What a great episode of “Raw” this was! There were only a couple of ridiculous matches. The rest was really good and the storytelling in a couple of instances was sheer perfection! WrestleMania is shaping up to be a lot of fun and this episode went a long way to continuing to tell the stories that will sell me on WrestleMania. Let’s get to it, shall we?
In-ring segment – Kurt Angle, Ronda Rousey, Stephanie McMahon, and Triple H
This was good. Stephanie is the best slime in WWE right now. She knows exactly how to talk people down and put them in their place. Of course, this time, Ronda and Kurt had to get the upper hand. This encounter also set up the match we all knew was coming. In case you missed it, it’ll be Triple H and Stephanie McMahon vs. Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey. Kurt reminding both Steph and Trips about their “superstar” contracts was a really nice touch. Ronda, for her part, did well here. She gets better each week and she certainly brought it here. I love that she’s genuinely moved by the love the audience is giving her. Someone in the chat mentioned that it’s the same kind of thing Daniel Bryan showed. Mitch revealed to us during the “Dignified Discussion” that Joan Jett had waved the publishing fees for Ronda’s use of “Bad Reputation” because of how big a fan of Ronda she is. Very cool…and highly unusual. Anyway, you really can’t ask for more from this kind of segment.
Asuka vs. Nia Jax
This was a mistake to do this on “Raw” again. First, Asuka can’t lose so we know who will. Secondly, Nia can’t really afford the losses anymore either. So how do they do it? Every once in a while, WWE finds a way out of the mess they create. Here, Nia took the “L” we knew she’d take but she still looked incredibly strong. Asuka and Nia’s storytelling abilities were just amazing here. Nia did everything she could to get out of the cross arm bar that Asuka had her in and nothing worked. It looked torturous and Nia really sold that. WWE normally shies away from that sort of thing but tonight, they did it and it was great. Even the crowd loved her…and it was well-deserved. Those two did a beautiful job here. This is proof that matches don’t always have to have a bunch of flying around and powerful moves. These two got us involved and I was engrossed in this from beginning to end. Asuka takes the win she has to take and Nia comes off looking really strong too. Everyone wins. Nice, WWE. Very nice…
The Revival (Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder) vs. The Bar (Cesaro and Sheamus)
This was one of those matches that kinda had me scratching my head. Dawson and Wilder have done little since they both returned while Cesaro and Sheamus have rolled over everyone. It was said that if The Revival won, they’d get The Bar at Mania. There was no doubt in my mind who’d win this match and I wasn’t wrong. Still, it was a decent match and I do love The Revival’s sub-Ole Anderson wrestling boots. We were talking a bit during the “Dignified Discussion” with regard to who The Bar faces as they’ve run through everyone. Dre mentioned maybe the Good Brothers? I’d be all for that. We’d get a great match out of it for sure.
In-ring segment – John Cena & Goldust
When he showed up, I wasn’t quite sure why he was there. Cena always does a good job on the mic and I think that might be the problem. He’s so consistent that he has little room to really be better. It’s notable when it happens but it can only happen so often. This was not one of those times. He did do a bit of shooting when it came to fans criticizing him for holding people back. That was a nice touch. Then, out comes Goldust! (?)
He did the schtick he’s been good at for years. Cena’s reactions during it were really good. Goldy went on too long but it was bizarre and fun to watch. Of course, it lead to a completely superfluous match between the two, one that Cena won. Five moves of doom finished off Goldust with little trouble.
Backstage segment – Kurt Angle & Elias
Here, Elias tries to slither out of the “Symphony of Destruction” match. Of course, it didn’t work and Angle decided the match would happen. Elias wasn’t slimy about it either. He promised Angle that whatever happened to Braun would be on Angle’s hands.
Hall of Fame inductee – Hillbilly Jim
I’ve been waiting for this. I always liked him. Few were more fun back then than the Hillbilly one. When he was with Uncle Elmer and Gertrude, they entertained us all. He was introduced in a novel way too. He began as a guy in the audience that Hogan grabbed and trained. In reality, he’d been wrestling (yes, I said wrestling) since 1975. By the time he was “trained” by Hogan, Bob Orton, Sr. had already done all the work back in 75 and he’d been wrestling for about 9 years by the time he debuted for WWE in 1984. I’m completely thrilled by this induction and, other than Jarrius’ induction, it’s the one I’m most looking forward to.
Bayley vs. Mandy Rose
We got a quick promo from Paige doing the “Sasha and you aren’t getting along anymore so no one can save you” thing. Paige is great at that sort of thing so it came off well. It was short so I threw it in here with the match itself.
So…remember those dreaded “bathroom break” matches that the Divas used to give us that we all complained about? Well, we basically got an unwelcome return to that here. It was really clunky with neither of them working like they can. Maybe they just have no chemistry? Bayley pulled out the win and then Absolution went on the attack. In spite of what we’ve heard, Sasha came out to make the save. I love the slow burn of this feud between Bayley and Sasha. The way Bayley refused Sasha’s hug and was leery of her appearance in general was great. People are thinking Sasha will turn heel but I really want Bayley to do it instead. We’ve already seen Sasha as a heel and she’s great at it but I wonder if Bayley can pull it off? I hope we find out.
