By Steven Flora
On a night of nostalgia celebrating the incredible 25-year history of Monday Night Raw, Braun Strowman remained focused on his future — namely his Universal Championship Triple Threat Match against Kane and defending titleholder Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble event. Find out why current Superstars and WWE Legends alike are looking at The Monster Among Men in a whole new way.
Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman and Kane brawl
Raw General Manager Kurt Angle had been fielding appearances from Superstars and Legends of all stripes throughout Raw 25, but after presiding over some benign shenanigans, he had to deal with earth-shaking intensity when Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman and Kane met in the ring in the show’s final moments — and six days out from their Triple Threat Title Match at Royal Rumble.
With Superstars and Legends surrounding the ring, ostensibly to provide security, Strowman and Kane were refrained from throwing down, but as Paul Heyman announced, Lesnar had arrived on Raw 25 for the express purposes of a fight. As such, the assembled Superstars made themselves scarce as the three behemoths brawled. The Beast quickly clotheslined Strowman on the ramp and dispatched Kane with a thunderous F-5, but The Monster Among Men answered by planting Brock through the commentary table with a Running Powerslam. That was enough for Raw 25, but as everyone who knows Strowman is aware, he’s not finished with either of them yet.
Side Note: A quite standard ending to an average episode of Raw. They could've done much more with this ending but Strowman was of course going to dominate much of this segment, and indeed he does. We all know how this will end, Lesnar becoming victorious at Royal Rumble, but for now it's nice to see all eyes on Strowman.
The return of The Undertaker
For the first time since Roman Reigns sent him into the great beyond at WrestleMania, The Undertaker returned at Raw 25, resurfacing in the site of his Team Red debut in the "sacred ground" of The Manhattan Center to speak on his enduring legacy. Despite the events of The Showcase of the Immortals, The Deadman was resolute in proclaiming his dominance, declaring that all his old foes had “answered to the reaper,” from "Stone Cold" Steve Austin to Mick Foley to Kane. But now, with all his enemies laid in the earth behind him, he declared that it was truly time they rest in peace.
Side Note: This was really, really odd. I love Taker, everything about the man, but this speech was so vague, no one really knew what he was talking about. In regards to one more match, I feel like Taker shouldn't wrestle at this point as he's been broken down now for quite some time and even needed a hip replacement after his match with Reigns at WrestleMania last year. Forgetting wrestling, health is paramount when it comes to superstars and in Taker's case, it's no different.
The Intercontinental Championship World Tour returns
WWE Intercontinental Championship: The Miz def. Roman Reigns to become the new Intercontinental Champion
For a long time now, The Miz has delivered on his promises where the IC Championship is concerned. Raw 25 proved to be no different, as The A-Lister defeated Roman Reigns to begin an eighth reign with what is fast becoming his signature championship just hours after declaring for the Men’s Royal Rumble Match.
At first, however, it was all Reigns, who bounced Miz around the ring with impunity in a match he was dedicating to his cousin, Yokozuna. The Miztourage once again paid dividends for The Miz, giving The Awesome One the opening to turn the tide by throwing Reigns into the steel steps, aggravating his shoulder in the process.
Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel proved persistent enough in their interference to get themselves thrown out by the referee, though not before they clambered onto the apron one last time, opening the door for Miz to hit a distracted Reigns with a Skull-Crushing Finale. Reigns kicked out, but when he whiffed on a Spear and went face-first into a turnbuckle that Miz had discreetly unbuckled earlier in the match, a second Skull-Crushing Finale was enough to put him down for the 1-2-3.
So Miz is champion again, and that several former Raw General Managers — John Laurinaitis, Eric Bischoff and William Regal — were in the building to witness Miz’s triumph was a treat. That Miz’s nemesis, current SmackDown GM Daniel Bryan, was among them, was the cherry on top. Winner: The Miz (c).
