Hey Readers! It’s @TheMagnumDA with another installment of the Raw Report. We have officially begun the Road to WrestleMania, starting with last night’s Royal Rumble.
I was fortunate enough to be there, and I can honestly say that the entire show was crazy good. There have been some people complaining about John Cena and Randy Orton winning the big matches (saying it feels like 2007/2009/2013 all over again) and I can’t disagree. That said…Cena/Styles was ****3/4 and Orton winning the Rumble pleased a lot of folks (because at least it wasn’t Roman Reigns).
To our loyal international fans, I can’t recommend San Antonio enough. The food is great, the people are friendly, and travel is a piece of cake. Well, except leaving the Alamodome. That was quite the chore. Hit up Cascabel’s, if you get the chance. You won’t regret it. Best Mexican food I’ve had in a long time.
Regardless, you’re here for RAW, not a Yelp! review…OFF WE GO! We are LIVE from Laredo, TX.
Tonight’s show starts with North America’s “It Couple”, Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho! They proudly show off their belts, as well as their bandages. They recap the finish of last night’s title match (Owens retained when Braun Strowman cost Reigns the title). Jericho’s scarf is extra frilly and goofy tonight. Owens introduces himself, as well as Jericho as champions, with Jericho yelling “Champion” into the mic every time Owens says it. Wonderful chemistry.
Owens tells the world they were proved wrong, and that includes Mick Foley. He also thanks Chris Jericho for his (dubious) role in the title match, and also congratulates him on being the Royal Rumble Ironman, cumulatively lasting longer than any competitor in history. His performance was amazing…Jericho clocked in at 61 minutes from the #2 spot, and got to the Final Four before being eliminated by Roman Reigns. He declares himself as the #61MinuteMan, a play on Ric Flair’s “60 Minute Man” moniker.
Braun Strowman interrupts the love fest to tell Owens he doesn’t want thanks…he just wants his title shot. Sure enough, there’s video proof of the December show in Chicago where Owens promised Strowman just that. Mick Foley comes out wearing the WORST green plaid suit I’ve ever seen (not that I’ve seen many green plaid suits), and says the match is on (checks hand) RIGHT HERE IN LAREDO, TEXAS!
Match #1 – Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn (non-title)
Zayn with some armbars early on. They trade chops in the corner, and you can tell they’re moving at half-speed. Do you BLAME them?! Collectively, they were in the Rumble for close to 110 minutes (!!!!!) Y2J hits a Springboard Dropkick after distracting the referee. Zayn counters Jericho outside, and hits a wild Springboard Moonsault from the barricade!
After the break, Zayn fights out of a sleeperhold, but Jericho catches him with an enziguiri for two. Jericho takes him to the corner and lays in some sick chops. Sami fights out, but gets put back in the corner. Frankensteiner from the top rope! UNREAL! After last night?! Jericho is the freaking man. Y2J only gets two, so he goes back up to the corner. Zayn knocks him off and drills him with the Blue Thunder Bomb for ONE, TWO, NO!
Helluva Kick in the corner is avoided by Jericho, who goes outside. Chris runs off and the chase is on! Zayn, like a true idiot, follows Jericho inside and immediately gets caught in the Walls of Jericho. This leads to a crazy sequence where Jericho and Zayn counter each other’s signature moves, leading to another Walls and Zayn catching the ropes once more. This allows Zayn to collect himself and catch Jericho with an Exploder Suplex in the corner! HELUVA KICK by Zayn! ONE, TWO, THREE! Whoa! A huge win by Zayn! Wouldn’t be surprised if Zayn wins the title at Fast Lane. You read it here first.
Winner: Sami Zayn (***1/2)
Backstage, Sheamus and Cesaro are bickering over last night’s loss to Gallows and Anderson for the tag titles. Bayley comes in and wants a group hug. They play along as Charlotte, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson approaches. They call the triumvirate “losers” and then “NERRRDS!” Really? Don’t get me wrong, “Revenge of the Nerds” is one of my favorite movies ever, but it was 32 years ago. A six-person mixed tag match is booked for later tonight (brought to you by Geico – hope the check is in the post, tiny lizard guy!)
