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WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW PRIMER
DECEMBER 17, 2018
SACRAMENTO, CA. AT THE GOLDEN 1 CENTER
AIRS ON USA NETWORK, 8:00PM EST
BY FRANK PETEANI (@FrankPeteani), PWTORCH SPECIALIST
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Renee Young
Arena, Raw TLC Results, and Items Advertised by WWE
WWE will head a little bit north following last night’s TLC and pull into California’s capital of Sacramento. The Golden 1 Center will play host to Raw for the second time in its short two year history after last appearing in May of 2017. As crazy as this sounds, Brock Lesnar was the Universal Champion then and he is currently in his second reign here in December of 2018. We discuss why Raw ratings are in the toilet and not that that’s the top reason, but a part-time company champion who appears as infrequently as Lesnar does certainly doesn’t help matters.
Here are the TLC results from the Raw side of business:
- Elias defeated Bobby Lashley in a guitar-ladder match. Lashley and his manager Lio Rush attacked Elias after the match.
- Natalya defeated Ruby Riott in a tables match. Natalya put Ruby through a table with Ruby’s picture on it.
- Finn Balor defeated Drew McIntyre. Dolph Ziggler assisted Finn by super-kicking Drew on the outside of the ring. Finn kicked Drew while he was holding a chair, and then hit his signature Coup de Grace.
- Braun Strowman defeated Baron Corbin and earned a Universal Championship match at the Royal Rumble. Braun had assistance from Apollo Crews, referee Heath Slater, Raw Tag Team Champions Bobby Roode & Chad Gable, Finn Balor, and a returning Kurt Angle.
- Ronda Rousey defeated Nia Jax to retain the Raw Women’s Championship
- Dean Ambrose defeated Seth Rollins to become Intercontinental Champion. He begins his third reign with the championship.
Here are the items advertised by WWE.com for tonight’s Raw as of this morning:
- Mr. McMahon returns to shake things up
- Is Rollins ready for the age of Ambrose?
- What will happen after Ronda Rousey’s rowdy actions during the Smackdown Women’s Triple Threat match?
- Is the Monster Among Men ready for The Beast?
- Finn Balor vs. Dolph Ziggler
- Who will be the first wrestlers from Raw to enter the 2019 Royal Rumble
Vince McMahon Returns
WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon returns to Raw tonight for the first time since July 23. That night he, his daughter Stephanie, and her husband Triple H made the historic and landmark announcement in regard to the first all-women PPV Evolution, which took place this past October.
Tonight, Vince returns to “shake things up” according to WWE.com’s announcement. This announcement was made two days prior to TLC on their website and their Twitter account.
— WWE (@WWE) December 14, 2018
Initially WWE framed this with the expectation of Baron Corbin being the full-time G.M. Now that Corbin lost his TLC match, it’s uncertain what Mr. McMahon will do.
Frank’s Analysis: Unlike previous instances of this nature, I’m going to refrain from making predictions because they would be foolhardy. We have no idea what Vince is thinking, as much as we like to try and figure out through the years. You could probably guess considering Kurt Angle’s return last night, is that he reinstates him as G.M. The issue with that is that the authority figure is not the problem. There are a myriad of issues in WWE. If you’re not a PWTorch VIP member you need to sign up and listen to the Bruce Mitchell Audio Show from this past Saturday. Wade Keller and Bruce discuss the issues, of which I completely agree. I’ll put in my two cents and say I feel like I’m watching the Muppet Show from the 1980s and not a wrestling show. I loved the Muppet Show for the silly things Animal and Fozzy Bear did growing up but I also loved wrestling for the seriousness of “Macho Man” Randy Savage and the British Bulldogs for their pursuit of the tag team championship just to name a few items. When WWE finally acknowledges they’re purpose is to put on the best wrestling show possible and not try to make us laugh, then things will truly be “shaken up.” Until then, things will stay status quo.
Another issue for me is not announcing matches ahead of time and leaving things ambiguous. Perhaps this is my frustration talking as I do the primers based on what WWE.com shows on Monday and Tuesday morning. It’s much better to talk about specific matches than what WWE typically advertises. More importantly, when matches aren’t announced ahead of time, it makes them feel less special when they take place. Even back in the 1980s when established wrestlers fought enhancement talents, we knew what established would be on the show and thus their appearance felt like a big deal. In this day of having PPV-caliber matches on a weekly basis, it would be nice to know about them ahead of time.