Side Note: Honestly, he deserves it. He's been getting better with age and his promos are almost on CM Punk's level good. I suppose the only thing Miz is missing is a female figure, just to add a touch of class. Regardless, The Miz has been on fire for the past couple of years and he deserves that WrestleMania main event once again.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin attacks Mr. McMahon
On a night when Raw celebrated its 25th anniversary in two separate locations across New York City – The Barclays Center and The Manhattan Center – Raw and SmackDown Commissioners Stephanie and Shane McMahon put aside their rivalry to commemorate the occasion and offer their congratulations to Mr. McMahon himself. And so, in his own special way, did “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
The night seemed to be going well for the McMahon family at first, as Stephanie and Shane introduced their father and presented him with a plaque to commemorate the achievement. The Chairman saw this tribute as insufficient at best, and he went from “smelling the roses” to turning on his children and the assembled WWE Universe. An infuriated McMahon proclaimed he had singlehandedly transformed Raw into an institution and had no one to share the credit with, at which point the glass shattered and his face went white.
Proving that wherever Mr. McMahon goes, “Stone Cold” is never far behind, the former WWE Champion marched down the ramp of the Barclays Center with some old-school mudhole stompin’ on his mind, and while Mr. McMahon proclaimed himself too “brittle” to square off with Austin, he happily offered up an “in his prime” Shane to a Stunner instead.
With his son decimated by The Rattlesnake, Mr. McMahon quickly moved to neutralize the situation by offering Austin a couple of Stevewisers and even managed to secure an embrace with his old enemy, but Austin Stunned him as well. Shane staggered back to his feet and seemed willing to share a toast with “Stone Cold,” but Austin dropped him with yet another Stunner. Here’s to 25 more.
Side Note: Opening segment was probably the best moment of Raw 25. Austin has always been a favorite of mine and for much beloved wrestling fans over the years. This was perfect and did it's job.
Elias tunes out on John Cena
It’s the Christmas gift so nice, John Cena wanted to give it twice. Returning to Raw for the first time since his Yuletide victory over Elias, WWE’s resident free agent found himself face-to-face once again with Raw’s resident balladeer, but Elias flipped the script at the last possible second.
Elias was a bit saltier than usual when Cena arrived — Chris Jericho had put him on The List of Jericho moments earlier, so he had a few choice words for the Legends in attendance, as well as a ringside Jimmy Fallon — and things seemed, at first, to be going very much as they did the first time around. Once again, Cena took Elias to task for his trash talk and once again, the legendary champion and ascendant Superstar threw hands.
This time, however, Elias got the last word, low-blowing Cena as the 16-time World Champion set up for the Attitude Adjustment, smashing a guitar over his back and dropping him with Drift Away. The takeaway? Cena may walk with Elias yet, to say nothing of the other Superstars in the Men’s Royal Rumble Match.
Side Note: Such a great moment and what made this even better was that Elias was standing tall, taking out one of the greatest WWE Champions of all time. Even if Cena does get his revenge, I like how Elias was the looking over the veteran. Even on a night of nostalgia, the young bright stars had a chance to shine.
Other notable moments
Asuka, Sasha Banks, Bayley & Mickie James vs. Nia Jax, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville & Alicia Fox: This Sunday, one woman will make history as the winner of the first-ever Women’s Royal Rumble Match. And, after the events of Raw 25, it is looking like the historic match might be Asuka’s to lose. True, The Empress of Tomorrow was technically part of a team victory, as she united with Sasha Banks, Bayley & Mickie James against Nia Jax (one of the other presumptive Rumble favorites), Alicia Fox and Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville of Absolution. But she was the target of a vicious pre-bell attack from her opponents, and while it was The Boss who won the match by forcing Fox to tap to an excruciating Bank Statement, Asuka got the last word of the evening. As Asuka’s team celebrated the win in the ring, The Empress of Tomorrow struck, tossing James, Bayley and finally Sasha over the top rope, one by one, to leave herself as the last woman standing. Winner: Asuka, Sasha Banks, Bayley & Mickie James.
