2016 was something of a mixed bag for the WWE. It saw the stars of some Superstars rise as others agonizingly crashed into the earth. It saw the return of the WWE brand extension, as well as a new collection of Championships. With the brand split bringing new opportunities, 2017’s where we’ll hopefully start to see those stars shine brightly. Can WWE Raw’s first outing in the new year breath new life into a show that’s struggled to hold its momentum?
- Mick Foley opened the show but was quickly interrupted by Owens and Jericho.
- Stephanie McMahon joined the group and did her thing – running through Mick, Owens and Jericho while setting up Seth vs. Owens for the first match. Just in case you didn’t realize who was in charge.
- The New Day came out to announce their New Year Resolutions, only to be interrupted by Titus O’Neil.
- Stephanie turned full on heel against Bayley, telling her she didn’t want Bayley on Raw and that she’s not a fan. Stephanie then made a match between Nia Jax and Bayley for the number one contendership.
- Enzo came out in an electric scooter for Big Cass’s match against Rusev/Jinder.
- Goldberg and Owens squared off in the ring in the main event, with Paul Heyman returning to hype Lesnar’s appearance in the Royal Rumble.
Seth Rollins def. Kevin Owens (via DQ)
Anderson def. Cesaro
Strowman def. Zayn (Last Man Standing Match)
Woods def. O’Neil
Alexander def. Gulak
Reigns def. Jericho (United States Championship)
Perkins def. Kendrick
Rusev & Jinder Mahal def. Big Cass
Bayley def. Nia Jax (No. 1 Contender)
Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins
We open 2017 with one of the feuds that dragged out across the latter half of 2016. Match was passable, nowhere near as good as their showings after Summerslam though. The DQ finish was weak but expected, and with Owens down to present his own talk show at the end of Raw – it makes sense they’d find a way to limit his appearances.
Cesaro vs. Anderson
Sheamus sat up on commentary throughout while Gallows hung around ringside. What was nice here was how competent Gallows/Anderson appeared – they made good use of the heel tactics in their arsenal to overcome Cesaro as a unit. Some really sweet spots, including an impressive neckbreaker from the top rope, bagged Anderson the victory. Who knows, maybe 2017 will be their year.
Strowman vs. Sami Zayn (Last Man Standing)
Another great match with Zayn getting a strong amount of offense in. The story here was Zayn using everything he could to try and level the playing field, even briefly heading backstage to achieve this. It didn’t work and after some crazy Zayn spots, the big man crushed our favorite red-head. Strowman looks insanely strong right now, but I really hope this is it for Zayn and Braun. The two need new challenges.
Xavier Woods vs. Titus O’Neil
A nothing match that crushed all hope 2017 would see O’Neil heading back up the WWE ladder. Woods fought back against some early momentum and managed to overcome Titus. The live audience didn’t care and you’ll struggle too. Early contender for most pointless match of the year.
Cedric Alexander vs. Drew Gulak
Live audience couldn’t have cared any less about this match if it had been fought in jelly. Alicia Foxx was around to help influence proceedings (Costing Gulak the match) but really this was just filler and did nothing to help either guy become notable to the WWE audience.
Jericho vs. Roman Reigns (United States Championship)
Another fine match from these two, but another example of Monday Night Raw struggling to find new ideas from worn out ideas. This match was too close to the one the two have had several times already throughout 2016 – meaning the audience had little to worry about when Reigns was in danger of losing. Even Jericho invoking Eddie Guerrero’s infamous “cheaters” spot with the US Title belt couldn’t save him from the Reigns momentum. A solid if unspectacular match.
Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins
Spotting a pattern on this Monday Night Raw? All of these matches feel like re-heats of previous outings, something this match only added too. Nothing spectacular, with Perkins getting the victory. They even kept Neville backstage during it all, which is frankly just silly.
Rusev & Jinder Mahal vs. Big Cass
Continuation of the Enzo/Rusev feud – this time with Big Cass facing off against the odd couple of Mahal and Rusev. It was an odd match, with Mahal using Enzo’s electric chair as a means of distracting Cass.
Bayley vs. Nia Jax
Arguably better than most of their (admittedly poor) NXT matches, this was a match that sadly felt rushed against the specter of bigger things happening. The match didn’t last nearly long enough for my liking, and the inevitable appearance of Sasha was too heavily foreshadowed thanks to the generous video packages before the show. Bayley winning makes sense, but is the time right for her?
There was a lot of matches to work through here, yet most of them were hugely unmemorable. The problem is that a lot of the matches in this event felt like filler – with very little to really excite outside of the main-event scene. This shows with the likes of New Day; who seem to be stuck in wheel-spin mode while WWE tries to repair the damage done by their overly long Championship run.
Perhaps my biggest annoyance right now is Stephanie McMahon – who I feel is straddling the heel/face line too hard. She berates Owens at the opening of the show but torments Bayley openly. It’s an awkwardly jarring split that the show doesn’t address – and I’m keenly hoping they move her on sooner rather than later.
But overall I had fun with Raw. The third hour sagged around the edges but there was enough new things happening to keep things moving. Let’s hope the end of the show segment with Goldberg and Reigns leads somewhere….