Welcome to the WWE Raw Deal review for the last live Raw of 2018. That’s because Raw is on tape for the next two weeks on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Here’s my WWE TLC review in case you missed it. I thought it was a pretty good show with the TLC match featuring Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Asuka was the best match of the night even with the cheap ending. They crushed it. I also wrote about WWE TLC in an exclusive column for The Comeback with more thoughts on the show and diving a bit more into the booking decisions.
Live from Sacramento, California, this is the Raw Deal for episode #1333 of Monday Night Raw. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. If you want to support us at TJRWrestling, here’s a Donate Link for our Paypal to contribute in some way to help us grow the site. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top.
Raw began with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon entering to a huge ovation from the crowd. He played to the crowd. Vince looks every bit his 73 years of age. He looks a lot older facially, but that’s life. The stage had Christmas trees and presents all over it. Vince entered the ring and soaked in the cheers a bit.
Let’s Hear from Vince McMahon and Family
Vince started by saying he didn’t want to hear the boos. Vince said he asked himself what’s going on with Monday Night Raw. Vince noted that Raw has been on the air for 25 years, which is extraordinary. Vince said that one of the reasons for their success is they change with the times and despite one man’s brilliance, one man’s creativity, one man’s vision, he can’t do it all by himself anymore. The fans were giving him the “WHAT?” treatment. Vince said that with that in mind…here comes Stephanie McMahon.
Stephanie McMahon, the Commissioner of Raw, joined her father Vince in the ring. She got a mixed reaction and she hugged her daddy. The fans booed and Vince told them to be nice. Vince also brought out Triple H.
Triple H was cheered for the most part. Triple H hugged wifey Stephanie McMahon and father-in-law Vince McMahon. Hunter did not have a sling on his arm after having surgery for his torn pec recently.
Shane McMahon joined the party even though he is the Commissioner of Smackdown. The fans like him, so they cheered him. This family reunion was cheered on by the fans.
Stephanie said that they are out there tonight because they haven’t been doing a very good job for us (the fans) lately. She said that they haven’t listened to their audience. They have been letting middle managers control things, they are suffocating their superstars and that changes tonight. Triple H said that as of now, the four of them will be taking back Monday Night Raw. Shane said that will go for Smackdown Live as well because the four of them will give us the best possible experience. Stephanie said that they will empower us and Hunter said they will give us what we want.
Hunter said that in the coming weeks and months we will see new faces, new matchups and as of now, we (the fans) are the authority. Vince said that as long as they give us more of what we want and less of what we don’t want, WWE will always be more then, now and forever. Vince McMahon’s music played and Baron Corbin’s music played for the interruption.
Baron Corbin showed up saying that nobody wants a fresh start as much as him. The fans booed him loudly. Stephanie said that the fans are booing him really loudly. Baron said that he’s excited that the entire McMahon Family will be running Raw. Corbin whiled about how what happened at TLC was not fair. He said he wants a simple conversation and the show went to break.
Analysis: Awkward commercial break moment. I’ll save my thoughts for all of this when it’s done. I think they just wanted to break up this opening promo into two segments, so they put in the commercial.
The show returned with Corbin in the ring saying that the small group in Sacramento may not like him, but it doesn’t mean everybody is like that. Corbin kept talking, the fans booed him loudly and Hunter egged the crowd on more. Stephanie asked the crowd to tell us what they are saying, so they booed some more. Corbin said that every night he comes out there doing his absolute best, which led to more boos and fans Vince told him to keep going because he had a microphone. I think that was Vince's way of telling him to get going because he was taking too long. Fans chanted “you suck” at Corbin. That led to Corbin saying that Braun Strowman wasn’t supposed to be there at TLC and he wasn’t prepared for it or all the people that Strowman brought with him. Corbin asked if they thought it was fair, so fans chanted “yes” at him.
Triple H said that Corbin is there to say that it was unfair and some travesty of justice, so they would like them to reconsider him as the GM of Raw. Hunter said that’s right? Corbin must have forgot a line or something because Hunter was doing it for him. Corbin said that he would have beat Strowman if not for all of those guys attacking him. Corbin asked if they would let that travesty stand or overrule the ruling. The McMahons huddled up together. They all said “no” to Corbin. Stephanie said just like her dad's song, there’s “no chance in hell.” Vince said there might be a way as the McMahons huddled again. Hunter said that Vince brings up a good point that maybe we are wrong and maybe they (the fans) are wrong. Hunter said that maybe Corbin deserves a chance to be named as permanent GM of Raw. Corbin said he just needs a chance. Hunter said that they should give Corbin that chance if he can win his match tonight, right now, he can be the permanent GM of Raw. Hunter said that all Corbin has to do is beat this man…Kurt Angle.
