Date: January 9, 2018
Location: Legacy Arena in Birmingham, AL
The Big Takeaway --
There weren’t any big advancements in the main storyline. Shane McMahon put Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a 3-on-2 handicap match against AJ Styles, Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura. Shane also restarted the match twice after Owens and Zayn tried to get counted out and disqualified. It ended with Orton pinning Zayn. Daniel Bryan seemed pleased with the main event announcement and wasn’t too bothered by Shane calling him unstable and irrational. Bryan accused Shane of the same thing.
Bryan made another announcement that Shane didn’t like, putting the Usos in a 2-out-of-3 falls match against Gable & Benjamin for the tag titles at the Rumble.
Also, Becky Lynch submitted Ruby Riott, Mojo Rawley advanced in the US title tournament, and Breezango defeated Rusev & Aiden English.
Show Recap --
After a recap of last week’s main event angle, Renee Young started the show by introducing AJ Styles. Tom Phillips explained that Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn would have to tag in and out in their Rumble handicap match. Byron Saxton whined about Daniel Bryan’s decision.
Young asked if Styles thought the announcement was fair. Styles said he takes pride in stepping foot in the ring, but didn’t realize Bryan would take his words seriously last week. Styles said there was a chance he could lose the title but there was also a chance he would beat the crap out of both guys.
As the crowd chanted for Styles, Young said that he didn’t really answer the question and again asked if it was fair. Styles said no. He was willing to fight them both separately for the title, even on the same night, and actually called it poor booking. Young asked if he thought Bryan was playing favourites. The crowd chanted Yes, but Styles didn’t want to pretend he knew.
Styles didn’t know whose side Bryan or Shane McMahon were on, but did know he would defend his title against two men. Owens and Zayn interrupted. Owens insincerely asked that we give Styles a hand, so the crowd chanted for him as Owens tried to continue his promo.
Owens claimed Styles was trying to backtrack on what he said last week. He said it would be a miracle for Styles to win but heaven doesn’t hand out miracles to people like him. Owens said he and Zayn would be the first-ever co-WWE champions. Both guys said Yep repeatedly. The crowd was split chanting No and Yep.
Shane McMahon came out. He agreed with Styles that the match was unfair. He was puzzled by Bryan’s decision and giving the two “yep clowns” another chance at the title. He would allow the match to go on as planned--for now.
Shane wanted to see a handicap match tonight and put Owens and Zayn in a 2-on-3 match against Styles, Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura. Styles was happy about this.
They cut to Gorilla where Bryan awaited Shane. He acknowledged Shane calling his decision puzzling but then gave him credit for making tonight’s main event. They shook hands.
Becky Lynch (w/Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair & Naomi) defeated Ruby Riott (w/Sarah Logan & Liv Morgan) (8:08)
One of the facts shown for Lynch was that she was the captain of team Smackdown at Survivor Series. It didn’t mention how quickly she was eliminated. Lynch cut a pre-taped promo where announced herself as an entrant for the Rumble--the final member of the Smackdown women’s roster to do so--and would be the final woman standing.
Lynch was all over Ruby for the 40 seconds they spent wrestling before commercial. Ruby was in control after the break. Lynch came back with forearms, an uppercut, spinning kick and suplexes. Ruby ducked a kick and hit a couple of her own. Lynch then countered a Riott Kick attempt into the Disarmer and Ruby tapped out.
It seemed like the Riott Squad wanted to interfere, but they were backed off by Charlotte and Naomi.
They aired a video from the website where Sami Zayn in disguise surprised Becky Lynch outside the arena to announce that they were teaming up in the Mixed Match Challenge. They were both very happy. (You should also watch the video with Jimmy Uso and Naomi if you haven’t.)
The Bludgeon Brothers defeated The Ascension (0:36)
Earlier tonight, Breezango let Ascension know they would not be at ringside because they have a match against Rusev Day.
Konnor and Viktor jumped Harper as soon as the bell ring but Harper cut off Viktor with the best damn big boot ever. Harper and Rowan won quickly with an assisted sit-out powerbomb (on Viktor). Konnor cautiously entered the ring to check on Viktor but he was attacked and they gave him the double crucifix bomb.
U.S. Championship Tournament First Round Match: Mojo Rawley defeated Zack Ryder (3:31)
Bobby Roode entered before a break to watch the match from ringside. Ryder did not get an entrance. His trunks say “ZackDown Live.” Rawley won with a running punch in the corner. No heat for the match. Roode and Rawley faced off in the ring afterwards, but Rawley left the ring. They played Roode’s music and he posed.
