Raw General Manager Mick Foley Announced the Premiere of The Kevin Owens Show
It was about damn time Foley trimmed his hair and beard. I know it was his signature look, but he's had the appearance of a homeless man since returning to Raw over the summer, though I assume he wanted to wait until after the holidays since he does pose as Santa Claus during Christmas season. People may not still dig the new look, but it's an improvement. Unfortunately, Foley still flubbed his lines as always, and everyone else involved in the segment looked visibly annoyed by that. Other than that, this was a solid segment that set up a few matches and segments for the rest of the show.
Seth Rollins def. WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens by Disqualification (Loser Would Be Banned From Ringside During United States Championship Match; Non-title)
Rollins and Owens work well together and this was another good match from them, but they would benefit from being separated for a while. We've seen the same combination of matches involving Rollins, Owens, Roman Reigns and Chris Jericho for months that it isn't at all surprising no one cares anymore. This wasn't their greatest outing, but if nothing else, the added stipulation of the loser being banned from ringside during the U.S. title match was a decent touch. It's such a shame Owens hasn't come off as any more of a bigger deal now that he has the world title because he's been booked the same way he was from before he won it.
Karl Anderson def. Raw Tag Team Champion Cesaro
I might have been much more excited about this match when Anderson and Luke Gallows meant something months ago. Seriously, they have been damaged beyond belief, and I don't think they are legitimate threats to the titles despite their recent win over The Golden Truth. I thoroughly enjoyed this match, yet simultaneously, it's sad (I believe) this marked Anderson's first singles win since coming to WWE nine months ago. Reuniting them with AJ Styles on SmackDown Live might the only way they can be salvaged at this point.
Braun Strowman def. Sami Zayn in a Last Man Standing Match
Strowman has honestly become one of the only parts of Raw each week worth watching for me. He and Zayn have had a pleasant feud and this was a wise way to allow them to blow off their program for the time being. I don't think Strowman can be counted on to deliver even an average performance at this stage, so the Last Man Standing stipulation definitely worked to his strengths and made Zayn out to be the ultimate underdog that he is. Zayn actually benefited from being beaten in the fashion that he was, and I hope it leads to Zayn returning in the Royal Rumble match and eliminating Strowman.
Xavier Woods def. Titus O'Neil
I thought The New Day finally dropping the Raw Tag Team Championship last month would freshen up their act, but they're still stagnant to me. Most of their segments are very hit or miss, and the segment that preceded this match definitely fell under the latter category. I'm sorry, but O'Neil is just not good, especially as a heel, and is not remotely entertaining whatsoever. Woods was able to showcase some of his skills as a singles performer here, but that was about it. The bout was basically filler a.k.a. a waste of time.
Drew Gulak def. Cedric Alexander
I could have sworn we saw this exact same match a mere week or two ago on 205 Live, so this wasn't anything out of the ordinary. I don't mind the pairing of Alexander with Alicia Fox, but where is it going? Obviously, the story they're trying to tell is that Fox is serving as a distraction at ringisde for Alexander and costing him matches. But it doesn't look like she'll join Noam Dar because she's shown disdain toward him as of late, too.
United States Champion Roman Reigns def. Chris Jericho (If Reigns Was Counted Out or Disqualified, He Would Have Lost the Title)
Maybe I'm wrong on this, but isn't this the second or third time Reigns and Jericho have clashed over the U.S. title in the last month? Don't get me wrong, this was the Match of the Night and they have excellent chemistry together, but I'm getting so sick of seeing the same thing every week with these guys. WWE has to have a long-term plan with Reigns as U.S. Champion, right? Otherwise, it makes little sense for them to keep the belt on him. The added stipulations kept the match interesting, but I was shocked Rollins was nowhere to be seen here or for the rest of the night.
TJ Perkins def. The Brian Kendrick
Perkins and Kendrick had their fair share of matches over the fall and each of their encounters was well-wrestled, but without much of a backstory, it's difficult to blame the live crowd for barely reacting to the match. Perkins was already announced as Neville's opponent for 205 Live, which is the real marquee match right now for the Cruiserweights. Yes, they just did it last week on Raw, but they should be given more time on 205 Live and shouldn't be relegated to a short match.
Rusev and Jinder Mahal def. Big Cass in a 2-on-1 Handicap Match
Please, put this program out of its misery! I didn't think it could get any worse than League of Nations, but the alliance of Rusev and Mahal might just do the trick. The only positive thing I can say about these segments and matches is that they're relatively brief. The heels needed the victory, but I have my fingers crossed they cut to the chase sooner rather than later. Enzo Amore and Cass had the potential to really make a difference on Raw's tag team scene, but they have cooled off considerably thanks to this terrible feud.
Bayley def. Nia Jax in a Raw Women's Championship No. 1 Contender's Match
Three minutes long? Are you joking?! Look, I wasn't a huge fan of their match at NXT TakeOver: London over a year ago, but their two TV matches on NXT last year were quite good. This was far from what it could have been. Bayley handing Jax her first singles loss should have been a bigger deal, and although the crowd popped for Bayley's win, it could have been booked better. So, why should I care when Sasha Banks inevitably beats Jax? Bayley's chase for the championship should feel more organic as well.
Goldberg Appeared on The Kevin Owens Show
I said two months ago when Goldberg beat Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series (a creative decision I still don't agree with by the way) that Goldberg came across as Raw's only true star with any sense of specialness about him, with the exception of Lesnar. I was proven right in this segment when Goldberg emerged and overshadowed everyone else. The build to the Royal Rumble match was well done, and I actually loved his face-off with Reigns because that could be an intriguing match down the line, but I can't muster up any excitement for Reigns vs. Owens at the Rumble.
More often than not, the first Raw of the year is hot and successfully sets the tone for the rest of the year, but that was definitely not the case with this show. The Last Man Standing match, the U.S. title match and parts of the main event segment were passable, but everything else on this episode bored me to tears. And that's coming from someone who watched it in half the time via DVR. The "flagship show" is suffering miserably at the moment, and saying "hey, it's WrestleMania season!" is not the answer to their woes. They need to put forth actual effort into their storylines and not coast until 'Mania because nothing will change, trust me. In so many words, this was not the greatest start to 2017 for Raw.