WWE RAW PRIMER 12/24: Rollins vs. Corbin, Ronda vs. Natalya, Finn vs. Dolph vs. Drew, Elias vs. Lashley, The Revival vs. Roode & Gable, Heyman celebrates


PWTorch editor Wade Keller presents a special Thursday Flagship edition of the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast featuring a WrestleMania 36 Preview with ex-WWE Creative Team member and professional stand-up comedian Matt McCarthy.

(Search “wade keller” to subscribe in podcast app or CLICK HERE to subscribe in Apple Podcasts.)

DECEMBER 24, 2018

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Renee Young

Arena and Items Advertised by WWE

This week’s Raw was pre-recorded following last week’s Raw episode at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, CA. Last week’s live episode set the stage for five matches including two championship matches, and they are part of the items advertised by WWE.com for tonight’s Raw as of this morning:

Seth Rollins vs. Baron Corbin
Raw Women’s Championship: Ronda Rousey (champ) vs. Natalya
Finn Balor vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Drew McIntyre in a Triple Threat Match
Miracle on 34th Street Fight: Elias vs. Bobby Lashley
Raw Tag Team Championship: Bobby Roode & Chad Gable (champs) vs. The Revival
Paul Heyman celebrates the holidays

There are spoiler reports available for both the Raw and Smackdown episodes to air this holiday week. In the interest of integrity I will not offer any predictions as to the results.

The McMahon Family “Taking Back Raw & Smackdown”

Before I discuss tonight, let’s briefly talk about how Vince McMahon “shook things up” last week on Raw. We learned that he, his son & Smackdown commissioner Shane, daughter & Raw commissioner Stephanie, and son-in-law and storyline COO Triple H were “taking back” Raw & Smackdown. Here are some of the bullet points from their plan:

Vince acknowledging WWE “changes with the times” but he “can’t do it alone” anymore
Shane admitting it’s their responsibility to provide the fans a good experience
Stephanie admitting they haven’t been doing a very good job lately
The rematch clause for champions losing their titles is antiquated (exactly why is this?)
Triple H promising fresh ideas, faces and matches. They will give us the fans, what “we want.” We are now “the authority” (does that mean we’re the heel authority figures now?). He also said the days of “absentee management” are over.
Giving Baron Corbin a chance to be full-time general manager again (after losing his chance the night before) if he could beat Kurt Angle with Heath Slater as special guest referee. It was all a ruse and they wanted to give him a taste of his own medicine. As the match unfolded, Triple H came out and admitted he forgot to tell Corbin it was a handicap match as he introduced tag champs Bobby Roode & Chad Gable along with Apollo Crews as Angle’s partners. Shane later on admitted he forgot to tell Corbin it was no-DQ. Angle picked up the victory, ending Corbin’s second chance at becoming G.M.
Advising us via video package that EC3, Lars Sullivan, Heavy Machinery, Lacey Evans, and Nikki Cross would all be coming to the main roster from NXT. It’s not clear on which shows each talent will appear. (By the way I apologize as in last week’s Smackdown primer I incorrectly indicated they would all be coming to Raw.)
Also, via video packages, advising us that Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn would be returning soon. Owens went down with double knee surgery around September and Zayn went down with shoulder surgery a month or two prior. It’s not clear when they will be returning. Both men were part of the Raw roster upon their departures to the injury list.
Relieving Paige of her general manager position on Smackdown (which we learned about on Smackdown). The McMahons will control both shows.

Frank’s Analysis: The McMahon family shook things up by taking back shows they have both controlled since their inceptions in 1993 and 1999 respectively. Does that make any sense? The drop in viewership occurred on your watch, and your solution is to appear on screen more and scapegoat your on-screen general manager? Absentee management was not nor what is ever the issue. The issues have been well-documented in many articles here at PWTorch and just about every podcast including The Fix with Todd Martin (Go VIP to hear this very informative episode). My two cents on the problems include wrestlers not having their characters developed in a meaningful way, pushing wrestlers against crowd reactions for over 13 years (John Cena and Roman Reigns), matches that should have longer builds just being thrown on TV at random, repetitive boring matches, comedy segments that aren’t funny, promos that are overly scripted and don’t feel like they include things that people would say, and titles and the pursuits of them all over the place and not having any meaning. I could go on and on but I think we all know what our issues are with WWE. What the McMahon family did last week does not change things, especially when they put on basically the same show they’ve put on in recent times. There needs to be a change in philosophy on a lot of levels. It’s not something that’s fixed with the McMahon family appearing on TV, introducing new acts, and pandering to the people.

Seth Rollins vs. Baron Corbin

I talked earlier about Baron Corbin’s second attempt at becoming the full-time Raw general manager. He of course lost his first opportunity at doing so at TLC when he lost to Braun Strowman in a no-DQ match.

