Raw General Manager Kurt Angle, Jason Jordan and Braun Strowman Confronted Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon and Triple H
Seeing Stephanie and Triple H, a.k.a. The Authority, kick off Raw brings back horrid memories from a few years ago when they were all over the show and didn't do anyone on the roster any favors. On the bright side, Angle, Jordan and Strowman all stood up to them here and planted the seeds for a number of matches down the line. None of them particularly intrigued me, to be honest, but this was successful in setting up Jordan vs. Strowman later in the night. At least Angle didn't take shit from Stephanie the same way Mick Foley did for months on end.
Samoa Joe def. Finn Balor
This was the perfect match to kick off the in-ring portion of the show because, as I've noted in the past, these two have always worked very well together. Plus, it was a logical follow-up to them teasing tension during the Survivor Series main event the night prior. It was an enjoyable outing and Joe winning in clean fashion was a pleasant surprise. Does this mean we can throw the rumors of Balor facing Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble out the window? If so, that's disappointing.
Asuka def. Dana Brooke
This was a result of Brooke attacking Asuka on last week's Raw, so I would assume she's a heel again. If you can recall, this was actually Asuka's debut match in NXT back at TakeOver: Respect in October 2015 (probably Brooke's best match ever), and I was happy that this was shades of that. Asuka absolutely killed her, which was a treat to see, and continued building momentum after becoming the sole survivor in the Survivor Series women's tag team elimination match.
The Shield Crashed Miz TV
I appreciated that Miz took the time to address his loss to Baron Corbin the night before, but him brushing it off like it was nothing made it feel meaningless. It wasn't a major offense, but that's merely me nitpicking. At any rate, this was an effective segment that set up the main event for the night with Roman Reigns challenging Miz for the Intercontinental Championship. Furthermore, I liked that Shield laying out The Miztourage explained why they were nowhere to be seen during Reigns vs. Miz.
Dean Ambrose def. Raw Tag Team Champion Sheamus
Needless to say, we've seen Ambrose and Sheamus compete in more than a handful of matches together since the summer, but this was a quality contest from start to finish that the crowd was hot for. Audiences obviously love The Shield, so that helps make these matches more enjoyable even though they don't mean much and has been done several times in recent months. I assume it's only inevitable before Ambrose and Seth Rollins regain the Raw Tag Team Championship.
Bayley vs. Mickie James vs. Sasha Banks vs. Alicia Fox in a Raw Women's Championship No. 1 Contender's Fatal 4-Way Match Ended in a No Contest
I dread these types of segments where one person talks and then someone interrupts them and then someone else comes out and so on and so forth. It's incredibly formulaic, and it doesn't help that the material they were given to work with was lousy. Besides, Bliss has beaten them all before, so I wasn't looking forward to that Fatal 4-Way. Thankfully, it wasn't long before it was crashed by the returning Paige, who received a big pop from the live crowd, and the debuting duo of Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. They were the last people I expected to get called up right now, but I am in full favor of the decision. They have history with Paige and this shakes up the women's division on Raw in a major way.
Braun Strowman def. Jason Jordan by Disqualification
I was actually really looking forward to seeing Strowman murder Jordan, but it was a short-lived affair thanks to Kane's interference. I'm glad Kane getting retribution on Strowman was saved for Raw instead of Survivor Series, because that would have made that main event even more disappointing than it was. Anyway, their brawl here was fine, but I can't say I'm excited to see their rivalry resume through the remainder of the year (if not beyond that).
Rich Swann, Cedric Alexander, Akira Tozawa and Mustafa Ali def. Tony Nese, Noam Dar, Ariya Daivari and Drew Gulak
Perhaps it was a case of me getting my hopes up for nothing, but I thought there was a chance we would see Hideo Itami debut during Enzo's celebration and be introduced as the next challenger to the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. Instead, we were treated to a pointless eight-man tag team match. It was well-wrestled and all, but the division is deader than dead at the moment.
Matt Hardy Attacked Elias
Elias' performance was no different than any other he's had on the main roster, though I didn't think Hardy would interrupt him. Elias has been involved in a number of feuds lately and has won most of them, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised Hardy and him will be engaged in a rivalry going forward to keep both of them busy. Hardy noted on social media that something needed to change coming off his loss to Elias on the Survivor Series Kickoff show, and I couldn't agree more. It's a crime WWE isn't doing more with Hardy or at least attempting to give him something similar to his "Broken" persona.
Roman Reigns def. The Miz to Win the Intercontinental Championship
Reigns and Miz have really good chemistry together and I found this championship clash to be entertaining. I especially liked that Miz was made to look like an equal to Reigns throughout and scored a number of nearfalls on him. The interference from Sheamus, Cesaro, Ambrose and Rollins was kept to a minimum and the crowd was into the closing stretch with Reigns winning the title. He was cheered here more than usual, so it was a cool moment with him becoming a Grand Slam Champion in WWE. From what I understand, Miz will be taking time off for the foreseeable future to film a movie, hence the sudden title change.
While this wasn't the greatest post-pay-per-view edition of Raw this year, it was certainly a newsworthy night with the Intercontinental Championship changing hands and Paige returning and debuting a new faction. I wasn't enamored with everything else, but Balor vs. Joe and Ambrose vs. Sheamus being above-average matches also helped make this a solid show on the whole. Raw doesn't have another exclusive pay-per-view until after the Royal Rumble, so expect lots of filler in the months ahead.
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