In a complete turnaround from the beginning of the brand split, RAW has been absolutely decimating Smackdown in terms of quality weekly television. Show-long stories and relatively intriguing matchups have helped make the three-hour slog seem much more manageable. I expect this trend to continue tonight and am looking for Roadbloack to be a much better show than Smackdown’s average-at-best TLC show.
Pre-Show Match: Rusev vs. Big Cass
The story that led to this match involving Enzo Amore, Lana and Rusev has been wildly entertaining and I was certainly heavily invested in this match, but it ended in an extremely cheap fashion after only a few minutes of action with at count-out victory for Rusev. Obviously, WWE intends to continue this rivalry, refusing to learn from past experience that suggests longer storylines do not mean better ones.
My Rating: DUD
Match of the Night: Match 1: RAW Tag Team Championship Match: Kofi Kingston and Big E vs. Cesaro and Sheamus
Excellent opener. Cesaro started the match like he was shot out of a cannon. Good teamwork exhibited by Cesaro and Sheamus. Big E is still doing that suicidal spear to the outside. Big E hit Sheamus with a Pop-up Powerbomb, but Sheamus kicked out. Are we to believe that he can’t deliver the move as powerfully as Kevin Owens? Xavier Woods blindsided Cesaro into a Big Ending for a great near-fall. Crowd bought it as the finish. Cesaro hit an unbelievable top rope Hurricanrana on Kofi Kingston. Kofi tapped to Cesaro’s Sharpshooter, but Xavier distracted the ref with Francesca II. Cesaro hit a great Neutralizer on Kofi, but Big E broke it up. Crowd started chanting “This is Awesome.” Woods ate a Brogue Kick which led to an S.O.S. from Kofi on Sheamus, but Sheamus still kicked out after a long two count. Sheamus appeared to tag Cesaro, but did not. Cesaro came in and ate a Trouble in Paradise, but Sheamus jumped on him and pinned him for the win and a massive pop from the crowd.
Winners: Sheamus and Cesaro
My Rating: ***1/2
Cesaro hugged The New Day after the match, which annoyed Sheamus. WWE teased continued distension between Shemaus and Cesaro as Sheamus left with both titles, but they would be better served to have them get along.
Backstage, Kevin Owens was annoyed by a couple of admittedly stupid questions from Charlie Caruso. Jericho walked by and Owens abruptly ended the interview and presented Jericho with a Christmas Present: “a nice holiday scarf.” Jericho threw it back in Owens’ face without saying a word. He is an unbelievable performer in this type of environment.
Match 2: Sami Zayn vs. Braun Strowman
Many have been annoyed by this storyline implying that Sami Zayn is a lesser talent than Braun Strowman. That’s understandable, but what’s also true is that this has been by far the most engaging angle Strowman has been involved in, and the most worthwhile angle Sami has been involved in since his matches with Kevin Owens. As an added stipulation, this match had a 10-minute time limit, making it one of two timed matches of the night.
The match was what many expected. Strowman dominated the first five minutes. He went for two covers, but broke them himself to continue the punishment. The announcers suggested that Strowman could have ended the match earlier, but continued it anyway. Nobody sells like Zayn. He was even bleeding slightly from the lip at the six-minute mark when Mick Foley appeared on the ramp with a white towel. The crowd started chanting “Delete!” and later “Let Them Fight.” Zayn took the towel and threw it into the crowd. The time continued to tick down during that two-minute segment on the outside. Strowman kept stupidly charging for Zayn, who would then move resulting in Strowman charging into various ringside objects like the barricade and a ring post. Zayn almost won by countout, but Strowman beat the count with a second to spare. Zayn hit a Crossbody to get a two-count, then nailed Strowman with a Helluva Kick when the timer ticked to zero. Therefore, Sami Zayn “won” by survival. I guess.
Winner: Sami Zayn?
My Rating: *1/2
Next we got a package about WWE’s U.K. Championship Tournament. Michael Cole said it would be “an historic” something or other. I hate the way he says that phrase. Frankly, I’m not particularly interested in this, though it was interesting to see Adam Pacitti of WhatCulture Wrestling among the journalists covering the press conference.
Match 3: Seth Rollins vs. Chris Jericho
Considering Michael Cole pushed this as “The first step” toward Rollins’ retribution on HHH, there was really no doubt going in that Seth would emerge as the victor here. I like the long-term booking, though. The announcers could not be lamer on this show, though it is interesting to note that this is Jericho’s 140th WWE PPV match, the fifth highest number ever recorded in company history. This was nothing more than standard fare for Rollins and Jericho. Good match, but nothing great. There was a lot of lying around, and the crowd was dead for the vast majority of the match. Kevin Owens’ interference once again resulted in a Jericho loss.
Winner: Seth Rollins
My Rating: ***
Match 4: Cruiserweight Championship Match: Rich Swann vs. TJ Perkins vs. Brian Kendrick
It was nice to see and hear Austin Aries on commentary for this match. If WWE’s goal with the Cruiserweight division was to make the Cruiserweight Classic worthless, they have succeeded immensely. The winner of that tournament, TJ Perkins, has been booked to be an absolute loser. Swann, in contrast, has been the biggest success of the division since its move to the main roster, which pleases me greatly. It’s still absolutely pointless to change the color scheme of the show when the Cruiserweights are on. Also, it’s strange to hear Michael Cole pushing 205 Live when the same guys are on RAW, the show that he’s supposed to advocate.
