A viral outbreak rumored to be mumps took out two key players in the show – Roman Reigns, who was scheduled for a reunion with his Shield compatriots in a 3-on-5 handicapped match, and Bray Wyatt, who was set to take on Finn Balor. Their replacements have made a throw-away October show into a must-see event!
For the first time in 11 years, Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle will step into a WWE ring to team with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins against five men who can do some damage in Cesaro, Sheamus, The Miz, Braun Strowman and Kane. Balor now will face SmackDown! Live’s AJ Styles in a match of former Bullet Club leaders.
I’m coming in to this show cold, not having watched any Raw in a good long time, so let’s see if the show can keep me entertained.
Sasha Banks vs. Alicia Fox – Alicia Fox is still around? And Sasha is doing pre-shows? Isn’t she a 4-time former champion at this point? I guess I can’t really complain about this being on the pre-show, but I just don’t see how this hooks people into sticking around. I guess they don’t need it for this show. Standard non-title diva match, and of course “The Boss” gets the win with a Banks Statement basically out of nowhere.
We kick off the show with a pretty great video recapping the announcement of Kurt Angle taking Roman Reigns’ place in the TLC main event, and the hype video does more to get me excited for this show than the last hour worth of the pre-show bothered to do. The idea that there’s only one TLC-themed match tonight is a little weird, but I guess it’s better than shoehorning the gimmicks in. We’re kicking things off with the Empress of Tomorrow…
Asuka vs. Emma – I’ve never been the biggest Asuka fan. I felt like her undefeated run as Women’s Champ down in NXT made a once-hot division somewhat boring, because no one looked like they could actually beat her for the belt. And she got called up after an injury required her to drop the belt without losing it. They waste no time in establishing Asuka as a dominant player on the Raw roster, as she shrugs off Emma’s offense and snares her into an Asuka-lock for a pretty quick submission win.
Before the next match, Elias gets in the ring and rips off Prince (oh… I guess they’re in Minneapolis… I should have mentioned that…). Jason Jordan interrupts, tossing produce at Elias as Cory Graves calls for a Semisonic reunion. I really need this show to pick up with the next match.
Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann vs. Jack Gallagher and The Brian Kendrick – Alright, I’ll take it. I like three of the four guys in this match. Cedric really impressed me when I saw him wrestle Bobby Roode at MSG last November. And I always enjoy Swann and Gallagher’s antics. Though I think I’m a better dancer than Swann… Keeping Kendrick in tag team matches to lessen the boring impact on matches is a great way to go with him, but Alexander and Swann kept the energy high throughout the match and the fans were into the high spots the pair were throwing out. Having Swann hit a phoenix splash on Kendrick’s chin lock finisher was a great contrast between their styles. Swann and Alexander get the win, and the show is already starting to look up.
Cole reminds for the third or fourth time that Kurt Angle beat The Rock for his first WWF Title 17 years ago tonight. I doubt I’ll ever forget that stat at this point…
Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Mickie James – Every time Booker T said “Miss Bliss,” I think back to that proto-season of Saved By The Bell, where Zack, Lisa, Screech and a bunch of people no one remembers were in a school in Indiana. Yes, I’m old. Shut up. Alexa Bliss has improved a lot since I last saw her and Mickie James seems to still be going strong as she looks to win a seventh women’s title in WWE. Bliss and James probably have the best facial expressions in the company, too, really selling everything that happens in the ring. From James slapping Bliss’ ass to a missed dive from the top, everything is so expressive and draws you in to the match a little more. It’s a really fun match, but the ending – the ref distracting James and Bliss capitalizing – seems like it’s been played out in Bliss matches. Great DDT, though, and Bliss sold the wear and tear of the match perfectly.
After the match, Mickie James gives what I thought was going to be a retirement speech to announce she wants another shot. I… whatever…
And to make things worse, Elias is back. And Jason Jordan is back, as Corey Graves wants a local Replacements cover band. I would have been OK with a commercial for the WWE Shopzone here. Or maybe a test pattern.
Cruiserweight Title: Kalisto (c) vs. Enzo Amore – This feels like it would make more sense between the last two remaining matches. The highlight of the highlight package is Enzo calling Drew Gulak “gabba-Gulak.” Enzo is much better suited to being a loud-mouthed heel than an aggrieved face looking for revenge on his former tag team partner. And I kind of wish Kalisto would go back to the pants. The title changes again as Enzo gets a thumb to Kalisto’s eyes before hitting his finisher for his second cruiserweight title. Meh, I can’t bring myself to care either way.
