By Diesel @Diesel_vftr
Last week Raw ended with the Bar retaining their Tag Team Titles over the Shield with help from Samoa Joe. Samoa Joe was also involved in the I.C. Championship match between Roman Reigns defeating Jason Jordan. Paige beat Sasha Banks in Paige’s first match in 16 months. Absolution continued to mark their territory in the Raw Women’s Division. Woken Matt Hardy finally made an appearance on Raw and brought new life to a Bray Wyatt promo. Kane issued a challenge to Braun Stroman for this week. Many question will be answered in this article such as, will a number one contender be crowned for the Cruiserweight Championship? Is this the week that Absolution will go after Asuka? Will we get a Roman Reigns vs Samoa Joe match for the I.C. Title? Are Woken Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt going to take their babbling further? Will the Kane/Braun Stroman feud end on Raw? (God I hope so.) Is Nia Jax going to flirt with Enzo some more? Read ahead to see what crazy, wacky and whimsical things that went down on Raw live from Cleveland.
After a recap of the events surrounding the I.C. Title a handful of matches were announced. (Dean Ambrose vs Samoa Joe, Seth Rollins vs Sheamus, and Roman Reigns vs Cesaro for the I.C. Belt.) Raw opens with Samoa Joe already in the ring. Samoa Joe talks trash about his opponent for the night and brags about injuring Rollins in his first night on Raw. Joe says the real reason he is out here is to call out Roman Reigns. Joe wants Roman one on one and finish what he started. After a while of Joe running his mouth, Roman comes down to the ring to greet Joe alone. Immediately a brawl breaks out. Whe Roman gains the upper hand the Bar come to Joe’s aid. It’s apparent that it was a setup as Joe chokes Roman out. The Shield come to help their fallen brother but the numbers game is too much to overcome. Segment ends with Booker T saying “I don’t think he wanted Roman alone guys.” First idioc thing Booker says tonight.
Joe coming out strong here is the important thing to. Raw is lacking main event talent and this is how they need to book to combat that. Since it’s a while before you will see the Raw superstars on a PPV, I’m good with the Shield/Bar feud continuing. I do think they do need to end this sooner than later however.
Bayley and Mickie James w/ Sasha Banks vs Paige and Mandy Rose w/ Sonya Deville
Before the match Paige cuts a promo saying “the Absolution train is rolling through the division.” Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville chime in as well but their messages don’t come across as clear. Mandy Rose and Bayley start the match. A couple of quick tags by both teams, then Mickie and Bayley take control before the commercial break. Back from the break it’s back and forth between Bayley and Mandy Rose, with 2 count pinfalls by each. Paige tags in and keeps Bayley in her team’s corner. Bayley fights Paige off and makes the “hot tag” to Mickie James. The fresh Mickie James takes control of her opponents. While Mickie james was setting up a move, Paige kicks her in the back of the head. Mandy Rose takes advantage and make the cover for the 3 count.
Winner: Paige and Mandy Rose
This match was a slow starter. After the commercial break it was jam packed full of action. It was a fun little match and everyone’s role was played perfectly. I love that Absolution went over in a dirty way. It makes this new group feel invincible. Going by the last couple weeks it looks like they’re building towards Paige vs Asuka. If that’s the case they are making Paige feel up to task of being ready for Asuka.
Before the break Bray Wyatt is in a dark room with is lantern. He looks straight into the camera and says “I’m Here” and blows out the flame. Then it cuts to Woken Matt Hardy saying “I have Awoken”.
After the break Bray is babbling about Matt Hardy just like last week. Also like last week Matt Hardy is responding with his nonsensical ramblings again. This week both speak of a battle and a side must be chosen. Once again the promo ends in both men laughing hysterically. I must admit, I am as well. I want more of this, I’m going to put that on my wish list to Santa this year.
A backstage segment with Enzo Amore and Drew Gulak explains that Rich Swann’s number one contender opportunity was revoked. Later there will be another Fatal 4-way to take Swann’s spot next Monday against Gulak.
Finn Balor vs Curtis Axel w/ Bo Dallas
Contrary to some belief Balor seems to be extremely over during his entrance. Curtis Axel enters to the Miz’s music still sporting his neck brace. The commentary team bicker about how Axel doesn’t need the neck brace. Before the opening bell the Miztourage attack Balor. The ref gains control and rings the bell. Axel starts on Balor again. Finn Balor quickly reverses the momentum and hits the Coup De Gras. Finn gets the pin for the win.
Winner: Finn Balor
I still don’t understand why Balor is in throw away matches. This doesn’t help his cause and it’s not doing much for the Miztourage either. I’m predicting right now that next week it will be Finn Balor vs the Miztourage in a 2 on 1 Handicap Match. It makes me feel deflated that this is what they do with Finn. How could so much change from August 2016 when he was the first ever Universal Champion.