Early in the match, there was a noticable botch where Swann didn’t get up high enough when he attempted to leap over Brian Kendrick. Kendrick got right back into the match, though, so I guess he wasn’t hurt too severely. Swann looked good other than that. When Perkins locked in the Knee Bar on Rich Swann, there was absolutely no reaction from the crowd. Either he’s lost so much that the crowd doesn’t know it’s his finish, they don’t buy it as a finish, or they just don’t care. He broke the hold when Swann made it to the bottom rope despite there being no rope break in the match, which all of the announcers pushed as exceedingly stupid. Afterward, Swann quickly won with his spin kick.
Winner: Rich Swann
My Rating: *
Shockingly after the match, Neville arrived and beat the holy hell out of Rich Swann and TJ Perkins to a great reaction from the crowd. I guess it was supposed to be a heel turn, but it was the best positive reaction I’ve heard for a Cruiserweight since Swann won the title. Interesting direction. Many have suggested that Neville would be a great choice for Cruiserweight champion, and with this new turn, I expect that to occur in the near future.
Backstage Owens apologized profusely to Jericho’s locker room door. Either this angle has gone too long making Owens look like a whiny idiot pining away after an ex-lover, or it’s setting up an easily-forseen swerve for the main event.
Match 5: RAW Women’s Championship 30-Minute Iron Man Match: Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte
The package before this match was excellent, as this feud has been. Many have decried the rapid fire title changes, but the implication that the women are virtual equals has come across because of them, so I’m ok with them.
The first 10 minutes of the match didn’t have the polish that the Bayley vs. Sasha Banks Iron Man match did. It ended with a nasty spot where Charlotte swept Sasha’s feet on the apron, sending her careening face-first into the ring steps. By the 13-minute mark, Charlotte was bleeding slightly from inside her mouth. Like the Rollins vs. Jericho match, there is a lot of lying around in this one. At the 18-minute mark, Charlotte hit the Natural Selection, but Sasha kicked out before the three. This led me to believe that they would be going into overtime ala Shawn vs. Bret. However, Charlotte hit another Natural Selection from the top rope a minute later which earned her the first fall.
Fall 1: Charlotte
Charlotte started wrestling significantly cockier after earning the first fall, but she got pinned two minutes later after an exceedingly sloppy roll-up.
Fall 2: Sasha Banks
Charlotte’s facials were excellent following the second fall and she tried to psyche herself up as she went for a Moonsault. She missed, and Sasha followed up her error by locking her in the Bank Statement, which led to the third fall giving the champion a 2-1 advantage.
Fall 3: Sasha Banks
Sasha and Charlotte’s offense has gotten a lot girlier since their time in NXT and the quality of their matches have suffered because of it. Sasha in particular does a lot of wimpy-looking slaps now that she never performed before moving to the main roster. With around five minutes left, Charlotte injured Sasha’s leg and went to work weakening it up to set it up for the Figure 8. Charlotte locked the Figure 4 in with only two minutes left in the match which lead to some good intensity between the two. Crowd just was not into it, though, until the last 10 seconds. Sasha tapped with about three seconds left which resulted in the fourth fall and a tie. The crowd booed.
Fall 4: Charlotte
JoJo announced that the match would continue in sudden death overtime, to general apathy from the crowd. It was pretty foolish for Sasha to tap with the crowd loudly counting down the remaining time. The announcers really put over Sasha’s injured legs as the match resumed. Sasha got nailed in the face with one of Charlotte’s boots and started bleeding pretty heavily from the nose and mouth. She locked in the Bank Statement anyway, but Charlotte reversed into the Figure 4. Blood was running down Sasha’s face by this point which got the crowd is pretty into it. Charlotte finally bridged into the Figure 8 and Sasha tapped resulting in yet another title change. I’ve seen much better matches from both women; this one didn’t really kick into gear until it went into overtime. It was significant, but not near as great as the Hell in a Cell main event.
My Rating: ***
Main Event: WWE Universal Championship Match: Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns
As usual, Roman arrived to the arena accompanied by heavy boos. The way he holds the United States Championship like Santa with his sack of toys is quite stupid. As much as I hate Roman, I can admit that he knows how to throw a right hand, so long as it isn’t of the Superman variety. Lots of chinlocks from Kevin Owens which are not conducive to making this a match to remember. Reigns ate a Cannonball and then literally got up the next second and hit Owens with a Superman Punch. And management wonders why people hate him. Owens and Reigns hit a Pop-up Powerbomb and Spear respectively, but the match didn’t end until Jericho came down to the ring and hit Owens with a Codebreaker for a very lame finish to a solid match.
Winner: Kevin Owens
My Rating: ***
After the match, Jericho and Owens embraced, suggesting that they were in cahoots all along as millions predicted. As the two began to leave, Rollins showed up. Reigns speared Owens and Rollins Pedigreed Jericho. The two former Shield brethren then tore up an announce table and put Jericho though it. Owens was going to leave, but Rollins and Reigns caught up to him and put him through the announce table on the stage to end an average show.