Raw General Manager Kurt Angle Announced Universal Champion Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane at Royal Rumble
Angle making this match official for the Royal Rumble pay-per-view was expected after the non-finish to last week's Strowman vs. Kane main event. While you knew exactly how this was going down, I still thought it was well done. Lesnar being the last man standing was fine given he's the champion, but it didn't give Kane credibility as a challenger whatsoever. It doesn't help no one has him winning the title that night as of now, anyway.
Seth Rollins def. Jason Jordan to Earn the Right to Face Samoa Joe
Yes, Rollins was already scheduled to face Joe on this edition of Raw, but Jordan confronted Rollins and demanded a piece of Joe as well. Thus, this match was born. Jordan's subtle heel turn has been a treat to watch in recent weeks and the latest progression of it with this match was excellent. The match itself was very entertaining and well-wrestled with Jordan once again losing nothing in defeat. Unfortunately, the stipulation of this outing would ultimately mean nothing considering they would team up with Dean Ambrose later in the night to take on Joe, Sheamus and Cesaro.
Finn Balor def. The Miztourage in 2-on-1 Handicap Match by Disqualification; Balor and Hideo Itami def. The Miztourage
We all assumed the Handicap match was happening after Balor beat Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel in singles competition in the past two weeks, further establishing Balor as a midcard act at best. It was extremely uninteresting, but thankfully, Itami's surprise main roster debut salvaged it. The subsequent tag team match was fun because it brought back memories of Itami and Balor teaming up in NXT and I'm happy Itami's main roster run is already off to a solid start after he was plagued with injuries in NXT. For those wondering, he will be a part of the Cruiserweight division going forward.
Cedric Alexander def. Drew Gulak in a WWE Cruiserweight Championship No. 1 Contender's Match
Crowds were hotter for the last three Cruiserweight Fatal 4-Way matches on Raw than they were for this, but I figured as much considering those were all action and this was a standard one-on-one affair. Nevertheless, this was a good match where Enzo Amore leaving the commentary table to deal with "direct messages" Nia Jax sent him on Twitter cost Gulak the victory. They're telling a story there that interests me, and more importantly, Alexander is a great choice to contend for the Cruiserweight title next. He really should be the one to dethrone Enzo as champion.
Asuka def. Alicia Fox
I preferred their initial encounter over this because that was much more of a showcase for Asuka. Sure, she scored the victory here, but only after Fox was on offense for a majority of the match. Most fans in attendance sat on their hands, reminding me of Asuka's first two main roster matches against Emma that did nothing to spotlight what made her stand out as an attraction in NXT. That's merely nitpicking, though, and this was fine as filler.
Samoa Joe and Raw Tag Team Champions Sheamus & Cesaro def. Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Jason Jordan
I'm not sure why Roman Reigns missed this show (that was never explained), but Jordan filled in for him nicely here. I enjoyed the Jordan vs. Rollins match from earlier more, but this was still a quality six-man tag team matchup with a chaotic pace. Joe continues to build momentum with this victory. Ambrose clutched his elbow hard after that dive he took, so here's hoping he isn't legitimately injured, and if he is that it isn't too serious. That said, the injury angle that was shot afterward could have been done to write him out of storylines.
The Revival def. Heath Slater and Rhyno
Finally! The Revival have technically been a part of Raw since April, but they've only had about a month of television time due to injuries keeping both men on the shelf for extended periods of time in the spring and fall. They're a terrific tandem and they couldn't have resurfaced at a better time with Raw's tag team division being all about The Shield and The Bar at the moment. This was an effective way to bring them back into the fold.
Sasha Banks, Bayley and Mickie James def. Absolution by Disqualification
Elias singing in the middle of the ring before being interrupted by each of the women was weird, but maybe it was their way of trying to be clever about hyping that Mixed Match Challenge show premiering next month (that Elias, Bayley and Banks will be a part of)? Anyway, it was cool for the women to get the main event spot, but this was never about the match because that didn't last long at all. Rather, the focus was on Stephanie McMahon announcing the first-ever women's Royal Rumble match for next month's event. It's been in the works for a while and I'm stoked it's happening. Between Raw and SmackDown Live, the company has enough women to hold one, and if you throw in an NXT cameo and/or a return from someone such as Beth Phoenix or Michelle McCool, it should be something special.
I've seen plenty of flack for this show online as of this writing, but I didn't mind it as much as many others seemed to. It certainly wasn't as strong on the whole as the last two episodes, especially from an in-ring standpoint, but it was a fairly newsworthy night between the announcement of two matches for the Royal Rumble, the return of The Revival and Itami's debut. If you didn't like this edition of Raw, you're bound to loathe next week's Christmas show. At least John Cena will be back, so we'll see what he has in store.
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