Kurt Angle made his entrance to a big ovation from the crowd. Angle turned 50 years old earlier this month. He’s in good shape and is wearing a singlet.
Stephanie McMahon announced there would be a special referee. It’s Heath Slater, who entered and shook hands with all the McMahons as they went to the back. Heath Slater was introduced as the referee of the match.
Analysis: There was a lot of talk of something big happening, but they didn’t really say anything specific other than trying to make this show more fan friendly. I think that’s a way of saying that they knew the heel GM act was getting old and stale, so they are going to try to present the shows in a different way. The promise of new stars by Triple H suggests that maybe some NXT talents are going to get called up to the main roster soon, but again, we don’t know any specifics yet. We might not see the actual change until the January 7th Raw because doing it right now would be difficult since the next two Raw’s are on tape with air dates on December 24 (Christmas Eve) and December 31 (New Year’s Eve), so the audiences for those shows will be smaller. The audience tends to grow in January, so that’s when I assume we might see more of these changes that they are promising. Could it all just be a bunch of bullshit from WWE? Sure. That’s my concern, but I want to be optimistic about it too. I think the main thing is that it was the end of Stephanie as a heel authority figure and the McMahons being in charge suggests they are all faces, so there's going to be more of a focus on the talent rather than the heel authority figure story that is tired. That's how I interpreted it anyway.
Baron Corbin vs. Kurt Angle
Angle was in control early with a German Suplex. Corbin bailed to the floor and they went to break about one minute into it.
The match returned with Corbin in control of the action. Triple H showed up to say this is a handicap match as Bobby Roode, Chad Gable and Apollo Crews to attack Corbin outside the ring.
Baron Corbin vs. Kurt Angle, Apollo Crews, Bobby Roode and Chad Gable
They sent Corbin into the ring with Angle hitting three German Suplexes on Corbin. Gable tagged in with a German Suplex of his own. Roode tagged in leading to a double team attack, Crews tagged in with a jumping kick to the head and Corbin rolled out of the ring. Corbin left through the crowd, but the wrestlers brought him back to ringside. Slater turned his back to look at the turnbuckle, so the four wrestlers attacked Corbin at the same time. Shane showed up to mention Sacramento to get a cheap pop and he announced this match is No Disqualification. Slater stomped away on Corbin. The four wrestlers brought chairs in the ring and took turns hitting Corbin in the back with the chairs. The fans chanted “We Want Tables” to add to the pain. Roode held Corbin, Gable went up top and hit a moonsault onto Corbin. Crews up top with a Frog Splash on Corbin. Angle hit an Angle Slam on Corbin and Angle covered Corbin for the pinfall win after about five minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Kurt Angle, Apollo Crews, Bobby Roode and Chad Gable
Analysis: *1/2 The match quality doesn’t really matter here because it was a continuation of the angle from Sunday’s TLC event with the faces getting revenge on Corbin. Just like at TLC, it was fun for the crowd and that’s a good way to set the show off on the right tone. I think Baron Corbin going back to being just a wrestler on Raw instead of an authorirty figure is a good thing for him and the show.
After the match was over, the wrestlers brought a table into the ring because the fans chanted for tables. Angle picked up Corbin and gave him an Angle Slam through the table. The babyface wrestlers stood in the ring with their arms raised in the air to celebrate the attack on Corbin.
Still to come: Ronda Rousey is there, Dean Ambrose is there and Finn Balor vs. Dolph Ziggler is next.
The Raw announce team of Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Renee Young were shown on camera welcoming us to the show.
A video aired about John Cena receiving the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award for his charitable work. Clips aired of Cena interacting with fans. Cena said that this is for the WWE superstars and this is a tremendous honor.
Analysis: It is a big deal to win an award like that and Cena’s charity work is incredible. He’s a good dude.
Finn Balor made his entrance to a big ovation. A clip aired of his backstage alteration with Dolph Ziggler at TLC, which set up this match. Dolph Ziggler made his entrance, so perhaps he is back to being a heel after possibly going back to being a face a few weeks ago. The word "tweener" comes to mind.
Finn Balor vs. Dolph Ziggler
They exchanged holds and counters for the first few minutes. Balor took control with a dropkick leading to Ziggler rolling out to the floor.
