KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
JANUARY 7, 2019
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Renee Young
Tonight after WWE Raw, join me live with guest cohost Zack Heydorn to break down the show with live callers, mailbag, and an on-site correspondent from Orlando, Fla.
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-The on-screen graphic acknowledged the death of “Mean” Gene Okerlund.
-They cut backstage to a pull apart brawl with Bobby Lashley and Seth Rollins. Curt Hawkins, Zack Ryder, No Way Jose, and agents were among those trying to separate them. Seth broke free and knocked Lashley off the stage. (They made everyone seasick with a rocking camera the whole time meant to “add drama” to the chaos.)
-They went to a wide-shot of the arena and John Cena’s music played. Cena came out in his lime-green t-shirt that says, “Never Give Up. Earn It.” He yelled “The Green Machine is back in the building.” He slid into the ring to cheers and boos. Graves plugged that Hulk Hogan returns to celebrate Okerlund. Renee plugged a face-t0-face with Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman. Cole plugged the new Alexa Bliss talk show with guest Ronda Rousey. Cena welcomed fans watching on TV to Orlando and to the Road to WrestleMania. He said you either step up or get left out of WrestleMania. “I’ll be damned if I’m getting left out again this year,” he said. “So I gotta step up, and I gotta do it right now.” He said there is one match that gives you a golden ticket to a main event match at WrestleMania, “and that is the Royal Rumble.” He said in life nothing is handed to you; you work hard and earn every inch. He said he plans to earn his golden ticket. He officially entered himself into the Royal Rumble. He yelled, “Man, am I fired up!” Drew McIntyre’s music then played.
McIntyre walked out. He said he has waited for this moment for years. He said he doesn’t care who he shares his bed with or his stupid haircut. Cena took off his hat and interrupted Drew and rubbed his hands through his hair and pretended to be hurt. He said he cares that Cena had headlined multiple WrestleManias and that Vince McMahon has called him the greatest of all-time. He said he agrees that Cena is the greatest of all-time. Cena asked what his point is. Drew asked Cena to check with The Shield or Dolph Ziggler, but then said he destroyed The Shield and Ziggler. He suggested he phone his friend Kurt Angle because he didn’t just beat him, he humiliated him and made him tap out to his own ankle lock. He said he is the most dangerous man in WWE and he has come for him now.
Cena said he was having a good time and then this happened, “and now I’m sad.” He said what’s sad about this is he’s heard the same thing every week from practically every single other wrestler in WWE. He said he had to leave for a while so they should shut their mouths “and think of a different promo.” He asked what makes Drew any different than anyone else. A “Cena!” chant broke out. Drew said he could talk about taking the torch from him. He said everyone else was all talk, but he’ll bloody show him. Drew ripped off his jacket. Cena took off his shirt.
Lio Rush interrupted as Drew was about to enter the ring. Lashley walked onto the stage. Lio said Seth has gone crazy, viciously attacking them last week and attacking them this week backstage. He said they are going to get a lawyer if something isn’t done about Seth. He declared the show “officially cancelled” unless someone does something about Seth. Seth ran out and attacked Lashley. Dean Ambrose joined in the beatdown. Cena ran into the fray. Then Drew joined in. Finn Balor’s music played and he ran to the ring. Drew was ready for him in the ring. Finn delivered a sling blade and then flip dive onto the group of heels at ringside. Cole yelled, “Chaos rules on Raw!” [c]
(1) BOBBY LASHLEY & DEAN AMBROSE & DREW MCINTYRE vs. JOHN CENA & FINN BALOR & SETH ROLLINS
They returned live with the match in progress as Cena battled Lashley. Balor tagged in seconds later. Cole said all six will be part of the Rumble match. The built several minutes toward Cena getting a hot-tag and rallying against Dean. When he went for an Attitude Adjustment against Dean, Dean snuck in a tag to McIntyre. Drew surprised Cena with a headbutt and scored a two count. They cut to a break. [c]
(A commercial aired for Smackdown hyping Charlotte Flair vs. Carmella vs. Becky Lynch in a Triple Threat, winner faces Asuka at the Rumble for the Smackdown Title, plus A.J. Styles confronts Daniel Bryan.)
