KELLER & POWELL FLAGSHIP (11/14)
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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
JANUARY 14, 2019
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Renee Young
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-They went to a shot of the parking garage where a limousine was parked. The chauffeur opened the back door and out walked Vince McMahon. He noticed a smudge and ordered it to be wiped down. He looked disgusted with the imperfections.
-Out walked Braun Strowman, making his first TV appearance since the damaging and awkward segment with Brock Lesnar last week on Raw. Braun played to the crowd as the announcers hyped the Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins vs. Bobby Lashley IC Title triple threat match and the Ronda Rousey & Sasha Banks vs. Tamina & Nia Jax tag match. Braun said Brock Lesnar will never admit it, but Brock has always been afraid of him. He said when he had the Money in the Bank contact, Lesnar was constantly looking over his shoulder and when he had a Universal Title opportunity, Lesnar interfered to prevent him at the World Cup, he had Baron Corbin interject himself. “Hey Beastie Boy, I hope you’re watching this from training camp because I’m all healed up.” He said with Corbin no longer in power, there is no one left to save him. He said his biggest fear is about to come true at the Rumble. He said Lesnar will “get these hands.”
Baron Corbin then walked out with a mic in hand. (Way to send a signal things are different in 2019.) Corbin said he may not run Raw anymore, at which point Strowman interrupted. He got fans to taunt Corbin with a chant of “You Got Fired!” Corbin said those fans are going to stand there and listen to every word he has to say. He said if he stands there for five minutes talking, it’ll be longer than he lasted against Brock Lesnar. He told Braun to stop lying to the fans because they believe in him, but he keeps letting them down. Corbin said he’ll be focused on winning the Rumble match so he can go to the main event of WrestleMania. Braun dropped the mic and ran toward Corbin. Corbin fled the stage. Renee said Corbin can’t talk that much trash and not expect Braun to react.
Braun followed Corbin backstage where he asked the Singh Brothers where Corbin went. They couldn’t come up with a straight answer, so he threw Sunil across a table where people were eating. He went looking for Corbin. Around a corner, Elias happened to be sitting with his guitar. He played a song for the camera and said he saw where Corbin went. Braun walked up behind Elias, who revealed that Corbin was hiding down in the limo in the parking garage. Braun kicked the rear viewer mirror and then yanked the driver out of the window and threw him into the hood. Graves said the driver didn’t do anything wrong. Strowman grabbed a bat and bashed in the rear window. Corbin came out the other side of the limo and ran. Then Braun turned and saw McMahon standing there. McMahon was speechless and upset with the damage to his limo. [c]
-Back from the break, Braun picked up the detached door and tried to put it back in place, but it just fell. “Look what you’ve done to my car!” he said. Vince said it’ll cost him 100,000 dollar fine. Braun said, “This piece of crap isn’t worth 100,000 dollars!” Vince said if he wants to be a bad guy, he’s taking him out of the match with Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. Braun then tipped over the limo. They showed three or four camera angles as he lifted and tipped it onto its roof. Cole said, “Are you kidding me? That limo has to weigh two tons!”
-They went to the announcers on camera. Graves said it was “absolutely unbelievable, absolutely unreal.” That’s one way to put it. He said Braun just made McMahon more irate. He said he’s also excited about the situation because someone new will probably get a title match at the Rumble.
(Keller’s Analysis: The latest strength stunt from Braun felt like reaching back to something that was cool once but played out. Strowman’s character was damaged by the face-heel-face turn sequence late last year, and tipping a limo over doesn’t undo a mix of unfortunate circumstances and bad booking. If this was an attempt to “reset” him a little after last week’s mess, that’s fine, but they need a better path for him going forward. As for being removed from the title match, my assumption is it’s related to his health, but it could also be a result of Vince calling an audible after feeling Strowman’s character has been weakened or he has a better idea in mind. We’ll see. This seemed to set up a Braun-Corbin match, obviously, but I don’t think that’s a real path to getting fans invested in Braun again at this point.)
-Ronda Rousey walked out with her WWE Raw Title over her shoulder. She smiled and slapped hands on her way to the ring. Sasha came out next. Graves said Ronda told him she has looked up to Sasha Banks for years and looks forward to being stabbed in the back by her. Nia Jax and Tamina made their ring entrance together. As soon as they entered the ring, WWE cut to a break. [c]
-Braun was shown being escorted out of the arena by three officers. Corbin stood near by and laughed.
