By Steven Flora
When the dust (and splinters) settled following the monstrous WWE Holiday Week Raw main event pitting Braun Strowman against Kane, Brock Lesnar still didn’t have a Universal Championship challenger for the Royal Rumble event in January. How will Raw General Manager Kurt Angle resolve this issue?
Strowman & Kane ends in a draw!
Winner faces Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at Royal Rumble: Braun Strowan vs. Kane ended in a Double Count-out
Last week, Kane challenged Strowman to a battle of monsters to determine which colossus holds domination over Raw. This week, the stakes were raised to a beastly degree, as the winner would be given the right to challenge Lesnar for the Universal Title at the Royal Rumble. So, who will step into the ring with The Beast Incarnate? The answer isn’t so simple.
WWE officials reinforced the ring to prevent an indecisive conclusion, but Strowman and Kane’s ferocity simply could not be contained. Literally. After Strowman kicked out of two Chokeslams and Kane kicked out of one, the two titans brawled into the WWE Universe, with Strowman plowing Kane through the barricade right as the referee reached a count of 10.
Despite the final bell sounding, the two Superstars continued to clash, using steel steps, furniture dollies and a steel chair in an escalating brawl that ended with The Monster Among Men planting Kane through a table with a Running Powerslam. So, the fight goes to Strowman, but given the end of the match, the question of who will face Lesnar remains unanswered. Perhaps The Beast will have something to say when he returns next week.
Side Note: This feud needs to end quickly. Fans get are clearly annoyed, the audience at home would most likely turn the channel over, it's just not on to see Kane main event Raw in 2017. As much of a legend he is, he doesn't need to put over Strowman as Strowman is ALREADY over. As for plans of a triple-threat match at Royal Rumble, I hope creative has plans for a new direction in the build up to the Rumble.
Reigns & Cesaro go to war for the Intercontinental Championship
Intercontinental Champion Roman Reigns def. Raw Tag Team Champion Cesaro
Reigns’ status as a fighting champion has already landed him in the path of two hungry up-and-comers. This week, it almost cost him the Intercontinental Title, because Cesaro was The Big Dog’s challenger of the week, and The Swiss Cyborg threw everything at Reigns to attempt to add a second title to his waist.
Even though Reigns prevailed, 90 percent of the bout was a brutal showcase for the challenger, who absolutely decimated Reigns’ arm to take the Superman Punch out of the game by way of some wrenching holds and a thunderous Cesaro Swing into the barricade. Effectively rendered one-armed by his challenger’s game plan, Reigns had to get crafty — rollups, Drive-By, Samoan Drop — to stay in the fight, and when the fight spilled to the outside, Reigns threw caution to the wind and landed a Superman Punch off the steps.
It seemed the high-risk strike would put Reigns back in control, but all it did was send Cesaro into a blind frenzy. A few close calls aside, The Swiss Superman firmly seized control of the match by pulverizing the champion with European uppercuts before hauling a dazed Reigns into the center of the ring to set up for the Neutralizer. But a back-body drop thwarted the challenger, and an exhausted Reigns followed up with a last-ditch Spear to narrowly — very narrowly — retain his title. Winner: Roman Reigns.
Side Note: What a great match, with Cesaro & Reigns coming out strong in that performance. Reigns honestly could be one of the best talents in-ring today as he does put on great matches that leave you shocked by the end. Cesaro is a phenomenal athlete and we already knew he could steal the show. All in all, great match and a pleasure to watch.
Rollins overcomes the Celtic Warrior
Seth Rollins def. Raw Tag Team Champion Sheamus
Score one for The Shield. In the first of three singles contests pitting The Hounds of Justice against Samoa Joe and The Bar, Rollins landed the first blow in a victory over Sheamus despite a savage assault on Rollins’ knee from the Raw Tag Team Champion.
The Celtic Warrior soundly executed his game plan, grounding The Kingslayer and threatening to take away the efficiency of Rollins’ signature ripcord knee. When The Alabaster Gladiator applied the Cloverleaf, it seemed like a tapout was a foregone conclusion, but Rollins went to his agility and speed, escaping the hold and delivering a one-legged superplex/Falcon Arrow combo to bring the bout to an even keel.
The move took as much out of Rollins as it did Sheamus, allowing the Irishman to tee him up for the Brogue Kick. The Architect had one more burst in him, though, stopping Sheamus cold with a superkick and landing the knee for the victory while Dean Ambrose watched backstage. Winner: Seth Rollins.
Side Note: Not as amazing as Cesaro & Reigns but this match had a good pace to it, with Rollins getting the W, which I felt should have been Sheamus in all honesty. Sheamus is rumored to be seriously injured going into this match and with all the news speculating about his injury, he seriously needs to get checked out as injuries like the ones he's going through are definitely career ending.
"Woken" Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt continued their war of words
Bray Wyatt and the WWE Universe met “Woken” Matt Hardy for the first time last week, and the newly reborn former Raw Tag Team Champion continued his war of words with The New Face of Fear, promising to illuminate the masses with his “Woken Wisdom” and “Broken Brilliance” and proclaiming Wyatt's very presence was the result of an "addiction" that had consumed the soul of Sister Abigail.