Finn Balor vs. AJ Styles – Styles is on loan from SmackDown to replace the sick Bray Wyatt and Balor is taking this match seriously, as he’s decked out in his Demon gear tonight. I think everyone is expecting this to be match of the night, and a “This is Awesome” chant breaks out before the pair even lock up. And the feeling-out process to start the match is pretty high-impact. Right from the word go, it seems like these guys are going to leave everything in the ring tonight, as Styles hits a Phenomenal Forearm early. Every match I’ve seen Balor in, it seems like he spends most of the fight selling an early beating with a pained look on his face and clutching his ribs. Styles and the Demon stay pretty evenly matched, going in and out of the ring giving each other beatings, though Styles looks like he’s more in control because Balor looks like he’s going to pass out from the pain. Despite getting kicked in the head pretty frequently, Balor manages to overcome and when Styles misses a high-impact shot, the Demon goes in for the kill and hits a particularly nasty Coup de Gras – and ends up standing on Styles stomach for an extra second or two before slipping off – to get the win. I think I was hoping for more, but it was still a fun, balls-to-the-wall match. After, Styles and Balor give each other a Too Sweet show of respect as Styles heads back to Tuesdays.
Third time’s the “charm” for Elias, as he announces he has a match tonight with Jason Jordan. Yay. Filler.
Elias vs. Jason Jordan – As far as I’m concerned, this is the battle of who could care less. Jordan went from a promising tag team career to Kurt Angle’s illegitimate son and Elias is Elias. In fact, you know what, that’s a better use of my time right now.
Jason Jordan wins with a roll-up, even though Elias’ shoulder was up.
Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match: Kurt Angle, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins vs. Cesaro, Sheamus, The Miz, Braun Strowman and Kane – Ambrose and Rollins, along with Reigns, debuted on the main roster at TLC back in 2012, beating Ryback, Kane and Daniel Bryan. Of note, both the tag team champions (Ambrose and Rollins) and the Intercontinental champion are in this match, while the Raw Universal Champion is counting his money while probably not watching this show on the WWE Network. The tag champs go old school, decked out in Shield gear and come down to the ring through the crowd, with Angle wearing a black vest to fit in. I’m sad we didn’t get a full-scale Angle entrance. The 5-on-3 advantage basically means nothing, as Ambrose and Rollins take everyone out with chairs early, while Angle lumbers around picking his spots and hitting dudes when he gets a chance. The tag champs set Kane and Strowman on the announce tables and climb ladders while Angle cheers them on, taking out the two big men. But while Rollins and Ambrose recover, the remaining members of Team Miz beat on the Raw General Manager, but his partners make the save. It’s a cluster, which is exactly what it should be. Angle gets his moment, slow-motion suplexing Miz, Cesaro and Sheamus and putting Kane in the ankle lock before Strowman sends him into a barricade and through a table so Angle can take the Reigns nap spot. The ensuing 5-on-2 beatdown goes on way too long and the crowd seems to be losing interest just like I am. And then Miz calls for a garbage truck and I may have had too much. Rollins and Ambrose leap off the top of the garbage truck and knock out everyone but the Miz, allowing the tag champs to single him out. But even then, Kane shows up to break things up. Then Strowman, but Kane chokeslams him straight to hell.
OK, I take back what I said about the cluster. There’s too much going on in this match, as Strowman wakes up, takes out Miz and Cesaro before going after Kane. And Team Miz toss Strowman in the garbage truck. And is compacted. Oh come on… Why would you side with Kane over Strowman? The 4-on-2 beatdown continues until Angle’s music hits and he hits the worst Angle Slams ever on Sheamus and Cesaro on the ramp. Miz gets a knee from Rollins, Dirty Deeds from Ambrose and an Angle Slam before an Olympic Shield bomb finally… FINALLY ends it. Jesus Christ, that went forever. I recommend watching this match on 1.5x speed once Angle gets taken out.
Final Thoughts – Not a bad show, but the main event went on way too long, and the Styles-Balor fight felt too short.