With the Royal Rumble just two weeks away and the ranks of the Rumble Match itself starting to fill up, Raw began with the biggest meeting yet of potential favorites to prevail in the manic match. What began as an address from recently dethroned United States Champion Roman Reigns quickly turned tense with the arrival of WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens, current U.S. Champion (and new Grand Slam Champion) Chris Jericho, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman and, finally, Brock Lesnar.
But it was the sudden return of Sami Zayn — taken out by Strowman two weeks ago — that lit the proverbial fuse on the whole thing, instigating an all-out brawl. And Lesnar ultimately had the last word in said brawl when he stormed the ring and annihilated Rollins and Zayn (Strowman opted out of a fight) before delivering one last F-5 to Reigns.
With Raw Tag Team Champions Cesaro & Sheamus both declaring for the Royal Rumble Match, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson went into their championship challenge with one simple strategy: divide and conquer. The idea being, with Cesaro & Sheamus at cross-purposes in the long term (only one of them can win the Rumble Match), they’d be easier to pick apart in a title match. The good news? It worked.
The bad news? It worked a little too well. The good brothers did indeed get Cesaro & Sheamus to pursue independent agendas, but while Cesaro simply wanted to win the match, Sheamus, who had been brutalized by both Gallows & Anderson for the whole match, was simply out for payback. The Irishman stormed the ring after one such cheap shot and laid into anything that moved — including, inadvertently, the official. A replacement ref came down in time to count a Magic Killer pinfall on Cesaro moments later, but once the first zebra came to, the call was reversed to a disqualification win for the good brothers and, with it, a title retention for the champions. And they were pretty mad-ski about that, decking Sheamus with a second Magic Killer in retaliation.
Both squadrons of Raw’s six-man main event spent the lead-up the match planning for the long game in the Royal Rumble Match (Sami Zayn even attempted a Shield fist bump), but the lingering lesson of the bout may well be that the 30-man melee is, at heart, anyone’s game. The bout broke down before the bell even rang and continued to do so at various intervals throughout the contest, with Roman Reigns often taking the worst of the punishment from Jeri-KO (KO in particular) and Braun Strowman.
Seth Rollins gave his team some relief by beating back Jericho and helping chop Strowman down to a knee with Reigns, but unfortunately, even a weakened Strowman was too much for legal man Zayn — The Monster Among Men snuffed out Sami’s Helluva Kick attempt and won the match with a Runnng Powerslam. But when he tried to put Sami Zayn through the announce table, Rollins and Reigns came to the rescue, instigating a massive brawl that ended with Owens powerbombing Reigns through the announce table. The Rumble Match may be anybody’s game, but as far as the WWE Universal Title Match goes? For now, it’s advantage: Owens.
In other action … Enzo Amore & Big Cass def. Rusev & Jinder Mahal … Ariya Daivari def. Lince Dorado … Neville attacked WWE Cruiserweight Champion Rich Swann … Bayley confronted Raw Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair … and Cedric Alexander def. The Brian Kendrick.