The match returned with Balor with a running forearm followed by a double foot stomp while the announcers wondered if there would be a GM on Raw. Ziggler came back with a rollup followed by a forearm to the face. Balor countered a Fameasser with an elbow to the chest for two. Balor connected with a Slingblade and Ziggler came back with a jumping DDT. Balor with a jumping kick to the head. Balor up top, Ziggler tripped him up, sent Balor into the steel ring post and Ziggler hit a Zig Zag for a two count. That used to be a finishing move for Ziggler, but not anymore. Drew McIntyre ran down to ringside for the predictable interference. Ziggler jumped on McIntyre and punched him. Balor hit a dive over the top to take out McIntyre on the floor. Ziggler sent Balor back into the ring with a Fameasser for two. Balor with another Slingblade takedown. McIntyre into the ring with a clothesline on Balor for the DQ finish after 10 minutes.
Winner by disqualification: Finn Balor
Analysis: *** It was a good match for the time given and even with the disqualification, I enjoyed it. Ziggler has several moves that he does in nearly every match that come off as believable nearfalls, so it’s a solid way to build up to key spots. The crowd was firmly behind Balor and wanted him to win, but I don’t think anybody was that surprised by the appearance from McIntyre.
McIntyre tossed Balor out of the ring and hit the Glasgow Kiss headbutt on Ziggler. McIntyre worked over Ziggler with punches. McIntyre sent Ziggler into the ropes with a Claymore Kick. McIntyre left the ring and hit Balor with a Claymore Kick while on the floor. McIntyre left the ring as his music played.
Analysis: This will probably set up a triple threat match between these guys soon. McIntyre has lost matches to each guy due to the other guy getting involved, so I can see them doing a triple threat.
Dean Ambrose was shown walking down a hallway with the Intercontinental Championship since he’s the new champion. There were some guys with gas masks walking with him.
Let’s Hear from Dean Ambrose
Dean Ambrose, the new Intercontinental Champion, made his entrance. Renee Young said her husband looks pretty good holding onto that championship. Ambrose had four guys in gas masks with him as they walked down to the ring. It was the top of hour two. Graves said there must have been a celebration after last night, she said “of course there was” and that she wasn’t going to tell him about it. Ambrose entered the ring with the title.
Ambrose said that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Ambrose said that we should be showing him more respect and should be bowing down to him right now. Ambrose claimed that everything he said would happen at TLC would happen is what happened. Ambrose said that Rollins failed himself and failed all of us. Ambrose said he didn’t need respect or anything from “you people” because he had this – the IC Title. Ambrose said that Rollins had two titles not too long ago and now he has none. Ambrose said he’s just getting started. Ambrose said that when he’s done, Rollins with have nothing left. Ambrose talked about how he’s going to take Seth’s reputation, his career and throw it in the gutter where it belongs. Ambrose said that since he’s the moral compass of WWE, he’s got the obligation to do doe the right thing. Ambrose said that he wants Rollins to come out there face to face to tell everybody that Dean was right. The fans chanted “burn it down” for Rollins. Ambrose said that Seth’s reputation was on the line. No Rollins. Ambrose said that maybe he’ll have an open challenge, but not for the title and he suggested that maybe Rollins can come on out there to take out his frustrations on Ambrose.
Ambrose said that Seth is no hero just like each and every one of us. He said when things don’t go his way, he crumbles. Ambrose said that Rollins can’t even come out there and show his face. Ambrose said that since Rollins doesn’t seem to want to come out there right now, Ambrose is going to have an open challenge for the Intercontinental Title as long as it’s not Seth Rollins. Tyler Breeze entered as the open challenge opponent.
Analysis: It’s a fresh matchup for a title, so that’s fine with me. As for Rollins not showing up, that is weird for a face to not answer something like that, so that could set something up involving one of the guys in the gas masks.
Intercontinental Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. Tyler Breeze
Breeze was aggressive early with a dropkick followed by a clothesline that sent Ambrose over the top to the floor.
Analysis: This “new” Raw has had the same format for the first three matches with commercials in the first minute of the matches. That’s not new.
The match returned with Ambrose in control after a clothesline on the floor. Ambrose with a back elbow to the face. When Graves mentioned he texted Corbin and never heard that, Young said he has no job as the Raw GM now, but he’s still a wrestler, which nobody mentioned. Ambrose with a chinlock. Breeze with a kick to the head and a hurricanrana. Ambrose was sent shoulder first into the ring post followed by Breeze getting a rollup. Breeze with a spin kick. Breeze up top with a cross body block for a two count. Breeze with the supermodel kick for a two count. That’s what it is called when he does it. Breeze wanted an Unprettier, but Ambrose dropped him with a Dirty Deeds DDT for the pinfall win after about eight minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Dean Ambrose
Analysis: **1/2 The match was solid with Breeze getting in plenty of offense and coming close to winning a few times. I think the fans would welcome a guy like him getting a push although I don’t know if he would ever get a significant push as a singles guy. When Fandango is back, I’d like to see Breezango pushed as a tag team.
