ALL THE MCMAHONS…
Recap: The show opened with Vince McMahon in the ring, as advertised. He initially got a pop, but there were some boos when he explicitly told the crowd he didn’t want to hear any. Vince said one reason WWE was so successful was because it changes with the times. He then said that despite his vision, he couldn’t do it alone any longer. He then introduced Stephanie, Triple-H, and Shane.
Stephanie acknowledged that they hadn’t been doing a good job lately. Triple-H said that the four of them would be taking back Raw and SmackDown. Stephanie said they’d be cutting out the middle managers and empowering the superstars. Triple-H promised new faces and matchups. He referred to the fans as the Authority. Vince them chimed in and said so long as they do that, WWE will truly be then, now, and forever.
Later in the show, WWE announced NXT callups for Heavy Machinery, Nikki Cross, EC3 Lacey Evans, and Lars Sullivan.
Evaluation: It was very notable that Triple-H got the best reaction of anyone in the family. This makes sense considering the positive feelings the fans have for NXT booking.
Forecast: The McMahons said all the right things, but gave no concrete examples of how anything would actually change. In fairness, Tyler Breeze was booked in a competitive Intercontinental Title match after positive fan reaction for him in NXT last week, but that’s a minor change in the grand scope of things. Announcement of NXT callups means nothing unless they are actually booked well on the main roster. Too often in the past NXT stars have been booked on the main roster as losers. Promising to personally take charge only matters in kayfabe, since they are already fully in charge in real life. I would expect things to stay the same until Vince retires.
Recap: After the opening segment, Baron Corbin came to the ring to confront the McMahons. He was jeered loudly for minutes on end. The McMahons mocked him.
Corbin complained that his loss to Braun Strowman was unfair due to interference. Triple-H mockingly told him that maybe he was right and the fans were wrong. He promised Corbin that he could be GM if he won his match tonight. Kurt Angle was then introduced as his opponent. As the McMahons left, they announced that there would be a special guest referee, Heath Slater.
After a commercial break, Triple-H came out and made the match a handicap match midstream, with Apollo Crews, Chad Gable, and Bobby Roode came out to make the match 4 on 1. As Corbin was quadruple teamed, Shane came out and made the match no-DQ. The faces then beat down Corbin with chairs. Angle cored the pin with an Angle Slam.
Later backstage, Corbin told Seth Rollins that he blamed him for turning the locker room against him. He threatened that he would take Seth’s title, if he still had it. Seth then decked him.
Evaluation: I liked the idea of really pouring it on Corbin to emphasize a clean break from the past, but this went on too long. There was simply too much Baron Corbin, as has been the problem for weeks.
Forecast: Hopefully Corbin is off TV for a while. This felt like the beginning of a comback run for Angle. If they do a full run for him, there’s no way for it to end other than him eventually beating Drew McIntyre. The timing for that isn’t great, Since Drew is currently seems to be in the process of being elevated to main event level.
BACK TO BOOS FOR RONDA…
Recap: Ronda Rousey came out at the top of the third hour for a promo. She was mostly booed as she referenced her actions at the TLC PPV and said she wasn’t there to explain herself. Fans chanted for Becky. She spoke of what it means to be a champion, saying a champion is “the best the human race has to offer.”
She then said that she wanted to start a new tradition, one where the champion defends her title the night after a PPV. The camera then cut backstage, where the women’s locker room was arguing. Stephanie then yelled at them and brought them onto the stage. She said that all of the women wanted a shot at the title, and that there would be an 8 woman gauntlet match to determine who would get it.
The gauntlet went as follows:
- Bayley defeated Alicia Fox
- Bayley defeated Dana Brooke
- Mickey James defeated Bayley
- Ember Moon defeated Mickie James
- Natalya defeated Ember Moon
- Natalya defeats Ruby Riott
- Natalya defeats Sasha Banks
After the match, Ronda offered handshake to Natalya, and they hugged. The fans seemed to boo and chant “no,” but it was unclear against whom their ire was directed.
Evaluation: Calling a champion “the best the human race has to offer” reflects a very distorted world view. I’ll give Ronda the benefit of the doubt and assume she didn’t mean it the way it came out.
Once Ronda was moved away from Nia Jax (the most over heel in WWE due to the punch that took out Becky Lynch), I expected her boos to pick up again. I was even more resolute in this belief after seeing her actions at TLC. So long as a feud involving her and Becky is brewing, even if they’re both faces the fans are going to prefer Becky. It currently seems to me that the fans still prefer Charlotte to Ronda as well.
Forecast: It certainly seems like Natalya’s gauntlet victory is a setup for her long-teased heel turn on Ronda next week during their title match. That could backfire, with the fans supporting Natalya.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: TOP 3 DEVELOPMENTS – RAW 12/10: Seth as Voice of the Fans, New Tag Champions, Don’t Call Dean a Lunatic