By Josh Coulson
The final RAW before the 30th annual Royal Rumble this Sunday. Twelve spots left to fill in the Rumble match itself. The promise of an appearance from Goldberg. Plus a whole lot more as it turns out as Monday night RAW rolled through Cleveland.
I feel like Roman Reigns has opened an awful lot of RAWs recently. This Monday was no different. The Big Dog has been left lying by Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho a couple of weeks in a row now. So the former United States champ focussed on looking ahead to his WWE Universal title shot at Royal Rumble. It didn’t take very long for KO and Chris to cut Roman short. In an odd turn of events the Universal champ effectively granted Reigns a US title rematch for later that night, something Y2J really wasn’t getting at. Owens not only promised a Jericho win, but also that by the time the night was out Reigns would be locked inside the shark cage that was spending the night hung above the ring.
Things are really heating up between tag champions Sheamus and Cesaro and their newest foes Gallows and Anderson. Especially after the former IWGP tag champs thought they had earned their first taste of WWE gold last week. A one-on-one match between Cesaro and Gallows this week, and more proof that two referees really will be needed for the teams’ tag title rematch on the Royal Rumble kick off show Sunday night. Neither superstar’s partner could resist getting involved in the action and certainly left the official with his hands full as he missed Gallows tapping to Cesaro’s sharpshooter. The Good Brother quickly turned the momentum against the Swiss half of the RAW tag champs, hitting him with a fireman’s carry flapjack to pick up the win.
I’ve seen Stephanie McMahon emasculate many a superstar in my time, but three at once while on speaker phone may be some sort of record. Just as Sami Zayn was about to announce his entry into the Royal Rumble, because apparently it’s as easy as that, Stephanie cut him off and said that actually he would have to earn it, unlike everybody else. How? By beating Seth Rollins. Not only that but as Mick Foley would reveal shortly after, on further order of the commissioner if Sami did manage to beat Rollins he would in fact replace The Architect in the Rumble.
The match between Sami and Seth was easily the match of the night, and in fact now that I think about it perhaps match of the year so far in WWE. The pair put on a bout worthy of headlining a pay per view. A multitude of dodged finishers and false finishes culminated in Rollins pedigreeng Zayn on the ring apron. Just as Seth rolled his opponent into the ring to pick up the win Triple H’s theme echoed out around the arena. Seth thought that the man he continues to label a coward was finally about to answer his challenge. No such luck. The music played but The Game did not appear and in all the confusion Sami Zayn recovered enough to roll up The Architect for the win and take Rollins’ place in Sunday’sRumble.
Six man tag action up next featuring the cruiserweights. Mustafa Ali, making his RAW debut, teamed up with TJ Perkins and Jack Gallagher to take on the trio of Tony Nese, Drew Gulak and Ariya Daivari. The future looks bright for Ali. The new comer has had a couple of good outings on 205 Live plus picked up the win for his team on RAW. His very impressive inverted 450 Splash enough to keep Gulak down for the three count.
As I mentioned earlier, it seems apart from Sami Zayn all people need to do is announce themselves as part of the Royal Rumble to become an official entrant. Something that was showcased again later that night as Big Cass and Rusev filled up a couple of the vacant slots. A string of interruptions/Rumble entry declarations resulted in a crowded ring which led to an eight man tag match. New Day and Enzo and Cass versus Rusev, Jinder Mahal, Titus O Neil and Braun Strowman, despite the crowd apparently wanting Lana to be competitor number eight. The match didn’t take long to descend into anarchy. And after said anarchy the two legal men left in the ring were Enzo and Strowman. The Man Mountain made very short work of Amore. But Braun was then faced with someone he was not expecting, Big Show. Another entrant in the Royal Rumble this Sunday and a man looking in better shape than perhaps he ever has before. But more importantly possibly the only man on the roster that makes Braun look small(ish). Strowman wanted no part of Show on Monday night, but I imagine they’ll clash at some point on Sunday.
Up next, the rematch for the US championship. A betting man would have put money on their being some foul play during this one, and they would have been right to. Just as Roman Reigns began to pick up some momentum, Owens decided he had seen enough and left his position on commentary to intervene. Jericho disqualified, thus keeping his belt, and the beatdown on Roman continued. KO signalled for the cage to be lowered and looked to deliver on at least one of his earlier promises. It was the Universal champ that ended up locked in the cage and ascending to the heavens however after a spirited fight back from The Guy. Owens was eventually freed but the damage was done. An irate champ who was made even angrier when informed that his title defence against Reigns at the Royal Rumble will now be no disqualification.
One of the quickest squash matches you’ll ever see for Nia Jax on Monday night. Jax clearly just wanted the spotlight so she could brag about taking out Sasha Banks. Turns out she didn’t quite finish the job. Sasha, on a crutch, cut Nia short and made her way to the ring. Sounds foolish, but evidently The Boss had a plan. That plan? To use said crutch to give Jax a beating. Then after sending her careening from the ring delivered her patented double knees. Clearly not as out of action as Jax would’ve hoped and the two will square off on the kick off show this coming Sunday.
A little more cruiserweight action before the night was out. Noam Dar has seemingly won the affections of Alicia Fox and on RAW had the chance to prove himself against the CW champ, Rich Swann. Well Dar may be talented, but he came up short against the champ. Once Swann had dispatched the Scottish Suoernova he turned his attention to his Royal Rumble opponent, Neville. The Geordie responded to Swann’s demands to come to the ring, but decided to back off at the last second and leave the fighting until Sunday in San Antonio.
We were promised a Goldberg appearance, so of course we got one. The former WCW champion may have stumbled over his words at first, but he eventually put everyone in this Sunday’s Rumble on notice. That was until he was interrupted by Paul Heyman who in a shocking turn of events was closely followed by Brock Lesnar. As many do when faced with Heyman, Goldberg got fed up of talking and challenged Lesnar to get in the ring with him. Of course The Beast obliged and just as things were about to come to a very explosive head, the gong sounded and the lights went out. When they came back on The Undertaker was stood between the two behemoths. The three blockbuster names competing in Sunday’s Royal Rumble all stood face to face to face in RAW’s closing shot. Bring on Sunday night!