The Raw brand makes one more stop in Cleveland, OH at Quicken Loans Arena before the Royal Rumble. The Road to Wrestlemania is underway if you ask some fans. Goldberg is set to appear in Cleveland to address the Royal Rumble and all of his opponents that night. Who will be next? Better yet, who will fill out the 30-man battle royale, as not all of the slots are full yet. Also, will Charlotte try to find every way possible to keep Bayley’s poetry of “Roses are red, violets are blue, at the Royal Rumble, I will defeat you…” from coming to reality?
Show Open, Live from Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH:
They recapped the story between Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, and Roman Reigns to open, including Jericho defeating Reigns to win the US Championship and Owens powerbombing Reigns through the commentary position after last week’s show. Cole, Graves, and Saxton checked in for the call.
Roman Reigns’ music hit and he came to the ring to more boos than cheers. The shark cage was sitting in the middle of the ring. He talked about how there would be 40,000 people going nuts at the Alamodome on Sunday, and he gets Owens in a one-on-one match because Jericho would be in the cage. “Which means I’m going to be holding the WWE Universal Championship over my head, baby.” More boos than cheers.
Owens’ music hit, and he and Jericho came to the stage. Loud Y2J chants. Owens called Reigns delusional and confused, then asked if the powerbomb he it caused it. Owens said Reigns has been doing the same thing to superstars and legends for years now. “How many people can say that they singlehandedly, on their own, powerbombed Roman Reigns through that announce table?”
Owens said the answer is one, “and I am the one.” Reigns said Owens will be the one who gets whipped in front of the world and his best friend. Jericho asked if Reigns was Nostradamus, and had a prediction for him. “You’re a stupid idiot.” Jericho conceded that was more of a statement than a prediction. Jericho complained about the shark cage, but said there was nothing stopping him from knocking Reigns’ teeth down his throat tonight.
Reigns asked if Jericho gave him a rematch, and Jericho mouthed he didn’t. Reigns played to the crowd and got lots of “Yes!” chants in return. Reigns invited Jericho to teach him a lesson and give the rematch for the US Championship. Owens laughed then said, “You got it.” Jericho wasn’t happy.
Owens told him he’s Jericho and will beat him. He said he had a psychic vision that Reigns would be locked in the cage. Jericho protested and Owens assured him. Reigns said he had a feeling too, and he will win the US Championship in Cleveland and the Universal Championship at the Rumble. He said he’s something Owens will never be – the guy.
Bill Says: Reigns got interrupted yet again, but at least this time he got to talk back rather than just stand there and listen. He’s still not a likeable babyface and proclaiming himself “the guy” comes off a bit like a douchebag. I thought they could have played up the drama of the shark cage some more, especially with Jericho. He did such a good job of acting scared of it at first, so that could have been a fun dynamic to continue to play into. I wonder if Jericho will come out of the match later with his title, or if he loses it as part of the story between him and Owens, since Owens granted the match – not Jericho.
They hyped Goldberg appearing later and ran an ad for NXT Takeover: San Antonio.
Bill Says: Drew has your Royal Rumble coverage, and I’ll have your NXT Takeover results. Full weekend of wrestling ahead.
Cole told us that Foley made Jericho vs. Reigns for the US Championship official.
Match #1 – Cesaro (w/Sheamus) vs. Luke Gallows (w/Karl Anderson):
Winner: Luke Gallows
The Reax: Cole noted that Cesaro and Sheamus will defend the tag titles against Gallows and Anderson on Sunday at Royal Rumble. So, they’ll be pulling double duty as Sheamus and Cesaro have been announced for the Rumble as well. They’re using a two referee stipulation, so I guess we’ll get some sort of split finish rather than a clean one.
Late in this one, Cesaro knocked Gallows to the floor and Sheamus hit a clothesline while the official was distracted. Anderson, who was chased off earlier by Sheamus, came back and hit Sheamus from behind. Cesaro had the sharpshooter locked in, but gave it up because of the distractions, then took a boot to the face. Gallows won with a follow-up move.