Back in the ring, Dean was working over Cena’s hair in the corner. They worked over Cena for a few minutes. Dean threw Cena into the ringside steps and they cut to another break only a few minutes after returning from the previous break. [c]
Back live, Dean had Cena in a sleeper. Renee sang, “Never underestimate the power of John Cena!” as he tried to fight free of her husband’s grip. Dean stopped a Cena with an eye rake, then took a cheap shot at Seth with a boot to knock him off the ring apron. Cena and Dean hit each other with simultaneous clotheslines. Cole called it a crucial moment in the match. Balor got the tag and went to work on Dean. (It was refreshing they didn’t have the heel tag out at the same time, which has become the predictable cliche for hot-tag sequences.) Balor leaped off the top rope with a Coup de Grace. Drew interfered with a Claymore Kick. The ref scolded Drew and ordered him to the ring apron. Drew tagged in and a half second later Balor leaped and hot-tagged Seth. Seth rallied against Drew. Seth did a quick moonsault off the ring apron onto Lashley and Dean. Back in the ring, he landed a Falcon Arrow on Drew for a believable near fall. Seth looked to the crowd to set up his next series of moves, but that gave Drew tons of time to recover. Drew did, but Cena then entered and gave Drew an AA. Lashley jumped in with a spear on Cena. Seth gave Lashley a superkick. Seth chased after Drew at ringside and threw him back into the ring. He landed a superkick and then leaped off the top rope with a frog splash, but Drew rolled out of the way. Dean tagged in. Dean had a sinister look and went right for a Dirty Deeds, but Seth slipped out and hit a Stomp for the three count.
WINNERS: Seth & Balor & Cena in 23:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: A lot of star power there in that match, and it was solid start to finish. Nice to see Cena wrestling on his return and not just talking. That’s good for his credibility with fans that he’s not just phoning in promos. That said, it can work against the actual stage he’s at now, which is a legacy star special attraction. He’s in a bit of fuzzy area between those two zones now. For Drew, it’s helpful for him to be on the same stage at Cena exchanging barbs verbally and going at it in the ring to further establish he’s a top guy.)
-As Seth celebrated, the big screen showed Triple H meeting with Bayley and Sasha Banks. Seth stared at it as Cena and Balor tried to focus on celebrating. Seth then walked to the back, seemingly irritated. (Why is that on the big screen? Who ordered it? Why aren’t the announcing wondering that out loud?) They cut to Balor and Cena slapping hands at ringside.
-Backstage Seth got in Triple H’s face and said he wants Dean and the IC Title tonight. Triple H said if he wants him, he got him. He made it Falls Count Anywhere. Seth grunted. Triple H welcomed him back. (They were really “close talking” there. It was a little awkward.)
-They showed Hulk Hogan backstage in his boa. Cole said he was live next. [c]
-A series of Tweets showed what Vince McMahon, Kurt Angle, Steve Austin, Dwayne Johnson, Triple H, Jim Ross, and Ric Flair had to say about Okerlund. Mike Rome stood mid-ring and asked fans to rise as they honor the life of Okerlund with a ten bell salute. A “Mean Gene” chant broke out briefly. Then Hogan’s music played.
Hogan came onto the stage and did his routine pointing at the crowd and cupping his ears. (It did not come across on TV as if the crowd was going particularly bonkers for him. It felt “polite.”) After his music stopped, a “Hogan” chant did break out briefly. His t-shirt said, “Mean Gene-O-Mania.” He said he came out to the ring “wide open tonight in character because that’s exactly the way Mean Gene would have wanted it.” He said he wanted everyone to know that Gene loved entertaining and he loved entertaining everybody in the WWE Universe. He said threw to a video package on Okerlund’s career. It was mostly WWF moments, but there was an iconic clip from the AWA of Andre the Giant putting his hand up to Gene’s face. They also showed Hogan and Gene posing together after winning a tag match in Bloomington, Minn. against Mr. Fuji & George “The Animal” Steele. They showed him interacting with a wide array of wrestlers over the years that captured how many big names he was around. Lots of slapstick stuff he was involved in, too. They closed with him at the 2006 Hall of Fame saying he wants to be buried facedown so all of his critics can kiss his ass.
