Seth Rollins’ flock has grown by one, and his enemies have grown by two. Such is the plight of The Monday Night Messiah, whose recruitment of Buddy Murphy theoretically gave his crew a 4-2 advantage over Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe. That edge was instantly offset by The Viking Raiders, however, who joined Owens and Joe in a charge against Rollins and his acolytes during Raw’s opening moments.
The new allies certainly provided an immediate boost to Owens and Joe, who easily sent Rollins & Co. scurrying with the Raiders’ help. But Rollins remains as crafty as he is megalomaniacal, leveraging the Raiders’ decision into a Raw Tag Team Championship challenge against Murphy and The Monday Night Messiah himself.
It might just be time to accept that Andrade is the real deal, having now defeated Rey Mysterio in a decisive Ladder Match (the first championship Ladder Match on Raw in 13 years) to retain his United States Title. But getting past Mysterio doesn’t mean the champion’s problems are over. Quite the opposite, actually.
Mysterio threw his body and soul — especially his body — into this match. But Zelina Vega once again sealed the deal, blocking Mysterio from his prize and allowing Andrade to Hammerlock DDT Rey through a ladder. The champ was able to climb to the rafters and retain, though a post-match beatdown was interrupted by a returning Humberto Carrillo, who ambushed Andrade to both avenge his injury a few weeks back and save Mysterio from further humiliation. That Carrillo wore a Mysterio mask sent about as clear a message as possible: Andrade may have gotten past the legendary luchador himself, but those he inspired will still be there to haunt him wherever he goes.
You may have forgotten thanks to his series with Buddy Murphy, so consider this your reminder that Aleister Black is on his way to the Men’s Royal Rumble Match. And in case his intentions were unclear in any way, he obliterated an overeager local competitor with Black Mass so quickly that they didn’t even get to announce the guy’s name before he met his fate. Clearly, the focus is on Sunday and what lies ahead: Specifically, 29 other Superstars to face, 29 souls to absolve, 29 jaws to kick.
Paul Heyman had made much of Brock Lesnar’s decision to willingly draw No. 1 in the Men’s Royal Rumble Match, setting himself up to potentially run against the entire field en route to what would be a historic victory. But is there a Superstar who would willingly combat the WWE Champion? As it turns out, yes.
Ricochet stepped up to confront The Beast Incarnate in his final Raw appearance before the Rumble, proclaiming he’d be just fine with squaring up against Lesnar then and there. An unimpressed Lesnar booted Ricochet below the belt and made his exit without a second thought. But given Ricochet’s odds-defying propensity and the way smaller competitors tend to give Lesnar fits, he might just be looking past a potential spoiler of a different kind.
Drew McIntyre had a bad night, but don’t let it fool you. Outside of Brock Lesnar, the former NXT Champion might just be the odds-on Raw Superstar to go the distance in the Men’s Royal Rumble Match.
That seems a strange thing to say about a man who was ambushed by The O.C. — which caused his match against Randy Orton to end in a no-contest — and suffered an RKO in short order. But McIntyre’s post-match address, where he all but begged the wrestling gods to again put him and Orton against each other in the Rumble Match and reiterated his vow to win it all and go to WrestleMania seemed like more a prophecy than a boast. One bad night does not determine a man’s future, and for all the lumps he took tonight, McIntyre is very much in control of his future. And the future, by all appearances, remains bright.
Can Becky Lynch beat Asuka? All evidence thus far points to a big maybe, and despite her win over Kairi Sane — Asuka’s fellow WWE Women’s Tag Team Champion — The Man is still staring down a stormy sea as she heads to the Royal Rumble event.
Pardon the seafaring pun, but it’s hard to understate how much Lynch needed such a boost and how harshly she was denied. Despite submitting Sane in a match that Asuka watched from a perch atop the turnbuckle, Lynch was ambushed after the bell with a Shining Wizard and Asuka Lock from The Empress of Tomorrow. Suddenly, Becky’s pre-match declaration of “You can’t beat me anymore” looks a little premature.
It’ll be a lot harder to call Seth Rollins a false prophet after this week. The self-dubbed “Monday Night Messiah” took his newest disciple, Buddy Murphy, and knocked off the all but unbeatable Viking Raiders to become the new Raw Tag Team Champions, a stunning outcome that all but resets the tag team playing field with WrestleMania just three months away.
We can, of course, attach an asterisk here. With big man Ivar incapacitated by a shove off the top turnbuckle to the outside, Rollins drilled Erik with a Stomp to the ring apron while the ref was preoccupied with Murphy. All The Best Kept Secret had to do was pin his man to win the titles, and that’s what he did. Regardless of the methods, however, the result stands, and whether you think of him as a Messiah or not, the title victory is an ominous sign. Anybody who rolled their eyes when Rollins promised to bend the industry to his will is probably looking at him a little differently now. So, for instance, when he says he's going to win the Men's Royal Rumble Match for the second year in a row? He just might do it.
Erick Rowan has made whatever’s in his pen a key part of his mystique over the last few months, but the thing in the cage seems hesitant to show itself. When Rowan attempted to reveal it to Matt Hardy during their match, the thing bit him again, causing Rowan to slam the cage angrily on the ring steps. He pinned Hardy seconds later with the Iron Claw, then returned, seemingly contrite, to the pen, in the hopes of cooling things down. Whatever’s in there, given its volatile temper, it clearly takes after its ... friend? Owner? Master? Enemy? All of the above? All possibilities are on the table.
The honeymoon is nowhere near over for Bobby Lashley and Lana, who just keep winning no matter what configuration of their enemies face them. This week it was Rusev and Liv Morgan in a Mixed Tag Team Match, and once again the happy couple pulled out the win thanks to a timely bit of interference by The Ravishing Russian.
Actually, timely doesn’t do it justice. Rusev and Liv had this thing won, with The Bulgarian Brute sizing up Lashley for a Machka Kick that quite possibly would have relieved him of a few teeth. When Lana grabbed hold of her ex’s boot, however, The All Mighty struck with a massive Spear to secure the win. And of all the reasons to boo them (and there are a good amount), it’s becoming clear what is the most maddening thing about Lashley and Lana: They simply do not lose.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Andrade (w/ Zelina Vega) (c) defeated Rey Mysterio in a Ladder match to retain the WWE United States Championship (18:45)
- Aleister Black defeated Ryan Gingell (0:09)
- Drew McIntyre defeated Randy Orton by DQ (12:00)
- Becky Lynch defeated Kairi Sane (w/ Asuka) (9:00)
- Seth Rollins & Buddy Murphy defeated The Viking Raiders (Erik & Ivar) (c) to win the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship (11:05)
- Erick Rowan defeated Matt Hardy (2:10)
- Bobby Lashley & Lana defeated Liv Morgan & Rusev in a Mixed Tag Team Match (3:30)
Other on-screen talent