By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live on December 16, 2019 from Des Moines, Iowa at Wells Fargo Arena
[Hour One] Raw opened with a recap of the Seth Rollins turn from last week… The Raw opening aired… Pyro shot off the stage and then Vic Joseph checked in on commentary and said last week was filled with more questions than answers. He wondered who will step up to face Seth Rollins and AOP…
Seth Rollins made his entrance while ring announcer Mike Rome introduced him. The broadcast team of Joseph, Samoa Joe and Jerry Lawler checked from behind their desk. Lawler said he thinks we’d see the real Rollins. A small “welcome home” chant broke out for the Iowa native.
The AOP duo of Akam and Rezar were introduced by Rollins as the two men who chose to stand on the right side of history. AOP headed to the ring and joined Rollins. Seth recalled the world saying he was the future when he showed up in NXT and again when he debuted on Raw. He pointed out that he pinned Brock Lesnar twice and everyone was still labeling him the future.
“And then all of a sudden the mood changed,” Rollins said. “And people started to question my leadership, as if I had done something wrong.” Rollins said that being a leader isn’t about being cool or making popular decisions, it’s about making decisions for the sake of progress. Rollins said what happened to Kevin Owens was a tragedy, but he did that to himself. “Kevin resisted and Kevin became an example,” said Rollins.
Rollins said he’s told the fans the truth every step of the way and said that wouldn’t change. He said it might be hard for some people to accept, but he is a leader. “And bigger than that, I am a visionary,” he said. Rollins said he will lead the brand and the industry into the next decade and beyond. “And whether you like it or not, you are coming with me by hook or by crook,” said Rollins. He added that he will impose his will and if you resist then AOP will enforce his will.
Rollins said there was a score that he had left to settle and by the end of the night it would be settled. Rollins cautioned that fans wouldn’t like it. “For what we have to do tonight, I’m sorry,” Rollins said. He dropped the mic and then left the ring with AOP walking behind him…
Powell’s POV: A strong promo from Rollins, who is off to a great start in his heel role. He’s a natural heel and he comes across extremely confident in what he’s doing right now. His tease for doing something unpopular during the show was a really good hook for the rest of Raw.
The broadcast team spoke at their desk. Joe said Rollins has always been very cerebral. He said AOP are an overlooked commodity. Joe said he does bad things as a means to an end, whereas AOP do terrible things because they like to…
The Viking Raiders made their entrance while the broadcast team recapped their double count-out battle with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson from WWE TLC. They said the rematch would take place after the break… [C] An ad aired for Wednesday’s NXT…
Gallows and Anderson made their entrance with mics in hand. Anderson said they admit that the Viking Raiders are the most unstoppable team in decades, but they are the only team that holds a pinfall victory over the pair…
1. Raw Tag Champions “The Viking Raiders” Erik and Ivar vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson in a non-title match. The stupid “best tag team” trophy was at ringside. Erik went for a dive through the ropes and was hit by Gallows with an uppercut from the floor. Gallows performed a fallaway slam that sent Erik into the barricade. [C]
Ivar was isolated until he fought back with a handspring into the ropes that led to him hitting both opponents with elbows. Ivar and Erik performed stereo dives onto Gallows and Anderson at ringside heading into another break. [C]
Late in the match, Ivar tagged into the match and went to the ropes and had to punch Gallows off the apron. Ivar went up top and went for a moonsault, but Gallows pulled Anderson out of the way. Anderson kicked Erik off the apron, then he and Gallows hit the Magic Killer on Ivar and pinned him…
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson defeated The Viking Raiders in a non-title match in 19:30.
Powell’s POV: This was so much better than that chicken shack match that these teams had the night before at TLC. Joseph mistakenly called Gallows and Anderson the new Raw Tag Champions after the pinfall. Joe jumped in and said they should be. One can only hope that Joseph isn’t getting too much of an earful during the commercial break. Anyway, this was an effective way to build to the rematch, though if you’re looking for logic there’s really not a good reason why this rematch wouldn’t have been for the tag titles since they fought to a double count-out the night before.
Update: A reader pointed out that Samoa Joe is actually the person who called it a title change. My apologies for mistakenly thinking it was Joseph.