Later on in the evening on Raw last week he confronted Seth Rollins. Rollins was being interviewed by Charly Caruso in regard to losing his Intercontinental Championship to Dean Ambrose and the overall tone of the match at TLC. Corbin blamed Rollins for his losing the general manager position, citing Rollins’ calling him out on Raw the week prior. Here’s their conversation from YouTube if you missed it:

Two weeks ago, Rollins successfully defended his Intercontinental Championship over Corbin in a TLC match. Tonight, Rollins no longer the champion, takes on Corbin one-on-one.

Frank’s Analysis: There seemed to be some reality in the Rollins interview as the match with Ambrose at TLC was not well-received as has been well-documented. As far as Corbin blaming Rollins why is it Rollins’ fault Corbin lost the general manager position? Wasn’t the match at TLC between Corbin and Strowman announced weeks before Rollins’ gave Corbin his speech on Raw? Is it Rollins’ fault Corbin got played by Strowman and “forgot TLC matches are no-DQ?” All Corbin had to do was win his match and he would have retained his position. Then again, why would he want to do so if the McMahons were going to “take back the show anyway?” Nonetheless it’s just basically a mechanism to keep their TV feud going. As I’ve talked about it’s rumored Rollins will face Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania for the Universal Championship. It will be interesting to see how things play out as it was rumored Vince McMahon was furious over Rollins’ and Ambrose’s performance. It’s likely the feud with Ambrose over the Intercontinental Championship isn’t over.

One question remains. Is Corbin going to start coming out in actual wrestling gear again?

Triple Threat Match: Finn Balor vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Drew McIntyre

On the heels of defeating Drew McIntyre with assistance from Dolph Ziggler, Finn Balor took on Ziggler last week. At TLC following the Finn-Drew match, Ziggler looked for some appreciation from Balor as he was being interviewed by Charly Caruso. Balor was having none of it and the two went at it.

During the match last week, Drew came out to interfere only to be intercepted by Ziggler. After Ziggler and Balor both got moves in, Drew attacked Balor causing the ref to ring the bell. The match was ruled a no-contest (which I don’t understand because the first victim of Drew’s outside interference was Finn. Doesn’t that mean Ziggler wins by DQ? Glad things are changing!).

Frank’s Analysis: I’m so glad WWE decided that Ziggler being in a better place as a result of his partnership with Drew wasn’t a good thing and felt the need to go back to him being directionless. It’s almost as if when things goes well for certain characters, WWE wants no part of it and changes direction into something confusing or what we don’t want. Don’t they want the best for all characters in order to put on the best show possible? Didn’t Triple H say they were going to give us what “we want?”

I get the sense Balor may be headed to a better place. I’m starting to think the win over Drew at TLC signals they still have plans for him. Perhaps he could be moving into an Intercontinental Championship feud with Dean Ambrose if in fact Rollins is moving to the Universal Championship picture. I think Balor is better than the Intercontinental Championship but it’s better than jobbing as he has been lately.

Raw Women’s Championship: Ronda Rousey (champ) vs. Natalya

For the first time since Ronda Rousey has been on WWE programming, she will go one-on-one and defend her Raw Championship against her friend Natalya. Natalya won a gauntlet match in what was the main event of Raw last week to earn the opportunity.

The gauntlet match happened as a result of Ronda coming out and wanting to start a new tradition of having the champion defend his/her title immediately following a PPV. She didn’t hesitate to take shots at Becky Lynch, which did not please the crowd and spurned “Becky!” chants. She then issued an open challenge, however all of the Raw women’s roster argued as to who would get the opportunity. (Somehow they easily figured Tyler Breeze as Dean Ambrose’s Intercontinental Championship opponent, but couldn’t figure out Ronda’s opponent.). Stephanie McMahon, in true school teacher fashion, ordered all the women on stage and announced the gauntlet match. Bayley started by defeating Alicia Fox and then Dana Brooke, but then lost to Mickie James. Mickie was then defeated by Ember Moon, who lost to Natalya. Natalya then defeated her TLC opponent Ruby Riott followed by Sasha Banks.

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Tonight, Natalya gets her first Raw Women’s Championship opportunity against her friend Ronda. On a side note, it wouldn’t be a primer without some Twitter trash talk between Becky and Ronda:

I’m a little weirdo!? You’re the one jumping on me while I’m getting changed in the locker room #BackwardsBullshitBecky #iknowyouleftwithmyunderwear

— Ronda Rousey (@RondaRousey) December 19, 2018

Frank’s Analysis: Why would we want to see a champion defend a title immediately following a PPV as a tradition? That would mean the calendar forces a championship match. Don’t we want to logically determine a new number one contender and build towards that match? Also, defending a championship immediately after a potentially grueling match doesn’t prove that one is a champion. Wrestling when one is injured doesn’t make one a champion but rather foolish. If they want Ronda received in a positive way, having her taunt Becky Lynch is not a good direction in which to travel.

