The 2020 Royal Rumble event is just around the corner, but before WWE makes the much anticipated stop in Houston on Sunday to open up the Road to WrestleMania, the go-home edition of Raw came to us from the Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas. Raw, which has been on a roll for the most part of late, largely failed to deliver overall as an event the magnitude of the Royal Rumble looms in just six days. This fact was highlighted by the main event choice for the go-home show that did anything but leave fans with the feeling that one of the most anticipated shows of the year is on the horizon, as well as another pointless appearance by the WWE champion.
What this episode of Raw did provide, however, was a championship change that can be described as shocking. Seth Rollins' new faction gained some more power in the form of the Raw tag team championship, though that power is not wielded by the tag team you may think.
Let's have a look now at everything that went down Monday night on the 2020 Royal Rumble go-home episode of the flagship show.
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Seth Rollins & Buddy Murphy capture the prize
Rollins, AOP and new disciple Buddy Murphy kicked off Raw this week. Rollins thanked the crowd, because without them, there would be no "Monday Night Messiah." After expressing his gratitude, he turned his attention to thanking Murphy for his help last week and standing on the right side of history. He said that it was time for everyone in the locker room to make a decision because the battle lines have been drawn. "Either you're with us or you're against us," Rollins warned before he was interrupted by Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe. Owens said that the problem they have is that despite taking out the Big Show, they didn't take out he and Joe. Rollins declined Owens' request for a fight before Joe called him a "lawyered-up asshat." Aware of the numbers game, Rollins invited them to the ring to get beaten down. Joe, however, pointed out that he and Owens never said they were alone. "Come on out, boys," Joe ordered before The Viking Raiders emerged. Owens, Joe and the Raw tag team champions cleared the ring of the heels to close the opening segment.
In a backstage interview with Charly Caruso, Rollins said they were issuing a challenge to The Viking Raiders for the tag team titles tonight. It won't be AOP challenging them, though. It'll be Rollins and Murphy gunning for the Raw tag team championship.
Seth Rollins & Buddy Murphy def. The Viking Raiders (c) via pinfall to win the titles: Incredible match here resulting in a big title change just six days out from one of the biggest PPV events of the year. AOP were out right at the beginning of the match but were eventually run off by Owens and Joe who emerged to even the odds. Near the finish, Ivar was posted up on the top rope ready to deliver a leg drop onto Murphy when Rollins knocked him off onto the floor. Left alone, Erik ate a knee from Murphy and fell into the ropes where he was met by a Stomp from Rollins on the apron. Murphy was there to capitalize and get the 1-2-3, giving us new Raw tag team champions.
Backstage afterwards, Rollins officially entered himself into the Royal Rumble match, saying that he will assert the group's dominance even more when he wins on Sunday for the second year in a row. Prior to the main event, Owens and Joe declared themselves as entrants as well.
This was certainly a surprise of the pleasant variety, now wasn't it? The momentum continuing to build within Rollins' stable captivates every week, and this was a fantastic move to put the tag titles on he and Murphy as the latter immediately bounced back in a major way from his losing streak angle opposite Aleister Black. It gives this feud more time to breathe through the Rumble as Owens and Joe continue their quest to take down the "Monday Night Messiah" and his cronies, and it was also a solid route to take that keeps AOP and The Viking Raiders away from one another which is a massive WrestleMania tag match ready to be handed to us on a silver platter come April. Grade: B+
Ricochet confronts Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman were out to the ring six days before the WWE champion heads into the Royal Rumble as the No. 1 entrant. Heyman again expressed that there is no one in the locker room worthy of main-eventing any pay-per-view, much less WrestleMania, against Brock Lesnar for the WWE championship. He polled the crowd inquiring if they actually believed there was anyone worthy in the locker room, which drew a chorus of boos. Lesnar and Heyman were then interrupted by a rather unlikely adversary. Ricochet was out, and he told Heyman and Lesnar that he has no fear. Heyman warned him to go back to the locker room before he gets hurt, but Ricochet stepped into the ring anyway. The former United States champion challenged Lesnar to a fight right then and there. Lesnar laughed and began departing the ring before returning after Ricochet questioned whether he was scared. Lesnar then walked right up to Ricochet and kicked him in the crotch before grabbing the microphone and proclaiming he's "not scared" and walking away.
I found the closing sequence of this segment highly amusing because it's hilarious that BROCK LESNAR (!) feels the need to kick someone half his size below the belt and declare he's not afraid. Aside from that, however, there was little-to-no point to any of this taking place. We know we're not getting Ricochet vs. Lesnar at any point in the near future, so there was no need for this interaction other than to remind everyone that we could see the two face off on Sunday in the Rumble match for a hot second. The inclusion of the WWE champion in the Royal Rumble as the No. 1 entrant was a hot angle at the jump, but the follow-up has fallen flat. Grade: D+
What else happened on Raw?
- United States Championship -- Andrade (c) def. Rey Mysterio to retain the title in a ladder match after Zelina Vega provided a distraction at the top of the ladder, leading to Andrade planting Mysterio through a ladder with the Hammerlock DDT. This allowed the champ to grab his title and retain. Post-match, Vega pulled the padding from the concrete floor, but before they could do any further damage, a man in a Mysterio mask showed up. That man was a returning Humberto Carrillo, who sought retribution against the man who took him out.
- Aleister Black def. an unnamed enhancement talent via pinfall in mere seconds after a Black Mass.
- Drew McIntyre def. Randy Orton via disqualification after the OC ran out and started attacking McIntyre. Orton hit the ring to make the save, and the two eventually ran the heels off before Orton nailed McIntyre with an RKO outta nowhere. Afterwards, McIntyre took the mic and told Orton that he prays they're in the ring together on Sunday so he can kick his head off and win the Rumble.
- Becky Lynch (c) def. Kairi Sane via submission in a non-title match with the Dis-Arm-Her. Post-match, Asuka hit the ring and took out Lynch with the Asuka Lock. Backstage following the match, Asuka said that Lynch is not ready for her at the Royal Rumble.
- Erick Rowan def. Matt Hardy via pinfall after the Iron Claw Slam.
- Bobby Lashley & Lana def. Rusev & Liv Morgan via pinfall after a spear from Lashley onto Rusev. This served as the main event of the Royal Rumble go-home episode of Raw, which was quite the confusing decision, to say the least.