Live from Williams Arena, Minneapolis, Minnesota!
Opening up the final Raw of 2018, a recap of the chaotic episode from last week was followed by the entrance of Roman Reigns.
Something of a rarity in the recent history of Raw, the show kicked up off with a match. Roman Reigns went on to score a victory over Jason Jordan, and took a microphone after the match. Reigns spoke about ending the year on a high, and going into 2019 with those familiar goals. Roman Reigns plan was simple, go the Royal Rumble… go to WrestleMania… leave with the WWE Universal Championship!
With more immediate goals in mind, Elias came to the ring, looking to call out Bray Wyatt.
Having finally overcome the trauma of his visit to “The Hardy Compound”, Bray Wyatt was in the crosshairs of Elias. Making Elias wait for a while, Bray Wyatt eventually answered the challenge, slowly making his way down to the ring.
Once Bray Wyatt was in the ring, he told Elias “I’m here”. When the lights came up, it looked as if the two men were set to go one on one. However, before a referee could make it to the ring, Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel stumbled out of the back.
Looking unkempt and dishevelled, it appeared as though Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel had finally escaped from the Hardy Compound. Their hair longer and their beards unshaven, the two looked like they hadn’t slept for days. Once they made their way to the ring, they stood shoulder to should with Elias, who had a smirk on his face…
However, as the two men stepped towards Bray Wyatt, he dropped to his knees, holding his arms out to his side. As he did this, Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel turned around, fixing their gaze on Elias. “The Drifter” had no idea what was going on, as the zombie-like Axel & Dallas attacked him. Elias tried to fight back, but he was outnumbered by the men who once called themselves his “biggest fans”. Bray Wyatt watched along, laughing as the attack continued, Axel & Dallas laying into Elias like vultures. Eventually, Bray Wyatt called an end to the attack, with the lights going out and the segment ending there.
Later in the night, having proved elusive, Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel were cornered in a dark part of the arena. The two men were initially uncomfortable under the lights, offering no explanation for their actions. When they finally did speak, they had a clear message, speaking in sync, and telling the WWE cameras: “We. Are. Woken”.
There was eventually more action on Raw, with the first hour of the episode featuring this match, requested specifically by Finn Balor. Cutting off Jason Jordan, who was complaining after his match against Roman Reigns, Balor told Kurt Angle that he wanted Bobby Lashley one on one, after he was ambushed by him last week. Lashley had lost his cool after a defeat to Randy Orton, and took it out of Finn.
This match would cause even more frustration for Bobby Lashley, who would have been a keen favourite, having defeated Finn Balor in the past. However, Finn Balor managed to pull off an upset, after Lashley went head first into the turnbuckle following an attempted Spear. Hitting a Slingblade to his opponent, Finn Balor then managed to hit a Coup de Grace to Lashley. All happening very quickly, even the commentators were surprised when Finn picked up the victory. After the match, Balor celebrated getting revenge over “The Destroyer”.
Finn Balor bt. Bobby Lashley
Over on the Women’s side of the roster, the main story of the evening was of course the Raw Women’s Championship match between Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax. However, before that match took place, Ronda Rousey went on something of a “soul searching mission”, as she addressed the WWE Universe regarding a decision she had to make.
Having made her debut at last year’s Royal Rumble, Ronda Rousey felt that the event would be the perfect time for her to challenge for the Raw Women’s Championship, regardless of who won the night’s Main Event. Ronda Rousey however came in for some resistance throughout the night, in the form of her fellow Superstars.
Confronted by Sasha Banks, the feelings of “The Boss” were later supported by The Riott Squad. Sasha Banks claimed that Ronda Rousey should earn a shot, especially considering that she had never
even had a match on Raw. Banks also suggested that Ronda was trying to duck the Royal Rumble match, and if she truly wanted to make history, should would enter that match. Banks said that Ronda wouldn’t be interested in doing that however, because she knows that the entire Locker Room can’t stand her, and would make sure she had no chance of winning the match. The Riott Squad’s endorsement of this served to back up that claim, with Ruby Riott saying that they’re not the only ones who would do everything in their power to eliminate Ronda Rousey above all others.
Taking this to heart, Ronda Rousey approached her training partner and friend, Natalya, to get her opinion on the matter.
Natalya was sympathetic to the situation, and told Ronda Rousey not to rush any decision. She encouraged Ronda to join her in watching the Main Event of Raw tonight, and after that she should follow what her heart tells her to do.
Ronda Rousey wasn’t the only Superstar forced to do some soul searching on the show, as Seth Rollins came to terms with the results that he’d received from the doctors.
