WWE heads to Los Angeles, CA and the Staples Center as FastLane approaches. Charlotte lost her Women’s Championship to Bayley last Monday, but not without controversy because Sasha Banks helped her with a key shot with a crutch. Will Stephanie McMahon force Bayley to surrender the title back, declaring the match a no contest, because of Sasha Banks’ involvement? It will be a clash of big men tonight as Braun Strowman and Big Show collide. Who will come out on top of that match – and will we see Big Show’s rumored Wrestlemania opponent, Shaquille O’Neal? Last week, Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho celebrated friendship, only to have Owens turn and beat down his “best friend.” Will Owens explain himself? Did Triple H influence his decision?
Show Open, Live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA:
They acknowledged the passing of George “The Animal” Steele with a graphic prior to the full Raw opening.
They ran a recap video package that focused on the Festival of Friendship and Kevin Owens eventually turning on Chris Jericho during the segment and attacking him. JoJo introduced Owens, who was already in the ring sitting on a chair and getting a chorus of boos. Dressed in a suit, Owens said that now that the spotlight is where it belongs, he could answer the question everyone has – “Why? Why does Kevin Owens think he’s going to walk out of Fastlane still WWE Univeral Champion?”
Owens said that if someone told him when he was 15 that he was going to defend the WWE Universal Championship against Goldberg, he would have said they were crazy. He said it’s not about the part that he’s the champion or main eventing pay per views, but who his opponent would be. Fans chanted for Goldberg.
Owens acknowledged the chants and said they make Goldberg think he’s invincible, and everyone believes the hype. Owens said he didn’t. “I never believed the hype. Even when I was a kid and Goldberg was running through everyone in 15 seconds, I didn’t care. Goldberg never impressed me; not back then, not now, not ever.”
Owens mentioned Goldberg beating Brock Lesnar. Owen said it happened because Lesnar took Goldberg lightly and Goldberg got lucky. Owens said that won’t happen to him at Fastlane because he knows exactly what to expect and what to do. Owens said no one thinks he has a chance to keep his title, but he will prove everyone wrong again because he knows he’s walking out as champion.
Owens said he hoped Goldberg was watching. Owens said he doesn’t have to beat Goldberg, he just has to outlast him. Owens called it a known fact that the longer a Goldberg match goes, the more the scale tips in his opponent’s favor. Owens said this is his match, and he just has to outsmart him. Owens said he knows how to play the game better than anyone else, and has waited to be a champion his entire life. There’s nothing he won’t do to keep it that way.
Owens recalled Goldberg saying when he came back that he did so to show his wife, son, and everyone that superheroes still exist. Owens said Goldberg wants to use his title as a prop in his superhero fantasy, but he won’t let it happen. Owens said he will show Goldberg, his son, and everyone else that superheroes don’t exist. Owens stood up and said that Goldberg can talk about him being next, but as far as he’s concerned, Goldberg is nothing.
“Now as far as Chris Jericho goes…” Owens dropped the mic and left the ring to boos.
Bill Says: That was good. They put together a solid recap package that detailed everything from the Festival and Owens talked for about ten minutes. His tone was very good, and it made the angle feel bigger. Owens came off so good here – he’s a great serious heel. We needed more of this from Owens throughout the title run to this point.
Cole, Graves, and Saxton checked in and hyped Big Show vs. Braun Strowman for later, and Enzo and Big Cass vs. Sheamus and Cesaro to determine the new No. 1 Contender to the tag team championship. They ran an ad to hype the battle royale to determine Bray Wyatt’s challenger at Wrestlemania.
They recapped Enzo and Cass causing a disqualification when Sheamus and Cesaro had their rematch for the titles against Gallows and Anderson.
Match #1 – Cesaro and Sheamus vs. Enzo Amore and Big Cass; No. 1 Contender to the Raw Tag Team Championship;
The Reax: The winner gets a title shot at Gallows and Anderson at Fastlane. Late, Cesaro set up the Swing on Cass, but Enzo got on his back. Cesaro dumped him to the floor, but Cass came back and hit the East River Crossing to win. Saxton put over Cesaro and Sheamus for controlling the match to that point, even though they lost. Enzo got a mic and said they had the kryptonite for the Swiss Superman, then ate a Brogue Kick from Sheamus.
Enzo and Cass are getting a bit repetitive, but the live crowd reacted to them and to the fact that they won. The match was fine.
