Welcome to week three of “RAW is WAR: 2009 vs. 2019.” This is a 52-week project to determine which year of Monday Night Raw was better: 2009 or 2019. We’ll give as brief of recaps of each show as possible before determining which show was better than week. In the spirit of fairness, I will also list off any nostalgia feelings I had while watching the 2009 episodes (I was 14 when they were on, remember). Whichever year wins the most weeks wins.
We’re tied at one week a piece. Here’s how week three shook down.
Jan. 19, 2009 Raw in Chicago, IL
- World Heavyweight Champion: John Cena; No. 1 contender: JBL (w/Shawn Michaels)
- Intercontinental Champion: William Regal (w/Layla); No. 1 contender: CM Punk
- Tag Team Champions: John Morrison and The Miz, No. 1 contenders: TBD
- Women’s Champion: Beth Phoenix; No. 1 contender: Melina
- A video recap airs of when the “Vince McMahon Million Dollar Mania” set fell on Vince McMahon in June. This is to hype his return to Raw tonight. Cue hype video
- A six man over-the-top-rope challenge is next featuring Randy Orton, Kofi Kingston, Kane, Santino Marella, Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes. The lights went out briefly early in the match, which was funny. Santino tries to get Legacy to join him and throw out Kane, but they throw him out instead. Kofi is then eliminated by Rhodes and DiBiase. Kane then eliminates Rhodes and is about to eliminate Orton, but DiBiase came from behind and eliminated Kane and himself to allow Orton to win. Quick match that sets up a storyline for the royal rumble match Sunday of Rhodes and DiBiase helping Orton win. Commercial break
- Kelly Kelly vs. Beth Phoenix is up after the break. Kelly is wearing a Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews shirt (which warms my heart). Kelly hits a few moves, but Phoenix quickly gets the upper hand. She hits the Glam Slam for the quick victory.
- In the locker room, Rhodes tells Orton that there’s a rumor going around that Orton is going to be fired.
- After the commercial, Marella surprises Phoenix with a “gift” — Rosa Mendes as her intern.
- Orton comes into Stephanie McMahon’s office. She says she’s not going to fire him, so he can stop sucking up to her. Orton then says she only has this job because she’s Vince McMahon’s daughter. Stephanie then slaps Orton in the face. Commercial break.
- Out of commercial: CM Punk vs. William Regal (w/Layla) in a No DQ match for the Intercontinental Championship. HUGE pop for Punk in his hometown of Chicago. Punk dominates the first few minutes of the match as we go to commercial. Punk is still in control coming out of the break, but Regal quickly takes advantage with the help of Layla. Punk and Regal eventually start hitting moves on each other, with both getting near-falls. Regal goes for the running knee, Punk moves out of the way, then connects with the GTS to get the win. We have a new Intercontinental Champion! Good back-and-forth in the final few minutes. Didn’t use the No DQ stipulation really, but that was more of a formality. Punk celebrates in the ring in front of his home crowd fans.
- A video recap of last week’s Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena match airs. The “official contract signing” for the Cena vs. JBL World Heavyweight Championship match at the Royal Rumble is up next.
- Jerry Lawler is hosting the contract signing in the ring. Cena signs the contract. JBL signs the contract. A peaceful contract signing? Nah. JBL says his title reign is all but a formality. Cena calls JBL a scumbag. Cena then directs his attention to Michaels, saying that he’s still “got it” after their match last week. “YOU’RE MR. WRESTLEMANIA, NOT JBL’S PUPPET!” Cena exclaims. JBL says he knows Michaels still has it and that’s why he hired him. He hired him to win the world championship, which he plans on doing Sunday. “It’s not personal, it’s merely a business decision,” says JBL. Michaels then yells “SHUT UP!” at JBL. He says he despises what he’s become, but he’ll continue to work for JBL to support his family. Cena then asks Michaels “Will you really be the guy who helps JBL become the next World Heavyweight Champion?” JBL then throws a cheap shot at Cena. JBL then hits the Clothesline from Hell as Michaels walks away. Cena is left laying in the ring. A good promo exchange between the three players involved in the title match at the Royal Rumble.
