It was a big episode of WWE Monday Night Raw this week. The show took place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and also the Manhattan Center in New York City. Why two venues? Barclays Center is WWE’s current home in the NYC area while the Manhattan Center is where the first Raw took place on January 11, 1993.
The show featured several segments where names from the past took part in a APA backstage poker game, some comedy figures were in a backstage segment with Kurt Angle (shoutout to Brother Love!), former Raw general managers appeared on the stage (some of them anyway), and some women from Raw’s history were featured too. Torrie Wilson, you still look amazing. Anyway, the sense of nostalgia was consistent all night long.
If you’re wondering, there was no sign of The Rock on the show. He wasn’t even mentioned either. It surprised me that they didn’t put together a video package about him or that he didn’t shoot some kind of promo for it. The Rock did offer up this tweet earlier on Monday.
In honor of tonight’s @WWE’s #RAW25. Most important moment in RAW history. On this night we became the #1 wrestling show in the world.. and never looked back. My privilege to “do the honors” (lose the title) to @RealMickFoley. *crowds ELECTRICITY was incomprehensible. #goosebumps pic.twitter.com/8zcpzOFYpL
— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) January 22, 2018
Why couldn’t The Rock do an Instagram promo video for one minute? It would have been easy and a welcome addition to the show.
Here’s a run down of 10 takeaways I had from watching the show. I’m not going to recap everything. Instead, it’s more of a summary of the key parts and why I thought some things may have missed the mark.
1. Steve Austin was a thorn in the side of the McMahon Family once again
The best part of the show was the opening 20 minutes, thanks to Steve Austin and Vince McMahon. The first promos of the night were from Shane and Stephanie McMahon, Vince’s two children, who thanked the fans for all the support of Raw for the past 25 years. They set up a great video package about the history of the show.
When Vince McMahon went out there, the fans cheered loudly for him, chanted “Thank you Vince” and then things changed. Vince wasn’t impressed by the plaque that his kids got him (thanks in part to a GoFundMe campaign that was just a work, by the way) and he turned on the fans by telling them that the only person he needs to thank for Raw’s success is himself.
That brought out “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, which drew the loudest reaction of the night. I don’t think anything else was close to the response that Austin got. Vince was funny in explaining that he’s a senior citizen now (Vince is 72 years old), so he offered up Shane to get beat up. Austin ended up giving Shane a Stone Cold Stunner, much to the crowd’s delight. Vince thought he was safe, so he had a beer with Austin and Austin hit a Stone Cold Stunner on Vince too. The crowd loved it while Rusev didn’t think Vince sold it very well. I thought Vince did well considering his age!
And stilllllllllll the worst stunner bump goes to VKM!!! #RAW25
— Rusev (@RusevBUL) January 23, 2018
When Shane got back up, Austin hit him with another Stunner. More beer celebration from Austin and he left. I enjoyed the segment because it was a nice trip down memory lane, but I would have liked to hear from Austin. Considering Austin is one of the best talkers in WWE history, having him do a promo to fire up the crowd to excite them would have helped a lot. Austin did a backstage interview on WWE’s YouTube channel ripping on announcer Mike Rome, but that’s not the same as being in the ring asking for a “Hell Yeah” from the crowd.
If this was the closing segment to the show, maybe people would have thought Raw was better. Since it was the opening segment, it made it tough for anything else to follow.
2. The Miz beat Roman Reigns to become Intercontinental Champion for the eighth time
It was one of the worst shows of the year if you watch Raw for in-ring action. I think it’s okay because of all the guests that were a part of it, but I would have liked to see some better efforts in the ring.
The Miz won back the IC Title from Roman Reigns, which was predictable since Reigns was not viewed as a long-term champion. The Miz only lost the title two months ago because he left to film a movie, so they had to do something with the title.
The crowd was firmly behind Miz, even though he’s the heel. It’s because the Brooklyn fans hate Roman Reigns. When Reigns looked like he was going to win, Curtis Axel of the Miztourage grabbed his foot, so the ref ejected Axel and Bo Dallas from ringside. While Reigns was beating up Axel and Dallas earlier in the match, Miz removed the middle turnbuckle pad. That played into the finish because Miz sent Reigns into the exposed steel and followed up with his second Skull Crushing Finale (Reigns kicked out of the first one) to win back the IC Title.
I expected Reigns to be announced as being a participant in the Royal Rumble match, but as of this writing he’s still not officially a part of it. I would be shocked if Reigns isn’t in it. Reigns will be a favorite, although I don’t think he’s going to win it. I’ll save my prediction until I do the preview on Friday.
As for Miz, he’s back to holding the IC Title for the eighth time. Miz does a great job as the IC Champion and he’s only one IC Title reign behind Chris Jericho for the most all-time. Miz is also 95 days behind Pedro Morales for the most combined days as IC Champion, so it’s possible Miz breaks the record this year.
3. Braun Strowman put Brock Lesnar through the announce table
The main event segment was rushed because it started at 11:08 p.m. ET, which is around when Raw usually goes off the air. They ended up going about seven minutes with Kurt Angle, Raw’s general manager, introducing Braun Strowman, Kane and Brock Lesnar. It was actually Paul Heyman who introduced Lesnar and made no mention of Strowman’s attack on Kane and Lesnar on Raw two weeks ago. Nice story continuity.
