Was the Royal Rumble go-home edition of WWE Raw Good, Bad, or Ugly? Bobby Fernandes checks in with his review!
The Royal Rumble, one of the WWE’s premier Pay Per Views is upon us. The card is stacked. The rumors of major surprises and unexpected delights are swirling about. Like always it is a wonderful time to be a fan. This time of year also marks the start of WrestleMania season, which doesn’t get any bigger to the wrestling community. How can Raw’s go-home show give the fans one last big push for the Raw brand into the PPV? Will it build the momentum or leave us all flat?
Opening Segment w/ Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman
No time better to have the rare Brock Lesnar open Monday Night Raw. Facing the people’s choice, Finn Balor, who rumor has it, Lesnar requested personally, should be a hell of a Universal Title Match at Royal Rumble. Very few in the history of professional wrestling can talk like Paul Heyman. Even when he sucks, which isn’t often, it is a real treat for the audience to hear the ECW Mastermind work. As no surprise to anyone, Heyman hyped Lesnar, but he also hyped Finn Balor. Lesnar stood there like the goon that he is snickering. Nothing special in the message, and a little longwinded.
The surprise however came when the Mr. McMahon came into the picture. He heeled it up big time, which is awesome. The crowd was hot. Another Big Surprise came when Braun Strowman crashed the party. Strowman is not great on the mic but held his own. Luckily the hero Finn Balor gave his input as well. Balor believes he will win, the Balor Club believes it. Finn Balor is red hot right now and this match at Royal Rumble has the makings of a classic. But first, it’s Strowman vs. Balor.
Finn Balor vs. Braun Strowman
This preview to Lesnar vs. Balor, made for an eye opening match. As expected, Balor came out hard, but was quickly stopped by the Monster Braun Strowman. Of course the #1 Contender didn’t just lie down. Balor hit Strowman with a series of strikes and a sleeper hold, before getting tossed into Lesnar, who destroyed Balor. Balor came back however taking out both Strowman and Lesnar with speed and precision. Balor had it won with a “Coupe De Grace” before Lesnar interfered ending the match with an F5. Balor wins by DQ.
Non-Title Match – Bobby Lashley vs. Apollo Crews
We have two strong, freakishly athletic guys with unlimited potential. Shockingly Crews “gorilla pressed” Lashley twice hurting his back. Lio Rush made his presence felt often, doing his job well. However it proved to be too much, as Lashley hit a spear ending this quick match with a victory. This was followed with Seth Rollins rolling out. Rollins has a match with McIntyre and decided to come to the ring a little early getting to have a bit of a stare down with Lashley before continuing to the ring.
Seth Rollins Promo
Rollins came from the heart, it was a great promo. He did some amazing work on the mic this week. Rollins has a fire within him. He is on his A Game and will shine this weekend at the Royal Rumble. This was a quality promo, and resonated well.
Seth Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre
A showcase match. Rollins has a lot of weight on his shoulders as a trend setter for the rest of the roster, and McIntyre has been nothing but incredible week after week. Two top guys about to give the fans a fantastic show. McIntyre added his two cents and did well as always. This was extremely physical, Rollins and McIntyre laid it all on the line. Back and forth, this was a Good match. The energy was right, however was battered with long commercial breaks, which was unfortunate. The actual time spent on the match however was fantastic. McIntyre is such a dominating force, but Rollins just rolls on, no matter his opponents, size or strengths. It is just amazing how adaptable both of them are. This could have gone either way, Rollins hits a tight rollup and held on for the victory. Rollins winning this match was huge in the main scheme of things, as McIntyre is no pushover both in the ring and overall in the WWE storyline.
Dean Ambrose Vignette
Ambrose had a serious tone, it was a tight promo. He was pissed off, focused and concises, it shows the character in an edgier light. Good solid promo, and is at his best going into the Royal Rumble.
