Raw rolls into the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY as Wrestlemania draws nearer. Shawn Michaels told Roman Reigns last Monday that Undertaker was already in his head, then Reigns got attacked by Braun Strowman. Tonight, those two look to settle the score in Brooklyn. Will Reigns put Strowman’s challenge away so he can focus on Undertaker? Will the Deadman look to play more games with the Big Dog? Also, last week Chris Jericho told us he would expose the “real” Kevin Owens this week. How will Jericho put his former best friend on display on the Highlight Reel? Finally, Dana Brooke had taken enough grief from Charlotte last week and turned on her. Will Brooke bring a new attitude to this show tonight, and how will that possibly impact the Women’s title picture?
Show Open, Live from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY
They recapped the Mick Foley/Triple H/Seth Rollins/Stephanie McMahon angle from last Monday. Cole, Graves, and Saxton checked in for the call.
Mick Foley came to the ring to cut a promo, and the fans chanted for him. He read a statement prepared for him in which he said he stood before the fans a humbled man. He thanked Steph and Triple H for the opportunity of a lifetime and said he put his job in jeopardy by putting Mr. Socko in Triple H’s mouth last week. He apologized and said that the last thing he wanted was his personal problems with Stephanie to distract from Wrestlemania. “For the good of WWE, WrestleMania, and his own personal sanity, effective immediately I am taking a leave of absence,” Foley concluded.
Foley got upset and tore up the papers, saying Triple H handed him index cards ten minutes before the show. He yelled about there being more he wanted to do when Steph’s music hit and she came to the ring. “What’s the matter Mick, your mic not working?” She accused him of worrying about what’s best for him and getting the fan chants rather than doing what’s best for business. She said she had two words for him she’s been wanting to say for a long time – “You’re fired.” She told him to get the hell out of her ring and Foley went to the apron.
Sami Zayn’s music hit and he headed to the ring with a mic. He told Steph what she was doing to Foley was wrong, and she’s been wrong about a lot of her decisions. No one has the guts to tell her to her face. She asked him to help “his broken old mentor down the stairs” so they could get on with the show. The fans chanted for CM Punk as Foley got to ringside.
Zayn got in the ring and put Foley over for having more class during his time as GM than she has in her life. Zayn said she should be ashamed, but Steph told him that he’s talented but not on a level where he can interrupt or speak to her. She told him to go backstage and think about how he would make it up to her.
Zayn stopped as he was leaving and she said they could play his music and he could do his dance. He said the smart thing to do would be to leave, but he’s more about doing the right thing. Samoa Joe’s music hit and he headed to the ring in his gear. Steph said it was okay and she had it covered. She told Foley he was out once and for all, then made Joe vs. Zayn the opener. Joe jawed at Foley, but Zayn hit him with a dive going to break.
Bill Says: It’s coming. I really feel it. WWE, want me to turn your flagship broadcast off? Bring back the Authority. I’m sick of Stephanie getting to mock and belittle with zero payoff. That said, everyone in the angle played their parts well, with Foley showing good fire after reading the statement and Zayn handling Stephanie well when given the chance to face her.
Match #1 – Samoa Joe vs. Sami Zayn;
Winner: Samoa Joe
The Reax: (Picking up the pace here to catch up, so, no real action recaps) Joe got early control when the match was joined in progress. He hit a dive that the fans gasped for and kept control through the next break. Zayn got a hope spot with a clothesline and a top rope body block followed with his dive through the ropes into a DDT. Joe, however countered a Helluva Kick into a uranage, then locked in the Coquina Clutch
A good television match that continued to build Joe as a badass and Zayn as the underdog with a fighting spirit. They sold Joe getting run into the ring post at commentary well saying it didn’t knock him down.
They recapped Braun Strowman putting Roman Reigns through a table, and hyped their match for later. Saxton hyped looking at “one of the Wrestlemania main events” between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar, then Cole noted we’d get details on Seth Rollins’ condition after last week’s angle.
Backstage Foley told Zayn what he did was dumb but he appreciated it. Zayn said they needed Foley to stand up for them. They hugged, and Sami said they say never meet your heroes, but he was glad to have met Mick. Mick made his way out when Cesaro and Sheamus stopped him to thank him for putting them together. He also shook hands with some of the cruiserweight talent.
Bayley stopped him and they shared a hug. Foley spotted Triple H and they stared at each other. Hunter smiled and said “have a nice day,” then Mick exited through a door.
