Watch Oli Davis' video review of WWE Raw, or read the article below if audio-visual media isn't your thing...
THE CHRIS AND KEVIN SHOW
Raw opened with Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho back together again. Their falling out was all a rouse! A contrived, dramatically unsatisfying rouse! They never really fully explained why Jericho had to keep his motivations secret from Owens. It's not like there's any consequences to heels cheating on Raw. And then why reveal everything the night after, because then you'll get you in trouble with management anyway - the exact thing your month-long plan tried to avoid.
General Manager Mick Foley came down to the ring to address just that right here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Which ended up being cheap heat rather than a cheap pop. They were in Columbus, Ohio.
To make sure Jericho could interfere no longer, he announced that Y2J will be in a shark cage suspended above the ring for Roman Reigns' Royal Rumble rematch! And then there was some entertaining stuff where Jericho got locked in the cage, and they accidentally started hoisting it up in the ai-wait a second? Roman Reigns is getting another title shot? What about his US Championship? Why's Seth Rollins cool with that? Kevin Owens is next on his Road To Triple H-Mania after beating Jericho...God dammit, WWE.
Other than that, it's just nice to have Kevin and Chris back together again. Their act is the only thing making the men's main event picture bearable. I just wished Jericho was stuck in the cage above the ring for at least Raw's first hour. By having him down after the first commercial break, they missed out on some great heckling potential.
The main event was set up as Reigns and Rollins vs Owens and Jericho. Here's the stuff that happened in between...
RUSEV BEAT BIG CASS
Big Cass got disqualified for not stopping a corner beatdown on Rusev in the feud's second screwy finish in as many nights, but it was Enzo who was sent to 'sensitivity training'.
These skits with a teacher, Darren Young, Bob Backlund, Jinder Mahal and someone I'm pretty sure was Bo Dallas ran throughout the night, and is another example of Raw's admirable attempts at coming up with more creative segments.
Strangely, the concept of Enzo attending the sensitivity course works as a meta joke on WWE's Attitude Era tone - Amore - trying to find its place in 2016's PG product. WWE made their thoughts on the matter clear: Rusev and Jinder beat up the Attitude Era at the end of the course.
CEDRIC ALEXANDER BEAT NOAM DAR
Cedric Alexander and Noam Dar fought over Alicia Fox in this Cruiserweight match, which was notable for two reasons:
1) the reactions Cedric got from the crowd for his moveset - notable in that, he actually got reactions (not the norm for Cruiserweights so far) - and...
2) former TNA and Ring of Honor champion Austin Aries making his Raw debut. Because he's out with injury right now, he was only there to reprise his 205 Live commentary role, but you can tell he's impressing the right people backstage with this kind of exposure.
Foley unveiled new red tag team championship belts to Sheamus and Cesaro, an early Christmas gift that irked former champions The New Day. After Kofi Kingston pointed out how Ric Flair had to lose his title 15 times to become the record-setting 16-time champ, Big E replied: "and that'll be Charlotte in a month."
Joke of the Year!
Somehow this segment became a pointless 8-man tag with Sheamus, Cesaro and the New Day vs the Shining Stars and Galanderson. Cesaro continued his brilliant run of late, making Epico tap with a giant swing into a sharpshooter. It's great to see him win a match with a different move.
After his heel turn at Roadblock: End of the Line the previous night, Neville explained his actions with an in-ring promo. I was worried about how he'd fare here. He never really impressed me on the mic before. But he nailed it, obliterating both Rich Swann and TJ Perkins afterwards. Neville had his new vicious persona down perfectly.
Someone actually sold a match from the night before! Banks came out wearing a knee brace and holding a crutch to deliver her usual women making history and first ever Hell in a Cell match lines - no Eddie Guerrero reference, though - until Nia Jax beat her up.
This means Charlotte is finally moving onto face Bayley, which began with the Hugger winning a non-title match. The finish was disputed, though, as Charlotte had a shoulder up.
The main event was Raw's standard Reigns/Rollins/Jericho/Owens combination. The genius came in the converging of two storylines.
Braun Strowman had been on a rampage of destruction throughout the night - flipping tables, taking out Titus O'Neil and Sin Cara, and at one point, being so strong he actually managed to beat up Christmas.
Strowman came down at the end of the main event match and beat down Reigns for the DQ. Owens and Jericho scampered while Braun did the same to Seth. This was a great way to smoothly transition Strowman from the mid-card right into the main event. It's just like when Ryback suddenly jumped from squashing jobbers to challenging CM Punk for the title all those years ago. But hopefully this works out better.
Here's the usual ratings recap, from top to bottom - In Awe, Cor, AVERAWGE, Poor and Bore.
This week's Raw is a solid AveRAWge.
This Raw was nothing special, but it was nothing bad either. And that is a genuinely refreshing change. Every single segment was part of a night-long storyline. Enzo's sensitivity classes, Braun's rampage, Kevin and Chris' shark cage - they all weaved through the night, preventing Raw from just feeling like a series of disconnected farts in an empty arena.
But what did you all think? Let me know in the comments down below.