05th Jan2019

WWE Raw – Dec 31st 2018: Results & Review

by Nathan Favel

2018-raw-logo

Welcome to this week’s Raw review, right here on Nerdly. I’m Nathan Favel and we have another chance for Raw to be good, so let’s see if Raw remains good now that I’m back to review it.

Match #1: Drew McIntyre def. Dolph Ziggler (Steel Cage Match)

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

Dolph Ziggler’s decision to bring Drew McIntyre back to WWE brought him two championships, a revitalized sense of purpose and one of the most successful years of his career. But that friendship fell out, and on New Year’s Eve, The Showoff reaped what he sowed, as the man Ziggler took with him to Raw in the Superstar Shake-up snuffed out The Showoff’s best efforts and left him laying in more ways than one at the end of Steel Cage Match. Ziggler looked excellent in defeat, leading to a far more dignified New Year’s Eve than his infamously messy 2012 finale, but that’s cold comfort for a Superstar who went into the match with a solid, impressively executed game plan that even came with a crucial contingency: After attempting to out-brawl The Scottish Psychopath in grueling and unsuccessful fashion, Ziggler switched tactics and went for the escape. But that landed him a superplex off the cage, and despite Ziggler executing a quick-strike Zig Zag that served as a last best shot, McIntyre dropped his former partner with a lights-out Claymore that bulldozed The Showoff clean off his feet.

The Scottish Psychopath refused to cover his opponent for three until after he’d administered a second Claymore more or less for fun, but he saved the true demonstration for after the match when Ziggler goaded his former partner into a heinous post-match assault that ended in a chair-assisted kick to The Showoff’s head. (Ziggler later made it back to his feet one more time and received a third Claymore for his efforts). The story of Drew McIntyre in 2018 was one of reintroduction to an audience and a locker room who forgot who he is or perhaps never had the chance to learn in the first place. He even reminded the audience on the mic for good measure after the match. But with a Men’s Royal Rumble berth secured and a potential Universal Title Match on his mind, 2019 is looking to be a very different story: Everyone knows who he is now. The question at this point is if anyone can stop him.

My Take: 3.5 out of 5 – This was an excellent match that did what it needed to do to protect the stipulation itself while bringing feud to a satisfying end (unless it isn’t over). Drew looked good here and Dolph got the short end of the stick, as usual. This was a bit more methodical than some other Steel Cage matches Vince has booked and that works just fine for me. Over-all, this was a lot of fun.

Match #2: Apollo Crews won a Fresh Start Battle Royal to earn an Intercontinental Championship Match against Dean Ambrose

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

Few Superstars could benefit from a fresh start better than Apollo Crews, who has made a double-edged name for himself as a Superstar with limitless potential and limited accolades to show for it. Fittingly enough, Crews earned the chance for just such a reset by winning the appropriately-named “Fresh Start Battle Royal” to earn an Intercontinental Title Match against Dean Ambrose. He didn’t exactly run through a field of also-rans to do it, either: Finn Bálor and Baron Corbin were the big-name contestants in the melee, but all of Crews’ opponents had displayed flashes of brilliance throughout 2018, from championship reigns (The B-Team) to viral sensations (Titus O’Neil) to impressive Open Challenge appearances (Tyler Breeze and Mojo Rawley). Even the still-winless Curt Hawkins had a claim to fame, and to a man, they were all hungry to reach the next level.

And almost to a man, they were eliminated by Crews. Apollo notched eight tosses in the bout before Corbin took over and thinned the field by tossing Bálor, Zack Ryder (fighting hard in what was, remarkably, his first Raw match of the year) and, finally, Hawkins. Crews picked up right where he left off, though, earning the victory by catching the surging Corbin with two step-up enziguiris to notch his final elimination. The Intercontinental Title has long been considered the championship of the workhorses or the proverbial next-guy-up. Apollo Crews has been both of those for a while; perhaps this is the night his number finally gets called.

My Take: 2.5 out of 5 – Apollo won a match, so that’s worth watching by itself. It’s a shame that Finn is getting shafted to push some-one else, but there were a lot of talented wrestlers who got jack-$#!@ here. The action was fine, but it was the result that made this match a fun time.

Match #3: Sasha Banks, Bayley & Ember Moon def. The Riott Squad

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

With the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships on the horizon, the various Superstars of the Team Red Women’s division are looking to get ahead of the competition. And, for all the ups and downs of their 2018, The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection are still the team to beat: The duo teamed with Ember Moon to earn their second consecutive Six-Woman Tag Team victory, this time against the close-knit trio of The Riott Squad (who are planning to Freebird any potential Women’s Tag Titles they might win, according to Renee Young on commentary).

The Squad, as always, gave as good as they got, inching toward victory off the back of some impressive tandem maneuvers and an MVP performance from Sarah Logan, who was such a one-woman wrecking crew that Ember Moon had to take out both Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan at ringside to create a numbers advantage. The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection made short work of the outnumbered Logan, dropping her with the one-two of a Backstabber and top-rope elbow drop. It was a big win, with one interesting wrinkle: All six Superstars are scheduled to compete in the Women’s Royal Rumble Match. In other words, they might be partners down the stretch. But before then, it’ll be every woman for herself.

My Take: 3 out of 5 – This was a good match that bodes well for the Women’s Tag Team Titles that are on the way. Every-body had good chemistry together and I’d say this will be the first match that carries those titles to prominence when they arrive.

Match #4: Bobby Lashley def. Seth Rollins

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

Give Seth Rollins credit for knowing his audience of one: He didn’t win the match Triple H gave him against Bobby Lashley, but The Kingslayer went for the next best thing and beat The All Mighty all across the Detroit city limits in a display that could only be called ruthless if one was going for understatements.

