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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
JANUARY 2, 2017
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, Corey Graves.
-Cole introduced the show as the camera panned the crowd. The announcers hyped Goldberg’s appearance and Sami Zayn vs. Braun Strowman in a Last Man Standing match. Graves touted Goldberg as an icon and “the most intimidating man to ever step foot in a WWE ring.”
-Mick Foley came out to his entrance music. He showed off a new haircut, short enough to show off his ears, saying it was his New Year’s Resolution to show off a “bold new look.” He also said he has vowed to write the name of the city he’s in down on his hand every week so he never gets the name of the city wrong. He was back in red flannel with a red Raw t-shirt underneath. He pretended to say he was in Jacksonville, Fla., then look at his hand and said, “right here in Tampa, Florida.” The boos turned to cheers. Foley talked about the shark cage match at the Royal Rumble with Chris Jericho suspended above the ring when Kevin Owens defends against Roman Reigns. Owens’ music interrupted.
Owens and Jericho walked out onto the stage and stared at the cage. Jericho looked like he just opened the door to the only available portable bathroom that he really badly needs to use is overflowing. Owens entered the ring and asked Foley if he thinks it’s funny to hang him above the ring like a piñata. Jericho insisted he say “sexy piñata.” Foley said he finds it a little funny. Jericho said what’s not funny is his constant abuse of power. They began making fun of Foley’s new haircut.
Owens complained about Reigns getting a title shot at the Royal Rumble when he has already defeated him at Roadblock. (Foley or the announcers could point out that Owens has lost one match after another to Reigns at live events around the country lately, but WWE fans realize those don’t count.) Owens said it’s obvious Foley has a personal issue with them, and they’re not going to stand for it anymore. Foley said he’s made mistakes and it’s a new year so let’s wipe the slate clean.
Foley asked what kind of talk show host Kevin Owens can be, so he’s scheduling Owens to host the first-ever Kevin Owens Show with his special guest, Goldberg. Owens went from smiles to a frown. That started a “Goldberg” chant. Owens said it’s a little weird that it’s his talk show but Foley is deciding who the guest is. He said he and Jericho have a lot of questions, such as where he’s been the last ten years. Owens asked Foley what makes him think he can abuse his power like he’s been doing as G.M. of Raw. Foley, off-mic or with his mic turned off for some reason, said he doesn’t think he’s been abusing his power.
Stephane McMahon walked out. She said Foley is not abusing his power. She said he has the authority to give Reigns the title shot and put Jericho in a cage. She said she wishes that he would have consulted her. Foley said he wishes he was consulted when she booked Sami vs. Braun in a Last Man Standing match tonight. (Good detail work because Foley would not have approved of that given how he feels about Sami’s chances against Braun.) She said Foley was away for the holidays, though. Owens said nobody cares about who consulted whom. Steph announced that Reigns would be defending the U.S. Title against Jericho tonight. Jericho smiled wide. Steph said to assure there is a decisive winner, should Reigns be DQ’d or counted out, he’ll lose the U.S. Title.
(Keller’s Analysis: Okay, that answers that question of how they’ll get the U.S. belt off of Reigns without him doing a high-profile job before he likely wins the Universal Title at the Rumble. The problem is the massive segment of WWE’s customer-base who simply don’t like Reigns are going to see this as yet another example of him getting preferential treatment by management – getting to lose a secondary title without actually losing it. If that’s the finish later, it just reenforces fans’ perception of Reigns as the undeserving, pampered “chosen one.”)
Owens and Jericho suggested Seth Rollins should be banned from ringside. Foley suggested Owens should be banned from ringside. Owens shook his head no vigorously. Foley said he’s sick of them making mockery of Raw. Stephanie said she’s sick to her stomach that for the first time in the history of Smackdown Live, it defeated Raw in the ratings. Steph said she’s tired of hearing SD is a land of opportunity. She said Owens will have the opportunity to get Seth banned from ringside when he faces him tonight. The loser of the match will be banned from ringside. Steph told Foley to get his act together because they have a “ratings war to win.” She said Owens vs. Seth starts “right now.”
-The announcers ran down the announced matches and segments. [c]
-They went to the announcers on camera. Graves said he thought Saxton wouldn’t be on Raw after 2016. Saxton said he’s still around and he loves him.