- Rey Mysterio vs. Mike Knox is after the break. This is the first match between the two after weeks of attacks from Knox. Mysterio goes for the 619 early, but Knox catches him and throws him into the ropes. Knox then continually drops knees into Mysterio’s face, causing a disqualification. Knox then hits his finisher in the middle of the ring to finish the beatdown. Mysterio technically wins the match, but Knox stands tall.
- Back in Stephanie McMahon’s office, where Chris Jericho is there. He says he’s going to plead for his job back to Vince later tonight.
- The Miz and John Morrison are in the ring after the break. They challenge Jim Duggan to a match (yes, he’s still on the roster). Cryme Tyme comes out instead and challenges Miz and Morrison to a match. Shad mentions that Barack Obama is being inaugurated the next day, where Miz responds “I’m a Republican.” That’s an all-time line from Miz. We get a match between the two, where if Cryme Tyme wins, they get a future title opportunity. A pretty quick match ends with Shad pinning Morrison. They’re now the No. 1 contenders for the World Tag Team Championships.
- A royal rumble “by the numbers” video package runs after the commercial break. These are missed in 2019.
- Rhodes is talking to Mickie James backstage. They’re interrupted by Goldust. Goldust is trying to give career advice to Rhodes, but Rhodes says he doesn’t need it. He says he’s partnered with Orton for a reason.
- A limo pulls up to the arena as we go to commercial break.
- After the break, we get Melina vs. Jillian in a match. Beth Phoenix, Rosa Mendes and Santino Marella head towards the ring as the match starts. Quick match sees Melina pin Jillian with a roll-up? Mendes and Phoenix both attack Melina after the match. Phoenix hits the Glam Slam to stand tall.
- Backstage, Vince McMahon introduces himself to Dolph Ziggler, leaving Ziggler speechless. McMahon is on his way to the ring … we think.
- After the commercial, we get a recap video of the contract signing from earlier in the show.
- Here is McMahon! With the vintage strut and everything. He says tonight is about business. He brings out Chris Jericho to “address his grievance.” He asks Mr. McMahon to make things right and re-hire him. Vince then brings Stephanie McMahon to the ring. Vince says he and Stephanie are going to run Raw together. He says its up to Stephanie to give Jericho a second chance, which she will if Jericho apologizes to her. He reluctantly does, but Steph says it isn’t good enough. Steph wants Jericho to apologize to the fans as well, and he has to do it on his knees (the crowd actually cheered for this, lol). Jericho goes down to his knees and actually apologizes. He’s got this smirk on his face, which is great. Awesome heel stuff by Jericho. He has his job back.
- Part 2 of the McMahon segment. Randy Orton’s music hits. Orton says Steph owes him an apology for slapping him in the face. He says people pay to see him, not Steph. Orton tells Vince that ever since Steph “popped out a couple of grandkids,” she’s been essentially worthless. Vince sends an angered Steph back to the backstage area to confront Orton on his own. Vince yells at him, then says he wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for Vince making his dad, Bob Orton, a star. Vince asks for an apology, “or else.” Orton says you don’t want to fire him. McMahon gets ready to fire him, but then Orton slaps him, kicks him and delivers the punt to Vince’s skull. Medics immediately run to the ring to stretcher Vince out of the ring. A jaw-dropping moment as the show comes to an end.
ANALYSIS: A decent show with one shocking, memorable moment at the end. Punk winning the IC title was nice as well, but that was the only match that went more than five minutes basically. This show will always be remembered for Orton punting McMahon in the head to close the show, though. Now THAT’S a way to build up hype for the Royal Rumble.
NOSTALGIA FROM 2009 SHOW: I mean, the punt is one of the most shocking moments from my young wrestling viewing life. Still awesome to watch 10 years later.
Jan. 21, 2019 Raw in Oklahoma City, OK
- Universal Champion: Brock Lesnar; No. 1 contender: Finn Balor (NEW)
- Intercontinental Champion: Bobby Lashley (NEW); No. 1 contender: TBD
- Raw Tag Team Champions: Bobby Roode and Chad Gable; No. 1 contender: TBD
- Raw Women’s Champion: Ronda Rousey; No. 1 contender: Sasha Banks
- A video package honoring Martin Luther King Jr. opens the show. One of the better annual things WWE does.
