January 15,2018|WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights
Do not fire Braun Strowman.
You will not like Braun Strowman when he is mad.
This was an important lesson learned by Raw general manager Kurt Angle on Monday night as he dismissed The Monster Among Men, only to watch in horror as the big man unleashed hell across the broadcast, even tipping over a massive tractor-trailer.
Strowman’s warpath was only one element of the night’s broadcast, which also featured several marquee bouts, including Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor and Asuka vs. Nia Jax.
Controversial finishes, character development and storyline advancement dominated the headlines and continued the red brand’s steady and engrossing march toward the Royal Rumble on January 28.
Relive all that went down, and find out how each segment graded out and what they mean for the characters and rivalries involved with this recap of the January 15 episode.
Braun Strowman Is Fired!
Feeling pressure from many sides following Strowman’s actions a week ago, when he almost single-handedly ended the careers of both Brock Lesnar and Kane, Angle kicked off this week’s show with a shocking announcement.
After Strowman informed Angle he will do whatever he wants, the general manager made the tough decision of announcing to the world Strowman will not be competing at the Royal Rumble because the Universal Championship match is no longer a Triple Threat bout.
Furthermore, the mammoth strongman was fired from Raw.
Strowman stared Angle down in a menacing manner that suggested he would be making the Olympic gold medalist and WWE Hall of Famer’s night a living hell.
If you want to hook the audience and leave it guessing as to what will happen the remainder of the evening, this is the perfect way to do it.
Strowman is an elite star on Raw and a popular babyface monster. Firing him and sending him on his way to destroy, maim and dismantle anything and anyone in his path is exactly what the show needs to captivate audiences.
And captivate Strowman would throughout the remainder of the first half of the show.
Titus Worldwide vs. The Bar
One week after scoring a massive upset by defeating Sheamus and Cesaro in tag team action, Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews, accompanied by Dana Brooke, attempted to make it 2-0 against the acclaimed duo.
It would not be easy.
Crews was isolated from the bigger, stronger O’Neil and picked apart by the former tag champions. When he finally did make the tag, the former Florida Gator exploded into the match and took the fight to the heels. The action broke down and eventually Sheamus and Cesaro appeared poised to pick up the win, reversing their fate ahead of their Royal Rumble showdown with Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan.
Jordan would appear late in the bout, providing a distraction that allowed the underrated Crews to roll Sheamus up for the pinfall victory.
Titus Worldwide defeated The Bar
Crews and O’Neil have done their fair share of putting others over, so for them to score consecutive tag team victories over a team with the credibility of Sheamus and Cesaro is a big deal. Whether they can translate it into a sustainable push is the question.
Only time will tell on that front.
What we will get answers to a little more imminently are whether Jordan and Seth Rollins are destined to hold the tag titles beyond Rumble or if The Bar regains the gold and sets in motion Jordan’s heel turn.
Cedric Alexander vs. Tony Nese
On the heels of rejoining the Zo Train, Tony Nese was out to prove himself to cruiserweight champion Enzo Amore as he battled No. 1 contender Cedric Alexander in singles competition.
Goldust accompanied Alexander to the squared circle and, at one point, made his way around the ring to scare off an interfering Amore.
The Superstars engaged in several counters and reversals and scored a handful of near-falls before Alexander delivered the Lumbar Check for the pinfall victory.
Amore looked on in disgust as Alexander celebrated his win.
Cedric Alexander defeated Tony Nese
This was about as good as every other match these two have wrestled as part of the cruiserweight division, though that is not saying much. There was a ton of action, but little of it meant anything in the grand scheme of things.
Amore’s involvement was minimized as he limped around the ring and Goldust was there to, um, scare him at one point. Or something like that.
As a showcase for Alexander, it was fine. As the latest chapter in his journey to the Cruiserweight Championship, it was average.
Braun Strowman’s Warpath
Following his firing from Raw to kick off the show, Strowman went on a warpath that saw him tear up locker rooms, demolish offices and target the WWE production trucks.
He was about to overturn the tractor-trailer that was attached to the production trailer when Angle arrived. The GM managed to draw Strowman off that scene, but not before The Monster Among Men tipped the truck over, only to interrupt Angle out on the Raw stage and manhandled commentator Michael Cole.
Threatening to slam Cole, Strowman momentarily listened to reason as he was rehired by Stephanie McMahon, via an Angle announcement. He put an exclamation point on his actions by slamming Cole off the stage and onto a pile of security guards to close out the segment.
Usually, Strowman unleashing hell guarantees an “A,” but until WWE Creative goes all-in with The Monster Among Men, these segments will ring hollow.
How many times can management heat him up before cooling him down via another pay-per-view loss?
While there is no guarantee Strowman loses at Royal Rumble, there is no promise he wins, either. And if he does not, where does that leave him on another Road to WrestleMania?
After last year’s disappointing pre-show appearance, another lackluster journey to the big show is hardly something Strowman can afford.
These segments are fun, but going forward, they really need to be paid off.
Asuka vs. Nia Jax
For the first time in her main roster run, Asuka found herself reeling, in real danger of losing to a focused and determined Nia Jax.
Asuka found herself overwhelmed by her larger, stronger opponent. She was pummeled, and her back and core were the targets of her opponent’s onslaught.
The Empress of Tomorrow fought back into the match, though, delivering a kick to the back of her opponent’s leg that injured the imposing competitor. Chopping Jax down like a California redwood, Asuka was able to score the win when her opponent could not continue.
This was the first time since WrestleMania 33 that Jax looked like an unstoppable monster. She beat and pummeled Asuka in ways The Empress of Tomorrow has not experienced in quite some time.