They showed Kevin Owens walking backstage, and Mick Foley chased him down. Foley told Owens he couldn’t leave, because he had a match with Sami Zayn. Owens laughed and Foley asked if he thought it was funny. “I thought you liked Sami Zayn,” Owens said. He told Foley he needs to be careful or he would end up with more guys on the injured list than in the locker room.
Bill Says: Ugh! This is quickly “just another match” with WWE going back to Zayn vs. Owens so often. Besides, weren’t they supposedly done having matches sometime last year (per a pay per view stipulation)?
They set up Braun Strowman vs. Big Show with a video package focused on Strowman, and the commentary team hyped the match. Cole said they would hear from Bayley later in the show as well, and he fed it to a video package. It focused on her long-time fandom and how she won over Charlotte with help from Sasha.
Bill Says: Still say we see Stephanie come out and strip her of the title with some “lawyer called me” bullshit. See last week’s Ring Rap Audio for why I hated putting the title on Bayley in the first place.
Cole then pointed out a tweet from Charlotte, who demanded Bayley do the right thing and give her the title back. Saxton said that Bayley will address it later in the show.
Mick Foley was shown backstage on the phone about having a guest. Roman Reigns entered, so Foley hung up. He told Reigns that he has to wait til Fastlane to get at Strowman. Reigns told Foley he would have his main event, and mentioned something about what would happen once it ended. Gallows and Anderson interrupted, saying they have unfinished business. Foley told Reigns to find a partner, and he would make the match. Reigns said he didn’t need a partner and would handle them on his own.
Bill Says: Geez, doubling down on the tag champs by handing them to Roman a second week in a row. I hope this is an angle.
Brian Kendrick made his entrance, and Austin Aries replaced Byron Saxton on the call. They recapped 205 Live where Akira Tozawa told Kendrick that he doesn’t like him. Tozawa made his entrance, and once in the ring Kendrick offered a handshake. Tozawa declined at first, then accepted but ate a clothesline. Kendrick locked in Captain’s Hook. Cole noted the bell never rang to start the match as Kendrick released the hold. He put on his jacket and left.
Charly interviewed Kendrick and asked about what he did. Kendrick said no one disrespects him, and that he offered Tozawa his mentorship. He said this was a lesson in respect, and it was just the first.
Bill Says: I’m fine with holding off on that match. Once it happens, it should be very good, and it’s one that they can really promote and build up to for the division. When the time is right, it will end up mattering and not just be a throwaway match on Raw.
Match #2 – Roman Reigns vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson in a handicap match;
Winner: Gallows and Anderson by DQ
The Reax: Reigns got a fast start, but Gallows and Anderson took over. Gallows got a chair late in this one and threatened using it, but Reigns booted him in the face then grabbed the chair and used it himself to cause the DQ. He caught Gallows with a Superman punch after the bell, the speared Anderson as he jumped off the ropes.
Gallows and Anderson just can’t catch a break here it seems. They were booked terribly after what was a strong debut when they came through the crowd and beat people up. Then they finally get the titles, and they’re working handicap matches with Reigns and getting manhandled. Why is this happening? Is this just a time-filler for WWE? That said, the spear on Anderson looked really good.
The commentary team hyped Strowman vs. Show and said the ring had to be reinforced because of the size of the two men. They recapped Owens’ promo from the top of the show, then Cole hyped a sit-down interview with Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman for later in the show, and how it might be affected by Owens vs. Goldberg. Graves hyped New Day vs. Jinder Mahal and Rusev for after commercial.
Lana was in the ring and she talked briefly in a foreign language before introducing Jinder Mahal and “handsome Rusev.” Saxton said Jinder calls himself Hardbody Mahal. New Day came out, and Big E poured cereal into fans’ mouths. Woods hyped his UpUp DownDown channel and said he was about to hit a million subscribers, and he would be hosting gaming awards.
He said they are working on their voiceovers since they want to voice the hyenas in the Lion King movie. Kofi said it’s true and not a joke. Woods noted ice cream then said they would be hosting Wrestlemania. Kingston noted the ice cream again, and that drew a chant from the fans. Woods noted that Bo Dallas destroyed their blueprints. Kofi said they have photographic memories so they put the blueprints back together again. He boasted and held up an iPad, saying they went digital. Woods said it was encrypted, so only New Day could access it.
