New Tag Champions Crowned, Final Build to Royal Rumble, More WWE Raw Fallout
The January 20 episode of WWE Raw felt a lot more like the latest chapter in a story than the final edition before one of the company's most prestigious pay-per-views, the Royal Rumble.
The lack of urgency in hyping the event was just one of the major takeaways from a show that was, otherwise, above average from a storytelling standpoint as rivalries were escalated, stars were spotlighted and championships changed hands.
Dive deeper into Monday's USA Network broadcast with this collection of takeaways and what they mean for the brand heading into Sunday's extravaganza and beyond.
Final Build to Royal Rumble Fails to Impress
As a standalone episode, Monday's Raw was a solid effort that continued the brand's ongoing rivalries and stories. As the final episode before the hotly anticipated Royal Rumble PPV, it failed miserably to hammer home the significance of the event.
The promotion from the commentators was on point, but the angles and segments that played out on screen lacked a sense of urgency that typically accompanies one of the most prestigious events of the year.
There was no big brawl between Rumble participants to close out the show. There was little in the way of wrestlers vowing to win the Battle Royal and head to WrestleMania 36. Outside of Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman's promo segment (more on that in a moment), not much attention was paid to the Rumble at all.
Yes, it is important for Heyman and the writing team to stay the course and continue building the programs they have spent time concocting to this point. At the same time, fans are less likely to remember or care about Rusev vs. Bobby Lashley in comparison to the historic Rumble match and the implications it has on the road to WrestleMania.
On a night when the red brand did more right than wrong, its biggest fault was not putting enough emphasis on a show that WWE typically promotes to an annoying degree.
Seth Rollins and Buddy Murphy Win Tag Titles
The Viking Raiders vs. AOP is the easiest match WWE Creative could have booked.
The two hoss teams, heavyweights with physical and punishing styles, are natural opponents who could have brought a hell of a series of brawls to the tag team division. Instead, the writing team opted to book Erik and Ivar against AOP's stablemates, Seth Rollins and Buddy Murphy, Monday night.
Inconceivably, it also booked them to go over the champions, becoming the only other team besides Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson to defeat The Viking Raiders.
Akam and Rezar were right there. They were the most logical challengers to the titles and the one team that could have conceivably been a threat to Erik and Ivar. That potential match is one that could have elevated the tag division and brought legitimacy to everyone involved. Instead, Rollins and Murphy, teaming for the very first time, knocked off the seemingly unconquerable Viking Raiders to win the titles.
Worst of all, AOP stood behind them in a backstage promo, unfazed by their associates winning the gold that they should have been hellbent on acquiring.
Maybe the plan is to elevate Murphy via his partnership with Rollins, but it feels a lot more like an excuse to transition the titles to Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe, another makeshift tag team, at the expense of the actual tandems that populate the division.
WWE Has Second Chance at First Impression with Humberto Carrillo
Rey Mysterio and Andrade tore the house down in the night’s first bout, a ladder match for the latter's United States Championship.
They took huge bumps, kept the crowd on the edge of their seats and left Twitter buzzing about the feats of athleticism they delivered throughout. El Idolo successfully retained his title and looked to do further damage to The Master of the 619 but found himself interrupted by a "fan" who had jumped the guardrail.
That fan removed his Mysterio mask, revealing himself to be the returning Humberto Carrillo, who sought revenge for the hammerlock DDT on the exposed concrete floor that sidelined him for weeks.
The former 205 Live competitor unloaded on Andrade, earning a measure of vengeance while inserting himself firmly in the U.S. title picture. In the process, WWE Creative earned itself a rare second chance at making a first impression when it comes to Carrillo.
The talented in-ring competitor has struggled to connect with audiences for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is his own struggle to find his on-screen charisma. In his defense, though, WWE Creative has not given fans a reason to care about him. Yes, he has battled AJ Styles in a series of matches, but the lack of character development has doomed him to mediocrity.
The writing team, headed by Heyman, has an opportunity to right that wrong.
Carrillo showed the appropriate intensity as he unloaded on Andrade Monday night. Now, it is up to him to find the emotional equivalent to whatever content is written for him. If he can, he has a real chance to make up for the half-assed efforts by WWE Creative to make him a star to this point.
Ricochet Needs More Mic Time...or a Manager
If Ricochet's promo taught us anything this week, it is that he desperately needs more time on the microphone to find himself or he needs a mouthpiece.
As talented and awe-inspiring a worker as he is between the ropes, he is equally nervous and unsure of himself on the micr. It was evident as he addressed Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman midway through the January 20 broadcast. He was shaky and said, "you see" far too many times over the course of his promo.
The performer clearly has natural charisma, which shows every time he sets foot between the ropes. Unfortunately, due to a lack of opportunity to cut promos over the course of his career, he clearly struggles to let that charisma show itself when he communicates verbally.
The solution is simple: Allow him more time to find himself on the mic or give him a manager who can bridge the gap between him and fans from a verbal perspective. Doing so will help him by masking his weakness and allowing him to continue wowing audiences with his athleticism and death-defying arsenal.