By Jason Powell
WWE Raw on the USA Network
Live from Houston, Texas at Toyota Center
[Q1] The Raw opening montage aired… The broadcast team was Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Booker T. Cole said they were celebrating after Raw prevailed at Survivor Series…
Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon made her entrance. She welcomed viewers to Raw, saying it was the brand that decimated Smackdown. She said Shane McMahon knew his team didn’t stand a chance. Stephanie said the general manager’s job is now secure. She introduced the man who won the match for Team Raw.
Triple H made his entrance wearing a suit. Cole also boasted that Raw decimated Smackdown. Graves said Raw prevailed, but he wouldn’t use the word decimated. Still shots aired of Triple H getting Angle eliminated and then turning on Shane at the end of the match. Cole referred to Hunter’s actions as bizarre. They also showed shots of Braun Strowman going after Triple H after the match.
Kurt Angle made his entrance before Triple H could say a word. Angle didn’t stop and play along with the “you suck” chants like normal. Angle entered the ring and got right in Hunter’s face. He said it wasn’t the Raw general manager talking to Hunter, it was the Olympic gold medalist and the WWE Hall of Famer telling Hunter that if he ever attacked him from behind again he could take his job and shove it because he’s coming for him. Hunter didn’t back down. Stephanie told Angle not to jeopardize his career again.
Jason Jordan made his entrance to a flat reaction. Jordan also got in Hunter’s face and said he was 100 percent healthy, so he should try him tonight. Angle tried to get his storyline son to back down. Jordan asked for a match with Hunter. Stephanie told Angle that he doesn’t have the authority to make that match. Jordan asked Hunter if he was a coward. Triple H removed his jacket. Stephanie said her husband would tear Jordan apart given the mood he was in. Stephanie said Hunter isn’t afraid of Jordan or anyone in the locker room.
Braun Strowman’s music played and he stormed to the ring and got right in Hunter’s face. Hunter eventually stepped back and the crowd booed him as he left the ring and stood on the apron. Strowman walked forward, causing Hunter to drop off the apron to the floor. Hunter continued to glare at Strowman while backing away. Fans chanted “you’re a coward” at Hunter. Stephanie booked Jordan vs. Strowman for later in the show. Strowman got in Jordan’s face, and Angle quickly got between them. Strowman’s music played to end the segment…
Split shots aired of Finn Balor and Samoa Joe walking backstage. Cole said they would “clash” after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: It was nice to see Angle stand up for himself for a change rather than acting like a guy who will put up with anything to keep his job. It should have happened sooner, but at least it happened. This was a good segment despite my hatred of the finish of the elimination match. They never had Hunter address his actions, but that’s probably for the best since they are fairly self explanatory despite the face that Hunter helping Shane eliminate Angle seemed to confuse the crowd in the moment. It was also nice hear Graves stand up for Smackdown in that 4-3 is hardly decimation. Of course, Raw did win the top champion vs. champion match and both elimination matches, so it will be interesting if some effort is made to boost Smackdown.
[Q2] Still shots aired from Survivor Series…
1. Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe. Balor performed a nice flip dive onto the back of Joe at ringside heading into a break at 2:30. [C] Joe took offensive control with an elbow in the corner and a enzuigiri. Balor came back with a kick of his own, a running forearm, and a dropkick before tossing Joe to ringside and dropkicking him through the ropes. Balor followed up with his usual kick from the apron, but Joe grabbed his foot and pulled him down. Joe performed a dive through the ropes and hit Balor with a flying forearm.
[Q3] Balor performed a sling blade clothesline. Joe swept Balor’s legs out from under him and performed a senton for a two count. Joe applied the Coquina Clutch, but Balor rolled through it and double stomped him. Balor went up top for his finisher, but Joe cut him off, pulled him off the ropes, and applied the Coquina Clutch again. The ref called for the bell…
Samoa Joe defeated Finn Balor in 12:10.