(1) KEVIN OWENS vs. SETH ROLLINS
Owens was already in the ring. Seth made his full ring entrance. When Owens rolled to the floor seconds into the match, Seth dove onto him at ringside. When Owens rolled to the other side of the ring, Seth dove onto him there too. Cole said Triple H basically handed the Universal Title to Owens. Graves said Seth might be frustrated, but he has to deal with who he’s facing now and not be worried about Triple H. Seth favored his leg mid-match. They brawled to the floor. Seth ran back into the ring to break the count, and then ran back out of the ring. For some reason, that reset the count for Owens too who should have been counted out there. But whatever. When Seth went back at Owens, Owens hit Seth with the ring bell. The ref DQ’d him. That meant Owens was banned from ringside later.
WINNER: Seth via DQ.
-Owens tried to attack Seth afterward, but Owens scurried out of the ring. He yelled, “Give me my title.” Like a good servant, the ref quickly ran Owens’ title belt to him. Owens continued to yell and fret at ringside over the ref’s decision. He yelled, “Scumbag!”
-A commercial for Smackdown hyped The Miz vs. Dean Ambrose plus the contract signing for John Cena vs. A.J. Styles at the Royal Rumble. [c]
(2) KARL ANDERSON (w/Luke Gallows) vs. CESARO
Sheamus joined the announcers at ringside. The announcers asked Sheamus about winning the Royal Rumble in the past. There are a lot of valid complaints about WWE announcing, but I like the “no exception” policy regarding interrupting anyone saying anything in order to count a pin attempt. Sheamus said regarding him and Cesaro: “He wants to be a Lannister and I’m happy being a Stark.” Graves managed to parlay that into an insult aimed at Saxton, saying he’s Lord Varys. They cut to a break at 2:00 with Cesaro at ringside recovering from a boot he ate after being distracted by Gallows at ringside. [c]
A few minutes after the break, Sheamus had enough of Gallows creating distractions at ringside. Cesaro hit a springboard uppercut for a near fall. Anderson fired back with a running knee a minute later. As Cesaro set up a sharpshooter, Gallows stood on the ring apron. Sheamus yanked him off the ring apron, but that shook the ropes and knocked Cesaro off balance. Anderson then landed a second rope flying neckbreaker for the win.
WINNER: Anderson in 11:00.
-The announcers on camera threw to a video package on Braun Strowman. [c]
-They showed several Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the front row.
-They showed the exterior of the arena.
-They aired a video package on the Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg match at Survivor Series.
(3) SAMI ZAYN vs. BRAUN STROWMAN – Last Man Standing match
Cole said Strowman said he will die on his feet before he falls to his knees. Sami bailed out to ringside seconds into the match and then hit Strowman at ringside with a kendo stick. He bashed him inside the ring several times, but Strowman brushed them off and yanked the stick away from him. He then tossed Sami across the ring. Sami rolled to the floor. When Strowman went after him, Sami pulled another kendo stick out from under the ring and hit Strowman a few times. Sami backflipped off the barricade toward Strowman, but Strowman caught him and slammed him. Sami avoided a Strowman charge and Strowman hit the ringpost. Sami shoved him into the post again. Sami charged at Strowman and dove through the ropes in his signature ringside move, but Strowman punched him mid-air. Sami went down and the ref began counting. Sami stood up.
Strowman charged at Sami in the corner and clotheslined him hard. Strowman methodically beat on Sami with various power moves. The ref began to count Sami down at 4:00. Sami stood up. They cut to a break.
(Keller’s Analysis: If there was ever a match that cutting away makes no sense, it’s this one, where there really is that sense Braun could end it anytime, and also any comeback from Sami would be a shame to miss. Cutting to a break for three-plus minutes really undercuts the sense of urgency and importance of everything that happens in the ring. It’s frustrating they’re stuck on this format, which is based on the notion that people are less likely to turn the channel when they’re invested in a match. I get that, but even worse is the message sent to viewers that action in matches is arbitrary in that whether you see it or not, it doesn’t really matter. That is more damaging, albeit in a less immediate tangible way.) [c]
When they returned live, Cole said Strowman has been beating on Sami near the ramp, but hasn’t been able to keep Sami down for a ten count. The beating continued near the announcers and then stage right. They fought to the back where Strowman tossed Sami on top of a collection of rolling storage crates. Braun threw one up at Sami. Sami avoided it. Sami hit Strowman across his back with a chair. At 12:00 they fought back onto the stage where Sami hit Strowman a few more times with the chair. Strowman eventually caught it, but Sami kicked the chair into Strowman’s chest. Strowman staggered. Sami dove onto Strowman and both crashed off the stage. Strowman crushed a table next to the stage. Sami was up first, but Strowman also beat the count. “This is awesome!” rang out from the crowd. Sami chased down Strowman with a chairshot to the back. Strowman grabbed a chair Sami had and used it to whip Sami onto the ramp. Strowman gave Sami a running powerslam at ringside. Graves said there’s no way Sami gets up from that. The announcers were so sure it was over, it gave away it wasn’t. Sami got up at 9.
