WWE Raw Recap: December 17, 2018
S26 episode 51 Aired on December 17, 2018

On a night that the entire McMahon family revealed they would be overseeing both Raw and SmackDown and making the WWE Universe “The Authority,” Natalya celebrated Team Red’s new beginning with a Gauntlet Match victory, earning a Raw Women’s Championship Match against her best friend, Ronda Rousey, next Monday night on Christmas Eve.

When Mr. McMahon appears, he tends to leave Raw looking much different than he found it. And on a night when he promised to “shake things up” on the Red brand, The Chairman made his most sweeping change to the WWE landscape in years, announcing that the McMahon family — himself, Stephanie, Shane and Triple H — would collectively oversee both Monday Night Raw and SmackDown LIVE.

The move, as Stephanie explained, was a corrective to recent weeks where the first family had failed to listen to their audience and instead allowed petty grievances to take over. Shane’s SmackDown LIVE was included as part of the family’s plan to “empower” the Superstars and the audience. The Game followed up with a promise to the audience that “as of now, you are The Authority,” with an additional vow to introduce fresh matchups and fresh Superstars. Those new faces were later confirmed to be NXT standouts Lacey Evans, Tucker Knight & Otis Dozovic, aka Heavy Machinery, Nikki Cross, EC3 and the previously-announced Lars Sullivan, though it was not clear which brand they would be competing on.

Mr. McMahon had what was intended to be the last word — “As long as we give you less of what you don’t want and more of what you do, WWE will always be then, now and forever” — but the celebration was cut short by the arrival of Baron Corbin, who lost out on the opportunity to be the permanent General Manager of Raw at WWE TLC. To the very vocal displeasure of the audience, The Lone Wolf bemoaned the “unfair” turn of events that had robbed him of power the night before and asked the family for a “conversation.”

Never let it be said the McMahon family isn’t a sporting clan. Despite the WWE Universe’s overwhelming desire to see Baron Corbin hit the bricks, WWE’s first family gave The Lone Wolf one final chance to win the permanent Raw General Manager gig … provided he won his way back to the position. To put it lightly, it did not go well.

While Corbin certainly held his own against his originally announced opponent, Kurt Angle, Triple H turned the tables (and gave Corbin a taste of his own medicine) by reconfiguring the bout into a Handicap Match on the spot. Suddenly, Corbin had to deal with Apollo Crews, Bobby Roode and Chad Gable as well, all of whom joined in on a beatdown that special guest referee Heath Slater conveniently missed out on, given a sudden preoccupation with the security of the turnbuckles.

He needn’t have bothered with the pretense. Shane McMahon emerged to add a No Disqualification wrinkle to the match, and all four Superstars — and Slater — gleefully pummeled The Lone Wolf with chairs and finishing maneuvers, culminating with an Angle Slam from The Olympic Hero for the 1-2-3. The fans even managed to get in on the action as well — their chants of “we want tables” were rewarded when Crews, Roode and Gable broke out the pine and Angle drove Corbin through it, giving the people exactly what they wanted.

Ronda Rousey doesn’t want to talk about it. The WWE Universe may have wanted to hear about it, but they were denied: Rousey would not provide justification for why she took out Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair at WWE TLC and paved the way for Asuka to win the SmackDown Women’s Championship, other than that she warned them not to cross her. What Rousey wanted was a fight, and she decided to start a new tradition in which the champion defends her title every night after a pay-per-view, no matter her condition. She’ll get what she wants, but she’ll have to wait a week, and she’ll be facing a somewhat unexpected opponent: Natalya.

Given that there were no shortage of takers and Stephanie McMahon was “done playing favorites,” Rousey’s next challenger was determined by an Eight-Woman Gauntlet Match that was dominated in the early stretch by Bayley, who defeated a canny Alicia Fox and a house-on-fire Dana Brooke to start the bout. An attack on The Huggable One’s knee from Brooke left her ripe pickings for Mickie James, who eliminated Bayley, though the six-time Women’s Champion was sent packing moments later by an Eclipse from Ember Moon.

Natalya entered the match fifth and ripped off a trifecta of unanswered victories, rolling up Moon and Ruby Riott to bring it down to the wire against Sasha Banks. The Boss capitalized on Natalya’s wear-and-tear to lock in the Bank Statement, but The Queen of Harts powered out of the hold, and Banks’ second attempt to apply it came up empty. Natalya’s Sharpshooter, however, hit its mark, and The Boss submitted to send The Queen of Harts to a make-or-break title match against Rousey.

Speaking of which, the champion came out to the ring to embrace Natalya and shake her hand. She came to Raw wanting a fight. On Christmas Eve, she’ll get her wish. And as a competitor like Rousey should know, nobody fights you quite like your friends.

In other action … Finn Bálor def. Dolph Ziggler via Disqualification … Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose def. Tyler Breeze (Open Challenge) … Elias smashed a guitar over Bobby Lashley's back … and The Revival def. The Lucha House Party, AOP and The B-Team to earn a Raw Tag Team Championship Match against Bobby Roode & Chad Gable.

Season 26 episode guides