WWE RAW PRIMER 1/21: Final Royal Rumble Raw hype, Balor believes, Ronda & Natalya vs. Sasha & Bayley, new talent is here, Lashley’s IC reign begins

By Frank Peteani, PWTorch Specialist

Finn Balor (photo credit Kyle Niblett @KyleNiblett © PWTorch)

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JANUARY 21, 2019

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Renee Young

Arena and Items Advertised by WWE

We put a wrap on the Raw side of things for WWE tonight as we get ready for Royal Rumble weekend.  Raw returns to the Chesapeake Energy Arena for the first time since June of 2016.  At that time, we had just found out that WWE was splitting the rosters again for Raw and Smackdown, after the previous split had ended about five years earlier.

Here’s what is advertised by WWE.comsubject to change as the day goes on:

  • Finn Balor believes he can slay The Beast
  • Ronda Rousey & Natalya to square off against Sasha Banks & Bayley
  • New WRESTLERS make their presence felt
  • What’s next for Braun Strowman
  • The Bobby Lashley era has begun

Finn Balor to Challenge Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship
What’s Next for Braun Strowman? 

These two items are tied together and thus I’ll cover them in one section.

Last week, Braun Strowman was pulled from his upcoming Universal Championship match against champion Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble.

Raw opened with Strowman discussing the upcoming match with Lesnar.  Baron Corbin interrupted, and told Strowman he would never main event WrestleMania let alone win the title.  This sent Strowman into a rage which found him chasing Corbin in the back.  He would eventually track Corbin down in Vince McMahon’s limousine with the help of Elias, who just happened to be playing his guitar in the back.  He ripped the door off, causing Corbin to exit and retreat.  Vince McMahon just happened to show up, and fined Strowman $100,000 (which seems to be the going fine these days in WWE.  Remember when Paige did this to Charlotte on Smackdown a few months ago?).  When Strowman said “this piece of crap isn’t worth $100,000,” Vince pulled Strowman from the upcoming match.  Strowman proceeded to lift and tip over Vince’s limo, as we saw from MULTIPLE camera angles.

John Cena, Drew McIntyre, Baron Corbin, and Finn Balor would later come out to the ring to make their case to Vince to be given the opportunity against Lesnar for the Universal Championship.  Cena made it a point to say that 20 years ago “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, and Brock Lesnar left Vince high and dry and he was the one to step up after given an opportunity to do so.  He claimed that he had “ruthless aggression,” the same way he did to Kurt Angle in his debut match in 2002.  After a brawl broke out, Vince decided all four men would compete in a fatal four-way to determine whom would face Lesnar.

After a commercial break, Jinder Mahal approached Vince in the back.  He complimented him on his suit and stated his case to be Lesnar’s opponent.  Vince said he could choose an opponent from the fatal four-way and if he beat him, he could get in the fatal four-way.  Mahal chose Balor.

When it was time for the Balor-Mahal match, Mahal would attack Balor before it could start.  This raised doubt as to whether the match would take place, but Balor insisted it happen.  Balor would go on to defeat Mahal.  He later went on to win the fatal four-way by pinning John Cena after hitting his signature Coup de Grace.

Cena would endorse Balor after the match, saying he made a believer out of him.  Balor is set to challenge Lesnar for the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble.

It is unknown what is next for Braun Strowman.  After he tipped over the limo, he was escorted out by security, and left the building without much resistance.  Perhaps his automobile insurance covers vandalism of vehicles owned by your boss, but I’m not that optimistic in that regard.

Frank’s Analysis:  Do we have to be reminded of the Ruthless Aggression era?  Also, Mr. Cena, just a few quick memos:  

  • 20 years ago, Steve Austin and the Rock were getting ready to main event WrestleMania, an event I’m sure you and your boys watched.  I know I did, and I enjoyed it. 
  • Steve Austin’s career was cut short in 2003 after an ill-fated piledriver by the late Owen Hart at SummerSlam ’97.  He recovered to have a Hall of Fame run and is universally beloved, unlike the way your run will be looked upon.
  • The Rock went on to be an actor, the same way you did recently.  He had a right to pursue his goals in life.  The world doesn’t revolve around Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
  • Brock Lesnar decided a full-time WWE career was not for him.  See previous comment.

