MONDAY NIGHT RAW
DECEMBER 24, 2018
SACRAMENTO, CALIF. AT GOLDEN 1 CENTER
REPORT BY TED, PWTORCH VIP MEMBER
About 20 percent of the audience left after the live Raw ended. The second Raw began about four minutes after the first Raw ended.
It began with Elias in the ring playing his guitar, wearing a Santa hat. He promised an “original Elias Christmas song.” He sang for a few minutes, with the primary chorus being “Bobby Lashley sucks.” The crowd was into Elias’s singing.
He was interrupted by Lashley’s entrance music.
(1) Elias vs. Bobby Lashley (w/Lio Rush) in a Miracle on 34th Street fight. The ring was surrounded by Christmas trees, Christmas presents, and (of course) two tables with plates of food. Lashley started the match using a Christmas tree as a weapon on Elias. Lio Rush tried to interfere by doing a top rope splash on Elias, but Elias raised his knees to block Lio. On the outside Lashley lined up presents into a neat row so he could body slammed Elias into the presents. Lio Rush handed Lashley a big present box. Lashley opened it and emptied a large amount of Legos into the ring as if they were tacks. The crowd erupted into a “We want Legos” chant. Elias reversed Lashley and dumped him onto the Legos. Elias later dumped Lio Rush off the ring onto one of the food tables, breaking the table and getting Lio covered in food. Elias sprayed Lashley with a fire extinguisher. Then Elias got a bowling ball and hit Lashley flush with the bowling ball for a 7-10 split. Elias then got a Cello out of a present box and hit Lashley with it across Lashley’s back for the win at 10:30.
(2) Bobby Roode & Chad Gable vs. The Revival for the WWE Tag Team Championship. Roode and Gable were introduced first. The Revival isolated Gable for the first five minutes. Gable and Roode retained in 7:30 after a few rapid near falls from both teams. Very good TV match.
(3) Drew McIntyre vs. Finn Balor vs. Dolph Ziggler in a triple threat match. Drew came out first and was interviewed in the ring by Charley Caruso before the other introductions. Drew predicted he would be in the Main Event of WrestleMania during a brief, intense promo. Lots of one-on-one action where the wrestlers took turns recovering on the outside while the other two fighters fought. The crowd was cheering hard for Finn against Drew at 8:00. Finn Balor beat Dolph with the Coup de Grace at 8:45 for big cheers. Drew then got in Dolph’s face about the loss, but Dolph reversed the situation and attacked Drew and got to exit to his own music.
(4) Mickie James & Dana Brooke & Alicia Fox vs. Sasha Banks & Ember Moon & Bayley. The Heels all came out to Mickie James’ music. The Face team got to enter one at a time to their own music. The biggest cheers for either side were for the Bayley Buddies. All six of the women had changed into different wrestling gear since their match taped earlier in the night. Bayley pinned Mickie with a Bayley to Belly at 5:30. After the match the Riott Squad came out and cleared the Face team from the ring, and then left without attacking any of the six wrestlers at ringside.
Paul Heyman entered while an XFL Commercial aired, so he will likely be in the ring coming back from a commercial. His mic wasn’t working at first, which really looked like it pissed him off. He said that the sound tech must have been from Sacramento which got huge boos. He sang a full rendition of “Silent Night,” with lyrics about Brock was beating Strowman. He got the loudest boos of the night.
Then Heyman went into a full promo, starting by introducing himself, hyping the Lesnar/Strowman match at Royal Rumble. Among other things, he said that Rudolph the Red nosed reindeer couldn’t help Strowman find a path to the Universal title. It sounds corny, but Heyman made it work. Then Braun’s music hit and the crowd erupted in cheers. Braun put a Red Nose and Antlers on Heyman and called him Paul Heyman the red nosed advocate. He told Heyman to tell his client that he was going to Get These Hands. Very good segment to hype their fight.
(5) Natalya vs. Ronda Rousey. Both got their own music and full ring introductions. Cheers for Natalya. A mix of boos and cheers for Ronda Rousey. They wrestled a face vs. face style. Back and forth mat wrestling. Dueling “Let’s go Natty / Ronda Rousey” dueling chants tried to get started. At 5:00 Ronda had Natty in a leg scissors. Natty went for the Sharpshooter and Ronda threw her outside. Natty looked hurt and Ronda showed remorse. Natty used that to her advantage and threw Ronda into a ringpost. Natty tried to get Ronda into a sleeper at 7:45. That shifted into Natty applying an abdominal stretch after Ronda escaped the sleeper. Natty continued to work Ronda over until the 10:15 mark when Ronda got the upper hand. Ronda was selling that she didn’t want to hurt Natty. Natty got Ronda into another Sharpshooter, then Ronda reversed it got Natty to tap out at 13:15. They ended up hugging mid-ring. Ronda helped Natty to the back.
(6) Heath Slater vs. Jinder Mahal (w/the Singh Brothers). The crowd was dead for this match, but managed to start a good “3MB” chant. Then Santa came out in the crowd, giving out presents. At the two-minute mark the Singh brothers mercifully (for the crowd) interfered so Slater won by DQ (no announcement). Santa then came into the ring to rescue Slater. Santa was revealed to be Rhyno who gave Jinder a Gore for the save.
(7) Seth Rollins vs. Baron Corbin. Seth came out to big applause. Corbin is still wearing street clothes instead of wrestling gear. Good back and forth action. The crowd was definitely cheering for Seth. Baron got in the majority of the offense. Seth eventually reversed the End of Days into a Stomp for the win at 10:00. Seth gave everyone at ringside a high five.