(1) RONDA ROUSEY & SASHA BANKS vs. TAMINA & NIA JAX
Nia asked for Ronda, but Sasha decided to take it to Jax at the start instead. She threw punches and used a head scissors to take Nia down. Rousey tagged in and threw some strikes, but Nia threw her into her corner and tagged in Tamina. Tamina head-butted Rousey. She quickly went for an armbar. Jax yanked Tamina to ringside to break it up. Fans booed. Tamina teased reentering the ring, but retreated again. Sasha grew impatient and dove onto Jax at ringside. They cut to a break. [c]
Back live, Jax was beating up Banks. They cut to a split screen plug for a movie. (I think that’s a first for WWE. As if going to a commercial break mid-match doesn’t diminish the importance of what happens inside the ring enough, now they’re shrinking the screen down to run movie ads while the wrestlers are fighting.) Sasha eventually avoided a charging Tamina and then rolled her into a Bank Statement for the tapout win. Rousey congratulated Banks afterward and raised her arm. There were no teases of dissension between them.
WINNERS: Sasha & Rousey in 10:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Rousey did almost nothing in that match.)
-Charlie Caruso interviewed Sasha and Banks mid-ring afterward. Rousey said it’s easy to trust each other because they respect each other, despite having a match coming up at the Rumble. She said it’ll be an absolute honor to be able to defend her title against Sasha at the Rumble. She said it’d be her greatest accomplishment as Raw Women’s Champion to have a victory over her. Sasha took exception. She said it’s nice to hear Rousey rank her on a list of defeated opponents already. Rousey said she will do everything she can to tap her out at the Rumble and that’s the only way she can show her the respect she is owed. Sasha took exception again. Sasha showed all kinds of unreasonable attitude in response to that very reasonable comment. Sasha said it will be her pleasure to teach her how to lose with class. Rousey said she can teach her by example. She said, “You can keep the title of the World’s Classiest Loser, because I don’t want it.” Sasha got upset again. Rousey tried to back off her tone and say she didn’t mean it how it sounded. Sasha said the only loser will be Rousey and she can bank on that. Sasha rollout out of the ring. Sasha chased her down and again told Sasha she didn’t mean any disrespect. They argued briefly with Ronda trying to play peacekeeper. Sasha walked away. Rousey yelled, “Don’t walk away from me.”
(Keller’s Analysis: Rousey was being totally reasonable, while Sasha was overreacting to everything. It created some good tension between them, but Rousey was the more sympathetic person here. Sasha came across as hot-headed and insecure. I mean, of course Rousey is going to try to make her tap. If Sasha is supposed to be a babyface, there are better ways for her to show fire and fortitude. If it’s a heel turn, or the start of one, then good job.)
-Backstage they showed Rhino & Heath Slater, B-Team, Curt Hawkins, and Apollo Crews lined up outside of McMahon’s office. Then Jerry Lawler walked out of the door. He acted startled by the camera. No Way Jose marched by with his parade. [c]
-Natalya and Bayley stepped between Rousey and Sasha who were arguing. Natalya told Bayley that Sasha has to control her emotions. Bayley said Ronda is riling her up by complimenting her one second and acting arrogant the next. Bayley said Rousey stirred the pot. Natalya said Sasha “is so sensitive.” As they argued, The Riott Squad walked up and gloated about how they are sticking together while everyone else is falling apart. Riott said if they can find themselves a friend, they could have a three-on-three match later. Natalya accepted. Bayley wasn’t sure that was a good call.
(2) LUCHA HOUSE PARTY vs. THE REVIVAL (Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson)
Before the match, Dash and Dawson said LHP turned their backs on them last week, so they have to pay a heavy price this week. As Graves took Revival’s side, Cole pushed back. Renee said on social media there are a lot of people on Revival’s side. They cut away from the match to show Dasha Fuentes outside McMahon’s office. She said everyone is hoping to get the opportunity to replace Braun against Lesnar. Crews said winning the Universal Title means so much to everyone, and he’s first in line. Hawkins said no one can bring to the table what he brings – The Beast Incarnate vs. The Streak. EC3 walked into the picture and smiled at her. Graves said that’s EC3. B-Team said the B in B-Team stands for Brock. Dasha asked which of them will face Brock. They got panicked and said they hadn’t decided yet. Dasha talked with Slater and Rhyno next. They cut away and went back to the full screen of the match.