According to multiple reports, Balor vs. Lesnar was the plan all along so it’s odd that they built to Strowman vs. Lesnar up until this point.  There’s a lot of questions, but one thing is for certain: We have a match we want to see.  Balor vs. Lesnar is something we’ve all been thinking about for a while, and now it’s a reality.  That win over McIntyre at TLC may have been a sign of a bigger push coming considering what had been going on with McIntyre in recent times.  I just wish Balor was built up even stronger which might have led to even more excitement for him to challenge Lesnar.  Either way, the destination is certainly better than the journey.

As far as Strowman goes, I don’t see him being involved in the Universal Championship picture at WrestleMania.  Is it possible he’s earmarked for the Undertaker?  Perhaps Triple H seeing as they planted a seed during Survivor Series 2017 but never followed up?  John Cena is a possibility although him vs. Daniel Bryan or Drew McIntyre seems more likely.  I suppose you can match him against Bobby Lashley assuming he keeps the IC belt until ‘Mania.  All I know is I don’t need to see him plucking a 10-year old out of the stands to challenge for the tag team titles again.

Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey & Natalya vs. Sasha Banks & Bayley

Last week, Raw Women’s Champ Ronda Rousey teamed with her Royal Rumble opponent and challenger Sasha Banks.  They defeated Nia Jax and Tamina, two women with whom Ronda has been occupied with quite a bit lately.

Immediately after the match, Charly Caruso interviewed the victors in the ring.  Ronda discussed them having respect for one another, and how she was honored to be defending the Raw title against Sasha at the Rumble.  She also said it would a great accomplishment to win, to which Sasha took exception.  They went back and forth with Sasha ultimately telling Ronda she will teach her how to lose with class.  Ronda said to her she can keep the title of World’s Classiest Loser, to which Sasha took exception again.  When Sasha left the ring, Ronda told her didn’t mean any disrespect, but she would have none of it.

Later on, in the back, Ronda and Sasha were still arguing.  Natalya and Bayley got in between them to try and settle things down, but then they started arguing.  Bayley said that one minute, Ronda is complimenting her and acting arrogant the next, while Natalya argued Sasha is too sensitive.  Before things went any further, the Riott Squad showed up and challenged Natalya and Bayley to find a partner and face them later on.  That partner turned out to be Nikki Cross, who made her Raw debut.  Nikki, Natalya, and Bayley would get the victory.

This past Saturday, WWE.com announced that Ronda & Natalya would be facing Sasha and Bayley tonight.  Ronda interestingly tweeted about her and Natalya possibly vying for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship:

Sasha did a little trash talking of her own on Twitter:


Frank’s Analysis:  I’m not sure what to make of Ronda commenting about her and Natalya going after the tag team championship, but it’s something to which we should pay attention.  As far as the segment last week Sasha certainly showed some fire, the likes of which we haven’t seen in quite some time given she’s spent most of the past year feuding and eventually teaming with Bayley.  Ronda came off odd in her desperate to try and get Sasha to not be upset with her.  I would have never imagined her caring about someone’s approval.  Sasha may have overreacted to most and I wouldn’t disagree with anyone who felt that way.  In storyline Ronda did come off as assuming she would beat her, so I could see where Sasha would be upset and even offended.  There are a lot of other things to pick apart but overall, it’s manufactured tension between the parties involved.  This has been part of WWE’s storytelling for quite some time and generally hasn’t worked.  Ultimately, look for Sasha to be elevated having worked with Ronda and vice versa. 


WWE has it as new “superstars” make their debut but… ya’ know… they’re professional wrestlers, they wrestle.  I don’t work for WWE, so I don’t need to speak their speak.

EC3, Lacey Evans, Nikki Cross, and Heavy Machinery (Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight) all made their Raw debuts last week.  Michael Cole informed us that all would appear on both shows until their permanent “residences” are decided.  This was announced during the six-woman tag I mentioned earlier involving Nikki Cross.

When several wrestlers were outside Vince McMahon’s office vying for a shot at Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, EC3 made his first appearance smiling at the camera (taking Finn Balor’s smiling gimmick?).  Lacey Evans was seen chatting with Mickie James and Dana Brooke.  Otis Dozovic interrupted “A Moment of Bliss” where host Alexa Bliss was interviewing Paul Heyman and discussing the upcoming fatal four-way match to determine Lesnar’s challenger.  He was singing to Alexa when Tucker Knight came out and pulled Otis away along with the help of other WWE officials.

Lars Sullivan was the only one not to debut.  According to one report, WWE is supporting him in regard to his alleged recent anxiety attacks.  They appear to be content to let him work through his issues and allowing him to return when he is ready.

