In-ring segment – Kurt Angle & Roman Reigns
I’m sorry but this just isn’t working. This is pure and simple desperation on the part of Vince to get Roman over at any cost. Roman is finally up to the task of delivering promos like this and he did it well. but it’s not believable coming from him. We know why this is happening so we aren’t into it. The audience on this night wasn’t really either. They kept giving him the universal sign of disinterest, the “what” chant. When he said “[Brock]’s Vince’s boy”, I had to laugh. How completely and totally ironic.
He disappeared backstage to give Vince “the business”. Again, he was up to it and Vince was too. Still, this is ridiculous coming from him. He’s continually forced down our throats…because he’s Vince’s boy and no matter what, Vince is bound and determined to get Roman over. If Roman hadn’t done as well as he did here, the grade would surely be lower.
Backstage interview – Vince McMahon
Renee and Vince are great and always will be so they nailed this. Vince has always been so comfortable out there running things down and that hasn’t changed one bit in all the years he’s been doing it. The premise is completely silly but Vince did a great job. Oooh, Roman’s suspended! Gee, guess Roman stood up to Vince in the back. With this, Vince’s desperation has hit new levels. Anyway, this got the grade based on proficiency only. The premise weighed it down.
Sasha Banks (w/ Bayley) vs. Sonya Deville (w/ Paige & Mandy Rose)
The match itself was actually pretty good but the focus wasn’t really the match. This was far more about the deteriorating friendship of Sasha and Bayley. I love the slow burn of this. They aren’t rushing it; they’re doing this really slowly. What I don’t like is Bayley’s bad acting. She’s so completely vanilla that she can’t really pull off the acting job required. It kinda looks like they’re trying to turn her heel. I think it might be fun to see her turn heel but I’m not entirely sure she can pull it off. At the end of the match, Bayley just walked off and that was perfect. Absolution then beat Sasha down and Bayley didn’t come back out to make the save. More really good storytelling.
Absolution was defanged almost from the moment they debuted. As was said in the DD, it didn’t help at all that Paige got injured but the faction has been meaningless from the word “go”. I have no reason to care about any of them, really.
Hall of Fame announcement – Kid Rock
I’m not a fan of Kid Rock at all but this one makes sense to me. He’s a fan of the product and he’s contributed to it at various stages. I’m perfectly fine with this induction. This one has been polarizing based on what I’ve read but I’m not sure why. He’s not Jeff Jarrett; he’s Kid Rock. Where one has made no lasting contribution to the business, the other had a small hand in the evolution of the Undertaker and has done some selfless work for the company.
MizTV – Miz, Seth Rollins, & Finn Bálor
Miz is just great. I loved watching him trying to instigate issues between Rollins and Bálor. Miz has made an art form out of ethering Bálor. He did plenty of it here. Bálor and Rollins ended up going back and forth and Miz was loving it. When they turned their attention to him, his reaction was just perfect. They took him out of the ring and then Rollins took out Bálor (with one punch?). The story was very well-told here. This should be a fun one at WrestleMania for sure.
The Bar (Sheamus & Cesaro) vs. The Miztourage (Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel)
Miztourage went on the attack and the match never became a match. All “Raw” tag teams entered and this was done to set up a tag team Battle Royal later on tonight. The Bar need an opponent for WrestleMania so I suppose this makes sense. They all went after The Bar, of course, as they’re the ones that have to be toppled.
In-ring segment – John Cena
This stuff is why Cena is so good. Cena delivers promos like this easily. When he moves with the crowd and lets them dictate what he does and how he does it, he’s truly at his best. He put it all out there here and is incredibly comfortable. His interactions with the audience (including grabbing that sip of beer from the audience member) was just great. He played this like a shoot and, unlike Roman, this made sense for him to do. He had no path to WrestleMania so it kinda had to be. The trolling of Roman was also fun. The animosity displayed towards the Undertaker was great (I didn’t get it initially but I do now) and that match is all but a done deal given the grist in the rumor mill.
Backstage segment – Kurt Angle & The Bar (Sheamus & Cesaro)
This was a nice little segment. Here, Angle announced the Battle Royal I spoke of earlier.
In-ring segment – Elias
Well, he doesn’t look too good. He came out with guitar and neck brace appearing…um…less than. He pulled this off nicely. He played a little, blamed the audience for what happened to him last week, and got out of the ring. Short and simple. Thus, the story moves along…but where.
Cinéma de iPhone – Braun Strowman
He has no match at WrestleMania but he’s gonna make sure he gets one, darn it. Short but well-done.
Seth Rollins vs. Finn Bálor
There was no way this wasn’t going to be a lot of fun and they didn’t let us down at all. I love that Bálor outthought Rollins and took the win. It continues to the narrative of Bálor beating Rollins. This really was a very good match.
