HEYDORN’S WWE RAW REPORT
JANUARY 14, 2019
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Renee Young
-The show began with a limo arriving in the back of the arena. Vince McMahon got out of it to a big pop from the Memphis audience. After he did, he noticed a mark on his limo and made the driver clean it up. From there, he did the McMahon strut away from the vehicle.
Heydorn’s Analysis: It’s 2019 and even with the “new era” in full swing, Vince McMahon kicking off the show sets expectations for something big to come. We’ll see if WWE can deliver.
-Right after the McMahon segment, Braun Strowman’s music blared in the arena. Strowman got a nice reaction and a loud Braun roar. As he walked to the ring, the announce team plugged upcoming matches on the show including the IC triple threat match and Rousey and Banks teaming up. Once Strowman got to the ring, Braun grabbed a microphone and paused as the audience chanted “get these hands.” Strowman then said that Brock Lesnar would never admit it, but that he was afraid of Braun Strowman. From there, Strowman ran down all of the times Lesnar dodged him. He then revealed that he was heeled up and that at the Royal Rumble, he’d win the Universal Championship.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Anyone catch that Strowman called Crown Jewel “WWE World Cup?” Strowman could have misspoke, but this reeks of WWE hiding their Saudi Arabia relationship.
From there, Baron Corbin walked out to a chorus of boos. Strowman then got a “you got fired chant” started. In response, Corbin told Strowman to stop lying to the people. He said all Strowman does is let them down. He then said that Strowman would never beat Brock Lesnar. As the audience booed, Corbin doubled down and said that while Strowman was losing at the Royal Rumble, he’d win the Rumble match and main event WrestleMania. In response to that, Braun Strowman jumped out of the ring and chased Corbin up the ramp. Corbin ran away and Strowman followed into the backstage area. He tossed one of the Singh Brothers across a table and then continued to hunt down Corbin backstage. On his hunt, Strowman encountered Elias who sang a song about Corbin running away. He finished that song by telling Strowman that Corbin was hiding in a limo. Strowman walked up to the limo and manhandled the driver before breaking the windows and ripping the door off its hinges. He didn’t end up finding Corbin, but Vince McMahon walked up bewildered. From there, McMahon stared Corbin down and the show went to commercial break. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: Interesting segment to start the show, but confusing as well. Strowman was hot throughout which is a bit of a surprise coming off his promo from last week. He played off the hot crowd and was intense in his hunt for Corbin. That said, the Elias involvement was strange given that the segment was live and cameras caught him singing long before he encountered Strowman. How did he watch the segment from such a remote backstage area in order to sing about it? Those elements don’t add up, but most of all, he just wasn’t needed to tell this story.
-After the commercial break, Strowman was shown trying to put the limo back together backstage with Vince McMahon. McMahon called him a human wrecking back and told him to look at what he did. McMahon said that the damage would cost Strowman $100,000. Strowman argued and McMahon told him his Universal Championship shot at the Royal Rumble was cancelled instead. In response to that, Strowman tipped the limo over, did his roar, and walked away. When the segment ended, Corey Graves and the announce highlighted that Braun Strowman was no longer fighting for the Universal Title at the Royal Rumble. They then surmised about who would take that opportunity and would we find out tonight.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Vince McMahon fearlessly dressing down a giant isn’t helpful for Strowman’s longevity as a top main event level act in WWE. Him out of the Royal Rumble title match is big news and Graves set a nice hook for the show with his verbiage around “will we find out tonight.” Good stuff.
-Ronda Rousey’s music and the audience cheered loudly as she made her way to the ring. Sasha Banks walked out next to a similar response, but one that was quieter than Ronda’s. As she walked to the ring, the announce team cued up highlights from last week between Sasha Banks and Nia Jax. After the video package, Nia Jax walked out with Tamina. The show then went to break. (c)
-After the break, Braun Strowman was escorted out of the building as Baron Corbin watched on and laughed.
