WWE heads into Sin City, Las Vegas, NV, tonight as the Road to Wrestlemania rolls on. Tonight, Bayley challenges Charlotte for her Raw Women’s Championship. Charlotte hasn’t had good success on Raw when it comes to defending her title. Will Bayley overcome the champion, or will Charlotte find a way to hang on to her title? Last week, Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho said they would celebrate friendship, and we’ll see that in a “Festival of Friendship.” Who will interrupt, or who will join them for the celebration? Will Samoa Joe continue to make his presence known after a big win over Roman Reigns last week? How will Reigns try to extract revenge on Braun Strowman for interjecting in his match with Joe?
Show Open, Live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV:
The opening video rolled then Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton checked in for the call. They hyped up the Festival of Friendship with Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho, as well as Charlotte vs. Bayley for the Raw Women’s Championship.
Steph McMahon got her entrance after JoJo introduced her, and she got a flat reaction. Cole noted the FastLane event coming up and hyped up the two previously announced matches. Steph welcomed viewers then said Mick Foley was feeling tired and overworked last week when he embarrassed himself during Samoa Joe’s contract signing. She gave him the week off and assumed he would have his priorities in order when he comes back.
Roman Reigns got his entrance to a chorus of boos. He told Stephanie he didn’t want to wait for the pay per view and wanted Strowman tonight. Stephanie teased the match and asked the fans if they wanted to see it. She called it the sound of ambivalence and said the people don’t care about his well being. Reigns said he didn’t care what anyone thought of him – especially her. Stephanie told Reigns he would have to wait til the pay per view.
Stephanie said Strowman was booked to face Mark Henry, and Reigns called it a hell of a fight so he may come to ringside to watch. Steph threatened to take away the match at Fastlane and his role at Wrestlemania. “Maybe I’m not making myself clear,” Reigns said.
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson came to the stage. Anderson said they couldn’t listen to Reigns continue to disrespect Steph. Gallows offered to face Reigns in a handicap match. Steph said that in honor of Teddy Long (added to the WWE 2017 Hall of Fame Class today), “I think we have a match, playa” and made it official. Gallows and Anderson walked to the ring and Reigns met them there to fight. Gallows shoved Reigns into the apron and he sold going to a break.
Bill Says: C’mon, Steph, Teddy would have made that a legit two-on-two tag match! Will Reigns just plow through the tag champions here, or will this end in some sort of scrum finish?
Match #1 – Roman Reigns vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson;
Winner: Roman Reigns by disqualification
The Reax: They joined this match in progress with the champs in charge of the action. Reigns rallied, throwing a clothesline on Anderson then punches to Gallows. He set up for the spear but after a distraction Anderson rolled him up. Reigns hit a Superman punch but Anderson and Gallows worked him over until the ref called for the bell. They teased the Magic Killer, but Reigns fought out and cleared them.
I’m not sure what this was even all about. The match was somewhat pointless. If they eventually come around and say that Gallows and Anderson are in cahoots with Triple H, Samoa Joe, and Stephanie, then it means more. I didn’t care for this ultimately because this sort of ended up making the tag champs look weak. It would have been worse had they lost clean, but Reigns still ultimately stood tall over the two of them. Not a good look.
They hyped Strowman vs. Henry and the Festival of Friendship. They showed a montage of Jericho putting people on The List.
They covered the news of the HBO documentary that would be produced on Andre the Giant.
New Day came out to the ring. Bo Dallas was waiting for them for a match with Kofi. Kofi said Bo was alone and asked if he was a social outcast. Big E boasted about having the plan for New Day Ice Cream.
Match #2 – Kofi Kingston (w/Big E and Xavier Woods) vs. Bo Dallas;
Winner: Kofi Kingston
The Reax: Fans chanted that they wanted ice cream. Somewhere, CM Punk is pissed. Bo ripped up Big E’s ice cream plans and they acted devastated. Kofi ended up winning with the SOS, then Big E opened Bo’s mouth and poured in Booty O’s. Graves said everyone knows you don’t feed cereal to an unconscious man..