Late in the match Metalik rolled up Dawson for a virtual three count. Cole said it seemed like a three count and LHP might’ve gotten ripped off. Dawson then covered Metalik, but Metalik put his foot on the bottom rope. Dash threw his foot of the bottom rope and the ref never saw and counted three. Cole said he doesn’t want to hear The Revival complain about a conspiracy again.
WINNERS: The Revival in 4:00.
-McMahon walked out of his office. He told Dasha might want a scoop, but instead he’s heading to the ring. [c]
-Vince made his ring entrance. Cole said it’s been a whirlwind night so far. Graves said Vince has always been a fair-minded leader. Just as Vince began to speak, John Cena interrupted. He told the camera on his way to the ring that he has some serious business to tend to. Cena stopped Vince from talking. He said everyone knows he just lost the Universal Title match on the biggest night on the road to WrestleMania. He said he is out there to tell someone to step up, but he’ll save him the trouble. He said Steve Austin and The Rock and Brock Lesnar, 20 years ago, said, “See you later, Vince.” He said he didn’t know what to do and he turned to a crew of “rejects and misfits” and begged someone to step up. He said he walked up to Vince and told him that if he gives him a chance, he won’t let him down. He said he gave him chance after chance, and he missed birthdays, weddings, and funerals because of WWE. He said stepping up is putting your life on hold for this, it’s making this your life and loving every second of it. He told Vince to give him another chance and he won’t let him down. He vowed to become the 17 time WWE Champion at the Rumble. He said he has something no other wrestler has – ruthless aggression! Vince smiled.
Drew McIntyre interrupted (without his music, which made it seem less scripted and orchestrated). “How dare you, Cena,” he said. “I do not care if you talk about your 16 championships or your movies or whatever book you are currently writing, but how dare you stand there in this ring with a straight face and claim that you still have ruthless aggression.” He stood in Vince’s face and said, “This is what Ruthless Aggression looks like.”
Drew turned to Cena and said his time is up, “but my time is now.” He said just like Stone Cold, The Rock, and Lesnar, Cena can leave now. Cena looked back with a mix of intimidation and admiration. Corbin walked out and said Braun threatened his life. He said he’s not the type who has a lawyer on speed dial, but if he were, he thinks he and Vince can agree what’s best for business is Vince giving him a Universal Title match against Brock. Finn Balor then interrupted and said he’s a little tired of being left out of these conversations. He said he’s the only person out there who has been Universal Champion. Vince said maybe one day he will be again. “There’s a lot of beef out here,” he said. He said Balor is fast, but he’s not sure he’s the right match-up for Lesnar. Balor told Vince he never believed in him. He said the fans do. Cheers. He said he knows Vince is stubborn and nothing he says is going to change his mind, so how about he show him. Balor hit Corbin. Vince made a mad dash for ringside. Drew, meanwhile, took out Cena and then turned and kicked Balor. When Cena stood, Dean gave him a Claymore Kick. Cole said it’s a major statement for the boss. Vince stood on the ring apron and asked the fans if they liked that. He said everyone wants to face Brock, so how about they have a Fatal Four-way match tonight.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good segment. A little formulaic with four wrestlers throwing their hat in there and then an authority figure with a brilliant idea to have a Fatal Four-way. It’s a big enough match it’d be worth hyping this week and delivered next week to really build anticipation and a week’s worth of discussion. Drew looked alpha out there. Balor held his ground. It was good to see Cena seem engaged again beyond a sing-sing meta-cliche fest.)
-The announcers hyped the six-woman tag match with a mystery partner. [c]
-Graves thanked Zayde Wolf’s “We Got the Power” for a theme for the Royal Rumble.
-Backstage Vince was talking to a producer when Jinder Mahal approached him and complimented him on his suit. He called him Vince and then correct himself and said Mr. McMahon. He listed his credentials. He said the WWE Universe was robbed of the dream match at Survivor Series last fall of him against Lesnar. Vince asked if he thinks fans want to see him against Lesnar. Jinder said he would have walked out there but he was tending to Sunil who was brutally beaten up by Braun earlier. Vince said Jinder can choose any one of those four men in the match and if he can beat them, he can take their place in the Fatal Four-way. Jinder chose Balor. Vince wished him luck.
-A grid on the screen showed women in the Women’s Rumble already. Renee cheered on Bayley to win it.
