Samoa Joe and Raw Tag Team Champions Sheamus & Cesaro Attacked The Shield
I'm typically not a fan of Raw kicking off with a talking segment, but Joe is absolute fire on the mic and this was a tremendous promo from him as he ran down each of the Shield members. All hell broke loose once the entire Shield came down to the ring and Sheamus and Cesaro also emerged to brawl with them. This was a very effective way of furthering the feuds and building excitement for the three matches involving these men later in the night.
Absolution def. Mickie James and Bayley
The pre-match promos from Absolution were once again shaky, but hopefully they'll improve in time. The actual match was fine, but it was obviously designed to be a test run for Mandy Rose to see how she'd do against established talent. She didn't embarrass herself, which is a plus, but she clearly needs more seasoning. Thankfully, this was a tag team match, so she was protected and Paige was able to do a majority of the in-ring work. Rose picking up the win for her team was the right call.
Finn Balor def. Curtis Axel
So, I guess Balor is feuding with The Miztourage now. Sure, he's won both bouts he's had against Bo Dallas and Axel, but how much does that really mean? What's worse is that these have actually been competitive matchups, which doesn't speak too well to his spot on the card right now. Perhaps this is leading to an eventual feud with the returning Miz, but even that is a far cry from the once-rumored Universal Championship match with Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble.
Seth Rollins def. Raw Tag Team Champion Sheamus
This was easily the least intriguing of the three Shield matches on this show simply because we've seen it so many times before, but there's no questioning how well they work together. This was another entertaining outing from them and they told a solid story with Sheamus targeting Rollins' "injured" knee. The crowd was engaged in the action as well, so I'd certainly chalk this up to being a quality contest.
Cedric Alexander def. Ariya Daivari, Tony Nese and Mustafa Ali in a "Second Chance" WWE Cruiserweight championship No. 1 Contender's Fatal 4-Way Qualifying Match
Rich Swann had his opportunity to face Drew Gulak for the No. 1 contendership "revoked" (a.k.a. he was arrested over the weekend), so this "Second Chance" Fatal 4-Way was held as a result. Similar to the past two Fatal 4-Ways we've seen on Raw lately featuring the Cruiserweights, it started out slow, but the second half was a ton of fun. Alexander was easily the standout star, but all four men had their time to shine. Alexander advancing makes more sense than Swann because Gulak stole a win from him last week, so they already have that bad blood from before.
Intercontinental Champion Roman Reigns def. Raw Tag Team Champion Cesaro
These two had a hell of a match two years ago on Raw and I've been anxiously anticipating a rematch ever since. Sure enough, they did not disappoint here in contesting an excellent matchup. Cesaro constantly goes all out and Reigns kept up with him quite well. You had to know Cesaro wasn't winning the title, but I still found himself buying into some of the close nearfalls. Everyone is aware Cesaro is amazing, but do they know just how amazing? The guy never ceases to deliver.
Raw's Women's Division Saved Asuka From Absolution
It was only a matter of time before Asuka and Absolution came to blows considering it's been teased for a few weeks now, but I appreciated that they kept their brawl brief. Asuka took the fight to Paige, Rose and Sonya Deville, and before they could retaliate, the rest of Raw's women's division made the save. I don't know how I feel about the babyfaces and heels coming together for the common cause of targeting Absolution, but I suppose it delays Asuka vs. Paige for a little while longer (it should be saved for WrestleMaina in my opinion).
Samoa Joe def. Dean Ambrose
I was glad this was advertised as a first time ever encounter. Joe vs. Ambrose will likely never headline a WrestleMania, but it's still a fairly notable match. It was a solid, hard-hitting affair where I thought Joe especially excelled. Jason Jordan being at ringside and costing Ambrose the victory was interesting, as it plays into what has been looking like a heel turn for Jordan for some time now. It's been so subtle yet exceptionally executed, because basically Jordan's gimmick is that everyone hates him.
Braun Strowman vs. KAne in a Universal Championship No. 1 Contender's Match Ended in a Double Count-out
I wasn't surprised that the bell rang so close to the conclusion of the show because I had read they had short matches at weekend house shows, and that was obviously for the best. What we were left with wasn't spectacular, anyway, and the crowd largely sat on their hands. Most people saw the non-finish coming, so that was pretty predictable. Will we be left with a Triple Threat for the Universal title at the Rumble? That sounds like it could be atrocious, to be honest. If nothing else, the audience did come alive for the post-match stuff, so the show didn't end on a sour note.
What I enjoyed most about last week's edition of Raw was how wrestling-heavy it was, so it was great they took that same approach with this week's show. The main event was as dull as expected, but everything else managed to hold my interest. The month of December is usually a dead period for WWE, but Raw hasn't been totally terrible in recent weeks, so this was a good episode by those standards. Oh, and "Woken" Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt stole the show yet again with their verbal exchange on the Titantron, so they remain my favorite part of the program at the moment.