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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
JANUARY 21, 2019
OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA.
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Renee Young
WADE KELLER PODCAST covering this episode of Raw…
Including Live Callers, an On-Site Correspondent, and Mailbag with Wade Keller & Jason Australia…
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-A Martin Luther King video tribute aired, a WWE Raw tradition.
-Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman walked out to Lesnar’s music. Graves said Finn Balor has clamored for another Universal Title shot, and now he will “literally have to walk through hell” to get his title back. Heyman did his usual introduction. Heyman said last week Balor pinned John Cena, and Cena said he believes in Balor afterward. He said now everyone believes in Balor. “And you should,” said Heyman. “Ladies and gentleman, I believe in Finn Balor, too.” Heyman said Balor intends to capitalize on fate and circumstances on Sunday. He said Lesnar has to suddenly shift his training for a completely different kind of opponent on Sunday, and that’s why Balor believes he will become Universal Champion on Sunday. He said Balor will pay for the sin of making fans believe he could beat The Beast because in fact, Balor is a mere mortal man against Lesnar. “Here is your spoiler for Monday Night Raw,” he said. “Even miracles fear Brock Lesnar.” He said his client will put to bed “this ridiculous notion that Finn Balor even belongs in the ring with The Beast.” He said Balor will be on his back saying, “Oh my god, I believe in Brock Lesnar.”
(Keller’s Analysis: Heyman’s more inspired promo in a while. That said, we’re 13 minutes into the show and Heyman spoke for about eight minutes of that. It was maybe a bit too deliberately paced. In the end, did he make part of his spoiler explicit a promise that Lesnar would walk out as Universal Champion, or just that Balor would be on his back at the end. That could be the result of a post-match attack by Lesnar after losing the title. Just sayin’.)
Vince McMahon walked out and got cheered as he stood mid-ring and his music stopped. He said Heyman is getting a little soft with some old-school promotion talk to drum up some business. “I mean, for anyone to think that your pal over there can in any way compete with Brock Lesnar, that’s kind of like passé.” (That seemed a little confusing. Why is Balor “Heyman’s old pal” and why is it “passé.” I can’t make sense of it.)
McMahon said the only way to believe in Balor vs. Lesnar is to believe in David vs. Goliath. Heyman said, “I never read the Bible.” McMahon recapped the story, saying David was squashed by Goliath and was never seen again until he came back at Balor. He called Oklahoma City “hillbilly land.” Boos. He then asked, “What did I say wrong?” Heyman leaned in and said, “You are speaking too fast for them, Vince.” McMahon said if they believe Balor can beat Brock, they definitely believe in fairy tales. Suddenly Braun Strowman’s music played.
Strowman walked out. Lesnar laughed as Strowman climbed up into the ring. Lesnar made a little move toward Strowman and Strowman didn’t flinch. Strowman said last week was the worst day of his life because Baron Corbin cost him $100,000 and a Universal Title match. Strowman said if he manages to retain his Universal Title on Sunday, he will be waiting to rip him apart like another one of McMahon’s limousines. McMahon told Braun he’s lucky to be employed, so take it easy. Then Balor’s music played.
Balor walked to the ring to cheers. Balor entered the ring and said he beat three wrestlers last week including “the greatest of all-time, John Cena.” Heyman corrected him and said Cena is the second-greatest behind Lesnar. (They seem to be teasing a Cena vs. Lesnar match with these “greatest of all-time” comments.) When Balor said he will reclaim his Universal Title. Lesnar laughed. Braun said he knows he would have beaten Brock, but he’s not sure Balor can. Balor told him thanks for his support, but keep his nose out of his business. Lesnar and Heyman left. Balor turned to McMahon said he got the David vs. Goliath story wrong. He said people laughed at David, but they didn’t know what David was made of and Goliath fell facedown in the dirt. “Boom!” he said. The showed Heyman and Lesnar watching from the ramp. Heyman was checking on whether Lesnar was fazed. Balor said no one was laughing at David then.
