12/18 Powell’s WWE Raw Live TV Review: Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman return, Cedric Alexander vs. Drew Gulak for a WWE Cruiserweight Title shot, the build to the Royal Rumble

By Jason Powell

WWE Raw on the USA Network
Live from Providence, Rhode Island at Dunkin Donuts Center

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[Q1] Raw opened with a video package that recapped the Braun Strowman vs. Kane match from last week and concluded with the question of who will challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble… The broadcast team was Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Booker T…

Raw general manager Kurt Angle made his entrance and was serenaded with “you suck” chants. Angle started to address the conclusion of last week’s main event. Braun Strowman made his entrance and interrupted Angle. Strowman told Angle that he earned the right to face Lesnar. Strowman said he was the only man standing last week and that’s why Angle should pick him.

Kane made his entrance. Once in the ring, he said he was responsible for more destruction than anyone in WWE for over 20 years. Kane said there’s no way anyone will step in front of him. Kane said Lesnar’s list of victims is impressive and includes his brother Undertaker, it does not include him. Kane said he would get his shot at the Royal Rumble unless Strowman is man enough to stop him.

Paul Heyman interrupted with a “Ladies and gentlemen” line as he walked onto the stage. Heyman said they wouldn’t have the discussion without input from the title holder. Heyman introduced Brock Lesnar, who received a good reaction from the live crowd. “Three of the baddest men in sports entertainment history are going to be in the ring at the same time,” Cole said as Lesnar headed to the ring.

Angle raced through his announcement that it would be a Triple Threat match between Lesnar, Strowman, and Kane at the Royal Rumble. Lesnar cleared Strowman from the ring. Kane went for a chokeslam, but Lesnar avoided it. Lesnar hoisted up Kane and put him down with an F5. Kane eventually sat up from the F5 and got to his feet while Lesnar showed surprise from the stage…

Cole hyped Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe for after the break… [C]

Powell’s POV: I realize it’s early in the build to the Triple Threat, but Lesnar is already a heavy favorite and Kane is going to be viewed as the weak link by most fans, so why have Lesnar put Kane down with an F5? The classic Kane sit up routine just wasn’t enough to turn things in his favor. On a side note, it’s still weird to me to see Angle showing fear in a situation like this.

Q2] Cole boasted that WWE’s Youtube page has topped 20 million subscribers and boasted that it’s more than the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, and UFC combined…

Powell’s POV: That’s an impressive subscriber count and I’m not trying to take away from it, but it’s worth noting that I’m a big fan of the NFL and the NHL and I never go to Youtube for anything related to those sports.

Seth Rollins made his entrance for the match with Samoa Joe. Jason Jordan came out instead to boos and with a mic in hand. Jordan stopped on the ramp and said that he knew he wasn’t the guy that Rollins wanted to see. Jordan walked toward the ring as he said he knew Rollins wanted Samoa Joe. “You’re not the only one,” Jordan said. He recalled asking Angle for a match with Joe for two weeks.

Jordan entered the ring and said he was done asking. Jordan said he had nothing but respect for Rollins, but if he has a bone to pick with Joe then he’d have to pick the bones when he finished with him. Rollins got a mic and said he respects him and appreciates what he was trying to do, but this was not his big opportunity. Samoa Joe made his entrance.

Joe stood on the stage and said Rollins and Jordan made him feel like the belle of the ball. “All the popular boys wanna dance with me,” Joe said. He proposed a Rollins vs. Jordan match and said the winner would get to be beaten down and put to sleep by him. Rollins said the match was already made and Jordan could go look for his daddy’s approval somewhere else. Jordan shoved Rollins to the mat. Rollins got up and the match with Jordan was set by the referee…

1. Seth Rollins vs. Jason Jordan. Joe watched the match from ringside on a chair. Rollins clotheslined Jordan to ringside in front of Joe, who got up and taunted Jordan heading into a break. [C] Jordan drove Rollins back first into the barricade. One guy got really excited and tried and failed to start a “holy shit” chant.

