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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
JANUARY 16, 2017
LITTLE ROCK, ARK.
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, Corey Graves.
-The annual Martin Luther King Jr. tribute video aired.
(Keller’s Analysis: As MLK said, “Do not judge WWE on the portrayal of minorities on their TV shows the last 30 years, but rather on the quality of the MLK video tributes each year.”)
-The Raw opening aired. Michael Cole introduced the show.
-Roman Reigns’s music played. The arena erupted into loud boos. A video package aired on last week’s victory by Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho over Reigns leading to Jericho winning the U.S. Title. The cutaway crowd shot of a fan’s reaction proves that the WWE Universe is dismayed with Jericho winning the U.S. Title over Reigns.
Reigns stood in the ring. As his music faded, his boos did not. He said as a former member of The Shield, he can’t complain about being outnumbered, because as The Shield, they kicked down the doors and beat up everyone in sight. He said he’s not complaining when he says he lost last week to two men. He said KO will be complaining at the Rumble because he won’t have Jericho to help him because he’ll be locked in a cage over the ring. “No one can beat me one-on-one right now,” he said.
Paul Heyman interrupted Reigns. He walked out onto the stage without music, but to a chorus of boos. He said he is the calm before the storm when Brock Lesnar comes out later. He asked Reigns permission to enter the ring. The crowd chanted “Goldberg! Goldberg!” Heyman said he’s not there this evening. He then presented his Royal Rumble “spoiler” – “Eat, Sleep, Elimination, Repeat.” That describes a lot of lives, but the term “elimination” covers something different than throwing people over the top rope. Reigns said Lesnar must be eating or sleeping somewhere. They were interrupted by Owens and Jericho. They strutted out, each with a belt.
Owens said he enjoys watching them make their “little WrestleMania plans” while they are the U.S. and Universal champions. Jericho said at WrestleMania, no matter who wins, they still remain “the U.S. Universal Champion.” He said all of the stupid idiots, when that happens, better “watch it.” Owens said he’s not sure on his WrestleMania Math, but that’s besides the point. He bragged that he stands there as the longest-reigning Universal Champion in WWE history. He said he will remain the Universal Champion no matter who he faces.
They were interrupted by Seth Rollins. He said his ears are burning up hearing them talk about the main event at WrestleMania. “You cannot have that conversation without Seth Freakin’ Rollins,” he said. “I know a thing or two about it.” Seth told Heyman, who had moved to the safety of ringside, that anything can happen at the main event of WrestleMania. As Reigns and Seth began to have an intense staredown, Braun Strowman walked out. Cue the announcer superlatives.
Out came Brock Lesnar next. Cole said this is the first time they’ve seen him since he was humiliated at the Survivor Series. As Lesnar approached ringside, Sami Zayn jumped Braun from behind. Braun dumped him over his shoulder. A brawl broke out. Sami knocked Brawn out of the ring with a Helluva kick. Lesnar gave Reigns a suplex. Lesnar and Sami were the last two standing in the ring. Cole said Sami doesn’t like to back down from a fight, but this may be different. Lesnar gave Sami a released German suplex. Lesnar called for Braun to re-enter the ring. “What a moment!” declared Cole. Strowman dropped to the floor. Reigns entered the ring and nailed Lesnar with a Superman punch. He turned and punched Jericho and Owens as they entered. Lesnar then gave Reigns an F5. Cole said this year’s could be the biggest Rumble match in history.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good opening segment. They are really driving home that this is the most star-studded Rumble ever, and that parade of wrestlers backs up that argument well enough for today’s audience. You know Vince McMahon is protecting Braun until he gets him in the ring with Lesnar at a major PPV based on Cole’s reaction just now, if nothing else.)
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-The announcers hyped scheduled matches on Raw. [c]
-Cole plugged the new start time for “Total Divas” (9 ET on Wednesdays) featuring Lana’s bachelorette party in Las Vegas.
(Keller’s Analysis: If WWE isn’t going to be consistent with the narrative presentations of their acts on various shows and platforms, which is bad enough, don’t hype the non-Russian accented Lana segment with the country-music-lovin’ Nashville-based Rusev on Raw with the same announcers who decry their heel tactics on this show. It’s just such a mess.)
