The past month on RAW...
RAW 1275 Review // The Miz vs. Matt Hardy // Intercontinental Championship
RAW 1276 Review // Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose vs. Cesaro & Sheamus // RAW Tag Team Championship
RAW 1277 Review // The Shield vs. The Miz, Cesaro & Sheamus
Survivor Series 2017 Review // Raw vs. SmackDown
RAW 1278 Review // The Miz vs. Roman Reigns // Intercontinental Championship
With Survivor Series firmly in the rear view mirror and with nine weeks until the Royal Rumble, it seems we're in for an interesting two months on RAW. The 27th November episode came to us from Knoxville, Tennesee and was main-evented by Roman Reigns' first Intercontinental title defence against Elias, with Reigns being moved into a new feud with Samoa Joe post-match. There was also a curious angle that saw Kane in action against Jason Jordan and then Finn Balor, before Braun Strowman turned up for some revenge, whilst Seth Rollins clashed with RAW Tag Team Champion Cesaro, with both men's partners absent from ringside. But was RAW 1279 any good? Lets take a look!
Elias stepped up to Roman Reigns
Intercontinental Championship // Roman Reigns def. Elias [Elias Samson] // Pinfall
With The Miz written off TV to do a film, Roman Reigns was shifted into a feud with Samoa Joe, but not before he'd spent a big portion of the episode opposite Elias. The opening segment of the show set the tone for the interaction, with Reigns cutting a run of the mill promo, before being interrupted by The Miztourage, who introduced Elias. Not a whole lot else actually happened. Considering Reigns had issued an open challenge on social media, having it answered by Elias was a let down. The Drifter has done some good character work in the mid-card, but it's hard to pick out a match of his that has come anywhere near exciting me. Had the challenge not been issued a week in advance it wouldn't have been as bad, but allowing the fans (and other roster members) to get interested in who could step out to face Reigns and to then provide Elias as the answer seemed like a misstep. The highlight of the segment was The Miztourage joining up with Elias as the trio has potential to entertain, whilst also opening up a programme when The Miz is ready to return.
Before the main event (coming at the top of the third hour) could get underway, Elias was allowed to shine as he did an extended concert alongside Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel. This was the best part of the one-night story with Elias controlling the crowd with ease. The Drifter has a good sense of when to bring the crowd up and when to settle them down, threatening to stop at multiple points, only to continue with his sweet tunes, much to Knoxville's displeasure. Dallas and Axel playing the harmonica was a bizarre twist, but meant the concert could continue way past what we usually see from a solo Elias, resulting in a decent sized "We Want Roman" chant. This segment provided even more evidence that an Elias, Axel and Dallas trio could work extremely well as a mid-card act and under other circumstances do well from an Intercontinental Championship run.
Unfortunately the match couldn't follow the concert, not helped by some strange booking. With the crowd chanting "We Want Roman" by the end of the prior segment, it would've made sense to have Reigns come straight out of the gates with a big face shine, yet instead we got five of the dullest minutes of wrestling in recent memory. Wear down holds, general beat down stuff and a few slow and clunky moments littered the opening exchanges and struggled to grab the audience or hold my attention. The best moments came from the interference from Axel and Dallas as the pair bought something mildly interesting to match, popped the crowd and then Axel got speared out of his boots on the floor after a nice bit of build. There was also a handful of decent near falls for Elias with the Miztourage being used well to increase the threat to Reigns' title run, as the Drifer came close with a diving elbow drop and a wicked spinning sitout powerbomb. Eventually, Reigns picked up the win in fairly convincing fashion with a spear. Post-match, Reigns was assaulted on the ramp by Samoa Joe in an intense angle. The two have clash three times already on RAW this year, but a full blown feud could prove fruitful as the show bides time between now and the Road to WrestleMania.
