By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live on January 7, 2019 from Orlando, Florida at Amway Center
[Hour One] Raw opened with a memorial graphic for Gene Okerlund… They cut backstage where Seth Rollins and Bobby Lashley were fighting one another. It turned into a pull apart with wrestlers, producers, and referees trying to calm them down. The broadcast team laid out as the brawl made its way to the stage and Rollins knocked Lashley to the floor. They continued to brawl and were eventually pulled in different directions…
Powell’s POV: The most notable aspect of the brawl is that Zack Ryder has now appeared on WWE Raw two weeks in a row. It’s a miracle!
John Cena made his entrance while the broadcast team of Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Renee Young checked in. Cena was introduced by a male ring announcer rather than JoJo. The broadcast team hyped the previously announced segments. Cena noted that you either step up or step out when it comes to WrestleMania. Cena announced his entry into the Royal Rumble match.
Drew McIntyre made his entrance. McIntyre stood on the stage and said he’s waited years for this moment. He said that unlike everyone else, he doesn’t care who Cena shares his bed with or his stupid haircut. Cena took his hat off and said, “You don’t care about this? Come on now.” McIntyre said he cares about Cena’s 16 world championships, that he main evented so many WrestleManias, and that Vince McMahon referred to him as the greatest of all-time.
McIntyre said he agreed that Cena is the greatest of all-time. McIntyre took credit for ending The Shield, destroying Dolph Ziggler, and humiliating Kurt Angle. “I’m the most dangerous man in WWE and, John Cena, I come for you now,” McIntyre said before slowly walking toward the ring. Cena said he’s heard the same thing every week from nearly every wrestler. He said he had to leave so that everyone would shut their mouths and think of a different promo. “What makes you any different than anyone else?” Cena asked. McIntyre said he’s going to take the torch from Cena. He noted that everyone else talked and he would show Cena.
Lio Rush came out with Lashley and yelled about how Rollins had gone crazy and how they would get a lawyer. Rush said the show was cancelled until someone did something. Rollins came out behind them and attacked Lashley. Dean Ambrose showed up and attacked Rollins. Cena ran to the entrance ramp and helped Rollins, but was attacked by McIntyre. They ended up at ringside where the heels were getting the better of the outnumbered babyfaces when Finn Balor’s entrance music played. Balor performed a flip dive heading into a break. [C]
Powell’s POV: I like the idea of opening the show with a brawl. They shook the cameras so much that it took a few seconds to figure out who was involved. And I’d be lying if said that I didn’t lose a little interest once I saw it was Lashley. Hopefully they have a plan to heat him up, but it’s hard to imagine him losing a feud to Rollins right now. Meanwhile, I wonder if Cena will do the honors for McIntyre in the inevitable six-man tag match?
1. John Cena, Seth Rollins, and Finn Balor vs. Drew McIntyre, Dean Ambrose, and Bobby Lashley (w/Lio Rush). The match was joined in progress. McIntyre caught Cena with a headbutt going into a break. [C] Cena was isolated by the heels. Lashley posed and took a cheap shot at Rollins, then walked into an Attitude Adjustment. Ambrose tagged in and put Cena in a sleeper. A short time later, Ambrose ran Cena into the ring steps heading into another break. [C]
Rollins took a hot tag from Balor and worked over McIntyre and the other two heels. Rollins performed a falcon arrow for a two count. A short time later, McIntyre avoided a frogsplash for Rollins and then tagged in Ambrose, who ended up taking a stomp and being pinned by Rollins…
John Cena, Seth Rollins, and Finn Balor defeated Drew McIntyre, Dean Ambrose, and Bobby Lashley in 21:30 of television time.
After the match, Triple H was shown on the big screen talking with Sasha Banks and Bayley. Rollins saw the shot on the big screen and stormed backstage. Rollins approached Hunter and told him he wants Ambrose and the Intercontinental Title tonight. Hunter granted the match and ruled it would be a falls count anywhere match…
Hulk Hogan was shown walking backstage wearing a “Mean Gene O-Mania” t-shirt. Cole said the Okerlund tribute was coming up next… [C]
Powell’s POV: I wonder Triple H was apologizing to Sasha and Bayley for the horrendous job of booking that his father in-law has done with them since they left NXT? Anyway, McIntyre received the promo time with Cena, but this match was all about Rollins in the end. Is the IC Title match a temporary blowoff for Rollins vs. Ambrose given that it looks like Rollins is being set up for a match with Brock Lesnar, presumably at WrestleMania? Meanwhile, it sounds like there were plenty of cheers for Hogan and then some light boos once the cheers started to fade.