(1) RONDA ROUSEY & SASHA BANKS vs. NIA JAX & TAMINA
When the Strowman backstage segment ended, the bell rang for this match, and the action began. Banks and Jax started things off. Jax demanded that Ronda Rousey start the match, but Banks responded by decking her in the face. She then kicked Jax in the chest and attempted a roll-up pin, but Jax countered. From there, Banks attempted her springboard arm drag, but Jax countered again. Instead, Banks locked in a sleeper hold which slowed Jax’s momentum down. Eventually, Jax slammed Banks to the mat, but Sasha rebounded with a bulldog. After, Banks connected with a running knee and tagged Ronda into the match. Ronda hit some offense out of the gate which included an attempt at her arm bar submission. Jax was able to pull Tamina out of the ring to avoid the hold. From there, Tamina and Jax circled the ring as the audience booed in frustration.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Really nice pop for Ronda when she entered the match, but the action overall is tremendously slow to this point.
Finally, Sasha Banks connected with a running move off the ring apron to a nice reaction as the show went to break. (c)
Out of the break, Nia and Tamina were back in the ring and in control of the match. Jax had Banks in a bear hug submission before slamming her to the mat with a powerbomb. After, Jax went for the cover, but Sasha kicked out at two. Immediatley after the pin attempt, Jax put Banks in submission as a special commercial aired for Glass. Back in the ring, Banks attempted to escape the submission as the audience cheered her on. Jax nailed Banks with an elbow and then tagged Tamina into the match. As soon as Tamina entered, Banks tried to tag Ronda in, but got within a fingertip distance before Tamina knocked Rousey off of the apron. In the end, Ronda Rousey got back up the apron for the tag, but Banks locked in the Banks Statement on Tamina instead. Tamina then tapped out to give Ronda and Sasha the win.
WINNER: Banks and Rousey via submission
Heydorn’s Analysis: I liked the finish as Banks needed a strong win to build her up ahead of the Rousey match at the Royal Rumble. Start to finish though, this match felt disjointed and very slow paced.
-After the match, Ronda and Sasha were interviewed. Rousey said that they respect each other and that it would be honor to face each other at the Royal Rumble. Rousey then said that beating Banks at the Royal Rumble would be a highlight of her career. Banks took offense to that and said that she wasn’t the only person able to tap out opponents. Ronda then tried to explain that she didn’t mean it the way Sasha had taken it. In response, Banks said she would teach Ronda how to lose with class. Banks then said that she’d prove she’s the best and take back her women’s championship at the Royal Rumble. From there, Sasha walked up the ramp and Ronda followed to try and explain that she didn’t mean any disrespect. Banks dismissed her and walked backstage.
Heydorn’s Analysis: This worked well. The “respect” story is an easy one to tell between top babyfaces and this was a good foundational segment for that story. Smart of WWE to stay away from the trivial finish of Ronda or Sasha costing their team the match to setup a story. Good stuff overall and definitely something to build off of in the weeks leading up to the Royal Rumble.
-In the backstage area, a line formed in front of Vince McMahon’s office. The announce team said those superstars were looking for an opportunity at the Universal Championship. From there, Jerry Lawler was shown to a big reaction as No Way Jose’s conga line walked by him and the show went to break. (c)
-After the break, Sasha and Ronda were shown arguing backstage. Bayley and Natalya stopped the argument and then argued with each other about who’s fault the Banks/Ronda argument was. As they argued, the Riott Squad interuppted. They said while everything else fell apart, they stuck together. From there, the Riott Squad challenged Bayley, Natalya, and a partner of their choosing. Nattie accepted immediatley.
(2) LUCHA HOUSE PARTY vs. THE REVIVAL
LHP received a decent reaction of lucha chants as they made their entrance. Revival walked out next and ran down LHP for not speaking up on their behalf after they wrongfully lost their championship match last week. Revival said that they would need to pay for that tonight. They then finished their entrance ahead of the bell ringing. Kalisto and Dash started the match and as they did, the announce team plugged Kalisto’s involvement in the WWE Cruiserweight Championship fatal four-way match at the Royal Rumble. From there, the action went backstage and Apollo Crews was interviewed. He talked about how much winning the Universal Title meant to him before he was interuppted by Curt Hawkins. EC3 was then showed and smiled before the B Team chimed in on wanting the title match. Next, Heath Slater commented on not wanting the match because he had kids before the action went back into the ring.