Ambrose did a post match promo saying that it was the performance of a champion unlike Seth Rollins. That led to Seth’s music starting up and Rollins went into the ring with a superkick. He was dressed like a guy in a gas mask. Rollins sent the other three guys out of the ring as Ambrose escaped up the ramp. Cole correctly pointed out that Ambrose called Rollins out there and when Rollins showed up, Ambrose left. That’s what heels do.
Analysis: It was obvious that Rollins was going to show up there. It would have been even better if he cost Ambrose the IC Title by helping Breeze win, but I guess that would be foolish since it would hurt Seth’s chance to win it back.
Shane McMahon was shown backstage with Charly Caruso there to interview him. Shane talked about new opportunities for people on Raw and Smackdown. Drake Maverick walked up to him to say that AOP had their Tag Team Titles stolen last night. Drake asked Shane to give them the mandatory rematch clause. Shane said that rematch clauses are antiquated while Corbin gave them the titles. Shane told them they are in a fatal fourway with the B Team, The Revival and Lucha House Party with the winners getting a future Tag Team Title match. Drake and the AOP guys left.
Analysis: The significant thing in that segment is Shane saying that the rematch clause is antiquated, which likely means they are going to stop doing the mandatory rematch clause for former champions. I'm fine with that. They need to get rid of champions losing non-title as often as they do as well.
There were images shown of new superstars on their way to WWE including EC3, Nikki Cross, Lars Sullivan and more.
A commercial aired promoting Tribute to the Troops that airs this Thursday at 9/8c on USA Network.
The announcers talked about Tribute to the Troops with Cole saying it’s his favorite show of the year. Renee and Graves set up the video on some new faces coming to WWE.
The new faces coming to the main WWE roster are:
Lars Sullivan, who has been featured in video packages for the last month or so. He’s a big guy that will get a push because they like his look. Another name is Lacey Evans, who is a very talented worker along with the kind of looks that will make her stand out. The Heavy Machinery duo of Tucker Knight and Otis Dozovic will provide some depth to the tag team division. Nikki Cross is a talented women’s wrestler who is crazy, so she’ll stand out. EC3 was the last man featured and he’s a tremendous all-around talent that has been in the company for a long time going back about a decade, he got better while in TNA/Impact and he’s ready for the main roster as much as anybody in NXT.
Analysis: I’m most excited about EC3 and Nikki Cross in that group. Lacey Evans could be a breakout star for sure. Lars Sullivan will probably get the biggest push, but I’m not that excited about that.
Bobby Lashley was in the ring with a guitar with Lio Rush. Bobby said his name as Rush said that the greatest sound Elias has ever heard was the sound of Lashley cracking the guitar over his back. Lashley had the broken guitar. An image aired from the TLC Kickoff Show (I didn’t see it) with Lashley breaking the guitar over Elias’ back. Rush said that nobody wants to hear Elias, they want to hear a true piece of art like Lashley. Rush asked to silence your cell phones, hold your applause and shut your mouths, which drew boos. Rush called for some poses from Lashley. Rush got some cheap heat saying that Lashley is like the Golden State Warriors and Elias is like the Sacramento Kings, which drew boos because the Warriors are the NBA Champions while the Kings have been bad for a while, but they are improving. Lashley did his butt pose while Renee asked how many times we’ve seen that pose and said that it’s weird. It sure is. Can we get Mandy Rose to do the same pose on Smackdown? Just wondering. It would help ratings, I'm sure.
The fans cheered as Elias was in the ring and Jojo announced him, so Elias hit Lashley in the back with a guitar. Lashley went down briefly and then got back to his feet looking mad. Elias was already up the ramp to end the segment.
Analysis: Weak segment. I was hoping this feud would be over. What is the point of a surprise guitar shot to the back if the guy is barely going to sell it? That was weird. It made Elias look like a loser that is weak at swinging a guitar.
Lucha House Party were shown backstage with their pinata because they are up next.
PLUG TIME: The month of December means the 10th Annual WWE Johnny Awards are coming later this month, so please check out our polls for the awards with categories like Best Talker (Promos), Best Babyface and Best Heel among others. The winners of the polls don’t win the awards. The winners are my picks and will be announced in a column on December 27...The WWF in 2000 reviews are back. The next Raw and Smackdown should go up this week, so check out our WWF in 2000 section to stay updated every week.
