Finn Balor, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows Confronted Intercontinental Champion Roman Reigns and Raw Tag Team Champions Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan
Jordan as an over-the-top goofball pretending to be buddy-buddy with Reigns and Rollins and thinking he's now a member of The Shield is hilarious. At least WWE is aware people hate his guts and are in the process of turning him heel (or so it seems, anyway). Furthermore, I'm happy Balor Club was more than a one-night deal and it's so obvious all three men are enjoying the opportunity to work together. Just imagine if Dean Ambrose was healthy and we had a full-on Shield vs. Balor Club match. Maybe one day...
Sasha Banks and Bayley def. Absolution
It was reported that Paige is still not cleared to compete after suffering an injury at a house show two weeks ago, so she sat this one out. On the bright side, she was pretty active at ringside here, so hopefully she gets the green light ahead of the Royal Rumble. The match itself was well-wrestled and I thought Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville held their own without Paige in the ring to protect them. Thankfully, they had two quality opponents in Banks and Bayley, and speaking of whom, I was totally fine with them scoring the victory because they were owed a victory eventually, and Paige has yet to be beaten since returning.
"Woken" Matt Hardy def. Curt Hawkins
First and foremost, I'm really digging the new entrance theme for "Woken" Matt Hardy. It pays tribute to his TNA song at the beginning with the piano playing and then puts a twist on it. They need to ditch the Hardy Boyz graphics, but that's merely nitpicking. The match was a standard squash and I appreciate how Hardy wrestles differently (for the most part) when he's "Woken" as opposed to when he's not. I was hoping for something more than laughing afterward between him and Bray Wyatt and they should be going more outside of the box with their interactions, such as traveling to the Hardy Compound.
The Miz Returned
Man, it's so great to have Miz back as he was dearly missed and his absence was felt. His mic skills continue to be exceptional as he addressed his return, his stellar 2017, and his goals going forward, including regaining the Intercontinental Championship. I assumed that was the direction he was going in, so expect them to do battle for the belt at the Royal Rumble. On a side note, it was interesting Elias introduced Miz in this segment. Do they plan to pair him with The Miztourage, or was it just a coincidence?
Cedric Alexander def. WWE Cruiserweight Champion Enzo Amore by Count-out
Alexander is an outstanding athlete, but Amore is not, and thus I was not surprised this match wasn't the least bit engaging. Enzo has been strong on the mic as champion, but his matches have been sorely lacking. This really wasn't anything special on the whole, but Amore getting busted open did provide a legitimate reason for the match ending on a count-out (even though that was the planned finish the entire time). The chances of a rematch at the Royal Rumble are high.
Apollo Crews and Titus O'Neil def. Sheamus and Cesaro
You could hear a pin drop when Crews and O'Neil were announced as The Bar's opponents. In fact, you could hear a pin drop at any point during the match because the crowd (and everyone else) thought Titus Worldwide was winning. Well, they won, so I don't know what to make of that. Meanwhile, it was confirmed that Sheamus and Cesaro will receive their Raw Tag Team Championship rematch against Rollins and Jordan at the Royal Rumble. I guess it's possible at this point that Titus Worldwide will be added to that.
Braun Strowman Attacked Universal Champion Brock Lesnar and Kane
Heyman's promos are usually excellent, and while this was an improvement over his mic work from last week, I still don't find myself at all anticipating the Universal Championship Triple Threat match. It doesn't matter what Heyman says, I am simply not looking forward to it. That said, the brawl that ensued afterward with Lesnar, Kane and Strowman was unquestionably the best thing they've done yet in the build to the matchup. Strowman came across like an absolute beast for pulling the set backstage on top of his Rumble opponents.
Samoa Joe def. Rhyno
Joe was in a foul mood coming off his loss to Intercontinental Champion Roman Reigns on last week's show, and an angry Joe is a good Joe. Yes, I realize he's always angry, that's the point. This was a decisive victory versus Rhyno as he and Heath Slater continue to stack up losses. During Joe's post-match promo, he made it clear he has unfinished business with Reigns and that he'll be entering the 2018 Royal Rumble match, specifically calling out John Cena. That's a WrestleMania matchup I'd love to see.
Nia Jax Attacked Asuka
Beforehand in a backstage segment, Alexa Bliss tried to stir the pot between Jax and Asuka by saying Asuka was trash talking Jax. Jax thankfully didn't buy it, because she would have looked like an idiot if she did. That didn't stop her from taking Bliss' advice and laying out Asuka ahead of the first-ever women's Royal Rumble match. Asuka is everyone's favorite to win it all, so at least they're attempting to make Jax a threat as well.
Finn Balor, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows def. Intercontinental Champion Roman Reigns and Raw Tag Team Champions Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan
These two trios sharing a ring (okay, save for Jordan) was a sight that was surely too sweet. The match they had was by no means a classic, but it was entertaining for a TV main event with all six stars having solid showings. It was especially exciting once they picked up the pace in the second half. The Balor Club maintaining momentum by scoring the victory with Jordan "inadvertently" costing Rollins and Reigns the match was a smart move. It's encouraging that they haven't abandoned Jordan's heel turn despite him being one-half of the tag champs. Furthermore, Miz is officially back in the mix for the Intercontinental title with Miz and The Miztourage targeting Reigns afterward.
There was much more hype for the Royal Rumble pay-per-view as well as Raw's 25th anniversary show on this edition of Raw than the last four weeks combined. I guess that was to be expected with both events coming up quickly. As a result, the three hours flew by more than they normally do (at least for me), and their were enough memorable moments and successful segments to make this a thumbs-up show. Seeing as how I will be in attendance for both Raw 25 and the Royal Rumble, I am hyped for the remainder of January in WWE and have my fingers crossed they will live up to the hype.
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