Heydorn’s Analysis: That was the EC3 debut you were waiting for right? Good grief, I think my eyes are bleeding … WWE shouldn’t bury its own matches as they happen by airing a promo segment on top of them. Matches are what drive stories and interest in the WWE product. By airing a promo on top of them, it minimizes the importance of the matches, which in the end, is why we’re all watching anyway.
LHP owned the match until Dawson connected with a devastating DDT on Lince Dorado. Dawson made the pin and got the win with Dorado’s foot on the ropes.
WINNER: Revival via pinfall
-After the match, Vince McMahon was shown backstage and said he’d explain the Brock Lesnar situation in the ring. The show then went to break. (c)
-Out of the break, Mr. McMahon’s music hit to a nice reaction from the audience. Vince walked out and smiled as he entered the ring. As soon as he did, he grabbed a microphone and addressed the cheering crowd. As he was about to speak, John Cena’s music played to a big reaction as well. The announce team said that with his resume he waits for no one. Cena then ran down to the ring and grabbed a microphone of his own. McMahon tried to talk again, but Cena interuppted. Cena said that he knew what Vince would say and he would save him the time. Cena said Vince wanted someone to step up, but that he has consistently done it for WWE. He said that he’s never let Vince McMahon down before and he wouldn’t now if Vince gave him the shot at Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. He said he had Ruthless Aggression and that he would become the 17 time world champion by beating Brock Lesnar.
From there, Drew McIntyre walked out and told everyone to stop. Drew said that he didn’t care about what Cena had done or would do. He said that Cena does not have ruthless aggression. He then got in Vince’s face and said that “this is what ruthless aggression looks like.” From there, McIntyre said that Cena’s time is up and that he can leave just like Steve Austin, The Rock, and Brock Lesnar. Corbin then walked out and made his claim to Universal Championship match at the Royal Rumble. Finn Balor was next and said he was tired of being left out of title conversations. He said he was the only one out there that had ever been the Universal Champion. McMahon questioned Balor’s size, but said he didn’t know if he could hang with Brock Lesnar. In response, Balor said that McMahon never believed in him, but the people do. He then said he’d show Vince and clocked Corbin in the face. As the brawl ensued, McIntyre nailed Balor and Cena with the Claymore. In response, McMahon made a fatal four-way match between McIntyre, Cena, Corbin, and Balor with the winner facing Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble for the Universal Championship. McMahon then left the ring as his music played. The show then went to commercial break. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: Given the fact that this move was obviously on some short notice given Strowman’s medical condition, it worked. Cena, Balor, and McIntyre all make sense for the match. Corbin seems like the throw in. Even so, each man made their points well and the segment flowed nicely. That said, WWE is playing with fire in defining Balor as a small guy compared to the likes of Lesnar. He’s one of the most over guys in the company. Unless he overcomes tonight in the match, that line was unnecessary.
-After the commercial break, Jinder Mahal told McMahon that he was offended by not being involved in the fatal four-way number one contender match for the Universal Title match at the Royal Rumble. McMahon then said he could pick anybody in that match and face him. He said that if Mahal wins, he’ll be inserted into the four-way match instead. Mahal proceeded to pick Balor. McMahon looked at him and said “good luck” before walking off.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Stacking the deck against Balor? We could be in for a special night with him as the main story. Time will tell.
(3) THE RIOTT SQUAD vs. BAYLEY, NATALYA, & NIKKI CROSS
The Riott Squad walked out first and was followed by the babyface team of Bayley and Natalya. After Nattie, a debuting Nikki Cross was introduced as their partner. As Cross made her entrance, the announce team said that the new call ups would be on both shows so that both brands could have a look at the talent.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Fun debut. Even more newsworthy than the debut is the fact that the newcomers will be on both SmackDown Live and Raw for the time being. We’ll have to see how this plays out, but being on both brands leads me to believe WWE doesn’t have a sound direction for the call ups. Not ideal.