A brief video aired letting us know Sami Zayn is coming back soon. He has been out of action for several months after surgery on both of shoulders. I believe he’ll be ready around February, but the video just said “Sami Zayn returns soon.”
Analysis: Sami is one of my favorites along with best friend Kevin Owens. Those are my dudes. I am loyal to my fellow Canadians, but I also think he’s a tremendous all-around performer that can break through if he is given a chance. I hope 2019 is the best year of his career.
The four tag teams were in the ring for this four corners tag team match. Cole noted that Lucha House Party rules are done. Why would the heel GM Baron Corbin even allow them in the first place? It’s not like that was ever explained.
Lucha House Party (Kalisto and Lince Dorado) w/Kalisto vs. AOP (Akam and Rezar) w/Drake Maverick vs. B Team (Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas) vs. The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder)
The first fall wins this match. Two guys are in the ring and the others are on the apron.
Lucha House Party worked together against Axel with a dropkick that sent Axel into the corner and Dawson tagged in with a suplex on Kalisto. Wilder tagged in and Kalisto hit a DDT on both guys on the same time. Dorado tagged in, lifted Kalisto into the air for a splash and Dorado got a splash on his own. Graves used a joke he used a few weeks ago, so Cole ripped on him for it. AOP tagged in and they worked over Dorado in the corner.
Wilder was in the ring with Dorado, Wilder was sent to the ropes, so Axel tagged himself in and Dorado bounced off the ropes with a Stunner on Axel. Kalisto tagged in against Dallas with Kalisto hitting a cross body block and a springboard off the middle rope to take out Dallas. Kalisto with a Tornado DDT on Axel. Dallas whipped into the corner, Dallas tagged Kalisto and dumped him out of the ring. Dallas with a running kick on Dallas followed by a forearm to the head. Dallas hit a neckbreaker off the ropes for a two count as Wilder broke up the pin. Kalisto kicked Axel out of the ring, Rezar in the ring, Dawson and Dallas sent him out of the ring. Akam was sent over the top rope. Dallas and Dawson hit back body drops on the LHP guys to send them over the top to take out the guys on the floor. Dawson and Dallas each got rollups. Wilder got a tag in and hit a Shatter Machine double team move on Dallas for the pinfall win after about ten minutes.
Winners by pinfall: The Revival
The win means The Revival get a Raw Tag Team Title match in the future against Roode and Gable.
Analysis: **1/4 It was an average match that was slow at times, but they managed to come up with a solid finishing sequence. AOP was barely involved in this match. They had such a minor role, were barely in the ring as the legal man and treated as afterthoughts. That was surprising. I think the right team went over since Roode and Gable will be perfect opponents for The Revival. I can see those teams having some pretty good matches.
Seth Rollins was interviewed by Charly Caruso backstage. She said “I wanted to ask you about last night” and then didn’t actually ask him anything, so he just said that last night at TLC was a disaster. Rollins said that everything went wrong, he let Ambrose get in his head and take his title away. Rollins also said that he heard that crowd last night, that’s on him, that’s his responsibility and he’s got to move forward. Rollins said it’s not just about his performance in the ring, about losing championships – this is his life and this is what he loves. Rollins said it’s gone off the rails, he’s going to right the ship and it’s going to start with him ending Dean Ambrose. Baron Corbin walked up to Rollins. Corbin said that everybody thought that Corbin was doing a good job as GM until Rollins said something, Rollins goaded him into a TLC match and Rollins said that he’s the reason that the McMahons are back in charge. Corbin said that he’ll take his IC Championship, but then mentioned that Ambrose already took that. Rollins decked Corbin with a punch.
Analysis: Good interview from Rollins. The crowd chant that Rollins was referring to were the “boring” chants during the match. That’s a chant you don’t hear for a Rollins match, but it was boring at TLC and the crowd let them know it.
There was a replay of the McMahon family in the ring to start Raw. Cole called it an “iconic moment” because he’s a suck up that was likely told to say that.
Analysis: Just so we’re clear, it was not an iconic moment. It was just a promo from McMahons that we have seen on Raw for twenty years.
Ronda Rousey is up next.
There was a Just for Men moment in WWE history showing John Cena’s surprising appearance at Royal Rumble 2008 (read my review here) leading to Cena winning the match. JR said that he would be in the main event of WrestleMania, but Cena’s WM24 match was not the main event.