McMahon invited Lesnar and Heyman to have a seat at ringside for WWE’s own “David vs. Goliath” match with Balor vs. Braun. [c]
(1) FINN BALOR vs. BRAUN STROWMAN
The match was in progress after the break. Strowman charged at Balor, but Balor dropkicked him. Then he landed a roundkick to the head. Strowman turned to yell at Lesnar. Balor turned Braun around and slapped him. Strowman stared a hole in Balor and forearmed him to the mat. Braun dominated for a few minutes until Balor caught him with a sling blade at ringside. Cole kept commenting on Lesnar seeming to be impressed at various big spots. Strowman made it back into the ring before the ref’s ten count. Back in the ring Strowman grabbed Balor on the top rope by his throat and threw him to ringside right into Lesnar’s arms. Lesnar overhead suplexed Balor at ringside. Cole said Lesnar just gave a “wicked suplex to the man he faces Sunday.”
Lesnar stood on the ring apron and dropped the Universal Title belt at his feet to taunt Braun. Balor yanked Lesnar’s legs out from under him and then dropkicked him into the ringpost. Balor returned to the ring and ducked Strowman and flip dove onto Lesnar at ringside. Balor returned to the ring and landed a sling blade on Strowman. He went at Lesnar once again at ringside with a dropkick through the ropes. He drove Lesnar hard into the ringside barricade with a running dropkick. As Balor focused on Lesnar at ringside, Braun reached down and yanked Balor back into the ring. Balor avoided a Braun charge, so Braun went shoulder-first into the ringpost. Then Balor climbed to the top rope and landed the Coup de Grace. Lesnar entered and gave an F5 to Balor before Balor could make the cover. Cole said Balor appeared to be closing in on victory. Graves said no matter how much momentum Balor can muster, Brock just shows it will take just one F5 to end Balor’s hopes.
WINNER: Balor via DQ in 8:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: It was really good to see Lesnar be active and spend considerable time on TV. He’s been doing so little for so long with rare exception, this felt like he showed up to earn his money with more than reputation and mere presence. Balor looked really good here. All around a really good opening 35 minutes of Raw. There’s no doubt, one way or another, Vince has his eyes on another Lesnar vs. Strowman match. Is it WrestleMania, Fastlane, or otherwise?)
-The announcers hyped some other segments coming up on Raw. [c]
-After a video recap of Bobby Lashley becoming IC Champion last week, Renee said she still doesn’t think Lashley should have been in that match, but now he’s a title holder for the first time in 12 years.
-Lio Rush and Lashley walked out. Lio bragged that Lashley is better than anyone else in the locker room. Lio said they didn’t come out to issue an open challenge because those are for kids, whereas Lashley is a professional fighter. He said they don’t do this for fun, they do it for the money. Lashley stood on a round platform center ring. Lio then wrapped his IC Title belt around Lashley’s waist. Lashley posed. He was interrupted early in the posing by Apollo Crews. “Oh, this is interesting,” said Cole. Crews said nobody paid to see him pose, they came to see him “compete.” (They lengths Vince goes to avoid saying “wrestle” is astounding.)
Rush said if Crews can beat Lashley in a posedown, he can get a match against Lashley. Crews said he doesn’t even know how to pose. Lio said based on his track record, he doesn’t know how to be a champion, either. Lashley posed on the platform. Then Crews stood up there and mocked posing with some dance gestures before striking poses. There were some cheers. Lashley stood back on the platform and did some formal posing again as Lio admired him. They repeated this until Lashley finally had enough of Crews posing impressively and attacked him. Crews threw Lashley out of the ring. Lio leaped at Crews. Crews caught him and pressed him and threw him onto Lashley at ringside.
