Roman Reigns Challenged Chris Jericho to a United States Championship Rematch
I was so happy when Reigns stopped saying that he was "the guy" after he was dropped from the main event scene in the latter half of 2016, but it appears he is back to using that line now that he is on the verge of becoming WWE Universal Champion. Ugh. And officials expect us to like him? The mic work from everyone involved in this segment was decent and it set up the title match for later in the night nicely, but it's been rinse and repeat with these three for months.
Luke Gallows def. Raw Tag Team Champion Cesaro
I guess the story they're trying to tell with Cesaro and Sheamus and The Club is that The Club can't cheat if there's two referees around, hence why their tag title match at the Royal Rumble will have two referees. It was a mediocre match otherwise, but the damage has been done to The Club and thus there isn't much life to the feud. It's sort of just there. Gallows winning was good, though, but the heels need all the momentum they can get right now.
Corey Graves Interviewed Raw Women's Champion Charlotte Flair and Bayley
It's been pretty well-documented I have not been a fan of this feud thus far and have found it to be fairly underwhelming, but this was by far the best thing that has come out of this program yet. That shouldn't come as any surprise because these pre-taped backstage interviews typically come out extraordinarily, regardless of who they're with. Charlotte shined as always and we finally received some insight on Bayley's character for the first time since she debuted on the main roster and what her motivation is. I now find myself looking more forward to their upcoming championship clash.
Sami Zayn def. Seth Rollins to Earn Entry Into the Royal Rumble Match
Aside from last week's main event, I struggle to think of another Raw match that had me on the edge of my seat quite like this one. The best part? There was a genuine feeling of uncertainty surrounding the outcome. I had a feeling Triple H might show up, but even once his music hit, I was still in awe and it was a cool moment. The match itself was extremely entertaining, though the crowd didn't cheer for one fan favorite over the other. I like the story of Zayn earning his way into the Rumble (which I'd argue he has a probable chance of winning) and Rollins' Rumble aspirations getting crushed by his mortal enemy.
TJ Perkins, Jack Gallagher and Mustafa Ali def. Ariya Daivari, Tony Nese and Drew Gulak
I dreaded the multi-man matches we would see with the Cruiserweights ad nauseam on a weekly basis last year, but it's been long enough where I didn't mind this match. All six Superstars worked well together and I was glad Ali in particular was allowed to shine via his strong showing here and the pre-match video package. As I've said before, he can be a breakout babyface for this division if he has direction and this was a solid start.
Braun Strowman, Rusev, Jinder Mahaland Titus O'Neil def. The New Day, Enzo Amore and Big Cass
I honestly don't think I would have cared about this match had it not been for Strowman's involvement. Otherwise, this would have been a total throwaway tag team match. Thank the lord New Day, Cass and Rusev are the only ones from this match joining Strowman in the Rumble. I don't need another Rumble featuring nothing but lower-tier talent. In its defense, I actually enjoyed this match while it lasted for some reason, and the finishing sequence with Strowman pinning Enzo was well done. I also didn't groan when Big Show came out because he appears to be in the best shape of his life. Him putting over Strowman at some point is logical, but I fear how bad their matches might be during WrestleMania season (see: last year).
Roman Reigns def. United States Champion Chris Jericho by Disqualification
I have lost track of how many times we've seen Reigns vs. Jericho in recent months, and although they deliver good matches more often than not, I'm ready for them to move on from these two working against each other constantly. If nothing else, there was a reason for it with Reigns invoking his rematch clause. Reigns getting the better of the babyfaces afterward was interesting, but my money remains on Reigns winning the Universal title on Sunday.
Nia Jax def. Ray Lyn
Jax was at her best in NXT when she was squashing local athletes, so this was a fine use of her by making quick work of Lyn. Her mic skills need a ton of improvement if her post-match promo was any indication, but Banks fending her off was a refreshing change of pace from what we've seen since the start of this feud. If Banks is injured in storyline, then I'd rather have Jax pick up the initial victory over her on the Royal Rumble Kickoff show.
WWE Cruiserweight Champion Rich Swann def. Noam Dar
Dar has settled into his wormy role really well lately and Swann has established himself in the eyes of the fans with the consistent amount of television time he receives. This was a fun match while it lasted and I liked the subsequent brawl between Swann and Neville even more. Their match at Royal Rumble might be the most anticipated Cruiserweight match yet in the time the division has been on Raw. Not only from an in-ring standpoint but because it has been built up the right way over the past month.
Brock Lesnar Confronted Goldberg
Should Lesnar have been advertised in advance? It's debatable. Personally, I didn't take issue with it because it was a sweet surprise, but I understand fans making the argument that WWE hyping up Lesnar and Goldberg being in the same ring for the first time since Survivor Series should have been a bigger deal. Either way, their face-to-face confrontation was awesome, and then I was legitimately shocked by The Undertaker showing up. Those three squaring off in the ring together gave me goosebumps. It was the greatest ending to Raw since Owens won the Universal title in August in my opinion and boosted fan anticipation for the Rumble match.
This is how you book a go-home show to a pay-per-view. I have been harsh on Raw for months now, largely because we have been subjected to seeing the same feuds and matches and nothing ever changes, but this was an excellent episode. Not everything was perfect, but the ending angle was amazing along with Rollins vs. Zayn and the sit-down interviews with the women. Mostly everything else served a purpose in hyping up the Royal Rumble, which looks stacked on paper. I'm already excited for what should be a blast of a weekend.
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