It was the 25th anniversary of WWE's flagship show on 22nd January (okay the actually anniversary was on 11th Jan, but this as RAW hit the Barclays Center and Manhattan Center in New York City to celebrate. This was also the go-home RAW for the Royal Rumble, so surely it was going to be an epic success and not at all a let-down?...Right?
At a Glimpse
- Roman Reigns vs. The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship
- D-Generation X and Scott Hall with The Balor Club
- Vince, Stephanie and Shane McMahon open the show with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
- Appearances from: The Undertaker, John Cena, AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan and Jeff Hardy
Intercontinental Championship // The Miz def. Roman Reigns (C) // Pinfall
The show's main event came at the top of the second hour and was the only match on the show that felt particularly important or consequential. The match was solid stuff and a very easy watch, but also suffered from feeling a little lightweight, short and overly familiar. The pattern was that of any recent Miz match, with lots of interference and distraction from Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel at ringside, bringing to mind Jinder Mahal's WWE title run, a comparison that nobody would want to be drawn. A couple of cute spots, including a nice moment where Dallas held onto Reigns leg in the corner as the Big Dog set up for a spear, allowing Miz to hit his Awesome Clothesline, but the body of the match featured nothing different and very little in the way of narrative beyond the interference. The last couple of two minutes or so were well done, with Miz getting a well-crafted near fall off a Skull Crushing Finale, after the referee had kicked Axel & Dallas from ringside, for a massive pop. Moments later Miz would dodge a spear, sending Reigns into an exposed turnbuckle, allowing for a second Skull Crushing Finale to pick up Miz's eighth Intercontinental Championship run and first victory over Reigns at the eighth time of asking. Overall, a solid yet unspectacular match, that could have been livened up by having the various General Managers (Daniel Bryan, William Regal, Eric Bischoff and John Laurinaitis) who were on stage before the entrances being involved somehow in the decision to remove Dallas & Axel from ringside somehow, as only having them wave a bit to the crowd was a waste and not particularly interesting for the home-viewer.
D-Generation X and Scott Hall met the Balor Club
Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson def. Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder // Pinfall
The top segment from the Manhattan Center came in the form of the D-Generation X reunion and their subsequent interactions with Razor Ramon and The Balor Club. There were a few fun moments when Triple H and Shawn Michaels were out there together, but things quickly descended into one of Triple H's pre-NXT Takeover speeches, full of buzzwords and claims about D-Generation X being at the forefront for the next 25 years. Past that the reunion felt like it was the same stuff we've seen time and time again from the group and considering they did a similar segment a few years back at RAW 1000, the only special thing about the reunion was the Manhattan Center setting and the crowd chanting "1-2-3" at X-Pac. Razor Ramon turning up added a little, but Finn Balor, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson at least bought a fresh angle to things and considering that BULLET CLUB leaned heavily on tropes from DX and the Kliq it was super cool to see them interacting here and throwing up the ol' Too Sweet hand gesture. The match that followed with Gallows & Anderson going over the Revival was a deathly disappointing squash. Considering Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder would go on to take everyone's finishes after the match, I'm not sure why they had to lose the match as well, as surely a cheap victory with some underhanded tactics would have given more reason to the beatdown and also not completely cut the legs out from under the former NXT Tag Team Champions.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin stunned Vince and Shane McMahon
The show peaked early with this wonderfully entertaining opening segment featuring Vince, Shane, Stephanie and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Everything from when Vinny Mac hit the ring onwards was a joy to watch as Vince and Stephanie owned their performances, peppering in some comedy around crowd funding and ripping into Brooklyn for being a bit of a shithole. It amazes me how easy it is to get an American crowd to react to stuff like that, with Brooklyn even reacting repeatedly to mentions about plaque (Vince's kids had crowdfunded him a plaque, because....that's just what happened). Once that famous glass smashed, the Barclays came unglued and it was time to head to stunner-ville. Seeing Vince having so much fun inside the ring, as he threw out reasons why Austin should stunner Shane instead, was brilliant. Seeing the joy on the 72 year old's face throughout the whole segment absolutely made this for me. The highlight for me was Vince's apparent ad-lib after Austin had stunnered Shane, as the crowd chanted "One more time" and Vince replied "I don't think Shane can take another time". The build towards Vince taking the stunner was timed perfectly, building the anticipation before delivering on what we all wanted to see.
