Last week, Braun Strowman used pure strength and a literal grappling hook to pull a piece of the backstage rigging down on Kane and Brock Lesnar. It was astounding even by Strowman’s standards, and it changed the entire complexion of the trio’s Universal Title Triple Threat Match in one swoop. And now, it’s gotten Strowman fired. The Monster Among Men was in the middle of gloating over his complete obliteration of both the Universal Champion and The Devil’s Favorite Demon when Raw General Manager Kurt Angle arrived to reprimand Strowman by relieving him of his position as a Raw Superstar. The decision left the WWE Universe in an uproar, but Strowman took it far worse than the audience: After appearing to acquiesce to Angle’s wishes and heading to the backstage area peacefully, Strowman savaged the entire team of security guards that The Olympic Hero had hired to escort him from the building before marching away from the scene with very bad intentions on his mind.
Again! After Cesaro & Sheamus suffered an upset loss to Titus O’Neil & Apollo Crews last week, The Bar got a rematch looking to regain some ground in advance of their Raw Tag Team Title rematch against Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan at the Royal Rumble event. And for the second week in a row, Titus Worldwide claimed a win, though they do have Jason Jordan to thank for the assist. The combination of Crews’ athleticism and O’Neil’s power had given Titus Worldwide an edge, though The Bar managed to battle back. They’d even learned from their mistakes, thwarting the same sequence that cost them the match last week. But right as they were about to execute a tandem maneuver to dispatch Crews, Jordan’s music hit, and Crews rolled up a distracted Sheamus for a win that left The Bar quite dismayed — to say nothing of Seth Rollins, who emerged atop the ramp to scold his partner for interfering in the match.
Enzo Amore retained the WWE Cruiserweight Title due to an injury and subsequent count-out loss to Cedric Alexander last week, but once again, Cedric has himself a second chance. And before the ascendant Cruiserweight officially challenges for the crown jewel of 205 Live at Royal Rumble, Alexander dispatched Enzo’s abdominally-gifted lieutenant Tony Nese — described as the “garlic” to Muscles Marinara and back in the good graces of The Zo Train following a brief excommunication. He might just end up back in the doghouse. With Goldust once again providing emotional support, Alexander subjected Tony Abs to an in-ring mincing despite an impressive display by Nese. Enzo’s constant barking at ringside certainly energized Nese into the advantage… at least until Goldust lurked up behind the champion and sent him scrambling, cutting off Nese’s momentum and opening the door for an Alexander resurgence. Nese still held his opponent at arm’s length, thwarting the Lumbar Check at every turn until Cedric found an opening, reversing Nese’s pump-handle slam and finally executing his agonizing signature move.
No one can say Braun Strowman’s time on the unemployment line was uneventful, though thankfully for the Raw roster, it was short-lived. The Gift of Destruction tore apart the backstage area for the entire hour after Kurt Angle pink-slipped him, rampaging through the catering area and tipping over the tractor of the production truck in a blind fury. All of this devastation led to Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon pulling rank on her beleaguered General Manager and ordering The Monster Among Men rehired. Angle enacted her wishes just in time, as Strowman had Michael Cole in hand at the commentary table when The Olympic Hero emerged to give him his job back, including his position in the Universal Title Triple Threat Match. Strowman celebrated the good news in his singularly devastating fashion: By throwing Cole off the stage and onto a pile of security guards anyway.
Last week, Nia Jax jumped Asuka from behind, putting her (and every Superstar in the Women’s Royal Rumble Match) on notice and earning herself a match against The Empress of Tomorrow. Jax posed the most formidable challenge yet to Asuka’s undefeated streak, but thanks to a flawless game plan and a little bit of luck, the former NXT Women’s Champion rolled on, and Jax officially joined the ranks of the fallen — with an asterisk. Jax unsurprisingly relied on her power, looking to impose her will on the cruelly clever Empress of Tomorrow. But Asuka had her opponent scouted perfectly, whittling away at The Irresistible Force with a variety of torturous submissions — an octopus here, an armbar there — and, later, her speed, to sap Jax of her strength. It seemed Asuka would earn herself a count-out win after trapping Jax’s leg between the steel steps and the ring post. But while Jax barely beat the count back into the ring, the referee was forced to call the match off due to injury. The sight of the hobbled Jax even brought Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss — the same woman who tried to pit Asuka against Jax in the first place — to assist her to the locker room, though Nia turned down care from The Goddess in favor of another Superstar: Enzo Amore.