Clearly still suffering from the injury sustained at Starrcade, Seth Rollins awkwardly made it to the ring. Once he entered the ring, he took a microphone, addressing the rumours he had been hearing all week. Seth Rollins said he’d heard people say he would miss the Royal Rumble, and others say that he’d even miss WrestleMania. With so much speculation, he wanted to be the one to tell the WWE Universe the truth.
Rollins admitted that the scan showed damage to his knee, and said that he wasn’t in a good way at all. Seth said that it had been recommended that he rest up and take some time at home, but Rollins wasn’t ready to do that again. Growing more passionate throughout the promo, Seth Rollins explained that, just like at WrestleMania last year, if he’s still standing, then he’s still fighting! Rollins called back to the WrestleMania that he did miss, calling it the most difficult period of his career. He vowed that the same wouldn’t happen this year.
Not only was Seth Rollins not willing to miss WrestleMania, he was not willing to miss the Royal Rumble either. Rollins said that from the start of the year, where he went 65 minutes in the Gauntlet match on Raw, to his historic Intercontinental Championship run, nobody had a better 2018 than him. But Rollins knows he has to top that in 2019, and with that he declared his intention (just like Roman Reigns had earlier), to win the Royal Rumble… and Main Event WrestleMania!
Having been asked about Seth Rollins’ injury update earlier in the night, Dean Ambrose didn’t want to talk about somebody else. Instead, he talked about his match with Drew McIntyre, and what it meant in terms of proving himself at the very top level. Dean Ambrose did prove himself during the match, taking the Universal Champion to his limits in his first match since winning the title. Dean Ambrose came into the match as he always does, looking to take out his opponent with a tornado of strikes. Drew McIntyre had a different approach.
Wrestling smartly, and drawing Dean Ambrose to the outside, McIntyre targeted the left arm of Dean Ambrose. This eventually factored into the finish of the match, where Dean attempted his “Lunatic Elbow” from the top turnbuckle to the outside. McIntyre avoided the impact, and diverted Dean Ambrose into hitting the ring apron. Dean Ambrose was now operating with one arm, and when he attempted a Dirty Deeds, the pain was too much. While Dean Ambrose managed to fight through the pain, he wasn’t a match for a 100% Drew McIntyre. As a result, Drew was able to hit Ambrose with a Future Shock DDT, picking up a vital victory.
Drew McIntyre bt. Dean Ambrose
WWE Raw - December 31st 2018 - Live on USA Network!
Raw Women’s Championship Match
While the Universal Champion had closed the second hour of Raw, the most important match of the night took the Main Event spot, with the Women’s Championship on the line. Taking her rematch, Nia Jax was clearly focussed on bettering her performance from Starrcade. However, Shayna Baszler didn’t see things that way. Baszler commented pre-match that Nia Jax might “not be like most girls”, but when it came to the Rear Naked Choke, Shayna had already proved she was as susceptible as anybody else.
Defending the Championship is of course much different to chasing one, and the match did go longer than the Starrcade match previously. Taking a slightly more cautious approach, Shayna Baszler wasn’t quite as quick out of the gates as she was at Starrcade. This allowed Nia Jax to enjoy more offence in the match, using a Bear Hug to wear Shayna Baszler down effectively. Even during Nia’s best moments however, there was a bright spot for Shayna Baszler. This included an impressive reversal of the Bear Hug, which saw her lock in a Kimura Armbar. A theme which continued throughout the match, it eventually became clear that Shayna Baszler was just a step ahead of Nia Jax.
This showed in the finish of the match, where Baszler reversed an attempted Samoan Drop, locking in the Rear Naked Choke. Nia Jax struggled, and attempted to get free, but ultimately faded and fell to defeat once more.
Shayna Baszler (c) bt. Nia Jax
What happened after the match was perhaps more noteworthy, as Ronda Rousey made her way to the top of the ramp after the bell.
The Raw Women’s Champion stared Ronda down, but before “The Baddest Woman on The Planet” could make her way to the ring, she was confronted by Sasha Banks.
Sasha Banks of course didn’t want to get into it with Ronda Rousey, and her presence served only as a distraction. With Ronda Rousey verbally jousting with Banks, she failed to notice The Riott Squad behind her.
Jumping the former UFC competitor, The Riott Squad laid into the woman who considers herself the rightful Number One Contender. Joining in the attack, Sasha Banks’ plan was clearly going exactly as she planned. That was until Mickie James and Natalya ran down the ramp (where The Riott Squad had dragged Ronda towards the ring), looking to make the save for Ronda.
Despite their immediate impact of alleviating pressure on Ronda, the two women were still outnumbered. With Nia Jax out in the ring, there were very few options to help the outnumbered Superstars. Alexa Bliss did eventually make her way out, but not to save her fellow Superstars.
Instead, Alexa Bliss watched, as Sasha Banks and The Riott Squad took Natalya and Mickie James out, the same way they had Ronda Rousey. Stood tall in the ring, Shayna Baszler looked down on the action, just as Alexa was on the other side of the arena.