Kane looked like a worthless loser as Lesnar dumped him easily with a F5. Strowman took the fight to Lesnar by knocking him out of the ring and sending him into the barricade. Strowman cleared off the announce table like a good employee and then picked up Lesnar with a Running Powerslam that put Lesnar through the table. Strowman stood tall to end the show.
I thought WWE would try to make Kane look great here because everybody watching knows that Kane is probably going to get pinned by Lesnar during the Royal Rumble match. Instead of trying to make Kane look like a viable threat, he looked like an old guy way past his prime. This segment didn’t make me care more about their Royal Rumble match at all.
Putting them in the main event spot was the right call. I just think the segment could have been a lot more interesting if Kane looked like more of a credible challenger.
4. The Undertaker appeared and didn’t do or say much at all
The Undertaker did a promo at the Manhattan Center, a venue that had about 600 people and hosted the first Raw over 25 years ago. Fans chanted “holy shit” for him, even before he said a word. They’re easy to please, I guess.
The Undertaker’s promo was about how he has faced them all and beat them all for 25 years. That’s not true because Roman Reigns beat him last year, but there was nobody there to counter his point. Taker specifically mentioned beating rivals like Steve Austin, Mick Foley and Kane. He should have mentioned Triple H and Shawn Michaels too, because those matches are really famous WrestleMania matches, but that’s okay. The Undertaker said it’s truly time for all of his foes to rest in peace.
The only interesting part of the promo was when the fans were chanting “one more match” at him and he didn’t even acknowledge it. As I have written in the past, the plan is to do Undertaker vs. John Cena at WrestleMania, although there was no indication of Undertaker wrestling again in this promo. The good news is WWE has two months to build to it, so there’s no rush. I just figured on this Raw, with a larger than usual audience, they would have done some sort of big angle with Undertaker. Instead, it was nothing.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Undertaker is in the Royal Rumble on Sunday. They can have him interact with Cena there. I’m not saying it’s a lock, but it would make sense to begin their story at Sunday’s pay-per-view.
5. Elias delivered a message to John Cena ahead of the Royal Rumble
Elias did a song/promo to generate some heat. He ripped on Brooklyn and trashed some WWE legends, and when he mentioned John Cena’s name, that’s when Cena came out.
They had a physical exchange, as you might expect, with Cena hitting all of his usual moves. When Cena went for the Attitude Adjustment, Elias punched him in the groin for the low blow. Elias followed up with a guitar shot to the back and the Drift Away neckbreaker.
This was the only segment on the show that did a decent job of promoting the men’s Royal Rumble. I only say decent because it’s not like it was a memorable segment. You would think WWE would push the Rumble match a whole lot more, considering it’s taking place this Sunday, but they barely mentioned it. More on that later.
Based on what happened here, I think Elias will probably be in the Rumble match early, he’ll do well and then Cena will eliminate him. That will lead to some future TV matches between them. Perhaps even a match at Raw’s Elimination Chamber PPV in February. Cena’s already beaten Elias clean on Raw anyway, so it’s not like people are clamoring for more of their matches.
Speaking of Elias, before he went to the ring he was put on “The List” by Chris Jericho. Good to see Jericho again and the crowd loved him.
6. Several big names were missing
I found it interesting that some people weren’t even invited to the show who probably should have been. One of the names that comes to mind is Randy Orton, who is a Smackdown guy, but Smackdown’s roster was off on Monday. Some Smackdown talent was on Raw like AJ Styles, Charlotte Flair, Natalya, The New Day, The Usos and others. Why no Orton? I’m not sure, but his wife Kim went on Instagram to complain about it.
Can someone pls explain to me how @randyorton isn’t on the Raw 25th anniversary tonight? He’s been on more episode of Raw then anyone besides HHH, Michaels, Taker, Kane and Cena. Impressive list right? So why NOT @randyorton? He’s had some of the most memorable moments in Raw history too. He’s also on the Promo pic but isn’t on the show. Just doesn’t make sense to me. Enjoy the show tonight guys. I’ll be playing MarioKart with my kids
She makes a great point that possibly came from Randy himself. Orton is one of the greatest stars in Raw history, so to not have him there was a surprise to me.
Lita’s another name that comes to mind because they had a bunch of women from Raw’s past, including The Bella Twins, Maryse, Maria Kanellis, Torrie Wilson, Terri Runnels, Jacqueline, Lillian Garcia, Kelly Kelly and my favorite, Trish Stratus.
Other than Trish, Lita is arguably the biggest woman’s name in Raw history (I would add Sable too), so it was weird that she wasn’t there. Lita noted on Twitter she didn’t make the guest list, but she was on the chair.
— Amy Dumas (@AmyDumas) January 23, 2018
Other names had legit reasons for not being there: Bret Hart (meeting a doctor about a recent wrist surgery), Edge (filming the TV show Vikings in Ireland) and Mick Foley (family vacation). Batista wasn’t even mentioned.
There could be reasons for why Orton or Lita weren’t there, but as a viewer it left me confused and I doubt I was alone in that thinking.