by Amanda Why
Royal Rumble is over which means we’re on the road to WrestleMania. If you missed last night’s action-packed PPV you can catch up with Bradley Tiernan’s review here. Tonight’s show will deal with the fallout and the preview is suitably vague. We can expect to see how Braun Strowman feels about Brock Lesnar retaining the Universal Championship. The Miz will find out who will stand in the way of his mission to walk into WrestleMania as Intercontinental Champion (I’m guessing it’ll be Roman Reigns – rematch clause). And we’ll find out what’s going on with Ronda Rousey after her appearance at the end of last night’s show. Oh, and Jonathan ‘The Coach’ Coachman replaces Booker T on commentary as of tonight. Booker has been repurposed back to the pre-show panels. I wish him well, but I won’t miss him belittling Corey Graves every 30 seconds.
I’m Amanda, and I’m here to make sure you get all the important bits from RAW.
The Opening Segment
After the compulsory Royal Rumble recap, focusing heavily on Ronda Rousey’s arrival in the closing minutes, Stephanie McMahon opened the show proper. While she made her entrance, Coach was introduced officially as the newest member of the commentary team (with the luck wishing for Booker T), and Roman Reigns rematch against The Miz was announced.
Stephanie McMahon ran through the highlights of the Royal Rumble, then welcomed Asuka to the ring.
She said Asuka could choose her opponent for WrestleMania, but she might want to wait because Alexa Bliss will be defending her title in an Elimination Chamber match – another first for the women’s division. Asuka gave most of her response in Japanese, but she said she will become champion at WrestleMania because no-one is ready for Asuka.
Sasha Banks interrupted and said she had a few things to get off her chest. She said last night was a dream come true, and congratulated Asuka on her victory. But, she proved last night she can go the distance and she’s ready for Asuka tonight.
Stephanie McMahon made the match for later.
The Other Stuff
– Commentary talked through the way Brock Lesnar’s WrestleMania opponent will be decided. There will be six matches the winners of which will go into an Elimination Chamber match. The Elimination Chamber winner will face Lesnar.
– Braun Strowman vs Kane – Last Man Standing, Elimination Chamber qualifying match – Ultra-short match. They brawled through the tech area and commentary ceased as they got closer to the desk. Kane ended up underneath the announce desk when Strowman tipped it, and the entire platform it stood on (complete with chairs), on top of him. Obviously, that was the finish.
While medics were trying to help Kane, Braun Strowman came back. Corey Graves stuck a mic under his nose and asked him what he did. Strowman replied, ‘My job. Kurt Angle said last man standing, that’s what I did’. After the break, they announced that Kane was having trouble breathing and was being taken to a local medical facility. Kurt Angle shouted at Strowman, Strowman shouted back warning of the damage he will do to make sure he’s always the last man standing.
– Commentary had to move to ringside because they had nowhere to sit. Over the course of the next match, the crew built them an announce desk there. They were so close to the ring that anyone falling/being knocked off the apron on that side hit the desk.
– Elias sang about it being his night and being on the road to WrestleMania to face Brock Lesnar, then had an Elimination Chamber qualifying match against Matt Hardy. Decent enough match, until Bray Wyatt’s intro hit and distracted Hardy. Elias capitalised by kicking Matt Hardy in the face and hitting him with Drift Away for the win. After the match, Bray showed up on the big screen laughing.
– The Revival vs Heath Slater and Rhyno – Rhyno is supposedly trying to toughen Slater up. Tonight, it looked like The Revival was trying to tenderise him. Rhyno put up a decent fight when he came in, but he took the Shatter machine after he got chop blocked by Scott Dawson. The Revival took the victory. Post-match, Dawson pointed out that they had just beaten the first SmackDown tag team champions, and Dash Wilder insulted the crowd for a bit.
– The Dudley Boyz are the latest to be announced for the 2018 Hall of Fame.
– Sasha Banks vs Asuka – Banks was very confident, in her pre-match interview, that she was going to make history by defeating Asuka. She said she’s been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. Early in the match Banks put Asuka into the gentlest looking armbar I’ve seen. Later, Asuka showed her how it was supposed to be done. Sasha Banks got the Bank Statement on Asuka twice, and twice Asuka got out of it. After the second one, Asuka rolled out of the ring, Banks tried to do a suicide dive to follow her, and Asuka kicked her out of the air.
