By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Taped December 28, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan at Little Caesars Arena
Aired December 31, 2018 on USA Network
[Hour One] Raw opened with a shot of a cage lowering around the ring while Michael Cole hyped the cage match between Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler. Cole, Corey Graves, and Renee Young checked in from their desk and hyped the Royal Rumble pay-per-view matches…
1. Drew McIntyre vs. Dolph Ziggler in a cage match. McIntyre tried to escape the cage. Ziggler caught him and they fought on the ropes. McIntyre crotched Ziggler, who returned the favor heading into a commercial break. [C]
Finn Balor was shown watching the match on a backstage monitor. Ziggler tried to escape through the door, but McIntyre pulled him back. Ziggler headbutted McIntyre. Ziggler tried to leave again, but McIntyre caught him. Ziggler pulled the cage door into the head of McIntyre. Ziggler performed his second Fameasser for his second near fall from the move heading into a break. [C]
Fans chanted “this is awesome” coming back from the break. McIntyre came back and barked at Ziggler that he refused to let it be over, then told him to fight. Ziggler caught him with a Zigzag. McIntyre came right back with a Claymore Kick. McIntyre smiled and ended up performing a second Claymore Kick before pinning Ziggler. Cole said McIntyre could become the man to beat in 2019.
Drew McIntyre defeated Dolph Ziggler in a cage match.
After the match, Ziggler was lying on the mat when he looked at McIntyre and asked, “Is that all you’ve got.” McIntyre grabbed a chair and reentered the cage. McIntyre punched Ziggler repeatedly, then placed. a chair in front of his face and dropkicked it and Ziggler into the cage. McIntyre laughed afterward while fans chanted “one more time”.
McIntyre took the mic and said he is the king of the Raw jungle. He said he told Ziggler to walk away, but he kept coming for his scraps. McIntyre told Ziggler that he is nothing, dead weight, and doesn’t even deserve his scraps. McIntyre said now that the Ziggler chapter is closed he can focus on what really matters.
McIntyre said it’s time to prove he’s the king of WWE. He said he will win the Royal Rumble and fulfill his destiny by winning the WWE Universal Championship. Ziggler sat on a chair in the ring. McIntyre spotted it on the big screen, then went back to the cage and gave Ziggler another Claymore Kick…
Powell’s POV: A good match with the wrestlers working intensely from the start. They conveyed that there were major issues between their characters, which made the cage gimmick feel worthy. The crowd seemed into the match and if production sweetened the crowd noise in any way (which they did a lot of last week) it wasn’t as easy to pick up on thanks to the cage. Either way, the fans had no real rooting interest given that both wrestlers are heels, so it was hard to blame fans for chanting “one more time” afterward.
A limo arrived backstage. Shane McMahon got out of the limo and did a little dance. Triple H followed Shane and they walked together while Shane did his little dance around Hunter, who looked mildly annoyed… [C] An ad for Smackdown hyped John Cena appearing on the New Year’s Day edition…
Powell’s POV: I’m getting back on track with the live coverage tomorrow following a nice break for the taped holiday shows. So even though Tuesday’s show was taped on Saturday, join me for live coverage.
A “New Year’s Resolution” graphic aired. Finn Balor said people mention he is the first Universal Champion, and now he want to be known as the new Universal Champion. They cut to Ember Moon, who spoke about winning the Royal Rumble. The Ascension checked in. Viktor wanted to bring back the Fashion Files, but Konnor barked that they resolve to win the tag titles. Lucha House Party said 2019 will be their year, then chanted lucha repeatedly like dorks…
Cole thanked viewers for spending their New Year’s Eve watching Raw…
Seth Rollins made his entrance for a promo. He said he’s not big on resolutions because life moves to fast and every week on Raw is a chance for a fresh start. Rollins said he wanted to get the party started. Rollins called for his rematch against Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship.
Triple H’s music played and he made his entrance. Hunter picked up on the fresh start theme that Rollins mentioned. He said nothing would be handed to anyone in WWE and there would be no automatic anything. Hunter said Rollins’s automatic rematch would not happen. He added that he’s not sure if Rollins deserved a rematch anyway. Triple H said he took no pride in saying that to Rollins and he was always his biggest supporters.
Rollins told him to cut the crap, Hunter only believed in him because he was his puppet. Hunter said he believed in Rollins because Rollins made him believe in him. He said Rollins took everything that he ever wanted and made him believe. Hunter said that for a brief moment he didn’t believe in him, Rollins took him to WrestleMania and kicked his ass until he believed in him again.
