How was RAW?
WWE started the show off by remembering a young woman who passed away after falling during a hike, her name was Mary Katherine Stewart. I’m not sure of the connection, but would imagine it was a crew worker’s daughter.
The first match of the night was a Smackdown rematch between AJ Styles and Kevin Owens:
No shocker here, these two unleashed a hellacious fury on one another:
There’s a reason so many fans were calling for Owens and AJ to have a feud immediately after the Royal Rumble, because hardcore fans have seen what these two are capable of, they know the levels they’re able to get to in a match, and that The Phenomenal One facing off against Fight Owens Fight will result in a match fans won’t soon forget. Smackdown was good, but RAW was absolutely incredible:
Seriously, this is precisely the kind of match that RAW should start with, that a PPV should start with, one that gets the crowd going, is exciting from beginning to end, and when it involves two of your biggest names, you don’t have it end in clean fashion. AJ and Owens beat the hell out of each other, pulled moves out of their tool boxes that we haven’t seen from anyone else –whether that’s in a while or flat out ever on WWE TV,– and when it appeared that AJ was going to hit the Phenomenal Forearm, which should have netted AJ a dash in the win column over Owens, until Chris Jericho interrupted:
AJ took note of Jericho being on the stage, choosing to chase after Jericho instead of getting a measure of revenge on Owens. That left Owens to stand in the ring, bringing up once again that Owens doesn’t have an opponent at WrestleMania, but it won’t matter, because Owens will beat whomever it is, and enter Owens’ opponents:
Each plead their case for why they should be the one to take on Owens at WrestleMania, which led to Owens saying he would go to The Authority to set up a match to decide who would face him at ‘Mania.
Terry Funk being the one to talk up Dean Ambrose as Ambrose stood in a local tavern, was a great scene. Ambrose was there talking about how he was going to do damage to Brock Lesnar like nothing Lesnar has ever suffered before; but Funk wasn’t just there to heap praise, Funk was there to gift Ambrose with yet another hardcore idol:
League of Nations were in the ring talking about crushing New Day, that their attacks on New Day last week were just a taste of what’s to come. LON didn’t get much out before New Day came down to respond, calling LON trash, ripping on Alberto Del Rio going from having limo’s and a personal ring announcer to now being in the LON, and then rained shame down on the group, until realizing that Sheamus has the word “shame” directly in his name. Sheamsu tried laughing it off, but the attempted calmness didn’t last long before a brawl broke out between the two groups. Things got cleared up somewhat quickly, and we moved into a singles match between Big E and Rusev.
To say it was a hard hitting match is an understatement, but Big E seemed to be the only one interested in maintaining a consistent tempo, as Rusev moved slower than molassas during a lot of the match, but at least there was an exciting end to counter Rusev’s noticeably slower pace. Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston had been taken out during the commercial break earlier in the match, getting tossed into the time keeper’s area, until Woods came rushing after Del Rio and King Barrett, successfully bringing Del Rio down, and forcing Barrett into the ring post; but just when Woods thought he had the upper hand, out came Sheamus, who laid Woods out, then hopped up on the apron to distract the referee. Rusev tried getting a roll up on Big E, but Big E kicked out, Sheamus got the attention of the ref again, Big E took Sheamus out with a Spear, and Kofi saw his opening to hit Trouble In Paradise on Rusev, which set up Big E landing the Big Ending on Rusev for the win:
I’d be lying if I didn’t say this caused me to worry a bit, since now the two teams are evened up on victories/showing up the other, which leaves Smackdown this week, and the two shows next week before we get a hint as to who will win in Dallas.
Bray Wyatt talked about the spring equinox being a time to be born again, that a new beginning can’t happen without sacrificing another. We got another four part promo from The Wyatt Family, ending with Braun Strowman saying the God of War watched over Braun last night, and Braun was offering Ambrose’s soul as sacrifice to his family. It was creepy, it was relevant with the equinox just happening, and Easter approaching, and it teased something bigger.