[Q3] Jordan targeted the back of Rollins and got a two count off a backbreaker. Cole said Jordan had been impressive, but eventually he had to start winning. Booker said it took him nearly ten years to start winning on a regular basis. Rollins showed some life, but Jordan cut him off before they cut to a shot of an arrogant Joe at ringside. [C]

At 15:00, Rollins performed a suicide dive on Jordan. Rollins landed so that his back would hit the barricade, so he went right back to selling his back. Both men returned to the ring as the referee’s count reached nine. Jordan caught Rollins going for a springboard move and performed a Northern Lights suplex and rolled right into performing the move a second time.

Rollins came back with a great frogsplash off the top rope for a good near fall at 17:40. Jordan rolled to ringside. Rollins hit him with a high knee off the apron. Rollins got up and glared at Joe, who jumped up from his seat. Rollins grabbed Jordan and ran him into Joe, then superkicked Joe to the ground. Back inside the ring, Rollins connected with his high knee finisher for the win…

Seth Rollins defeated Jason Jordan in 19:00.

After the match, Rollins and Joe started fighting. The referee pulled off Rollins. Joe took advantage of the ref’s involvement with a cheap shot at Rollins. Joe performed a uranage and worked over Rollins with punches until a few more referees came out and talked him down. Cole said Rollins earned a future match against Joe. At ringside, Joe knocked down a weary Jordan with a clothesline against the barricade…

Graves hyped Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Mickie James vs. Absolution in a six-woman tag match…

Powell’s POV: A good match between Rollins and Jordan, and the threat of Joe at ringside was a nice touch. They filled a lot of television time in an entertaining way and set up the Joe vs. Rollins match while continuing the storyline with Jordan. Nicely done. I also like the way they are placing longer matches early in the show when the live crowd and television viewers should have more patience than they would later in the show.

[Q4] [C] An ad for Smackdown focussed on the fallout from the Clash of Champions match with Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan as special referees…

Powell’s POV: In other words, they once again want you to tune into Smackdown to see Shane McMahon’s reaction to something.

Backstage, Rollins told Angle that he wanted to face Joe later in the show. Dean Ambrose was with Rollins and he wanted in too. Jordan showed up too. Angle booked Rollins, Ambrose, and Jordan vs. Joe, Sheamus, and Cesaro for later in the show. When they protested teaming together, Angle told them to take it or leave it…

Powell’s POV: Roman Reigns is not advertised for this event on the WWE Live Events page, so I guess that helps explain why they are going with Jordan teaming with Rollins and Ambrose.

The broadcast team discussed Woken Matt Hardy’s antics. Graves said it spilled over to social media. Bray Wyatt interrupted with a promo from a smoky undisclosed location (backstage). He questioned what drew people to Woken Matt. He asked whether it was the childish laugh or the funny faces he makes. Bray said that if Hardy wants to continue the chess match then he wants to play. Bray said the Great War must end…

Finn Balor made his entrance for a handicap match against Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel… [C]

2. Finn Balor vs. Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel in a handicap match. The entrance of Axel and Dallas was televised.

[Q5] Axel suffered a bloody nose during the match. At 5:25, Balor set up for his finisher on Axel, but Dallas cut him off. The heels both attacked Balor for the DQ.

Finn Balor beat Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel by DQ in 5:35.

The heels worked over Balor until Hideo Itami’s music played and he ran out for the save. Graves said Itami wasn’t supposed to be there until he debuts on 205 Live on Tuesday. Itami used some kicks and helped Balor clear Dallas and Axel from the ring… [C]

3. Finn Balor and Hideo Itami vs. Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel. The match was joined in progress. Cole said the match was booked by Angle during the break. The heel duo worked over Balor. Itami checked in and worked over Axel and hit him with a top rope clothesline for a two count. Balor cleared Dallas from the ring and then Itami threw a running dropkick on a seated Axel in the corner. Itami performed the GTS for the win…

Finn Balor and Hideo Itami beat Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel in 4:35.

Powell’s POV: A solid debut for Itami, who had a rough and injury plagued ride in NXT. It’s nice to see him debut on the main roster and I like that he got a win in a heavyweight match before moving into the cruiserweight division. I realize there’s no love lost between WWE and CM Punk, but WWE would be wise to drive home repeatedly that Itami is the innovator of the GTS so that more casual Punk fans don’t view Itami as a ripoff.

