Raw returns to... well, actually they never left Sacramento, at least for the purposes of taping the action we’ll see tonight on USA Network. In fact, you can find out what they taped by clicking here - but where’s the fun in that?
For the past few weeks, Finn Bálor’s been all over the place. A couple weeks back, he helped Dolph Ziggler beat Drew McIntyre, evened the odds for Elias during an on-stage exchange with Bobby Lashley & Lio Rush, then pinned Jinder Mahal. Sure, he got jumped by McIntyre and missed the ‘go home’ show, but at TLC, he was back to help end the reign of Baron Corbin (for a night anyway, but Corbin was ousted for good last Monday thanks to Kurt Angle, et al) - then beat Drew in their match later on the pay-per-view (PPV).
Yeah, Dolph sort of helped with that. Which is probably why the Scottish Psychopath ran wild on both of his former tag partner and Finn when they wrestled on the Dec. 17 Raw. Anyway, you’re probably picking up on a couple patterns here. One, there are issues between Bálor, McIntyre & the Show-Off. Two, without Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman around lately, the Irishman has become a very important babyface.
Enough that his fans might be feeling cautiously optimistic these rumors of a “big push” aren’t just bull$#!+.
Since his 2017 return from the shoulder injury which caused him to relinquish the Universal title hours after becoming the first person to win it, talk of Finn moving up the card seems to crop every time he wins a few matches on television. Every time his losses pile up or he’s not on TV at all for a few weeks, there’s a report he’s in trouble (or most famously, that Vince McMahon doesn’t think he’s “over”).
So, we’re in the former cycle now. Does it mean anything? We won’t find out much tonight when he faces Ziggler and McIntyre in a Triple Threat. WWE won’t tip their hand in a big way on a pre-taped holiday show. But we should get a sense of things quickly in 2019. Braun will be back, the creative team will have had some time to recalibrate the feud between the former Shield boys and performers who will play a key role at WrestleMania will be positioned for a big night at Royal Rumble.
Where does Bálor fit in all that? There were always dreams of a big ‘Mania match for him, but a lot of those were tied to the Demon entrance which hasn’t been used in so long Finn recently told Sam Roberts he’d have to “reeducate” himself on how to move while wearing the paint “because of how infrequent we are doing it.”
Honestly, even with the last month’s worth of wins and marquee matches behind him, it’s difficult to see him at the top of the card come April. But in a fight for a secondary title? Sure. And if that could catch on, maybe with an actual hot feud to go with his good wrestling, great looks and cheeky social media game... then he might be in business.
So put those in your letters to Santa, Bálor Club members. Hopefully you’ve been nice this year.
The title scene
He’s not back for another month yet, but current Universal champion Brock Lesnar is sending his Advocate Paul Heyman to Raw to wish us happy holidays. Or it might just be to offer a “spoiler” about Lesnar’s scheduled title defense against Strowman in Phoenix next month.
Ronda Rousey isn’t taking the night off. The fighting Women’s champ will throw down with her friend Natalya. Natty won the right to challenge Rousey by closing out last week’s main event gauntlet with wins over Ember Moon, Ruby Riott & Sasha Banks.
Before he resumes his chase of the Intercontinental title he lost to Dean Ambrose at TLC, Seth Rollins will try to put a stake in the “Baron Corbin: General Manager” story once and for all. The Lone Wolf thinks Rollins turned the roster against him, leading the council of McMahons to oust him from his position of authority. So Seth punched him. Now they’ll fight. Again.
It’s a Christmas miracle! Not only will we get a Tag Team championship match tonight, but The Revival will be in it, and reigning champs Chad Gable & Bobby Roode won’t be able to use Lucha House Rules (we don’t think).
Other stuff to keep an eye on
- Did Vince, Stephanie, Shane & Triple H stick around for the second show last week? We aren’t expecting any major developments from the new-old bosses this episode, but you never know.
- WWE.com’s official preview is largely devoid of the usual holiday show stuff, but there is one thing. And wouldn’t you know it, it involves Elias and Lashley, fresh off their weird guitar match at TLC. This being Christmas, hopefully we get to walk into victory with the guy who got his butt kicked after winning on last Sunday’s Kickoff.
- See the oft-stated “we don’t expect that to happen on a pre-taped holiday show” caveats above, but Lars Sullivan, Lacey Evans, EC3, Nikki Cross and Heavy Machinery are on their way to the main roster. We’ll probably get more hype for them, if nothing else, tonight.
Five weeks until Royal Rumble!
What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?