By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live on January 21, 2019 from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma at Chesapeake Energy Arena
[Hour One] Raw opened with the annual tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the holiday held in his honor in the United States… Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Renee Young were on commentary…
WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman made their entrance and were introduced by ring announcer Mike Rome. Heyman mentioned Finn Balor twice and paused to let the fans cheer both times before noting that he pinned John Cena. Heyman said it was no fluke and there was no controversy. “Finn Balor stepped up and Finn Balor seized the moment,” Heyman said.
Heyman referred to Cena as the second greatest of all time and noted that he said he believes in Balor. Heyman said the entire WWE Universe has stood up in unison to say they believe in Balor. Heyman said he also believes in Balor. Heyman said Balor believes that he will capitalize on fate and circumstances at the Royal Rumble by facing a champion who was training to fight Braun Strowman.
Heyman said Lesnar has to face an opponent he has not trained for and who has a very different style than Strowman. Heyman said Lesnar will turn Balor into a martyr who will be sacrificed for the sin of making fans believe that he can conquer the unconquerable. “Here comes your spoiler alert,” Heyman said. “Even miracles fear Brock Lesnar.” Heyman said Lesnar will put to bed the “ridiculous notion” that Balor even belongs in the ring with him. Heyman said Balor will be on his back on Sunday and saying, “I believe in Brock Lesnar.”
Vince McMahon’s music played and he made his entrance. Fans cheered Vince, who took the mic and said Heyman was going a little soft and kind. He said it was old school promoting and trying to drum up business. Vince said the only way someone could believe in Balor beating Lesnar is if they believe in David vs. Goliath. Heyman said off mic that he never read the Bible. Hilarious.
Vince told his version of the story and said David was reincarnated as Balor. Vince said that if “any of you people here in Hillbilly Land actually believe…” Fans booed. Vince asked what he said wrong. “You’re speaking too fast for them, Vince,” Heyman said. Vince said that if fans believe Balor can beat Lesnar then they all believe in fairytales.
Braun Strowman made his entrance. “What the hell are you doing out here?” Vince asked while Lesnar taunted Strowman with head bobs. Strowman entered the ring. Strowman said last Monday was the luckiest night of Lesnar’s life. He said that if Lesnar survived on Sunday then he’d be waiting on the other side. Vince told Strowman that he’s lucky to still be employed.
Finn Balor made his entrance. Balor noted that he’s the guy who beat three other men including the greatest of all-time in John Cena. Heyman said Cena is second behind Lesnar. Balor said he earned his title match. Balor said he knows Vince doesn’t believe he can beat Lesnar. “I don’t believe in fairytales,” Vince said. Balor said he and the Balor Club believe.
Balor said he will beat Lesnar and reclaim his Universal Championship. Lesnar laughed. Strowman said he doesn’t know if Balor can beat Lesnar. “But you damn well better,” Strowman said. Finn said he appreciates the support, but he told him to keep his nose out of his business because he’s going to do something Strowman has never done by beating Lesnar.
Lesnar left the ring laughing along with Heyman. Balor told the David vs. Goliath story and said people laughed in David’s face, but they didn’t know who he was or what he was made of. Balor said Goliath fell face down in the dirt and then no one was laughing. Vince suggested the Universal Champion take a seat at ringside for a real life David vs. Goliath in Balor vs. Strowman. Lesnar nodded. Cole said the match would happen after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A top notch segment. Heyman did as Vince said by playing up the idea of Balor being a threat, and then Vince shook up that formula by mocking the thought of Balor actually winning. Balor delivered his lines with poise and had this live crowd solidly behind him. This made me look forward to the match more than I was going in, so mission accomplished when it comes to this viewer.
1. Finn Balor vs. Braun Strowman. The match was joined in progress with Lesnar and Heyman standing and watching the match at ringside. Strowman worked over Balor and clotheslined him at ringside, which drew a laugh from Lesnar. Balor came back with a sling blade clothesline at ringside for his first offensive of the match. Lesnar acted impressed.
Balor caught Strowman in a sleeper hold, which drew a smile from Lesnar. Strowman backed Balor into the corner to break the hold, but Balor reapplied it and Strowman fell to one knee before prying Balor’s hands apart. Balor threw a series of elbows to the back of Strowman’s head. Balor double stoped Strowman.
