The John Report: The WWE Raw Deal 01/06/20 Review

Welcome to the first WWE Raw Deal review of 2020 right here on TJRWrestling. There are less than three weeks until the Royal Rumble on January 26th, so it’s time for WWE to focus on building up matches for that show. Speaking of the Royal Rumble, I am reviewing every Royal Rumble all month long on TJRWrestling, so check it out in our Royal Rumble section.

For this week’s Raw, the three main things advertised are the return of WWE Champion Brock Lesnar (remember him?), Andrade will defend the US Title against Rey Mysterio and The Viking Raiders will defend the Raw Tag Team Titles against The OC’s Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows as well as the Street Profits. Putting two title matches on the first Raw of the year does make it seem like a bigger show than usual, which is smart considering it’s the first Raw of the year. Let’s see what WWE has in store for us this week.

Live from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, this is the Raw Deal for episode #1389 of Monday Night Raw. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Please visit TJRWrestling.net daily for our regular updates on the wrestling business featuring WWE news coverage, insightful columns from our team along with reviews about wrestling’s past and present. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top.

The show began with a video package highlighting the disaster that was Lana’s wedding with Bobby Lashley that involved appearances from former spouses, plus Liv Morgan and Rusev, who attacked Lashley. Morgan attacked Lana as well. It was chaos and typical of a WWE wedding. The Raw intro video aired after that.

There was pyro in the arena and the fans in OKC were ready to go. The announce team of Vic Joseph and Jerry “The King” Lawler welcomed us to the show. They plugged the matches coming up later.

 

 

The next WWE pay-per-view is the Royal Rumble on January 26th in Houston, Texas. Here’s what we know so far.

Men’s Royal Rumble Match

Women’s Royal Rumble Match

Universal Championship: “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Daniel Bryan

Raw Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Asuka

 

 

The post The John Report: The WWE Raw Deal 01/06/20 Review appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

The John Report Presents: The 11th Annual WWE Johnny Awards – 2019 Edition!

Welcome to the 2019 WWE Johnny Awards. They are the awards where I honor the hard-working men and women of World Wrestling Entertainment based on their work over the last twelve months. These are the very “prestigious” awards that I call the ELEVENTH ANNUAL WWE Johnny Awards! A few notes before it begins:

– This is World Wrestling Entertainment stuff ONLY. It says it in the title, but I want you to remember that when you ask why there’s no All Elite Wrestling, New Japan, Ring of Honor, Impact or anything else in here. It’s WWE only!

– These awards are based on my own personal choice. There were no polls or write-in votes. My name is on the awards, so I get to pick the winners. I don’t expect everybody reading this to agree with everything I write below, but I will do my best to justify all my choices. The awards are based on performance. It doesn’t necessarily matter if a person wins all their matches on television and titles really aren’t that important. It’s about the performance more than anything.

– Regarding NXT, WWE’s third brand is included in every award as well. The NXT brand is awesome and I’m not going to ignore it. The same goes for 205 Live and the NXT UK brand. Anything that is WWE is considered for these awards.

– Another thing to remember is I try to have fun when I write about wrestling. I don’t take it too seriously and I don’t take myself too seriously. If you disagree with something that’s cool. Keep it civil in the comments and don’t be shy about offering your take.

If you want to check out previous year’s editions of these awards, check out the WWE Johnny Awards archive on TJRWrestling as well. It’s nice to look back on those articles to reflect on the last decade of WWE content and what I thought about it.

I’ve used a similar intro for several years. I do that because it covers everything I need to say. There are 25 categories, so let’s get to it.

 

THE 2019 WWE JOHNNY AWARDS

Each one will have a description of what the award is, the previous winners of the award (if the award existed in the last eight years), the winner of the award, the runners-up for the award, and then my extended thoughts on the award.

  1. BEST MALE WRESTLER

To be given to the person that best combines workrate, character, microphone work and everything else into one. This is like WWE’s Superstar of the Year award when they did the Slammy Awards. Past winners – 2018: Johnny Gargano 2017: AJ Styles, 2016: AJ Styles, 2015: Seth Rollins, 2014: Seth Rollins, 2013: Daniel Bryan, 2012: CM Punk, 2011: CM Punk, 2010: Randy Orton, 2009: Chris Jericho

Winner: Daniel Bryan (Runners-Up: Adam Cole, Kofi Kingston, Seth Rollins, Johnny Gargano, Roman Reigns, AJ Styles)

The two men that stood out the most to me are Daniel Bryan of Smackdown and Adam Cole of NXT. My favorite time in WWE this year was definitely the first four months with Bryan establishing himself as a narcissistic heel WWE Champion that almost seemed unbeatable at times. It looked that way until WrestleMania when Kofi Kingston found a way to beat him in what was one of the best matches and feuds of the year. As the year went on, he wasn’t in the spotlight during some of it because WWE liked to give him breaks, but I still enjoyed everything he did including the face turn towards the end of the year.

I could have picked Adam Cole for this award because he had a great 2019 as well. Cole was the leader of the Undisputed Era group, he was on top of NXT for the past seven months as the NXT Champion while also putting on some of the best matches in WWE this decade along with Johnny Gargano. They had three incredible Takeover matches. Cole also had memorable matches with Finn Balor, Daniel Bryan and a rivalry with Tommaso Ciampa that is really getting interesting as well. Cole’s a good talker although his character is basic. He’s just a cocky heel with backup. It’s not like anything that fresh or new in pro wrestling.

I think what really made me choose Bryan is because of promos as well as his character transformation. That’s not a knock on Cole or Kofi or anybody else in terms of promos. I just think Bryan is one of the best talkers in all of WWE and because of how good he was on the microphone, it made us care that Kofi Kingston beat him at WrestleMania because that meant Bryan couldn’t be as cocky as the champion. Plus, let’s not forget that Bryan was arguably the most popular wrestler in WWE this decade, yet he was able to transform himself into the most hated villain in the company. That’s a gift, man. Bryan is incredible and not a lot of guys could go in a completely opposite direction the way he did.

Daniel Bryan is my pick because of the great matches and you can say that Adam Cole had more great matches, but I think Bryan’s character development, as well as his exceptional promos, help to separate him from the pack.

Some thoughts on the runners-up:

– This was a career year for Kofi Kingston. It wasn’t planned to start the year, but kudos to him for putting on great performances on a consistent basis. He had an awesome year.

– It was a cool moment when Johnny Gargano finally won the NXT Title although it didn’t last that long. I think his feud with Finn Balor has potential to be great.

– Roman Reigns isn’t booed anymore like he was in past years, which is good to see. Reigns needs a great rival. It’s been a few years since he’s had a memorable feud.

– I know fans turned on Seth Rollins, but if you pay attention to his matches he’s still one of the best wrestlers in the company. He had too many good matches for me not to acknowledge that. I also liked his heel turn a lot.

– AJ Styles isn’t as good as he was in that incredible 2016 year because age gets to everybody, but he’s still one of the most consistent wrestlers in WWE. I really liked his matches with Bryan and Rollins while a lot of the year was spent working with younger talent like Ricochet and Humberto Carrillo to try to make them better. That’s what a veteran does.

There’s so much talent in WWE. The booking needs to be better and if it is, the talent will shine.

 

  1. BEST FEMALE WRESTLER

To be given to the best female performer. Past winners – 2018: Becky Lynch, 2017: Asuka, 2016: Charlotte, 2015: Sasha Banks, 2014: Paige, 2013: AJ Lee, 2012: Eve, 2011: Beth Phoenix, 2010: Natalya, 2009: Mickie James

Winner: Becky Lynch (Runners-Up: Charlotte Flair, Bayley, Rhea Ripley, Shayna Baszler)

The win by Lynch means she is the first woman to win this award twice. I think Becky Lynch is the obvious choice here although I think if I had to compare this year to last year, I think she was better in 2018. This year she was more pushed, but she had better matches and her rise to the top was more fun to watch. Some of the stuff she did this year like the Royal Rumble match with Asuka, winning the Royal Rumble and most of the build to WrestleMania were great. The WrestleMania main event was pretty good, but I think Lynch had better matches this year. After that, the feud with Lacey Evans was extremely boring that hurt Becky more than it helped, then she had nothing to do and at least the rivalry with Sasha Banks was mostly good stuff. In the two months after that ended, Lynch didn’t even defend her title on television. I think Lynch as a performer is very good. I just don’t think WWE was that successful in terms of giving her interesting feuds this year.

Some quick thoughts on other women:

– Charlotte Flair remains a consistently good wrestler, but she was hurt by the booking. She was a heel to start the year, then she turned face and clearly doesn’t enjoy being a face. You can see it every time she’s out there. I think she would be better off on Smackdown so that she’s not around Lynch all the time, but obviously Flair’s boyfriend Andrade is a priority on Raw as well, so it is what it is.

– Bayley’s heel turn was a good thing for her career. The problem is that she is still figuring out how to work as a heel after so many years as a face. I don’t think she’s had a memorable match as a heel yet, so that hurts her. I like how she changed her look completely, though. That was necessary.

– Rhea Ripley may have been the best-booked superstar in the entire company. By that I mean she was booked so strong that she beat everybody in her path to win the NXT Women’s Title at 23 years old. Ripley even got wins over Raw and Smackdown women during the month-long build to Survivor Series. Ripley has a great look and her promos are solid, so it’s easy to see why WWE likes her. I think she’s going to be one of the top women in the company over the next decade.

– Shayna Baszler was booked as a dominant heel champion again. She’s good in the role, but there were times when I was really bored by her. She is what she is. I just want to see her expand a bit more.

– Natalya is one of the best in the ring with some great matches with Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks and her matches with Lacey Evans were better than what Lynch did with Evans.

– It’s weird not mentioning Sasha Banks or Asuka in the nominees, but they just didn’t have enough big moments or matches. Sasha’s feud with Becky Lynch was great. Other than that, there wasn’t much for her and she had that four-month break too. Each woman spent long periods of time where they weren’t booked at all.

This year has felt like a step back in the Women’s Evolution that WWE loves to mention all the time. The fact that they didn’t do an Evolution PPV after last year’s show was the best WWE PPV of 2018 was really disappointing to me. Did they not have confidence in it being a good show just because Ronda Rousey wasn’t there after WrestleMania? If I was a woman that worked there, I would be upset at management for not doing that Evolution PPV this year.

