The Raw return of Triple H wasn’t promoted before the show came on air, but his wife Stephanie McMahon informed Seth Rollins that “The Game” would be there. What we didn’t know is that this week’s show would also mark the Raw debut of Samoa Joe, who ended the night by destroying Rollins.
I give WWE a lot of credit for building up the angle well, going back to this past Saturday’s NXT Takeover San Antonio event. If you didn’t see that, Seth Rollins showed up out of nowhere and went into the ring to deliver a promo calling out Triple H, who is the boss of NXT. The crowd went wild for it. Triple H showed up, had security head to the ring, and Rollins beat some of them up, but there were more guys that took Rollins away.
Heading into Raw, the only thing promoted for the show was a Rollins “Face to Face” promo with Stephanie McMahon.
The Rollins/McMahon promo segment took place at the top of hour two. WWE likes to put important segments in the top of the hour spots. Rollins started off saying he had nothing left to lose because he lost his title matches, he lost his spot in the Royal Rumble last week, and that’s why he tried to “take over” the Takeover event.
When Stephanie McMahon entered the ring, she and Rollins exchanged some personal shots with Rollins wondering when Stephanie would let Hunter off his leash. At first, Stephanie said that Hunter wasn’t there, but she later admitted it was a lie. She fired back by saying that Hunter was a creator, a destroyer and king while Rollins is just known as an architect.
Towards the end of the promo, Rollins said he might show up at WWE headquarters to get at Hunter or maybe even his house with one of Hunter and Steph’s kids (they have three daughters) answering the door to see him. It was a questionable line to use, but once again puts over the idea that this is a personal rivalry. After Rollins said that, Steph informed him that Triple H would be there later on Raw and the crowd cheered at the thought of a much-anticipated confrontation between Triple H and Rollins.
Before moving on, it’s important to address the backstory a bit. Rollins was “The Guy” that Triple H helped make a main eventer in mid-2014 when Rollins turned on his Shield brothers. For the next year and a half, Rollins was arguably the best performer in WWE with The Authority duo of Hunter and Stephanie calling the shots. Rollins got hurt in November 2015, came back as a heel last May and then went face in late August after Hunter gave him a Pedigree to cost him the Universal Title. Since then, Hunter hasn’t appeared on WWE TV for an in-ring segment until this show. That’s why it was such a big deal when Steph said that Triple H would be there.
Late in the third hour, Triple H arrived in a limo and he headed to the ring for the main event segment.
— WWE (@WWE) January 31, 2017
Triple H entered the arena to his “King of Kings” song. His character has been a heel on WWE TV for about four years, but he hasn’t been on Raw doing a promo since before the last WrestleMania. That’s why he was cheered by the crowd.
I liked the Triple H promo a lot. He talked about how he has tried so hard to move on in his career to be a creator, referencing his work with NXT, cruiserweight division, 205 Live, the UK tournament and other projects. He claimed that he didn’t want to be the guy that hurts people anymore, but then Rollins came to his show (NXT on Saturday) and caused a problem. Plus, the personal shots Rollins took towards Stephanie helped set Hunter off. Hunter took off his suit, his tie and unbuttoned his shirt looking for a fight.
Rollins returned for the highly-anticipated showdown, but when he got there he was attacked by Samoa Joe. It was the first time Joe was on Raw after signing in NXT nearly two years ago. Joe beat him around the ringside area by whipping him into the barricade and splashing him repeatedly in the ring. Joe slapped on the Coquina Clutch choke hold in the center of the ring while wrapping his legs around Rollins’ body. Rollins passed out, so Raw ended with Joe standing over the fallen Rollins.
The main roster debut of Samoa Joe was expected at the Royal Rumble. That’s what I thought WWE would do. Instead, they waited one more night to put him in a big spot as the “hired gun” for Triple H. Remember, Hunter is the “father” of NXT and Joe was a dominant force there that won the NXT Title twice. It makes sense for Hunter to bring up a NXT guy to the main roster to have him beat up his rival.
I thought Hunter’s words to end the promo were great: “Seth Rollins, get your ass to this ring and meet your destroyer.” After what happened, it really put it into perspective. Joe was definitely “The Destroyer” in this scenario. I think it came off great.
Another thing I really liked about it is that Triple H didn’t even lay a finger on Rollins. He let Joe do it. That builds anticipation for when Rollins finally gets his hands on Triple H. It could be next week, but I would save it until closer to WrestleMania. The less physical interaction that Rollins has with Triple H, the better. Sell the match they are going to have, not a simple segment on Raw.
The WrestleMania plan is likely going to remain Triple H vs. Rollins. Raw also has the Fastlane PPV on March 5, so I think we can pencil in Joe vs. Rollins at that event. I’m not sure if they should have Joe lose there, but it would make sense to give Rollins some momentum.
There was a rumor that Joe was going to debut on Smackdown to face John Cena at WrestleMania. Apparently, that was just a rumor because now Joe is on Raw. I’m not sure who Joe would face at WrestleMania at this point. A returning Finn Balor is certainly a possibility since they have a history from NXT. We still have two months to figure things out, so no point in freaking about things yet.
I’m glad Samoa Joe is finally on WWE’s main roster. I’ve enjoyed his work for about 15 years going back to when he was crushing people in Ring of Honor. When he joined TNA in the mid-2000s he was my favorite guy there. The feud with Kurt Angle in TNA was legendary. I wish he got to WWE sooner. I’m glad he’s there. It took him 17 years to get there, but he is finally where he belongs.
This Week’s Raw Matches
It was not a good week for in-ring action. Let’s go through it.