Strowman went right back on the attack with forearms. Strowman delivered another powerslam at ringside. Cole said it’s becoming sickening. Graves said he hopes Foley is watching because this is all on him. Actually, it’s on Steph. Cole compared to this to the 1999 I Quit match between Mick Foley and The Rock. He said Sami should stay down this time. Sami did. Saxton immediately went into praising Sami’s heart. Graves joined in, saying Sami “lives to prove people wrong and defy the odds, but this was an impossible situation.”
WINNER: Strowman at 15:30.
(Keller’s Analysis: Well done. The right balance of Sami getting offense, thanks to chairs and big spots, and Sami showing great heart as Strowman battered and beat him over and over. This keeps Strowman strong for whatever they have in mind for him at Royal Rumble, but Sami gets a boost or at worse stays level given the fight he put up.)
-Foley came out to ringside as Sami was put on a stretcher. Strowman knocked Sami off the stretcher. Strowman threw Sami into the ringside barrier and yelled, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust!”
(Keller’s Analysis: These are the moments that the top babyface in the company – or the one Vince McMahon wants to be, Roman Reigns – should be among a group of wrestlers running out to protect Sami and make sure Braun backs off. Moments like that would show leadership and compassion that fans would have trouble booing. This was always done in the territory days and it created a sense of camaraderie among the babyfaces that they were looking out for each other when heels took things too far.)
-They went to the announcers on camera. Cole said they’d have updates on Sami’s condition later. Graves said he can’t remember anyone being manhandled like that. They shifted to talking about Jack Gallagher on “205 Live” last week facing Ariya Daivari in a “Gentleman’s Duel.” They turned it into a slapstick cartoon with zany music and old fashioned movie effects and slo-mo as they showed Gallagher using an umbrella to hit Daivari in the crotch and then jab him.
-Backstage Gallagher watched as the New Day gyrated with umbrellas. Cole said New Day would have their New Year’s Resolutions later. [c]
-A commercial hyped a Peter Rosenberg-hosted hot-topic show titled “Bring it to the Table” with Paul Heyman and JBL including “What is Bret Hart mad about?”, “Will Hulk Hogan ever return to WWE?,” and “Will Conor McGregor go from UFC to WWE?”
-The New Day danced their way down the ramp. Xavier said overall 2016 was a pretty good year for the New Day, but there were some ups and downs, ins and outs, backs and forth, and sometimes it was raw and sometimes it wasn’t. They entered the ring and said they became the longest-reigning WWE Tag Team Champions in 2016, and now to ring in the new year right, they have officially dipped their sticks into the 2017 Royal Rumble match.
Kofi said it’s time to reveal their new year’s resolutions. Titus O’Neal interrupted, throwing New Day into a state of confusion. Titus imitated Big E introducing New Day. He danced on the stage. He said what they need in 2017 is a new member of the New Day. He said everyone is wondering “Who? Who? Who?” He said look no further than the Titus Brand. He said he’s got rhythm. He danced and sang “New Day Rocks.” He said he also exhibits some musical talents. He reached out to grab Francesca, but Xavier said nobody touches his girl but him. He said he came prepared and then began playing his whistle and doing some twerking movements. Big E stopped him and then said without enthusiasm, “Give him a hand, I guess.”
Titus asked everyone to imagine his face on a box of Booty-Os. Xavier said everybody around the world rather see his face on the back of a milk carton. He said no one would want to wake up in the morning and look at his face. Titus mock laughed at the insults. He said Xavier that is a strong joke coming from the weakest link in the New Day. Xavier said he’d show him what a weak link he is in a match, “if you’re man enough.” Titus punched him and accepted the match.
(Keller’s Analysis: That appeared to be headed toward Old Day territory, but then Xavier actually showed he can be serious for more than one full second. Same for Titus at the end.) [c]
(4) TITUS O’NEAL vs. XAVIER WOODS
They joined the match in progress. Graves said he’d never put the Booty-O garbage in his body, but New Day lost a marketing opportunity to put Titus’s face on the box. Xavier flip dove onto Titus at ringside. A minute later Titus caught Xavier mid-air leaping off the top rope and gave him a backbreaker. Then Xavier countered Titus’s finisher into a sunset flip for the win.