- Brock Lesnar’s music hits. Here comes The Beast with his advocate, Paul Heyman. Heyman starts talking about Finn Balor winning the fatal four-way last week and how everyone should believe in Finn Balor. He says he believes in Finn Balor too … but that Lesnar will turn Balor into a martyr for all those who believe. “Even miracles fear Brock Lesnar” is a nice little line Heyman says.
- Vince McMahon then interrupts Heyman and Lesnar. He compares Balor vs. Lesnar to “David vs. Goliath.” McMahon and Heyman get a couple of good digs at the OKC crowd.
- Braun Strowman’s music then hits. He says he’s going to rip apart Brock Lesnar.
- Balor then comes out. He says he earned his opportunity to face Lesnar. He says he’s going to beat Lesnar and re-claim the Universal Championship. Strowman then says Balor better beat Lesnar. McMahon then announces a match between Balor vs. Strowman, with Lesnar sitting ringside as we go to commercial break. Decent opening segment, with masterful work on the mic from Heyman once again. Took 25 minutes, though, which may have been due to the MLK video to start.
- We come out of commercial with the match underway. Balor catches Strowman with a sling blade outside the ring to gain control midway through the match. Balor locks in a sleeper hold, playing up the “David vs. Goliath” mantra this match was built on. Balor goes to the top rope, but Strowman throws Balor into Lesnar’s hands, who suplexed Balor. Cool-looking spot, but somehow wasn’t a DQ. Lesnar and Strowman have a stare down, but then Balor takes out Lesnar from behind. He keeps on focusing on Lesnar, but then Strowman tosses him back into the ring. Balor counters Strowman, eventually setting up the coup de grace. Lesnar than comes in and hits an F-5 on Balor, actually causing a DQ. Good segment, served its purpose heading into the pay-per-view Sunday.
- The Bobby Lashley Intercontinental Championship celebration is next. Lio Rush, his hype man, is on the mic. Rush has Lashley stand on a podium to do all of his “posses.” Apollo Crews’ music hits. Crews says nobody paid their hard-earned money to pose. He then challenges Lashley to a non-title match. Rush counters with a “pose-off” instead. The pose-off ensues, with Crews actually showing some much-needed personality. Lashley attacks Crews from behind mid-pose, but Crews fights him and Rush off. Commercial break.
- Lashley vs. Crews in an actual match happening after the commercial break. Crews dominates most of the match, despite the best efforts by Rush to distract him. The distractions ultimately do come back to haunt Crews, though, as Lashley hits a spear for the victory.
- Seth Rollins’ music hits. He and Lashley have a stare down in the aisleway as we go to commercial. Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre is coming up next
- McIntyre cuts a promo walking to the ring, basically saying he’s going to win the royal rumble match. We then go to another commercial before the match even begins.
- We come back from commercial with the match underway. McIntyre is in control for the early parts of the match, using his bruising style. McIntyre hits an Alabama Slam on the floor as we go to commercial. We come out of commercial and Rollins is in control. A very good match between two of the best on Raw. A “This is awesome” chant breaks out from the crowd. McIntyre hits a killer sequence of moves, but Rollins somehow kicks out. Rollins then pins McIntyre with a roll-up. A quick, surprising end to a fun match.
- Backstage, The Revival are asking Mr. McMahon for another Raw Tag Team Championship match. They ask for a special guest referee, which McMahon then makes Curt Hawkins that. Not sure if this means we get the title match tonight, but it’s going to happen eventually. Commercial break.
- Dean Ambrose is cutting a promo backstage, saying not being the IC champ is an injustice. He says he’s coming for both Rollins and Lashley in the royal rumble match. He says he owes it himself to win the royal rumble match. “Justice will be served.”
- In the ring, we have a six-man match between Lucha House Party vs. Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers (a.k.a. the Bollywood Boyz). Gran Metalik pins one of the Singh brothers after a back breaker. About as “filler” as you can get.