Back live, Hogan said Gene was one of a kind. He said he speaks for anyone who has ever watched WWE, “Mean Gene, we love you, my brother.” He said being in the ring without Gene doesn’t feel right, but he is in his heart. “Thank you, Mean Gene!” chanted the fans. Hogan put his sunglasses back on and asked a fan in a Hulkamania shirt what he wanted him to do. He then cut a promo saying, “Now, let me tell you something, Mean Gene.” He talked about how he’s putting on a real show in Heaven, including Randy Savage & Ultimate Warrior vs. Roddy Piper & Mr. Perfect with Andre the Giant as special enforcer referee. He said he’s probably also breaking up a fight between Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan. He said has to choose between Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young. He said there’s only one question left to ask all the Maniacs: “Whatcha going to do when Mean Gene-o-Mania runs wild on you, brother.”
(Keller’s Analysis: That worked well. Tasteful and genuine. Hogan came across as a star with command of the ring who cared about his friend and was touched by the moment.) [c]
-They showed a graphic with the women entered in the Royal Rumble.
-An inset interview aired with The Revival. They said given how they’ve been screwed lately, they’re glad there are tag teams surrounding the ring. They talked about how this isn’t about them, it’s about the dignity and sanctity of the tag team division.
(Keller’s Analysis: This, like Daniel Bryan being framed as boo-worthy for speaking about the drawbacks of plastic battle bottles and factory farming’s impact on the environment, feels once again like Vince McMahon is positioning heels to be mocked for something Vince is tired of hearing about and doesn’t agree with or understand. And of course, the “cover story” is the fans are booing them because “their tone is too strident” in expressing their views, not so much that their actual views are worthy of scorn. Having Revival speak with passion about of something as “silly” as the “sanctity of the tag team division” makes sense since McMahon has taken heat from various places for his lack of focus on the tag team division over the decades. McMahon, in other words, is using wrestling heels to frame issues he disagrees with as silly positions worthy of being mocked and booed.)
(2) BOBBY ROODE & CHAD GABLE vs. THE REVIVAL (Dash & Dawson) – WWE Raw Tag Team Title match with Lumberjack rules
Lumberjacks included The Ascension, Lucha House Party, B-Team, and Rhyno & Heath Slater. They cut to a break about three minutes in. [c]
Roode rallied after the break, pounding his chest as he worked over Dawson. Not much crowd reaction. He clotheslined Dawson out of the ring. The lumberjacks threw Dawson back into the ring. Roode landed a spinebuster for a near fall. After a double team move by Roode and Gable against Dash, Dawson was a little late with the save, so Dash kicked out on his own of Gable’s bridge into a pin. Dawson blind-tagged in and splashed a vulnerable Gable for a believable near fall. After a bunch of near falls with leverage pin attempts, Gable pinned Dawson, but his leg was clearly under the bottom rope and the ref didn’t see it and counted anyway.
WINNERS: Gable & Roode in 10:00 to retain the Raw Tag Team Titles.
-The announcers plugged other marquee segments and matches coming up.
-A commercial hyped NXT UK Takeover streaming live this Saturday at 2 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. GMT. [c]
-They went to the announcers on camera. Graves threw to the video package on the arriving NXT call-ups.
-Elias sat mid-ring with his guitar. He talked about his year 2018 and said he’ll be in the Rumble this year, but as much as he has enjoyed his successes, he enjoys the failures of Corbin. Corbin came out and fans would like to see him go away, but he’s not; he said he’s entering the Rumble and go on to main event WrestleMania. Elias asked Corbin to do everyone a favor and “shut your mouth.”
(3) ELIAS vs. BARON CORBIN
They cut to an early break. [c]
Corbin dominated for several minutes. Elias made a comeback and scored a two count after a neckbreaker. As the match continued for several minutes, there was such silence in the crowd that a small “C.M. Punk” chant could be heard. Elias climbed to the top rope, but Corbin moved and then surprised Elias, who almost bumped into the ref, with a punch. Then he shoved Elias into the ringpost and landed End of Days for the win. Graves said losing his job as G.M. might be the best thing that happened to his career because, after this performance, he thinks he might win the Rumble.
