Welcome to the first RAW of 2019. The show was dedicated to the memory of ‘Mean Gene’ Okerlund, who died last week, and Hulk Hogan is appearing to pay tribute. Braun Strowman is back, and Brock Lesnar is visiting to go face to face with him. John Cena is back too. Alexa Bliss starts her new talk show tonight, with Ronda Rousey as her first guest. The Revival have a championship opportunity against Roode and Gable in a Lumberjack match, and Elias has a match with Baron Corbin.
I’m Amanda, and this is the RAW review.
Seth Rollins, John Cena, and Finn Balor def. Dean Ambrose, Bobby Lashley, and Drew McIntyre
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable def. The Revival
Baron Corbin def. Elias
Ember Moon and Apollo Crews def. Alicia Fox and Jinder Mahal
Sasha Banks def. Nia Jax
Dean Ambrose def. Seth Rollins
The Best Bits
» RAW started with a backstage brawl between Bobby Lashley and Seth Rollins, with the locker room trying to break it up. They fought their way out onto the stage where Rollins broke free of the people restraining him and knocked Lashley off the stage. Moments later he flew off the stage onto him. It lasted a good couple of minutes with no commentary or explanation before they were dragged backstage in different directions and John Cena’s music played for the opening segment.
Cena welcomed everyone and started talking about the road to WrestleMania. He said he’s not being left out again this year, so he’s got to step up. He’s entering the Royal Rumble.
Drew McIntyre came out and said he’d been waiting for this moment for years. Unlike everybody else he doesn’t care who Cena shares his bed with, or his haircut. What he cares about is Cena’s 16 world championships, the fact he’s main evented multiple WrestleMania’s, and that Vince McMahon himself called Cena the greatest of all time. He cares because he agrees with him. Cena is the greatest of all time. Cena asked what his point was, and McIntyre said the point was his reputation for taking out the greats. He offered The Shield, Dolph Ziggler, and Kurt Angle as examples. He’s the most dangerous man in WWE and now he’s come for him.
Cena told the crowd he was feeling pretty good before the interruption but now he’s sad. He’s sad because he’s heard the same thing every week from practically every superstar. So much so he had to leave so they’d shut up and think of a different promo. He asked McIntyre what makes him different from anyone else.
Drew McIntyre said, ‘they were all talk, I’m going to bloody show you’, took his jacket off and got in the ring.
Lio Rush and Bobby Lashley appeared before they could fight. Rush was shouting about Rollins going crazy, and threatening lawyers. Seth Rollins attacked Lashley from behind and chaos broke out. Dean Ambrose appeared and started attacking Rollins, Cena and McIntyre got involved. Then Finn Balor’s music hit and he joined in too. Balor launched himself over the top rope as we went for a break, and a six-man tag had broken out by the time we got back.
John Cena, Finn Balor, and Seth Rollins vs Bobby Lashley, Drew McIntyre, and Dean Ambrose – Commentary said all six of the men in the tag match would be in the Rumble match. It was a really good match and a fun way to start the year, but it was long. Cena took a lot of the punishment for his team. Dean Ambrose delivered a lot of it for his. Eventually, Balor came in and cleaned house. He landed the Coup de Grace on Dean Ambrose but caught a Claymore from McIntyre before he could cover. Seth Rollins came in fired up and took out Ambrose with a moonsault that also took out Lashley. Rollins missed a frogsplash on McIntyre and Ambrose tagged himself in before Rollins could recover. He went for Dirty Deeds, but Rollins countered and hit the Stomp for the win.
At the end of the match, the big screen showed Triple H talking to Bayley and Sasha Banks and Rollins stalked off up the ramp. He caught up with Triple H backstage and knocked a drink out of his hand. Rollins said he wants Ambrose, he wants the Intercontinental Championship and he wants it tonight. Triple H agreed, made it falls count anywhere, and welcomed Rollins back with a smile.
» Bobby Roode and Chad Gable (C) vs The Revival – Lumberjack match for the RAW Tag Team Championships – The big takeaway from this match was, don’t have a lumberjack match when your tag division is this thin. It looked a bit silly, but they did their job. The match was great, but I can’t help comparing it unfavourably to The Revival versus American Alpha in NXT. It might not have been quite that amazing, but it was still some great tag team wrestling and there is no doubt The Revival should be tag champs at some point. Tonight was not that night. In a controversial ending, Bobby Roode tipped Gable and Dawson over while Dawson was trying to pin Gable and Chad Gable got the pin while Dawson’s foot was under the bottom rope.
» Alexa Bliss’ new ‘Moment of Bliss’ talk show took place on the stage. She insulted the crowd, demanded someone bring her coffee, and played a highlight reel of Ronda Rousey’s 2018, before bringing Rousey out.
Rousey declined Bliss’ handshake. Bliss asked her to tell them about her exceptional year, and what’s next for her. Rousey said it has been extraordinary, but she wants to look forward and not back. She wants to be a champion everyone can be proud of so needs to chase her limits. There’s one woman who pushed everyone to their limits in the ring, someone with more athleticism in her little finger than Charlotte Flair has in her whole body… she went on a lot more, but she was talking about Sasha Banks. Bliss said she thought she was talking about her and Nia Jax came out making vomiting noises and accused Rousey of having a ‘girl-crush’ on Sasha Banks. Jax demanded a rematch, then Banks came out to join them and told Rousey she was honoured by her kind words and she’d love to face her for the title. She wants to teach her to lose with dignity and class. Jax got up in Banks’ face and told her to get to the back of the line. Banks challenged her to a match, right now, winner faces Ronda Rousey.
