On paper, it seemed like an ambitious plan for WWE to combine the 25th anniversary episode of Raw and the go-home show ahead of the Royal Rumble over the same three-hour period on Monday.
It turns out that assumption was correct.
Outside of a nostalgically hot-fire opening and a well-booked intercontinental title match, WWE failed to deliver on both ends of the bargain despite going overboard in promoting such a landmark event. Emanating from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, along with a few scarce callbacks to the Manhattan Center where Raw aired its first episode in 1993, the surprise pops proved formulaic at best and cheap at worst.
WWE blatantly mismanaged its use of the Manhattan Center, leaving increasingly frustrated fans sitting idle for long stretches while watching the broadcast on the big screen. It also gave valuable screen time to far too any midcard players despite how many legends had been flown in to ultimately deliver nothing more than a cameo, sometimes only for a second.
Few moments advanced current storylines outside of The Miz starting an eighth reign of the intercontinental title, which teases the question whether now former champion Roman Reigns was freed up to win the Royal Rumble.
But despite all of Monday's wasted moments, WWE did succeed in delivering a legitimate moment in time for the next 25 years of the show when 72-year-old chairman Vince McMahon reprised his heel persona and squared off with nemesis "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Say what you will about the hours that followed, but that alone was worth the price of admission.
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WWE Raw results
The only way to open Raw 25: The broadcast began with Jim Ross and Jerry "The King" Lawler welcoming everyone into The Manhattan Center with the old siren music, steel barriers, ICO-PRO sign and more. Michael Cole and Co. then introduced the Barclays Center edition of Raw from ringside before Raw commissioner Stephanie McMahon and SmackDown commissioner Shane McMahon welcomed everyone to the show, aired the above video and welcomed chairman Vince McMahon to the ring. Vince started by thanking the fans for an incredible ovation and prepared to make his way out of the ring before his children stopped him to hand him a plaque thanking him for 25 years of Raw. He quickly turned into Mr. McMahon, saying the plaque looks cheap ("like Brooklyn") and that the only plaque that should've been in the arena tonight is the stuff on everyone's teeth.
It didn't take long before the glass shattered and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin hit the ring with fury, flicking birds atop every turnbuckle just like back in the day. McMahon began complementing Austin, putting over his own age and health problems, and suggesting that his son is in his prime. Austin responded by lifting Shane's arm and dropping him with a Stone Cold Stunner. McMahon said Shane had it coming and handed Austin a beer so the two could toast, which they did before hugging twice. McMahon then poured some beer on Shane as the two were celebrating, and after another chug, Austin dropped two birds on McMahon and one more Stunner for old time's sake. Shane then stood up to celebrate and toast with Austin, who chugged another beer and hit Shane with the Stunner before exiting.
Sasha Banks, Asuka, Bayley & Mickie James def. Alicia Fox (via submission), Nia Jax, Sonya Deville & Mandy Rose: This three-segment match was designed to draw attention to Sunday's inaugural women's Royal Rumble match but instead dragged on like a sore thumb. The finish came abruptly after the second commercial. As wrestlers from both teams brawled outside, Banks sidestepped a scissors kick from Fox and put her in the Banks Statement for the tap. As the babyfaces celebrated, Asuka turned on her teammates and tossed all three over the top rope in a good piece of booking.
Random legends congregate backstage: Johnathan Coachman showed up to say hi to Kurt Angle and was quickly joined backstage by Harvey Wippleman, the Brooklyn Brawler, Teddy Long, Brother Love and the Boogeyman, who pulled worms out of his mouth and handed them to Coach.
The Undertaker returns, cuts a cryptic promo: After a video highlighted his greatest hits on Raw, The Undertaker was announced into the Manhattan Center by Hall of Famer Howard Finkel. "The Deadman" retraced the exact steps of his entrance from the first episode of Raw in 1993, and began his promo by mentioned the legends he has taken down, including Steve Austin, Mick Foley and "even my own flesh and blood Kane." He said he ripped them from their pedestals, throwing them "in the cold, dark Earth. "All had to answer to the reaper," he said. "They all tried and they all failed. And now on this sacred ground, I declare for all those who have fallen, it is truly time to rest ... in ... peace." J.R. questioned whether Taker's chilling statement was a warning. Despite rumors he plans on returning for one more match at WrestleMania 34, it was hard to decipher from this whether that was true.
Poker with the APA: Bradshaw, with Ron Simmons by his side, took a bunch of chips from Health Slater, with Rhyno by his side, in a poker game before "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase dropped a huge wad of cash on the table to join the game with his signature laugh. They were later joined by The Usos, Jeff Hardy, MVP, Apollo Crews, Natalya, Dana Brooke, Titus O'Neil and The New Day as Slater kept losing hand after hand. When Slater finally won, Brooke accused him of cheating and Bradshaw demanded all fights go down in the ring. DiBiase then raked in the pot with a royal flush.
Raw general managers honored: John Laurinaitis, William Regal and Eric Bischoff were introduced on stage before SmackDown general manager Daniel Bryan came out to do the "Yes!" chant with the trio. The Miz interrupted the chants by making his way to the ring for his title match.
Intercontinental Championship -- The Miz def. Roman Reigns (c) to win the title: Good piece of business here in this well-booked match as Reigns had to constantly deal with the interference of The Miztourage until they were finally ejected by the referee. But an earlier spot that most had missed -- The Miz loosened the middle turnbuckle pad as Reigns took out Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel outside -- was used perfectly in the finish. After Reigns, who kicked out dramatically of a Skull-Crushing Finale, powered out of The Miz's second attempt, he missed a running splash into the exposed buckle. The Miz hit his finisher again and secured the 1-2-3 to begin his eighth reign as IC champion.