Raw ended after about an hour and fifty minutes. It was much faster with no commercials.
While the show may include backstage promos, they only showed one very brief Seth Rollins promo to the live crowd, possibly to move the show along since that was the second episode of Raw being presented to the audience.
The only promised match for the event in the WWE advertising was Seth vs. Dean, which never took place. Although we did get to see two full Raw episodes.
By the end of the show, more than half of the original crowd had already gone home and wasn’t there for the Seth/Corbin match.
SHOW SUMMARY: In this edition of the Wade Keller Hotline, PWTorch editor Wade Keller reviews WWE Raw start to finish including Vince McMahon joined by Shane, Stephanie, and Triple H to shake things up, plus Women’s Gauntlet match and TLC fallout.
PWTorch editor Wade Keller is joined by cohost Jonny Fairplay to discuss WWE Monday Night Raw from Sacramento, Calif. including the return of Vince McMahon with the rest of the McMahon clan. Did they deliver on the promised shake-up or come up short? What about the next NXT talent coming in? And much more with live callers in this extended live caller episode. NOTE: A second Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Post-show episode is available later Tuesday with the on-site correspondent and mailbag segments, so subscribe to the blue logo version by searching “Wade Keller” in your podcast app.
The Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast launched on Podcast One in July 2017. PWTorch editor and founder Wade Keller presents four shows per week, all available for free via iTunes other podcast apps for iPhones and Android devices.
Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Post-shows (via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, more)
POST-RAW: Keller and a guest cohost analyze WWE Monday Night Raw with callers, talk to a live correspondent on site, and answer email questions and read listener feedback.
POST-SMACKDOWN: Keller and a guest cohost analyze WWE Smackdown Live with callers, talk to a live correspondent on site, and answer email questions and read listener feedback.
Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcasts on Spreaker (via Apple Podcasts, Podcast One, more)
THURSDAYS: This weekly Flagship episode features Keller and a guest cohost discussing the big picture current events in pro wrestling in WWE, GFW, NXT, ROH, New Japan, and more along with a segment of email questions and listener feedback.
FRIDAYS: This features Keller’s weekly interview with pro wrestling’s newsmakers including current wrestlers, announcers, creative team members, and legends.
Recap: The show opened with Vince McMahon in the ring, as advertised. He initially got a pop, but there were some boos when he explicitly told the crowd he didn’t want to hear any. Vince said one reason WWE was so successful was because it changes with the times. He then said that despite his vision, he couldn’t do it alone any longer. He then introduced Stephanie, Triple-H, and Shane.
Stephanie acknowledged that they hadn’t been doing a good job lately. Triple-H said that the four of them would be taking back Raw and SmackDown. Stephanie said they’d be cutting out the middle managers and empowering the superstars. Triple-H promised new faces and matchups. He referred to the fans as the Authority. Vince them chimed in and said so long as they do that, WWE will truly be then, now, and forever.
Later in the show, WWE announced NXT callups for Heavy Machinery, Nikki Cross, EC3 Lacey Evans, and Lars Sullivan.
Evaluation: It was very notable that Triple-H got the best reaction of anyone in the family. This makes sense considering the positive feelings the fans have for NXT booking.
Forecast: The McMahons said all the right things, but gave no concrete examples of how anything would actually change. In fairness, Tyler Breeze was booked in a competitive Intercontinental Title match after positive fan reaction for him in NXT last week, but that’s a minor change in the grand scope of things. Announcement of NXT callups means nothing unless they are actually booked well on the main roster. Too often in the past NXT stars have been booked on the main roster as losers. Promising to personally take charge only matters in kayfabe, since they are already fully in charge in real life. I would expect things to stay the same until Vince retires.
Recap: After the opening segment, Baron Corbin came to the ring to confront the McMahons. He was jeered loudly for minutes on end. The McMahons mocked him.
Corbin complained that his loss to Braun Strowman was unfair due to interference. Triple-H mockingly told him that maybe he was right and the fans were wrong. He promised Corbin that he could be GM if he won his match tonight. Kurt Angle was then introduced as his opponent. As the McMahons left, they announced that there would be a special guest referee, Heath Slater.
After a commercial break, Triple-H came out and made the match a handicap match midstream, with Apollo Crews, Chad Gable, and Bobby Roode came out to make the match 4 on 1. As Corbin was quadruple teamed, Shane came out and made the match no-DQ. The faces then beat down Corbin with chairs. Angle cored the pin with an Angle Slam.
Later backstage, Corbin told Seth Rollins that he blamed him for turning the locker room against him. He threatened that he would take Seth’s title, if he still had it. Seth then decked him.
Evaluation: I liked the idea of really pouring it on Corbin to emphasize a clean break from the past, but this went on too long. There was simply too much Baron Corbin, as has been the problem for weeks.
Forecast: Hopefully Corbin is off TV for a while. This felt like the beginning of a comback run for Angle. If they do a full run for him, there’s no way for it to end other than him eventually beating Drew McIntyre. The timing for that isn’t great, Since Drew is currently seems to be in the process of being elevated to main event level.
BACK TO BOOS FOR RONDA…
Recap: Ronda Rousey came out at the top of the third hour for a promo. She was mostly booed as she referenced her actions at the TLC PPV and said she wasn’t there to explain herself. Fans chanted for Becky. She spoke of what it means to be a champion, saying a champion is “the best the human race has to offer.”