Let’s Hear from Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey, the Raw Women’s Champion, made her entrance to a big pop from the crowd. They might like her more than most fans because she’s a California girl. She gets a pop everywhere, but these fans were supportive of her. The announcers summarized Ronda’s TLC night when she beat Nia Jax and then later she cost Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch in the TLC match to give Asuka the win.
Rousey stood in the ring for a promo saying that she told Nia Jax she can kiss that right hand she’s so proud of goodbye. Rousey said that she told Charlotte Flair she’ll write the next chapter in their story and Rousey told Becky Lynch she’s the last woman that Becky should provoke.
Rousey said that she didn’t come there to justify her actions. Rousey claimed she came there to define what a champion is. Rousey said that a real champion is so much more than a title or an object you can hold in your hands. She said that a real champion is more than winning a match or a decision of a referee. Rousey talked about how a real champion represents the best of the best physically and morally. Rousey said that a real champion lives for the challenge, which is why she’s there tonight. Fans chanted “Becky” even though she was not there. Rousey suggests that they start a new tradition where every night after a pay-per-view, the champion shows up and defends their title. Rousey said she came for a fight, that’s an open challenge, right here and right now. She asked who wants a shot?
There was a shot with the women of Raw all in their in-ring gear yelling at somebody and it was Billy Kidman with a headset on. He works backstage for WWE as a timer of segments. Stephanie yelled at the women, who were yelling like schoolchildren, and told them to come with her.
The women of Raw went onto the stage with Stephanie McMahon as the fans cheered them.
Stephanie said that all of these women want a championship match against her and they are all deserving of one (that’s a lie). Stephanie said she’s not playing favorites anymore, so they will have an opportunity to earn it. Stephanie told that Rousey will defend that championship against the winner of tonight’s eight-woman gauntlet match. It starts with Alicia Fox and Bayley.
Analysis: Ronda Rousey wanted to defend her title, but she was told she doesn’t have to defend it because she’s going to watch a women’s gauntlet to find out who the next challenger is. I thought Rousey’s promo was fine in terms of putting over what it means to be a fighting champion. Stephanie saying she's not playing favorites is another example of her heel gimmick being finished for now because she's back to being a face.
A Gauntlet Match means all eight women are in this in singles matches until there are two women left and whoever gets that final fall wins the match.
Analysis: There was no main event announced for this Raw, so when looking at the time left, it was obvious that this Gauntlet Match was going to run long enough to be the main event.
Gauntlet Match: Alicia Fox vs. Bayley
Bayley got a rollup for a two count. Fox came back with a kick to the gut and a head whip that sent Bayley to the mat. Fox grabbed a headlock. The announcers tried to have a serious discussion about if Fox was the captain of the women’s division, which was ridiculous. Bayley with a belly to back suplex and Fox bailed to the floor leading to a break.
The match continued with Bayley connecting with a kick to the ribs. Bayley got a rollup for two and Fox came back with a clothesline. Fox with a hard whip into the corner. The crowd was dead for this. Bayley drove Fox face first into the top turnbuckle, Bayley avoided a charge and sold an injured knee. Fox with a boot to the face, Bayley hooked the arms and pinned Fox to eliminate her.
Alicia Fox eliminated by Bayley
Gauntlet Match #2: Bayley vs. Dana Brooke
Brooke bounced down to the ring quickly with an enziguri kick followed by a cartwheel into an elbow against the turnbuckle. Brooke slapped on a chinlock. She let go and hit a forearm to the back of the leg. Brooke whipped Bayley across the ring, but Bayley collapsed to sell the knee. Brooke continued the aggressiveness with another two count. Brooke with a chinlock leading to a head whip for two. Brooke did some trash talk, Bayley hit a Bayley to Belly and pinned Brooke to eliminate her.
Dana Brooke eliminated by Bayley
Analysis: I liked how aggressive Brooke was, but then she was made to look like a loser because she was done after one move from Bayley. Brooke is better as a heel, so I hope she's given a fair shot to get over as a singles wrestler or pair her with somebody else.
A video aired about Kevin Owens returning soon. He has been out for several months due to surgery on both knees. I think he’s back around March.
