The show opens from Las Vegas with Stephanie McMahon’s music. This never bodes well for RAW. She tries to draw cheap heat from the crowd by saying the city’s name, and even that elicits some boos, which is go-away heat if I ever heard it.
Mick Foley isn’t here. He apparently needed a break after he misbehaved last week by disliking the way Samoa Joe was brought in by injuring Seth Rollins. The crowd is indifferent to this news, which shows even a figure a beloved as Mick Foley has been damaged by his booking in this last RAW stint.
They double down on people nobody wants to see when Roman Reign’s music hits next. He does his tough guy act, belittling and bullying a female executive into trying to get a match with Braun Strowman tonight because he “doesn’t wanna wait until Fastlane.”
The Club – or rather Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson as they seem to have dropped The Club moniker – interrupt for seemingly no reason than to curry favor with Stephanie. They challenge Roman to a 2-on-1 handicap match, which starts with a brawl, then comes back after the commercial break in progress. The tag team champions of RAW are no match for Roman, as if there was any doubt. It really feels like the writers enjoy finding ways to make Gallows and Anderson look weak. I’m firmly convinced anymore that they never wanted those two – they simply didn’t want New Japan to have them. The official result is Roman wins by DQ when the champions double team him. Afterwards, it looks like they will lay Roman out, but alas Roman Superman punches his way through them, and the champs scurry away.
Flashbacks to Chris Jericho moments in the past year, as they hype the Kevin Owens/Chris Jericho “Festival of Friendship” later in the night, is more entertaining than anything that has happened so far. A commercial announces that Bill Simmons and HBO is partnering with WWE to produce an Andre the Giant documentary. I’m sure it’ll be good, but I’m surprised Vince is partnering with HBO who has never been kind to him.
The New Day come out to a decent reaction. Kofi Kingston is taking on…Bo Dallas. Their shtick was a little lame tonight. Kofi asked Dallas why he was in the ring alone and if he was a… “social outcast.” They laugh as if it’s both the height of comedy and with full understanding that it’s not really funny. Dallas, as usual, has no clear gimmick or journey. This was a pointless match that Kofi wins. New Day then stuff Booty-Os in his mouth like Ted DiBiase used to stuff dollar bills.
Neville and Jack Gallagher have a segment backstage. It shows off their personalities at least. Back from commercial, Gallagher is taking on Noam Dar with the stunning Alicia Fuuuuuks. The fact that Dar has used his accent to get away with saying “fucks” every week on PG television is one of best things. Gallagher wins easily. It’s fine. They don’t really care who wins any cruiserweight matches as long as there is a clear #1 contender to face the champion at the next PPV. Neville comes out after and stares at Gallagher from the ramp. I do like this new Neville, and that match will be one of the few I’m looking forward to at Fastlane.
A limo is outside like it’s a 90s Nitro episode: Samoa Joe steps out in a suit, then HHH comes out from the other side of the limo. He pats Joe on the back and they walk off camera.
They advertise Emmalina premiering next. They’ve been advertising this as a joke for months, but they’ve never said next before. We’ll see.
Holy shit. Emmalina actually came out. She says now that everyone has been waiting 17 weeks, we will now see the makeover of “Emmalina to Emma.” Apparently it was all a joke, and she’ll have the same gimmick as before which is fine. Her previous gimmick worked especially with Dana Brooke by her side.
Bayley promo next. It was a Bayley promo. Stephanie doesn’t like her but, boy, is she excited to be main eventing RAW. Then a backstage segment with an excited Jericho anticipating the “Festival of Friendship.” HHH interrupts and asks if he can have a word. Sure, says Jericho. But Hunter only wants to talk to Kevin.
Back from commercial, HHH is walking through something with Owens. “I’d like to be a fly on the wall,” one announcer (Bryan and Cole sound the same to me anymore) says. I suspect it’s not that exciting.
The monster Braun Strowman is facing Mark Henry. This is Henry’s put-over-the-young’uns tour. The match isn’t bad for a big man versus big man match. Whoever is working with Strowman is doing well. He’s improved considerably in the last year. Strowman wins, then Roman’s music hits again. Sigh. Roman isn’t “100 percent,” Michael Cole says because Roman is always the underdog. Roman hits two Superman punches to mostly boos and some cheers. A curious of boos as he prepares for the spear, but Strowman catches him to a pop and gives him the Running Powerslam. Roman is laid out. At least this is getting Braun over because it seems nothing they do with Roman, at least as a face, will get him any babyface reaction.
Backstage segment with Cesaro training Bayley with Sheamus hanging around as well. Enzo and Big Cass come in and Sheamus is “so mad” about their interference last week that he botches his lines. This is apparently leading to a match at some point.
Samoa Joe is interviewed live backstage by Michael Cole in the sit-down format. Joe acknowledges his tactics are underhanded, but that the ends justify the means. His results speak for themselves, etc. He sells himself like cultured, intellectual monster, and he does so well. Cole asks too much about Hunter, and Joe says he is someone HHH “can rely on” and he doesn’t “need his hand held up” like Michaels, Batista, Orton, and all the others that HHH has used in this role before him. This sounds like it’s already setting up a monster that Hunter can’t control.
Sami Zayn comes down to the ring to a decent reaction. Rusev, with Lana, comes down next with his protective face mask. This must be RAW’s bi-monthly, three-star battle of two good workers with engaging personalities that nobody knows how to use or book properly. Overall, an entertaining match which Zayn winning with a Helluva Kick when Rusev was getting back into the ring.
