Happy New Year ladies and gentlemen, time for the first Raw of 2017 coming to us live from Tampa, Florida!
Raw kicks off with Mick Foley in the ring set to talk about the Royal Rumble match between Universal Champion Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns. As Foley reminds everyone that Owens’ best friend Chris Jericho will be suspended over the ring in a cage, Owens and Jericho make their way to the ring. Owens and Jericho say they’re sick of Foley abusing his power as GM. Foley tries to extend the olive branch by giving Owens his own talk show segment. That’s right we’re getting an actual Kevin Owens Show. His first guest is actually appointed by Foley and it is none other than Goldberg. Shouting continues until Stephanie McMahon comes out in a foul mood because SmackDown Live defeated Raw in the ratings. She makes a two matches, Jericho vs. Reigns for the US Title and Owens vs. Seth Rollins. The loser of the Rollins/Owens match will be banned from ringside. Also if Roman is disqualified or counted out he loses the US Title.
Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins
This was a fun back and forth match. Rollins countered the Popup Powerbomb by landing on his feet and hitting an enziguiri right on the money. The end came when both men began brawling on the outside near the timekeeper’s area. Owens grabs a hold of the ring bell and strikes Rollins in the gut. The referee saw this, clear as day and rules that Owens has been disqualified. Since technically he lost the match he is banned for ringside during the US Title match later tonight. Rollins tries to hit the Pedigree on Owens but the ring bell shot to the gut doesn’t allow him to finish Owens off.
Cesaro vs. Karl Anderson
Fantastic, hard hitting match. This was easily my favorite Karl Anderson match since he debuted in WWE. Cesaro hit Anderson with every variation of the uppercut you can think of plus a little lucha style flash to keep Anderson off his feet. Anderson did a very good job of making sure Cesaro couldn’t put the match away. Sheamus was on commentary because Cesaro asked him to let him handle this on his own but when Gallows kept distracting the referee Sheamus had enough and decided to even the odds. Gallows once again distracted the referee by getting on the apron and when Sheamus went to yank him off the movement on the ropes caused Cesaro to land straddling the rope. Anderson comes off the top with a neckbreaker and gets the win. I have a feeling these four will give us some really good, physical tag matches.
Sami Zayn vs. Braun Strowman – Last Man Standing Match
You could not put together a better Last Man Standing match for TV better than this one. It went everywhere from the ring to backstage. Kendo sticks and chairs. What I liked most about this match is that it played the giant vs. small man aspect yet the bigger story was Sami kept fighting and on more than one occasion looked as though he was going to be able to slay the monster. As I said action spilled all the way to the top of the stage were Sami sent himself and Strowman flying off the stage and crashing into tables. Still, this wasn’t enough to keep Strowman off his feet. He flings Zayn who goes rolling down the ramp to ringside. Strowman delivers his vicious running Powerslam on the outside. Before the referee reaches the count of ten Strown breaks up the count to deliver another Powerslam. He does this for a third and final time until Sami doesn’t answer the ten count from the referee. GM Mick Foley comes to ringside with medical personnel. They have Zayn on the gurney but Strowman rushes and flips the gurney then tosses Sami into the barricade. Ouch.
The New Day come out announce that all three of them will be entering this year’s Royal Rumble. They are interupted by Titus O’Neil who would like to audition to be a new member of the New Day. The audition doesn’t go Titus’ way as it just turns into one huge roast session. An annoyed Titus calls Xavier the weakest link of the group and in turn Xavier challenges Titus to a match. Before accepting the challenge Titus sucker punches Xavier then asks for a referee.
Xavier Woods vs. Titus O’Neil
Nothing major to note with this one but both men did keep the crowd in this one. Woods gets the win with a roll up.
Backstage Bayley looks to have a word with Commissioner Stephanie McMahon. She wanted to know why Stephanie would make Dana Brooke the special referee in her match against Charlotte. Stephanie reveals that she never actually wanted Bayley on Raw and the only reason she is here is because of Mick Foley. She’s much more invested in Charlotte because of her wrestling pedigree. To Stephanie Bayley is just…Bayley. However Stephanie is going to give Bayley a chance to prove herself in a number one contender’s match against Nia Jax.
Drew Gulak (w/ Tony Nese) vs. Cedric Alexander (w Alicia Fox)
Basically your standard Raw Cruiserweight match, quick and to the point. Nese tried distracting the referee but gets yanked off the apron by Alicia Fox. Alicia and Nese get into a shouting match distracting Cedric and the referee. Gulak comes from behind and rolls up Cedric for the win.
Roman Reigns (c) vs. Chris Jericho for the United States Championship
From bell this one turned into a slugfest with Jericho getting the upper hand with some well placed dropkicks. After the second one sends Roman outside, Jericho goes after him but gets punched. Roman looks to hit the apron dropkick but Jericho sends Roman into the post as we go to commercial break. Back from break and both men are going full throttle with some great back and forth spots. Jericho tried to steal a win here by removing the turnbuckle post but the referee halts his plans. As the referee ties the padding back on the turnbuckle, which he does a crap job of, Jericho goes out and grabs the title. Instead of striking Roman with it he tosses it to him and back bumps as if Roman hit him with the belt. Somewhere Eddie Guerrero is smiling. As the referee and Roman argue Jericho waits for the right time to strike with a Codebreaker. The attempt only warrants a two count to the shock of Jericho. He goes to capitalize and gets sent into the exposed turnbuckle then Speared by Roman who gets the three count and retains his title. Pretty good match.
Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins
I think this one was just meant to eat time. Crowd was crickets. Match was okay but nothing noteworthy due to only being about five minutes long. Perkins gets the win a Detonation Kick/Kneebar combo.
Rusev and Jinder Mahal vs. Big Cass
Another quick one with nothing major to note. Jinder goes out and mushes Enzo in the face while he sits in his leopard wheelchair. An angry Cass stalks Jinder till he is out of view. As Big Cass reenters the ring Rusev hits him with a kick to get the three count. Cass having to stand up for Enzo costs him another match.
Bayley vs. Nia Jax – #1 Contender Match for the Raw Women’s Championship
This was all Nia up until she went to the top. Before she could do any damage, the music of Sasha Banks hits and The Boss makes her way down to the ring to the shock of Nia Jax. Nia takes her eye off the ball and Bayley springs up to hit a Bayley to Belly off the top rope. Bayley will face Charlotte for the Raw Women’s Championship at Royal Rumble. The last few minutes of this match was great stuff.
The Kevin Owens Show segment closed out this edition of Raw. Chris Jericho announced that he will be entering the Royal Rumble much to the dismay of Kevin Owens. Jericho really buys into the whole “best friends, co-champions” charade while Owens sort of uses his it for his benefit so he can keep the Universal Championship. Before the two best friends have a falling out Goldberg makes his way down to the ring. He gets in the face of both Owens and Jericho but before anything happened Roman Reigns comes down to the ring. Roman wastes no time showing he is the alpha dog of WWE and gets in the face of Goldberg. I can’t tell if Reigns/Goldberg is something I would want to see but it sure makes for a cool TV moment. Before this combustible element could explode Braun Strowman comes out to announce he too will be in the Royal Rumble. My God imagine if Goldberg, Lesnar, and Strowman are in the Royal Rumble at the same time?! Goldberg and Reigns pause the awkward tension to hit a double Spear on Strowman, another cool moment. Roman exits leaving Goldberg to send the crowd home happy.
The first Raw is in the books and for me it was a pretty good showing. First two hours had some pretty good wrestling and storytelling while it seemed like the third hour was a mad dash to the end of the show. At least the Rumble is starting to take shape.
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