We are just THIRTEEN days away from Wrestlemania, and the build up to the Raw side of the card will only heat up further tonight… maybe literally as we will see John Cena take on Kane. Maybe a certain brother of his will make an appearance… or send a message of some form… or a GONG… lets see shall we? …
Raw began with the Universal Champion Brock Lesnar and his advocate Paul Heyman making their way to the ring. Heyman then showed some footage of last week’s attack by Lesnar on his Wrestlemania challenger Roman Reigns from last week, before revealing that Reigns’ suspension had been lifted. He went on to say that that means everyone is waiting for Roman to now come out, but that would not be the case because he wasn’t here tonight (much to the delight of the crowd… for god sake guys, play along please). Heyman continued on, making reference to Reigns being raised by his father Sika and uncle Afa (WWE Hall of Famers ’The Wild Samoans’) to be a ‘badass, to wrestle and to win’ but that it was a shame they didn’t raise Reigns to be a man, because a man would be in Cleveland tonight (to face Lesnar man-to-man). Heyman would continue to berate Roman before the challenger came towards the ring through the crowd, before being halted by a viscous clothesline by Lesnar. Roman was able to fight back by pushing Brock into the ring post and hitting him across the back 3 times, he then went for a Superman Punch by flying off the steps, only to be caught and hit with a belly-to-belly suplex followed by a huge shot to the head with the steel steps, then hit again back in the ring, then hit across the back with the steel chair he had previously bought into play, and then finally after teasing leaving Reigns in a heap he went back and hit a huge F5 onto the steps, before raising his Universal Championship belt high above his head, with his fallen challenger laying beaten beneath him. And for the second week in a row Brock Lesnar had absolutely destroyed Roman Reigns. The pattern during Lesnar’s title run so fart had been that the challenger would look strong going into the match before Lesnar would hit the F5 for the win, perhaps a reverse with this match? Probably.
Next match was Raw Women’s Championship challenger Nia Jax taking on the new accomplice of the champion (Alexa Bliss was at ringside) Mickie James. Relatively straight forward match with Jax getting the win after James came from the top rope only to be picked off, Gorilla Pressed and then Samoan Dropped. Shortly after the match Bliss made her way into the ring and hit Jax across the back to little effect as Nia looked on bemused and then chased Bliss away from the ring, screaming as she did so and even calling her former friend a “Bitch” (I think they tried to bleep this out, but failed and it was clearly heard… I imagine somebody is in big trouble). Simple stuff here but enough to advance the story a little bit more, I imagine Bliss will have another near miss next week before Nia finally gets her hands on the champion in the match itself at Wrestlemania.
There was then a video package showing Triple H and Stephanie McMahon building up and training for their match with Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey at Mania. The 2 spoke well and seemed very real in the things they said, there was also an interview with Joe DeFranco (a famous strength and conditioning coach) where he said that both Stephanie and Triple H train ‘all year round’ mentioning their ‘midnight workouts’ (check their Instagram’s for the videos), he then put over more how hard they were both training. I didn’t mind this as I genuinely believe it. Stephanie then said Rousey looked ‘vulnerable’ last week, footage was shown of Triple H beating Angle a number of times during their original WWE run (99-05), and then Stephanie finished off by saying Rousey doesn’t scare her because she’s ‘a McMahon’ which means she will ‘work for her’ and that she would humble Rousey just the way they’ve ‘humbled every superstar in the WWE’. God I hope this match is at least OK because I feel people are waiting for it to be bad before they castrate it. I don’t think it’ll be bad but I’ll be pleasantly surprised if it’s very good.
Next up was something I really wish I had more to talk about, but the match was less than 5 minutes long so I didn’t really take many notes. The match saw the return of the cruiserweight division of 205 Live to Raw; and with 205 Live General Manger Drake Maverick on commentary to try and further promote the division we were greeted to a tag team match pitting the two men who will contest the Cruiserweight Championship match at Wrestlemania, Cedric Alexander & Mustafa Ali, against Drew Gulak & TJP. It was a fun enough match with plenty of typical Cruiserweight spots, but the match was sub 5 minutes so that says it all really. You are never going to get this division over if you just showcase them for FIVE MINUTES on a Raw every now and then. Finish saw Ali make a blind tag on Cedric after he had hit his finisher, before Ali hit his 054 (reverse 450) splash for the pin. Ali and Alexander showing some tension between them both afterwards as Cedric was unable to get the pinfall. I hope these two are on the main card at Mania, and I hope they absolutely smash their match out the park, god knows for the sake of 205 Live they need to. I think they will, but I’m nervous for them.
