WWE rolls into Chicago, IL and the Allstate Arena for two nights on this final week of 2016, as Raw and Smackdown both will be coming to us from the Windy City. Drew will have all things Smackdown on Tuesday, but Raw has some interesting questions for tonight. Will Braun Strowman continue to go on his rampage? Last week, he destroyed Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins after the main event. Will Reigns and Rollins get some measure of revenge on him, or will Strowman continue to run wild? Will Neville’s new attitude toward the rest of the cruiserweight division put him on the fast track for a title match? Is Chris Jericho still afraid of heights heading toward Royal Rumble, where he will be suspended above the ring in a shark cage?
Show Open, Live from the Allstate Arena in Chicago, IL:
They recapped the Braun Strowman angle from last week before Cole, Graves, and Saxton checked in for the call. Cole said there were 12,708 in attendance tonight.
Steph McMahon came out, walking past a bunch of Christmas trees on stage. The commentary team talked about the story between Sami Zayn and Braun Strowman. She wished the fans a happy holiday and said she gave Mick Foley a well deserved night off.
The fans chanted for CM Punk (it’s Chicago, so…), and she said if they keep it up for two minutes and fifteen seconds, they will have lasted one second longer than he did in his UFC fight. Savage. Seth Rollins made his way out at that point and wished Chicago and Steph a Merry Christmas. Rollins mentioned Triple H and asked if she gave him his manhood back.
Rollins wondered if Steph had Hunter’s snowballs or the entire yule log in her purse. Steph noted Hunter’s role in management, to which Rollins retorted that she has him all suit and tied up, and he will be remembered as the biggest coward of all time. Steph said she is not her husband’s keeper. Rollins said he knew Hunter wasn’t there, and Steph didn’t want him there.
Rollins said he came to Raw for a fight, and he wanted Strowman. Roman Reigns’ music hit, and he got booed. Steph assumed he wanted a shot at Strowman too. Reigns waited out another chorus of boos. Another CM Punk chant. Rollins and Reigns bickered about who should get the match with Strowman. Rollins said they could go back stage and teach him a lesson they used to teach to other folks. Reigns suggested a powerbomb through a table.
Stephanie got fired up and said “let’s do it.” She motioned for the Shield fist bump but they didn’t play in. She said Smackdown is in the same venue and Dean Ambrose may be close by (he’s at Madison Square Garden tonight, actually…). Steph asked if they should reunite the Shield, and the fans popped and chanted yes. She said it was too bad, because it wouldn’t happen. Trolling.
Steph made Rollins vs. Strowman official, and said Reigns would get a match against an opponent of her choosing. She set up a tag title rematch between New Day and Cesaro and Sheamus to open. New Day came out to a big reaction, and Big E scooped Booty O’s from a bag and poured them on fans at ringside.
Bill Says: A lot of teases lately to get the Shield back together. Fans are excited for it, and it’s the one thing that fans will get behind Reigns for, that’s guaranteed. But, Reigns is on a course to face Kevin Owens again at Royal Rumble, and Seth Rollins is in line to face Triple H at some point, probably Wrestlemania. So, the time is not now, but you have to think it’s coming in 2017.
Match #1 – Cesaro and Sheamus (c) vs. Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston (w/Big E); Raw Tag Team Championship
Winner: Cesaro and Sheamus to retain the Raw Tag Team Championship
The Reax: The finish in this came with Sheamus getting a blind tag on Cesaro and hitting Woods with the Brogue Kick for the win. This was a solid tag title match between the two teams, and the live crowd was into it. They bought in to all the near falls along the way to the finish. There’s definitely some life left between these guys, which is something that they need to have because the rest of the tag teams on Raw have been defined down at the moment. They need to build up the next challenger.
The commentary team talked about Rollins vs. Strowman, then Cole hyped that Goldberg and Brock Lesnar will be in the Royal Rumble. Cole said they would take a look at what could be waiting for Goldberg after commercial. They ran a video that hyped John Cena coming back to Smackdown.
The commentary team thanked the musical group for the Royal Rumble theme song, then fed it into a Brock Lesnar video package. They featured lines from Heyman’s sit-down interview. Back with the team, they said Goldberg would appear next Monday.
Backstage, Braun Strowman was on the loose, with crew members fleeing from him. Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho confronted him though, with Owens saying that Strowman decking people in the halls was festive. Jericho said he doesn’t want to be on the list of Strowman. “Squash ’em down, man.”
Owens said once he beats Reigns at the Rumble, Strowman would be in line for an opportunity. Owens told him to focus on Rollins and Reigns, recounting what they said in the open. Jericho claimed they said Strowman’s strikes were like being hit by a child. He brought up Strowman vs. Rollins, and said Rollins called him a one hit wonder and a stupid idiot. Strowman said rumors are crap and so is Jericho. Owens and Jericho both said rumors suck and Strowman walked off.
