Now the festivities are over the build to the Royal Rumble PPV begins in earnest. The preview for tonight’s RAW is packed. We can expect to see Matt Hardy in action, Roman Reigns finding out who’s next to challenge him for the Intercontinental Championship, and Enzo Amore defending the Cruiserweight Championship against Cedric Alexander. Alexa Bliss will react to her loss against Asuka, there will be more from Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman, and Kane, Finn Balor will reveal if his alliance with Gallows and Anderson was more than a one-off, and The Miz is due back.

I’m Amanda, and I’m here to guide you through the highs, and lows, of RAW.

The Opening Segment

The show opened with a recap of Roman Reigns versus Samoa Joe from last week before Reigns meandered to the ring. He talked about silencing Joe when the time came to put up or shut up and said he defeated him because he was fighting for Dean Ambrose. If you mess with one member of the Shield, you mess with all.

Jason Jordan came out because apparently, RAW can’t open a show without him. He told Reigns that his match against Joe gave him goosebumps, because he felt like he was part of something meaningful for the first time. Jordan appears to think he’s part of the Shield now, and he’s started speaking on Rollins behalf as well. Reigns looked almost as awkward as everyone else felt.

Obviously, Rollins couldn’t let that stand. Out he came to tell Jordan that he still has a lot to learn, he was stepping on Roman’s moment. Jordan insisted it was everyone’s moment, and on it went. Desperate try-hard is such a grating character for Jordan, it’s genuinely hard to watch. He called them the most dominant three-man group in WWE, even while Reigns and Rollins were trying to explain he wasn’t actually part of anything. He’s not a replacement for Ambrose, he’s just some guy Rollins won a title with.

Finn Balor showed up next, with Gallows and Anderson. They gave a little history lesson for those who haven’t yet got the message that they have a past together. According to Balor, 2018 is the year of Balor Club.

Jason Jordan said he was happy to be part of the Champions Club, while Reigns and Rollins cringed next to him. Balor Club, quite rightly, called him a nerd.

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Jordan slapped Luke Gallows, was held back by the other two, then Rollins had to dissuade Reign from knocking Jordan out.

Finally, Kurt Angle came out and made the inevitable match, a six-man which will form the main event. I can’t be the only one lamenting how much better this would be is it was the Shield versus Balor Club.

The Other Stuff

– Bayley and Sasha Banks, with Mickie James vs Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, with Paige – Essentially a rehash of the last however many weeks, but with Paige and Mickie James in street clothes. Nothing wrong with the match at all, but I’m starting to get déjà vu. It ended up being a decent showcase for Deville and Rose but, ultimately, Mandy Rose tapped out to the Bank Statement.

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– They are showing segments building to the RAW 25th anniversary. Tonight, they picked Mick Foley visiting Vince McMahon in hospital, and doctor Stone Cold. They’re also starting to announce names for it, including D-Generation X, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Dudley Boys, The Undertaker, and Ric Flair.

– Goldust will be in the Mixed Match Challenge. His partner will be Alicia Fox.

– Matt Hardy vs Curt Hawkins – no prizes for guessing how this one finished. During Hardy’s celebrations, Bray Wyatt appeared in the ring, and they laughed at each other for a while.

– Elias is still insisting the WWE stands for “Walk With Elias”. He sang a song about it being Elvis’ birthday, which turned into an introduction for The Miz.

– Miz TV – He’s back, and he had stuff to say. His guests were, The Miztourage. Miz praised them for turning their careers around, and they sucked up to him in return. They even managed to get a ‘thank you Miz’ chant going, and gave him presents. Then they started squabbling until Miz shut them up. After listing his own achievements for last year, Miz showed himself getting triple-powerbombed by the Shield, and said he hadn’t forgotten. He allowed Reigns to borrow the IC title, because he wanted it represented while he was away, but he’s back. In 2018 he’ll celebrate the birth of his daughter, and becoming the longest reigning IC champion. The Miz is coming for his title.

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– The Bar complained to Kurt Angle that they haven’t had their contractual rematch for the tag titles. They were placated by Angle telling them they’d get that match at Royal Rumble.

– Miz also had a chat to Angle. After plugging his new reality show, Miz asked for his rematch for the IC title to be on the 25th-anniversary show. The request was granted.

– Miz will partner with Asuka in the Mixed Match Challenge.

– Alexa Bliss told Asuka she got lucky when she beat her last week. Then she said she wouldn’t want to be Asuka when Nia Jax finds out what she called her. Rumour spreading is low, even for Bliss.

– The Bar vs Titus Worldwide – Sheamus and Cesaro asked Angle for competition, they got Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews. In a parallel universe, this is a big match. It’s sad thinking about what Crews could have been. Titus O’Neil pinned Sheamus, with a roll-up, after a series of distractions and missteps.