Next was yet another Mix TV segment. The crowd offering Miz “welcome home” chants (Cleveland is where he is originally from), but he was able to stick to his heel persona by reminding them all that “I live in L.A.”. The Miz then went on to bemoan his Miztourage colleagues Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel by telling them that he had been left laying for the past two weeks because they let him down. Dallas responded saying they are doing the best they can before Miz suggested that maybe he should “BO-LIEVE himself back to catering because Dallas would be nothing without him” (I really found this line amusing). Seth Rollins then made his way out, and applauded the Miztourage for hashing out their problems, before asking Miz when the last time he thanked Dallas and Axel? He went on to say if it wasn’t for the Miztourage then Miz wouldn’t be Intercontinental champion. Miz came back by saying they know he is grateful for them, and that they should be thankful for him because he elevated their careers, and that even without them he would still be a huge star. This prompted Bo Dallas to again comment by saying Miz would be “a phony A-lister who can’t fight”. This got a big shocked reaction from the crowd, and was probably the loudest pop Bo Dallas has got for some time. A shocked Miz then demanded Dallas repeat that, but was unable to before Finn Balor made his entrance. Balor then proceeded to add further flames to this developing fire, Dallas went on to indeed repeat what he had said which garnered a positive crowd response and a slap from The Miz which in turn angered Bo so much that Curtis (Hennig, this will become relevant soon) Axel had to hold him back. Miz said he was trying to motivate Dallas because he was 34 days away from becoming the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion of all time, meaning he would be better than ‘Randy Savage, better than Shan Michaels, better than Mr. Perfect (aka Curt Hennig, aka Curtis Axel’s DAD). This was when Axel got mad. Miz tried to calm the situation but Dallas and Curt got in his face and seemed to want a fight, Miz was eventually trapped between Balor & Rollins on one side and Dallas and Axel on the other and just when it seemed as if the IC Champ was in big trouble, Dallas and Axel then attacked Rollins and Balor. Showing it had all been Miz’s plan all along as he smirked. Eventually Finn Balor’s Balor Club allies Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson came down to make the save, brawling with Bo and Curtis to the back, leaving Balor and Miz in the ring together. Finn then went for a Slingblade and Rollins for Curb Stomp, but Miz was able to escape. He did leave behind his Championship belt, Rollins took it and held it over Balor whilst looking right at him, before Finn pushed Seth out of the way of the incoming Miz, who was then sent packing. Balor then gave Rollins a strong punch to the face, leaving Rollins down and now Balor hoisted the Intercontinental Championship aloft. This was fine. Not spectacular but like I say week after week, I have no doubt the match will be great fun to watch.
Interview with Kane next backstage, he told his opponent later tonight, John Cena, that “there are demons you should never call out, demons that should Rest In Peace” and that Cena wasn’t going to Wrestlemania because tonight he was “going to hell”. This would’ve been great had it not been for the fact that there is absolutely no chance that Kane is winning tonight.
Next up we had Charlie Caruso do an interview with Jamie Frost, the jobber… sorry, opponent… for Asuka let tonight. Frist said “Asuka likes to say no one is ready for Asuka, but Asuka isn’t ready for me”. Ok then, good luck… Asuka came out, the bell rung, Frost slapped Asuka, Asuka hit an incredible roundhouse kick and pinned her 1, 2, and 3. The match was over in 30 seconds. That was it. Always fun to see Asuka destroy someone but 2 weeks from Wrestlemania I’d have hoped for more, I don’t even know why she isn’t on Smackdown fully building the match up with Charlotte already? I imagine she’ll be there tomorrow but we’ll see…
Michael Cole and Corey Graves then reviewed the Ultimate Deletion from last week (spoiler alert… it was WONDERFUL). WOKEN Matt Hardy then did a promo telling us all he had DELETED Bray Wyatt, and that he was entering the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania. DELIGHTFUL!
