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Raw Recap and Grades
Jim Jaeger @jaegerjunc
Welcome to Monday Night Raw live from Houston!
Segment 1: Stephanie McMahon Promo
Steph announced that Raw GM Kurt Angle’s job was safe and then promptly introduced her husband, Triple H. The Game entered the ring but was interrupted before he could talk by the Raw GM’s music. Angle made a beeline for Hunter and told the “Authority” that if Hunter ever attacked Him (Angle) from behind again, they could take the GM job and shove it. This was followed by an appearance from a very angry Jason Jordan intent on standing up for his “father.” Jordan challenged Triple H only to have Stephanie scoff that her husband was not afraid of Jordan or any other superstar. On cue, Braun Strowman’s music hit and the Monster among Men stormed to ring and got right in the face of Triple H. After some tense moments The Game backed down and left the ring to a chorus of boos. Stephanie booked Jordan in a match with Strowman later on.
Analysis: This all happened relatively quickly and made Strowman look like the monster he is. Jordan will likely be part of the upcoming feud between Triple H and Kurt Angle. Booking Strowman as the silent destroyer, almost like a movie bad guy who will not die, is the perfect spot for him.
Match 1: Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe
These two wrestled a week before the pay-per-view and put on a classic. One night after teaming up on the Raw Survivor Series team where team dissension led to an elimination of Joe, the two fought again. Joe started quickly working over the smaller Balor. Balor mounted a comeback only to be grounded again by the Samoan Submission machine. Balor escaped one coquina clutch but the second one applied was locked in. Balor passed out and could not meet the referee’s signal and lost the match accordingly.
Result: Samoa Joe via referee’s decision
Analysis: There has still no mention from the announcers of these two having teamed up in NXT. This seems like a feud that is just getting started. Joe looked very strong as the aggressor and Balor was protected by passing out instead of tapping out.
Match 2: Asuka vs. Dana Brooke
Prior to the match, Brooke cut a promo stating that she had scouted Asuka by watching video of her on the WWE network. Unfortunately, this did not appear to help Brooke. Just a week earlier she took a cheap shot at Asuka during a match and had been knocked out with a kick from Asuka. Tis match was more of the same. Asuka took Brooke down and pummeled her with a series of kicks and strikes. Brooke was overwhelmed quickly.
Result: Asuka defeats Brooke
Analysis: Asuka looks like she might buck the trend of NXT stars who do not deliver on the big show. She has been booked to be dominant and the crowd seems to enjoy her actions.
Segment 2: Miz TV with guest Roman Reigns
Miz started off his segment with mentioning his match with Baron Corbin. He segued into calling out Roman Reigns who was nowhere to be found. After multiple attempts, the Hounds of Justice appeared together. Miz asked if the Shield was satisfied with their victory over the New Day. Then he complained that no one had thanked him for helping to bring back the New Day. Reigns eventually challenged the Miz for the Intercontinental title. The Miztourage took a beating from the Shield to end the segment.
Analysis: Hopefully this is not setting up any type of three-man tag team match as the Miztourage is not up to the level of the Shield.
Match 3: Dean Ambrose vs. Sheamus (Seth Rollins and Cesaro ringside)
With the quality of the two wrestlers involved in the match, it was no surprise that this was a good match. They seem to have had every iteration of match available recently.
Ambrose began the match by taking the action to the Celtic Warrior until being sent to the arena floor before break. Sheamus proceeded to target the heavily wrapped elbow of Ambrose. Ambrose eventually fought back using his normal trickery to catch Sheamus off guard. He hit his dive through the ropes onto Sheamus drawing a huge pop from the crowd. Cesaro attacked Rollins at ringside and the distraction allowed Sheamus to pick up a near fall. Rollins fought back against Cesaro and Ambrose hit Sheamus with Dirty Deeds for the win.
Result: Ambrose defeats Sheamus
Analysis: As I said before, this was a good match but one we have seen before. The Shield is a top draw even without the belts but will ultimately need a new set of opponents to keep them from becoming stale. It was likely easier in their first incarnation when they were not babyfaces and could/would attack almost anyone.