Raw Tag Team Champions Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan appeared on The Peep Show: Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan are the Raw Tag Team Champions, but they're not quite a well-oiled machine just yet. That’s where Christian comes in. The nine-time Tag Team Champion convened a very special edition of "The Peep Show" to interview the titleholders. Jordan, however, was more interested in paying homage to the Superstars and Legends in attendance for Raw 25 than answering any of Captain Charisma's questions. That’s where The Bar came in. Cesaro & Sheamus quickly crashed the party and taunted Jordan with his father Kurt Angle’s “You Suck” chant, provoking a retaliatory strike from the young champion. Rollins quickly joined the fray, taking Sheamus out with a suicide dive while Jordan trapped Cesaro in position for Rollins’ springboard knee. The Swiss Cyborg writhed free at the last second, leaving Jordan to absorb the full force of The Kingslayer’s attack in a rare misstep by Rollins. With their Raw Tag Team Title defense just six days away, the champions can’t afford a miscommunication of any kind. If tonight is any indication, that may still be asking too much of them.
"Woken" Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt: After weeks of taunts and mind games, Bray Wyatt finally got his chance to go one-on-one with “Woken” Matt Hardy and made good on the opportunity, defeating his multi-dimensional nemesis inside The Manhattan Center. The Woken One did not go quietly into defeat, of course. In his first bout with Wyatt since the former WWE Champion pushed him past his breaking point, Hardy proved to be all but impervious to Wyatt’s typical mind games. When Wyatt hung upside down off the ropes, Matt looked him dead in the eyes and screamed “Wonderful!” Less than wonderful, however, was how “Woken” Matt met his end: At the hands of a ruthless Sister Abigail after The Eater of Worlds tied him up in the ropes. Hand the skirmish to Wyatt, but with both Superstars confirmed as competitors in the Men’s Royal Rumble Match, The Great War remains undecided. Winner: Bray Wyatt.
Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. Titus Worldwide ended in a No Contest: As you may have heard, Heath Slater has kids. Which means he’ll do anything to bring home a few extra dollars. Cheating at a poker game, however, was a touch beyond the pale. Titus Worldwide statistician Dana Brooke deduced The One-Man Band was employing some under-the-table chicanery against Titus Worldwide in The APA’s Raw 25 game — which included Jeff Hardy, Natalya, The Usos, The New Day and Montel Vontavious Porter — prompting a match between him, Rhyno and Titus O’Neil & Apollo Crews when JBL balked at the idea of a fight during their "civilized" game. (For what it’s worth, The Million Dollar Man won the pot.) Unfortunately, the animosity was so extensive that the match broke down halfway through, forcing the referee to throw out the contest. At that point, a pair of Legends who had been conspicuous by their absence — The Dudley Boyz — crashed the party, prompting all four Superstars to roll out of the ring. When it became clear that Bubba & D-Von weren’t leaving until someone went through a table, Rhyno and Titus Worldwide threw The One-Man Band into the ring (remember, he has to toughen up), and The Dudley Boyz administered the Wassup and a ring-shaking 3D through the pine.
Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. The Revival: Last week, The Revival expressed their dislike for the kind of outlandish antics that, in their mind, turned WWE into a mockery. The “Top Guys” picked right up where they left off at Raw 25 by interrupting a confab between The Bálor Club, D-Generation X and Scott Hall, but the two-time NXT Tag Team Champions’ moment was short-lived. Not only did Dash & Dawson’s arrival lead to a match with Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson of The Bálor Club, the good brothers handed The Revival a defeat with a picture-perfect Magic Killer to Dash Wilder. Winner: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson. The Revival were game in the quick loss, but rather than take it in stride, Scott Dawson stepped to Scott Hall in frustration. This was a mistake, as he quickly found himself on the receiving end of a toothpick to the face, an X-Factor, Shake, Rattle and Roll and Famouser, with Dash suffering a Sweet Chin Music, a Pedigree and a Coup de Grâce to take the “Top Guys” out.
Overall Raw Rating: C
Things to look forward to next week
Royal Rumble Fallout!!!
In light of recent news, what will happen to the WWE Cruiserweight Championship?
What's next for The Revival?
Will Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan ever get along as RAW Tag Team Champions?
After fan footage from the Manhattan Center last night, is Brother Nero back?