Balor went up top. Strowman cut him off and tossed him onto Lesnar, who caught him and gave him a German suplex at ringside. Lesnar climbed onto the apron and put his title belt down in front of him. Balor tripped Lesnar off the apron and then dropkicked him into the ring post. Balor returned to the ring and ran the ropes and dodged Strowman before performing a flip dive onto Lesnar.
Strowman chased Balor around and back into the ring where Balor performed a sling blade. Strowman dropkicked Lesnar through the ropes and then hit him with a running dropkick into the barricade. Strowman pulled Balor back onto the apron and tossed him into the ring. Balor put Strowman down and performed the Coup De Grace. Lesnar entered the ring and performed an F5 on Balor for the apparent DQ finish. Graves said it was obvious that no matter how much momentum Balor can build, it will only take one F5 to stop him..
Finn Balor defeated Braun Strowman by an apparent DQ in 7:35 of television time.
Graves said it was obvious that no matter how much momentum Balor can build, it will only take one F5 to stop him. The broadcast team hyped the women’s tag match, Seth Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre, and said a championship celebration for Bobby Lashley would be hosted by Lio Rush after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: I would hope that Graves’s line about the F5 means that they intend to have Balor kick out of one on Sunday. I still suspect that Lesnar will win on Sunday, but there is a way for Balor to gain something in defeat. I love that they dedicated the first 30 minutes of the show to building up that match and they did a very nice job of doing so. I just hope we’re not in for Lesnar vs. Strowman at WrestleMania, as that match feels very cold at the moment. Obviously, they still have time to heat it up before WrestleMania, but it’s not high on my Mania wish list.
The broadcast team pimped the WWE Network and the usual offer for new subscribers…
Intercontinental Champion Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush made their entrance. There was a small podium set up in the ring. Rush boasted that Lashley is better than Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. He said there wouldn’t be an open challenge, rather it would be a celebration. Rush had Lashley stand on the podium to show off his physique and then put the belt around his waist.
Apollo Crews made his entrance. Crews congratulated Lashley on winning the championship, but he said no one wants to see him pose. Crews challenged him to a match. Rush said Crews could get a title match if he beat Lashley in a posing contest. Crews said he doesn’t even know how to pose. Lashley stood on the podium and posed again. Crews took his turn and did some corny breakdancing move before posing, which the crowd cheered.
Lashley took his turn again and drew some boos. Crews danced a little before posing again and was cheered. Lashley went back up for round three, then Crews took round three. Lashley attacked Crews, who regrouped and tossed Lashley to ringside. Crews pressed Rush over his head and threw him onto Lashley at ringside… [C]
Powell’s POV: I was hoping that the company turned the page on muscle man Lashley in favor of presenting him more along the lines of his Destroyer gimmick that worked so well in Impact Wrestling. That said, Lashley is still in a better place than he was a few weeks back and he’s stopped pointing at his ass, so at least there’s that. This was a decent segment for Crews, who got to do more than smile for a change.
2. Intercontinental Champion Bobby Lashley (w/Lio Rush) vs. Apollo Crews in a non-title match. The match was joined in progress. Crews tried to press slam Lashley, but he collapsed under his weight. Crews got up and performed the spot again, so it was not intentional. Rush got involved. Crews pressed him over his head and was speared by Lashley, who then pinned Crews.
Bobby Lashley beat Apollo Crews in a non-title match in 2:45 of television time.
After the match, Seth Rollins made his entrance and had a staredown with Lashley as they crossed paths. Cole hyped Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: Poor Crews finally got a little something and he couldn’t power up the mammoth Lashley the first time around. Tough break. Meanwhile, I can’t say that Rollins chasing the IC Title again does anything for me. Rollins needs to be in the WWE Universal Championship mix, ideally with a Royal Rumble win on Sunday.
[Hour Two] Young hyped the Bella Twins appearing on The Tonight Show on Friday…
Rollins stood in the ring and spoke about what can be learned from Dr. Martin Luther King and recalled one of his famous quotes. Rollins spoke about growing up in a small town not unlike OKC. He said he could be working in a factory or on a farm, but the only reason he’s not doing that is his heart.