WINNER: Xavier in about 5:00.
-Backstage Stephanie was shown texting when Bayley interrupted.
(Keller’s Analysis: What is the pretense for why the director decided to cut to Stephanie texting? Is that good TV? Did he know Bayley was about to walk into the scene? Why not start by showing Bayley walking over to Stephanie so there’s a pretense for why the camera is showing the scene? It’s not a big big deal, but it’s just one of those “straighten your tie” type of details that is so easy to clean up, why not do it by having a sensible pretense rather than the lazy pattern of just filming someone texting until someone walks in to talk to them about something.)
Bayley said she understands why Stephanie expunged the outcome of the Roadblock match because Charlotte’s shoulder weren’t down, but why did she assign Dana Brooke as special referee. Stephanie patronizingly smiled and said she doesn’t expect she would understand because it’s above her pay grade, but Charlotte has very high powered attorneys who left her with no other choice. Steph said she wanted to let her know she never wanted her on Raw, but Foley fought for it. Steph said she doesn’t see her as a potential Face of the Women’s Division. Steph said Bayley, like the fans in the stands, are just ordinary. “You’re just Bayley,” she said. Bayley hung her head and said she may not have a famous last name and may not have grown up in the business like Stephanie and Charlotte, but she has realized she belongs on Monday Night Raw. She said while she might not look like a champion look like, but she’s just Bayley and that’s good enough for her. “Nothing is going to stop me from achieving my dreams,” she said. Steph said she clearly believes in herself, so she can prove herself in a no. 1 contendership match where the winner faces Charlotte at the Royal Rumble. Steph said her opponent is Nia Jax. Bayley soaked it up and walked away, looking a little less confident.
-They showed Alicia Fox and Cedric Alexander backstage. Noam Darr told Cedric they got off on the wrong foot, but “it’s a new year and a new me,” so he wanted to make things right. “I apologize, sweet cheeks,” he said with a wink. Then he ran away. Fox told Cedric not to go after him and just focus on his match instead. [c]
(5) CEDRIC ALEXANDER (w/Alicia Fox) vs. DREW GULAK (w/Tony Neese)
Austin Aries joined the announcers on commentary. Cole said it seems, from listening to him on 205 Live, that he might show up in the ring some day in on 205 Live. Austin said he just might. Cedrick took a nasty bump early on the back of his neck when Gulak threw him upside down into the ropes. When Neese jumped onto the ring apron, Fox yanked him down. Gulak then schoolboyed a distracted Alexander for the three count.
WINNER: Gulak in 2:00.
-They showed Owens and Jericho chatting backstage, then hugging as Owens wished Jericho luck. [c]
(6) ROMAN REIGNS vs. CHRIS JERICHO – U.S. Title match
Reigns came out first too a mix of cheers and boos. He walked past the shark cage and smiled. When he entered the ring and his music stopped, the arena was silent or the crowd noise was muted. Either way, not good. Jericho slide kicked Reigns at 2:00, but Reigns gave him an uppercut. When Reigns leaped at Jericho, Jericho side-stepped him and shoved Reigns into the ringpost. The ref nearly counted Reigns out. He actually entered as the ref was about to say ten and the ref had to stop counting briefly. They cut to a break. [c]
Back from the break, Reigns was on his knees and Jericho was slapping him. Reigns no-sold it and made a Superman comeback. The crowd booed when Reigns did the “lock and load” bit. Reigns blocked a Lionsault with his knees, then shook the ropes and did his yell in the corner to signal for the spear. He charged at Jericho, but Jericho kicked him and then went for a Code Breaker. Reigns lifted Jericho high, but instead of a powerbomb, Jericho took Reigns down with a huracanrana. Then Jericho applied the Walls of Jericho mid-ring. Reigns small packaged Jericho for a near fall. Then he hit Jericho with a Superman punch coming off the top rope for a believable near fall.
Jericho countered another Spear attempt with a roll-up attempt. Reigns powered out and charged, but Jericho moved, so Reigns went shoulder-first into the corner. Jericho removed the top turnbuckle. The ref discovered it, so he went to reattach it. Jericho then grabbed the U.S. Title belt ringside. Reigns stood. Jericho threw it to Reigns and fell onto his back. Reigns explained to the ref what happened. The ref wasn’t sure what to do. Jericho then popped up and surprised Reigns with a Code Breaker for another believable near fall. Graves said Jericho’s plan failed. Saxton said what a cheap way that would’ve been to win the U.S. Title. Reigns moved when Jericho charged at him, and Jericho went face-first into the exposed turnbuckle. Reigns then speared him for the win.