Lana coughed to interrupt them, then said she had their plan on her iPad. She read from the plan, and they were shocked. “You know she’s Russian, right?” That got some laughs. New Day got in the ring and bickered with their opponents going to commercial.
Match #3 – Big E and Kofi Kingston (w/Xavier Woods) vs. Jinder Mahal and Rusev (w/Lana);
Winner: Big E and Kofi Kingston
The Reax: Late in this one, Woods spooked Lana by playing the trombone behind her. She tossed the iPad up, he caught it and destroyed it. In the ring, E and Kingston hit Midnight Hour to win. Nothing too special to talk about here.
Graves hyped a contract signing segment between Jack Gallagher and Neville for their match at Fastlane.
They set up and aired a tribute video package for George “The Animal” Steele. It featured comments from Steph McMahon, David Arquette, Sheamus, Bruno Sammartino, and Bret Hart. They also showed footage of his feud with Randy Savage. After it was over, the fans responded with a nice round of applause.
Bill Says: The feud Steele had with Savage never produced memorable matches, but it sure did establish the Macho Man character and the kindness of Miss Elizabeth. Steele was an incredibly intelligent man but played the simpleton role so well. He will be missed.
Austin Aries hosted the contract signing between Neville and Jack Gallagher for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. Gallagher was already in the ring and Aries congratulated him. There was a table with tea and crumpets in the ring. Gallagher talked about dethroning the “delusional king of the cruiserweights.”
Neville came to the ring, took the contract and signed, then went to leave. Gallagher stopped him and offered tea and biscuits. Neville mocked the idea and asked if Gallagher was for real. Neville said Gallagher was exactly what American imbeciles think Englishmen are.
Neville told Gallagher he should be ashamed of himself for being a stereotype, and put himself over as what a real Englishman looks like. He said Gallagher is what the fans want him to be. Neville said the fans aren’t laughing with him, they’re laughing at Gallagher. Neville said he would be the only person laughing at Fastlane.
Gallagher corrected Neville, saying he doesn’t play a gentleman, he is one. Gallagher said this is who he is and how he was raised. He said Neville’s problem is that he thinks he’s a king and better than everyone else, and he won’t stand for it.
Neville tossed the table aside and got in Gallagher’s face, asking what he planned to do about it. Neville pie-faced him, and Gallagher tackled Neville. Gallagher headbutted Neville’s face, and both sold. Neville tried to run back to the ring, but Gallagher held up his umbrella at his throat and Neville retreated.
Bill Says: This was good. Neville pointed out the complaints that some have voiced over Gallagher’s character, and he defended himself by saying that it’s who he is. Theatrics aside, I’m looking forward to the Fastlane match as I think it should be good.
They showed Nia Jax heading to the ring, and she’s up after the break.
Match #4 – Nia Jax vs. Sara Pierce;
Winner: Nia Jax
The Reax: Jax swatted aside a drop kick then finished her with a Samoan Drop. Another dominant win for Jax going forward.
Afterward, Charly asked Jax about the controversy from last week involving the Women’s Title. The only controversy, according to Jax, is that she hasn’t had a title shot yet. She said she would take the crutch and shove it down their throats if someone tried that with her. She said she was putting the champion on notice.
Jax’s voice is weird. You expect this monster, then you get the high school principal. Also, she needs to work on her promos – she feels very scripted and like she’s delivering lines.
Saxton fed it to a Black History Month video package. They then showed a shot of Bayley high-fiving people backstage.
Cole played up “Raw going Hollywood” because the show is in Los Angeles. Sure. Anyhow, Bayley made her entrance.
Cole narrated footage of Bayley winning with help from Sasha. They zoomed in to show the new Bayley side plates on the belt, and she played to the fans. They chanted “you deserve it.”
Bayley thanked them and talked about how she grew up in California. She said she had the best friends and family, and recalled some of their dreams. She said she wanted to be WWE Women’s Champion and her dream came true last week. She said she was in the figure 8 in one second, and had her hand raised in victory the next.
She recalled calling her father, and talked about how he bought her action figures and took her to events. She got emotional noting he was in the crowd, and said “Dad, I did it.” Bayley said Charlotte tried to make excuses for her loss. She said that Charlotte had to face the fact that she is the new Raw Women’s Champion.
