0 of 9
The year that was for WWE Raw concluded Monday night on USA Network with a good, old-fashioned wrestling wedding, complete with the wild and unpredictable storyline twists and turns fans have come to expect from sports-entertainment nuptials.
Lana and Bobby Lashley’s grand wedding was the marquee segment on the show, but outstanding in-ring action, long-awaited flashes of personality for a Scottish Psychopath and a red-hot angle featuring Randy Orton and AJ Styles made for an explosive broadcast and one of the best of the entire year.
Relive the December 30 show with this recap, including grades and analysis for all of the night’s segments and in-ring content.
1 of 9
A fired-up Kevin Owens kicked off this week’s show, wasting little time voicing his displeasure for the beatdowns he has incurred at the hands of Seth Rollins and AOP. The beatdown of Rey Mysterio last week especially disgusted him, and he blamed the masked Superstar’s loss of the United States Championship on Thursday night in Madison Square Garden on the assault.
Rollins and Co. interrupted, the former claiming Owens and the rest of the WWE Superstars who failed to see the bigger picture brought this all upon themselves.
Having heard enough, Owens left the ring and took the fight to his oppressors. Samoa Joe’s music played, and the commentator who found himself on the receiving end of AOP’s wrath last week unloaded on the heels. He even applied the Coquina Clutch to Rollins until Akam and Rezar made the save. Chaos ensued until security and officials hit the ring to separate the parties. Unsatisfied, Owens delivered a senton from the top turnbuckle onto Rollins, AOP and the security to close out the segment.
Owens, Joe and Mysterio vs. AOP and Rollins is going to rule so hard!
Until then, the idea of Owens and Joe as allies, a united front against Rollins and AOP, is a damn fun one that should make for an enjoyable march to Royal Rumble. They have both been wronged and are both fully capable of unleashing hell on the opposition. A huge six-man tag team match in some sort of gimmick bout or with heightened stipulations will help dominate the main event scene while WWE champion Brock Lesnar watches from the sidelines.
We have seen in NXT how well the faction vs. common enemies storyline works. Hopefully, Paul Heyman and the rest of the Raw writing team can make this work because this was a delectable sampler of what is to come.
2 of 9
The rivalry between Aleister Black and Buddy Murphy wrote its latest chapter as they squared off in a rematch of their fan-favorite TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs pay-per-view bout.
An early, back-and-forth exchange gave way to The Best Kept Secret dropping Black face-first into the turnbuckle and to the arena floor heading into the break.
Murphy controlled the bout from there, scoring a near-fall on Black as fans showed their appreciation of the contest to that point with chants of “This is awesome!”
Black fought his way back into the match before engaging the Aussie in a series of reversals and counters. He dropped Murphy with a brainbuster for a count of two. Black delivered Black Mass from out of nowhere and then followed with a second to put away Murphy definitively.
Black defeated Murphy
Can we have Murphy vs. Black every week?
Their in-ring chemistry is off the charts. They way they complement their athleticism with counters and reversals, leading to bigger and higher-impact moves, is simply phenomenal. Murphy dominated here and looked damn good doing so, hopefully catching the eye of management and earning himself a more sustained push as a result.
Black, as he did so many times during his run as champion in NXT, absorbed a ton of punishment but showed great tenacity in fighting back before putting away his opponent with his jaw-shattering Black Mass.
Both of these Superstars have earned more television time, a greater role on the show and a significant push. If those in power were wise, they would run this match back.
3 of 9
Erick Rowan returned to the squared circle for another obliteration…erm, match…with an unnamed local competitor.
Said competitor escaped Rowan’s wrath by crawling under the ring, only to come out near the mysterious cage. The result? He ate a huge boot to the face. His suffering ended shortly thereafter as Rowan planted him with the Iron Claw for the dominant, uncontested victory.
Been here, done this.
It is time to advance this storyline and move on because there is only so long you can ask fans to remain invested before the whole thing overstays its welcome. This is flirting with that fine line.
Show us what is in Rowan’s cage or have a Superstar find out and then threaten to expose it to the world. Give us stakes; because as it is now, Rowan is just a guy who has failed on his own before, succeeding now only because of his no-name opposition.
4 of 9
Charlotte Flair hit the ring and announced to the world that she was officially entering into the 2020 women’s Royal Rumble match. She said in doing so, she is the first Superstar, male or female, of the decade to enter the match. Feeling like celebrating, she issued an open challenge to any woman in the locker room to come “bow to The Queen.”
Natalya’s music played, and the third-generation competitor hit the ring as the show headed to break.