(1) RUSEV & JINDER MAHAL vs. ENZO & BIG CASS
Brief mic work from Enzo and Cass prior to the bell. That’s good, as their mic routine has been wearing thin. Cole said Enzo told him earlier how excited he is for this tag match. Cole and Graves said Jinder is having a second opportunity and a new birth for his career, as he’s in the best shape of his life and has the guidance of Rusev. They cut to an early break a minute in after Enzo and Cass knocked the heels to the floor. [c]
Jinder would then go on to lose after the Empire Elbow by Cass and a top rope launched splash by Enzo.
WINNERS: Enzo & Cass when Enzo pinned Jinder at 8:30.
(Keller’s Analysis: This was probably the right amount of time to give to this storyline this week. Good to get it out of the way, as it hasn’t been going great.)
-Graves excitedly said they were about to joined by Jack Gallagher. They showed Gallagher backstage.
-A Smackdown commercial hyped the Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch cage match tomorrow night. [c]
-A sponsored video package aired on Lita.
(Keller’s Analysis: WWE should stop glorifying the bump that Lita took at ringside that cost her most of her career and long-term health.)
(2) ARIYA DAIVARI vs. EL DORADO
The announcers talked with Jack Gallagher about his “I Forfeit” match on “205 Live” tomorrow night against Daivari. Gallagher said he and Daivari are going to solve their differences in a fight, not a contest, because that’s the only way he will learn to respect another individual.
WINNER: Daivari in 3:00 via tapout. [c]
-They showed the exterior of Verizon Arena.
-Cole threw to a video package of Undertaker announcing last week he’ll be in the Royal Rumble this year.
-They showed the announcers on camera. Cole said the Rumble is his favorite night of the year. Then they threw to a video package on the UK Title Tournament that aired on WWE Network over the weekend. Our reports are here: NIGHT ONE | NIGHT TWO
-The ring entrance for Cesaro & Sheamus aired. [c]
(3) CESARO & SHEAMUS vs. KARL ANDERSON & LUKE GALLOWS – WWE Raw Tag Team Title match
A little bit of offense by Cesaro and Sheamus early. Then the heel duo took over on Cesaro. When Sheamus tagged in, he rallied. Anderson knocked Sheamus off the ring apron with a kick to his knee followed by a kick by Gallows. They cut to a break. [c]
Back from the break, Cesaro rallied including hitting a “Swiss-1-9” (a/k/a 619). Cesaro leaped onto Gallows at ringside and then gave Anderson an uppercut when he tried to dive through the ropes. Cesaro gave Anderson a Cesaro Swing and then applied a sharpshooter. Gallows kicked him. Anderson scored a near fall. A “This is awesome!” chant broke out. Cole said they are right. Cesaro nailed Anderson with uppercuts. Anderson caught Cesaro with a spine buster after a distraction by Gallows. Sheamus entered and beat up Gallows. Sheamus punched the ref by mistaken when the ref came up behind him. Sheamus was dismayed. Anderson threw Sheamus into the ringpost. The ref was down, but Anderson and Gallows gave the Magic Killer to Cesaro. A second ref ran out and counted three. The first ref stood up and said he disqualified Sheamus first. Saxton said you can’t argue the call. Graves said Anderson & Gallows should be the new tag team champions.
WINNERS: Anderson & Gallows via DQ in 13:00 but Cesaro & Sheamus retained the tag titles. They announced Reigns & Seth & Sami vs. Braun & Jericho & Owens in the TV main event.
-The announcers were shown on camera and threw to highlights of the show-opening angle.
-Cole said: “Well, ladies and gentlemen, we here at WWE have heavy hearts today after losing one of our own this past weekend. Our hearts and our prayers go out to the family of Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka.”