Bill Says: Jericho and Owens just keep being the duo too entertaining to hate. Not much heat here, but well executed.
Elsewhere, Goldust and R-Truth debated the greatest Scrooge. Bayley joined the conversation and asked for a hug, which Truth gave. She gave Goldust a Dusty Rhodes bear (polka dots I guess is the reference here) and talked about how much she learned from Goldust’s father. He thanked her and hugged her.
Bayley left, and here come Gallows and Anderson. They called Truth and Goldust nerds, and Anderson ripped the head off the bear before walking off. Goldust looked emotional.
Bill Says: Weird. WWE just invoked the memory of Dusty Rhodes with his son, Goldust (Dustin Rhodes) to set up a throwaway tag match leading to nothing. I guess it gets Anderson and Gallows some heat since Dusty is such a beloved figure, but, I guess I feel like they should have gone another route.
The commentary team talked about the Women’s Championship match from Roadblock, then set up a recap of the angle between Sasha Banks and Nia Jax from last Monday.
Jax made her entrance to face a local talent named Scarlet. She talked in a brief interview about being from Chicago and how the only thing that could make her debut better was if “the woman who inspired her to get in the ring,” Sasha Banks, was present.
Match #2 – Nia Jax vs. Scarlet;
Winner: Nia Jax
The Reax: This was a simple squash match, with Jax destroying her in about a minute. After, Jax got a mic and told Scarlet to get a better role model before dropping the leg on her. Cole threw a bad line in there with a Gone with the Wind reference that I hope he was fed to say – it was terrible.
Saxton hyped that we would hear from Bayley up next.
Backstage, Charlotte thanked Stephanie for something and shook her hand. Owens and Jericho entered, and they filed a complaint against Mick Foley, with Jericho saying he wasn’t happy about being booked to be in a shark cage.
Steph said she despises authority figures who abuse their power for personal benefit. C’mon, Steph, don’t be so hard on yourself. She booked Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens for the US Championship later. Jericho wasn’t happy but Owens sold him on how “they” would win both championships.
Bayley made her entrance to a mild reaction. She waited out a mild “Bayley” chant and then said she loves Chicago. That got a rise out of the crowd. She said Christmas came early because she pinned Charlotte for the third time in a row, and believed that makes her number one contender.
Charlotte interrupted, and Corey Graves said “thank goodness someone is here to class up the joint.” Charlotte stood at the stage and said that she needed to set the record straight. She set up a video package that showed her having her shoulder up last week when Bayley pinned her. Charlotte said if something like that happened to Bayley, she would just have to move on with her life and deal with the loss.
Charlotte said her dad taught her to have a good lawyer on hand, and said lawyer spoke to Steph last night. Bayley’s win from last week was expunged from the record and it never happened. Charlotte got in the ring and said she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, so she knows how the system works and she’s made it work for her.
Charlotte gave Bayley a shot to beat her on the spot. Just as the match was about to start, Charlotte said she was guaranteed an official who would call it down the middle. Dana Brooke came out wearing an official’s outfit. Sure, down the middle…uh huh…
Bill Says: Wow, WWE seems to be missing the boat with Bayley right now. The live crowd liked her here, but imagine if WWE would be handling her booking better. The reaction would have been much hotter, even without all fans watching NXT. Bayley surely is not the sensation on the main roster that she was in NXT, and that’s all on WWE Creative.
Match #3 – Charlotte vs. Bayley; Dana Brooke as the official
The Reax: Bayley took out Brooke with a Bayley to Belly, which brought out another official. In the end, Charlotte rolled Bayley up and put her feet on the ropes, and Brooke counted fast to give Charlotte the win. Very forgettable match from the in-ring perspective, but it puts Bayley back in the position of being ganged up on by the heels rather than having a win streak over Charlotte. Assuming the plan will be for Bayley to go through Brooke to get to Charlotte.
Backstage, Strowman was choking someone when Steph called him off. Strowman said the man didn’t know where Sami Zayn was. Strowman says he wants Zayn and Rollins. Steph gave him the match with Zayn for next week.
Strowman said he would make sure Zayn can’t stand when the match is over, so he wanted a last man standing affair. Steph agreed, but said she wants him to return the favor by taking out everything on Rollins later. Strowman laughed and walked off.
The commentary team set up a recap of Neville’s promo from last week, then he made his way to the ring for the next match. Austin Aries joined the commentary position for the match, taking Byron Saxton’s place.