Backstage, Charly Caruso talked to Neville about Jack Gallagher. He stopped her and said that TJ Perkins, who he will face on 205 Live, is more of a threat than Gallagher. He showed up, and Neville called him a boy out of his depth. Gallagher said they would find out at FastLane, and called Neville a bloody pillock.
They ran footage of Jericho helping Kevin Owens beating Seth Rollins at Hell in a Cell.
Match #3 – Jack Gallagher vs. Noam Dar (w/Alicia Fox);
Winner: Jack Gallagher
The Reax: Austin Aries replaced Saxton as normal. They recapped the elimination match from 205 Live. Graves said Gallagher is not ready to face Neville. Dar got the early advantage, but Gallagher rallied with drop kicks and a headbutt, then hit a corner drop kick to get the win. Neville came to the stage and held the title up.
This was solid for a short match. These guys are some of the stronger personalities of the division, so I would like to see them get some more time to win over some Raw viewers. The elimination match, by the way, was a good match and well worth checking out if you missed it.
They showed Triple H and Samoa Joe arriving backstage. Cole noted they wanted to get an interview with Joe later. They ran an Emmalina teaser and said she would premiere after the break.
Bill Says: This payoff needs to be good. They’ve teased the Emmalina character for so long now that if they give a letdown of a character it will end up getting run out of town.
Cole welcomed Saxton back after going to the Donny and Marie show at a hotel on the Strip. They ran another flashback video for Jericho and Owens.
Emmalina came to the ring. She said the fans have waited 17 weeks to see the makeover of Emma to Emmalina. “Well, here I am. And now you will see the makeover of Emmalina to Emma.” She stormed off.
Bill Says: Well, so much for that. I’m confused as fuck. Does she get involved in the women’s title match later or something?
Charly interviewed Bayley, who said she was nervous heading into her title match against Charlotte. She said Stephanie said she doesn’t think she belongs, and Charlotte keeps reminding her that she’s the last of the Four Horsewomen to make it to the roster. She says she keeps smiling because she believes in herself. She said she would hit the jackpot and achieve her dream by winning the title.
Backstage, Jericho told Owens it would be the greatest night in WWE history. Owens said he couldn’t wait, and Jericho noted there would be surprises. Triple H showed up and said he needed to talk to Owens, and only Owens. Graves hyped Strowman vs. Henry and a Smackdown ad focused on Wyatt vs. Cena for the WWE Championship.
After the break they showed Owens and Triple H talking, but with no audio. Owens was listening and nodding. Cole noted he wanted to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.
Match #4 – Braun Strowman vs. Mark Henry;
Winner: Braun Strowman
The Reax: They recapped Strowman getting involved in the Reigns vs. Joe match last Monday. Strowman got an early edge, but Henry rallied. He tried for the World’s Strongest Slam but fell backward with Strowman falling on top of him. Strowman finished him off with a boot and a powerslam.
Reigns’ music hit and he made his way to the ring. Cole said the match was over, and Steph’s earlier threats pertained to the match. Reigns got on the apron but got knocked off. Reigns got on the apron again and clotheslined Strowman with the top rope. He hit a Superman punch that didn’t knock Strowman down, but the second one knocked him to a knee. Reigns charged but ate a powerslam. “You can’t win!” Strowman yelled before leaving.
This was a decent angle between the two FastLane opponents, with Reigns showing heart while Strowman stood tall at the end. While I get the feeling I know where this goes, they need to keep playing it this way until the pay per view.
They hyped the women’s title match later, then showed Samoa Joe getting ready for a sit-down interview. They showed footage of Jericho saving Owens in his Roadblock match against Reigns, hitting Owens with the Codebreaker to get him disqualified.
They showed baseball star Bryce Harper in the crowd.
Backstage, Sheamus and Cesaro were warming up Bayley. Enzo and Cass showed up and did their haters bit. Sheamus called them haters after they cost them the tag titles. Cass said he always has his partner’s back. Cesaro noted they were former tag champions and Enzo challenged them to do something about it. Enzo waited for Cass to cut in then talked big.
Graves and Saxton talked about the moment, then fed it to Cole who was backstage for an interview.