-A Smackdown commercial hyped that Daniel Bryan and A.J. Styles will come face-to-face with Mr. McMahon hosting. [c]
(2) BOBBY LASHLEY (w/Lio Rush) vs. APOLLO CREWS
Cole said “someone” believed Crews won the posing competition because the match became official during the break. Crews climbed to the top rope and leaped, but Lashley ducked. Lashley charged, but Crews leaped over him and somersaulted. He schoolboyed Lashley for a two count. Then Crews pressed Lashley in the air, but collapsed and seemed to perhaps suffer an injury. The ref checked on him and he stood and tried again. This time, he lifted and dropped Lashley behind him and then grabbed at his back. Crews went for a standing moonsault, but Lashley moved. Crews hit an enzuigiri, but then walked over to a shouting Rush on the ring apron and threw him into the ring. Rush ducked Crews and flipped over, but Crews caught him and lifted him. Lashley then speared Crews for the win.
WINNER: Lashley in 3:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Crews is getting a boost here with some significant ring time to get some laughs at Lashley’s expense and fight even with Lashley until Rush interjected himself. Losing his strength and balance mid-press on Lashley shouldn’t hurt him, but it might, in the eyes of management.)
-Seth Rollins came out to his music and had a brief staredown with Lashley as Lashley and Lio returned to the back. [c]
-The announcers were on camera and plugged The Bellas will be on Jimmy Fallon on Friday night.
-Seth quoted Martin Luther King and said he is inspired by him. He said his life has been full of challenge and controversy lately. He said a few months ago he stood in the ring with two titles in his hands and two brothers by his side, and now he’s got no titles and a broken family. He said in life you cannot focus on what you don’t have, but rather what you do have. He said he still has his first love. He pointed to the crowd. He said as long as he can stand in the ring with his fans behind him, he can say with confidence he will go to Phoenix on Sunday and win the Royal Rumble match. He said it is a long shot, but his whole life has been a long-shot. He said he doesn’t have the size of Drew McIntyre or power of Lashley. He said he’s a kid from a small midwestern town not much different than Oklahoma City (cheers). He said his folks were working class and worked hard to put food on the table and a roof over his head. He said he easily could be working in a factory or driving a truck. He said he’s not doing that because of heart and determination. He said it’s not inside his chest, it’s engrained in his soul and every fiber of his being. He said all of the wrestlers are going to fight to win at the Rumble, but when the dust settles, he will the last man standing and going to headline WrestleMania.
Drew’s music interrupted. He walked out and said he wanted to offer a rebuttal. He said he is an honest man and he can’t listen to him lie to those people. He said there is a zero percent chance he wins the Rumble match. He said it’s because of his style, which has no regard for his body. He asked what it could mean if he put all of his heart into the body of a 6-foot-5, 265 pound terminator? You’d get Drew McIntyre. He said he knows this is his whole life, so he hopes and prays that they are in the ring together at the end of the Rumble because he wants to look him in the eyes right before he throws him over the top rope and then he has to listen to the ring announcer say the winner of the 2019 Royal Rumble and the man who will go on to win the Universal Title at WrestleMania is Drew McIntyre. Cole said Seth vs. Drew is next. [c]
(3) DREW MCINTYRE vs. SETH ROLLINS
Cole asked if Drew is right that Seth’s style worked against him. Graves said he thinks it can work in his favor because he is so agile. Cole announced that Drew injured Cena’s ankle last week and the Cena reaggravated it this morning working out and is now questionable for the Royal Rumble. Drew slammed Seth at ringside as they cut to a break. [c]
After more back and forth action, Drew went for a Claymore, but Seth blocked him with a super kick and a near fall. Fans chanted “This is awesome!” as both wrestlers were down on the mat. Drew fired back a minute later with a headbutt. Both were down again and slow to get up. They replayed the headbutt in a slo-mo. Drew lifted Seth on his shoulders and climbed to the second rope. He leaped with a backward slam for a two count. He quickly hit a sitout powerbomb for a near fall. Graves asked where Seth was getting the energy to keep fighting. Seth countered Drew and rolled him up for a leverage three count.
