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WWE Raw preview (Jan. 15, 2018): Next woman up

The Heartbreak Kid moved to Orlando, otherwise we might have gotten him tonight in San Antonio instead of having to wait for next Monday’s anniversary show.

The Headliner(s)

The big story for the ladies of Raw probably isn’t the one atop’s official preview for tonight, even though that one does involve Women's champion Alexa Bliss. The Goddess tried to convince her Total Divas bestie Nia Jax to attack Asuka last Monday, and while Nia was wise to her #TeamRude partner’s strategy for getting her two biggest rivals to take each other out, Jax decided to take out The Empress of Tomorrow anyway.

Both Asuka and Nia are in the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble match coming up in a little under two weeks, and winning that would give Jax the shot at her friend’s title she’s been after since last Summer. That gives her plenty of incentive to weaken the undefeated Japanese Superstar in any way she can before Jan. 28... including possibly by handing her her first WWE singles pinfall/submission loss when they square off in Texas.

Looming over Asuka/Jax, Bliss and even the history about to be made in Philadelphia, however, are the reports about Paige’s future. The Rumble was supposed to feature the former Divas champ, and probably a big clash with The Empress. Now, that’s the least of anyone’s concerns, as word is WWE’s informed her she will not be cleared to wrestle for the company - ever again.

WWE does have to be concerned with their ongoing product and story, though. There’s been no acknowledgment or denial of the report, which may mean they’re not sure how officially recognizing Paige’s status would impact the fans’ response to any number of Rumble participants, from her Absolution charges Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose to Sasha Banks, the woman who delivered the kick in what appears to have been the last spot of The Brit’s WWE in-ring career.

Can they leave the news unaddressed until after the Rumble? Does a retirement speech neutralize Paige as a mouthpiece for Rose and Deville?

These things clearly aren’t as important as the 25 year’s old health and well-being, but someone’s got to think about them. And some of the people thinking about them will be us as we watch this episode.

The title scene

It’s a scheduled week off for Universal champion Brock Lesnar, who is kayfabe nursing injuries inflicted by the rig Braun Strowman’s grappling hook pulled down on him and Kane last week. The Big Red Machine refused (also kayfabe) medical treatment, however, and is booked for AT&T Center. He’ll be looking for revenge. Will Braun try to top his latest over-the-top stunt?

Intercontinental champ Roman Reigns had a bad night last week, partially thanks to his Shield brother Seth Rollins’ new partner Jason Jordan - whose eagerness to please got in the way of securing a win against The Bálor Club. But teaching Kurt Angle’s kid his place and worrying about the new/old three-man faction on Raw will have to wait, because The Big Dog is focused on repaying The Miztourage for their Triple Powerbomb. And his title defense against The Miz on Raw 25 next Monday.

Rollins will need to get things straight with his co-tag titleholder JJ ASAP, though, because they have to defend their straps against The Bar at Royal Rumble.

While he wasn’t able to take the Cruiserweight belt from Enzo Amore in a countout win a week ago, Cedric Alexander did get a measure of revenge against The not-that-injured Realest Champ in The Room when he delivered a Lumbar Check to close 205 Live. Ced’s got a rematch coming up in Philly, and he’ll be trying to keep the upper hand heading into the next pay-per-view (PPV).

Other stuff to keep an eye on:

- Paige’s wasn’t the only injury news we got last week. Samoa Joe went down to a foot injury just after teasing a program with John Cena (again). Whether or not we get a reminder of that potential feud will probably tell us how long they’re expecting Joe to be out.

- The Cruiserweight show isn’t the only thing WWE is putting on after SmackDown tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how Mixed Match Challenge is promoted tonight, and if it gets integrated into Raw’s storylines.

- Having Apollo Crews teaming with Jax isn’t the only thing Titus Worldwide has going on... they also have a new statistician in Dana Brooke. And Dana has a win streak to keep track of thanks to Crews and Titus O’Neil’s win over Cesaro and Sheamus. Now, where’s Akira Tozawa?

- He won The Great War with The Owl Men, and is now fully WOKEN. Matt Hardy also likes adding to Curt Hawkins streak. Now, let’s advance his program with Bray Wyatt beyond laughing at each other.

- Vince McMahon will be honoring his hero with this video. Snark aside, thank you, Dr. King, and everyone working for civil rights. We haven’t gotten there yet, but we’ll keep trying to achieve that dream.

Two weeks until Royal Rumble!

What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?

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