Cole interviewed Samoa Joe, and said people are accusing him of using dishonorable tactics. Joe called it a fair description and said he was there to hurt people. He said the only man he cared about was Triple H because he gave him a chance. Cole asked why Hunter picked now to call him up from NXT. Joe said his actions speak for themselves. Cole asked if Hunter was afraid of Seth Rollins, and Joe said Hunter doesn’t need to justify anything. Joe said the only reason he hasn’t been in WWE is because the company was afraid to hire him.
Joe called himself a dangerous man, and said Rollins was the crown jewel of WWE but couldn’t last two minutes in the ring with him. He will now miss Wrestlemania for the second year in a row. Cole brought up Rollins wanting to slay Triple H, and Joe asked if the interview was about him or about Hunter. Joe called it annoying, and said if Rollins shows up he will have no problem putting him back on the shelf.
Cole brought up his debut and Joe said he beat Reigns. In two weeks ‘I beat the man and I beat the guy.” Joe said he is there to take everything and he’s not a Sami Zayn who is just happy to be there. Joe said he is there to make a statement and no one can stand toe to toe with him. Cole said others have been put in that position by hunter, listing Shawn Michaels, Batitsta, Randy Orton and Seth Rollins. He said all of those men have had relationships with Hunter, and they all went sour. Hunter left those relationship in his wake.
Joe said the difference is that those men needed propped up by Hunter. He is not those men and he doesn’t need Hunter’s help. “I don’t need to be propped up, and I don’t need to be his heavy.” Joe said he gets the job done on his own, and he no whas someone he can rely on because he knows what’s best for business. Joe said anyone who gets in his way will learn why the Creator unleashed the Destroyer. He yanked the mic off and walked.
Bill Says: Best segment of the show so far. Joe came off cold, calculating, confident, and intelligent. He didn’t come off like the heavy for Hunter, even though he expressed loyalty to him. He’s definitely not looking like dumb muscle and this interview sold me on it. He never yelled, he never got worked up – he just had a good clear and calm intensity that came off very effective. Cole seemed like he was in a bit of unpredictable danger here, but he also stood firm and asked good questions too. Well done.
Match #5 – Sami Zayn vs. Rusev (w/Lana);
Winner: Sami Zayn
The Reax: Cole had rejoined the commentary team. Rusev controlled the action for most of this one until Rusev missed a charge in the corner. Zayn waited to set a move on the apron, but Rusev pulled him down. Coming back in, Zayn caught Rusev with the Helluva Kick to get the win.
Afterward, Charly interviewed Zayn, asking him about getting his momentum back after losing to Chris Jericho. Zayn called it a step in the right direction and got a huge win over a huge opponent. He said he’s all about coming back after a tough loss. He said that he heard Samoa Joe’s comment about that he’s no Sami Zayn. He said that’s true, because he doesn’t clean up messes for others, do what he’s told to do, or sell out. He started to talk Wrestlemania but Samoa Joe’s music interrupted.
Zayn looked behind him but Joe jumped him from a blindside spot. Joe worked on Zayn with punches the slammed him into the screen. “Say my name.” Joe barked. Joe locked in the Coquina Clutch and released it once Zayn was out. “If you say my name you put respect on it.” Joe said.
This seems like a logical step with Rollins out. Looks like they’re going to Zayn vs. Joe at FastLane, and that makes sense. Sami can sell for Joe and make him look like a total monster, and he can absorb a loss. Joe is coming off really well tonight, which is a bright spot on this “hold serve” kind of show.
They showed Charlotte getting ready for her match in the locker room.
Cole set up the Hall of Fame video package for Teddy Long
Match #6 – Akira Tozawa vs. Ariya Daivari;
Winner: Akira Tozawa
The Reax: Aries returned to commentary and Brian Kendrick also sat in. He said Tozawa reminds him of himself, then made fun of cruiserweights playing with their phones and playing video games. He noted Tozawa puts everything into it. Tozawa, late in the match, hit a Frankensteiner then hit a suicide dive. He threw Daivari in and hit his German suplex for the win.
Another brief but entertaining cruiserweight match. I really wanted to see more out of both matches, and that’s something I can’t say about the way the Raw presentation of these guys has been going to this point. Tozawa is a guy who can win over the fans if they continue to spotlight him in the right way.