Rollins said 30 men will be in the Royal Rumble lying it all on the line. “But when the dust settles, I promise you there will be one man left standing, there will be one man going to headline WrestleMania, and that man is the man Seth ‘Frickin’ Rollins,” he said.
Drew McIntyre made his entrance and said there is a zero percent chance of Rollins winning the Rumble. McIntyre said Rollins’s style will lead to his elimination. He asked what would happen if you harnessed all that passion that Rollins has and put it in a 6’5 terminator. He said you would get Drew McIntyre. He said he would win the Rumble. Cole hyped Rollins vs. McIntyre for after the break… [C]
3. Seth Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre. Yet anther match joined in progress. Cole told the story of John Cena being questionable for the Royal Rumble due to McIntyre’s ankle lock and aggravating it in training. McIntyre did his reverse catapult of Rollins that sent him face first onto the floor at ringside. [C]
At 11:15, McIntyre went for the Claymore Kick, but Rollins caught him with a superkick for a two count. Cole described Rollins and McIntyre as “odds on favorites” to win the Rumble match. McIntyre caught Rollins with a headbutt to the jaw. McIntyre got a near fall, then performed a great sit-out powerbomb for another good near fall. McIntyre went for a short-arm clothesline, but Rollins countered into a rollup and scored the pin…
Seth Rollins pinned Drew McIntyre in 13:55 of television time.
Powell’s POV: The usual good match from these two. I’m surprised they are giving their matches away now rather than saving them for somewhere down the road when they can be more meaningful.
Backstage, The Revival spoke with Vince McMahon and complained about the way they lost their tag title match. Scott Dawson asked Vince for one more opportunity to win the tag titles and suggested a special referee. Dash Wilder pitched the idea of someone who won’t be pushed around. Curt Hawkins showed up and Vince made him the special referee of the tag title match. The Revival weren’t happy at first, but then started sucking up to Hawkins once it was official… [C]
Powell’s POV: With all the buzz about The Revival asking for their release last week, it was fun to see them on camera with Vince even if it was a standard segment.
Dean Ambrose was shown standing in a backstage area. He said it was cute that Rollins quoted MLK. Ambrose also quoted MLK and said it was an injustice that he’s not the IC Champion. Ambrose said he’s coming after Rollins and Lashley in the Rumble match. He said he will elbow them both in the throat and kick them both in the family jewels and eliminate them. Ambrose said 2018 wasn’t his year due to injuries, so he owes it to himself to win the Rumble. Ambrose said he owns the road to WrestleMania and justice will be served on Sunday…
4. “Lucha House Party” Kalisto, Lince Dorado, and Gran Metalik vs. Jinder Mahal, Sunil Singh, and Samir Singh. Believe it or not, the showed this match from the opening bell. Metalik dropkicked Mahal and one of the Singhs from the apron, then performed a backbreaker on the other Singh and pinned him. Graves called it a shocker. Mahal threw a fit at ringside…
Lucha House Party defeated Jinder Mahal and The Singh Brothers in 3:10.
An EC3 video package was shown. It was the usual one with him taking off his dress clothes and wearing his ring gear, plus highlights of his NXT matches were included…
Backstage, Dana Brooke told EC3 that he looks great. She started talking nutrition with him, though EC3 never said a word. Elias walked by them and Cole said he would be up next… [C]
Powell’s POV: So the idea is that the NXT call-ups appear on both shows so fans get to know them, but we don’t actually see them wrestle and EC3 never speaks. Awful. It’s worth noting that an ad for Saturday’s Bellator show aired on USA Network and Jake Hager, who worked as Jack Swagger, was the first person featured in the commercial.
Elias played his guitar in the ring. He played to the crowd and was about to play a song when he was interrupted. Baron Corbin came out and said Elias ratted him out to Strowman and nearly got him killed. Fans chanted “you suck” at Corbin, who said Vince was right and there are a bunch of hillbillies in Oklahoma. Elias and Corbin went back and forth about whether Elias would sing a song.
Elias had production cut Corbin’s mic and then sang a song about him. It included a line questioning why Corbin still wears “that stupid vest” and asking “don’t you remember you got fired?” Corbin charged the ring, but then had to duck a guitar swing. Cole hyped a match between the two for after the break… [C]
5. Elias vs. Baron Corbin. The match was joined in progress. Elias got a two count off a swinging neckbreaker. A short time later, Corbin punched Elias in the throat, then performed End of Days for the win…
Baron Corbin pinned Elias.
