Having heaped a surprising amount of praise on WWE SmackDown a few days ago, I was cautiously optimistic about this week’s episode of Monday Night RAW.
Could the company pull off a miracle and have two shows within the space of three days that were worth watching? Or would they revert to type and fill the screen with so much Vince McMahon Bull-Honky that my television would melt through the amount of man sweat it was being forced to swallow?
There’s only one way to find out, so let’s lace up our boots and head to the ring.
United States Championship Ladder Match: Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade
After the opening segment had set up a tag team title match between Buddy Murphy and Seth Rollins vs. The Viking Raiders for later in the evening, it was time for the opening bout.
The one thing that has impressed me most about WWE programing over the recent weeks is that the curtain-raisers for both of the big shows have been some of the best wrestling the company has had to offer for a long time. And this was no exception.
Rey Mysterio has said on more than one occasion that he doesn’t have many matches left in him and if he keeps putting on performances like this, his prediction might come true a lot faster than he anticipated.
This was a brutal affair with both Rey and Andrade putting themselves through the kind of punishment usually reserved for Japanese Death Matches and though that may seem like a slight exaggeration on my part, the human body isn’t designed to bounce off or through ladders in the way that both Mysterio and Andrade’s did.
There was an inevitability about the ending, with Zelina Vega getting involved to cost Rey the title, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that this was a hell of a battle and is my Fight of the Night.
Post-match would see a returning Humberto Carrillo save Rey from a Hammerlock DDT onto the exposed concrete floor, which has set up a title bout between himself and Andrade for this Sunday’s Royal Rumble, and though this seemingly means that the Rey and Andrade program has now run its course, don’t be surprised to see them go at it one more time before Mysterio hangs up his mask for good.
Winner And Still United States Champion: Andrade
Vince McMahon Bull-Honky Alert #1
What the hell was that?
Why did it exist?
Am I missing something?
I like Aleister Black. I liked him when he as in NXT and I was more than happy to see him get his shot in the big time and even though I think they’ve dropped the ball with his character since his debut, the damage isn’t so bad that it’s unrepairable.
But this, well, this kind of shit really doesn’t help his cause.
I get that they have to keep him strong but to put him in a match where his intro was longer than the actual action within the ring, that’s just pointless.
Maybe he’s going to win the Royal Rumble, so they figured that this was the best way to show fans what a total badass he is, but as he’s got about as much chance of that happening as I have of bumping into Jesus in my local kebab shop, then this served zero purpose.
Randy Orton vs. Drew McIntyre
Similar to the Mysterio/Andrade bout before it, this had the same sense of inevitability about the ending before it had even kicked off. There was no way, no way, that The OC wasn’t going to storm the ring at some point and lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened.
This is a shame, as until that point, both Orton and McIntyre had beaten each other from pillar to post.
Normally when you get two athletes the size of Randy and Drew you don’t really expect a great deal, but there was enough violence and hard-hitting chops on offer here to satisfy even the most ardent Indy fan.
In fact, McIntyre might rethink slapping The Viper with so much force the next time they meet as whenever he did, Randy paid him back in kind by dropping him onto barricades and nailing him with a second rope DDT.
The Scottish Psychopath hasn’t really had a fair crack of the whip since he returned to the company, at least in my opinion, but if he keeps putting in performances like this then it won’t be long before they strap a rocket to him as he’s quickly becoming a fan favorite, especially with his new move of Claymore Kicking any innocent bystander who “accidentally” gets in the way. As he did here to some poor crew member after Orton had moved at the last second.
The interference of The OC would cause a No Contest but The Viper would clear the ring with a steel chair before delivering a devastating RKO to the man he’d just rescued from a beat down.
Neither men are going to win the Royal Rumble but this has set up a program between the two that I really didn’t realize I wanted until the WWE gave it to me.
Becky Lynch vs. Kari Sane
I make no bones about the fact that I am a huge mark for Becky Lynch.
I think that The Man is one of the most important wrestlers in the industry today and I feel that the character shift from also-ran to the most dominant force in the women’s division has not only benefited her but women’s wrestling as a whole.
That said, the way she’s been handled over the past few months has not been great.
She’s hardly stepped between the ropes unless she’s been stuck in a tag-team match and it was starting to look like the WWE wasn’t really quite sure what to do with her after such an impressive year.
This struck me as weird as you’d never seen the likes of The Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin being kept on the bench during their time at the top, so for them to keep Lynch out of action seemed like a bad call.
Thankfully, we got the full Lass Kicker in action on this week’s RAW, and it was great to see her do what she does best.
Kari Sane was never winning this, that was as obvious as the nose on my face, and there was never going to be a chance that Asuka wasn’t going to get involved but the fact is that the two put on a decent bout that actually had a clean finish, with Becky tapping out Sane with the Dis-Arm-Her after she’d pimp slapped Asuka off the top turnbuckle.
Post-Match, Asuka would lay a beating on Lynch ahead of their Royal Rumble face-off but this only helped to set up what should be a hell of a grudge match between the two this coming Sunday.