Frank’s Analysis:  It seemed like an auspicious way to debut the new talent.  Nikki’s debut was the only one that felt important.  It’s likely that the others won’t be on the top end of the card, so that’s probably why their debuts weren’t treated like that big of a deal.  Still, you would think you’d want each new talent to, at the very least, cut a promo or interfere in a match or something to that nature.  If anything, I would have thought they’d of made a bigger deal out of EC3 rather than having him Finn Balor-smile for the camera.  Otis’ interrupting of Alexa’s show was something I could have done without, especially when they just end the segment and move on to the next thing without explaining anything or at least showing frustration with the interruption.  It makes it feel less important and is something WWE has done with matches and things like this for a long time.  I do have to admit though, Otis pursuing Alexa as a love interest would be amusing if that was the point of that interruption.

Bobby Lashley Begins His IC Title Reign

Last week, both Seth Rollins and Bobby Lashley challenged Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship.  Rollins was looking to start his third reign while Lashley was looking for his first.  Lashley’s only other title runs in WWE were during his first tenure from 2005-2007 when he held the U.S. Championship and ECW Championship at various times.

Prior to the match both men discussed their desire to win the title.  Lio Rush spoke for Lashley of course and told us how Lashley would dominate and take the championship.  It was time for Rollins and Ambrose to suffer.  Rollins revisited recent history including how Ambrose turned on him the night their Shield brother Roman Reigns announced his recurrence of leukemia.

At one point during the match, Ambrose and Rollins oddly worked together.  The announcers justified it by saying it’s a triple threat match, so anything can happen.  Lio interfered in the match, but the announcers justified it too by pulling the “triple threat card.”  In the end, Lashley hit Ambrose with a spear to capture his first Intercontinental Championship.

Lashley, represented by Lio Rush, begins his reign tonight.

Frank’s Analysis:  There is justification for putting the title on Lashley.  It’s not likely he’ll be involved in the Universal Championship picture, and thus the IC title is a logical landing spot.  He has been more impressive lately as WWE has taken his character more seriously.  Lio Rush has also been more serious in his promos for Lashley, getting away from “Lashley Lashley” chants and having him show his rear end on TV.  Rush can be funny, but ultimately a serious and more dangerous combo of them is much better.  As far as Ambrose goes, he is free to do something else, but you can’t help but wonder why the title was taken off of him so quickly.  As far as Rollins goes, it’s looking more and more that he’ll move into the Universal Championship picture. 

Am I the only one that wants to see Balor win the title from Brock, and defend it against Rollins at WrestleMania?  I know it’s ultimately better to have Rollins be the one to conquer Brock, but the prospect of Balor vs. Rollins on the big stage is 1,000 times better.  I could see that saved for SummerSlam, citing their history of having the first Universal Championship match in 2016.

The Revival

They are not an advertised item, but I wanted to touch on them really quick here.  Last week they defeated the Lucha House Party.  Scott Dawson hit a DDT on Lince Dorado and scored the pin; however, Dorado’s foot was on the ropes.  During the match, WWE cutaway to Vince McMahon’s office showing wrestlers lining up to state their case for a Universal Championship match.  One of those wrestlers was EC3, who made his first appearance as I discussed earlier.  The point is though they cut away during a match, which gives us the message that the match isn’t important.

Several wrestling media outlets are reporting that the Revival have asked for their release but have been denied.  They cite frustration with the manner in which the tag team division has been presented overall.  One cannot blame them.  Dash Wilder has changed his Twitter name to his actual name, Daniel Wheeler.  We will stay with this story as it develops.

There are also mixed reports that Maria & Mike Kanellis (Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis-Bennett in reality) have asked for their release as well.  They are currently featured on 205Live.

