It was the first RAW after Survivor Series and we where still in the Toyata Center in Houston, Texas on 20th November. The show heavily featured The Shield as they appeared on an episode of Miz TV, resulting in Roman Reigns getting a shot at The Miz's Intercontinental Championship in the main event, whilst Dean Ambrose also had a match against Sheamus. We also saw the return of Paige, as she interrupted a RAW Women's Championship #1 Contenders match, alongside NXT performers Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose, as well as some of the fallout from the Survivor Series main event as Kurt Angle, Jason Jordan and Braun Strowman confronted Triple H, resulting a match between Jordan and Strowman happening later in the show. But was it any good? Lets take a look!
The Shield wreaked havoc on Miz TV
Dean Ambrose def. Sheamus // 9:01
Intercontinental Championship // Roman Reigns def. The Miz (C) via pinfall // 12:54
The Shield were all over the show this week, beginning with an appearance on Miz TV, that had originally been announced as solo appearance from Roman Reigns. Miz drifted past his loss to Baron Corbin the night earlier, before The Shield arrived and things got interesting. The two parties did job, playing around with the lively pro-Miz portion of the audience, having a load of fun along the way, even if the lights did go off in the middle! I get a weird satisfaction anytime Miz loses his head and starts ranting and raving at people and there was plenty of that on display here as he went on a madcap tirade asking The Shield to say "thank you" for the part The A-Lister played in the group getting back together. The crowd bought into it and Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins joked around, bouncing off each other and looking natural in their interactions as they took the piss-out of Miz for losing at Survivor Series. When Reigns said he felt left out when Rollins talked about he and Dean Ambrose (who mostly wandered around in the background, presumably because he's the Lunatic Fringe) getting a RAW Tag Team title shot, Rollins suggested Reigns have a chance at The Miz's championship, leading to The Miztourage taking a beat and a main event IC title match being made.
A good television bout in the second chapter of the Shield's story on this episode. Dean Ambrose and Sheamus worked a physical contest in their tenth TV singles match, based around a number of power moves from The Celtic Warrior. Some work was done on Ambrose's elbow, although despite the commentary team mentioning it a few times and The Lunatic Fringe selling well, it didn't seem to be a massive focus of the in-ring action. What was a focus was the power of Sheamus, as he lobbed around Ambrose with a series of release verticle suplexes, as well as a cool moment when The Great White went straight from a stretch muffler into a sitout powerbomb. Ambrose's scrappy comeback, after Sheamus went into the corner post was fun, but the match peaked once Seth Rollins and Cesaro started to interact at ringside. This produced a couple of distraction near falls, as well as a brilliant moment of Rollins flying through the ring and hitting The Swiss Superman with a suicide dive on the other side, seconds before Ambrose hit Dirty Deeds on Sheamus to pick up the clean win. The match used it's time well, built towards its finish and also included a really good highspot near fall for Sheamus off an avalanche rolling senton.
As Kurt Angle tried to check on Jason Jordan's injured leg, The Miz was unsuccessful in his attempt to get Angle to cancel his match with Roman Reigns...
After no title matches on the main show the night before it was a good idea to stick one on this episode and perhaps a brighter one to take the belt of The Miz, following a poorly booked loss to Baron Corbin. Considering that loss, the creative for the contest did a stellar job of making Miz look like a threat to Reigns. Without The Miztourage or Maryse at ringside it could have easily felt like Reigns was going to coast to a quick victory, yet we saw The A-Lister constantly ducking to the floor in the early goings, before eventually managing to block a Superman Punch coming off the steel steps and hit snap DDT on the floor and from then on wards Miz became a threat to the Big Dog, able to escape Samoan drops and superman punches. Amongst a couple of really well-done chains of action, the threat level was raised when Cesaro & Sheamus came to ringside and Miz got a believable near fall off a Skull Crushing Finale following the distraction. The ending with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose out to counter the threat and Reigns nailing a gorgeous spear on the champion had bags of energy and ended the show on a high note, getting a good pop from a crowd who had initially been split for the pair. A solid main event, that opened a few interesting avenues for The Shield and their rivals, especially with no RAW PPV scheduled in December.
Paige, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville attacked Mickie James, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Alicia Fox
Before we talk about Paige's return, I wanted to discuss the dud of a segment that preceded her return. RAW Women's Champion Alexa Bliss was out to complain about fans patronising her following a loss to SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair the night earlier. It was alright work from Bliss, but it was clear she had very little direction or idea where this promo was supposed to go. Mickie James, then Bayley, then Sasha Banks and finally Alicia Fox came out to say they thought they deserved a title shot. The problem was none of them did. James had lost two consecutive title bouts in October, hadn't won since and didn't even quality for the RAW Women's team at Survivor Series, Bayley was the first RAW Woman eliminated at Survivor Series and had only won one non-tag team match since her last title shot in September, Banks probably had the best case, with two wins over Fox since the September five-way and a stellar tag team record, but had also submitted to Natalya the night earlier and Fox had one win since May. Kurt Angle coming out and making a four-way because the four women had came out was daft, because of Asuka's performance at Survivor Series. I understand wanting to hold off her win, but at least give her a reason for not going after Bliss' title. This was a ham-fisted attempt to get bodies in the ring for the upcoming attack, but they could have just as easily done that without this segment.
The Fatal Four-way didn't last all that until Paige interrupted, making her first WWE appearance since, to a massive pop. Paige commanded the crowd with ease, before Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville hit the ring to cause the Four-way to go to a no-contest.