They recapped Triple H attacking Rollins’ knee, then showed Rollins working out in Birmingham. They said he was there a day later and determined to get back for Wrestlemania. They asked if he would make it. Cole then interviewed trainer Kevin Wilk, who said the knee brace saved Rollins’ knee. He called Rollins the most driven athlete he’s ever worked with.
Cole noted they are 13 days away from Wrestlemania, and asked if Wilk thought Rollins could be ready. Wilk said Rollins’ injuries would take months of recovery and no doctor in America would clear him.
Bill Says: So, in other words, get ready for a Rollins appearance at Wrestlemania.
Match #2 – Charlotte vs. Dana Brooke;
The Reax: Brooke got the early aggression in but Charlotte broke it by rolling to ringside. There was an audible “We want Paige” chant. Charlotte hit Brooke with a big boot and pinned her, then kicked her to ringside.
WWE’s Raw roster is thin when it comes to women, so why not get something out of a short term feud here. Keep these two apart, let something build up, then feed it into a post-Wrestlemania program. Brooke is undercard talent, no doubt, but Raw needs to establish women other than Charlotte, Sasha, Bayley, and Nia. The commentary team tried, but the message here was clear: Don’t get excited about a Dana Brooke character turn.
They showed a graphic that focused on Chris Jericho beating Rock and Austin in the same night and his overall title wins.
Backstage, Steph approached Bayley, who was sad, and asked if she needed a hug. Bayley told her that she didn’t want one from her, and said she admired Steph growing up because she thought she was a strong woman. However, she has seen her use her power to abuse and hurt other people through the months she has been on the roster. Steph said it takes a strong woman to do what she does, just like it takes a strong woman to be Raw Women’s champion.
She made Bayley vs. Nia Jax in a no-DQ match for later, and if Jax wins she gets a spot in the title match, making it a four way.
Bill Says: Cue up the four-way. You know something’s happening so Jax wins.
Chris Jericho made his way to the ring to host the Highlight Reel and expose “the real Kevin Owens.” He said he doesn’t need Owens as his best friend. Jericho had a pic of Owens appear on the screen with him wearing a Y2J shirt and posing in Jericho’s fashion. He said Owens had a Jericho poster on one side, and a busty blonde on the other. “He was markin’ out, man…”
Jericho revealed a text exchange from July of 2014, where Owens asked for advice for fear of pissing people off. Jericho said he wanted to see the real face of Owens at Wrestlemania. He showed footage of Owens looking shocked to see him at FastLane.
Jericho said they were never best friends, and he’s not his friend…he’s Owens’ hero and idol. Jericho said when they meet at Wrestlemania, it will send Owens back to being a 16-year old and he will realize what he got himself into. Jericho asked what happens when you betray him, then held up a pen.
Samoa Joe came to the stage, and Owens attacked from behind. Owens roughed Jericho up then hit the pop up powerbomb. He picked up the list and tore it up to boos. He posed like Jericho then left.
Bill Says: A strong segment that lacked comedy, which was important. They got more heat on Owens here as well. Owens keeps gaining heat and things are not 50/50 at this point, which is a good thing. I would rather see some more focus on the US Championship and make it feel important beyond Owens wanting to take it in revenge for Jericho costing him the Universal Championship.
Cole hyped a sit-down with Triple H for later, then fed it to footage of Reigns and Strowman battling it out.
Match #3 – TJ Perkins vs. Brian Kendrick
Winner: Brian Kendrick
The Reax: Kendrick turned away from a handshake. Perkins got the better of the match for a minute, but Kendrick finished it quickly with Sliced Bread #2.
After, Kendrick asked where Akira Tozawa is, and called himself a sitting duck. He said Tozawa is not in the country, and in order to travel in the US you need a passport. He pulled a document that he claimed was Tozawa’s passport and he claimed he found it laying on the ground.
What was the point to the match here? It wasn’t even 90 seconds long? The matches are random and pointless and the presentation of the cruiserweights on Raw continues to just be a disaster.
Cole hyped a video package on Goldberg vs. Lesnar.
Cole set up a recap of Roman Reigns talking to Shawn Michaels last week, including Strowman hitting him with a clothesline on the ramp. Charly interviewed Reigns, who was booed as soon as he appeared on camera. He threw in the “with all due respect” line and said that the only time he thinks about Undertaker is when he pictures him lying flat on his back in the ring at Wrestlemania. Reigns said he has to teach Strowman a lesson because “this is my yard.”
