We kick RAW off with a recap from last week, how Roman Reigns overcame everything to retain the WWE Championship, but will have to defend not only at the Royal Rumble event, but in the Royal Rumble match itself.
No David Bowie tribute? Bummer.
Tonight, celebrating the 23rd anniversary of Monday Night RAW, we have appearances by Paul Heyman, Brock Lesnar, and Sting announced as the first inductee into the 2016 Hall of Fame.
Vince and Stephanie address most of the locker room, offering encouragement to any of them to be the one to toss Reigns over the top, and go as far as to winning it all. I see Damien Sandow up there. Vince goes through a few names such as Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens, and the New Day… Until the Wyatt Family make their creepy entrance. Bray begins to cut a promo, but sounded as though he was cut off by Vince, suggesting Brock Lesnar could win. That is odd.
Inevitably, Roman Reigns comes down to interrupt, and winds up being put in some sort of vague match where it will be one-vs.-all. Kay. The McMahons tease Reigns vs. Ambrose, however Ambrose is ambushed by an attacking Sheamus, as they have the first match of the night.
The match winds up going to a double-count out after they both lose their minds, beating the hell out of each other to the point where Sheamus gets driven head-first, and I mean HEAD-FREAKIN’-FIRST in the ringpost and is busted wide open. Ambrose loses his mind, however is also then blindsided by Kevin Owens, likely sent out to get Ambrose away from Sheamus to he could get medical attention. In a funny spot, they go back stage to check on Ambrose who got medical attention after KO attacked. Ambrose informs Renee Young he still has a pulse, and therefore is just dandy.
Backstage, Vince and Steph run into Rabbi Paul Heyman. The Rabbi informs the McMahons his client, Brock Lesnar, will not participate in tonight’s main event, nor will he participate in the Royal Rumble, because, and JBL probably did not like this part, Brock Lesnar is a “prize fighter” and is saving his appearance for WrestleMania. Guess Jibble can’t use that for Kevin Owens anymore.
Up next, Titus O’Neal scores a second consecutive win over Stardust, who sported a tribute to David Bowie. Barely recognized, one line by JBL out of all people. In any case, Starry loses it after the match and attacks Titus after he makes nice with a young fan. Would have been interesting if Stardust didn’t time that right and attacked while Titus was holding the kid.
Next up in the Highlight Reel with Chris Jericho with The New Day. Sadly, this went very uneventful, even after The Usos arrived to set up a tag match which seemed to lack any excitement at all. Jericho damaging Xavier’s trombone was juvenile at best, which allowed the Usos to steal a win. The highlight was my wife pointing out Jericho has made more comebacks or “returns” than title reigns. Really, how many times has he lost a “retirement match” by now?
Backstage: Paul Heyman reiterates to Steph that Brock is not going to participate in the Royal Rumble, and will opt to face the WWE Champion at WrestleMania, while Steph informs Heyman that Lesnar will be in the Rumble whether he likes it or not, and should consider it a better opportunity to have the chance to walk into WrestleMania as the WWE Champion.
Show is on a decline at this point. A lot of broken record-like repetition here, and we were promised a Lesnar appearance tonight, so, likely a main event run-in.
JBL, out of all people announces Sting as the first inductee into the 2016 Hall of Fame class. Nice promo, but did not have the feel of a major announcement. I expected more.
I am not sure how to describe this, as possibly the worst attempt to get a below-mid-card stable over. The Social Outcasts come out to face The Wyatt Family, and act tough about it. Braun Strowman manhandles all of them, until suddenly a Wild Ryback Appears and saves them.
Way to go.
Up next, Alberto del Rio defends the United States Championship against Kalisto, but first he has to push the gimmick that he put John Cena out with an injury and will not be in the Rumble, and therefore will not be able to compete at WrestleMania. Aw. Kalisto makes his entrance and Del Rio leaves the ring, forgetting that Lillian Garcia is doing the championship-style big-match ring announcements, and has to rush back into the ring.
Michael Cole is spot-on with commentary, as when the bell rings, “Alberto Del Rio goes right after Kalisto.” I sit here wondering, WHO ELSE IS HE GOING AFTER?!?! The ref? The Timekeeper? Do the commentators not realize how bland, recycled, and simply devoid of any emotion and authenticity?
I enjoyed this championship match. Del Rio and Kalisto continue to work well together, and Kalisto took some serious bumps during this one. Kalisto has easily become a very exciting wrestler to watch and seems able to maintain the novelty of fast-paced lucha wrestling. Del Rio is fantastic at playing the arrogant heel throughout the match, even during the points where he was on the defensive. Kalisto and Del Rio put on a fantastic show with some great spots and no shortage of “wow” moments, the biggest wow moment came when Kalisto rolls up and pins Alberto del Rio to WIN the WWE United States Championship. Even I jumped out of my seat. Congrats to Kalisto for getting the big push.
Sin Cara must be wondering if he is future endeavored. I hope WWE doesn’t do some sort of jealously angle when Sin Cara returns, fearing he will somehow injure Kalisto.
Fantastic match, and a great way to get the crowd riled up for what will likely be a routine clusterf*** finish of a main event.
— WWE (@WWE) January 12, 2016
After that great showing, we go right back to the crapper with a bizarre segment with Charlotte whining and Ric Flair playing along. In the ring, Becky Lynch attacks Charlotte, causing Ric Flair to can the match she was supposed to have with Brie Bella.
The announce team recaps all the segments involving Brock Lesnar and the debate whether he will participate in the Royal Rumble match. Backstage, Heyman informs Brock of the news, and he does not appear happy.
Roman Reigns is out for his match, the “One vs. All” match, which, even though we are told this match has never happened before, I could have sworn John Cena was put through the same ringer. In any case, we have Kevin Owens, The Ascension, The New Day, a stitched-up Sheamus, Tyler Breeze, Stardust, Alberto del Rio, and the Wyatt Family all hanging around to face Reigns. If this doesn’t make Reigns look strong, I don’t know what will. Kevin Owens is sent in first, and considering this first challenger takes it all the way past the 11pm hour, it was inevitable Vince would send in all the goons. Speaking of inevitable, Brock Lesnar hits the ring, and after a momentary tease of a potential attack on Reigns, the tour guide to Suplex City destroys everyone, and then splatters Reigns with the F5. According to Cole, this signifies Lesnar entering the Royal Rumble match.
Well, an up-and-down episode of RAW. More low points than I would have liked, but the point came across like a brick-to-the-head, this show was all about Brock Lesnar… and Kalisto winning the United States Championship.