Cue Stephanie. She came to the ring, shook Bayley’s hand then took a mic. She talked about Bayley talking about her dream and asked if she envisioned people chanting “you deserve it” or having someone come in and throw a cheap shot on her opponent. Steph called it a tainted win and asked if when Bayley called her dad if he was silent for a minute while thinking Sasha did it for Bayley.
Steph talked about how her three daughters look up to Bayley because she is moral and honest, then asked if she’s ready to throw away who she is to hold a championship she didn’t earn. Steph said the Bayley she knows would do the right thing and relinquish the title. Fans chanted no.
Steph said she doesn’t want to win that way no matter what the fans say. “You’re better than that.” Bayley took the belt off and looked conflicted, looking down at it. Steph pressured her by telling her to win it on her own terms for the right reasons. Steph held out her arms waiting for the belt and Bayley held on to it.
Sasha Banks came to the ring. “Here comes Sasha Banks once again to interfere in your business, Bayley.” She asked if Sasha thinks Bayley can’t win or is some charity case. Sasha told her to not listen. She said Bayley won fair and square and she wouldn’t let her give up everything she worked for. Sasha also told her to listen to the fans, who responded with a cheer.
Sasha polled the crowd, who didn’t want the title to be relinquished. Steph asked Sasha if she was there because she loves Bayley, or knows she can’t beat Charlotte but thinks she can beat Bayley.
“Stephanie is right,” Bayley started. She said the title means everything to her and she didn’t work to be a champion and have it look like it was handed to her. Bayley asked if she should give the title up. “There is only one answer. Hell no, I’m not giving up the Raw Women’s Championship.” She boasted about pinning Charlotte, saying she is the champion and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
Charlotte came out saying she didn’t want Bayley to give the title up because she’s going to take it back. She announced she was invoking her rematch clause. Sasha cut her off and said Bayley will prove Charlotte is no queen. Sasha said her knee feels 100 percent and she challenged Charlotte to a match. Charlotte agreed, and Steph made it official.
Bill Says: WHAT?!!? The purest babyface in wrestling just accepted that her first championship was given to her by interference? Please tell me this is a furtherance of an angle and she ends up being stripped of it? She’s a hero to little girls, but accepted a tainted win? And Steph – the HEEL AUTHORITY – was the voice of reason here? Jesus. What a mess. This is why I said Bayley shouldn’t have won the belt at all last week. I hope there’s something else at work here.
Match #5 – Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks;
Winner: Sasha Banks
The Reax: Bayley joined the commentary team and said that the only thing that matters is that she has the title. Graves pressed her and she admitted that Steph’s words got to her a bit but she shouldn’t have to give up what she worked for. Charlotte controlled the offense early and dumped Sasha to ringside going to a break.
Sasha got her offense going after the break. She caught Charlotte with double knees from the apron. Dana Brooke ran to the ring but Bayley cut her off, then Sasha hit the Backstabber into the Bank Statement for the win.
A TV win on Charlotte doesn’t really mean much, but, it was a decent women’s match for the time given. Charlotte is established as the pay per view queen, but can take losses on Raw very easily.
They ran a video package for Diamond Dallas Page being added to the 2017 Class of the WWE Hall of Fame. A good video package highlighting his career. Admittedly, I was a bit of a DDP mark back in his WCW days, so I’m happy for him.
Charly Caruso talked to Sami Zayn about whether any part of him wants to say he told Chris Jericho so about Kevin Owens. Zayn said Samoa Joe and Kevin Owens will justify whatever they do in the name of excuses they make up. Zayn said Joe blindsiding him last week was okay because he did so in the name of Triple H. He said time catches up with those people, and the real Owens who has no one to hide behind has to deal with Goldberg at Fastlane and him kicking his teeth in tonight.
They hyped 205 Live, featuring Akira Tozawa vs. Brian Kendrick, Mustafa Ali vs. Noam Dar, and Jack Gallagher vs. Tony Nese.
Cole hyped that they were in Los Angeles and we got a brief video package.
Kevin Owens made his entrance while they ran footage of his turn on Chris Jericho. Sami Zayn entered but was attacked by Samoa Joe. Joe ran him into the ring post a few times. “Say my name again!” Joe hit a senton then picked Zayn up and barked that “this is your world now.” Joe threw Zayn in to Owens.
Match #6 – Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn;
Winner: Kevin Owens
The Reax: The official checked on Zayn, who wanted to fight. Owens hit an immediate clothesline, a couple of cannonballs, then the pop up powerbomb to win. Cole noted it was a different Owens now.
