This week’s edition of WWE’s Monday Night time Raw was a pleasant reboot for Raw because of the rise of Finn Balor, a serious title change, and the debut of the ladies’s Tag Group Titles. The present was targeted on the in-ring matches, with two matches getting over 15 minutes in the final hour. Every thing felt prefer it mattered extra, and there have been much less of the tacky comedy bits we are likely to see on Raw. Usually I don’t write columns breaking down Raw, however this week’s present was an exception with some newsworthy gadgets, so I figured it wanted a breakdown takeaway type.
Final month on WWE Monday Night time Raw, the McMahon household foursome of Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, Shane McMahon, and Triple H (Stephanie’s husband) stood in the ring speaking a few “new” WWE. That was December 17, which was the final reside Raw of 2018 as a result of the Christmas Eve and New Yr’s Eve exhibits have been taped. Final week’s present went up towards the NCAA School Soccer Championship. This week, there wasn’t any main sports activities competitors, so WWE appeared to load up on massive matches, plus unadvertised appearances from massive names, like John Cena CEO & Chairman Vince McMahon. Listed here are 5 Takeaways from this week’s Raw.
1. Braun Strowman being eliminated from the Royal Rumble Common Title match exhibits that WWE plans are all the time altering
The Common Championship match between Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman has been marketed since final month’s TLC pay-per-view, when Strowman “beat” Baron Corbin in a TLC match because of some assist from different wrestlers. A couple of weeks earlier than that, Strowman had surgical procedure on his proper elbow to take away bone chips. In WWE storylines, they referred to as it a “shattered elbow” as a result of they wish to lie about accidents for storyline functions. The expectation was that Strowman can be superb for the Rumble match.
Final night time on Raw, Strowman reduce a promo about how he’s going to beat Lesnar. Corbin confirmed up, talked trash, and Strowman chased Corbin out to the parking zone the place Corbin hid in the limo. Strowman broke the window of the limo with a metal pipe, then ripped off the door deal with earlier than Corbin ran away. It was the limo utilized by Vince McMahon, who confirmed up and was mad about what Strowman did. Vince informed Strowman he can be fined $100,000 for that, so Strowman responded by saying that this limo isn’t even value that, which led to Vince telling Strowman he was out of the Common Title match. Strowman was pissed off, so he shoved the limo over, which is analogous to stunts Strowman has achieved in the previous.
The idea that the majority of us had once we watched Raw final night time was that Strowman isn’t cleared to wrestle and that’s why he was pulled. There may be some fact to that, however in accordance with Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer (out there by way of subscription), Vince McMahon soured on the Lesnar vs. Strowman and made the choice to vary the match weeks in the past.
The story is that Vince felt like Strowman has misplaced to Lesnar a number of occasions in the previous already, and doing it once more would harm Strowman. The plan is for Lesnar to face Seth Rollins at WrestleMania, which meant that Strowman would have needed to put over Lesnar on this match identical to he did at Crown Jewel final yr, Royal Rumble final yr (in a triple menace with Kane), and No Mercy in 2017. Apparently, the cause Vince continued to promote Lesnar vs. Strowman was to promote tickets for the Rumble, which is a tactic Vince has utilized in the previous for matches like Alexa Bliss vs. Trish Stratus at Evolution final yr. I wrote extra about the state of affairs on my web site as nicely.
I really feel dangerous for Strowman as a result of he ought to have gained the Common Title final yr at some level, but WWE failed to tug the set off on him. The followers nonetheless reply to him and he’s one of the hottest guys on Raw, however he has undoubtedly misplaced so much of momentum to his incapability to win the Common Title.
Strowman was not changed in the Royal Rumble match because of damage. The plan was modified as a result of Vince McMahon didn’t need Strowman to lose to Lesnar once more, in order that’s why we have now a brand new match. As they are saying in the NFL, “next man up” and that man is an opponent that Lesnar has by no means confronted earlier than.
2. Finn Balor is the proper option to face Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble
After Strowman was taken out of the Rumble match, Vince McMahon reduce a promo in the ring at the prime of the second hour. He was interrupted by John Cena, Drew McIntyre, Baron Corbin, and Finn Balor, with all 4 males making the case that they need to be the man to face Lesnar at the Rumble. Throughout that promo, Balor stated that he knew Vince McMahon didn’t consider in him, however Balor knew the followers believed in him, so he would show it. Vince, in that promo, questioned if Balor might beat the different three guys since they have been all greater than him, placing Balor in the acquainted underdog position. After a bodily altercation that was gained by McIntyre, Vince put them in a Deadly Four-Method match for later in the present.
