The night after an historic Royal Rumble, Sasha Banks takes issue with Asuka’s huge win. WWE‘s male superstars turn their attention to the Elimination Chamber, a deadly match that takes place in February 2018 that will allow its winner to challenge Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 34…
Last Man Standing Match – Elimination Chamber Qualifier
(Winner via referee stoppage: Braun Strowman)
“Woken” Matt Hardy
Elimination Chamber Qualifier
(Winner via pinfall: Elias)
The Miz (C) (with Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas)
WWE Intercontinental Championship
(Winner via pinfall: The Miz)
Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder (“The Revival”)
Rhyno & Heath Slater
(Winners via pinfall: The Revival)
(Winner via submission: Asuka)
Cesaro & Sheamus (“The Bar”) (C)
Apollo Crews & Titus O’Neil (with Dana Brooke)
WWE RAW Tag Team Championship
(Winners via pinfall: The Bar)
Elimination Chamber Qualifier
(Winner via pinfall: John Cena)
After a 25th Anniversary episode of RAW that was, quite frankly, diabolical on almost every level, WWE bounced back with two great shows this past weekend (NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia and WWE Royal Rumble 2018). They kept that run going, as this episode of WWE RAW was a substantial improvement over last weeks poor episode designed to celebrate WWE and RAW.
There were several noticeable things during this episode, such as new onscreen graphics that are slick and gorgeous, but definitely inspired by what is being produced for WWE Mixed Match Challenge. There were also a handful video segments that were pulled directly from social media too, where the wrestlers talked some trash, making RAW as a whole feel very similar to the Facebook Watch show. I would have liked to keep Mixed Match Challenge‘s look unique to it for the time being, but there’s no denying that RAW felt fresher to watch with this new look, and anything that reduces the forced backstage interviews is a good thing.
The most noticeable thing was, for this writer, the focus on in-ring action, and the quality of wrestling we got to see. This was, in part, helped by the match-ups that WWE presented to us. The first meetings of Asuka/Sasha Banks and Cena/Bálor being on weekly television irked me somewhat, as I strongly believe that they would draw good ratings on PPV, but this is WWE in 2018… they often give away big first-time matches on their weekly programmes.
In the case of Asuka and Sasha Banks, they delivered a match that was very physical and powerful. It felt as though Sasha moved away from her usual style a little, choosing to try and match the Empress of Tomorrow for strength and physicality, and it showed how versatile Sasha is as a performer. The second half of this match was unmissable, with the two falls to the outside being painful to watch, and the tightly-locked submission holds feeling like they were the match-ender the moment they were sunk in.
That there needed to be a loser of the match was disappointing, particularly as its outcome was somewhat telegraphed due to Asuka now having to look strong on the Road to Wrestlemania. Quite why Sasha Banks had to be the victim in this instance is beyond me, as I would have saved this match for a big show somewhere down the line, but it goes without saying that both competitors gave us a hint of just how brilliant a PPV match between the two will be one day down the line.
Cena, a mixed bag on his various returns in 2017, came out on top over Finn Balor in a competitive main event that showed a side of Cena we haven’t seen in a very long time. He appeared to be distracted by the fans booing of him, and gave back a lot of sass through his hand gestures and such. I did wonder if this was the seeds being planted for a heel turn sometime before Wrestlemania, but I guess we’ll find out soon.
I do question the logic of having Cena beat Bálor, given the placement of both on the weekly programming, but the manner of the victory did enough to convince me that Bälor was being protected. Cena had to really work hard to put him away, and it took a Super Attitude Adjustment to beat the former WWE Universal Championship. Quite where this leaves Bálor, as we head to Wrestlemania, is anyones guess.
It wasn’t just about those two matches though, as we were treated to a very good WWE Intercontinental Championship match between The Miz and Roman Reigns, and some very consistent mid-card matches across the whole show. The Revival against Heath Slater and Rhyno was perhaps the only short and unnecessary match on the show, but that’s quite an achievement when you consider what WWE‘s weekly programming usually puts out for viewers.
There was a distinct lack of promos on this show, WWE instead looking to fill the show out with wrestling. This was nice, although unexpected.
The only real disappointment for me is that they didn’t have Ronda Rousey come out to address her appearance the night before. After the way the media picked up her contract signing with WWE, you’d have assumed we’d have seen something from her the next day. We didn’t, and that was a missed opportunity.
RAW is a very inconsistent show, fluctuating in quality from week to week. Last week, it was dire, but this week is was actually a fun watch with some interesting stories, and some very good wrestling matches. Long may that continue, as we head into Wrestlemania season.
Match of the Night
Sasha Banks vs. Asuka