She then said that she wanted to start a new tradition, one where the champion defends her title the night after a PPV. The camera then cut backstage, where the women’s locker room was arguing. Stephanie then yelled at them and brought them onto the stage. She said that all of the women wanted a shot at the title, and that there would be an 8 woman gauntlet match to determine who would get it.
The gauntlet went as follows:
Bayley defeated Alicia Fox
Bayley defeated Dana Brooke
Mickey James defeated Bayley
Ember Moon defeated Mickie James
Natalya defeated Ember Moon
Natalya defeats Ruby Riott
Natalya defeats Sasha Banks
After the match, Ronda offered handshake to Natalya, and they hugged. The fans seemed to boo and chant “no,” but it was unclear against whom their ire was directed.
Evaluation: Calling a champion “the best the human race has to offer” reflects a very distorted world view. I’ll give Ronda the benefit of the doubt and assume she didn’t mean it the way it came out.
Once Ronda was moved away from Nia Jax (the most over heel in WWE due to the punch that took out Becky Lynch), I expected her boos to pick up again. I was even more resolute in this belief after seeing her actions at TLC. So long as a feud involving her and Becky is brewing, even if they’re both faces the fans are going to prefer Becky. It currently seems to me that the fans still prefer Charlotte to Ronda as well.
Forecast: It certainly seems like Natalya’s gauntlet victory is a setup for her long-teased heel turn on Ronda next week during their title match. That could backfire, with the fans supporting Natalya.
SHOW SUMMARY: On this week’s edition of MMA Talk for Pro Wrestling Fans, MMATorch.com’s Robert Vallejos and Shawn Ennis review WWE’s TLC PPV, including discussion on the future of Ronda Rousey, and they have a little fun with fantasy booking Rousey as a Hulk Hogan to Natalya Neidhart’s Randy Savage. They review UFC on Fox 31 and take stock of the weekend of Bellator events. The guys give their take on the deal between ONE Championship and Turner Sports, and then close the show by examining the implications of the UFC cancelling a PPV on the same night as a strong Bellator card.
HEYDORN’S WWE RAW REPORT
DECEMBER 17, 2018
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Renee Young
-The show open with a quick intro from Michael Cole that welcomed the audience to WWE Week on the USA Network. From there, Vince McMahon’s music hit and the chairman of WWE hit the ring. McMahon received a huge pop and the audience sung his song as he walked down the ramp.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Pretty amazing that crowds cheer the man directly responsible for the show they claim to dislike.
When he got to the ring, the reaction from the audience was a bit more mixed and McMahon told them he didn’t want to hear any boos. McMahon then said that Monday Night Raw had been on the air for 25 years. He said one reason it was so successful was because they change with the times. From there, he said that despite one man’s vision (himself) he can’t do it by himself any longer. Then, McMahon said “with that in mind” before pointing at the ramp and cuing Stephanie McMahon. Stephanie received a decent pop as well and hugged her father and bowed to him after she entered the ring. When Stephanie’s music stop, the boos rang for her, but Vince told them to be nice. After Stephanie, Vince said “and” and Triple H’s music blared in the arena. Triple H received the biggest pop of all three and was talked up on commentary because of his work with NXT.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Notable pop for Triple H. Bigger than Stephanie and Vince. A testament to the goodwill he has with most wrestling fans nowadays. If that was the goal for him when NXT started, he and Vince hit a home run.
One Triple H got to the ring, he hugged Vince at well and all three cued up Shane McMahon. Just like Triple H and Stephanie, Shane received a big pop too. Shane hugged all three and then grabbed a microphone himself. With all four in the ring, the audience cheered and chanted “Shane O Mac” loudly. Then, Stephanie said they had not been doing a good job lately in listening to their audience. She said that would change and it would start tonight. Triple H then chimed in and said that the four of them would be taking back Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live. Stephanie then said they would empower their superstars and give the fans what they want. Triple H said they would provide something new and fresh including new faces, new superstars, new match ups. He then called the fans the new Authority. Vince chimed in next and said that as long as they do that, WWE will truly be then, now, and forever.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Interesting announcement, but absolutely no mention of how they would do any of that. The words spoken were fine, but the true insight is regarding the “how” of it all.
When Vince was done talking, his music played again until it was interuppted by Baron Corbin. The audience booed loudly as he said that nobody was more excited for a fresh start than him. As the booing ensued, Stephanie reminding Corbin that they were booing him loudly.
Heydorn’s Analysis: See, I don’t think Stephanie gets to run down Corbin there within the narrative they’ve told with him. She was the reason he was in charge to begin with, right?
Corbin said he was excited that the entire McMahon family would be running Monday Night Raw, but that what happened to him last night at TLC was not fair. He said he wanted to talk and have a conversation about it. As he did, the show went to break. (c)
Out of the break, Corbin was still conversing with the McMahon family regarding what happened to him at TLC. Just like before the break, the audience was relentlessly and loudly booing him. Corbin asked Stephanie to get the audience to stop, but she caused the audience to boo more instead. From there, Corbin kept trying to talk, but the audience chanted “you suck” so he couldn’t speak. He then said that he wasn’t prepared for Braun Strowman last night because he wasn’t supposed to be there. Triple H then pretty much predicted what Corbin would say and said that he wanted them to reconsider him as Raw General Manager. Corbin agreed and asked if they would overturn the ruling last night and make him the permanent Raw GM. The McMahon’s huddled together and each told him “no.” The audience cheered and Corbin asked why not. Then, Vince brought up a point and suggested that maybe they and the fans were wrong and that he deserved to be Raw GM.
