I had an idea that this week I was going to try and do a review of Raw, Smackdown and NXT as normal but I would cater them very much towards the ‘minor’ set of shows this upcoming weekend. But instead of doing no reviews and just do a Wrestlemania preview I decided against this, in case there were major goings on in the go-home shows. But Raw last night, much similar to last week, seemed to have not much of huge significance going on. The phrase ‘peak to soon’ can be used in many circumstances, and it very much applies here as for the 2nd week in a row Raw seemed to limp towards Wrestlemania. It’ll still be an amazing event with an incredibly stacked card, but let’s be glad it’s this Sunday and we don’t have any more shows to build up to it. So I’ll briefly run through what happened on Raw, but much like what we saw via TV I think we all care about Wrestlemania now. So I’ll write up what happened in relation to the Raw matches set for Mania, the one notable exception that is happening… but isn’t happening and the other more filler-like stuff that was on the final Monday night Raw before Wrestlemania FINALLY happens!
Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (C) with Paul Heyman V Roman Reigns
What happened on Raw? :
At different points in the show Raw General Manager Kurt Angle expressed his concerns to both Paul Heyman and Roman Reigns about any potential confrontation tonight. Angle stating that he ‘wanted to make sure his Mania main event stayed intact’. This seemed to me as a very subtle indication/confirmation that Lesnar vs Reigns WILL close the show.
To close the show Brock and Heyman made their way to the ring, and after Angle again made his concerns clear to them both before they came out an immediate swarm of other superstars gathered on the entrance rampway as a human-shield, in order to stop any potential physical confrontation with his challenger for Wrestlemania. Heyman cut a really fun promo; began by saying that the human-shield was “over compensatory behaviour” and that Angle doesn’t have control as that was with the man who holds the Universal Championship, Brock Lesnar. He went on to quote Angle “it’s true, it’s true… I swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth so help me God… the truth is before the last Wrestlemania that took place in New Orleans, I stood in this ring and vowed that Lesnar would conquer Undertaker’s undefeated streak… it wasn’t a prediction, it was a spoiler, which meant it was the truth. And then Lesnar defeated the Undertaker, and no one laughed at us then.” He’s right to be fair, it was after that were both Lesnar and Heyman as his advocate reached extraordinary levels of being over, and seeming legitimate.
Heyman went on to say that everyone acts like its fate for Reigns to dethrone Lesnar and you can’t help but be impressed by Roman, he said you have to respect Reigns, but that the truth is this Sunday “Lesnar will F5 Reigns and pin him in the centre of the ring 1,2,3… that’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler. It’s the truth”. And then we got another subtle but HUGE confirmation which I picked up on, this is pro wrestling of all so what people say should always be taken with a pinch of salt, but Heyman went on to say that “an unfortunate truth in life is that there are accidents in life, and should Lesnar lose on Sunday, this will be the last time you will see me and Lesnar on Raw!” So there it is then; it seems that Brock Lesnar AND Paul Heyman WILL leave WWE should/when Brock loses at Wrestlemania. He went on to say that whilst he will say his goodbyes on social media, Brock Lesnar will be saying hello to everyone from UFC (again this is wrestling, so don’t take this as 100% truth). Heyman was on a roll at this point, and really went in to shoot-work mode at this point; he wanted to dispel something that was out of character for Lesnar by saying that the image that he’s built around Lesnar (that he looks around the locker room and thinks “none of you can shine my boots”, the mystique that Lesnar looks at the fans and thinks he’s worthy of contempt and disdain and disgust and that he chooses who he fights only on his own merit and on his terms)… he said that image is 100% true! He finished by saying that there is not one member of the locker room that can “hold his jock” let alone take his title. Then he REALLY went in on Roman personally: ‘Reigns’ only choice is to accept defeat on Sunday night, because it’s easy to make choices when you have no options… Roman’s choices is like his ass, they’re both owned by Lesnar! … if Reigns thinks he’s going to have a victory party, he’s going to go up to his wife, his kids, his father and his uncles and say he got conquered by Lesnar… he ain’t no ‘Big Dog’, this ain’t no yard and he’s going to be another notch on Lesnar’s title belt… the truth is Reigns is Lesnar’s bitch!’.