Elias vs. Baron Corbin
WWE definitely stands for “Walk With Elias.” Such a huge success and a fan favorite, brilliantly paired with Baron Corbin, one of if not the most hated personas in the WWE. He is purely cheap, old school, heel heat and it works. It was brilliant that Corbin’s mic was cut at the request of Elias to perform his song. Corbin stormed the stage after being provoked, but backed off almost getting leveled with Elias guitar. The match as it always is with these two, was physical, stiff, and looked painful. Baron Corbin looked Good this week. Maybe it is Elias who seems to be easy to work with. Either way Corbin showed up and won a huge win, with a cheap shot to the neck, which is a textbook, heel move and an “End of Days” for the pin.
The Ascension vs. Heavy Machinery
Where’s the beef? It’s here. This is a freak show of a match. The Ascension hasn’t worked a whole lot, hopefully they have been training. Heavy Machinery, is huge and bright. They stand out and there is something strangely fascinating about them. Otis really worked the hell out of the crowd and it finally paid off. They killed The Ascension, it was a squash match. Heavy Machinery Wins via “The Compactor.” Otis is just insane, and I want to see Heavy Machinery in a real match, against someone who could contrast them well. Either way, it looks like Vince is giving them a shot. Otis will be a star someday if this pays off.
Raw Tag Team Championship Match – Roode and Gable (c) vs. The Revival w/ Special Guest Referee Curt Hawkins
The Revival has been pissed off about life lately, and it has carried over to being a viral topic on social media amidst the new AEW signings and moves. Earlier there was an interesting promo with The Revival and Vince McMahon himself, giving The Revival a Title Match and giving Curtis Hawkins a spot as the referee. There is a lot of old school wrestling in this one. All competitors remind the audience of the past styles and characters. The Revival’s completely visible ties to the Brainbusters, and Roode resembling a number of characters, as well as Gable.
This match was a surprise given recent events. Michael Cole even took a little shot at The Revival while they were coming out. The Revival were stiff and controlled a lot of the time until Bobby Roode just went insane and destroyed everyone. Move after move Roode just dominated. Dawson and Wilder got back control but constantly got caught cheating by Curt Hawkins and eventually led to a rollup by Chad Gable for the Win! Roode and Gable Retain! In a very Good turn of events, The Revival obviously upset, attacked Hawkins who was saved by his “Bro” Zach Ryder. This is a very interesting way to excite the Tag Team Division. This could be Good for everyone.
Ronda Rousey and Natalya vs. Sasha Banks and Bayley
Seeing “The Boss” back on a mainstream title feud has been refreshing. It is also fantastic to have more Bayley. Bayley is my pick, however a long shot, to win the Royal Rumble, however it would lead to some strong content and a fan favorite that hasn’t been the frontrunner in a long time back on the show more often. In my opinion, Rousey is losing the belt sooner or later, most likely at Wrestlemania unless WWE is crazy enough to have Banks win at Royal Rumble setting up a possible Natalya heel turn. Follow that up with a Bayley Royal Rumble victory to ultimately having a Banks (c) vs. Bayley at Wrestlemania would satisfy a lot of the fanbase and be a total shock. However that isn’t the case and a huge longshot that.
Sasha Banks promo was money, and resonated on many levels. It is satisfying watching Banks play with Rousey. When Rousey did get a hold of both Bayley and Sasha Banks she exploded on them, making them retreat to the outside. There was some decent action here, Banks and Bayley worked well and Natalya and Rousey were sharp. When it was time for Rousey and Banks to finally go at it, Rousey got destroyed ending up in a “Bank Statement.” Rousey regained composer and got the upper hand on Bayley. After a Bad botched spot, with Bayley and Rousey, they had a little trouble, but Natalya and Sasha Banks rebounded for a strong finish, Sasha Banks makes Natalya tap, in a “Banks Statement” for the victory. There is a lot of heat going into this one, which may see some surprises on Sunday.
