The Spotlight On Monday Night Raw Tampa 1/2/2017

WWE Monday Night Raw just went off the air a few minutes ago, emanating live from Tampa Bay, Florida and I thought that for the most part it was a pretty good show. I know a lot of folks I spoke to believed that Triple H would be returning to television tonight with this being the first Raw of the New Year and Monday Night Football being finished, but I’m glad that he didn’t. Raw already had Goldberg promoted for tonight and so they already had the audience coming in with him and it makes sense to stagger out some of these bigger headline attractions. There was no reason to bring back Triple H yet and I actually don’t expect him to be back into the thick of things until at the earliest The Royal Rumble as we are still a ways away from Wrestlemania and the focus right now should be on the Royal Rumble and filling up that 60,000 seat arena at the Alamodome. I feel that tonight’s Raw did it’s part to kick things into high gear as far as the Royal Rumble is concerned and with four weeks left of television until that show, that’s a pretty cool thing. Let’s get right into my highlights of the show tonight.

Goldberg On The Kevin Owens Show
– The biggest promotion of the show tonight was all about the return of Bill Goldberg to Monday Night Raw. While I’ve really enjoyed Goldberg’s return to WWE over the past few months, he’s really only been involved with Brock Lesnar. This is clearly the big money match for Wrestlemania, or somewhere down the road, and there is still a lot to do between the two. That said, Goldberg has entered the Royal Rumble now and so it makes sense to see him in there with some of the other bigger names on Raw like he did tonight. I felt that Goldberg’s faceoffs with both Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns made them both feel like bigger deals and makes fans that are tuning in specifically for Goldberg, take notice of the Raw main event scene outside of Brock Lesnar, who isn’t there every week. There were people on twitter clamoring for Goldberg to destroy Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho upon coming out for the segment which I didn’t get at all. Owens and Jericho have been carrying Raw since Finn Balor’s injury and you don’t want Goldberg to come out an destroy all of their credibility that they’ve built up, instead, he enhanced it further.

BRAUN
!!!- Another big story coming out of Raw tonight was the continued push of Braun Strowman. This guy is really starting to grow on me and I think WWE could have their next monster heel on their hands here. Braun looked like a beast in his destruction of Sami Zayn (who may need to go to Smakdown) in their Last Man Standing Match and then even more so during the post match beatdown. His showing up and destroying everyone recently have reminded me of early Stone Cold Steve Austin (to a much less extent) in that he’s unpredictable and doesn’t give a damn. Braun showing up at the end of the night with the three top guys on Raw and Bill Goldberg brought him up to that level and established him as a real threat to win the Rumble. This was made even more apparent during the awesome double spear as it took both Bill Goldberg (the guy who took out Brock Lesnar in less than 2 minutes) and Roman Reigns to take Strowman out. Sami Zayn did a ton to establish Braun as this monster and it’s exciting to see where Strowman goes now that he’s past Zayn.

The Ratings War
– Last week for the first time since the brand split, Smackdown Live defeated Raw in the ratings. Tonight on Raw they actually acknowledged this with Stephanie McMahon returning and telling off Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho and Mick Foley proclaiming that Raw was now at war with Smackdown Live and that it was basically time to stop messing around. I thought this was real cool and added to the hostility between the two brands. Wrestling has always been better with competition and so it’s nice to see some internal competition within WWE. While it will never be the Monday Night War, there was legitimate competition between Raw and Smackdown within WWE back in 2002-2004 when Paul Heyman was overseeing Smackdown. Smackdown at the time was consistently better than Raw and would compete for better ratings with Raw from time to time so it’s good to see WWE getting back there.  

Match Of The Night-
Each week as we do these post Raw columns we’ll have one section reserved in the end for the match of the night. If you don’t have much time and can only see one match, this is the one that you will want to go out of your way to see. While Sami Zayn and Braun Strowman had a really fun Last Man Standing match, the best match of Braun’s career to this point, I have to give the nod this week to Roman Reigns and Chris Jericho. Jericho and Reigns had a really good match for the US Title with the stipulation being that if Reigns were to get counted out or disqualified then he would lose the title. This led to a good amount of intrigue throughout the match that maybe Jericho would find a way to weasel his way to the title. The best false finish came when Jericho channeled his inner Eddie Guerrero and threw the belt Reigns only to fall and take a bump while the ref’s back was turned. Of course when the ref turned around and saw Reigns with the belt in his hands and Jericho down on the mat, he would believe that Reigns laid him out. It was wild to see the crowd doing the YES chant over the potential of the title change but it was not to be tonight as Roman Reigns retained the US Title. I was a little disappointed as I was hoping we would get a few weeks of Team Kevin and Chris running around with both Raw singles titles and I don’t think Roman needs the US Title especially if he is in contention for the Universal title belt.  
That’s going to do it for me for now but be sure to come back tomorrow where I’ll break down the highlights of what looks to be a loaded Smackdown Live show. Also be sure to check out “The Rumble of The Royal Rumble”, a series in which I will look back at every Royal Rumble for each day of January leading right up until the 30th Royal Rumble on Jnauary 29th. Later today will be the third part of the series, looking at Royal Rumble 1990!