By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live on December 17, 2018 from Sacramento, California at Golden 1 Center
[Hour One] Michael Cole welcomed viewers to WWE Holiday Week on USA Network. He was joined on commentary by Corey Graves and Renee Young…
Vince McMahon made his entrance to a huge pop. Vince mugged for the crowd on the stage, which was covered with gift boxes for the Christmas theme. Once in the ring, Vince welcomed viewers and said he didn’t want any boos, so the fans booed.
Vince mentioned Raw being on the air for 25 years. He spoke of changing with the times. He said despite one man’s brilliance, creativity, and vision, he can’t do it all by himself anymore. “I can do it without you guys, though,” Vince said to the fans. “With that in mind…”
Stephanie McMahon made her entrance. Stephanie headed to the ring where she hugged her dad and then bowed in his presence. Vince told the booing fans to be nice. Vince said “and” and then he and Stephanie motioned to the stage.
Triple H made his entrance. Vince delivered another “and” and then he and Hunter pointed to the stage. Shane McMahon made his entrance, did his dance, and even hugged Stephanie.
“We’re out here tonight because, um, we haven’t been doing a very good job for you lately,” Stephanie said. She said they haven’t been listening to the fans. Stephanie called for a fresh start. Hunter said the days of absentee management were over. He said the four of them were taking back Raw.
Shane said that goes for Smackdown Live as well. Stephanie said they would empower the superstars and the fans. “We’re going to give you what you want,” Hunter said. He said in the coming weeks and months the fans would see new faces, new superstars, and new matchups. “As of now, you are the authority,” Hunter said. Vince said that as long as they give the fans less of what they want and more of what they do then WWE will be then, now, and forever.
Baron Corbin made his entrance and said no one was more excited for a fresh start than him. Fans booed loudly, which Stephanie pointed out to Corbin. He said he was excited that the entire McMahon family will be running Raw. He said what happened to him at TLC was unfair and they need to have a simple conversation. The show went to an abrupt break. [C]
Powell’s POV: Everything the McMahon family said sounded nice. It’s just a question of whether it’s lip service. I’m sure they will introduce new talent and I guess this means the end of general managers (sorry, Paige), but only time will tell whether it’s lip service and they believe the real key to their ratings woes is featuring themselves on television. Sure, the McMahons have been good for ratings bumps, but the long term key is delivering a better product, not restarting their family soap operate power plays.
Corbin tried to talk and was booed loudly by the fans. He said he’s been doing his best to motivate the wrestlers and it’s not his fault if they can’t live up to the challenge. He complained about the way his TLC match went down. Triple H assumed Corbin wanted the family to reconsider and name him the permanent general manager of Raw. Corbin asked if they would let the TLC travesty stand or make him the permanent general manager.
The McMahon family huddled together. Shane said he didn’t see it. Triple H voted no. Stephanie quoted her father’s entrance music and said there’s no chance in hell. Vince said there might be a way. The McMahons huddled. Hunter labeled Vince a genius and said maybe they and the fans are right. Corbin said he just needs a chance. Hunter said they would give him a chance if he could win his match. “All you have to do is beat this man,” Hunter said.
Kurt Angle made his entrance and was dressed in his ring gear. Graves griped that it was unfair to Corbin. Once the McMahons exited the ring, Stephanie stopped and said she forgot to mention that there was a special referee. Heath Slater made his entrance while Cole recapped Corbin making Slater a referee and firing Rhyno…
1. Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin. Angle punched Corbin a few times and performed a German suplex heading into a break. [C] Corbin was in offensive control coming out of the break. Triple H came out, apologized, and said he forgot to mention that it was a handicap match. Bobby Roode, Chad Gable, and Apollo Crews came out and joined Angle.
Slater turned his back and tinkered with the turnbuckle while all of the babyfaces worked over Corbin. Shane came out and said he also forgot to mention that the match is now a no disqualification match. Slater started stomping Corbin while the babyfaces grabbed chairs from ringside and then used them on Corbin.
Fans chanted for tables. Roode and Gable performed their neckbreaker and moonsault combo move. Crews performed a frogsplash. Angle performed an Angle Slam and then pinned Corbin. Afterward, the babyfaces brought a table in the ring. Cole said it was an example of listening to the fans. Angle performed an Angle Slam that put Corbin through the table…
Kurt Angle, Bobby Roode, Chad Gable, and Apollo Crews defeated Baron Corbin in 9:45.