Footage aired of Erick Rowan telling Sarah Schreiber to mind her own business when she wondered what’s in the animal cage he brings to the ring. Rowan was shown walking backstage while the broadcast team said he would be in action after the break… [C]
Backstage, AJ Styles told Gallows and Anderson to let him face Randy Orton alone because he wants to embarrass him for the trouble he’s caused…
2. Erick Rowan vs. Dante Leon. Cole noted that Alexa Bliss will be the guest on Tuesday’s WWE Backstage. Leon rolled to ringside and teased looking inside Rowan’s animal cage. Leon opted to run away instead, but he tripped and Rowan caught him. Rowan roughed up Leon at ringside, then rolled him back inside the ring. Rowan performed his claw slam twice and then stood on him while the referee counted the pin…
Erick Rowan beat Dante Leon in 1:55.
Andrade and Zelina Vega were interviewed by Charly Caruso on the backstage interview set. She said Andrade would be the favorite in a gauntlet match for a shot at the U.S. Title were it not for Huberto Carrillo being involved. Andrade spoke in Spanish and walked away. Vega said Carrillo beating Andrade twice was the worst thing that happened to him because now they take him seriously…
Joseph hyped Bobby Lashley and Lana as coming up next… [C] An ad for Smackdown focused on Daniel Bryan and Bray Wyatt…
A Liv Morgan vignette aired. She looked into the mirror while recalling that she let her friends tell her what to be and how to act. She said she’s always wanted to be comfortable in her own skin and noted that she’s always been self destructive. Morgan was shown climbing into a bathtub. She said she has no choice and has to destroy herself so the real her can emerge. A graphic read “to be continued”… One of the broadcast team members said he was worried about what Morgan meant…
Powell’s POV: Here’s hoping that we don’t have 13 wrestlers listening to cassette tapes that Morgan recorded about them next week.
Bobby Lashley and Lana headed to the ring. Lana introduced Lashley as the winner of the tables match and called him her hot boyfriend. A Rusev Day chant broke out.
[Hour Two] Lana said they are trying to move on. Lana told Lashley that she wants the world to know how much he loves her. A “Bobby sucks” chant started. Lana told the fans they suck. Lana pulled out a ring box and asked him to ask her to marry him. Lashley looked apprehensive. “You know, Lana, I don’t like when anybody tells me what to do,” Lashley said. “Except you.”
Lashley got down on one knee and said she’s the most beautiful woman in the world and the most amazing female wrestler in WWE history. He said they would be the most amazing power couple the company had ever seen. Lashley asked Lana to marry him. Lana said it was so romantic and it was just like she had him rehearse. Lana said yes repeatedly. Lana said the wedding would take place on Lana Day. The broadcast team called Lana on the awkward choice of wording…
Joseph hyped the Seth Rollins “WWE 365” documentary, then set up footage that recapped the Rollins promo from earlier… The broadcast team hyped Ricochet vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Humberto Carrillo vs. R-Truth vs. Matt Hardy vs. Andrade in a gauntlet match for a shot at the U.S. Title as coming up after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: So Tozawa and Hardy earned their spots by losing their recent television matches? You can make a case for Hardy getting a spot based on his legacy, but it would be nice if it felt like wins and losses actually mattered. As much as the Lana and Lashley angle bores me, wrestling weddings tend to bring the ratings.
A sponsored ad focused on “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase…
R-Truth made his entrance wearing the WWE 24/7 Title. Truth said he wouldn’t be in WWE were it not for his childhood idol John Cena. He “recalled” Cena defending the U.S. Title in an open challenge every Saturday morning. Truth said he would win and take both titles all the way to WrestleMania. Truth pointed to where the WrestleMania sign would be located, but it wasn’t there yet. Akira Tozawa made his entrance…
3. Ricochet vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Humberto Carrillo vs. R-Truth vs. Matt Hardy vs. Andrade in a gauntlet match for a shot at the U.S. Title. Truth and Tozawa started the match. Tozawa avoided Truth’s finisher and rolled him into a pin.
Akira Tozawa beat R-Truth in 2:10 to advance in the gauntlet match.
The usual suspects ran out and chased Truth over the 24/7 Title. Ricochet made his entrance as the third entrant heading into a break. [C]
The bell rang to start the Ricochet vs. Tozawa portion of the gauntlet match coming out of the break. Tozawa leapt from the ropes and right into a dropkick fro Ricochet. Rey Mysterio was shown watching the match on a backstage monitor.
A short time later, Tozawa suplexed Ricochet into a pin while bridging for a near fall. Ricochet went for a standing shooting star press, but Tozawa put his knees up. Ricochet came back with a superkick and hit his Recoil finisher and scored the pin.
Ricochet beat Akira Tozawa in 6:05 to advance in the gauntlet match.