After the match, Paige, Deville and Rose lay waist to Bayley, Banks and James, concluding with a Rampaige to Bayley in an interesting development to RAW's Women's division. Backstage, Alexa Bliss interrupted Renee Young trying to interview Paige, Sonya Deville & Mandy Rose, before the trio battered the RAW Women's Champion, leaving her lying on the floor.
Kurt Angle, Jason Jordan and Braun Strowman all confronted Triple H // 5:55
Braun Strowman def. Jason Jordan via Disqualification // 1:45
Following the contentious conclusion to Survivor Series, the show began with the fallout from the main event, with Stephanie McMahon gloating over the RAW victory and bringing out her husband, Triple H. The segment kept a great pace with Kurt Angle, Jason Jordan and Braun Strowman all flying down the ramp to get in the face of The Game, with Angle in particular doing a brilliant job of selling his anger after Triple H hit him with a Pedigree on Sunday. Whether you enjoyed that finish or not, this was Angle's best acting performance since returning to WWE as he looked genuinely pissed off with his 2000-02 rival. He stormed to the ring, got up in The Cerebral Assassins face and looked fucking furious, like Triple H had told him that milk was a bad choice. Jordan coming out was okay, it made sense after the Pedigree he took last week, and the crowd was actually into him challenging Triple H, but it was Braun Strowman's arrival, moments after the D-Generation X founder had said he wasn't afraid of anyone in the locker room that created the real moment. A tense stare-down, with Triple H exiting the ring was a lovely piece of business, with the crowd desperate to see Strowman go off on one and lob the COO all over the ring. Where this is heading I have no idea, but I'm interested to fine out. The segment closed with Stephanie McMahon booking a match between Strowman and Jordan later on.
Jason Jordan tried to get out of his match with Braun Strowman, telling his Dad that he was really hurt, but then got weirdly pumped up about the prospect when Angle couldn't stop the match... Braun Strowman told Charly Caruso he was glad that Jason Jordan had said he wasn't afraid of him, because that makes him different from everyone else, including Triple H... Jason Jordan went to Matt Hardy for some advice about his mater later, with Hardy telling him "some nights it's just not your night" HELPFUL...
The Strowman vs. Jordan match didn't last long, as it appeared Jordan was ready to bail after less than two minutes, holding onto his injured knee and with Strowman looking the other way, Kane attacked the Monster Among Men with a steel chair.
Kane continued to attack Strowman after the match, driving a steel chair between Strowman's throat and the ring steps, leaving the Monster Amongst Men gasping for air...
Akira Tozawa, Rich Swann, Cedric Alexander & Mustafa Ali def. The 'Zo Train // 4:13
The tag match was solid multi-man fare with a nice spot involving interference and distraction from Amore allowing The Zo-Train to take control and an action packed hot tag from Cedric Alexander, that would conclude with a Neuralyzer to Dar and Lumbar Check to Nese, before Ali picked up the pin on Dar with the 054 splash. It wasn't much more than filler, but it would've improved the quality of the Kick-Off show had it replaced the Kalisto vs. Enzo Amore match on the show.
Samoa Joe def. Finn Balor [Prince Devitt] via referee stoppage // 8:34
A good opener, but weirdly thrown away here on television, with a clean finish to boot and no follow up. This quality of the action was a step down from the match the pair had in Manchester two weeks ago, being mostly Joe dominating his smaller opponent. The Samoan Submission controlled, about 80% of the match, reversing slingblades into overhead belly to belly suplexes, hitting suicide dives and more or less rag-dolling Prince Devitt all over the ring. The action was always crisp and impactful, but lacked a little something of the energy and fire that I enjoyed in their Manchester bout. It was, of course, better to see a decisive finish, instead of the previous double countout, but I was surprised to see Balor lose so clearly. He looked good in his final fire up, but Booker T threw him under the bus on commentary for not making it to the top rope quick enough and this took away a little from Joe eventually dragging him off the top and locking in a Coquina Clutch for the win. I'd suspected Balor might've been a future opponent for Brock Lesnar before WrestleMania, based on this match that appears to no longer be the case.
Matt Hardy attacked Elias [Elias Samson]
Elias mocked the crowd and attempted to sing about Matt Hardy, but was quickly interrupted by his subject. The two brawled a little, before Elias escaped a Twist of Fate and left...
Asuka [Kana] def. Dana Brooke via pinfall // 2:35
Dana Brooke had a split-screen promo ahead of her match with Asuka, claiming that she'd watched the Asuka Collection on the WWE Network and had found some holes in her opponent's game....hmmm, yeah, ok hen.
Dana Brooke wasn't ready for Asuka, 5-0.
Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows shilled various merch for WWEShop, as part of the Countdown to Black Friday.
Roman Reigns won the Intercontinental Championship, Paige returned alongside the debuting Sonya Deville & Mandy Rose, Kane assaulted Braun Strowman. In terms of creating moments this show did a very good job. There was also quite a few good to very good matches for a television product, with the main event, Ambrose vs. Sheamus and Balor vs. Joe (to some extent) all standing out. However, some of the booking showed a lack of thought and at times, direction. Specifically, Asuka's positioning in the Women's division and the mindless segment that lead to the four-way and to a lesser degree the baffling use of the Cruiserweight division. There was a few developments that I'm interested to see play out, such as where Samoa Joe and Finn Balor are heading next and also I feel like Jason Jordan's story is beginning to head somewhere productive (hopefully!). My match of the night was the Intercontinental title change as it had some drama to it and was one of the better finishes we've seen on RAW this year.
Review by James Marston