Elias took out John Cena
Wow, I wasn't expecting to see this on the show. Elias rebuffed a John Cena comeback, nailed a low blow, guitar shot and Drift Away before leaving the 16 time World Champion laying in the centre of the ring. For me, this was the best booked segment on the entire show, as anyone tuning in to see Cena on the special episode, would've seen one of WWE's biggest star get left laying by a relative newcomer, lending the Drifter legitimacy amongst casual fans and reason for those fans to tune in for a regular episode. We also got one of my favourite Elias songs to date as he just bitched about various legends and Brooklyn booed the shit out of him. It was hardly nuanced, but boy did it work! Before the segment, Chris Jericho made a brief appearance with Elias backstage, pulling out a few catchphrases and placing The Drifter on the list.
The APA returned and played poker with some lads...
Titus O'Neil & Apollo Crews vs. Heath Slater & Rhyno // No Contest
A lot of time went into this weird storyline, that began with the APA reopening their office thing with a door but no walls and concluded with Heath Slater taking a 3D from the Dudley Boyz through a table, and I'm still trying to figure out who decided any of it was good use of time and talent. The backstage segments were poorly produced and whilst appearances from Ted DiBiase, The Usos, Montel Vontavious Porter, Jeff Hardy, Natalya and The New Day were cool to see, no one particularly stood out as the multiple segments came across as incredibly messy and unorganised. There were things that each of those non-regulars could have done that would've been far more interesting and probably taken up less time than whatever the fuck this was. Somehow we got to a match between Heath Slater & Rhyno and Titus O'Neil & Apollo Crews and then the match was over. Nothing happened. It just ended because it got a bit rowdy. Slater getting thrown to the Dudley Boyz was also a thing, because it would appear Rhyno doesn't give a fuck about Slater's kids. Did you think about the kids, Rhyno? Shithead.
Sasha Banks & Mickie James & Bayley & Asuka def. Alicia Fox & Nia Jax & Sonya Deville & Mandy Rose // Submission
Another inconsequential and down right dull match up was the opening contest of the evening. For some reason this bout was stretched across two advert breaks, with the second garnering a groan from this reviewer, but absolutely nothing of note had happened in the first two parts of the match. Asuka had a face shine, Sasha Banks was the face in peril and Banks tapped out Alicia Fox in the Banks Statement, with no hot tag or any particular feeling that such a finish was coming. Michael Cole made a big thing about there being no women's match on the first episode of RAW and to be quite honest there was the same amount of effort put into this women's match as there was back then. At least, Asuka turning on her team and throwing them over the rope after the match was a good piece of business heading into the Royal Rumble.
Throughout the pre-show and beyond we got a reminder of some of the greatest moments in the shows history. These included Bobby Heenan trying to enter the Manhattan Center, Steve Austin driving a Zamboni, Mankind winning the WWF title, Eric Bischoff's debut, Lita vs. Trish Stratus as the first women's main event, The Undertaker's general career, Chris Jericho's debut, D-Geneation X invading WCW, Seth Rollins turning on The Shield, Brock Lesnar's return and the career of Edge. All well an good, I guess.
Brock Lesnar, Kane and Braun Strowman collided ahead of Royal Rumble
Whilst it seemed like creative had about six ideas for the closing segment of the show and decided to do all of them at the same time, it was Paul Heyman who ended up stealing the moment and giving us one final hard sell on the Universal Championship match at Royal Rumble on Sunday. Heyman coming out and with his usual bombast declaring that Lesnar wasn't there for a nostalgia trip, but for a fight, was delicious stuff that the crowd lapped up and actually made me excited to see the three of them scrap. For reason, the ring had some of the legends from earlier around it and some of the regular roster stood in between Strowman and Kane for a bit, before doing absolutely fuck all. The brawl between the three that will be involved in the Sunday's Universal title match didn't do a whole lot for me, being too short to offer much of an insight into the matches potential. After Lesnar hit Kane with an F5 early doors, it was Braun Strowman who ended the show standing tall following a running powerslam to Lesnar through a table.