 

  1. BEST FEUD

To be given to the best rivalry between two or more performers. Past winners – 2018: Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano, 2017: Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman, 2016: AJ Styles vs. John Cena, 2015: Bayley vs. Sasha Banks, 2014: Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority, 2013: CM Punk vs. Paul Heyman/Brock Lesnar, 2012: CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan, 2011: Randy Orton vs. Christian, 2010: The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan, 2009: CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy

Winner: Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano (Runners-Up: Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan)

I think the Cole/Gargano and Bryan/Kingston rivalries were by far the best two of the year. If I had to split up my vote in terms of percentages I would probably go 53% for Cole/Gargano, Kingston/Bryan would be around 45% and then maybe 2% for the others. I’m not listing other feuds because I think they are way behind.

The big thing that Cole/Gargano had going for them is they were able to have three extremely long matches on Takeover shows. Their matches headlined Takeover events in April, June and August. The shortest of those three matches was 32 minutes. In other words, they got a lot of time due to the format of NXT shows. If Bryan/Kingston had a match that long would it have been as epic? Maybe. I think their WrestleMania match was special, though, and I liked what they did at Elimination Chamber even with four other guys in the match. If Bryan/Kingston had three major singles matches maybe I could have picked them because the promos were generally pretty good, but I had to go with Cole/Gargano here.

 

  1. BEST MATCH

To be given to the best match. Past winners – 2018: Unsanctioned Match: Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa @ NXT Takeover New Orleans 04/07/18, 2017: John Cena vs. AJ Styles @ Royal Rumble, 2016: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn @ NXT Takeover Dallas, 2015: Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins vs. John Cena @ Royal Rumble, 2014: The Wyatt Family vs. The Shield @ Elimination Chamber, 2013: Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk @ SummerSlam, 2012: The Undertaker vs. Triple H (Shawn Michaels as ref) @ WrestleMania 28, 2011: CM Punk vs. John Cena @ Money in the Bank, 2010: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels @ WrestleMania 26, 2009: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels @ WrestleMania 25

Winner: Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole @ NXT Takeover New York 04/06/19 (Runners-Up: Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan @ WrestleMania 35 04/07/19, Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano @ NXT Takeover XXV 06/01/19, Walter vs. Tyler Bate @ NXT Takeover UK Cardiff 08/31/19)

I watched all four of these matches recently and I’m going with Gargano/Cole as the winner. The first three matches there were given five stars out of five from me while Walter/Bate was just 1/4* short of that. These were the four matches that really stood out to me in 2019 and it’s difficult to put them in any order, quite frankly. I also think it’s incredible that the top two matches of year happened in back to back nights during WrestleMania weekend. Do wrestling fans today realize how spoiled we are sometimes? I think there’s too much negativity out there. I wish more attention was given to these great matches.

I think in terms of a story of a match, Gargano/Cole really was the best. The fact that they got about 15 minutes more than Bryan/Kingston probably helped along with the fact that Gargano/Cole was a 2/3 Falls match. Both matches were similar in the sense that the fans really wanted the babyface Gargano to finally win the NXT Title while the fans at WrestleMania were going crazy for Kingston finally winning the WWE Title. The amount of nearfalls really got the crowd into Gargano/Cole. If Bryan/Kingston got another five minutes, it might have helped, but I still think it’s a five star match. I like using the phrase “that’s pro wrestling at its best” in moments like this because the best story you can tell in wrestling is to have that babyface beat the bad guy to win the title at one of the biggest events of the year. That’s what happened in both of these matches.

There is so much talent in WWE right now. They have over 200 wrestlers under contract between all the brands they have, so we are always going to get awesome matches. I would venture to guess I rated more matches over four stars out of five this year than any year and there are still shows I don’t even review. Pro wrestling is about the in-ring action after all. Let’s celebrate the great matches more and worry less about the stupid storylines that frustrate us. That’s what I’m going to try to do in 2020.

 

  1. BEST PAY-PER-VIEW

To be given to the best pay-per-view. Past winners – 2018: Evolution, 2017: Royal Rumble, 2016: Money in the Bank, 2015: WrestleMania 31, 2014: WrestleMania 30, 2013: SummerSlam 2012: Extreme Rules, 2011: Money in the Bank, 2010: WrestleMania 26, 2009: SummerSlam

Winner: WrestleMania 35 (Runners-Up: Elimination Chamber, Fastlane, Survivor Series)

There wasn’t one standout main roster PPV in my opinion, but I enjoyed WrestleMania the most even though it was the longest show of the year. Here are the links to the top four that had scores that were 7.25 and up. Nothing reached an 8 this year.

WrestleMania 35 – 7.5

Elimination Chamber – 7.5

Fastlane – 7.5

Survivor Series – 7.25

The top three PPVs were among the first four PPVs of the year. That’s because the booking was better in the build up to WrestleMania, which is usually the case. I also liked Royal Rumble too, but it didn’t make the mentions here. Survivor Series had good matches all night long although I think they picked the wrong match to go on last.

It was a pretty good WrestleMania with a lot of happy moments since babyface wrestlers like Kofi Kingston, Becky Lynch, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and others got victories. There were some quality matches most of the night too.

 

  1. BEST NXT TAKEOVER SPECIAL

To be given to the best NXT Takeover special. Past winners – 2018: NXT Takeover New Orleans, 2017: NXT Takeover Chicago, 2016: NXT Takeover Dallas, 2015: NXT Takeover Brooklyn

Winner: NXT Takeover New York on April 5 (Runners-Up: NXT Takeover Toronto, NXT Takeover XXV in Bridgeport)

Here are the links to my NXT Takeover reviews (out of 10) for this year:

NXT Takeover New York – 10

NXT Takeover Toronto – 9

NXT Takeover XXV (Bridgeport) – 9

NXT Takeover WarGames (Chicago) – 8.5

NXT Takeover Phoenix – 8.5

NXT Takeover UK Cardiff – 8.5

The NXT Takeover New York show during WrestleMania weekend is an all-time great show. As usual, NXT Takeover events are amazing. If I included Takeover’s in the same category as main roster PPVs, this was a year where all of the Takeover shows earned higher scores than all the other PPVs.

 

  1. BEST TALKER

To be given to the best person at delivering promos. Past winners – 2018: The Miz, 2017: The Miz, 2016: Chris Jericho, 2015: Paul Heyman, 2014: Paul Heyman, 2013: Paul Heyman, 2012: CM Punk, 2011: CM Punk, 2010 winner: CM Punk, 2009 winner: Chris Jericho

Winner: Daniel Bryan (Runners-up: Kevin Owens, Rey Mysterio, Samoa Joe, Becky Lynch, Paul Heyman)

The heel act of Daniel Bryan makes him the easy choice for me. The fact that he could turn the crowd against him as much as he did was so cool to see and it was mostly because of what he said, but also how he said it. If you would have told me a decade again that Bryan Danielson would be among the best talkers in WWE, I would have doubted you. However, the man has improved so much. He’s the best.

I think Kevin Owens showed his depth as a performer this year by delivering great promos as a heel and a face. The fans really got behind him this year, especially when he was feuding with Shane McMahon because of the promos. They felt real. It was great to listen to. Rounding out the runners-up are the natural babyface Rey Mysterio, the always consistent Samoa Joe, Becky Lynch got a lot of promo time and Paul Heyman is always going to be mentioned on here.

I didn’t list The Miz as a runner up even though he won this award the last two years because his babyface promos are less interesting than what he did as a heel.

 

  1. WORST FEUD

To be given to the worst rivalry between two or more performers. Formerly known as the Katie Vick award. RIP Katie. Past winners – 2018: Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn, 2017: Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt, 2016: Darren Young vs. Titus O’Neil, 2015: Dolph Ziggler/Lana vs. Rusev/Summer Rae, 2014: Brie Bella vs. Nikki Bella, 2013: Big Show vs. Triple H/Randy Orton, 2012: Kane vs. Zack Ryder/John Cena, 2011: Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler & Jim Ross, 2010 winner: Kane vs. Edge, 2009 winner: Triple H vs. Randy Orton

Winner: Shane McMahon vs. The Miz (Runners-Up: The Undertaker vs. Bill Goldberg, Seth Rollins vs. The Fiend, Rusev vs. Bobby Lashley)

What was the point of this feud? When it was happening, I figured that 49-year-old Shane McMahon turned heel on The Miz (after they lost the tag team titles) because he was going to put Miz over as a face to try to elevate Miz as a good guy. Instead, they used The Miz’s dad George in the storyline, Shane called him a potato face, George even got in the ring at WrestleMania (which was unintentionally hilarious) and then Shane beat Miz! What? They wrestled again at Money in the Bank, Shane won that too and Miz never got his win over Shane. Once again I ask, what was the point of the feud? To elevate the old guy? What a waste of TV time. The Miz had a down year because of it.

The only thing that saved The Undertaker vs. Bill Goldberg was that they only had one match. It went ten minutes and it was awful. I never want to see it again. They’re old. Move on, boys.

The Seth Rollins feud with The Fiend didn’t work. The match at Hell in a Cell sucked with a terrible finish. At Crown Jewel it wasn’t any better with The Fiend no selling everything leading to a win…R-Truth vs. Drake Maverick had some funny moments for the comedy 24/7 Title, but it just went on too long…I don’t really like the Rusev feud with Bobby Lashley. It’s still in progress.

I might be missing on others because we all hate different things. Those are the ones that stood out to me.

 

  1. WORST PAY-PER-VIEW

To be given to the worst PPV. They wanted us to pay money for this? Past winners – 2018: Crown Jewel, 2017: Battleground, 2016: Fastlane, 2015: Royal Rumble, 2014: Tables, Ladders & Chairs (And Stairs), 2013: Battleground, 2012: Hell in a Cell, 2011: Over The Limit

Winner: Super Showdown (Runners-Up: Hell in a Cell, TLC)

There were three PPVs that stood out as the worst based on my ratings out of 10:

Super Showdown – 3

Hell in a Cell – 3.5

TLC – 4.5

That Super Showdown show was such a mess. At least there were some good to great matches at Hell in a Cell and TLC to prevent them from being the worst. Super Showdown was mostly forgettable from start to finish with that disappointing Undertaker vs. Goldberg match in the main event.