We recap the HHH/Rollins saga, culminating in Seth’s appearance at TakeOver on Saturday. I was there, the crowd loved it.
Match #2: Tony Nese vs. Mustafa Ali
BREAK OUT THE PURPLE TAPE AND LIGHTS, BOYS! Is this, like…an enduring tribute to Prince or something? He was a Cruiserweight, after all. They recap 205 Live, where Nese destroyed TJ Perkins after their match. Armbar by Ali, but Nese powers out. Ali reverses a whip with an awesome springboard elbow, followed by a headscissors. Nese catches him with a LARIAT OF MILD CHARISMA for two.
Nese tries to hit the German Suplex into the corner (yeowtch!) but Ali reverses into a rollup for two. Series of fast counters leads to an Ali neckbreaker for two. Spin kick by Nese is reversed into a kick by Ali. Ali goes to the top, but Nese grabs his legs, causing Ali to splatter his brains on the canvas. That looked devastating. Nese hits the trademark Running Knee in the corner for the ONE, TWO, THREE! Not bad, but not much.
Winner: Tony Nese (*1/2)
After the match, we get an incredibly awkward promo…as Austin Aries (in his first Raw interviewing gig) tells Nese that some critics think he has “no charisma”. Well, Austin…now that you mention it, that Lariat was pretty mild on the charisma scale. Nese says he has nothing to say to the critics. FEEL THE ELECTRICITY. I’m buying my “Tony Knees” t-shirt right meow! Wait…that’s actually a pretty clever shirt idea. Sadly, though…Aries declares that Nese’s response proves his point. Aries is right, you know.
Next is another beaut of a promo, as Seth Rollins and Stephanie McMahon square off in a FACE TO FACE!
Ohhh man, you remember those promos Linda McMahon used to have with Steve Austin before WrestleMania XV? No? Me neither. Point is, this shit with Stephanie emasculates the boys. Look at Jericho in 2002, Lesnar in 2013, and Daniel Bryan in 2014. Steph makes things WORSE, but because she needs her “TV talkin’ time”, we have to suffer. Anyways, rant over.
Rollins hurls insults her way, saying that she can’t satisfy HHH every night. Like you can, loverboy? Wait. Better not go there, considering his softco….never mind. Rollins says he only wants Triple H (man, he IS in love with him) and Stephanie says “No”. She explains that she told Triple H to stay back because they both fear what could happen if *that* side of HHH shows up. The side that is the career ender. The destroyer. The man who refused to put Booker T over.
Wait, she didn’t say that last part. My bad.
Anyways, this ends awkwardly as Rollins botches his promo and threatens the lives of the Levesque children. I think he meant to say, “What if I show up at your doorstep and your children see what I do to Hunter?” but he says something along the lines of “What if I show up and your children are there?” Anyways, the whole damn thing was awkward and Twitter was ablaze over the whole thing. Stephanie then says, “I lied. He is coming. In fact, he’s on his way RIGHT NOW.” This gets a loud pop. I don’t think that’s exactly the reaction they’re looking for, right?
Match #3: Six-Person Mixed Tag Team Match (brought to you by Geico, cha-ching! $$)
Sheamus, Cesaro, and Bayley vs. Charlotte, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson
Charlotte, Champion of Champions, immediately tags out of the match before Bayley can get to her. Cesaro and Gallows start. They trade boots to the corner, and Cesaro gets knocked outside as we go to break. After the break, Anderson hits a knee drop and goes into…you guessed it! A SLEEPERHOLD. Why do they ALWAYS go into the sleeper after the break? It’s becoming way, way too formula.
