On a very important show for WWE in 2019, Raw was setting the stage for the Royal Rumble and the road to WrestleMania.
Could the return of John Cena and Hulk Hogan get fans interested in what was to come for the rest of the year? Is the company focusing on the right talents as they try to reimagine who gets the majority of the promotion heading into WrestleMania season?
The highlights of the show was a touching tribute to Mean Gene and a great change of direction for the Women's Division. The low, the segment between Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman. Here are your winners and losers for Raw, January 7, 2019.
Winner: Opening 30 Minutes
A six-man tag isn't always the best way to open the show because getting there is often requires a predictable formula to set up the action. This was a bit different in that the first moments of the show included a brawl between Bobby Lashley and Seth Rollins and the return of John Cena who declared himself an entrant into this year's Royal Rumble.
Cena's presence might not equate to him having a shot to win the match, but he adds star power and it raises questions to how much he'll play a role in the next few shows and leading up to WrestleMania where he's promised to partake.
Winner: Mean Gene Tribute
It can be argued Hogan's tribute to Mean Gene Okerlund was a bit too much about Hogan and not enough about Mean Gene but the counter-argument is that Hogan nailed his lines for the first time in a long time and the video in itself was a perfect tribute to one of the best interviewers in the history of the business.
Referencing those the WWE has lost before Gene was also a nice touch as it helped fans remember names like Roddy Piper, Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan along with Randy Savage and Mr. Perfect.
Loser: Brock Lensar/Braun Strowman Segment
What should have been a segment that built anticipation towards a huge match at the Royal Rumble was more a confusing, awkward display where neither competitor actually had much interaction.
The split screen was strange and felt unorganized and the idea that Lesnar would just circle Strowman like a shark in the water but at the same time try to sell the idea that he's afraid to step in the ring was an odd choice by WWE. This is one of the least interesting matches heading into a big event. Not good.
Winner: Sasha Banks
Tonight was a big night for Sasha Banks. All but forgotten over recent weeks and potentially relegated to the upcoming tag ranks in the Women's Division, Ronda Rousey decided she wanted Banks to be her next challenger for the Raw Women's Title. Banks had to prove her worth and got a big win over Nia Jax.
The match between Banks and Jax was strong and it reminded us of how big a threat Banks once was in the division. She's not likely to win versus Rousey but she'll have a chance here to prove her worth and do for herself what Becky Lynch did in 2018.
Winner: The Main Event
If Raw chose to close every Raw with the same type of close they did on Monday, they'll be in for a good 2019 with a number of happy fans. Now, the ending wasn't quite what people would have hoped for — a screwjob finish where the onus was on Lashley — but this ensures there is more to come between Ambrose and Rollins and working Lashley into the angle is not the worst idea in the world.
The match was great and a Falls Count Anywhere contest to end the show between two guys who have built a strong feud played well.