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WWE Raw preview (Dec. 10, 2018): Over

Where in the world is the red brand on Dec. 10? In San Diego.

The Headliner(s)

Last Monday was, in the aggregate, a good one for Finn Bálor.

Sure, the Extraordinary Man (the nickname WWE is currently trying to get to catch on for the Irish thirst trap) ended up on the receiving end of a Drew McyIntyre backstage beatdown. But before that, he beat a former WWE champ in Jinder Mahal, and cost McIntyre his match with Dolph Ziggler.

For any babyface on the red brand these days, that’s a nice night. It’s particularly good for a guy who’s at times struggled to even get on our screens since returning from injury after WrestleMania 33. Does featuring in multiple segments on Dec. 3, and being cast as one of the heroes of the Baron Corbin saga along with Braun Strowman, Elias and Heath Slater & Rhyno, mean bigger things are finally ahead for Bálor?

Ehhh... for his fans, I hope so. For me, he’s always been a little too bland a character to get terribly invested in, but Finn seems like a great person outside of kayfabe, looks like a star and is a very good in-ring performer. If he moves on from this program to become a contender for either of Raw’s men’s singles belt, that’s a decision I’d have a hard time arguing with, even if he’s not my personal fave.

But as with several of my personal faves like the injured duo of Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn, I wonder if the role he’s been cast in over the last month or so isn’t where WWE sees him. Meaning that “popular babyface who fights valiantly before losing to a heel who’s headed to the main event” might be Finn’s fate. And while our first instinct might be to blame Vince McMahon for wasting a New Japan/NXT star, it’s kind of hard to argue with a midcard gatekeeper role for the guy who used to wear demon paint to his big matches.

Look at the guy he’s probably putting over Sunday at TLC. Would you push Bálor over Drew? What about the other guys acting General Manager Corbin is messing with as he tries to ditch the “acting” part of his title? The company has quite a bit invested in Strowman. Elias looks a little more like a typical WWE star, and connects with the audience via more than just an entrance and a smile.

As we often say, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being the fifth biggest star in the biggest wrestling company the world’s ever known. A ton of people would kill to be in Finn’s place, and the man himself seems pretty happy. It’s just kind of hard to accept considering the early main roster success he had back in 2016.

But of the three matches from this storyline scheduled for San Jose on Dec. 16, Bálor’s the babyface who’s the biggest underdog. And if he loses to Drew while Elias goes over Bobby Lashley (probably a toss-up) & Braun crushes Corbin (maybe not by himself given his injury status, but one way or a-Beauty and the Man-Beast-nother, he’s winning), we may just have to accept that this is probably the spot where Finn’s spending the rest of his WWE career.

The title scene

If (when) Strowman wins at this weekend’s pay-per-view (PPV), he’ll go on to challenge Universal champion Brock Lesnar at Royal Rumble. Which means Brock will show up once or twice between now and the end of January.

Didn’t love the innoculation bit, and I’m not sure he needs the Bane get-up. But I can’t argue with the results. Dean Ambrose seems to be in Seth Rollins’ head, and having the Architect acting like a Lunatic might just be the way to take Seth’s Intercontinental title.

Corbin made Alexa Bliss the head of the women’s division on Monday nights. It seemed like a great idea for a fun character who’s unable to wrestle while recovering from concussion symptoms. But Bliss keeps scheduling talking segments for wrestlers who aren’t good at talking segments, so in retrospect, Alexa’s promotion was just another bad Baron idea. We’ll be reminded of that when Women’s champ Ronda Rousey and her TLC rival Nia Jax answer questions at a “press conference” tonight.

AOP did something that didn’t involve their manager’s pee-pee last Monday for what felt like the first time in their Tag Team championship reign. Beating up Chad Gable backstage to trigger a six-man match so they could hand Drake Maverick a pin on Bobby Roode wasn’t epic or anything, but it wasn’t another urincident. So that’s a step up.

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- Some folks thought Natalya was hurt for real, and that was why the program that started with Ruby Riott breaking Anvil’s sunglasses led to Riott Squad putting Natty through a table. But she’s not, and it was set-up for a Ruby vs. Nat tables match.

- There’s no room for SmackDown’s secondary title, so Sasha Banks & Bayley vs. Alicia Fox, Mickie James & Dana Brooke ain’t making Sunday’s card. But it seems the Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection are involved in the sloooooow roll-out of Women’s tag titles.

- Did the petition The Revival rolled out result in the banning of Lucha House Rules, or will Dash & Dawson fall victim to DAT (técnico-style) NUMBERS GAME once again?

- Where does Dolph Ziggler go from here? Is he Finn’s best hope for a win on Sunday?

It’s the TLC ‘go home’ show!

What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?

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