It looked like Gallows got sliced below the eye sometime during the match. They were playing up the story here that the heels couldn’t cheat because there were two officials for the match on Sunday. Fine enough storytelling to get to the match, which will be on the pre-show.
Mick Foley was talking to Stephanie via speakerphone. She asked why he agreed to give the rematch for the US Championship. He said it’s because they needed a marquee match tonight. Sami Zayn entered and said he had to talk to Foley. He asked about being in the Rumble match. Foley wanted to give him the slot, but Steph interrupted and told him that he would have to beat Rollins to be in the match. Foley said he didn’t agree but would let Rollins know.
Bill Says: Are we in for a night full of Stephanie being on the speakerphone? Did she not get out of DC from the Inauguration (there were Twitter pics of that). Anyhow…
The commentary team talked about the US Championship match and asked if Reigns would be a dual champion by next week. Graves set up his interview with Bayley, and said he had a new level of respect for her after talking to her.
They aired that sit down. She described her WWE experience as “wow” and said it gives her goosebumps. Graves asked why Charlotte uses her fandom against her. She deflected it by saying it’s a question for Charlotte. She said that her fandom got her there and got choked up talking about how her dad and brother get to watch her have a championship match. She said she hugs the fans because she knows what it’s like to be on that side of the railing, and said the fans make her feel like she can do anything.
Graves asked if “anything” meant beating Charlotte. Bayley said a lot of people don’t think she can, and said she doesn’t have the DNA or bloodline but does own two non-title wins over her. She said she would walk out Raw Women’s Champion. Graves said Bayley is ready and better be, because she is facing the queen of pay per view.
Foley approached Seth Rollins backstage and told him about the match between him and Zayn. Rollins questioned it, saying they teamed last week. Foley said Steph wants to play up the friend vs. friend, everyone for themselves aspect of the Rumble. Foley told him if Zayn won, he would get Seth’s spot in the Rumble. Rollins said he would beat Zayn, then win the Rumble, then go on to Wrestlemania and win the title to throw it in the face of Stephanie and her coward husband.
Bill Says: Two pretty strong segments there. The big thing with the Bayley segment was how good a job they did explaining her character and what it represents rather than taking it for granted that everyone watched her very good NXT run. That’s something I’ve ranted about at length since she came up. And putting the Rumble spot on the line is a good tease for Zayn vs. Rollins.
Rollins made his entrance, and Cole noted that Big Show (or should he be Slim Show – have you seen him lately??) has been added to the Rumble.
Match #2 – Seth Rollins vs. Sami Zayn; Royal Rumble Slot on the line
Winner: Sami Zayn
The Reax: Late in this one, Rollins went to the apron and Zayn tried for the Helluva Kick, but Rollins hit a straight kick then hit the Pedigree. When Rollins rolled Zayn in, Triple H’s music hit. Rollins blew off the cover and waited for him, but he didn’t show. Rollins turned his attention to Zayn, who used an inside cradle to win.
Both men got cheered during their entrances, then the fans just sort of settled into this one. But it was a really good match to watch and the fans reacted accordingly to big spots and moments as well as with the standard “this is awesome” chant at one point. Strong television match based around the drama of getting a Royal Rumble slot which made it feel like it mattered. Triple H’s mind games point to a Wrestlemania match, which makes complete sense for Rollins.
After the match, Rollins seethed and Zayn celebrated. Rollins stormed backstage, and Graves asked if Triple H was going to be waiting for him there.
They hyped Jericho vs. Reigns for the US Championship still to come, as well as Goldberg appearing. They hyped the Royal Rumble kickoff show and noted Shawn Michaels would be appearing. They ran a Rumble video package that was focused on HBK winning in 1995, along with comments from him.
They announced Neville vs. Cedric Alexander for 205 Live. Backstage, Rollins knocked a phone out of a man’s hand while looking for Hunter. Foley approached him and said he didn’t know. He said he wasn’t saying it was Stephanie, but either she or someone in production did it. Foley said he would get to the bottom of it.
