John Cena def. Elias
Elias saying WWE stands for "Walk With Elias" was absolutely brilliant, and his interaction with Cena here was beyond entertaining. Cena was in total over-the-top mode and said nothing about what the future holds for him (or when his next appearance will be), but I firmly believe Elias gained something from the segment and subsequent match with Cena considering he was on offense for a majority of it. Between this and his outing against Roman Reigns for the Intercontinental Championship, I think it's safe to say Elias has proven himself as a star on the rise.
Hideo Itami def. The Brian Kendrick
Corey Graves really hammered home how Itami was the one who invented the GTS, which was timely given they were in Chicago (home of the other man who helped popularize the move, CM Punk) for this show. The match was a showcase for Itami and nothing more, but it's important to establish Itami as a threat this early into his run. He hasn't been getting great reactions so far, but I'm hoping that will improve in time.
Absolution def. Sasha Banks, Bayley and Mickie JAmes
This match was supposed to happen about a month ago (though it didn't come to fruition), it happened at Tribute to the Troops, and it happened briefly last week on Raw before ending in a non-finish. Thus, I wasn't exactly enthralled coming into this contest, but it was an enjoyable affair with everyone holding their own, especially newcomers Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. Needless to say, Absolution winning and maintaining momentum (unlike The Riott Squad on SmackDown Live) was the right move to make.
Kane def. Heath Slater
Rhyno told Slater after their loss to The Revival last week that he needed to "toughen up," so I guess this was his way of accomplishing that. Obviously, Slater wasn't successful and was instead promptly squashed by Kane, who laid out Rhyno afterward as well. This was a simple and effective way of giving Kane a dominant win as he prepares to contend for the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble.
Finn Balor def. Curt Hawkins
I had a bad feeling we were going to see a Santa Mark Henry or a Santa Big Show accept Hawkins' open challenge, but thankfully, it was only Balor. Then again, Balor was also a disappointment because he shouldn't be facing the losers of Raw. He has been directionless since his short-lived feud with Samoa Joe ended and he's much better than that. Unfortunately, I assume he'll be treading water until at least after the Royal Rumble.
"Woken" Matt Hardy def. Bray Wyatt
We haven't see "Woken" Matt appear in front of a WWE live crowd since he debuted the character in WWE last month, but I thought Chicago was the perfect place to do it considering they're a "smart" crowd and they ate up everything he did here, even if it wasn't much. He just attacked Wyatt in the ring, laughed maniacally on the mic, and did the "Delete!" chant. I wish we got more from him, but perhaps that was the intent: to leave us wanting more. This was a refreshing change of pace from the promos they've been cutting on the Titantron recently.
Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali and Akira Tozawa def. WWE Cruiserweight Champion Enzo Amore, Drew Gulak and Ariya Daivari in a Miracle on 34th Street Fight
You had to know we were getting a Miracle on 34th Street Fight on the Christmas show. If not, shame on you. Admittedly, being the massive mark for Christmas that I am, I tend to get a kick out of these holiday-themed matchups, and this was completely harmless. Virtually no one looks forward to the Cruiserweights on Raw, anyway, so giving them a gimmick to work with for a one night was fine. More importantly, Alexander is looking strong ahead of his shot at the Cruiserweight Championship on next week's show.
Samoa Joe def. Intercontinental Champion Roman Reigns by Disqualification
Reigns and Joe have had awesome chemistry in the past, and while this wasn't their best bout together, it was still very good. The intensity they bring to their encounters is always appreciated and the crowd was engaged in the action, but the flat finish was a letdown. I understand it was designed to keep the feud alive and protect both men, but Joe literally did nothing wrong yet Reigns attacked him, regardless. Yes, Reigns came off like a heel in doing so, but what else is new?
Braun Strowman def. The Miztourage in a Secret Santa Match
Despite it being labeled a Secret Santa match, there was nothing out of the ordinary about this 2-on-1 Handicap match, which was actually for the better. It made Finn Balor look like a chump for having trouble beating The Miztourage last week, but he's no Strowman, I suppose. Strowman not only sent a message to his Rumble opponents Brock Lesnar and Kane with this display of dominance, he also sent a message to those who wear ugly Christmas sweaters (including yours truly).
Asuka Attacked Raw Women's Champion Alexa Bliss
Bliss showing a recap video of Stephanie McMahon's Royal Rumble announcement from last week was a waste considering WWE showed a similar video during the first hour of Raw to kill time. That aside, this was a solid segment that confirmed Asuka's involvement in the first-ever women's Royal Rumble match and planted the seeds for a future feud between Bliss and Asuka, potentially for the title.
Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan def. Sheamus and Cesaro to Win the Raw Tag Team Championship
This wasn't nearly as exciting as some of the matches Rollins and Dean Ambrose had with Cesaro and Sheamus, and it had an odd dynamic because fans loathe Jordan and love Rollins, but it was extremely well-wrestled and held my interest throughout. I figured a title change was coming since it was slotted as the main event, and the crowd seemed to be pleased by the turn of events as well. I'm curious what this will mean for Jordan's impending heel turn and Rollins' WrestleMania plans.
For an edition of Raw falling on Christmas, this wasn't nearly as atrocious as it could have been. Sure, the three hours definitely dragged at points and that commercial-free first hour of the show was strange albeit cool, but there was some decent storyline progression and a surprising title change. Plus, the holiday nonsense was kept to a minimum, and the same couldn't be said for that throwaway edition of Raw from Christmas Eve 2012. I'm expecting the premiere Raw in 2018 to be a bit more must-see/meaningful, though.
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