Segment 3: Alexa Bliss promo
Five Feet of Fury stated unequivocally that despite her loss to Charlotte at Survivor Series, she was still the Goddess of Monday Night Raw. Mickie James interrupted and said she was sick of the same old story from Bliss. James was joined by Bayley, Sasha, and Alicia Fox. Angle’s music hit and he announced a Fatal Four Way match to determine the number one contender. Just as the match got underway, Paige’s music hit. The returning wrestler asked the crowd if they missed her. As Paige walked to the ring, two NXT stars, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville entered the ring with Paige. The NXT wrestlers and Paige left most of the Raw women’s division lying in the ring.
Analysis: I thought Paige might be the mystery partner for the Smackdown Live Survivor Series team but this was a nice swerve. Hopefully Paige has put her past troubles behind her. It will be interesting which direction the writers go to explain the pairing of these three. One thing is certain: this will shake up the division.
Match 4: Braun Strowman vs. Jason Jordan
Jordan evaded Strowman early on only to have his injured knee betray him. Just as Strowman was going for the beatdown, Kane attacked Strowman. Kane gained some measure of revenge on Strowman by choking him with a steel chair.
Result: Strowman won by DQ
Analysis: My understanding is that Kane is not around for the long haul so I guess this feud will end with Strowman defeating/banishing the Devil’s favorite demon. Jordan really did not do anything and likely disappointed the fans by not being squashed by Strowman. An earlier backstage angle with the Raw GM showed Jordan whining about his knee while simultaneously becoming irrationally excited that he could beat Strowman because he had Angle’s blood running through his veins. It looks like WWE creative is building toward a Jordan turn of some kind.
Enzo Amore and his cronies, Drew Gulak, Tony Nese, Ariya Daivari and Noam Dar hit the ring. Amore put himself over for his win and for bringing relevance to his team. This brought out the babyface team of Rich Swann, Cedric Alexander, Akira Tozawa, and Mustafa Ali. They were booked into a multi-man tag team match. Swann took a beating until he could make the hot tag to Alexander. Alexander caught Dar with his painful looking Lumbar Check while Ali landed his reverse 450 splash on Dar for the win.
Analysis: The cruiserweight matches usually seem like they are thrown together. I remember when the division started, there were storylines like TJ Perkins’ backstory. I guess that is done. Alexander seems like he might be being primed for a push of sorts and I still think Tozawa is no longer a part of Titus Worldwide.
This was a reprisal of a surprisingly good pre-show Survivor Series match between the two grapplers. Elias had a song to deliver to the people of Houston and drew his typical heel heat by insulting the crowd. This was enough for Matt Hardy who stormed to the ring and attacked. They brawled momentarily until Elias bailed leaving Hardy standing strong in the ring.
Analysis: This seemed like filler before the main event and a way to keep the two on TV (like Gallows and Anderson who were relegated to hawking t-shirts) at first glance. Perhaps they are setting up a feud until Jeff can return or Matt gains the rights to the “Broken Universe.”
Match 6: Intercontinental Match: The Miz vs. Roman Reigns
The Miz took advantage of Reigns still recuperating from his match with the New Day last night. The Hollywood A-lister was in control early. Miz, showing that he had not learned from his mistakes of a night earlier, attempted to mock Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan with a series of “yes kicks” when Reigns caught him with a big Samoan Drop. Miz was not out of it, though, ducking a series of Superman punches. Finally, the Big Dog hit Miz with the Superman Punch only to have the Bar interfere and stop Reigns from winning. Reigns kicked out of a “Skull-Crushing finale” and Rollins and Ambrose entered ringside to chase the Bar away, leaving Reigns to spear Miz for the win and to take the title.
Analysis: Michael Cole spent the match explaining that Reigns had never held the IC belt. It remains to be seen how long he will hold it and who will challenge for it. I am a big Miz mark and like the fact that he can work with anyone and get a good match out of them.
Good night and good luck!