WWE RAW PRIMER 12/31: (SPOILER-FREE) Ziggler vs. McIntyre in a cage, Follow-up on Ronda & Natalya, Rollins & Ambrose, Elias’ New Year’s Rockin’ Eve

By Frank Peteani, PWTorch Specialist

John Cena (photo credit Wade Keller © PWTorch)


DECEMBER 31, 2018

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Renee Young 

Personal Note to PWTorch Readers

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone whom has taken the time to read my Raw and Smackdown primers throughout 2018.  It has been a joy to do so and I look forward to continuing serving PWTorch.com and you the reader in the upcoming year.

My mission in writing these primers is to hold WWE accountable for what they advertise and give analysis not just on what is planned but how similar angles have worked in the past.  When matches aren’t advertised ahead of time it makes the primers challenging to write, but that’s the responsibility I have happily accepted.

I hope all had a great holiday and I wish everyone and their families a happy and prosperous new year.

Arena and Items Advertised by WWE

This week’s Raw was pre-recorded Friday night, December 28, at the Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit, Mich.  The arena only opened for business in September of 2017 and hosted Hell in a Cell just one month later, as well as Raw back in March of this year.  The following are the items of emphasis per WWE.com:

  • Steel Cage Match: Dolph Ziggler vs. Drew McIntyre
  • Ronda Rousey & Natalya’s friendship remains strong
  • Seth Rollins has unfinished business with Dean Ambrose
  • How will Elias rock New Year’s Eve?

There are spoiler reports available for both the Raw and Smackdown episodes to air this holiday week.  I decided to stay in format, avoid the spoilers, and write based on WWE.com’s preview.

Vince McMahon (Mr. McMahon-“ta” Claus) Announcements

Before I talk about tonight’s advertised items, let’s talk about WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon’s announcements from last week’s Raw.  (Let’s not talk about that Santa Claus outfit he wore though):

  • John Cena is “back on Raw and back on Smackdown”.  He called him the greatest of all time.
  • In the coming year, there would be tag team championships for the women’s division.  He did not specify when nor whether the titles would be on Raw, Smackdown, or float between both shows.
  • Tonight’s steel cage match between Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre

Frank’s Analysis:  As far as John Cena is concerned it’s no surprise he’s returning in time for Royal Rumble and WrestleMania season.  Apparently, he replaced A.J. Styles as the opponent for Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship in a steel cage match at a house show right in my back yard at Nassau Coliseum.  It makes you wonder if he’s a potential opponent for Bryan at WrestleMania for the WWE Championship, if in fact Bryan is holding the title until then.  Cena is still tied with Ric Flair having won 16 world championships .  As far as the women’s tag team championship, we all speculated that the announcement was coming.  It will be interesting to find out if the title will float between both shows as I can’t imagine there being separate tag champs for both Raw and Smackdown.  There are too many titles as it is.  See the next section for discussion on the Ziggler-McIntyre match.

Steel Cage Match: Dolph Ziggler vs. Drew McIntyre

Last week on Raw, Finn Balor came out victorious in a triple threat match as he defeated both Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre.  He hit his signature Coup de Grace on Ziggler with McIntyre on the outside of the ring.

Following the match, McIntyre attacked Ziggler.  He told Ziggler he was “ruining everything” and he was “trying to save this place.”  It ended with Ziggler coming back and hitting his signature Zig-Zag and leaving an angry McIntyre in the ring.

Ziggler and McIntyre have been going at it in various ways since their “breakup” a few weeks prior to TLC.  Tonight, they face off in a steel cage.

Frank’s Analysis:  Historically, the steel cage was frequently the way to settle that grudge feud that couldn’t be settled with an ordinary match.  You had to wait until Saturday Night’s Main Event, go to a house show, or wait for a PPV to see it.  That’s not the case these days and hasn’t been for a long time.  Nevertheless, this feud has protected McIntyre to a degree, given that when he’s lost there’s been outside interference whether it be from Finn Balor in matches against Ziggler or vice versa.  Balor pinning Ziggler in the triple threat is an obvious way to protect him.  Having Ziggler come back with a Zig-Zag in the post match attack does not, but I suppose you have to make both competitors look like a threat in the storyline.  One would think if McIntyre is to come out of this strong, a decisive victory is in order tonight. 

The Dynamics between Ronda Rousey and Natalya

Last week, Natalya challenged Ronda Rousey for the Raw Women’s Championship.