Once Cross got down to the ring, the bell rang and the match began. Cross started things off to a nice pop from the crowd. Eventually, Cross pinned Ruby Riott inside the ring apron and repeatedly punched her in the face. Cross then yelled as the show went to break. (c)
Out of the break, the action continued in the ring. The Riott Squad was in full control with Sarah Logan owning Bayley with a submission. As Bayley was about to escape, Logan whipped her into two turnbuckles before charging her. Bayley countered the charge and dumped Logan on the top rope. She then made the tag to Natalya. Nattie hit the ring and fired up the audience. Her and Nikki Cross hit some tandem moves together until Cross officially made a blind tag into the match. Cross hit a flurry of moves until Bayley became legal and connected with a top rope elbow drop on Liv Morgan before covering for the 1,2,3 win.
WINNER: Cross, Natalya, and Bayley via pinfall
Heydorn’s Analysis: A bit of a showcase of Cross in some ways, a standard A to B tag match in others. That said, Cross’s “it factor” shined here. She’s bought into her character and can sell it well to an audience. Good stuff and just the tip of the iceberg regarding what she brings to the table.
-After the match, Finn Balor was shown walking backstage. He passed Lacey Evans and paused before continuing on.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Pigs are flying around, folks. No smiling for Balor. It’s a new era miracle.
-From there, Jinder Mahal’s music hit and the show went to commercial break. (c)
-Out of the break, Dean Ambrose cut a promo backstage. He talked about right vs. wrong and said he was right about everything. The wrong was him having to defend the IC title against two opponents. From there, he said everything was wrong, especially having to defend the belt in Memphis.
(4) FINN BALOR vs. JINDER MAHAL
-After the promo, Finn Balor’s music hit to a nice reaction from the crowd. As he walked out, Michael Cole detailed what this match meant for the Universal Title match at the Royal Rumble. Balor went through his full entrance, but was attacked during it by the Mahal and the Singh Brothers. Mahal beat Balor around the ringside area as he yelled about him being the one to face Brock Lesnar. Eventually, Mahal rolled Balor into the ring and the referee checked on him to make sure he could continue. As that happened, Mahal demanded the bell be rung as the audience booed. Of course, Balor said he could go and the bell rang. Right away, Mahal nailed Balor with a boot to the face before covering for a two count. Out of the pin, Mahal continued to beat on Balor and locked in a headlock submission. Balor battled out and connected with a basement dropkick before connecting with a step-up enziguri. From there, Balor went for a Pele Kick, but Mahal caught him and smashed him on the apron. The show then went to break. (c)
After the break, the action continued and Mahal was still firmly in control. He stomped Balor viciously before taunting him with “shanti” ahead of more stomps. From there, Mahal locked in a chin lock, but Balor battled out. As soon as he did, Mahal locked in a side headlock again that grounded Balor. Finally, Balor broke out and connected with a series of offense including his standing double stomp and his over the top rope flipping suicide dive. Balor then connected with Sling Blade before nailing Mahal with his corner dropkick. After he hit that, Balor connected with the Coup De Gras before covering for the 1,2,3 win.
WINNER: Balor via pinfall
Heydorn’s Analysis: Good match and did the job to set a big time tone for Balor going into the fatal four-way later in the show. Well done.
-After the match, Lio Rush cut a selfie promo. He said that it was time for people like Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins to suffer. He said that the fans need Lashley as champion because he is a fighter. He said that Lashley would become champion whether fans like it or not. Finally, Rush said that Lashley came to dominate and collect the WWE Intercontinental Championship.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Great stuff. A serious Bobby Lashley is the right Bobby Lashley. Same with Lio Rush.
-When the promo ended, Dean Ambrose hit the ring. The show then went to commercial break. (c)
-Out of the break, Bobby Lashley hit the ring with Lio Rush at his side. Rush was wearing a Lashley shirt and as he walked to the ring, the announce team discussed how long its been since Lashley held a title in the WWE. From there, Seth Rollins was interviewed backstage. Rollins said that this might be his last chance at the IC Championship. He said he would take advantage and kick Dean Ambrose in the teeth. From there, Rollins talked about Roman Reigns and how Ambrose betrayed their brotherhood. Finally, Rollins talked up a Lashley, but said his physique would only take him so far. In the end, he said he would go out and do what he does which is lay everything on the line and take back his Intercontinental Championship.