Match #4 – TJ Perkins vs. Neville;
The Reax: Late in this one, Perkins hit the Detonation Kick, but Neville blocked the Knee Bar and pinned Perkins while grabbing a handful of tights. After, Charly interviewed Neville on the stage. He said it’s funny how everyone wants to talk once you’ve left a trail of bodies. Neville said Americans only want to talk to him when they’re insulting him. He railed on Americans and said it’s our ignorance that has prevented fans from enjoying him. He said he will beat Rich Swann on 205 Live tomorrow and become the Cruiserweight Champion because he is the true king of the cruiserweights.
Neville blaming American fans is cheap heat, so him getting the “What” chants was what it was. That said, I think Swann vs. Neville will be a great match and I’m looking forward to it.
They hyped Reigns vs. Owens for the US Championship as the main event. Cole noted that Jericho and Owens needed sensitivity training. They recapped the sensitivity training skits for Enzo Amore from last week.
A commercial hyped AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler for the WWE Championship. Smackdown is stacked, so, join Drew tomorrow night.
Big Cass brought Enzo to the stage in a pimped up wheelchair. Enzo cut his normal entrance gimmick and said sensitivity training is not his thing. He said he has a degree from Certified G University. He called Rusev and Jinder Mahal chickens, then Enzo tossed his spiked hair wig to the crowd. Enzo told Cass to step in the box since he’s batting cleanup. Cass got in the ring and cut a promo saying Rusev was a coward who didn’t have the guts to do what he did to Enzo to him.
Enzo called out Rusev, who obliged. Jinder Mahal also came out with Rusev. Jinder slapped Enzo and got on the apron, but Enzo pulled him back down. Cass and Rusev exchanged punches, then Cass sent Rusev to the floor with a clothesline. Enzo kicked Jinder into the wheelchair then Cass launched Enzo onto him. Cass hit Rusev with another kick. Cole said Enzo and Cass set the trap this time.
Bill Says: This time, the babyfaces didn’t come off like the dumbest guys in the room. Enzo played up his back hurting throughout, so he sold the beating from last week as well. Decent segment here to build to what I assume is a mid-card tag match on an upcoming show.
Graves hyped Rollins vs. Strowman coming up, and the commentary team talked about the UK Tournament coming up in January.
Match #5 – Shining Stars vs. Bo Dallas and Darren Young (w/Bob Backlund);
Winner: Apparent No Contest (Braun Strowman roughed them up)
The Reax: After some basic action, Braun Strowman’s music played. He grabbed a Christmas tree and hit a diving Bo Dallas with it, then worked over everyone. Epico tried to stop him with a chair – may as well forget it there. Strowman threw Young into Backlund, then threw the ring stairs at both Stars and Dallas. The fans chanted for him and chanted “Thank You Strowman.”
If Vince is booking Strowman to interrupt these kind of undercard matches that no one in the live crowd gives a damn about, then he’ll have a monster babyface that will get cheered at the eventual Strowman/Reigns match (whenever that happens, because you know it’s coming) and he can take credit for building Strowman up as a face – or at least have an out when Reigns gets the normal cascade of boos.
They recapped Strowman attacking Rollins and Reigns at the end of last week’s show, then Rollins made his entrance.
Match #6 – Braun Strowman vs. Seth Rollins;
Winner: Braun Strowman by DQ
The Reax: Late in this one, Sami Zayn’s music hit, and Strowman looked up the ramp but instead Zayn came through the crowd and attacked him. Zayn landed several shots then fled, with Strowman going after him. Jericho hit the ring and hit the Codebreaker on Rollins. Several officials ran out, but Jericho hit the Codebreaker a second time. Jericho got more cheers than boos when he posed.
Backstage, Kevin Owens smiled and Charly Caruso tried to get a word. Owens said he tuned her out once she started talking. Owens said Jericho took out Rollins, so that means there will be a new US Champion “and their name is Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho.” Jericho entered and teased that they would hold the US Championship
This was the right way for this to go down. There’s continuance to the Sami Zayn/Strowman story, Strowman didn’t lose by pinfall (which he shouldn’t given the way they’re building him) and Rollins was protected in the loss as well. The follow-up interview backstage was also a nice hook in that it left viewers thinking Reigns would end up being stuck in a 2-on-1 situation that would leave him vulnerable to losing the title.
We got another Emmalina teaser. Right now, don’t care if she ever shows up. This time she did a voiceover saying that the fans have waited so long and have been so good, and it will be worth the wait.