“So where’s that guy, huh?” Hunter asked. He said Rollins is now a shell of his former self who is now asking for stuff. Rollins got fired up and said he’s been carrying Raw on his back for the last year. Rollins said he was there every single week while Brock Lesnar was in Saskatchewan doing whatever it is he does. Rollins said he’s happy that they aren’t handing things out anymore because he wants to earn his opportunities.
Rollins asked if Hunter wants the soulless guy who will do whatever it takes to get what he wants. “Yes, that is exactly what I want and I want it to start tonight,” Hunter said. Triple H told Rollins to burn it all down against Bobby Lashley. Rollins said he will take everything Lashley has to give and he will take everything Ambrose has to give. “I’ll take Brock Lesnar if he gets in my way,” Rollins said. He added that he would take down Hunter’s entire family if they got in his way.
Shane McMahon made his entrance and asked Hunter to stop amping up Rollins before he burns the whole place down. Shane announced a fresh start battle royal with the winner earning a shot at the Intercontinental Championship later in the show. Rollins said the match would start now. Finn Balor made his entrance. He crossed paths with Triple H and they did the too sweet hand gesture, then Balor fist-bumped Shane… [C]
Powell’s POV: I liked the verbal exchange between Rollins and Hunter. I like that Hunter is seemingly neutral (please don’t be a swerve) and even put over Rollins for kicking his ass at WrestleMania. It’s encouraging that Rollins continues to mention Lesnar, as that sure seems to point toward a WrestleMania match between them. I’m not big on this odd decision that there are no longer rematches for champions who lose their titles. They keep playing it up as if it’s a positive change when it’s not something anyone was complaining about. From a storyline standpoint, can anyone explain why a bunch of mostly undercard wrestlers more worthy of a spot in a battle royal for a title shot than Rollins is as a former champion?
2. A “Fresh Start” Battle Royal for a shot at the Intercontinental Championship. The tail end of No Way Jose’s cornball conga entrance was shown, then Baron Corbin received a televised entrance. The entrants were Balor, Jose, Corbin, Kalisto, Gran Metalik, Lince Dorado. Titus O’Neil, Zack Ryder, Apolo Crews, Viktor, Konnor, Curt Hawkins, Mojo Rawley, Tyler Breeze, Bo Dallas, and Curtis Axel.
Jose performed an airplane spin on Viktor. With both men dizzy, Crews eliminated them back to back. Dean Ambrose was shown watching the match on a backstage monitor. Titus was eliminated by LHP heading into a break. [C]
Balor eliminated all three members of LHP. Crews eliminated the B-Team simultaneously. Crews also eliminated Konnor, Rawley, and Breeze. Cole noted that Crews had eliminated seven men. Balor had his moment to shine before Corbin eliminated him to boos.
[Hour Two] The final four were Corbin, Ryder, Crews, and Hawkins. Corbin went for the Broski Boot and was eliminated by Corbin. Hawkins went after Corbin and tried to pull him over the top rope from the apron, but Corbin fought him off and eliminated him. The match came down to Corbin and Crews. In the end, Crews caught Corbin with a kick that sent him over the top rope and to the floor.
Apollo Crews won a battle royal to earn an Intercontinental Championship match later in the show.
Cole hyped Ambrose vs. Crews for later in the show. Charly Caruso entered the ring and interviewed Crews, who said he’s been begging for a fresh start like this. He said it took 364 days to get there, “but it is here, baby.” Crews said he can’t think of any better way to spend his last day of 2018 than by becoming IC Champion…
Powell’s POV: Crews eliminated a bunch of men including the top heel in the match, so they did what they could to build him up. It will be interesting to see what is done in the IC Title match in terms of whether they build on this or if he’s just fed to Ambrose.
Natalya was interviewed by a new to Raw female interviewer. Natalya said she wanted to face Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania, and thus she was entering the Royal Rumble match. Nia Jax showed up and asked what would happen if something came around to derail her plans. Tamina attacked Rousey from behind. Jax and Rousey worked over Natalya until producers Adam Pearce and Jamie Noble showed up to protect her… [C]
Powell’s POV: Natalya has to be on the verge of setting some type of record for being left lying by heels. It happens every other week and I’m completely numb to it.
The broadcast team recapped the latest attack on Natalya. They were interrupted by Baron Corbin, who complained that he should have won the battle royal because no one deserves a fresh start more than him. He complained that the fans boo him no matter what he does and they have no idea how hard his job was. Corbin said he deserves a reward.
