WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from Jan. 1

Ryan Dilbert@@ryandilbertWWE Lead WriterJanuary 2, 2018

WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from Jan. 1

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    Credit: WWE.com

    The first WWE Raw of 2018 continued some of what most worked last year.

    Roman Reigns thrived in a lengthy championship bout just as he's done for weeks now. Braun Strowman broke men and left them lying at his feet. And Asuka's undefeated streak stretched even longer.

    It was a night of familiar images, from Jason Jordan getting a lot of spotlight to WWE not having a great handle on the Nia Jax character.

    However, the new year did bring some fresh elements: Finn Balor finally found himself aligning with his old New Japan Pro Wrestling comrades, and Elias strummed the guitar.

    Even so, the build to the Royal Rumble is not yet in high gear. There isn't a buzzing energy ahead of the event yet as WWE is still shaking off the lethargy brought on the holidays.

    There was plenty to roar about on Monday's Raw, and ample stuff to make one scratch one's head. Read on for a look at all of it as 2018 officially got underway.

Cesaro vs. Jason Jordan

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    Raw general manager Kurt Angle talked up the two upcoming Royal Rumble matches before The Bar confronted him. He noted that the women's Rumble would have 30 entrants and standard rules.

    Jason Jordan emerged to defend himself. His tag team partner Seth Rollins soon followed. The duo bickered before Jordan's bout began.

    In the early part of the match, Cesaro dominated. When Jordan charged back, The Swiss Cyborg went after his foe's knee, hobbling him. 

    Jordan had to deal with a smothering Cesaro and a leg he could barely put weight on, but he survived long enough to steal a win.

    His suplex-neckbreaker combo allowed Jordan to keep Cesaro down for a three-count.

                 

    Result

    Jordan wins via pinfall.

                   

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    • "What's good enough for the men is good enough for the women."—Angle.
    • Fans chant "Daddy's boy!" to Jordan.
    • Jordan catches Cesaro in midair before hurling him into the corner of the ring.

                 

    Grade

    B-

                 

    Analysis

    This was a solid match even with how often WWE has turned to a similar narrative with Jordan.

    Cesaro expertly built his offense around damaging Jordan's knee. It helped the two men tell a story of a gutsy warrior fighting through pain while a predator kept clawing at his weak point. Jordan is getting mighty good at selling a bad wheel, too.

    The infighting between the tag champs isn't all that intriguing to this point. There's potential for an entitled Jordan to be a great rival for Rollins down the road, but there's plenty of work to be done to get there properly.

    Jordan kicking off the first Raw of the year as a champion with a win is indicative of the kind of push we will continue to see him get.

Bray Wyatt vs. Apollo Crews

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    Dana Brooke and Titus O'Neil stood in Apollo Crews' corner as he went to battle with Bray Wyatt.

    Wyatt's methodical offense clashed with Crews' high-flying attacks. The former won out for the most part. The Eater of Worlds tagged the smaller opponent with hard strikes again and again.

    Crews' comeback attempt in response fell shortWyatt simply overpowered him.

    Even a distraction from Brooke couldn't derail the monster who pinned Crews after a Sister Abigail.

    Matt Hardy appeared on the big screen afterward and promised to delete Wyatt.

                  

    Result

    Wyatt wins via pinfall.

                      

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    • Wyatt rips Crews off the top turnbuckle and nails him with a jawbreaker.
    • "It's like being run over by a Cadillac."—Corey Graves on facing Wyatt.
    • Crews hits a moonsault off the ring apron.
    • "You cannot escape my woken wisdom for much longer."—Hardy.

                  

    Grade

    C-

                     

    Analysis

    The slow-paced, low-energy match was mostly only good for showcasing Wyatt's destructive power. Hopefully, this is a sign WWE will get behind him and keep presenting him as this dangerous.

    The Wyatt-Hardy feud has yet to get out of first gear. The anticipation of what's to come has been better than the actual story.

    The Titus Worldwide statistician role could be Brooke's key to finally gaining some traction. If given some attention, it could be a fun subplot for Raw.

Alexa Bliss vs. Asuka

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    Alexa Bliss tried to convince Angle to cancel the match. When that failed, she looked to get Nia Jax to stand in her corner. Jax, though, was busy bringing soup to a sick Enzo Amore.

    The Raw women's champ was on her own as a result and approached Asuka warily. 

    In the match's opening minutes, Asuka had Bliss on the run. The champ tried to mat wrestle her foe, but The Empress of Tomorrow stayed atop her. 

    A missed hip attack opened the door for Bliss, who then punished Asuka by focusing on her ribs.

    The match's pace picked up as Asuka battled back. She fended off Bliss' best shots and left her reeling. An armbar from Asuka forced the champ to tap out.

                       

    Result

    Asuka wins via submission.

                         

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    • Bliss yanks on Asuka's hair as she stretches her against the ring post.
    • Asuka escapes a guillotine and counters with a nasty wristlock.
    • Bliss slaps Asuka, enraging The Empress of Tomorrow.

                 

    Grade

    B+

                   

    Analysis

    After lots of delays early on, the match ended up being quite good. Bliss handled her business against a top-notch performer. She and Asuka gave us a preview of what they could do with a lengthy match with big-time hype.

    Asuka's aura remains magnetic. She came off as a dangerous, powerful force here.

    It's surprising WWE put these two together so soon. Hopefully, that doesn't mean Asuka's rise is going to be hurried. This is a story that deserves a slow-burn pace.

Braun Strowman vs. Rhyno

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    With Heath Slater in his corner, Rhyno faced a roaring Strowman.

    The Monster Among Men rolled over his opponent. He threatened Slater and took on both tag team partners. Strowman hit his trademark running powerslam on Rhyno for the win and then continued to dole out the move on both men. 

