As the year 2018 comes to a close, WWE provided us one final television offering with Raw on Monday night from Detroit. With the Royal Rumble looming ahead to get us started down the Road to WrestleMania, both of the men’s and women’s 30- competitor over-the-top-rope bouts continue to take shape. They evolved slightly on Monday, with some additions to each from the red brand, with one announcement coming after a solid steel cage match and another that led to Monday night’s main event on New Year’s Eve.
Unquestionably, though, the spotlight story coming from the final WWE television of 2018 was the evolution of Seth Rollins in his top babyface role, which was brought upon by a familiar foe on Monday.
Triple H channels the old Seth Rollins
Rollins hit the ring for a promo, and he wanted to talk about fresh starts. He summoned reigning intercontinental champion Dean Ambrose to the ring for his rematch that he was requesting at that moment, but Rollins did not get who he asked for. Instead, he received a visit from an old foe in Triple H as the authority continue its quest to improve the product.
Triple H was quick to remind Rollins that, under this new regime, automatic rematches for championships no longer exist (which still remains one of the best new ideas). The COO said that maybe Rollins doesn’t even deserve a shot at the IC title he lost to Ambrose, and he wants the old Rollins back. Rollins asked, “You want that soulless guy who will do whatever it takes to get what he wants? Is that what you want?” Triple H said that’s exactly who he wants, and he wants it all to start tonight when Rollins takes on the “All Mighty” Bobby Lashley.
Shane McMahon would appear after Rollins said he’ll take out the entire McMahon family if he has to, and he did want to discuss plans for the intercontinental title. He said that a “Fresh Start Battle Royal” will be held tonight to determine a No. 1 contender.
Bobby Lashley def. Seth Rollins via disqualification: Rollins ended up reverting back to his edgier side at the end of the match, earning the disqualification after hitting Lashley with a chair. It didn’t end there, as Rollins would continue to pummel Lashley with chair shots, and Lio Rush even got one, as well. Rollins’ tirade came to a close as he put Rush down with the Curb Stomp as Lashley was able to roll out of the ring.
Whenever Triple H picks up a more prominent role on television, fans tend to roll their eyes. But in this case with Rollins, Triple H’s involvement is simply great storytelling. Heading into 2019, it was made abundantly clear they want to bring out a more savage side of “The Architect,” and truth be told, Triple H is the perfect man to make that happen given their storied history together. And let’s just say, hypothetically, that Rollins is headed for a showdown with Brock Lesnar — who Rollins took a jab at in the promo for not being around while he’s carried the show — at WrestleMania 35, then he can’t go into that matchup as a happy-go-lucky babyface. Much like AJ Styles on SmackDown, watching one of the authority figures attempt to bring out a sadistic side of the top face on the Raw brand could turn out to be one of the better storylines to watch play out in early 2019. Grade: A-
Drew McIntyre sends brutal Royal Rumble message
Drew McIntyre def. Dolph Ziggler via pinfall (Steel Cage Match): The New Year’s Eve Raw kicked off with a bang to help send us into 2019, with Drew McIntyre taking on former partner Dolph Ziggler in a rare televised steel cage match. These two put on, quite frankly, one of the better cage matches that we’ve seen in some time with McIntyre emerging victorious following not one but two devastating Claymore Kicks. It was filled with some brutal intensity, and was given a good amount of time to play out to open the show. The drama didn’t end there, however.
Following the bout, Ziggler was berating McIntyre from inside the cage, which prompted the “Scottish Psychopath” to reenter with a steel chair in his possession to help send a brutal message. McIntyre placed Ziggler’s head between the chair and the fencing and delivered a violent Claymore Kick. Afterwards, McIntyre took the microphone and officially entered himself into the 2019 Royal Rumble match. For good measure, McIntyre nailed Ziggler with a fourth and final Claymore kick to drive his point home clearly.
Right now, you have to imagine that McIntyre is a lot of folks’ pick to come away with the Rumble victory and head to WrestleMania for a heavyweight championship opportunity — and very much rightfully so. He’s mostly been portrayed as an unstoppable monster since his return to the main roster earlier this year, and as the Rumble inches closer, Monday’s performance made him look as dangerous as he’s ever been. The character arc of McIntyre has been amazing to watch in 2018, and it definitely seems as if 2019 will bring upon the success he’s rightfully earned. This was a fantastic way to send McIntyre on that 2019 journey in this intense cage bout with Ziggler. Grade: B+
What else happened on Raw?
- Apollo Crews wins the “Fresh Start Battle Royal”: Finn Balor was inserted into the 15-man field, leading you to believe he was certain to end up earning the shot. It was merely a diversion, as Crews eliminated Baron Corbin to get the shot at Ambrose, who was watching from a monitor in the back. After the match, it was revealed that Crews would be getting his title shot later in the show.
- Elias and Corbin brawl: Following the battle royal, Corbin remained in the ring to complain about his elimination, saying no one deserves a fresh start more than he does. He was interrupted by Elias, who was ready to bring us his own edition of “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” which was simply trolling Corbin via song about his poor general manager skills. The two brawled on the outside before Corbin retreated to the back.
- Bayley, Sasha Banks & Ember Moom def. Riott Squad via pinfall: Bayley earned the victory for the babyface team with the pin on Sarah Logan after the flying elbow from the top, which was preceded by a backstabber from Banks.
- Jinder Mahal & the Singh Brothers def. Heath Slater & Rhyno via pinfall: Mahal got the pin on Rhyno after hitting the Khallas with help from a Singh Brothers distraction.
- Intercontinental Championship — Dean Ambrose def. Apollo Crews via pinfall to retain the title: Ambrose kept the intercontinental title after putting Crews down with Dirty Deeds. Fairly solid match here, but unfortunately, the crowd never really seemed all that into it.
- Alexa Bliss gets her own show: The facetious “Moment of Bliss” segments from the former Raw and SmackDown women’s champion will now be getting their own in-ring spot — at least for one week. Bliss appeared on the screen to announce that the “A Moment of Bliss” talk show will be debuting on Raw next week, and her first official guest will be none other than reigning Raw women’s champion Ronda Rousey.
- Ronda Rousey & Natalya def. Tamina Snuka (via submission) & Nia Jax: Earlier in the night, Natalya was giving an interview about her loss to the champion Rousey last week on the Christmas Eve Raw, her future and she even officially entered herself into the women’s Royal Rumble match to get another shot at Rousey at WrestleMania. Jax and Snuka appeared and beat down Natalya, setting up this main event. Rousey earned the win for the babyfaces after turning a splash attempt from Snuka into the armbar.
- Returns to kick off 2019: Following the show, some major returns were announced for next Monday. John Cena and Braun Strowman will be appearing, and universal champion Brock Lesnar will be headed back to work to kick off the new year.
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