How do you ensure the last episode before arguably the biggest Raw in the history of the show airs next week? The answer is, offer up a Braun Strowman who completely tears Raw apart, bring back the Revival and have them set up a feud with some WWE legends and offer an Asuka versus Nia Jax match. Oh, yeah, and sneak back in a "Curb Stomp" from Seth Rollins for good measure. Did it work?
If you ask the Miztourage, probably not. But, while not everything was done to perfection, there was a lot of good to take from Monday's episode of Raw and the company did a lot of good things leading into the Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
Led by Braun Strowman and Seth Rollins, here are your winners and losers for Monday, January 15, 2018.
Winner: Opening Segment Braun Strowman/ Kurt Angle
If you wanted to find a strong way to kick off an episode of Raw that needed to be memorable enough to overcome the buzz of the 25th Anniversary show and the Royal Rumble, WWE was on the right track with the Strowman firing segment.
Needing to address Strowman's tearing down the set onto Brock Lesnar and Kane, Kurt Angle relieved Strowman of his duties, set him off on a warpath of destruction and made the rest of the show must-see and unpredictable. The company didn't follow up well, but it was a great way to start the show.
Loser: Opening Segment Follow Up
If you want to buzzkill one of the stronger openings in some time, just reverse your decision for no good reason and you'll have what the WWE did when Stephanie McMahon re-hired Strowman thanks to security's inability to control him. The logic here was, we can't stop him so I guess give him what he wants?
It was terrible writing and it would have been better to have Strowman excluded from the Triple Threat match at the Royal Rumble but show up anyway during the actual Rumble itself and cause mayhem. He can't win the match if he's not in it so it would have been an easy way to make him look strong. But, alas, we're right back where we started and he's a part of the Raw main event.
The only thing better than having an incredibly talented tag team show up and show how incredibly talented they are is, would be to have them set up an angle involving some of the WWE Legends that will be on hand for next week's 25th Anniversary show.
The only fear here is that the WWE does what it often does which is put over the legends at the expense of the new guys. This is an opportunity to turn The Revival into big stars. Hopefully, WWE doesn't screw it up.
We get that Roman Reigns is king, but does he really need to go over an entire faction of The Miztourage to prove he's at the top of the food chain? How many times do we see this in WWE where a handicap match makes the team with the numbers look weak? It doesn't make sense and The Miz and his cronies ended up running away with their tails between their legs.
It would have made more sense to set-up a situation where Reigns was coming into next week's match with The Miz and to give the appearance Reigns was going to struggle to keep his title.
Winner: Matt Hardy
We can finally say with excitement that Matt Hardy has a full and completed new entrance theme. After WWE dropped the ball with Hardy last week and had him come to the ring with half an entrance, get himself into a strange and pointless laugh-off with Bray Wyatt and basically make his character an unorganized joke, WWE got back on track this week.
Add to this the fact that Hardy has finally settled his trademarks issues with Anthem Sports and fans might finally get to see the real plans behind "Woken" Matt Hardy start to unfold.
Loser: Asuka and Nia Jax
I'm categorizing this one as a "Loser" but with an asterisk. The reason is that I still believe WWE should have held off these two clashing in the ring until the Rumble and they'll never be able to get that first meeting back again. That said, WWE did about everything right if they were going to go ahead with this so soon.
Jax gave Asuka all she could handle for a good chunk of the match and finally only lost because she couldn't finish due to an injury. There is obviously more to come between these two and business is unsettled.
Winner: Seth Rollins
Welcome back the "Curb Stomp!" Only this time, let's call it the "Blackout" or "The Stomp", but either way, Seth Rollins' finisher that was banned for not being "PG friendly" snuck its way back in and it's going to be a thing that makes Rollins a huge star again.
In the midst of rampant speculation involving the Raw 25th Anniversary and the Royal Rumble, this development sort of came out of nowhere and is a great piece of news that has to have Rollins more than excited. Watch for his star to rise like crazy.