Back from the commercial, Natalya withstood an onslaught from Flair and took the fight to the floor. She sent Charlotte into the ring steps and then delivered a suplex on the arena floor. Back inside, she ordered the fans to “shut up” as the commentary team discussed her new, no-nonsense aggressive side.
Flair turned the tide and sent Natalya to the floor, just in time for R-Truth and the rest of the lower-card Raw stars to appear, all chasing after the 24/7 Championship.
Later in the bout, Natalya delivered a huge sit-out powerbomb for a near-fall. The action between the two continued back and forth, with each gaining a near-fall. Eventually, Flair withstood a late pinfall attempt and tapped out a resilient, almost defiant Natalya to the Figure-Eight.
Flair defeated Natalya
A night of strong in-ring work continued here as Flair and Natalya again showed why they are two of the more respected workers on the roster.
Most interesting was Natalya working as a heel for part of the match, taunting fans and showing a renewed aggression. Interesting, because there has been absolutely no sign whatsoever of a character change. She just randomly appeared this week, frustration boiling over to the point that she was the de facto heel in a match where the other woman was telling her to bow before her.
That total lack of continuity hurts the storytelling and creates inconsistencies around performers that make it hard for fans to ever really invest in them.
5 of 9
The O.C. hit the ring to discuss their recent dominance, AJ Styles pointing out that Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson had defeated the otherwise unbeatable Viking Raiders…twice. He championed their status as The Best Tag Team in the World before The Street Profits interrupted.
Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford rightly pointed out that they beat Anderson and Gallows in their Raw debut, so what does that make them? A match between the two teams broke out.
The babyfaces controlled early. When the official caught Styles attempting to interfere on behalf of his cohorts, The Phenomenal One found himself banished from ringside, creating a fair two-on-two scenario.
During the break, the heels isolated Ford, cutting the ring off from his partner and working over his head and neck. Ford finally created some separation and made the hot tag to Dawkins, who exploded into the match with a flurry of offense that including a running uppercut to Anderson and a big dropkick to Gallows.
The heels withstood the onslaught and tried for the Magic Killer, but Ford escaped. He wiped out Anderson at ringside, and the duo finished off Gallows with a Sky High/frog splash combination for the win.
The Street Profits defeated The O.C.
What better way to put over the idea that the heels need each other to succeed than by having them lose when separated? While some would suggest a loss like this hurts Anderson and Gallows’ heat, it’s actually the opposite. A team recognized as The Best in the World loses to a team it did not beat to win the gauntlet that earned it the trophy and does so without its leader running interference at ringside. It’s hypocritical and the stuff of great heel acts.
The Street Profits, conversely, are a fantastic babyface team. They bring energy and excitement to their performances. They are as charismatic between the ropes as they are on the mic and totally capable of leading the tag division in 2020. Their win was a great momentum-builder.
6 of 9
Drew McIntyre entered the arena this week and polled fans, asking if he should be nervous about the prospects of facing Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins in a two-on-one handicap match. They didn’t think so, and neither did the self-proclaimed “Sexy Scot.”
McIntyre made short work of the former tag team champions, dropping both with the Claymore Kick en route to a pinfall victory.
McIntyre defeated Ryder and Hawkins
Remember that time Ryder and Hawkins won the tag titles at WrestleMania? Pepperidge Farm remembers.
This was a success only because it allowed McIntyre to show some of the personality that his character has been devoid of since his return. He was funny, engaging and had the fans playing along. To the point that fans in Hartford, Connecticut, counted down from three with him before he turned Hawkins inside out with the Claymore Kick.
It was a fun, inoffensive squash that did nothing more to hurt Ryder and Hawkins than any of the booking to this point had.
7 of 9
Randy Orton made his way to the ring on a set of crutches, the pain in his left leg evident by the wincing on his face. The Viper rattled off the “wrestling isn’t ballet” line and revealed that the results of the MRI he had done on his knee after suffering an injury in Hershey, Pennsylvania, just 24 hours earlier showed a much more significant injury than he had imagined.
So significant that there was doubt about his ability to return at all.
He ended by saying he will do everything he can to make sure someone ate an RKO at WrestleMania.
This brought out AJ Styles, who mocked and taunted Orton. “Ain’t it funny how fate struck The Viper before The Viper could strike fate?” he asked. He followed up by putting his hands behind his back, even closing his eyes, as he made a mockery of Orton’s misfortune.
Styles ended the promo by saying he would see Orton at WrestleMania before kicking one of his crutches out from underneath him.
“You know what the difference is between you and I? You’re patient, I’m not,” Orton said before dropping The Phenomenal One and revealing the injury to be a ruse. The Viper celebrated to an enormous pop.