It seemed like that should have been it, but Banks gathered herself and carried on delivering, and so did Asuka. It looked plausible that Asuka might tap to the Bank Statement several times. Asuka hit some devastating looking strikes and took Banks’ double knees in the ring and on the outside. Eventually, Asuka caught Banks in the Asuka lock, and Banks had no choice but to tap. Superb match. Definitely the most nervous I’ve been that Asuka’s undefeated streak might end in a zero-stakes match.
– The Bar vs Titus Worldwide – Tag Team Championship match – O’Neil and Crews caused an upset by pinning The Bar twice in recent weeks. Good enough match. Both teams worked well but it was arguably more even than it should have been. The Bar won from a double team, but it wasn’t exactly a dominant victory. Nothing was heard from Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan during RAW, so we don’t know when, or if, they will get a rematch.
– Ronda Rousey’s arrival on Royal Rumble was shown, commentary talked her up, but Rousey did not appear on RAW.
– We were told, just before the main event, that Kane had checked himself out of the medical centre against medical advice.
The Miz vs Roman Reigns – Intercontinental Championship match
This took place at the end of the first hour. Miz cut a camera phone promo before the match talking about entitlement, his entitlement to things like rose petals at his feet and standing ovations. The Miztourage accompanied Miz to the ring as usual, but they didn’t do him any good in the early going, Reigns was not messing about. Miz got barely any offence in during the first few minutes, and what he got was ineffective. First Reigns beat him up in the ring, then outside it.
Dallas and Axel were becoming an issue, so Reigns grabbed a chair and walked after them until they ran up the ramp and disappeared. He put the chair down when the ref threatened to disqualify him. Miz sent him face-first into the ringpost as we went for a break.
It was all Miz by the time we came back. Until Roman Reigns decided he’d had enough, switched it up a gear, clotheslined Miz into the mat, and briefly took control of the match.
Miz’ chop block put an end to Reigns run of dominance, just as Reigns was going for the Superman punch. A figure four by Miz exacerbated the injury to the knee, but Reigns managed to roll them over and reverse the pressure. Miz managed to get to the ropes.
Miz got caught taking the turnbuckle pad off, but the ref didn’t see the thumb in Reigns’ eyes. Reigns kicked out of the Skull Crushing Finale that followed. In return, Miz kicked out after a Superman punch.
The Miztourage came back to cause trouble and, while Reigns was distracted after spearing Bo Dallas, Miz rolled him up for the three-count. Really good match from Miz and Reigns, as usual.
The Main Event – Finn Balor vs John Cena – Elimination Chamber Qualifying Match
This is the first time Cena and Balor have faced each other one on one. Gallows and Anderson were present at ringside, but they played no part in the match. Both Balor and Cena cut promos during the show. Finn Balor is after revenge for Cena eliminating him from the Rumble match, and to get to WrestleMania via the Elimination Chamber. John Cena just wants to get to WrestleMania, he’s focused on the end goal.
John Cena didn’t seem to be taking it as seriously as he could. There was an arrogance about him at times like he didn’t think Balor was on his level. After a slowish start, Finn Balor decided to try a test of strength against Cena and ended up on his knees.
Cena started to realise Balor wasn’t going to be the pushover he’d hoped about halfway through the match when he started to get frustrated that Balor just wouldn’t stay down. He seemed annoyed by the crowd and it cost him for a while. He missed with the Five Knuckle Shuffle and had to exchange blows with Balor for a while before he could try another one.
He got Balor up for an AA but threw up a two sweet before planting him. Balor kicked out. Finn Balor hurt his knee when Cena avoided the Coup de Grace. Cena made it worse by putting him in the STF. Balor made it to the ropes and Cena eventually let go. Balor took too long to climb the turnbuckle, thanks to the damaged knee, and Cena grabbed him. John Cena delivered a Super-AA from the second turnbuckle and pinned Finn Balor to progress to the Elimination Chamber. Cena pointing at the WrestleMania sign closed out the show.
Good matches tonight and a solid, if not spectacular, post-PPV episode. It was a bit annoying not to see Ronda Rousey, or at least get some kind of indication of where they’re going with her. Why have her turn up so dramatically only to put the whole thing on ice for at least a week? The Elimination Chamber match for the men is shaping up. Braun Strowman, Elias, and John Cena are in the match so far. It will be interesting to see how the women’s match is built.