The Schoolhouse: What A Successful New Year's RAW Needs + Jan. 2nd RAW Evaluation
Jan 3, 2017 - 5:30:07 PM
New Year's Raw Evaluation
It's Tuesday evening and the first Monday Night Raw of 2017 has been in the books for almost a day. Did it succeed in meeting the criteria I presented as necessary to captivate the audience on the road to the Royal Rumble?.
A surprise or heavily promoted appearance from a returning superstar
Goldberg's first appearance on the road to the Royal Rumble happened as scheduled. He became the second guest on the Kevin Owens Show (Jericho was granted first spot by his best friend). The confrontation went well even though it seemed the crowd was not as hyped for him as they were earlier in the night. Raw did run past 11PM though so I'm sure there was some fatigue at play. I think WWE booked the ending very well by including other potential Rumble winners in the showdown, which connects well to the next element.
A major superstar will announce their intentions to enter and/or win the Royal Rumble
We had multiple top-level wrestlers announce their Rumble intentions last night. All 3 members of The New Day will fight and, depending on each guy's entrance order, they could go the distance if they are able to work together.
During the Kevin Owens Show, in the main event, we officially heard from Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman. Jericho's plan was to win and then, at Wrestlemania, the best friends would be in the main event. This would ensure the Universal Championship would stay with Owens and him. Owens wasn't too happy about that since he didn't want to fight his best friend. Perhaps he's worried he might lose to Jericho but the constant tease of a breakup between these two has been quite interesting to watch. I do still think their comedic tandem work has legs and I'm not sure an Owens/Jericho 'Mania match is the most compelling match for either guy.
Seeing Reigns and Goldberg double spear Strowman was a great visual. Strowman is being positioned as the next Kane or Roman Reigns in this year's Rumble. I'd set the over/under on his eliminations at 7.
At least one major promo that will set up an important match at the Rumble
Owens and Jericho were able to do some work at promoting the WWE Universal Championship match to start off the show. Jericho continued to complain about his future trip to the shark cage, and both men complained about having to face Reigns again.
A major championship match
We did see a title defense last night when Roman Reigns defeated Chris Jericho to retain the US Championship. Always nice to see a major title defense, although it would be even better if it was promoted in advance. Maybe that would've made both Mick Foley's and Stephanie McMahon's RAW appearances unnecessary, but I'm sure many fans would be okay with that. Announce it ahead and, then, we don't need to hear so much from the Commissioner and GM.
So, it appears last night's New Year's Raw fulfilled all of the elements I was looking for and did them well. Love seeing the Rumble hype start well in advance and, hopefully, more wrestlers step forward in the coming weeks to blow their horn about getting the title shot to Wrestlemania. No surprise appearances but WWE did promote two surprising returns for next week's Raw: Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. So, the road to the Rumble is heating up and even for people who do not regularly watch Raw, next week's show might be even bigger than last night's.
The discussion period is about to begin and I leave it to you to agree or disagree with what has been presented…
Even though last night's RAW was comprised of all of the elements I presented for a New Year's show, did you feel it was an improvement over recent weeks?
Greetings, folks, and welcome to the schoolhouse. I’m a new-ish face around these parts, although I have been busy reviewing nXt episodes in the results section for the past year. As a recent graduate of the LOP Columns Forum and a teacher by trade, it is my hope that the stories, arguments, lists and analysis I present will be of interest to you. I hope they will inspire discussion and learning, and increase our collective enjoyment of pro wrestling. Over the coming weeks, you’ll find out a little more about my own wrestling fandom but there’s another more time-sensitive topic to discuss today.
The calendar year is winding down and 2017 is nearly here. The first days of the new year are always filled with hopes, resolutions and excitement for what is to come. The same is true in the WWE and, over the past decade, the first live television show has been perceived as a must-see. Combined with the suspense and anticipation of the upcoming Royal Rumble and the road to another Wrestlemania, the first TV show of the new year has the potential to really draw fans into the highlight portion of the WWE calendar.
What I’m suggesting, folks, is that there are 4 elements that can make the first Raw of the year really turn heads and draw in an audience. By reviewing some of the first Raw shows of past years, we can quickly see which shows were the most exciting, which shows were meaningful, and which shows were able to combine all of this effectively.
Here are the major elements that have been more or less present over the past 6 years:
- a surprise or heavily promoted appearance from a returning superstar
- at least one major promo that will set up an important match at the Rumble
- a major championship match
- a major superstar will announce their intentions to enter and/or win the Royal Rumble
It is my belief that the first Monday Night Raw of the year needs all of these attributes to truly excite and attract fans to the Royal Rumble in San Antonio.
Let’s look at some of the BEST examples where these elements were in play.
January 2nd, 2012 may well be the best example of these 4 elements being effectively handled in the opening Raw of the year. Chris Jericho revealed himself as the mystery appearance and executed his return just as mysteriously. Receiving a roaring ovation from the fans in attendance, he never actually said a word. He just pumped up the crowd over and over, running around the ringside area, and then left.