After the Main Event match, all that was left was the “Year of the MONSTER” address that Braun Strowman would make to the WWE Universe. Strangely, when questioned by Universal Champion Drew McIntyre about why Strowman would be addressing the Universe instead of him, Kurt said that the decision wasn’t his call. Initially confused by this, it became clear by the end what Kurt Angle meant. Making his way to the ring, Braun Strowman was ready to talk to the WWE Universe.
Accepting he had to address the elephant in the room, Braun Strowman spoke about last week, and the destruction he caused on Raw. From throwing Drake Maverick down a 15ft drop, to launching a Motorcycle through Drew McIntyre’s windshield, Strowman accepted he may have gone too far last week. He did however query, “how else is a monster supposed to blow off some steam?”
But Braun Strowman didn’t want to talk about last week, and the fact that Kurt Angle - a man who he considers a mentor - called the cops on him, because he knows how difficult the General Manager’s job is. Instead, Braun Strowman wanted to walk about the WWE Universal Champion. Braun Strowman said that he didn’t care if it was next week, at the Royal Rumble, or even if they make him earn his rematch in
the Rumble, all he was interested in was getting his one on one rematch with Drew McIntyre. That way, there would be no distractions, and it would just be him and McIntyre in the ring. As Braun began to speakk about his plans to regain the Universal Champion, Kurt Angle made his entrance.
Joining Braun Strowman in the ring, Kurt Angle didn’t look happy about whatever it was he was out to say. Braun Strowman wondered why Kurt Angle had interrupted him, but Angle wouldn’t say anything. Strowman said he thought he was supposed to address the WWE Universe, but Kurt just said “sorry”.
Strowman was confused, saying that if it was about last week, he understood. Like he’d said earlier, Braun knows that Kurt has bosses, and he knows they wanted action from him. Strowman understood why Kurt did what he did. That wasn’t what Kurt was apologising for, as he went on to explain:
“I’m not sorry about last week, Braun… I’m sorry about what I am about to say.”
Kurt Angle then went on to explain that there would be no rematch for the Universal title. Strowman looked disappointed, but this turned to anger when Angle added that there would be no place in the Royal Rumble for Braun Strowman either. Now Strowman wanted answers, and Kurt Angle explained that while it may not be his call, there had to be repercussions for what Braun Strowman did last week. He added that Drake Maverick is in a hospital, and there’s a chance that if Drake wants to pursue charges, that the Universal Championship would be the least of Braun Strowman’s worries. Kurt said that Braun Strowman put his own career in jeopardy last week, and repeated that there would no place for Braun Strowman at the Royal Rumble at all. Angle said that he doesn’t even know where Strowman’s career stands at this point, finishing by saying that the way talks had been going, there might not even be a place for him at WrestleMania.
Kurt Angle clearly didn’t like the idea of this, but he had no choice but to pass on the message to Braun Strowman. Strowman was obviously pissed off by the decision, but knew that Kurt Angle wasn’t the one to take his anger out on. As the final Raw of 2018 closed, New Year’s Eve looked extremely bleak for Braun Strowman, whose future was up in the air, as the countdown to midnight approached…
Also on Raw
- Celebrating his Intercontinental Championship victory from last week, Rey Mysterio received special congratulations from Randy Orton. Looking to kick off Rey’s Championship run with a bang, Orton proposed an Intercontinental Championship match between the two, to take place the following week on Raw. Rey Mysterio liked the suggestion, accepting Randy Orton’s challenge.
- After being involved in a brawl with Smackdown’s The Usos last week, The Authors of Pain picked up a dominant victory over The Ascension. After the match, it was confirmed that A.O.P would challenge The Usos for the WWE Men’s Tag Team Championships at Royal Rumble!
- Mickie James explained her recent change of heart, warning Alexa Bliss of the dangers of standing alone on a roster featuring The Riott Squad. As evidenced later in the evening, Bliss took little notice of James’ fears.
- After looking to get on Kurt Angle’s good side, offering to help “deal with” Braun Strowman (for favourable positions in the Royal Rumble), Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn picked up a victory over No Way Jose & Apollo Crews.
- Following Titus Worldwide’s defeat, O’Neil called a team meeting in the back. Titus declared that the tag team of Apollo Crews and No Way Jose wasn’t working, and he was splitting up the team!
Roman Reigns bt. Jason Jordan
Finn Balor bt. Bobby Lashley
The Authors of Pain bt. The Ascension
Drew McIntyre bt. Dean Ambrose
Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn bt. Titus Worldwide’s Apollo Crews & No Way Jose
Shayna Baszler (c) bt. Nia Jax [Raw Women’s Championship]