WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from January 21
It's time to set the course for WrestleMania 35. The 2019 Royal Rumble approaches, with this January 21 edition of Raw crucial in defining who will stand out during the most important season in WWE. Champions and challengers will emerge with momentum directly pointing to The Show of Shows.
Finn Balor defeated John Cena, Drew McIntyre and Baron Corbin to emerge as the new No. 1 contender for the WWE Universal Championship. With just days before the Rumble on Sunday, this would be the only opportunity to build this title match with Brock Lesnar.
This was also the final night for Ronda Rousey and Sasha Banks to say their piece, as the former UFC star linked up with Natalya against The Boss and Bayley in a tag team match. The biggest bout promised for the night, this was likely to be the defining action before the Rumble.
An angry and cheated Braun Strowman was almost certain to appear after losing his promised title match. Another furious individual set to be in the arena was Dean Ambrose, who lost his Intercontinental Championship last week to Bobby Lashley.
Tensions were high going into the night, especially after a surprisingly action-packed episode last week. While the Rumble card has serious potential, it needed one last push to sell the entire event.
Vince McMahon Refuses to Believe in Finn Balor; Balor vs. Braun Strowman
After a well-done video package to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day was aired, Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman came out to do a great job putting over the new No. 1 contender.
WWE Chairman Vince McMahon interrupted to further sell the idea he doesn't believe in Finn Balor, with The Advocate seemingly changing his tone as well.
Braun Strowman stormed to the ring to promise he would win the title when he got his next shot. Finally, The Extraordinary Man stepped up and called out Mr. McMahon for refusing to believe in him. The Monster Among Men told the Irishman he also did not believe he could win.
This led to The Chairman announcing Balor vs. Strowman, with Lesnar sticking around to watch. After a strong back-and-forth, both men got the universal champion involved, with the Irishman thrown into a suplex by The Beast Incarnate that set off the challenger.
Balor looked unstoppable from then on, rolling over The Beast and The Monster. He hit the Coup de Grace and was unfortunately not allowed a career-defining win because Lesnar interfered and F-5'd the Irishman to cause a disqualification.
Balor def. Strowman by disqualification
This was a fantastic way to establish the No. 1 contender in just one segment. He clearly pushed Strowman and Lesnar, looking completely unstoppable. Heyman put him over, which made McMahon's counterargument less effective.
While it would have been more impactful if the Irishman defeated The Monster, it makes sense to protect both men. This match clearly showed that Strowman's removal from the Rumble title match was not due to injury, so he should be in a major storyline at WrestleMania just like Balor.
The match was another great showcase of both men's chemistry together. Hopefully, the next time they fight, it will on a major stage.
Apollo Crews Ruins Bobby Lashley's Celebration; Lashley vs. Crews
Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush celebrated the victory of the new WWE intercontinental champion before Apollo Crews arrived to attempt to get his shot at the titleholder.
After an agonizing pose-off, the two got into a brawl, which started the match officially.
Crews did his best to push Lashley, but the challenger did not quite have the strength or the focus. Rush distracted him just long enough for The All Mighty to hit a Spear for the win.
Lashley def. Crews by pinfall
This would have been better if Lashley and Rush just got their time to taunt and moved on. Crews did not feel like he was going into a fight with someone he had any chance against even after their plodding pose-off.
The match was a short mess, with Crews clearly trusting his own strength more than he should, and the result did nothing for either man. If there are any plans for this to be a full feud, this segment did not make it an exciting prospect.
Seth Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre
Seth Rollins interrupted Bobby Lashley on his way to the back to make a point before clearly promising to win the Royal Rumble match, attempting to sell himself as the underdog.
Drew McIntyre called out The Architect's risk-taking as the reason he could never win the Rumble.
The Scottish Psychopath then showed exactly what he meant, brutalizing Rollins in their fight, including an impressive reverse Alabama slam on the floor. The torture continued as McIntyre hit brutal strike after brutal strike without getting the three.
Rollins snuck away with the win by stacking up his opponent in a roll-up but looked hurt after it was all over.
Rollins def. McIntyre by pinfall
This is a match WWE has been overusing to a fault over the last year, but it's always good at least. This was especially effective because it felt like McIntyre was dominating proceedings and Rollins was feeling the impact.
It's hard to believe in The Architect as an underdog when he has been the favorite to win the Rumble for months, but fans will welcome his expected win. However, a surprise McIntyre victory on Sunday would also be applauded.
The Lucha House Party vs. Jinder Mahal and The Singh Brothers
Jinder Mahal teamed with The Singh Brothers against The Lucha House Party and looked good against the more cohesive trio.