WINNER: Reigns in 14:00 to retain the U.S. Title.
(Keller’s Analysis: I applaud Saxton for pointing out what a cheap way that would have been for Jericho to win the U.S. Title. For heels to get heat for being cheaters, the narrative put forth by the rest of the promotion – most notably the announcers – has got to be that winning with honor is the only winning that counts and is worthy of admiration. Otherwise it contributes to heels being cheered because “they’re winners” by whatever means necessary.)
-They showed Goldberg’s locker room sign. [c]
(7) T.J. PERKINS vs. BRIAN KENDRICK
Aries joined the announcers again. He barely got to talk in the short match earlier. Kendrick went after Perkins aggressively as the bell rang. They showed Neville watching on a monitor backstage. Perkins blocked Sliced Bread #2 and converted a Detonation Kick into a kneeler for the tapout win.
WINNER: Perkins in 3:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: There is something about Perkins that ironically does seem like you watching someone with the soft edges of video game wrestler. His movements and moves feel rehearsed and performed, but lacking human emotion other than that which is “programmed.”)
-Cole threw to a video package on the Jan. 14 and 15 live two-night WWE UK Title Tournament. [c]
(8) JINDER MAHAL & RUSEV (w/Lana) vs. BIG CASS (w/Enzo)
Enzo came out in an electric wheelchair. Enzo did his mic work. Cass said Enzo cannot fight tonight, but he can, and he’s going to drop the both of them himself. Jinder tagged in Rusev a minute in and Cass had to fend them both off. A “USA!” chant broke out. Cass gave Rusev a big boot. Jinder slapped Enzo at ringside. Cass chased after him. Cass was blindsided by a Rusev boot for the win.
WINNER: Rusev in 2:00.
-They replayed clips of Strowman attacking Sami earlier.
-They went to the announcers on camera who talked about Sami-Bruan. Cole said they are still waiting for medical update. He said people should check WWE.com and social media. You mean the same social media where wrestlers break character constantly? [c]
-They announced Neville vs. Perkins tomorrow night on “205 Live.”
(9) BAYLEY vs. NIA JAX – No. 1 contendership match
Charlotte joined the announcers on commentary. Graves said, “Happy New Year, your grace.” Charlotte said she respects Bayley’s tenacity, but said she isn’t genetically superior. Jax dominated early. Graves asked Charlotte about the “very real possibility” she’d have to face Jax. Sasha Banks’s music played and she walked out in a knee brace. Bayley then gave Jax a Bayley-to-Belly suplex off the second rope for the win.
WINNER: Bayley in 3:00.
-They announced that Undertaker and Shawn Michaels will be on Raw next week. Michaels’s appearance is timed with the release of his new movie, “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.” They’re selling Taker’s appearance as addressing the rumor that Taker will be at the Rumble this year.
-Owens and Jericho walked out to present the first-ever “Kevin Owens Show.” They had a man stand in the ring with a sign on his head covering his face that said: “The Kevin Owens Show.” They set up a very small lawn chair for their guest. Owens introduced Jericho as his guest. Jericho stood.
As they appeared to be ready to finally introduce Goldberg, Jericho said he had breaking news. He said Brock Lesnar and Goldberg are the first two entrants in the Rumble, but he is the third entrant. Owens didn’t like that. It wasn’t just because New Day had said earlier they were in the Rumble. Owens asked what happens if he wins. Jericho said what happens is the best friends face each other at WrestleMania and no matter who wins, they’re still co-champions. “It’s perfect,” Jericho said. Owens said, “I don’t want to fight my best friend.” Suddenly Goldberg’s music played. They cut backstage to Goldberg walking toward the entrance stage.
Goldberg entered the ring and said since Jericho is in the Rumble, that makes him “first!” Goldberg threw off his jacket and said he’d Jackhammer him. Owens asked if that’s supposed to intimidate him. Owens tipped over the table to show how he could “be intimidating, too.” Paul Heyman interrupted from the stage. He said his Rumble Spoiler is: “Elimination, Repeat, Elimination, Repeat, Elimination, Repeat.” He said he could go on. Goldberg said he won’t. Goldberg said no matter what happens in the Rumble, he and his client have a date at WrestleMania.
Roman Reigns then walked out to his music. He entered the ring and said Owens and Jericho must be delusional because they’re not winning the Rumble. He had “an epic” staredown with Goldberg. Braun then walked out to his music. Braun entered the ring. Reigns and Goldberg speared Braun. Goldberg’s music played to end the show. ###