Hey guys! I'm taking over for Kendra Bunyon just for this week so bear with me as we may not coincide in terms of our opinions but I will also be brutally honest so don't worry about that either!
Backstage Segment - Stephanie McMahon gives Mick Foley his performance review
I have a love/hate relationship with Steph. She's annoying at times but she usually delivers on the microphone a great deal as well. However, I hate the way in which Stephanie must emasculate everyone on the roster at any given moment by constantly taking over or talking over for them because BAH GAWD, we must all bow down to the almighty Stephanie!
The stuff with Braun Strowman wanting Goldberg or Roman Reigns was interesting and I can see Braun vs. Roman eventually going down at Wrestlemania, which makes me think that they might not put the belt on Roman at the PPV like I had originally thought. Rollins vs. Strowman was made for later tonight, which should be interesting at least as Rollins is small enough to bounce off Strowman and make him look good.
WWE United States Title Handicap Match
Roman Reigns (c) vs. Kevin Owens (Universal Champion) and Chris Jericho
Story-wise, I am not a fan of build-ups to matches in which the two opponents constantly face each other week after week leading up to the big showdown. Surprisingly, the match never started though as Braun Strowman attacked Roman before Seth Rollins made the save with a steel chair. Having two members of the Shield needing two chairs to even have Strowman reeling at all kept the big man strong.
Of course, Stephanie McMahon interrupted this thing because Lord knows, she has to be the focus of everything. She scheduled the title match for later on but the Rollins/Strowman match would take place as well... even though both guys pretty much already made the match themselves earlier. Do you see why I find her so unnecessary 80% of the time? Ugh.
Anyway, this match didn't happen obviously so... no rating.
MATCH #1 (not counting the first one)
Seth Rollins vs. Braun Strowman
I continue to be impressed by Strowman week after week as he is such an imposing figure and he seems to have the cadence of his personality down fairly well. As I mentioned earlier, this was a decent contest with Rollins using his speed vs. Strowman's strength and I liked how Rollins had a really hard time taking the big man off his feet. Even a suicide dive didn't take him down! Strowman did a few cool power moves like catching Rollins in mid-blockbuster and his big authoritative kick-outs.
As I wondered what they would do to end this match to keep both guys strong, they went with the double countout, which is probably the best ending they could've come up with for them. Perfectly acceptable little match here.
DOUBLE COUNTOUT (8:03 + commercial break)
Rollins holding Strowman at bay with the chair was a good idea in again having neither man come out of this looking stronger than the other. Both guys "got their sh*t in" as they say.
WWE showed a trailer for "The Resurrection of Gavin Stone," which 'stars' Shawn Michaels. He looks like he's in maybe five minutes of the movie. It doesn't look remotely interesting in the least.
Backstage Segment - Bayley/Sasha are attacked by Charlotte/Nia Jax
This segment accomplished quite a bit except Charlotte's odd movie reference that the writers clearly thought they were clever about including (she also botched and said "she clearly can't handle... a candle...") in the speech. At least Nia Jax just came in and looked dominant by immediately attacking Banks without saying a word but also didn't appear to be on Charlotte's side either. I did also like how Bayley and Sasha seem to be teasing an eventual heel turn for the latter, the blowoff of which will be great.
Jack Gallagher vs. Drew Gulak
I enjoy the fact that Austin Aries (complete with banana) joins the announce team for the cruiserweight matches because he's infinitely more entertaining than Byron Saxton and has a personality. The match itself was pretty much par for the course in regards to the RAW cruiserweight matches: decent action limited by the extents that they're allowed to go in the ring and by time constraints. Gallagher did pull out the old Nigel McGuinness move by standing on his head in the corner though so he gets points for that. This match wasn't even long enough to rate though.
WINNER: Jack Gallagher (3:13)
RATING: * 1/2
Jack offering Ariya Daivari to meet him for a parlay on 205 Live was a pretty funny bit of character work and that's what makes Jack's character unique and stand out a bit.
I will say that Shawn Michaels learning how to dab with T.J. Perkins in a very brief silent segment had me laughing for at least five minutes.