Kane cuts an on screen Bray Wyatt type promo. He says tonight he will beat Braun Stroman. After Stroman he is going to beat Brock Lesner for the Universal Championship. The crowd was not into this promo. I really hate to say it as I love the Big Red Machine, but I think it’s time for Kane to hang it up.
Seth Rollins vs Sheamus
Rollins starts the match with a fire in his belly and gets the upperhand early. Sheamus finally over powers Rollins and takes over. Sheamus works at a slow and methodical pace, but it’s working to his advantage. Sheamus delivers a running knee to Rollins which knocks him out of the ring as Raw goes to commercial break. Back from the break Sheamus is still in control with Rollins in a headlock. Sheamus begins to work on Rollins surgically repaired knee, leading to Sheamus locking in the Clover Leaf. Rollins counter the submission by rolling Sheamus up in to a pinning Predicament. Sheamus goes to the top rope only for Rollins to run up and counter with a Superplex followed by a Falcon Arrow. Rollins hits Sheamus with his spin out knee finisher for the 1,2,3. Booker T says this match made him want to eat his hat. I’ve never personally seen booker where a hat, so that’s number 2 for goodt ol’ Booker.
Winner: Seth Rollins
Just like the Women’s tag match earlier I thought this match started slow. Again after the break the action picked up. There were few great spots and by the end I was happy. With a Rollins victory I feel the Shield will get another opportunity at the Tag Belts. Like I said before I’m starting to get bored with this program. It’s time to “push” a new team to face the Bar.
Cedric Alexander vs Tony Nese vs Mustafa Ali vs Ariya Daivari
Drew Gulak joins the commentary and instantly it’s an improvement. Early on Alexander and Ali are the only two in the ring, continuing their friendly rivalry as Corey Graves put it. Daivari take Ali out of the ring and takes advantage on a hurting Alexander. Nese and Ali start battling after clearing the other two out. So much action going on that everybody was down heading into break. Back from the break and Daivari is having his way with Ali with the others down and out on the outside. Alexander gets a chance to go up against Ali and both throwing blows left and right. Alexander hits the Lumbar Check on Ali and then gets thrown out the ring by Daivari just like Gulak last week. Daivari tried to steal the win but Alexander breaks it up. Alexander hits the Lumbar Check on Daivari and gets the three count.
Winner: Cedric Alexander
For the the third straight week the Cruiserweights were given time to show what they can do. The match wasn’t as good as last week’s Fatal 4-Way in my opinion, but still a very good match. I figured with Gulak being a “heel” they would go with a “face” to win. Honestly you couldn’t go wrong with either Alexander or Ali. I still fully expect Gulak to win the number one contendership too. Also I really enjoyed Gulak on commentary.
A backstage segment has Gulak giving Enzo some friendly banter about winning the Cruiserweight Title. Enzo goes off on Gulak about how they’re not friends and Gulak works for him. Enzo Then notices Nia Jax and says to her “ How you doin’.” Nia Jax replied and good and wanted to talk to Enzo in private when he wasn’t busy. I’m very intrigued by this.
Cesaro vs Roman Reigns for the I.C. Championship.
Roman isn’t as over in Cleveland as he has been in the past few weeks, as he enters to more boos than cheers. Both men start fired up and land thunderous blows. Roman knocks Cesaro out of the ring, coincidentally just in the nick time for a commercial break. During the break Cesaro took the momentum by swinging Roman into the barricade on the outside of the ring. As his tag partner did in his match earlier, Cesaro targets a specific body part. Cesaro continues to work on Roman’s elbow of his Superman Punch arm. Every time Roman gets something going, Cesaro attack the arm and retakes the advantage. For Roman the adrenaline kicks in and he goes on the attack on Cesaro. Cesaro gets control of Roman and throws his shoulder into the ring post. Cesaro goes after Roman on the outside and is met with a stair assisted Superman Punch. The fight goes back in the ring and Cesaro hits a big move only to get a 2 count. Immediately Cesaro puts Roman into a Crossface. Roman lifts Cesaro up and lands a Sit Down Powerbomb and got a 2 count. Cesaro starts hitting Roman with uppercut after uppercut. Sets Roman up for the Neutralizer and got Back Body Dropped. Roman then hit Cesaro with the Spear out of nowhere and picks up the victory.
Winner: Roman Reigns
I’m going to start this by saying that Cesaro is probably the most underrated talent of all the WWE roster. Wow what a match. I personally would give this match an A if I were grading it. Despite how you feel about Roman Reigns he is one of the best in the ring today. I appreciate the fact Cesaro continued to work the same body part over and over again. It was also great selling by Roman Too. This match was PPV quality on it’s worst day and I’m filled with joy they went all out on a Monday night in December. Definitely a T.V. match of the year candidate.
