Crash Course Wrestling Column Week of 1/15/2018

I usually don’t say this, but it feels like forever since we have been last graced by a WWE Pay-Per-View. We are going to get just that in two weeks in the form of the 2018 Royal Rumble. The blue and red brand are pulling out all the stops to get fans hyped up for this year’s Rumble. With Braun Strowman on a rampage and the semi-finals of the United States Championship Tournament, we had some can’t miss build to the Royal Rumble. Let’s get to it.

Monday Night Raw = Watchable

I have my work cut out for me this week to not only crash course this action packed Monday Night Raw, but also do it justice for the entertainment it provided. We kick off tonight’s show with Kurt Angle firing Braun Strowman for attempting to murder Brock Lesnar and Kane last week. Seems reasonable to me. However, it does not seem reasonable to Braun who storms out angry with security right behind him.

Essentially the story in the first hour is Braun Strowman is pissed about being fired and plans to kill everyone until the decision is reversed. Firstly, he kills the security guards in the back by throwing them into garage doors, tables, and other hard objects backstage. Braun makes his way to Kurt Angle’s office and smashes the furniture along with the flat screen TV. Later, Strowman makes his way to catering to put Curt Hawkins through a table. On his way out there is a little catering man holding a cake. The audience gasps as they expect Strowman to smash that chocolate cake in the catering man’s face. However, Braun can be a gentle giant and takes a piece of cake for himself instead. Finally, Strowman flips an 18 wheeler which at one point housed the production trailer. 

At the 9 o’clock spot we see Braun Strowman make his way out to ringside and turn toward the commentators. Booker T essentially sacrifices Micheal Cole to the Monster Among Men who drags Cole across the ramp. Kurt Angle frantically rushes out and tells Braun that he is not fired anymore and still has his Universal Championship match at the Royal Rumble. Braun roars in delight and kills Micheal Cole anyway by throwing him into a gaggle of security jobbers off the ramp. 

Now we direct our attention elsewhere when Jason Jordan sympathizes with Kurt Angle for having a really shitty work night. Earlier in the night Jordan distracted The Bar causing them to lose to Apollo Crews and Titus O’Neill for the second week in a row. Seth came out after that match and seemed confused as to why Jason Jordan felt the need to get involved. Jordan tells Kurt that he thinks Seth Rollins needs some singles competition to clear his head (spoiler: Rollins clears someone else’s head later on). Jordan recommends Finn Balor as an opponent and a main event is made.

Roman Reigns battled The Miztourage in a handicap match at the 10 o’clock spot. Miz was at ringside because Miz and Roman Reigns will go at it next week at the 25th Anniversary of Monday Night Raw for the Intercontinental Championship. A lot of shenanigans in this match with Miz getting involved, but Reigns picks up the pinfall victory after a spear on Curtis Axel.

In what was billed as “the first Universal Championship rematch”, Seth Rollins takes on Finn Balor in the main event. I was slightly concerned about how late this match was starting, but it turned out to be fantastic. There were so many near falls, one really close one off a roll up by Rollins. Seth hit his spectacular Falcon Arrow Superplex which he usually only pulls out for Pay-Per-Views. Despite all the near falls and moves by both men, I don’t think anyone was ready for the finish. Finn Balor runs off the ropes and is tripped up by Jason Jordan on the outside. As Balor begins to get up, Rollins Curbs Stomps him to hell. Corey Graves calls it the Blackout (Happy MLK Day by the way) as Rollins wins via pinfall. I welcome back the Curb Stomp with open arms.


Smackdown Live = Skippable

This show was a real let down. Looking at the line up on paper this looked like a can’t miss episode of Smackdown leading into the Royal Rumble. We had both semi-finals matches in the United States Championship Tournament with an added twist in the middle of show. However, cringey backstage segments and two slow paced Jinder matches didn’t help the cause.

We open the show with the New Day explaining at a patriotic podium that Xavier Woods is going to win the United States Championship . They go on to explain that all good things come in threes such as, red, white and blue, and home alone. Although Big E and the rest of us agree Home Alone 3 was trash. Our opening contest is Xavier Woods vs. Jinder Mahal to advance to the finals of the United States Championship Tournament. After three commercials breaks and a very long match, Jinder wins with the Khallas.

The 9 o’clock spot brought us yet another United States Championship Tournament match where Bobby Roode faced Mojo Rawley for a spot in the finals. Bobby Roode is super over as always and these two put on a good match. Bobby Roode hits the Glorious DDT on Rawley for the pinfall victory and a spot in the finals.

This Bobby Roode victory prompts the Singh Brothers to come out and attack Bobby Roode. Shortly after we are graced with the presence of Jinder Mahal once again on the ramp. Jinder says he is the best and will win next week in the finals. Roode grabs a microphone and says he wants the finals to happen tonight. Crowd pops pretty hard for this one, but Jinder says he calls the shots and the finals will happen next week. Daniel Bryan comes out and takes control of the situation. He announces that the finals of the United States Championship Tournament will happen tonight in the main event. Good thing that altercation happened otherwise Smackdown wouldn’t have had a main event.

Now you might be thinking that this Smackdown doesn’t sound that bad. However, there were so many bacjstage segments that were hard to watch. For example both men and women superstars took selfie videos talking about winning the Royal Rumble. I am making this sound much better than it was. They seemed rushed and really missed the mark. In addition, AJ Styles cut a promo backstage that had Vince written all over it. I would say it was on par with Roman Reigns and Tater Tots, but it’s up for interpretation.

That being said, the main even offered some excitement. Well not so much the match itself seeing as Jinder was 50% of it, but the outcome was fun to watch. Wrestle, wrestle, wrestle and Bobby Roode hits a Glorious DDT on Jinder for the pinfall victory and to become the new United States Champion. WWE most likely rushed this tournament out tonight to have Dolph challenge Roode for the United States Championship. I say we give this fued a second chance with a little more story behind it now.