Backstage Segment: Mick and Stephanie talk about the Undertaker
More emasculating for Stephanie as she tells Mick he has one hour to get the Dead Man in the middle of the ring. Whatever. We all know he's there.
In-Ring Segment: Shawn Michaels
This is one of the moments that was heavily advertised for RAW but did it deliver? Well, Shawn is always fun on the microphone and his reminiscing of past Rumbles was pretty entertaining. The fans chanted "one more match" as expected and he jokingly told them to stop pressuring him. After talking about the Rumble, Shawn plugged his stupid movie and I groaned that this is the reason he came back.
Rusev, Jinder Mahal and Lana coming out made things interesting again but his interaction with Michaels was very awkward. I don't know why because I enjoy both talkers but it was just... weird. Enzo and Cass then attempted to save the segment and put Shawn over but honestly, this whole thing was kind of a waste of time. It got a bit better with the movie jokes about the trio of heels but this all just became a match between Big Cass and Mahal.
Big Cass vs. Jinder Mahal
This was just a quick squash for Cass to get over before he gets his big rematch with Rusev. Honestly, there was nothing to really see here other than that nasty little botch from Cass when he went for the East River Crossing. Shawn stayed out there to watch the match but it was a huge let-down to have him return just to plug his movie and be in someone's corner for a throwaway singles match.
WINNER: Big Cass (3:11)
Lince Dorado vs. Neville
Another cruiserweight match and another one that they cut completely short like the other one involving Gallagher. I do love Neville's new attitude and heel persona though and the WWE has actually been doing a really good job with him by having him be completely dominant and not losing any matches yet. This match, much like the previous cruiserweight battle, had a couple of decent high spots and Dorado got a bit of offense while Neville looked strong again and worked on Dorado's arm for most of the contest. One thing I did love about this match was the finish because after working on the arm for the majority of the match, Neville actually finished it with a submission hold utilizing the work he had done on that arm. Psychology! Rich Swann saving Dorado from a post-match attack was good and Neville got to duck his big kick so as to hype their eventual title match.
WINNER: Neville (2:59)
Also... WWE... it's not the THIRTIETH ANNIVERSARY of the Royal Rumble. It's the thirtieth Royal Rumble show but the thirtieth anniversary would be NEXT YEAR. Ack.
Backstage Segment: More Stephanie
This time, Stephanie talks down to Sasha Banks and Bayley and continues to irritate me on tonight's show. Because Stephanie flip-flops like crazy, she makes the tag match against Charlotte & Nia tonight instead of next week. I don't watch RAW that often; is Stephanie in every single segment every week?
Sheamus (1/2 Tag Team Champions) vs. Luke Gallows
OK, before we get too far into this match, I want to note that we had FIVE COMMENTATORS for this match. I was excited to hear Karl Anderson at the table because I find him to be pretty entertaining and I enjoy Cesaro as well but this was way too many people.
Finally, we got a good hard-hitting match here with Gallows matching Sheamus' strength and I'm glad they actually got a decent amount of time together in the ring unlike almost every other match tonight. Were they that concerned with leaving so much time for the Undertaker? Anyway, I REALLY liked this match and after a good false finish spot with Gallows nearly getting the pin, Sheamus Brogue Kicked him and evened up the series at 1 - 1.
As for the team name for Cesaro and Sheamus, how about Irish Swing?
WINNER: Sheamus (7:03 + commercial break)
RATING: *** 1/4
Interview: Roman Reigns
One vs. All, I'm gonna spear everyone, etc. etc. The usual stuff from Roman. I'm not a 'hater' or anything but he can be quite repetitive with his promo work.
In-Ring Segment: Mick Foley and the Undertaker
An emotional Mick Foley tries to summon the Undertaker to come down to the ring but the lights went down and Stephanie came out again JUST BECAUSE THE WORLD HATES ME. Seriously, WHY do they even need to have this story with Steph threatening Foley to bring out Taker? Just so she can look tough again? WHO CARES!?