- EC3 vignette airs next hyping up his debut on the main roster. Dana Brooke then talks to him backstage. Elias walks past him. “Raw walks with Elias!” next.
- WWE stands for “WALK WITH ELIAS!” Elias says he’s going to win the royal rumble. Baron Corbin interrupts. Corbin says typical heel stuff, Elias responds with a song reminding Corbin got fired. The two are in a match after the commercial break. We come back from break and Corbin is in control. Elias mounts a mini-comeback, but a cheap shot and an End of Days gives Corbin the win. A literal repeat of their match from two weeks prior.
- “A Moment of Bliss” with Alexa Bliss is next. Bliss announces all of the participants of the women’s royal rumble match before introducing Nia Jax as her guest. Ember Moon interrupts, saying she is going to win the royal rumble. Alicia Fox then comes out and says the same thing. Follow suit with Mickie James. More women come out and cause a scene. Jax shoves Moon, and chaos ensues. The brawl spills out into the backstage area, leaving Bliss alone on the stage. Bliss then announces she’ll be competing in the rumble match, her first in-ring action in a while. Lacey Evans then comes out, saying she’ll be the winner of the royal rumble match, a “classy, sophisticated lady.”
- Heavy Machinery (Otis Dozovic and Tucker Knight) are shown walking to the ring as we go to commercial break.
- Titus O’Neil cuts a promo saying he’s entering the royal rumble match.
- Heavy Machinery vs. The Ascension is next. Otis Dozovic is so damn funny looking, but also a good wrestler. Same thing with Knight. This is a showcase match for Heavy Machinery. They take care of The Ascension in short time. Dozovic and Knight looked good, showing off their entertainment value as well.
- Revival vs. Gable and Roode for the tag titles (with Curt Hawkins as special guest referee) is up after the break. Both teams get some offense in as we go into another commercial break. Hawkins catches Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson cheating three different times to try and win the match. Gable then rolls-up Dawson for the win to retain their titles. Dawson and Wilder beat down Hawkins following the match. Zack Ryder comes in for the save. Ryder and Hawkins were once a tag team in the past. Maybe a reunion of sorts?!?!?!
- Ronda Rousey is interviewed backstage ahead of the main event match: Rousey and Natalya vs. Sasha Banks and Bayley. Rousey says she’s had nothing but respect for Banks, but has received nothing but disrespect from Banks in return. Rousey says that she’s “The Boss’” boss and will show her that at the Royal Rumble Sunday. Rousey walks to the ring as we cut to commercial break.
- Main event time! Before the match, Banks tells Rousey that she’s going to tap her out at the Royal Rumble. Banks throws a cheap shot at Rousey as the match starts. Natalya and Rousey eventually stand tall as we go to commercial break. Natalya is in control of Bayley as we come out of break. Banks tags in, as does Rousey. Banks puts the Bank Statement on Rousey, but Natalya breaks it up. Rousey beats down on Bayley, but Bayley then counters and gets Banks back in the match. Rousey teases putting the armbar on, but can’t. Natalya comes in and beats down Banks. She locks in the Sharpshooter, but Bayley breaks it up. Bayley takes out Rousey, Natalya takes out Bayley, which allows Banks to put the Bank Statement on Natalya for the win. “Sasha proves the Bank Statement works!” exclaims Michael Cole. Banks and Rousey get into a screaming match as Raw goes off the air.
ANALYSIS: A solid go-home edition of Raw. Nothing was great, but there weren’t many low points on the show either. The Corbin/Elias and tag title matches were bad, but everything else was good-enough. It feels like the Royal Rumble hype peaked two weeks ago in terms of show quality.
WINNER: 2009. Orton punting McMahon is one of the most iconic heel moments in modern wrestling history. For that alone, 2009 wins this week. Match quality was better in 2019 (which is tends to be), but the promo work of the JBL/Michaels/Cena segment and the final segment of the show edges 2009 over 2019 for me.
SCORE: 2009 Raw 2, 2019 Raw 1