Matt Hardy made his entrance going into a break… [C] Hardy hit a Side Effect on Ricochet after the bell rang and got a quick two count. A short time later, Hardy performed a crucifix sit-out powerbomb for another two count. Hardy hit another Side Effect for another near fall. Ricochet avoided a Hardy moonsault, then performed a standing shooting star press for a two count of his own. Hardy went for a Twist of Fate, but Ricochet rolled him into a pin and got the three count. There were boos over Hardy losing, though the broadcast team wondered it if was actually a three count.
Ricochet beat Matt Hardy in 6:30 to advance in the gauntlet match.
Humberto Carrillo made his entrance going into a break. [C] An ad for the Royal Rumble aired. After a little over six minutes of Ricochet vs. Carrillo, Zelina Vega walked onto the stage and they cut to break. [C]
Ricochet avoided Carrillo’s Aztec Press moonsault and then the wrestlers traded kicks. Ricochet crashed into Carrillo near the ropes and they tumbled to ringside. Both men returned to the ring for the ref’s nine count. Carrillo went to the ropes, but Ricochet cut him off with a slap. Ricochet climbed onto the ropes and they traded strikes, then Ricochet superplexed Carrillo and covered him with his arm for a two count. Lawler said the superplex is one of the greatest moves in wrestling.
[Hour Three] Ricochet performed a Northern Lights Suplex and another suplex for a near fall. Ricochet went up top and was cut off by Carrillo, who went for an inverted huracanrana, but Ricochet landed on his feet. Carrillo caught Ricochet with a Canadian Destroyer and followed up with his moonsault for the win.
Humberto Carrillo beat Ricochet in 17:55 to advance in the gauntlet match.
Andrade’s music played. Vega motioned to the entrance area, then Andrade entered the ring from the opposite side and attacked Carrillo. Andrade hit Carrillo with double knees in the corner and then tossed him to ringside. Andrade pulled the mats at ringside back to expose the concrete floor. Andrade pointed to the cut on his eye from TLC and told Carrillo to look at it.
Andrade performed his hammerlock DDT on the exposed portion of the floor. Vega pointed and laughed. Rey Mysterio came to ringside, which led to Andrade and Vega exiting through the crowd. Mysterio motioned for help. “What the hell did we just witness?” Joseph asked going into a break. [C]
The gauntlet match ended without a finish.
Powell’s POV: Joseph asked the right question, as it appears they just spent a lot of time on a gauntlet match that didn’t have an actual ending. There was some good action in the various matches, but the live crowd is really quiet. The commercial breaks between the various matches didn’t help. It’s logical to have a brief break, but the long break takes away from the basic concept of the gauntlet match for this viewer. Andrade hitting his finisher on the concrete looked great and was good for some heat. I like that Carrillo is actually selling it and didn’t just pop up seconds later as if nothing happened.
Coming out of the break, Carrillo was on a stretcher and was led up the ramp by two EMTs and two referees. Seth Rollins’ music played and he and AOP walked out. Rollins had the steel pipe in his hand that Mysterio gave to Kevin Owens to use on him last week. Mysterio entered the ring. Rollins sent the AOP after Mysterio and they beat him down. Joe called it violence for the sake of violence and said that’s what AOP enjoys.
Rollins said he found something of Mysterio’s last week and wanted to give it back. Rollins placed the pipe in the ring next to the fallen Mysterio. When Rey tried to grab it, one of the AOP members stepped on it and then the duo went back to beating him. “Rey, this didn’t have to be this way, man, it really didn’t,” Rollins said. He recalled Mysterio giving the pipe to Owens.
Rollins brought up the eye for an eye adage and said that’s not him because he’s a merciful leader. Rollins told Mysterio to remember this night. “You owe me one, Rey,” Rollins said. The Rollins entrance theme played and he teased leaving the ring, then opted to give Mysterio the Stomp before he and AOP headed to the back… [C]
Powell’s POV: A good angle. I’m surprised they did this so close to the Carrillo injury angle, but I like that they are putting heat on the heels.
