I think this is the first time I’ve mentioned Apollo Crews in one of these more detailed spots in a recap and that’s a shame, isn’t it? Crews rocks. And on the very last Raw of 2018, he got a bit of a spotlight to prove it.
Shane McMahon booked a “Fresh Start” Battle Royal on this show and I’ll recap that in detail a bit later. The point of the match, however, was to present the winner with an opportunity to fight for the Intercontinental Championship – and guess who won that esteemed honor?
It’s a fresh matchup, to be sure. We’ve never seen Ambrose and Crews fight in any real capacity. Crews also showed out in this match by hitting his standing Shooting Star Press and some other ridiculous moves in his arsenal. But with that said...I have some issues with this entire premise.
First of all, WWE’s spent the last two weeks trying to make title opportunities seem like this extremely rare, prestigious honor, right? There will be no automatic rematches, after all. So if that’s the case and the Intercontinental Championship is the only belt being defended...why isn’t it in a better spot on the show?
This match was held in the third hour right before the main event. That’s not great. There’s also been no sustained build for Crews so he only got cheers when he did something flashy. Ambrose got a pop when he won the match, as well. Not ideal.
In essence, I like that a lot of what WWE’s trying to do, but the execution’s still lacking. I’m sure it’ll be something they work on in the new year.
Steel Cage Match
So uh...that Drew McIntyre vs. Dolph Ziggler feud is over, isn’t it?
Opening the show with a cage match, McIntyre was in control for the majority of the bout and really took his time taunting Ziggler. That’s become synonymous with McIntyre’s character, actually. He’s claimed that he’s so much better than everyone and now it’s like he wants to milk everything out of his opponents just to prove to himself that he’s actually the best.
Anyway, McIntyre got vicious in the end. He threw Ziggler into the cage several times, followed up with two Claymores, and pinned him clean as a whistle. Not one to let his old buddy get the last laugh, Ziggler tried to taunt back after the bell: “Is that all you got?”
Incensed, McIntyre grabbed a chair, got back in the cage, and hit a Claymore with a short run up to Ziggler’s head with a steel chair in between. Ziggler got back up AGAIN somehow, so McIntyre hit a fourth Claymore with Ziggler sitting in the chair.
And that, ladies and gents, means Ziggler’s ded. D-E-D ded.
Afterwards, McIntyre mentioned the Rumble and explicitly mentioned that he wants to go after the Universal Championship. That’s a first for him, right? They showed Balor backstage watching the match, though, so there might be one more stop before ol’ Brocky for McIntyre.
Pump up the babyfaces: Rollins edition
You want a rematch? Not so fast, Seth.
Triple H came out to interrupt a routine in-ring promo by Seth Rollins to correct the man on one issue; there are no more automatic rematch clauses in the WWE. Everything has to be earned moving forward. And according to Triple H, Rollins hasn’t looked very deserving of anything lately.
Now...that’s hilarious for a reason that Rollins rightly pointed out. When Corbin was in charge, Corbin’s friends got handed things all the time. Rollins earned everything he got – and by the way, remember how awesome his year’s been?
I thought the segment was fun and played off the history between Triple H and Rollins well, but it was also very similar to what happened on SmackDown between Vince McMahon and AJ Styles. Are we going to see this every week until the Rumble?
Anyway, Rollins fought Bobby Lashley after all that pomp and posturing and got himself disqualified by using a chair to prove his earlier point to Triple H. He can still be that “heartless bastard” to get what he wants. It was fine. By the way, Lio Rush’s parting words to Lashley were to dominate and then present his ass. I leave it to you to make the jokes, Cageside.
Fresh Start Rumble
From my perspective, there were three stories in this Fresh Start Rumble. Let’s start with Crews. He had the most eliminations in the match and this match served as a way to give him some momentum - or a brief spotlight, at the very least. His counters to Corbin were extremely impressive and Crews got to show that he can offer something valuable if given the chance to work higher up on the card. Who’s to know if that’ll happen at this point, but good for him!
Secondly, they’re keeping Corbin relevant. I had thought we might see Corbin fade out for a bit after seeing him in multiple segments week after week, but nah. He works fine as a way to get Crews a solid win. Corbin cut a promo after as well and just please no. Elias interrupted him so I guess they’re feuding now.
Third, congrats Finn. You lost to a bunch of tag team dweebs and Corbin. And look, I know that it’s just a taped Raw that no one will remember in 2 weeks or whatever but my god this dude literally can’t get a title match to save his life. Y’all got any more of them McMahon pep talks?
Nia Jax hits Natalya backstage – Thanks, but no thanks.
Corbin and Elias brawl – Corbin whined a bunch so Elias beat him up out in the crowd.
Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Ember Moon def. The Riott Squad – You’ve seen this before, titles or no titles. But with that said, I thought this match had a little extra oomph to it than usual, especially near the end. I wish there had been some actual news on the tag belts or perhaps using the titles to justify booking the match at all, but nah. Guess we’ll wait until 2019.
New people debuting soon – Aren’t you so glad that you get to see these promos until they all debut in the Royal Rumble?
Jinder and the Singhs def. Rhyno, Heath Slater - ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Alexa Bliss debuts a new talk show next week – This could be fun or it could be bad. Who knows!
Ronda Rousey and Natalya def. Nia Jax and Tamina – Please end this Jax/Rousey feud. Please?
Bluntly, I think the only thing that I’d call “must watch” on this show was the opening cage match. The six-woman tag was fun too, but there’s no real storyline there at the moment.
The rest just kind of is what it is.
That’s not a bad D+ by the way, it’s just...eh. This show felt particularly long and the long reel of “next week” ads made it clear that this show was basically just filler.