[Q6] Cole hyped the six-woman tag match, and Graves hyped the six-man tag match for later in the show…

Backstage, Renee Young interviewed Cedric Alexander about his No. 1 contender match and asked if he was overlooking Drew Gulak. Alexander said he was given a second chance and would take advantage of it. He said the only time he would overlook Gulak is once he was standing over him… [C]

Cole congratulated Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A graphic showed Rock at the ceremony and tweets from Rock, Vince McMahon, and Triple H…

Enzo Amore and Drew Gulak made their entrance together. Enzo did his entrance schtick and it sounded like fewer than five people were chanting “How you doin'” in response. Enzo said what Gulak and Alexander will do will top anything in the new Star Wars movie. He referred to himself as the last Jedi and said Gulak was his Padawan. Enzo turned over the mic to Gulak, who said he’s always considered himself a Jar Jar Binks. Gulak wanted to pay tribute to Enzo with a PowerPoint presentation, but Alexander’s music cut him off. Graves said Enzo looks like a porg after it had been run through a blender. Funny…

4. Cedric Alexander vs. Drew Gulak for a shot at the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. Enzo headed up to the stage and sat in on commentary for the match. Enzo said women and children love him and men are jealous of him. Alexander sent Gulak to the floor and then performed a flip dive onto him. There was a cool spot where both men went for a suplex and they ended up tumbling to the floor together heading into the break. [C]

[Q7] Alexander performed the running Spanish Fly for a good near fall. Alexander followed up with a kick, but Alexander caught his foot and then put him in a submission hold, which Amore claimed he taught Gulak. Alexander reached the ropes to break the hold. Enzo was shown texting on his phone. Gulak called for Amore, who headed backstage. Alexander caught Gulak with a springboard clothesline and the Lumbar Check for the win…

Cedric Alexander defeated Drew Gulak in 12:50 to earn a shot at the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.

Cole hyped the six-woman tag match, and Graves hyped Asuka vs. Alicia Fox for after the break… [C]

Powell’s POV: I assume Enzo heading backstage is Nia Jax related. It’s nice to see Alexander get the win. I just wish I could be excited about his title match. Enzo is a strong personality, but it’s hard to muster up a lot of enthusiasm for his in-ring work. Meanwhile, I assume we’ll get an eventual Enzo vs. Gulak feud. I’m happy they didn’t rush into it by having Gulak win this match.

Backstage, Enzo met up with Nia Jax, who was once again all smiles. She wanted to finish their conversation. Gulak showed up with a tissue up his nose and “broke the news firsthand” that he lost to Alexander. Gulak said he let Enzo and the Zo Train down. Jax said she was going to let Enzo handle it. “Another time, Enzo,” she said. After Jax left, Gulak continued to apologize. Enzo told him he did a lot of things wrong and then stormed off…

[Q8] 5. Asuka vs. Alicia Fox. There was a nice pop when Asuka’s mask was shown on the screen prior to her entrance music starting. Another over the top Fox pre-tape aired. Fox acted intimidated by Askuka once the bell rang and ducked behind the ropes a couple of times. The broadcast team put over Asuka’s striking ability. Fox performed her usual Northern Lights suplex into a bridge for a two count. Asuka came back with a missile dropkick. Asuka threw a kick to the head and rolled Fox into the armbar for the win…

Asuka defeated Alicia Fox in 3:40.

The broadcast team hyped Total Divas and ran a preview. They also hyped the six-man tag match for after the break… [C]

Powell’s POV: The broadcast team spent the majority of the match bickering over Asuka. Booker said you have to go out and win every night. Cole and Graves pointed out that she hasn’t lost a match in three years and shot down any argument he tried to make to defend whatever point he was trying to make.