Graves hyped a Royal Rumble edition of A Moment of Bliss… [C]
Powell’s POV: They doubled down on Corbin pinning Elias. The broadcast team pointed out the punch to the throat. Cole labeled it a cheap shot while Graves called it resourceful. So I guess they are trying to protect Elias, but his losses to Cobin are oddly stacking up.
[Hour Three] Alexa Bliss hosted her talkshow on her stage set. Bliss pointed to the video screen where a graphic showed the entrants in the women’s Royal Rumble match. Bliss then read off their names. Bliss introduced Nia Jax as her guest and spoke of her being the favorite to win the Rumble.
Bliss noted that Jax would have the choice of which champion she would face if she wins the Rumble. She asked Jax which champion she would face. Ember Moon interrupted. Bliss noted that Moon was not invited. Moon took the mic and said she’s tired of sitting in the locker room and waiting for an invitation that wasn’t going to come. Moon said she will win the Rumble.
Alicia Fox came out and said she is the captain of the division and she’s setting the course for WrestleMania. Mickie James came out and said she’s stolen the show at WrestleMania before and will do it again. The women bickered and fought over the mic. Riott Squad, Dana Brooke, Nikki Cross, and Tamina all came out.
Bliss stood on her chair and barked at all of them that it’s her show. She said they were embarrassing themselves as being catty and not supporting one another, and they’re also ruining her reputation as a talkshow host. She got off the chair and asked them to calm down. Jax turned and shoved someone and a big brawl broke out between the women. The action spilled into the backstage area.
Bliss was the last person on the stage. She said that was unexpected. She said the women in the Rumble are confident. Bliss announced that she will be competing in the Rumble match.
Lacey Evans waked out and took the mic from Bliss. She called the other women classless little girls. She said the winner of the Rumble won’t be a sawed off, little girly runt, it will be her, a classy, sophisticated lady. Bliss glared at Evans, who walked away…
Heavy Machinery were shown walking backstage. Otis barked at some random guy. Cole said Heavy Machinery would make their Raw debut after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A lousy segment until Bliss announced she will be in the Rumble match and Evans got involved. Here’s hoping this development means Bliss’s bad talkshow is coming to an end and that she’s back in the ring for good. Evans was good here and was clearly the heel, while Bliss came off like the babyface. The announcement of Bliss’s return received the biggest reaction of the segment.
Titus O’Neil spoke in front of a black backdrop. He said some believe him winning the Rumble would be a miracle. He said he believes in miracles. He was announcing his entry into the match when a production crew member walked into the picture. O’Neil barked at him for being disrespectful and then walking off…
6. “Heavy Machinery” Otis Dozovic and Tucker Knight vs. “The Ascension” Konnor and Viktor. The Ascension’s entrance was not televised. Heavy Machinery did the Bushwhackers march briefly. Otis also danced before performing an elbow drop on Viktor. Otis played to the crowd before performing a worm into an elbow drop, which Cole called the caterpillar. In the end, performed a double team trash compactor on Viktor for the win…
Heavy Machinery defeated The Ascension in 2:20.
Graves hyped the Raw Tag Title match for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: So the guy who was sued by a production crew member is now taking issue with a production crew member walking into his shot on television. This seems like something designed to get internal laughs more than something that will actually make money. Meanwhile, I’m curious to see how Heavy Machinery do. They act clicked in NXT, but WWE has a way of ruining acts like this one on the main roster by having the broadcast team members laugh uproariously at everything they do.
7. Bobby Roode and Chad Gable vs. “The Revival” Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder for the Raw Tag Titles with Curt Hawkins as special referee. Hawkins wore standard referee gear. Graves said Hawkins couldn’t do as bad as the NFL referees did in New Orleans on Sunday. Hawkins didn’t allow an early tag by the champions because Roode wasn’t holding the tag rope. Roode launched Gable over the top rope onto Wilder, but Dawson clotheslined Gable at ringside. [C]
Wilder had Roode pinned as Dawson was interfering from ringside, but Hawkins wouldn’t count the pin. Hawkins spotted Wilder going for a pin with his feet on the ropes moments later. Dawson had Gable pinned with a handful of tights, but Hawkins spotted it. Gable rolled up Dawson, who didn’t go over because Wilder was holding his hands on the apron. Hawkins separated their hands and counted the pin for Gable.