Before the Break Braun Stroman answered Kane by saying he would win tonight. I love Braun but seriously couldn’t care less about this match.
Asuka vs Alicia Fox
Alicia Fox’s music hits and and nobody comes out. Then Paige’s music hits and show Fox on the screen getting told to be checked out by a doctor. Paige explains that she isn’t letting Asuka walk away anymore. Paige gave Asuka two options “either Asuka moves out of the way or they will make her move out of the way.” Asuka didn’t go anywhere. Right away Asuka takes out Deville and Rose. Asuka then put Paige in an armbar. Rose and Deville save Paige and start attacking Asuka three on one. Then the rest of the Women’s division came to Asuka’s aid, Including Nia Jax and Raw Women’s Champ Alexa Bliss. Absolution takes a beating and and runs away with their tails between their legs.
This was great. Asuka looked strong, Absolution looked strong. This is exactly what you want from this segment. Each week Absolution wins me over a little bit more.
Before the break for the first time tonight we see Kurt Angle. He’s talking to a stagehand about reinforcing the ring for the Kane vs Braun Stroman match. A knock at the door is Jason Jordan. Jordan gives is “father” a hug. Then goes on to apologize for how he acted last week. Jordan said his emotions and “integrity” got the better of him. The only thing is he couldn’t understand why Kurt didn’t make him a match with Samoa Joe. Kurt explained how he has to take care of everyone not just Jordan. That upset Jordan and he left angrily saying thanks a lot “Kurt”.
Dean Ambrose vs Samoa Joe
This is the first time these two have ever met one on one. The start of the match is a constant back and forth. Time for another commercial break, I’m fully expecting this match to pick up after the break, just like the rest of the matches tonight. Back from the break the back forth continue. Jordan is sitting on the top of the ramp ala Samoa Joe last week during his match. Both men fall out of the ring and Jordan comes down to ring side. Jordan picks Ambrose up and puts him in the ring. Joe then hooks the Coquina Clutch on Jordan. Ambrose dives outside to break it up. The fight goes back in the ring and Ambrose hits a standing elbow drop and pins Joe. However the ref is distracted and doesn’t count soon enough for the Ambrose win. Joe puts the clutch on Ambrose and he passes out. Meanwhile Booker T gets all worked up with Michael Cole when Cole agreed with Booker. C’mon Booker get it together man.
Winner: Samoa Joe
This match was decent. It could have been better, could have been worse. I do like this whiny Jason Jordan. I may be the only one but I think once his heel turn is cemented more people will see it my way.
A backstage segment with Titus Oneal, Apollo Crews and Dana Brooke, with Brooke thanking Titus for the chance. Then walked up the Good Brothers Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson waked up. They started spreading their message about nerds. When from a distance you hear Brrrraaaaauuunnnnn. Stroman comes walking through them like a man on a mission on the way down to the ring for his match with Kane.
Braun Stroman vs Kane
Stroman takes an early advantage. Stroman hit a Drop Kick on Kane and it was amazing. Kane throws a couple punch, which is no effect to Stroman. Kane then Chokeslammed Stroman and it was only good enough for a 2 count. Kane hits another Chokeslam and Stroman kicks out again. Kane attempts one more Chokeslam and Stroman counters with a Chokeslam of his own. Kane kicked out at 2. The fight moves to the outside and Kane Clotheslines Stroman through the barricade, leading to a double count out. After the match Stroman focus’ on ending Kane. Both pick up stairs and ram them into each other. Kane starts beating Stroman with a chair. Kane then sets up a table in the ring. Both men hit Clotheslines on each other. Both lying on their backs, Kane sits up first. Stroman then sits up and turns his head and gives Kane an Undertaker like stare. Kane is freaked out by this and backs up to the corner. Kane then moves in and sets up for the Chokeslam through the table. Stroman fought out of it and countered with a Poweslam Through the table to end Raw.
Winner: Double Count Out
This was nothing new from the last few weeks. I’m tired of this. I wish it would just end already.
Another solid episode of Raw this week. I really don’t have much to complain about. I don’t like how Balor is being used, and this Stroman/Kane feud just isn’t doing it for me. Other then that it was a top notch episode. The wrestling once again was above average for Raw. I’m still in awe over the Roman/Cesaro match. The Women came out smelling like roses this week. Also the Cruiserweight took advantage of their opportunity shine for the third straight week. Me being Professor Diesel it is time for me to give Raw a letter grade. I think last week’s episode was a tad bit better. At the same time it wasn’t enough for me to give it a worse grade. So this week my grade for Raw is the same as last’s.
Letter Grade: B
If you have any comments or you just want to chat about Raw. Or any wrestling at all, you can find me on Twitter @Diesel_vftr. You can listen to my podcast View From the Top Rope on Itunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, Stitcher and Podknife. In association with @kayfabeToday