(Keller’s Analysis: They’re doubling down on his legacy here. I know the fictional character was a big part of the WWF’s early expansion years and was a top act during a formative time in Vince McMahon’s early years a promoter, but there’s a lot of information – including recently indicted on murder charges that were only dropped due to his rapidly declining health – that points toward a need to either (a) acknowledge the dark chapter in his life; or (b) soften the glorification by Mick Foley, Triple H, and Michael Cole and the video footage and music. There’s a family of Nancy Argentina out there who believes – based on considerable evidence – he is responsible for her death, and this just felt like more than was appropriate on this occasion. Almost defiantly so.) [c]
-Another Emmalina vignette said “The makeover is nearly complete.” She said it will be worth the wait.
(Keller’s Analysis: I’m wondering if she gained a ton of weight during all of this and the gag is going to be that she’s fat now. I can imagine Vince McMahon getting a huge kick out of that.)
-Backstage Sami tried to give a pep talk to Seth and Roman. They kind of reacted to him talking non-stop like he was just annoying. Seth patronizingly told Sami they appreciate his enthusiasm, “but we’ve kind of been here, done this.” Reigns looked at him like he was a freak. Reigns mumbled, “This guy’s crazier than (Dean) Ambrose.” Cole said, “Well, that was awkward.”
-Rich Swann danced and smiled his way to the ring as Cole said, “He’s in a fighting mood.” Swann was scheduled to face Tony Neese, but Neville entered the ring. Neville attacked Swann from behind after jumping the ringside barricade. Three referees tried to stomp Neville stomping on Swann. Swann fought back after a few seconds. Tony Nese then jumped Swann from behind. That gave Neville another opening. He threw Nese out of the ring, then went after Swann again.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good basic angle. Neville was a heel in every way – blindsiding him, taking advantage of another wrestler attacking him later. Swann showed fire and fight. Good set-up for their Rumble match.)
-Backstage, some unidentified guy in a suit (NXT ring announcer Mike Rome) asked Neville why he attacked Swann knowing he has him at the Rumble. Neville pointed to what happened last week. He said if he perceives him as a bad guy, he either has no compassion or is a hypocrite. He said it’s just like everyone in the United States, “hypocrites!” He said Swann should bring his little unbreakable spirit because he will break him and then Swann will kneel and hand the championship to the one and only King of the Cruiserweights.”
-The New Day danced to the ring. Graves complained about Big E pouring Booty O junk foot in the hands of kids. Cole told Graves to lighten up and have a good time. Graves said he had a great social life full of fun, but he doesn’t like anything associated with New Day. The crowd chanted “New Day Rocks!” They talked about how stacked the Royal Rumble is this year. They said if one of them wins, they all win and they’d all headline WrestleMania. Titus interrupted (thankfully) and asked which of them wants to put their spot in the Royal Rumble up against him. New Day said if it gets him to stop texting and DMing them and showing up with a fake mustache delivering a pizza with a hole at the bottom of the box, he’s on. Big E. stepped up. [c]
(4) TITUS O’NEAL vs. BIG E (w/Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston) – Royal Rumble Spot at Stake
Titus put Big E in an abdominal stretch and began singing and spanking Big E. Big E fired back with a clothesline and a belly-to-belly. He danced, Xavier played the trombone, and then Big E. hit the Big Ending. Cole said Titus’s stock continues to drop.
WINNER: Big E. in 5:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: The New Day voluntarily putting up their spot in the all-important Rumble would normally seem high risk/no reward, but in this case, the reward was ending these awful Titus-New Day segments, and storyline-wise, Big E shouldn’t fear losing to Titus.)
-Charlotte headed toward the entrance stage.
-They showed Hacksaw Duggan winning the first Royal Rumble. [c]
-Charlotte made her grand ring entrance. Charlotte talked about studying her opponents and that’s made her the queen of PPV. She then turned to making fun of Bayley being an obsessed fan, showing pictures of Bayley as a teenager getting pics taken with a young John Cena, Ivory, Rob Van Dam, and Bret Hart. Charlotte said found poems on the Internet that Bayley wrote about finishing moves and becoming a wrestling star. Charlotte said while Bayley was doing this, she was being recruited for Division 1 volleyball at major colleges. “It’s pathetic,” she said.
