Des Moines, Iowa gets a double dose of Raw (they’re taping next week’s show tonight, too).
At least going by WWE.com’s “Featured Superstars” list, WWE champion Brock Lesnar won’t be among those working in Wells Fargo Arena tonight. And that will make it about a month since Raw’s had its top men’s title around.
The debate about how bad that is for the product, and if it benefits or harms the talent who are on the show every week, almost seem besides the point now. We’re years into this being the status quo. At least we’re not getting a weekly promo from a babyface about Brock’s absence being disrespectful to the fans & the locker room, and how they’re going to beat him to bring the belt back for those aggrieved parties.
Instead, we’ve had - well, nothing. His last challenger has moved on to win a different belt. The ones before that were a fellow part-timer and a SmackDown Superstar. The man he spent most of the year feuding with is busy with an identity crisis/heel turn.
But Royal Rumble is the next big date on the calendar now, and it’s doubtful Lesnar’s contract allows him to skip that. So what are the choices? Based on current alignments and recent booking, I see three.
A return to the Rey Mysterio storyline is a possibility, but it’s not clear what more La Familia can throw at the Beast Incarnate. Rey, his son, and a no disqualification stipulation couldn’t bring him down. The man who destroyed him in the Octagon couldn’t beat him in the desert. Convincing us another round would lead to a different result would be difficult.
Kevin Owens is an interesting option for a lot of fans, and probably WWE, too. But there’s so much to come in his program with Seth Rollins, it seems unlikely KO would get the call yet. You have to figure that feud gets at least one PPV match, and they skipped TLC.
That leaves another rematch, but at least it’s one we haven’t seen in a while. And Randy Orton as a chaotic neutral trickster is a lot more fun than the generic babyface he was playing in 2016 when Brock bloodied him at SummerSlam. The Viper will have to deal with AJ Styles first, and has a match with the Phenomenal One tonight that’s been building for a while. That seems like a good springboard to something bigger though.
Another Orton/Lesnar match may not excite the weekly viewer, but it’s a pair of names that will stand out to the masses, and it’s easy to set-up.
So that’s my guess for a Royal Rumble WWE title match. Then we can go back to forgetting about Brock and that belt for another couple weeks before it’s time to set-up his WrestleMania match (I’m betting Roman Reigns wins the Rumble and challenges Bray Wyatt, btw).
The title scene
Whatever your take on the TLC main event, which ended with Asuka & a very possibly injured Kairi Sane retaining their Women’s Tag Team titles, it definitely set the stage for a Raw Women’s championship match between Asuka and Becky Lynch. The Empress’ debt to The Man only grew when they were the last wrestlers standing amidst the carnage, and Lynch is going to be more determined than ever to collect after coming up short once again.
It’s possible The O.C. are done chasing United States champ Mysterio while Styles deals with Orton. But his good brothers Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson probably aren’t done with Raw Tag Team titleholders The Viking Raiders after last night’s double countout led to Erik & Ivar slamming Anderson through a table (and some KFC mashed potatoes).
There’s still a 24/7 championship, and it’s still R-Truth’s.
Other stuff to keep an eye on
- Andrade & Zelina Vega’s business relationship appears to be on the rocks after a miscommunication at TLC lead to another loss to Humberto Carrillo.
- A bloody Aleister Black got he fight he wanted from Buddy Murphy last night. Now what?
- Drew McIntyre is being kept strong for... something.
- A made over Liv Morgan will be back soon.
- Jobbers are now wise to the fact Erick Rowan is protective of the friend he keeps in a cage.
- After securing Lana’s divorce from Rusev and beating him in a tables match, expect a proposal from Bobby Lashley. Which is what it is, but at least we’ll get a wrestling wedding.
It’s the TLC fallout show!
What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?