Philadelphia got its third show in three nights as WWE stayed in the Wells Fargo Arena for Monday Night Raw. And after two nights of surprises and insane moments, this episode felt like a return to normalcy.
The Big Guns
At Survivor Series, a Coup de Grace from Finn Balor would lead to John Cena getting eliminated. At the Royal Rumble, Cena got revenge by dumping Balor to the outside. On this episode, the two fought for the first time ever for a spot in the Elimination Chamber.
You’re damn right it main evented!
Both wrestlers got Twitter promos that were shown during the show. Balor boasted that he’d step over Cena and Cena retaliated by saying that he’s just getting started.
As for the match itself, it was expectedly fantastic. The crowd was weird in spots but firmly behind Balor. One of those moments had Balor out muscling Cena in a knuckle lock but it was lost on the crowd. Balor would kick out of an Attitude Adjustment and hang with Cena for 20 minutes before finally succumbing to an Avalanche Attitude Adjustment. Cena moves on to the Elimination Chamber.
My issue here is the story revolving around Cena. Firstly, Cena was acting remorseful for having to defeat Balor is garbage. “I’m just trying to go to WrestleMania,” he insisted repeatedly to the crowd that booed him. Dude, you’re a free agent who can swing from show to show. You’re a billion-time champion. You can screw yourself with that logic.
And if I were Finn Balor, I’d be incensed at being pitied like that. Commentary put Balor over big during the match - he was the ironman last night, he won the Universal Title with one arm - but as a resident Balor fan even that is getting old. I know I’m sick of all that mess personally – I can only imagine how the character would feel.
This needs to be a catalyst for Balor moving forward. We’re 69 days from WrestleMania. That’s their timeline. Something has to change and I think the most obvious change would be in his attitude. He waited patiently for a Universal Championship rematch and never got it. He has been taken advantage of by Bray Wyatt, the Miz, Jason Jordan, and more all throughout the year. He agreed readily to try to earn his title match in the Rumble and draws number freaking two.
It’s time, Finn. This brand has treated you like garbage. It’s time to lean on the Good Brothers and start taking what you’re owed.
So…yeah. If they do right by Balor from here, the Cena storyline is fine. If not, I’ll be extremely angry with this.
The Boss is Back
Speaking of characters in need of a catalyst - hello there, Boss. It’s nice to see you again at long last.
The show opened with Stephanie McMahon yapping away at how historic last night was for the women. She praised the roster, talked a bit about Ronda Rousey, and announced that we’re gearing up for the first-ever women’s Elimination Chamber match in four weeks.
Finally, she turned the spotlight on the Royal Rumble winner: Asuka. Asuka was asked by the Commissioner of Raw which championship she’d like to fight for at WrestleMania. Before we got a clear answer, Sasha Banks interrupted the ceremony.
Banks carried an edge in this episode that she’s lacked for quite a while. She had her arrogant swagger back as she declared herself ready for Asuka and demanded a match.
And what a physical affair it was.
The beginning of the match was fairly ordinary. The Philly crowd was struggling to find their voice on their third wrestling show in three days. It all changed on a dive through the ropes from Banks that was answered by a kick from Asuka.
(SASHA, LEARN TO DIVE SAFELY PLEASE YOU’RE GIVING US ALL A COLLECTIVE HEART ATTACK)
From there, the match was stiff and nasty. The Boss emerged and the Empress landed so many strikes that I felt light-headed on Banks’ behalf. Asuka would finally pick up the victory by submission after countering the Bank Statement.
A single tear rolled down Banks’ face as she looked up to the lights after the match.
It feels like the beginning of a significant storyline for Banks here. Just as I said with Balor, Banks has been in need of a change and that’s truer than ever before with Ronda Rousey joining the roster. I hope I’m right about that because she’s a personal favorite of mine.
But whenever a women’s match gets this vicious and nasty, you can sign me up. They need to revisit this feud sooner rather than later.
The Miz has Roman Reigns’ number.
On this episode of Raw, the two had a rematch of last week’s Intercontinental Championship fight. Reigns ran off the Miztourage early with a chair and looked for a moment as if he was willing to throw away his shot at the championship for the simple pleasure of beating the Miz bloody.
It didn’t happen, though. Sort of a shame, to be honest.
This match wasn’t one that I’d put on a pedestal and demand you watch it, but Reigns and Miz are always money. Reigns’ leg would play a part after Miz chopped his knee out from under him on a Superman Punch attempt. The Miztourage would return and aid Miz by distracting Reigns enough for Miz to pick up the victory.
The story after the match was interesting as well – well, if you aren’t fully aboard the “Reigns vs. Lesnar 2: Electric Boogaloo” train. Commentary talked up how much he’s been losing lately. I’m sure he’ll get an Elimination Chamber qualifying match and the story will fall by the wayside, but it’s still worth noting.
Best of the Rest
Braun Strowman Attempts Murder Again – Kurt Angle was right to try to fire this guy; he just went about it really stupidly. On this episode, Strowman took “Last Man Standing” to mean “murder Kane’s face.” The Monster upturned the entire announcer’s desk area onto Kane’s prone body; Kane was stretchered out of the arena.
Two Madmen Giggle – Tell me if you haven’t heard this one before, but Bray Wyatt interfered to cost someone a match. He couldn’t even show up in person to do it, either! Woken Hardy may have lived for a millennia, but he’s still gullible for the ol’ distraction. Elias moved on to the Elimination Chamber.
Slater’s Not Tough Enough – If your goal is to get tough, the Revival will certainly test your mettle. Loved how the cameras caught Wilder and Dawson strategizing. They targeted Slater’s arm, chopped down Rhyno’s leg, and won with relative ease.
The promo after was interesting. The Revival scolded the crowd for chanting ECW and accused them of living in the past. They aren’t getting the heat I’d hope for so far, but it’s early.
DEVON! GET THE RINGS! – The Dudley Boyz are awesome. Putting them in the Hall of Fame is a no-brainer and I’m happy they’re getting the spotlight for all the amazing matches they’ve put on.
The Bar Retains – This felt like a complete afterthought on this episode of Raw, despite the match being perfectly fine. Titus Worldwide fought the Bar and came up short. It was the first match of the third hour – never a good spot to be.
Ronda Rousey stuff – Nothing happened, essentially. They finally got to Rousey right before the main event and it was just a freaking video package repeat from the start of the show. That’s pretty inexcusable. Not a fan of Ronda’s rollout so far.
I felt like this episode of Raw had some great moments and was carried by an incredible trio of matches. Still, this show felt like a lull after all the craziness of the weekend. There are also some booking decisions that I’m very skeptical of at the moment.
The wrestling was stellar, but stories lacking. Gee, that seems like a trend.
Console me in the comments on the Balor loss, please.