And that brutal series of putdowns was enough to make the challenger for the Universal title at Wrestlemania make his appearance. The shield of mid-carders were able to hold him off as Brock mocked Roman from the ring, and then Reigns got a mic and said to those that were blocking him “all you full-time guys are going to protect that part-time bastard. Think about it, boys.” The jobbers talked amongst themselves before letting Roman pass. So they’re still going with the idea that Roman is the man of the people and the rest of the ‘boys’, and that Lesnar is the evil part timer that is holding the world title hostage. He then came to the ring and stared at Brock, Lesnar told him to ‘think about it real hard’ as the crowd began to chant “Let’s go Roman” (so maybe it is working then). Once Roman did get in the ring, a staredown ended when Lesnar but his belt on the floor, they then circled the ring before Brock rolled to the outside as Reigns then picked up the Universal belt, Lesnar picked up a chair as Roman put the title down once Brock got back in the ring, they circled the ring again before Roman hit Lesnar with a Superman Punch, and then another, then another and another. Brock was though still able to get up with the chair still in hand but Roman quickly put him down with another Superman Punch as he then once again grabbed the Universal title and held it up whilst looking towards the Wrestlemania sign. But he was not to end the pre-Mania Raw on top as Brock quickly got up and hit him with an F5. So they’re saving the Spear and the kick out of the F5 until the match itself then. I like that. It seems inevitable at this point but I legitimately think the match will be good. If it’s closing the show, considering how amazing the show is looking it’ll be, it NEEDS to be good.
Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle V Stephanie McMahon & Triple H
What happened on Raw? :
They had the world title segment close the show (rightfully so) and the confrontation for this match opened it. It happened in the form of what looked-like it was set up to be as civilised as possible (obviously, this is wrestling, so it won’t be) with 2 tables set up for the teams to sit at as Jonathan Coachman stood at a podium in between to officiate matters. And after both teams came out The Coach said that the WWE Universe has submitted questions for everyone, but as he went to ask the first question he was interrupted by Triple H. He told Angle that it was sad that the roar from the crowd for Ronda Rousey would become a deafening silence after Sunday, and it was his fault. He said Angle had intensity, integrity and intelligence when he first came to WWE, and while he understood Angle had intensity and integrity, he couldn’t believe that people thought the Raw GM still had intelligence. As he implied that Angle was setting Ronda up for failure by making this match, and before Kurt could reply Ronda Rousey spoke instead. She asked Triple H why would he so two faced to sign her with ulterior motives? Stephanie said Rousey was rough around the edges and she didn’t understand the format yet, but they would polish her up after they rebuild her career after they beat her Sunday. Rousey quickly came back by saying she understood the format and wanted an answer. Stephanie came up with a bs answer that Rousey was a star and that people wanted to see her in the ring, but that her attitude was appalling but that bringing her to WWE was “best for business” before going on to say that Angle had already cost Ronda and the company millions of dollars and reminding them they both work for her. She went on to ask Ronda ‘who the hell does she think she is?’ which led Angle to reply with She’s Ronda Freaking Rousey” and that she was going to make McMahon tap out. Triple H eventually said that although Ronda dreamed of coming to WWE her whole life, to Stephanie and him the WWE is their whole lives. He finished by saying that ‘in this ring, they know the rules and Rousey has no idea what’s going to happen… it’s a foregone conclusion, Rousey is going to lose’. Stephanie replied to Coach’s question about how important winning this match as by saying that it was important to show the locker room that when there’s an uprising, the Authority will quickly bite the head off the snake, that they will make quick decision, they will shut you down and everyone else in the locker room will learn to respect authority.
Coachman then asked both Angle & Rousey: “How do you feel about teaming with Rousey at Wrestlemania?” to which he said whether it’s a ring, a cage or an octagon Rousey is ‘the baddest woman on the planet, and this Sunday she would prove it by making Stephanie tap out… Yes Kurt, we are well aware… both gave final thoughts with Stephanie telling Ronda that her first match in the WWE would be a loss to her, and the whole world knows how Rousey handles losses (if you followed Ronda’s UFC career you’ll know she doesn’t take defeat well, so I really appreciated this line). An un-deterred Ronda then asked her Mania opponent if she was left or right handed. Stephanie said right, and then Rousey explained she was curious because she still wanted Stephanie to sign her cheques when she rips her arm off. The officiating Jonathan Coachman then tried to organise a picture of the two teams, stating it wouldn’t get out of hand “like the UFC weigh-ins”… and then so OBVIOUSLY it did. After a stare down, a rejected handshake and some more trash talk Stephanie began to leave the ring but was stopped by Ronda, and then Kurt turned away but was hit by Triple H with a microphone. A furious Ronda then grabbed Triple H by the throat as Stephanie then suplexed Rousey through the nearby table. An angry looking Rousey could only watch on as Triple H and Stephanie stood tall.