Charlotte began mocking some of the lines in the poetry. Charlotte mocked that Bayley even wrote an essay in high school. A video aired from 2007 of Bayley saying she’ll never feel complete until she “becomes a pro wrestler in the WWE.” She began to break down as she talked about how nothing would make her happier than that. Charlotte mock cried. Charlotte wrinkled up a sheet of paper and threw it away and said in the world she lives in, a fan like Bayley who grew up wrestling in high school gyms and armories cannot beat a franchise player like her. Bayley’s music finally played. Saxton said he’s happy this public smear campaign is over. “Charlotte has no shame, no respect,” he said. Graves said the WWE Universe deserves to know who they are cheering for. (Can we apply that to Snuka? Just asking.)
Bayley entered the ring and Charlotte bailed out. A teared up Bayley said that wasn’t necessary. Charlotte said she is just an average fan. Bayley asked if she’s trying to embarrass her. Charlotte said, “Well, aren’t you?” Bayley said she isn’t. She said she wasn’t fortunate to have a father who with one phone call could get her a WWE job. “So sue me!” declared Charlotte. Bayley said her dad found a way to buy tickets for her even if he didn’t have the money to do so, even if it meant a back row seat “and everybody in the ring looked like an ant.” She said she looked at her dad and said, “One day that is going to be me.” Charlotte: “Touching.” The fans chanted “Bayley! Bayley!”
Bayley said since Charlotte loves her poems so much, she has one for her. “Roses are red, violets are blue, at Royal Rumble, I will defeat you!” she said. Bayley added, “I can’t help but smile cheek to cheek at just the thought of the look on your face when I break your pay-per-view streak.” She said she had a third: “You called me a child and you say I don’t deserve to walk down that ramp. Well, in two weeks, you can call me your new women’s champ.”
(Keller’s Analysis: This was the best segment on the main roster at establishing what Bayley is all about, and the evidence Charlotte made fun of provided authentic proof her character is based on reality. It’s helpful, isn’t it, when there isn’t a contradictory narrative out there elsewhere, as there is with Rusev and Lana on *WWE’s own* “Total Divas” show. Bayley feels as authentic now in her role as Charlotte does in her as the privileged brat who feels justified in her entitlement. Speaking of Stephanie, no sign of her on this show, and she wasn’t missed at all.)
-They showed Lesnar’s involvement in the opening segment.
-Backstage, Braun asked Jericho and Owens what they wanted. They told him to settle down because with their brains and his braun, there’s no way their opponents can beat them tonight. Owens suggested as strategy, the monster among men should take out that little puppy Roman Reigns so that he’s out of action for maybe two weeks. Jericho suggested he completely destroy that stupid idiot Seth Rollins and pulverize him and soften him up. Braun said what they don’t understand is that he does what he wants, how he wants, and when he wants. He said at the Rumble he’s going to eliminate everyone and then he’s going to WrestleMania to take the WWE Universal Championship. He said tonight he is going to make all three opponents scream mercy for their lives. Owens and Jericho were happy. “Good talk,” they agreed. [c]
-They showed a clip from 205 Live last week of Alicia Fox puling Noam Dar out of the path of her boyfriend, Cedric Alexander, followed by Cedric breaking up with her. He said they deserve each other.
(5) BRIAN KENDRICK vs. CEDRIC ALEXANDER
They showed Dar watching on a monitor backstage. Fox walked out as Kendrick had Cedric in his finisher. She pushed the bottom rope toward Cedric so he could grab it to force a break. They showed Dar laughing backstage. Cole called him “whacko Dar.” As he talked with Fox, Kendrick slide kicked Cedric from behind. Kendrick stalked Fox for a few seconds, then returned to the ring. Cedric surprised Kendrick with his Lumbar Check for the win anyway.
WINNER: Kendrick in 5:00.
-The announced threw to a clip of Nia Jax attacking Sasha Banks during a workout before Raw inside the ring.
-The interviewer asked Jax about the attack. “What motivates these attacks on The Boss?” Jax asked. She asked if people still believe that. She said the aura around The Boss is done and people will see the truth now.