Cole hyped Ronda Rousey appearing on the show, Young hyped Dean Ambrose appearing as the new Intercontinental Championship, and Graves hyped the Finn Balor vs. Dolph Ziggler match for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: This was a bit of a repeat from TLC, but it was very well received by the live crowd, which took delight in seeing the babyfaces get revenge. The message of the McMahons was well received by the live crowd. The McMahon family star power should help bring some viewers back, but the key will be getting the viewers hooked on the actual product and not another rehashed McMahon family power struggle. Here’s hoping they are disciplined and simply play it straight as authority figures going forward.
The broadcast team congratulated John Cena for winning the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. Footage aired of Cena accepting the award at a ceremony…
2. Finn Balor vs. Dolph Ziggler. Before the match, footage aired of the Ziggler’s backstage attack on Balor at TLC. Balor dropkicked Ziggler to ringside heading into a break. [C]
Powell’s POV: If WWE is sincere about listening to their audience then perhaps they will finally listen to my weekly pleas to change Ziggler’s godforsaken entrance music.
Balor was on the offensive coming out of the break. Cole questioned whether there would be general managers or if the McMahons would be present every week. Ziggler performed a nice DDT on Balor for a two count. Ziggler performed a Zigzag moments later for a two count.
Drew McIntyre walked to ringside as Ziggler was tuning up the band. Ziggler went after McIntyre and they fought at ringside. Balor performed a flip dive onto McIntyre. Ziggler hit Balor, rolled him inside the ring, and performed a Fameasser for a two count. Ziggler went for a superkick, but Balor cut him off with a sling blade clothesline. Balor set up for a running dropkick only to have McIntyre clothesline him for the apparent no-contest finish. After the match, McIntyre performed Claymore Kicks on both men…
Finn Balor fought Dolph Ziggler to an apparent no-contest in 9:40.
A shot aired of the Intercontinental Championship belt. The camera pulled back and Dean Ambrose picked up the belt while Cole hyped Ambrose appearing after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: So I guess the McMahon family doesn’t care if wrestlers interfere to cause cheap finishes that mean so little that no one bothers to announce the referee’s ruling. In other words, nothing has changed in that regard.
Still shots aired of Asuka winning the TLC match to win the Smackdown Women’s Championship…
Dean Ambrose made his entrance and was led to the ring by men wearing all black with gas masks covering their faces. Graves questioned if there was a big celebration last night. Young said there was and asked if he really thought she’d tell him about it. Graves asked if the guys in gas masks are close friends. She said she didn’t know.
[Hour Two] Ambrose told the fans they should be bowing down to him because everything he said would happen at TLC did happen. Ambrose said he isn’t finished with Seth Rollins and when he’s finished he will have nothing left. Ambrose said there is another way.
Ambrose said he is the moral compass of WWE. He gave Rollins an opportunity to come out and tell him that he was right. When Rollins didn’t come out, Ambrose offered him an open challenge. Ambrose said Rollins isn’t the man the people think he is, rather he’s crumbles when things don’t go his way. Ambrose announced an open challenge for anyone backstage not named Seth Rollins. Tyler Breeze made his entrance.
3. Dean Ambrose vs. Tyler Breeze for the Intercontinental Championship. Breeze jumped out to a quick start and dumped Ambrose to ringside heading into a break. [C] Ambrose was in control coming out of the break. Cole once again wondered whether there will be general managers going forward.
Breeze performed a Beauty Shot kick and then went up top and hit a cross body block for a two count. Breeze threw another kick for a two count. Ambrose came back with Dirty Deeds and scored the clean pin.
Dean Ambrose defeated Tyler Breeze in 7:25 to retain the Intercontinental Championship.
After the match, Ambrose boasted that it was the performance of an Intercontinental Champion with character and integrity. He said Rollins wouldn’t show his face tonight. Rollins’ music played. Three of the swat team member stood at the bottom of the entrance ramp while the fourth entered the ring and superkicked Ambrose. In a shocking twist, it was Rollins. The swat team member tried to help and were quickly disposed of by Rollins.
Powell’s POV: So Ambrose fell for one of his own tricks. Meh. By the way, I now have this image of Breeze sitting right next to the Gorilla position at each show just in case someone issues an open challenge.