Winner: Becky Lynch
RAW Tag Team Titles Match: Seth Rollins and Buddy Murphy vs. The Viking Raiders
I didn’t see this coming.
I should’ve, but I didn’t.
Just seven days after he helped Rollins and the AOP defeat Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe, and The Big Show, Buddy Murphy is now half of the WWE Tag Team Champions.
And you know what? I’m quite happy about this.
This was a very, very good match and if it hadn’t been for the Mysterio/Andrade one that had kicked off the show, it would’ve been my Fight of the Night.
The action was fast and fluid, which is all I really ask from my wrestling, and Seth Rollins proved that he’s willing to bump with the best of them, especially after he ran into Ivar off a hot tag and the Viking Raider turned him inside out.
Seriously, The Monday Night Messiah performed three full rotations before he hit the mat here and it looked as amazing as it did nasty.
I am surprised that the WWE took the titles off The Viking Raiders here, just because it was on an episode of RAW. If I’d had to guess I would’ve thought that this would’ve just led up to a confrontation between the two teams at the Royal Rumble.
There’s a strong case to be made that it went down the way it did to let people know that anything can happen on WWE programming, so don’t forget to tune in kids, but I think that the real reason was they knew how they were going to close out the show and wanted to offer this up as an apology for the horror’s yet to come.
Sadly for Rollins fans, it does mean that he isn’t going to win the Royal Rumble.
Both him and Murphy will be to busy defending their newly acquired titles all the way to Wrestlemania for him to pull double duty at The Show of Shows.
Winners And New RAW Tag-Team Champions: Buddy Murphy And Seth Rollins
Vince McMahon Bull-Honky Alert #2
And it was all going so swimmingly as well.
To close out the show with what followed the Tag-Team Championship bout was just a joke and took the shine off of what was shaping up to be the best episode of RAW that the WWE had put out in a long time.
First up was Erick Rowan vs. Matt Hardy and it appears that The Broken One is now nothing more than enhancement talent after Rowan squashed him.
Thank you for your service over the years Matthew, now get out there and stare at those lights, there’s a good boy.
This actually made me angry as there was no need for it, I can only guess that the budget didn’t spring for two Jobbers this week; hence why Matt was the one to get run over by Rowman and whatever he as in that cage.
I’ve figured that out, by the way, it’s a piece of human excrement.
Kind of like that whole segment.
As for the whole Lana, Liv, Bobby, and Rusev abomination that we have to suffer through, week in, week out, can somebody please, please, tell me what the pay-off is here?
Each time out, Lashley and Lana somehow manage to get the win, which means that both Rusev and Morgan both end up looking weak and unable to get the job done and that can’t be what they’re going for, can it?
I had such high hopes for Liv Morgan’s return but since they brought her back she’s been nothing but a patsy.
She hasn’t managed to get the better of Lana and, currently, looks as if she couldn’t get the better of a one-legged, blind, woman if she was thrown into a program with them.
Who does this benefit?
It certainly does no favors for anyone involved and unless they pull the plug on this as quickly as they can, every character here is going to walk away from it damaged goods that nobody is going to want to be involved with.
This was just awful.
The week’s RAW could’ve been an excellent show but the WWE just couldn’t help themselves and had to throw in some Vince McMahon Bull-Honky to close it out.
Those last two segments took a lot of steam out of the audience, as well as your friendly neighborhood wrestling writer, and there were even audible boos aimed at the ring.
It wasn’t X-Pac levels of heat but it was enough for me to notice.
Putting that aside, however, and this week’s show had a lot of quality wrestling on offer with the minimal amount of soap opera writing to get in its way.
It still amazes me that for so many years we’ve put up with the WWE refusing to put wrestling on their wrestling show, in favor of churning out garbage that wouldn’t be out of place on daytime TV.
Yet, thankfully, with the emergence of AEW, along with fans of the sport being wiser to the likes of NJPW, ROH, et al., it looks as if, finally, the company is going to bow to the tastes of its modern demographic.
This is a good thing as it’s starting to put out shows each week that are worthy of the time you’ll have to invest in it to keep up to date. As that currently stands at seven hours between three shows, not including PPV’s and specials they run on the WWE Network, it’s a big chunk out of anyone’s week to give over to a product that is inferior to it’s up and coming rivals.
It’s not perfect, yet, but it’s a vast improvement.
So with only one SmackDown to go until the Royal Rumble, I’d like to remind you that here at 25YL Wrestling, we’re going to be trying our hand at calling the winner of each match in our first ever Prediction Showdown. And if you think you know better than us, then feel free to let us know who you think will win each bout and the big one itself, either in the comments here or you can find me over on Twitter @TerrorCarnival.
This is your chance to show your stuff and if you win, you’ll get a shout out from me as well as bragging rights over everyone who’s knowledge of Pro-Wrestling pales in comparison to yours.
Think of the glory.
Think of the fame.
Think of being able to tell the wrestling staff of 25YL that they have no idea what they’re talking about and having the score to back it up.
So tell me, are you Tough Enough?