Heydorn’s Analysis: One of the things Triple H, Vince, Shane, and Stephanie said was that they would listen to fans and that the fans were the new authority. Literally about 4 minutes later, Triple H said out loud on the microphone that maybe the fans were wrong. Call me confused!
Corbin said that all he needed was a chance and Triple H responded by saying that they would give him that chance. He then said they would make him permanent GM of Raw if he could beat “this man.” As the audience looked up the ramp, Kurt Angle’s music played to a big pop. Then, as the McMahon family was leaving, they announced that Heath Slater would be the special referee. Slater then walked out and shook hands with the McMahon’s before jumping in the ring and starting the match.
(1) BARON CORBIN vs. KURT ANGLE – Heath Slater as guest referee
Out of the gate, both men exchanged strikes before Angle hit Corbin with a German suplex. The show then went to break. (c)
When the show returned from the break, Triple H walked out and made the match a handicap match. From there, Bobby Roode walked out with Chad Gable and Apollo Crews to make the match four on one.
(1b) BARON CORBIN vs. KURT ANGLE, BOBBY ROODE, CHAD GABLE, & APOLLO CREWS – Heath Slater as guest referee
Those three men beat on Corbin and then tossed him back into the ring. Angle was waiting and nailed him with three more German suplexes before tagging Gable into the match. Gable hit a German suplex as well before tagging Bobby Roode into the match. Roode hit a few moves with Gable and then tagged Crews in as the announce team called him the fasted rising superstar in WWE.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Say what? The fasted rising superstar in WWE? C’mon now. How many times has he even been on the show in the last six months?
Eventually, all four superstars stomped Corbin as Heath was distracted. As that was happening, Shane McMahon walked out and made the match a no DQ match. Once they heard that, the referee started beating up Corbin and the rest of his opponents grabbed chairs. From there, they took turns nailing Corbin with chairs to a loud pop from the crowd. Finally, Kurt Angle hit his Angle Slam and covered for the 1,2,3 win.
WINNER: Angle, Roode, Gable, and Crews via pinfall
-After the match, the four winners grabbed a table as the audience chanted “we want tables.” From there, Angle hit an Angle Slam on Corbin through the table. As that happened, the announce team said that that was “finally what the people wanted.” (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: Not really. This was nearly 30 minutes of straight Baron Corbin. Sure, he was getting beat up, but this didn’t feel fresh to me. The crowd was reacting to it, but it just felt like a better aligned segment to yield a positive crowd reaction. Nothing ground breaking and nothing that screamed “finally what the people wanted.”
-Out of the break, a promo video aired for John Cena winning the Muhammad Ali legacy award from Sports Illustrated.
-After the video, Finn Balor made his entrance to a nice pop from the crowd. As he did, the announcers cued up a video from TLC that detailed the events of last night between Ziggler and Balor. When the video ended, Ziggler hit the ring.
(2) FINN BALOR vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER
Once Ziggler got to the ring, the bell rang and the match began. Both men stood toe to toe to start it off, but eventually Balor took over and got the upper hand after a stomp. The show then went to commercial break. (c)
-Cole introduced the show. Then Mr. McMahon’s music played. Cole said he’s there to “shake things up.” Vince stood on the stage with his arms extended soaking up his crowd reaction. He did the swagger to the ring. Graves predicted McMahon would appoint Baron Corbin the permanent G.M. of Raw. Renee said no way.
Vince stood center-ring. He told the fans he doesn’t want to hear any boos. Fans booed. He rolled his eyes. He said everybody wants to know what’s been going on with Raw, and he’s been asking that question himself lately. He said Raw has been on the air for over 25 years. “That’s extraordinary,” he said. He said one of the reasons they succeed is they change with the times, and when times change, they change with them. He said despite one man’s brilliance and creativity and vision, he can’t do it all by himself anymore. “I can do it without you guys, though,” he said. Then he pointed at the stage and out walked Stephanie McMahon. Cole said she is the commissioner of Raw and might have a lot to talk to her father about. He told fans to be nice to her when she entered the ring.
Then Triple H made his ring entrance. Cole excitedly said he’s the COO of WWE and “the brainchild behind the upstart brand NXT” and the husband of Stephanie McMahon and a 14-time World Champion. Hunter entered the ring and greeted his wife and his father-in-law with a hug. And finally Shane McMahon came out to his music. “Aww, snap,” said Renee. Graves said Shane is a bit of a wildcard and the black sheep of the family. Renee said maybe that’s what’s needed.
Stephanie said they’re out there because they haven’t been doing a good job for them lately. “We haven’t been doing the one thing that my father has always taught us to do, which is listen to our audience. We’ve let middle management air their petty grievances, we’ve suffocated our Superstars. And all of that is going to change, and that starts tonight.” Cheers. She said they’re off to a fresh start. Triple H said the days of absentee management are over. He said as of now, the four of them are taking back Monday Night Raw. Shane said that goes for Smackdown Live as well. Shane said all four of them are personally responsible for making sure they have the best possible experience. Stephanie said they’re going to empower their Superstars and all of them. Triple H said they’re going to give the fans what they want. “Something new, something fresh. In the coming weeks and months, you’ll be seeing new faces, new Superstars, new match-ups. As of now, you are the authority.” Cheers. Vince said as long as they give them less of what don’t want and more of what they do, then WWE will always be then, now, and forever. His voice gave out at the end and his music played.