Backstage, Charly Caruso asked Rollins why he attacked Mysterio. Rollins said he’s a leader and he leads by example. He said he had a score to settle and they did that. Rollins said he stopped short of sending Mysterio to the hospital because he wouldn’t be able to answer his challenge. Rollins challenged Mysterio to put his U.S. Title on the line next week on Raw…
Randy Orton was shown in front of a black backdrop. Orton said he faces Styles, who beat him at WrestleMania. Orton said Styles needs to remember that this is Raw. He said that if Styles has trouble remembering who he is, then he will remind him with the three most destructive letters – RKO…
“The Kabuki Warriors” Asuka and Kari Sane made their entrance to Asuka’s theme. Asuka headed to the ring while Sane headed backstage. The broadcast narrated still shots from the TLC match for the WWE Women’s Tag Title match. Joseph hyped that Becky Lynch would be interviewed after the match. Joseph said Asuka will face Deonna Purrazzo. A video package aired on Purrazzo, who then made her entrance. Purrazzo kicked Asuka, who ended up at ringside going into a break… [C]
4. Asuka vs. Deonna Purrazzo. Asuka got off to the quick start. Purrazzo came back with an armlock. Asuka escaped and rolled her into a pin for a two count. Asuka applied an armlock of her own. She gave up the hold and applied a kneebar, then released that hold and applied another armlock. Later, Asuka applied the Asuka Lock for the submission win…
Asuka defeated Deonna Purrazzo in 4:15.
Powell’s POV: I like the brief video to introduce Purrazzo to establish that she’s not just a local enhancement wrestler. That said, I’m not really sure why they opted to introduce Purrazzo in this fashion.
Becky Lynch was interviewed by Charly Caruso in a sit-down setting. Caruso asked how she was handling her loss at TLC. Lynch said she hasn’t been herself the last few months. She said she thought the powers that be were putting her in the tag division to bury her, but now she thinks they put her there to protect her because she’s the golden goose and they don’t think she can beat Asuka.
Lynch said the loss is causing her to look at things honestly. Caruso asked what she says to people who think Asuka should be champion (what?). Lynch looked into the camera and addressed Asuka. She said Asuka has had her number and she needs that to change to prove something to herself…
Powell’s POV: I like the idea that Asuka has Lynch’s number. This was a good segment overall, but Caruso bringing up people who feel Asuka should be champion just didn’t ring true.
A family was shown sitting in the front row in upgraded seats courtesy of a phone company… Randy Orton made his entrance for the main event… [C]
Rey Mysterio sat backstage and said he had a lot of bad people coming after his title. He said Andrade is an incredible athlete and he has no problem defending the title against him. Mysterio said Andrade tried to end Carrillo’s career. Mysterio spoke in Spanish. Mysterio spoke in English as he said that Rollins doesn’t respect him. Mysterio said he’s never had a singles match with Rollins, but next week will be a first because he accepts his challenge for next week… AJ Styles made his entrance…
5. Randy Orton vs. AJ Styles. Styles came to the ring without his OC sidekicks. Styles applied a Calf Crusher a few minutes into the match. Orton reached for the ropes, but Styles released the hold and pulled him back to the middle of the ring and reapplied the hold. Orton reached the ropes. Styles held the hold until the referee’s count reached four. Orton rolled to ringside and Styles followed and hit him with a chop block. [C]
Styles continued to target Orton’s bad leg. Orton caught him with a sidewinder backbreaker. Orton set up for a superplex, but Styles slipped under him and ended up clipping his leg from behind again. Styles performed a springboard moonsault from the middle rope for a two count. Styles set up for the Styles Clash, but Orton backdropped him onto the apron.
[Overrun] Orton pulled Styles through the ropes and DDT’d him. Orton struck the Viper’s Pose. Styles blocked the RKO and rolled Orton into the Calf Crusher. Orton kicked himself free. Styles went for a Phenomenal Forearm, but Styles stopped when he saw Orton motion for the RKO. Orton clutched his knee. Styles went for the Phenomenal Forearm and then Orton hit him with an RKO and pinned him.
Randy Orton beat AJ Styles in 16:20.
After the match, Gallows and Anderson attacked Orton. The Viking Raiders ran out and fought with Gallows and Anderson. The OC trio cleared Ivar from the ring, then Gallows and Anderson hit the Magic Killer on Erik. The OC stood tall to close the show a few minutes after the top of the hour…
Powell’s POV: The return of the overrun. You know, because three hours just isn’t enough time for Raw. Anyway, the main event was solid and the finish played off of what they did during their WrestleMania feud with the head fake and Orton going for an RKO. There was a lot of in-ring action on this week’s show. If you thought this live crowd was quiet, know that you’ll be seeing them again next week, as the Christmas week Raw is also being taped in the morgue known as Wells Fargo Arena. I will have more to say about this show in my same night audio review for members. Let me know what you thought of Raw by giving it a letter grade in our post show poll available on the main page.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Kenny Herzog discussing his journalism career, his new Outside Interference podcast, doing a feature story on CM Punk, pro wrestling in the pandemic, WWE talk on Retribution, The Hurt Business, Roman Reigns as a heel, and much more...