– Brock Lesnar stood in the ring while Paul Heyman said a lot of stuff that amounted to ‘Brock Lesnar is going to beat everyone’, in his inimitable style. Kane attacked Lesnar from behind at the top of the ramp. They brawled backstage and were joined by Braun Strowman. Strowman threw Lesnar through a table, then hit Kane with a packing crate. He used a hook and rope to pull the scaffolding/staging down on top of them During the ads, Lesnar was taken out on a stretcher, while Kane pulled himself free and stumbled off. Lesnar was put, protesting, into an ambulance, everyone just left Kane to it.

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– Samoa Joe vs Rhyno – This was one of Rhyno’s lessons to Heath Slater in how to toughen up. He probably envisioned winning as part of the lesson, it wasn’t. Rhyno tapped out to the Coquina Clutch. After the match, Joe said he’d taken years off Reigns career each time they’d met. The foundations were cracking, and he’d be there to finish the job when it all fell apart. But in the meantime, he’s entering the Royal Rumble match, and John Cena is first on his list to eliminate.

– Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss talked backstage. Bliss asked after Enzo and voiced her concern that he’s holding Jax back. Jax said Amore motivates her, which is why she’s entering the Royal Rumble match. Jax didn’t fall for Bliss’ blatant attempts at manipulation, and called her out on it, pointing out Asuka’s English is too limited to have said the things Bliss suggested.

– Asuka was due to have a match, instead, she was attacked from behind, while doing her pre-match in-ring thing, by Nia Jax. With Asuka caught off guard, she didn’t have the chance to defend herself. Nia Jax versus Asuka has been set for next week.

Enzo Amore (C) vs Cedric Alexander – Cruiserweight Championship match

Ok, so this match happened half-way through the second hour, but a title match deserves its own section, right? Goldust gave Alexander a pep-talk earlier in the show but didn’t accompany him to the ring. Surprisingly, Amore was also alone. No ‘Zo train’, but Nia Jax was shown watching backstage.

Cedric Alexander outclasses Amore in every way, so the match was about Amore trying to avoid being outwrestled. He pushed Alexander off the top turnbuckle to the floor, kept him in a headlock for ages, and generally tried to avoid getting caught. Every time Alexander got chance, he showed the disparity in their abilities.

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Enzo Amore got busted open by a kick from Alexander, then got thrown out of the ring and seemed to hurt his ankle when Alexander dived over the top rope onto him. He lay on the floor but made a big show of pushing away the ringside doctors and trying to get back to the ring.

He didn’t make the count. Cedric Alexander won by count out. Presumably, this feud continues.

In the trainers’ room, it was revealed that Amore will need x-rays. Nia Jax checked on him to continue whatever is going on there.

The Main Event – Balor Club vs Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Jason Jordan

From the backstage segment we saw but didn’t hear, before the match, Seth Rollins is having to play peacekeeper between Reigns and Jordan. That will wear thin quickly. All three team members got their separate entrances, and there was little interaction

Finn Balor looks incredibly happy to be reunited with Gallows and Anderson. During their entrance pictures from their time in Japan were shown. It’s an incredible way for WWE to establish their team credentials, incredible because it is probably the furthest WWE have ever strayed from their tendency to try and pretend no other wrestling promotions exist.

Rollins and Reigns did all the work, deliberately keeping Jordan out of the match. Rollins started off, Reigns helped him out when he got caught up. Reigns came in, and by the time he’d gone from dishing out punishment, to taking it, Rollins was back ready for the tag.

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Jason Jordan spent too much time on the floor checking on the teammate who had tagged out, rather than on the apron where he should be. He did take out Gallows to stop Rollins being double teamed, but he wasn’t useful. At the point where he could have been tagged in, Gallows knocked him off the apron.

Jordan trying to get revenge for that meant the ref didn’t see Rollins tag Reigns, leaving Rollins to take a Magic Killer. He was then responsible for Rollins being unsighted and taking a dropkick into the turnbuckle. That was followed up by the Coup de Grace and Rollins was pinned.

Reigns yelled at Jordan after the match. Then, while Jordan was checking on Rollins, The Miz and his Miztourage attacked them. The show closed with Roman Reigns taking a triple-powerbomb from the Miztourage.

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I’m enjoying WWE’s, storied, unofficial trios division for the men, a lot more than the ‘in lieu of storyline’ women’s version. Six-man/six-woman matches seem to be an almost weekly occurrence on one brand or another recently. Good episode of RAW tonight, Royal Rumble is shaping up, and the anniversary episode is looking like it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’ll see you next week for the next one.