The world pays homage to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his namesake day, and Raw is no exception. Team Red honored the civil-rights icon with a stirring tribute to Dr. King’s legacy, culminating in a traditional 10-bell salute in his honor.
The revival of The Revival continues, as Dash & Dawson put on an (accurately) self-described “tag team wrestling clinic” against a pair of intrepid locals who found themselves on the receiving end of a picture-perfect Shatter Machine in mere minutes. But The Revival’s post-match interview quickly became the focus of their evening, as they had a few choice words for the Legends scheduled to appear at next week’s Raw 25th anniversary show. Taking full advantage of the live mic they were offered, Dash & Dawson took aim at veterans from “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to Shawn Michaels to The New Age Outlaws by designating themselves as “professional wrestlers” instead of “sports-entertainers” who were molded by a boardroom. Proclaiming that “beer baths” and “crotch chops” had turned WWE into a mockery, The Revival promised they would never be pressured to change from their old-school mentality and presentation, and left with a message that was clear, simple and across the board: This is their Universe now.
Roman Reigns may not have defended his Intercontinental Title on Raw, but the fighting champion had a fight all the same against The Miztourage just one week before he fields a challenge from their ringleader, The Miz, on Raw 25. (“It will be awesome,” Miz promised after another intro from Elias.) That is then, however. For now, The Big Dog can roll into the red brand’s quarter-centennial with a dominant performance under his belt, despite a strong opening from The Miztourage after Miz laid hands on Reigns’ title to distract him and galvanize Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel into an early advantage. The Miztourage traded tags and stomped The Big Dog into the corner, and Dallas emerged as an early star of the match for his team. Once Reigns decked him off the apron, however, Axel was turned into the proverbial deer in headlights as The Big Dog began to rev up.
Things got dire enough that The Miz attempted to interfere, though Reigns quickly dispatched Dallas with a wicked Superman Punch on the outside and attempted to drag Miz into the ring. Axel sprang with a rollup in the fray, but The Big Dog escaped the pinfall attempt and sealed the win with a rib-busting Spear — much to the dismay of a furious Miz, who stewed and proclaimed Reigns’ title would be his. Despite the unfavorable result tonight, Miz might have himself an awesome Raw 25 yet.
Due to a neck injury, Paige will be unable to compete in the first-ever Women’s Royal Rumble Match. That said, Absolution doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, as Sonya Deville got her first singles victory in WWE at the expense of Sasha Banks as the historic contest approaches. Deville showcased her pinpoint timing and punishing power in the surprisingly quick victory, wrapping The Boss up in an array of submissions and dropping her with a savage kick to the stomach as Banks came off the turnbuckle.
For the last two weeks, Heath Slater has watched his partner Rhyno fight to the very end in an effort to teach The One-Man Band about toughness. Consider the lessons taken to heart: Slater certainly fought hard against “Woken” Matt Hardy, but the former SmackDown Tag Team Champion suffered defeat — or deletion, rather — at the hands of the multi-dimensional Superstar all the same. Despite a strong opening by Slater, Hardy once again obtained the advantage by gnawing at The One-Man Band’s hand and subjected him to the “deletion process,” culminating in a wonderful Twist of Fate.
Jason Jordan is at it again. Not only did Kurt Angle’s son swing a loss for Cesaro & Sheamus, he talked his tag team partner Seth Rollins into a match against Finn Bálor to give The Architect a chance at payback from their defeat to The Bálor Club last week. For his part, Rollins didn’t mind what Jordan did so much as the way he did it, but his partner’s meddling proved to be as clutch as possible when it came to Rollins’ main-event clash with Raw’s resident Extraordinary Man.
In a semi-rematch of the first-ever Universal Title tilt (remember, Bálor was “The Demon” in that one), Rollins came out swinging, and Bálor answered, targeting The Kingslayer’s surgically-repaired knee in the hopes of rendering his offense one-dimensional. Rollins opted instead to battle through the pain, forcing Finn to fight from underneath. With the match escalating to something of a dead heat, Rollins went big with a Frog Splash, and Cesaro & Sheamus emerged with punishment in mind for Jordan. Some clever maneuvering from the young champion led to a brawl between The Bar and the good brothers that Bálor thwarted with a soaring plancha. As Finn attempted to finish off Rollins, Jordan tripped Bálor up on the sly, and Rollins dug deep into his arsenal, planting Finn face-first into the mat for the victory with a move we’ve seen him use to win many big matches.
As Bálor staggered to his feet with Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson at his side, Rollins departed with a thrilling victory thanks in no small part to what his partner did, to say nothing of the way he did it.