 

  1. BEST TAG TEAM

To be given to the two men that function best as a tag team. Past winners – 2018: The Bar (Sheamus & Cesaro), 2017: The Usos, 2016: The New Day, 2015: The New Day, 2014: The Usos, 2013: Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns, 2012: Team Hell No (Kane & Daniel Bryan), 2011: Air Boom (Evan Bourne & Kofi Kingston), 2010: The Hart Dynasty, 2009: Chris Jericho and The Big Show

Winners: The Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish) (Runners-Up: The New Day, The Revival, Kabuki Warriors)

It was just an average year for tag team wrestling in WWE. I don’t really remember any tag team feuds as being that special the way The New Day feuded with The Usos two years ago. There were a few New Day/Revival matches that I enjoyed, so that was probably the best tag team rivalry. I went with The Undisputed Era team due to their consistency, teamwork, ability to have good matches with anybody and they continue to be booked strong as part of the NXT brand. The New Day and The Revival are awesome teams are well. The Kabuki Warriors have clearly been the best women’s team as well.

 

  1. THE “NEXT BIG THING” AWARD

To be given to the wrestler that is most likely to be the “next big thing” in the new year. Past winners – 2018: Velveteen Dream, 2017: Rusev, 2016: Shinsuke Nakamura, 2015: Sami Zayn, 2014: Bray Wyatt, 2013: Roman Reigns, 2012: Dolph Ziggler, 2011: Cody Rhodes, 2010: Alberto Del Rio, 2009: John Morrison

The new rule for 2019 is that it must be somebody that hasn’t won a title in WWE yet.

Winner: Keith Lee (Runners-Up: Matt Riddle, Io Shirai, Candice LeRae)

I think Keith Lee has made a huge impact in the last few months. Considering how strongly WWE booked him during Survivor Series weekend as part of the winning men’s team in WarGames and then as the last man on the NXT at Survivor Series, it shows they believe in him too. That showdown with Lee and Roman Reigns was very interesting. I don’t know if Keith is going to be a NXT guy for that much longer because I can see him as a regular on Raw or Smackdown in 2020. No matter where he goes, I believe he can be a legitimate main event guy. Bask in his glory…indeed.

Matt Riddle’s got all the tools in the ring. His matches are among the best in WWE. I think he needs to work on the gimmick. Walking around as a stoner saying “bro” all the time is fine, but he needs to be doing more than that too. I want to see his character evolve and I hope he can have a breakout feud soon.

Io Shirai is tremendous as a face or heel. She is one of my favorite women’s wrestlers in all of WWE. I think her former rival Candice would be a very believable women’s champion as well.  

 

  1. BEST HEEL

To be given to the performer that is the best at drawing the ire of the audience. Past winners 2018: Tommaso Ciampa, 2017: The Miz, 2016: AJ Styles, 2015: Seth Rollins, 2014: Seth Rollins, 2013: Paul Heyman, 2012: Daniel Bryan, 2011: Christian. Award began in 2011.

Winner: Daniel Bryan (Runners-Up: Adam Cole, Brock Lesnar, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt)

It’s Daniel Bryan again. He was a heel for most of the year. I think back to the first part of the year when I was giving Smackdown regular scores of 7 or 8 out of 10 every week mainly because of how great Daniel Bryan was. The guy went from being one of the most popular wrestlers alive with the “Yes Movement” behind him to the most hated guy with a custom WWE Title. On top of that, Bryan ripped on the fans for not treating the environment the right way. A lot of it was ridiculous in theory, but Bryan managed to pull it off. Also, it’s incredible that the guy sat out three years due to concussions and had an emotional return in early 2018 ended up having the best heel turn late last year in order to become the best heel this year.

Adam Cole is an outstanding performer. I just don’t know if he’s a traditional wrestling heel sometimes. Yes, he cheats at times thanks to his friends in the Undisputed Era group, but he also gets way too many cheers from the fans, especially during his “BAY-BAY” chants. To me, a true heel – the very best of them – never gets cheers and never does anything to get cheers. I’d love to see Cole be more of a true heel in the future.

I put Brock Lesnar because I think he has tremendous value on WWE television as a legitimate athlete that has accomplished so much in WWE and he is so hated by the fans. Then, when it comes time to business, he is willing to go out there to have a meaningful match at a major show like when he put over Seth Rollins clean at WrestleMania and SummerSlam. It’s not Lesnar’s fault that Rollins failed as a face in the eyes of the fans. Lesnar did his part well. From a performance standpoint, Lesnar is great. If you hate him for not working more often, blame Vince McMahon for paying him. I’d work way less if I could too and I’m sure you would as well.

The other current major champion is “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt and I think he deserves a lot of credit for creating a unique villain character. They need to get rid of the stupid red light, but for the most part I enjoy what The Fiend is doing out there.

The most pushed heel on Raw most of the year was Baron “King” Corbin and since he’s been on Smackdown, he has also been pushed a lot as a heel. I don’t think he’s that impressive. He represents the staleness of the WWE product right now. They need better top heels.

 

  1. BEST BABYFACE

To be given to the performer that is the best at receiving the adulation of the audience. Past winners – 2018: Becky Lynch, 2017: AJ Styles, 2016: Dean Ambrose, 2015: John Cena, 2014: Dolph Ziggler, 2013: Daniel Bryan, 2012: John Cena, 2011: Randy Orton. Award began in 2011.

Winner: Kofi Kingston (Runners-Up: Becky Lynch, Johnny Gargano, Roman Reigns, Rey Mysterio, Seth Rollins)

I think the rise of Kofi Kingston was one of the better stories in WWE this year. The guy went form a tag team wrestler and somebody that held midcard titles multiple times in his career to finally getting that big break. The only reason he got it was because of Mustafa Ali’s untimely injuries, but sometimes the best stories in wrestling are the ones that were never planned. The fans loved Kingston, he was elevated at Elimination Chamber by nearly beating Daniel Bryan and then at WrestleMania when he did beat Bryan for the WWE Title. The title reign was pretty good, but nothing really compared to the rivalry with Bryan. The best thing about Kingston is that he was consistent all year. He’s a true, old school babyface in every sense of the word and a very likable guy.

Becky Lynch is one of the most popular wrestlers in WWE. The rivalry with Ronda Rousey was great for both women, but we still haven’t seen that as a singles match. I liked her feud with Sasha Banks too, as I mentioned earlier. The problem is the Lacey Evans rivalry was boring and then it feels like Lynch was just killing time the last couple of months to get to the end of the year. Once again, I liked her 2018 more than her 2019.

I think Gargano, Reigns, Rey Mysterio and Rollins all did well as babyfaces. I know the fans turned on Rollins, but think of the whole year, watch the matches and it’s hard to deny him at least a mention in this category.

 

  1. BIGGEST NEWS STORY

The stories of the year that we’ll always remember when looking back at the year that was. Past winners – 2018: Roman Reigns announcing he has leukemia, 2017: Kurt Angle returning to WWE after 11 years away, 2016: WWE signs four top New Japan stars, 2015: Injuries decimate the roster, 2014: CM Punk leaving WWE, 2013: The WWE Network Still Isn’t Here, 2012: Jerry Lawler’s heart attack, 2011: The death of Randy Savage, 2010: The departure of several big names (Shawn Michaels), 2009: Shane McMahon leaves WWE

Winner: Roman Reigns returns from leukemia battle in February (Runners-Up: Women’s triple threat match headlines WrestleMania 35, Smackdown lands on Fox, NXT goes to USA Network)

The Roman Reigns comeback story wins this one easily, in my opinion. The man came back from leukemia, which is a form of cancer and he did it in about four months. I know that some people might scoff at that saying it was only four months, so how bad could it be? It’s still cancer. It’s still a deadly disease where if you don’t find it right away and treat it, you may end up with serious problems for the rest of your life. Reigns said that he must take a pill to help with it, so that’s what he has to deal with for the rest of life. I hope it never comes back, but there is no way of knowing if it will. When Reigns returned in February, he told us all he’s in remission and he’s been back in action ever since. Good to see the “Big Dog” back home in WWE.

I think the trio of Becky Lynch, Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair headlining WrestleMania was an amazing thing. I’m happy that it happened. I wish that the match was better, especially the finish, but that’s what happens sometimes in wrestling. It’s still the kind of thing that should have a huge impact on the next generation of wrestling fans.

Smackdown going to Fox officially in October was a big deal. Sadly, the quality of the show hasn’t been great (like the first three months of the year), but at least WWE has a show on network TV.

The growth of NXT has been one of the best things about WWE this decade. This year, they took another big step by becoming a two-hour show live every Wednesday night on USA Network. Would this have happened if All Elite Wrestling wasn’t airing Dynamite on Wednesdays? I doubt it. The competition is there now and wrestling fans are more spoiled than ever. Enjoy it.

 

  1. BEST INDIVIDUAL PROMO

To be given to the one promo that was the best in the last year. It can feature more than one person. Past winners – 2018: Daniel Bryan’s announcement that he has been cleared to return @ Smackdown March 20, 2017: Festival of Friendship with Kevin Owens turning on Chris Jericho on Raw February 13, 2016: The Miz and Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack, 2015: The Rock at WrestleMania 31, 2014: Daniel Bryan “Occupy Raw” face to face with Triple H @ Raw March 10, 2013: Mark Henry @ Raw June 17, 2012: Kane’s Speech at Anger Management @ Raw August 27

Winner: Roman Reigns announcing he’s in remission on February 25th edition of Raw

This was an easy choice. I could think of a traditional wrestling promo from Daniel Bryan or Kofi Kingston, but I’m going with Reigns on Raw on February 25th.

This is what I wrote in my analysis of that speech on Raw: “I really liked Roman’s speech as he spoke from the heart and you could tell he was genuinely touched by all the support he received. I also liked what he said about the fans. I know wrestling fans bicker about every little thing, but when somebody is down, we all remember we’re on the same team as fans of this business and we support that person. Good job Atlanta crowd by representing all of us because I know everybody reading this is supporting him too. The whole segment was very well done. Welcome back, Roman.”

That’s the winner for me. No doubt.

