PWTorch editor Wade Keller presents a special Thursday Flagship edition of the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast featuring a WrestleMania 36 Preview with ex-WWE Creative Team member and professional stand-up comedian Matt McCarthy.
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WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW PRIMER
JANUARY 14, 2019
MEMPHIS, TENN. AT THE FEDEXFORUM
AIRS ON USA NETWORK, 8:00PM EST
BY FRANK PETEANI (@FrankPeteani), PWTORCH SPECIALIST
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Renee Young
Arena and Items Advertised by WWE
Tonight, we inch a little closer to the Royal Rumble as Raw returns to the FedExForum in Memphis, TN. for the first time since October of 2013. It’s crazy to think of the turnover in personnel over the last five plus years. At that time, we were getting ready for the Yes! Movement with now WWE Champion Daniel Bryan and CM Punk was on the active roster. The Shield were approaching one year of being on the main roster, and the two world titles were held by Randy Orton (WWE Championship) and Alberto Del Rio (World Heavyweight Championship). Del Rio would soon drop the title to, you guessed it, John Cena.
That was then and this now and as for Raw tonight, here’s what is advertised by WWE.comsubject to change as the day goes on:
Rivalries converge in Intercontinental Championship Triple Threat Match
The Boss and The Rowdy One face common enemy
Is Braun Strowman truly ready for Brock Lesnar?
The Revival “conspiracy” continues
Royal Rumble matches take shape
Triple Threat Intercontinental Championship: Dean Ambrose (champ) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Bobby Lashley
Last week was a busy week for former Intercontinental Champion “The Kingslayer” Seth Rollins.
At the onset of Raw, Rollins was seen brawling with “The All Mighty” Bobby Lashley. As you may recall, two weeks ago, Rollins lost to Lashley via DQ when attacked both Lashley and his manager Lio Rush with a chair. This was following Triple H telling Rollins, his former fierce rival, he wanted to see “the guy that would do anything to win.” Nevertheless, this led to an impromptu six-man tag team match which saw Rollins & a returning John Cena & Finn Balor defeat Lashley & Drew McIntyre & Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose. Rollins pinned Ambrose to score the win for his team.
Rollins would demand a rematch for the IC title with Ambrose, of which Triple H was willing to oblige. He “nearly defeated Ambrose” when Lashley would interfere and allow Ambrose to score the win, retaining his championship. Lashley later put Rollins through a table.
Tonight, Ambrose defends against Rollins again plus Bobby Lashley in a triple threat match.
Frank’s Analysis: It was great to see a good old-fashioned brawl to start a Raw. We haven’t seen something like that since the Attitude Era if memory serves me correctly. Nonetheless, the triple threat here should serve as a bridge to get Rollins and Lashley into a singles feud while squeezing some more juice out of the Rollins-Ambrose situation. If Rollins is expected to eventually de-throne Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, you need to get him out of the Intercontinental title picture but protect him at the same time. They need to do the same for Lashley, for whom WWE has done significant damage to since his return last year. His more determined & intense ways in recent weeks is much better than the guy bending over to give us useless butt poses. It will be interesting to see the finish for this match tonight.
It is important to note that even though the Rollins-Ambrose match was advertised throughout the show, viewership did drop in the third hour. I personally don’t read too much into that considering people probably didn’t expect Rollins to regain the championship, but it’s a factor that shouldn’t be ignored.
Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey & Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax & Tamina
Last week, we had the debut of “A Moment of Bliss” hosted by former Raw & Smackdown Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss. He first guest was current Raw champ Ronda Rousey. Ronda discussed how she wanted to face the “unsung hero” of Raw, Sasha Banks. This did not sit well with former champion Nia Jax, as you will see in the YouTube highlight:
Sasha would go on to challenge and defeat Nia to earn a championship opportunity at the Royal Rumble. Tonight, Sasha & Ronda put their upcoming match aside and team to face Nia Jax and Tamina in a tag match.
Frank’s Analysis: Did the McMahons deputize Sasha with authority to book matches all of a sudden? I have to admit I did like Sasha telling Ronda she would happy to teach her to lose with dignity and class. That could be planting a seed for a heel turn at some with Ronda considering her history with handling her losses in UFC. It’s good to see Sasha involved in something a little more substantial than running around with Bayley and feuding with the Riott Squad. The question is what is to follow. With Women’s Tag Team Championships on tap, one would expect Sasha and Bayley to be in the picture for that and thus the Sasha-Ronda feud is likely a one-off deal.
WWE continues to feature Ronda in tag matches on TV to limit her exposure which for the most part is smart. It’s something that shouldn’t be overdone at risk of overexposure and making her appearances feel less special. The Ronda segment was also in the third hour that lost viewership, and was a segment advertised ahead of time.
Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman Continued
“The Beast” Brock Lesnar will defend his Universal Championship against the “Monster Among Men” Braun Strowman at the Royal Rumble. Forgive me as I have said it will be Strowman’s fourth televised attempt at dethroning Lesnar since SummerSlam 2017, where Strowman was part of a fatal four-way match. It will actually be his fifth attempt, as he was part of a triple threat match at last year’s Royal Rumble which featured Kane & he against Lesnar. His other attempts were singles matches at No Mercy in September of 2017, and Crown Jewel this past November (you know, that global event with….oh never mind).