(5) SETH ROLLINS vs. BOBBY LASHLEY vs. DEAN AMBROSE – WWE Intercontinental Championship Match
Rollins walked out to a huge ovation. As soon as he got to the ring, official introductions were made, the bell rang, and the match began. To start, Rollins tossed Ambrose out of the ring and fought with Lashley. Rollins nailed Lashley with a catapult before beating on Ambrose again. Rollins scaled the top rope and hit Ambrose with a cross body splash before covering for a two count. Out of the pin, Lashley and Ambrose took turns beating on Rollins. From there, Lashley and Ambrose deciding to team up and beat on Rollins together. Eventually, Lashley nailed Rollins with a Spinebuster which prompted Ambrose to break the allegiance with Lashley and toss him out of the ring. From there, Ambrose pinned Rollins, but only got a two count. Out of the pin, Rollins hit some offense including suicide dives on both Lashley and Ambrose. He then caught Lio Rush interfering which led to him chasing Rush around the ring. Lashley caught him and nailed him with a second spinebuster on the outside of the ring. Lashley then clocked Ambrose as the show went to break. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: Impressed with Lashley to this point in the match. He’s got a big time feel to him tonight and the intense heel character is working. Having Rollins to play off of helps, but it’s not all Seth. Lashley is bringing it too.
Out of the break, the action continued. Rollins and Ambrose teamed up for some action on Lashley and then viciously battled each other in the middle of the ring. Eventually, Rollins hit the Falcon Arrow on Ambrose and went for the cover, but Lio Rush broke the pin. As he did, the announce team said the move was totally legal.
Heydorn’s Analysis: That’s the wrong message from the commentary team. They should be appalled at that interference not justifying it. It prevents Rush from getting heat on Lashley.
In the end, each man survived near fall pin attempts. Then, Seth Rollins nailed Lashley with a superkick and then attempted the Stomp on Ambrose, but Rush pulled the ropes down causing Rollins to fall through. Instead, Lashley delivered a spear to Ambrose and covered him for the 1,2,3 win.
WINNER: Lashley via pinfall and new WWE Intercontinental Champion
Heydorn’s Analysis: Good match and good finish. The IC title gives Lashley credibility that he desperately needs. The question mark now is for Dean Ambrose. This puts the icing on top of a sub par run at best as a heel and IC champion. He’s a lost character and needs a rebuild.
-After the match, a stagehand knocked on Alexa Bliss’s locker room door to deliver her coffee. She didn’t answer so he entered to find Bliss topless. Bliss told him to leave right away and the stagehand nervously did after putting the coffee down. From there, a commercial aired for Glass and the show went to break. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: Huh? Did Vince forget it was 2019 and not 1999? What a strange segment.
-Out of the break, Alexa Bliss hit the ring for a Moment Of Bliss. Right away, Bliss announced that a tag team Elimination Chamber match would take place at the Elimination Chamber event and the winners would become the first ever WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions. From there, Alexa Bliss attempted to introduce Paul Heyman. Heyman interuppted and did his own introduction. He gloated and told Bliss this was a premiere opportunity for her to interview the advocate for Brock Lesnar. He told Bliss to throw him her best questions and she obliged. She said it had been a wild night and asked where Heyman’s head was at with all of the changes to Brock’s Universal Title match at the Royal Rumble. He said the madness didn’t matter and that Lesnar would eat through any challenger put in front of him. From there, Heyman walked through each of the competitors in the fatal four-way match. He talked them up a bit and sold them, but ultimately said that their time would not come at the expense of Brock Lesnar. Then as Heyman spoke, Otis from Heavy Machinery walked out onstage. Heyman and Bliss acknowledged him until his partner walked out to bring him backstage. When they left, the audience cheered him and Heyman and Bliss walked off stage. The ring announcer then announced the start of the fatal four-way match as the show went to break. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: There you have it, folks. Women’s Tag Titles are on the way via the Elimination Chamber. A good call in my eyes. It’s a big time match that can feature lots of teams. Good stuff. As for the Heyman interview…huh? Heyman seemed to be stalling for most of that promo and the Otis involvment was out of left field. Not only that, it presented that team as out of control and comedic instead of serious. That may be their ceiling in WWE, but to define them that way out of the gate is questionable at best.