I really like this. It did what it needed to do. And actually seeing Stephanie perform a move herself on someone was nice to see again. I think the match itself will be better than expected, although I would hope it is short. Maybe 10 minutes or so maximum, would protect all involved and make the match be seen as good or even better than a longer version would be viewed as.
Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss (C) V Nia Jax
What happened on Raw? :
Bliss and her friend Mickie James lost to Asuka & DANA BROOKE in a tag match. Afterwards James and Bliss attacked Asuka as Dana Brooke came to make the save, but instead was hit with a double ddt (because… she’s Dana Brooke FFS… you’ve got ASUKA being helped by DANA BROOKE?!?! DO ME A FAVOUR?!). Nia Jax then made her way out and grabbed Alexa’s hair but once again it was Mickie James who helped Bliss escape. She hit Nia, Nia hit her with the Samoan Drop as Bliss ran away (same thing we have seen for the past 456789 weeks basically). Yep… that was all they got… at least Nia and also Alexa and Mickie cut a promos in interviews with Renee Young during in the show, but it was really nothing new…
Raw Tag Team Championship: Sheamus & Cesaro (C) V Braun Strowman & ?
What happened on Raw? :
The Bar came out. Sheamus said he does not care about who Braun’s tag team partner will be, as as strong as Strowman is, it’s still a tag team match. Cesaro also made the point about how Strowman will need to tag in at some point and that he’ll never wear the tag team championships. Braun came out to a big crowd response, he said he did have a partner and that he was in fact just talking to them in the back. Sheamus asked for him to come out, Braun agreed if he got a match against one of The Bar tonight, Sheamus said he wouldn’t pass up that opportunity. Strowman went to get him… and then… Braun Strowman’s music played and… out came Braun Strowman… wearing a white shirt and Bubba Ray Dudley like-glasses. He said he was Braun Strowman’s brother “Brains” and that he was coming down to ‘knock theirs out of their head’. I usually find Braun’s stuff great, I was not arsed about this at all. Braun beat them both up but much like me watching the live crowd seemed dead after the non-reveal of his mystery partner. Let’s hope after all this it doesn’t disappoint… they had Braun beat up Curt Hawkins backstage too (Curt wearing a ‘Pick Me Braun’ t-shirt). So let’s see…
Intercontinental Championship: The Miz ( C ) with Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel V Seth Rollins V Finn Balor
What happened on Raw? :
The Instagram post from The Miz last week was shown that announced his Wife Maryse giving birth to their daughter. Lovely.
Seth then faced Finn with Miz doing guest commentary. Miz spoke a lot about his experiences in the early days of being a father. He came over quite genuine… but on tv he’s a heel…. So not sure how I felt about this… The match itself was a little over 20 minutes… and it was really, really good. These two went all out an equalled their classic from Summerslam 2 years ago. Not much to say other than it was a great match, Rollins winning with a reversal being turned into a schoolboy cradle which he then released to hit the Curb Stomp for the win. Excellent match, the build has been hit and miss for me but I maintain the match itself will be great I’m sure.
Men’s & Women’s Battle Royal’s…
It was announced earlier on Monday that both battle royals and the match for the vacant Cruiserweight Championship will be on the Wrestlemania pre show. So with WWE showing they don’t really care about these 2 matches, I won’t go on too much about them too. So on Raw we had: Bayley beat Sonya Deville, then brawled with Sasha after before they both were beat up by Absolution, Goldust and Matt Hardy both did promos and had a short match after that Matt won, Elias beat Heath Slater after a short promo … that was about all…
We had John Cena come out. He once again called out The Undertaker. He got nothing. So as far as he is concerned he’s going to Mania as a fan.
I don’t mean to spoil anything for Sunday… but I would be absolutely astonished if John Cena isn’t in that ring at some point during the show…. And surprised too if this match doesn’t happen. It’s an interesting way of doing it, but could pave the way for one of the all-time great Mania moments if Taker does indeed make surprise/non-surprise appearance and the match does take place.
And MAYBE… MAYBE… Cena is being absolutely genuine… MAYBE it’s not happening… we see Cena in the crowd or even he comes in to the ring and he does a segment or even has a match against someone else… but SURELY WWE wouldn’t give this as much time as they have for it to turn out to be nothing…
So that was essentially all that took place on Raw. As go home shows go it was kind of weak, but let’s be grateful Mania is around the corner shall we. My Smackdown and NXT previews will be similar structure-wise to this one (building up to the weekend) and I will also have specific previews of both Wrestlemania and NXT Takeover out later in the week too. So stay tuned…