Promo – Intercontinental Champion Bobby Lashley/Lio Rush
This impressive duo has some gold and clout. We have a winner here. Lio Rush has taken the awkwardness away from Lashley, who now only has to focus on kicking ass. It seems to have worked. As Lio said, “Lashley is a fighter,” he is. He beat two of the top dogs for the IC Title. This was also a huge deal due to the fact that someone new would possibly get a shot at the gold. That man is Apollo Crews. Crews is extremely impressive. Much like Lashley, underrated and a superior athletic. This could be a sick feud but unfortunately a “pose off” was the plan.
Apollo Crews after this, is officially the Master of making something good out of nothing. He got the crowd into it when it was failing miserably. This was pretty corny overall, and of course Lashley attacked Crews but was chased out of the ring. This feud will be a welcomed one, however this was crap. Keep them off the mic and keep them wrestling. If they work and wrestle, we have gold. The Match itself right after was Good though.
Moment of Bliss w/ Nia Jax
Alexa Bliss cannot return to the ring fast enough. We need to get rid of the promos, although Bliss is fantastic otherwise. Listing all of the people in the Rumble so far was so long and awkward. Nia Jax is also awkward on the microphone. Luckily before anything was said by Jax, Ember Moon interrupted. Moon did well as she is a natural out there. But then Alicia Fox came out, followed by Mickie James. We are seeing a trend here folks. The Women’s Division on all WWE/NXT television is rock solid and part of the best we have currently. These promos are horrible though. Rene Young had a great idea though, having “Steve Wilkos” come referee. Solid move if that could ever happen. This promo needs therapy. But, Alexa Bliss will be in the Royal Rumble match as she announced her return. Should have just had her come out as a “surprise.” A real surprise however was South Carolina’s Finest, Lacey Evans. Who stole the spotlight on “Little Miss Bliss.” I expect a decent match out of this interaction.
Jinder Mahal and The Singh Brothers vs. Lucha House Party
My God, these are two groups that could be utilized better elsewhere. This was just a what-ever match. It seems like the WWE writers just don’t know what to do with both of these groups so they just roll the dice and shove them down our throat. This was a very weird match, nothing special, the same old, which is not very Good. Lucha House Party picks up the win, but no one cared very much about it.
Ronda Rousey Promo
It seems as though Ronda Rousey has been going to the Natalya School of Promos. This is not a Good thing at all. Tough promo to get though, and a strong candidate to becoming a “Heyman Girl.”
- Good- 10
- Bad- 2
- Ugly- 2
Good! This Raw was packed full of content. It had a lot of high points and was entertaining. WWE is putting forth the effort at a crucial time. It was a great set up showcasing the stories and having some compelling action that sucked the fans in. Solid take home show.
Royal Rumble is now written on the Raw side of town, next is the SmackDown version of the story, which is already incredible. Not to forget the NXT Takeover as well. This is going to be a huge weekend coming up.
Lastly, let us not forget the importance of today. Happy Martin Luther King Day. He was a man, whose bravery is near unmatched. A man I deeply respect, and admire. No one is perfect, but as courageous he and his cause was for mankind overall, that is something we need to respect and remember.
#RAWisDVR: Greg DeMarco’s ACCELERATED Look At WWE Raw for 2/18
How much of Raw was Fast Forward worthy on Monday? (A lot.)
Greg DeMarco watches WWE RAW on DVR, and you get to see how much time he saved! In the process, he’s highly entertaining, because it’s Greg DeMarco!
Triple H is in entering the ring
- Raw is weird again–not showing entrances
- Promo in a nutshell: this is a holiday Raw, and nothing of consequence will happen–but we will try to make you think it is!
- FAST FORWARD some talking
- Having Ricochet, Aleister Black, Johnny Gargano, and Tommaso Ciampa appear on Raw is great, but it immediately makes the 6 stars awaiting assignment look small time
- No Velveteen Dream? I wonder if this is a set-up?
