Finn Balor def. Braun Strowman by Disqualification
Paul Heyman hasn't cut what I would call a memorable promo in some time, and I don't think his promo before this bout broke any new ground. We get it, the fans believe in Balor, yet he's smaller than Brock Lesnar, so he stands virtually no chance of beating him. I was glad Mr. McMahon spiced things up by interrupting him, leading to Strowman and Balor coming out and going one-on-one. They've worked well together in the past and it was enjoyable while it lasted. I have no clue why the contest continued after Lesnar attacked Balor at ringside, but that stretch with Balor taking the fight to both beasts was a blast. I still don't see him winning the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble, but it was a nice attempt to convince viewers he's a threat to the title, nonetheless.
Intercontinental Champion Bobby Lashley def. Apollo Crews (Non-title)
Crews has been in the midst of a mini push lately, so I don't mind the idea of him being inserted into the Intercontinental Championship picture (at least for one night, anyway). The segment was going well before the dumb pose-down, which felt like something we would have seen on Raw in 2003 (Scott Steiner and Triple H, anyone?). The subsequent match wasn't much better, as it went all of a minute or two after the commercial break before it ended abruptly. Meanwhile, I have little interest in seeing Seth Rollins resume his rivalry with Lashley over the title post-Rumble, so here's hoping that tease afterward was nothing more than a red herring.
Seth Rollins def. Drew McIntyre
Despite their strong chemistry, we've seen Rollins vs. McIntyre enough times over the last year where I wasn't highly anticipating this encounter going in, but their pre-match promos talking about why they will win on Sunday did an excellent job of giving this matchup meaning and establishing them as top contenders to emerge victorious in the Rumble. I loved the fast pace of this bout as well as the intensity from both guys, making for an above-average outing on the whole. Rollins' clean win was refreshing and McIntyre was protected in defeat via the roll-up.
Lucha House Party def. Jinder Mahal and The Singh Brothers
I have no idea where the hell this match came from. I know Mahal teamed with the Singhs for the first time ever a few weeks ago, but that's about it. As I've said time and time again, Lucha House Party are way better on 205 Live, and aside from a quick mention from Michael Cole on commentary, you'd never know Kalisto was contending for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship in a Fatal 4-Way at the Rumble. This was a total throwaway, and the quick finish might have been for the better so this could end as quickly as possible.
Baron Corbin def. Elias
Elias said it himself: was there any reason to do a rematch between Corbin and Elias? Their last match didn't light the world on fire, and unless Elias was going to get his win back here, this was unnecessary. Sure enough, Corbin beat Elias for the second straight time, so I'm left scratching my head as to what purpose this was supposed to serve. Yes, I guess it technically hyped the men's Rumble, but any momentum Elias had a month or so has officially been squandered.
Moment of Bliss Descended Into Chaos
I knew from the moment this was announced that it would be a train wreck, and I think it's safe to say I wasn't wrong. Good god, this was a massive waste of time. Bliss running down the entrants in the women's Rumble dragged on forever, and then the predictable brawl broke out between all of the ladies. The only two things worth noting about this is that Bliss will be back in action on Sunday, and Lacey Evans also announced her involvement in the Rumble. They should have just kept it at that, but apparently WWE couldn't help themselves.
Heavy Machinery def. The Ascension
Heavy Machinery are a welcome addition to Raw's depleted tag team division, and I'm happy they're off to a solid start. Okay, so them crashing Moment of Bliss last week wasn't an ideal way for them to debut, but at least they had a good showing here. The Ascension automatically result in the crowd not caring (regardless of who they're up against), so while I wasn't surprised the fans in attendance largely sat on their hands for this, they did their best to win them over.
Raw Tag Team Champions Bobby Roode and Chad Gable def. The Revival (Curt Hawkins Served as Special Guest Referee)
It was reported last week that The Revival requested their release from WWE, and needless to say, they likely won't be granted it any time soon with All Elite Wrestling recently launching. This was probably their last shot at the Raw Tag Team Championship and they spent the entire match trying to cheat to win. It didn't work, and ultimately, it cost them the straps. Revival roughed up Hawkins afterward before Hawkins' old partner Zack Ryder made the save. I'm stoked they're reuniting, but that's definitely not a positive sign for Revival's future if that's their next feud.
Sasha Banks and Bayley def. Raw Women's Champion Ronda Rousey and Natalya
WWE was smart to tease tension between Banks and Rousey heading into the Rumble, because a straight-up babyface vs. babyface bout would have featured a boring build. Instead, fans have been into Banks trash talking Rousey, and the bad blood between them nearly boiling over here was a treat to watch. The match itself was entertaining and it was a hot ending to an otherwise underwhelming show.
The Royal Rumble is always exciting no matter what, but the build-up to the pay-per-view has left a lot to be desired on the Raw side. I was optimistic that last week's better-than-usual edition of Raw meant things were looking up, but this was a fairly abysmal episode outside of a few key segments. Check out Balor vs. Strowman, Rollins vs. McIntyre and the main event (even the Hawkins and Ryder reunion was cool), but the rest can be skipped over. Whether Raw can get back to delivering compelling television on a more consistent basis on the road to WrestleMania remains to be seen.
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