WINNER: Seth in 14:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good match. I’m worried they’re burning out this match-up in order to fill TV time, though, instead of saving it and letting anticipation build over time as they both are portrayed as strong but on separate tracks before crossing paths.)
-The Revival made their case to Vince backstage that referee incompetence has been costing them. Vince asked what they’re proposing. They wanted a special guest referee with great vision. Curt Hawkins walked up. Vince said he can’t have another match because he loses too much and he needs to find a new line of business. Hawkins said he’d like one more shot at the Rumble to end the streak. Vince said maybe he could put up the ring or referee the Revival match. Hawkins said he has experienced a lot of three counts lately. Revival liked the idea and began complimenting him on being a great pick. [c]
-A backstage promo aired with Dean Ambrose. He said MLK once said an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. He said it’s an injustice he’s not IC Champion right now. He called Lashley “Bendover Bobby.” He said he can’t wait to see them at the Rumble and kick them both in the family jewels and then pick them up and throw them over the top rope. He said 2018 wasn’t his year. He said he spent most of it in the hospital. He said the Rumble will be his shining moment and his Miracle on Ice. He said he owns the Road to WrestleMania. He said on Sunday justice will be served.
(4) LUCHA HOUSE PARTY (Kalisto & Lince Dorado & Gran Metalik) vs. JINDER MAHAL & SINIL & SAMIR SINGH
Graves sounded like he had a few beers by this point as Renee pressed him about taking on meditation at Jinder’s suggestion. Graves said Kalisto was born without a top to his skull and had his mask fused on. Renee said she’s seen Kalisto with different masks. Graves then said he read it on Buzzfeed (a current events reference).
WINNERS: Lucha House Party in 3:00.
-An EC3 video aired.
-Backstage Dana Brooke was quizzing EC3 on his diet and workout routines. She asked if he weighs his food. Elias walked by him and shook his head. [c]
-Elias played some guitar mid-ring. Baron Corbin interrupted. He said Elias “ratting him out” to Strowman nearly got him killed. Fans chanted “You suck!” at Corbin. Corbin said Vince was right about OKC including a lot of hillbillies. Elias said he’s going to sing a song whether Corbin likes it or not. Corbin said he’s not going to play a song, so get it through his thick skull. Elias had Corbin’s mic cut. (It’s C.M. Punk all over again!) Elias said he was going to sign a whole song about the Royal Rumble, but he’s got a better thought with Corbin out there. He sang a song at Corbin’s expense. He said he needs to shut his mouth so he can hear that nobody cares about him and the people are growing tired, “and why do you still wear that stupid vest, don’t you remember that you got fired.” Renee: “Burrrrnn!” Corbin ran into the ring. Elias took a big swing. Corbin ducked. Cole said they’d wrestle next. [c]
(5) ELIAS vs. BARON CORBIN
They joined the match in progress. Elias slidekicked Corbin and went after him at ringside. Fans taunted Corbin with a “You got fired!” chant. Elias kneed Corbin in the face and then landed a neck breaker for a two count. Renee said Elias might have knocked out some of Corbin’s teeth. Elias went after Corbin in the corner aggressively. The ref pulled Elias away. The ref kept scolding Elias for being too aggressive against the ropes, which opened him for a sudden End of Days by Corbin for the win. Cole called it a cheap shot by Corbin as the ref was breaking them up from the ropes.
WINNER: Corbin in 5:00.
