By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live on February 5, 2018 from Des Moines, Iowa at Wells Fargo Arena
[Q1] Raw opened with Michael Cole hyping the Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt match… Wyatt delivered a promo from the backstage area about how he was nearly a year removed from his greatest victory (WWE Championship) and said the only thing that stands in his way of Roman Reigns. He called Reigns a failure who is patiently waiting to be put out of his misery.
They cut to a Reigns promo from inside a locker room. Reigns took issue with being called a failure. He said a failure gets knocked down and stays down. Reigns said his journey to WrestleMania begins tonight and ends with him smashing Suplex City at WrestleMania. Reigns said Wyatt and Brock Lesnar can’t stop him from becoming the next WWE Universal Champion…
Cole was joined on commentary Corey Graves and Jonathan Coachman. JoJo was the ring announcer. Coachman said Wyatt is the one man that Reigns didn’t want to see in his path. Cole ran through some of the history between the two while ring entrances took place. Reigns received more boos than cheers…
Powell’s POV: We may never hear the new Raw opening at this rate. Anyway, I like the opening with both men getting promo time before they cut right to the match. It’s a nice change from the usual format of a 20-minute promo.
1. Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt in an Elimination Chamber qualifier. The broadcast team was back at their perch on the stage rather than at ringside. Matt Hardy was shown watching the match on a backstage monitor as Cole reminded viewers that Wyatt cost Hardy his qualifying match last week. Wyatt ran Reigns into the ring steps heading into the first commercial break a few minutes into the match. [C]
[Q2] Reigns performed a Samoan drop after selling for the majority of the match. Wyatt came back with a running cross body block. Reigns went for a Superman Punch, but Wyatt caught him with a uranage and a senton for a near fall. Wyatt set up for Sister Abigail, but Reigns rolled him up for a two count. When Wyatt stood up, Reigns caught him with a Superman Punch for a two count.
At 13:15, Wyatt performed Sister Abigail for a good near fall. Wyatt sat in the corner and made weird faces before smiling. Wyatt threw forearms to the back of Reigns’ head. Wyatt went for his finisher again, but Reigns powered out broke free. Both men ran the ropes and Reigns speared and pinned Wyatt…
Roman Reigns defeated Bray Wyatt in 14:45 to qualify for the Elimination Chamber match.
After the match, a graphic showed that Braun Strowman, Elias, John Cena, and now Reigns had qualified for the men’s Elimination Chamber match. After Reigns left, Matt Hardy entered the ring behind Wyatt, who tried to clothesline him. Hardy kicked Wyatt and then put him down with a Twist of Fate. Hardy played to the crowd…
Powell’s POV: The wrestlers worked hard, but it was hard to buy into the possibility of Wyatt actually winning despite the near falls. I guess we better get used to the predictability involving Reigns through WrestleMania. Look at it this way, Vince McMahon is obsessed with Reigns beating Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, but at least he didn’t ruin the Royal Rumble to get there.
Backstage, Seth Rollins wore a “Iowa’s Own” version of his t-shirt while talking with Jason Jordan. Rollins told him this was their last chance against Sheamus and Cesaro and he needed to make sure Jordan was healthy. Jordan said he’s 100 percent medically cleared and good to go…
The broadcast team hyped the Raw Tag Title match for later in the show. They also hyped the Triple Threat match between Strowman, Cena, and Elias with the winner earning the right to enter the Elimination Chamber last… [C]
[Q3] Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson stood in the aisle and then Finn Balor made his entrance. The Revival came out and said they are tag team specialists and told Balor to find a partner for a tag match…
2. “The Revival” Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder vs. Finn Balor and Karl Anderson (w/Luke Gallows). Balor and Anderson cleared the ring and did the too sweet hand gesture heading into a break. [C] Anderson tagged in Balor and then performed a flip over the top rope onto Wilder on the floor. In the ring, Balor performed a sling blade clothesline and followed up with a Coup de Grace for the win…
Finn Balor and Karl Anderson beat The Revival in 8:10.
Powell’s POV: The Revival boasted about being tag team specialists before the match and then went on to lose to a makeshift team. Why? Balor would not have been hurt in the least if the actual tag team pinned Anderson.