Daivari, Tony Nees and Drew Gulak were in the ring for the next match. They ran a hype video on Mustafa Ali before the face team entered.
Match #3 – Mustafa Ali, TJ Perkins and Jack Gallagher vs. Ariaya Daivari, Tony Nese and Drew Gulak;
Winner: Ali, Perkins and Gallagher
The Reax: Late, Perkins tagged to Ali, who hit some neat and flashy offense on Gulak. He had the pin on a neckbreaker, but the heel team broke it up. After Nese and Daivari were cleared out, Ali hit a reverse 450 on Gulak to win.
That reverse 450 is one heck of a spot. The heel team though are nothing more than jobbers at this point, so this result wasn’t much of a surprise.
They showed New Day clowning around backstage.
New Day came to the ring, with Big E dumping Booty O’s into fans’ mouths at ringside. They talked about being interrupted three weeks in a row as they talked about winning the Royal Rumble so they could go on to Wrestlemania and become the Universal Champion. Of course, cue an interruption, this time by Enzo Amore and Big Cass.
Enzo and Cass came to the ring, an New Day danced with their music. The fans chanted “how you doin’?” Enzo and Cass did their normal routine as they came to the ring. Cass said he would go Stallone in ’87 and toss out 29 men over the top. He said he was officially entering the match.
Rusev interrupted, and he and Jinder Mahal came to the ring accompanied by Lana. Rusev mocked why Big E and Big Cass had to put “big” in front of their names. That drew a “USA” chant. Rusev said it’s not about USA, but about their stupid names. Rusev said he gets that they’re big, but it’s obvious and that would be like putting handsome in front in front of his own name. Rusev entered the Rumble match, then Titus O’Neil came out.
E reminded Titus that he promised never to annoy them. Titus said that’s not why he was there. Woods said it was disrespectful and told him to catch him outside. Titus asked what that meant and Kofi explained. Woods said they didn’t have to go outside because he had been informed of an eight man tag. Woods pointed out the flaw with numbers and asked if Lana was wrestling. Titus motioned to the stage, and Braun Strowman came out to make the sides equal.
Bill Says: Can Braun just maul Jinder and Titus before they return from commercial? Big Cass’ dated references fail because he was only alive for a handful of years of the decade, so it feels like it’s not a timely reference for him.
Match #4 – Braun Strowman, Jinder Mahal, Rusev, and Titus O’Neil vs. Kofi Kingston, Big E, Enzo Amore, and Big Cass
Winner: Strowman, Mahal, Rusev, and O’Neil
The Reax: Late, Enzo fired up to a responsive crowd. Strowman tackled him down then picked him up. Enzo slipped away and looked like he might mount a comeback but Strowman put him away with a powerslam.
After, Big Show’s music hit and he made his way to the ring. He’s Slim Show now. Anyhow, he and Strowman stared each other down before Strowman left. He barked “on my time” and said he does what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants.
This was a nice tease for Show and Strowman at the Rumble. Show is in amazing shape right now, seriously. Dude has got to be in the low 300’s in terms of weight. Show should eventually put Strowman over and that makes sense, but it’s a good size matchup for the two.
They hyped the kickoff show with HBK and Jerry Lawler as guests. They hyped the Royal Rumble and WWE Network, then Big Show stopped by and shook hands with the commentary team. Graves said he was telling everyone that Show was going to win the Rumble, to which Show said he was such a babyface. They recapped the opening segment then hyped Jericho vs. Reigns for next.
Bill Says: Here’s an oddity – someone piped up to me that Brock Lesnar was being advertised locally, but WWE has not mentioned him at all tonight. Perhaps they want to do this as a surprise, but you’d think advertising Lesnar and Goldberg on the same show would be something WWE would want to hype to try and draw some views.
They showed the shark cage above the ring, then entrances for the US Championship match took place.