Gallows and Anderson were in the ring, and we saw footage of them destroying the Dusty bear from earlier. Truth and Goldust got their entrance
Bill Says: Just gonna leave this here…
Match #7 – R-Truth and Goldust vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson;
Winner: Gallows and Anderson
The Reax: Anderson got the win by rolling Goldust up after he checked in and got aggressive with both men. That seemed to be just a time-filler rather than to really put any heat behind Gallows and Anderson. You gotta think they’re next in line to challenge for the titles, right? So, why not make it mean something. And by the way, that tweet from Cody seems to express some displeasure with the use of the “Dusty” bear. Not exactly the way I’d have gone about things, as said earlier.
Rich Swann was shown backstage, and he has a match next.
In case you didn’t know, John Cena returns to Smackdown tomorrow night. The commentary team hyped the three title matches.
Match #8 – Rich Swann vs. Ariaya Daivari;
Winner: Rich Swann
The Reax: Swann avoided a top rope frogsplash then landed a kick to win. After, Charly interviewed Swann at the stage. He said Neville claims to be king of the cruiserweights, but he’s a royal sourpuss. Swann said under the greed and bitterness, Neville is still one of the best athletes in WWE. Swann said if Neville wants a fight, then a fight he will get.
Neville ran out and attacked Swann from behind, putting the boots to him. He took him to ringside, ran him into the ring edge back first, then hit the Red Arrow on him face down to attack the back some more.
This was well done and it makes Swann look vulnerable going into the match tomorrow. I just wish they’d have used someone else in the match to put Swann over than Daivari. Daivari was getting some momentum going working with Jack Gallagher, and I can’t help but feel like losing so quickly takes some of that away.
Cole hyped Goldberg returning on next week’s show and talked about a video on his return to WWE.
Backstage, Charly talked to Daivari, who blamed the loss on the chance of interference from “that scoundrel” Jack Gallagher. Gallagher showed up and told Daivari he would give him a chance to retract his slander. Daivari repeated his comment, so Gallagher challenged him to a duel. Daivari asked if he was Alexander Hamilton. Gallagher compared himself to Aaron Burr and slapped him with a glove.
Bill Says: I should have waited to comment on Daivari. Gallagher is so good in his role. This makes me look forward to what they’re planning for the two of them.
The commentary team was laughing. Not a good look, guys. Graves called it his favorite moment on Raw and hyped a duel. Cole hyped the Goldberg video package and ran it. Back live, Cole hyped the Royal Rumble and Saxton hyped Goldberg on Raw next Monday. Graves added hype for Zayn vs. Strowman in a last man standing match next week.
Kevin Owens headed to the ring for the main event while Cole noted Jericho would appear on the weekly ESPN segment.
Cole and Graves hyped Swann vs. Neville and a “gentlemen’s duel” between Gallagher and Daivari for tomorrow’s 205 Live show. Roman Reigns got his entrance and he got more boos, while Cole hyped the Universal Championship match at Royal Rumble, along with the Shark Cage stipulation.
Match #9 – Roman Reigns (c) vs. Kevin Owens (Universal Champion); WWE United States Championship
Winner: Roman Reigns to retain the WWE United States Championship
The Reax: It didn’t take long for Jericho to appear, about 3 minutes in. The distraction let Owens take control after a DDT and a senton for two. Late, Reigns set up the spear but Jericho got on the apron. Reigns chased him off, which brought out Seth Rollins to attack Jericho. Reigns turned into a Codebreaker for a near fall. Owens went out to help Jericho, hitting Rollins with a superkick. When Owens got back in the ring, Reigns speared him for the win.
Rollins did the DX crotch chop, then he hit Owens with a Pedigree. Reigns speared Jericho at ringside, and Rollins and Reigns celebrated to close the show.
This was solid. It didn’t get me all wound up to see them go at it at Royal Rumble, but I think putting Jericho in the cage and all that has helped me with that match. One problem I see here is that Owens and Jericho end up feeling like “upper mid-card” heels, which Owens definitely should NOT be positioned like that given he’s the top champion. The comedy and the lack of being a threat to the top faces unless the odds are in their favor numebrs wise hurts these guys. The storytelling is a bit off to me, especially when including Braun Strowman. Here, Jericho and Owens took it on the chin – but last week, Strowman left Reigns and Rollins laying. It’s weird to me.
But all in all, this show was better than expected. They left out all the holiday nonsense, which was a huge plus, and it helped this show out. It definitely wasn’t a hot show by any stretch of the imagination, but it was better than we normally get this time of year. I think given that they’re running Chicago helped because if they’d have tried that there – they’d have been run out of town.
Drew will have your Smackdown coverage as well as 205 Live, and he’ll be by with an Around the Ring segment as well. I’ll be back with him on Wednesday for Ring Rap Audio, and more in pro wrestling and MMA. Thanks for joining me tonight.