Sasha Banks was backstage watching her match with Asuka last week. Bayley entered the room and said it was the twentieth time that Banks watched the match. Banks said it’s time she reminds people that she’s The Boss. Bayley said she was facing Asuka and asked if she had any tips. Banks said she was going to keep her tips to herself.
Bayley said the Elimination Chamber would be every woman for herself so she understood. Banks said that’s right and pointed out it was the same in the Royal Rumble to help explain why she eliminated Bayley form the match. Banks scoffed at Bayley thinking she was good enough to beat Asuka. Bayley said she knows she can beat Banks and if Banks is good enough to beat Asuka then so is she…
Powell’s POV: It looks like they finally intend to pull the trigger on the Sasha Banks heel turn. It’s about time. She’s a natural heel and has never felt quite right in the babyface role.
[Q4] [C] 3. Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali vs. Tony Nese and Drew Gulak. New 205 Live general manager Drake Maverick sat in on commentary for the match. Cole acknowledged Maverick’s pre-WWE name of Rockstar Spud. He spoke about the tournament that will crown the new WWE Cruiserweight Champion. He said everyone wants the feeling of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic. Alexander performed his big flip dive onto Nese on the floor. In the ring, Gulak connected with a nice clothesline on Ali, who was able to tag Alexander. Moments later, Alexander hit the Lumbar Check for the win…
Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali beat Tony Nese and Drew Gulak in 4:20.
Cole hyped Kalisto vs. Lince Dorado, and Hideo Itami vs. Roderick Strong in tournament matches for Tuesday’s 205 Live… Kurt Angle was shown talking with Alexa Bliss backstage. Graves said Angle would reveal her Elimination Chamber challengers after the break… An ad for Smackdown hyped the previously advertised Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn match with the winner challenging AJ Styles at WWE Fastlane… [C]
Powell’s POV: It was nice to hear the man formerly known as Rockstar Spud make his first appearance on Raw. Alexander continues to be showcased as one of the stars of the division. However, the match felt like more of the same. It’s tough to get the babyfaces over in a significant way when they just keep beating the same heels who have been branded as perennial losers.
Raw general manager Kurt Angle made his entrance.
[Q5] Angle spoke about history being made with the first women’s Royal Rumble. Angle said the women’s evolution will make history again via “the first ever women’s…” Angle paused and then repeated the line and included the Elimination Chamber match name while laughing at himself.
Angle announced the following Elimination Chamber match: Bliss defending the Raw Women’s Championship against Bayley, Mandy Rose, Mickie James, Sonya Deville, and Sasha Banks. Angle noted that Nia Jax was conspicuous by her absence. Angle announced Nia Jax vs. Asuka for Elimination Chamber. If Jax wins, then she will be added the Raw Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania with Asuka and her challenging the winner in a Triple Threat match.
Powell’s POV: Maybe I missed something, but Asuka never announced which championship she would go for at WrestleMania. Let’s see if they address this.
Alexa Bliss made her entrance and complained about the way Angle has been running the women’s division. She got him to say that the men and women are treated equally, then pointed out that her title is on the line in the Elimination Chamber, while Brock Lesnar gets to sit out and wait to see who wins. Bliss asked why she didn’t get the same privilege. “Is it because I’m just a woman?” Bliss asked. The crowd gasped.
Angle noted that Lesnar defended his title at the Royal Rumble and said Bliss hasn’t defended her title since October. Bliss said Angle makes the matches. She asked if Angle values Lesnar more than her. She said Angle is guilty of preferential treatment and it’s sexist. Angle asked the crowd if they want to see Bliss defend the title in the Chamber. A Yes! chant broke out. Bliss said she deserves respect and then stormed out of the ring. Angle polled the crowd again. Angle’s music played while Cole said the fans had spoken.
