By Steven Flora
On the first ever live Christmas episode of Raw, unlikely partners Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan captured the Raw Tag Team Titles. Plus, John Cena made his Team Red return, Roman Reigns unleashed a vicious post-match assault on Samoa Joe, and Asuka officially entered the historic Women’s Royal Rumble Match.
Rollins & Jordan get the ultimate Christmas gift
Raw Tag Team Championship Match: Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan def. Raw Tag Team Champions Sheamus & Cesaro to become NEW Champions
Rollins and Jordan both came to Raw wanting a piece of Samoa Joe. But as far as Kurt Angle was concerned, given that Cesaro & Sheamus keep running interference for The Samoan Submission Machine, The Kingslayer and his son would team to face them instead. To sweeten the pot, The Olympic Hero put the Raw Tag Team Titles on the line, and that gambit paid off in something of a Christmas miracle, or at the very least, a gift to two Superstars who needed a big win.
Rollins was vocally hesitant to team with Jordan, and when the former SmackDown Tag Team Champion took himself out of the running with a hasty attack, it seemed as though The Kingslayer’s fears would prove to be well-founded. But Jordan returned at the moment of truth, putting on the same showcase that took Raw’s top Superstars to the limit over the last few months. Where those displays weren’t enough to seal the deal for Jordan in a singles match, a series of clutch interferences by Rollins made sure they were enough to carry the young Superstar over the hump.
Rollins’ last interference, in which he threw Sheamus into the steel steps, took The Alabaster Gladiator out of the match entirely. Cesaro blasted The Architect with a running European uppercut, but he was flustered enough that Jordan was able to catch him with the Angle Slam-neckbreaker hybrid and land the unlikely duo their first Tag Team Championship together. Jordan had raised Rollins’ ire earlier in the night by claiming he’d be a better partner to The Architect than Dean Ambrose ever could be. Now, he’ll get the chance to prove it. Winner: Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan (NEW RAW Tag Team Champions).
Side Note: VERY unexpected win, probably due to Ambrose's injury, yet this was unpredictable to say the least. You can tell this is leading to an Ambrose heel turn when he comes back. The type of "how can you do this to me, your own brother etc". For now, this team will work together almost like a hybrid team like "Y2AJ", but will lose the titles, probably by Royal Rumble.
An angered Reigns retains his IC Title via DQ
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match: Samoa Joe def. Roman Reigns via DQ (Reigns still retains title on DQ)
The good news for Samoa Joe is Reigns still hasn’t beaten him one-on-one. The bad news is The Samoan Submission Machine missed out on the Intercontinental Title, as Reigns decided that, instead of beating Joe, he’d rather beat Joe up.
In other words, Roman remains Intercontinental Champion, even though a burst of excessive aggression forced the ref to call off the match and award the disqualification win to Joe. It’s difficult to blame Roman for the outburst, as Joe’s self-proclaimed “systematic destruction of The Shield” tore Ambrose’s triceps tendon last week, putting The Lunatic Fringe on the shelf for, potentially, up to nine months. Reigns picked up the torch for his fallen brother in truly brutal fashion; the Intercontinental Champion came out swinging, forcing Joe into the uncommon position of fighting from underneath.
Which, ultimately, he did, landing a suicide forearm that tweaked Reigns’ left arm. The Big Dog fought back with one good arm to force Joe into the corner, but once the champion threw the ref out of his way to continue his assault, he was disqualified. Freed from the constraints of the contest, however, Reigns went to town, dropping his foe with a targeted assault of Joe’s shoulder that a squadron of officials was powerless to stop. Joe narrowly avoided Reigns' home-run swing with a steel chair, but the damage may well have been done. Somewhere, Ambrose is most likely smiling. In the backstage area, Rollins visibly was. Winner: Samoa Joe via DQ.
Side Note: I get they did this not only to extend the angle but to continue the "thing" that exists of Reigns not being able to beat Samoa Joe 1 on 1. Reigns, after pushing the referee during the melee, has now been fined $5,000. So it'll be interesting to see if the IC Champ faces further repercussions next Monday night on the first Raw of 2018.
Cena plays a winning tune to the delight of the Chicago Crowd
John Cena def. Elias
As the saying goes, ‘tis better to give than receive. And after John Cena arrived to the first-ever live Raw on Christmas to give a young fan the shirt off his back, Elias decided to interrupt him to give The Cenation Leader a taste of what it feels like to be cut off in the middle of a major moment. Cena, surprisingly, decided to play ball and walk with Elias, even encouraging the guitarist to play a song — until he took a few too many digs at The Windy City and Cena called him a “jerk” in response.