Other Items from Last Week: 

  • Before “A Moment of Bliss,” someone knocked on Alexa Bliss’ dressing room to deliver coffee.  When Alexa didn’t answer, the person walked in to find her topless, then quickly holding her top over her chest as she was getting dressed.  I think Vince McMahon heard Prince’s “1999” before the show and booked accordingly (ya know, because in 1999 there was heavy sexual content on then-WWF programming?  The song lyrics are “tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1999.” Work with me here people!).
  • During “A Moment of Bliss,” Alexa Bliss revealed the Women’s Tag Team Championship title belts.  She announced that three teams from Raw and three teams from Smackdown will compete in an elimination chamber match at the Elimination Chamber PPV in February to determine the new champions.  Here’s me taking a crack at the possible participants: Raw: Bayley & Sasha Banks, Nia Jax & Tamina, the Riott Squad… Smackdown: The IIconics, Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville, Carmella & Naomi (odd couple pairing)

Start Time & Matches Advertised on the Arena Website

The Chesapeake Energy Arena is advertising a start time of 6:30 p.m.  They show the following matches:

  • Intercontinental Championship match: Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose
  • Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin

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

2 Comments on WWE RAW PRIMER 1/21: Final Royal Rumble Raw hype, Balor believes, Ronda & Natalya vs. Sasha & Bayley, new talent is here, Lashley’s IC reign begins

  1. I wanted to make a snide remark about you not wanting to be reminded of the Ruthless Aggression era. But then you immediately won my sympathy by calling out Cena’s complete B.S. about some people leaving WWE, Vince being left with “derelicts” and (forgot the other word) and needing to be “saved” by God Almighty Super-Man John Cena.

    Apparently, the Undertaker, Big Show, Eddie Guerrero, Triple H, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Edge, Batista, Rey Mysterio, Shawn Michaels, and others i no doubt forgot to mention were a bunch of losers that McMahon couldn’t count on to make his product work, and he needed the single most overrated “star” of all time, John Cena (who wouldn’t even be allowed to carry Hogan or Austin’s jock straps if he had been active during their primes.)
    And that’s before he became a watered down, goofy, smirking goofball who cuts promos about poopy diapers and no-sells all of the pain that wrestling causes within matches, and the threats that important heels pose to his safety and health (imagine Hogan never kayfabe getting his ass kicked by Bundy, Boss Man, Earthquake etc. at the start of his programs with them).
    Of course he has always helped build up others so well by calling them “kid” (so effing condescending it would have made me FUME if i was the one he was addressing), thinking they need his blessing after he jobs to them, or hypocritically and obnoxiously calling on the locker room to “step up” and “grab the brass ring” as if anyone still believes Vince’s personal whims don’t dictate who he pushes and whom he doesn’t. A real promoter would have told Cena to scram when he allowed daylight between his hands and an opponent’s chin during SFU for the 10th time (or are we to believe his superhuman forearms are doing the magical work?). Or when he announced a move to his opponent loud enough to be heard in China for the 20th time. Or when he stops, mid match, to cutely – with a smile – interact with the crowd instead of selling how hard the match and how good or dangerous his opponent is.

    Maybe others have noticed this, maybe not. But Cena has ALWAYS BEEN a genius at making people believe, or trying to make them believe, that he is a good and generous worker when in reality he was too lazy to up his own game, and he has all these subtle but disgusting ways in making his opponents look like they are beneath him in every way. Even his “serious” face is hammy {“I’m worried but i’m not really worried.”).

    Remember when Lesnar returned and had his first match with Cena? Brock beat the snot out of him, but Cena won after hitting him with a chain. So Brock leaves ringside on a stretcher. Despite getting the stuffing beat out of him what does Cena do? Leave on a stretcher too? No, of course not. He remains in the ring and cuts a cutesy promo to ingratiate himself with the crowd. That’s Cena. No-selling everything that is needed to make a wrestling match look remotely real, for the benefit of his own glorious ego.

    His promo about having “ruthless aggression” and being VKM’s savior after Austin, Rock and Lesnar left is pathetic, disgusting and typical Cena.

  2. “As far as Ambrose goes, he is free to do something else, but you can’t help but wonder why the title was taken off of him so quickly.”

    Well, when you put the title on someone, especially someone who is back from hiatus and seems to “look” fresh and reinvigorated, yet who ends up giving you dull, slow matches that has the audience shout “boring”, maybe they think Ambrose needs to start showing some damn passion first before rewarding him.
    Plenty of really talented guys work their asses off and don’t get rewarded, so Ambrose has no excuse seeing as he actually got really decent pushes.

    Frankly, after all the initial hype about him before he became Dean Ambrose in NXT, i have always failed to see the big deal. He is a mediocre worker (in terms of having an interesting move-set or putting out exciting matches), which doesn’t have to be a problem if he is interesting in other ways. But his so-called “lunacy” boils down to nothing more than being a run-of-the-mill brawler. So what’s the big deal?
    Fortunately WWE recognized that Seth Rollins got dragged down by Ambrose in that program and still have big plans for him.

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