Match #5 – Chris Jericho (c, w/Kevin Owens) vs. Roman Reigns; WWE United States Championship
Winner: Roman Reigns by disqualification
The Reax: Late in this one, Jericho took a Samoan drop for two. Reigns teased a spear but took a drop kick for two. Jericho tried for the Codebreaker, but Reigns caught him and dropped him in the corner. He followed with a sit-out powerbomb. Later, Reigns tried for the spear again, but Jericho leaped over him, but Reigns came back with the Superman Punch. Owens ran in and attacked to throw the match out.
Owens called for the shark cage, fiddled with the locks then they shoved Reigns inside. Owens closed the door but Reigns reached through and pulled Owens in with him. The three men fought, with Reigns getting the better of Owens and locking him in the cage. He called for the cage to be raised. Owens reached out for Jericho and he ended up hanging from the cage. Reigns hit Jericho with a Superman punch and a spear.
This was a good post-match segment to an alright match. I really think they should have gone with Jericho being locked in the cage though with the way he sold the shark cage initially. What they’re doing with the cage was effective and I’ve found myself entertained by it, even if the feud seems very repetitive and boring otherwise.
Cole hyped Goldberg appearing to talk about the Rumble later.
They recapped the previous segment, then they showed the cage lowered. Jericho unlocked it so Owens could get out, then the two took turns slamming the door in frustration. Charly told them that the match at Royal Rumble is now a no-DQ match. Owens said the match is unfair as are the stipulations. They slammed the door some more.
The commentary team hyped the Rumble, the new stipulation, and the Women’s Championship match.
They aired a sit-down interview with Charlotte. She talked about how her earliest Rumble memory was her dad winning in 1992. She said her family dominates the Rumble, and she is the greatest athlete the company ever had. She said she could be winning gold medals in volleyball or winning WNBA titles, but instead she is in WWE while Bayley is lucky to be there.
Charlotte said she didn’t mean to belittle Bayley. She said she wanted fans to know who they were backing. She said she was proud of Bayley in NXT but you don’t look at her title. She said things changed when Bayley had the audacity to think she belongs in the same ring. Charlotte said she would punish Bayley for thinking she was in her league. She said she will continue to be the queen of pay per view, while Bayley will be a fan.
Bill Says: The sit-down style interviews work very well, and they’ve done a good job of establishing Bayley over the last two weeks more than they have over the past six months. Charlotte is another person who excels in this setting as well.
Nia Jax was walking backstage, and she would be in action next.
Match #6 – Nia Jax vs. Ray Lin:
Winner: Nia Jax
The Reax: Jax destroyed Lin in moments with a splash from the second rope. Afterward, Jax grabbed the mic and said they should do a 30 for 30 on the downfall of Sasha Banks. Banks appeared, limping out with a crutch. She hit Jax with the crutch from the floor, then struck her with it repeatedly in the ring. Cole noted Jax was still standing, and she charged Sasha but she ducked. Nia tumbled to the floor and Banks hit a flying knee press on her.
This was a good post-match angle (the match was nothing to talk about) to continue their story. Will they add this to the Rumble lineup? I guess we’ll find out.
They cut to recapping the tease of Triple H appearing at the end of the Rollins vs. Zayn match then hyped Goldberg appearing a bit later. They showed Rich Swann backstage, and he’s in action next.
Bill Says: This was a case of WWE needing to let something breathe, and they didn’t. They rushed right into the Triple H recap when they should have let the Jax/Banks angle breathe a bit and give it some shine going into the break. A bit of bad timing there.
Emmalina is still premiering soon and I don’t care.
Match #7 – Rich Swann vs. Noam Dar (w/Alicia Fox)
Winner: Rich Swann
The Reax: Swann caught Dar with a kick to the head then bickered with Fox. Dar hit a kick of his own for two. Swan caught Dar with a kick to score the win. After the match, Swann called out Neville, calling him a jester and not a king. Neville showed up, but backed off the the floor. Swann hit a dive and threw some punches, then threw Neville in, but he bailed to get away.