Strowman called out Lesnar last week, to which Lesnar responded on the Titantron with Paul Heyman. After much back and forth amongst themselves, they finally came out to the ring. We thought we were going to get a confrontation, but Lesnar blew off Strowman. If you really want to relive this segment, here you go:
Nothing is on paper for tonight between these two (thankfully…oops did I say that), but we’ll likely get more of a follow-up as we get ready for their championship match at the Rumble.
Frank’s Analysis: This segment has been ripped to shreds enough, and rightfully so. I won’t pile on, but I’ll ask a few questions. If Braun is still hurt, why tease a confrontation? Do a backstage interview or a sit-down and let’s hear something other than “Lesnar is going to get these hands.” They’ve done plenty of sit-downs in the past with upcoming Lesnar matches. It works better for him and if they do it with Strowman, it could get us to see a different side of him other than the limited character we’ve seen thus far. WWE.com has featured videos of his rehab and thus perhaps that’s their way of doing that. Many have said they are not looking forward to this match, and I can’t blame them.
It doesn’t help either that Lesnar had a look on his face that showed “I get paid for this” while doing absolutely nothing productive. I hate to repeat myself, but it’s getting nauseating seeing Brock Lesnar on television with the Universal Championship. For me it’s not because of how they told the story of how he’s part time and doesn’t care, as I was feeling that way long before WWE did significant damage to him during the Roman Reigns feud. You want Lesnar here from time to time that’s fine but keep him out of the title picture. Reserve him for those specials matches against people like Drew McIntyre, Pete Dunne (maybe, eventually), A.J. Styles, Finn Balor, etc.
The Revival “Conspiracy”
The Revival (Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson) challenged Raw Tag Team Champions Bobby Roode & Chad Gable in a lumberjack match last week. It was their second chance at the champs on TV since facing them on the Christmas Eve episode.
Gable scored the pin on Dawson, but not without controversy as Dawson’s foot was on the rope. By WWE emphasizing this, it’s likely we get follow-up tonight perhaps in the form of a rematch or a path for the Revival to earn one.
Frank’s Analysis: Wouldn’t it make sense to do this to a babyface tag team, which theoretically would get the very astute announcers and fans angry that the fan favorites are being screwed and deserve justice? Doing this to a heel team makes no sense and it does Roode & Gable no favors. They could be trying to turn Revival babyface. If they want to do that, just turn them but make it clear to the fans so they can get behind them and want to see them win the championship rather than doing whatever it is they are trying to do.
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Royal Rumbles Matches
Last week, John Cena opened Raw and announced his entrance into this year’s Royal Rumble before competing in the six-man tag that was discussed earlier. Elias did the same before serenading the crowd and losing to Baron Corbin (who for some reason still hasn’t gone back to wrestling gear). Jinder Mahal and Apollo Crew also announced their participation before Apollo & Ember Moon defeated Jinder & Alicia Fox in a mixed tag match. Seth Rollins, Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley, and Finn Balor are also in from Raw.
On the women’s side from Raw Alicia Fox announced her entrance last week. She will join Ember Moon, Natalya, The Riott Squad (Ruby Riott & Sarah Logan & Liv Morgan), and Sasha Banks. It’s unknown if Sasha will be pulled from the Rumble considering she is challenging Ronda Rousey for the Raw Women’s Championship.
Frank’s Analysis: I have a short list for Rumble winners, subject to my changing my mind over the next few weeks:
Andrade “Cien” Almas
I sadly have Cena and Orton on there because it’s not out of the realm of possibility either of them wins, as sad as that sounds in 2019. Rollins or McIntyre would be more of my choice, as either one of them would be a logical opponent for Lesnar at WrestleMania, assuming Lesnar retains over Strowman. Almas is in their just because I like to throw a surprise winner. It would ring similar to Alberto Del Rio in 2011. I don’t see Joe as very likely, but it not crazy to imagine him winning and challenging Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship as a babyface assuming Bryan retains until ‘Mania.
Other Items from Last Week:
Hulk Hogan returned to pay tribute to his long-time friend “Mean” Gene Okerlund, who sadly left us just after New Year’s Day. It was overall well done and appropriate for such an important figure in wrestling history.
No NXT callups arrived on television for either show; however, EC3 and Lacey Evans worked dark matches before Raw last week. It turns out they didn’t air on the Main Event TV show, though. EC3 defeated Curt Hawkins while Lacey Evans lost to Natalya. EC3 and Evans appear headed to Raw as I discussed in last week’s primer.
Heavy Machinery worked a dark match prior to Smackdown and defeated Primo & Epico. They appear headed to that brand.
There are conflicting reports regarding Lars Sullivan no-showing dark matches last week while WWE was in Orlando and Jacksonville. Some say he was a no-show and went home due to anxiety attacks, while some say he was never in the area whatsoever. We’ll pay attention as this story unfolds in the coming days. Sullivan has been hyped as coming to the main roster since Survivor Series. Him not being at the last NXT taping and rumors of mental issues are an interesting combination.
WWE still showed the video of all the callups “coming to WWE.”
I am excited to see that former Impact Wrestling and soon-to-be former CWF wrestler Trevor Lee has signed with WWE. He has completed his time with Impact; however, dates with CWF are still on his calendar. It is expected he will check in with NXT upon his arrival.
Start Time & Matches Advertised on the Arena Website
The FedExForum is advertising a start time of 6:30 p.m.
Intercontinental Championship match: Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose
John Cena & Finn Balor & Elias vs. Drew McIntyre & Baron Corbin & Bobby Lashley
They show these matches as part of their “update” which came out last week.
Follow me on Twitter @FrankPeteani or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions and discussion are welcome. Thank you for reading!