Miracle on 34th Street Fight: Elias vs. Bobby Lashley

Tonight, Elias and Bobby Lashley go at it in a Miracle on 34th Street Fight.

For those not familiar, the match is essentially a no-DQ match involving Christmas-themed weapons such as Christmas trees, wreathes, maybe a box of that Panettone cake you see around the holidays, etc. There have been several of these matches in recent years including John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio and Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt.

Last week Elias and Lashley reversed roles as Lashley came out with his manager Lio Rush and sat on the chair the way Elias does, only to pose and troll the crowd. Elias attacked him with a guitar after Lashley did it to him the night prior at TLC.

Frank’s Analysis: We just found out that Impact Wrestling is moving to the Pursuit Network starting in January of 2019, which is not good for them considering a lot of people don’t get that channel. WWE has done so wrong by the Lashley character that I wish he was still with Impact, as they at least knew how to utilize his character. Having him sit in the middle of the ring to troll Elias and do those butt poses is downright laughable not in a good way. This feud was problematic from the word go, and hopefully we can move forward after tonight.

Raw Tag Team Championship: Bobby Roode & Chad Gable (champs) vs. The Revival

The Revival get another opportunity at the Raw Tag Team Championship as they challenge relatively new champions Bobby Roode and Chad Gable tonight.

One of the Seth Rollins’ bullet points in his speech to Baron Corbin two weeks ago was the poor treatment of the Revival and having them be victims of Lucha House rules (again, like Corbin had the final say over anything). Last week, they were put into a fatal four-way tag team match against the Lucha House Party, former champions the B-Team, and also former champs AOP. The Revival won the match, hitting their signature shatter machine on Bo Dallas to earn the championship opportunity tonight.

Frank’s Analysis: As a personal preference, I’m happy to see the Revival in a prominent position; however how I feel is not the issue. There was little to no reaction for their victory. Their type of act, an old school rough-and-tumble tag team, has been made to feel irrelevant to the current crowd. Had they along with other tag teams not been treated as a joke in recent years, there would be more an investment by the crowd. Go watch 1980s-early 1990s tag teams and you’ll see the difference in the crowd reactions and they felt overall about tag teams like the Hart Foundation, British Bulldogs, Legion of Doom, Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake, The Rockers, The Nasty Boys, etc.

Paul Heyman Celebrates the Holidays

We will apparently be treated to an appearance by Paul Heyman who is the advocate for the reigning, (not really) defending, undisputed, Universal Champion… the Conqueror… the Beast… Brrrrrrrock… Lesnar!

He will celebrate the holidays with us (whatever that means), and without question discuss the upcoming championship match at the Royal Rumble between Lesnar and his challenger Braun Strowman taking place on January 27, 2019.

Frank’s Analysis: I hate to steal thoughts I heard on Wade Keller’s podcasts, but I can’t help it here. I am tired of Brock Lesnar being in the championship picture. The Lesnar act worked fine when he initially came back in 2012 and battled John Cena, the Undertaker, Triple H, and CM Punk. Holding the championship and not being on the show, and not discussing anyone’s pursuit of the championship gives the roster no purpose and renders the title useless. You don’t have to have championship matches every week and have the champ appear all time, but what Lesnar does (which isn’t his fault) is unacceptable especially on such a deep WWE roster. If you want to have him come in for special matches that’s fine, but keep him out of the title picture. As far as Paul Heyman goes I don’t need to hear him pontificate about Lesnar anymore. The act is old hat and does nothing for me. I have no meaningful analysis for this segment tonight.

Other Items from Last Week:

•Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose came out with his SWAT team, and called out Seth Rollins. When Rollins didn’t appear, he issued an open challenge. It was answered by Tyler Breeze, who had answered Ricochet’s open challenge for the North American Championship in NXT just a few days prior. Breeze came up short, and Ambrose went on after the match. One of the SWAT team members happened to be Rollins, who attacked Ambrose.

Start Time & Matches Advertised

This section is not applicable as the show was recorded following last week’s live episode.

FULL SPOILERS FOR 12/24 RAW: 12/17 WWE Raw Christmas Eve Episode Spoilers: Full results of Rousey vs. Natalya, Seth vs. Corbin, Elias vs. Lashley, Drew vs. Balor vs. Ziggler, Heyman’s Holiday Celebration

Follow me on Twitter @FrankPeteani or e-mail me at fpeteani@gmail.com. Questions and discussion are welcome. Thank you for reading!

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