Fabulous Moolah Memorial Women’s Battle Royal
Oh boy. When this announcement was made, I was surprised…but not for the reasons you might think I would be. I was surprised because of what a truly horrible human being The Fabulous Moolah really was. She is hailed as a pioneer and on the surface, it’s hard to take that away from her…but take it away I will. The Fabulous Moolah spent her entire career looking out for one person: herself. She only ever did what was best for her. Along the way, she embarrassed, demeaned, outright stole, and otherwise “came for” virtually every woman she trained. Look up Sweet Brown Sugar (Dre and I were talking briefly about her last night) or better yet, Wendy Richter, for undeniable proof. She was a horrible person and I’m greatly encouraged by the fact that I wasn’t the only one appalled by this choice. Twitter was quite vocal about this announcement when it was made and that made me happy. I was afraid I might be one of the few who knew the deal and I’m glad I’m not. There were other great female workers for whom this Battle Royal could have been named. Chyna? Hello? Nothing in Chyna’s checkered past comes near Moolah’s so that would have been a better choice.
All of that said, the concept make some sense. It ensures that all the ladies will get on the WrestleMania card so I’m not mad at that.
In-ring segment – Asuka, Alexa Bliss, & Mickie James
Asuka is not the best talker and this isn’t the best light to put her in, honestly. Asuka’s screeching was truly terrible and she shouldn’t have done it. I don’t blame her in the least bit for her lack of English but she shouldn’t have screamed. It made her look completely foolish. Alexa Bliss came out and made this must-watch. She is the ultimate “mean girl” and just killed it here like she always does. The picture she painted of Alexa being too much of a threat to Asuka’s streak was just brilliant. Mickie did the “hop on” thing and did it fairly well, actually. In truth, Mickie’s a little “long in the tooth” to be a mean girl hanger-on but she okay with it. Alexa made the segment work and were it not for her, Asuka would have fallen apart out there completely.
Asuka vs. Mickie James
Gee, wonder how this’ll end. Asuka and Mickie can both get it done in the ring so this was pretty good. It was just more than a little anticlimactic as we knew who would win. I’m not sure why they made this so competitive but it was fun to watch.
Backstage segment – Nia Jax & Alexa Bliss
Bliss’ manipulation game is ON POINT! No one does this better than her. Here, Bliss did whatever she had to do to shore up her own protection and she nailed it.
Nia Jax vs. Joan King
Another jobber thing? Not sure why this is happening but it did and it was quick.
Cinéma de Titantron – Alexa Bliss & Mickie James (w/ Nia looking on)
The jig is up! Alexa and Mickie getting their “mean girl” on big time here…and Nia watched it all. Alexa is great here and Mickie is miles behind, just hanging on for dear life and getting over on Alexa’s afterburners. The look on Mickie’s face when she realized that mic was on the whole time was priceless. It wasn’t anything “over the top” either. It was just a subtle “oh no”-kinda thing and it worked brilliantly. Of course, the mean girls high-tailed it outta there.
Nia’s acting skills are truly first-rate. She ran through the gamut of emotions in the ring. She went from “I can’t believe this” to being incredibly hurt to being incredibly angry. Through it all, she displayed great rhythm and timed it all perfectly. The crowd was totally with her too. I have no doubt that she can make this “face” turn work. Her entrance into Bliss’ dressing room and destruction of it was just great.
Reckon we’ll get Alexa vs. Nia at WrestleMania? Certainly looks like it!
The Ultimate Deletion + Bray Wyatt segment
Man, I hope they finally get this right. We’ve certainly waited long enough – wading through reductive laughing and bad sub-Broken posturing. They just have to get this right. I remember Bray going in on Matt on Twitter a couple of years ago when he felt that “Broken” was a riff on Bray’s own character. We’ll see next week if this is as much fun or better than what they gave us in TNA.
Bray cut a promo that was really pretty good! Of course, we all know that Bray’s been hard done by booking so it’s hard to take him seriously. Still, this might be the thing to make him interesting again.
Backstage segment – Kurt Angle and Shawn (the ref)
Shawn is no actor but “did I do something wrong?” was just perfect. Kurt is sending him to Cameron, NC to oversee “The Ultimate Deletion” and the ref is justifiably worried. Rumor is that this has already been filmed. Hopefully, this’ll be fun.
The Revival (Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson) vs. Titus Worldwide (Titus O’Neil & Apollo) vs. Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. The Miztourage (Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel) vs. The Good Brothers (Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows) vs. Braun Strowman (w/ the Bar on commentary)
Well, this was an uncomfortable wrinkle. There was no question who’d take this. Braun is a beast so, of course, he had to take them all out…and he did. Now, we’re going to get The Bar vs….Braun Strowman? That’s what it appears as this point. The Bar were fun back there but it was Coach that most notable…for all the wrong reasons. Coach gave us a few botches and one really BAD botch towards the end where he confused Braun with Rhyno (“is Rhyno going to WrestleMania???) Ridiculous! Coach has really been a serious letdown since he came back. Many of us firmly believe that a two-man announce team is all we need and I agree completely. Just give us Cole & Graves and that’s enough. Coach is not needed. He’s completely boring and he adds nothing.
So, is Braun going to get a tag team partner? Will he go it alone? Dunno. I only know that I didn’t see this coming.
All in all, this was a good episode of “Raw”. That’s two weeks of good shows. Will we get a third? Come on back next week for another “Spot of Botch”!