Kane def. Jason Jordan // Countout
Finn Balor [Prince Devitt] def. Kane // Disqualification
Well, this was a strange close to the show. Kane vs. Jason Jordan was supposed to be our final match, but it didn't last long with Jordan getting thrown over the top rope and selling his knee, getting counted out. There wasn't much to the match at all and it seemed like just another way of furthering the story that Jordan is trying to look tough, whilst simultaneously pussying out at any sign of things not going his way. After Kane murdered Jordan, Finn Balor came roaring out to let us know that Vince McMahon really doesn't see anything in him. Balor actually got some decent offence in on Kane, but after a shotgun dropkick sent the Big Red Machine into the barricade, the former WWE Champion came back with a chair to cause the DQ. Kane smacked Balor about a bit with the chair, in a grim metaphor for Balor's current trajectory, before Braun Strowman came out to make the save. It was a needlessly complicated piece of booking, that whilst aiding Jordan's story somewhat, did very little for Balor. It's clear that the company has cooled on him as a top level guy, but feeding him to Kane (who will inevitably be fed to Strowman) seemed unnecessary with such a deep roster.
The show would conclude with Strowman dishing out a beating to Kane, as a receipt for last week. Whilst The Monster Amongst Men lobbing people around and wielding a chair will always be fun to a certain level, there was also Kane escaping through the crowd whilst gasping for air. This was after Strowman drove the chair into the steel steps with Kane's throat at the other end and then repeated the act. Obviously, this was supposed to be a reply, after Kane did the same to Strowman last week, but became an uncomfortable watch, going on way past what was necessary. Perhaps in the middle of the show it would've been, at the very least, not quite as jarring, but having the newly babyface Strowman ram a steel chair repeatedly into another man's throat, even as a revenge attack was a strange way to end the show. Having the Devil's Favourite Demon stagger away through the crowd, gasping for breath has to be one of weakest ending's to an episode of RAW in the last few years. Surely, the running powerslam on the steps was a good enough ending?
Seth Rollins def. Cesaro [Claudio Castagnoli] // Pinfall
The best match on the show, pretty much saved the messy upper card as Seth Rollins and Cesaro put on a great television opener. After a handful of TV matches over the last two years, this still felt like a fresh pairing and with a little extra time they seemed to really get their teeth in this, with a series of creative highspots. The fameasser on the apron from Rollins, as well as Cesaro slamming Seth into the post, during the break, stand out in particular. However, the match's driving forces was the amazing selling on display from both men and how that was woven into the story, creating added drama at points. Simple things like Rollins selling a backbreaker by not being able to hit the Falcon Arrow, and then selling an eye-poke by blindly swinging in the corner made all the difference, whilst Cesaro also did some nice grit-your-teeth style work, getting over the physicality of the contest. The Swiss Superman got a couple of good near falls against the two time WWE Champion, including the Kingslayer spending sometime in the Sharpshooter, before a smooth sequence resulted in Rollins nailing the King's Landing and falling into the cover. Post-match, Rollins told Charly Caruso that The Shield was still a unit, comically talking about Dean Ambrose being on honeymoon, before announcing he and Ambrose would be cashing in their rematch clause for the RAW Tag Team Championship next week in Los Angeles.
Cruiserweight Championship #1 Contendership Tournament Semi-Final // Rich Swann def. Akira Tozawa and Noam Dar and Ariya Daivari // Pinfall
After Kurt Angle admitted he'd let the Cruiserweight division got off the rails, claiming he didn't even know what The 'Zo Train was despite it dominating 205 Live for months, the RAW General Manager booked a tournament to crown a number one contender, with the first semi-final happening this week. Rich Swann, Akira Tozawa, Noam Dar and Ariya Daivari put on a four-way sprint, that featured lots of enjoyable action, even if the crowd was a little flat. There could have been more storytelling with Dar and Daivari both in the 'Zo Train, but as a showcase for the four's in-ring talent this was a good starting point for anyone looking to jump into 205 Live. The Swann vs. Tozawa section was some of the best straight-up wrestling on the show. The pair have lots of history in Dragon Gate and DGUSA, but this was the first time they'd been on opposite sides in WWE and it was brilliant to watch. Dar would also put in a great showing down the stretch as he desperately clawed to get the win anyway possible, connecting well with both Swann and Tozawa, getting a decent bit of heat, before eventually taking the pin after a Phoenix Splash as Swann advance to the final on 1281.