(3) RIOTT SQUAD (Ruby Riott & Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan) vs. NATALYA & BAYLEY & NIKKI CROSS
Cole snuck in a plug for “Temptation Island” premiering on USA Network this week right before Cross’s music played. Cross made her maniacal ring entrance. Cole said the NXT call-ups are going to be appearing on both shows for a while so everyone can see what they’re all about being assigned to a specific show. Graves said Cross is just pure chaos. Cole said she is out there and unpredictable. Graves said she is frenzied and the personification of insane. Riott Squad didn’t seem pleased at ringside.
Sarah Logan began against Bayley. Cross tagged in quickly and the crowd popped. She pounded her chest and went after Logan, leaping onto her back. Morgan tagged in and Cross tossed her down. Riott then tagged in. She signaled for help. All six women faced off in the ring. Nikki told Natalya and Bayley she can do this alone. She went after all three heels at ringside. Natalya and Bayley slidekicked them. Cross then yanked Riott in between the ring and the apron. Cole said this would make Fit Finlay proud. As Nikki pounded her chest in celebration, they cut to a break. [c]
(A commercial for Smackdown announced that Miz will host a Birthday Bash for Shane McMahon.)
Bayley battled Lorgan after the break. Bayley eventually tagged in Natalya after several minutes. Natalya battled Logan. When Morgan tagged in, Nikki tagged back in and she landed a top rope move. Chaos broke out. Natalya went for a dropkicked on Logan that wasn’t timed well and showed light as Logan began fallback before before impact. It settled into Nikki vs. Morgan. Morgan did a Matrix to avoid Nikki and then schoolgirled her for a near fall. Nikki then gave Morgan a neckbreaker off the ropes. Bayley then tagged in and landed a top rope flying elbow for the win.
WINNERS: Bayley & Natalya & Cross in 13:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: That gave Nikki a chance to establish her personality and style to the larger fanbase of Raw.)
-Balor was shown backstage. He walked past Lacey Evans who was chatting with Mickie James and Dana Brooke. She was dressed for a fancy gala.
-Mahal made his ring entrance. Samir joined him, but Sunil was still selling the Braun attack. [c]
-In a backstage promo, Dean Ambrose said he is right about everything always and it’s wrong he has to defend against two men at once. He said especially wrong is having to defend the IC Title in Memphis. He said he doesn’t care what the odds are, nobody – especially Seth Rollins – is going to take away his championship.
(4) FINN BALOR vs. JINDER MAHAL (w/Samir Singh)
Samir grabbed Balor’s leg during his ring entrance routine. That gave Jinder an opening to attack Balor before the hell. Instead of being upset, Cole said stoically that Jinder was “showing a killing instinct.” (How can heels get heat when the lead announcer is framing heel tactics as basically sound strategy?) Jinder threw Balor into the ring and called for the ref to ring the bell. The ref checked on Balor. Graves said Jinder was taking advantage of this opportunity. No push-back by Renee or Cole. Balor winced as he took off his ring jacket and said the ref should start the match. Balor charged at Jinder, but Jinder kicked him and scored an early believable near fall. Balor made a comeback and knocked Jinder to the floor. Jinder, though, yanked Balor’s leg and Balor fell onto the ring apron to the ringside. They cut to a break. [c]
Jinder was in control after the break. Graves said Jinder is showing killer instinct that he hasn’t shown since he was WWE Champion. Cole said he is more aggressive and he understands what’s at stake. Jinder settled into a side headlock mid-ring as Graves talked about Balor making name for himself globally, especially in Japan, until making a big name for himself in WWE. Balor rallied and the crowd cheered. Balor dropkicked an interfering Samir off the ring apron, then threw Jinder to the floor. Balor then did a running flip dive onto both heels. He threw Jinder back into the ring and landed a Slingblade. Next he landed a running dropkick and then hit his top rope Coup de Grace for the win. Graves wondered how much Balor has left for the Fatal Four-way tonight.
WINNER: Balor in 10:00 to remain in the Fatal Four-way main event.
-A Lio Rush soundbite aired from backstage. He said it’s time for people like Seth and Dean to suffer because Bobby is the man they all need as champion because he is a fighter. The camera panned over and showed Lashley. Lio said Lashley will dominate and collect the IC Title later.
-Dean’s ring entrance took place. [c]
-Lashley’s ring entrance took place.