Backstage, Charly Caruso asked Shane McMahon what the promise of a fresh start meant. “Faces, Charlie, lots and lots of new faces,” Shane said. He added that opportunity was knocking for those on Raw and Smackdown who haven’t been getting chances. He said lots of tough decisions will have to be made.
Drake Maverick and AOP showed up. Maverick complained about AOP having their tag titles stolen and then made his pitch for AOP getting their mandatory rematch. Shane said the rematch clause is antiquated. He said Corbin basically handed them the tag titles. Shane said they would get an opportunity. Shane announced AOP vs. B-Team vs. The Revival vs. Lucha House Party in a four-way match for a future tag title shot… [C]
Cole hyped new superstars coming to WWE as a graphic showed six wrestlers… [C]
Powell’s POV: I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Drake’s job as 205 Live general manager is safe since that show is beneath the McMahons.
The broadcast team discussed the new faces and then video packages aired on Lars Sullivan, Lacey Evans, Heavy Machinery, Nikki Cross, and EC3…
Powell’s POV: That’s a nice class of incoming talent. You had to know that EC3’s stay in NXT would be short. He’s been on the main roster before as Derrick Bateman, and Vince McMahon is going to love his look and character change.
Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush were in the ring. Lashley was sitting on a stool with a guitar in his hand. Rush said Elias wasn’t the only one who could make sweet sounds with a guitar. Lashley posed. JoJo introduced Elias, who was behind them in the ring. Elias hit Lashley with a guitar and left the ring…
Lucha House Party was shown being dorky backstage… [C]
A Sami Zayn video package aired. It featured clips from his heel mic work and a graphic noted that he will return soon…
4. “AOP” Akam and Rezar (w/Drake Maverick) vs. “The Revival” Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder vs. “B-Team” Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas vs. “Lucha House Party” Lince Drado and Kalisto (w/Gran Metalik) in a four-way for a shot at the Raw Tag Titles. Graves said the McMahons have done away with the Lucha House Rules gimmick. The broadcast team also acknowledged the death of Larry Hennig. Cole said Axel would love to win the match for his grandfather. The LHP duo performed a couple of fun splashes on the Revival duo. AOP checked in and worked over Dorado heading into a break. [C]
There was a fun spot with Dawson and Dallas launching Kalisto and Dorado onto AOP at ringside. A short time later, the Revival hit the Shatter Machine on Gable, and Dawson pinned him…
The Revival defeated AOP, B-Team, and Lucha House Party in 10:15 to earn a shot at the Raw Tag Titles.
Powell’s POV: You had to suspect this was going to happen given the way Rollins praised The Revival in his “Raw sucks” promo last week. No complaints. The Revival have been tragically wasted throughout most of their main roster run.
Backstage, Caruso interviewed Rollins, who said Sunday night was a disaster. He said it went wrong for him personally and professionally. Rollins said he heard the crowd and everything they had to say. “That’s on me,” Rollins said. “That is my responsibility. I’ve gotta own that and move forward.” Rollins said it’s not about his performance in the ring or losing championships, this is his life and it’s gone off the rails. He said he would right the ship and it starts by ending Ambrose.
Baron Corbin walked onto the interview set. Corbin said everyone thought he was doing a good job as general manager until Rollins said something. Corbin jabbed Rollins with his finger will blaming him for everything that’s gone wrong for him. Corbin said he’d take Seth’s title if half the locker room hadn’t attacked him. Corbin laughed and said Ambrose already did that. Rollins punched Corbin…
Powell’s POV: So Rollins is apologizing because there was a brief “this is boring chant”? How many Raw viewers didn’t even see TLC and have no clue what he’s talking about? Either way, it was strange for him to acknowledge it when he’s had so many good matches that most fans wouldn’t blame him for the match quality anyways.
The broadcast team set up a recap of the McMahon family segment, then hyped Rousey for after the break… A Royal Rumble flashback focused on John Cena making a surprise return and winning in 2008… [C]
Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey made her entrance. The broadcast team recapped Rousey’s win over Nia Jax at TLC, as well as her interference in the main event. Rousey recalled things she said about Jax, Charlotte, and Lynch. She said she wasn’t there to justify her actions, she was there to define what a champion is.