Sami Zayn defeated Chris Jericho
It was a competitive match with a few believable near-falls towards the end, but I don’t think anybody thought Jericho would win. WWE loves booking champions to lose non-title matches, so that’s what happened here. Zayn got the clean win with the Helluva Kick in about 12 minutes. It was the best match of the night although far from a classic or anything that memorable.
This was not for Jericho’s US Title, so it likely means they will have a title match at Fastlane on March 5 or they might do it on Raw before that.
Tony Nese defeated Mustafa Ali
The cruiserweight division is home to the short matches like this one at about four minutes. Nese won with a running knee to the head while Ali was up against a turnbuckle. It was okay, but the crowd doesn’t care about these guys.
Cesaro, Sheamus & Bayley defeated Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson & Charlotte Flair
The guys worked most of the match with the girls getting tagged in for the finish. I hated how they booked it because all Bayley did to Charlotte was a cross body block and Bayley to Belly suplex to beat her. They push how great Charlotte is all the time in PPV matches (16-0 when the title is on the line), yet she just lost to two moves in a six person tag.
As soon as the match was set up, it was obvious the heel champions were going to lose. Once again, the booking on this show is very predictable.
Braun Strowman defeated Kevin Owens by disqualification in a Universal Title Match (Owens keeps the title)
I give WWE credit for actually setting this match up well. Strowman interrupted an Owens/Jericho promo to say that Owens promised him a title shot. Owens didn’t think so, but Strowman played a clip of Owens saying those exact words last month. The match was granted by GM Mick Foley.
The match was fun for the five minutes they were given. Owens was a cowardly heel at the start, Strowman finally got his hands on him and dominated for a bit. When Strowman made a mistake, Owens went after him with some great looking offense including an impressive top splash. Strowman powered out of a pinfall and came back with a Running Powerslam, but he was too hurt to cover. That’s when Roman Reigns showed up to attack Strowman, which gave Strowman the DQ win.
Reigns destroyed Strowman with a Superman Punch followed by another one. Reigns also jumped off the ring steps to crush Strowman with a Spear on the floor. Reigns went back into the ring to hit a Spear on Owens as well. Strowman got up after selling for a bit to try to show that he was stunned, but he didn’t stay down.
All of it made storyline sense since Strowman cost Reigns the Universal Title at the Royal Rumble. It’s likely going to set up Strowman vs. Reigns at Fastlane since Reigns is penciled in vs. Undertaker at Wrestlemania, just as long as Undertaker’s health is okay.
Nia Jax defeated Sasha Banks
This was similar to their Royal Rumble match except Jax won by ref stoppage this time. It was an awkward stoppage because the ref didn’t call for the bell, but the timekeeper rang the bell anyway. Somebody must have missed the cue whether it was the ref not doing it early enough or the bell ringer doing it too soon.
Banks also might be turning heel. Earlier in the show when Bayley was checking on her, Banks said that she was a winner and not somebody that comes up short in big matches like Bayley.
Enzo Amore & Big Cass defeated Rusev & Jinder Mahal in a Tornado Tag Match
The best part of this match was the tight dress that “Handsome” Rusev’s wife Lana was wearing. The worst part was that WWE thought this awful feud needed another match. It ended with a splash by Enzo getting the win for his team. Why pin Rusev and not Mahal? I wish Rusev was booked better. The man has so much potential to be great.
I think it’s time to set up Enzo & Cass as tag title contenders. Now that a heel team like Gallows & Anderson have the titles, that seems like a possible match at Fastlane and WrestleMania.
That’s it for matches.
Other Key Items From Raw
1. Lesnar challenges Goldberg to WrestleMania match
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman showed up for a promo. They were not advertised, but Lesnar is booked on every Raw except for one on the road to WrestleMania. Heyman did a good speech about how every great athlete has a “yeah, but” type rival in their career. He referenced how great Andre the Giant was because he was undefeated for 15 years, but he lost to Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania. He mentioned how Ronda Rousey destroyed everybody, but she was knocked out by Holly Holm. He talked about how Goldberg is that guy for Brock Lesnar.
It led to Heyman saying, on behalf of his client, that Lesnar is challenging Goldberg to a final match at WrestleMania.
— WWE (@WWE) January 31, 2017
Goldberg will have an answer next Monday on Raw. It should also be noted that Goldberg is scheduled for Fastlane on March 5, although that hasn’t been announced yet.
2. Neville and Swann still have more business to do
Neville did a promo segment bragging about his Cruiserweight Championship win at Royal Rumble. Rich Swann told him that Neville is the one that turned against the fans and the fans always liked him until he started acting like a jerk. Swann tried to be a bigger man asking for a handshake. Neville refused it and told Swann to bow down to the “King of the Cruiserweights,” which is what Neville calls himself. They had a brief brawl, Swann knocked him out of the ring and Neville bailed like the heel that he is. They will have a rematch for the title soon.
Looking Ahead To Fastlane
The next WWE Raw brand pay-per-view is Fastlane on March 5.
Nothing is official right now. The rumored main event is Kevin Owens defending the Universal Title against Bill Goldberg. That could be made official next week when Goldberg is on Raw.
Other matches I expect at that show: Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman, Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe and Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn for the US Title.
It was a promo-heavy edition of Raw with a memorable ending, thanks to Samoa Joe showing up for the cheap attack on Rollins. In terms of matches, I was disappointed by the show. Some of them were too short and the outcomes were obvious even before the bell rang. I want Raw to try to surprise me with some booking decisions sometimes, but they never do. At least the ending of the show was a nice surprise, so I’m happy about that at least.
Next week on Raw, Goldberg returns to answer Lesnar’s WrestleMania challenge.
I’ll end this with a Super Bowl prediction: Atlanta 31, New England 27. It should be a good one.