Nia Jax vs Sasha Banks started after an ad break, which gave it time to be authorised and for Bayley and Tamina to join their tag partners. It was a good long match too. Banks got thrown around a lot. Bayley and Tamina brawled on the outside. Nia Jax wandered around for a while with Banks over her head before chucking her face first into a packing crate. Jax was expecting a count out but Banks just made it back in. A sit-out powerbomb didn’t put Banks away either. Jax powered out of a Bank Statement. Banks got her leg on the ropes after a Samoan drop. Jax dropped Banks onto the turnbuckle so her throat hit the top rope and she fell out of the ring, and still she didn’t stay down. Banks drove Jax face first into the apron with a move that also sent herself into the floor. She recovered first and locked on the Bank Statement. Nia Jax tapped. Sasha Banks has a title opportunity at Royal Rumble.
» Seth Rollins (C) vs Dean Ambrose – Falls Count Anywhere match for the Intercontinental Championship – In his pre-match promo, Dean Ambrose said he never liked six-man tags anyway, then informed us it hurts him more than we know to have to hurt Seth. He gave up everything to do what he did, but he’s going to end it tonight.
Rollins attacked Ambrose from behind at the top of the ramp and they fought their way to the ring for the match to start. Not that it spent a huge amount of time there. They went through the crowd into the tech area and backstage with Ambrose basically running away. Rollins caught up with him backstage and they bounced each other off the fixtures and fittings. The first near fall went to Ambrose, on top of some packing cases, the second happened on the floor, also by Ambrose.
After an ad break, they were fighting on the arena steps and Ambrose was trying to force Rollins head through the railings. They fought through the crowd, back to ringside where Ambrose picked up a steel chair and used it to earn himself another near fall. The crowd chanted for tables but Ambrose rolled back the ringside matting instead then pounded on Rollins a bit to subdue him. He went for Dirty Deeds but took a backdrop on the concrete instead. The eyes seem to be new Ambrose’s favourite thing, but the eye poke only got him a moment’s reprieve. Seth Rollins delivered a superplex into bucklebomb, superkick then the Stomp and Bobby Lashley pulled him out of the ring while he was trying to cover.
Lashley drove Rollins into the barricade and beat him down a bit then rolled him into the ring, slammed him into the mat, speared him, then stood over him as Ambrose crawled over and pinned him.
After Ambrose rolled out of the ring and left, Lio Rush pulled a table out from under the ring. He and Lashley set it up in the ring and Lashley put Rollins through it.
The Other Bits
» Hulk Hogan made an appearance to pay tribute to ‘Mean Gene’ Okerlund. The issues with having Hogan on WWE programming in 2019 are oft argued and well documented. I have my opinions, this is not the place for them. That is the route WWE took and this is the reporting of it.
The tribute started with a ten-bell salute. Hogan came out said he was in character because ‘Mean Gene’ would have wanted it like that because he loved entertaining. They showed a video package of some of some of his greatest moments, which was great as you would expect, and ended with a quote from ‘Mean Gene’ himself saying he wanted to be buried face down so his critics could kiss his ass.
Hogan said that he loves and misses him and the crowd started a thank you ‘Mean Gene’ chant. He finished with a ‘well let me tell you something ‘Mean Gene’’ promo where he talked about Okerlund being up there organising a tag match between Macho Man and Ultimate Warrior versus Roddy Piper and Mr Perfect with Andre the Giant as special guest referee, managed to name check almost every significant wrestling name no longer with us.
» Elias said he’d been reflecting on 2018 and it made him weep to think about the level of stardom he’s reached and how quickly he got there. But 2019 is going to be even better. He’s entering the Royal Rumble match. But, as much as he’s enjoyed his own successes, he’s also enjoyed the failures of Baron Corbin. He started to play a song which was going to be about all the times Corbin had wronged him, but Corbin interrupted so I guess Elia has another one to add. Corbin bitched about how hard it was to be General Manager and how no one gets it. He’s also entering the Royal Rumble match.
Eventually, Elias vs Baron Corbin started. It was fine. Corbin got distracted by a ‘you got fired’ chant from the crowd while he was controlling the match and took a knee in the face from Elias. Corbin turned it around after narrowly avoiding getting pinned from a swinging neckbreaker. Elias almost crashed into the ref and while he was distracted Corbin slapped him and sent him into the post. The End of Days was the end of Elias.
» Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman’s face to face started with Strowman in the ring and Heyman talking to him backstage. Heyman said Lesnar wasn’t coming out because if he did he wouldn’t have an opponent at Royal Rumble, he’d just have another victim. Lesnar looked bored until he Heyman had finished, then he gave the camera a smug smile.
Strowman goaded Lesnar until he handed the belt to Heyman, and strode through the backstage area with Heyman running after him trying to talk him out of it. Paul Heyman didn’t follow him to the stage or to the ring.
Lesnar walked around the ring and back up the ramp. Strowman yelled at him to turn around. Heyman had got to the stage by then and he handed Lesnar the championship belt in time for Strowman to say they will crown him champion at Royal Rumble. I’ve got to say, that was completely pointless.
» Alicia Fox and Jinder Mahal vs Ember Moon and Apollo Crews happened, but if you blinked you might have missed it. The pre-match ramblings of Mahal and Fox lasted longer. Mahal and Crew started things off, Alicia Fox tagged herself in just as Crews tipped Mahal over the top rope and dived over the top rope onto him and the Singh Brothers. Fox took three moves and an Eclipse and got pinned.
Fun show to start the year, with some really good matches. The call-ups from NXT (Lars Sullivan, Lacey Evans, Nikki Cross, Heavy Machinery, EC3) are still being advertised as potentially going to either brand. I wish they announce it, or actually debut them.