It’s the go home RAW before the Royal Rumble so hopefully we’ll have a good show following last week’s rather good outing. Today it we found out “Iron” Mike Sharpe passed away. He was a stalwart in the ranks of WWE enhancement talent and trained many wrestlers as well. He will be missed, especially in his home country of Canada.
We open with a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr and African American leaders who have made a difference in our nation’s history and culture. Here’s hoping that WWE and the business as a whole can learn from its mistakes in the past regarding racial diversity. I feel like we’re slowly headed in the right direction.
Tonight Brock Lesnar will join Chris Jericho on the Highlight Reel. That’s definitely exciting. What’s not quite as exciting is Roman Reigns coming out to start RAW yet again. I guess that’s not really fair since he is the champion and the champion should be front and center on RAW. I just am tired of the opening 20 minute promo formula that has been used for years and years. Is it so crazy to start a wrestling show with wrestling? Roman is gearing up for the Rumble and says tonight he only cares about one man: Brock Lesnar. He says he’s ready to finish what Brock started last week and calls Brock out to the ring. Instead, we get Chris Jericho.
Jericho says Roman has someone even better than Brock, the Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah. He talks up tonight’s Highlight Reel and proposes that Roman join him and Brock there. Roman says he is down. The League of Nations interrupt. Sheamus still has a small gash on his head from last week. Sheamus reminds everyone that there are more than just 3 competitors in the Rumble, including the League of Nations and that the WWE Title will come back to them. He then makes fun of Jericho’s fashion choice of a suit jacket with no shirt. He says it’s just plain stupid not to invite the League of Nations on the Highlight Reel. Jericho says he doesn’t want them on the show because he’s trying to keep things entertaining. Ha. Del Rio says Jericho has never won a Royal Rumble match so Jericho wouldn’t understand what it means to be a true winner. Jericho says Alberto Del Rio is Spanish for Jackass and just doesn’t feel like having him on the show. Rusev has a pretty good promo starting off by saying in Bulgaria every day is the Royal Rumble. Jericho reminds everyone that Roman won the Rumble last year and he eliminated Rusev to win. Roman challenges Rusev to a match and Jericho asks the Columbus crowd if they want to see that match tonight. The crowd seems into it. Jericho says he will be the special referee and the match is on.
Roman Reigns vs. Rusev
Sheamus, Barrett, and Del Rio are at ringside for this match. Roman and Rusev exchange holds and Rusev ducks out of the ring to take a breather. The crowd is chanting for Lana. Roman and Rusev exchange fists and Rusev tosses Roman to the outside. The League distract Roman as Rusev hits him from behind. He tosses Roman in the ring and gets a one count. Rusev misses a headbutt and Roman takes control. Reigns hits a splash for a two count but then gets distracted by Sheamus. This gives Rusev an opening. Reigns fights back but gets taken down by a headlock. Reigns powers out with a backdrop. He hits a pretty good flying clothesline and then a barrage of punches in the corner. Rusev counters a Samoan Drop with one of his brutal judo kicks and gets a two count from Jericho. Rusev argues with Jericho a bit and then goes for a Samoan Drop off the second rope which is blocked by Reigns and Reigns turns it into a sit-out powerbomb for a near fall.
Del Rio distracts Jericho and Sheamus pulls Reigns out of the ring and slams him into the barricade. Jericho confronts Sheamus and kicks him out of the ring area. Barrett then gets in Jericho’s face and he is kicked out as well. Del Rio, not sensing a pattern here, does the same and Jericho kicks him out with a little funky chicken dance to boot. Roman hits the Superman Punch on a distracted Rusev followed by the Spear for the pin. This was a solid match to get things started and got the crowd fired up.
Steph confronts Jericho backstage. She says he did not have the authority to make that match or make himself the special referee. She says this is not 1999. Jericho says he wish it was because Steph used to be fun. Stephanie then goes into some stuff about business and how she now has to renegotiate with Lesnar because of the changes to the Highlight Reel. People complain about Reigns not being exciting, I think the real culprit is all this boring Authority junk.
