WWE WRAP-UP

This week in WWE: Celebrating 25 years of Raw and closing the Royal Rumble build

The Miz wins his eighth Intercontinental Championship leaving fans to wonder what is next for Roman Reigns. Photo by WWE.com

This is a weekly look at the action in the WWE:

Raw

The 25th Anniversary edition of Raw opened at the Manhattan Center. The venue was designed to look like the original Monday Night Raw set, and it featured Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler on commentary. They then sent it to the Barclays Center where our weekly commentary team welcomed the audience. In the ring, Stephanie and Shane McMahon explained how the night would work with one show coming from two arenas. They, then, welcomed Vince McMahon to “smell the roses” and celebrate the achievement of 25 years of Raw. Vince turned it, of course, explaining that the only person he had to thank was himself. This prompted Stone Cold to come out and give both Shane and Vince a few Stone Cold Stunners, for old times’ sake. An Eight Women’s Tag match saw Sasha Banks, Bayley, Asuka, and Mickie James defeat Absolution, Alicia Fox and Nia Jax. After the match, Asuka turned on her teammates and took turns throwing them out of the ring. Raw returned to the Manhattan Center where Undertaker made his return to the ring to recount all the victims he has “buried.”

The APA played cards backstage with Rhyno, Heath Slater and Ted Dibiase. The Miz challenged Roman Reigns for his Intercontinental Championship. Per usual, the Mizterouge did all they could to ensure Miz would not lose. The referee, eventually, caught them and ejected them from ringside. Reigns would crash into an exposed turnbuckle and, after a second Skull Crushing Finale, was pinned by the Miz, who won his eighth Intercontinental Championship. Christian hosted a special edition of The Peep Show featuring Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan. The Bar crashed the party and caused Rollins to accidentally knee Jordan. Backstage, Alexa Bliss and Charlotte exchanged insults. Ric Flair decided to pop in and explained to Bliss that his daughter will be the champion “until she decides to hang it up.” Bray Wyatt defeated Matt Hardy after hitting him with a Sister Abigail.

Backstage, Chris Jericho put Elias on The List. This inspired Elias’ song of the night, a song where he insulted all the WWE Legends who were on the show that night. John Cena came to the ring after Elias said he “has no balls.” Cena went for an Attitude Adjustment, but Elias countered with a Low Blow and broke his guitar on his back. Titus Brand tagged against Rhyno and Heath Slater. The match ended in a DQ after the two teams started brawling. The Dudley Boys came to the ring and took care of Heath Slater, putting him through a table with a 3D. Degeneration X welcomed Razor Ramon to the Manhattan Center. Ramon explained that the celebration has been “too sweet” prompting The Balor Club to come to the ring where all the men shared a Too Sweet greeting. The Revival crashed the celebration in order to get their match against Gallows and Anderson started. It did not take long for Gallows and Anderson to put them away. After the match, Scott Dawson tried confronting Ramon and ended up getting attacked by every single member of DX and Finn Balor.  Raw closed with a big brawl between Kane, Strowman, and Brock Lesnar. Lesnar took care of Kane, but Strowman got the last laugh after putting the Champion through a table with a Running Power Slam.

Highlight of the night: I am going to cheat here, only because they made it too hard for me to choose. Typically, I couldn't care less about WWE’s constant use of nostalgic wrestlers. I really liked how they did it this week, though. Raw has become an unmissable show, this was especially the case this week.

SmackDown Live

Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens opened the show warning AJ Styles. They are not only going to take his WWE Championship, they're going to hurt him. They suggested Styles take on both of them, individually, that night. Styles hesitated, but eventually accepted when Daniel Bryan came out to the ring. Backstage, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan argued about Styles being placed in two matches. Bryan asked him if he was questioning Styles’ ability. McMahon responded that Styles was not the one whose ability he was questioning. Chad Gable defeated Jey Uso after a beautiful suplex sequence. Nakamura explained that he is going to win the Royal Rumble. Naomi defeated Liv Morgan with a Sunset Flip pin. After the match, the women’s division brawled and previewed the Royal Rumble as they began throwing each other over the ring.

Shinsuke Nakamura took on Baron Corbin. Just when it looked like Nakamura was going to win the match, Randy Orton surprised him with an RKO, and hit Corbin with one himself, for good measure. Bobby Roode teamed up with the New Day and defeated Mahal, Rusev and Aiden English in a Six Man Tag Match. McMahon came out before the main event to explain that if Owens or Zayn got involved in each other’s match against Styles they would be fired. AJ Styles made quick work of Kevin Owens submitting him with a Calf Crusher. Styles refused to let go of the submission, so Zayn raced down and began attacking Styles before their match.  Zayn’s attack continued outside of the ring. Eventually, the match got started. Styles kept leaving the ring to attack Owens, who was being treated after apparently being hurt. Styles did it one time too many, and it cost him the match against Zayn, who pinned the champion after a Blue Thunder Bomb.

Highlight of the Night: I’m not crazy about Randy Orton, but, I’ve got to say, the RKO out of nowhere never fails to be a highlight.

How do they compare?

Maybe I am feeling extra optimistic this week, or maybe my expectations are too low, but I thought SmackDown had a good week. Considering the fact there was no way it could match Raw’s special show, it did all it could to bring the brand home for the Royal Rumble. Raw’s anniversary show got a lot of criticism. Some of it was warranted, like making those in the Manhattan center sit in the dark and watch Raw from Barclays for over an hour. Overall, the show wrapped everything up for the Royal Rumble, as well, it provided some funny moments featuring DX and The Balor Club, or the APA Poker matches. Of course, Raw gets the edge, but SmackDown did enough to keep me interested in what they will bring to the table this Sunday at the Royal Rumble.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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