 

  1. BEST TURN

To be given to the best babyface or heel turn that benefitted the performer the most. Past winners – 2018: Daniel Bryan, 2017: Sami Zayn, 2016: AJ Styles, 2015: The New Day, 2014: Seth Rollins, 2013: Randy Orton, 2012: Big Show, 2011: Mark Henry, 2010: Kane, 2009: CM Punk

Winner: Finn Balor (Runner-Up: Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Dakota Kai)

When Finn Balor returned from his break to join NXT, it was treated as a big deal and a sign that the NXT brand was going to become a more important show in the WWE Universe. That was followed by Balor turning heel when he attacked Johnny Gargano and it was a side of Balor that most WWE fans have never seen before. It wasn’t expected, but it was executed perfectly. I enjoyed it a lot.

I liked seeing Seth Rollins as a bad guy. It’s still early, but I think he’s going to be great at it. AJ Styles going back to his heel ways to re-align with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson felt fresh after a few years of being one of the top faces on Smackdown.

The next three runners up are all women. Sasha Banks did an excellent job as a heel when she first returned in August. The matches with Natalya and Becky Lynch were very good. She has done nothing interesting since then, though. I like that Bayley has changed her look as well as her promo style. I just keep waiting for her to get a good feud. It’s been a while. Dakota Kai may not be known to a lot of you, but her heel turn against Tegan Nox at NXT Takeover WarGames was excellent. We need more turns like that.

 

  1. MOST IMPROVED PERFORMER

To be given to the performer that has shown the most improvement in the last year. Past winners – 2018: Velveteen Dream, 2017: Braun Strowman, 2016: The Miz, 2015: Bayley, 2014: Damien Mizdow, 2013: Roman Reigns, 2012: Ryback, 2011: Zack Ryder, 2010: Cody Rhodes, 2009: Kofi Kingston

Winner: Rhea Ripley (Runners-Up: Humberto Carrillo)

The winner of this award is Rhea Ripley not because she was a bad performer in the past. I just think she has improved to the point where she has gone from being a young woman with potential to being one of the top women in WWE that can already hang in there with the best WWE women. That’s impressive for somebody that’s only 23 years old. I like where Humberto Carrillo is going too. He’s a guy to watch in the future.

 

  1. BEST WEEKLY WWE TV SHOW

To be given to the best weekly WWE television (or internet) show. Past winners – 2018: NXT, 2017: Smackdown, 2016: Smackdown, 2015: NXT, 2014: NXT, 2013: NXT.

Winner: NXT (Runner-Up: Smackdown)

I think it’s easily NXT. There’s just more in-ring action, better storylines and it’s a lot less stressful to watch. The first four months of Smackdown was very good. The rest of the year was not so great. The length of Raw at three hours continues to be a big reason why it’s not a winner here. The show is too long.

 

  1. FUNNIEST MOMENT

To be given to the funniest moment of the year whether it was unintentional or on purpose. Past winners – 2018: Titus O’Neil’s slide at Greatest Royal Rumble

Winner: George Mizanin gets in the ring at WrestleMania (Runner-Up: R-Truth comedy segments)

Enough said. Watching The Miz’s dad get in the ring and trying to fight Shane McMahon made me laugh so much. By the way, George wasn’t supposed to go in the ring and he did it anyway. There was even a story that Shane may have broken one of George’s ribs. That’s the winner for me.

R-Truth makes me laugh most of the time he’s out there even when it involves that comedy 24/7 Title. I feel like at least acknowledging Truth is fair to do in this awards column.

 

  1. STUPIDEST BOOKING DECISION

To be given to the stupidest choice made by WWE’s creative team. Past winners – 2018: Brock Lesnar as Universal Champion for way too long, 2017: Jinder Mahal as WWE Champion

Winner: Wildcard Rule (Runner-up: Kofi Kingston’s WWE Title loss was in a very short match, WWE does not do the Evolution PPV again)

I thought the Wildcard Rule was lame. Why not just say the brand extension was on hold at that point? Instead of something simple like that, the announcers had to yell out “Wildcard Rule” like a bunch of morons. Eventually, WWE just stopped mentioning it through the summer until the rosters got split up again in October.

When Brock Lesnar vs. Kofi Kingston for the WWE Title was announced for the Smackdown on Fox debut, I figured it would be a competitive match. Nope. Lesnar won in about ten seconds. I didn’t like it back then and I don’t like it now. I already covered the Evolution PPV topic earlier in the awards.

 

  1. BEST FINISHING MOVE

To be given to the best finishing move in WWE. Past winners – 2018: Eclipse by Ember Moon, 2017: Eclipse by Ember Moon, 2016: Styles Clash by AJ Styles, 2015: Popup Powerbomb by Kevin Owens, 2014: Red Arrow by Neville, 2013: Neutralizer by Cesaro, 2012: Neutralizer by Cesaro

Winner: RKO/Shatter Machine Combo by Randy Orton and The Revival (Runner-up: Styles Clash by AJ Styles, 630 Splash by Ricochet)

There really isn’t one move that sticks out this year, so I’m going for a combination of moves. When Randy Orton was regularly working with The Revival over the summer, they would do this combo move where The Revival guys lifted the opponent and Orton would drop them with the RKO. It’s incredible how popular the RKO still is considering it has been on TV regularly for about 25 years going back to when Diamond Dallas Page was using the Diamond Cutter in WCW, but it’s still getting huge reactions from the fans. I think by having The Revival lift a guy into the air, it makes the move look more devastating and that’s why I like it so much.

The Styles Clash is still an awesome move. When Styles does it off the middle ropes as a heel it looks even more devastating. I really like the 630 Splash by Ricochet although he has cut back on doing it as the year has gone on and he’s using the Recoil a lot more.

 

  1. BEST ANNOUNCER

To be given to the best announcer in WWE. It could be a play by play or analyst. Past winners – 2018: Mauro Ranallo, 2017: Corey Graves, 2016: Corey Graves, 2015: Corey Graves, 2014: John Bradshaw Layfield, 2013: John Bradshaw Layfield, 2012: John Bradshaw Layfield, 2011: Booker T, 2010: Matt Striker, 2009: Jim Ross.

Winner: Nigel McGuinness (Runner-Up: Mauro Ranallo, Corey Graves)

I’m going with Nigel McGuinness this year. I really like the work he’s done on NXT as well as NXT UK when I watch that show. McGuinness isn’t really a heel announcer, but he’s very good at breaking down strategies in a match like you would expect when watching a real sport.

Mauro Ranallo’s passion for the NXT product is great although sometimes he overdoes it. I still like him. I think Graves needs to be even more of a heel announcer than he is. He sides with some heels like King Corbin, but I wish he backed all the heels the way a Bobby Heenan or Jerry Lawler used to do.

 

  1. COMEBACK OF THE YEAR

To be given to somebody coming back from an injury or some other issue that kept them away. This is a new award starting this year. Past winners – 2018: Tommaso Ciampa.

Winner: Roman Reigns (Runners-up: Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn)

This is another obvious choice. I think coming back from something like leukemia is incredible because you never know how the body is going to react to medications. The fact that Reigns was able to take on a full schedule again is incredible. I’m happy he’s in good health.

Kevin Owens came back from double knee surgery while Sami Zayn had surgery on both shoulders last year. They both returned earlier this year. There are a lot of wrestlers that deal with injuries that need surgery. I think when you have surgeries on two body parts, it makes it even harder to come back. I’m glad that both of my fellow Canadians are back in the ring although Zayn doesn’t wrestle as much as he used to. I hope he gets to be in the ring more in 2020.

 

  1. BEST WWE NETWORK SHOW

To be given to the best show on WWE Network that is not just a live wrestling show. It has to be something different. Past winners – 2018: WWE Chronicle, 2017: WWE 24, 2016: Edge & Christian Show, 2015: Breaking Ground.

Winner: Broken Skull Sessions with Steve Austin (Runners-Up: WWE 24, Table for 3)

There have only been two episodes of Steve Austin’s “Broken Skull Sessions” on WWE Network, but I feel like that episode with The Undertaker in November was one of the greatest things that’s been on WWE Network in the nearly six years that it has existed. Hearing The Undertaker telling stories about his life before WWE, then the concept of The Undertaker character and just hearing him share his experiences with a fellow legend like Austin was so fun to watch. It was nearly two hours long, yet I felt myself wishing there was another two hours. Austin’s interview with Bill Goldberg was pretty good too.

The WWE 24 documentary series is always great. I love the behind the scenes footage they get. I always watch them no matter the subject matter. They had some better Table for 3 episodes this year. A recent episode with the Nation of Domination was fantastic. That’s another show that I wish was longer than the 20-25 minutes they usually get.

 

  1. MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT

To be given to the most memorable moment of the year. Past winners – 2018: Daniel Bryan announces his return to the ring after three years away, 2017: Hardy Boyz return to WWE at WrestleMania, 2016: AJ Styles debuts at Royal Rumble, 2015: Seth Rollins becomes WWE Champion at WrestleMania 31, 2014: The Undertaker’s undefeated streak ends at WrestleMania 30 when he loses to Brock Lesnar, 2013: Daniel Bryan wins WWE Title leading to heel Triple H/Orton, 2012: Brock Lesnar’s Return April 2 on Raw, 2011: CM Punk’s Promo June 27 on Raw, 2010 winner: Bret & Shawn embrace in the ring, 2009 winner: The Undertaker/Michaels match

Winner: Kofi Kingston winning the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 35 (Runners-up: Johnny Gargano winning the NXT Championship at NXT Takeover New York, Becky Lynch wins the Royal Rumble)

By this point in the column it feels like I have covered this stuff many times. I think Kofi Kingston’s WWE Title win at WrestleMania was a special moment. I’ll always the remember the sheer joy on his face as he realized he won the match and then when he was put on his shoulders, we could see Xavier Woods legitimately crying because he was so happy for one of his best friends. The ovation of the crowd was incredible too. I’ll never forget it.

When it comes to Gargano finally getting the NXT Title, I already praised the match heavily. What I’ll also remember is when he was on the top of the ramp with his wife Candice LeRae, then the crowd popped again and Tommaso Ciampa walked out while Gargano had this look on his face when he realized his best friend Ciampa was there to give him a big hug. That was a special moment.

I thought the best night that Becky Lynch had this year was at the Royal Rumble. The match with Asuka was probably the best match she had this year while she also sold a knee injury the whole night. During the actual women’s Rumble match, which Lynch joined after Lana was injured, Lynch did a tremendous job of selling the knee and then she won the Rumble. It was booked really well. I liked this better than her WrestleMania moment.