[Hour Three] Rousey said a real champion is the best the human race has to offer. She said a real champion lives for the challenge “and that’s why I’m here tonight.” She suggested a new tradition of the champion showing up the night after a pay-per-view regardless of their condition and defend his or her title. Rousey issued an open challenge.
A group of Raw female wrestlers were shown squabbling with people at the Gorilla position. Stephanie suddenly barked, “Come with me.” All of the women immediately stopped and followed her. Stephanie led the women on the stage and said they all want and deserve a title shot. She said she wasn’t playing favorites anymore and announced an eight woman gauntlet match with the winner challenging Rousey. Stephanie picked Alicia Fox and Bayley to start the match.
Powell’s POV: Why them? No idea. I’m just disappointed that Tyler Breeze wasn’t there to accept his third open challenge in two shows.
5. An eight-woman gauntlet match for a shot at the Raw Women’s Championship. Bayley and Alicia Fox fought for less than two minutes and they cut to another break. [C] Young announced that the winner of the match would actually challenge Rousey next week on the Christmas Eve edition of Raw.
Bayley pinned Fox around 8:00. Dana Brooke ran down as the next entrant. Brooke was aggressive to start and Bayley sold a knee injury. Bayley battled back and performed a Bayley to Belly. Bayley pinned Brooke at 10:35. [C]
A Kevin Owens video package aired and noted that he is returning soon.
Mickie James was working over Bayley, and Rousey was shown watching the match on a backstage monitor. Bayley continued to sell knee pain even as she climbed up top and performed an elbow drop. Bayley had James pinned, but Mickie grabbed the bottom rope. James came back and performed a DDT to eliminate Bayley at 20:20.
Ember Moon was the next entrant and ate a dropkick from James as she entered the ring. A short time later, James tripped Moon on the apron as they cut to break. [C] Moon hit the Eclipse and pinned James at 28:00.
Natalya was the next entrant and she ended up rolling up and pinning Moon to eliminate her at 31:30. Ruby Riott was the next entrant and she headed toward the ring with Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan. [C] After some good back and forth action, Natalya pinned Riott via rollup in 41:40.
Sasha Banks was the final entrant. Graves said it was appropriate that she would come in at the end and steal the spotlight. Banks performed a nice DDT for a near fall heading into a break. [C] After some quality action, Natalya put Banks in the Sharpshooter an won via submission.
Natalya defeated Alicia Fox, Dana Brooke, Bayley, Mickie James, Ember Moon, Ruby Riott, and Sasha Banks in 52:55 in a gauntlet match.
After the match, Rousey was all smiles as she walked to the ring. Natalya stood on the ropes and celebrated, then turned and spotted Rousey behind her in the ring. Ronda raised Natalya’s hand and then hugged her. After a tense moment, Rousey offered Natalya a handshake. Natalya accepted and they hugged again and headed up the ramp together.
The broadcast team announced Finn Balor vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Drew McIntyre in a Triple Threat, Bobby Lashley vs. Elias in a Miracle on 34th Street Fight, Paul Heyman celebrating the holidays, Seth Rollins vs. Baron Corbin, and Rousey vs. Natalya for the Raw Women’s Championship for next week’s Christmas Eve edition.
Natalya was shown on the stage. She looked to the sky and then played to the fans to close the show…
Powell’s POV: Don’t get too excited about WWE announcing so many matches in advance. It’s not a sign of long term booking, it’s because they are taping the Christmas Eve edition tonight. Anyway, I had no idea the gauntlet match was actually going to close the show when it was announced. There was some good action, particularly once it came down to the final two, but it also dragged and felt flat at times because it featured Raw’s undercard and misused female talent. They have been laying it on pretty thick with Natalya lately, and I wonder if the plan is for her to turn on her “best friend” on Christmas Eve.
The McMahon family sales pitch for change is a good message, but only time will tell whether real change is occuring. Sure, some wrestlers are returning and others are being called up, but we’ve seen stronger classes of talent called up from NXT and squandered on the main roster, and the two guys who are returning have also been victims of the poor booking. New faces are nice, but they will only mask the booking problems for so long if Vince doesn’t make some real changes to the way he operates. I will have more to say in my members’ exclusive audio review later tonight and in my WWE Raw Hit List on Tuesday.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Konnan, who discusses his return to the ring for MLW and shares the crazy story of how he started in pro wrestling.