RAW Results courtesy of WWE.com this week.
WWE Raw results, Dec. 31, 2018: Team Red’s “Rowdiest” New Year’s Eve yet
In a massive New Year’s Eve main event, Raw Women’s Champion “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey teamed up with Natalya to stand up to Nia Jax & Tamina. Also on the final Raw of 2018, Dolph Ziggler battled Drew McIntyre in a brutal Steel Cage Match, Apollo Crews earned an Intercontinental Championship opportunity against Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins brought the fight to “The All Mighty” Bobby Lashley.
Drew McIntyre def. Dolph Ziggler (Steel Cage Match)
Dolph Ziggler’s decision to bring Drew McIntyre back to WWE brought him two championships, a revitalized sense of purpose and one of the most successful years of his career. But that friendship fell out, and on New Year’s Eve, The Showoff reaped what he sowed, as the man Ziggler took with him to Raw in the Superstar Shake-up snuffed out The Showoff’s best efforts and left him laying in more ways than one at the end of Steel Cage Match.
Ziggler looked excellent in defeat, leading to a far more dignified New Year’s Eve than his infamously messy 2012 finale, but that’s cold comfort for a Superstar who went into the match with a solid, impressively executed game plan that even came with a crucial contingency: After attempting to out-brawl The Scottish Psychopath in grueling and unsuccessful fashion, Ziggler switched tactics and went for the escape. But that landed him a superplex off the cage, and despite Ziggler executing a quick-strike Zig Zag that served as a last best shot, McIntyre dropped his former partner with a lights-out Claymore that bulldozed The Showoff clean off his feet.
The Scottish Psychopath refused to cover his opponent for three until after he’d administered a second Claymore more or less for fun, but he saved the true demonstration for after the match when Ziggler goaded his former partner into a heinous post-match assault that ended in a chair-assisted kick to The Showoff’s head. (Ziggler later made it back to his feet one more time and received a third Claymore for his efforts).
The story of Drew McIntyre in 2018 was one of reintroduction to an audience and a locker room who forgot who he is or perhaps never had the chance to learn in the first place. He even reminded the audience on the mic for good measure after the match. But with a Men’s Royal Rumble berth secured and a potential Universal Title Match on his mind, 2019 is looking to be a very different story: Everyone knows who he is now. The question at this point is if anyone can stop him.
Triple H confronted Seth Rollins
An impromptu performance review was likely not the way Seth Rollins wanted to close out the hottest year of his career, but there The Kingslayer was, staring down Triple H in a confrontation with the man who had gone from his biggest benefactor to his harshest critic.
The Game was less than impressed that Rollins was asking for his Intercontinental Title rematch — both because automatic rematch clauses are a thing of the past and because Triple H wasn’t sure Rollins was entitled to anything, no matter how many classics he had put on in 2018. (For the record, it was a lot). What The King of Kings wanted was his old ruthless protégé back, and Rollins obliged with a furious promise to burn his way through Bobby Lashley (his opponent tonight), Dean Ambrose, and anybody up to and including Brock Lesnar and the entire McMahon family, should they get in his way.
With Rollins revving up, Shane McMahon arrived to cool things down and clear the ring for the “Fresh Start Battle Royal” that would determine Ambrose’s next challenger for the Intercontinental Championship.
Apollo Crews won a Fresh Start Battle Royal to earn an Intercontinental Championship Match against Dean Ambrose
Few Superstars could benefit from a fresh start better than Apollo Crews, who has made a double-edged name for himself as a Superstar with limitless potential and limited accolades to show for it. Fittingly enough, Crews earned the chance for just such a reset by winning the appropriately-named “Fresh Start Battle Royal” to earn an Intercontinental Title Match against Dean Ambrose.
He didn’t exactly run through a field of also-rans to do it, either: Finn Bálor and Baron Corbin were the big-name contestants in the melee, but all of Crews’ opponents had displayed flashes of brilliance throughout 2018, from championship reigns (The B-Team) to viral sensations (Titus O’Neil) to impressive Open Challenge appearances (Tyler Breeze and Mojo Rawley). Even the still-winless Curt Hawkins had a claim to fame, and to a man, they were all hungry to reach the next level.
And almost to a man, they were eliminated by Crews. Apollo notched eight tosses in the bout before Corbin took over and thinned the field by tossing Bálor, Zack Ryder (fighting hard in what was, remarkably, his first Raw match of the year) and, finally, Hawkins. Crews picked up right where he left off, though, earning the victory by catching the surging Corbin with two step-up enziguiris to notch his final elimination.
The Intercontinental Title has long been considered the championship of the workhorses or the proverbial next-guy-up. Apollo Crews has been both of those for a while; perhaps this is the night his number finally gets called.
Elias confronted Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin found out, albeit begrudgingly, that Elias will be getting a fresh start of his own one way or another when the guitarist interrupted Corbin’s venting session after the Fresh Chance Battle Royal (in his defense, being GM-Elect does seem like a thankless job) to take the disgraced former General Manager-Elect to task. Corbin tried to throw hands, but Elias answered in savage fashion, beating The Lone Wolf about the ring and driving a production crate into his ribs. Corbin beat a hasty retreat, while Elias was understandably all smiles: His 2018 was defined, for the most part, by falling inches short of a major victory. But if tonight was any indication, he’ll be starting the new year off right.
