Braun Strowman def. Intercontinental Champion The Miz, Finn Balor, Elias, Seth Rollins, John Cena and Roman Reigns in a 7-Man Gauntlet Match
Reigns talking to Charly Caruso before the bout about how this upcoming Elimination Chamber match is his ticket back to the main event of WrestleMania and another encounter with Brock Lesnar only for Rollins to be introduced as his opponent was perfect. Those two always work wonderfully together, and they kicked off the contest with a fun little mini-match. Rollins pinning Reigns clean surprised me, but that all but confirmed Reigns will be winning the men's Chamber on Sunday. Rollins' outing against Cena was much slower paced, but they did deliver down the stretch with some strong nearfalls. Rollins looked absolutely phenomenal with the performance he had here for over an hour, first beating Reigns and then Cena. Elias eliminating him the way he did was slightly anticlimactic, but it was a big victory for Elias, nonetheless. The crowd grew a bit restless by Elias vs. Balor, but the effort was there and they had a good match. I liked how Miz jumped Balor ahead of their clash and they had much better chemistry together, making me want to see them go one-on-one for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 34. However, the 'Mania match for the Intercontinental title might instead be what we saw next: Miz vs. Strowman, especially considering Strowman pinned the champ and annihilated The Miztourage afterward. On the whole, this was a hell of a way to kill television time and the wrestling was excellent. I wish WWE would take this approach more often. No, I'm not saying we need 90-minute matches every week, but something like this is far more effective in building toward a major pay-per-view matchup and switching up the usual formulaic layout of Raw than your average-length match or talking segment.
Nia Jax Attacked Asuka
Asuka isn't known for cutting long promos (her general presence essentially does the talking for her), but we needed to hear from her going into this match with Jax at Elimination Chamber and she did well here. On paper, it isn't a blockbuster bout, but the commentators were really playing up the possibility of Jax ending Asuka's undefeated streak beforehand. That said, it was totally logical for Jax to lay out Asuka here and look like a threat to her going into the contest.
Apollo and Titus O'Neil def. Raw Tag Team Champions Sheamus and Cesaro (Non-title)
Yes, Apollo is the latest Superstar to lose his last name, even though he's been on the main roster for nearly two years. As for this match, it was similar to their last few matches in that it was fairly basic and nothing about it stood out. Apollo and O'Neil scoring the non-title win was hardly surprising since more matches needed to be added to the Chamber card, but I can't believe WWE continues to put Titus Worldwide in the tag title picture when The Revival as well as Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows are readily available.
Sasha Banks, Bayley and Mickie James def. Raw Women's Champion Alexa Bliss and Absolution
Quite honestly, I found myself checking out of this match at several points, if only because it was pretty paint-by-numbers. Everyone involved did well and it was a decent enough match, but the real focus was on what happened after Banks forced Bliss to submit for the win. Bliss and James reunited, which I'm sure will lead to Bliss retaining her title in the Chamber. Regardless of the result, I'm looking forward to seeing how the ladies will do in that environment.
For those wondering, despite the brief amount of segments discussed, Raw was still a three hour show this week, but that Gauntlet match took up roughly two hours. It was a wisely booked match, too, and alone made this edition of Raw memorable. The third hour didn't blow me away, but it was successful in offering solid final hype for Elimination Chamber and adding two more matches to the show: Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Titus Worldwide (which isn't official yet but I assume it will be soon) and Bray Wyatt vs. "Woken" Matt Hardy. WWE has done a terrific job with Raw lately by making it a more entertaining show each week, so here's hoping they can keep it up going forward.
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