-Caruso interviewed Seth backstage and asked if this is his last IC Title opportunity. Seth said he is going to make the most of this opportunity because it might be his last. He said he’ll kick Dean’s teeth down his throat. He brought up Roman Reigns telling the world he is battling leukemia. Seth said he and Dean told Roman he wasn’t alone, and then Dean betrayed him hours later. He said he will never, ever forgive him. (Mark those words.) Seth said Lashley has an impressive physique, but that only gets you so far. He said nobody on the planet can do what he does bell to bell. He said if this is his last chance, he’ll do what he always does – lay it all on the line and take back his IC Title.
(Keller’s Analysis: That promo wasn’t “entertaining” with “clever pop culture references,” but it served a larger purpose of setting the stage for the match and establish what he is fighting for and why and should be against his opponents. Well done.)
-Seth’s ring entrance took place. When Cole plugged Golden Crisps with a Sugar Bear mascot, Graves cracked himself up when he compared Dean to Sugar Bear. There is a resemblance. Formal ring introductions took place for the IC Title match.
(5) DEAN AMBROSE vs. SETH ROLLINS vs. BOBBY LASHLEY (w/Lio Rush) – Intercontinental Title match
Dean got in Seth’s space and proposed working together against Lashley. Seth appeared to agree, but then threw Dean out of the ring and went after Lashley himself. A few minutes in Dean and Lashley double-teamed Seth. Seth made a comeback and clotheslined Dean over the top rope, then dove onto both Dean and Lashley at ringside. Back in the ring he fended off Lio Rush, too. Cole said there are no DQ’s under triple threat rules (which is so STUPID). As Seth chased Rush at ringside, Lashley caught him and slammed him at ringside. Cole dispassionately said, “Rush did his job distracting Rollins and pulling him out of his game.” (That’s taking a fire extinguisher to the heel heat that was supposed to be generated there. I’m so baffled by the strategy of WWE announcing these days.) They cut to a break. [c]
Back from the break, Seth caught a charging Lashley with a boot. Seth and Dean worked in tandem against Lashley. Cole said they were “seemingly working together here.” They looked at each other and then stomped away at Lashley. The announcers said they are working in sync like old times. They knocked Lashley to the door and then worked together to pick up the ringside steps and rammed Lashley with them. (I don’t care how it’s rationalized, after what Dean did to Reigns and after Seth brought it up again right before the match, Seth working together with Dean makes him seem like a total weasel.) Dean and Seth then battled in the ring, trying to pin each other. Seth avoided a Dirty Deeds and hit a Falcon Arrow. Rush broke up the pin. Cole again said it’s totally legal in a triple threat match (which again, is TOTALL STUPID). Dean knocked Rush out of the ring, then Seth rolled him up for a near fall. Seth superkicked a kneeling Dean. Lashley then clotheslined Seth over the top rope rope and stole the cover for a believable near fall.
Lashley showed frustration, but set up a spear. Dean stood and Lashley charged, but Dean kicked Lashley in the face and then poked his eyes. Seth leaped at Dean with a top rope clothesline. Seth landed an enzuigiri and then landed a top rope splash. Dean yanked Seth out of the ring and covered Lashley for another believable near fall. Graves put over how resilient Lashley is,. “This is awesome!” chanted the crowd. Dean climbed to the top rope, but Seth met him up there and se tup a superplex. Lashley ran up and lifted Seth onto his shoulders. Dean clotheslined Seth off of Lashley, but Seth landed on his feet and then superkicked Lashley and Dean. Lio pulled the top rope down and Seth fell to the floor. Lashley then speared Dean for the win.
WINNER: Lashley in 13:00 to capture the Intercontinental Title.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good action, but the no-DQ stip in triple threat matches makes no sense. It makes mockery of merit being the vehicle to victory. I’m totally against Seth working with Dean even for ten seconds. After what Seth said about Roman before the match, it made no sense for him to work with Dean for even a minute. Nice to see Lashley back on track, both as a character and with a big title win.)
-A producer knocked on Alexa Bliss’s locker room door and said she was next. She didn’t answer. He hesitantly walked in. Bliss was getting dressed, covering her chest when she turned around. The guy covered his eyes and set her coffee down. She yelled at him to go.