This is another award that I could have given to Roman Reigns coming back. I just felt like going in another direction for it.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS ON WWE IN 2019

Since I always like to rate the shows out of 10, how about a rating for the year? Here’s how I rated the years since 2009.

2009: 5.5

2010: 5

2011: 7

2012: 7

2013: 6.5

2014: 5.5

2015: 5.5

2016: 6.5

2017: 6

2018: 6

2019: 6.25

I’m going with a 6.25 out of 10.

It’s more of the same for WWE in 2019. I don’t think WWE is a terrible product like some negative wrestling fans out there. It’s also not must see. A score of 6.25 out of 10 is the equivalent of getting a C or C+ in school. In other words, it’s fine but things could be a lot better.

The reason I am giving it a score slightly higher than the last two years is because I think NXT had one of their best years ever (probably the best since 2016) and putting NXT on USA Network for two hours has helped the brand grow. When it comes to Raw and Smackdown, it’s more of the same. There aren’t enough great rivalries, but when they are great like the Bryan/Kingston story that carried the first four months of Smackdown, it’s a nice reminder of how awesome WWE programming can be. My average grade for Smackdown from January through April was right around a 7 out of 10. The last four months were probably closer to a 6 or even less than that. Raw is hurt by being three hours. There’s too much content to consume every week. That problem isn’t going away any time soon.

I think if you look at WWE from a big picture perspective, an area where they are seriously lacking is in terms of character development. They need better, stronger heels to help boost the babyfaces. When you think about Seth Rollins being pushed so hard with two Universal Title wins over Brock Lesnar and a boring feud with Baron Corbin, is it really a surprise that the fans got bored with him? It’s because Seth didn’t have a memorable rivalry. Roman Reigns is the face of Smackdown. His main feuds this year were with Shane McMahon, Elias and guess what, there’s Baron Corbin again. It’s not that interesting.

The women’s division had some growth this year by headlining WrestleMania, but it’s not like that match was some epic matchup that should be celebrated as one of the best matches of the year. It was not that. Becky Lynch also had the same problems that her fiancé Seth Rollins had because her rivalry with Lacey Evans was boring, then at least she had some good matches with Sasha Banks and for the past couple of months, Lynch’s title hasn’t even been defended. The Smackdown Women’s Title hasn’t produced any interesting content this year either.

When it comes to NXT, they continue to fire on all cylinders. It’s the best brand in WWE. The men’s division has developed several main event level stars while also incorporating others into the mix. I think the women’s division is as good as it has been since probably 2015, which is when the Four Horsewomen of WWE were carrying things. The storytelling on NXT is a lot better. It’s a testament to Triple H as a booker while also showing that maybe his father-in-law Vince McMahon (at age 74 with the XFL ready to launch in February) is getting too old for this. If Hunter took over Raw and Smackdown regularly, would they be as good as NXT is? We may not know that answer for many more years. I’m just glad that NXT exists due to how consistently good it is.

I think WWE’s talent roster is very good and deep although they are lacking in big name stars. The absence of John Cena has been felt big time especially as TV ratings and live attendance numbers go down. I would love to see another “wrestling boom” although I don’t know if there’s a wrestler in WWE right now that is going to lead it. If there is, that person needs to step up soon. There’s no time like the present.

————–

I keep this part in every year: This is my favorite column to write every year. If you’re one of those people that reads a lot of my work without writing this is one of those times where I’m asking for your thoughts because I want to know what you thought. Don’t be shy. I reply to nearly every email. You can also contact me on Twitter or Facebook – the links to those are at the bottom of the post.

Thank you to my good friend Steve Melo for the banner at the top of this post. He also does the banners for every one of my columns including the always fun “preferred” Raw Deal banners, Smackdown banners, PPV banners and more.

I wish you all a safe and happy New Year in 2020. Bring on the next decade. I’ll keep writing and I hope you’ll keep reading.

As I said, please don’t hesitate to contact me. My contact info is below. Thanks so much for reading!

John Canton – mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

Facebook Personal Page & TJRWrestling.net on Facebook

 

The post The John Report Presents: The 11th Annual WWE Johnny Awards – 2019 Edition! appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

The John Report: The WWE Raw Deal 12/30/19 Review

Welcome to the final WWE Raw Deal review of 2019 and of the decade. Happy New Year to you. Bring on 2020.

Live from Hartford, Connecticut, this is the Raw Deal for episode #1388 of Monday Night Raw. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Please visit TJRWrestling.net daily for our regular updates on the wrestling business featuring WWE news coverage, insightful columns from our team along with reviews about wrestling’s past and present. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top.

The Raw intro video played to begin the show. That was followed up by the pyro in the arena in Hartford, which his near WWE’s home offices in Stamford, CT. There was a plug for the wedding of Bobby Lashley and Lana later on Raw. Plus, a rematch from TLC with Aleister Black facing Buddy Murphy again in what should be an awesome match.

Let’s Hear from Kevin Owens

Kevin Owens walked down to the ring quickly. The announce team of Vic Joseph and Jerry “The King” Lawler welcomed us to the show. There’s no third person on the announce team after Samoa Joe was attacked last week because Joe is cleared to return to action. He was only a temporary announcer on Raw. Speaking of that attack, Owens cued up some highlights from last week. They showed a replay of last week’s Raw when Seth Rollins beat up Owens, Rey Mysterio and Joe in separate attacks. Joe was put through the announce table by the two big AOP boys.

Owens talked about how Seth and AOP sent him to the hospital twice in a month. Owens said that every week, he’s going to keep calling them out, but sooner or later he’ll take one of those idiots down with him. Owens said what he has a problem with is their actions impact people in the locker room that he respects like Rey Mysterio. Owens said there aren’t a lot of people in this industry that he respects as much as Mysterio. Owens said it made him sick to see them gang up on a legend like Mysterio and stomp on him on the stage. Owens said that the worst part is that those actions are why Mysterio lost the US Title to Andrade at a live event on Thursday. A video aired from this past Thursday at MSG when Andrade beat Rey Mysterio to win the US Title.

Owens called out Rollins and right on cue, that led to Rollins making his entrance with the AOP boys by his side.

Rollins stood on the stage saying that Owens is failing to see the big picture. Rollins said that this has been forced upon him by Owens and people like KO that think they know best. Rollins claimed this position is his sacrifice for the greater good to be a leader and take this industry into the next decade. The fans booed. Rollins said that Owens left him to impose his will and if you resist, you saw what happened to Mysterio and Joe while adding that AOP will enforce his will.

Owens left the ring, he went after Akam and Rezar (they were in suits as usual) and they brawled outside the ring. The fight went into the ring with AOP beating down Owens with repeated punches and knees. Rollins told AOP to teach Owens a lesson.

Samoa Joe’s music hit and Joe made his entrance to a huge pop. Joe was in his wrestling gear. Joe went to the ring with a kick to Akam and he tossed Rezar into the barricade. Joe went into the, punches to Rollins and a headbutt. Joe slapped on the Coquina Clutch on Rollins, the crowd loved that, but then AOP saved Rollins. Owens back in with a chair and he hit both AOP guys in the back, but Rollins went after Owens. Security guys went down to the ring to break it up. When the security guys broke it up on the floor, Owens hit a somersault dive onto the pile to knock everybody. They went to break shortly after that.

Analysis: Good start to Raw with Kevin Owens calling out Seth Rollins and AOP, which led to a fight and Joe joining in the fun makes a lot of sense too. Did you hear the pop for Joe? The fans want to root for the guy. The pacing of this story has been slow and that’s a good thing. They aren’t rushing it. The fans are into it. This kind of start is better than some promo where a guy talks for 15 minutes to set up a match later in the night. This was more action. It was a fight. It’s easy to understand based on the story. Joe and Owens are likable to the fans because of the story as well as their credibility as successful wrestlers in their careers. It works. Impressive dive by KO too!

CM Punk also offered his take on this.

(Commercial)

There were replays of what happened before the break.

Samoa Joe and Kevin Owens were shown talking in the locker room. Charly Caruso showed up to ask why Joe what he did. Caruso mentioned security was showing for them. Joe said that Seth Rollins forced him into it because of what they did while Owens said he’s known Joe a long time while adding there’s nobody he would rather be on the same side with than Joe. Security showed up, Joe threatened them not to touch him and Owens said “Happy New Year” to a security guy as they left.

Analysis: I like Owens and Joe together. They are not “body guys” like we have seen in pro wrestling for decades, but they are easy to root for and now they have a common enemy, so the story works for them.

Aleister Black made his entrance for this singles match. It’s one of the coolest entrances in WWE. Buddy Murphy entered as the opponent.

Aleister Black vs. Buddy Murphy

There was some posturing in the first minute with Murphy doing Black’s sitting in the ring spot and then Black sat in the ring to stare at him. Black with a running back elbow to the face followed by a snap suplex. Black with a kick to the chest, then some punches and a running kick to the face for a two count. Black tried a corner attack, Murphy avoided it and sent him into the turnbuckle. Murphy went up top, but Black countered him with a jumping kick to the face. That was a great sell by Murphy, who tripped up Black on the turnbuckle and Black bumped into the top of the ring post, then onto the floor. They went to break about four minutes into it.