Coachman and Graves agreed that Bliss was being wronged. Cole shifted the focus to the Triple Threat match that will determine which wrestler will be the last to have his pod open at Elimination Chamber…
A John Cena selfie style promo aired. Cena ran through his plan to get to WrestleMania, which is being the last man to enter the Chamber and then winning the match… The broadcast team hyped The Miz vs. Titus O’Neil in an Elimination Chamber qualifying match, and the Raw Tag Title match. They also said Asuka vs. Bayley was coming up after the break and an Asuka teaser video aired… [C]
Powell’s POV: Angle forgot the name of the Elimination Chamber match and then the segment ended awkwardly with Angle polling the crowd once and then asking them the same question again after Bliss left. Let me guess, Kurt gets flustered by Bliss, but Stephanie McMahon eventually pops up to put Bliss in her place?
The broadcast team set up a Black History Month video that featured Roman Reigns and Mark Henry on a recent trip to the National Civil Rights Museum…
[Q6] 4. Asuka vs. Bayley. During the ring entrances, Cole called Coachman on underplaying Asuka’s unbeaten streak. Coach said he doesn’t like to throw superlatives around like Cole does. Graves told him to be careful or he would end up doing radio locally. Once the match started, Cole noted that Bayley was never able to defeat Asuka in NXT.
Asuka controlled the early action, but Bayley knocked her to ringside and then performed a huracanrana on the floor. Asuka came right back by knocking Bayley off the apron. However, when Asuka tried to follow up, Bayley pulled her face first into the barricade. [C]
Late in the match, Asuka went for the Asuka Lock, but Bayley rolled her over and got a good near fall, but then Asuka popped up and put her in the armbar for the submission win. The broadcast team reviewed the replay to show that Asuka kicked out before the three count.
[Q7] Asuka offered Bayley a handshake. Bayley was leery but eventually shook her hand…
Asuka defeated Bayley in 11:15.
A selfie style promo aired with Sheamus and Cesaro in the empty arena earlier in the day. They noted that it was Jason Jordan and Seth Rollins’ last title match with them and said they would kick their heads off… Graves hyped The Miz vs. Apollo Crews in an Elimination Chamber qualifier as coming up next… [C]
Powell’s POV: A nice match with the good near fall late for Bayley. Asuka sold the shock of nearly being pinned very nicely by bulging her eyes as she got back on her knees. Bayley is still spinning her wheels creatively, but hopefully the expected Sasha heel turn will change that.
The Miz and Bo Dallas made their entrance. Graves noted that Curtis Axel was conspicuous by his absence and claimed he had a very important audition as an extra. Funny. The Miz delivered a promo in which he boasted about beating Roman Reigns in back-to-back matches. He claimed that Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson showed his players footage of his match to motivate them.
Miz impersonated Paul Heyman’s introduction of Brock Lesnar while saying he was competing for the right to challenge him. Miz said the cameras will be rolling on his new unscripted reality show at WrestleMania and his daughter will be born just in time to see him become the first ever Intercontinental and WWE Universal Champion. Apollo Crews, Titus O’Neil, and Dana Brooke made their entrance… [C]
[Q8] 5. The Miz (w/Bo Dallas) vs. Apollo Crews (w/Titus O’Neil, Dana Brooke) in an Elimination Chamber qualifying match. The match was joined in progress with Crews getting a two count off a vertical suplex. Crews caught Miz coming off the second rope with a dropkick, which led to another two count. Crews performed a gorilla press and then went for a standing moonsault, but Miz put his knees up.
Cole actually questioned why The Miz needs two titles. Graves said there’s money involved and also told Cole to imagine how many movie roles he would be offered if he held both titles. Miz hit his clothesline in the corner, but Crews caught him and slammed him before performing a standing moonsault and then a standing shooting star press for another near fall. Crews picked up another near fall, but Miz crotched him on the top rope and hit the Skull Crushing Finale for the win…
The Miz defeated Apollo Crews in 5:25 to qualify for the Elimination Chamber match.
