Raw opened this week with the official announcement that Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch will main event Wrestlemania. Like a real main event. Like the final match. For the first time eve!. This was done in typical WWE Women’s Evolution fashion — filled with screencaps of social media congratulations from various women in the company, breaking news headlines, and zero accountability for the reason this has never happened before (the WWE itself).
Rousey came to the ring as her usual grumpy self, but (and I’m not sure if this was incredible acting or genuine emotion) seemed sadder than usual. It was nice, actually, and lent a certain amount of complexity to her performance. Her promo was a little different than the usual scary rant she does, punctuated by mic drops and feigning to leave the ring before coming back to say more. It was actually one of the better promos she’s given, and incensed the audience to a really satisfying degree. If she hadn’t undercut the opening match stipulation (beat the clock) by reiterating her whole “wrestling is fake” deal, I would have really liked it.
Becky Lynch emerged in a mock turtleneck (I was thrilled) and antagonized Rousey very effectively with a great promo. Rousey’s opening words of “you’re welcome” (for the first women’s main event in Wrestlemania history) were echoed by Lynch taking credit for Rousey’s success in the WWE… pointing out that after Rousey’s big money signing, “the whole world yawned.” This is that tough, kinda mean but super charming Becky Lynch I’ve been missing these past few weeks. This is The Man.
Charlotte Flair, in turn, also took credit for their match being the main event. It was sneering and disdainful— perfectly Charlotte. The combination of solid writing, pitch perfect delivery, and audibly invested audience created something special in this opening segment. For the first time their chemistry as a nemesis triad really clicked for me.
The beat the clock match itself was fine. Ronda Rousey did kind of a cool counter before beating Sarah Logan. Charlotte failed to pin or submit Ruby Riott in the minute-thirty Ronda had established. Not one to be outshined even by the main eventers of Wrestlemania, Liv Morgan brought the full force of her personality, giving me a great taste of her banned-from-multiple-malls-for-fighting-and/or-shoplifting-from-Hot Topic energy. Lynch pinned Morgan with seconds left on the clock, giving her the fastest victory and the overall win.
Bobby Lashley’s Intercontinental Championship challenger was decided
Bobby Lashley and Finn Balor in the second segment of Raw? Color me shocked! The announcement that Balor will have a match with Lashley at Wrestlemania (if he can beat Lashley and Lio Rush in a handicap match) felt pretty tired. So much so that the last-minute replacement of Jinder Mahal was actually kind of a relief.
Can I just say, really quickly, that I’m entirely behind Mahal’s current gimmick of still being a huge mean guy, but now he’s into finding inner peace? That’s just so true to my experience of people who are assholes to me in my real life.
Anyways, this match was… also fine. The two-onone handicap being exacerbated by the fact that the two competitors are both A) huge and B) have a total of three additional small helper friends was a fun twist. I feel like this is probably a really delightful house show match. Balor hit the coup de grâce on Mahal and got the pin. He’s going to Wrestlemania. And it’s not terribly exciting.
Ladies and gentlemen, Elias
Elias popped up throughout this episode in different vignettes of him busking in New York City to get ready for his concert at Wrestlemania. The big highlights for me were: 1. that he wore a red kimono and 2. that in the end all his stuff gets stolen.
Flips vs. Fists
The still-unnamed tag team of Aleister Black and Ricochet returned to Raw this week to face Raw Tag Team Champions the Revival. I’m not ever going to complain about seeing these two teams wrestle. Black and Ricochet seemed slightly lower energy this week, but I can’t really blame them, given the schedule they’re on. The Revival are the Revival, which is to say: consistently delightful pretty much regardless of circumstance.
It seems like we’re headed towards Ricochet and Aleister Black challenging the Revival for the belts, but if they beat the Forgotten Sons in the final round of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tomorrow night on NXT, they’ll also be challenging for the NXT Tag Team Titles at NXT Takeover.
Listen… That would be awesome. But you know what else would be awesome? Ricochet’s body not exploding.
I also actually missed Chad Gable and Bobby Roode in this match. I’m kind of hoping they’re in the ‘Mania picture as well.