Jinder Mahal cut a promo backstage saying he was WWE champion for 185 days (which doesn’t appear to be the correct number) and the only person who believed in him was himself. He had a new goal for 2018 and that was to be US champion. He called New Day a fad but the Maharaja was forever.
They aired a video of Natalya finding out Shinsuke Nakamura would be her partner in the Mixed Match Challenge. She was happy it was him and not Rusev or Sami Zayn.
Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin promo
Gable wore a white t-shirt that read #FreeTheTagTitles. He asked the fans if they knew what it took to make sacrifices and be a success. Benjamin said just because the University of Alabama won a national championship, it doesn’t make any of the fans winners, because they just sat on their coaches and stuffed their faces.
Benjamin said Georgia was robbed due to a poor referee call, just like they were robbed last week. Gable said they freed the titles from the Uso Pentitatiry as the crowd chanted “Roll Tide.” They concluded that the second referee was jealous of them because he doesn’t know what it takes to be a winner. Gable said they didn’t lose to the Usos, they lost to instant replay.
Gable called out “generic referee #2” but they got Daniel Bryan instead. The crowd cheered Bryan. Bryan said he knew what it was like to work hard and get something taken away. He didn’t care if they bashed their opponents, but they shouldn’t knock the referee. He said the referee’s decision was final.
Benjamin said he was right--and the referee announced them as the winner. Bryan said they didn’t win and the referee thought he was doing the right thing when he changed the decision. Gable accused Bryan of taking things out on them. Gable wondered if they had to beat the Usos twice in one night. Bryan had another eureka moment like last week, which the crowd picked up on right away, and he announced a 2-out-of-3 falls match for the titles at the Rumble.
There were some minor negatives, but I thought this was a really good segment. Gable was good and Bryan is great at playing a babyface who maybe or maybe not turning heel.
Backstage, Styles caught up to Orton and asked if his plan was to RKO everything in sight tonight. Orton said yes. Styles was satisfied and was about to leave, but Orton let him know he was planning on winning the Rumble and winning the title at WrestleMania. Nakamura entered, said, “not so fast,” flicked the title on Styles’ shoulder, added, “good talk,” and left.
Breezango defeated Rusev & Aiden English (5:16)
Before the match, English sang a song to announce they would win the Rusev Rumble match on Rusev Day. Breezango picked up the upset win after Fandango pinned Rusev with a schoolboy. Yes, the same way Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews beat Cesaro and Sheamus on Raw. (The match was almost the same length, too.)
Backstage, Shane let Bryan know they were not on the same page and called his decision-making impetuous and irrational. Shane wondered if he was okay. Bryan asked what he meant, and Shane said Bryan might have a lot going on in his life but is coming off as unstable.
Bryan figured he could say the same about Shane, especially considering his genes. Bryan said Shane has made irrational decisions in the past and is likely to do so again. Bryan was calm and cool as he said this. Shane said they would have to agree to disagree and left.
There was a new commercial for the Raw 25th anniversary show, this time advertising The Godfather, Brother Love, Boogeyman, Teddy Long, Ted Dibiase, John Laurinaitis and Sgt. Slaughter. That’s quite a list.
3-on-2 Handicap Match: WWE Champion AJ Styles, Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
The babyfaces had full control so Owens and Zayn decided to leave, but Shane came out to make the match no-countout. They restarted the match and the faces jumped the heels. Of course, after a break, the heels were in control. The crowd chanted for Styles as Zayn held him in a headlock. Owens then applied a headlock and the crowd continued to chant for Styles.
Styles came back with a fireman’s carry neckbreaker and made the hot tag to Orton, who hit clotheslines and a powerslam to Zayn. As Orton ran wild, Owens jumped in and hit him with a chair for the DQ. Owens then gave chair shots to Styles and Nakamura.
Shane came out again and made it no disqualification. Styles attacked Owens with a chair and followed him up the ramp and to the back. This left Zayn alone with Orton and Nakamura. They tossed him into the post and Orton nailed him with the steel steps.
Orton cleared the announce table (barely) and gave Zayn a backdrop. Orton tossed him back in the ring and Nakamura nailed a Kinshasa. Orton finished him off with an RKO for the win. (Overall, the match went about 13:47 but it was restarted twice.) Orton and Nakamura posed as they quickly went off the air.