Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe and Raw Tag Team Champions The Viking Raiders Confronted Seth Rollins, AOP and Buddy Murphy
As I've said before, Rollins has been brilliant as the "Monday Night Messiah" so far. He comes across like a total dick and is so easy to hate. I also like the idea for him to be paired off with Murphy and AOP, though I don't see the need for their faction to have an official name. Owens, Joe and Viking Raiders brought the fight to the heels and set up the Raw Tag Team Championship match for later in the night. This was a solid segment all around.
United States Champion Andrade def. Rey Mysterio in a Ladder Match
I'm happy WWE has been stacking their Raw shows lately (not to mention that I was surprised that this was the first championship Ladder match to take place on Raw since 2007), but I honestly would have saved this for the Royal Rumble pay-per-view. How the hell is Roman Reigns vs. King Corbin taking place at the event but not this? I guess we found out why afterward (Humberto Carrillo will be challenging for the championship there instead), but it still doesn't make sense to me. Nonetheless, this was a hell of a Ladder match as both guys gave it a great effort. The commercial breaks hurt the flow a bit, but that's merely nitpicking. Their chemistry continues to be crazy good and Andrade hitting his finisher off the ladder on top of another ladder looked brutal. I forgot we hadn't seen Carrillo on WWE TV in over a month, but it makes sense for them to rekindle their rivalry now that Andrade is the United States Champion.
Aleister Black def. Local Athlete
I didn't expect to witness a murder on this show, but here it was. In all seriousness, I was curious to see how WWE would follow up on Black's three straight victories over Murphy, so I was slightly disappointed when it was revealed that his opponent this week was a nobody. I had no interest in this squash whatsoever, so the decision to keep it as short and as sweet as possible was smart. Black being a dark horse to win the Royal Rumble is something not enough people are talking about I feel.
WWE Champion Brock Lesnar Attacked Ricochet
I'm all for Lesnar making more appearances on Raw (especially considering he's the WWE Champion), but this one in particular was pointless. Two weeks ago, he announced he was entering the Rumble at No. 1. Okay, cool. Last week, his segment with R-Truth far exceeded my expectations. That was fun. This week, he was randomly interrupted by Ricochet, who he proceeded to kick in the nuts. Needless to say, it was a significant step down from the last two weeks, even if Paul Heyman's mic work was entertaining as always.
Randy Orton vs. Drew McIntyre Ended in a No Contest
While not a first-time-ever encounter (I believe they previously clashed on Raw back in 2011), this was a match I've been looking forward to seeing for a long time. Orton and McIntyre work very similar styles and I think they could have a killer feud together. This matchup served as a nice preview of what they can do together and the crowd was into it before the lame non-finish with The O.C. predictably running in to beat them both down. It looked like McIntyre's face turn was about to be solidified before Orton laid him out with an RKO for no apparent reason (aside from how he's never been one to be trusted). I can't stress enough how badly I want McIntyre to win the Rumble. He's the strongest candidate in my opinion.
Raw Women's Champion Becky Lynch def. WWE Women's Tag Team Champion Kairi Sane
Sane getting cleared to compete again after over a month on the shelf due the concussion she received at the TLC pay-per-view is terrific news. The timing couldn't have been better with the Rumble being Sunday and this being the go-home show, so it made perfect sense for her to face Lynch here. They had an enjoyable encounter and Sane got to look credible in defeat. I appreciated that Asuka stood tall over Lynch post-match, giving viewers the impression that she has The Man's number and has a legitimate shot of beating her for the Raw Women's Championship.
Seth Rollins and Buddy Murphy def. The Viking Raiders to Win the Raw Tag Team Championship
Honestly, Rollins and Murphy is the team I didn't know I needed until now. They work wonderfully together. Some may be questioning why AOP weren't slotted in this spot, but for the time being, they're better off as the hired protection for Rollins and Murphy. They'll get their run eventually. Plus, Raw's tag team division needed some sort of a change. Viking Raiders have been decent champions, but they've already beaten all of their opposition. Rollins and Murphy taking the titles was needed and opens up plenty of possibilities. This was an excellent match.
Erick Rowan def. Matt Hardy
At long last, the streak of Rowan squashing unknown jobbers is over! Unfortunately, he's still squashing dudes, except now he's moving onto people on the roster. Baby steps, I suppose. For those who care, there really wasn't much of a development with his mysterious cage this week. He simply slammed it on the ring steps and that was it. Hardy, sadly, never had a chance. There's been a ton of talk regarding what his future might hold when his contract expires in early March. My guess is that he winds up re-signing, but AEW is absolutely an option as well.
Bobby Lashley and Lana def. Rusev and Liv Morgan
Of all the things WWE could have put on last for their Rumble go-home show, this was it? Seriously? I realize Vince McMahon has an odd obsession with this angle, but there was no need to spotlight it on this specific show. It didn't help that it was completely forgettable and barely went three or four minutes. Worse yet, Rusev lost again! I would love to think that all of these losses are leading somewhere, but will anyone actually care in the end? I fear this isn't over, either. Rusev not re-signing would be a logical assumption, but considering Lana re-signed recently, I doubt that's the case.
I know I ridicule WWE every year for ending their last shows before the Rumble with wild brawls to hype the Rumble matches themselves, but I would have taken that over the mixed tag team main event in a heartbeat. That was a bad note to end on, to say the least. It's a shame because everything before the last half hour was above-average in my opinion. The Ladder match deserves praise, the Raw Tag Team Championship changing hands was an interesting development, and the Rumble hype was largely well done. The layout of Raw has also been an improvement lately, as nothing feels like filler. The show will be even better once they move on from the stupid stuff with Lashley, Lana, Liv and Rusev as well as Rowan and his cage.
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