A shot aired of Seth Rollins walking backstage. He approached Kurt Angle and Jason Jordan and asked what was going on. Jordan was holding his neck and said he could not compete. Jordan said he was warming up and he had neck pain. Rollins wasn’t pleased and said they spoke about it. Rollins asked Angle what he could do since the match was up next. Angle said the only option was to forfeit the match. Rollins wasn’t pleased. Reigns entered the picture. Rollins looked at Reigns and then Angle, who smiled and nodded… [C]
Powell’s POV: I assumed we’d see Reigns plow through The Miz in a non-title qualifying match this week to make up for his back-to-back losses. Instead, now my guess is that Reigns pins Miz to win the Elimination Chamber match. The match was entertaining, though it was hard to take Crews as a serious threat to win and enter the Elimination Chamber match. By the way, what has he done as a singles wrestler to even earn a qualifying match from a storyline standpoint? Anyway, Jordan was also all smiles over Rollins and Reigns teaming up, so I guess we’re not supposed to view him as a weasel? Well, unless he does something that costs Rollins and Reigns the match.
Ring entrances for the tag title match took place with Sheamus and Cesaro out first. The broadcast team put over the reaction Rollins received and noted that it was a hometown reaction.
[Q9] Reigns made his entrance last and the crowd that just cheered the idea of him teaming with Rollins went back to mostly booing him…
6. Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins for the Raw Tag Titles. JoJo delivered in-ring introductions for the title match. Sheamus performed the Irish Curse on Rollins at ringside, then ran Reigns into the barricade before the break. [C] Sheamus caught Reigns with a kick from the apron and then Cesaro followed with a popup uppercut and went for a cover, but Rollins broke up the pin.
Reigns went for a Neutralizer, but Reigns performed a Samoan drop. Sheamus knocked Rollins off the apron, but Reigns performed a Superman Punch. Jason Jordan walked to ringside and encouraged Rollins to get back on the apron. Rollins did and took the hot tag and worked over both opponents. Rollins performed a suicide drive that knocked Cesaro into the first row. Rollins scored a couple of near falls.
[Q10] Fans chanted that the match was awesome. Cesaro poked Rollins in the eye and ran the ropes, but Jordan grabbed his leg. Rollins picked up a two count and then connected with a superkick, but Sheamus broke up the following pin. Reigns barked at Jordan that they had it covered and told him to go backstage.
Rollins tagged in Reigns and they set up for a powerbomb, but Cesaro pulled Sheamus to ringside. Sheamus and Cesaro grabbed the tag title belts and were going to leave, but Jordan blocked their path. Jordan ended up punching Cesaro and got Rollins and Reigns disqualified…
Sheamus and Cesaro beat Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins by DQ in 13:30 to retain the Raw Tag Titles.
Powell’s POV: That’s more like it. The crowd was really hot for the match and hometown hero Rollins. I get a kick out of Jordan continuing to be overzealous. I just hope the guy will be medically cleared soon. They must have some hope that he will be or one would think that they’d simply announce his injury and send him home.
The broadcast team narrated footage of Braun Strowman dumping the broadcast table on Kane last week… A Strowman selfie style promo aired with him talking about how he will be the last man standing tonight, in the Elimination Chamber, and at WrestleMania… Cole hyped the Triple Threat main event… [C]
Backstage, Rollins yelled at Jordan about costing him and Reigns the match. Rollins called him a stupid son of a bitch as Angle showed up and got between them. Rollins said the only thing he was sorry about was not injuring Jordan himself. After Rollins left, Angle told Jordan to go home until he was medically cleared. When Jordan tried to speak, Angle raised his voice and yelled, “Dammit, go home”…
Powell’s POV: Well, so much for my last POV. This is an interesting development. Of course, Jordan could simply show up next week, but this might be a sign that they will be forced to write him out for the time being due to the injury.
7. Nia Jax vs. Vanessa Floyd. Jax press slammed Floyd and then finished her off with a leg drop…
Nia Jax squashed Vanessa Floyd in 1:25.
After the match, Renee Young interviewed Jax in the ring about her match with Asuka and the possibility that she could challenge for the Raw Women’s Championship in a Triple Threat at WrestleMania. Jax said she is the only woman in the locker room that doesn’t fear Asuka and the only woman she can’t beat. She said she will mess up Asuka’s face and she’ll have to wear her mask permanently. She said Asuka won’t be the Empress of Tomorrow, she’ll be the Empress of Yesterday…
The broadcast team hyped the Triple Threat main event… An NXT ad hyped Undisputed Era vs. Sanity for NXT Tag Titles for Wednesday’s television show…
Powell’s POV: An easy crowd. It sounded like they gasped at that corny line at the end of Jax’s otherwise solid promo.
