With the Royal Rumble just two weeks away and the ranks of the Rumble Match itself starting to fill up, Raw began with the biggest meeting yet of potential favorites to prevail in the manic match. What began as an address from recently dethroned United States Champion Roman Reigns quickly turned tense with the arrival of WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens, current U.S. Champion (and new Grand Slam Champion) Chris Jericho, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman and, finally, Brock Lesnar.
But it was the sudden return of Sami Zayn — taken out by Strowman two weeks ago — that lit the proverbial fuse on the whole thing, instigating an all-out brawl. And Lesnar ultimately had the last word in said brawl when he stormed the ring and annihilated Rollins and Zayn (Strowman opted out of a fight) before delivering one last F-5 to Reigns.
Enzo Amore’s back, and he's winning: With Muscles Marinara finally cleared to compete after two weeks in a leopard-print wheelchair, The Realest Guys in the Room beat the spots off of Rusev & Jinder Mahal to notch a sweet and surprisingly long-brewing tag-team victory. Despite a brutal challenge from The Super Athlete and Mahal, who’s going through a career resurgence of late, Big Cass provided the opening for Enzo. Don Parmesan flattened Mahal with the Empire Elbow and booted Rusev in the face, teeing Mahal up a decisive for Bada Boom Shakalaka moments later.
With the first-ever “I Forfeit” Match — like an “I Quit” Match, but fancier — looming on tomorrow night’s 205 Live, Ariya Daivari got some very important momentum on his side at the expense of a red-hot Lince Dorado on Raw. With Daivari’s opponent and “I Forfeit” Match originator Jack Gallagher on commentary, Daivari dodged the high-flying Dorado and muscled him into submission with the Cobra Clutch. Emboldened by his victory, Daivari mean-mugged Gentleman Jack from afar, while Gallagher vowed to teach his foe some respect 24 hours hence.
With Raw Tag Team Champions Cesaro & Sheamus both declaring for the Royal Rumble Match, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson went into their championship challenge with one simple strategy: divide and conquer. The idea being, with Cesaro & Sheamus at cross-purposes in the long term (only one of them can win the Rumble Match), they’d be easier to pick apart in a title match. The good news? It worked.
The bad news? It worked a little too well. The good brothers did indeed get Cesaro & Sheamus to pursue independent agendas, but while Cesaro simply wanted to win the match, Sheamus, who had been brutalized by both Gallows & Anderson for the whole match, was simply out for payback. The Irishman stormed the ring after one such cheap shot and laid into anything that moved — including, inadvertently, the official. A replacement ref came down in time to count a Magic Killer pinfall on Cesaro moments later, but once the first zebra came to, the call was reversed to a disqualification win for the good brothers and, with it, a title retention for the champions. And they were pretty mad-ski about that, decking Sheamus with a second Magic Killer in retaliation.
For all his talk about being the King of the Cruiserweights, Neville thus far remains a king without a crown. But that may all change if he keeps on getting the better of Rich Swann the way he did on Raw. As payback for Swann’s attack last week on Raw, the furious high-flyer jumped the reigning WWE Cruiserweight Champion from behind before the scheduled bout of Swann vs. Tony Nese and beat the champion north, south, east and west in a merciless display of aggression. He also doled out some punishment to Nese, who attempted to jump the line and beat on Swann as well, and finally punctuated the attack with a superkick to the chin of a downed Swann. With their WWE Cruiserweight Title showdown two weeks away at the Royal Rumble, perhaps it’s time to consider the idea that it’s Swann who can’t handle this.
While Nia Jax attempts to gain ground on Sasha Banks via savage sneak attacks, Charlotte Flair may have stumbled upon a far more effective winning strategy against her No. 1 contender for the Raw Women’s Championship, Bayley. In one of the more eviscerating in-ring addresses in recent memory, The Queen took her would-be usurper to the emotional woodshed, mocking Bayley’s childhood dreams and trashing her old essays detailing her aspirations to become a WWE Superstar. The Huggable One was quick to interrupt and Charlotte hit the bricks accordingly, but Bayley came at The Queen in verse, dropping a trio of poems in the direction of the Raw Women’s Champion and maybe, just maybe, leaving Charlotte a little shook in the process.
If you’ve been keeping up with 205 Live, you know the weird dynamic between Noam Dar and Alicia Fooooooooox finally got to be too much for Cedric Alexander, who broke it off with the former Divas Champion as a result. Too bad Alicia didn’t get the memo. In the midst of a thrilling effort by Alexander against The Brian Kendrick, Miss Fox came to ringside and swung the match, helping Alexander escape the Captain’s Hook and teeing him up for a massive Lumbar Check. But Alexander wasn’t exactly raring to patch things up with Alicia, as he denied her a post-match hug and walked backstage without her. All of which was music to Dar’s ears as he watched backstage on a monitor, but left Alicia a little frazzled in a post-match interview of her own.
Ladies and gentlemen, it all comes down to this: Having decided after consecutive losses to Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston that he’d rather replace The New Day than join it, Titus O’Neil convinced Big E to put his Royal Rumble Match spot on the line. But it came with the caveat that if Big E won, O’Neil would never speak to The New Day again.
Well, good news for the former Raw Tag Team Champions, then, because Big E came through in the clutch despite a very impressive performance from The Big Deal. O’Neil didn’t just take control of Big E late in the match; he mimicked the former champion’s maneuvers in the process. Unfortunately, that just fired Big E up, and the big man quickly turned the tables to administer a lowercase-B big splash and a capital-B Big Ending.
Both squadrons of Raw’s six-man main event spent the lead-up the match planning for the long game in the Royal Rumble Match (Sami Zayn even attempted a Shield fist bump), but the lingering lesson of the bout may well be that the 30-man melee is, at heart, anyone’s game. The bout broke down before the bell even rang and continued to do so at various intervals throughout the contest, with Roman Reigns often taking the worst of the punishment from Jeri-KO (KO in particular) and Braun Strowman.
Seth Rollins gave his team some relief by beating back Jericho and helping chop Strowman down to a knee with Reigns, but unfortunately, even a weakened Strowman was too much for legal man Zayn — The Monster Among Men snuffed out Sami’s Helluva Kick attempt and won the match with a Runnng Powerslam. But when he tried to put Sami Zayn through the announce table, Rollins and Reigns came to the rescue, instigating a massive brawl that ended with Owens powerbombing Reigns through the announce table. The Rumble Match may be anybody’s game, but as far as the WWE Universal Title Match goes? For now, it’s advantage: Owens.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Big Cass & Enzo Amore defeated Jinder Mahal & Rusev (w/ Lana) (8:30)
- Ariya Daivari defeated Lince Dorado by submission (3:00)
- Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson defeated Sheamus & Cesaro (c) by DQ in a WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match (13:00)
- Big E (w/ Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) defeated Titus O'Neil (5:00)
- Cedric Alexander defeated Brian Kendrick (5:00)
- Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho & Braun Strowman defeated Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns & Sami Zayn (19:00)
Other on-screen talent