Since Raw is a really lengthy present at three hours, there was time for Balor to have one other match towards Jinder Mahal, who needed an opportunity to show himself. Mahal beat up Balor for about eight minutes of their ten-minute match, then Balor made the massive comeback and obtained the win. The concept WWE needed to plant in our heads was that Balor could also be too drained to win the fundamental occasion, despite the fact that most of us assumed he would win.
The primary occasion was an exciting match between Balor, Cena, McIntyre, and Corbin. There have been a number of ending strikes executed in the match, there have been moments the place it seemed like all of the 4 guys might win, and the crowd was additionally actually into the match. In the finish, Balor took out McIntyre with a leaping DDT after which he hit John Cena (who was knocked down by a Claymore Kick from McIntyre) with his prime rope Coup de Grace (double foot stomp to the chest) for the pinfall win after 20 minutes of motion.
Balor pinning Cena was significant as a result of of Cena’s time as WWE’s prime man for the final 14 years. However dropping clear to Balor wasn’t the solely factor that Cena did for Balor on this present.
three. Utilizing John Cena to endorse Finn Balor was a sensible transfer that exhibits Cena is a workforce participant
After the match was over with Balor pinning Cena, the 16-time World Champion Cena delivered a fast speech the place he praised Balor:
“Where I come from, you’re given an opportunity and you fight to earn respect. Today, in front of the entire world, Vince McMahon said he didn’t believe in you. You said these people believe in you (fans cheered). For what it’s worth, you’ve got one more person that believes in you. (Cena shook his hand.) You give him hell at the Royal Rumble. Ladies and gentlemen, your challenger for the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble…Finn Balor!”
It’s a standard factor in wrestling the place you employ the legendary veteran wrestler to raise the present star and make the followers consider in the present star extra.
A well-known instance of this was when Hulk Hogan misplaced to Final Warrior at WrestleMania 6 after which raised his hand after giving him the WWE (WWF in these days) Title. A yr later, Hogan was again in the foremost occasion, profitable the WWE Title once more as a result of Warrior failed as a prime man, nevertheless it’s the thought that counts.
At WrestleMania 29 in 2013, The Rock put over John Cena for the WWE Title and raised his hand after the match. We’ve seen it occur many occasions in wrestling historical past and that’s the position that Cena, at 41 years of age, now has as a part-timer.
Balor is just not a “new” star in WWE, contemplating he was the first Common Champion on Raw three years in the past, however he is a well-liked wrestler that has been booked poorly for many of the final two years. Balor is in style with the followers, he’s excellent in the ring, and he works onerous, so seeing him foremost occasion is one thing WWE followers ought to be glad about.
Do I anticipate Balor to beat Lesnar at the Royal Rumble? Completely not. I feel Lesnar will win a aggressive match, just like his matches with AJ Types at Survivor Collection 2017 and Daniel Bryan at Survivor Collection 2018. The story will probably be that Balor got here near profitable, however he’ll come up brief in a aggressive battle. I feel WWE will stick with the Lesnar vs. Rollins plan at WrestleMania and in the event that they don’t, I might be very stunned by that.
Four. Bobby Lashley turning into the Intercontinental Champion will give him extra credibility as a prime heel on Raw
When WWE introduced Dean Ambrose would defend the Intercontinental Championship towards Bobby Lashley and Seth Rollins on Raw, I assumed that Ambrose would retain the title. The rationale for that’s as a result of Ambrose simply gained the title final month at TLC, so why take it away from him? With that stated, I don’t assume it’s a nasty choice by any means as a result of it could possibly be argued that Lashley wants the title greater than Ambrose and it’ll give Lashley extra credibility shifting ahead.
The match was nice with Seth Rollins getting double teamed by the heel duo of Ambrose and Lashley all through the match. Lio Rush, who’s Lashley’s hype man (aka supervisor), additionally performed an enormous half in the match as a result of it appeared like several time Rollins acquired some momentum going, Rush was there to sluggish him down by doing one thing low cost. Since there are not any disqualifications or countouts in WWE triple menace matches, it meant that Rush might intrude with out the danger of costing Lashley the match.