As Mr. McMahon’s music played, Baron Corbin’s music played. He said nobody is more excited for a fresh start than he is. Stephanie told Corbin the fans are saying “booo really loud.” He said he’s so excited that the entire McMahon family will be running Monday Night Raw.
WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW PRIMER
DECEMBER 17, 2018
SACRAMENTO, CA. AT THE GOLDEN 1 CENTER
AIRS ON USA NETWORK, 8:00PM EST
BY FRANK PETEANI (@FrankPeteani), PWTORCH SPECIALIST
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Renee Young
Arena, Raw TLC Results, and Items Advertised by WWE
WWE will head a little bit north following last night’s TLC and pull into California’s capital of Sacramento. The Golden 1 Center will play host to Raw for the second time in its short two year history after last appearing in May of 2017. As crazy as this sounds, Brock Lesnar was the Universal Champion then and he is currently in his second reign here in December of 2018. We discuss why Raw ratings are in the toilet and not that that’s the top reason, but a part-time company champion who appears as infrequently as Lesnar does certainly doesn’t help matters.
Here are the TLC results from the Raw side of business:
Elias defeated Bobby Lashley in a guitar-ladder match. Lashley and his manager Lio Rush attacked Elias after the match.
Natalya defeated Ruby Riott in a tables match. Natalya put Ruby through a table with Ruby’s picture on it.
Finn Balor defeated Drew McIntyre. Dolph Ziggler assisted Finn by super-kicking Drew on the outside of the ring. Finn kicked Drew while he was holding a chair, and then hit his signature Coup de Grace.
Braun Strowman defeated Baron Corbin and earned a Universal Championship match at the Royal Rumble. Braun had assistance from Apollo Crews, referee Heath Slater, Raw Tag Team Champions Bobby Roode & Chad Gable, Finn Balor, and a returning Kurt Angle.
Ronda Rousey defeated Nia Jax to retain the Raw Women’s Championship
Dean Ambrose defeated Seth Rollins to become Intercontinental Champion. He begins his third reign with the championship.
Here are the items advertised by WWE.com for tonight’s Raw as of this morning:
Mr. McMahon returns to shake things up
Is Rollins ready for the age of Ambrose?
What will happen after Ronda Rousey’s rowdy actions during the Smackdown Women’s Triple Threat match?
Is the Monster Among Men ready for The Beast?
Finn Balor vs. Dolph Ziggler
Who will be the first wrestlers from Raw to enter the 2019 Royal Rumble
Vince McMahon Returns
WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon returns to Raw tonight for the first time since July 23. That night he, his daughter Stephanie, and her husband Triple H made the historic and landmark announcement in regard to the first all-women PPV Evolution, which took place this past October.
Tonight, Vince returns to “shake things up” according to WWE.com’s announcement. This announcement was made two days prior to TLC on their website and their Twitter account.
Initially WWE framed this with the expectation of Baron Corbin being the full-time G.M. Now that Corbin lost his TLC match, it’s uncertain what Mr. McMahon will do.
Frank’s Analysis: Unlike previous instances of this nature, I’m going to refrain from making predictions because they would be foolhardy. We have no idea what Vince is thinking, as much as we like to try and figure out through the years. You could probably guess considering Kurt Angle’s return last night, is that he reinstates him as G.M. The issue with that is that the authority figure is not the problem. There are a myriad of issues in WWE. If you’re not a PWTorch VIP member you need to sign up and listen to the Bruce Mitchell Audio Show from this past Saturday. Wade Keller and Bruce discuss the issues, of which I completely agree. I’ll put in my two cents and say I feel like I’m watching the Muppet Show from the 1980s and not a wrestling show. I loved the Muppet Show for the silly things Animal and Fozzy Bear did growing up but I also loved wrestling for the seriousness of “Macho Man” Randy Savage and the British Bulldogs for their pursuit of the tag team championship just to name a few items. When WWE finally acknowledges they’re purpose is to put on the best wrestling show possible and not try to make us laugh, then things will truly be “shaken up.” Until then, things will stay status quo.
Another issue for me is not announcing matches ahead of time and leaving things ambiguous. Perhaps this is my frustration talking as I do the primers based on what WWE.com shows on Monday and Tuesday morning. It’s much better to talk about specific matches than what WWE typically advertises. More importantly, when matches aren’t announced ahead of time, it makes them feel less special when they take place. Even back in the 1980s when established wrestlers fought enhancement talents, we knew what established would be on the show and thus their appearance felt like a big deal. In this day of having PPV-caliber matches on a weekly basis, it would be nice to know about them ahead of time.
The Age of Ambrose
As I talked about earlier, Dean Ambrose captured the Intercontinental Championship from Seth Rollins. He begins his third reign with the title after last holding it in the early months of 2017. It is the second time he taken a title from his former “Shield brother” as he last took the WWE World Heavyweight Championship from him at Money in the Bank 2016 after cashing in his MITB contract he won the same evening.
The match went approximately 25 minutes and featured Seth’s attempt to do a sunset flip off the top rope, the move that cost him nearly a year of his career back in late 2015 until mid-2016. He favored his knee for the rest of match, but nevertheless wrestled it to completion. Ambrose eventually hit his signature Dirty Deeds to seal the victory.
Tonight, we begin the “Age of Ambrose” as WWE is framing it.