A Celebrating Gene Okerlund graphic appeared and then tweets from Vince McMahon, Kurt Angle, Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Jim Ross, and Ric Flair were shown…
Ring announcer Mike Rome asked fans to rise as they honored the life of Okerlund with a ten bell salute. Fans were respectful and then cheered and a soft “Mean Gene” chant broke out. Hulk Hogan made his entrance and received a favorable response. A “Hogan” chant broke out and he started by saying, “Well, let me tell you something, brother…”
Hogan pulled his shades up and said he came out in character because that’s what Okerlund would have wanted. He spoke about how Okerlund loved entertaining and then set up an Okerlund video package. They included footage or still shots from the AWA and WCW, and a lot of WWE footage that included interview sets, various comedy skits, from his tag team match with Hogan, etc. It concluded his WWE Hall of Fame closing line that he wants to be buried face down so his critics could kiss his ass.
Hogan laughed and said Okerlund was one of a kind. Hogan said he could speak for everyone when he said, “Mean Gene, we loved you, my brother.” Hogan said Okerlund wasn’t in the ring with him, but he was in his heart. “I love you, Mean Gene,” he said. “I miss you.” Fans chanted “thank you, Mean Gene.” Hogan put his shades down and asked a fan wearing a Hulkamania shirt if he should do it one more time.
“Well, let me tell you something, Mean Gene,” Hogan said before talking about what Okerlund was doing in heaven. He concluded by asking “Whatcha gonna do when Mean Gene O-Mania runs wild on you, brother?” Hogan dropped the mic and his “Real American” theme song played. Hogan did his pose routine while Graves said Hogan was heartbroken like so many fans, but they were celebrating Okerlund’s life. The camera closed in on the image of Okerlund on the big screen as they went to break… [C]
Powell’s POV: Hogan was well received throughout the segment. There were also some fans wearing his t-shirts in the crowd. The video package on Okerlund was well done.
[Hour Two] An Orlando graphic was shown and then the broadcast team hyped the women’s Royal Rumble…
2. Bobby Roode and Chad Gable vs. “The Revival” Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder in a lumberjack match for the Raw Tag Titles. Lucha House Party, the B-Team, Heath Slater and Rhyno, and The Ascension served as the lumberjacks. A Revival pre-tape aired and they said they were happy the lumberjacks were there and it’s all about upholding the sanctity of tag team wrestling. They cut to a break a few minutes into the match. [C]
Gable performed a German suplex on Dawson, but Wilder performed a splash on Gable for a near fall. In the end, Dawson had Gable in an inside cradle. Roode shoved them over from the floor so that Gable was on top. Dawson had his foot on the rope, but the referee still counted to three. Graves vented and asked if they got the referee from the NFL…
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable defeated The Revival in 10:15 to retain the Raw Tag Titles.
Graves hyped Elias vs. Baron Corbin for after the break… An NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool ad aired for Saturday’s show (join me for live coverage)… [C]
Powell’s POV: A decent match, but the wide screen shot that included the lumberjacks was a sad reminder of how bad the Raw tag division is these days. The finish was obviously weak with the goal of setting up the need for a rematch. By the way, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear more NFL jabs as we move closer to the relaunch of the XFL.
The broadcast team stood by their desk and hyped the Intercontinental Championship match for later in the show and then set up the NXT call-ups video package…
Elias played his guitar in the ring and was cheered. He said it was amazing how quickly he reached superstardom. Elias said he will enter and win the Royal Rumble. He said that as much as he has enjoyed his own successes, he’s enjoyed the failures of Baron Corbin. Elias started to play a song about how Corbin has wronged him, but Corbin interrupted from the stage. Corbin said he will enter the Rumble and win it unlike Elias…
3. Elias vs. Baron Corbin. With Corbin at ringside, Elias dropkicked him through the ropes, then leapt from the top rope onto Corbin at ringside. [C] Cole spoke about Elias’s lengthy stays in the Royal Rumble and the Greatest Royal Rumble while Young pointed out that he lasted much longer than Corbin. Late in the match, Corbin shot Elias toward the referee in the corner. Elias stopped, then turned into a punch from Corbin, who ran Elias through the ropes and into the post and then performed End of Days for the win…
Baron Corbin defeated Elias in 9:25.