FAST FORWARD the entrances
Braun Noveltyman vs. Baron Corbin Sucks in a Tables Match
- I FAST FORWARDed it, but they spent WAY too much time on Corbin walking.
- He sucks at walking, too.
- Corbin also sucks at sliding tables under rings.
- Why would he do that, anyway? He needs a table to win!
- The flaw in a Tables Match, at least for this experiment, is that you can FAST FORWARD when a table isn’t involved.
- FAST FORWARD commercials, we’re already saving tons of time tonight!
- I wonder if Abyss is the agent for Baron Corbin’s matches? I mean, that’s the Vortex Of Suck!
- Strowman wins. You’re shocked, I know.
- Paul Heyman is on the stage, as WWE tries to keep you from changing the channel.
FAST FORWARD the commercials
Timestamp 15:39 (Show time: 35:43)
Paul Heyman is on the stage
- Heyman didn’t give us the proper intro, and it hurt the segment.
- FAST FORWARD the video
- Heyman is right, Brock Lesnar is a force of nature that we can’t do anything about. That’s why him as champion works so well.
- This crowd doesn’t really seem to care all that much about Seth Rollins
- ANOTHER INTERRUPTION – #FinnBalorsDick is out and dressed to fight
Alternate Names For This:
FAST FORWARD the commercials and video
Finn Balor & Ricochet vs. Bobby Lashley & Lio Rush
- “One of these championships” isn’t a great way to describe everyone’s favorite title
- Lio Rush is here, presumably to distract Balor so Lashley can attack him (because WWE)
- And there he is!
- BTW, you don’t FAST FORWARD when Lio Rush is talking
- Which NXT star saves Balor? Ricochet? Black?
- Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand it’s Ricochet.
- FAST FORWARD the commercials
- Ricochet really needed an introduction for this audience
- Evan Bourne mention by Renee Young?
- Renee is basically telling us that no one watches NXT.
- This crowd could give a shit about Ricochet.
- Four amazing athletes and there’s enough stalling for me to FAST FORWARD?
- FAST FORWARD the commercials, again?
- If you’re worried about Ricochet on the main roster…your fear is warranted.
- FAST FORWARD the talking, but I stopped to see what Drew McIntyre was
FAST FORWARD so much stuff!
Timestamp: 33:45 (Real time: 1:23:05)
The Major Brothers (Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins) vs. Lucha House Party’s Gran Metallik & Lince Dorado
- This isn’t where Hawkins wins, right? A throw away Raw match?
- “Tans don’t win championships, ask Eric Bischoff!”
- BTW, if Corey Graves is going through personal strife, he’s BURYING himself in his work, because he’s on fire tonight!
- And of course Hawkins loses.
- FAST FORWARD time!
Charly Caruso interviews Heavy Machinery
- TUCKER hits the highlights, OTIS drives it home
- Lacey Evans literally just walks the fuck around! And does nothing else? Lars couldn’t handle this?
- We’re not having matches now, just entrances? And Bushwhacker walking? Missed opportunity for me to FAST FORWARD.
FAST FORWARD the commercials
DIY talks to Bobby Roode & chad Gable
- Johnny Gargano looks like he’s waiting to say his lines, but Tommaso Ciampa is sitting there maintaining his gimmick
- See Renee, The Revival watches NXT!
- And the entrance we do get is The Revival?
- Oh we get Ciampa and Gargano entrances, too
The Revival vs. DIY (non-title assumed)
- The fans in Lafayette have got to feel like they did something wrong, or wonder if they’re still watching dark matches
- Literally 6 people are chanting “NXT!” Somehow I don’t see how this was a good idea.
- While we’re here, anyone want to talk to me about how important it is to have defined Faces and Heels? No? Didn’t think so.
- Classic Gargano? Not Vintage? Maybe Cole really is looking to finish this up.
