Venue: INTRUST Bank Arena (Wichita, KS)
“Either you’re with us or you’re against us.” That was the battle line-drawing statement that Seth Rollins made to the Monday Night Raw locker room. It was clear which side Buddy Murphy, who Rollins referred to as the newest disciple of the Monday Night Messiah, chose to stand on. It didn’t take long for Murphy to find out that standing on Seth’s side meant having to fend off foes like Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe and The Viking Raiders, who all came down to chase off Rollins and beat down Murphy and AOP.
In the first match of the night, Andrade and Rey Mysterio had their usual high-flying, back-and-forth fight, only this time with some painful-looking ladder spots mixed in. Mysterio and Andrade took turns powermbombing each other onto bridged ladders before the match reached its climax: Zelina Vega sitting on top of the ladder and blocking a climbing Mysterio and distracting him long enough for Andrade to hit him with a Hammerlock DDT through a bridged ladder. After retaining the US Title, Andrade went to deliver another DDT onto Mysterio on the exposed concrete outside. However, a man in a Rey Mysterio mask and t-shirt emerged from the crowd to halt him in his tracks. It was revealed to be a returning Humberto Carrillo who tussled with Andrade for a bit before the champion ran up the ramp.
Aleister Black got the ‘squash a local jobber’ spot this week, finishing off an unnamed competitor in a matter of seconds with one Black Mass right after the opening bell.
Paul Heyman came out with Brock Lesnar and bored the crowd into silence by explaining how the Royal Rumble works. Heyman said no one in the locker room was worthy of facing the WWE Champion at Wrestlemania. Ricochet then came out and said that he wasn’t afraid of Lesnar, which made Brock chuckle. Ricochet asked the Beast if he was scared. He replied by kicking Ricochet in the groin before picking up the microphone and saying “not scared.”
Randy Orton and Drew McIntyre had a slow-starting, headlock heavy affair that picked up steam after Orton clotheslined McIntyre over the top rope. A member of the ringside crew became a victim of an errant Claymore Kick. The two had a chop-trading spot in the middle of the ring before Orton nailed McIntyre with a DDT off the middle rope. Drew was able to thwart an RKO attempt and stun Randy with a Glasgow Kiss. Orton followed that up with a counter of his own, nailing a charging Drew with a bodyslam before taking him up top and superplexing him. The O.C. ran down to interfere but Drew and Randy were able to put their differences aside to fight off the trio. Their truce didn’t last long, though. Orton stunned his opponent with an RKO out of nowhere. McIntyre responded by grabbing a microphone and declaring that he was going to kick Randy’s head off in the Royal Rumble and go on to main event Wrestlemania.
Becky Lynch said that Asuka did her a favor by spraying the green mist in her eyes, because she now sees thing clearly. After expressing doubt and regret in recent weeks, Lynch seemingly regained her confidence, declaring that Asuka can’t beat her anymore. Lynch and Kairi Sane had a bit of a clunky match, which Becky won with a disarm-her. Asuka then attacked Lynch after the match and applied the Asuka Lock.
The Viking Raiders put the Raw tag team titles on the line against Buddy Murphy and Seth Rollins. Early on in the match, Samoa Joe and Kevin Owens brawled with AOP throughout the crowd to the backstage area. Back in the ring, Erik and Ivar looked like a championship caliber team, taking out both Murphy and Rollins. A Viking Experience on Murphy nearly ended the match but an interference from Rollins broke up the pin attempt. Seth and Buddy gained the advantage after powerbombing Ivar off the rope but it didn’t last long. The big man soon made it to his feet and neutralized both. Ivar looked to end the match with a big move off the top rope but Rollins pushed him down to the floor. He followed that up with a stomp to Erik on the apron while the referee had his back turned. Buddy took advantage and pinned Erik to win the titles.
The Street Profits brought back the Monday After Weekend Update segment. It was forgettable.
Erick Rowan made quick work of Matt Hardy, finishing him off with a bloody Iron Claw slam. For the second week in a row, his hand was bloodied after he stuck it in his covered pet cage. After being bitten, Rowan yelled and angrily slammed the cage onto the steel steps.
Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe both declared for the Royal Rumble. Joe said that he may have Owens’ back when it comes to Seth Rollins, but in the Royal Rumble, it’s every man for himself.
The Singh Brothers tried to sneak up on 24/7 champion Mojo Rawley backstage but Rawley easily fended them off and slammed them each onto a nearby equipment case.
In the main event of the night, Bobby Lashley and Lana beat Rusev and Liv Morgan in less than five minutes. The finish was Lana distracting Rusev by grabbing his leg, which allowed Lashley to spear and pin him. It certainly didn’t feel like much of a payoff for this months long storyline, and it did no favors for either Rusev or Morgan. If it isn’t the payoff, then that means the feud will likely continue. After two straight weeks of Lashley pinning Rusev, it’s anybody’s guess which direction it could go from here.
An exciting ladder match between Andrade and Rey Mysterio as well as a well laid out tag team bout which ended with Seth Rollins and Buddy Murphy becoming the new Raw tag team champions were the two highlights of a show that otherwise didn’t offer up much entertainment. The Drew McIntyre/Randy Orton matchup felt like a bit of a drop off in quality after a much better triple-threat bout featuring AJ Styles last week. An anticlimactic interference finish also didn’t help matters.
The big losers of the night were Ricochet, who played sacrificial lamb for Brock Lesnar, and the duo of Rusev and Liv Morgan, who finished off the night on the losing end of one of the worst main event matches Raw has had in quite some time.
There is a Women’s Royal Rumble match on Sunday, but if you missed a quick Charlotte backstage promo tonight, you probably wouldn’t know it. The build to that match has almost been nonexistent.
The build to the Becky Lynch/Asuka title match has been a bit uneven tone-wise. For weeks, Lynch has cut promos sounding scared and almost overwhelmed at the idea of facing Asuka at the Rumble. This week, she magically found her confidence for no other explained reason then because Asuka spit the green mist in her eyes last week.
The Street Profits’ ‘Monday After the Weekend Update’ wasn’t exactly getting laughed at and kicked in the groin level of bad, but it’s certainly not the kind of segment I’d be eager to watch every week. Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins are good performers but I’ve seen enough of their promos now to confidently say that their brand of humor just isn’t my cup of tea.
Just a week in, the Seth Rollins/Buddy Murphy pairing is working well for Murphy. He went from being a three-time loser to Aleister Black to a tag team champion with one of the company’s biggest stars. Seth is working well in his heel Monday Night Messiah persona thus far. It seems like some of that shine should rub off on Buddy.
Overall, I can’t say anything that happened tonight made me more interested for the Royal Rumble show. It’s a thumbs up for the Andrade vs. Mysterio match and the Rollins & Murphy vs. Viking Raiders bout, and a big thumbs down for the mixed tag main event, the Ricochet/Lesnar interaction and the Street Profits segment. Everything else was passable but rather unexciting.