[Q11] [C] 8. Sonya Deville (w/Paige, Mandy Rose) vs. Mickie James. Cole said Deville and Rose are best friends who do everything together, but they may have to face off inside the Chamber. Coachman noted that Deville dressed up like Allen Iverson. Cole said he told everyone that when they were in Philadelphia for the Royal Rumble. Ouch.
Rose distracted James briefly, which allowed Deville to take offensive control. Deville threw several knees at the face of James. Deville delivered a running kick to James and fell down. She popped up. Moments later, James rolled up Deville out of nowhere and pinned her. The Absolution members put the boots to James, but Alexa Bliss came out and pulled James from the ring. James looked surprised as Bliss helped her up the ramp and asked if she was okay…
Mickie James pinned Sonya Deville in 3:40.
Elias was shown playing the guitar backstage. Cole said John Cena and Braun Strowman would walk with Elias after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: I guess the idea is that Bliss is trying to create allies heading into a multi-person title defense. It’s nice to see three women’s matches on Raw. The key is giving the women real programs beyond just the champion and her challenger most months. It looks like that is happening with the women’s Elimination Chamber match and Asuka vs. Jax, plus hopefully an eventual program with Bayley vs. Banks. By the way, Paige simply called the shots and did not take part in the beatdown of James.
The broadcast team announced a second chance four-way for next week that will determine the final entrant in the Elimination Chamber. The match will feature qualifier match losers Finn Balor, Bray Wyatt, Matt Hardy, and Apollo Crews…
[Q12] Elias did his introduction and played his guitar in the ring. He said the crowd had a strong reaction for being from such a no-name town. He said he normally flies over towns like this “looking for anything better.” Elias spoke about winning Elimination Chamber and delivering the performance of a lifetime at WrestleMania.
Elias sang a song about how Strowman is not a monster and is just a man. The fans booed. He stopped and told them he needed them to shut their mouths so he could focus. He also sang about hitting Cena with his guitar and winning Elimination Chamber until John Cena’s music interrupted him. Strowman made his entrance last…
9. Elias vs. Braun Strowman vs. John Cena in a Triple Threat. The winner of the match will be in the last pod to open during the men’s Elimination Chamber match. Cena ran into a big boot from Strowman during the opening minute. [C]
Strowman had Cena down. Elias entered the ring and Cole noted that it was for the first time. Strowman chased him at ringside and back inside the ring. Cena tried to power up Strowman for an Attitude Adjustment, but he collapsed. Elias and Cena teamed up to work over Strowman for a bit. Elias struck Strowman with a guitar and then Cena hoisted up Strowman for an AA onto the bottom portion of the ring steps.
[Overrun] Elias attacked Cena to end their temporary alliance. Elias performed a backbreaker on Cena for a two count. Cena came back and was running the ropes when Strowman powerslammed him. Elias tossed Strowman to the floor and then covered and pinned Cena to win the match…
Elias defeated Braun Strowman and John Cena in a Triple Threat match in 10:00.
After the match, Strowman returned quickly and powerslammed Elias. Strowman picked up Cena and gave him the same move. The fans chanted for more. Strowman pointed at Elias and gave him another powerslam. Strowman played to the crowd and asked if they wanted one more. Strowman scooped up Cena and gave him another powerslam. He went to ringside and tossed Elias back inside and gave him another powerslam. Strowman’s music played to end the powerslams and the show…
Powell’s POV: Elias being in the final pod that will open in the Elimination Chamber makes the most sense of these three wrestlers. It’s worrisome that Cena’s losses are becoming more frequent and less strategic. I know people grumbled for years about how little he lost, but it should still qualify as a major moment when someone defeats him and that’s not really the case these days. Overall, Raw filled the time well without anything that felt like overt time filler. I do wonder if there’s a reason for Elias entering last or if this was more about filling the television main event slot than what they have planned for Elimination Chamber. I will be back later tonight with my members’ exclusive audio review. Join Jake Barnett for live coverage of WWE Smackdown on Tuesday, and John Moore for NXT live coverage on Wednesday night.