(Commercial)

The match continued with the two men exchanging strikes on the apron leading to Black kicking Murphy into the turnbuckle, which led to Murphy bumping to the floor. Black with a moonsault off the middle ropes onto Murphy on the floor. Back in the ring, Black with a running knee on Murphy followed by another moonsault press off the middle ropes for a two count. Murphy kicked Black out of the ring, Murphy was selling a left leg injury and Black with another kick to the upper body of Murphy. Black with a hard kick to the chest while Murphy was against the ropes. Black went up top, Murphy back up and he sent Black face first into the turnbuckle. Murphy with a dropkick into the ropes followed by rollup with his feet on the ropes for two. Murphy kicked Black out of the ring followed by a somersault dive over the top onto Black on the floor. Murphy barely connected on that, but Black sold it anyway. Murphy up top and he jumped off with a double knee attack on Black for a two count. The fans were chanting “this is awesome” for them. Murphy up top, Black went after him, Murphy with a front suplex and Murphy rolled through into a Powerbomb for two. Black with a kneebreaker on the shoulder, Murphy with a kick to the head and Black with a sweeping kick. They exchanged strikes again with kicks, then Black with a back kick to the face, but Murphy came back with a jumping knee. Black countered a move with a brainbuster of his own for a two count. Black wanted his Black Mass kick, Murphy avoided it, Murphy got a rollup for two and Black hit a Black Mass kick although it didn’t fully connect. Black brought Murphy back up and hit another Black Mass kick for the pinfall win after 15 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Aleister Black

Analysis: ***3/4 It was a great wrestling match just like they had at TLC. It was one of the better matches on Raw this year. This is what Raw needs more of. Build the story for a few weeks to make us care about a rivalry between the wrestlers. Give great wrestlers like Black and Murphy the chance to go for 15 minutes and trust them to deliver a match that the fans will enjoy. This crowd loved this match and that’s no surprise since it was great to watch. It was fun pro wrestling. There is time for matches this good every week and it’s not that hard to do it as long as there is a bit of effort in the storylines. It was interesting how Black controlled most of it as the face, then Murphy had some moments where he nearly won, but then Black came back to win clean. They are booking Black strong, which is fine with me. A feud with AJ Styles or Andrade would be great for him in the long term.

The fans cheered the effort of both guys while Black was victorious once again.

Seth Rollins and AOP were in the backstage area. Akam and Rezar said they will beat up anybody that comes near them. Rollins claimed that management wanted them to leave the building. Rollins said that the show will be canceled by the next match. Security showed up with Rollins saying they didn’t have to worry because Seth and AOP were leaving voluntarily.

Lana was shown backstage in a makeup chair while a lady was putting makeup on her. Erick Rowan showed up asking with his cage. Rowan asked if she misplaced the invitation for him, then he said we don’t care anyway and he yelled like a crazy man. Lana just cringed in her chair as Rowan left.

Analysis: That was awkward, but I guess that’s the Rowan character doing what he does.

A commercial aired for NXT promoting their Year End Awards show on Wednesday that also features three of NXT’s biggest matches of the year. In other words, it’s a taped show on New Year’s Day.

(Commercial)

Erick Rowan entered with the cage that had a cloth on it against an unnamed opponent. It’s a guy named Kip.

Erick Rowan vs. Kip Stevens

Rowan’s opponent left the ring, he went under the ring and Rowan figured out the guy was by the cage. When Kip turned around, Rowan kicked him in the face. Rowan slammed Kip face first into the side of the ring apron. Back in the ring, Rowan hit a running splash, body slam and a running splash for two because Rowan picked the guy back up. Rowan hit the Iron Claw Slam for the pinfall win after two minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Erick Rowan

Analysis: 1/2* It was the usual squash match win for Rowan just like he does every week on Raw.

Lana was shown in her dressing room getting ready for the wedding. They had her bend over in a tight dress showing her cleavage while rubbing lotion on herself. She was talking to herself about how people are obsessed with her.

Analysis: Good camera work there. Is the Attitude Era back? Don’t answer that.

(Commercial)

Charlotte Flair made her entrance in her ring gear along with the usual robe that she loves to wear. She’s a 10-time Women’s Champion as most WWE fans know since the announcers say it every time she’s on camera.

Flair greeted the fans with “Woo” on the microphone. Flair said that she is there to announce her entry into the Women’s Royal Rumble match. Flair said it’s exciting and surprising that she’s in the Royal Rumble match. Flair said all of you knew she was going to be in the Women’s Royal Rumble, so why state the obvious? Flair said she could talk about how she’s a 10-time Women’s Champion, that she main evented WrestleMania and she’s the first woman to ever main event a pay-per-view, she’s hard working, she’s consistent and arguably the greatest of all time. Flair said she is the first woman on any brand to make her entry into the women’s Royal Rumble. Flair said that means she is the first male or female to say she’s in the Royal Rumble. Flair said she’s so tired of talking about how she is the Queen of WWE, so she wants to show us why. Flair said she had her favorite robe on, her boots are laced, so who wants to face The Queen and then she asked who wants to bow down to The Queen?

Natalya’s music hit as Natalya appeared on the stage and then they went to break at the end of the first hour.

Analysis: It was a decent promo Charlotte talking about her accolades while adding that she didn’t want to talk about it, she wanted to show it. I feel like people standing in the ring while listing what they have done is almost like a commercial. It feels too fake. Just get to the point. Her delivery was fine, but some of the dialogue was cheesy. Natalya answering her challenge is fine with me since they have had many great matches together over the years.

(Commercial)

There was a referee in the ring to begin the match.

Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya

Flair grounded Natalya with a headlock, then Natalya countered and Flair kipped up to get out of it. Flair with a shoulder tackle, Natalya with a snap mare, jump on the back on the back of the neck and Flair popped back up leading to a clothesline. Natalya came back with a snap suplex followed by a spinning clothesline for two. Natalya put Flair in a surfboard submission where she pulled on the arms of Flair, but Flair got out of that and kicked Natalya in the face for two. Flair wrenched the left knee of Natalya against the ropes, then Natalya avoided and attack and sent Flair into the turnbuckle as well as the steel steps. They went to the floor where Natalya gave Flair a suplex on the bottom of the ramp. Back in the ring, Natalya told a fan to shut up followed by a suplex. Flair hit Natalya with a forearm, then Natalya charged, Flair moved and Flair pulled on Natalya’s legs against the ropes, so it was almost like a Boston Crab against the turnbuckle. Natalya bumped to the floor. There was chaos at that moment as R-Truth ran around the ring wit the 24/7 Title. Eric Young even went into the ring and Flair hit him with a boot to the face. Truth escaped through the crowd, which led to a break.

(Commercial)

The match returned with Flair going for a superplex on the ropes, Natalya pushed her off and Natalya hit a cross body block off the top for two. Natalya doesn’t do that move normally, but it looked good. Flair came back with a kick to the chest, Natalya blocked another kick and hit a release German Suplex. Flair with a back elbow to the face followed by an overhead suplex. Flair missed a corner kick, Natalya grabbed her and hit a sitout Powerbomb for a two count. Both women were down selling the physicality of the action. Natalya wanted a Sharpshooter, Flair punched her and there was a rollup for two. Flair with a boot to block a clothesline. Flair off the ropes and she hit a Spear for a two count because Natalya barely got her left shoulder up. Flair with a knee drop to the left knee and then Natalya kicked Flair into the turnbuckle. Flair kicked Natalya down and hit the Natural Selection neckbreaker for a two count. Flair went up top, moonsault attempt, Natalya got the feet up to block and inside cradle got two for Natalya. Flair got back up to her feet and connected with a big boot to the face. Flair slapped on the Figure Eight submission, Natalya tried to fight it, but then she tapped out and Flair won by submission after 13 minutes.

Winner by submission: Charlotte Flair

Analysis: ***1/4 This was pretty good. I thought it was hard-hitting, they had some cool spots in there and plenty of counters that tells the viewer that they know eachother well. It was a bit of a cold match since it wasn’t advertised, so the fans didn’t react to it in a big way. It seemed like the story was that every time Natalya got some momentum, Flair was there to stop her. I’m a bit surprised that they didn’t do a Sharpshooter spot that we see in most Natalya matches because then it would have looked like Natalya had a chance to win. Flair getting the win is not a surprise since she will be a legit threat to win the Royal Rumble.

Becky Lynch was interviewed backstage by Charly Caruso. Lynch announced that she’ll defend the Raw Women’s Championship against Asuka at the Royal Rumble on January 26th (it was actually a challenge that was made official later in the show). Lynch claimed that she got what she wanted because her contract is up soon. Lynch claimed something about how she set out to prove that a woman can be The Man in this business and she’s done that, but she has to prove to herself that she can beat Asuka. Something like that anyway. Lynch said she doesn’t know if she can beat Asuka, but she’s going to try even if it kills her.

Analysis: Lynch vs. Asuka at Royal Rumble was expected since Asuka beat Lynch at this year’s Rumble. Doing the match again one year later sounds like a great idea to me.

Bobby Lashley was shown in the dressing room getting ready for his wedding segment.

(Commercial)

There was another Liv Morgan video talking about how you can’t just look different, you have to feel different. Morgan said that somebody once made her feel different and then took it away. Morgan said that the old me wouldn’t have done anything, but the new her strikes when ready and she asked if we’re ready.

Let’s Hear from The OC

The OC trio of AJ Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson made their entrance. They stood in the ring with Styles talking about how Raw is The OC’s show. They showed a clip from two weeks ago when Gallows and Anderson beat The Viking Raiders. Last week on Raw, The OC trio beat Randy Orton and Viking Raiders in a six-man tag team match when Styles beat Orton.

Anderson said that everybody said that the Viking Raiders were unbeatable, but they beat them time and time again. Anderson noted that they beat them at Crown Jewel when they were officially recognized as the best tag team in the world (they showed the trophy). Gallows said that the trophy proves it. Gallows said that when it comes to who gets to challenge those two goofs…and here come The Street Profits.

The Street Profits duo of Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins appeared on the stage with microphones in hand. Ford asked if G&A have beaten the Viking Raiders more than once and Dawkins said it’s true. Ford also mentioned G&A winning the tag team turmoil match, which Dawkins said it’s true. Ford noted that on their Monday Night Raw debut, they beat Gallows and Anderson with Dawkins noting they beat their A$$. Ford said that means they are…and Styles said lucky.

Styles told the Street Profits what have they done here with just a handful of matches? Styles told them to stick backstage or maybe they’ll get hurt. Dawkins noted The OC is named after a teen soap opera in reference to the 2000s drama show The OC. The fans barely reacted to that. Gallows said this is not a high school musical and told them to get in the ring so they can kick their ass. Ford said that they want the smoke. That led to a match.

Analysis: That’s the typical WWE way of setting up a match with the trash-talking promo and the ref was right there to start it. I like Street Profit promos, but they need even more catchphrases for the fans to chant along with.

The Street Profits (Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins) vs. The OC’s Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson (w/AJ Styles)

Ford hit a dropkick on Anderson for a two count, then Dawkins came in with a double axehandle off the ropes. Dawkins with a shoulder tackle on Anderson. Dawkins ran the ropes, Styles grabbed the foot, the referee realized what Styles did and the referee ejected Styles from ringside. The ejection spot always leads to cheers when a heel is sent to the back and that’s what it did here.