Natalya vs. Brie Bella
Natalya brings out Paige to accompany her which doesn’t really make sense since the last time we saw Paige she attacked Natalya. It looks like the purpose of this is to promote the new season of Total Divas. Paige has some beef with Alicia Fox on Total Divas so that is why she is on Natalya’s side here. Great. Brie hits some of her strikes on Natalya and taunts the crowd. Natalya takes advantage and gets Brie in the sharpshooter for the win. Oh look, it’s the return of the nothing two minute Divas match. One step forward, two steps back. Hopefully Becky and Charlotte will make me forget this garbage.
The Dudley Boyz and Ryback vs. The Wyatt Family
We see clips from the Tables match on last week’s Smackdown where the Wyatts destroyed the Dudleys after they lost the match. It’s Bray, Harper, and Rowan with Strohman on the outside for the Wyatt team and Harper hits a huge boot to Bubba and tags out to Rowan. Rowan misses a splash and Bubba tags in D-Von. D-Von hits a neckbreaker and gets a one count on Rowan, Rowan hits a big spinning kick and gets a two count on D-Von. He tags in Bray who hits a running clothesline into the corner and gets another two count. Tag out to Harper and they double team D-Von a bit. Quick tags and double team offense by the Wyatts as they are firmly in control. D-Von finally creates some separation and gets a hot tag to Ryback who runs wild on Harper. Lots of Feed Me More chants and a tag to Bubba who hits a big boot. Rowan and Bray enter the ring to cause some chaos and Ryback ends up on the outside and gets smashed by Strohman. The Dudley’s hit a double team for a near fall. They go for a 3-D but Rowan breaks it up and tosses D-Von out. Harper hits his Discus Clothesline and gets the pin on Bubba Ray. This was mostly the Wyatts beating up the Dudley’s outside of a strong showing by Ryback. It seems like they are keeping the Wyatts strong, which is wise but there doesn’t seem to be much direction for them, as usual.
The Big Show vs. Heath Slater
Everyone is calling The Social Outcasts the new J.O.B. Squad and sadly that doesn’t seem to be far from the truth. At least their promos are entertaining and it gives them something a little more substantial to do. Axel reminds us that he was never eliminated from the 2015 Royal Rumble match. Heath goes right for the ropes as Big Show advances. He then ducks out of a clothesline and runs to the outside, only to be palmed by the head and dragged back in. Big Show then hits the Knockout Punch and gets the pin. Axel tries to attack Show and gets knocked out. Big Show then hits Rose off the top rope. Bo dodges Show’s attack and runs to the outside to celebrate this. Show then hits him with the Knockout Punch on the outside. He spent more time taking a selfie with a fan that it took for him to win this match.
Steph joins the League of Nations backstage and congratulates them on keeping their cool earlier tonight. She reminds them that one of them could win the Royal Rumble and win the WWE Championship. She asks them why Chris Jericho was able to to scare them away from ringside during the match and challenges them to prove their value tonight.
Vince McMahon comes to the stage with Steph as they are going to draw the #1 entry for the Royal Rumble. Vince says the odds of Roman winning is the same as one of the WWE Universe members winning the Powerball. Timely reference there, Vince. They spin the tumbler and Vince can’t open the first ball so he puts it back in and draws another. He then hands this ball to Steph who shows that the ball contains Roman Reigns. Vince says that is not too likely so to be fair they will draw another ball. He can’t open it so he put it back in. He can’t open that one so he puts it back in too. They draw another ball and it also says Roman Reigns. He accuses Stephanie of putting the original Reigns ball back in the tumbler so they draw another one. Vince drops the ball so he draws yet another one. I think Vince really thinks this whole bit is funny. This says a lot. Once again they draw Roman Reigns. Are we really going to watch Roman Reigns go a whole Royal Rumble and win it all? I am praying for a big swerve at this point.
Charlotte comes to the ring with Ric Flair by her side. They are both stylin’ and profilin’. For the love of God can someone change Charlotte’s entrance video from NXT that has the Times New Roman titles and uses backslashes for emphasis. Backslashes!
