Balor Club vs. Diet Shield
Robert O’Neill: After teaming up last week for what appeared to be a one-off, Balor Club came back this week to pick a fight with Diet Shield (like the regular Shield, but with Jason Jordan instead of the injured Dean Ambrose). The promo battle to open the show was a nice way to get the TV audience invested, which was even more pivotal than usual given the Alabama/Georgia game running at the same time as Raw. It’s only a matter of time before Reigns and Rollins dump Jordan, who is at his delusional best by convincing himself he’s actually part of The Shield. It is, however, a shame that Ambrose is hurt because Shield/Balor Club could be on the level of Shield/Wyatt Family a few years back.
As far as the actual match… it was fine. It was what you’d expect from six decent to very good workers. From a production side, there were way too many camera cuts. That sounds like a nitpick, and I suppose it is, but it shouldn’t be something that’s noticeable to the point where it takes away from the match. Balor Club got the victory thanks to some miscommunication between Reigns/Rollins and Jordan, which is exactly where this story needs to go.
Return of The Miz
Chris Novak: The definitive Intercontinental Champion of this era is The Miz. Maybe a few years ago, you’d have rolled your eyes at this and thumbed your nose. But now? The title is SUPER meaningful. And a lot of that has to do with Miz. He’s put in hard work lately. And he’s going to continue to do so in 2018. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a WWE TItle run. He damn sure deserves it. Nevertheless, let’s focus in on the IC Title, and Miz’s chase back for it should be compelling TV.
Robert O’Neill: After being gone for six weeks to film a movie, The Miz returned to Raw after a fantastic musical introduction by Elias (in which he initially forgot what month it is, but that’s fine!). Miz was mad about Reigns having his Intercontinental title. It’s pretty cool how much Miz cares about the Intercontinental Title. It makes the belt special and meaningful.
Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax
Robert O’Neill: After being an afterthought in the division for the past few months, Bliss is back in the spotlight as her feud with Asuka has gotten underway. Clearly, Alexa realizes she (like anyone) is overmatched against Asuka. So, how does she plan to eventually overcome the odds? By telling her pal Nia Jax that Asuka said something mean about her. The problem? Nia sees right through it since Alexa, ya know, doesn’t speak Japanese. Regardless, Nia knows Asuka is her biggest threat in the Women’s Royal Rumble, so while Asuka was in the ring preparing for her match, Nia snuck up behind her and hit her with an electric chair drop, leaving Asuka lying in the ring. Really good psychology on both sides.
BRAUN STROWMAN USED A GRAPPLING HOOK TO PULL A WALL DOWN ON BROCK LESNAR AND KANE
Robert O’Neill: No exaggeration there. Lesnar and Kane were brawling backstage and Strowman showed up out of nowhere with a grappling hook and pulled a steel wall down on Kane and Lesnar. It was incredible.
Lesnar left on a stretcher, and yelled about how he didn’t want to go in the ambulance and that Paul Heyman should get him out of there, but Heyman insisted.
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Robert O’Neill: I know I said last week this would be a standalone section, but this week it’s in the “Bad” section. For the second straight week, The Revival were held off TV for… whatever reason. I get that they’re still coming back from injuries, but it seems like a questionable decision to completely leave them off Raw (and Main Event) for the second straight week. It gets even more hairy when you consider how American Alpha was treated upon getting to the main roster last year.
Drew Gulak was also not on the show. It’s like they WANTED me to hate it.
Kurt Angle’s Cell Phone
Robert O’Neill: GET A NEW TROPE! HE DOESN’T HAVE TO BE ON THE PHONE EVERY TIME YOU CUT TO HIM. I imagine no one cares about this as much as I do, but it’s literally a weekly occurrence. After he got off the phone, he told The Bar they would be wrestling for the tag titles at the Royal Rumble, which will be fun.
Other Noteworthy Events
Bayley and Sasha Banks defeated Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville: The women’s division has definitely been a little stagnant, as we’ve pointed out. I feel like they could serve themselves better to do some singles matches. Alas, finally, Bayley and Sasha got a dub over Absolution. It only took… well, until now.