-They hyped a Royal Rumble edition of “Moment of Bliss” next. [c]
-MOMENT OF BLISS: Alexa Bliss sat on the stage and talked about Sunday’s Women’s Royal Rumble match. She listed the names of the women announced for the Rumble ending with the name Charlotte Flair. Then she introduced her guest, Nia Jax. She said Nia is the favorite. Cole agreed. Bliss asked who she’d pick if she doesn’t win the Rumble. Before Nia could answer, Ember Moon interrupted. Bliss asked Moon if she invited her. Moon yanked the mic away from Jax. Moon said she was tired of sitting in the back waiting for an invitation that would never come. Alicia Fox came out and acted like her bizarre self, claiming she is the captain of the division and she’s setting the course for WrestleMania by going through all of them. Mickie James then came out. Bliss was upset. Cole called her Bliss’s former buddy. Mickie said she’s stolen the show at WrestleMania before and she’ll do it again. Riott Squad came out too. Nikki Cross joined the group, too. Bliss stood on her stool and said this is her show. She said if this breaks out in a brawl, not only are they embarrassing themselves as women by being catty and not supporting each other, they are most importantly ruining her reputation as a legitimate talk show host. She told everyone to calm down. After a brief pause, Nia shoved the group and a big brawl broke out. They brawled into the back. Bliss then revealed that this year she will be competing the Rumble match. “Yes!” yelled Graves.
Out walked Lacey Evans. She said, “Lord, what a bunch of nasty, classless little girls.” She said luckily for the WWE Universe, the winner of Sunday’s Rumble match will not be a “sawed-off girly runt.” She looked over at Bliss. She said instead she will win, “a classy sophisticated lady.” Graves couldn’t believe what Evans called Bliss.
(Keller’s Analysis: This felt like a forced segment to get a bunch of the women on TV with soundbite that really dissipates almost immediately when the segment ends. Bliss announcing she’s back in the ring was news, though.)
-They showed Heavy Machinery backstage. Cole said they make their Raw debut next. [c]
-Titus O’Neil was talking about it being a miracle if he wins the Rumble, but he intends to. A stagehand bumped into him and Titus was upset.
(6) HEAVY MACHINERY (Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight) vs. THE ASCENSION (Konnor & Viktor)
Cole said Otis is a world class grappler who wrestled gold in Greco and Freestyle wrestling in the 2012 Junior Pan-American Games. Renee said he was a prospect for the 2012 Summer Olympics team. Graves wondered where his neck is. It didn’t take long for some allusions to the Bushwackers. Otis did a caterpillar dance before dropping an elbow, which Cole called one of the greatest things in the world. They won with their double-team trash compactor. Cole called them fun to watch and effective.
WINNERS: Heavy Machinery in 3:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Cole’s enthusiasm could indicate Vince is really enthusiastic about them. Solid debut for them getting across in particular Otis’s personality. Graves put over Tucker Knight, too.)
-Graves said Heavy Machinery would be watching the next match for the Raw Tag Team Titles. [c]
(7) BOBBY ROODE & CHAD GABLE vs. THE REVIVAL – WWE Raw Tag Team Title match
Hawkins was the referee. Cole said rematches aren’t handed out automatically anymore in WWE, so Revival got theirs by kissing up to The Chairman. Renee said they just asked for the opportunity, and it wasn’t kissing up. Hawkins insisted on Roode holding onto the tag rope and he disallowed a tag. Graves endorsed his enforcing the rules. Cole said the tag rope has become a lot art around here. Roode backdropped Gable onto Dash at ringside. Dawson then nailed a showboating Gable with a running clothesline. They cut to a break. [c]
Roode rallied a few minutes later. When Dash landed on Roode on a suplex attempt, Dawson tried to hold Roode’s leg to prevent a kick-out, Hawkins caught him and scolded him. Roode rolled up Dash, but when Dash pushed out, Dawson punched him. Dash rolled up Roode and put his feet on the ropes, but Hawkins stopped the count when he saw the cheating. Graves complained that Hawkins wasn’t focused on the shoulders. “Foot placement is irrelevant,” he said. Gable leaped at Dawson, but Dawson rolled through and yanked the tights. Again Hawkins saw it. Dawson shoved him and complained. Gable then sunset flipped Dawson, but Dash held onto his arms. Hawkins broke it up and Gable rolled through and Hawkins then counted a relatively fast three count. Cole told Graves before he complained, remember that Hawkins could have disqualified them multiple times but he didn’t. Cole pushed back hard against Graves.
