It’s the go home show for Royal Rumble so the preview for tonight’s show is predictably vague. Just one announced match, Ronda Rousey & Natalya versus Sasha Banks & Bayley. We’re promised appearances from the NXT call-ups, and something from new Intercontinental champion Bobby Lashley, Universal Championship challenger Finn Balor, and Braun Strowman.
I’m Amanda, and this is the RAW review.
Finn Balor def. Braun Strowman
Bobby Lashley def. Apollo Crews
Seth Rollins def. Drew McIntyre
Lucha House Party def. Jinder Mahal and The Singh Brothers
Baron Corbin def. Elias
Heavy Machinery def. The Ascension
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable def. The Revival
The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection def. Natalya and Ronda Rousey
The Best Bits
» The show opened with a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr before Brock Lesnar’s music started the action. Obviously, Paul Heyman did the talking. Heyman reminded us that Finn Balor pinned John Cena to become Lesnar’s challenger and that Cena said he believes in Balor. Paul Heyman believes in Balor too, he stepped up and earned it. He complained a bit about Lesnar having to face an opponent he hasn’t prepared for but said that’s why Balor believes he will be able to beat Lesnar. At Royal Rumble Lesnar will turn Balor into a martyr, sacrificed for the sin of making us believe in him… amongst other things. Look, Heyman is undoubtedly one of the best hype men in the business, but he uses a lot of words to get his point across and I’m not repeating all of them. Lesnar is going to win. That’s the gist.
Vince McMahon made his entrance and accused Heyman of going soft and being kind by saying Balor could even compete with Brock Lesnar. McMahon told the story of David and Goliath, except in his version the giant beat David up and he was never seen again, until he was reincarnated as Finn Balor. If anyone believes Balor can beat Lesnar, they definitely believe in fairy tales.
Braun Strowman joined the party and said last Monday was the worst night of his life. Baron Corbin cost him $100,000 and his title match. But it was the luckiest night of Lesnar’s life. So, if he’s still got the Universal Championship after Royal Rumble Strowman will be waiting and he’ll rip him apart like one of Mr McMahon’s limousines.
Vince McMahon said Strowman was lucky to still be employed. Then Finn Balor arrived.
Balor said it’s the same old Monday Night RAW, Braun out here doing Braun things. Meanwhile, he’s the one who beat three other people and earned his opportunity. He knows Vince McMahon doesn’t believe in him – McMahon shook his head and said he doesn’t believe in fairy tales – but Balor believes, and the Balor Club believes, and at Royal Rumble he will defeat Brock Lesnar and reclaim his Universal Championship.
Strowman said he knows he could have beaten Lesnar, he doesn’t know if Balor can, but he better. Balor thanked him for the support, but next time keep his nose out of his business because he’s going to do something Strowman has never done, beat Brock Lesnar.
Lesnar and Heyman left and stopped half way up the ramp while Balor told McMahon he got the story mixed up. David stood in the shadow of the giant and everyone laughed in his face. But they didn’t know what he was made of and Goliath fell face down in the dirt. And no one was laughing then.
Vince McMahon invited Lesnar back to ringside to watch a real-life David and Goliath moment and set the first match of the night.
Finn Balor vs Braun Strowman started during the break. Strowman tried to enact Vince McMahon’s version of the story, while Balor tried to validate his own. Balor built momentum until he got caught by Strowman and thrown around, repeatedly. A slingblade on the outside kept Strowman outside the ring for seven. A sleeper and follow up elbows and double stomp left Strowman on the mat, but he caught Balor on the turnbuckle and threw him out of the ring. Brock Lesnar caught him and delivered a suplex on the outside.
Lesnar got up on the apron and had a stare-down with Strowman. Balor pulled Lesnar off the apron, dropkicked him into the post, got back in the ring, dodged Strowman, and flew over the top rope onto Lesnar. Strowman chased Balor back into the ring, Balor took him down with another slingblade then went back after Lesnar.
Strowman dragged Balor back into the ring by his head but hit the post when Balor avoided his charge. Finn Balor hit the Coup de Grace but got F5’d by Lesnar before he could get the pin. Balor won by DQ.
» Seth Rollins crossed paths with Lashley on the ramp and they had a stare-down. Rollins had stuff to say. He talked about Martin Luther King Jr and a particular quote that strikes a chord with him, ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands during times of comfort and convenience, but where he stands during times of challenge and controversy.’ That hit Rollins a lot because it’s how he feels about his life. A few months back he was standing in the ring with two titles in his hands and two brothers by his side. Now he’s got no titles and a broken family. In life, we have to focus on what we have, and what he’s got is his first and last love, this. As long as he’s got the ring under his feet, the microphone in his hands and the fire in his eyes he can stand there and say he’s going to Phoenix and he’s going to win the Royal Rumble match.
That sounds like a long shot. It is a long shot, but his whole life has been a long shot. This wasn’t meant for him. He’s not the stereotypical WWE superstar. He’s not as big as Drew McIntyre, he’s not as powerful as Bobby Lashley. He’s just a kid from a small midwestern town, from a working-class family. He could be working in a factory or on a farm or driving a truck and the only reason he isn’t is heart, passion, determination, whatever it is that’s ingrained in every fibre of his being. It’s a long shot, but he promises he’ll be the one man left standing.
Drew McIntyre arrived and said there is a zero percent chance Rollins will win the Rumble match, because of his style. He flies around everywhere with no regard for his body. But what would happen if took all that heart and passion and put it in the body of a 265lb terminator? You get Drew McIntyre. He knows how much this means to Rollins, it’s his life. So he hopes they’re in the ring together at the end of the Rumble so he can look him in the eyes as he throws him over the top rope.
Seth Rollins vs Drew McIntyre was as good as it’s been every other time we’ve seen it, or some variation of it, over the last few months. Considering they are both in the Rumble in six days, it was a tough match as well. Rollins was flipped over McIntyre’s head at ringside and smashed into the floor, but that, like the rest of the punishment McIntyre inflicted, didn’t keep him down. He got McIntyre down with a falcon arrow, but took too long to capitalise, then took much too long going for the Stomp. McIntyre ate a superkick when he went for the Claymore. A headbutt from McIntyre put them both down, McIntyre recovered first and climbed to the top turnbuckle with Rollins on his shoulders. They crashed to the mat, but Rollins kicked out, and out of the follow-up powerbomb. Drew McIntyre dragged Rollins to his feet to try again and Rollins rolled him up and pinned him.
» Heavy Machinery vs The Ascension was the NXT call-up match of the night. Heavy Machinery are always fun to watch, a genuinely entertaining team, and this was a nice introduction to them for casuals. Otis Dozovic got the Caterpillar done and they finished the match with a Compactor.
» Ronda Rousey’s pre-match interview asked what she would say to Sasha Banks. She said she tried to think of any reason why she owes Sasha Banks an apology, but she owes her nothing. She made a point of talking about how underappreciated Banks was and all she’s received in return is insults and resentment. She accused Banks of not having the desire required to be champion.
Ronda Rousey & Natalya vs The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection was the main event of the evening. Before they got started Banks asked Rousey who the hell she thinks she is. Banks listed her achievements and pointed out she earned her opportunity against Rousey by beating Nia Jax. It almost devolved into violence then, but Bayley and Natalya separated them, and the match got underway with Natalya and Banks. Sasha Banks cheap-shotted Rousey as her first move and Rousey had to be cleared from the ring. She had to stand in the corner and watch Natalya take a ton of punishment from Banks and Bayley. Eventually, it got too much and she entered the ring and cleared them from it while the ref yelled at her. Rousey came in briefly, but all she did was shout at Banks, who was stood in her corner waiting for Bayley to pick herself up off the floor, then tag out again.
Eventually, Rousey came in against Banks and Natalya had to break up the Bank Statement. Bayley came in for her team and the double team was countered by Rousey. When Banks came back in, she managed to get to the ropes in Rousey’s armbar. Bayley broke up a Sharpshooter and knocked Rousey off the apron. Sasha Banks managed to get Natalya into the Bank Statement and Natalya tapped. While she wasn’t part of the pin, this was Ronda Rousey’s first WWE loss.
Banks and Rousey got nose to nose after the match and were being held back as the show went off air.