Powell’s POV: The match outcome surprised me if only because it seems like they have big plans for Elias and the finish didn’t do much to protect him. It’s not a big deal and I like when certain heels get clean wins, but it was still a bit surprising.
Backstage, Ambrose said he never liked six-man tag matches and said they were very unnatural. He said he is the last line of defense from “that madman” Rollins. Ambrose said that if Rollins gets his hands on the Intercontinental Championship then “it’s game over for all of us.” Ambrose said he would end it tonight and would burn Rollins down…
Paul Heyman was shown knocking on Brock Lesnar’s locker room door and informing him that it was time. Cole said Lesnar and Braun Strowman would be face to face after the break… [C]
Braun Strowman made his entrance and played to the crowd before calling for Lesnar. Heyman could be heard and then he and Lesnar were shown backstage. Heyman said he knew how much money they spent hyping the confrontation, but this is where card subject to change comes into play. Heyman said that if Lesnar came to the ring “to get those hands” then he wouldn’t have an opponent for the Royal Rumble. Heyman said “you’re welcome” to Strowman for the lesson he taught him.
Strowman and Lesnar were shown on a split screen. Strowman asked if Lesnar was going to hide behind his advocate. Strowman said he was in the ring and questioned why Lesnar didn’t get in his face like his advocate said he was going to do. Heyman said no. Strowman asked if Heyman’s ass ever gets jealous due to the crap that always comes out of his mouth. Strowman said Lesnar was afraid of him and said he was hiding like a coward. He said that if Lesnar came to the ring then he wouldn’t be going to the Rumble. Lesnar decided to go to the ring despite Heyman’s objections.
Powell’s POV: I’m not sure if they were stretching it out intentionally, but Lesnar’s entrance coincided perfectly with the college football national championship game going to halftime.
Lesnar took a lap around the ring and then started to leave. Strowman took the mic and barked at him to turn around. Heyman laughed as Lesnar met him on the stage. Strowman said he will be crowned new Universal Champion at the Royal Rumble…
Powell’s POV: A weak segment. Strowman came off like a big oaf who couldn’t talk smack, and Lesnar doing his lap that led to nothing was just plain uneventful given the long buildup.
[Hour Three] After the broadcast team hyped the Royal Rumble, Jinder Mahal, Alicia Fox, and the Singh Brothers stood in the ring. Mahal let Fox lead them in meditation. Mahal stopped her and then barked at and insulted various fans who thought they were too good to meditate with her. Ember Moon and Apollo Crews made their entrances…
4. Ember Moon and Apollo Crews vs. Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox (w/The Singh Brothers). In the end, Moon performed the Eclipse on Fox and pinned her…
Ember Moon and Apollo Crews defeated Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox in 1:50.
Alexa Bliss shown was having makeup applied as Grave hyped the premiere of her talkshow for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: The mixed tag match is what they started the third hour with while running opposite halftime of the big football game? Strange. On a positive note, Jinder insulting fans is the most heelish thing he’s done in months, so perhaps they’ve finally realized that meditation and being peaceful are not heel traits.
Alexa Bliss hosted the “A Moment of Bliss” talkshow on the stage where two chairs and a small table were used as the set. Bliss mocked Orlando and then barked for a coffee, then a crew member obliged her by bringing her a coffee. Bliss set up a video package on Ronda Rousey’s first year in WWE.
Bliss introduced Rousey as her first guest and offered her a handshake, but Rousey blew her off by sitting down. Bliss told Rousey to tell her about her exceptional year and what’s next for her. Rousey stopped to let fans cheer and chant her name. Rousey said it’s been exceptional, but she wants to look forward rather than back. She said she wants to be a champion the fans can be proud of. She said there’s one woman who has pushed everyone to their absolute limit.
Rousey took jabs at Charlotte and Becky Lynch, then said she wants to face the real unsung hero of WWE, Sasha Banks. Bliss said she thought Rousey was talking about her. Nia Jax walked out and asked Rousey if she was forgetting about her. She said they have unfinished business. She said Seth Rollins is getting a rematch tonight and questioned when she would get hers.
Sasha Banks came out and was all smiles. Banks said she was beyond honored for Rousey’s kind words. Banks said she would love to face her for the Raw Women’s Championship. She said it would be her pleasure to teach Rousey how to lead with dignity and class. Jax told Banks to get in line. “Bitch, what line?” Banks fired back. Banks offered Jax a match on the spot with the winner getting a shot at Rousey. Banks headed to the ring. Jax sat down and said mocked the idea of doing it now… [C]
Powell’s POV: Please let them finally turn Banks heel on the main roster.