Matt Hardy defeated Curt Hawkins: Curt Hawkins is now on a 153-match losing streak. Really gotta hope he starts to turn that around soon. Also Matt Hardy’s weird and wonderful and can still bring it in the ring. Bray Wyatt came out after the match. Eventually, the Hardy/Wyatt feud is going to have to be more than just two weird dudes laughing at each other nonstop.
Cedric Alexander defeated Enzo Amore: This was a Cruiserweight Championship match and Enzo lost by countout, so he retained. He got counted out because of an ankle injury, which seems to not be legit. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes.
Titus Worldwide defeated The Bar: Raw’s tag team scene continues to show its depth as Titus and Apollo picked up an upset victory over Sheamus and Cesaro
Samoa Joe defeated Rhyno: Poor Slater and Rhyno, man. After getting demolished by Strowman last week, they had to suffer Samoa Joe’s wrath. This was a much better (longer) match than the one against Strowman, though. Rhyno and Joe work well together thanks to their time working together in TNA and NXT. After the match, Joe explained to the crowd what a pyrrhic victory is, because he’s excellent on the microphone. He also entered the Royal Rumble. Then, Charly Caruso brought up the fact that Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura, and John Cena would be in the Rumble, and Joe said he was going to eliminate Cena first.
Bayley and Sasha Banks d. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville
Matt Hardy d. Curt Hawkins
Cedric Alexander d. Enzo Amore (countout)
Titus Worldwide d. The Bar
Samoa Joe d. Rhyno
Balor Club d. Reigns/Rollins/Jordan
Robert O’Neill: It’s a strange time for Smackdown. Raw has been the better show in my opinion for months, but The Shane McMahon/Daniel Bryan saga is one of the best long-term stories WWE has told since Bryan vs. The Authority at Wrestlemania XXX. This week was no different, as AJ Styles was (rightfully) upset that Bryan told Styles he would be defending his title against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a handicap match at the Royal Rumble. After Styles talked to Renee Young for a bit in the ring to open the show, Owens and Zayn came out to antagonize. Shane came out and announced Zayn and Owens would be in their own handicap match in the main event, against Styles, Randy Orton, and Shinsuke Nakamura.
Later in the night, there was a backstage discussion with Bryan and McMahon with a ton of tension and shots fired.
The 3-on-2 main event was fun. Owens and Zayn tried to flee and lose by countout, Shane came out and made it no countouts. Owens and Zayn tried to get disqualified, Shane made it no DQ. Eventually, Styles/Nakamura/Orton got the win when Styles took Owens out at the top of the ramp with a steel chair and the other two hit their finishers on Zayn.
Mojo and Ryder
Robert O’Neill: We (along with several other sites) got baited into thinking this happened last week as a dark match. It didn’t, and I’m glad about it. It was a great match. So far, these US Title matches have done exactly what they’re designed to do: Elevate and generate interest in the Smackdown midcard. Mojo Rawley looks like a breakout star waiting to happen, and Zack Ryder is an excellent opponent for him.
Robert O’Neill: Gable and Benjamin cut the most entertaining promo of 2018. They were mad about getting screwed out of the tag titles. Bryan came out and gave them a two out of three falls match with The Usos at the Royal Rumble.
Robert O’Neill: Oddly enough, there was nothing I found that I didn’t enjoy this week on Smackdown. Everything was either average or good, which is a great development.
Other Noteworthy Events
Bludgeon Brothers d. Ascension: This happened. It was another squash for the Bludgeon Brothers, complete with a post-match beatdown. It’s a way to establish them as a new (well, “new”, they’ve obviously teamed before in the Wyatt Family) monster heel tag team. We’ll have to wait and see them against a higher-caliber team before making a judgment.
Becky Lynch d. Ruby Riott: It’s really nice to have Becky back, considering the Smackdown women’s division is incredibly thin after Charlotte and Naomi. This was a solid match and it shows that Riott will have success once they eventually drop this faction idea.
Breezango d. Rusev Day: Rusev Day is cancelled.
Becky Lynch d. Ruby Riott
Bludgeon Brothers d. Ascension
Mojo Rawley d. Zack Ryder
Breezango d. Rusev Day
Styles/Orton/Nakamura d. Owens/Zayn
(All photos courtesy of WWE)