This Week in WWE: Last stops on the road to the Royal Rumble
Robert O’Neill: We open Raw, as always, with a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A very well-done video.
Chris Novak: WWE always seems to do these MLK tribute videos super well each and every year.
The show itself begins with none other than the Universal Champion, Brock Lesnar.
Robert O’Neill: Here comes the pain.
Chris Novak: Lesnar and Paul Heyman begin things in the ring. Very mixed reaction for Brock in OKC. Heyman wants to get down to business quickly and brings up how Finn Balor rose to prominence and became the #1 contender for the Universal Title.
Robert O’Neill: Paul Heyman cuts a basic Paul Heyman promo and then… VINCE MCMAHON COMES OUT?!?!? Alright! He tells a mangled version of David and Goliath, calls Oklahoma City “Hillbilly Land” and then we get Braun Strowman out here. He goes on about how everyone is lucky he isn’t in the match and things of that nature, then Finn Balor comes out and says he doesn’t care that no one believes in him, because Balor Club believes in him. Vince says they should have a match between Balor and Strowman RIGHT NOW and that’s how we get our first match of the night.
Chris Novak: Real fun match between Strowman and Balor. Brock finds a way to get involved here and it plays REALLY well into the story. Finn used his aggression and his speed to his advantage. Brock sold the absolute HELL out for Finn, which was great to see. But Brock eventually comes in and gives him an F5. Effective segments, all around.
Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush are out next. Lashley, of course, is the new Intercontinental Champion.
Robert O’Neill: This should be entertaining.
Chris Novak: Lio talks Bobby up big time and cuts a pretty good promo. Lashley then goes up onto a podium, and out comes Apollo Crews. Crews comes out and says that nobody paid to see him pose, people came to see him compete. Lio says that if Apollo can beat him in a pose-off, then maybe he’ll get a shot at him. Okay, this was actually effective in a lot of ways. Crews got over big time with the crowd and showed off his personality. Lashley wound up attacking Crews, but Crews got the upper hand and tossed Lio out of the ring and onto Lashley. I’m fully behind this. Sidebar: Renee talked herself into Lashley on commentary and it was hilarious.
Robert O’Neill: We come back from the break and Crews and Lashley are now having a match. Cool! Well, maybe not cool. Lashley gets the win rather effortlessly. Seth Rollins comes out for a staredown on the stage though. He’ll face Drew McIntyre next!
Chris Novak: Seth cuts a fierce promo after the break about his road to this point in time right here and now. Honestly, it was an awesome babyface promo, and might be Seth’s best promo to date.
Robert O’Neill: Seriously that was a fantastic promo.
The match begins and, to no surprise, it was excellent. Rollins and McIntyre have such fantastic chemistry in the ring and I really enjoy every time they wrestle. Rollins got the win with a leverage rollup, which is a really good way to have a smaller guy beat a larger guy. I think both will have really solid performances in the Royal Rumble and both are probably on the shortlist of guys who could win the whole thing going into Sunday.
Chris Novak: Very good Raw match to be honest. Seth gets all the momentum going into Sunday, and I think that’s on purpose, y’all.
Dean Ambrose cut a promo, directed towards both Seth and Bobby, saying he was going to eliminate the both of them at the Rumble.
Lucha House Party beat Jinder and The Singhs in a quick match. Not much to it other than Gran Metalik getting the victory.
Robert O’Neill: That’s pretty cool that we got to see a Singh Brothers match. Even if you don’t care for them or Jinder, it’s a fresh matchup, and that’s what we’ve been waiting for.
Chris Novak: An EC3 vignette was followed by interaction between him and Dana Brooke, which popped me. Elias is next up.
Robert O’Neill: Elias sings a song about Baron Corbin, who he’s about to face. I really wish they had a better feud for Elias but that’s entirely because I don’t care for Corbin, plus it feels like they’ve been feuding for a while.
It was a fine match, though. Corbin got the win with the End Of Days. It was fine and inoffensive. I hope they can both move to something else after Sunday.
Chris Novak: A special “Royal Rumble Edition” of A Moment of Bliss is next. Hmmm, what could be on the horizon here??
Robert O’Neill: Well, a lot! Everyone in the Rumble came out and said why they were going to win, and then it became chaos. Alexa was mad about the brawl and then said she was entering the Royal Rumble! Great news!
Chris Novak: Honestly, tremendous news. I like that they’re making Moment of Bliss a big deal, with Ronda-Sasha interaction happening the first week, the Tag Titles the next and now Bliss announcing she’s returning this week. Lacey Evans came out to steal the mic away from her and put herself over and into the Rumble match. Perhaps some possible babyface teasing for Bliss.
Robert O’Neill: Heavy Machinery made their in-ring debut against The Ascension, and they got a victory in relatively short time. That’s exactly how a debut match should go.
Chris Novak: Revival faced off with Gable and Roode with Hawkins as the ref. Hawkins let up a LOT of shady happenings for Revival but, in the end, they fell again. Afterwards, they beat Hawkins down. And then Zack Ryder came to his aid. They appear to be putting them back together, which is cool with me.
Robert O’Neill: I really don’t even want to get into this.
Chris Novak: Easy does it, Rob. Anyways, Boss and Hug against Nattie and Ronda is next. Before the match, Ronda cut… a promo. It was… something. She stammered a whole lot and none of it made too much sense, but I guess it is what it is.
The match itself turned out to be pretty good. Chaotic, frenetic, etc. But that’s what we’ve come to know from the women’s division and that’s a great thing! The end of the match saw Bayley take out Ronda off the apron, and then Sasha made Nattie tap out with the Bank Statement. Right call, well booked, etc. I very much enjoyed that sequence, as you might imagine.
