January is shaping up to be a big month for the WWE. The mixed match challenge starts on January 16, next week is the Raw 25 celebration, and then the week after that is NXT Takeover and the Royal Rumble featuring the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble. With all of this upcoming excitement one might think it would be hard to have a compelling Monday Night Raw to shine in the middle of this, enter Braun Strowman.
The Monster Smash
The show started off innocuous enough, Braun Strowman cuts a promo in the ring about how he’s the best, and so on, nothing too compelling. But then, Kurt Angle comes out, and in front of a live audience, on live TV, FIRES BRAUN STROWMAN! Which from a management perspective makes no sense. Why would you fire someone with thousands of people watching? That would be like if you were in the cafeteria eating lunch with your buddies, your boss comes in and says “May I have everyone’s attention please? John, YOU’RE FIRED!”
I’m not saying that Braun shouldn’t be fired for using a grappling hook to bring down scaffolding onto Kane and Brock Lesnar, but don’t do it in front of an audience, give him a phone call, talk to him in private. Braun initially seemed to take it well enough, I was expecting him to punch Kurt to another planet, and instead he stormed out to the backstage area, that’s when things got interesting.
After the first match, we see Braun destroying Kurt’s office and the catering area. After which he grabs basically an entire cake from some guy, which was hilarious. I want to know what this random dude holding half of a cake was thinking. “Is this how I die? A strong man taking my cake and crushing my skull.”
After another match we see Kurt talking to security, he is flummoxed and has no idea what to do with this “wild elephant” Braun Strowman. Someone runs in to tell him that Braun is going after the TV truck leaving Kurt to say desperately “Oh no! Those are worth 12 million dollars!” Another incredibly funny moment that happens during this rampage. We eventually see Braun at the semi-truck with the broadcasting equipment, it’s detached from the trailer and Braun flips it!
Kurt and the security team just look at Braun, stunned, as he yells in their face and storms off. This rampage culminates at the end of the first hour with Braun Strowman coming out to the arena, picking up Michael Cole by the seat of his pants and throwing him into a group of security guards! Kurt pleads with Braun and tells him that Stephanie rehired him, leaving Braun to storm off.
I personally loved this whole sequence of events. Not every Raw has to have a set of matches to tell a story, using the first hour of matches as interludes to the story of Braun Strowman was incredibly compelling. I would enjoy more things like this, also the more random heavy stuff that Braun gets to destroy the better.
The Main Event – Rollins vs. Balor
The main event featured an incredible matchup by Finn Balor and Seth Rollins. The pretense for this match was interesting. Jason Jordan asked Kurt to book a match for his tag partner Seth Rollins, even though the outcome for this ask by Jordan was incredible, it is still pretty annoying. My ambivalence for this makes it hard to determine how I feel, on the one hand it was a great main event that was of a PPV match quality, on the other hand it was set up by Jason Jordan, who I’m not a fan of.
As for the match itself, it was awesome! Rollins and Balor put on a show that really accentuated why these are two of the best in WWE right now. Jordan was in Rollins’ corner while the Balor club was in Finn’s. So much happened in this match, at one point Finn gets Seth in a long pin and, what seemed like a three count, ended with the ref claiming no pin fall so the match continued. Later, The Bar came out to pick a fight with Jason Jordan due to some interference earlier in the night, but then turned their sites to the Balor Club.
Finn jumped out to save his teammates but once he went back into the ring, Jason Jordan tripped him up allowing Seth to CURB STOMP! (yes, American History X style), CURB STOMP Finn Balor allowing Seth to get the pin. It was an awesome finish, admittedly not clean, but still a great match. I am now all in on a Balor Club vs. Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan feud.
Titus Worldwide vs. The Bar
A quick match but still noteworthy. Jordan distracted the Bar allowing Apollo Crews to get the pin. Interestingly enough, Seth came out and scolded Jordan for his interference, which was later undercut by the fact that Seth had no problem with Jordan’s interference in his own match.
Cedric Alexander vs. Tony Nese
Goldust! My main man Goldust, he was the more exciting part of this match. He almost started the SAWFT chant but Cedric wound up doing it instead. After Cedric pinned Tony Nese Goldust went to Enzo and continued to mock him with that two step dance Enzo does. It was pretty hilarious, I’m not sure where this rivalry is going, but for now, I’m all in. The match itself was pretty blech, I don’t think Cedric deserves to win the belt quite yet, having Enzo on top and being the main antagonizer seems to be better for the Cruiserweight division at the moment.
Asuka vs Nia Jax
This was a really good match up until the end. Asuka is a really good wrestling partner for Nia because of their competing styles. Nia is able to put a lot of hits and slams on Asuka, while Asuka can try and execute all of her submission holds on Nia, which made for a pretty compelling match. The ending was odd to say the least. Asuka and Nia were both outside the ring, while Nia was on the steps Asuka kicked out her leg from under her pinning her knee between the stairs and the ring. This lead to Asuka rushing into the ring and avoiding the count out. Nia also got back into the ring just before the count out but then was unable to stand under her own power so the ref called the match giving the victory to Asuka.
I’m not sure why they just didn’t end the match in a count out with Nia writhing in pain outside of the ring, it probably would’ve sold the injury more. After the match Alexa Bliss came out to check on her friend, it’s good to see that this friendship is still holding up despite the Enzo/Nia sub-plot.
The Revival vs Aaron Solow & Ricky Starks
I honestly did not know who the Revival was fighting so I had to look this one up on Twitter. [Editor’s Note: One of the opponents, Aaron Solow is Bayley’s real-life finance] Very quick squash match by The Revival, I would like to see more of these (top) guys. Maybe this is the start of something for the Revival, they did cut an interesting promo and mentioned Raw 25 next week so maybe somehow they’ll be involved, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Roman Reigns vs. the Miztourage
Nothing really to see here, Roman beats the Miztourage in a handicap match, solidifying forever that Roman Reigns is great blah, blah, blah. I’m holding all reservations on Roman until I see what happens in the Royal Rumble (I have an idea but I’ll tease that for another time).
Sonya Deville vs. Sasha Banks
Sonya defeats Sasha fairly quickly. They are really digging into Absolution vs. Sasha/Bailey but I’m not sure where it goes from here, again we may have to wait until the Rumble to see what comes of this. The most interesting announcement was that Paige will not be able to compete in the Rumble match. I had to do my own research afterwards to see that apparently Paige is having some medical issues that will keep her out of the Royal Rumble match, and potentially out indefinitely, but I’m not sure how much of the long term diagnosis is speculation.
Matt Hardy vs. Heath Slater
The woken Matt Hardy won in a quick match. This has been more of the same that we’ve seen in recent weeks. Again, anything that develops from here will probably become clearer after the Royal Rumble.
That’s it for this week of Monday Night Raw. Next week is Raw 25 followed by the Royal Rumble PPV! The highlight for tonight was Braun Strowman by a mile, as much as I know it won’t happen, my dream is that next week Braun will just beat up every legend that comes back for Raw 25, but hey, a boy can dream.