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Last night’s episode of Monday Night Raw kicked off 2017 for the WWE. I don’t know if I’d say it was with a “BANG” exactly, but the episode was a good ol’ time. Foley has a haircut, and hit the humor he’s been aiming at. Charlotte’s “QUEEN OF PAY-PER-VIEW” nickname is possibly the best thing to come from 2016 in The E, and that’s coming off a pretty strong year for the company. I mean, Roman Reigns even defended the United States Title on this episode!

First Star of the Show – Braun STROWMAN!

Our little Rosebud is all grown up. Destroying everything in sight isn’t anything new for an up and coming BIG MAN, but the spin that Braun puts on this tried and true formula makes it seem fresh again. His “Last Man Standing Match” on Raw with Sami Zayn is the first candidate for WWE TV Match of 2017! These dudes did it all, and by the end you knew Sami Zayn was a tough fellow, but you don’t poke THE BRAUN!

It’s not often you believe Braun Strowman is going to lose a match, or that he has the chance to show his facial range of emotions. Charisma, athleticism, and mass all come together in the perfect mix to create theĀ  HOSS of HOSSES that is Braun Strowman. He may have taken a Double Spear from Goldberg and Roman Reigns to end Raw, but I just liked seeing him in the mix during the “Kevin Owens Show”. He also came out last, which is never a bad sign, especially with the reaction Tampa gave.

Second Star of the Show – Chris Jericho

Chris Jericho has been in my “FAV 5” since he was winning Cruiserweight Titles on Ted the Pothead’s wrasslin’ show in the 90’s. I feel like I’ve seen him more times live than any other pro-wrestler, especially considering the times he’d show up to Vegas randomly for WWE House Shows. You would think at this point, I’d be sick of him, but NO! He came up against the infinitely conditioned hair of Roman Reigns, and made a fun match using some classic heel tactics.

I think everybody loves “THE LIST OF JERICHO”, but he’s just as good at finding little ways to be entertaining in the ring as he is on the mic, which is why he’s as good as any other wrestler ever. Untie the turnbuckle, grab the title belt and toss it to Roman as a plant, then fall over. We’ve all seen this done before, but the beauty is in the Codebreaker out of NOWHERE. Such a fun journey to another Roman Reigns near-fall, all thanks to the Gift of Jericho.

Really, drink it in while you can, maaaaaaaaaan.

Third Star of the Show – Titus O’Neill

Titus isn’t known for being hilarious, but he came out and stood toe-to-toe with the most successful comedy troupe in wrestling. He also found a way to add a bit of menace to his segment, even though they had him twerking and blowing whistles. The live crowd didn’t seem into the Xavier Woods match that followed, but I was impressed.

Titus doesn’t get a whole lot to do, outside of a couple months of Prime Time Players storylines here-and-there, but I think he did a lot with a little to kick-off 2017. He’s in the perfect role for his skillset. He’s basically the singles version of Primo and Epico, but if he gets some chances to work and show his personality, he’ll always find someone to put over.

Honorable Mentions

Booty Saxton – He seems to be getting funnier with the quips under his breath. Is it just me, or does Saxton remind anyone else of Mr. Peanutbutter from “Bojack Horseman”?

Nia Jax – Took the Bayley-to-Belly off the middle rope again, and this time it worked better in the storytelling department with Sasha’s appearance.

Paul E. Dangerously – Fake introducing Brock Lesnar never gets old… to me, at least.

Sami Zayn – The slow build to his eventual WWE/Universal Title run(s) is fun to watch.

— Jeff