They ran another friendship flashback for Owens and Jericho. This was Jericho agreeing to give Goldberg the title shot at FastLane against Kevin Owens.
It was time for the Festival of Friendship, and Jericho set it up. Vegas showgirls danced on the stage and Jericho came out playing the full showman complete with a jacket and hat. He introduced Owens, who came out dressed low-key in a t-shirt and warmup pants.
Jericho and Owens came to the ring, where there were some pieces covered up. Jericho first introduced a sculpture that was made by Ralph Gugenheim, and said it was worth $7,000. Owens was baffled by the piece and its price. He then unveiled a painting of the two of them touching fingers. It was a take on the “The Creation of Adam” painting, and Jericho called it “The Creation of Kevin.” Owens seemed uncomfortable. Jericho called it art, so you don’t need to wear pants.
Jericho introduced “Friendship the Magician” who did a couple of quick tricks. Owens said his son could do those tricks, and he’s nine. Jericho turned on the magician and put him on The List. Jericho told him to do another trick and disappear. Owens asked where Jericho found him, and Jericho retorted Craigslist.
Jericho said the last gift was something he should have given Owens last week, and he said he should have made sure that Goldberg didn’t make it to FastLane. He called out Goldberg and said when he came to the ring he was going to get it.
Bill Says: So far, so good. I was nervous about how this segment would come off but Jericho is keeping it moving, he’s being over the top cheeseball which seems to be keeping the crowd invested, and they really liked the painting.
Goldberg’s music played, but out came Gillberg (Duane Gill) instead. Owens attacked him on the ramp and left him laying. Jericho boasted about Owens beating him. Owens said he thought the point was to get Goldberg out there so they could beat the hell out of him. “I don’t understand this. What is this?”
Jericho said he thought the Gillberg thing was funny, and was sorry that it wasn’t what Owens thought it would be. He wanted to do something special for him. He said working with Owens over the last year has made it one of his favorite years and that he has had a lot of partners, but none that he had the chemistry with like he does with Owens. Jericho guaranteed Owens would beat Goldberg because he would have his back.
Owens apologized and said Jericho went to a lot of trouble, and it was great. “I love you too, buddy.” Owens hugged Jericho and said he felt bad because he got Jericho something too, but it didn’t compare t what Jericho did. He said it came from the heart and presented Jericho a box.
Jericho opened the box and called it perfect. “A new list,” Jericho said. Jericho asked why his name was on it, and pulled the list and the back read “The List of KO.” Owens’ demeanor changed and he put the boots to Jericho. Owens ran him into the barricade and pulled his jacket off and whipped him with it. Owens powerbombed Jericho into the edge of the ring and the commentary team asked why. Referees checked on Jericho.
Owens picked him up and threw him in the ring, then ran him into a TV that was set up as a part of the set. Fans chanted “holy shit” as Owens grabbed his belt and held it up. Loud boos from the fans as referees tended to Jericho and put a towel over his head. Owens left the ring, walking backward up the ramp.
Bill Says: The split was coming, and they’ve teased it quite a few times. This was pretty well done. Jericho played his part very well and went from the showman to the sincere best friend explaining why he did this when questioned. One key thing that no one is talking about really is the conversation between Triple H and Kevin Owens. Did that play into any of this? All in all, a segment that could have been groan-inducing came off pretty well and should set up a good feud going into Wrestlemania if they choose to go that route, since Owens’ card is full with Goldberg for FastLane.
They recapped the segment then showed Jericho being loaded into an ambulance backstage. Cole noted that Jericho likely suffered various injuries as well as emotional trauma. Graves said he had no words and couldn’t believe what they just watched.
Cole recapped the tag title match from last week that ended in a DQ because of Enzo and Cass. Enzo and Cass made their entrance and did their normal mic routine. Enzo called Cesaro the Swiss Superman then he was James Bond. He called the breakaway suits something off of Baywatch. Enzo told him to take his best shot because he’s going to Swiss miss because he’s “choc a lotte.” Enzo asked Cass if he got it, and Cass said he did. He asked if he could toss in some marshmallows then did the S-A-W-F-T routine.
