Running the Gauntlet of Monday Night Rollins – A Monday Night Raw Recap for 02/19/18

Tonight’s Raw comes to us from Phoenix, AZ.  This is my second attempt at doing the recap after I lost power the first time around.  Maybe I’ll actually turn this thing in at a reasonable time next week.

Running the Gauntlet

It’s kind of incredible that this became the longest televised match in WWE history, beating an Iron Man Match involving HHH years ago.  You might be wondering who HHH was in that match with.  It’s only “You Know Who” and “The One That Must Not Be Named”.  Yes, it’s WWE’s Voldemort himself, Chris Benoit.

Enough of that, let’s get to the match/matches.

  • Roman Reigns started off the show to tell everyone that he’s the big dog…yada yada yada.
    • Who’s first up but Rollins himself.  This first matchup runs pretty long.  Roman and Seth have a lot of chemistry.  If Roman wins the Universal Championship, like a lot of dirt sheets are suggesting, it would be great to see these two feud for the Championship throughout the summer.  I’m reminded of how good the match they had at Money in the Bank 2016 was.  That spear reversal into the Pedigree was perfection.
    • Back to the match, Rollins is putting it all on the line.  He goes to hit a frog splash and eats the canvas like I’ve rarely seen anyone do.  Reigns puts it all out there but is unable to finish off Rollins.  Seth reverses a roll-up into one of his own and puts away an incredulous Reigns.  Roman sits up stunned while the music of competitor #2’s music hits the arena.
  • John Cena is competitor #3.  Just like Reigns, Seth and John (“Jaaaaahhhhhhnnnnn”) have a rich history.  Cena starts like a dumbass, entering the ring like it’s not a match already in progress.  Seth pounces on him while he’s still playing to the crowd.
    • This was my favorite matchup all night.  You have John who’s not quite on his game against Rollins who is firing on all cylinders.  Even with Cena not at his best, you can’t put him away that easily.  We got back and forth finishers and reversals but that put away neither man.  We almost got a double count out…which would have been interesting.  Finally, Seth caught a Cena Crossbody and rolled it through to put Cena in an Attitude Adjustment.  I popped.  I’ve rarely seen a wrestler steal another’s finisher.  I do it all the time on the video games.  It’s cool to see it in real life.  This was what deflated Cena, allowing Seth to hit the “Curb Stomp”, or whatever he’s calling it these days, and get the pinfall.
    • Oh, and Seth locked in the STF somewhere in there.  The AA wasn’t the only Cena signature that he borrowed.
    • During the next matchup, they had a PiP with Cena backstage with Renee.  He told her that it’s no secret that his attention is spread thin and he’s not as focused on wrestling as he should be.  He has to do a lot of hard thinking and planning before Sunday.  It’s a pretty great promo.
  • Elias is competitor #4 with Rollins still in it.  The former drifter is just trying to play cleanup at this point and get a quick pin.  Rollins is way more resilient, despite being in for longer than an hour at this point, than Elias expects.  After the commercial break, Seth finds himself on the other end of a Drift Away for the pin.  Seth now officially holds the record for longest in a WWE televised match.
    • The crowd chanted “Thank you, Seth!” as he slowly limped backstage.
    • Seth also gets a backstage promo PiP.  He’s upset that he didn’t make it all the way through, despite breaking records.  He showed a fire tonight and I’m sure the man behind the character is super happy with his performance.  He proved that he’s Monday Night Rollins.
  • Finn Bálor is competitor #5.  I didn’t pay as close attention to this one as the others.  Basically Finn puts away Elias.  It wasn’t immediate but it had to have been the shortest or the 2nd shortest of the gauntlet matchups.
    • Elias gets a PiP of his own.  Renee brings up that he has a clear advantage and he agrees.  He’s playing cleanup.  By the time he enters the match, they’ll be 6 other Seth Rollins for him to get an easy victory on.
  • The Miz is competitor #6.  Finn is looking to the ramp as the always stylish Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel come out, presumably in front of their boss, but Miz blindsides Finn and they go to work.  Miz employs a similar strategy to Elias and tries to put Finn away with a few quick pins but is unable to get it done.  He eventually uses the distraction of the Miztourage and a Skull Crushing Finale to seal Finn’s fate.

  • Just as he’s celebrating that he put out Finn, a wave of fear washes over his face.  He realizes that there’s only one man monster left.  He knows he’s screwed.  Sure enough, Braun makes easy work of Miz.  He tries to run away but somehow Braun is also quick and chases him down taking him back to the ring.  The Miztourage are little match for the Monster Among Men.  Running Powerslams for Everyone!
    • After finishing Miz off, Chalie is there to ask if he’s nervous going into his first ever Elimination Chamber match.  “I don’t fear the unknown.  The unknown fears me!”  It’s a perfect and short Braun promo that WWE Merch should be printing on a t-shirt to sell on Sunday.  Then Braun politely excuses himself to return to the ring and deliver more Running Powerslams to the Miz and the Miztourage.

What a fantastic Monday Night Raw.  I’m glad I don’t live in Phoenix as I would have been super disappointed if I didn’t go to this and watched it on the TV.  Stellar episodes of Raw are rare, and this was one of them.  This match was perfectly booked and setup every single competitor as a possible winner for Sunday night.  Yes, the dirt sheets say it’s going to be Roman Reigns and it probably will end up being the result.  However, you’ve got a lot of great options if Vince changes his mind.  I’m fine with Roman winning.  It’ll just be great to have the Championship on TV regularly.  This match shows that we have a strong roster with a lot of interesting matchups going forward.  And Joe will be back soon!  And Dean later this year!  There are tons of reasons to get excited for the future of WWE TV.

Everything Else

  • Titus Worldwide beat The Bar with a School Boy pin.  I guess they needed something to cut for the Hulu edit, right?  Titus delivers.
  • Matt and Bray had another back and forth pre-taped promo.  Although I generally love these, they need to wrap this up for now.  Matt needs a new opponent and perhaps needs to start doing pretapes at “The Compound”.  I didn’t watch TNA but that’s apparently when the gimmick really started to take off.
  • Asuka tries to deliver a promo about Sunday but almost gets blindsided by Nia Jax.
  • Sasha Banks locks in the Banks Statement on Alexa Bliss to win the 6 Woman Tag for her team of Bayley and Mickie James.  The match was fine.  It had some good moments but it’s very hard to take away from the incredible Gauntlet match we were treated to.  After the match, Absolution attacked everyone but Mickie and Alexa teamed up and were able to keep them at bay.  Bayley and Sasha weren’t so lucky.