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable defeated The Revival in 8:35 to retain the Raw Tag Titles.
After the match, The Revival went after Hawkins. Zack Ryder an out and saved his former tag team partner and helped him to his feet. Cole noted that Ryder and Hawkins were once tag champions…
Powell’s POV: Curt Hawkins is a hero for enforcing the tag rope rules. Can you believe referee Rob Page actually allows local independent tag team matches to occur without tag ropes?!? He should have his referee license stripped forever in the great state of Minnesota. Putting aside that travesty, I would love to see WWE honor The Revival’s request, but I’m not holding my breath. Meanwhile, it was kinda fun to see Hawkins and Ryder reunite. At this point, why not?
Backstage, Ronda Rousey was interviewed and asked what she would say to Sasha Banks if she were there. Rousey said she came to the conclusion that she doesn’t owe Sasha an apology for a damn thing. She said she tried to tell everyone how under appreciated Banks is, but she’s received nothing but resentment in return. Rousey said Banks is too busy living The Boss lifestyle to actually be a champion. Rousey said she will show Banks that The Boss has to answer to someone. Rousey made her entrance for the main event… [C]
Natalya was already in the ring coming out of the break. Sasha Banks and Bayley made their entrance. Rousey had to be held back by Natalya. Banks took the mic and asked Rousey who the hell she thinks she is. Banks said she’s a four-time champion, and Rousey had everything handed to her in WWE. Banks said Rousey can stop telling everyone she’s worthy because everyone already knows she is. Natalya had to pull Rousey back and calm her down again. Graves said Banks has spent too much time reading Reddit forums where she’s the greatest thing since sliced bread…
8. Ronda Rousey and Natalya vs. Sasha Banks and Bayley. Banks and Natalya started the match. Banks went over and knocked Rousey off the apron with a cheap shot. Sasha and Bayley worked over Natalya. Rousey entered the ring and clotheslined Bayley, then took Banks down with an arm drag. Banks and Bayley rolled to ringside. [C]
Banks caught Rousey in the Bank Statement. Natalya rushed in to break it up. With Banks at ringside, Rousey threw several knees to Bayley’s ribs. Banks returned to the ring and stood in front of Bayley in the corner. Bayley shoved Banks aside when Rousey charged her. Bayley tossed Rousey into their corner and tagged in Banks.
Rousey went for an armbar, but Banks reached the ropes. Banks caught Rousey with a kick. Rousey tagged in Natalya, who applied a Sharpshooter. Bayley ran in and broke it up and then knocked Rousey off the apron. Natlaya clotheslined Bayley. Banks escaped a Natalya move attempt (the screen went black briefly) and hit a Backstabber and then applied the Bank Statement for the submission win.
Sasha Banks and Bayley defeated Ronda Rousey and Natalya in 11:45.
Banks and Rousey barked at one another to end the show…
Powell’s POV: The right team went over in the main event. Sure, it was predictable, but Banks needed the win. It doesn’t change the fact that fans view her and Balor as heavy underdogs going into their matches. The Rumble match(es) sells the Rumble most years and I suppose this is no different, but WWE didn’t do a good job of building up the Rumble match(es) the way they normally do.
The opening match, the closing match, and the Rollins vs. McIntyre were the highlights of the night. Again, though, they just haven’t sold me on this year’s Rumble matches even though the men’s Rumble has traditionally been one of my favorite moments of the year. We’ll see what they do on Smackdown, but the build to the Rumble has been subpar.
Make ProWrestling.net your home for live coverage of NXT Takeover: Phoenix and the Royal Rumble this weekend. I’ll be by later tonight with my audio review for members. See the main page for details on how you can score a WM Season Pass for our membership and enjoy all of our audio content on an ad-free version of the website.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and WOW head writer and lead voice Stephen Dickey discussing his career and the launch of the weekly WOW television series that airs Fridays at 8CT/9ET on AXS TV.