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! 

The Spotlight On Shane McMahon on The Michael Kay Show

Shane McMahon just wrapped up an appearance on ESPN’s “The Michael Kay Show” with Michael Kay and Don La Greca.  Here are some highlights from the interview..

– Michael Kay said it best when he noted in the beginning of the piece how big of a deal it was for them to discuss wrestling but that this was such a big deal that he felt like they had to have Shane on.  I now that Peter Rosenberg is a big wrestling fan and that Don La Greca’s brother, Dave is a host of the Busted Open Wrestling radio show on sirius but this was reallly cool to hear Michael Kay talk about wrestling.

– The interview started off with Shane mentioning how humbling it was to get the ovation that he got when he appeared on Monday.  He mentioned how Monday was a night he will never forget and that when he thanked the crowd in Detroit during the commercial break, he didn’t know it was going to air (Referring to the footage WWE put up on youtube with him stating that “he had goosebumps on top of goosebumps and his nipples were hard).  He said that he was hoping the reaction would be good but wasn’t 100% sure and said the reaction blew him away.  He compared the feeling to that of a close sports game when the crowd goes nuts and it was surreal that the reaction was all directed towards him.

– From there Shane was asked about whether he feels added pressure because he is the boss’ son and if that played a part in why he took so many risks.  Shane mentioned that he had to pay a lot of dues growing up by helping to set up the ring and being a referee.  Shane  explained that he continued to take risks because he always assumed each match would be his last so he figured why not leave it all out there.  He told a funny story from when he was 8 years old, Mr. Fuji told him to try a dropkick off the top rope.  He went up to the top with a ton of enthusiasm and when he hit the mat, he grew an appreciation for how hard the mat was and an appreciation for the punishment the superstars take. Shane mentioned that he loved growing up in the business mentioning how impressive Wrestlemania 3 was and that during that show he walked to the top of the arena just to take it all in and hoped that this year they can top the crowd that Wrestlemania 3 did.

–  He explained how the primary driving force for  him to return was so that his sons would be able to see him perform.  He explained how he did not tell his kids that he would be returning and his wife recorded a private video of his sons reaction, which was also off the charts.

– Don La Greca than asked if there was any real tension between he and Vince McMahon to which mentioned that at times there has been animosity between the two but said that it’s to be expected when you’re in any family business.

– Shane explained that kayfabe is still important to him and so he wanted to keep his return a surprise so he kept it very close to the vest.  He did explain how hard it is this day in age where security cameras can pick up your appearance and the next thing you know the story breaks everyone.  Rosenberg made a good point about how he loves the Rock but that every time he returns he puts a picture of himself on instagram arriving in the city so it gives it away.

– In regards to Wrestlemania, Shane mentioned that he’s currently doing 3 a days and really improving his cardio.  He explained that he’s currently working with two different personal trainers which he started originally training for surfing with his kids.  Shane then confirmed that he is working out with MMA trainer Phil Nurse (Trainer of GSP, Rashaad Evans and Frankie Edgar), and learning more mui tai kickboxing to improve his overall conditioning.

– In regards to his future in WWE and whether this is a one time deal, Shane said that, as of right now, he’s just focusing on Wrestlemania and will see where the future takes him after.  He said that he’s excited to have a match with The Undertaker because they’ve been good friends for 25 years and used to travel together.  He said that he’s ready to give it his all and be in the best shape of his life so that the fans will get the match they expect and knows that the Undertaker will do the same

Overall, I felt that Shane came across really well on the show.  He also spoke a bit about his love of the Yankees and how he expects them to do pretty well with the best bulpen in the game.  It was surreal to see Shane on an ESPN radio show and seeing this getting the attention that it does deserve.  It was cool to see the footage replayed of Shane’s comeback on the yes network and the footage of Shane training hard.  Overall a good piece for a Friday evening.

As for Shane, he is now on twitter @ShaneMcMahon.  I’ll have a lot more about my thoughts on Shane and how I felt about his big return this past week over the weekend.