WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from January 11
The January 11 episode of Raw is in the books and will undoubtedly be remembered for two very different reasons.
Brock Lesnar returned to WWE television, tearing through any and all Superstars in his way and making it abundantly clear that he should be the most feared man in this year's Royal Rumble match. Arguably the biggest attraction in the industry, he injected the show with much-needed star power.
Kalisto is not a star yet, but he will be if he continues to pile up wins and championships as he did on Monday. The new United States champion by way of his win over Alberto Del Rio figures to make 2016 his year.
With those two memorable moments occurring on Monday night, the show was hardly boring. However, it still featured the booking missteps and tedious three-hour runtime that have been major issues for years.
Who left Monday's show victorious, how did each match grade out and what did yours truly have to say about the events of the broadcast?
Take a look for yourself.
Vince and Stephanie McMahon In-Ring Promo
The WWE roster gathered at the top of the entrance ramp as Vince and Stephanie McMahon made their way to the ring to kick off the show. They ran down the possible winners of the Royal Rumble match only to be interrupted by The Wyatt Family.
Then Roman Reigns entered to a big ovation.
The McMahons announced that Reigns would compete in a One vs. All match, with the number of opponents to be a mystery. They teased Reigns clashing with Ambrose, but Sheamus attacked The Lunatic Fringe, and a match between the two was set up for the opener.
This was as generic and uninteresting an opening segment as one could imagine. Other than setting up the main event for the night and Sheamus-Ambrose, it was absolutely useless.
Teasing guys whom fans understand have no chance of winning the Royal Rumble only serves to highlight how depleted the WWE roster is at this point.
Dean Ambrose vs. Sheamus
The Celtic Warrior and The Lunatic Fringe squared off in the opening match of the night, with the latter not at 100 percent following a sneak attack.
Sheamus wore down Ambrose, cutting off bursts of energy and keeping him worn down. Late, though, Ambrose exploded with a comeback that elicited a huge reaction from the WWE Universe.
The action spilled outside the squared circle, leading to both men being counted out.
After the bell, Ambrose threatened to put Sheamus through the announce table, only to be attacked by Kevin Owens. Officials pulled the former intercontinental champion away as he berated his rival.
Dean Ambrose and Sheamus fought to a double count-out.
The action here was very solid, as Sheamus came across as the bullying front-runner opportunistically beating down on an opponent damaged by his sneak attack, only for Ambrose to mount a comeback and prove his resilience.
The count-out finish was perfect in that it did not hurt either of the performers and led to Owens' post-match antics.
The former IC champion continues to wreak havoc and make life a living hell for Ambrose, who is certain to meet up with him at the Royal Rumble—if not sooner.
Titus O'Neil vs. Stardust
Stardust paid tribute to the late David Bowie with his makeup this week as he squared off with Titus O'Neil for what felt like the 30th time in four weeks.
O'Neil overpowered his opponent, as he has countless times before, and scored the win with the Clash of the Titus—as he has every time they have competed on Raw or SmackDown.
After the match, a frustrated Stardust attacked O'Neil at ringside, eliciting screams from at least one woman in the audience.
Titus O'Neil defeated Stardust.
Can we please end this rivalry now?
It has been detrimental to Stardust and has done nothing to improve the position of O'Neil on the card. The program has been so one-sided that fans could not possibly care about it.
A post-match beatdown by Stardust means nothing because he has been so devalued to this point by the sheer number of losses he has incurred.
'The Highlight Reel' with the New Day
Playing off his return last week, when he interrupted The New Day, Chris Jericho welcomed the trio to "The Highlight Reel."
Y2J and The New Day argued over whether the champions are "rooty, tooty booty" or not, surely a fine way to treat the champions of an entire division.
The Usos interrupted, grasping their Slammy for Tag Team of the Year, and a match between the two teams was set up while Jericho awkwardly watched on.
The entire segment was a waste of time, existing only to set up a match between The New Day and The Usos that has been far too overplayed to mean anything at this point. Worst of all was that the differences between two teams involved spawned from a meaningless award that fans had already forgotten.
The interactions between Jericho and The New Day hardly saved the segment, with Y2J feeling as flat and uncool as he has in years.
The Usos vs. The New Day
The fallout from "The Highlight Reel" saw WWE tag team champions Kofi Kingston and Big E of The New Day battle The Usos in non-title competition.
The heels isolated Jimmy Uso for the majority of the bout, with Big E working over the core of his opponent with a nasty abdominal stretch at one point.
Jey Uso received the hot tag and mounted a comeback for the babyface brothers. At ringside, Chris Jericho took Xavier Woods' trombone and broke it over his knee.
The brief distraction gave Uso the opportunity to score the pinfall victory off a rollup.
The Usos defeated The New Day.
Take any single match between The Usos and The New Day, rewind it, and that is what you have here.
The action was solid enough and the distraction from Jericho made sense, but one could not help but be underwhelmed by the repetitive nature of the entire ordeal.
One teams beats another, neither comes off looking particularly better than it did before and the finish is the result of a screwy distraction. The same old, same old that has plagued WWE Creative for years.
Hall of Fame Induction Announcement: Sting
John Bradshaw Layfield introduced the first inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2016, Sting.
A classy video package served as the official announcement and relived the greatest moments of the legendary WCW star's career.
