Ronda Rousey and Sasha Banks Clash; Preview for January 21 Episode of WWE Raw

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2019

Credit: WWE.com

Just six days from one of the most eagerly anticipated pay-per-view spectaculars of the calendar year, the January 21 episode of WWE Raw will put the final touches on the build for top rivalries ahead of Sunday's Royal Rumble.

That includes Raw women's champion Ronda Rousey, who will be in tag team action, and new No. 1 contender to the Universal Championship, Finn Balor.

What can fans expect from Rowdy and The Extraordinary Man, as well as other high-profile competitors before they head to Phoenix?

        

Ronda Rousey Meets Sasha Banks in Tag Team Action

A week ago, Sasha Banks and Rousey were partners. Monday, just days from their hotly anticipated championship clash, the pair will battle in a high-profile tag team match that should set the tone for their pay-per-view bout.

Rousey will team with on-screen best friend Natalya to face The Boss and longtime tag team partner Bayley.

Common sense would suggest Banks builds momentum for herself with a victory, but it most definitely will not come against Rousey, who is undefeated inside a WWE ring. Which then begs the question: Would WWE really go the route of having her drop a tag team match, even if Natalya takes the fall, and use the convoluted reasoning of "well, she didn't lose the fall so it doesn't count?" 

Considering how light the Raw roster is on bona fide star power, it seems unnecessary to risk diminishing hers and calling into question an undefeated streak that would be much better suited to end in a higher profile, more important match.

The Boss should gain momentum ahead of Sunday's match.

That momentum, though, should come in the form of a beatdown that draws a disqualification and allows us a hint of the ruthless Banks fans came to love during her days in NXT.

Even if it threatens her spot as a babyface going forward.

        

Can Finn Balor Dethrone The Beast?

Finn Balor has won eight consecutive matches, the latest being a pinfall win over John Cena in a bout that also involved Baron Corbin and Drew McIntyre, to cash his ticket to Royal Rumble and a date with Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship.

On paper, the contest looks like a mismatch. 

Lesnar is a force of nature and at 6'6'', 285 pounds, has nearly a 100-pound weight advantage on his significantly smaller opponent. Vince McMahon himself admitted he was not sure Balor had the "beef" to keep up with The Beast Incarnate when he addressed the Irishman on last week's Raw.

However, Balor has laughed in the face of bigger and stronger opposition his entire career, winning titles in every major promotion he has appeared in.

That Universal Championship he will challenge for in Phoenix? He introduced it at SummerSlam, becoming the inaugural champion and never actually losing it as he was forced to surrender it due to injury.

After a year of wallowing in creative mediocrity, he has momentum on his side and a sign of approval from Cena as he prepares to do battle with a monster few have tamed.

The official preview for Monday's show hints at Paul Heyman having something to say about Balor. Expect a passionate promo from the advocate to the champion, one that puts the Irishman over and sets the stage for a highly anticipated bout that could become an early contender for Match of the Year as long as WWE resists the urge to do an outright squash that would damage all involved.

        

What's Next for Braun Strowman?

Braun Strowman let his anger get the best of him a week ago and paid for it as he was removed from his Universal Championship opportunity by McMahon. His response? He flipped the chairman's limo, an act of defiance that likely earned him even more scrutiny from the boss.

What is next for The Monster Among Men, though?

One would think now he is out of the title bout, he would be free to enter the Royal Rumble match, but that would seem like something WWE would have addressed rather quickly after the decision was made.

With some question as to whether he is even cleared for action, complete with what appears to be some creative confusion on how to utilize him at this point, one has to wonder if Strowman's shot at championship gold has come and gone.

After all, there are only so many times fans are willing to go along with a guy being teased for it and losing before they grow tired of the nonsense.

Whatever it is Strowman finds himself doing Monday, one can hope it gives fans a clear indicator of what the company plans to do with him.

For his sake.

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