It’s the first Monday Night RAW of a New Year (yes it is) and we’re starting off the year with a bang: Brock Lesnar’s here, Roman Reigns is defending his IC Title against Samoa Joe, Alexa Bliss is not defending her title against Asuka… Apollo Crew is taking on Bray Wyatt. All sarcasm aside, it’s nice to see WWE actually trying to make all three hours of their product have something worth watching but did it pay off? I’m Jozef, this is the RAW Recap and my New Year’s Resolution is to finally work out what was in that lockbox Shane talked about when he came back in 2016.
Kurt Angle Speaks
New Year, No New Ideas as the show opens on a Kurt Angle promo. Kurt comes out and hypes up how good 2018 is going to be, especially considering there is the big anniversary episode of RAW coming up in three weeks and then there’s the rumble with two matches, he then announces that John Cena has entered himself into the Men’s Rumble (it’s a shame, I bet he’d be a great Intergender performer) and also announces that both matches will be the full 30 entrants.
The Bar would come down to the ring, interrupting to demand their Title rematch that night because they don’t think ‘Daddy’s Boy’ Jason Jordan deserved his title shot, out would come to Jordan to defend his own honour and declare that he has the title because he earnt it, this would set up for a match between Jordan and Cesaro. Before the match began, Seth Rollins would come out and tell Jordan to stop showboating and being impulsive as he’s taking risks and that could lead to Rollins losing his tag title. He then said he’d be in his corner tonight but he didn’t see him winning. This was a nice opening segment that didn’t outstay it’s welcome and set-up a lot for tonight and the rest of the month.
Jason Jordan def. Cesaro (13:22)
This was a decent enough match with some clean heel-face dynamics as Cesaro worked over Jordan’s knee with the work paying off in moments like when Jordan hit a northern lights suplex and wasn’t able to fully bridge because of leg pain. The match was hurt by a lack of support for Jordan from the audience but they still managed to put in strong performances. Cesaro should be commended for managing to put in a major body of underrated TV singles performances, even a throwaway opening match like this, he commits to like it’s a PPV Main Event and his chemistry with Sheamus pays off so well. The finish of the match came as Sheamus was causing a nuisance on the outside so Seth stomped him out setting up Jordan for a Pop-Up Neckbreaker out of nowhere. Decent stuff, perhaps a little too adhering to the typical TV match format but still fun.
IC Title Match: Roman Reigns (c) def. Samoa Joe (23:05)
There was a lot of strong backstage promo work for this one as Reigns and Joe tried to present their opposing worldviews with highlights including Joe taunting Renee Young about Dean Ambrose being injured and Jason Jordan continuing to be hated by no one more than his tag partner. Luckily the promo work was also backed up in the ring as we’re only one televised show into 2018 and already WWE has had a great match. The opening of the match was so great as it went straight in with action as Joe wasn’t going to let Reigns gain an inch of footing.
This might actually be one if Reigns’ best pure babyface performances as Joe really made him work from below and earn everything he got in with the match given three show segments to really tell the story, if there was a major issue with the match it was that the stipulation of Reigns losing the title if he got DQ’ed wasn’t played up enough with inly one moment where after Joe was taunting Reigns, he looked to hit Joe with the steel ring steps though I did appreciate the cleanliness of having a match like this without any outside intervention, it was just two Samoans called Joe looking to beat the hell out of each other. The finish was a hot sequence of kick outs as Joe managed to kick out of two superman punches and Reigns from a uranage, Joe would lock in the Coquina Clutch but Reigns would escape and hit a desperate Spear for the pinfall.
This is the Roman Reigns we want and the one we need. I know a lot of people are expecting Reigns to win the Rumble but on the basis of this, I think keeping Reigns on the mid-card title putting on great performances could be whats best for business.
Other Bits and Pieces
Bray Wyatt def. Apollo Crews (w/Titus O’Neill & Dana Brooke) (10:25) – For a ten minute plus match, there was really no drama to this one or sense that Crews might win. He took the pin via Sister Abigail after Wyatt tried to attack Brooke and she fell onto O’Neill. Post-match, Matt Hardy appeared on the screen and gave a promo threatening to delete Wyatt.
Braun Strowman def. Rhyno & Heath Slater (2:32) – This began as a singles match but Strowman told Slater to either get in the ring or leave, he got in and was brutalised as a result. Post-match Strowman beat down Rhyno and Slater hitting Running Powerslams on each.
Alexa Bliss finds Nia Jax backstage and tells her to be in her corner for Bliss’ match against Asuka, Jax says she has to go, Enzo has the flu and needs soup, Bliss says it’s her or Enzo, Jax chooses Enzo.
Asuka def. Alexa Bliss (14:50) – Alexa played a chickensh*t heel, trying to avoid everything Asuka had but eventually fell to the Asuka lock. For a match featuring a dominant Women’s champ, this really never seemed like Bliss had a chance and ended up much like a lot on the show feeling a little overlong.
Finn Balor enters himself into the Royal Rumble, Kurt Angle asks who his partners are for a six-man tag later that night against Elias & The Miztourage, Balor reveals The Good Brothers, that’s right people, it’s a Bullet Club reunion and coincidentally, it’s Wrestle Kingdom in two days.
Cedric Alexander & Goldust def. Drew Gulak & Ariya Daivari (3:16) – Drew and Ariya had a promo before wear Gulak read a note from Enzo saying he was sick so wouldn’t be competing, they offered Alexander a tag match if he could find a partner so obviously, out came Goldust. Cedric hit the Lumbar Check in Daivari for the pin.
Finn Balor & The Good Brothers def. Elias & The Miztourage (3:25) – The finish came when The Good Brothers hit a Magic Killer and Finn hit a Coup de Grace on Bo Dallas. It’s good to see the lads back together again.
Paul Heyman has something on his mind
Earlier in the show, Kane had approached Strowman about a plan to remove Lesnar from the match, Strowman had said he didn’t need Kane’s help to do that, also earlier, Heyman told Angle there would be consequences if Kane & Strowman colluded against Lesnar, Heyman spoke about how the odds were stacked against Lesnar as he didn’t even need to be involved in the finish but that if anyone is able to defy the odds, it’s the beast, cue shtick. Kane would come down to the ring and chokeslam Lesnar but Lesnar just laughs it off, clotheslines Kane out of the ring and climbs out as the ‘entire men’s roster’ (otherwise known as everyone that doesn’t matter) tried to separate them, Lesnar would burst through and take out Kane who was taken to the back as Lesnar stood tall to end the episode.
I swear I don’t have a personal vendetta against Kane but this story has really lacked any form of heat, even Heyman seems to be going through the motions. I really hope they can make something more out of this in the next few weeks as currently, this isn’t making me optimistic about their match at the Rumble.