Elias strummed his guitar from a stool on the stage. Elias played “Auld Lang Syne” on his guitar. Elias said it was time for New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Elias. He said he doesn’t invite losers to his party so Corbin had to go. Fans chanted “you’re a loser” at Corbin.
Elias said Corbin didn’t want to bring Raw “to a depraved and rundown city like Detroit.” Elias claimed he spoke with “my buddy” Kid Rock about it. Elias said Detroit is alive and is making a comeback. Elias sang a song that mocked Corbin and played to the Detroit fans. Corbin headed up the ramp where Elias ended up fighting with him. Elias got the better of the brawl and Corbin ran backstage…
Graves announced Ronda Rousey and Natalya vs. Nia Jax and Tamina for later in the show… [C]
Another batch of resolutions aired. Drake Maverick said every team on Raw would feel pain at the hands of AOP. Riott Squad spoke about applying pressure. Zack Ryder said his goal is more matches on Raw and to collect all the action figures. Now Way Jose and his Rosebud Rejects danced like jagoffs…
3. Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Ember Moon vs. “Riott Squad” Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan. Cole noted that all six women in the match would be in the women’s Royal Rumble match. Young noted that Logan was just married and ate a deer heart at her viking wedding. The women fought in and around the ring heading into a break. [C]
Late in the match, Moon dove from the second rope onto Riott and Morgan at ringside. Bayley made a blind tag on Banks. Banks performed a Backstabber on Logan, then Bayley performed a top rope elbow drop and scored the pin for her team…
Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Ember Moon defeated Riott Squad.
Cole hyped Rollins vs. Lashley for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A fairly lengthy match (I’m watching on delay and thus not timing the matches) with a crowd pleasing finish.
The broadcast team set up a Braun Strowman video package…
4. Seth Rollins vs. Bobby Lashley (w/Lio Rush). Rollins was already in the ring. Rush delivered a promo from the stage and said Triple H handpicked Lashley because he is a fighter, not a poser. He also got some cheap heat by ripping Detroit. Rush told Lashley to get in there and dominate. Lashley dumped Rollins to ringside, where Rush performed a huracanrana that drove Rollins into the post. [C] Lashley remained on the offensive coming out of the break.
[Hour Three] Rollins came back with a pair of suicide dives. A short time later, Rollins had Lashley down and was going to the top rope when Rush distracted him. Rollins went after Rush instead. Rush escaped by leaping over Rollins at ringside, but Rollins eventually caught him with a punch and then dropped him on the barricade. Lashley hit Rollins from behind. Rollins picked up a chair and hit Lashley with it from behind for the DQ.
Bobby Lashley defeated Seth Rollins by disqualification.
After the match, Rollins continued to work over Lashley with a chair. Cole said Rollins has not been the same since Ambrose took his title. Rush dove off the top rope and ate a chair from Rollins, who then hit both men with repeated chair shots. “Triple H asked for it, he got it,” Cole said. Rollins performed a stomp on Rush to end the segment…
An intense Ronda Rousey was shown punching her hand backstage while Natalya paced in front of her… Young hyped Ambrose vs. Crews as coming up later in the show… [C]
Powell’s POV: So the new way for WWE to get over babyfaces is to have them beat people with chairs or kendo sticks? I get that they are trying to give Rollins more of an edge, but there are definitely some similarities in this approach and the one they’ve taken with Becky Lynch and even Charlotte Flair.
A Detroit graphic was shown for the second time. Cole noted that they would be in Orlando next week. Graves said John Cena will be on Smackdown and he will also appear on next week’s Raw. The broadcast team set up the video package on new arrivals Lars Sullivan, Heavy Machinery, Nikki Cross, Lacey Evans, and EC3…
5. Heath Slater and Rhyno vs. Jinder Mahal, Sunil Singh, and Samir Singh in a handicap match. The entrance of the heels was not televised. Late in the match, Rhyno performed a spinebuster on Mahal and set up for a Gore, but one of the Singhs grabbed his foot. Slater took out the Singh at ringside, but Mahal caught Rhyno with a kick and the Khallas for the win…
Jinder Mahal and The Singh Brothers defeated Heath Slater and Rhyno.
Powell’s POV: A cheap win for Mahal puts a little heat on the heels and extends the new feud.