The end of the match was artistic with Rollins hitting a superkick on Lashley and he going for The Stomp on Ambrose, however Rush pulled down the prime rope to stop Rollins from hitting the transfer. Lashley capitalized on that with a Spear on Ambrose for the pinfall win. It was the first time Lashley has gained the Intercontinental Title in his WWE profession.
I feel Lashley had some hassle adjusting to WWE when he got here again to the firm after WrestleMania final yr, however he’s doing properly in his heel position with Rush as his supervisor. Giving him the IC Title will make Lashley really feel like a much bigger star in the eyes of the followers.
Although he misplaced the match, Rollins was the star of the match. The gang is behind him as a lot as they’ve ever been. I don’t assume Rollins is harm by not profitable again the IC Title as a result of he’s the favourite to win the Royal Rumble match.
As for Ambrose, I’m unsure what’s subsequent for him. I assumed he would maintain the IC TItle till WrestleMania and drop it to a face wrestler, however now it’s in all probability as much as Bobby Lashley to try this.
If Lashley holds the Intercontinental Title all the method to WrestleMania, it might result in him dropping it to a well-liked face like Finn Balor (who has by no means gained the IC Title), or maybe Elias. An alternative choice might be Kevin Owens if he comes again in time, since Lashley was the one which injured him. It will put Owens in the face position, which might be a primary for his WWE profession. It’s not recognized if he’ll be prepared for positive by WrestleMania, however I feel he ought to be.
5. The New Ladies’s Tag Workforce Champions shall be decided at Elimination Chamber subsequent month
The brand new WWE Ladies’s Tag Staff Titles have been formally launched on Raw throughout the “A Moment of Bliss” speak present hosted by Alexa Bliss. That’s the similar Alexa Bliss who was proven moments earlier in her dressing room overlaying up her breasts when a random dude entered her room with a espresso. Sure, that basically occurred.
Bliss introduced, on behalf of the firm, that the Ladies’s Tag Workforce Champions can be topped at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view in Houston on Sunday, February 17. The match will see three Raw tag groups face off with three Smackdown tag groups in an Elimination Chamber match. The winners of that match, which might theoretically see twelve ladies in the Chamber at the similar time, will turn out to be the Tag Workforce Champions.
I like the look of the titles. They’re higher than the previous Divas Title with the silly butterfly design on them. The white background design is like the Raw Ladies’s Title and Smackdown Ladies’s Title with the white background.
What we don’t know is that if the Ladies’s Tag Group Titles can be unique to Raw or Smackdown. They may be titles the place the champions can seem on Raw or Smackdown on any given week, which is what WWE typically did throughout the earlier model cut up final decade. My guess is that if the first champions are on Raw, then it’s doubtless that WWE will introduce Smackdown Ladies’s Tag Staff Champions later as properly. It wouldn’t make sense to permit these champions to be on each exhibits whereas the different champions are model unique.
As I’ve written beforehand right here on The Comeback, I feel Sasha Banks and Bayley can be the good workforce to be the Ladies’s Tag Staff Champions since they’re a well-liked duo that the followers would get enthusiastic about as champions. In case you put it on a heel group it gained’t have the similar impact. Put it on faces, let the followers cheer the new champions and it’ll make the titles really feel prestigious instantly.
This week’s Raw was a step in the proper path, which is why I needed to put in writing this column specializing in that. It’s straightforward to complain a few dangerous present or to put in writing about why WWE ought to have finished one thing totally different to make issues higher. We ought to be joyful when a present is nice and reward WWE for making good selections. Pushing Finn Balor is a superb determination, utilizing John Cena to place over Balor was sensible, introducing Ladies’s Tag Group Titles is exciting, and I’m pleased that Bobby Lashley is doing properly as a heel. I really feel dangerous for Braun Strowman getting booked inconsistently although, so hopefully he can get some of that momentum again in the close to future.
The subsequent main WWE pay-per-view is the Royal Rumble on January 27. Let me know in case you have any concepts for me to put in writing a historical past piece about the Rumble. I’m all the time thinking about seeing your suggestions. My contact information is under. Thanks for studying.