That Lashley technically got the win via disqualification will likely be little comfort to him since he came off as a Superstar who clearly messed with the wrong guy at the wrong time. Lio Rush got involved twice in the middle of the match — he and Lashley were all business and taking no chances; The All Mighty didn’t even pose — and when Rush attempted to interfere a third time, Rollins chased him down only to be blindsided by the former ECW Champion. And then, Rollins, rather than win the match, opted to give Triple H the ruthlessness he demanded, whaling on Lashley and Rush with a steel chair — cue the disqualification — before flattening The Man of the Hour with a Stomp. It wasn’t a display befitting the marathon man of 2018, but it was very similar to the heartless marauder of years past. And if the Raw Superstars thought workhorse Seth Rollins was a handful, just wait till they have to deal with the other guy all over again.

My Take: 3 out of 5 – This was getting some-where before the $#!@ finish. This made Lashley look like a loser when he needed to look tough the most. The wrestling was good while it lasted, but this match got its brains blown out before it could protect the head from an attack.

Match #5: Jinder Mahal & The Singh Brothers def. Heath Slater & Rhyno (3-on-2 Handicap Match)

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

Rhyno’s back, but the honeymoon for him and Heath Slater was short lived. Jinder Mahal and The Singh Brothers — the same trio that Rhyno humiliated during his Yuletide return last week — got their payback against Beauty and The Man Beast in a 3-on-2 Handicap Match, despite an all-world effort from the hometown hero. Rhyno pretty much singlehandedly dismantled the trio, but the numbers game proved too much to overcome. A misdirection here, an interference there, and Rhyno found himself caught in the Khallas when The One-Man Band leapt off the apron to dispel a meddling Singh. It’s good to have Rhyno back in the fold for several reasons, though clearly his tag team’s fresh start won’t come quite so easily as replenishing their ranks.

My Take: 2 out of 5 – This wasn’t much to look at, but at least every-body got on camera.

Match #6: Dean Ambrose def. Apollo Crews – Intercontinental Championship Match

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

Dean Ambrose is still the Intercontinental Champion, but just barely. Faced with a house-on-fire effort from Apollo Crews, The Lunatic Fringe did not so much win as survive against a Superstar who seemed hellbent on smashing through the glass ceiling at any cost. Crews came out swinging — or rather kicking, blasting Dean with the double boots straight out of the bell and forcing the champion to go slightly dirty by throwing his foe into the steel steps. With Crews still smarting from the effects of the Battle Royal earlier in the night, that was enough to slow his momentum, but Ambrose couldn’t close, and the challenger slowly but surely crawled back to the advantage.

Now closing in on the title, Crews emptied his arsenal in lightning-quick fashion, from superkicks to suplexes to an astounding standing shooting star press. Ambrose narrowly escaped defeat by reaching the ropes following a standing sit-out powerbomb, but Crews continued to press until he made his only mistake of the match, whiffing on a frog splash when Ambrose rolled out of the way. The champion quickly pounced with Dirty Deeds to retain his title, and while this likely wasn’t the fresh start Apollo Crews wanted, he may well look back on this night as something just as valuable: a first step.

My Take: 3.5 out of 5 – This was an excellent match that gave Apollo the match he deserved a long time ago. Dean worked hard to put over Apollo and was able to accomplish that mission in grand fashion. This was a good one and it ought to set the tone for 2019, especially now that All Elite Wrestling is waiting for Vince to slip up and piss away some great athletes.

Match #7: Ronda Rousey & Natalya def. Nia Jax & Tamina

The following is courtesy of WWE.com:

Next week, Ronda Rousey will be part of a historic event when she’s the inaugural guest on the first-ever talk show hosted by a female Superstar, Alexa Bliss’ “A Moment of Bliss.” But that’s business for 2019. And Rousey’s final WWE appearance of 2018 was, much like the entire year that preceded it, a rousing success. It was also a continuation of the recent hot streak by Natalya, who challenged Rousey for the title last week and teamed with her this week against Nia Jax & Tamina — the same duo that ambushed The Queen of Harts earlier in the night after she had declared for the Women’s Royal Rumble Match. Rousey came into the match determined to make them pay, blistering both her opponents so thoroughly that the match was looking like a one-woman rout.

Nia & Tamina had much better luck with Natalya, isolating her from The Baddest Woman on the Planet and even maintaining control when Rousey tagged in, thanks to a timely leg drop by Jax. Tamina made a move to close, ascending the top rope for a splash attempt. But Rousey got her feet up to block the maneuver and quickly locked in the Armbar to submit The Sultress of Savagery, capping 2018 with a notch in her win column. It’s anyone’s guess where Rousey goes in 2019, but given the trend of the past 365 days, it’s safe to assume the upward trajectory won’t be leveling off anytime soon.

My Take: 2.5 out of 5 – This was a dull match that Ronda and Natalya saved with their wrestling skills. Nia is still too clumsy right now to be of real use, but that could all change if, as Tye Dillinger put it, actually practiced her wrestling moves so they were safe and looked good. Over-all, this worked because Ronda is a big star and because Natalya is so talented.

News Of The Night:

  1. Automatic rematch clauses are not allowed in the WWE, for right now at least.
  2. Triple H wants Seth Rollins to be ruthless again.
  3. Triple H is being pushed as the guy that might ruin the whole McMahon family unity angle.
  4. An Elias/Baron Corbin feud is being teased.
  5. Rhyno got his job back.

Final Verdict: 3/5

There were some good matches and Apollo got his chance to succeed, if only for this week.

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