-Out of the break, Finn Balor hit the ring for the fatal four-way main event.
(6) FINN BALOR vs. BARON CORBIN vs. JOHN CENA vs. DREW MCINTYRE – WWE Universal Championship number one contender match
Corbin walked out next and smirked at the booing audience as he walked down the ramp. After Corbin, Drew McIntyre walked out and was followed by John Cena. Once Cena got to the ring, the bell rang, and the match began. To start, Corbin worked over Balor and Cena and McIntyre battled. Balor quickly got the upper hand with a step up enziguri. He then climbed to the top rope for Coup De Gras, but Corbin sat up and stopped him. He hit Balor with a sidewalk slam as the show went to break. (c)
After the break, Cena and Corbin exchanged blows in the middle of the ring. From there, McIntyre tossed Cena out of the ring and was then rolled up by Balor for a two count. After, Balor tossed Drew out of the ring and tried to hit him with a Pele Kick. As he did, Corbin countered it and knocked Finn off of the apron. Back in the ring, Cena hit a tornado DDT on Corbin and covered, but McIntyre broke up the pin. Out of that, Cena hit his five moves on McIntyre including the “you can’t see me.” From there, Cena lifted Drew for the AA and hit the move. Cena then covered, but Baron Corbin broke up the pin. Eventually, all four men involved themselves in a tower of destruction move on the ring post, but McIntyre countered it and hit two powerbombs on Balor and Cena instead. Next, McIntyre turned his attention to Corbin on the top rope and tossed him off with an impressive offensive move. The show then went to break. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: Good pace and some very unique spots including a tornado DDT from Cena. They have the crowd and this is positioned nicely to be an impressive TV match.
Right out of the break, Baron Corbin hit Finn Balor with a huge End Of Days in the middle of the ring. McIntyre then entered the ring to confront Corbin. As that happened, Cena climbed to the top rope and jumped off for a leg drop, but McIntyre countered the move into a huge powerbomb.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Great spot and especially impressive for McIntyre. A taste of whats to come if they go on to a bigger feud.
After the move, Corbin laid waste to Balor in the ring and McIntyre did the same to Cena. Eventually, Cena and Balor battled back on each of them. After, Cena attempted the AA on Balor, but Balor countered. He then went to the top rope for the Coup De Gras, but Cena countered it and climbed to the second rope for a super AA. Cena nailed the move, but before Cena could go for a pin, Corbin tossed Cena out of the ring and went for the cover himself. Balor kicked out at two. In the end, Corbin assaulted everyone with a steel chair and then covered Balor, but Cena interuppted the pin. Out of the pin, Corbin picked up the chair again, but Cena connected with an AA to counter instead. From there, McIntyre nailed Cena with a Claymore and Balor hit McIntyre with a super tornado DDT. With Cena in position, Balor climbed to the top rope and hit Cena with the Coup De Gras for the 1,2,3 win.
WINNER: Balor via pinfall and new number one contender to the Universal Championship
-After the match, Cena addressed Balor and said that earlier in the night Vince McMahon didn’t believe in him, but that the people did. Cena then said that he believes in him too before raising his hand in victory. From there, Balor celebrated as the show faded to black.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Really good match. Lots of action and action that was logical from start to finish. All in all, WWE did a nice job tonight in setting up this fatal four-way match and Balor’s inevitable win. They set the table with Vince doubting him at the start and then transitioned into Balor jumping through hoops to get the opportunity that means so much to him. In the end, the story paid itself off. Logical storytelling from start to finish and a good hook to lock viewers in. Smart booking and nice execution across the board.