The Age of Ambrose
As I talked about earlier, Dean Ambrose captured the Intercontinental Championship from Seth Rollins. He begins his third reign with the title after last holding it in the early months of 2017. It is the second time he taken a title from his former “Shield brother” as he last took the WWE World Heavyweight Championship from him at Money in the Bank 2016 after cashing in his MITB contract he won the same evening.
The match went approximately 25 minutes and featured Seth’s attempt to do a sunset flip off the top rope, the move that cost him nearly a year of his career back in late 2015 until mid-2016. He favored his knee for the rest of match, but nevertheless wrestled it to completion. Ambrose eventually hit his signature Dirty Deeds to seal the victory.
Tonight, we begin the “Age of Ambrose” as WWE is framing it.
Frank’s Analysis: I liked the match more than most. My issue with the match is that it didn’t feel like a battle between former friends-turned heated rivals. It felt like a pedestrian wrestling match. As has been talked about here in my primers and several PWTorch podcasts, the feud has gotten away from being about the Shield. It’s more about Ambrose heeling on the local crowd and very little about how he feels about his former stable despite mentioning issues here and there. It felt like Triple H vs. Randy Orton at WrestleMania in 2009 for the WWE Championship. That match should have been an out-and-out brawl after all the nasty things Orton did to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon in the run up, but instead we got a pedestrian wrestling match.
Speaking of Orton didn’t we have the “Age of Orton” back in approximately 2008?
Ronda Rousey’s Actions
As I talked about earlier, Ronda Rousey retained her Raw Women’s Championship over Nia Jax.
Charly Caruso then interviewed Rousey about her victory, and asked her about the next chapter with her and Charlotte following their match at Survivor Series. Rousey said “Payback is a bitch and I’m the baddest one on the planet.”
Later on in the Smackdown Women’s Championship match, Rousey would interfere by pushing the ladder with both Charlotte and now former Smackdown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch climbing for the title. This enabled Asuka to climb a different ladder and captured the title for the first time in her main-roster career.
While the crowd cheered Asuka’s victory, Rousey’s actions were meet with disapproval. Tonight, the expectation is to follow up in some shape or form.
Frank’s Analysis: It’s looking more and more like Rousey vs. Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch for WrestleMania is coming to fruition. I could understand WWE wanting to get all three women involved especially if it main-event’s the card. I just still think it does Rousey vs. Becky one-on-one a disservice or even Rousey vs. Charlotte Part II for that matter. There’s a lot of time between now and then and it will be interesting to see how Rousey is framed as she was certainly received as a heel following her actions last night. I’ll have more on the decision to put the title on Asuka and the methodology used in tomorrow’s Smackdown primer.
Braun Strowman vs. The Beast Part III at the Royal Rumble
Based on how WWE was framing the situation, it was touch-and-go as to whether or not Braun Strowman would show last night and take on Baron Corbin for the right to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble. The “Monster Among Men” as Braun is known arrived with his arm in a sling during referee Heath Slater’s count, and reminded Corbin that TLC matches are no-DQ. Many people that Corbin had “wronged” during his tenure as G.M., including a returning Kurt Angle (isn’t he technically still G.M.? He was just given a vacation. Anyway…). Here’s a YouTube clip of the highlights of the match:
For the third time since September of 2017, Braun has a Universal Championship opportunity against current champ Brock Lesnar. Braun last faced Lesnar at the global WWE event…sorry couldn’t help it…Crown Jewel in early November. Lesnar recaptured the Universal Championship with assistance from Corbin.
Lesnar is not advertised at the moment for tonight to begin the build for this upcoming encounter.
Frank’s Analysis: It was actually a clever way around Braun’s injury to do what they did and reminded me of Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon at WrestleMania in 2010 when members of the Hart family attacked Vince since Bret really couldn’t “go.” It’s not necessarily a babyface tactic, but under the circumstances I could understand. Finally we got a group of babyfaces aligning and helping each other against the tyrant Corbin.