A sponsored flashback focussed on Chris Jericho’s debut on Raw in 1999… Cole hyped the 25th anniversary of Raw and said there would more details in the coming weeks…

[Q9] Ring entrances took place for the six-man tag match…

6. Samoa Joe, Sheamus, and Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Jason Jordan. Rollins was going to start the match, but Jordan tagged himself in instead. Sheamus caught Jordan with a clothesline. The heels isolated Jordan in their corner and took turns working him over. Rollins checked in and got the better of Cesaro. Rollins dove onto Cesaro at ringside, then raced back to the ring before Joe could get his hands on him. [C]

Rollins was isolated by the heels. He got free and crawled toward Ambrose in the corner, but Cesaro tagged in and cut him off. The broadcast team played up Rollins’ nursing back pain. Booker said sciatica kept him in bed for a month straight once. The heels ended up working over Rollins on the floor. Ambrose and Jordan ran over to break it up.

[Q10] Ambrose threw Rollins back inside the ring, then raced back to his corner and waited for the tag. Cesaro ran in and kicked Ambrose off the apron. Rollins performed a suicide dive on Joe, Cesaro, and even Ambrose. Ambrose came up holding his arm. A physician checked on Ambrose. Meanwhile, Rollins returned ot the ring and ate a Brogue Kick. Cesaro covered Rollins for the win…

Samoa Joe, Sheamus, and Cesaro defeated Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Jason Jordan in 13:10.

The broadcast team recapped the match and then recapped the opening segment with Brock Lesnar, Kane, and Braun Strowman… A limo was shown arriving backstage. Fans got excited and then they saw Stephanie McMahon emerge from the limo… [C]

Powell’s POV: Hide your balls, boys, Stephanie is in the house. I assume the suicide dive is another moment that Ambrose will eventually point to when he turns heel. Ambrose came into the match a brace on his elbow, but the suicide dive looked fairly harmless. The broadcast team tried to make it seem like Ambrose landed awkwardly, but that wasn’t the case. Am I the only one who was hoping that Jordan would show a little bit of Kurt Angle dorkiness by mistakenly assuming that he was going to be an honorary member of The Shield for the night only to be rejected by Ambrose and Rollins?

Matt Hardy was shown playing chess. The camera pulled back and showed that he was playing chess with Napoleon, a goldfish in a glass bowl. Matt looked into the camera and said the battlefield of WWE is much like a chess game. He said every strategic move has to be precise and a wrong move could result in deletion. He said Bray Wyatt and Sister Abigail must be stopped. “They must be deleted,” Matt said…

Graves asked Cole if he got all of that. Graves sat stone faced and simply moved on. They recapped the Ambrose injury and the finish of the six-man tag match…

Backstage, a medic was checking on Ambrose as Rollins stood by. Sheamus, Cesaro, and Samoa Joe showed up and attacked both men. Joe ran a crate onto the bad arm of Ambrose…

Powell’s POV: I wonder if Ambrose had a legit elbow issue coming into the show and this is there way of writing him out temporarily. It’s hard to tell in that the attack by the heels was solid, yet not so destructive that I came away thinking it was a lock that Ambrose would be missing time. Meanwhile, I like that Cole is now no-selling the Woken segments rather than laughing along and making them seem uncool by doing so.

[Q11] [C] The broadcast team recapped the attack on Ambrose and Rollins. Cole encouraged viewers to check the WWE website throughout the week for updates on Ambrose…

7. “The Revival” Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson vs. Rhyno and Heath Slater. The Revival’s entrance was partially televised, while Rhyno and Slater were already in the ring. Cole ran through the brief history of The Revival and their injuries. Titus O’Neil, Apollo Crews, and Dana Brooke were shown watching the match on a backstage monitor.

Dash ran over to the corner to go after Rhyno, but Rhyno punched him. Dash butted heads with Slater and rolled to ringside. Rhyno waited for the tag from Slater, but Dash recovered and pulled him to the floor. A short time later, The Revival hit the Shatter Machine on Slater for the win…

The Revival beat Rhyno and Heath Slater in 3:10.

