With Survivor Series over and done with (read the full review here) it’s onto the build for TLC on December 20. I’d love to tell you what to expect from tonight’s show, but the only thing announced is Alexa Bliss versus Nikki Cross and some vagueness about Survivor Series fallout. So let’s do this.
I’m Amanda and this is the RAW review.
The New Day def. The Hurt Business
Riddle def. Sheamus
Asuka def. Lana (DQ)
Asuka & Lana def. Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax
Keith Lee def. Bobby Lashley
AJ Styles def. Randy Orton
♦ Adam Pearce opened the show with Team RAW. He talked about Drew McIntyre winning the title last week and about the final farewell to The Undertaker last night, then moved onto Team RAW’s clean sweep victory. As a reward, because results like that deserve rewards, he wanted to give them all the opportunity to state their case for being McIntyre’s next challenger. He offered the opportunity to AJ Styles first, as team captain. Sheamus said Styles wasn’t his captain, then congratulated McIntyre on his victory, bringing up their friendship. His case is that he was the most valuable player in the Survivor Series match. Styles said no, that was him. Keith Lee said he saved Styles last night and pinned the actual captain of Team SmackDown. Riddle’s case is simply that he wants a shot at the title and he wants the sword. He also wants a crown for pinning Baron Corbin.
Braun Strowman took a different approach, shaking Pearce by the lapels and yelling ‘Pick me’ before headbutting him to the mat.
♦ Earlier today, The Hurt Business ran into The New Day and told them they embarrassed themselves and the entire RAW brand by losing to The Street Profits. They challenged them to another match, then intimidated them into it. The New Day (C) vs The Hurt Business (Benjamin/Alexander) – RAW Tag Team Championship match – was good. MVP asked for controlled fury from Shelton Benjamin, and that’s exactly what he delivered. Xavier Woods was taking a beating and, going into a break, Benjamin knocked Kofi Kingston off the apron with a knee to the face.
Kingston was back when we returned and Woods finally made the tag. Alexander dragged Kingston off the top turnbuckle to the outside while the ref was checking on Benjamin. It was a horrible landing but the cheating backfired when Benjamin didn’t get Kingston back into the ring in time and the match was declared a double count-out.
MVP demanded the ref restart the match and somehow goaded Woods and Kingston into it by asking if they were scared. The restart happened after a break. Kofi Kingston took an awkward landing over the top rope and tweaked his knee, so that became an instant target. Alexander and Benjamin kept him isolated in their corner doing more and more damage. When Kingston made it to his corner, Alexander pulled Woods off the apron. He did eventually get to Xavier Woods, but he was back in time to help out and keep Cedric Alexander out of the way while Woods wriggled free of a powerbomb and flipped Benjamin over to pin him.
♦ Adam Pearce gave Charly Caruso an update. He’s got a headache and a big bruise. Braun Strowman has been escorted from the building. He doesn’t know what penalties will be applied, but it if was up to him he’d fire Strowman. She asked what the announcement was. Before he could answer, Bobby Lashley approached and said he was the only RAW champion who won last night, so before he makes any announcements, they need to have a chat. Pearce excused himself to talk to him.
After a break, he was back, but before he could say much, Randy Orton arrived.
When the announcement came, it was that all superstars had made compelling cases so there will be three singles matches this week and the winners will meet in a triple threat next week. The Triple-Threat match winner will be McIntyre’s next challenger.
♦ Lana was shocked that she was the sole survivor and said last night was the greatest night of her career. She’s not thinking about a possible title match, she just wants to live in the moment.
♦ Riddle vs Sheamus was the first Triple-Threat qualifiers. We were told during it that AJ Styles versus Randy Orton and Keith Lee versus Bobby Lashley would be the other two. I think it’s safe to say these two aren’t ever going to be besties, but it’s good they got to work their issues out. They should probably stay enemies though because this was great. They beat the hell out of each other until Riddle rolled himself out of a cloverleaf and snagged himself the pin.
♦ Asuka caught Lana in the corridor and said she’d heard Lana wanted to challenge her. Lana said no, she’s said she wasn’t even thinking about it. Asuka insisted she likes challenges and she accepts. She’ll see Lana in the ring and, who knows, she could go home RAW Women’s Champion.
♦ Firefly Fun House was another episode dedicated to friendship. The kind of friends who always let you down. A new character was introduced, but he didn’t last the episode. There’s no way to explain a Firefly Fun House episode. You just have to experience it.