Dean Ambrose was shown in the bowels of the arena. He said everyone was talking about the fresh start issued by the McMahon family. Ambrose said Rollins needs a fresh start because he looked bent out of shape. Ambrose said he would fulfill his promise to take everything Rollins holds dear and burn down it down. Ambrose asked if viewers thought Crews was going to pull off the feel good moment of 2018. “Do I look like a a guy who enjoys feel good moments?” Ambrose asked. He said he would make sure that Crews’s fresh start had a rotten end… [C]
More resolutions were shown. Bobby Roode and Chad Gable spoke about shutting up The Revival next week by successfully defending their titles. Yes, they said something about glorious. The Revival were up next and they said they want to bring credibility back to tag team wrestling as the new tag champions. Sasha and Bayley want to become the first WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions…
6. Dean Ambrose vs. Apollo Crews for the Intercontinental Championship. JoJo delivered in-ring introductions for the title match. Crews dropkicked Ambrose to start the match. Crews maintained control and performed a moonsault off the apron onto Ambrose on the floor. Ambrose rolled back inside the ring and out the other side and sold being a bit shellshocked heading into the break. [C]
Crews remained on the offensive and got a two count off a Samoan drop. Crews followed up with a top rope cross body block for another two count, then performed a standing shooting star press for another near fall. A short time later, Ambrose avoided a frogsplash, then performed Dirty Deeds and pinned Crews clean…
Dean Ambrose defeated Apollo Crews to retain the Intercontinental Championship.
Powell’s POV: Crews got 99 percent of the offense and plenty of near falls. The broadcast team praised his performance. At the same time, I didn’t get the sense that the fans really bought into the possibility of Crews winning this match. Crews gained a little something tonight, but the key is how they follow up with him.
Alexa Bliss stood backstage and said she would miss being in charge of the women’s division, but she makes history. She announced the premiere of her own talkshow “A Moment of Bliss” for next week. She said it would be the first talkshow in WWE history hosted by a woman and her first guest will be Ronda Rousey. Bliss noted that Rousey worships Piper and said she would be in the presence of a goddess rather than slumming it in “some pit”…
The broadcast team hyped the women’s tag team main event… [C]
Powell’s POV: Bliss hosting a talkshow has potential. She
A Brock Lesnar video package aired. Cole hyped Lesnar for next week’s Raw in Orlando… Ring entrances for the main event took place…
7. Ronda Rousey and Natalya vs. Nia Jax and Tamina. Rousey was in all business mode as she stormed the ring and went after the heels. Rousey started the match. Natalya checked in a couple minutes into the match. Jax pulled Tamina to ringside to save her. Natalya dropkicked both women through the ropes, then Rousey performed a cross body block from the top rope onto both women at ringside heading into a break. [C]
The heel duo isolated Natalya, who eventually made a hot tag. Rousey worked over Jax and caught her with a running knee and an armdrag takedown. Rousey threw a leaping elbow for a two count. Jax came back with a press slam for a two count. Jax put Rousey on her shoulders and then climbed to the middle rope for a Samoan drop. Rousey slipped out of it and Tamina tagged in and caught Rousey with a kick. Rousey avoided a headbutt and then went for an armbar, but Jax performed a legdrop to stop it.
Natalya ran in and took out Jax, but Tamina superkicked Natalya. Tamina got a two count on Rousey. Tamina went for a Superfly splash, but Rousey put her feet up and then applied the armbar for the win…
Ronda Rousey and Natalya defeated Nia Jax and Tamina.
The broadcast team hyped appearances by Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar, Bobby Roode and Chad Gable vs. The Revival for the Raw Tag Titles, the Alexa Bliss talkshow with Ronda Rousey, and John Cena appearing on next week’s show. Cole thanked viewers for spending part of their New Year’s Eve with them. He wished viewers happy new year and said he’d see them in 2019…
Powell’s POV: Rousey and Natalya showed good intensity from the start as they were out for revenge after the earlier beatdown by the heels. It was an entertaining match and it was logical to have Rousey beat Tamina to end the holiday show. And congrats to WWE getting through the holidays on Raw with far less sports entertainment silliness than usual. I’m looking forward to next week’s show to see if they have any real changes in mind aside from ditching automatic rematches, adding the six wrestlers from NXT, and having the McMahons run both shows. My members’ audio review will be pushed back to Tuesday or Wednesday due to the holiday. Speaking of which… Happy New Year!
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Nick Perkins discussing the McMahon family’s vow to make changes to WWE television shows.