The Other Bits
» Lio Rush said they’re not issuing an open challenge because that’s for kids. They had a podium in the ring and Lashley stood on it while Rush put the title around his waist. Apollo Crews arrived before Lashley could start posing. He congratulated Lashley, then told him no one paid to see him pose, they paid to see him fight and challenged him to a non-title match. Rush insisted Crews had to beat Lashley in a pose-off first. It happened, with Crews taking it less than seriously. Lashley attacked Crews during his third pose. Crews threw him out of the ring then picked Rush up over his head and threw him at Lashley. A match broke out in the break. Bobby Lashley vs Apollo Crews was decent. Rush got involved when it looked like Lashley would get pinned. Apollo Crews had Lio Rush over his head when Bobby Lashley delivered the spear that put him down for the pin.
» Dean Ambrose’s promo came from a Shield-esque backstage location. He said, earlier tonight, Rollins quoted Martin Luther King Jr, which was cute, but he’s got a quote too ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ and the fact Ambrose is no longer champion is one big glaring injustice. He can’t wait to see Seth Rollins and ‘bend-over-Bobby’ in the Royal Rumble match because he’s coming for them. 2018 wasn’t his year, he spent a lot of it in the hospital after he drove his body into the ground, to no gratitude of course. He owes it to himself to win the Rumble. It will be his shining moment. He owns the ‘road to WrestleMania’ and come Sunday, justice will be served.
» Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers vs Lucha House Party happened. It was fun, if short. Gran Metalik got the win for his team.
» EC3 was shown backstage with Dana Brooke asking him bodybuilding questions as Elias walked past on the way to his segment.
» Baron Corbin interrupted Elias before he could sing, and yelled at him for ratting him out to Braun Strowman. Elias got bored of Corbin telling him he wasn’t going to let him sing, so he got the sound people to cut Corbin’s mic and sang a song about Corbin instead of the one he had planned. Corbin rushed the ring, Elias swung with the guitar and Corbin left the ring again.
Elias vs Baron Corbin was decent, but we’ve seen it a lot recently, or maybe it just feels like it. Elias walked the top rope from corner to corner holding Corbin’s hand. Corbin took control by shoving Elias spine-first into the ringpost and Elias only had one brief chance after that. Corbin caught him with the End of Days for the pin.
» This week’s Moment of Bliss began with Bliss announcing some of the women’s Rumble match participants. They are: Bayley, Tamina, Lana, Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, Dana Brooke, Sarah Logan, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Ember Moon, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Carmella, Alicia Fox, Natalya, Mickie James, Nia Jax, Nikki Cross, Naomi, Zelina Vega, and Charlotte Flair.
Her guest was Nia Jax. Bliss asked who Jax would pick if she wins the Rumble. Ember Moon came out before Jax could answer and snatched the mic from Jax’ hand. She said she was tired of waiting for an invitation that was never going to come, so she’s taking a moment to make her claim. She’s going to win on Sunday. Alicia Fox came out next to make the same claim, then Mickie James, then The Riott Squad, Dana Brooke, Tamina, and Nikki Cross. Bliss stood on a chair to get control. She got them to calm down then Nia Jax started a full-on brawl which quickly spilled backstage.
Bliss was left on her own on the stage to wrap things up. She did so by announcing herself as an entrant in the Royal Rumble match, and was then interrupted by Lacey Evans. She’s also entering the match. I still think Evans’ character might be a tough sell on the main roster.
» The Revival were shown asking Vince McMahon for another chance at the tag titles. They wanted a special guest referee. Curt Hawkins interrupted to ask for another match and McMahon made him the ref.
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable vs The Revival was interesting. It’s been all over social media that The Revival had requested their release from WWE, so it was a relief to see them on tv. Three times, Curt Hawkins caught The Revival cheating to try to pin their opponents and stopped the count. After the third time, Scott Dawson threw Chad Gable out of the ring and shoved Hawkins. Gable tried to roll Dawson up and Hawkins stopped Wilder preventing it. Scott Dawson got pinned and The Revival tried pleading with him then, when he showed them he was in the right, they beat him up. Zack Ryder ran down to make the save and helped his old partner to his feet.
Another mostly decent RAW. Royal Rumble is shaping up to be a great PPV. Join me next week to see how it affects the Road to WrestleMania for the RAW brand.