5. Sasha Banks (w/Bayley) vs. Nia Jax (w/Tamina) for a Raw Women’s Championship match at the Royal Rumble. Cole said the match was made official during the break. Tamina ran Bayley into the ringside barricade. Jax pressed Banks over her head and tossed her onto a production crate while flashing a big smile. Banks beat the ref’s count. Jax powerbombed Banks for a two count going into a break. [C]
Jax was dominant coming out of the break. Jax stood on the middle rope with Banks on her shoulders and dropped down, causing Banks to land face first on top rope in a cool spot. Jax showed some frustration when Banks kicked out of her cover. Bayley tossed Tamina into the barricade when she tried to interfere.
Banks avoided a charging Jax on the apron, causing Jax to crash into the ring post casing. Banks performed a huracanrana. Jax remained on the apron and Banks tumbled to ringside. Odd. Back in the ring, Banks applied the Bank Statement and got the submission win…
Sasha Banks defeated Nia Jax in 13:15 to earn a Raw Women’s Championship match at the Royal Rumble.
Separate shots aired of Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins while Graves hyped their match for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: The finishing sequence was odd. Was the idea was that Sasha’s huracanrana was supposed to drive Jax face first into the apron? It didn’t really play out that way. Or maybe Jax was supposed to go to the floor and they just went with the planned finish anyway? The broadcast team didn’t really know how to call it, as they even said it looked like it did more damage to Banks than Jax. Anyway, it will be nice to see a fresh Rousey vs. Banks match at the Rumble. This will lead to all sorts of speculation that it will be the first step toward a Horsewomen vs. Horsewomen match. I honestly vote for saving that for somewhere down the road, moving on from the tired Banks and Bayley alliance despite the first women’s tag titles coming soon, and turning Banks into her natural heel role. I’m not holding my breath, but I can dream.
Another ad aired for the NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool event…
Dean Ambrose made his entrance for the main event. Seth Rollins ran out and attacked him from behind. Once both men were in the ring, the referee started the match…
6. Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins in a Falls Count Anywhere match for the Intercontinental Championship. Rollins clotheslined Ambrose over the ringside barricade and followed him over to the production area. Rollins chased Ambrose into the backstage area and ran him into a ladder. Rollins picked up a shovel and swung it at Ambrose, who avoided it. Rollins went for a powerbomb on top of some production cases. Ambrose avoided it and slammed Rollins down before covering him for two. Ambrose hit Rollins with a small ladder and got another two count. [C]
Coming out of the break, Ambrose and Rollins were fighting on the steps amongst the fans. They eventually fought their way back to ringside where Ambrose worked over Rollins with a chair and got another two count. Ambrose pulled a ringside floor mat back while Cole recalled Ambrose doing something similar when he turned on Rollins. Ambrose sent for Dirty Deeds, but Rollins backdropped him onto the concrete.
Back inside the ring, Rollins performed a superplex, buckle bomb, superkick, and then performed the stomp. Before Rollins could cover Ambrose, Lashley pulled him to ringside and worked him over while Lio Rush watched. Lashley rolled Rollins back inside the ring and eventually speared Rollins. Ambrose crawled over and covered Rollins for the win…
Dean Ambrose defeated Seth Rollins in a Falls Count Anywhere match in 14:55.
After the match, Lashley put Rollins through a table. Lashley posed (minus the silly ass pointing pose) and slapped hands with Rush to end the show…
Powell’s POV: Well, they foreshadowed the hell out of this finish with the show opening brawl that felt like it came out of nowhere. It was still an entertaining match an it’s probably for the best to move on from Ambrose vs. Rollins at this point. Ambrose is a new champion and if they are going to have Rollins challenge Lesnar at WrestleMania, then he doesn’t need to fail to take the title away from him over and over again. Now Rollins has a feud that he can win and they can always go back to Ambrose vs. Rollins somewhere down the road.
Overall, Raw was a wrestling heavy show, which was a pleasant surprise given the advertised appearances by Lesnar, Strowman, Cena, Hogan, and even Bliss’s talkshow. I still don’t get why in the world they would go with the mixed tag match when they did, but I enjoyed the majority of the show even if it lacked the big wow factor that you hope for from the first Raw of the year. I will have more to say in my members’ exclusive audio review coming up short.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and Will Pruett reviewing the NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13 event.