Hardy doubled down on his vow to "delete" Wyatt even as the former WWE Champion warned the Universe to choose their allegiances wisely. Despite Wyatt’s proclamation, it was Hardy’s demented cackle that once again got the last word.
Side Note: This is freaky, like in a "what am I watching?!" type freaky. This hopefully will involve a big payoff of Woken Matt & Bray Wyatt. Bray Wyatt has sunk so low he's rarely important and it's just honestly so sad to see. Woken Matt may help build Bray back up and hopefully this will involve a huge match at a major PPV and not a Raw PPV like Fastlane.
Jordan interferes between Joe & Ambrose
Samoa Joe def. Dean Ambrose
With Samoa Joe standing across from Dean Ambrose and two-thirds of The Shield already victorious on Raw, absolutely nothing was going to stop The Lunatic Fringe from gutting out a win against The Samoan Submission Machine in their first-time-ever clash. Except, as it turns out, Jason Jordan.
The former SmackDown Tag Team Champion once again took his father, Raw General Manager Kurt Angle, to task for not granting his previous demand of a match against Joe, and went so far as to plant himself at the top of the ramp in a chair to watch Joe battle The Lunatic Fringe.
Jordan’s presence didn’t quite throw Joe off his game, though it did distract the ref when he tried to throw Jordan off the apron following a scrap on the outside, robbing Ambrose of a pinfall and instigating a nose-to-nose between the two competitors. Joe capitalized by taking out both men with a suicide forearm, flattening Jordan with a running senton, and finally putting Ambrose to sleep with the Coquina Clutch for the victory. Winner: Samoa Joe.
Side Note: Jordan had no business in this match and really did infuriate me. This is most likely setting up a feud between Ambrose & Jordan. This could also set up a potential Jordan heel turn, which needs to happen as soon as possible.
Other notable moments
Ariya Daivari vs. Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali vs. Tony Nese: With WWE having revoked Rich Swann’s opportunity to compete for a Cruiserweight Title Match, a “Second Chance” Fatal 4-Way was sanctioned to determine who will face Drew Gulak for an opportunity to challenge Enzo Amore for his title. And one week after narrowly missing out, Cedric Alexander stepped up and redeemed himself to advance one step closer to his first Cruiserweight Championship. To do so, he once again had to go through Mustafa Ali, and the two Cruiserweights picked up exactly where they left off last week with a dazzling back-and-forth that was briefly interrupted when Ariya Daivari and Tony Nese got involved. Refusing to be overlooked, Tony Abs and The Persian Lion focused their efforts on grounding and pounding Ali after a top-rope hurricanrana took Alexander out of the running. Cedric roared back at the exact right moment, however, breaking up a surefire pinfall on Nese after Ali landed the astonishing 054. That instigated a train of big moves — Lumbar Check to Ali; running knee to Cedric — that ended with Alexander dispatching Daivari and Nese single-handedly, finally planting the former with a Lumbar Check to win. With Gulak on commentary watching the whole affair unfold, the battle lines are officially drawn. And given that Enzo rebuked Gulak's declaration of friendship after the match (though he was far more receptive to another encounter with Nia Jax), he might not even have the luxury of a friendly challenger if Gulak prevails over Alexander. Winner: Cedric Alexander
Finn Balor vs. Curtis Axel: Last week, it was Bo Dallas. This week, Curtis Axel got intimately acquainted with Finn Bálor’s boots when the former Intercontinental Champion suited up to avenge his Miztourage comrade, even removing his ubiquitous neck brace for the occasion. And even after a pre-bell cheap shot from Dallas threatened to derail the match, Bálor rallied to dispatch Axel with the running dropkick and Coup de Grâce, sending Axel to the showers and leaving him writhing while clutching his neck. Winner: Finn Balor.
Absolution attacks Asuka: For two weeks now, Absolution has threatened to make an example out of Asuka. This week, they went and did it, though it didn't quite go as planned. But before everything went south, the trio of Paige, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville did indeed throw down against The Empress of Tomorrow moments after dispatching her planned opponent, Alicia Fox, in the backstage area. Trapping Asuka in the ring, Paige laid out her terms to the undefeated Superstar — move or be moved — and sicced the entirety of Absolution on The Empress of Tomorrow when Asuka refused to comply. The former NXT Women’s Champion was struggling against the three-on-one onslaught, but the arrival of the entire Raw Women’s division more than evened the scales. The combined efforts of Team Red ladies didn’t just neutralize Absolution — it sent them into retreat for the very first time.
Overall Raw Rating: C
Things to look forward to next week
Where will WWE take the feud between Bray & Woken Matt next?
Will we get to see the former MMA competitor Sonya Deville in action next week?
What the hell is happening with Nia Jax and Enzo Amore?
Where is Elias & Good Brothers
Who will be the next challenger for Brock Lesnar's Universal Champion?