This was good. Joe fit into this perfectly by attacking Zayn before the match, and Owens has clearly reverted back to where he was when he first debuted against John Cena, if not even a touch darker. The commentary team addressed it and made it clear that Owens had changed too. Well done. It just needed to happen sooner than now though.
Graves hyped Big Show vs. Strowman yet to come, and they showed Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman backstage. Cole said he was going back to conduct the interview.
Backstage, Steph asked Mick where he was when she got embarrassed by Bayley and Sasha. Foley said Steph put herself in that position and he enjoyed every moment of it. Steph told him to not be like one of her children, calling his behavior nothing short of insubordination.
Foley said he asked her to not treat him like he’s stupid, and now he was no longer asking – he was telling her. He said he believed in her, but now Seth Rollins is on the shelf for another Wrestlemania due to Samoa Joe and her husband. Foley said he knew it would be career suicide but he refused to be belittled or let greed get in the way of what is right. Steph told Foley to be careful of a cord on the floor. “I wouldn’t want you to have an accident,” she said. Graves chimed in that you don’t cross the boss.
Elsewhere, Cole interviewed Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. Cole noted facing the man who beat him in 1:26 and eliminated him from Royal Rumble. He shifted to the ramifications of Owens vs. Goldberg. Heyman cut him off and said it would behoove Cole to lower his tone.
Heyman said that he disagrees with the notion that Goldberg vs. Owens would affet his prominence at Wrestlemania. Lesnar stood, and Cole ran. He sat down and stared into the camera while Heyman spoke. Heyman said Owens established himself last week and is prepared to shock the world at Fastlane and has a shot to walk into Wrestlemania as champion.
Heyman says Lesnar disagrees. Heyman said if Goldberg hits a spear and a jackhammer on Owens, then Goldberg goes to Wrestlemania as champion. Heyman said it’s just one more thing that the Beast will conquer at Wrestlemania. “And on that, my client, Brock Lesnar, agrees.”
The ring crew was shown working on the ring. Graves said they were reinforcing it due to the “800 pounds of humanity competing in this matchup.” Strowman made his entrance.
Bill Says: The Lesnar/Heyman segment was decent. I think they tipped the hand that Goldberg is going to Mania as champion though. As for reinforcing the ring – why is this not a big deal for Royal Rumble?
The commentary team hyped Goldberg appearing on Raw next week, and Cole will be interviewing Seth Rollins.
Match #7 – Braun Strowman vs. Big Show;
Winner: Braun Strowman
The Reax: They had a staredown at the start and Cole noted it’s not often that Strowman has to look up at an opponent. The fans chanted “this is awesome” at the start as they tied up. Show used a wristlock then Strowman somersaulted his way out and kipped up.
Down the stretch the two had an exchange on the ropes that got fans excited. They set up a superplex spot but Strowman punched out of it to boos. Strowman jumped off the second rope but Show punched him for a good near fall. Show tried for a Vader bomb but Strowman snuck under him and hit a powerslam out of it. Show kicked out. Show goozled Strowman for a chokeslam but Strowman powered out and hit another powerslam to win.
Roman Reigns’ music hit and he charged the ring to hit Strowman with two Superman punches to take him down. Reigns set up a spear but took a drop kick from Strowman. Strowman hit him with a powerslam then left, looking back at the ring and smiling as the show ended.
The fans were into this clash of super heavyweights from the start. All of this was a big showcase moment for Strowman, and he threw in a few new moves we haven’t seen him do. He looked badass by kicking out of Show’s big moves too. This did get sloppy down the stretch though, but it was definitely better than what we might have seen from these two a few months ago.
The post match angle with Reigns was effective in that they didn’t let Reigns get the better of Strowman here. I think he does at Fastlane, but for tonight they let Strowman walk off as a monster yet again even after having the match with Show.
There were plenty of negative things about this show, but what WWE did get right they hit it strong. I thought the Owens follow-up was done very well, as was the build up to Joe vs. Zayn. The main event was sound and didn’t leave me with a bad taste in my mouth that I thought I might get. Next week’s show is the final show before Fastlane, so we’ll see what else WWE has in mind for that show.
Drew will have your Smackdown and 205 Live coverage tomorrow night, as well as more commentary on Around the Ring. I’ll be back on Wednesday with Ring of Honor and Ring Rap Audio. See you then.