-They went to the announcers on camera. Renee threw to a preview of “Glass.” [c]
-A Moment of Bliss: Alexa stepped onto the stage and talked about Vince McMahon’s announcing the formation of Women’s Tag Team Titles. She noted that he never said when they’d debut. She said in five weeks, there will be three teams from Raw and three teams from Smackdown, and at Elimination Chamber the team that survives will walk away as tag champs. She unveiled the belts. They have blue on them, but no red. She said on Moment of Bliss, they make history. Then she introduced her guest, Paul Heyman. He interrupted her and introduced himself. She asked Heyman about the news earlier that Lesnar will defend his title against the winner of the Fatal Four-way later. Heyman said emotions play no part in this, but rather it’s all about strategy, and Lesnar will remain Universal Champion. Regarding Cena, he said the foundation of Suplex City was built in the mangled carcass of Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect. (He sold the beating for one week only, though.) Regarding Drew, he said, “I’d be a liar – not that I’ve ever told a lie before – if I didn’t say I had my eyes on Drew McIntyre.” He said that competitor is almost guaranteed to be a Universal Heavyweight Champion. “Just not now,” he punctuated. Regarding Corbin (boos), he said Corbin isn’t the most popular guy in WWE, but he is the kinda sorta proactive never-will-be general manager. He complained about Bliss not keeping eye contact with him. In walked Otiz Dozovic from Heavy Machinery. Bliss backed away and said this isn’t Moment of Otis. Otis made noises and utterances and began saying “pretty lady!” His partner and several officials dragged him to the back. The ring announcer then began to introduce the Fatal Four-way, so the Moment of Bliss ended like that, with Heyman and Bliss just walking away.
(Keller’s Analysis: That didn’t really go anywhere. I like that they seem to “get” Otis’s character already. I’d like to have had an explanation why they cut away from the interview segment, though. Just a comment from Cole saying that Otis used up the rest of the time allocated or Moment of Bliss would have been fine. Heyman didn’t really convey anything to add to the main event or make fans wish for a certain outcome. He, as usual, just no-sold whatever is happening and leaned on Lesnar being dominant and unbeatable.) [c]
(6) DREW MCINTYRE vs. FINN BALOR vs. JOHN CENA vs. BARON CORBIN – Fatal Four-way for a Universal Title match at Royal Rumble
They cut to a very early break when Balor went for an early Coup de Grace against Balor, but Corbin gave him a chokeslam backbreaker for a two count instead. [c]
After several more minutes of action, Corbin blocked a Drew superplex and then knocked him upside down in the corner. Corbin set up the double stomp, but Drew yanked him to the mat. They cut to another break. [c]
Back from the break, Drew and Corbin exchanged blows. Cena leaped off the top rope toward Drew, but Drew caught him mid-air with a spinebuster for a two count. All four fought in the ring. As the action continued with various big moves and near falls, some chants of “This is awesome!” broke out. Corbin bashed Cena and Drew at ringside with a chair. Back in the ring, Corbin smiled as he approached Balor with a chair in hand. He bashed him across his back. Cena broke up his pin attempt. Cena ducked a Corbin chair and then delivered the AA. Drew surprised Cena with a Claymore. Balor then gave Drew a spinning DDT. Balor climbed to the top rope, but struggled as he did it. He leaped and landed the Coup de Grace on Cena. He scored the three count.
WINNER: Balor to earn a Universal Title match at the Royal Rumble.
(Keller’s Analysis: How many viewers had that in mind going into this week’s show?)
-Afterward Cena endorsed Balor and said he’s earned his respect.
(Keller’s Analysis: I would have gotten a kick out of Balor waiting for Cena to look away and then giving him a subtle eye-roll as if to say “Gee, John, thanks for your endorsement. Now I am complete.” On a serious note, though, I think Cena endorsing him can help with a part of the fanbase that really buys into Cena as the leader of the roster. This was the most engaged Cena has seemed in a long time, and his endorsement of Finn Balor at the end is a boost to Balor, who has been booked as an upper-mid-carder doing a lot of jobs late last year, but fans always wanted him to be pushed at a high slot and protected more. I don’t expect Balor to win, although I wouldn’t be against shaking things up and having him win. I could see a Balor vs. Drew match for the Universal Title with Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Lesnar at WrestleMania with no belt at stake (with Braun winning), and then go a different direction with Seth Rollins and John Cena. Instead, I expect Balor to lose, Seth challenging Brock at WrestleMania, with Cena vs. Drew as a strong supporting match. And that’s fine, too, but that does leave Balor out of the mix, and right now I think WWE would be better of listening to actual fans instead of chasing non-fans with the continued push of Brock Lesnar whom they were just too effective at framing as a guy who doesn’t want to be there.)
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