Frank’s Analysis: I liked the match more than most. My issue with the match is that it didn’t feel like a battle between former friends-turned heated rivals. It felt like a pedestrian wrestling match. As has been talked about here in my primers and several PWTorch podcasts, the feud has gotten away from being about the Shield. It’s more about Ambrose heeling on the local crowd and very little about how he feels about his former stable despite mentioning issues here and there. It felt like Triple H vs. Randy Orton at WrestleMania in 2009 for the WWE Championship. That match should have been an out-and-out brawl after all the nasty things Orton did to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon in the run up, but instead we got a pedestrian wrestling match.
Speaking of Orton didn’t we have the “Age of Orton” back in approximately 2008?
Ronda Rousey’s Actions
As I talked about earlier, Ronda Rousey retained her Raw Women’s Championship over Nia Jax.
Charly Caruso then interviewed Rousey about her victory, and asked her about the next chapter with her and Charlotte following their match at Survivor Series. Rousey said “Payback is a bitch and I’m the baddest one on the planet.”
Later on in the Smackdown Women’s Championship match, Rousey would interfere by pushing the ladder with both Charlotte and now former Smackdown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch climbing for the title. This enabled Asuka to climb a different ladder and captured the title for the first time in her main-roster career.
While the crowd cheered Asuka’s victory, Rousey’s actions were meet with disapproval. Tonight, the expectation is to follow up in some shape or form.
Frank’s Analysis: It’s looking more and more like Rousey vs. Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch for WrestleMania is coming to fruition. I could understand WWE wanting to get all three women involved especially if it main-event’s the card. I just still think it does Rousey vs. Becky one-on-one a disservice or even Rousey vs. Charlotte Part II for that matter. There’s a lot of time between now and then and it will be interesting to see how Rousey is framed as she was certainly received as a heel following her actions last night. I’ll have more on the decision to put the title on Asuka and the methodology used in tomorrow’s Smackdown primer.
Braun Strowman vs. The Beast Part III at the Royal Rumble
Based on how WWE was framing the situation, it was touch-and-go as to whether or not Braun Strowman would show last night and take on Baron Corbin for the right to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble. The “Monster Among Men” as Braun is known arrived with his arm in a sling during referee Heath Slater’s count, and reminded Corbin that TLC matches are no-DQ. Many people that Corbin had “wronged” during his tenure as G.M., including a returning Kurt Angle (isn’t he technically still G.M.? He was just given a vacation. Anyway…). Here’s a YouTube clip of the highlights of the match:
Kurt Angle, Health Slater & others deliver brutal steel chair strikes to Baron Corbin: WWE TLC 2018 - YouTube
For the third time since September of 2017, Braun has a Universal Championship opportunity against current champ Brock Lesnar. Braun last faced Lesnar at the global WWE event…sorry couldn’t help it…Crown Jewel in early November. Lesnar recaptured the Universal Championship with assistance from Corbin.
Lesnar is not advertised at the moment for tonight to begin the build for this upcoming encounter.
Frank’s Analysis: It was actually a clever way around Braun’s injury to do what they did and reminded me of Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon at WrestleMania in 2010 when members of the Hart family attacked Vince since Bret really couldn’t “go.” It’s not necessarily a babyface tactic, but under the circumstances I could understand. Finally we got a group of babyfaces aligning and helping each other against the tyrant Corbin.
As far as the match with Lesnar, I’m really not concerned with when he appears to build up this match but rather apathetic. That’s a problem. I should care when the Universal Champion is going to be on TV. I don’t need to see him every week, but we’re back to square one with this guy. Yes, he worked two matches in November and a fine one with Daniel Bryan, but we haven’t heard hide nor hair from him since Survivor Series. On top of this we don’t even hear of him having a UFC match, so what exactly is Lesnar doing? Nonetheless, with Braun’s injury I am looking forward to how he discusses his recovery and what he will do to Lesnar at the Royal Rumble considering their last encounter. Here he is on Twitter:
As I said earlier, Finn Balor defeated Drew McIntyre at TLC in part because of outside interference by Dolph Ziggler, who super-kicked Drew on the outside of the ring. Drew recently ended his partnership with Ziggler, a man with whom he held the Raw Tag Team Championship . They have exchanged victories in the last to Raw episodes. Finn assisted Ziggler in his victory over Drew.
After the match, while Finn was being interviewed following his victory, Ziggler came to get some appreciation from Finn. Finn was having none of it, and the two went at it culminating in Ziggler leaving Finn laid out on the floor. Prior to the end of TLC ending, a match between Finn and Ziggler was announced for tonight.
Frank’s Analysis: This felt like another turn for Ziggler, but then again did he turn babyface two weeks ago? There have been so many turns in WWE recently it’s hard to keep track. He did say “I’m not a good guy nor a bad guy, I’m Dolph Ziggler,” and thus by that he technically left things open. That’s not the point as WWE likes to play these “shades of gray” as they’ve done for a long period of time, and that doesn’t do anybody any favors. I don’t care necessarily who is heel or babyface, but the characters should have a clear standing. We wonder why Raw ratings are in the cesspool.
Who Will Enter the 2019 Royal Rumbles?
As TLC is now in the rear-view mirror, we turn our attention towards the holidays and then get ready for the Royal Rumble. I supposed we should pluralize that as we look forward to one for the men and one for the women going forward.
Nevertheless we know that R-Truth and Carmella will enter #30 in their respective “rumbles” following their winning the finals of Mixed Match Challenge last night over Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox.
I couldn’t help it. It’s 6:45 a.m. EST, bear with me. At any rate, we will slowly but surely start accumulating Royal Rumble participants either through qualifying matches, wrestler’s declarations, or various other methods starting tonight.
