WWE Champion Brock Lesnar Announced His Entry in the Men's Royal Rumble Match as No. 1
Well, this was certainly an interesting development. I was wondering who Lesnar would be facing at the Royal Rumble, and we found out here that it will be everyone else in the Rumble match itself. For those wondering, no, the WWE Championship will not be on the line. I don't think he'll win, but I assume whoever eliminates him will end up being his WrestleMania opponent. Matt Riddle would be an exciting option, but there's a very good chance it will be Cain Velasquez. Either way, I'm intrigued.
United States Champion Andrade def. Rey Mysterio
Mysterio and Andrade never cease to work well together and this was another entertaining outing from them. It wasn't as their strongest showing due to a handful of botches (including an awkward finish), but I enjoyed it on the whole. Considering Andrade ripped off Mysterio's mask afterward and Mysterio got it back from him backstage later in the night, it's safe to say their feud is far from over. The Mask vs. Hair matchup (which was rumored for WrestleMania last year) would be the perfect way to blow off their rivalry.
Raw Tag Team Champions The Viking Raiders def. The O.C. and The Street Profits in a Triple Threat Tag Team Match
These are Raw's top tag teams and I'm not surprised in the slightest that they delivered a terrific Triple Threat. It was all action from bell to bell and they kept the pace consistent throughout. I figured Viking Raiders would win, but they did a nice job of suspending the audience's disbelief and making them think Street Profits and The O.C. had a chance of taking the title.s. I'd like to see Viking Raiders hold onto the gold until WrestleMania where they can defend against AOP.
Raw Women's Champion Becky Lynch Attacked Asuka
I absolutely loved that recaps were shown of Asuka beating Lynch at last year's Royal Rumble pay-per-view, on Raw two months ago, and at December's TLC event. WWE tends to ignore its own history more often than not, but their past matches are crucial to the story they're telling, so I'm happy they did it here. Lynch's promo was solid and I liked that this segment was kept short and sweet. Their rematch at the Rumble should be straight fire (pun intended).
Erick Rowan def. KJ Orso
We've been seeing the same crap from Rowan for almost two months, and as I've said several times, it's high time we moved on to the next chapter of this story. I don't care any more about Rowan now than I did before this angle started, but if nothing else, at least they're showing signs of moving forward with this thing. Mojo Rawley was scared out of his mind when he peaked into the cage, and then whatever's in it spit blood into Orso's face. I'm still not convinced WWE knows what the endgame is here, but time will tell.
AJ Styles def. Akira Tozawa
I was psyched when I saw that these two would be going one-on-one. That said, you can only imagine how disappointed I was when their match lasted all of a minute or two. Instead of pinning Tozawa after the Phenomenal Forearm, Styles took his time by mocking Randy Orton and hitting Tozawa with all of Orton's signature moves, including the RKO. They'll collide in a rematch next week on Raw.
Rusev Interrupted Bobby Lashley and Lana
The worst storyline in all of WWE continues. Ugh. What I don't understand about this whole thing is that Rusev claims to be over Lana, yet he's adamant about ruining her life with Lashley. This was yet another terrible segment, but at least they hyped Rusev vs. Lashley one week out. The highlight was the priest from last week getting tackled by security as he rolled into the ring before the commercial break because they thought he was a fan. That was unintentionally hilarious.
Charlotte Flair vs. Sarah Logan Went to a No Contest
I don't know who the less interesting opponent is for Flair between Natalya and Logan. We haven't seen Flair vs. Logan nearly as many times as we have Flair vs. Logan, but then again, Logan hasn't been involved in anything remotely above average since she broke off on her own last year. Thankfully, we were spared of the match and got a brawl between them instead with Flair standing tall in the end. This will probably lead to them having a formal matchup next week. Start taking your bets now, folks!
Drew McIntyre def. No Way Jose
McIntyre is in a bizarre position at the moment. He's been beating nobodies for weeks, and while I'm happy he's racking up victories, none of them have been against notable names. On the flip side, it seems like he's slowly turning babyface. He's doing heelish things by attacking fan favorites but isn't doing anything to combat the cheers he's getting. In fact, he's encouraging it by leading the audience in a countdown before hitting his finisher on his opponents. If a babyface turn is the endgame here, I'm all for it. He has serious potential to be a breakout babyface if handled the right way and the Rumble is as perfect of a time as any for him to turn. He probably won't win it, but hey, a guy can dream.
Aleister Black def. Shelton Benjamin
These two originally faced off on SmackDown back in September. I'm sure they have a great match in them, but this was all about establishing Black as dominant and keeping him undefeated, so I understood why it was kept brief with Black winning decisively. Buddy Murphy ambushing Benjamin afterward caught me by surprise since I figured their feud was over after Black defeated him in back-to-back matches. Will Murphy be the first one to hand Black his first loss on the main roster?
Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe and Big Show def. Seth Rollins and AOP by Disqualification
Even more shocking that Big Show returning is how he didn't turn on his partners. In all seriousness, it's good to see him back, as he's been gone for well over a year and hasn't wrestled on Raw since September 2017. As long as he isn't a regular on WWE TV beyond WrestleMania season, I'm content. As a match, this was solid and served to set up next week's "Fist Fight" between the two trios. Although I think Mysterio would be a better fit for the spot Show has because of his history with Rollins and AOP from late last year, I don't mind it much. They're clearly killing time ahead of the Royal Rumble, which I'm sure all of these guys will be a part of.
For the first edition of Raw of the year, I thought WWE produced a quality show on the whole. I was worried when they burned through everything they advertised in advance in the first hour, but they did a nice job of building suspense going into the main event with Owens and Joe's mystery partner. Feuds were furthered, the Royal Rumble was hyped, matches delivered, and more matches were announced for next week. WWE still has an issue with pacing, as I don't think they should have been so many throwaway matchups in the third hour, but at least nothing felt like a waste of time (except for the stuff with Lana, Lashley and Rusev, which is by far the worst thing going right now). Raw is finding more and more ways of maintaining viewers' attention each week and focusing on a variety of Superstars, so hopefully they can keep it up in the new year.