Undertaker coming out to the ring was cool and stuff but took forever and predictably, he announced that he will be in the Royal Rumble match. I did like the Dead Man getting in Stephanie's face but based on the rest of tonight, I really expected her to no-sell and emasculate him. Braun Strowman could be seen watching in the back so hopefully they feed him Undertaker at Wrestlemania to really send his push over the top.
Interview: Universal Champion Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho
The usual great stuff from Owens and Jericho as they mocked people like Undertaker and Goldberg that only show up once in a while. The line that killed me (among others) was Owens cutting his promo and then throwing it to his partner, saying "Chris, you say things." Caruso is certainly better than the Smackdown interviewer but I was a sucker for KO and Jericho's interaction with Tom Phillips.
Bayley and Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte (Women's Champion) and Nia Jax
Having the faces go into this match hurt and having that cost them the match was fine and at least it wasn't just a straight victory for the heels. I have to say that at this point the show was really starting to wear on me. You really feel all three hours of this show. This match itself wasn't all that great and it was too long for what they were trying to accomplish. If Bayley and Sasha were 'hurt' and the heels were taking advantage of it, it should've been a relatively quick victory. That having been said, I don't understand why Nia was the one to pin the number one contender. Oh, right. 50/50 booking.
WINNERS: Charlotte and Nia Jax (5:18 + commercial break)
RATING: * 1/4
Backstage Segment: Noam Dar gets a surprise
Alicia Fox mockingly kissing Noam Dar was a bit surprising and it actually makes this feud between he and Cedric more interesting. I wonder if she eventually turns on Cedric and joins Noam.
In-Ring Segment: Titus O'Neil auditions for New Day
This is a rather dumb storyline. Why even bother having the New Day mess with Titus at all? They are so above that nonsense and the whole thing with him running around the ring with a keg ala when he was on NXT was really stupid. I love the New Day and I wish they would get something more substantial. Titus is still very awkward on the microphone. While he is probably a great guy in real life, he has never really done anything of note in the ring. I DID like them replaying Titus' fall over and over again and laughing at it. Another wash overall though and then we get this riveting contest.
Kofi Kingston vs. Titus O'Neil
I could not care less about this but Titus didn't acquit himself too badly to tell the truth. Kofi sold well for the big guy and Titus didn't botch anything too major so it's a major improvement. Don't get me wrong - the match wasn't particularly good or anything but it wasn't awful and it was fine for a waste of a few minutes. Kofi getting the win was totally the right move and I have no idea where they're going with this - Titus losing to Big E next week and then that hopefully wraps this feud up?
WINNER: Titus O'Neil (3:34)
RATING: * 3/4
WWE United States Title Handicap Match
Roman Reigns (c) vs. Kevin Owens (Universal Champion) and Chris Jericho
I thought the idea behind this match was somewhat interesting and Roman trying to lock Jericho in the shark cage (before the match officially started) so he only had to deal with Owens was clever but that begs the question: why would the shark cage even be set up on the stage in the first place? What is the storyline reason for that? To hype up the Royal Rumble title match? The shark cage being on the stage looked incredibly awkward all night and for it to exist just for that spot was stupid and contrived.
The body of the match mostly consisted of Jericho and Owens working over Roman after they got the jump on him earlier in the match and it was OK but handicap matches are pretty limited in terms of enjoyment as you usually go in two directions with the finish: have the two guys look weak by having them defeated at the hands of one opponent in a dominant fashion or have the two guys struggle to defeat the one guy which still makes them look weak because it was difficult for them to beat ONE person.
Jericho actually bled at one point and Roman dominated a good portion of the match but the heels didn't look too bad. The finish was strong as Jericho hit two Codebreakers and Owens powerbombed Roman on the edge of the ring apron. I will say that I liked that they changed the title because Roman was doing nothing with the title.
WINNERS: Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho (Jericho is the NEW United States Champion)
RATING: ** 1/4
I do not have a lot to say here, truth be told. This is why I don't watch RAW anymore. Wow. RAW was super boring this week and it just kept going and going with short matches, pointless storylines, Stephanie McMahon being extremely annoying and talking down to everyone and just a general feeling of malaise.
Thanks for reading, folks. Kendra will be back next week!