The Peep Show with Seth Rollins, Jason Jordan and The Bar: After Christian introduced the tag team champions and Cole explained on commentary that Edge had a prior obligation, Rollins tried to speak only to be interrupted by Jordan, who continuously and loudly got booed every time he opened his mouth. The Bar quickly hit the ring and said the veterans were all on their side Sunday. "It's not your dad who sucks; you suck," Cesaro said to Jordan before chanting Angle's theme. The crowd happily joined in, so Rollins took out Sheamus with a suicide dive and attempted to take down a restrained Cesaro but instead hit Jordan in the face with a flying knee.
Alexa Bliss, Charlotte Flair and Ric Flair meet backstage: As Bliss was expressing confidence in her ability, Charlotte interrupted her to say she didn't have the size, athletic ability or pedigree to be a top-tier or long-term champion in WWE. "You are lovely, and you may be the champion tonight," Ric interjected, "but this young lady will be the champion ... she'll be the champion until she decides to hang her robe up. Woooooo!" This was a nice, simple and quick moment that got a great crowd reaction.
Bray Wyatt def. Matt Hardy via pinfall: In the first televised match from the Manhattan Center location, WWE sped up what had been a slow build to this rivalry. In the end, the reveal hardly seemed worth it. Despite lasting two segments, the match was short and uneventful. Wyatt kicked out of a Side Effect and quickly reversed Hardy into Sister Abigail for the pin. This match deserved to debut on pay-per-view, not like this.
Legendary women make their return: The Bella Twins, Maryse, Kelly Kelly, Lilian Garcia, Jacqueline, Torrie Wilson, Michelle McCool, Terri Runnels, Maria Kanellis and Trish Stratus were introduced one at a time to the TitanTron area. They waved. That's it.
Elias runs into Chris Jericho, lays out John Cena: Backstage in his "Alpha Club" shirt, Jericho said he actually wrote a song about Elias and put him on the list while signing the lyrics. A short while later, Elias sat in the ring and sang for Fallon, who was front row center ringside. Elias trashed The Undertaker, Chris Jericho, The Rock, John Cena, and it did not take long for Cena's music to hit. As he began cutting a promo, Elias jumped back in the ring and told him, "Shut your damn mouth! No one wants to hear you. They came to hear me, and you ruined it." Cena challenged Elias to "do something about it," and Elias feigned like he was walking away before the two quickly got into it. Elias reversed out of the Attitude Adjustment with a low blow, grabbed his guitar and whacked it over Cena's back. He then connected on Drift Away to leave Cena sprawled out in the center of the ring.
Mark Henry, The Godfather reunite: The Godfather introduced Henry to a woman named Olivia. "Sexual Chocolate" was prepared to start macking on her until The Godfather clarified it was his wife.
The Dudley Boyz cleared the ring as a time-wasting match between Titus Worldwide and Health Slater & Rhyno was ongoing. The four competitors cleared the ring, but Slater was soon thrown to the wolves. He ate a pair of 3Ds, the second through a table, as the Dudleyz celebrated in the ring. They then invited Titus Worldwide and Rhyno into the squared circle to celebrate for some reason.
"Mean" Gene Okerlund interviews AJ Styles: In what went down as an unexplained appearance on Raw, the WWE champion and SmackDown star interrupted his own interview with Charly Caruso to bring out Okerlund. After pretending to deliver his first answer in a Hulk Hogan voice, Styles got serious for a moment and cut a basic promo about what he needs to do in his Royal Rumble handicap match against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn at Royal Rumble. While this sentence could be said ad nauseam on Monday, this was another waste of a segment considering how many able legends were waiting backstage.
It's just "Too Sweet:" Triple H and Shawn Michaels tossed green glow sticks to the Manhattan Center crowd. After some overacting from HBK in referencing DeGeneration X memories that are no longer safe for a PG crowd, Triple H put over Raw's history and the New York crowd as "the place where it all started." After referencing the late Rick Rude and Chyna, DX welcomed Road Dogg and Billy Gunn, who reprised their New Age Outlaws promo. X-Pac then came out and said they can't have a celebration without Scott Hall, whose entrance was sloppily interrupted by an abrupt commercial. Finally, The Balor Club showed up, which led to a group Too Sweet with everyone involved. (More below ...)
Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson def. The Revival via pinfall: In a short, quick match, the Balor Club members hit the Magic Killer and earned a clean 1-2-3 over their opponents, which talked trash about flamboyant WWE superstars just last week. After the match, The Revival took a series of finishing moves including the X-factor from X-Pac, Sweet Chin Music from Shawn Michaels and The Pedigree from Triple H. Everyone stood around as Balor hit the Coup De Grace before Billy Gunn finished things off on the mic and everyone raised "Too Sweet" one more time.
Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman and Kane brawl: With the ring surrounded by superstars and legends, Angle introduced the three competitors. As Lesnar was making his way to the ring after Paul Heyman's introduction, Strowman leveled Kane. Lesnar than shoulder tackled Strowman outside the ring and hit Kane with the F5. This led Strowman to catch Lesnar off guard, clotheslining him outside the ring and then hitting his running powerslam into an announce table to end the show. It was a quick, unsurprising end to a show that left a ton to be desired.