Cesaro fights out, but immediately gets dropped with a spinebuster. Gallows and Sheamus tag in, and Sheamus takes advantage with a Spinning Heel Kick (zuh?!) in the corner, followed by a Shoulder Block from the top for ONE, TWO, NO! Sheamus gets the signature forearms from the ropes, but Charlotte interrupts. Sheamus and Cesaro hit a team Celtic Cross (kind of a sloppy move) for two.
Bayley and Charlotte tag in, and we immediately go to the finish. A fight between the four guys breaks out on the outside, and Bayley catches Charlotte with a Belly-to-Bayley for the ONE, TWO, THREE! Wow…I guess we get Charlotte vs. Bayley again at Fast Lane! Rushed at the end.
Winners: Sheamus, Cesaro, and Bayley (**1/2)
Backstage, Steph and Foley come to a compromise. Triple H is allowed here tonight to fight Rollins, while the Strowman vs. Owens match is confirmed. Duh, Mick! You ALWAYS have to ask the bus driver for permission! Feels like this promo was also botched, though I’m not certain.
Neville comes out for his coronation as “King of the Cruiserweights”. Wait, there’s no robe? No crown?! No scepter!?! This is horse manure. I DEMAND ROYAL GARB. Neville tells the crowd that he proved to everyone he was the best Cruiserweight in the World. He calls the good people of Laredo “sniverling peasants”, which brings out Rich Swann. Swann shows a serious side, which I like.
Swann tells Neville that his insecurities are all in his mind, and that he has nothing but respect for him. Neville is insulted, and demands that Swann get down on one knee and bow to his King. They fight and Neville takes a powder, like a good King should. What! All Kings loved their powders…look up George III (before his “Crazy King” gimmick) They also liked a good soak, too…if Monty Python taught me anything.
Sasha Banks is backstage getting treatment on her knee when Bayley arrives. Bayley asks Sasha to wait until her knee is 100% before she goes after Nia. Sasha blows her off. Ooo…..tension!
Rumble Recap: Goldberg eliminated Lesnar in less time than their Survivor Series match. To tell you the truth, Goldberg’s reaction was kinda tepid on Sunday.
We go backstage AGAIN, this time with Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho. Owens asks Jericho if he was able to talk Foley out of the match, and the answer is no. Owens asks Y2J if he’s got his back for the title match, and Jericho is about as eager as a cat getting thrown into the bathtub.
Match #4: WWE Universal Championship Match
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Braun Strowman
Jericho goes on commentary, upsetting Owens greatly. Chris insists that he’s loyal to KO. During the challenger’s entrance, Strowman plucks Jericho from the announce table and chokeslams him through it. Well, that solves that. KO is terrified, but they start the match. Owens leaves the ring and tries to run away, but Strowman catches up to him.
Owens gets some unexpected offense early, including a dropkick on Braun. This does not last, as KO is eventually mauled by Braun. Braun throws Owens across the ring, and clubs him down in the corner. KO tries to goes outside, but Braun catches him. Braun tries to splash Owens in the corner post, but Kevin ducks out of the way. Braun hits the post HARD, and KO takes advantage with a Cannonball in the corner barricade.
Inside the ring, Owens hits a righteous frog splash for ONE, TWO….no. Kevin tries to go upstairs again, but he gets caught and slammed for his troubles. As Braun looks to finish KO, Roman Reigns shows up and it’s a SUPERMAN PUNCH PARTY! First, one for Brownie the Strowman…and then one for KO, too! This is followed by a Spear off the steps to Braun, and another Spear to Owens. The crowd shows their appreciation for the whole thing by providing a chorus of boo’s.
Winner: Braun Strowman by DQ (*1/2, Owens retains the Championship)
Another recap video of Triple H vs. Seth Rollins. They tease a limo with HHH inside, but it’s actually BROCK LESNAR and Paul Heyman.
They come out to the ring and make one last challenge to Goldberg at WrestleMania. Heyman says that he hates the concept of “Yeah, but…”, especially when it pertains to his client. They promise that this will be eradicated, and that Goldberg will be killed (!) at WrestleMania. Family friendly show, everyone!
