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The Smark Henry RAW Review (12/31/18): The Final Monday Night Rollins



The final RAW of 2018 saw the supposed conclusion of the Dolph Ziggler versus Drew McIntyre feud via a steel cage match, a battle royal to crown a new Intercontinental Championship contender, and a main event that pitted best friends in RAW Women's Champion "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey and Natalya against cousins in Nia Jax and Tamina. If the interaction between Triple H and Seth Rollins was some sort of sneak preview, then this may also be the final Monday Night Rollins for a long time. Get it? Because he's going back to his roots, hopefully with that streak of blonde hair that set him apart from the rest of the roster. Blond it down, am I right?


That interaction between NXT daddy Triple H and the first ever NXT Champion Seth Rollins was brilliant. Rollins has a great case about carrying RAW on his shoulders for the past few months, and although I'd rather have him face Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship for the last time here, Triple H had other plans. 

The Game trying to ignite the (hell)fire in Seth was a bit confusing for me. Is he trying to turn him heel again or what? Rollins might be RAW's biggest babyface at the moment, so that would be interesting albeit concerning if he makes the switch. To me, this just screamed like a teaser or a preview of what could be if these two ended up facing each other at WrestleMania again. Shane McMahon interrupting them to announce the Intercontinental Championship No. 1 Contender's Battle Royal—not to mention make sure these two don't just come to blows right then and there—was a smart touch. 

With Rollins' rematch clause out of the equation, Triple H booked him against "The Almighty" Bobby Lashley with Lio Rush at ringside. Rush has great potential on the mic as Lashley's hype man. The only thing standing in his way is his dumb script. Lashley is a fighter? He's an actual MMA fighter, fam. That "dominate" chant goes well with a man of Lashley's physique, sure, but that favorite pose schtick? Man, which nine-year-old kid thought that up? Nicholas? 

This was a little bit frustrating, even though everyone played their parts well. Rush being hard to catch was great. Rollins going hardcore was not bad. Lashley getting dominated instead of dominating? Man, I was not a fan of that. Might as well turn Lashley and Rush into a tag team if you're just going to waste Lashley's potential as a singles star here. What a shame.


I honestly can't remember the last time RAW opened with a match, and a steel cage match at that. Part of me wanted this Dolph Ziggler versus Drew McIntyre feud to go on longer, especially considering the amount of talent these two guys have, but I suppose that this wasn't a bad way to end said feud. This will hopefully propel McIntyre to bigger and better things that someone of his built and presence and talent deserves, but where exactly does this leave Ziggler? 

The match itself was brutal and I loved it. From the sounds of things, I wasn't the only one who felt that way. Finn Bálor appearing backstage makes me feel, however, that McIntyre might need to beat him up first before he can challenge for the Universal title. After all, Finn still has that win over him and that can't feel good for the Scottish Psychopath. 


Speaking of not feeling good, Apollo Crews survived the likes of Finn Bálor and, well, some of the rarely seen members of the RAW roster to become the Intercontinental Championship's new number one contender, only to lose his title match opportunity on the very same night he won it. That was a pretty disappointing result, but then again, Dean Ambrose is still on a roll as a Batman villain, so I guess I shouldn't have expected a happy ending for the talented Crews. They did book him impressively, however, for the very first time, having him eliminate most of the competitors here. 

It was great seeing Zack Ryder, Curt Hawkins, No Way Jose, and Mojo Rawley competing in a RAW ring again, and at one point, I even popped at Hawkins almost winning the entire thing. Yes, him breaking his losing streak to get that title shot and actually winning the title would've been a great way to end his losing streak, but I guess Dean and Seth still have to do another dance around the title. I also popped at that "too sweet" between Finn Bálor and Triple H, which was even made more special when Shane opted for a fist bump instead of a "too sweet." Props for respecting the "too sweet," Shane. Mad props.


Prior to the women's tag match, we had a pretty nice backstage segment with Natalya recapping her year and announcing her entry into the women's Royal Rumble match before Nia Jax showed up and double teamed her with Tamina. I like Natalya, I really do, and I thought last week's match between her and RAW Women's Champion "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey was pretty good, but I honestly think she needs to undergo some major character development before being placed in that spot ever again. A great technical wrestler, Natalya deserves more than being portrayed as a cat lady, a farting cat lady, or the champ's best friend and training partner. Maybe turn her heel? Are you reading this, Vince? Turn her heel.