- FAST FORWARD the commercials and I am 5 minutes short of an hour saved
- A “Saints Got Robbed” sign? Let it go, brother.
- The announcers selling what it would mean if DIY wins has to be foreshadowing, eh?
- This match is proof that you can’t just throw matches out and expect a reaction–you need to build characters first.
- Great match–imagine if the crowd had a reason to be invested in more than the last two minutes!
Charly Caruso talks to Ricochet
- Damn, Ricochet looks nervous
- I hope that was done live, and not the best take in pretapes
FAST FORWARD the commercials
(These Kevin Owens videos are boring–this is supposed to get him over upon return?)
Timestamp: 59:27 (Real time: 2:01:15)
FAST FORWARD the promo, the commentary aside, DX package, commercials, and more entrances
Dean Ambrose vs. Drew McIntyre
- Credit to McIntyre for trying to take the referee’s directions off camera, but this was WAY off
- I don’t want to blame Ambrose, but shit this was oddly bad
Timestamp: 1:04:24 (Real time: 2:22:23 )
Seth Rollins Talking to Charly Caruso
- It’s about what you’d expect.
- Whatever they’re doing with Ambrose here, it sucks.
FAST FORWARD the commercials and videos
Elias vs. Aleister Black
- “Hello I am Eliath” Aleister Black here?
- Elias is so good at cheap heat, and I 100% believe in cheap heat
- And we let Aleister cut a promo? That’s totally bad for his character.
- Black trimmed the beard, and it was a smart move
- FAST FORWARD the commercials
- “His tattoos tall a story about his life–dark and mean” yet I see flowers on his arm?
- FAST FORWARD the chinlock
- BLACK MASS is still a great finisher, even if this one was a bit awkward.
- I really wonder if the time these guys have to work on their matches at the PC really is the key to NXT’s success
FAST FORWARD the commercials and entrances
Ronda Rousey vs. Ruby Riott
- Holiday Raw means no Becky Lynch or Charlotte Flair?
- Did Ronda borrow shorts from Lacey Evans?
- Someday Ruby Riott is going to be booked like a plucky underdog babyface, and she’s going to flourish
- Even the commentary is off tonight!
- And there’s the “WE WANT BECKY!” chants
- Camera work, anyone? We just saw two different conversations take place in the ring.
- Damn, Ronda took that Riott kick square to the head!
- And Ronda has now kicked out of Ruby’s finisher TWICE. Once off the top!
- Ronda was terrible tonight.
- Raw ends with Ronda standing tall and nothing else.
Final Timestamp: 1:24:44
Real Time: 3:00:00
Time Saved: 1:35:16
Overall, this was just a weird Raw. Nearly everything seemed off, and as we march towards WrestleMania, nothing that happened tonight will be remembered.
The Streak Part 8: Going For the Gold (2007-2008)
The Streak continues against Batista and Edge!
The years of 2007-8 were banner years for the Undertaker at WrestleMania, for the first time ever, he found himself battling for the World Heavyweight Championship in back-to-back WrestleManias when he took on Batista and Edge. 2007 would also mark the first and only time the Undertaker won a Royal Rumble match, eliminating Shawn Michaels after an amazing match, their first encounter since their casket match at the 1998 Royal Rumble.
In 2008, Taker would find himself facing another undefeated WrestleMania Streak when he took on Edge, his former Ministry minion, who had had a career resurgence, bursting back onto the scene as the opportunistic, manipulative, and cunning Rated-R Superstar, who was also undefeated at WrestleMania.
WrestleMania 23 – Taming the Animal
The Undertaker vs. Batista
The match against Batista was something of a dream match for a lot of fans. Batista had risen through the ranks of WWE like a rocket as part of the Evolution stable with Triple H, Ric Flair, and Randy Orton. For Taker, this would mark the first time since 1997, that he’d battled for a title at WrestleMania.
