The qualifying matches for the RAW Men’s Elimination Chamber match continue, whilst Alexa Bliss confronts Kurt Angle over WWE‘s double standards regarding treatment of their champions…
Elimination Chamber Qualifying Match
(Winner via pinfall: Roman Reigns)
Finn Bálor & Karl Anderson (with Luke Gallows, “Bálor Club”)
Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson (“The Revival”)
(Winners via pinfall: Bálor Club)
Drew Gulak & Tony Nese
Mustafa Ali & Cedric Alexander
(Winners via pinfall: Ali & Alexander)
(Winner via submission: Asuka)
The Miz (with Bo Dallas, “The Miztourage”)
Apollo Crews (with Titus O’Neil & Dana Brooke)
Elimination Chamber Qualifying Match
(Winner via pinfall: The Miz)
Cesaro & Sheamus (“The Bar”) (C)
Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns
WWE RAW Tag Team Championship
(Winners via disqualification: The Bar)
Sonya Deville (with Paige & Mandy Rose)
(Winner via pinfall: Mickie James)
Winner enters the Elimination Chamber last
(Winner via pinfall: Elias)
After last weeks particularly strong outing for the red brand (WWE RAW #1288), there was a lot of pressure on this episode to show that last week was not a blip, and that the quality of the show had rebounded from the very poor RAW 25 (WWE RAW: 25th Anniversary). Thankfully, it was more of the same, as the 1289th episode of WWE RAW was another top drawer performance.
The focus this week was on wrestling, so much so that there was only one in-ring talk segment (that I can remember!). I’m actually of the opinion that WWE‘s weekly television should be promo-heavy, with the real wrestling saved for the monthly PPV’s, but it’s hard to argue with the format used this week, even if it’s unsustainable for the future.
The talking segment, which saw Alexa Bliss confront Kurt Angle over the upcoming Women’s Elimination Chamber, might have opened and closed a little awkwardly, but it was juicy as hell when Bliss was out there cutting her promo. Finally, someone was on-air calling out WWE for allowing Brock Lesnar to take PPV’s off instead of defending his championship(s), whilst others like Bliss were forced to defend theirs in matches of which there are male equivalents (looking at you, Elimination Chamber match). Her point is 100% valid, and it’s great to see Angle corned on it, but he’s an onscreen character and isn’t perhaps the best candidate to be speaking about this matter. Had Bliss confronted Stephanie McMahon when she announced the match last week, then it might have felt much more uncomfortable. Irregardless, for the coverage its been given on WWE‘s website and social media channels, I’m assuming Bliss will not be letting the double standard drop any time soon.
Speaking of Bliss, I liked her save of Mickie James at the end of James’ match with Absolution’s Sonya Deville. No on really knew what to make of it, including the fans, as Bliss is clearly a villain at this time and so saving the babyface doesn’t seem like a typical move for her. I’m going to guess that she’s looking to get herself some backup for her Elimination Chamber match, which James will also be competing in, and so saw an opportunity to get James on her side. If they do a callback to James having helped Bliss numerous times back in late 2016/early 2017 on Smackdown, I will be very impressed.
WWE‘s weekly TV often suffers from poor matches. These are usually due to a lack of time, commercial breaks ruining the momentum, or just the talents not giving it their all as its simply a free television match. This week, we were presented with a great card, and three matches that very nearly saw themselves at 4* level.
It was a fun start to skip the opening credits, and jump straight into entrances for the first match. It felt like they weren’t messing around this week, and Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt followed that up with a really good qualifying match for WWE Elimination Chamber. Given the rumours of the Wrestlemania 34 main event, I’d hoped we would be thrown a curveball by Reigns losing here, making 34 less predictable, but it was always clear he’d win and that Wyatt’s programme with Matt Hardy would be continued. Why though, do WWE think we’d want to see Hardy face Wyatt again after losing to him in a matter of minutes at RAW 25? Do they think we’ve forgotten that already?
Bayley and Asuka, two competitors who have had some very good battles in NXT, put on a very good television match. There were moments when it felt like it was going to become next level good, but the limitations of television time robbed us of that. I would have liked the show to have played on their previous history a bit more, though, as Bayley knows she can’t beat Asuka based on previous experience, but didn’t display any of those fears in her backstage promo with Sasha Banks before the match. Speaking of Banks, it’s hard to see exactly where she is headed for WM34, but it seems a feud with Bayley may be on the horizon. With two women’s matches on the show already (both Women’s Championships), it’s hard to imagine WWE putting another women’s match on the card [based on their previous record], but it also seems unlikely that they’d leave Banks off the show. Could Bayley and Banks main event the pre-show? It would be a kick in the teeth for Banks, and would waste a Wrestlemania match between the two, but I could certainly see Vince McMahon booking it that way.
Shortly after this show aired, Jason Jordan had neck surgery that will supposedly rule him out for 12 months. He managed to cost Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns their shot at the WWE RAW Tag Team Championship on his way out though, getting both men disqualified after attacking Sheamus and Cesaro and ringside. Given the champions tried to attack him first, it would have been nice to see the referee use some common sense in his decision here, but I won’t complain about the titles actually staying on a team for a change. That RAW Tag Team Championship has been a hot potato for over a year, so now is the time to let The Bar have a lengthy run with it. Great match, by the way, and I must applaud Roman Reigns for pulling double duty on this show, defying my belief that he doesn’t have the stamina to go long, and producing two of the best matches on the show too.
That’s two in a row for RAW, and whilst there’s always a worry that it will put out a truly dire episode at any given time, WWE must be given some credit for what they have put on since WWE Royal Rumble 2018. Now, if only we could get a continuation of the Ronda Rousey angle…
Match of the Night
Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns