Venue: XL Center (Hartford, CT)
Kevin Owens began the show with an in-ring promo and reminded viewers who may have forgotten about the repetitive cycle of his angle with Seth Rollins and AOP that “every week, I call them out, and every week, I get the hell beaten out of me. Guess what, I’m going to keep calling them out every week. I’m going to keep getting the hell beaten out of me. But I swear, sooner or later, I’m taking one of you idiots down with me.” Owens went on to talk about the respect he has for Rey Mysterio and how sick it made him to watch Rollins stomp Mysterio’s head through the stage.
A video played of Mysterio losing the US Title to Andrade at Madison Square Garden.
Rollins came out with AOP and told KO that he was forced into the current position he’s in. Seth talked about being a leader and a messiah and taking the industry into the next decade. Owens charged Rollins and his crew. Just as his words had foreshadowed, they started to beat the hell out of him. Luckily, an angry Samoa Joe came charging down to the ring, looking to get revenge on AOP for putting him through a table to end the last Raw. Joe beat on Seth for a bit and briefly locked him in the Coquina Clutch before AOP broke it up. Owens came back into the ring with a chair and nailed Akam and Rezar before security personnel came down to break up the scuffle. Owens took to the top rope and hit a cannonball down to the outside onto a crowd of security, Rollins and AOP.
After a commercial break, Charly Caruso interviewed Owens and Joe in the locker room. Joe explained that he got involved because Seth Rollins quote: “made a choice that Kevin Owens will never stand alone again.” Owens responded with, “I’ve met a lot of bad people but nobody is as bad as you.” Security escorted the two out of the locker room.
Aleister Black squared off against Buddy Murphy in the first match of the night. Early on, Murphy taunted Black by doing his sit down pose, only for Aleister to respond by doing the same pose at a charging Buddy. Black nailed a series of kicks, the loudest being a running kick to the head when Murphy was perched on the top rope. Buddy was able to recover, slide under Aleister and slam him face first into the top of the ring post. That sent him sailing down to the outside.
Back from commercial, Black hit a moonsault to the outside, threw Buddy back in the ring and hit him with a moonsault off the second rope. Murphy was able to toss Aleister to the outside and hit him with a flip over the top rope. He followed that up by tossing him back inside and hitting a double knee strike off the top rope.
After Black kicked out at two, a “this is awesome” chant quickly emanated from the crowd. Murphy tried to put him away again with a sitout powerbomb but it was just another near fall. Aleister was able to counter a knee strike attempt and hit a few quick kicks before nailing Buddy with a brainbuster for a near fall of his own. Buddy was able to catch Black and put him in position for Murphy’s Law but Aleister rolled through and almost got a quick roll up pin. He then hit two consecutive black masses to finally put down Buddy for long enough to get a three count.
Backstage, Seth Rollins was talking with AOP about how they were being tossed out of the building. Security surrounded them and they left. Lana was shown in a makeup chair. A frustrated Erick Rowan approached her and complained about not getting an invitation to her wedding ceremony before screaming and walking off.
Erick Rowan destroyed Kip Stevens in less than two minutes.
Lana was shown applying some lotion in her dressing room.
Charlotte Flair came out for an in-ring promo. She announced her entrance into the Women’s Royal Rumble match. She listed off her career accomplishments before saying she was tired of talking about how she was the queen of the WWE. She issued an open challenge, which was disappointingly accepted by Natalya. The two traded offense early on before Natalya gained an advantage on the outside by slamming Charlotte’s face into the stairs and suplexing her on the bottom of the ramp. Natalya went for a dive into the corner but Charlotte countered and caught her in a Boston Crab on the second rope. With Natalya down on the outside, R-Truth came out and ran around the ring with the usual 24/7 title chasers nipping at his heels. At one point, Eric Young decided to try to cut through the ring to catch Truth, but he was met with a big boot from Charlotte.
The show returned from a commercial break with Charlotte attempting a superplex off the top rope but Natalya was able to counter and hit her with a high cross body. Flair went for a big boot but Natalya countered with a german suplex. Charlotte responded with a suplex of her own, tossing Natalya into the corner. She went for a big boot again but Natalya caught her and hit her with a sitout powerbomb, garnering a two-count before Charlotte powered out. Natalya attempted a sharpshooter but Flair escaped and nailed her with a big boot and spear combo but Natalya kicked out. Charlotte hit her with a natural selection. Astonishingly, Natalya was able to get her shoulder up once again, which left me decidedly nonplussed. Flair headed to the top for a moonsault but Natalya got her feet up for the block. A frustrated Charlotte finally hit her with another big boot and locked her in a Figure Eight. Natalya wailed in pain for a bit before finally tapping.
Backstage, Charly interviewed Becky Lynch, who made the official announcement that her Raw Women’s Championship match with Asuka will take place at the Royal Rumble. Lynch said that her contract is coming up soon, and that getting this match with Asuka was her key bargaining chip. Becky said she could have taken the easy way and signed a big new contract.Instead, she needed to prove to herself that she could beat Asuka, the woman who not only beat her but tapped her at the last Rumble to retain the Smackdown Women’s Championship. If it weren’t for a fluke win by Charlotte right before Wrestlemania 35 just to get a second belt into the triple-threat, Asuka would probably still be the Smackdown Women’s Champion at this very moment. This could have been a year-long, belt vs. belt, major Mania feud. Instead, it’s a Rumble rematch for the Raw title, which is nothing to shake a stick at. An Asuka-less Four Horsewomen Raw/SD unification match might be the way it goes for the women’s division at Mania.
Bobby Lashley was shown in his dressing room, clad in a sleeveless suit jacket, staring into a mirror.
The O.C. came down to the ring. They began by showing a recap video of their win over the Viking Raiders two weeks ago and their six-man tag win over those two and Randy Orton to end last week’s show. Karl Anderson talked about being the best tag team in the world. Luke Gallows attempted to make a case for why they deserved a shot at the Raw Tag Team Titles. He was interrupted by the Street Profits. Montez Ford reminded The O.C. that they beat Anderson and Gallows in their Raw debut. AJ Styles responded by saying that they were lucky and advised them to “stick to their cute little skits backstage.” Anderson told them to get in the ring.
The Profits obliged.
Ford and Angelo Dawkins took turns working over Karl Anderson before Styles broke up their rhythm by grabbing Dawkins’ foot from the outside. That interference earned him an ejection from ringside. After a commercial break, Gallows was in control, beating on Ford. The beating continued for a bit before Montez was able to buy some time with a kick. He managed to get a hot tag to Dawkins who ran wild with a series of running punches, an uppercut, a dropkick and a suplex. Anderson came in to break up the momentum, which gave Anderson an opening to drop Angelo with a spinebuster. The two worked over Dawkins, hitting him with a neckbreaker. Eventually, all four participants ended up in the ring. Gallows was tossed to the outside. Ford managed to duck under a clothesline attempt and hit a flip over the top rope right before Dawkins nailed Anderson with a sky high. Montez went up to the top rope and finished off Anderson with a frog splash.
Lana was shown surrounded by flowers backstage.
In the bowels of the arena, Dawkins and Ford talked about multiple universes in a convoluted dialogue that managed to get even less of a reaction than their pre-match promo which compared The O.C. wrestling group to The O.C. mid-00’s television show.
Mic in hand, Drew McIntyre walked to the ring, talking about how he was going to squash Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder. He did just that, in less than a minute’s time.
Randy Orton came down to the ring on crutches with a brace on his left knee. He talked about how injuries can happen at any time before pausing for a minute to let the crowd chant “Randy!” He talked about how Edge had to sacrifice his entire career due to an injury (Seems they want to squash that Edge is returning at the Rumble rumor). Orton said he screwed his leg up bad last night and heard something pop in his knee. He talked about how he’ll be out a very long time and said he wasn’t sure if he’ll ever be able to come back. Still, he said he’s going to do everything in his power to make sure that somebody gets RKO’d at Wrestlemania.
AJ Styles came down and mocked him, asking, “Mr. RKO, you gonna strike?”
“Isn’t it funny that fate bit Randy Orton before Randy Orton could bite me?” Styles asked before breaking out some schoolyard bullying tactics to taunt him. He told Randy he was a patient man that was going to wait until Wrestlemania to retire him. He kicked out his crutch, which earned him an “AJ Sucks” chant from the crowd. Orton said that the big difference between the two of them was that Styles was patient and he wasn’t and followed that up with an RKO, proving that the knee injury was simply a ruse. He slammed his leg on the mat a few times for impression and then did his turnbuckle pose.
A video of Rey Mysterio backstage at MSG following his US Title loss to Andrade was shown. Mysterio said he was looking forward to his rematch with Andrade. He then delivered a message to Seth Rollins and AOP, saying he will stand tall.
Andrade faced an unnamed local talent. Andrade beat him up for a minute before Zelina Vega told him to deliver the same type of move on the concrete that he injured Humberto Carrillo with. Ricochet interrupted before he could finish the dastardly deed and challenged him to a match. Andrade hit the first big move of the contest, nailing a flying Ricochet with a dropkick. Vega exposed the concrete on the outside again. Andrade worked over Ricochet before Ricochet was able to hit him with a body drop sending him to the outside. Ricochet then nailed him with a flip over the top rope. Andrade and Ricochet wandered over near the exposed concrete. Andrade body dropped Ricochet onto the concrete as the show headed to a break.
Back from commercial, Ricochet was able to fire up and hit Andrade with a step up enziguri. He then hit a standing shooting star press. The two traded blows before Andrade got a near fall with a spinning elbow. Ricochet was able to counter a Hammerlock DDT into a small package but Andrade managed to kick out at the last second. Ricochet headed up top, but Vega interfered and pushed him down to the mat. Andrade was able to capitalize and finish off his challenger with a Hammerlock DDT.
Backstage, Sarah Schreiber interviewed Andrade and Zelina Vega. The confident pair didn’t seem concerned about Rey Mysterio and the US Title rematch that will take place on next week’s Raw.
The show ended with the wedding of Lana and Bobby Lashley. Midway through the ceremony, Lana took control of the mic from the marriage officiant and told the crowd to shut up. She told Lashley that it was the luckiest day of his life and gave her usual self aggrandizing spiel in her normal rushed cadence as the crowd showered her with “Rusev Day” chants. She said she wanted to jump onto him and make love to him right here, right now. Lashley managed to calm her down and get the ceremony back on track. He delivered his vows, expressing to her how lucky he is, as the fans gave him the “what?” treatment.
As the official asked if there was anyone who objected, Lana’s first husband spoke up and came marching down to the ring. He said that Lana and him were married the day she turned 18 and then she left her for Rusev. He tried to warn Bobby that she would do the same to him but Lashley responded by chokeslamming him out of the ring. Lashley’s first wife then came down to the ring to object but Lana slapped her off the apron before she could get her story out. Liv Morgan then came out and said that she came to WWE a lost soul and she never knew she could be herself until they met and fell in love with each other. She asked, “How could you do this to me?” Lashley responded by saying “I’ve never touched this woman in my entire life.” Liv responded by saying, “Oh, no, I’m not talking about Bobby. I’m talking about Lana.” Liv and Lana stared at each other for a few seconds before they began to slap and brawl with each other before security came down to escort Morgan out. Just as the official was about to announce Lana and Lashley husband and wife, Rusev popped out of the cake and assaulted Bobby as he taunted a crying Lana. Morgan then reappeared to smash Lana’s face into the cake as the show went off the air.
It was a messy ending to a messy decade of Monday Night Raw. The surprising Liv Morgan insertion into the shenanigans adds some flavorful intrigue to a storyline that a once growing stale storyline which reached a fun-filled climax in a cliffhanger-feeling end-of-the-year/end-of-the-decade episode. Morgan got a quick spotlight for her return as a changed character. There’s some momentum there to start the ball rolling. Hopefully they can build off of it because she’s felt like an underutilized talent ever since the Riott Squad disbanded. It’s possible, they could build to a mixed tag of her and Rusev vs. Lana and Lashley at the Rumble. Critics of this angle can call it trash TV all they want but judging by the “Jerry!” chants during the ceremony, the crowd clearly responds to it all.
Buddy Murphy vs. Aleister Black was a PPV quality affair. Black needs an important-feeling singles match at the upcoming Wrestlemania. Aleister vs. Andrade for the US Title in the ‘start of hour three’ slot might be something, especially given their history in NXT and the whole Zelina dynamic.
There was yet another Erick Rowan squash match. It’s grown stale at this point. This is what killing five minutes of time is. An occasional quick backstage vignette with him and the hidden pet in the cage with an interruption by someone who at least the audience knows (i.e. any of the 24/7 title chaser conga line lowcarders who struggle to make it onto television) would be more effective. On a show that’s averaging at least two other squash matches per episode, this strategy has officially proven to be a horse that needs the reins.
Natalya kicking out of all of Charlotte’s finishers in succession was the WTF moment of the night. Why? What segment of the audience cares about a Natalya heel turn? Why sacrifice the entire finishing maneuver arsenal of the most decorated women’s performer currently on the roster for someone the caliber of Natalya?
When the Street Profits misfire on a promo, they really miss. The reference to a television show that hasn’t been talked about in over a decade in the prematch promo and the whole multiverse conversation backstage after the match got absolute crickets.
Drew McIntyre squashing Hawkins and Ryder in under a minute accomplished what?
Unsurprisingly, Andrade vs. Ricochet had some good action but Ricochet is absolutely rudderless as a character right now, which is maybe why live crowds have seemingly cooled on him a bit. I feel like I’ve seen him do the whole coming down to stick up for other good guys shtick before. There was never any real reason to care about it then, just as there wasn’t really a reason to care tonight either. That guy needs a direction and a meaningful feud in a hurry. There doesn’t even have to be a heel turn, maybe just tease a bit of friction with him and Mysterio and do the older veteran wants to prove himself against the younger high flyer kind of thing.
Overall, when you consider that big names like Becky, Asuka, Rollins and Owens weren’t even in action tonight, it was an OK show. Black/Murphy was the high point. The Lana/Lashley wedding segment at least had a bit of a twist besides just Rusev ruins it.
Brock Lesnar returns next week. With Owens and Rollins, and Orton and Styles all occupied with each other, it’s tough to narrow down who Lesnar’s potential challenger could be at the Rumble. The Andrade/Mysterio rematch is worth looking forward to, although that seems like it could be setting up for a Carrillo interference finish. It will also be interesting to see how Liv fits into the whole Lana/Lashley/Rusev storyline.
Aleister Black vs. Buddy Murphy
Bell Times: (8:19:48 – 8:35:21)
Result: Black pinned Murphy following a Black Mass (15:33)
Erick Rowan vs. Kip Stevens
Bell Times: (8:43:52 – 8:45:38)
Result: Rowan pinned Stevens following an Iron Claw (1:46)
Charlotte vs. Natalya
Bell Times: (8:58:49 – 9:13:22)
Result: Charlotte tapped out Natalya with a Figure Eight (14:33)
The Street Profits vs. Anderson & Gallows
Bell Times: (9:27:31 – 9:39:08)
Result: Ford pinned Anderson following a Frog Splash (11:37)
Drew McIntyre vs. Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder
Bell Times: (9:50:45 – 9:51:35)
Result: McIntyre pinned Hawkins and Ryder following a Claymore Kick (50 seconds)
Andrade vs. Ricochet
Bell Times: (10:24:00 – 10:35:37)
Result: Andrade pinned Ricochet following a Hammerlock DDT (11:37)