Match #7 – Enzo Amore (w/Big Cass) vs. Cesaro (w/Sheamus):
The Reax: Cesaro controlled the offense early until Enzo hit a DDT. Cesaro rolled out, then back into the ring, then hit a pop up uppercut to get the win. Cesaro held back Sheamus who was bickering with Cass.
Cesaro played this one like he was just toying with Enzo, not in a heelish way though. I’m not sure what they wanted viewers to think here, ultimately.
Saxton set up a Black History Month package on Rosa Parks, which was narrated by Mark Henry, Rich Swann, Alicia Fox, Darren Young, Titus O’Neil, Jason Jordan, Naomi, and Apollo Crews.
They showed Charlotte walking backstage, and Sasha Banks approached her. Charlotte said it was nice that WWE lets her sit backstage and relive her glory days. Charlotte said she would have banned her for being bad for morale because she served as a constant reminder of how easy it is to see someone fall. Sasha said she got Charlotte just as good as she got her, and she’ll do it again anytime. Charlotte pointed to her bad knee and said she can’t walk the walk, so she needed to find a spot and do what she can’t do – win.
Bill Says: I smell another multi-woman match at Wrestlemania. And I am betting Emmalina becomes Emma during the main event magically.
They announced Braun Strowman vs. Big Show for next week at Los Angeles for Raw.
Match #8 – Charlotte (c) vs. Bayley; Raw Women’s Championship;
Winner: Bayley to win the Raw Women’s Championship
The Reax: Bayley got the early offense with arm drags and chops. Charlotte rolled out to ringside, but Bayley kept up the offense until Charlotte rolled her up but instead slammed Bayley’s head into the bottom turnbuckle in a neat spot. Charlotte followed with a backbreaker and a neckbreaker.
Charlotte took over as Cole reminded us of the Jericho and Owens angle. Bayley escaped a dragon sleeper by walking the ropes and flipping. Charlotte rebounded, hitting a moonsault. She tried for three covers but couldn’t get the win.
Later, Bayley went top rope and hit an elbow drop for a good near fall, then shot Charlotte to the corner. She flipped over and then threw a kick. Charlotte went top rope but got cut off. Bayley hit a huracanrana for a good near fall. Bayley set up her finish, but ran to the ropes to punch Dana Brooke. Bayley locked in the figure four, but Brooke raked the eyes to break it. Charlotte locked in the Figure 8, but Sasha Banks ran out and hit Brooke with her crutch, then hit Charlotte with it. Bayley hit the Bayley to Belly to win.
A good, fun match, but I’m not a fan of the win here. I think you hold this moment off until Wrestlemania on the big stage where it means a whole lot more for Bayley to score the win. This is also another odd placement of a title change going into the show and it feels far too soon for Bayley to be getting the victory. I’m almost betting we get a Stephanie McMahon overturn on this one, and I’ll be okay with that to an extent. I would rather have seen Charlotte score a dirty win with an assist from Brooke to keep the story going. As it seems we’re getting a multi-woman match at Wrestlemania, there’s plenty of time to build to it and make the payoff mean something.
The moment did close an otherwise average show out with a high note and such, and in the moment this is a great thing. I think they left money on the table by not holding out and letting Bayley get her moment at Wrestlemania because they could have invested so much more into the build and really gotten a great long term payoff out of it.
This show by some would be called great, but I can’t say that. I call it average. There was a lot of stuff that bogged this show down, but it did have some strong moments that buoyed it up. Joe was fantastic, I thought the angle between Owens and Jericho was well done, and despite my misgivings about it being too soon, the Bayley win was a fun moment at the end of the show. There was a lot of otherwise forgettable stuff too along the way, but Raw does seem to be turning a corner a little bit and producing somewhat better television as we head to Wrestlemania.
Drew will have more to say on this show tomorrow on Around the Ring, as well as have your Smackdown and 205 Live coverage. He and I will get together on Wednesday for Ring Rap Audio Episode #250, so be sure to hit us up with things you want to ask us or hear us opine on for that special edition of the show. See you then.