Peep Show with Seth Rollins, Jason Jordan, Sheamus & Cesaro
Jason Jordan has really came into his own since being placed alongside Seth Rollins and it was never more evident than it was here as the pairs uneasy partnership became the focal point of a special episode of Christian's Peep Show (definitely would've been improved by a Super Hans appearance). Jordan's overtly cocky to the point of it almost being uncomfortable to watch character was on full display, making references to his Dad whilst Rollins looked on uneasy. The interruption from The Bar provided us with a good little bit of build for their Tag Title clash at the Rumble, with the two teams scrapping as Sheamus & Cesaro had lead the crowd in a "You suck" chant directed towards Jordan. The last little bit of misscomunication between the champion as Rollins nailed Jordan with the springboard knee gave us the last bit of story development before Sunday, opening up the possibility of a title change. The segment would've been improved by an appearance from Edge as they could've pushed the tag team theme a little further, but you can't have everything in this life.
Bray Wyatt def. Matt Hardy // Pinfall
The only other match from the Manhattan Center was this disappointingly short and straightforward contest between Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy. This has been built to for a long, long time and then just happened. To my knowledge it wasn't announced prior, which makes things even worse. To be fair, the match was ticking along rather nicely for a while as both men mixed up a number of their signature moves and poses, whilst the Manhattan Center was hot for deleting things. Then it just ended as Wyatt blocked a Twist of Fate, pulled Hardy's throat into the top rope and hit Sister Abigail to earn the win in a couple of minutes. What happens now? Wyatt won, with a slightly underhanded tactic, but in such a quick fashion that it feels like any momentum that was left from the overly long build was killed stoned dead. At least Wyatt won I suppose, that's something.
The Undertaker said nothing
What on earth was this? Seriously, what was the point? Obviously, there's always a thrill when The Undertaker is on your television screen, but when it's five minutes of the Deadman talking but saying absolutely nothing, then you start to wonder why it's happening at all. Taker mentioned some of his old rivals and then said a cryptic sentence about them being able to rest in peace now. What? The commentary team offered no help at all either. No interaction with anyone, no development to a story and no important announcement, this was five mind-numbing minutes of nothing fucking happening. The Manhattan Center got screwed.
Eric Bischoff joined the pre-show panel for a chat about his RAW debut, in which we learnt absolutely nothing new...In another waste of talents, Trish Stratus, Kelly Kelly, The Bella Twins, Maria Kanellis, Maryse, Michelle McCool, Torrie Wilson, Lilian Garcia, Jacqueline and Terri Runnels came out and waved at the crowd...The New Day's hilarious lip sync battle with Triple H & Stephanie McMahon from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon aired on the pre-show...The Boogeyman, Teddy Long, Jonathan Coachman, The Brooklyn Brawler, Brother Love and Harvey Wippleman appeared in a segment in Kurt Angle's office...AJ Styles featured in a fun interview segment with "Mean" Gene Okerlund discussing his WWE Championship defence at Royal Rumble...SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair bumped in RAW Women's Champion Alexa Bliss, before Charlotte's Dad Ric Flair arrived to do some Wooing and what have you...Mark Henry and The Godfather caught up backstage...
Lets be honest, RAW 25 was a massive let down, especially if you happened to be inside the Manhattan Center. "Stone Cold" and the McMahons, John Cena and Elias and The Peep Show segments were the only ones that I felt fully delivered, whilst Roman Reigns vs. The Miz was a solid, yet unspectacular main event. D-Generation X and Balor Club was fun, but the squash of the Revival frustrating, whilst all of the matches felt throw away and the legends backstage segments fell flat. Perhaps the most disappointing thing on the show was The Undertaker's appearance, which promised a lot and delivered nothing. Here's hoping the Royal Rumble manages to live up to the hype better than this.