The commentary team ran the Goldberg/Lesnar video. It recapped the build to Survivor Series and ended with Lesnar being asked how he handles that. Cole said we would get the answer later.
Nia Jax was shown walking backstage, and Saxton reminded us that she can win a spot in the Raw Women’s Championship match if she beats Bayley.
Steph informed Sheamus and Cesaro that they would face both Enzo and Big Cass and Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson to keep their spot in the tag team triple threat match at Wrestlemania, and would be off the show if they lost. The commentary team said she was punishing anyone who showed support for Foley.
Match #4 – Bayley vs. Nia Jax, No Disqualification Match. If Jax wins, she earns a slot in the Raw Women’s Championship Match at Wrestlemania
Winner: Nia Jax to earn a spot in the Raw Women’s Championship match at Wrestlemania.
The Reax: Sasha watched on from backstage. Bayley tried a huracanrana early off the apron but Jax caught her. Bayley threw a kick from the apron, but Jax pulled her face first to the apron. Bayley ducked a hip check and Jax took the steps.
After a break, Jax controlled the action then grabbed a chair. Cole spoke up that it was legal given the stipulation. Bayley got in a hope spot, getting a two count off a clothesline. Jax won with the Samoan Drop. Sasha and Charlotte both reacted backstage watching monitors.
Odd way of getting there but there’s your heavily rumored four way match for Wrestlemania. I imagine Jax is there to take the pin, but stranger things have indeed happened in WWE.
They featured Mae Young in the Women’s History Month video, along with quotes from Steph who said it’s important to remember what Mae went through in a time when women’s wrestling was not accepted. They also had footage of Fabulous Moolah along with comments from Mark Henry, Ivory, Pat Patterson, and Beth Phoenix.
Cole hyped the interview with Triple H. A Wrestlemania video ran that noted we are 13 days out.
Cole introduced Triple H for the interview, and as he came to the ring it was noted that he will be on ESPN’s “First Take” program at 10 EST.
Hunter mockingly asked the fans how they’re doing and said “I am having a nice day.” Cole asked about the diagnosis for Rollins, and Hunter said he was disappointed. He wanted to fight badly and is in the best shape of his life. More “CM Punk” chants.
Hunter said it’s not his fault that Rollins wouldn’t make Wrestlemania. He said Rollins made the biggest mistake of his life when he stopped listening to him and started listening to the fans. Hunter called it addictive but he never got it himself. He labeled it an insecurity and said he didn’t need it because he knows how good he is.
Hunter noted Mick Foley as proof, saying “how many times have they ruined Mick Foley’s life?” He noted Mick missing part of his ear and limps and says it’s on the fans. Hunter noted Rollins dropping the crutch and the fan reaction. He said it lasted all of 30 seconds before he beat Rollins down and left him in a heap. “How did your cheering work out for him?”
They showed last week’s angle and Hunter said it was on the fans. Hunter said people call Rollins the architect but he is the person who gave Rollins the blueprint. He mocked millennials in the crowd for running their mouths. He said he made things too easy on Rollins and called it laughable that the crutch picked up a crutch and beat Rollins with it.
“At this moment right now, I am officially done with Seth Rollins.” He pulled an envelope out and said it had nosebleed seat tickets for Wrestlemania. He told Cole to give them to Rollins, then teased leaving.
He asked if there was a way they could still fight at Wrestlemania. Hunter said he could draw up a contract for an unsanctioned match so that Rollins couldn’t sue once he destroyed him. Hunter asked if the fans wanted that. “Show up here next week, I’ll draw up the paperwork, sign the document, and it will be at Wrestlemania…Seth Rollins vs. Triple H.” Hunter played to the fans and got them to cheer the match, then told Rollins to show them. “Or are you just a friggin’ coward?” Hunter exited.
Bill Says: Hunter has settled in well as the heel in the feud. The crowd didn’t play in much, but he did get them to respond to him once they were provoked.
They hyped Tinashe performing “America the Beautiful” at Wrestlemania. Sorry, I have no idea who she is.
Match #5 – Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson and Enzo Amore and Big Cass in a handicap match; if Sheamus and Cesaro lose, they are out of Wrestlemania
Winner: Sheamus and Cesaro – they retain their slot at Wrestlemania in the triple threat Raw Tag Team Championship
The Reax: Enzo and Cass did their normal entrance mic work, but Gallows and Anderson attacked them. Cass recovered and pulled Gallows out. Cesaro held Anderson and Sheamus hit the Brogue Kick to get the win. Cass and Enzo attacked Gallows and Anderson afterward. A quick and painless match.