WINNER: Corbin in 9:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Nothing wrong with their effort, but that was a match I’m not sure anyone wanted to see. There’s just a ceiling of “mere competence” to what both of these men do when they’re not in the ring against someone considerably more athletic than them, so watching this play out just felt like staring at a pot of water waiting for it to boil as they went through their competent motions with no crowd heat until the three count. The push of Corbin continues, and this is a sign that McMahon thinks Elias’s ceiling is second tier at best.)
-A backstage promo aired with Dean. He said if Seth gets his hands on the IC Title, it’s game over “for all of us.” He said he won’t let it happen whether he has to beat him in the ring or on the announce table or in line getting a hot dog. He said he will burn Seth down.
-They showed Paul Heyman outside of Brock Lesnar’s locker room door. Cole said Braun and Brock were next. [c]
-Braun made his ring entrance. He yelled for Lesnar. On the big screen, Heyman introduce himself. He said he is the advocate for the reigning, defending, undisputed Universal Heavyweight Champion. Scattered boos. Heyman said there’s no reason for the confrontation, even though WWE has spent a lot of time and money hyping it. They went to split screen and Braun said he is in the ring waiting for him. Lesnar shrugged and said, “That’s it?” Heyman said that’s all he’s got. Strowman said Lesnar is hiding behind his advocate. He said he’s in the ring and he challenged him to come get him in the ring. Heyman asked if that’s the best he’s got. After an awkwardly long pause, Strowman asked if his advocate’s ass ever gets jealous of all the crap that comes out of his mouth. He said all he hears is how Lesnar doesn’t want to be face-to-face with the Monster Among Men. He said he’s right there waiting for him, while Lesnar is backstage like a coward. He said he should thank Heyman for keeping him back there, because if he did come out, he wouldn’t make it to the Rumble. Braun said everybody knows what happens when Lesnar “gets these hands.” Lesnar said he’s ready to see what he’s got. Heyman didn’t like that decision. “Why? Why would you do that?!” Lesnar began walking to the entrance stage as Heyman followed behind him and tried to talk him out of it.
Lesnar took his time and circled the ring. Then he began to walk to the back. Boos. He walked to the stage, met Heyman, and smiled.
(Keller’s Analysis: Lesnar closing with that smug “I get paid to do that” look isn’t good for WWE anymore. Just another shoulder-shrug of a segment that is aimed at making fans want to see Braun get his hands on Lesnar, but more so it makes fans resent Lesnar’s very existence. The fact that Braun stood there and chase down Lesnar when he turned to walk away, despite Braun’s gimmick of being a super-fast big guy didn’t do a lot for him, either. The back-and-forth on split-screen was awkwardly drawn out and it just seemed like Braun was forgetting his lines.) [c]
-Cole commented on the men’s Rumble match. They showed a Brady Bunch screen of entrants: Dean, Seth, Kofi Kingston, Finn Balor, R-Truth, Lashley, Drew, Cena, Big E, Jinder Mahal, Baron Corbin, Lashley, Samoa Joe, Elias, and Xavier Woods.
-Jinder Mahal, Alicia Fox, and The Singh Brother stood in the ring. Jinder took digs at a woman in the crowd “with a beard” and a guy “with two left feet.”
(4) APOLLO CREWS & EMBER MOON vs. JINDER MAHAL & ALICIA FOX (w/Singh Brothers)
Almost nothing to this. A little men’s fighting, then Moon pinned Fox.
WINNERS: Crews & Moon in 2:00.
-They showed Alexa Bliss preparing for her segment. [c]
-A Moment of Bliss: Bliss came out and sat on her set on the stage. She took a dig at Orlando and got booed. A montage aired of Ronda Rousey making mainstream media appearances on talk shows. Rousey came out and smiled. Bliss asked her to talk about her incredible 2018 and what’s next for her. Rousey paused and smiled as fans cheered for her. Then a “Rousey” chant started. She said “this year has been extraordinary.” She said she wants to look forward, not back. She said she wants to be a champion everyone can be proud of, “and in order to do that, I need to chase after my limits with a vengeance.” She said one woman has pushed everyone to their absolute limits in the ring. She took digs at Lynch and Charlotte before mentioning “the real Cinderella story, the real unsung hero of Monday Night Raw, Sasha Banks.” Bliss said, “I thought you were talking about me.” They were interrupted by Nia Jax making gagging noises. She walked out and asked if they’re getting ready for a moonlight dinner. Jax said it sounds like Rousey has a girl-crush on Sasha. Jax said at TLC she wasn’t at her best, but she’s feeling better this new year. She asked for her rematch. Banks’s music interrupted.