Match #5: Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks
Banks hits two dropkicks, but Jax powers her down. Jax charges at Banks, but hits her shoulder into the post. Banks tries to capitalize outside, but Jax puts her in a Full Nelson. During this move, she ragdolls Banks into the post knee-first. Sick! I like the psychology.
Back inside, Jax starts to kick Banks’ leg and wraps her into an inverted Boston Crab. Rather than sitting down, Nia just falls down and WRENCHES Sasha’s leg. Nia puts Sasha in a lazy half-crab, and…the bell rings? Was this the Laredo screwjob? Nobody in the ring knows what’s going on, while Corey Graves tries to save the entire thing by saying “I think Nia’s been disqualified!” Well, Corey…she wasn’t given a five-count. But nice try.
Winner: Who freaking knows?
WWE.com says it was “Nia Jax via ref stoppage”…I never saw the ref call for the bell, and if he did…it was off-camera. The whole ending was awkward.
Match #6: Enzo & Cass vs. Jinder Mahal & Rusev
Enzo & Cass riff on Rusev’s facemask (he suffered a broken nose last night), as well as Mahal’s muscle veins…it felt like Enzo went off-script for a moment, because he joked about Mahal being full of hot air (which is typically a joke reserved for people on steroids). Anyways, this is a nightmare to report, because there’s two fights happening at once. Rusev gets his nose splattered across the barricade as we go to break.
After the break, the two teams trade 2-on-1 advantages, as Mahal & Rusev team up on Cass to beat him down. Enzo comes in to even the score, but that dies out quickly as they head outside. Enzo & Cass get the crap kicked out of them some more before heading back in the ring. Enzo gets thrown in, and now it’s a 2-on-1 against him. Rusev and Mahal take turns ripping away at Enzo’s face. Ouch! Cass comes in and he’s A HOUSE OF FIRE WITHOUT A HOT TAG. He hits the slam, followed by the Empire Elbow on Rusev. ONE, TW….Mahal interrupts the proceedings. Enzo pulls Mahal out, and this leads to the Rocket Launcher on Rusev for the ONE, TWO, THREE! Chaotic.
Winners: Enzo & Cass (*3/4)
A limo arrives…it’s Triple H! He comes out for his MAIN EVENT INTERVIEW. He tells the audience that he gave Rollins everything. He plucked him out of obscurity (well, the Quad Cities IS pretty obscure), and made him a star. Triple H said that in return, Rollins figuratively spit in his face. I do not like HHH’s tone here…he’s dismissive, and he makes Rollins sound like a crybaby. The worst part of this? The crowd SIDES with HHH. Hunter says he’s trying his best to be on good behavior, and that he’s not trying to be a career killer. Well, this promo is not a step in the right direction. The crowd cheers some more when HHH removes his jacket.
Triple H said he was the creator and he will be the destroyer. Wait, Hunter is the destroyer, or…?
Rollins comes out seething, and the crowd does not react one iota. Whoa. That’s freaking scary. Rollins approaches the ring when SAMOA FREAKING JOE ATTACKS HIM FROM BEHIND! Holy crap, it’s Samoa Joe!!
He destroys Seth and throws him into the barricade. Hunter and Joe stand over Rollins as HHH saunters off. Joe takes Seth into the ring, and drops numerous senton splashes on his ribs. Finally, Joe gets him in the Kokina clutch, and the crowd is so angry about this that they start chanting, “Joe! Joe! Joe! Joe!” They show the credits, and that’s all for tonight’s show.
Final Thoughts: Wow. Seth is dead in the water. You could tell this show was a recovery show, as everyone was pretty beat up after the Rumble. Still, they have some things planned for Fastlane, so we’ll see how it all plays out. Tune in next week! For now, I’ve got a plane to catch! Adios from Texas!