(Commercial)

The match returned with Anderson in control of Ford with a headlock. Ford with a boot to the face, clothesline charge, but Anderson moved and hit a neckbreaker for two. Gallows worked over Ford with punches followed by a headlock, and when Ford got back up, Gallows decked him with a boot to the face. Gallows with a clubbing blow to the back of Ford, Gallows punched Dawkins off the apron and Ford hit a jumping kick on Gallows. Anderson tagged in, Dawson got the hot tag with clotheslines, uppercut on Anderson and a dropkick on Gallows. Dawkins with an overhead suplex on Anderson, corner splash on both guys and Dawkins with a running bulldog on Anderson for a two count. Gallows back in, punch by Dawkins and Anderson came back with a spinebuster for two. Anderson knocked Ford off the apron, Gallows back in and OC hit a double team neckbreaker on Ford for two. Ford saved his partner, dropkick on Gallows and a running somersault dive onto Gallows on the floor. Dawkins with the sky-high spinebuster on Anderson and Ford went up top with a Frog Splash (he jumped really high on that) on Anderson for the pinfall win after 11 minutes.

Winners by pinfall: The Street Profits (Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins)

The Street Profits celebrated the win (Ford does a great rope shake) and Lawler was in heel mode saying that it wouldn’t have happened that way if Styles was still at ringside.

Analysis: **3/4 Good match with the faces going over thanks to an exciting finish. The height that Ford gets on that Frog Splash is incredible. By having The OC beat The Viking Raiders non-title and then having Street Profits beating The OC here, it usually means a triple threat situation. (Later in the show, the triple threat was announced for next week on Raw.)

The match is official for the Royal Rumble: Becky Lynch vs. Asuka for the Raw Women’s Title.

There was a backstage shot of Lana checking out some flowers that were for her wedding.

This Friday on Smackdown: Daniel Bryan needs to be careful what he wished for since he’s facing The Fiend at Royal Rumble.

(Commercial)

The Street Profits duo were backstage celebrating their victory. Montez Ford wondered if that win meant they were the best tag team in the world or universe. Angelo Dawkins said that maybe they were the best in the multiverse and tried to explain it. Ford lost interest, so he mentioned the wedding, Dawkins wanted to know who the bridesmaids were and Ford ended it saying “we want the smoke” like they love to say.

The team of Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins entered for a match against Drew McIntyre.

Drew McIntyre made his entrance with a microphone in his hand. McIntyre said it’s a 2 on 1 match with Ryder and Hawkins against the “Sexy Scotsman” Drew McIntyre. Drew leaned up against the barricade by a fan and he said he’s not worried about it. McIntyre told Hartford if Drew should be worried tonight and not many people raised their hands. Drew asked if Zack and Curt should be worried, so most of the fans that raised their hands. Drew told them “you’re screwed” to begin the match.

Ryder and Hawkins tried to attack, but McIntyre drove Ryder back first into the barricade and he knocked Hawkins down on the apron. The bell rang.

Drew McIntyre vs. Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins

McIntyre with an overhead suplex on Hawkins followed by a Claymore Kick. McIntyre hit a Future Shock DDT on Ryder, then put Ryder on top of Hawkins and pinned both guys for the victory after one minute.

Winner by pinfall: Drew McIntyre

Analysis: * This was another easy win by McIntyre that was more impressive than last week since he beat two guys at once. It’s good to be over 6’5” and a heel on Raw since guys like Drew and Rowan get booked so strongly every week.

The announcers talked about Randy Orton addressing his knee injury and his future. That’s still to come.

(Commercial)

A video aired letting us know that the WWE Champion Brock Lesnar is back on Raw next week in Oklahoma City. Also next week on Raw: Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio for the US Title and The Viking Raiders defend the Raw Tag Team Titles against The OC and Street Profits.

Analysis: Two title matches plus the return of Lesnar after he’s been off for over one month. That’s a solid way to begin the year.

Let’s Hear from Randy Orton

Randy Orton made his entrance with two crutches that he used to support his injured left leg. Orton had a brace on the left leg as he made his way down to ringside. There was a ringside attendant that helped Orton make his way onto the apron. Orton stood in the ring with a microphone in hand.

Analysis: There was an Orton injury at a WWE live event on Sunday in Hershey, PA. The initial belief was that it was a legit injury, but the Wrestling Observer reported it’s just part of the storyline with Orton selling the left knee injury for several weeks. WWE doesn’t do injury angles at live events that often, so that’s why people thought it was legit.

Orton was ready to speak as the fans chanted his name. Orton said that there’s a saying in the business that it ain’t ballet and injuries can happen at any time. Orton said all the guys and girls are well aware of the fact that injuries can happen. Orton said it kills him that he needed help to get into the ring tonight in front of the fans. The fans were chanting “Randy” in support of Orton. Randy said he’s seen champions that have surrendered their title because of injury and he said he didn’t respect many people, but one man he does respect is Edge and he had to surrender his title to retirement.

Orton said he heard his knee pop during the match last night and he didn’t know how bad it was until the doctors looked at the MRI this morning. Orton said that he’s going to be out for a very long time while adding that there’s a good chance that he won’t be able to come back. The fans chanted “no” at Orton. Randy said no matter what happens, he’s going to do everything in his power to make sure that somebody gets RKO’d at WrestleMania and that is his promise for the fans.

AJ Styles showed up for the interruption saying “timeout” to stop Orton from talking. Styles said that the next time he gets to fight Orton is WrestleMania…maybe? Styles asked is that what he’s saying? Styles went into the ring with Orton.

Styles said Orton looked mad and he asked if he was mad while adding that of course Randy is mad. Styles wondered what The Viper was going to do to him and said he didn’t think Orton was going to strike. Styles teased Orton saying he didn’t touch him, but then he touched the knee of Orton that had a brace on it. Styles said he picked on the kid at school that can’t do a thing about it. Styles laughed at how fate bit Orton before Orton could bite fate for Styles. Orton asked if he was done, Styles said he was not done and told us that he’ll give the people what they want. Styles said he’ll put his arms behind his back to let The Viper strike. Styles put his arms behind his back, he even closed his eyes and Orton did nothing while Styles laughed while adding that Orton is hurt. Styles said he’ll wait until WrestleMania to put the leg of Orton’s, put it into a Calf Crusher and not only make him tap out, but retire him. Styles told him he’ll see him at WrestleMania and then he kicked one of the crutches away. The fans chanted “AJ sucks” at Styles.

Orton asked: “You know what the big difference is between you and me?” Orton said you’re patient, but he is not. Orton hit Styles with the RKO to show that he was not hurt after all. The fans popped big for that as Orton celebrated in the ring with his familiar pose.

Analysis: I thought that was well done. It took about ten minutes to get through it, but it was nice work by both guys. Orton was sad about the injury, Styles acted like a jerk that bragged about it and then Orton took advantage of AJ’s cockiness to drop him with a well-timed RKO. It was an effective way of keeping this rivalry going. I don’t mind that at all. As for Orton mentioning Edge, there are rumors that Edge might be back in action for the Royal Rumble although Edge has denied that. It’s not like a Royal Rumble surprise entrant is going to say they’ll be in the match. Anyway, that’s something to keep in mind for the Rumble match.

There was a video of Andrade winning the US Title from Rey Mysterio last Thursday. Rey Mysterio did a promo saying he was going to win the US Title back. Mysterio said he didn’t start this with Seth Rollins and AOP, but when this is over he’ll be standing tall. Rey said “booyaka 619” to end it.

Andrade made his entrance with the US Title along with the lovely business manager Zelina Vega by his side.

(Commercial)

There was a plug for Fox’s New Year’s Eve bash with Steve Harvey. There’s also a match with Roman Reigns facing Dolph Ziggler. It was taped last week after Smackdown.

Andrade (w/Zelina Vega) vs. Some Bald Guy With No Name Given

Andrade with a running boot followed by a clothesline. Andrade hit the guy with a running dropkick. Andrade hit a running double knee attack against the turnbuckle. Andrade wanted to hit the Hammerlock DDT, but Vega told him to do it on the floor. Andrade tossed the guy out of the ring. Andrade and Vega took the mat cover off the floor to expose the cement Andrade broke the referee’s count. Ricochet’s music hit to save this guy from a DDT on the floor and Ricochet checked on the guy. The referee left the ring too, so I guess that was the end of the match without a finish. This went about three minutes.

Match Result: No Contest

Analysis: This was about putting over Andrade by teasing the DDT on the floor like he did to Humberto Carrillo. The lack of a finish may frustrate people, but the match didn’t matter. It was more of an angle.

Ricochet grabbed a microphone and said that it’s not going to happen like that. Ricochet mentioned Andrade doing that move to Humberto Carrillo and then trying to take out a legend like Rey Mysterio, so if you want a fight, you can fight him. The fans cheered.

Analysis: It’s the typical way to set up a match on a WWE TV show. At least it makes sense with Ricochet stepping up as a friend of Carrillo, who Andrade took out with the DDT on the cement.

(Commercial)

The bell rang to begin the match.

Andrade (w/Zelina Vega) vs. Ricochet

This is not for the US Title. Ricochet was on fire with a senton splash off the top for two. Ricochet to the apron, Vega with a distraction and a springboard attack missed because Andrade hit a dropkick to the chest of Ricochet. Vega pulled the mat up again to expose the concrete outside the ring. Andrade with a running back elbow followed by stomps. Andrade hooked the arms of Ricochet while in a standing position, but Ricochet slipped through with a rollup for two. Ricochet with a headscissors on Andrade to send him out of the ring and Ricochet hit a twisting cross body block over the top to the floor. Andrade left the ring, Ricochet went after him and Andrade shoved Ricochet back first into the barricade. Andrade drove the lower back of Ricochet into the side of the ring where the LED boards were. Ricochet tried to fight back, but Andrade gave him a back body drop onto the exposed cement on the floor.

