Welcome to the first Raw Review of 2017 where we'll discuss what and who stood out on last night's show. Since this is the first go around, I'll run through each of the article's sections real quick and if you guys rather me focus on something else, jump into the "Comments" below and let me know.
Kicking things off will be "Standout Moments," where I'll pull out some of the bigger segments that were either enjoyable or terrible. Next, I'll pick out a few wrestlers who moved up or down in the "Trending Up/Down" sections. "This Week's MVP" will be one individual who made the biggest impact and "Overall Thoughts" will be simply what I thought of the show in its entirety. Finally, there is "Grade," 1-10, keep it simple. Okay, let's get to it!
1) Hear Me, Fear Me - Ruining Seth Rollins' big announcement of entering the Royal Rumble, with a "Roar!" in blew Braun Strowman, who demanded either Goldberg or Roman Reigns (thanks to their double spear last week). I really enjoyed how Braun's anger didn't just stay backstage, instead, he immediately came out to the ring, stalled out the 2-on-1 U.S. Title match, and took a Van Daminator by Rollins in the process.
Braun vs. Seth was your typical power/speed battle, with Rollins dragging a solid match out of the still limited Strowman. Not that Braun needs to become a master in the ring, his gimmick relies on presence, which he has. The double count-out was an easy way to protect both men, with Rollins managing to stand tall with the help of the chair, yet again. I actually found myself cheering on Rollins at the very end, beat up, worn down, trying to keep the monster at bay.
2) H.B. Shill – After plugging the Royal Rumble for a bit, Michaels was here to promote his movie, not the first person to do this and not the last. Thankfully, Rusev came to the ring with Lana and Jinder Mahal to stop Michaels from continuing on. HBK pretty much stunk up the place afterwards as Rusev ripped on him for telling a terrible joke. "That must be an American joke, because I don't get it."
Out came Big Cass and his wheelchair ridin' buddy, Enzo to stick up for HBK and continue their feud with Mahal and Rusev. A couple phallic jokes ensued and this segment ended up being a real struggle to get through. If Michaels was trying to get me to watch his movie, this had the opposite result. Also, does Rusev have it in his contract that all returning legends get to shake him down either verbally or physically?
3) The (legit) Legit Boss – Stephanie McMahon went in on both Sasha Banks and Bayley as Banks demanded a tag match against Charlotte and Nia Jax. Not appreciating the "Bass" in Sasha's voice, Stephanie didn't seem too interested, and crushed Banks in the process. Bayley attempted a softer approach and "Steph" (yeah, I said it, she can't stop me!) decided they could either wrestle tonight or not at all. Just for the record, Stephanie was a heel this week.
To go back to Sasha for a moment, remember when she was facing Charlotte "For the last time" at Roadblock: End of the Line? Yeah, forget about that.
4) HR Evaluations Are The Worst – In real life and on a TV show, the crowd died a slow death as Stephanie ran down Foley's 2016 successes and failures, until the gong hit! All these years later, Undertaker's entrance still gets me and it was pretty cool to see him stand in the same ring with Mick Foley, even though he timidly handed off the mic and huddled in the corner with Stephanie. My evil side kind of wanted to see Taker throw him out of the ring, just for old times' sake. The Undertaker proceeded to blow fans' minds by entering the Royal Rumble, and letting everyone know, nobody (especially Steph!) controls him.
"I've dug 29 holes, for 29 souls." I'm pumped, you should be pumped too, these Undertaker moments are winding down, enjoy them.
5) The Roman Empire Crumbles - Over the weekend we did a Sound Off article asking who you thought would win the title, Reigns won easily in the poll, but that was not the case on Monday Night. Instead, Owens and Jericho overwhelmed Reigns and Jericho got the clean pin over a guy who hardly ever gets pinned. A very pleasant surprise to end the show, that should add a new twist to the best friends storyline. For Reigns, most likely this mean he'll be winning the WWE Universal title in the very near future.
Rusev – That segment he had with Michaels was pretty rough overall, but Rusev did his best to turn the tide with some fantastic lines. Yes, the core of his gimmick is the tired old "Foreign bad guy," but he can expand so much on that with his mix of brutality and comedy. HBK looked incredibly rusty in the ring and Rusev basically danced circles around him on the mic. A lot of people complain about how stale Raw's main event scene has been, Rusev (with the help of Lana) is beyond ready for that level.
Drew Gulak – Who's the worst WWE Cruiserweight right now? I'd say it's a battle between Ho Ho Lun and Drew Gulak (who I can't help but call "Drulak"). Ultimately, Drew ends up getting the nod, since his TV time typically outweighs Lun. Along with his generic look, Gulak has had difficulty on the microphone and his matches have been equally uninspiring with Monday being no exception, I mean, he made Jack Gallagher look pretty boring. What to do with Drew?
Emma – It's been rumored that her delayed return is some kind of inside joke, but the fans aren't laughing. At this point, the trending thought is "I don't care anymore," which doesn't bode well for a returning Emma. Unless her return is something spectacular, it will more than likely fall flat among the WWE Universe. It's been nearly three months since the first "Emmalina" vignette was shown.
This Week's MVP
The Undertaker – He has the unfair advantage of still being an active wrestler, but his segment put Shawn Michaels' promo to absolute shame. We got to see the entrance, he entered the rumble, and cut a concise quality promo. I think he also made Foley cry?
Don't get me wrong, the show had a lot of filler and weak segments to make the three hours go by somewhat slowly, but Braun vs. Seth, Rusev's jokes, Taker entering the rumble, and Jericho winning the U.S. title (this really was the cherry on top) all made for an above average show. I'm going to buck the trend and opt for some optimism here, even though SmackDown is my preferred show, Raw did a solid job keeping my interest.
Grade (1-10): 6