Sami is interviewed on the ramp after and cuts an impassioned babyface promo about how he’s glad he’s not like Joe, who earlier mentioned Zayn as someone who can’t get the job done, and he’s glad he’s not like Joe. He doesn’t take orders. Cue Joe’s music to which Sami turns to the entrance. Joe attacks him from behind, and he proceeds to toss him into the ramp screens and leave him lying beaten. Rumor has it that Vince has wanted a potential 5-star match for Wrestlemania after hearing the reaction to Omega-Okada at Wrestle Kingdom. This could be that match.
A package plays to promote Teddy Long’s induction into the Hall of Fame. Long has forever been an entertaining referee, manager, and on-screen personality whose nomination is long-deserving.
Another five-minute cruiserweight match – this time it’s Akira Tozawa, in his second week in WWE, against cruiserweight solid worker/jobber Ariya Daivari. Brian Kendrick is on commentary forwarding the story that he’s taking Tozawa under his wing. Tozawa wins easily with his devastating delayed bridging German suplex.
It’s “Festival of Friendship” time. Undoubtedly, this will be the most entertaining segment of the night. Jericho introduces the event as “the Wrestlemania of comradery-themed celebrations.” Fireworks and glitz galore ensue replete with Vegas showgirls and lounge muzak. Jericho comes down shirtless in black jeans, a sequined jacket, sequined fedora, scarf and his List of Jericho. Owens is introduced and does not seem impressed with the Festival. This has to be the breakup.
Jericho has gifts for Owens. Jericho unveils a statue he had “commissioned by Ralph Guggenheim” that he paid $7,000 for. Owens is incredulous but accepts it, telling him it’s “a steal.” Next, he has a painting – “The Creation of Owens,” inspired by “The Creation of Adam.” Owens says he can’t hang it in his house because he “has two kids” and Jericho “isn’t wearing any pants” in the painting. The next gift is a Vegas magician. Owens shits on the gift saying his nine-year-old did the same after getting a magic kit for Christmas. Friendship the Magician then makes the list for not impressing Kevin Owens during the Festival of Friendship. It’s what happens “when you can’t make an elephant disappear in Las Vegas.”
Jericho’s last gift is presenting Goldberg, Owens’s opponent at Fastlane, for Owens to fight. The music starts – and Gillberg comes out. Gillberg in 2017. Owens beats down Gillberg on the ramp and returns to the ring, upset. He thought the plan was to get Goldberg to the ring so he and Jericho could beat them up together. Jericho explains he did all of this to “show how much” Owens means to him, “even if it wasn’t what he wanted.” He works/shoots about how much he’s enjoyed working with Owens in a touching way. He promises that Owens will beat Goldberg at Fastlane because Jericho “has his back.” Owens says it’s not what he wanted but thanks Jericho. “I love you too.” They hug, and Owens has a gift for Jericho. He opens the box: it’s a new list. “This is perfect,” he says. “My old one was getting full.” He looks closer at the new list, and pitifully asks, “Why is my name on this?” Owens attacks Jericho mercilessly with kicks and punches. This finally leads to an apron power bomb by Owens. While it went a little long, this was a well done segment, a sad, fitting end to the greatest wrestling friendship ever. The segment ends with Jericho crumbled and Owen staring intently at his title, which signals this is HHH’s doing, and Owens raising the belt over his head before tipping over the Guggenheim-commissioned statue and walking away.
Back from commercial and Jericho is being loaded into an ambulance. The commentary team do a good job of selling how somber the moment is, which helps sell the sympathy for Jericho. It’s amazing how well commentary helps sell an angle when they are on the same page and not trying to push a corporate agenda.
Enzo and Cass come out next. “And you can’t teach that yada yada.” Enzo insults Cesaro before their match starts. Enzo tries to put up a fight, but Cesaro wins rather easily. Tensions between Cass and Sheamus afterward. Undoubtedly, this match will happen next week because it’s just that predictable.
Charlotte is walking backstage toward the ring and runs into Sasha Banks who is inexplicably in an evening gown. Charlotte insults her, and Sasha says she’s beat her “any time.” Charlotte says she can’t win. This doesn’t seem to be leading to anything considering it’s been five weeks since their exhausting feud ended. Presumably, this will lead to a Sasha heel turn somehow (Thank God), but how they get there doesn’t seem like it will matter in the end.
Bayley and Charlotte have their main event match for the Women’s Title. It’s an easy four-star, twenty-minute match. Both women were invested and executed well throughout the match, and it built naturally gaining steam slowly. In the last few minutes, the crowd was on their feet the whole time cheering for a Bayley victory. Michael Cole actually calls the match as if it matters, a nice change of pace because when he’s invested the product is better.
Dana Brooke appeared, for the first time in quite a while, to assist Charlotte by raking Bayley’s eyes when she had Charlotte in a figure-four. This led Charlotte to performing a figure-eight. Sasha, whoever, came down to even the odds and used her crutch to hit Charlotte and break the hold, which the ref didn’t see. Bayley-to-Belly to finish Charlotte, and Bayley is the new Women’s Champion. She celebrates in the crowd, and impressively, she’s able to keep herself from crying. A strong women’s match when all is said and done. Bayley winning is a bit of a surprise. This will probably lead to the Sasha heel turn and the rumored fatal fourway at Wrestlemania.
Ultimately, a plodding show like most three-hour RAWs, but the women’s title match and the dissolution of Owens/Jericho were certainly the highlights of the night.