Becky Lynch vs. Tamina
It’s been awhile since we’ve seen Tamina in the ring and she doesn’t look half bad as she hits her power moves on Becky including a superkick. Charlotte looks on and we are told she hasn’t given an answer to Becky’s challenge for a title match at Royal Rumble yet. Tamina continues to work over Becky and gets a one count that Michael Cole calls a near fall. Come on, Cole. Becky Lynch manages to fight back and hits some forearms and a jumping side kick. She’s showing a lot fire as she hits some more kicks and a nice looking leg drop for a two count. She then hits the Disarmer off the top rope on Tamina and gets the submission victory. This was another good match for Becky. She gets on the mic and asks for an answer from Charlotte. Charlotte says Becky earned a title match and lost a title match and tells her to get in the back of the line. Becky says Charlotte wouldn’t have that belt if it wasn’t for her dad and then says Ric Flair never backed down from a challenge so maybe Charlotte didn’t take after her dad. Ric accepts the challenge on behalf of Charlotte and Charlotte does not look pleased. Fingers firmly crossed that they give this match the time and significance it deserves.
Dean Ambrose and Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus
Kevin Owens is on commentary which is always a treat and he’s here to hype up the Intercontinental Title match between him and Dean Ambrose this Sunday. We see clips from the two great matches that Kalisto and Alberto Del Rio had on RAW and Smackdown last week. It is announced that Kalisto will get a rematch for the title on Sunday. Ambrose starts off against Sheamus and hits some strong moves before tagging in Kalisto. Kalisto Kalisto kicks Sheamus to the outside. Ambrose hits Sheamus off the apron and then backdrops Kalisto on to both Sheamus and ADR. After the commercial break Del Rio regains control and tags in Sheamus who proceeds to manhandle Kalisto. Owens is doing a great job of talking trash on commentary. Kalisto and Sheamus both go down and then hit hot tags to their partners. Quick action between ADR and Ambrose. Ambrose gets the upper hand and clotheslines Del Rio to the outside and then hits a diving attack. Sheamus distracts Ambrose and Del Rio takes advantage. He tosses Dean back inside and hits him with a stiff kick. Tag to Sheamus who continues to wear down Ambrose. He hits a side slam and gets a two count. He tags in ADR who hits another stiff kick to the head of Ambrose for a near fall.
Sheamus gets a cheap shot in and Del Rio gets another near fall. He puts Ambrose in a chinlock. Ambrose attempts to power out but Del Rio hits him with a Backstabber. He puts Del Rio in the Tree of Woe and goes for his corner stomp finish but Ambrose fights out of it and hits a missile dropkick on Del Rio. Del Rio manages to tag out but Sheamus can’t capitalize and Ambrose finally tags in Kalisto. Kalisto hits some quick kicks on Sheamus, who goes for White Noise but Kalisto reverses into an enziguri. Kalisto then dodges a Brogue Kick and hits Salina Del Sol but Del Rio breaks up the pin. Ambrose goes after Del Rio but is distracted by Owens at the commentary table. Del Rio uses this to hit a beautiful step up enziguri off the commentary table to take out Ambrose. Meanwhile, Kalisto goes for another Salina Del Sol but Sheamus powers out of it and nails him with a Brogue Kick and gets the pin. This was a pretty great match and did a good job of building to the U.S. and Intercontinental Championship matches at the Royal Rumble.
We are shown clips from when Jericho killed Francesca the trombone on last week’s RAW. We then see a clip from earlier today where New Day had a funeral for Francesca. Big E and Kofi tell Xavier they will get him a new trombone and that the memory of Francesca will live on forever. They also say that Francesca would want Big E to take on Jay Uso tonight to avenge her. Good stuff. This is all to build up a Tag Title match between The New Day and The Usos on Sunday.
