The New Day's dream of becoming the longest-reigning tag-team champions in WWE history became a reality on Monday night, despite a series of hurdles which threatened to trip them up in the 11th hour.
Forced to retain their titles in a pair of exciting triple-threat title matches that bookended the episode, The New Day eclipsed Demolition's record of 478 days in almost improbable fashion. Both matches had a pay-per-view feel as "The Powers of Positivity" overcame an early party foul against Raw commissioner Stephanie McMahon, which led to a second match -- against four of the brand's top stars, no less -- as payback.
Interestingly enough, The New Day doesn't have a match scheduled for Sunday's Roadblock: End of the Line PPV. But their struggle to overcome served as the canvas on which Raw, which emanated from Philadelphia, used to tell its biggest stories.
Moments after The New Day defeated the teams of Roman Reigns/Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens/Chris Jericho in the main event, Reigns was the last man standing in the ring just days before his main event on Sunday against Owens for the WWE Universal championship.
Reigns, the WWE's United States champion, interrupted an argument between former "best friends" Owens and Jericho to spear Owens before standing over his fallen body holding both title belts. The moment elicited a chorus of boos from the same crowd which famously did the same to Reigns after he won the 2015 Royal Rumble in predictable fashion.
The predictable booking unfortunately followed Reigns into Raw this week, as the crowd also booed his rescue of former Shield teammate Rollins earlier in the night from a beatdown at the hands of Owens and Jericho.
What we do know entering Sunday is that Reigns will meet Owens, and Jericho will face Rollins. But the status of the friendship between Owens and Jericho remains uncertain after Monday's drama, which saw their brief (and somewhat acrimonious) reunion spoiled when Owens accidentally broke up Jericho's pin attempt following a shove from Rollins.
- WWE (@WWE) December 13, 2016
Monday's Raw wasn't quite up to the level of the resurgence seen over the past two weeks. In fact, the brand's hottest storyline between Raw women's champion Sasha Banks and Charlotte was reduced to a mere video package recapping their recent history.
There were as many hits as misses (see more below), which is likely a more realistic scenario as far as consistency is concerned moving forward, as Raw continues to tinker with how to properly book three hours of content during this current brand split. But the episode succeeded in proving more entertaining than it made sense at times.
Sami Zayn secured the rematch against Braun Strowman on Sunday's card that he has coveted for weeks thanks, to a well-written shouting match between himself and Raw general manager Mick Foley, in which Foley bluffed trading Zayn to SmackDown as a means to summon the fire within him. Every aspect of the multiple interactions between Zayn and Foley clicked on a high level.
WWE also committed more time and energy to actual story lines within its cruiserweight division than has been seen up to this point. Brian Kendrick and TJ Perkins told a meaningful story to set up their triple threat match with cruiserweight champion Rich Swann on Sunday, and newcomer Jack Gallagher was given a strong push when he interrupted Ariya Daivari's match against Lince Dorado, leading to a brawl outside the ring.
Raw remains headed in the right direction entering the final PPV card of 2016, and that's a better position than it has been in for months.
Hits and misses
The New Day's triple-threat match against the teams of Karl Anderson/Luke Gallows and Cesaro/Sheamus was a tremendous way to open Monday's show, and nearly as good as the 40-minute main event. Both matches featured well-booked spots and believable near-falls. But the highlight of the opener may have been Cesaro taking out all four of his competitors in succession (both inside and out of the ring), which included an homage to Rey Mysterio Jr.'s "619" finishing move, creatively dubbed "Swiss-1-9" by announcers Michael Cole and Corey Graves.
It was fun to see WWE continue its long-standing tradition of having every formal event -- from parties and ceremonies to weddings and contract signings -- end in absolute chaos, as Stephanie McMahon angrily halted The New Day's celebration. But the highlight of Monday's shindig may have been an earlier shot of the festivities which featured an exuberant Bob Backlund creepily toasting some local enhancement talent:
- WWE (@WWE) December 13, 2016
While WWE ultimately failed to follow through with a trade between Raw and SmackDown, which has been teased on both shows in recent months, it may be time for a minor transaction or two to spice things up. Raw talent like Zayn and Strowman could see themselves worked into title opportunities quicker on the SmackDown side, as could Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler should they make the move to Raw.
Rollins is an amazing talent and one of WWE's most valuable superstars as a whole. But his face turn over the past six months simply isn't working, and it's time the company responds. Rollins struggled through hosting duties of his own talking segment, "The Rollins Report," on Monday, which simply isn't the best use of his skill set. And while it was nice to see Rollins call out Triple H for the second straight week, it's a notion that's about four months too late, as Raw's most gaping plot hole continues to remain unfilled. A mini-Shield reunion has been teased in recent weeks between Rollins and Reigns, which can only help both characters, but a continued turn to the dark side would truly be "best for business" for all parties.
As evidenced by his brief backstage interview with Charly Caruso, Swann can really work on the microphone. His "Oh Charly, baby girl" shtick is just as infectious as his dance moves. More face time, please.
While keeping Bayley busy with a makeshift feud while Sasha Banks and Charlotte continue their memorable feud is important, this current program with Alicia Fox isn't working. Bayley's character simply doesn't have the depth to believably fall into an accidental love triangle between Fox and Cedric Alexander (which was halfheartedly teased). If the WWE does end up pulling the trigger on a trade between brands, getting Bayley an upgrade from the deeper SmackDown roster would be a welcome change.
It's always a gray area when babyfaces not named "Stone Cold" Steve Austin act like unrepentant heels. And while Big Cass rightfully sought storyline retribution on Rusev for the severe beating that was administered last week against tag-team partner Enzo Amore, the big man failed to justify Amore's actions of entering a married woman's hotel room. Big Cass will seek retribution against Rusev on Sunday's pre-show, yet I'm not sure Rusev and wife Lana admitting that they set Amore up completely absolves the "Skywalker Smack-Talker" from his moral transgressions.
Move of the night
There were many spots in the well-booked main event that competed for top honors on Monday's show, including a six-man double powerbomb/superplex combo, a pop-up Codebreaker from Jericho and Owens and a throwback Lionsault from Jericho featuring full extension. But Xavier Woods reminded us of just how great a worker he is (which often gets overshadowed by his abilities as a mouthpiece) by landing a springboard elbow drop three-quarters across the ring onto Reigns.
- WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) December 13, 2016
Line of the night
"I'm going to tell you what I want. I want you to remember this moment in time! Remember how angry you feel, how bitter you feel. Remember that, this side of rage that quells inside of you. I want you to be able to bottle it and duplicate it on Sunday night, because you're going to need every bit of it when you face Braun Strowman at Roadblock. There was never a trade! I wouldn't trade Sami Zayn from Monday Night Raw. Not for anyone. I believe in you, I always have. I just questioned whether a guy as nice as you, a credit to WWE, had a soul to get nasty enough, mean enough to survive a monster like Strowman. And the answer you gave me is yes." -- Mick Foley