A shot aired of Stephanie McMahon talking with Kurt Angle backstage. Cole questioned why Stephanie was there and wondered if it had something to do with next week’s Christmas edition…

Powell’s POV: Yes, Stephanie was telling Kurt that he and all of the wrestlers have to work on Christmas night while she will be snug in her bed with visions of sugar-plums dancing in her head. Anyway, it’s good to see The Revival back. The lame Titus Worldwide trio watching their match is a bit frightening, but hopefully they are just setting up the Revival with another squash win and not positioning the teams for a feud.

Backstage, Angle approached Slater and Rhyno and told them they need to toughen up if they want more opportunities. After Angle walked away, Slater wondered if they were going to get rid of them. Rhyno said he knew exactly what they needed to do to toughen up Slater…

Elias sat on a stool in the ring and strummed his guitar before asking his usual question. Elias claimed he’s hung out with Tom Brady, who told him that his music is the soundtrack to his success. Elias worked in a Deflate Gate jab. Elias said he’s the real legend. He said Kurt Angle is afraid of what he’s becoming and he should be. Elias said he will enter the Royal Rumble and win the match.

[Q12] Elias dedicated his song to “a good friend of mine” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. He was interrupted by Sasha Banks’s entrance music. Once Sasha entered the ring, Elias thanked her for joining and said she could watch him do his thing. Mickie James’s entrance music interrupted him again.Elias said all the women want to walk with him. He started to sing again, but Bayley’s entrance interrupted him. Elias met her at ringside and she offered him a hug, but he walked around her… [C]

Powell’s POV: I can’t be the only one who wanted to hear Elias sing about about Roger Goodell in New England. Oh, and with only the women’s match remaining, I assume we’re about to see Stephanie make an announcement that’s related to them. A women’s Royal Rumble match?

Graves hyped Hideo Itami for 205 Live… Cole hyped John Cena returning for the Christmas night edition of Raw next week… Absolution made their entrance…

8. Paige, Mandy Rose, and Sonya Deville vs. Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Mickie James. Footage aired of the Raw women teaming up on Absolution last week.

[Overrun] Rose and Deville worked over Bayley and James on the floor. Meanwhile, Banks performed a double knee press on Paige and covered her, but Rose ran in and broke up the pin. Rose and Deville worked over Sasha for the DQ.

Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Mickie James beat Paige, Mandy Rose, and Sonya Deville by DQ in 3:10.

After the match, Nia Jax came out and ended up working over Rose and Deville. Jax picked up both women on her shoulders and performed a double Samoan Drop. Paige attacked Jax from behind and then the Absolution trio put the boots to Jax. The rest of the Raw women ran in and worked over Absolution.

Stephanie McMahon’s music played and the women stopped fighting in the ring. Good lord. Stephanie walked to the ring while Cole noted that everything just stopped once Stephanie came out. Stephanie stood in the middle of the ring with five women on each side. She spoke about the women’s revolution that started and name dropped Mae Young and Fabulous Moolah. She said the Diva’s Division become the women’s division. She said they became superstars who main event shows just like the men.

Stephanie gave the women credit for the first women’s Money in the Bank and Hell in a Cell matches. She brought up women competing in Abu Dhabi for the first time ever and how the fans chanted ‘this is hope” during the (Banks vs. Alexa Bliss) match. Stephanie said that was not enough.

Stephanie asked the ladies to make history again. She asked the fans if they want to see the women make history again. The fans cheered. Stephanie announced the first ever women’s Royal Rumble match. “If there was ever a time for a Yes chant, it’s now,” Stephanie said. The fans obliged and the women celebrated in the ring to close the show…

Powell’s POV: The women stopping in their tracks because the almighty Stephanie’s music played was absurd. On the bright side, the women’s Royal Rumble match should be a crowd pleaser and may even sell some extra network subscriptions. My concern remains that having two Rumble matches will water down the men’s version of the match, yet I’m still looking forward to the women’s version. I hope this means it will be women from both brands competing just as they do for the men, but nothing was specified. Overall, this was a Raw that was fine if you saw it and fine if you missed it. It was slow at times, but there was enough going on to make it feel worthwhile for those who watched, yet fans who didn’t see the show won’t feel left behind. I assume that will be the goal next week when the show airs on Christmas. I will be by later tonight with my member exclusive audio review.


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