Raw Recap: December 18, 2017
Aired on December 18, 2017

PROVIDENCE, RI — After Braun Strowman and Kane battled to a double count-out in a match that was supposed to determine which of them would challenge Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title at Royal Rumble, the two giants came to Raw demanding a championship match come January. Unwilling to let the decision happen without his “input,” Lesnar — with Paul Heyman in tow — confronted Strowman and Kane right as they were making their cases to Raw General Manager Kurt Angle.

But before Lesnar could throw down with Raw’s resident colossi, The Olympic Hero declared on the spot that Brock would defend his title against both Strowman and Kane in a Triple Threat Match and left the ring immediately before the physicality started. When it did, Lesnar got the better of both Braun and Kane, though The Big Red Machine sat right up following the F-5 that temporarily put him down.

Three years ago, Finn Bálor made his very first NXT appearance as Hideo Itami’s partner against The Ascension. This week, the first-ever Universal Champion returned the favor. After The Miztourage ganged up on Bálor during their Handicap Match began (technically earning Finn a disqualification win for that contest), Itami arrived to even the odds, and Bálor demanded the bout be re-started as a tag team contest with the strong-style legend at his side.

The two hadn’t lost a step. The Miztourage wisely kept to their original game plan and isolated Finn while Itami prowled on the apron, but once Bálor reached the Japanese brawler, the match wrapped up in a hurry. Given that Itami had been scheduled to debut as a Cruiserweight on tomorrow’s 205 Live, Curtis Axel was utterly unprepared to answer the array of kicks and fists that brought him to his knees in short order. An assist from Bálor disposed of Bo Dallas, and Axel met his fate at the hands of a ruthless Go to Sleep — a sight that’s likely to lead to a sleepless night for the Superstars of 205 Live.

Absolution technically lost their announced match against Bayley, Sasha Banks & Mickie James by disqualification when Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville ganged up on Banks. That aggression brought out Nia Jax, who dropped Rose and Deville with a double Samoan Drop, and the rest of the Women’s division bolted to the ring when Paige took Nia down with a chop block. Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon's entrance stopped the action cold right as the brawl was beginning to escalate, but nobody could have predicted what was going to happen next.

The Commissioner’s arrival typically precedes some kind of discipline, but she had something else in mind for the division: An opportunity. After reminding the women of the strides they had made over the past two years and the barriers they continue to break, Stephanie announced that they would make history yet again this January with the first-ever Women’s Royal Rumble Match, an announcement that stirred up powerful emotions in every Superstar from Sasha Banks to Paige to Mickie James, Alicia Fox and Dana Brooke. Raw may be going live on Christmas next week, but this will be a difficult gift to top.

In other action … Seth Rollins def. Jason Jordan … Cedric Alexander def. Drew Gulak to earn the right to challenge Enzo Amore for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship … Asuka def. Alicia Fox … Raw Tag Team Champions Cesaro & Sheamus & Samoa Joe def. Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan … “Woken” Matt Hardy presented the battlefield of "The Great War" … The Revival def. Heath Slater & Rhyno … and Elias declared for the 2018 Royal Rumble Match.

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