Orton using an injury to sucker Styles in and drop him with an RKO was a great touch. Usually, it is a heel move, something a villain does. The Viper’s status as one of the most cunning competitors in WWE history is undeniable, so this sort of thing is in character for him. That he was able to build sympathy among the fans, who in turn responded so favorably to the reveal, was equally as impressive given his love-hate relationship with the WWE Universe.
Styles was his insufferable best, making a superb heel whom fans wanted to see get his comeuppance. And then he did.
On a night where in-ring action has been above-average, this was a fantastic angle that adds to the intensifying rivalry between the future Hall of Famers.
8 of 9
New United States champion Andrade squared off with a local competitor and wasted little time punishing the unknown opposition, pummeling him and teasing a hammerlock DDT on the exposed arena floor, the same fate that befell Humberto Carrillo a few weeks back.
Before he could execute the move, Ricochet hit the ring, making the save and igniting a match between El Idolo and The One and Only.
Back from the break, Andrade worked over Ricochet until the latter wiped out the champion at ringside. Suckering his opponent in, Andrade sent Ricochet ribs-first into the guardrail and then the ring apron in a sequence eerily similar to what the heel put Carrillo through a few weeks back. He back-body-dropped Ricochet onto the concrete ahead of the break.
A step-up enzuigiri by Ricochet and a rolling dropkick allowed the babyface to fight his way back into the match. A standing shooting star press followed for two. A near-fall by Andrade frustrated Zelina Vega, who watched from ringside as Ricochet fought out of a hammerlock DDT attempt. Vega, though, inserted herself into the match by shoving The One and Only off the top rope, allowing Andrade to score the pinfall victory with the aforementioned DDT.
Andrade defeated Ricochet
Andrade and Vega make such a fantastic tandem that it is nice to see WWE Creative nix what appeared to be plans to break them up. As the United States champion and the outspoken mouthpiece for the titleholder, they have the potential to dominate the midcard in a way they probably should have been long before now.
The champion and Ricochet, like other pairings on this week’s show, have wicked chemistry and could easily elevate the U.S. title through a series of ultra-competitive matches. Vega’s interference, leading to Andrade’s victory, could even set up the inevitable rematch. Let those two tear the house down and re-establish the midcard title as a sought-after championship rather than a storyline prop, and you will have a product fans can actually get behind rather than greet with apathy or indifference.
That is, if Andrade makes it out of next week’s rematch with Mysterio as champion.
9 of 9
Lana and Bobby Lashley entered the ring for a majestic wedding that doubled as a massive ego boost for The Ravishing Russian, who made the entire ordeal about herself, going as far as to write Lashley’s nuptials for him.
The pastor asked if there was anyone who had any just reason for them not being married, they should speak their mind or forever hold their peace. An unknown man interrupted the proceedings, revealing himself to be Lana’s first husband. He tried to talk Lashley out of the marriage but wound up on the receiving end of a brutal spinebuster by the former intercontinental champion.
Lashley’s first wife interrupted and ate a bouquet to the face, courtesy of Lana.
The third interruption came from Liv Morgan, repackaged and claiming the love of her life was in the ring, that she came to WWE a lost soul until her love gave her renewed purpose. She revealed that she wasn’t talking about Bobby but instead Lana.
Fans erupted into a chant of “yes” as Lana broke down into tears. A brawl between the women broke out as referees attempted to pull them apart. Lashley looked on, befuddled and bewildered by what was unfolding before him.
One more attempt at concluding the wedding ended with Rusev popping out of an enormous cake and beating the hell out of Lashley. The show went off the air with Morgan joining Rusev as chants of “Rusev Day” rained down from the stands.
This was…a thing that happened.
If nothing else, you can’t say it was boring.
The wedding, like the entire storyline, was a cluster of ridiculousness. It was a segment of television in which Paul Heyman and the writing team threw everything at the wall just to see what might actually stick. There were vengeful exes, the return of Morgan, a proclamation of love and Rusev’s long-awaited revenge.
Chaos, at its purest and most fun, reigned supreme.
But should it really be celebrated?
So many times over the course of the storyline, it felt like the creative team was making stuff up as it went. Ditto this segment, as the Morgan element feels completely and utterly tacked on to spark interest and drive in viewers for next week. The fans responded positively, apparently overjoyed by the injection of attitude to the otherwise squeaky-clean show.
Maybe that helps draw viewers back to the show. Maybe it does just enough to make sure the segment ranks among the worst of the year. Decade, even.
Whatever the case may be, the very last segment of WWE television fans saw in 2019 was wild, obnoxiously goofy and delightfully absurd. Who knows where it leads, and maybe, just maybe, that is what the WWE product needs: a bit of unpredictability.