♦ Asuka (C) vs Lana – RAW Women’s Championship match – didn’t really happen. Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler joined commentary in similarly foul moods. Asuka ended up in front of them about a minute into the match. Jax talked some trash and Asuka poured water over her. Nia Jax shoved her, which caused a disqualification. Lana saved Asuka from going through the announce desk and they escaped through the ring. Jax told Lana she started something and should get back in there and finish it. So we got a tag match.
Asuka & Lana vs Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax featured Lana getting beaten up a lot. She eventually got to Asuka, who had a tough few minutes with Baszler that left them both down. While Asuka was reaching for a tag, Jax pulled Lana off the apron and attempted to put her through the announce desk. Lana fought back and Jax shoved her into the desk and charged. Lana moved and Jax went over the desk. Baszler tried to put Lana in a Kirifuda from inside the ring, but Asuka rolled her up and pinned her. Lana was at the top of the ramp declaring her love for Asuka before anyone knew what had happened.
♦ Riddle approached MVP with some business idea, like pizza flavoured yoghurt. It didn’t go as well as he might have hoped. MVP told him to put all his best ideas together and pitch them to him in a couple of weeks. If they like them, they’ll do business. If they don’t – he leaned in menacingly – they’ll ‘do business’.
♦ Keith Lee vs Bobby Lashley was the second Triple-Threat qualifier. Keith Lee finally has a proper new theme, unveiled last night, which is a much better fit. MVP distracted Lee from a dive and made him stalk him around the ring, where Lashley caught him. Just before the break, Lashley put Lee on his shoulders and ran him into the post. I’m not sure if that’s where Bobby Lashley ended up bleeding from the temple. He managed a vertical suplex as well, but Lee avoided the Hurt Lock and came back to pounce Lashley out of the ring. He followed him out there and delivered a crossbody at ringside, but MVP shoved Lee into the post while the ref was checking on Lashley. Lashley almost got the Hurt Lock on while Lee was still dazed, but couldn’t lock his arms and Lee powered out. He got on Lee’s back, so Keith Lee dropped him backwards. MVP attacked Lee and caused the DQ before Lashley could be pinned.
♦ The video package before Alexa Bliss vs Nikki Cross was excellent. In her pre-match interview, Cross said she didn’t give up on Bliss, Bliss gave up. She’s tried to talk to her and help her for months, but Bliss made it clear last week she doesn’t want her friendship. She wants The Fiend. Tonight the only thing she cares about is beating The Fiend out of Alexa Bliss.
Bliss was playing games to start with, running away and laughing. Nikki Cross made her focus by pounding on her a lot. Bliss didn’t fight back and after a while she looked at what she was wearing like she didn’t recognise it then started crying and asking Cross for help. She was apologising as Cross pulled her to her feet and hugged her. Bliss turned the hug into her only offensive move of the night, planting Cross’ face into the mat and getting the pin. Cross was left crying in the ring while Bliss laughed on the stage.
♦ We got another long tribute package to The Undertaker before the main event. They have to be long, there’s a hell of a lot of career to represent.
♦ Randy Orton vs AJ Styles had to be the main event. It’s incredible that it was given away unannounced on an episode of RAW. Styles’ associate helped him get the upper hand before the final break of the show, by catching Styles when Orton shoved him and lifting him to the apron so he could kick Orton in the face and dump him on the announce desk. They were back in the ring when we came back and there wasn’t much to choose between them. AJ Styles got close with a calf-crusher. Orton got two with a powerslam. Styles avoided an RKO and landed an enziguri, but Orton rolled out of the ring. While he was out there, The Fiend’s sound effects went and The Fiend himself appeared behind the barricades, just for a second.
Randy Orton got back into the ring and refocused. He delivered a draping DDT then the lights went off and the sound effects played and when they came back red The Fiend was next to Orton. Again, it was just for a second before everything was normal again, but Styles delivered the Phenomenal Forearm before Orton could pull himself together, and got the pin.
The Fiend’s laugh played out as the show went off air.
That was a decent episode of RAW. It felt less frantic and overpacked than recent episodes, less cluttered and better for it. Riddle, Keith Lee, and AJ Styles will do battle next week to see who faces Drew McIntyre. It should be great. Join us next week to find out if it was.