WWE Raw will celebrate New Year's Day with its bruisers and beasts at the forefront.
Samoa Joe will challenge Roman Reigns for the Intercontinental Championship in a battle of powerhouses. Monday's episode in Miami's American Airlines Center will also feature the return of universal champion Brock Lesnar.
Reigns and Joe clashed last week for the gold, but The Big Dog derailed the match by smashing his foe with a steel chair. There wasn't a definitive conclusion as a result. That won't happen this time around.
Raw general manager Kurt Angle announced that if Reigns is disqualified in the rematch, he will lose the IC title:
Kurt Angle @RealKurtAngle
On the first #Raw of 2018 @WWERomanReigns will defend his #ICTitle against @SamoaJoe; if Roman is DQ’ed, he’ll lose the match AND his title2017-12-29 20:20:34
The Royal Rumble pay-per-view will be on the horizon as the red brand delivers its first show of 2018. That means more Superstars are sure to declare themselves entrants at the event's trademark Battle Royal, feuds will begin to heat up, and the PPV card will continue to take shape.
Read on for a look at Monday's show, complete with info culled from backstage news, the Raw preview on WWE.com and storyline projections. Raw will then air at 8 p.m. ET on USA Network.
Superstars continue to tease pairings for the upcoming Mixed Match Challenge tournament.
In a clip WWE released via social media, Nia Jax talked about partnering with Braun Strowman. Raw women's champ Alexa Bliss, meanwhile, seemed to show a touch of interest in tagging with Elias.
.@NiaJaxWWE seems to have settled on her perfect partner for #WWEMMC. Might @AlexaBliss_WWE be interested in Walking With @IAmEliasWWE should the @WWEUniverse vote him in? #WWEToronto https://t.co/G9UDdwvivg2017-12-31 03:04:14
Monday's show may offer some more hints of who will end up aligning with who for the event.
Should Strowman show up on Raw, he may not be at full strength, though. Dave Meltzer noted on Figure Four Online, "Strowman was off the last three days with a very bad flu."
Meltzer also reported WWE pulled Paige from the house show tour after she suffered an injury on Saturday. "A stretcher was brought out, but she could walk under her own power, though she did need help getting to the back," Meltzer explained. "After the show she was able to go out and the injury at least at that point wasn't thought to be serious."
Wrestling Observer @WONF4W
Paige pulled from this week's house shows due to injury https://t.co/agQPLgSOOt https://t.co/lB8H5uFi7A2017-12-28 17:31:10
Both Paige and Strowman, though, are scheduled to be in Miami on Monday. PWInsider's Mike Johnson reported, "We haven't confirmed that either have been cleared for in-ring competition, but they will be there and available for appearances if WWE requires them to appear."
Hideo Itami has begun his tenure on the main roster looking unstoppable.
Last week, he knocked off Brian Kendrick to continue a recent roll. Per CageMatch.net, Itami is 4-0 since his call-up from NXT including two wins on Raw.
It's best not to bet against him for the moment as WWE is clearly looking to build him up.
Curt Hawkins, on the other hand, is the star of a much different kind of story. He is in the midst of a historic losing streak.
The former tag team champ has lost 35 consecutive TV and PPV matches, per CageMatch.net. His last win in that category came back in November 2016. Hawkins was winless for the entirety of 2017.
His ongoing struggles should continue to be a Raw subplot in 2018.
Cedric Alexander will get his crack at Enzo Amore and the Cruiserweight Championship on Monday.
By winning a second-chance Fatal 4-Way match and getting past Drew Gulak, Alexander earned the No. 1 contender's spot. The high-flyer will now look to shut up the braggart champ and claim his first gold in WWE.
.@CedricAlexander and @real1 will face off for the @WWE #CruiserweightChampionship on this New Year's edition of #RAW! https://t.co/xCwPMZqXhV2018-1-1 12:00:09
Gulak is sure to play into the narrative. He has been Amore's loyal lackey and a protector of the champ. The spotlight he's been getting and the abuse he's suffered from Amore of late, however, suggests a potential babyface turn on the horizon.
As for the Raw Tag Team Championship scene, uncertainty reigns.
Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan dethroned Cesaro and Sheamus last week to claim the titles. But they aren't exactly a cohesive team. They only teamed up because of Dean Ambrose's injury, and they have a clear dislike for each other.
Rollins and Jordan's evolving relationship promises to be as spotlighted as they hunt for their newly won championships.
Itami isn't yet in the title hunt, but he's quickly headed in the direction. The newcomer from NXT left Kendrick with broken bones in his face last week. He moved on to defeat Jack Gallagher afterward.
Now, Itami will be looking for a new challenge. Kendrick's injury could mean more airtime for Gallagher. He'll certainly have the motivation to take out Itami after the striker left his ally injured.
Lesnar's return, meanwhile, will see him advance his feud with Strowman and Kane.
All three men are set to fight in a Triple Threat match for the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble on Jan. 28. The Beast Incarnate's part-time schedule has forced The Monster Among Men and Kane to carry the load for this feud. WWE will now have another chance to script some Lesnar-centric moments for it.
The BEAST @BrockLesnar is back for #RAW's first show of 2018! https://t.co/gGHGwmenYf2018-1-1 13:00:15
Hopefully, Strowman's 2018 looks a lot like his 2017, meaning he delivers memorable moments of destruction.
In addition to the build for that bout, Reigns and Joe's IC title clash will highlight Monday's show. The two warriors have excellent chemistry with each other. Their bad blood has intensified in the past few weeks.
And now Angle's added stipulation increases the chance Joe takes home the IC crown to kick off the New Year.