Published Jan 29 2019 By Andre Corbeil.
Opening segment: Seth Rollins kicks off Raw Summary: Seth Rollins received more “Burn it down!” chants than ever as he weighed up whether he should face Brock Lesnar or Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 35. With the crowd chanting “Slay the beast! Slay the beast!”, a proud Triple H appeared and told Rollins that he must make a decision on his opponent by the end of the night. Dean Ambrose interrupted and accused Rollins of being a “suck-up”. He then challenged his former Shield partner to a match, mocking HHH in the process by asking if he needs to get permission from his father-in-law to make the match official. HHH promptly set up the match.
Verdict: Very good. The crowd hasn’t been as invested as this in an opening Raw segment in a long time. The chants of “Slay the beast! Slay the beast!” were Game of Thrones-esque!
Match 1: Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose Summary: Seth Rollins warmed up for his WrestleMania announcement by picking up a win over Dean Ambrose. This was a back-and-forth match which came to an end when Rollins followed up a Buckle Bomb with a Curb Stomp, which Ambrose sold in a similar way to how The Rock would sell a Stone Cold Stunner. Following the match, Ambrose was set to address the crowd when he was interrupted by Nia Jax (w/Tamina), who punched Ambrose in the back and knocked him through the ropes.
Verdict: The outcome was obvious but that didn’t take away from the match, which was among the best Ambrose has been involved in since his return five months ago.
Match 2: Nia Jax & Tamina vs. Alexa Bliss & Mickie James — Elimination Chamber Women’s Tag Team Championship qualifier Summary: Alexa Bliss showed off some more acrobatic moves as she teamed with Mickie James in an attempt to find a route into the Women’s Tag Team Championship match. However, the victory went to Nia Jax and Tamina when Jax hit a double Samoan Drop on Bliss and Mickie James, pinning James to pick up the victory for her team.
Verdict: Solid match. It’ll be interesting to see where Bliss, seemingly a babyface now, goes from here. Perhaps a feud with on/off friend James could be on the horizon?
Match 3: Baron Corbin vs. Kurt Angle Summary: Kurt Angle looked set to pick up the victory when he hit Baron Corbin with an Angle Slam. However, Corbin kicked out, and then escaped the Ankle Lock, before surprisingly getting the victory with the Deep Six. Following the match, with Angle looking shocked and despondent in the ring, Corbin returned and hit him with the End of Days.
Verdict: In terms of match quality, this was not great… but that’s kind of the point. From a storyline perspective, Angle is looking weaker and weaker by the match. Is this leading to a WrestleMania 35 retirement?
Finn Balor addresses Royal Rumble defeat Summary: Finn Balor cut an in-ring promo about how he has no excuses to make after losing against Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush interrupted. Rush mocked Balor’s defeat and questioned why he was in a position to challenge for the Universal Championship in the first place. Lashley then slammed the Irishman to the mat three times.
Verdict: I predicted a couple of weeks ago that Balor would likely be involved in the Intercontinental Championship picture ahead of WrestleMania 35. This segment was okay, nothing spectacular, but it does indeed look like he could be next in line for an IC title reign.
Match 4: The Revival vs. Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder Summary: Curt Hawkins’ reunion with Zack Ryder didn’t have the fairytale ending that many fans were hoping for. WWE’s serial loser produced an impressive performance but, in the end, he was pinned by Dash Wilder following a Shatter Machine.
Verdict: I’ve been predicting for a few months that Hawkins’ losing run will finally come to an end at WrestleMania 35, which takes place in his hometown of New York (well, New Jersey, if we’re being precise). This storyline development hasn’t changed my mind.
Grade: C -
Elias interruption Summary: Elias told the crowd that he will only be writing songs for himself, not the fans, from now on. He then told them to “shut their mouths” as he plays a song for himself. Jeff Jarrett interrupted, just like at the Royal Rumble, and Road Dogg soon joined him. The WWE legends sang “With My Baby Tonight” and walked down to the ring, where Elias hit them both in the back with guitars.
Verdict: ‘Sports entertainment’ can be fun. Watch this segment!
Match 5: Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan vs. Dana Brooke & Natalya — Elimination Chamber Women’s Tag Team Championship qualifier Summary: Dana Brooke, a replacement in this match for the injured Ember Moon, claimed pre-match that she was better than her tag partner Natalya. In the end, Sarah Logan pushed Brooke into Natalya, breaking up a sharpshooter, and Liv Morgan rolled up “The Queen of Harts” to pick up the win.
Verdict: The Riott Squad don’t win many matches these days, so it was about time they recorded a victory ahead of the introduction of the Women’s Tag Team titles. This match was less about them, though, and more about the dissension between Brooke and Natalya.
Match 6: Ronda Rousey vs. Bayley — Raw Women’s Championship Summary: Ronda Rousey was mercilessly booed by the Becky Lynch-loving WWE fans as she tried to address her Royal Rumble win over Sasha Banks. Bayley then answered an Open Challenge to set up a Raw Women’s Championship match. Once the match began, Rousey suffered injuries to her right arm and left knee, while the fans cheered on Bayley. In the end, Rousey rallied and made Bayley submit to an armbar.
Post-match: Becky Lynch appeared after a handshake between Rousey and Bayley. The Royal Rumble winner chose to face Rousey, vowing to break her “mystique” at WrestleMania. The fans continued to boo the Raw Women’s champion, who said she could kill Lynch with her bare hands without even breaking a sweat. The segment ended with Lynch smirking as Rousey slammed her mic to the mat.
Verdict: Wow. The crowd hasn’t reacted this negatively to a ‘babyface’ since Roman Reigns after WrestleMania 33, and it didn’t help that Rousey kept stuttering her lines in her pre-match promo. The moment between Lynch and Rousey was among the best we’ve seen on Raw in the last year. What a story this is. Roll on the WrestleMania main event.
Match 7: Braun Strowman vs. Drew McIntyre Summary: Braun Strowman was limping throughout most of this three-months-in-the-making match. He was set to attack Drew McIntyre with the steel steps, just like McIntyre did to him in November, but Baron Corbin attacked him from behind to cause a disqualification. Strowman took control by punching a steel chair out of Corbin’s hands before shoulder-barging both guys to the floor. Corbin and McIntyre soon recovered, double-chokeslamming Strowman onto the steel steps to end the segment.
Verdict: This seemed like a realistic possibility to be a Universal Championship at WrestleMania 35 not so long ago, so I’m surprised they went one-on-one on Raw. Given the controversial finish, it looks like Strowman vs. McIntyre could still be the plan for ‘Mania, just without a title on the line.
Closing segment: Seth Rollins makes a decision Summary: Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar entered the ring first. Heyman discouraged Seth Rollins, for his own sake, from choosing to face Lesnar at WrestleMania 35. Rollins appeared and quickly began to attack Lesnar, connecting with a series of kicks to his midsection. “The Beast” soon turned it around, hitting five F5s on the Royal Rumble winner before holding up his Universal Championship. The show ended with Rollins shouting “Is that all you got?”, prompting Lesnar to hit him with a sixth F5.
Verdict: Unlike previous years, fans are genuinely invested in this year’s WrestleMania Universal Championship match. The closing segment was short and fans didn’t get what they wanted, but that’s fine. This sets up ‘WrestleMania! However these Brock Lesnar scenarios are getting old real quick...
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