The show ends with a staredown between Ronda and Sasha. Hyped for Sunday, bay bay.
Robert O’Neill: Natalya was really bad in that match but the other three were very good, and it was an interesting way for Ronda to get her first loss, technically, which will probably not be alluded to on WWE TV as her first loss.
Robert O’Neill: With the exception of the stupidity revolving around The Revival, Raw was good for the third straight week, which is a very good sign going forward. I like how the men lead off the show now and the women main event and it’s commonplace, because both the Raw and Smackdown women’s title feuds are more important than the men’s feuds at this point. Raw has had some bad Royal Rumble go-home shows over the years, but this wasn’t one of them. A
Chris Novak: Raw has really been rolling lately. They did a good job of advancing absolutely everything that they could’ve this week. Match quality wasn’t quite as good as it’s been the past few weeks, but it was still pretty solid all around. Gonna give this an A once again.
Chris Novak: A HUGE episode SmackDown Live begins with none other than Becky Lynch.
Robert O’Neill: Well hey this is a great way to start the show!
Chris Novak: She cuts a pretty spirited promo about people telling her what to do, and says the only thing she SHOULD be doing is main eventing WrestleMania. Big pop. She says the road to doing that begins at the Rumble and then runs down Asuka. She points out that she didn’t beat her for that title and that it’s not eating her up tells her everything she needs to know about her. This brings Asuka out, which results in a stare down between the two.
Eventually however, Charlotte brings herself out. She says nothing will be more exciting than when she wins the Rumble. She says she’s owned the division and that she’s the main event. With Becky’s attention diverted, Asuka goes RIGHT after her. Charlotte stares and watches as the two brawl like hell until refs come out to separate the two. Becky eventually stands tall after throwing Asuka over the announce table.
Rather effective segment here all around.
Robert O’Neill: Yeah I really enjoyed that a lot. It makes a lot of sense to me to have these three be the focal points of the women’s division because it’s obviously going to be the big story on the road to Wrestlemania. Becky coming out on top of the brawl too was a smart decision. Perfectly effective way to open the show here.
Chris Novak: Mandy vs. Naomi is next up.
Before THAT gets started, Becky and Asuka were seen beating the stuffing out of each other. I love it. Keep the intensity up.
They then play a corny-ass Temptation Island-style video package for the Mandy-Naomi feud. When I tell you that I am HOWLING!!
Robert O’Neill: I appreciate this match starting off with a brawl instead of the typical WWE trope of collar and elbow tieups. Take note, literally everyone else on the roster. Mandy won, which was a weird decision but I don’t think it’s the end of the feud. Think we get a stipulation match at some point.
Chris Novak: A fine, solid match here all things considered. This feud ain’t over by a long shot.
Miz-Cesaro is next. The match turns into a pretty fun one, as you might expect from these two. Cesaro wins with the Neutralizer. Afterwards, Shane went on the attack and beat up Cesaro with his typically ‘brilliant’ strikes. He then cleared the announce table and laid Cesaro on it. Shane then went up to the top rope to go and dive on out towards Cesaro, but Sheamus shoved him off and he hit the barricade. Sheamus threw Miz into the ringpost, corralled his teammate and the two went after Shane. Sheamus then hit him with the Brogue Kick. They then laid MIz out on the announce table and then slammed Shane down onto MIz to destroy the announce table.
Robert O’Neill: Another beatdown! This makes sense though. Soften them up for the title matches. Everytime Shane McMahon takes any sort of bump at this point I really worry about him, but he’s not gonna stop anytime soon. Really looking forward to that match.
Time for the Vince/Styles/Bryan in-ring summit. This should be interesting.
Chris Novak: Bryan remained on the outside because he didn’t want to get into the ring with a sociopath (I mean, which one really?) The two traded barbs, with Bryan going off about being THE PLANET’S CHAMPION, and unleashed an attack on Vince after he interrupted him and wanted him to get into the ring. Bryan said he and the baby boomers were ruining the planet (he’s the babyface now) and said he allowed someone as ignorant and impotent as AJ Styles flourish. This led to a battle on the outside. They got into the ring, Bryan hid behind Vince, Styles landed on his feet and Bryan clocked him with the running knee and escaped.
Robert O’Neill: Holy crap that was so good. People can complain about it, but I love having Vince around every week. It adds such an importance to the segment(s) he’s in.
Robert O’Neill: Mustafa Ali is here for a rematch with Samoa Joe after last week’s no contest. This should be a fun one.
Chris Novak: It proved to be just that. Joe won after choking Ali out. I enjoyed this match, and I especially enjoyed the Mustafa vignette that aired earlier on this television show.
Robert O’Neill: Well, it’s time for the main event. Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade in a two out of three falls match. Whew buddy. Let’s get to it here.
Chris Novak: Another unbelievably good match here. These two busted out some incredible moves including yet another piledriver, a sitout powerbomb off the top rope (in which Andrade JUMPED OFF THE TOP ROPE) and several other ridiculous showings. AND THE WEST COAST POP SHOWED UP! The two were tied at 1 fall apiece when Samoa Joe came out to destroy both of them. Rob will get to why that makes sense. After Joe cut a promo, RANDY ORTON showed up OUTTA NOWHERE and dropped Joe with an RKO.
Robert O’Neill: While this match wasn’t better than last week it was ABSOLUTELY what they needed going into the Royal Rumble. I really can’t wait for the Rumble. It might be an all-time great show.
Robert O’Neill: Business as usual for Smackdown at this point. Everything was good. Everything served a purpose. I struggle to find anything I disliked or anything about which to be critical. Bring on the Royal Rumble. A+
Chris Novak: Just an all around great wrestling show yet again. A+ for me.