Gauntlet Match #3: Bayley vs. Mickie James
It was noted by Cole that Bayley was already in the ring for 15 minutes. James was in control with a neckbreaker for two. Ronda Rousey was shown watching a TV backstage. James went for an attack against the ropes, Bayley moved and James hit the ropes leading to Bayley getting a two count. Bayley got a rollup for two and James came back with a flapjack. James went up top and connected with a diving Thesz Press for a two count. They each got two counts. James hit a kick to the face for a two count that was a good nearfall. James teased a DDT, but Bayley came back with a belly to back suplex. James kicked Bayley in the face to knock her out of the ring. Bayley blocked a James charging attack leading to a knee to the face. Bayley went to the middle rope and hit a cross body block. Bayley with a knee to the face while selling a left knee injury. Bayley went up top and hit an elbow drop for two as James grabbed the bottom rope. Good nearfall. Bayley hit a neckbreaker using the middle ropes as an assist. Bayley went for a Bayley to Belly, James grabbed hair to block it, James kicked the knee of Bayley to send her into the turnbuckle and Mickie hit her jumping Mickie-DT for the pinfall win.
Bayley eliminated by Mickie James
Analysis: That was a good six-minute period of action. I’d like to see Mickie have a feud with Bayley because it would be very good, but it’s tough to find time for some of these women on Raw.
Gauntlet Match #4: Mickie James vs. Ember Moon
Moon ran to the ring, James decked her as soon as she got in there and they exchanged strikes. James went for a forearm, Moon moved and Moon hit a springboard cross body block for a two count. Moon went for a move on the apron, James slid out of the ring going for a Powerbomb off the apron, so James tripped up Moon to take her down.
The match returned with Moon hitting a slam. Moon avoided a kick, which led to Moon hitting a few kicks including an enziguri kick to the head for two. James tried a pin grabbing the ropes, but the referee saw it. James hit a flapjack followed by a kip up back to her feet. James went up top and jumped right into a knee to the face by Moon. Moon went up top and hit the Eclipse for the pinfall win. James sold that so well.
Mickie James eliminated by Ember Moon
Gauntlet Match #5: Ember Moon vs. Natalya
Natalya ran into the ring with Moon getting a rollup. Moon came back with a kick to the face leading to a two count. Moon went up top, Natalya charged, Moon jumped off and Natalya decked her with a discus clothesline for two. That looked great with Moon selling it really well. Moon with an inside cradle for two. Natalya rolled up Moon and sat on top for a two count. It was an O'Connor Roll with a thanks to Graves for calling it.
Ember Moon eliminated by Natalya
The Riott Squad walked out with one of them facing Natalya up next.
Gauntlet Match #6: Natalya vs. Ruby Riott (w/Sarah Logan and Ruby Riott)
The match returned with Riott wrapping her legs around Natalya’s waist. Natalya came back with a body slam followed by a double clothesline spot. Natalya got a rollup and Riott came back with a clothesline for two. Riott slapped on a headlock. The crowd was dead for this match. Riott with a knee to the face followed by a hair whip for two. Cole did the usual comment that Riott is a future champion, which the announcers say in every Riott match. Natalya with a slap to the face followed by a kick. Riott with a rollup, Natalya came back with a dropkick, two clotheslines and Natalya yelled at the crowd “come on, you guys” leading to some cheers. Natalya hit two suplexes, but Riott came back with a STO takedown. Riott went to the middle rope, she jumped off with a reverse senton and Natalya got the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! for the pinfall win.
Ruby Riott eliminated by Natalya
Analysis: I knew the dreaded ROLLUP OF DEATH~! would decide one fall in this. Riott’s friends didn’t even cheat to help her, so the booking was pretty lazy in this match by not utilizing the women outside the ring. That win meant Natalya beat Ruby Riott two nights in a row.
Gauntlet Match #7 – The Finals: Natalya vs. Sasha Banks
Sasha Banks was up last leading to a double knee attack on Natalya. Banks went up top, Natalya avoided an attack and Natalya got a rollup for two. Banks did an incredible counter to climb the shoulders of Natalya and hit a DDT for two.
The match returned with both women out on the mat. Natalya hit a low basement dropkick on Banks for a two count. Natalya yelled “come on, you guys” to try to get the dead crowd into it. Banks with a couple of nearfalls. Banks with a knee to the face and Natalya hit a discus clothesline for two. Natalya slapped on the Sharpshooter. Banks was close to getting to the ropes, Natalya pulled her to the middle of the ring and Banks drove the back of Natalya’s head into the turnbuckle. Both women were down. Banks slapped on a half crab submission. Natalya fought out of that, so Banks slapped on the Bank Statement submission. Natalya powered out of that and hit a German Suplex that sent Banks across the ring. Banks came back with an elbow along with a double knee attack off the middle ropes for two. Natalya blocked a DDT attempt into a face first slam that sent Banks hard into the mat. Natalya slapped on the Sharpshooter and Banks tapped out to give Natalya the win after 53 minutes.
