The countdown to the Royal Rumble has begun. With the kickoff to the Road to Wrestlemania fast approaching, this week’s RAW was important in further establishing feuds and hyping up the upcoming pay-per-view.
Stephanie McMahon entered to kick off RAW, barely making it down the ramp before WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns’ music hit so he could make an entrance of his own. He demanded Vince come out immediately, but Mr. McMahon wasn’t there yet.
Reigns declared the WWE was his family, and nobody would take it away. Stephanie claimed that nobody would defeat Vince, and that hope wouldn’t be enough to save him. When he loses, she said, she will use him and abuse him and once he’s at the bottom, nobody would remember him or care for him. Reigns simply replied with a threat of his ow: if he gets screwed over, her father would be going to the hospital.
I’m surprised by how short this segment was, but in a good way. Reigns was everything he should have been from the start: a man of few words and scary threats. It worked, too, with the crowd rallying behind the mostly quiet champ.
Neville vs. Kevin Owens
In a rematch from last week’s criminally short bout, Dean Ambrose entered first to lend his lunacy to the commentary team. Neville wasted no time in enacting his high-speed, high-powered offense, taking control of the match swiftly with some wild jumps and kicks. Owens, however, powered back with a sick DDT, switching the momentum in an instant.
Owens nearly score a win via countout, but took the battle outside the ring after Neville made it back to the ring at the last second. He powered Neville into the barricade, but the nimble performer hit Owens with a dropkick and then a flip to regain control for a short time. But it would be Owens who would get his sweet revenge in the end, hitting Neville with the Pop-up Powerbomb for the victory.
Owens continued to beat down on Neville, and once again Ambrose interfered. Owens looked to once again powerbomb Ambrose into the announce table, but Ambrose reversed the game, hitting Owens with a Flying Elbow into the announce table and walking out with confidence.
Backstage, Vince McMahon arrived. Jojo attempted to ask him about last week’s arrest, but all Vince would say was that in this week’s main event, he would BE the law.
Titus O’Neil vs. Stardust
In their first match since Titus began interrupted Stardust’s backstage rambles, the so-named Prince of Dark Matter went on the early offensive. But O’Neil found an opening as the crowd’s chants of “CODY!” distracted Stardust and capitalized on it for the pinfall.
Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch
Backstage, an uneasy Charlotte approached Becky Lynch, asking if she asked for their match that night and revealing her father would once again be at ringside. Becky had nothing to do with it, but asked Charlotte to cooperate int he spirit of friendly competition. The young Flair didn’t seem to happy, but was no less confident about her chances.
Becky opened with a series of deep arm drags to her “friend” and maintained the high-paced speed, with both showing off their impressive athleticism. Charlotte gained some momentum after letting Becky help her up before hitting her with a solid arm to the chest and neckbreaker. Taunting Lynch as the crowd cheered in support for the fiery redhead, Charlotte beat on her with a hard clothesline and suplex.
But Becky wouldn’t lose that easily, fighting Charlotte off as Charlotte set her up on the ropes and locking in a submission hold before setting her up for an unsuccessful rollup. Hitting Charlotte with a series of kicks and a suplex, Becky looked to get another kick for the win, but Ric Flair interferred to get Charlotte a rollup win. Becky, however, reversed it, and picked up the victory.
An enraged Charlotte immediately assaulted her friend as she celebrated the victory, hitting her with a spear and holding up her title above Lynch’s beaten body at the center of the ring.
Ryback vs. Big Show
Not much happened in this match before the Wyatts appeared, ambushing Ryback after the big guy was thrown over the top rope by Big Show. Ryback tried to fight out of it as Big Show watched on with apathy, but Braun Strowman knocked him out with whatever his bear hug maneuver is called.
But the Wyatts weren’t finished yet, circling the ring with the giant still inside. Big Show made quick work of the original three before a face-off with Strowman provided enough distraction for the bearded men to take control and leave with a statement made.
I’m glad this entire match was all for putting the Wyatts over. About damn time!
Alberto Del Rio & Rusev vs. The Usos
Jimmy Uso and Del Rio started the match off, with Jimmy hitting a weakening clothesline on Del Rio before tagging his brother in. Del Rio tagged int he Bulgarian Brute, who was distracted by “We want Lana!” chants to briefly give Jey and advantage before the Samoan tagged his brother in. The two double-teamed a drop on Rusev, getting him far from a waiting Del Rio, but Rusev managed to get back to him. Del Rio came in hot, hitting a dropkick before tagging Rusev back in.
After a bit of lost momentum, Rusev hit a raw suplex off the ropes to take full control of the match. Their control remained solid until Jey Uso delivered a Samoan Drop, tagging in Jimmy as Rusev tagged in Del Rio. Del Rio looked to hit his submission maneuver, but Jimmy responded with a dropkick. A tagged in Jey hit a splash and nearly got the pinfall, but Rusev broke it up, getting sent over the top rope and taken out by Jey.