Sasha Banks, Bayley & Ember Moon def. The Riott Squad
With the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships on the horizon, the various Superstars of the Team Red Women’s division are looking to get ahead of the competition. And, for all the ups and downs of their 2018, The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection are still the team to beat: The duo teamed with Ember Moon to earn their second consecutive Six-Woman Tag Team victory, this time against the close-knit trio of The Riott Squad (who are planning to Freebird any potential Women’s Tag Titles they might win, according to Renee Young on commentary).
The Squad, as always, gave as good as they got, inching toward victory off the back of some impressive tandem maneuvers and an MVP performance from Sarah Logan, who was such a one-woman wrecking crew that Ember Moon had to take out both Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan at ringside to create a numbers advantage. The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection made short work of the outnumbered Logan, dropping her with the one-two of a Backstabber and top-rope elbow drop. It was a big win, with one interesting wrinkle: All six Superstars are scheduled to compete in the Women’s Royal Rumble Match. In other words, they might be partners down the stretch. But before then, it’ll be every woman for herself.
Bobby Lashley def. Seth Rollins via Disqualification
Give Seth Rollins credit for knowing his audience of one: He didn’t win the match Triple H gave him against Bobby Lashley, but The Kingslayer went for the next best thing and beat The All Mighty all across the Detroit city limits in a display that could only be called ruthless if one was going for understatements.
That Lashley technically got the win via disqualification will likely be little comfort to him since he came off as a Superstar who clearly messed with the wrong guy at the wrong time. Lio Rush got involved twice in the middle of the match — he and Lashley were all business and taking no chances; The All Mighty didn’t even pose — and when Rush attempted to interfere a third time, Rollins chased him down only to be blindsided by the former ECW Champion. And then, Rollins, rather than win the match, opted to give Triple H the ruthlessness he demanded, whaling on Lashley and Rush with a steel chair — cue the disqualification — before flattening The Man of the Hour with a Stomp. It wasn’t a display befitting the marathon man of 2018, but it was very similar to the heartless marauder of years past. And if the Raw Superstars thought workhorse Seth Rollins was a handful, just wait till they have to deal with the other guy all over again.
Jinder Mahal & The Singh Brothers def. Heath Slater & Rhyno (3-on-2 Handicap Match)
Rhyno’s back, but the honeymoon for him and Heath Slater was short lived. Jinder Mahal and The Singh Brothers — the same trio that Rhyno humiliated during his Yuletide return last week — got their payback against Beauty and The Man Beast in a 3-on-2 Handicap Match, despite an all-world effort from the hometown hero. Rhyno pretty much singlehandedly dismantled the trio, but the numbers game proved too much to overcome. A misdirection here, an interference there, and Rhyno found himself caught in the Khallas when The One-Man Band leapt off the apron to dispel a meddling Singh. It’s good to have Rhyno back in the fold for several reasons, though clearly his tag team’s fresh start won’t come quite so easily as replenishing their ranks.
Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose def. Apollo Crews
Dean Ambrose is still the Intercontinental Champion, but just barely. Faced with a house-on-fire effort from Apollo Crews, The Lunatic Fringe did not so much win as survive against a Superstar who seemed hellbent on smashing through the glass ceiling at any cost.
Crews came out swinging — or rather kicking, blasting Dean with the double boots straight out of the bell and forcing the champion to go slightly dirty by throwing his foe into the steel steps. With Crews still smarting from the effects of the Battle Royal earlier in the night, that was enough to slow his momentum, but Ambrose couldn’t close, and the challenger slowly but surely crawled back to the advantage.
Now closing in on the title, Crews emptied his arsenal in lightning-quick fashion, from superkicks to suplexes to an astounding standing shooting star press. Ambrose narrowly escaped defeat by reaching the ropes following a standing sit-out powerbomb, but Crews continued to press until he made his only mistake of the match, whiffing on a frog splash when Ambrose rolled out of the way. The champion quickly pounced with Dirty Deeds to retain his title, and while this likely wasn’t the fresh start Apollo Crews wanted, he may well look back on this night as something just as valuable: a first step.
Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey & Natalya def. Nia Jax & Tamina
Next week, Ronda Rousey will be part of a historic event when she’s the inaugural guest on the first-ever talk show hosted by a female Superstar, Alexa Bliss’ “A Moment of Bliss.” But that’s business for 2019. And Rousey’s final WWE appearance of 2018 was, much like the entire year that preceded it, a rousing success.
It was also a continuation of the recent hot streak by Natalya, who challenged Rousey for the title last week and teamed with her this week against Nia Jax & Tamina — the same duo that ambushed The Queen of Harts earlier in the night after she had declared for the Women’s Royal Rumble Match. Rousey came into the match determined to make them pay, blistering both her opponents so thoroughly that the match was looking like a one-woman rout.
Nia & Tamina had much better luck with Natalya, isolating her from The Baddest Woman on the Planet and even maintaining control when Rousey tagged in, thanks to a timely leg drop by Jax. Tamina made a move to close, ascending the top rope for a splash attempt. But Rousey got her feet up to block the maneuver and quickly locked in the Armbar to submit The Sultress of Savagery, capping 2018 with a notch in her win column. It’s anyone’s guess where Rousey goes in 2019, but given the trend of the past 365 days, it’s safe to assume the upward trajectory won’t be leveling off anytime soon.