Drew McIntyre def. Dolph Ziggler (Steel Cage Match)
What Happened: With animosity still running high between the two men, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre looked to finally settle their differences inside a Steel Cage, by order of Mr. McMahon. The Showoff used his quickness to gain an early advantage, but the Scottish Psychopath’s power proved to be a huge equalizer, as shown by a massive superplex to keep Ziggler from escaping over the top of the cage before McIntyre simply tossing Ziggler around the cage, but subsequently suffering a Zig Zag that he answered with a head-ringing Claymore Kick. But one Claymore wasn’t enough, as McIntyre delivered a second one to put Ziggler’s lights out for good. But Dolph Ziggler’s defiance got the better of him, screaming at McIntyre “Is that all you got?” Enraged, Drew used a steel chair-assisted Claymore Kick to shut Ziggler up for good. Or so he thought, for as the Scottish Psychopath made his exit, he saw that his former tag team partner had made his way into a sitting position begging for another fight. Incensed, McIntyre blasted Ziggler out of the chair with a fourth Claymore.
Analysis: A Steel Cage Match to kick off RAW to end 2018? I like the sound of that. Hopefully we get more in 2019.
Seth Rollins demands his Intercontinental Championship rematch
What Happened: Let’s cut right to the chase. Seth Rollins wants a Intercontinental Championship rematch, and he wants it now. Well, WWE COO Triple H had something to say about that. Hunter reminded his former protege that there are no automatic championship rematches in the WWE anymore. But things started getting a bit personal when Hunter and Rollins started taking a trip down memory lane. Triple H questioned Rollins integrity, to which the Architect practically exploded, vowing to destroy anything and anyone that gets in his way, including the enitre McMahon Family if necessary. This prompted Shane McMahon to come down and defuse the situation, declaring that the Intercontinental Championship will be defended tonight, against the winner of the Fresh Start Battle Royal.
Analysis: Is Seth Rollins going to turn heel in 2019? I think so. That was full heel Rollins right there.
Apollo Crews wins Fresh Start Battle Royal for Intercontinental Championship Match tonight
What Happened: With an Intercontinental Championship match on the line, the men of Monday Night RAW engaged in a Battle Royal for the opportunity. The first men to go was No Way Jose and Viktor by Apollo Crews. After a few minutes, Titus O’Neil was the next to go, courtesy of Lucha House Party, but were subsequently eliminated in their entirety by Finn Balor. Meanwhile, Crews took out five more men. In a moment of personal vindication, Baron Corbin eliminated Balor before taking out Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins (yes, his losing streak is still going). But it was Apollo Crews who was standing tall at the end of the match, eliminating the Lone Wolf with a pair of enzugiris to earn the biggest opportunity of his career so far.
Analysis: FINALLY! Apollo Crews is getting his due. It’s unfortunate that he’s going to be robbed by Seth Rollins.
Ember Moon, Sasha Banks, & Bayley def. The Riott Squad
What Happened: After being attacked by the Riott Squad last week following their tag team victory, Ember Moon, Sasha Banks, and Bayley looked for a bit of revenge tonight. Frequent tags on both sides kept things even to start, but the War Goddess found herself isolated in the wrong corner, prompting Banks and Bayley to intervene and help their team regain control. That control didn’t last long after Riott saved Morgan from a rope-hung Meteora from the Boss. The Riott Squad racuous behavior prompted Moon to take action, dismantling Riott and Morgan, leaving Logan in a 2-on-1 situation that she could not endure.
Analysis: Here we go. Get ready for the repetitious six-women tag team matches again. I personally hope Bayley gets a singles push since she is the one getting the pinfalls in this matches.
Bobby Lashley def. Seth Rollins via Disqualification
What Happened: Triple H laid down the challenge to Seth Rollins, and I think it’s safe to say challenge accepted. Granted, it wasn’t easy, as Lio Rush made sure to get involved every chance he got. But the Architect’s rage got the best of him, striking down both Lashley and Rush with a steel chair and Stomping Rush into the canvas. Triple H said he wanted to see the Seth Rollins that would do whatever it took to get back to the top. He very well may have gotten his wish.
Analysis: I am beginning to see that this whole Fresh Start initiative is a complete bust. The McMahon family may have done away with automatic championship rematches, but that doesn’t preclude them from essentially handing them out.
Dean Ambrose (c) def. Apollo Crews (Intercontinental Championship)
What Happened: After winning the Fresh Start Battle Royal earlier in the night, Apollo Crews had the biggest opportunity of his career when he challenged Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship. Despite still feeling the effects of his earlier match, Crews used the same speed and power that won him the Battle Royal to keep the champion on the ropes. In fact, the challenger was just three seconds away from his first championship in WWE after his signature spinning sitout powerbomb, but he wasn’t too mindful of the ring positioning, allowing Ambrose to reach the ropes to break the count. Knowing that Ambrose was still hurt, Crews went for a home run frog splash, but ended up striking out instead, crash landing straight into Dirty Deeds.
Analysis: If the McMahons were seriously about giving new Superstars the big opportunities, they would have put the belt on Crews. That would at the very least put some level of legitimacy into this Fresh Start. Instead, it’s just business as usual in the WWE.
Natalya & RAW Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey def. Nia Jax & Tamina
What Happened: If you mess with Natalya, be prepared to deal with Rousey. In a match stemming from a backstage attack, the Queen of Harts and the Rowdy One once again joined forces to take on Nia Jax and Tamina. Natalya and Rousey’s rage forced Jax and Tamina into retreat for a while, but they quickly gained controlled as the Irresistible Force saved Tamina from the Armbar with a massive legdrop. With Natalya hurt and Rousey down, Tamina went for a Superfly Splash, but the champion countered and locked in the Armbar to keep her 2018 campaign undefeated.
Analysis: The RAW Women’s division is not so shallow that WWE has to put Rousey in tag team matches when she doesn’t have an active challenger. But I expect that will change next week and Alexa Bliss will once again be launched straight into the title picture.
This wasn’t as strong a year-end RAW as last year, though it had its moments. Kicking off the show with the Steel Cage match was ingenious and I was glad to see Apollo Crews get a significant singles opportunity. 7/10