Monday Night Raw welcomed 2018 and continued nicely on the way to the Royal Rumble. Roman Reigns battled Samoa Joe in a brutal Intercontinental Championship match, Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss faced the undefeated Asuka, and WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar returned to Raw.
Kurt Angle Opens Raw. Grade: B- The General Manager announced that the Women’s Royal Rumble match will be the exact same as the men’s and have 30 participants with the winner receiving a championship match at Wrestlemania. Things then added with The bar coming out to complain about losing their titles, before Jordan & eventually Rollins responded. A good segment that cleared up the rumble and set up the next match. It will be interesting to see how WWE fills all 30 spots in the Women’s Rumble Match.
Jason Jordan defeated Cesaro. Grade: B- Sill crowd chants can be frustrating at times, but the crowd chanting “Daddy’s Boy” at Jason Jordan was genuinely brilliant. Jordan going over someone like Cesaro should indicate the type of push he could receive in the new year, and if that crowd chant is anything to go by, Jordan could really work as a heel.
Bray Wyatt defeated Apollo Crews. Grade: C+ A slow slog of a match did well only to highlight Wyatt as a destructive power again. Woken Matt Hardy appeared on the screen again, but this feels like such a backwards step from last week. Dana Brooke as a statistician definitely adds something to the Titus Worldwide gimmick.
Asuka defeated Alexa Bliss. Grade: B+ Bliss tried to avoid the match and then tied to get the support of Nia Jax, who was off to tend to the sick Enzo Amore, a nice continuation of that story. We all know how good Asuka is in the ring, but Bliss played her part perfectly here. The champion got in much more offence than many expected, but Asuka ultimately got the decisive clean win. A very good match, that still left us wanting more from a full program between these two.
Braun Strowman defeated Rhyno. Grade: B- Strowman straight murdered Rhyno, even after Slater got involved (and somehow didn’t get disqualified, perhaps because Strowman literally invited him into the ring). A nice fun way to continue Strowman’s momentum, even if it wasn’t near the best thing Strowman has ever done.
Roman Reigns retained the Intercontinental Championship defeated Samoa Joe. Grade: A. Samoa Joe has one of the best promos in the company; his line to Renee Young about him turning Dean Ambrose into a house-husband was brilliant, but his intensity and presence is almost unmatched. Another fantastic, hard-hitting match between these two; the stipulation played well to build drama and tension that if Reigns was disqualified he would lose his title. Unclear where this feud goes from here, but either way they have delivered a number of fantastic matches together, this being one of them.
Cedric Alexander & Goldust defeated Drew Gulak & Ariya Daivari. Grade: C. While this wasn’t the most exciting thing you’ll ever see, and probably not to standard for the only cruiserweight segment on the show; Goldust is always a world of fun, Gulak doing Enzo’s thing continues to be hilarious, and more than anything the integration between Cruiserweights & ‘Main Roster” or “Heavyweights” is a welcome and promising surprise.
Finn Balor Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows defeated Elias, Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel. Grade: B. Forget everything else, forget even the actual quality of this match, The Balor Club finally becoming a thing in the WWE is well overdue and absolutely perfect for three incredible talented, but horribly misused megastars.
Brock Lesnar Returns to Raw. Grade: D. It’s great seeing Lesnar on Raw, Heyman was good in building the challenge that Lesnar faces at the Royal Rumble, however certainly wasn’t the best promo he’s ever cut. However the brawl, if you can call it that, with Kane was horrible. Lesnar sitting up like Kane was nice but the brawl had absolutely no intensity or menace behind it. The fact that WWE wasted a locker room clearing brawl on this is disappointing, these should feel special, but this did not.