A video package aired on the WrestleMania on sale party, then Cole hyped that tickets are on sale now… Roman Reigns will be the guest on Miz TV later in the show. Graves noted that Brock Lesnar beat AJ Styles and hyped a special look at the match coming out of the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A competitive match despite the submission win for Joe. They work well together and it will be interesting to see if they keep the program going by having Balor avenge the loss or if the idea was to give Joe a clean win and move him into a new program.
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson hosted a WWE Shop hype ad. Gallows impersonated Steve Austin at one point. They also showed off their new “Nerd-O-Meter t-shirt…
Graves said he was going to buy the nerd shirt for Booker because he’s the biggest nerd he knows. They all had a laugh and then Cole set up the Lesnar vs. Styles video package that showed still shots from their Survivor Series match…
Backstage, Jordan called Angle “dad” and asked if he was going to let the match with Strowman go through even though he’s hurt. Angle recalled Jordan saying he was 100 percent. Jordan said he only said that because it Triple H was out there. Angle was worried about what people would say if he cancelled the match. Jordan said he’d work the match and said he’s the only guy who can beat Strowman. Jordan fired himself up. Angle beamed with pride…
Asuka made her entrance for a match while Cole noted that she won the women’s elimination match for Raw at Survivor Series… [C]
Powell’s POV: It’s worth noting that Jordan refers to Angle as “dad” whenever he’s asking him for something. The first time was last week when he was pleading with Angle to keep him in the Survivor Series match, and now he said it while trying to get out of the match with Strowman. It’s something to pay attention to if only because it could be intentional if they are trying to portray him as being manipulative heading into a heel turn.
[Q4] 2. Asuka vs. Dana Brooke. A pre-taped promo aired before the match with Brooke working in a plug for the Asuka collection on WWE Network. She said she studied her matches and she has holes in her game. Asuka used her ass to knock Brooke off the apron. “Asuka is such a pleasure to watch,” Cole said. Asuka dominated the match and pinned Brooke after catching her with a spinning kick to the head…
Asuka defeated Dana Brooke in 2:35.
Graves hyped Miz TV with Roman Reigns… The Smackdown ad narrator questioned what repercussions there were for would be for Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn’s “shocking betrayal” at Survivor Series, and what’s next for AJ Styles following his match with Brock Lesnar… [C]
Powell’s POV: Cole needs to stay out of the way and let Graves do the gushing over Asuka because he clearly has a better understanding of what makes her special. Cole just throws out the type of random praise for her that he could be saying about anyone. Meanwhile, what was so shocking about Owens and Zayn attacking Shane McMahon?
The Miz stood in the ring with Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel for the Miz TV segment. After a brief introduction, he tried to introduce Roman Reigns. He tried a couple of times and Reigns didn’t come out. Eventually, The Shield music hit and the trio made their entrance through their usual spot in the crowd.
[Q5] Once the trio entered the ring, Miz said he made it clear that his guest was supposed to be Reigns, not The Shield. Reigns, Ambrose, and Rollins boasted about beating New Day at Survivor Series. Miz wanted a thank you from them. Reigns said there would never be a situation where they would thank him for everything. Miz explained that he was the reason they got back together. He also said he wanted a check for their residuals from their new merchandise. Rollins said Ambrose didn’t have his checkbook on him, but maybe later. A “Miz is awesome” broke out.
Powell’s POV: Where the hell was that when Miz was facing another heel the night before?
Reigns said they’ve been around the world and he doesn’t think he’s ever heard that chant before. The lights went down and Miz called for a spotlight at least. They lights turned on again. Miz called The Shield ungrateful. Reigns pointed out that they won and Miz lost. Miz boasted that he’s a champion unlike the three of them.
Rollins said it’s only a matter of time before he and Ambrose get the tag titles back. Reigns said he didn’t want to be the only one without a title. Rollins said Miz had a title. Reigns said he liked it and challenged Miz to an Intercontinental Championship match. The fans roared in support of the idea.