    Backstage, Strowman and Kane shared a tense moment where the former told The Big Red Machine he was Raw's alpha monster.

               

    Result

    Strowman wins via pinfall.

                       

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    • Fans chant "ECW! ECW!" 
    • Strowman warns Slater that he would "catch these hands."
    • Strowman hits a string of powerslams on Rhyno and Slater.
    • "Slater's gonna think he's back in 3MB."—Michael Cole.

                 

    Grade

    B

                     

    Analysis

    This was more of a moment than a match: a Strowman tradition. It made no sense that the referee didn't disqualify Slater for his interference. But fans can forgive that plot hole by focusing on the startling image of Strowman hitting his finisher over and over again.

    This doesn't rank as one of Strowman's greatest lasting images, but the crowd grew excited at the carnage. And it made its point. The big man is angry, powerful and ready for his fight with Brock Lesnar.

Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe (Intercontinental Championship)

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    Reigns and Joe slugged it out in an intense opening chapter of the bout. The Destroyer maintained control, overpowering and punishing the champ.

    Hard strikes and an attack on Reigns' left elbow had the champ in trouble.

    Reigns survived the onslaught and responded with a rally. When Reigns began to gain momentum, Joe lured him to the outside and began to pound on the champ. The two rivals fought outside the ring, upending the ring steps. 

    A collision with the referee nearly cost Reigns the title and during the confusion that followed, Joe pounced. Even so, Reigns survived. A spear allowed him to keep the gold in his hands.

                     

    Result

    Reigns wins via pinfall to retain the Intercontinental Championship.

                        

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    • "I've mentally broken Roman Reigns."—Joe.
    • "Because of me, Dean Ambrose is a stay-at-home husband who lives off his wife's paycheck."—Joe.
    • Joe Irish whips Reigns into the corner and The Big Dog falls hard on his face.
    • Joe smacks Reign's head into the security barricade with a suicide dive.

                     

    Grade

    A

                        

    Analysis

    Joe's mic skills are off the charts. He proves with every promo he should consistently be the star of a high-profile storyline.

    The bout featured good use of the stipulation where Reigns would lose the title if he was disqualified. His anger nearly got the best of him a number of times, but he managed to push through.

    Reigns began the year with a home-run bout, continuing his stretch of stellar IC title contests. Joe's future is a bit unclear after this, as it's not a sure thing he gets another crack at The Big Dog.

Cedric Alexander and Goldust vs. Drew Gulak and Ariya Daivari

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    Drew Gulak, with Ariya Daivari at his side, delivered a message from Enzo Amore who was too ill to compete. Cedric Alexander showed up, frustrated that he wouldn't get his title match with Amore. He settled for a tag team bout.

    Daivari and Gulak kept Alexander in their corner and kept the babyface grounded. Goldust led the way as his team charged back. 

    Alexander's Lumbar Check sealed the victory for him and The Bizarre One.

                 

    Result

    Alexander and Goldust win via pinfall.

                      

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    • "Muscles Marinara has been flattened by the flu."—Gulak.
    • Alexander hits Daivari with a thunderous back elbow.
    • Goldust bowls over both foes with a crossbody from the top rope.

                  

    Grade

    C+

                       

    Analysis

    As far as last-minute replacement bouts go, this was fine. It was a bit of fun with little consequence, something for everyone to do while Amore heals up.

    Gulak doing Amore's routine is art. And crossover with the cruiserweights and the rest of the roster is a welcome surprise. 

Elias and The Miztourage vs. Finn Balor, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson

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    Backstage, Balor announced he would be partnering with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, reviving their partnership in Japan. He also threw his hat in the ring for the Royal Rumble match.

    Elias serenaded the Miami crowd after proclaiming he would win the Rumble. Bo Dallas played the cowbell; Curtis Axel sang terribly. Balor and The Club interrupted the musical performance.

    Once the bell rang, Elias knocked Balor around. But not for long. Gallows and Anderson beat up everyone. A combo of the Magic Killer and the Coup De Grace spelled victory for the newly reunited trio.

                   

    Result

    Balor, Anderson and Gallows win via pinfall.

                   

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    • "WWE stands for walk with Elias."—Elias.
    • Anderson dives to the outside to take down Dallas and Axel.

                  

    Grade

    B-

                      

    Analysis

    Balor reforming The Bullet Club is something fans have long been waiting for, a move that will give him an instant boost. Rather than spin his wheels, as he's done for weeks, the former universal champ will finally have a clear direction.

    This was no great match, but a quick demonstration of what this crew looks like together. They should crush The Miztourage quickly and move on to bigger competition in a hurry.

Brock Lesnar Returns

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Brock Lesnar soaked in the moment as fans chanted for him. His advocate, Paul Heyman, claimed WWE was stacking the deck against the universal titleholder. He complained about The Beast Incarnate having to face multiple challengers.

    Kane stepped out to confront Lesnar. He chokeslammed the champ, but Lesnar soon battled back. A quick brawl ended the show.

                    

    Memorable Moments and Quotes

    • Fans chant "Suplex City!"
    • "That's just not going to happen."—Heyman on the possibility Strowman or Kane beating his client.
    • "I had a one-on-one with the guy below and his favorite is the reigning, defending universal champion."Heyman.
    • Lesnar dramatically sits up from a prone position a la Kane.

                 

    Grade

    C+

                    

    Analysis

    Heyman did a good job of both playing up the greatness of his client and the uphill nature of the challenge Lesnar will face at the Royal Rumble.

    The Kane showdown, though, was a major letdown. There was little spark there and the lack of Strowman made this feel incomplete. The brawl was rushed. The whole thing underwhelmed, much like the Royal Rumble title match threatens to do.