Big Show cut a promo on Andre The Giant being the greatest giant of all-time, along with it meaning so much to Big Show to be the first two-time winner of the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal. The Social Outcasts had a little thing to say though, coming out to declare that with their powers combined, they would eliminate Big Show in the Battle Royal, and then attacked Big Show. They failed miserably at first, but after Heath Slater popped Big Show in the head with the mic, the fight was a little more even. As The Social Outcasts beat down Big Show, they got a little surprise, and we learned another name for the Andre match:
Kane being involved isn’t surprising at all. but the setup was interesting. Why would Kane save Big Show? Why would he go after Social Outcasts? Was it all just to say Kane is in the Andre match?
Jericho faced Fandango in what was dubbed a “WrestleMania Rewind” match, but things didn’t exactly play out like they did back then, what with AJ coming out during the match, chanting, “Y-2-Jackass“. The distraction wasn’t enough though, Jericho still hit the Codebreaker and got the 1-2-3. I would have thought there’d be more to it than that, but oh well. AJ chased Jericho out of the ring, grabbed a mic, and AJ challenged Jericho to a match at WrestleMania. Jericho shook his head, saying it wasn’t going to happen, but when it does, will we get a standard singles match out of them or will it have a stipulation? Personally, I think it should have some type of a stipulation, if only because they’ve already had so many other matches, and because it’s ‘Mania, there has to be something different about this time. A Cage match doesn’t seem likely, they can’t do another Hell In A Cell (HIAC), the IC Championship match will probably be a Ladder match, so the only thing I can think of is for it to be a Submission match.
Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, Pat Patterson, Edge, Booker T, John Cena, Renzo Gracie, and others all talked about Shane McMahon, The Undertaker, and HIAC. It was crazy to hear the stories about Shane, the lengths he’ll go to to be ready for this match, and to do whatever it takes to win, period. There was tons of footage of Shane doing MMA training, and then we saw Taker’s history at WrestleMania. The clip ending with Jericho talking about how all the elements in this match say only one thing, “main event.” There were rumblings earlier in the day, saying that Vince McMahon wanted Taker/Shane to be the main event of WrestleMania, while Triple H wanted his Championship match to be the one to close out the Show of Shows. It still looks like the Title will close out the show, but it’s an interesting debate. On one hand, the Title traditionally ends ‘Mania, but we’ve seen several times where that wasn’t the case –namely when CM Punk was Champ, but didn’t headline the event,– so there’s precedent. If WWE doesn’t want to risk the show ending with a good chunk of the audience booing Reigns –I will not be one of them,– then they’d be better suited to have the match that could decide the fate of WWE as we know it be the one to headline.
Owens revealed the Triple Threat match to determine the Number One Contender for the IC Championship, and it wasn’t what we expected, at all:
The action wasn’t bad, but things picked up when Zayn made his way to the ring, followed by Miz, and then Ziggler, all three of which got in the face of Owens. Owens threw Ryder at Miz, which caused the referee to end the match in a DQ…even though Triple Threat matches are No-DQ by default. It was obvious from the moment Owens revealed his plans for the match that things wouldn’t end in us learning a single opponent would be the one to face Owens at ‘Mania. I was really surprised when I found out who Owens would be facing, confirmed by Steph, who said Owens would be facing all six men at WrestleMania…yeah, it’s 2016, and Zack-friggin-Ryder is getting a real WrestleMania match. No longer will Ryder have a battle against catering, this year, Ryder gets a chance to show the world what he’s capable of. While I truly wanted a singles match between Owens and Zayn, I appreciate that some perceived lesser names are getting a chance to perform in a big time match. Who would have thought that Ryder and Sin Cara would find their way into a match that involves Owens, Zayn, Ziggler, and Miz.
Steph was heading to her car escort to leave the stadium, when this happened:
The image of the door sliding open and Reigns standing there was pretty cool, but Reigns once again attacking Triple H –who was in the car to greet Steph– made it even better. I would have liked to have seen Triple H come around the front of the SUV to tell Reigns to back off, only to have Reigns Spear Triple H into the hood of the vehicle, but the attack was successful none the less.
Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch were sitting in on commentary during Charlotte and Natalya‘s Roadblock rematch. Natalya got Charlotte in the Surfboard Submission practically right away, but Charlotte fought for the ropes, and then Charlotte started mocking her WrestleMania opponents, something that Charlotte would do sporadically throughout the match. This match wasn’t about continuing their trend of good to great matches, it was about highlighting the feud heading into ‘Mania, while countering the counters, so we don’t automatically know Charlotte will win, even though we knew she would. The three Diva’s shouted at each other as the feed cut to commercial, with all three saying they’d be the one to walk out of ‘Mania with the Title. I felt like Natalya has helped build herself up as a Diva to look out for as of late, but that match put her back in the bottom, as she became another victim to unfortunate PPV timing, where you’re not involved in this, but you can make them look better.
