder Mahal in a tornado match. The wrestlers fought to ringside immediately. Cass ran Rusev face-first into the barricade twice. The teams brawled heading into the break. [C]
[Q12] Enzo performed a high cross body block on Rusev. He tried to follow up with a suicide dive onto both heels, but they caught him, then Rusev dropped him on the barricade. The heel duo took out Cass at ringside and worked over Enzo in the ring. Cass eventually recovered and worked over both heels. Cass slammed Rusev and then hit the Empire Elbow and had him pinned, but Jinder broke it up. Enzo pulled Jinder to the floor and ran him into the steps. A short time later, Enzo and Cass hit the rocket launcher on Rusev for the win…
Enzo Amore and Big Cass defeated Rusev and Jinder Mahal in 9:45.
A limo arrived outside the building. Triple H exited the limo and headed toward the building… The broadcast team hyped the WWE 24 documentary on WrestleMania 32. Cole said it’s the best documentary the company has done. They said viewers would see another side of Charlotte, and New Day come up with the concept for their giant cereal box. A sneak peak aired…
Cole narrated still shots of Goldberg eliminating Brock Lesnar from the Royal Rumble match. Cole set up footage from earlier in the show of Paul Heyman challenging Goldberg to a match at WrestleMania… Goldberg was advertised for next week’s Raw in Portland…
Triple H’s entrance music played and he headed out dressed in a suit. Jojo introduced him as the COO of WWE. “Seth Rollins… Seth frickin’ Rollins,” he said.
[Overrun] Hunter said he plucked Rollins from obscurity and made him a star. Hunter said he made him an offer to leave The Shield and he bought in in a big way. Hunter said that standing by his side, Rollins became the face of WWE, the WWE Champion, and everything he ever wanted out of the business.
Hunter said Rollins just had to hold up his end of the bargain. Hunter said Rollins couldn’t do it and he collapsed under the pressure. He said Rollins emotionally handed over the title and everything he ever handed him. He said Rollins thought the world wouldn’t turn while he was gone, but it did. Hunter said that without him by his side, Rollins was an abject failure. Hunter asked if Rollins took any responsibility. “No, no, no, that failure was blamed on me,” Hunter said.
Triple H said he’s supposed to apologize to Rollins, but he doesn’t feel like he owes it to him. “I gave you the world, Seth Rollins, and you spit in my face.” Hunter asked the fans if they realize how hard it is for him not to come to the ring when Rollins calls him out. Hunter said he doesn’t come out because his wife asks him not to, and she’s right because it’s what’s best for business that he doesn’t. Hunter said he is trying so hard not to be that guy anymore.
Hunter said he’s trying not to be that guy who ends careers, crushes dreams, injures people and doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks. Hunter said every day he puts on the suit and ties his stupid tie and put it all behind him. He said he goes to the office to be a creator for everyone, but then Rollins comes to NXT, where he is trying to “create the next Seth frickin’ Rollins.” Hunter said he is done trying. “I am so done trying,” Hunter said.
Triple H took his jacket off and removed his tie while the fans chanted his name. Hunter said Rollins doesn’t have to worry about coming to his house, because he was standing there. Hunter said Rollins already knows who his creator is, and he told him to get to the ring to meet his destroyer.
Rollins’s music hit and he walked onto the stage. Rollins headed to the ring and once he got to ringside, Samoa Joe blindsided him. Joe worked over Rollins at ringside and ran him into the barricade multiple times. Some fans chanted “holy shit.” Hunter put his jacket back on and went to ringside where he looked down at Rollins. Joe picked up Rollins and tossed him inside the ring. Hunter headed up the ramp.
Rollins got one shot in, but Joe came right back with a kick in the corner and then multiple sentons. Joe let Rollins pull himself up. Joe ducked a swing and then locked him in the Coquina Clutch.
Powell’s POV: A really good promo from Triple H in terms of delivery and emotion. And just when it seemed like Hunter had dumped on Rollins to the point where Hunter would be the total babyface, then came Joe’s blindside attack, which makes Hunter look like he’s talking a big game, yet dodging Rollins. It’s great to see Joe finally get the call to the main roster. I just hope he’s not a stepping stone that Rollins will quickly overcome in time for Rollins to get his match with Hunter at WrestleMania.
Overall, the show had some big high points and some moments of three-hour fatigue, but it gets a thumbs up. They are starting to bring back the “anything can happen” feel in time for WrestleMania season, and we’re obviously seeing more of the top stars. I will have more to say later tonight in my WWE Raw audio review, which will be up a little later because I am off to record The Ross Report with Jim Ross, which will be available on Tuesday night at PodcastOne.com.