Coming out of the weekend, the No. 1 complaint about the Royal Rumble was that Samoa Joe did not debut on the event. WWE answered those concerns Monday, as Samoa Joe arrived on Raw and was instantly inserted into a high-profile feud.
Triple H finally made his return to television Monday, as he felt Saturday was the last straw, when Seth Rollins invaded NXT to try to get his hands on "The Game." At the end of the night, he came out, responding to all of Rollins verbal attacks (including what Rollins had said earlier about finding Triple H wherever he would go, even his own home). He stood in the ring and told Rollins to come out so he could finally get what he deserved. Rollins came out, and it seemed like we would finally get the physical confrontation that was five months in the making.
As Rollins got to ringside though, he was blindsided by someone, who was quickly revealed to be Samoa Joe. Joe threw Rollins around ringside before dragging him into the ring and locking in the Coquina Clutch, choking Rollins out as the show went off the air.
Joe's debut is something that fans had been waiting for seemingly for a year. Every time it seemed time for someone from NXT to come up, Joe was one of the first names mentioned, and people continued to fantasy book him into every scenario.
Fans were extremely disappointed he didn't debut in the Rumble match. However, looking at what happened 24 hours later, it's hard to argue that this wasn't even better for Joe.
If Joe had debuted in the Rumble, knowing that they had no plans for him to win it, it's very likely that he would have been lost in the shuffle of everything going on. The Rumble already had its buzzsaws in Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar, so it's hard to have seen him do something with as much impact in the Rumble as he did on Monday night, choking out one of the top guys in the company. This immediately puts him into one of the top matches for Raw's next pay-per-view, Fastlane.
The one issue is the idea of Joe as, seemingly, Triple H's lackey. Storyline-wise, it makes some sense. Triple H brings up an NXT guy to be what Seth Rollins was supposed to be. The storyline also needed a “mini-boss,” if you will, for Rollins to go over before earning the match against Triple H at Wrestlemania, and give Rollins something to do at Fastlane.
However, it potentially limits him short-term after Fastlane is over. Presumably, Joe and Rollins will be going after each other, and while Rollins has Triple H to look for after the early-March event, Joe may have to start from square one where the only thing about him is that he's acting muscle for Triple H.
That could put him in an awkward position for Wrestlemania, as everyone's eyes turn towards the signature event. That will definitely be something to watch in the upcoming weeks, exactly how WWE positions him for the future while still heating up the Joe/Rollins feud.
Samoa Joe is now in WWE, as the fans celebrate his debut. However, the debut is the easy part. Now we'll see how much they capitalize on that.
The Rest of Raw:
>> The other match that seems clear for Fastlane is the confrontation between Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman. On Raw, Strowman demanded a title shot that Owens promised him last month. Shortly into the match, one that Strowman continued to look dominant in, Reigns' music hit, and he came down to attack Strowman. Roman threw everything he could at Strowman, but even though he knocked Strowman off his feet and “won” the brawl, Strowman quickly was up after. This seems to be a lock for Fastlane, before Reigns moves on to The Undertaker.
>> The one interesting wrinkle was that WWE again brought up some dissension between Owens and Jericho. Owens did not accompany Jericho to ringside when Jericho lost cleanly to Sami Zayn in a non-title match. Jericho took exception to this, and at first did not want to join Owens for his match. He eventually caved, and went to sit at on commentary. However, Braun took him out of the equation quickly by attacking him and sending him through the announce table. You have to think we're going back to teasing the dissension until the blowup toward the Royal Rumble. However, Sami's sudden inclusion in the US title scene is an interesting one. If, and it's a big if, they decide to have Owens hold on to the Universal title until WrestleMania, could Sami be the one to take the US title from Jericho?
>> Paul Heyman came out with Brock Lesnar to cut a promo about Lesnar's continued troubles with Goldberg. Heyman acknowledged that as good as Lesnar was, he has a big blemish on his resume now when it comes to Goldberg. He called it the “Yes, but” situation. So he called out Goldberg, and challenged him to one more match at WrestleMania. We all knew this was coming, and it was a compelling promo by Paul. You can expect Goldberg to accept next week. The only question is what do the two (particularly Goldberg) do between now and then. Could Goldberg/Lesnar end up being for the Universal title? It's possible.
>> Cesaro, Sheamus and Bayley beat Anderson, Gallows and Charlotte when Bayley beat Charlotte with the Bayley-to-Belly. This was definitely more about the women than the tag picture. It keeps Bayley in the title picture, and put her in a good mood for when she went to talk to Sasha after the match. Despite still being injured, Sasha still insisted on a rematch with Nia Jax. Bayley tried to talk her out of it, and Sasha snapped at Bayley, possibly pointing to a heel turn as she continues to be frustrated on Raw. Sasha would later lose to Nia, again, and Bayley had to help her out of the ring. It sure seems like the four women are intertwined and pointing towards a match with all of them in two months.
>> Enzo and Cass beat Rusev and Jinder Mahal. This match felt like the final stamp in the feud between these four. I do wonder if it may also serve to push Enzo and Cass back into the tag scene, as the two really haven't been sniffing the title in quite a while. The Club vs. Enzo and Cass could be a pretty big tag match for WrestleMania if they want to go that route.
>> Neville isn't done with Rich Swann yet. As Neville celebrated his title win, Rich Swann came out and was able to send Neville into retreat with some big kicks. In other cruiserweight action, Tony Nese beat Mustafa Ali.
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