However, The Modern Day Maharaja was not quite ready for Gran Metalik, who hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and got the surprise three.
Lucha House Party def. Mahal and Singh Brothers by pinfall
This was nothing special, verging on completely unnecessary. The finish seemed rushed, if not a flat-out mistake after Samir Singh failed to break up the pinfall.
Unless Mahal is fully moving into the tag team division, which seems unlikely, this was a showcase of Kalisto, Lince Dorado and Metalik as a trio in a company that does not value trios.
Lucha House Party should be focusing on working as a tag team unit and attempting to rise up the ranks in a division waiting for legitimate talent.
Elias vs. Baron Corbin
Elias sang a song for his promised victory at Royal Rumble before Baron Corbin arrived to taunt the musician.
The match that followed felt fairly similar to their last clash together, as The Lone Wolf dominated until Elias came battling back.
However, as he pounded Corbin with strikes, the referee forced him to retreat, allowing the former interim Raw general manager to hit a throat shot into the End of Days for the win.
Corbin def. Elias by pinfall
Corbin and Elias are entertaining individually and try their hardest together, but it feels like they don't have enough variety as opponents to make their matches stand out. This was a boring clash that only served to push the musician further down the card unnecessarily.
Right now, WWE should be all-in on Elias, but he has lost back-to-back matches to Corbin. Even if they were somewhat cheap victories, they felt definitive.
'A Moment of Bliss' Devolves into a Brawl
"A Moment of Bliss" started with Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax speaking together, only for Ember Moon, Alicia Fox and Mickie James to all interrupt.
A brawl started, with most of the Raw women's division arriving to get in on the fight. After surprisingly not being turned into a Battle Royal, the fight went into the backstage area.
The Goddess was left alone to announce she would compete in the Royal Rumble match. Lacey Evans arrived and stole the mic from Bliss to announce her spot in the multi-women bout.
While this felt a bit lazy, it served its purpose. Everyone got a chance to appear without turning this into a generic Battle Royal without any stakes. Moreover, Evans got the perfect opportunity to make an immediate impact with her first appearance, unlike most of the NXT call-ups.
It's good to hear Bliss is returning to action after a surprisingly long time out. She'll likely play a big role in the Rumble.
Heavy Machinery vs. The Ascension
Otis Dozovic and Tucker Knight had fun at the expense of The Ascension in this match, as Heavy Machinery ran over its opponents, using its impressive power.
After Dozovic hit the Caterpillar, the two used the Compactor to take their first main roster victory.
Heavy Machinery def. Ascension by pinfall
This was an entertaining enough squash match. Dozovic and Knight are entertaining personalities who will find wins like this rare once they get past their initial honeymoon phase. The tag team division just has too many better teams.
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable vs. The Revival (Raw Tag Team Championships)
Backstage, The Revival convinced Vince McMahon to give it one more chance at Chad Gable and Bobby Roode, with The Chairman agreeing to have Curt Hawkins be the special guest referee.
Once more, Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder looked like the superior tag team in the fight. However, they took shortcuts that didn't pay off, as Hawkins caught them cheating on pinfall attempts. An ensuing argument allowed Gable to roll up Wilder for three.
Afterward, The Revival lost it on the special guest referee, attacking him until Zack Ryder appeared to make the save, seemingly reforming his alliance with his former tag team partner.
Roode and Gable def. Revival by pinfall
This was the weakest match between these two teams, as it was so heavily driven by its story to the point that the action never got going. The Revival cheated every single pinfall after the five-minute mark. While it worked for the story, it slowed the wrestling considerably.
It will be interesting to see if Ryder and Hawkins get a legitimate shot together. They have been doing nothing for so long, and this should be a huge spotlight for them if the booking lines up.
Ronda Rousey and Natalya vs. Sasha Banks and Bayley
Ronda Rousey talked down Sasha Banks in an interview before heading to the ring.
The Boss took offense, firing back on the mic before the match could start. This made sure there was serious heat in this tag team match.
While Natalya and Bayley tried to calm tensions, this eventually led to a preview for Sunday, as The Boss and The Baddest Woman on the Planet got close to submission wins. The Queen of Harts, though, got involved at the wrong time and took a backstabber into the Bank Statement, and she was forced to tap out.
Afterward, Banks and Rousey got into a heated argument to close the show.
Banks and Bayley def. Rousey and Natalya by submission
This was a solid main event. It was clear throughout how much Rousey and Banks wanted to fight each other. WWE showed just enough without taking away from the Rumble showdown, and this led to a match that established how close The Boss is to taking the gold.
They will likely take it up a notch on Sunday, but what was shown here was a good indication that these two can steal the show together.