(Keller’s Analysis: Jax was believable as a heel there. Short and to the point, but her best heel promo to date, perhaps.) [c]
-The interview guy asked Fox about what just happened with her and Cedric. She said they just had a disagreement and she doesn’t want to talk about it. He asked a follow-up regarding Dar. She screamed that she doesn’t want to talk about it. She regained her composure and said she was off to talk to Cedric.
-They went to the announcers who threw to the announcement of the first WWE Hall of Fame inductee in the Class of 2017. After a video feature, Cole said he’s one of the greatest performers in WWE history. The crowd affectionately chanted “You suck!” to his theme song.
-Owens and Jericho made their ring entrance. [c]
-Saxton announced Goldberg would be on Raw next week in person.
(6) ROMAN REIGNS & SETH ROLLINS & SAMI ZAYN vs. CHRIS JERICHO & KEVIN OWENS & BRAUN STROWMAN
Everyone’s ring entrance aired. Sami triggered a pre-match brawl when he went after Braun before the bell. It came down to Reigns and Strowman once the coast clear. Strowman threw Reigns over the top rope by his strap. Cole declared he was dominating even before the match began. They cut to a break. [c]
The match was joined in progress after the break with Braun dominating Reigns. Jericho tagged in and continued the beating on Reigns. Owens and Sami tagged in. We got the “Contractually Required Mid-Match Chinlock” from Owens. Reigns hot-tagged in and went to work on Owens. Reigns got a high-pitched pop when he tagged, but then booed as he went on offense with, you guessed it, a Superman punch and clotheslines. When Jericho grabbed Reigns’s leg, Sami went after him. Strowman then attacked Sami and threw him hard into the ringside barrier. Reigns gave Braun a Superman Punch on the ring apron, but Strowman caught the punch. Owens then superkicked Reigns for a near fall. They cut to a break at 6:00. [c]
Back to an Owens chinlock. Rollins hot-tagged in and hit a slingblade on Jericho followed by a blockbuster. Seth then dove through the ropes and tackled Jericho on one side of the ring while Sami dove at Owens on the other side of the ring. Sami avoided a charging Strowman, who rammed into the ringpost. Seth hit a flying knee on Jericho for a near fall.
Strowman tagged in against Seth and stopped Seth’s rally with a hand to throat. Sami broke that up, so Strowman forearmed his chest hard. Seth went for a Pedigree, but Strowman backdropped him. Seth countered with an enzuigiri. Reigns hit a Superman Punch. Strowman staggered. Seth knocked him down, then tagged in Sami. Sami leaped off the top rope onto Strowman for a near fall that popped the crowd. Seth, meanwhile, dove off the top rope onto Jericho and Owens at ringside. “This is awesome!” chanted the crowd. When Sami charged for a Helluva kick, Strowman clotheslined him and powerslammed him for the win.
WINNERS: Jericho & Owens & Strowman when Strowman pinned Sami in 19:00.
-Afterward, Strowman carried Sami to the stage and near the announce table. The announcers fled. Seth made the save with a chair to the gut and then his back. Reigns then speared him. There was no commentary for this, and it actually worked well atmospherically. Seth and Roman cleared the announce table. Jericho and Owens opportunistically stepped in and set up a powerbomb of Reigns. Seth tried to break it up and he gave Jericho a Pedigree on the stage. Owens bashed Seth across the back with a chair, then turned and gave Reigns a shot to the gut and then the back. Then Owens powerbombed Reigns through the desk, yelling first, “Do you remember Battleground?!” The show ended with Owens standing over Reigns.
(Keller’s Analysis: Tremendous conclusion to the show. The main event itself was very good, and the dynamic with Strowman and Sami added to the stale mix with Owens & Jericho vs. Seth & Reigns made everything work better. There were novel match-ups and a fresh dynamic. They protected Sami by having him score a memorable and believable near fall on Strowman, which just doesn’t happen otherwise, before falling prey to a counter to his Helluva Kick. The post-match angle with the Reigns powerbomb set up Owens vs. Reigns, as did the Pedigree by Seth on Jericho.)
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