Backstage segment – Alexa Bliss & Nia Jax
I knew this would be good but I didn’t know it’d be this good. Alexa was just impossible. Her pep talk was so not encouraging in the least bit. Believe it or not, the best part of this was Nia. She really sold this perfectly. For as good as Alexa was, Nia was every bit as good. She really brought the water works and it was great. Nia was likely feeling something to make that come out. The two of them together was just perfection.
Cinéma de iPhone – Braun Strowman
Short but sweet. Some are not fans of the text on the screen while they talk but I like it! It’s something different. It was brief but it absolutely got the job done.
Segment de Instrument – Elias
Despite was Elias says, Elias’ only instrument is the guitar. He is not a pianist nor a drummer. He is, however, wildly entertaining while he tries to play them and that’s what matters. He’s just so cavalier when he does this stuff. It’s notable that he actually finished a song! In fact, he finished two! The getaway was genius. We knew he couldn’t get away, of course. I figured Braun would be waiting in the getaway car. I should have been more perceptive. When Elias threw the vehicle into “drive” to take off, the car wouldn’t move. Gee, wonder why? The reveal of Braun holding the back of the clearly rear-wheel drive car up was perfectly done. This all lead to…
Braun Strowman vs. Elias (“Symphony of Destruction” match)
The destruction of yet another double bass and a piano (!!!) was as much as I could take. I HATED that. Still, the match was pretty good for a prop match. They worked it very well. Braun was very safe and the spot with the piano crushing Elias looked incredibly fake but, barring a different camera angle, there wasn’t much they could have done about that. Heck, I’m not even sure a different camera angle would have helped it. Pianos are very heavy and had it landed on Elias, he would have legitimately injured and quite severely. It would likely have been better not to do the spot at all and find another way to make Elias suffer a very pianissimo destruction.
Bray Wyatt vs. Rhyno
One of these wasn’t enough, WWE? We had a permutation of this last week and it ended kind of like this one. Here, Rhyno jobbed hard. He got in zero offense.
In-ring segment – Bray Wyatt & “Woken” Matt Hardy
Bray grabbed the mic and demanded to see the “Woken” one. When Hardy appeared, the stage was set for the Final Deletion to occur…at the Hardy Compound. We got a glimpse of Vanguard 1 too! Now that Hardy owns the Broken Universe, WWE is now free to really “go there” and it finally looks like they’re gonna do it. This has taken a very long time in the interim, they’ve made the Woken one completely corny. They’ve done it for so long that I’m not entirely sure it’s even fixable now. I’m also dubious about whether or not WWE can even pull this off. I’m hopeful…but cautious.
In-ring segment – The Miz and The Miztourage (Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel)
I keep saying it but the man is just golden. The Miz never gets lost, he almost never blows anything (he blew a word tonight – a single word on this one). The segment was a riot. I dig Mizzies! WWE’s production staff really shines on stuff like this. CFO$ music and the production of that segment were just dead on and hilarious! I didn’t realize how close he was to breaking Pedro Morales’ IC title record. That’s too cool.
Seth came out and broke it up…for two seconds. Finn Bálor was out right behind him. I loved their brief interaction. The best part of this was when Miz started shooting on both of them. No one does that better than Miz and he NAILED.
Finn Bálor & Seth Rollins vs. Miz, Bo Dallas, & Curtis Axel
Someone in our DD mentioned that Seth’s pants are very Harlem Heat and I totally see it. Okay, the match. It was pretty good, really. It was intended to first show Bálor and Rollins behind the eight ball, then show them triumphing. Towards the end of the match, we also got to see more of their dueling egos. It’s a nice wrinkle in the story they’re telling which now adds nuance to the WrestleMania match. We’ll now get a three-way dance between Miz, Seth Rollins, & Finn Balor for the IC title. Initially, it might have appeared that Bálor and Rollins would have presented an unfair advantage against the Miz but now, that’s won’t really he case. Their egos will likely lead to clashes during the match so it’ll truly be every man for himself.
In-ring segment – Paul Heyman & Roman Reigns
We now get the very best mic worker in all of WWE. The show actually ran over because of all the that happened during this segment. He is nothing if not passionate – so passionate, in fact, that he uttered a word you don’t utter. One wonders how that was received backstage. “Afa WrestleMania, you can Sika new title to challenge for”….Dead! Perfection! He went on and on…and I loved every second of it. Miz and he are two guys that could just talk forever and I’d always listen.
Roman was much better on the mic this week. He still isn’t gaining solidarity with the crowd but he was better this time. He got the job done and it really wasn’t half bad. Better still was Heyman’s reaction to all of it. The way he clutched the Universal Title and displayed trepidation throughout was just masterful. Heyman may just get both of them through this. If anyone can, it’s Heyman.
All in all, a really good episode of “Raw”. Brock and Roman are set to go face-to-face next week and I can’t wait to see what direction it takes. It should be fun. Join me next week for another “Spot of Botch”!