Jay Uso vs. Big E
The New Day are pretty solemn at they come to the ring. Kofi and Xavier are in their funeral attire. Big E starts off by powering out of a waistlock and slamming Jay to the mat. Jimmy manages to regain control and hits him with some forearms but Big E turns it back around. He hits him with a kick in the corner. Jay dodges a corner attack and does his dance taunt. He then hits a kick on Big E and Big E goes to the outside. Jay goes for a running kick but Big E counters with a slam. After the commercial Big E is in control back in the ring. Big E distracts the ref and Kofi nails Jay with a kick. Big E misses a splash on the apron and falls to the outside. Jay then hits a running dropkick into the barricade. Big E stumbles back in the ring and Jay hits a kick from the top rope followed by a Samoan Drop. He goes for the corner splash but Big E gets out of the way. Jay follows up with a big kick and gets a near fall. Big E manages to counter a dropkick and goes for a running attack but Jay pulls down the rope and Big E ends up on the outside Jay then hits a big suicide dive. Big E gets back in the ring while Jimmy takes out Kofi with a splash on the outside. Jay goes for a top rope splash but is distracted by Xavier and lands hard on his left leg. Big E hits a running forearm and then the Big Ending to get the pin.
Titus O’Neil is backstage with R-Truth, Neville, and Mark Henry as they get pumped for the Royal Rumble and their match tonight.
Neville, R-Truth, Mark Henry, and Titus O’Neil vs. Stardust, Tyler Breeze, and The Ascension
Neville seemed to be working his way up the card last week but now he’s back down in this random match. That’s a bummer. Konnor starts off against O’Neil and they exchange strikes. Konnor tags to Victor who is tossed to the outside by O’Neil. Breeze goes for flying dropkick on Titus but Titus catches him and tries to toss him behind his back to a waiting Henry but Henry screws up and drops Breeze. He picks Breeze back up and hits The World’s Strongest Slam. Neville then hits the Red Arrow and gets the pin. This was pretty dumb and pointless and that botched finish did nothing to help it. I wasn’t buying the “Vince is Burying Breeze” rumors but this seems to be making a case for that. Ugh.
The Highlight Reel with Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns
Y2J isn’t doing a bad job putting himself over as a legitimate Royal Rumble contender but come on. Paul Heyman interrupts Jericho and does what he does best. Jericho tells Heyman to shut up and asks where Brock Lesnar is. Heyman says you don’t need to be a weatherman to know that an F5 is touching down in Columbus tonight. He reminds Jericho that the last time he went face to face with Lesnar things did not go well for him. He then says Jericho shouldn’t be worried because Brock’s focus is on Reigns tonight. I can’t really do Heyman promos justice so you should just watch this and enjoy it. Heyman is really selling Brock as our only hope and to be honest I’m ready to buy that. Jericho asks what will happen if it comes down to him and Brock and what will happen if Jericho tosses Brock over the top to win the Rumble. Paul does a facepalm as Brock’s music hits and The Beast heads to the ring. Before he can enter the ring Reigns’ music hits and he makes his way through the crowd. Roman enters the ring and taunts Lesnar who paces around the outside. Brock jumps into the ring. Roman immediately hits him with a spear and unloads on him with punches. The League of Nations runs down and attacks Reigns. Rusev goes after Lesnar and is hit with a suplex. Lesnar then suplexes Del Rio and hits the F5 on Sheamus. Roman spears Lesnar AGAIN. The Wyatt entrance hits and they appear around the ring. Bray gives Reigns the Sister Abigail. Brock is having a hard time getting to his feet and Harper nails him with a clothesline. Rowan takes Lesnar out with a kick. Strohman levels him with a clothesline. I’m not sure what destroying Lesnar accomplishes here. Bray hits him with another Sister Abigail and we end on The Wyatts standing tall.
I wouldn’t mind seeing a Bray Wyatt victory as he’s had strong showings in previous Rumbles but this doesn’t seem earned at all as they were previously going after mid-card guys and before that Bray decisively lost to Reigns and then The Wyatts lost to The Brothers of Destruction. If they had some actual Main Event victories behind them this could be the next step for them. Instead this is kind of a mess and seems like just a bad way to build tension in what is probably a Reigns victory. I really hope I’m wrong and we still have the possibility of a surprise AJ Styles entry in the Rumble that could result in a big swerve. This was a pretty disappointing finish to a decent episode of RAW. The only really clunkers match-wise were the garbage Total Divas match and the meaningless 8-Man tag.