Sasha Banks eliminated by Natalya
Winner of the Gauntlet Match: Natalya
The win by Natalya means she’ll face Ronda Rousey for the Raw Women’s Title next week.
Analysis: ***1/4 That’s my rating for the whole Gauntlet Match. Natalya was put over huge by winning three matches in a row. Some of it was better than others, so I think that’s a fair rating to let you know that it was pretty good. The crowd was dead for some of it because of the lack of interesting storylines. The women worked hard. My favorite pairings were James vs. Bayley and Natalya vs. Banks. I thought Banks was going to win it as the last woman in there and as somebody that would be a fresh opponent for Rousey. Natalya is also a fresh opponent, but I think Banks could have used the win more.
After the match was over, Natalya checked on Banks, who left the ring. Ronda Rousey walked out to the ring with the Raw Women’s Championship on her shoulder. Rousey got in her friend’s face and raised Natalya’s hand in the air. Rousey hugged Natalya. Rousey held the title, Natalya looked at it, Rousey extended her hand for a shake and Natalya shook her hand. They hugged again.
Analysis: Perhaps WWE is using next week's match to set up Natalya to turn heel. She can fail to beat Rousey in the match next week, so out of frustration, Natalya can turn on her friend and set up a big title match. The turn could be in early January rather than doing it before the end of the year.
The announcers went over what was scheduled for next week on Raw as graphics appeared on the screen. Next week on Raw:
- Finn Balor vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Drew McIntyre
- Elias vs. Bobby Lashley in a Miracle on 34th Street Fight
- Paul Heyman is there to celebrate the holidays
- Seth Rollins vs. Baron Corbin
- Ronda Rousey defends the Raw Women’s Title vs. Natalya
The show ended with Natalya posing on the stage and that was it for this week’s Raw.
Analysis: Next week’s Raw was taped after this week’s show without the commercial breaks, so it took about two hours to do it. It was a long night for the fans in Sacramento. I think advertising that many matches is a smart move because it’s Christmas Eve, so it lets the audience know what’s coming if they want to watch it.
I may skip next week’s Raw and not write a review. I need a break and will have a busy Christmas this year, so I’m not sure yet. I might just write a review that’s a lot shorter at like 1,000 words instead of the usual 7,000 words.
If you want to read about next week's Raw, I have posted the spoilers for the show here. It seems like average stuff to me.
Three Stars of the Show
- Finn Balor
- Dolph Ziggler
5.5 out of 10
Last week: 4.5
2018 Average: 5.62
Last 5 Weeks: 5, 4.5, 2.5, 4, 6
2018 High: 8 (February 19)
2018 Low: 2.5 (November 26)
I give it a 5.5 out of 10.
I gave the show a score right around the yearly average. The main event was given a lot of time with the women's gauntlet running over 50 minutes, so that’s nice to see. The problem with it is that the crowd was dead for a lot of it and gauntlet matches aren’t that exciting in general. I liked some of the other in-ring action as well such as Balor vs. Ziggler and Ambrose vs. Breeze was solid. The multi-team tag team match was a bit of a mess, but I’m glad that The Revival got the win.
Another thing that I liked this were the quick vignettes about the NXT stars being called up to the main roster. There are some better talents that could have been picked too, but I don’t mind keeping them in NXT because I enjoy the NXT product so much and I’d rather see them thrive instead of doing nothing on Raw or Smackdown.
The big story for this week was the McMahons and Triple H coming back to take over Raw from Baron Corbin. It’s not like Kurt Angle was ever fired as the GM of Raw, but apparently they are moving on from Angle in that spot. The new united McMahon family appeared to be in a babyface mood with even Stephanie sucking up to the crowd and being fair in her actions. I think that’s WWE’s way of telling us that they know we are sick of the heel authority figures, so here’s something different and they hope we like it. If you expected significant changes from WWE during this new McMahonia Madness then you didn’t get it, but long term we might see some things that are different.
With the next two Raw’s being the taped Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve episodes, don’t expect anything too serious. Once January hits, hopefully Raw can turn a corner in a positive way.
— WWE (@WWE) December 17, 2018
The next WWE pay-per-view is Royal Rumble on Sunday, January 27 in Phoenix. Here’s what we know so far.
Men’s Royal Rumble Match (R-Truth is #30)
Women’s Royal Rumble Match (Carmella is #30)
Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Braun Strowman
You can contact me using any of the methods below. See ya next time for the Smackdown review. Go Los Angeles Rams, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs. They’re all good! Thanks for reading.
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