Recap: Braun began the show by coming down to the ring to talk about his upcoming title match. Kurt then came down the ramp and stated that Braun could’ve permanently maimed Brock Lesnar and Kane last week. He further stated that Braun had been creating an unsafe work environment. Braun replied that he does what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants, including winning the Universal Title. As punishment for his actions last week, Kurt fired Braun Strowman.
Backstage, Braun beat up security and other backstage personnel in anger. He did spare a catering employee, opting instead to simply take the cake he was holding. Refusing to leave the arena, he also terrorized production staff and overturned a semi-truck before coming back down the ramp to attack Michael Cole. To stop the rampage, Stephanie McMahon called Kurt Angle and had him rehire Braun.
Evaluation: It’s honestly a little disturbing that the guy putting people’s lives in danger got the pop and the guy trying to keep people safe got the heel heat at the top of the show. Realistically, Kurt Angle was clearly in the right to fire Braun. It’s also bizarre that Stephanie’s reaction to seeing Braun’s destruction on live TV was to rehire him to get him to stop. But such is the state of WWE I suppose.
On the other hand, Kurt’s usage of the phrase “unsafe work environment” was in fact a great way to get heat. In real life, the phrase is corporate-speak usually peddled by annoying HR drones. It has a “nails on a chalkboard” effect. In real life, it’s almost never used in situations that are actually dangerous, so if anything, usage of the trite phrase minimized the true danger level of Braun’s actions, making them less heelish.
It was also odd that Smackdown’s Todd Phillips immediately appeared to fill in for the injured Michael Cole. It’s a small matter considering Corey Graves appears on both shows, but it would seem illogical that the rival brand’s announcer travels with Raw for emergency fill-in situations.
Forecast: For better or worse, in the current climate, nothing tonight is likely to impair Braun’s face appeal. He’ll go into the Royal Rumble match looking strong, and will come out protected as Brock Lesnar likely pins Kane.
Jason Jordan Continues to Overstep…
Recap: Jason Jordan interrupted a match between the Bar and Titus Worldwide. The distraction led to victory for Titus Worldwide. Seth Rollins looked displeased. Later, Jordan approached Kurt Angle backstage to thank him for all he’s done as his dad. He also claimed to have been “keeping his eye” on Braun Strowman in order to protect Kurt in the event that Strowman got near him. He said that Seth Rollins was obsessing over his loss last week, and, to get Seth’s mind off of it, proposed a singles match between Seth and Finn Balor which Kurt Angle approved. In the main event, Seth Rollins won with an assist from Jason Jordan after the referee appeared to slow-count a prior cover on Rollins by Balor.
Evaluation: Rollins’ displeasure at Jordan interrupting the Bar’s match made no sense, as presumably Jordan’s actions were a smart psych-out of the duo’s Royal Rumble opponents. He made more sense in disliking Jordan’s speaking to Kurt Angle on his behalf without consulting him first. No one would like that.
The most surprising part of the main event was that Rollins finished with the Curb Stomp, a move previously banned by WWE.
Forecast: Jordan continues to do a good job in his heel role as in prior weeks. He does enough right that it’s not overly obvious that he’s about to turn on his face companions.
Because the referee appeared to have slow-counted Finn Balor’s final cover, the match wasn’t without controversy. It seems likely that Balor will get a rematch against Rollins.
The Miz Marches Toward the IC Title…
Recap: Elias began with a song that he indicated he was paid by the Miz to write. The Miz then came to the ring with the Miztourage. He acknowledged the positive reaction from the crowd for his return last week. He indicated that he was the spark that had been missing from Raw for the past six weeks.
Roman Reigns then entered the ring for his handicap match against the Miztourage. Reigns won the match.
Evaluation: The Miz emphasized how “awesome” it felt to be acknowledged by the fans, and called it “unforgettable.” This was a straight face promo by the Miz. I loved it, but assuming WWE’s primary objective is still getting Roman over, it seems like a mistake to have his upcoming Intercontinental Title opponent cut this promo.
Roman also didn’t have any screen time with Seth Rollins this week, nor did he mention the Shield at all, so he didn’t get any of the Shield face rub.
Forecast: It would make sense to have the Miz win the Intercontinental Title next week. That would allow Reigns to enter WrestleMania season focused 100 percent on his predicted title match with Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title. Nothing tonight is going to help Roman get over as the face in that match.
-Enzo seems to be driving a wedge between Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss, as Nia blew off Alexa’s help for her knee injury to instead accept the assistance of Enzo. This follows up Nia blowing off Alexa to bring a sick Enzo soup in a prior episode….
-It was good to see the Revival in a squash match tonight. Being an old school tag team, the fans will need some matches like this to become more acclimated to a style of tag wrestling that is less common today…
-The Revival’s post-match promo was great as well. They channeled many of my frustrations about modern wrestlers playing for social media likes. The best line: “We are not sports entertainers; we are professional wrestlers….”
-Paige accompanied Absolution to the ring tonight. Todd Phillips indicated that she will not participate in Royal Rumble due to her injury. However, her expected retirement from in-ring action was not addressed…