Dallas took the mic and said that if Reigns wanted Miz, he had to go through him and Axel. Reigns punched Dallas. Miz ran backstage, leaving Axel in the ring. He begged off while pointing to his neck brace. Graves said he’s been wearing it for six months. They worked him over anyway and Ambrose dropped him with Dirty Deeds. The Shield ended up performing a Triple Powerbomb on Dallas while a horrified Miz watched from the ramp…
The broadcast team set up a recap of the opening segment…
Backstage, Charly Caruso interviewed Strowman and asked him for a response to Jordan telling Angle that he’s not afraid of him. “Good, that makes him different that everyone else, including Triple H,” Strowman said before walking away… Cole hyped the match for later in the show… [C]
Powell’s POV: I can’t say the idea of Reigns going after the Intercontinental Championship does anything for me, but perhaps the match will set up a Shield vs. Miztourage television match. The crowd was pro Reigns despite chanting for Miz at one point.
[Q6] An ad for NXT TV hyped the fallout from NXT WarGames and the Pete Dunne vs. Johnny Gargano match for the WWE UK Championship… Cole noted that the company was in the midst of running four consecutive nights at the Toyota Center… The broadcast team announced that the Miz vs. Reigns match for the IC Title was officially made for later in the show…
3. Sheamus (w/Cesaro) vs. Dean Ambrose (w/Seth Rollins). Sheamus had the early advantage and Ambrose was down at ringside selling his shoulder heading into an early break. [C] Ambrose performed a suicide dive at 9:20.
[Q7] Cesaro struck Rollins from behind. Sheamus rolled Ambrose off the distraction for a two count. At 10:30, Sheamus performed a rolling senton off the middle rope for a two count. Cesaro shouted encouragement to Sheamus, who set up in the corner for his finisher. Rollins entered the ring and performed a suicide dive on Cesaro. Ambrose hit Dirty Deeds on Sheamus for the win…
Dean Ambrose pinned Sheamus in 11:40.
Powell’s POV: Good effort from both men, but it was a bit of a disconnect moment for me when they announced the latest meaningless singles match involving these two teams.
Matt Hardy was randomly shown backstage in his locker room. Jason Jordan showed up and asked Hardy for advice on facing Strowman. Hardy said he’s been in the ring with goliaths such as Mark Henry, Big Show, and Brock Lesnar. Hardy put over Strowman and said there’s nothing you can do once he gets his hands on you because his strength is inhuman. Hardy said one of the lessons he’s learned in WWE is that some nights it’s just not your night…
Powell’s POV: The Matt Hardy character doesn’t have a future as a motivational speaker. I guess we’re not supposed to think it’s awkward that the director apparently chose to show a shot of Hardy hanging up a bag backstage and just happened to luck out when Jordan showed up to ask for advice.
Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss made her entrance. She said she’d been reading comments from fans who made supportive comments about her loss to Charlotte. She said she didn’t need their social media pity. She said she knew how well she performed and Charlotte got lucky. She said she may have lost, but 2017 has been her year. She said there’s not a woman on the planet who can hold a candle to her.
Mickie James made her entrance. She called Bliss “biscuit butt” again. Mickie said Survivor Series is over and it’s back to Raw business and the only business she’s interested in his the Raw Women’s Championship. Bliss was laughing her off and then Bayley made her entrance. Bayley, who had her arm wrapped, said she agrees with Bliss that 2017 has been her year, but the year isn’t over yet. Bayley said she had to hop Mickie in line because the title is hers. Bliss mocked that idea.
[Q8] Sasha Banks was out next and she wanted a title shot too. Rinse and repeat with Alicia Fox. Bliss said none of them deserve a championship opportunity. Bliss dropped the mic and left the ring. Kurt Angle walked out and said that Smackdown proved it’s not the B show, but Raw proved it is the show. Angle booked a four-way between the contenders with the winner earning a title shot… [C]
Powell’s POV: I guess Asuka and Nia Jax don’t want title shots. Anyway, the dialogue in this segment was painfully bad. The delivery wasn’t very good either in some cases, but it’s hard to blame the women given the piss poor material they have to work with.
4. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks vs. Mickie James vs. Alicia Fox in a four-way for a Raw Women’s Championship shot. The match was joined in progress. A couple minutes into the match, the fans started cheering and then Paige’s music hit and she walked onto the stage. The women in the ring stopped wrestling and looked at the stage. “Did you miss me?” she asked. A “yes” chant broke out.
Paige said she didn’t mean to interrupt their business, but she had something to say to them and everyone else out there. “I’m back,” Paige said. The fans chanted “welcome back” loudly. She said she didn’t come alone. Paige walked toward the ring where the women were just standing there. Sonya Deville entered the ring and then Mandy Rose struck James from behind. An “NXT” chant broke out.
Banks drove Rose into the corner, but Deville stopped her. Bayley tried to help. Paige entered the ring and struck Bayley. Fox ran away to avoid facing the trio. Rose performed a move on James. Deville blasted Banks with a kick to the head. Paige pointed at Bayley and then put her down with her Rampaige finisher. Paige, Rose, and Deville raised their arms in the middle of the ring… [C]
Bayley fought Sasha Banks, Mickie James, and Alicia Fox to an apparent no-contest.
Powell’s POV: Paige received the pop of the night for her return only to apparently turn heel. I’m surprised to see Deville and Rose called up ahead of some of the other women. It’s nice to see them shake things up a bit because I was just thinking about how stale the title picture looked with three wrestlers competing for another title shot and another in Fox whose character is so silly that it shouldn’t be anywhere near the title.
[Q9] Backstage, Renee Young awkwardly welcomes back Paige, who was accompanied by Deville and Rose. Alexa Bliss showed up. There was an audio problem, but she dismissed Young. Paige said that was awfully sweet of Bliss, then she introduced her to Deville and Rose, who glared at Bliss, who returned the favor. Paige kicked Bliss and the trio worked her over and left her lying…
The broadcast team spoke briefly about the women’s situation and then transitioned to the next match…
5. Braun Strowman vs. Jason Jordan. Jordan slapped Strowman across the face and then fled the ring when Strowman no-sold it and moved toward him. Jordan got Strowman off his feet at one point, but he collapsed under his weight. Jordan acted like his left knee was hurt and left the ring. Kane attacked Strowman from behind for the DQ.
Braun Strowman beat Jason Jordan by an apparent DQ in 1:55.
Kane struck Strowman with a chair a few times in the ring and then continued the assault at ringside. Kane slammed Strowman’s head off the ring post. Kane held the chair in front of Strowman’s throat and then pushed him onto it as it hit the ring steps. Strowman gasped for air to sell the attack while Kane went to the back. Referees and trainers tried to help, but Strowman told them to get off of him. He continued to choke and gasp as he walked up the ramp and eventually to the backstage area… [C]
Powell’s POV: The Jordan heel turn continues as he’s now faking injuries to go along with being manipulating and whiney.
The broadcast team recapped the Strowman and Kane angle. Cole said Strowman was refusing medical attention backstage…
[Q10] Enzo Amore, Tony Nese, Noam Dar, Ariya Daivari, and Drew Gulak headed to the ring. Enzo cut a promo and spoke about each man being a member of the “Zo Train.” Rich Swann, Cedric Alexander, Akira Tozawa, and Mustafa Ali made their entrance to Swann’s music. Alexander said they all want a cruiserweight title shot, but they want to earn it unlike the suck-ups with Amore.
Enzo said the Zo Train is the only way to the top of the division. He told them to get onboard or get out of his way. Swann told him to make them get out of his way and said he’s nothing but a catchphrase and a t-shirt. A brawl broke out. Enzo rolled to ringside and smiled while watching the eight men fight heading into a break… [C]
Powell’s POV: I’m thankful that John Moore covers 205 Live.
6. Rich Swann, Cedric Alexander, Akira Tozawa, and Mustafa Ali vs. Tony Nese, Noam Dar, Ariya Daivari, and Drew Gulak (w/Enzo Amore). Cole said Angle made the match, which was joined in progress, during the break. Ali hit an inverted 450 Splash on Dar and pinned him…
Rich Swann, Cedric Alexander, Akira Tozawa, and Mustafa Ali beat Tony Nese, Noam Dar, Ariya Daivari, and Drew Gulak.