The first and final segments of the show were dedicated to the John Cena vs. Kane feud which would culminate later that month at the Rumble. The WWE Championship was on the line between CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler in what was a pretty entertaining match, culminating in a countout victory for Ziggler due to then GM John Laurinaitis’ interference. This feud would also continue on to the Rumble, so WWE was doing well to promote the main event matches on the Rumble card that year. Finally, we had Wade Barrett claiming a Rumble victory, following a feud with Randy Orton.
Although The Rock’s return to Raw was not a surprise, it didn’t need to be. In fact, Raw benefitted from promoting it in advance since this had been alluded to months earlier, at Raw 1000, when Rock said he would challenge the WWE Champion at Royal Rumble 2013. His return was not wasted either since he and WWE Champion CM Punk closed the show with a feisty war of words, which included Punk’s reference that Rock’s arms were too short to box with God. The crowd was excited for this feud because it involved two of the best promo guys in the business and it marked the first time the two would wrestle one another in singles action.
Punk truly carried the championship well that night, defending his title against Ryback in a TLC match, with a little help from the Shield who had recently debuted. Finally, John Cena and Dolph Ziggler, two of the biggest names on the RAW roster at the time, announced their intentions to win the Royal Rumble. Each of them were favourites to win, especially Cena as that would allow the possibility of a second ‘Mania main event against Rock. That eventually would come to be, making the first Raw of 2013 a very exciting and important show.
Last year’s first Raw combined elements of 2012 and 2013 and then took it to a whole new level with Mr. McMahon’s shocking announcement at the end of the night.
First, we got another surprise return from Y2J, Chris Jericho who seems to relish the role of the January return. He would also makes claims of winning the Rumble, claims that cannot be ignored given his status as one of the top active wrestlers in the WWE Universe. We also got an announcement for Brock Lesnar’s return, which would take place at the following week’s Raw show. This indicated how serious WWE was about ensuring the road to the Rumble would attract viewers by spacing out the return dates of their top superstars.
The WWE World Championship was on the line as Roman Reigns defended against Sheamus in a match refereed by Mr. McMahon himself. The Authority had it in for Reigns and desperately wanted him to lose but Reigns managed to power through all of the interference and numerous referees needed to call the match. This kind of thing was common back in the Attitude Era but a rare sight on weekly TV shows in recent years. Reigns’ victory prompted McMahon to announce a very important stipulation for the Royal Rumble later that month: Reigns would defend the championship against 29 other men in the Royal Rumble match itself. This would mark the first time in WWE history that the champion would have to defend in the Rumble, which attracted additional interest in the outcome of that match.
Finally, Jericho wasn’t the only one claiming he would win the Rumble. Bray Wyatt and the Wyatt Family taunted the crowd, screaming they were war and famine and that they would rise at the Rumble. Wyatt had yet to have a successful showing at the Rumble but the nature of their faction is such that they stir up trouble wherever they go and so, Bray can always be counted on to challenge for a victory.
I’ll briefly mention 2010, only because it marked a historic night in WWE history. Bret Hart made his return to the company after 12+ years to bury the hatchet with Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon. This was also a unique night because TNA Impact had moved to Monday nights and was trying to spark a new Monday night TV ratings war by announcing the debut of Hulk Hogan to their show. The reconciliation between Hart and HBK remains a must-watch for wrestling fans who recognize how legitimate the rivalry between these two Hall of Famers was. It’s also worth watching for the finish of the show where Mr. McMahon’s shocks the audience with his response to Hart.
The other elements weren’t too well tended to, except for a Unified Tag Team Championship match between D-Generation X and JeriShow. Raw dropped the ball on promoting the Royal Rumble match itself and other matches on the card. I suppose the Hart/HBK meeting was so important that it trumped all other matters.
There have been a number of years where the opening Raw had very few of these elements and they weren’t very interesting shows. In those years, the WWE was either wrapping up feuds in preparation for New Year’s Revolution (2005-07), or weren’t getting started with their Rumble plans until closer to the date (2008-09). Anticipation for a major event deserves the benefit of more than a week or two of promotion and story-building. Last year was a step in the right direction. The timeliness of the New Year’s Raw should be important to the WWE because more people are off of work and school, and are more likely to have free time in the evening to check out what’s happening on Raw. It might be the show that brings an old fan back into the story, or a new fan along for the ride.
So, is this Monday’s Raw shaping up to be a success or a failure?
Well, the promoted appearance of Goldberg will certainly help attract viewers. Each of his promos since his return last fall have went over strongly with at least the fans in attendance. There is certainly a buzz about the Icon and his intentions to score one more championship title reign. As for building towards other matches on the Rumble card, WWE’s on the ball with that, having already announced the WWE Universal Championship match between Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns. What would be great to see are wrestlers being vocal about their desire to win the Rumble. With a title shot at Wrestlemania on the line, there should be wrestlers grabbing the mic and telling the world they want to win the Rumble and get that title shot.
The discussion period is about to begin and I leave it to you to agree or disagree with what has been presented…
Is there a missing element to what YOU think is necessary for the first RAW of the year to be exciting and memorable?
Do you miss the Royal Rumble qualifying matches of past years or do you prefer having most of the Rumble entrants be a surprise?
Happy New Year to you and your families! Check back on Tuesday for a brief recap on how the first Monday Night Raw of 2017 went.