WINNERS: Gable & Roode to retain the Raw Tag Team Titles.
-Hawkins pointed at the big screen to explain to an upset Revival what happened. They replayed the controversies. The Revival had enough and attacked Hawkins. Zack Ryder ran out for the save. Renee said Zack “remains ready for moment like this.” Ryder looked down at Hawkins, who seemed surprised but happy. Ryder helped Hawkins up. Cole acknowledged that they were once tag team champions together.
-They went to the announcers on camera who hyped the Rumble PPV and WWE Network.
-In a backstage interview, Ronda Rousey said she is supposed to be focused on the tag team match, but she’s been wondering if she owes Sasha an apology. She said she’s come to the conclusion that she doesn’t owe Sasha a thing. She said two sentences into a Moment of Bliss, Sasha interrupted her. She said since she arrived in WWE, she has been nothing but respectful to her and she has received nothing but strained resentment. She asked if she wants her to cut off her hair and wash her feet with it. (What?!) She said Sasha is too busy traveling around the world living a lifestyle of a boss instead of earning being a champion. She said she’s so hung up on her hype. She said she’s going to show her at the Rumble that the Boss has to answer to somebody. She said she is the boss of the Boss. She really got fired up at the end.
-Rousey made her ring entrance. [c]
(8) RONDA ROUSEY & NATALYA vs. BAYLEY & SASHA BANKS
Rousey was so worked up during ring entrances, Natalya had to hold her back. Sasha said before the match that if she wants to talk about resentment, “who the hell do you think you are?” She said she’s a four-time champion and she lasted 54 minutes in the Rumble while Ronda walked in and got handed everything. She scolded her for questioning her desire. She said Rousey didn’t give her anything because she earned every opportunity she has capitalized on. She predicted she’ll tap out Rousey at the Rumble. The ref stepped between them and tried to restore order before the tag match. Graves said Ronda was about to knock out Natalya just to get to Sasha. Cole said Sasha’s mind games seem effective at getting Ronda off her game. They cut to an early break once the bell rang. [c]
Rousey tagged in and clotheslined Bayley. Rousey taunted Sasha, then tagged in Natalya. Graves said Sasha was remaining on the outside where it was safe. Natalya threw Bayley into the ring. Bayley eventually tagged Sasha in. Natalya scored a quick two count on Natalya, then taunted Rousey. Rousey held onto the tag team rope. Sasha and Bayley isolated Natalya in their corner as Rousey got the crowd fired up. Sasha hit Natalya with a Meteora for a near fall. Rousey tagged in and lifted Sasha onto her shoulders. Banks elbowed free. She surprised Rousey with a Bank Statement mid-ring. Natalya kicked Sasha from behind to break it up. Sasha threw Natalya out of the ring. Rousey rolled up Banks for a two count. Rousey got fired up, but Sasha kicked her as she charged. Sasha gave Ronda a back stabber. When Bayley entered, Rousey gave her a judo throw. Rousey then covered Bayley for a two count. Banks tagged in, Rousey surprised her with a takedown and an attempted armbar. Sasha reached the bottom rope. Banks kicked Rousey, who tagged in Natalya. Natalya suplexed Sasha and then applied a sharpshooter. Bayley broke it up and then took a shot at Rousey. Natalya clotheslined Bayley. Sasha then caught Natalya with a Bank Statement for the tapout win. Banks and Rousey went face to face to close out as with Bayley and Natalya trying to hold Banks and Rousey back.
WINNERS: Banks & Bayley
(Keller’s Analysis: Good match that really sold Rousey’s intensity and Sasha’s ability to push Ronda’s buttons.)