Natalya came up short after submitting to Ronda’s arm bar submission move.  Following the match, Ronda was clearly concerned for Natalya considering their friendship.  The two embraced following the match in an expected display of sportsmanship (sportswomanship?).

Tonight, we can expect follow up on this situation.

Frank’s Analysis:  Overall the match served its purpose.  One could have expected Natalya to carry the load while Ronda was holding back out of concern for her good friend.  It’s good she finally realized she couldn’t do so anymore and dialed it up a few notches to get the victory.  It was well placed on Christmas Eve, but I would imagine the story is not over between the two.  I would be somewhat concerned about how often Ronda is wrestling on TV lately.  With her having a limited move set you don’t want to overexpose her.  I would imagine if they are following up on their “story” we can expect a tag team match tonight.

Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose

Last week in the main event, Seth Rollins defeated Baron Corbin, who for some odd reason didn’t come out in wrestling gear.  That match stemmed from Corbin blaming Rollins for losing his general manager position on Raw.

Prior to the match, Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose had a few words for Rollins.  He said he had already gotten his Christmas wish, that being the Intercontinental Championship.  He said Rollins would have a miserable Christmas if he was to lose to Corbin (how’d that work out Dean?).  Here’s the YouTube clip if you missed it:

The feud between Ambrose and Rollins is certainly not over and tonight, we can expect to see what’s next for both of these competitors.

Frank’s Analysis:  You would think they’d want Ambrose and Rollins to have another big match given how badly their TLC encounter was received.  Ultimately, there are a lot of moving parts to this.  While it’s been rumored Rollins will face Lesnar at WrestleMania, word is out that Lesnar could be done with WWE after the Royal Rumble.  Braun Strowman has lost three Universal Championship matches to Lesnar (including the SummerSlam 2017 fatal four-way) so you wonder if a title change is in the offing.  Does that mean we could be looking at Rollins vs. Strowman at ‘Mania?  Rollins vs. Strowman vs. McIntyre?  Throw a little Finn Balor in there for a fatal four-way?  Who knows.  I do have to say I like that things are not predictable this year as they were last year with Reigns vs. Lesnar.

Elias “Rockin’ Eve”

Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve has been a staple of New Year’s Eve for years.  Why not start a new tradition with Elias?  I’m sure the people at ABC won’t mind.

Nonetheless, last week Elias defeated Bobby Lashley in a Christmas-themed “Miracle on 34thStreet Fight.”  I can report that many Christmas cookies, trees, a fire extinguisher, legos (which really hurt), a Christmas cane (Singapore cane striped to look like a candy cane), and a bowl of egg nog poured onto Lio Rush’s head were all involved.  Lio also was treated to a wad of cookies.  I hope he wasn’t watching carbs, and I certainly hope they held some cookies back in catering because they looked good.  Here’s the YouTube clip if you so desire to spend three minutes watching.

Tonight, we can expect some sort of New Year’s Eve performance from Elias.

Frank’s Analysis:  This match did nobody any favors.  I really wonder how they view Lashley at this point given how much he has lost recently especially to Elias.  Depending on how the feud with Rollins and Ambrose goes, Elias could move into the Intercontinental Championship picture although I still maintain that could be a spot reserved for Finn Balor.  Hey, listen, Elias would make sense feuding with Ambrose as he has almost the same long black hair that Rollins has, right?  Either way, I’m not worried about where Elias is headed given his spot on the card.

Other Items from Last Week: 

  • Bobby Roode and Chad Gable retained the Raw Tag Team Championship in a very solid match over the Revival.
  • Ember Moon, Sasha Banks, & Bayley defeated Mickie James, Alicia Fox, & Dana Brooke.  The Riott Squad attacked the victors after the match.
  • Heath Slater defeated former 3MB partner Jinder Mahal via DQ (isn’t it nice I reminded everyone of 3MB?).  Following the match Rhyno made his return to WWE programming by clearing the ring of the Singh Brothers and Mahal for his good friend Slater.
  • Paul Heyman celebrated the holidays by singing a really bad version of Silent Night, changing some words highlighted by replacing “sleep in heavenly peace” to “Brock will not get these hands.”  Here’s the clip:

Start Time & Matches Advertised

This section is not applicable this week.

Follow me on Twitter @FrankPeteani or e-mail me at fpeteani@gmail.com.  Questions and discussion are welcome.  Thank you for reading!

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