By Jason Powell
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WWE Raw Hits
Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan for the Raw Tag Titles: A good match with a show closing title change that rewarded viewers who spent part of their holiday watching Raw. The title change left me with mixed feelings. It makes Rollins and Jordan look like a strong team right out of the gate, but it also came across like the fans in the building were more excited by the idea of seeing a title change than they were about the guys who actually won the titles. It will be interesting to see if Kurt Angle giving his storyline son a tag title shot despite the fact that he and Rollins had never teamed together before will be something that comes back to haunt his character in future storylines. The biggest negative of the switch is Sheamus and Cesaro dropping the tag titles again so quickly. Ultimately, the match gets a Hit for quality and for the attempt to make Rollins and Jordan look like a quality team after WWE was dealt a tough hand in the form of Dean Ambrose suffering a triceps injury during The Shield reunion run.
Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe for the Intercontinental Championship: An entertaining match with a weak finish. Reigns getting himself disqualified was a letdown and yet was also a logical move in that there was no reason to give away a clean finish to this match. Reigns destroying Joe after the match felt unnecessary. Joe won’t suffer long term from it, but it felt like Reigns got his revenge for the Dean Ambrose injury all in one night and this didn’t leave me anxious to see a rematch. By the way, you’ll be happy to know that the WWE website followed up on this by announcing that Reigns had been fined $5,000 for shoving a referee. That’ll teach him!
John Cena vs. Elias: Elias was exposed to some degree by going 16 minutes with Cena in a match that went commercial-free on USA Network. And even though Elias was pinned clean, it felt like a good night for him overall. He handled his end of the pre-match verbal exchange nicely and continues to impress as a personality even if his in-ring skills are a work in progress. Meanwhile, it was fun to see how much Cena has won over so many Chicago fans over the years.
Braun Strowman vs. Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas in a Secret Santa match: Axel and Dallas wearing bad sweaters and singing Mizmas carols was lighthearted fun and they ended up being cheered during their backstage segments. It didn’t seem to matter once Strowman’s entrance music hit as the fans were all for him destroying Miztourage to the point that they chanted “one more time” after he destroyed them with running powerslams.
Asuka and Alexa Bliss: Asuka announcing her entry into the Royal Rumble and throwing a kick to the head of the Raw Women’s Champion was well done. She’s certainly among the favorites to win the women’s Rumble and the angle served as a nice hook for a match that feels inevitable regardless of whether it happens at WrestleMania or elsewhere.
Paige, Mandy Rose, and Sonya Deville vs. Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Mickie James: The Absolution trio needed a win after being worked over by the rest of the Raw women two weeks ago and then taking part in the awkward Stephanie McMahon love-fest last week. It was interesting to hear the broadcast team rave about Rose in that it sent the message that she is someone that company officials have high hopes for.
Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt: The live crowd got a small taste of Hardy vs. Wyatt with the duo getting physical for the first time since Matt’s “woken” transformation. The physicality didn’t last long, but it left viewers wanting to see more. It was also encouraging to hear the fans still chanting for Hardy while Sheamus and Cesaro were featured in a backstage segment that followed the match.
Hideo Itami vs. Brian Kendrick: A nice showcase win for Itami. Is Itami a babyface with a mean streak or is he going to be positioned as a heel just as he was late in his NXT run?
Enzo Amore and Nia Jax under the mistletoe: The silly romance saga isn’t for me and I fear it will damage the monster credibility that they’ve established with Jax. Even so, the live crowds seem as smitten with these segments as the Amore and Jax characters are with one another. Alexa Bliss showing up before they could lock lips was perfect in that it made the fans wait a little longer for the big moment.
WWE Raw Misses
Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali, and Akira Tozawa vs. Enzo Amore, Drew Gulak, and Ariya Daivari in a Miracle on 34th Street Fight: You had to know that WWE couldn’t get through a Christmas night show without having cruiserweights dressed up as elves. The holiday themed match did nothing for me, though at least the babyfaces were spared from the costumes and the goal was clearly to give Alexander some momentum heading into his title match next week. As as much as I cringe at the idea of Christmas themed sports entertainment silliness, WWE did a nice job of keeping it to a minimum on this show.
Kane vs. Heath Slater: It’s nice to see the creative team doing a little something with Slater and Rhyno, who have meant nothing since being moved over from Smackdown. That said, it’s not a good thing when the low tag team on the roster’s storyline is more compelling than the guy who is challenging for the WWE Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble.
Finn Balor vs. Curt Hawkins: Another week of Balor wasting time while they apparently wait for Miz to return to launch his next program. The Hawkins’ losing streak has potential, but it seems like it would be more fun if he were cast as a lovable loser who the fans were encouraged to root for in his quest to get that elusive win.