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RAW Rundown: Previewing the January 13th Episode

Hello AW Universe,

We’re now less than two weeks away from Royal Rumble, live on the WWE Network and PPV on Sunday 26 January, and the road the event rolls through Lexington, KY for tonight’s Monday Night Raw, with rivalries deepening as the event draws nearer.

He’s a look at some of the things we can expect tonight.

Brock Lesnar is scheduled to appear again tonight, following his announcement last week that the reigning, defending, undisputed WWE Champion would be entering the Rumble match as the #1 entrant. Are we going to get some clarification as to whether his title will be on the line in the match, or if someone is going to stand up and challenge Brock as the #2 entrant? Lesnar only shows up for particular reasons, so there has to be something coming that’ll frame the Rumble match in a clearer light, right?

AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton– After weeks of antagonizing one another– last week AJ taunted Orton by using The Viper’s move-set in his match against Akira Tozawa last week, after Orton– in what might be the promo of the year so far– feigned a serious knee injury before blindsiding AJ– the two are finally going to face-off in the ring tonight. Is this already a blow-off for a mini-feud, or is this the first meeting in a longer program that’ll actually blow-off at WrestleMania 35 (Vince McMahon may not care for numbers for WM, but dammit, I do).

Aleister Black Vs. Buddy Murphy III- This is interesting. The matches between these two have been good– despite the fact that Murphy still rocks the dumbest trunks in the business, and could use a new haircut– but after Black went 2-0 in their first two matches, I figured this short rivalry was over and Black was moving onto bigger things, i.e. challenging Lesnar and stepping up as the #2 entrant in the Rumble. I suppose that this could still happen; Black beats Murphy in the opening match, then challenges Lesnar. But I get the feeling that this is going to now be an extended feud, which could be fine. The more these two work with one another, the better their in-ring chemistry will be, so they could end up putting on a 20-minute barn burner.

Rusev has apparently vowed to” bring back the ‘Bulgarian Brute'” against Lashley, meaning that this mostly glorious, Attitude-era trash opera is about to be infused with some edgier aggression. I love it. There has been a lot of consternation amongst wrestling fans that both Rusev and Lashley have be misused in a comedy act for the past couple months. But, in the end, it’s risen both their stocks in the eyes of the company– this segment has been a ratings coup for WWE– and fans, with the “Rusev Day” chants being the loudest at most TV events. Here’s hoping that the campy comedy takes a bit of backseat to a ruthless feud that’ll make all of this worth it.

Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe, and Big Show Vs. Seth Rollins and The AOP in the first-ever Fist Fight– You’re probably asking “What the hell is a Fist Fight?” Well, you’re not the only one:

This has been a good little rivalry so far: positioning Kevin Owens as the top babyface on Raw, re-introducing Samoa Joe onto the active roster as a badass, making Seth Rollins into a shit-talking heel and giving him some cronies to back him up, and giving Big Show a nice return pop in what very well might be his last run in WWE. But the setup for this match is just… weird. It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen when it’s not very clear what is going to take place. The bigger question is what it means heading towards Royal Rumble and beyond with these six wrestlers.

The Rumble is close, which is a fun time on the pro wrestling calendar.