They hyped Wrestlemania and WWE Network
Big E and Kofi looked at Woods, and E asked if there was something Woods wanted to discuss. “Wrestlemania!” Woods said, then they did their gimmick and hyped matches they’re interested in.
Welp, no worries about anyone getting fired, it would seem, with the leak of Paige’s nudes and sex videos. They acknowledged it in character and clearly noted to the audience that they’re not hiding from any of it, which would likely neutralize crowd reactions. Yes, there was an audible “New Day Fucks” chant in the crowd.
Austin Aries came to the ring for a cruiserweight match
Match #6 – Austin Aries vs. Tony Nese;
Winner: Austin Aries
The Reax: Nese got the early advantage by attacking right at the bell. Aries cut him off momentarily then Nese got a two count. Aries dumped Nese to the floor then hit a dive going to commercial. Back from break, Aries played to the crowd then hit a pendulum elbow. He followed with a rolling senton and a missile drop kick. Aries hit a running forearm then threw the discus five arm to get the win.
Neville came out and Aries said he didn’t remember scheduling an interview. Neville said it wasn’t an interview and said he could obliterate him on the spot like he did to everyone else. “Why would I bother?” He said Aries is below him. Aries said Neville just delivered the worst interview ever. Aries said he hears the words out of Neville’s mouth but sees a man who knows he has to step in the ring with a man who is above his level. Aries said he would end the facade of Neville being King of the Cruiserweights.
Bill Says: Graves pointed out that the finisher Aries used was called the Five Arm because it’s better than a forearm. Got it? Five vs. Four? OK. Anyhow, the verbal exchange was fine. They can’t seem to find the way to position this as a match fans have been wanting to see, but it definitely has the feel of the most important and biggest cruiserweight match so far.
Emma is still coming soon. Yippee.
They showed footage from Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar at a past Wrestlemania and set up the second half of the Goldberg vs. Lesnar video package.
Braun Strowman told Charly backstage that he would destroy Roman Reigns, adding that if Undertaker wants to face Reigns at Wrestlemania, he better bring a shovel to scrape him off the mat. Reigns came to the ring to boos.
Graves hyped Aries delivering another message to Neville on 205 Live, and Cole hyped the “hold harmless agreement” signing between Triple H and Seth Rollins. Graves hyped Reigns vs. Undertaker.
Match #7 – Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman;
Winner: Apparent No Contest
The Reax: Reigns threw repeated punches early, but Strowman shoved him to the opposite corner. More punching from Roman until Strowman threw him to the floor. Reigns tried the Drive By but Strowman hit a clothesline. Back in the ring, Strowman hit a spinebuster. Strowman got the better of the offense for the next several minutes as fans chanted “We want Taker.”
Reigns ducked a shoulder block, then Reigns kicked him and threw a series of corner clotheslines. Strowman tried a chokeslam, but Reigns avoided and threw a punch before hitting an impressive Samoan Drop.
Reigns hit the Drive By, then Strowman threw Reigns into the steps. Strowman tried to bring the steps into play but Reigns hit a Superman Punch to boos. Later, Strowman threw Reigns in the air but Reigns hit a punch. Reigns tried for his finish but the gong sounded and the lights went out. When the lights came back up, Undertaker stood between the two of them.
Fans chanted “holy shit” as Taker looked at both men. Strwoman approached from behind, but Taker turned around and hit Strowman with a chokeslam. Taker looked as if he regretted that, but turned around into a spear from Reigns. Reigns bragged off mic, then Taker sat up. He stood, then did the throat slash as his music played and Reigns watched on.
Bill Says: This match wasn’t as good as Reigns vs. Strowman at FastLane but it served the purpose of what they wanted to do. I thought the post match angle was also well done. I can’t tell if they’re trying to have Taker show regret for chokeslamming Strowman, or because it left him vulnerable to the Reigns spear.
Raw did a good job of focusing on Wrestlemania matches and stories for the most part. The problem is, this card doesn’t excite me all that much and nothing that happened tonight that really got me all that much more excited about the show overall. We’ll see how they do on the go-home show heading into Wrestlemania next Monday.
Drew Koscelek will cover Smackdown and 205 Live for you tomorrow, as well as bring you additional wrestling commentary tomorrow on Around the Ring. He and I will join forces to bring you Ring Rap Audio on Wednesday. See you then.