Powell’s POV: Is it wrong that i was hoping that Paige and her crew would return and beat up everyone involved in this? As always, it’s nothing against the talented cruiserweights, it’s everything about the creative direction.
[Q11] he broadcast team recapped last week’s Kane vs. Strowman match and tonight’s angle…
Backstage, Young asked Angle about Strowman and Kane. Angle didn’t have an update on Strowman, and said he’d address a potential punishment for Kane in due time. Angle said he had to check on Jordan, who was being treated on a trainer’s table and wincing in pain. The Miz begged Angle to cancel his title match with Reigns, but Angle declined. Jordan told Angle that Hardy was right, Strowman is a monster among men… [C]
Powell’s POV: The cornball writing of the Jordan character continues.
Elias played his guitar on a stool in the ring. He said it was the sound of success, not that anyone in the building would know what that’s like. A chant for the Houston Astros broke out. Elias told them the season was over. “Grow up,” he said. Elias boasted while singing about beating Matt Hardy, whose music interrupted him. Hardy came to the ring and they brawled. Hardy got the better of it and Elias fled to ringside… [C]
[Q12] Ring entrances for the main event took place. Miz came out first minus Axel and Dallas. Reigns entered via the stage and received a mixed and fairly subdued sounding reaction. Cole said Axel and Dallas were licking their wounds after being roughed up by The Shield earlier…
7. The Miz vs. Roman Reigns for the Intercontinental Championship. JoJo delivered in-ring introductions for the title match. Miz rolled to ringside once the bell rang. Reigns chased him back into the ring and dropped him with an uppercut. Reigns performed a sit-out powerbomb for a two count. Miz rolled to ringside heading into a break. [C]
There was a “Roman” chant as Reigns worked over Miz shortly after the show returned from break. Reigns looked to the crowd and received more cheers than boos. He set up for his finisher, but Miz rolled to ringside. Reigns followed and went for a punch off the steps, but Miz kicked and DDT’d him. Reigns barely beat the count. Miz DDT’d him again and covered him for a near fall.
[Overrun] Miz remained in offensive control for a few minutes and threw a series of kicks. Reigns ducked the last one and then performed a Samoan drop for a two count. Reigns went to the corner and went for a Superman Punch, but Miz avoided it by tripping Reigns. Miz caught Reigns with a nice kick for another near fall. Booker repeatedly gushed over the performance of Miz.
At 14:45, Miz went up top and jumped into a Superman Punch, which led to a near fall. Reigns went to the corner again. Sheamus and Cesaro ran out and distracted Reigns. Miz hit the Skull Crushing Finale for another near fall. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose ran out and worked over the Raw Tag Champions at ringside and clotheslined them over the barricade. Reigns speared Miz and pinned him…
Roman Reigns pinned The Miz in 16:25 to win the Intercontinental Championship.
Cole noted that it was the first time that Reigns won the IC Championship. Graves said the grand slam was complete. Rollins and Ambrose celebrated with Reigns while Cole questioned if they could get the tag titles back. Reigns, who had a small speck of blood on his forehead, stood on the ropes with the title belt raised to close the show…
Powell’s POV: A good match with Miz working more like a credible opponent more than a chickenshit heel. I’m not sure why they decided to put the secondary championship on Reigns at this point. It will be interesting to see if there’s a real plan in place for this or if it’s as random as it felt. Is the idea to book a WWE Universal Champion vs. Intercontinental Champion match at WrestleMania?
The main event was newsworthy due to the title change, but the overall show felt flat. Obviously, the return of Paige along with Deville and Rose was a nice surprise, but the followup to Survivor Series consisted mostly of Cole gloating and Triple H backing down from Strowman. I will have more to say about the show in my members’ exclusive audio review tonight and in my Raw Hit List on Tuesday.