For some reason, SmackDown GM, Teddy Long, is playing the ring announcer for this match. Batista comes out first, even though he is the champion and he shows no real intimidation of the Undertaker. The Druids come out first, ready to light the way for the Deadman and there are a LOT of them, lightning strikes and the Deadman cometh.
Batista does the smart thing and goes for Taker before Taker is really ready for him, hoping to get the Deadman off his game and give himself a chance of ending the match quickly and keeping his title. This match quickly degenerated into a brawl, but there was a weird moment when Taker was almost shadow boxing, like he’d gotten his bell rung a little and didn’t know where he was.
Batista really dominated the start of the match, ending the Streak seemed less important than keeping the title, which is how it should be. We’re about halfway into the match before Taker really starts mounting any serious offense, but it was the full Taker treatment. Old School is always cool to see.
I will give Batista his due, he’s never been a refined wrestler and definitely had flaws in his game, but he kept up with Taker step for step and actually seemed to have the Deadman on the ropes a few times. At one point, it looked like the Streak was going to end with a countout after Batista put Taker through the announce table, but Animal didn’t want to win that way and went after the Deadman, tearing apart half of ringside in the process.
The one odd thing about this match is that, despite Taker winning the Royal Rumble, this match was NOT the main event of WrestleMania, that spot was given to the John Cena vs Shawn Michaels WWE Championship match. This dream match was in the mid-card, which has always irritated me. The Deadman would sustain all this punishment and, for the first time in his career, win the World Heavyweight Championship, not the WWE Championship, at WrestleMania. The Streak is 15-0.
- Rating: 8/10 It was a great match, just really bad placement.
- Highlight: Batista not wanting to win on a countout.
WrestleMania 24 – Streak vs Streak
The Undertaker vs. Edge
This was another really interesting feud. Edge had gone from tag team competition to the mid-card before bursting into the main event scene after revamping himself as a manipulative, opportunistic superstar who would stop at nothing to get and retain the World Championship, which lead him to pick a fight with both Batista and the Undertaker, and using his relationship with Vicki Guerrero and her Familia to hang onto the title, but after Taker won at Elimination Chamber, it was time for Edge to pay the piper…or the Reaper. This match would also be a battle of the Streaks as Taker’s 15-0 Streak would be up against Edge’s 5-0 Streak.
Taker comes out first, in one of the rare cases that it happened, faithful Druids on hand to light the way. The fact that WWE was able to make an outdoor arena pitch black for this entrance is really cool. Edge, the champion, is accompanied, at least part of the way, by Vicki and Chavo Guerrero, Vicki in her wheelchair. Edge was actually smirking and cocky…until he got in the ring and what he was about to do fully hit him, then the smirk fell.
This match started with shoving and punching and stayed that way. This was a PHYSICAL match up. Edge actually countered Old School, but paid for it anyway when Taker was able to reverse in mid-air. We had an unintended snafu when Taker hit a Stinger Splash on Edge a little too hard and launched himself out of the ring and landed badly on his hip. Edge tried to take advantage, but Taker battled back, despite a noticeable limp.
Things broke down when the ref got taken out. Edge tried every underhanded trick in the book to win, but Taker sat back up. It looked all over, except for the ref, but Charles Robinson, in the moment that made him a meme, sprinted down to the ring with all his might to make the count.
We also got our first look at Ryder and Hawkins as the Edgeheads, but even they weren’t enough to put away the Deadman. This was an amazing match up, Edge definitely proved that being in the main event was where he belonged and he could hang with anyone, including the Undertaker.
The end was surprise. Edge hit the dreaded Spear but Taker countered it into Hell’s Gate, which was TECHNICALLY illegal, but Robinson okayed it and Edge tapped out, the first time a Streak match ended on a submission. Taker is 16-0 and NEW World Heavyweight Champion!
- Rating: 8/10 A really great match and a surprise ending.
- Highlight: Charles Robinson running. The Edgehead getting their clocks cleaned. Edge tapping out.