By Josh Coulson
The first RAW of the year is officially in the books. A lot to look forward to with an appearance from Goldberg and a last man standing match between Sami Zayn and Braun Strowman. All of that plus whatever else Stephanie and co had in store as the build to the Royal Rumble got well and truly underway.
Mick Foley returned from his Christmas break to open the first RAW of 2017. Sporting a new hair cut no less! But it did not take long for WWE Universal champion Kevin Owens, with Chris Jericho in tow, to interrupt Mick’s flow. The RAW GM had been reiterating his plans for Owens’ upcoming title defense against Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble. Something the champ and Y2J are still not on board with, shark cage and all. Plus Mick announced that the first edition of The Kevin Owens Show would take place later that night. It’s first guest? Goldberg! Enter Stephanie McMahon to act as mediator. The commissioner backed her general manager after Foley was accused multiple times by KO and Chris of abusing his power. On top of that she booked a couple of matches for the night ahead. A United States championship match between Reigns and Jericho plus a match between Seth Rollins and Owens to kick off the night, and the year. The loser of said opener being banned from ringside for the aforementioned US title match.
So on to that first match. Seth Rollins versus Kevin Owens. A match that a year ago we’d have killed for. However recently the booking of this talented pair has been pretty lacklustre. Nevertheless that doesn’t take away from their in-ring ability. So when they square off it’s likely to impress. A short and sweet match this past Monday. Some good action but the match came to rather an abrupt end. KO lured The Architect from the ring and hit him over the head with the ring bell. The champ disqualified hence leaving him banned from ringside for the US title match later that night.
The New Day will officially not be winning those tag team titles back. At least for now anyway. It would seem that next in line for a shot at Sheamus and Cesaro’s gold are Gallows & Anderson. This past Monday Cesaro went one on one with Karl Anderson and the former Bullet Club member managed to steal a win. Sheamus pulled Luke Gallows from the apron late on in the match, inadvertently knocking his partner off the top rope in the process. Anderson pounced on the opportunity with a top rope neck breaker, picking up the win against half of the RAW tag team champions.
My personal highlight of Monday’s RAW was the last man standing match between Sami Zayn and Braun Strowman. Much like each and every week right now I was intrigued to see exactly what WWE had in store for Braun. How they’d pull this off without either man looking bad. Well, mission accomplished. An epic encounter between the two that yes, saw Sami lose but more importantly saw him more than take it to Braun. Kendo sticks and steel chairs helped Sami attempt to level the playing field. The cherry on the cake for Zayn though was when he utilized a cross body to send both himself and Braun crashing through some tables stage side. Even that only kept the former strong man down for a five count however. Eventually, Strowman finished off Zayn and followed up by throwing Sami off of the stretcher that was taking him backstage to drive home his point. Big things ahead for Braun, but also for Sami. He may have lost but he has put himself back on the map with this Strowman program.
I mentioned earlier that it would appear New Day’s association with the RAW tag titles is over for now. Well they confirmed that by announcing their intent to compete in the Royal Rumble match later this month. That announcement was cut short when Titus O Neil interrupted to request he be made the trio’s fourth member. Unsurprisingly Titus wasn’t greeted with open arms. O Neil reacted poorly to his rejection and after declaring Xavier Woods the group’s weakest member found himself in a match with the host of Up Up Down Down. Despite his size advantage, it was yet again a short showing for the Titus brand. A win for Woods and if that was Titus’s audition I can’t imagine New Day will be reconsidering their decision any time soon.
Noam Dar continues to torment Cedric Alexander through his pursuit of Alicia Fox. In fact the Scot clearly got under his fellow cruiserweight’s skin right before Cedric’s match with Drew Gulak. Once again distracted by Fox at ringside, Alexander was rolled up and covered by Gulak for the win.
Another shot at the one title that has eluded him his entire career for Chris Jericho, the US championship. We already know that his best friend Kevin Owens was banned from ringside, and also that if Roman Reigns is counted out or disqualified he’ll lose the belt. Well Jericho attempted to take advantage of that stipulation by throwing the belt to Roman and throwing himself on the floor while the referee had his back turned. It almost worked. In the confusion Y2J hit the champ with a code breaker but that only got him a two count. That was swiftly followed by a spear from Reigns and a successful defense.
More quick fire cruiserweight action up next. Two men looking to re-insert themselves into the CW title picture, Brian Kendrick and TJ Perkins. These men know each other very well both in and out of the ring. Perkins got the win on Monday and will look to continue that streak against Neville this week on 205 Live.
Turns out Enzo Amore’s need for a wheelchair is more legit than he had us believe last week. So much so that this week his tag partner Big Cass had to face Rusev and Jinder Mahal alone in a handicap match. Cass may be tough, but even he succumbed to a 2-on-1 to these men. Enzo attempted to help out but it wasn’t enough to stop Mahal and The Bulgarian Brute from picking up the win.
Turns out Stephanie McMahon isn’t a big Bayley fan. Not a big surprise. So RAW’s resident hugger needed to prove to Steph that she deserves a shot at Charlotte’s title, in a number one contender match against Nia Jax. A pretty good back and forth between the two but late on it did appear that Jax was beginning to get the better of Bayley. Enter Sasha Banks. It only took The Boss’s music playing to distract Nia enough for Bayley to hit her with a Bayley-to-belly from the second rope and pick up the win. Charlotte vs Bayley booked for the women’s title at the Rumble, and somehow I think Nia Jax is going to want some sort of revenge on Banks to boot.
I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but The Kevin Owens Show set made me audibly laugh out loud. And on top of that the show provided a killer main event segment teeming with talent. Just seeing Goldberg and Jericho back in the same ring (which we may see again as Y2J announced his entry into the Royal Rumble) again after all these years got me pumped, then KO’s confrontation with Lesnar’s conqueror had me positively marking out. And there was more to come. Paul Heyman then emerged to throw in his two cents worth, unfortunately without his client. Not long after that Goldberg’s announcement that he didn’t care who the Universal champ was heading into Wrestlamania prompted Roman Reigns to join the festivities. Last but not least was Braun Strowman. After the dust cleared Strowman announced that if anyone is going to win the Rumble, it’ll be him. Reigns and Goldberg’s response? A double spear to the giant knocking him off his feet and careening from the ring. A bumper ending to RAW packed with bodies and perhaps a preview of some of the encounters we could see come Rumble time on January 29th.