(Commercial)

The match returned with Andrade in control with a headlock, Ricochet came back with an enziguri kick and an impressive dropkick. Ricochet with a standing Shooting Star Press for a two count. Andrade avoided the Recoil, then Andrade hit a running back elbow and that connected for a two count. That running back elbow by Andrade looks so deadly. Ricochet countered a DDT attempt with an inside cradle, then superkick and Ricochet with a suplex into a neckbreaker. Ricochet went up top right by Vega, who went up and she shoved Ricochet off the top while the referee didn’t see it. Andrade hit the Hammerlock DDT on Ricochet for the pinfall win after 10 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Andrade

Analysis: *** It was a competitive match with a finish that wasn’t that creative. Some of the spots they did were great like that back elbow by Andrade and the way Ricochet sold it was perfect. They work well together. I didn’t love the finish because it was the most obvious manager interference finish that you could come up with. They could have distracted the referee better or make Ricochet not look like a loser as much by going up top right where Vega was standing. Ricochet really needs a meaningful feud. I assume the long term Andrade feud is with Humberto Carrillo although any time Andrade wrestles Rey Mysterio like he is next week that’s fine with me too.

Lana was shown getting ready for the wedding with a photographer taking pictures. Lawler was really over the top saying it may be the greatest thing on Raw in the history of the show. No. Just no.

(Commercial)

Andrade and Zelina Vega were shown walking backstage with the US Title on his shoulder. They were happy about his win. Sarah Schreiber showed up for an interview, which led to Vega talking about how Andrade proved how great he is while mentioning Andrade has beaten Ricochet and Humberto Carrillo. They talked trash about Rey Mysterio as well.

There was a plug for next week’s Raw: The WWE Champion Brock Lesnar is back, Andrade defends the US Title against Rey Mysterio and The Viking Raiders defend the Raw Tag Team Titles against The Street Profits and Gallows/Anderson of The OC.

The Wedding of Bobby Lashley and Lana

The ring was filled with wedding flowers and other things that you might see at a wedding while white steps were put beside the ring. It looked like there was some giant cake that could fit a person in it, so gee I wonder who that could be? Don’t answer that. There was some older white gentleman in the ring to run the ceremony. There were many empty chairs on the stage because the idea is that nobody wanted to be at the wedding.

Bobby Lashley was introduced. Lashley’s theme song played for him. Lashley wore a tuxedo jacket with cutoff sleeves and no shirt underneath.

Lana made her entrance. They did not play “here comes the bride” for her. I don’t know what song they played, but there were some violins playing as she made her way down to the ring. Lashley held the ropes open to allow Lana to get into the ring. The wedding is next.

(Commercial)

There were about 10 minutes until the top of the hour. The show returned with Lashley and Lana in the ring for their wedding ceremony. The minister (a local actor most likely) read something about how we hope that marriage makes them a better version of themselves. When the minister read something about how they might have kids one day, Lana complained about it saying she didn’t put that in a script. The minister read some more stuff, which led to “Rusev Day” chants and fans had “Happy Rusev Day” signs in the crowd. Lana yelled that it was not about Rusev. The minister said that Lashley and Lana found their other half and we are all happy for both of them, which drew boos. There was another “Rusev Day” chant that pissed off Lana, who told the fans to shut up.

Lana said her vows while reminding the crowd that it’s all about Lana. She said this is the luckiest day of Bobby’s entire life because he is marrying the greatest WWE superstar of all time (heels lie). Lana said she’s the greatest woman that has ever lived while bragging about her charisma and telling the fans that they are pathetic. Lana said she knows that Lashley has worked so hard in his life to be the best at everything and the greatest gift he can give himself is her. The fans chanted “Rusev Day” again, so she said “Lana Day” repeatedly while the fans booed as she reminded us that it’s her day. Lana said that they are only 25 hours away from the new decade while adding that this is the greatest moment of Lashley’s career, life and manhood while adding that she wants to jump on him to make love to him right now. Lana kissed Lashley for a few seconds until Lana backed away to her side. The minister thanked Lashley for his restraint, which made me chuckle.

Lashley read some cue cards that Lana wrote for him and the comments were similar to what Lana wrote. Her makeup was all messed up on her face after she kissed Lashley. I think some of the makeup went on Lashley’s face as well or it was his makeup on her face. It’s something like that. Anyway, the fans chanted “what” so she tried to shut them up again. Lashley continued to read the cards that were similar to what Lana said including Lashley thanking her for allowing him to marry her.

The minister said let’s get to the rings. Lashley took the ring and put it on Lana’s finger while saying the vows that he was told to say. The show was past the 11pmET hour at this point and Lana cut off the minister saying we know that he loves her. Lana put the ring on Lashley’s left ring finger while adding that her Bobby has promised her everything. I think Lashley helped her with some makeup.

It got to the part where the minister asked if there was anybody that thinks these two should not be married. There was some guy in a suit that walked down to the ring. He said this is a complete sham and this should not continue. The guy said that he is Lana’s first husband. The guy said that they got married the day she turned 18, then she left him for that son of a bitch Rusev and Lana told the guy to get out of there while claiming that he is still in love with her. The guy told Lashley that he’ll leave him like she always does because that’s what she does. Lashley gave the guy a spinebuster and he bumped out of the ring.

There was no interruption this time…or at least that’s what it looked like, but then there was a woman that walked down to the ring with a microphone.

The woman said that she is Bobby Lashley’s first wife. The fans chanted “Jerry” for Jerry Springer. The woman said that they met when Bobby was in the military and it was so beautiful, so Lana slapped the woman and knocked her down. The minister continued again asking if there’s anybody that has just cause why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.

There was another objection and this time it was Liv Morgan. Liv said that this cannot go on because the love of her life is right there. Liv said she wouldn’t have made it through this year without their love. She said that she was hoping her dreams would come true and she never knew that she could be herself until they met and fell in love with eachother. Liv asked: “How can you do this to me?”

Bobby Lashley said he has never touched this woman in his entire life. Morgan said oh no, she’s not talking about Bobby.

Liv went into the ring and said: “I’m talking about Lana!” The fans popped for that. Morgan asked Lana why is she doing this? The fans chanted “yes” for this. Lana was angry, so she tackled Morgan against the turnbuckle and they got into a fight in the ring. There were referees as well as producers that went down to the ring to break it up.

Lana still wanted to get married, so the minister was about to announce them as a married couple and that’s when Rusev emerged from the cake that was in the ring. The fans popped big for Rusev probably because they wanted somebody to end this. Rusev beat up Lashley with punches and he threw him into the turnbuckle followed by a clothesline. Rusev gave Lashley a Machka Kick. Morgan sent Lana’s face into the wedding cake. That was the end of Raw at 11:11pmET so they went 11 minutes past the top of the hour. I don’t believe Lana and Lashley are “married” although that wasn’t clarified at the end of the show.

Analysis: This is one of those segments where I don’t even know where to begin. I fully expected the wedding to not happen and that’s what we got here as things started to unravel. The interruptions took place with previous marriages emerging followed by Liv Morgan revealing she’s in a lesbian relationship with Lana, but then Lana ended up attacking her, so that’s probably going to lead to a rivalry between them? The interference by Rusev was expected as soon as this was announced because you know the fans were going to hate this and they did, so having Rusev show up was a way to pop the crowd. The whole storyline has seen Lana acting like this arrogant woman that thinks she’s a bigger star than she is actually is while everybody else sees her as a phony. I think she’s trying to get her real husband Rusev over with the crowd.

The whole thing doesn’t bother me that much because it’s WWE. I’ve been watching this stuff all my life. You can’t go into a wedding segment expecting some riveting storyline or some great angle that we have never seen before. I see it as campy, cheesy comedy. It’s not like they are trying to make these weddings into serious segments. It was a joke of a wedding and that’s why it ended up in a brawl. The entire Lana/Lashley relationship has been that way with Lana controlling him while Lashley goes along with it because he thinks she’s hot. Everything about the wedding followed that pattern too.

I can see people reacting to this as one of the worst segments WWE has done in a very long time and that’s fine. I can see others laughing about it because it was the kind of silliness in pro wrestling that we are used to in our lives as wrestling fans. I laughed about it. It’s not a serious angle, so whatever. I’m glad this part of it is over. I hope Rusev gets more cheers during his career after this. It’s been good for him in that sense, so that makes me happy at least. Lana’s bad acting isn’t that great to watch, though.

 

Three Stars of the Show

  1. Aleister Black
  2. Buddy Murphy
  3. Kevin Owens/Samoa Joe

 

The Scoreboard

6.75 out of 10

Last week: 6.25

2019 Average: 5.91 (Smackdown is 6.56)

Last 5 Weeks: 6.25, 4.75, 7, 5.75, 7.5

2019 High: 8 (September 9)

2019 Low: 3.5 (May 27)

 

Final Thoughts

This week’s Raw gets a 6.75 out of 10.

This is a hard show to rate because I really liked most of the matches as well as the opening segment that was an exciting brawl to start the show. The Aleister Black/Buddy Murphy match was outstanding as you would expect. I liked what they did to further the Orton/Styles story as well. Most of the other matches were pretty good too.

The wedding segment with Lana and Lashley along with all the run-ins was the kind of silly WWE comedy that misses the mark sometimes. I can see fans being divided about it where they will either hate it or laugh at how ridiculous it was. I’m somewhere in the middle on it. I didn’t love it or hate it, but I hope it benefits Rusev long term. I’m also not sure this is the best way to bring back Liv Morgan, yet here she was as a former lover of Lana. The problem is that it was so long and so ridiculous that it overshadows the other things on the show that were actually good. When that happens, it hurts the show overall. I’m still saying it was an above-average Raw due to the matches as well as most of the storylines. They are pushing people well with decisive wins that will help them long term in the ring. I just don’t think the main event wedding was a great ending and I’ll leave it at that for now.

Next week on Raw: The WWE Champion Brock Lesnar is back, Andrade defends the US Title against Rey Mysterio and The Viking Raiders defend the Raw Tag Team Titles against The Street Profits and Gallows/Anderson of The OC.

The next WWE pay-per-view is the Royal Rumble on January 26th. Here’s what we know so far.

Universal Championship: “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Daniel Bryan

Men’s Royal Rumble Match

Raw Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Asuka

Women’s Royal Rumble Match – Charlotte Flair is the first name announced.

You can contact me using any of the methods below. Go reigning and defending NBA Champion Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Thanks for reading.

John Canton

Email: mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter: @johnreport

Personal Facebook and TJRWrestling on Facebook

 

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