As far as the match with Lesnar, I’m really not concerned with when he appears to build up this match but rather apathetic. That’s a problem. I should care when the Universal Champion is going to be on TV. I don’t need to see him every week, but we’re back to square one with this guy. Yes, he worked two matches in November and a fine one with Daniel Bryan, but we haven’t heard hide nor hair from him since Survivor Series. On top of this we don’t even hear of him having a UFC match, so what exactly is Lesnar doing? Nonetheless, with Braun’s injury I am looking forward to how he discusses his recovery and what he will do to Lesnar at the Royal Rumble considering their last encounter. Here he is on Twitter:
— Braun Strowman (@BraunStrowman) December 17, 2018
Finn Balor vs. Dolph Ziggler
As I said earlier, Finn Balor defeated Drew McIntyre at TLC in part because of outside interference by Dolph Ziggler, who super-kicked Drew on the outside of the ring. Drew recently ended his partnership with Ziggler, a man with whom he held the Raw Tag Team Championship . They have exchanged victories in the last to Raw episodes. Finn assisted Ziggler in his victory over Drew.
After the match, while Finn was being interviewed following his victory, Ziggler came to get some appreciation from Finn. Finn was having none of it, and the two went at it culminating in Ziggler leaving Finn laid out on the floor. Prior to the end of TLC ending, a match between Finn and Ziggler was announced for tonight.
Frank’s Analysis: This felt like another turn for Ziggler, but then again did he turn babyface two weeks ago? There have been so many turns in WWE recently it’s hard to keep track. He did say “I’m not a good guy nor a bad guy, I’m Dolph Ziggler,” and thus by that he technically left things open. That’s not the point as WWE likes to play these “shades of gray” as they’ve done for a long period of time, and that doesn’t do anybody any favors. I don’t care necessarily who is heel or babyface, but the characters should have a clear standing. We wonder why Raw ratings are in the cesspool.
Who Will Enter the 2019 Royal Rumbles?
As TLC is now in the rear-view mirror, we turn our attention towards the holidays and then get ready for the Royal Rumble. I supposed we should pluralize that as we look forward to one for the men and one for the women going forward.
Nevertheless we know that R-Truth and Carmella will enter #30 in their respective “rumbles” following their winning the finals of Mixed Match Challenge last night over Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox.
I couldn’t help it. It’s 6:45 a.m. EST, bear with me. At any rate, we will slowly but surely start accumulating Royal Rumble participants either through qualifying matches, wrestler’s declarations, or various other methods starting tonight.
Frank’s Analysis: While the WWE roster is deep, I don’t know how all of the Raw roster or Smackdown for that matter not participating in a title match or something else at the Rumble aren’t in the Rumble match itself. Lesnar obviously won’t be in and Braun likely not either unless their match goes on before the Rumble and Braun loses. Either way, WWE will come up with some way to put some intrigue as to who will participate whether it works or not based on how they’ve handled this in the past.
Other Items from Last Week:
Head of the women’s division Alexa Bliss was ill last week and could not have the WWE.com-announced press conference.
- Bobby Roode and Chad Cable captured the Raw Tag Team Championship over AOP in handicap match in which AOP had their manager Drake Maverick as their partner. Drake took the pin.
- Drew McIntyre defeated Dolph Ziggler. As I said earlier, Ziggler takes on Finn Balor tonight.
- Bayley defeated Alicia Fox
- Lio Rush defeated Elias after Lashley smashed Elias with a guitar. Lashley wouldn’t let referee Heath Slater DQ Rush following Lashley’s attack on Elias which lead to the guitar smash.
- Ember Moon defeated Tamina
Start Time & Matches Advertised
The arena’s website is advertising a start time of 4:45 p.m. with doors opening at 3:45 p.m. local.
The website is clearly not updated, as they advertise a six-man tag between the Shield vs. Braun Strowman and Tag Team Champions Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre. Obviously the Shield is not together anymore, Strowman and Ziggler are both babyfaces but not aligned and certainly not with McIntyre. The tag title halved changed hands three times since Ziggler and McIntyre were champions. This match would make sense only two months ago which shows you how much changes in WWE in just a short period of time.
Follow Frank on Twitter @FrankPeteani or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions and discussion are welcome.