It was good to see WWE correct their mistake of excluding NXT Takeover Dallas from their “WrestleMania Week” coverage promotion aired last week, where everything else was listed, including Stone Cold Steve Austin‘s podcast.
The Dudley Boyz came out, where we’d see Bubba Ray Dudley face R-Truth in an absurdly quick match. Goldust came out to try and save Truth, but the Dudley’s quickly disposed of Goldust. That left The Usos as the only team capable of making a difference, and when they busted out the tables, it looked like The Usos would do just that:
Bubba saved Devon, but we got a tease for another stipulation being added to the ‘Mania card. Someone is going through a table during that match, but will it be to win the match or will it be something we see afterward?
It was said earlier in the night that Vince would have an announcement regarding the Taker/Shane match, which I thought was going to be that it was getting turned into the main event, but it turned out that Vince’s announcement was an added stipulation to the HIAC match with RAW on the line: if Taker lost, it would be Taker’s final WrestleMania. So now it’s RAW ownership vs retirement. As if the stakes weren’t already high enough, and the likely Taker win wasn’t obvious enough, now we’re getting a certified Taker win. WWE could blow the roof off the place, having Taker lose, and shocking the world. If a WrestleMania moment on par with Taker losing to Lesnar is the goal, then it’ll happen, otherwise, Shane is going to end up getting control of Smackdown or something, and the story line will continue in a different way.
Vince left the ring after the bombshell he dropped, only to have yet another interaction with Ambrose, as Ambrose entered the arena, passing the Chairman of the Board on the stage:
We’ve seen this at least twice now, and both times the looks they gave one another were quite cordial. It’s difficult to come to the conclusion that Vince doesn’t like Ambrose, what with his smirk when Ambrose walked by; but Ambrose wasn’t on the way to the ring for a stroll, he was entering the squared circle to take on Braun Strowman, one on one. Braun took everything Ambrose had, Ambrose escaped grave danger repeatedly, but when Ambrose realized he wasn’t going to beat Braun clean, Ambrose went for a chair, causing a DQ loss for Ambrose. After the bell sounded, Ambrose fended off the Wyatt’s, then dropped Braun on his head with a Dirty Deeds onto the chair:
The main event was about as exciting as a snail getting chased by a bigger, slower snail, but at least we got to see Ambrose clean the clock of a guy five times bigger than Ambrose. The crowd chanted boring through most of it, which spells doom for a guy trying to make it big in WWE, but when stuff like that happens during Randy Orton matches, the guy still makes tons of money, so it isn’t necessarily a death knell.
RAW MVP: Kevin Owens (runner-up AJ Styles)
Owens stole the show last night, at least for me, being a part of multiple segments, and making each one all the better for having him in it. He was also half of the reason we got what was easily the match of the night, and possibly the match of the month –so far,– when he and AJ Styles went at it for the second time in as many weeks.
RAW LVP: Stephanie McMahon
Her opening promo was lackluster, especially by her standards, and each subsequent time she was on screen she acted merely as an ends to a mean, rather than something vital. It didn’t help that the last time she was “on camera” all we heard was her ridiculous screeching from inside the SUV as Reigns attacked her husband. If Steph would have been off RAW, I don’t think it would have made much of a difference, beyond Reigns stopping the slap and declaring himself the new Authority.
This was the second to last episode of RAW before WrestleMania, and yet there was no urgency, no push for greatness –beyond the one match, and Ambrose getting a cool gift.– Instead, we seemed to get a single match added to the ‘Mania card, another one teased to be announced soon, and a single great match, while everything else was…meh. Owens and Styles saved RAW, and Ambrose helped make it amusing in his out of ring segment, which is why I give RAW a:
+ AJ vs Kevin Owens was the brightest spot of the show
+ Owens really shined throughout all of RAW
– The other matches were so-so
– Severe lack of urgency with us being so close to WrestleMania
That’s The Lowedown on RAW this week, thanks for reading, and remember to watch more wrestling!
The future is bright and full of suplexes!
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