Raw Thoughts- HBK, Undertaker & The Road to the Rumble
I love January. WWE really try their hardest to put on a compelling product leading up to the Royal Rumble, and by extension, Wrestlemania. That means that the weekly programming becomes much better than usual, and even the shows that don't knock it out of the park are still very watchable and meaningful. The entirety of last week's WWE was stellar, and while I don't think this week's Raw reached those heights, it was still entertaining and newsworthy overall.
-I have noticed that WWE are utilising their part time stars very well as we start 2017, at least in how they are being spread out and promoted. Last week, Raw had Goldberg, this week they had HBK and Undertaker, and they are advertising Brock Lesnar to return next week. Those are the kind of hooks needed to boost ratings and for business to pick up, as JR would say.
-I enjoyed how the show started with a very brief backstage bit, and then straight into the handicap US title match. I don't know anyone who likes the usual formula of starting Raw with a 15 minute promo that feels like 30 minutes.
-Seth Rollins, looking like a true babyface by running out to help Roman Reigns. It's the kind of thing WWE need to do more often. Way too many times do I see heels get the numbers advantage and beat down the babyface, while I'm sitting there thinking, "Doesn't the good guy have any friends?" Rollins then followed up with a fiery performance against Strowman. Very good night overall for the Architect, and the crowd responded accordingly.
-Not really feeling how they're making Bayley look like an afterthought as she gets set to challenge Charlotte for the title at the Royal Rumble. First, in the backstage bit, she played second fiddle as Charlotte and Sasha had a staredown and reminisced about their rivalry. Then, she ate the pinfall from Nia Jax, when it made far more sense for the injured Banks, who isn't in a feud right now, to take the fall..
-Jack Gallagher is the best thing the cruiserweight division has. He commits fully to his character, and I hope it pays off with a title shot (and win) sooner rather than later.
-Always great to see Shawn Michaels back, but I feel like they could have used him in a more serious way than making dick jokes with Enzo and Cass. It's an important time of year with the Rumble. HB-Shizzle is great at hamming things up, and outside of the 3 month Rumble to Mania window, I'd be all for that kind of comedy. Rusev deserves better than continually being cannon fodder for legends too. The "rub" for working with these legends doesn't amount too much when you continually get made to look like a chump.
-Loving the push of Neville in the CW division, not so enamoured with the use of the Rings of Saturn on Lince Dorado. It traps Dorado's body so he couldn't convey his pain level, since the mask eliminates facial expression. Also, the angle it was applied, it looked like Lince was reversing it into a pin attempt, and it wasn't immediately clear that he tapped. Neville having a submission finish is fine, but I believe the Rings of Saturn was a bust, at least in this match.
-Lost interest during the Cesaro/Sheamus/Club segment. All talented guys, but the Club has less credibility as wrestlers than Enzo Amore. They should have built their way up to winning a few squashes as a team instead of going straight to this strange singles match set up.
-For a moment I thought they were going to use the "rumoured" Undertaker appearance and Foley's inability to find him as a means to write Foley out of the show, but then I remembered WWE Network still has to air the rest of the Holy Foley series. Taker got the full pyro treatment and looked great, and him announcing his participation in the Rumble is a great boost. I was a little worried when they switched immediately to a shot of Braun Strowman- I hope it wasn't teasing a Mania match with those two, my wishlist is for Taker to face Cena, AJ or even Baron Corbin. The fact that Steph mentioned in the quick open that Taker was a Smackdown wrestler was encouraging though. I'm okay with Undertaker turning up on Raw like he did, he's one of a very small circle that can basically disregard the brand split- because he's The Undertaker.
-New Day's follow up to losing the tag titles is... messing around with Titus? Pretty terrible, to be honest. Titus is doing a better job with his material than I expected, but the bar was set very, very low.
-Chris Jericho won a singles title, for the first time in almost 7 years! I'm a massive, massive Jerichoholic, so I'm over the moon about this. The match itself wasn't anything to write home about, but Jericho got a reward for his sublime work in 2016 and Reigns finally took a loss, the odds were finally too much for him. I do like that, within the rules of a handicap match, Jericho and Owens won that relatively cleanly. Reigns has the out of being booked in an unfair handicap match in the first place, but Jericho and Owens looked strong in hitting their finishers and getting a 3 count, they needed a little credibility after going comedy-heavy.
Reigns got... IT. Stupid idiot.
The last segment and Taker's appearance ensured this Raw gets a thumbs up for me. Now off to watch the UK Championship preview show on the Network, because I have zero knowledge of any of the participants! See you tomorrow where I'll hopefully be gushing over how good Cena vs. Corbin was.
Until next time, take care,