That led Elias to politely request a do-over, which Cena agreed to as long as he cut out the insults. But just when it seemed like Elias’ heart was about to grow three sizes, he dropped Cena with a punch to the face and challenged him to a match that Angle sanctioned on the spot. The woozy Cena was powerless to stop Elias, who chopped the 16-time World Champion down with body blows and powerslam presses that sent him flying across the ring.
Elias was even wise to Cena’s signature sequences, rolling out of the ring after a couple of shoulder tackles to avoid the Five-Knuckle Shuffle and twice escaping the STF. It was an impressive performance by any measure. But Cena turned the tide almost instantly, administering the shoulder tackles, spinning slam, Five-Knuckle Shuffle and, finally, the greatest gift of all: An Attitude Adjustment both literal and perhaps figurative to end the match in the very arena where he made his WWE debut all those years ago. Winner: John Cena.
Side Note: Cena was always going to win but Elias, damn he's good. I read in an interview this week where Triple H once said the reason Elias wasn't successful in NXT was because a talent like Elias is made for the main roster. This is spot on.
Asuka declared for the Women's Royal Rumble Match
Alexa Bliss has had a historically good year by anybody’s standards, starting 2017 as SmackDown Women’s Champion and ending it as Raw Women’s Champion. Even if she may have been overly charitable to herself when she took credit for the development of a Women’s Royal Rumble Match, it’s easy to see why Five Feet of Fury saw herself as the baddest woman on the Team Red roster.
That is, until Asuka came calling. The Empress of Tomorrow officially became the first female Raw Superstar to declare for the Women’s Royal Rumble Match, with a declaration within the declaration that she was going to win. Given her spotless record, it’s fair to take Asuka at her word when she says she’s going to win a match, but just to show she really meant business, The Empress of Tomorrow dropped a frozen Bliss with a lightning-fast kick to the head anyway.
Side Note: I'm just going to leave this here … Alexa Bliss is slowly ruining the Raw Women's division. Ever since she took the title from Bayley, the whole Raw Women's division has been on a slow-downward spiral. Asuka essentially is the only woman left on the Raw roster who has any legitimacy to take the title off Bliss and hopefully rebuild the Raw Women's division around the Empress of Tomorrow.
0-147 and counting
Finn Balor def. Curt Hawkins
One-hundred forty-six consecutive lumps of coal later, and all Curt Hawkins wanted for Christmas was a win. Alas, he’ll have to wait until New Year’s. The Prince of Queens came to the last Raw of 2017 with an open challenge he had hoped would finally put his legendary losing streak to an end. Finn Bálor answered the call and made quick work of the former Tag Team Champion, shaking off a nail-bitingly close roll-up attempt to administer a breathtaking Coup de Grâce that caught enough air to make Kris Kringle blush. Winner: Finn Balor.
Side Note: I honestly don't understand what the hell WWE is doing to Balor. Consistently one of the best wrestlers on the roster, consistently one of the most popular stars in WWE today, and the most reliable one at that. He gives everything you want and need in a WWE Superstar, yet gets consistently overlooked because of his height/weight. Honestly it's ridiculous the WWE still has the mindset of big, tall and strong men are the only stars, when in actuality, you have a lot of talent that aren't getting their shots due to poor booking.
Other notable moments
"Woken" Matt Hardy attacked Bray Wyatt: Bray Wyatt hasn’t thrown hands with Matt Hardy since before he became “Woken,” but The Reaper of Souls’ back-and-forth with the former Raw Tag Team Champion finally turned physical for the first time in nearly a month. Secure in the notion that his “fireflies’ outnumbered Hardy’s Woken Warriors, Wyatt made his way to the ring, only to be surprised when Hardy appeared in the flesh behind him and attacked. Hardy narrowly missed on a Twist of Fate, but he sent The Eater of Worlds running for cover all the same. As the final insult to Wyatt, Hardy led the WWE Universe in a “Delete” chant, turning Wyatt’s fireflies into Woken Warriors before his very eyes.
Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali & Akira Tozawa vs. WWE Cruiserweight Champion Enzo Amore, Drew Gulak & Ariya Daivari in a Six-Man Tag Team Miracle on 34th Street Fight: What do you get the man who has everything? Well, if the man in question is Enzo Amore, you hand a loss to him and his Zo Train in a Yuletide-themed Miracle on 34th Street Fight. At least, that was the plan for Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali & Akira Tozawa. Facing Enzo, Drew Gulak & Ariya Daivari dressed up as Santa and his elves (Gulak, of course, was Buddy), the three dynamic Cruiserweights perpetuated season’s beatings on their foes in high style. With the exception of a stint from Enzo that put Tozawa on the defensive, it was almost all coal for The Zo Train, especially when Chicago native Mustafa Ali tagged in to brutalize Daivari. The match came down to Amore and Alexander, who will challenge for Muscles Marinara’s title next week, and while Gulak ran interference to save Enzo from a candy-cane Kendo stick beating, he wasn’t able to spare Daivari from the match-ending Lumbar Check. Amore couldn't even take post-match solace in Nia Jax's company, as Alexa Bliss spoiled the latest encounter between the two Superstars, under the mistletoe no less. So Alexander gets the win, and if he does it again next week, he'll get his wish: The WWE Cruiserweight Championship. Winner: Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali & Akira Tozawa.
Hideo Itami vs. The Brain Kendrick: 205 Live and Monday Night Raw got their first dose of Hideo Itami last week, and the message was loud and clear: Be very afraid. But The Brian Kendrick, who has always fancied himself smarter than the average bear, decided to see if Itami really belonged. The short answer was yes, and painfully so, as Itami came out swinging — or kicking, rather — in his Raw singles debut. The Man With a Plan was well on his way to being brutalized until Gentleman Jack Gallagher distracted Itami and gave the former WWE Cruiserweight Champion a chance to brawl his way back into the fight. Yet Itami, psyching himself up periodically by screaming "Show me respect," grinded his way through Kendrick’s offense, peppering him with body shots before finally dropping him with a Go to Sleep that nearly turned Kendrick's face to mush. Winner: Hideo Itami.
Absolution vs. Sasha Banks, Bayley & Mickie James: The announcement of the Women’s Royal Rumble Match was momentous enough to momentarily cool hostilities within the Raw Women’s division and unite everyone in the shared spirit of making history. But that was last week, and now, Absolution had some beatings to dish out: Paige and her recruits formally dispatched Sasha Banks, Bayley & Mickie James in a victory several weeks in the making. Banks, Bayley & Mickie wisely focused their efforts on Paige’s backup, but Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville turned out to be the difference-makers. It was a breakout effort for both young Superstars, as Deville and Rose isolated Banks with clotheslines and submissions. A quick recovery by The Boss brought Paige into the fray against Bayley, but Absolution saved her from a Bayley-to-Belly pinfall, and the former Divas Champion made good on the bailout by kicking Bayley off the turnbuckle and planting her with the devastating Ram-Paige. Winner: Absolution.
Kane vs. Heath Slater: Last week, Angle told Heath Slater & Rhyno they needed to “toughen up” if they wanted to keep receiving opportunities in Raw’s Tag Team division, which The Man Beast took to mean his partner needed to be put through the ringer a bit. As it turns out, Rhyno’s plan was to send Slater into battle against Kane, which went south in a hurry for the beleaguered One-Man Band. The going got so tough, so to speak, that Slater tried to bail on the match, but a pep talk from Rhyno gave him something of a second wind … for all of about five seconds until Kane decked him and administered the Chokeslam for three. The Big Red Machine had punishment in mind for Rhyno as well, but The Man Beast threw hands to put Kane on his heels. Even so, The Devil's Favorite Demon would not be denied as he marches toward a Triple Threat Universal Title opportunity at Royal Rumble. Right as Rhyno turned on the jets to administer the Gore, he ran straight into Kane’s gloved grip and received a Chokeslam of his own. Winner: Kane.
Braun Strowman vs. The Miztourage in a Secret Santa Match: The Miztourage had been making their presence known throughout Raw, pestering Superstars with “Mizmas” carols that seemed more harmlessly annoying than anything else — that is until Angle decided to place them in a “Secret Santa Match” where they wouldn’t know who they were facing until they were in the ring. Surprise: It’s Braun Strowman. What happened next was both predictable and utterly satisfying for any Superstar who wanted to see The Miztourage suffer, as The Monster Among Men systematically destroyed both Superstars before flattening Bo Dallas with a Running Powerslam for the win (both Dallas and Curtis Axel received Running Powerslams after the bell). Having dispatched two Superstars tonight, the question remains: Are Brock Lesnar and Kane next at Royal Rumble? The Beast will likely have thoughts on the matter when he returns next week. Winner: Braun Strowman.
Overall Raw Rating: C
Things to look forward to next week
What will happen on the first Raw of 2018?
How will Brock Lesnar react to the triple threat match for the Universal title at the Royal Rumble?
What the hell is happening with Nia Jax and Enzo Amore?
How will Dean Ambrose reacting to Jordan & Rollins winning the Raw Tag Team Championships?
Is Alexa Bliss ready for Asuka?