Frank’s Analysis: While the WWE roster is deep, I don’t know how all of the Raw roster or Smackdown for that matter not participating in a title match or something else at the Rumble aren’t in the Rumble match itself. Lesnar obviously won’t be in and Braun likely not either unless their match goes on before the Rumble and Braun loses. Either way, WWE will come up with some way to put some intrigue as to who will participate whether it works or not based on how they’ve handled this in the past.
Other Items from Last Week:
Head of the women’s division Alexa Bliss was ill last week and could not have the WWE.com-announced press conference.
Bobby Roode and Chad Cable captured the Raw Tag Team Championship over AOP in handicap match in which AOP had their manager Drake Maverick as their partner. Drake took the pin.
Drew McIntyre defeated Dolph Ziggler. As I said earlier, Ziggler takes on Finn Balor tonight.
Bayley defeated Alicia Fox
Lio Rush defeated Elias after Lashley smashed Elias with a guitar. Lashley wouldn’t let referee Heath Slater DQ Rush following Lashley’s attack on Elias which lead to the guitar smash.
Ember Moon defeated Tamina
Start Time & Matches Advertised
The arena’s website is advertising a start time of 4:45 p.m. with doors opening at 3:45 p.m. local.
The website is clearly not updated, as they advertise a six-man tag between the Shield vs. Braun Strowman and Tag Team Champions Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre. Obviously the Shield is not together anymore, Strowman and Ziggler are both babyfaces but not aligned and certainly not with McIntyre. The tag title halved changed hands three times since Ziggler and McIntyre were champions. This match would make sense only two months ago which shows you how much changes in WWE in just a short period of time.
Follow Frank on Twitter @FrankPeteani or e-mail him at email@example.com. Questions and discussion are welcome.
ROH TV REPORT
DECEMBER 16, 2018
PITTSBURGH, PA AT STAGE AE
AIRED ON SINCLAIR AFFILIATES & ROHWRESTLING.COM
REPORT BY HARLEY R. PAGEOT, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Commentary: Ian Riccaboni, Colt Cabana, Caprice Coleman
ROH World Champion Jay Lethal was backstage by a Christmas tree and a table full of wrapped presents. He and Matt Taven are the captains of this year’s annual Christmas surprise ten-man tag match. He explained the premise: they each choose four gifts at random and unwrap them to reveal their tag partners for the night.
We cut to the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Champions The Kingdom elsewhere looking gray and Scroogey. Taven hates Christmas and he hates surprises. The only people he ever wants to be teamed with are TK O’Ryan and Vinny Marseglia, not the other melvins on the roster.
-In the arena the commentators were wearing festive hats. They wished us a merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah.
-Shine tag team champions Twisted Sisterz made their entrance for their first Women Of Honor tag match. Footage aired of them attacking Madison Rayne and Britt Baker at Survival Of The Fittest.
(1) MADISON RAYNE & DR. BRITT BAKER vs. TWISTED SISTERZ (Holidead & Thunder Rosa)
Baker nailed Holidead with a superkick. The Sisterz were cleared to the floor and Rayne hit a crossbody off the apron onto both of them. Rayne and Holidead wound up the legal women. Rayne got a bridging pin but Holidead kicked out. Holidead tagged in Rosa and lifted her into a leg drop on Rayne. Rosa hung Rayne in the tree of woe and hit a dropkick to the face. [C]
Riccaboni talked about how the Sisterz are the first real pairing in Women Of Honor. The commentators compared them to the Briscoes. Rayne made the hot tag to Baker. She unloaded on Rosa with clotheslines. Slingblade to Rosa and one for Holidead too. Holidead came back with kicks. Baker with a double underhook suplex. Rosa pulled Rayne to the floor. The Sisterz hit a lungblower + flatliner combo and a variation on The Addiction’s Celebrity Rehab. Rayne broke up the pin. Rayne with a split-leg dropkick to both opponents. Holidead hit a big spinebuster to Baker. Ripcord forearm from Baker into a cutter from Rayne. Rosa cause Baker’s leg to kick Rayne in the head. Rayne went down and Holidead hit Baker a spinning back slam. Rosa followed with a top rope double stomp and pinned Baker.
WINNERS: Twisted Sisterz in 9:45.
(Pageot’s Perspective: Damn, that was great. Twisted Sisterz might be the best addition to Women Of Honor yet. They’re an established team with a résumé, matching gear and face paint, and double-team moves. They’re also Hart Foundation-esque with Holidead being the physical strength and Thunder Rosa being lighter and faster. And they’re heels – something much needed in the women’s division. Lots of possibilities going forward here.)
-Lethal and Taven (in their separate areas) were both shown unwrapping the names of their first two tag partners. Lethal’s reactions were “Good!” and “This one’s in the bag.” Taven’s was a double dose of “Ugh! Melvin!”
-In an “ROH in 2018” look back feature, footage aired of Jeff Cobb debuting and capturing the TV title. [C]
-Caprice Coleman found Lethal backstage looking bummed out. He asked what’s wrong. Lethal said he wanted Cheeseburger to be on his team but he didn’t get him. Coleman told him to look under the desk. Lethal found one last present. He opened it to find… “Cheeseburger!” Lethal was ecstatic.
-Taven was out of presents but still one partner short too. O’Ryan and Marseglia realized it was in the stocking on the tree. He opened it to find… unclear. The Kingdom walked off in a huff without revealing the name.