There's an argument to be made for Rousey and Natalya competing for the women's tag titles but the same can be said for Nia Jax and Tamina. Honestly, though, Tamina still needs a lot of work. She's not that charismatic of a presence, so she tends to work better as the muscle or the heavy of a smaller partner. Because Jax is somewhat bigger than her, Tamina is getting exposed as a complete non-player here, probably just in this to get pinned. It's a shame because Jax and Tamina have the cousins thing going for them, their Samoan heritage, as well as their height and imposing physiques. These are two large, scary women compared to the rest of the women's division, and they should be able to dominate every other team that they face in that ring. Alas, they had to face Rousey on this night.

RAW REVIEW: It's weird calling this the final RAW of 2018 while watching it on the first day of 2019, but time zones, am I right? There was a bit of a promise here regarding the whole "fresh start" idea with the battle royal but having Apollo Crews lose his opportunity on the same night he won it just feels like a quick detour for a familiar path. It's just going to be Seth and Dean again at the Royal Rumble, isn't it? It was great seeing old faces again, though, and it was refreshing to start RAW with a feud-ending steel cage match. I'm giving this week's RAW a C for "Can't cage the Claymore." 

Quick Hitters:
  • Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Ember Moon won their second consecutive six-woman tag team match this week, beating an actual three-person team in The Riott Squad. Last week, it was sort of okay that these former NXT Women's Champions WWE doesn't really know what to do with won against another made-up team in Mickie James, Alicia Fox, and Dana Brooke. That match, while sloppy, was less of a foregone conclusion, with all six women having the potential to eke out a win from out of nowhere. This week, though, The Riott Squad should've won. I mean, I get that Bayley, Banks, and Moon are all former NXT Women's Champions but The Riott Squad are an actual three-woman team. Does WWE just hate The Riott Squad? They just keep losing momentum even if they have the numbers advantage. I'm not sure what the heck's going on here. I mean, are they going to allow the upcoming women's tag team titles to be defended in six-women tag matches? Everything about this is terrible, except maybe the in-ring action, but that was kind of expected.
  • Okay, first of all, Rhyno was supposed to be fired, right? Or was he supposed to retire? Now he's back and teaming with Heath Slater again, which I love, but at the same time, I just feel like this was a bit rushed, just like the end of that Heath Slater referee gimmick. That felt like a cheap one-and-done tool to get no one over, rather to simply bury Baron Corbin's Acting RAW GM-elect storyline. Jinder Mahal and The Singh Brothers going over was the best move here. I was a bit worried they were going to have Rhyno and Slater win for a cheap pop, ruining the logic of them facing three formidable opponents. The Singh Brothers are an actual tag team and Jinder was the WWE Champion for a while, so, yeah, formidable opponents.
  • Baron Corbin and Elias brawled after Corbin took the mic and whined about losing the Intercontinental Championship No. 1 Contender's Battle Royal. Elias' schtick was okay but this feud doesn't interest me at all. We've seen these two collide for what feels like an eternity now, so unless one of them goes over the other for the final time next week, then this is ultimately a lost cause and a waste of our time. We were promised fresh match-ups, after all.
  • Braun Strowman is facing Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble. Okay. I've seen Strowman versus Lesnar before and it wasn't that good. Fingers crossed this sequel will be much better. Maybe it'll be more physical and brutal? One can only hope. Two big men with real beef colliding in that ring for the top prize? Lesnar shouldn't dominate Braun again. Please.
  • Alexa Bliss is going to interview RAW Women's Champion "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey next week in her own talk show called "A Moment of Bliss." As someone who loves talk shows in the vein of Christian's "The Peep Show," Edge's "Cutting Edge," and Chris Jericho's The Highlight Reel, I am so stoked for this. Bliss is a great promo, and given the right push, this could be a pretty wonderful way to use her skills. That line about Ronda dressing appropriately because she'll be in the presence of a goddess and not in some pit had me nodding in approval. Can Bliss still take bumps, though? Hmm. 
  • The only good thing I got from those New Year's Resolutions was RAW Tag Team Champions Bobby Roode and Chad Gable facing The Revival again next week. I've got my fingers crossed The Revival takes the titles from Roode and Gable. I'm not a huge fan of Gable getting his own Bobby Roode robe when he has a pretty great gimmick already. He's an American Alpha, a prolific amateur wrestler who competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics. I feel like it's disrespectful for both guys to share the Glorious gimmick with the robes and stuff when they're so much better being distinct individuals. A friend of mine suggested letting them keep their respective individual gimmicks and just calling them American Glory. Yes, Roode is Canadian, but Canada is still in North America. 
  • Oh, and John Cena returns next week. Yay.
Images from WWE


*****

Jofer Serapio (@ShawarmaJoereviews WWE RAW & NXT UK for Smark Henry. He has been an avid professional wrestling fan since grade school. These reviews are as close to professional wrestling as he can get. He believes Lashley deserves better.

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