The WWE production team is often the most underrated element of the company's television product. It can take any segment, no matter how great or bad, and make it look infinitely better.
Luckily, Sting's career is one of the most iconic in wrestling history, making him a powerful subject for a career retrospective video package. As it has done so many times before, the production team hit the proverbial ball out of the park with an extraordinary look at the man who was the franchise player of WCW for its entire existence under Ted Turner.
This was the type of video that would have been awesome to introduce the WWE Universe to Sting prior to his WrestleMania appearance last April.
For those fans who still do not understand the importance of the enigmatic star, they certainly do after Monday's presentation.
Ryback Clears Out The Wyatt Family
The Wyatt Family was interrupted by The Social Outcasts, leading to an eight-man tag team match.
Just as the action was underway, Ryback's music hit and The Big Guy hit the ring, looking to avenge the beatdown he endured last week.
He cleared the ring of Bray and his followers and stood tall to close out the segment.
Why even put The Social Outcasts, a group seemingly on the verge of becoming a solid midcard act at the very least, in the position to be afterthoughts in a program involving The Wyatt Family and Ryback that bombed the first time they waged war?
This was largely ineffective and a throwaway segment that no one will remember by this time next week.
United States Championship Match: Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio
Determined to prove that Kalisto's victory on last week's SmackDown was but an anomaly, Alberto Del Rio defended his United States Championship against the masked luchador on Monday night.
The champion was dominant, looking strong as he cut off the electrifying offense of the smaller challenger.
At every turn, he seemed to have an answer for his challenger before he found himself caught in a head-scissors that momentarily stunned him. When Del Rio tried for a gutwrench, he was rolled up and had his title reign come to a shocking conclusion as Kalisto scored the biggest victory of his career.
The crowd erupted as the underdog celebrated his unexpected title victory.
Kalisto defeated Alberto Del Rio to win the United States Championship.
This was a match with a very strong narrative helped even more by a shocking upset victory.
Del Rio played his role as the overconfident champion to perfection, falling prey to a challenger who took advantage of a single opening to score the win.
It will be interesting in coming weeks to see what kind of champion WWE wants him to be. Does it book him convincingly, not unlike Rey Mysterio, or does he continue down the path of the tired underdogs who are typically one-dimensional and grow stale quickly?
Congratulations to the performer, though, who has made the most out of every opportunity given to him and certainly deserves the run.
Becky Lynch Attacks Charlotte
WWE Divas champion Charlotte was slated to battle Brie Bella in a singles match when Becky Lynch hit the ring and began attacking the second-generation star.
Ric Flair, outraged, announced that his daughter would not be competing and it was all the fault of the Irish-born Lass Kicker.
The rivalry between Becky Lynch and Charlotte has made for a really strong story, one capable of creating a star in Lynch who can carry the Divas division as its lead babyface into the remainder of 2016.
Charlotte, on the other hand, is a much more effective heel while hiding behind her daddy, so the program works for all involved.
As for the segment on Monday night, it was a logical next step. After being betrayed by her former friend, Lynch would understandably be upset and want revenge. She got a taste of it this week and will look to get even more by possibly taking the title from her former Team PCB teammate whenever they have their blow-off match.
1 vs. All: Roman Reigns vs. 14 WWE Superstars
Roman Reigns made his way to the ring, awaiting his fate as revealed by Vince and Stephanie McMahon.
Kevin Owens, Sheamus, Tyler Breeze, Alberto Del Rio, Stardust, The Ascension, The Wyatt Family and The New Day all stalked toward the ring, 14 Superstars eager to please the boss and take out Reigns ahead of January 24's Royal Rumble match.
Owens started the match and controlled the bout heading into commercial, much to the delight of the Chairman and his daughter.
Back from the break, Owens wore down Reigns with a Cobra Clutch, trying to prevent Reigns from even having the opportunity to battle any other Superstar. A superkick continued Owens' dominance over the WWE champion.
The Cannonball threatened to put Reigns away, but the gutsy champion shot his shoulder off the mat at two.
Reigns mounted a comeback, though, launching himself with a big clothesline to put Owens down.
The Ascension tried to interfere but ate a Superman Punch. Tyler Breeze was power-bombed and Speared as Reigns asked if that was all McMahon had. The other Superstars hit the ring and beat Reigns while The Wyatt Family stood idly by at ringside.
Brock Lesnar's music exploded over the PA system, and The Beast Incarnate made his way to the ring.
He tore through the heels one by one before it came down to him and Reigns.
Lesnar exchanged a glare with the McMahons, then planted Reigns with the F5 to close out the show.
On a night when WWE did not do a whole lot right, it hit the show-closing segment out of the park. Lesnar returned, laying waste to all of the heels who beat down Reigns.
Then, in a very important aspect of the segment, he finished his work for the night with an F5 to Reigns that proved he is neither heel nor babyface—that he cares only about himself and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
The match that preceded Lesnar's return to television was somewhat pedestrian, hardly the best of either Reigns or Owens, but it was never meant to be. It was a solid bout hampered by the same interference I mentioned earlier in the show.
The good overshadowed the disappointing, though, making for one of the night's best segments.
On a side note, keep an eye on The Wyatt Family, who did not move a muscle to help Vince McMahon's vendetta against Reigns, instead standing still at ringside throughout the entire ordeal.