-In the arena ring announcer Bobby Cruise introduced Taven to start. Brian Milonas was his first partner. He walked through the crowd from the bar, drinking a beer and wearing reindeer antlers. Jonathan Gresham was their next partner. He had a pillow under his shirt and wore a Santa hat and beard, carrying a plastic candy cane. Luck was on Milonas’ side as his regular partner Beer City Bruiser was #4 for their team. He also headed down through the crowd from the bar, carrying his keg, which was decorated with streamers. Their final partner was Marty Scurll. He wore silver streamers around his neck and reindeer antlers as well over his usual gear. [C]
-In an “ROH in 2018” look back feature, footage aired of Jay Lethal becoming world champion.
-Lethal entered first for his Christmas surprise team, wearing fuzzy Christmas glasses. Cheeseburger was out next, dressed in an elf hat and ears. Out third was Rhett Titus, wearing a Santa Snoopy hat and carrying a present. (But where’s Little Willy?) He took off his Christmas sweater and posed on the apron. Fourth for their team was Vinny Marseglia. He wore no festive fear but had red and green balloons instead of just red like usual. Out last was the television champion Jeff Cobb, wearing an elf hat. [C]
(Pageot’s Perspective: The commentators previously stated that all three Kingdom members were eligible for this match so the fact that O’Ryan isn’t here implies that there were more than eight names eligible and these men were simply the first ones unwrapped.)
-In an “ROH in 2018” look back feature, footage aired of SoCal Uncensored capturing the tag team titles.
-All ten men were in the ring with refere Todd Sinclair. Taven bickered with his team, insisting he was in charge. Scurll demanded to know where his Christmas outfit was. Lethal offered to trade Marseglia for Gresham. Taven eagerly agreed but Sincalir wouldn’t allow it. Bruised yelled for them to stop fighting because it’s Christmas. Wrestlers from their respective teams slowly made their way to the apron. Taven threw a Santa hat on the ground rather than gift it to a fan.
(2) ROH WORLD CHAMPION JAY LETHAL, ROH WORLD TELEVISION CHAMPION JEFF COBB, ROH WORLD SIX-MAN TAG TEAM CHAMPION VINNY MARSEGLIA, “THE BIG DAWG” RHETT TITUS, & CHEESEBURGER vs. ROH WORLD SIX-MAN TAG TEAM CHAMPION MATT TAVEN, “THE VILLAIN” MARTY SCURLL, “THE OCTOPUS” JONATHAN GRESHAM, & THE BOUNCERS (Beer City Bruiser & Brian Milonas) – CHRISTMAS SURPRISE 10-MAN TAG
Lethal and Gresham started for their teams. “Merry Christmas” chant from the crowd. They mat wrestled briefly before Bruiser tagged himself in. Lethal with a hiptoss into a dropkick. Bruiser scurried over to tag Taven. [C]
-In an “ROH in 2018” look back feature, footage aired of Sumie Sakai winning the Women Of Honor tournament to become the inaugural women’s champion.
Taven called for Cheeseburger. He tagged in and they both did push-ups. Taven immediately tagged in Milonas as his gift to Burger. Burger thought of tagging out but convinced himself he could handle the guy who has to be three times his weight. Burger tried for a headlock but Milonas just lifted him into the air. Burger leapfrogged Milonas over and over until Milonas lost his breath from running back and forth. He doubled over to catch his breath. Titus jumped in and looked to take advantage with a suplex but couldn’t budge the big man. He called over Burger to help. Milonas came in to help his partner. Scurll joined the Bouncers and they triple-suplexed Burger and Titus. Marseglia entered the ring with his ax. Scurll called for his umbrella. Gresham threw him a candy cane. Scurll cast it aside and got his umbrella. He faced off with Marseglia but instead tagged Taven.
Taven and Marseglia got face to face and spoke confidentially. Taven told him to tag out but Marseglia’s partners dropped off the apron to prevent a tag. Taven’s partners did the same. The eight men surrounded the ring and slapped the apron, chanting for the implosion of The Kingdom. Taven and Marseglia ran the ropes before sliding to the floor and attacking their opponents. All ten men brawled on the floor. Bruiser went up top and just straight up fell onto everybody as Taven stepped out of the way and laughed at the other eight men being wiped out. [C]
Lethal with a superkick to Marseglia before remembering they’re partners. Team Taven took turns splashing Lethal in the corner. Gresham didn’t want to do it so everything broke down again. Now it was Team Lethal’s turn to splash Taven in the corner. The four men (minus Marseglia) surrounded Taven and worked together to dropkick and suplex him. They all covered but Gresham broke up the pin. Cobb hoisted up Milonas for a Tour Of The Islands but Scurll pushed him over. Burger nailed Gresham with a shotei. Lethal Injection to Taven! Crossbody from Milonas to Lethal. Cobb hit a massive overhead suplex on Milonas. Tour Of The Islands to Bruiser!
WINNERS: Team Lethal in 15:26.
-As Team Lethal (minus Marseglia) celebrated in the ring, the commentators wished us all happy holidays and thanked the entire ROH staff for a terrific 2018.
(Pageot’s Perspective: If you hated this, you’re just a grinch. This was so much fun. It’s lighthearted holiday frivolity but all the wrestlers stayed true to their characters at the same time. Plus we got a call-back to the great Lethal-Gresham matches from this year, furthering of the slow burn Lethal-Taven feud, some rub given to the Bouncers and Burger for getting to tag with the top names on the roster, and Jeff Cobb performing ridiculous feats of strength. Oh, and a lot of genuinely funny moments.)