The Year of the Beast began in bombastic fashion, as Universal Champion Brock Lesnar found himself in a wild brawl with Kane, requiring a small army of WWE Superstars to restore the peace. Will The Big Red Machine bring that same fire when he faces The Beast Incarnate and Braun Strowman in a titanic Triple Threat Match at the Royal Rumble event?
It’s a new year, and Raw General Manager Kurt Angle’s first order of business rang in 2018 with good tidings for the WWE Universe: Announcing that the first-ever Women’s Royal Rumble Match would be contested under the exact same rules as the longstanding Men’s match. That means 30 entrants, eliminations occur when Superstars go over the top rope and both feet touch the floor, and the winner gets a championship match at WrestleMania.
After that, however, it was back to business as usual, with Cesaro & Sheamus protesting Angle’s decision to pair his son Jason Jordan with Seth Rollins last week — an impromptu union that led to The Bar losing their Raw Tag Team Titles — and demanding a rematch. Angle turned them down on that front, but the confrontation did bring out Jordan and lead to a match between the young titleholder and Cesaro. At that point, Rollins arrived to even the odds and, more importantly, dispel some wisdom.
In The Architect’s eyes, Jordan had a lot to learn about being a teammate, specifically to avoid rushing into a 2-on-1 disadvantage without thinking how such a decision could impact the team. Rollins dished out some tough love to a chastised Jordan, saying while he would be at ringside for the sake of his partner and their titles, he didn’t have high hopes for the “self-absorbed” Jordan's chances against Cesaro. As if to illustrate Rollins’ point, The King of Swing attacked Jordan from behind and sent him careening out of the ring, kicking off their match in earnest.
Consider the curse broken. Roman Reigns didn’t just score his first-ever singles win over Samoa Joe in their Intercontinental Title rematch, he got retribution for Dean Ambrose, defended the honor of The Shield and managed to navigate a stipulation that would have cost The Big Dog his title if he got himself disqualified.
That caveat was a result of the excessive aggression that both got Roman disqualified last week and earned him a $5,000 fine for shoving referee John Cone. This time around, The Big Dog had to toe a fine line when it came to carrying the flag for the injured Ambrose while also keeping his anger in check to retain his title (especially with Cone donning the stripes again), and Joe took advantage of Reigns’ hesitance early in the match. Even by his standards, The Samoan Submission Machine was in rare form, blistering Reigns with offense that left the champion out on his feet and searching wildly for an answer.
Even when Roman got himself back into the match, he flirted close enough with a disqualification on several occasions that the ref pulled him off and stopped his momentum cold, allowing Joe to reassert himself. And Joe seemed to successfully exploit the loophole when he shoved Reigns into Cone, setting off a confrontation that may have led to a disqualification if Joe hadn’t pressed his attack, landing a Uranage that continued the match. An irate Joe locked in the Coquina Clutch moments later, but Reigns had one move left in the tank, throwing Joe over his shoulder and pouncing with a sternum-shattering Spear to put the instant classic to a close.
Kane may be the living embodiment of single-minded destruction, but even he knows beating Brock Lesnar is going to require some strategy. But while The Big Red Machine certainly showed his smarts by offering Braun Strowman the chance to join forces as WWE’s “alpha monsters” and take down Lesnar at Royal Rumble, The Monster Among Men remained firmly on Team Braun.
So, when Lesnar and Paul Heyman arrived to ring in “The Year of The Beast” and promise domination at Royal Rumble despite the “stacked deck” Lesnar had to fight through once again, Kane made it a point to interfere.
Strowman was nowhere to be found when The Devil’s Favorite Demon hit the scene (he was watching from the backstage area), but Kane held his ground against The Beast Incarnate anyway, planting Lesnar with a thunderous Chokeslam that seemingly put him down … until Lesnar sat bolt upright a la The Big Red Machine himself and sent his foe tumbling over the top rope, instigating a fight at ringside that required most of the locker room to quell as Raw went off the air.
In other action … Raw Tag Team Champion Jason Jordan def. Cesaro … Bray Wyatt def. Apollo Crews … Asuka def. Raw Women's Champion Alexa Bliss … Braun Strowman def. Heath Slater & Rhyno … and Finn Bálor, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson def. Elias & The Miztourage.