Jax looked fantastic here and had her momentum preserved via the finish. She never really lost and, had it not been for the unfortunate injury, may have ended the two-year undefeated streak of her storied opponent.
It creates intrigue and sets up a situation where a future rematch means more as a result.
The Revival in Action
The Revival returned to action Monday night, battling two unknown Superstars never named by the commentary team.
Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder picked apart the competition, utilizing double-team maneuvers to obliterate their opponents and finish them off in short order with Shatter Machine.
“That’s called an exhibition, all right?” color commentator Booker T labeled the bout.
Charly Caruso interviewed Dawson, who referred to the beatdown as a clinic in tag team wrestling and labeled The Revival students of the game. Both Dawson and Wilder denounced the legends who will appear on next week’s show and vowed to dominate for the next 25 years.
The Revival defeated two unnamed jobbers
The Revival is the best tag team in WWE, bar none, so it is nice to see it enjoy some spotlight after missing weeks of TV time.
It also sets up involvement in a big angle with the New Age Outlaws, Steve Austin or Shawn Michaels on the Raw 25 show, which would earn the duo its greatest exposure to date.
Roman Reigns vs. The Miztourage
Elias debuted a new song in which he hinted he will target John Cena in the Royal Rumble. He then introduced The Miz and his Miztourage, who drew a thunderous chorus of boos from the fans.
The Hollywood A-lister hyped the match with Roman Reigns for the Intercontinental Championship next week before vowing fans will talk about him for the next 25 years.
This gave way to the arrival of Reigns, who proceeded to battle Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel in a Handicap match.
Reigns overcame repeated attempts by Miz to interfere on behalf of his associates, not to mention the two-on-one numbers disadvantage, to score the victory via spear to former IC champion Axel.
Miz and his cronies retreated as Reigns stood tall to close out the segment.
Why WWE management routinely books babyfaces to overcome the odds and win handicap matches still boggles this writer’s mind. Yes, the company loves a heroic good guy, but at some point, it has to realize it diminishes its own heel acts by constantly booking them to lose matches they should conceivably win easily.
Dallas and Axel’s credibility is shot at this point, thanks to scenarios like this, and Reigns gains nothing via his victory. Could he not have lost by some sort of chicanery to put heat on Miz ahead of next week’s main event?
Sasha Banks vs. Sonya Deville
It was announced that, because of a neck injury, Paige would not be able to compete in the Royal Rumble. That did not stop the Anti-Diva and Mandy Rose from accompanying Sonya Deville to ringside for her showdown with former women’s champion Sasha Banks.
Banks was intense and focused from the start, herself accompanied by Mickie James and Bayley, but would find the former NXT star and mixed martial artist a tougher challenge than she anticipated.
Late in the match, she leaped off the ropes and directly into a hard kick to the midsection by Deville, who scored an improbable victory over The Boss.
Sonya Deville defeated Sasha Banks
Some may think the “A” grade is a bit generous, but this is exactly how one goes about creating a new star.
Banks is the established cornerstone of the division. She is not going to be hurt by a clean loss to a fresh face, so management was able to create a scenario where Deville goes over clean and, as a result, is a bigger star than she was when she hit the ring.
It also allows her to build credibility as a legitimate threat to her fellow competitors, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Paige’s in-ring career.
Woken Matt Hardy vs. Heath Slater
The transformation into his Woken persona was complete Monday, as Matt Hardy debuted a new entrance, including a Delete video, and squared off with Heath Slater in singles competition.
Slater, attempting to toughen himself up under the guidance of tag team partner Rhyno, found himself overwhelmed and unprepared for the onslaught of his unpredictable opponent.
Hardy bit, pummeled and beat down the West Virginian despite repeated warnings from the official. Amid a chant of Delete from the WWE faithful, Hardy finished his opponent off with a Twist of Fate.
Matt Hardy defeated Heath Slater
Welcome to the Woken Universe, ladies and gentlemen.
A tenacious, aggressive and dangerous Hardy was on full display here as fans got a taste of the Superstar who will haunt Bray Wyatt’s dreams and unleash chaos on the WWE Universe from here on out.
It was somewhat interesting that WWE opted not to feature Wyatt at all Monday night, but perhaps that is a reflection of its desire to shine an uninterrupted spotlight on its newest character.
Whatever the case may be, the character is leaving its impression and drawing strong reactions each and every week—a promising sign for Hardy’s immediate future.
Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor
What should have been an epic rematch from SummerSlam 2016 between Seth Rollins and first-ever universal champion Finn Balor instead descended into chaos and madness late, thanks to interference from The Bar, Jason Jordan, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson.
Sheamus and Cesaro hit the ring hoping to provide a distraction that would cost Rollins the match.
When they ended up brawling with Gallows and Anderson, Balor dove over the top rope and wiped everyone out at ringside.
Back inside the squared circle, Balor was set up to score another signature win over The Architect, only to have Jordan trip him up. Rollins broke out the Curb Stomp for the first time in two years (renamed the Blackout) and scored the pinfall victory.
After the match, announcers Corey Graves, Tom Phillips and Booker T put over the fact the referee had counted three when Balor had Rollins pinned earlier in the match and The Balor Club had a legitimate gripe against the official.
Seth Rollins defeated Finn Balor
There are so many moving, warring pieces on Raw right now that for the company to bring them all together in a wild and chaotic fashion like this, during a strong main event like Balor vs. Rollins, is a testament to the often-maligned creative team.
It seamlessly weaved numerous stories over the course of one 15-minute main event and not only managed to have them make sense but also created intrigue surrounding the fallout of the referee’s controversial three-count that should have earned Balor the win.
A great way to cap off one of the better episodes of Raw in months.