Bray Wyatt def. Matt Hardy // Pinfall
For an eight minute portion of the show, Bray Wyatt going over Matt Hardy featured a lot of talking points. The match itself was a short and straightforward victory for Wyatt, as he weathered a Hardy storm, kicking out of a Side Effect, before winning with Sister Abigail. However, the stuff that book-ended the match was much more noteworthy. We began with a wild promo from Wyatt, as he spoke about Thanksgiving and then proceeded to shout "You're all dead" four or five times. I'm not quite sure what it was supposed to be, but it was the first Wyatt promo in a long while that has felt different and engaging. It's difficult to ignore being told that you and everyone else is in fact dead, by laughing 285lb man. Post-match, things were all about Matt Hardy as WWE finally prepared to pull the trigger on "Broken" Matt. It had been referenced that Hardy's attack on Elias last week had seen a change in the former United States Champion, which to be honest I hadn't clocked, but now made perfect sense. Hardy sat in the corner, screaming a few times, before doing the signature "Delete" gesture that we haven't seen for a little while. A "Broken" Matt feud with Wyatt has bags of potential if WWE can keep more to the Final Deletion style than they did with the House of Horrors, whilst the return of Jeff Hardy in 2018 opens doors to other potential stories
Paige, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville [Daria Berenato] laid out Sasha Banks
After the surprising return and debut last week, Paige, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville couldn't match things this time round with an oddly booked segment. Originally supposed to be a six man tag with Mickie James and Bayley tagging with Sasha Banks, when neither came out, Paige later brought up footage of the pair nursing injuries backstage. This lead to an overly wordy segment, including Mandy Rose seemingly not knowing how to walk, in which Paige explained the reasons behind attacking the roster last week. Basically, it was the same kind of thing we've heard time and time again from performers after time off, moaning that they were forgotten about while injured etc. Paige is strong on the mic, but giving time to Deville and Rose seemed like a poor choice, especially having them do it after walking to the ring to surround Banks. Deville struggled with dealing with the "What?" chants, whilst Rose positioning herself on the hard-cam side of the apron resulted in some awkward camera angles. The beatdown followed the same pattern as last week's, with Banks taking Bed of Roses from Rose, a jumping roundhouse kick from Deville and a Rampaige from Paige. Oh, the trio is also called Absolution now and after a lengthy explanation, I still have no idea why.
Samoa Joe def. Titus O'Neil // Submission
Quick squash that was mostly strikes, before Joe used a separation by the referee to lock in the Coquina Clutch for the submission victory. After the match, Apollo Crews tried to stand up to Joe, but ended up caught in the Coquina Clutch as well.
Asuka [Kana] def. Dana Brooke // Submission
An in-vision promo from Dana Brooke called Asuka a "slow-starter" before The Empress of Tomorrow made Brooke tap out to a cross-armbreaker in under five seconds in a laugh-out loud moment. After the match it was teased that Asuka had some involvement with Absolution when the group hit the ring, but didn't attack.
Not a great RAW this week, with a number of poor booking decisions that left performers exposed, but also featured a couple of good to very good TV bouts. Roman Reigns vs. Elias was highlighted by the involvement of The Miztourage, but the match itself was poorly put together, whilst Kane's matches with Jason Jordan and Finn Balor seemed unnecessary and Braun Strowman's attack on the Big Red Machine's throat was a shitty way to conclude. This left Seth Rollins vs. Cesaro as the only top segment to deliver, with the pair having a cracking opening bout, that the rest of the show struggled to follow. Asuka destroying Dana Brooke in seconds, the Cruiserweight four-way and the potential for "Broken" Matt in WWE gave the undercard a boost, but the new Absolution faction lost some of the edge they had last week in an ill-advised promo, in lieu of the advertised trios match.
There's still no idea what the show is going to do to keep things interesting before the Royal Rumble, but we've got Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose to look forward to next week, as well as the live episode on Christmas Day for 1283 and the 25th anniversary special as the go-home for the Rumble on 22nd January for 1287.