Banks said she is honored by Rousey’s words. She said she’d love to face her for the Raw Championship. She said it’d be her pleasure to teach her how to lose with dignity and class. Rousey laughed sarcastically. Jax got in Sasha’s space and said she could break her face and rip it off, so get in line. Sasha said, “Bitch, what line.” Sasha said she’d face her right now and the winner can face Ronda. Sasha dropped the mic and walked to the ring. Jax sat next to Bliss and said, “I didn’t say right now.” They cut to a break.
(Keller’s Analysis: All of that hype for Moment of Bliss for that? Rousey continues to be a compelling mix of different kinds of awkward. I like the idea of Banks vs. Rousey. Jax has mastered not being the least bit likable.) [c]
(5) NIA JAX (w/Tamina) vs. SASHA BANKS (w/Bayley)
Banks crawled under the ring and leaped at a confused Jax at ringside, but Jax caught her mid-air and threw her onto the ring apron. Banks spun around and kicked Jax, then slidekicked her. She hit some more kicks in the ring and scored a two count. When Tamina walked toward Banks at ringside, Bayley charged at her. Tamina threw her into the ringside barricade. Banks went after Tamina. Jax then grabbed Banks and pressed her into the air and walked around and then dropped her on an equipment case. Jax re-entered the ring with a smile. Jax landed a sit-out powerbomb for a believable near fall. They cut to a break. [c]
Banks landed a meteora for a two count. When Jax went for a face-breaker a minute later, Banks moved. Jax gave Banks a Samoan Drop for a two count; Banks put her foot on the bottom rope to stop the count. Jax stood on the second rope with Banks on her shoulders, dropped down, and let go of Banks who went chin-first over the turnbuckle. Jax methodically continued working over Banks. Jax pretended her hurt his shoulder. With the ref distracted, Tamina went after Banks by Bayley intervened. Sasha sidestepped a charging Jax on the ring apron, who went hard into the corner ringpost. Banks tried to head scissors Jax off the ring apron, but Banks landed with a thud on the floor and Jax barely moved. Graves said he wasn’t sure that was worth the effort. Banks then put Jax in a Bank Statement mid-ring. Jax tapped out.
WINNER: Banks in 14:00 to earn a match against Rousey.
(Keller’s Analysis: That’s a big win for Banks, and needed for her to have singles credibility against Rousey. Let’s see where they go from her with the hype. I’m not sure about putting Rousey against arguably a more likable, popular wrestler than she is who is perceived as an underdog unless they’re taking Rousey on a path to a full-fledged heel turn. Or, and perhaps preferably, Banks comes up short and that sparks a heel turn with her, which then erases the concern about Rousey being hurt by the match-up, but they have to be careful how they tell the story if that’s where this is headed.)
-They showed Dean and Seth prepping for their match. [c]
(6) SETH ROLLINS vs. DEAN AMBROSE – Falls Count Anywhere match for IC Title
Seth attacked Dean from behind on the ramp. Then he knocked him into the crowd over the ringside barricade. They brawled to the back. Seth swung a shovel at Dean, but Dean ducked. They brawled onto a platform and Seth set up a powerbomb. Dean countered with elbows and slammed Seth down and scored a two count. [c]
They brawled back to the ring through the crowd and onto the announce table at one point. When it appeared Seth had Dean beat after a Stomp, Cole declared Seth the next IC Champion, which annoyingly gave away that he wasn’t going to win. Lashley appeared, then yanked Seth out of the ring and attacked him. Lashley beat up Seth for a couple of minutes. Dean crawled over and made the cover and the ref counted to three.
WINNER: Dean to retain the IC Title.
(Keller’s Analysis: Predictable finish that made a mockery of the “no rules” aspect of the Falls Count Anywhere match. Good exciting match otherwise, though.)
-Afterward Lashley slammed Seth through a table.