Next up was the most noteworthy part of the show. Bayley was in the locker room area when Sasha Banks (her ‘friend’) came to her and said she had received her text. Bayley though began to walk away which led Banks to ask if that was it? Bayley said she was entering the Wrestlemania Women’s Battle Royal and that was it! Sasha asked if they were going to talk about what happened last week, Bayley said there was nothing to talk about because Banks knows what she did. An angry Sasha said then shouted that ‘was sick of Bayley’s passive-aggressive nonsense’, Bayley responded saying she thought Banks liked it because that was the type of friendship they wanted to have, the one ‘where Banks gets to do whatever she wants because Bayley gets to be right by her side going along with it’. Bayley said she thinks Banks loves it that she puts her first, Banks says she is the boss and makes no apologies for putting her career first, and suggests that maybe Bayley too should do that so that everyone around here ‘doesn’t think Bayley is a complete loser’ (WOW thigs heating up here). A fired-up Bayley then said that the truth is Banks can’t beat her, to which Sasha said she’s a four-time Raw Women’s Champion, in which Bayley then asked her how long she kept it for (referring to the amazing fact that Sasha Banks has never had a successful main roster title defence). The Hugger then began to walk away before Banks grabbed her from behind and threw her into a nearby locker. The 2 then brawled before being separated… FINALLY THIS FEUD IS HAPPENING! We aren’t going to get the Mania one on one match they deserve but going forward it all seems to be ON! EXCELLENT!
The Raw Tag Team Champions Sheamus and Cesaro then made their way out, with Sheamus due to take on Braun Strowman. Sheamus demanded to know who Braun’s partner to the tag team title match at Wrestlemania would be. Braun said he would reveal his partner if Sheamus could defeat him. This made the Irishman very angry, as Strowman ensured Sheamus would ‘GET THESE HANDS’! And indeed Sheamus would ‘GET THESE HANDS’ as Braun would obviously get the win. Who do I think the partner is? Hopefully Elias. Should they keep it a secret until the match itself? Absolutely. Will Braun and partner win? I’m not sure, but hopefully.
Kurt Angle then made his way to the ring, he then introduced his Wrestlemania partner Ronda Rousey. Kurt cut a promo saying Wrestlemania was ‘the most intimidating stage for anyone to compete in for the first time’ but after watching Ronda train he knows she is ready. He said Triple H and Stephanie write the rules and make the rules, and that this wasn’t going to be easy. Ronda said it was fine that it wasn’t going to be easy because she wasn’t looking for easy, she said she was here to earn everything that she gets and that Stephanie talks tough, but “she’s trust-fund tough, she’s limousine tough and personal trainer tough” (Best lines from Ronda in WWE so far by a mile).Ronda finished off by again saying she was going to rip Stephanie’s ‘arm from her socket’. Absolution then came out, Paige took the mic and warned Ronda that not having friends will absolutely destroy her, before offering her to be the 4th member of Absolution. Ronda declined, saying Angle had her back, Paige then led Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville towards Ronda ad Angle held the Rowdy one back, Sonya Deville then grabbed Ronda’s shoulder which earnt her a huge clothesline from Rousey. This would be followed up with a Suplex on Rose into Deville (the timing of which was way off as Deville had to run forward to be hit with Rose, it was clear what the spot was supposed to be but it was sloppily executed). Kurt angle then raised Rousey’s arm but Mandy Rose attempted to jump her, she was though seen and Rousey hit a great-looking Judo type throw on Rose before locking her in a potential Armbar position. Angle pleaded with Ronda not to break Rose’s arm and Rousey eventually let her run free. Rousey looks stronger still, so can’t complain.
Gallows and Anderson then beat Dallas and Axel in a bit of a nothing match. 5 minutes was all they got. Gallows got the pin. Fine.