A recovered Del Rio drove Uso into a steel post and hit him with a kick from the ropes to steal the win.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Heath Slater
Heath Slater entered with the rest of the jobber crew: Adam Rose, Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas. Ziggler took the early lead, hitting Slater with a dropkick and elbow drop. Slater powered back with a mean right hook and series of kicks, nearly scoring a pinfall.
Slater kept his mean streak going with two suplexes but wasn’t able to capitalize in time until his friends provided enough distraction for Slater to score a victory via rollup.
The four men declared themselves the Social Outcasts and promised more to come.
I’ll admit it: I love these guys. Mostly because I’ve gotten to know a lot of them through Xavier Woods’ gaming channel and social media, but it’s always great seeing them on television again. Their mini push is interesting to see. I hope they don’t get lost in the shuffle.
The New Day vs. Kalisto & The Dudley Boyz
The New Day happily entered with a new, Unicorn-tastic tron, celebrating their own greatness, but were interrupted by Christ Jericho, who declared his intentions for the Royal Rumble in a fun trash talk-off.
A rattled New Day struggled early on against the Dudleys and Kalisto, with Xavier Woods tagging in Kofi, only for the former singles star to find difficulty against Kalisto and then Bubba Ray, who held Kingston in the air before dropping him to the ground after several seconds. As DeVon tagged in, Woods was tagged in as well, but after the New Day was thrown out of the ring, things only got worse. Bubba Ray threw Kalisto onto all three of them, knocking them down quite solidly.
But Big E turned things around for the New Day, powering back before tagging in Woods, who continued the beatdown on Bubba Ray. Kofi tagged in, nearly getting a pinfall, but Kalisto tagged in, hitting a move off of Bubba Ray’s shoulder as he sat on the top rope. Woods interfered, stalling his momentum as a tagged in Big E hit a mean splash on the ring’s edge.
And things only got better as the New Day initiated their “Unicorn Stampede”and Woods broke out his trombone for a celebratory song.
At this point, my Tweet appeared on TV and I missed what happened next because I tried and failed to snap a photo. Sorry, guys, I’m only human.
The two teams traded momentum, but the Dudleyz failed to hit the 3D and Big E and Kofi double-teamed on DeVon for the win.
Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus (WWE World Heavyweight Championship match)
With Mr. McMahon (sleeveless, mind you) as the guest referee, the odds were certainly not in Roman’s favor.
Sheamus started strong, employing a high-energy offense against Reigns with a series of kicks and punches. However, Roman didn’t remain out for long, powering back with a series of punches before taking the fight out of the ring. Vince, predictably, didn’t initialize the ten-count and turned away as Sheamus illegally used steel steps against Reigns.
This assistance helped Sheamus regain control of the match, brutalizing Reigns with a series of punches, drops and suplexes. Reigns managed to kick out of a quick-count, with the crowd cheering him on, and came back with two painful looking clotheslines before jamming Sheamus’s chin into the ropes and hitting him with a dropkick and Samoan Drop, but McMahon’s count was like slow motion, and Sheamus kicked out.
A running knee by Sheamus almost set up a White Noise, but Reigns reversed it into a hard slam onto the mat, but once again, Mr. McMahon didn’t finish the count, claiming he needed eyedrops. Sheamus almost got a rollup, but Reigns hit Sheamus with the Superman Punch.
However, McMahon simply didn’t count it out, and a pissed Reigns drove him into the corner before surprising McMahon with a Superman Punch and getting Sheamus with a Spear. Nobody was there to give him the victory count, so an enraged Reigns continued to brutalize Sheamus outside of the ring.
McMahon stirred and Reigns looked to be continuing the beatdown, but then Stephanie emerged, and Reigns simply sent McMahon into her, knocking her off the ropes and into the ring. Reigns prepped to continue beating Vince, but Sheamus hit him with two Brogue kicks and a new referee arrived.
But Reigns . . . kicked out.
The ref held Reigns up for Sheamus to kick, and Reigns hit both him and the shady ref with Superman Punches. A new referee arrived and gave him the win he deserved to retain the title.
To end the show, a furious McMahon announced the Royal Rumble match would be Reigns’ next defense of the title. One versus all indeed.
The match itself was a blast to watch. Yeah, Reigns looked a bit too strong, but I didn’t mind it so much. He’s a powerhouse with a temper, let him be that, right?
But really, putting him in the Royal Rumble match FOR his title? Really? You want to literally bury the entire roster just to put him over before Wrestlemania?
I’ll have to discuss the best options for this in a separate blog post.
Overall, this was a fun RAW with matches that had real stakes. ;et’s hope Creative doesn’t mess it up completely.