This was a good segment for the cruiserweights. Swann and Dar are two good talents in the division, and Neville is a shining light as the top heel. They got some good hype in there for the cruiserweight championship match at Royal Rumble as well. Everything tonight has some purpose, and it’s working well.
Backstage, Caruso talked to Cedric Alexander about going against Neville. He said with all the Fox and Dar stuff behind him, he can focus on being cruiserweight champion. Fox and Dar walked in, and Fox screamed that he will be nothing without her. Dar said he wanted to make sure there’s no hard feelings between them over him stealing his girlfriend. Alexander said there’s no hard feelings over Fox, but he attacked him last week. Alexander shoved Dar down, and he fell and played up being hurt.
Graves quipped on commentary that some girls make you want to delete social media accounts, but Fox makes you want to leave town and change careers. They hyped Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax at Royal Rumble and HBK being on the pre-show.
Goldberg’s music hit and he made his way to the ring. Fans chanted for him as he walked through the backstage area. He had a small cut on the top of his head that did make a little trickle of blood as he shook hands with fans. Must have nicked himself shaving his head. Graves pointed out that Goldberg headbutts the locker room door before he comes out.
“So here we go.” The fans chanted for Goldberg, who said “OK, so, let’s go for it again.” He got tongue tied as he talked about his path to WWE, then said the fans got him screwed up. “Hey, let’s go for it a third time.” He said the WWE Universal championship runs through the Royal Rumble match, and there will be 29 other entrants in the match who want the same thing he wants – a shot at either Kevin Owens or Roman Reigns.
He said he would stop at nothing to obtain the title. He said if he had to spear and jackhammer 29 other men, then that’s what he would do. He started to throw out his “next” line, but Paul Heyman interrupted. He said he was compelled to address Goldberg’s observations.
Heyman talked about the opportunities the Rumble presents. He said the match could produce Goldberg vs. Orton or Braun Strowman or other surprise entrants. It could even produce Goldberg and Undertaker. Heyman said that depending on the luck of the draw, fans might see Goldberg vs. Lesnar again.
Lesnar’s music hit. “Oh my goodness, is he here?” Cole yelled. Lesnar walked out on stage and Heyman put out his arm to hold him back. Lesnar stared from the stage. “Behold, Mr. Goldberg, the object, the instrument of your demise.” Heyman said Goldberg would be beaten, victimized, emasculated, etc., in the Rumble.
Heyman said once Goldberg is conquered, then Lesnar will throw him over the rope and eliminate him. Goldberg cut off Heyman’s big Brock Lesnar line and said “Are you gonna be a man and come down here, boy, or are you going to sit here like a dumbass?” Lesnar headed to ringside, then walked around the ring. The fans chanted for Goldberg.
Lesnar got in the ring and Cole hyped that this was the first time since their encounter at Survivor Series. The lights went out and the gong sounded. When the lights came up, Undertaker was in the ring with them. Undertaker stared both men down and the fans chanted “holy shit.” Taker’s music played and the three stared at each other to end the show.
Bill Says: Goldberg got all sorts of tripped up on the mic there, which was unfortunate because he has been good otherwise. That aside, this was a strong segment with the three biggest names of the Rumble being in the ring to close the show. Undertaker was definitely a surprise appearance as he was nowhere on the radar to appear tonight. Lesnar was locally advertised, and I still think WWE could have made a bigger deal out of Lesnar showing up on the show tonight to get viewers to tune in. Still, a solid segment overall and a good closing visual.
This was a decent go-home show into the Rumble. The past few weeks of Raw have been very hit and miss, but this show felt like all of the segments had some purpose to them and achieved something on the way to the Rumble. Smackdown gets their crack at it tomorrow night, and Drew Koscelek will have your coverage.
As a reminder, I’ll have the NXT Takeover: San Antonio show for you as it airs live, and Drew will be covering the Royal Rumble on Sunday. I’ll also be back later this week with ROH Coverage, and Drew and I will get together to preview Royal Rumble on Wednesday’s Ring Rap Audio. Drew will be by tomorrow to talk all things wrestling in his Around the Ring segment as well. See you later this week!