The ever talented, and one of my favourite’s on the entire roster at the moment, Elias came out next looking to give us another of his signature performances. He told the crowd that “in this kingdom of madness, there are those who walk and those who don’t walk yet, but in 13 days at Wrestlemania I will give the greatest performance of my lifetime”. He then said he had ‘sold out Madison Square Garden last week, so coming to Cleveland is a huge disappointment’ (WWE recently did a big live event at MSG, so he’s not technically wrong). He would go on to say he was embarrassed to be here tonight’ but that his friend LeBron James told him the same thing when he returned to Cleveland. He would go on to say that James would be leaving Cleveland soon, just like he would, before then going on to sing another of his hilarious songs. This one including the putdown: ‘Wrestlemania was on the horizon, but I’m stuck in this town. The only thing that would be more embarrassing is being a member of the Cleveland Browns’ which I really liked. Another masterful performance was then interrupted by Rhyno and Heath Slater. A squash match followed with Elias beating Rhyno in no time at all. After the match Elias hit Heath Slater with his finisher too. Always fun to see Elias perform, shame it was against such sub-standard opposition.
We were then told it would be Rollins vs Balor next week, and also there’d be another confrontation between Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Should be good.
And finally it was time for the main event; John Cena taking on… THE UNDERTAKER… ‘s brother Kane… This turned out to be a NO DQ match which added an extra fun element to it. Early on Cena tried to lift Kane for the AA, but simply fell down under the pressure of how heavy Kane was (bit harsh on old Kane imo…). They would go on to brawl around the outside of the ring area with Kane throwing Cena into the steel steps. Cena would later launch a barricade into Kane’s stomach, Kane then suplexed Cena onto the barricade, they returned to the ring where Kane undid one of the turnbuckle covers, before Cena sat up just like The Undertaker typically does. John Cena would continue to mock Kane’s brother by doing his throat-slashing gesture before performing a Chokeslam on Kane (who has been using the move as his finisher for 20 years or so). Cena went under the ring for in search of a table, and then set it up in the ring, but Kane this time sat up in signature fashion. Kane tried to lift Cena, but he was reversed and Cena then attempted to AA Kane through the table. But the Big Red Machine was able to push the table over and knock Cena down. Kane then placed the table in the corner, he then threw Cena but got only two count from the referee. Kane went on to pull out another table and set up for the Chokeslam of his own but the leader of the Cenation was able to get behind Kane and hit him with an AA through the table for the pinfall and the win. Obviously John Cena won, that was never in any doubt. Match itself was fine for a 15 minute no DQ match between two veterans. Again we all await the aftermath now… And so Cena and us all waited and waited for SOMETHING from The Undertaker, but we got nothing. A frustrated Cena said this was a match with no rules, anything can happen and anyone could be here. He even screamed for The Undertaker, the crowd chanted his name, leading Cena to say that The Undertaker wasn’t deaf, ‘he was just a coward’. He said his silence was no longer an answer and that it’s either yes or no, he again reiterated he had no problem going to Wrestlemania as a fan, but he pleaded that The Undertaker “DO SOMETHING” because (talking directly to the camera throughout the later part of this amazing promo) ‘now you only have one week left, one week left that sums up your entire career… you can do something, or you can do nothing… and if you do nothing you will let me down, let Kane down and let everyone down who ever believed in you… I hope for the sake of all that is good inside this ring I see you next week’. Cena then dropped his mic, walked off and that was how Raw ended. An impassioned promo from Cena, I really felt as if he meant very word he said. It has long been a desire of most WWE fans and also a public desire of Cena himself to have this match happen, and he is building up to it tremendously well in my opinion.
And that was Raw. Not the most eventful of shows, not going to be when you have your Mania card all sorted weeks before the show but it had some high point for sure. Some bits I struggled to write anything about too…
Key Points to Take Home
. Roman needs to get SOMETHING over Lesnar going into Mania surely? Or do you just save it for his inevitable victory?
. Nia’s going to squash Alexa at Wrestlemania; or at least she should do
. Asuka deserves so much better of a Wrestlemania build to the one she is getting
. I hope Braun’s partner doesn’t disappoint
. I’m starting to think Cena vs Taker should main event or at least be 2nd last on the card at Wrestlemania
I’ve accused Smackdown of this in recent weeks, so would be unfair if I didn’t criticize the usually eventful Raw for the same thing. Raw seemed to just be stagnant this week. There were extreme highs; Cena’s promo obviously top of that list but Bayley and Sasha FINALLY getting some offence on one another was great to see, the rest was all… just … ok for me. I feel Raw could’ve maybe done without another week to build until Mania. But we have reasons to be hopeful, next week promises to be an epic go home show… and then obviously it could have something else too…