Roman Reigns accepted Drew McIntyre’s Wrestlemania challenge
Hey, look at that. It’s an enormous wet Scotsman and he’s going to make fun of Roman Reigns for having cancer! I’ve actually come around on using it as an angle and retract my hesitation from last week. McIntyre was frustrated that Reigns hadn’t answered his challenge yet, and encouraged real-life man Joe to decline the match — emphasizing the suffering Roman’s/Joe’s health has already put his family through.
Of course, Reigns met him in the ring and accepted, with a classic “don’t you ever run your mouth about my wife and kids” before punching McIntyre in the face.They tussled and McIntyre came out on top after hitting Reigns with a low blow.
McIntyre then met Dean Ambrose backstage and accepted his challenge to a last man standing match later in the episode.
Beth Phoenix and Natalya are strong and sympathetic
Sasha Banks and Natalya had another little match this week. Although it was cut short by Jax and Tamina’s interference. The real point of the match was for Beth Phoenix to be able to run in and defend her partner’s honor — impressively lifting Nia Jax over her shoulders and hitting Tamina with the Glam Slam.
This was immediately followed by a Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart-heavy video package about the induction of the Hart Foundation (original flavor) into the WWE Hall of Fame. WWE knows how to do a video package, and cutting from it to Natalya crying in the ring with her (loving and supportive) tag team partner Beth Phoenix was a manipulative but very effective way to get me invested in their success as a team.
Sasha Banks and Bayley confirmed backstage that they will face all comers for the Tag Team Titles at Wrestlemania. (As of this writing, the challenger teams are: Tamina and Nia Jax, the Divas of Doom, and the IIconics.)
Nothing was smashed (except my hopes to not have to see Colin Jost)
Last week, Alexa Bliss asked Braun Strowman to give her one week to figure out a way to make peace between him and the universally reviled duo of Colin Jost and Michael Che. Her plan turned out to be for Strowman, Jost, and Che to have a feelings conversation. It was a very fun segment until Jost and Che called in via satellite from the SNL main set. For two guys whose job it is to be funny talking men on TV every week, they are really bad at saying words.
Braun Strowman also didn’t break anything, which is always disappointing. He’s good at it. It was really just a lot of setup to say Jost and Che will be in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, and that Braun Strowman will (hopefully) demolish them then.
Baron Corbin defeated Apollo Crews
Apollo Crews beat Baron Corbin in a match last week, so they had a rematch this Monday. Baron Corbin won. There’s… not much else to say! Corey Graves tried to make fun of his Twitter haters during the match, so that was something.
Seth Rollins, man of the people
I really like Seth Rollins and am happy that he is using his Royal Rumble win to challenge Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship. I just also forget that he’s doing it whenever the angle isn’t onscreen… This isn’t a criticism. Not really. It’s just a natural consequence of Wrestlemania being such an enormous show. The audience is going to prioritize the storylines that are important to us and the matches we’re excited about. For someone, I am sure that exciting storyline and match is Lesnar vs. Rollins. I am, however, not that person.
That said, boy can Seth Rollins and Paul Heyman deliver well-written promos to each other! I don’t know if I buy Rollins’ whole “fan favorite, going to win with a spirit bomb powered by the WWE Universe” thing — especially compared to people like Becky Lynch and Kofi Kingston, who are genuinely getting Wrestlemania matches because of huge surges of support from the audience — but who cares? Seth Rollins dropped a microphone onto Paul Heyman’s face! I live for that stuff.
Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle’s first WWE match was wasted on drunk Bostonians
The Kurt Angle Farewell Tour ramping up to the wildly stacked series of Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, and Rey Mysterio (Angle’s final TV opponent hasn’t been announced yet) makes the Baron Corbin retirement match feel like an elaborate joke. I can’t say if it’s intentional or not, but it’s very funny.
You know what else is a joke? Drunk New Englanders chanting “USA” during a match between a white guy born in Pittsburgh and a Samoan guy born in Orange County. Holy crap you guys.
Drunk racists aside, this is the best Kurt Angle match I’ve seen since he came back to WWE. He and Joe have fabulous chemistry and a great history together. I mean, Angle takes a dive from SAMOA JOE. He hits a missile dropkick even though he’s 50 years old and his entire body is crumbling from decades of abuse. Listen: Just watch this thing. (If you don’t watch it, Angle counters the Coquina Clutch into a pin and wins.)
It’s time to play the game, kiddos
Triple H started his promo by thanking the audience for maintaining their standing ovation during the entire commercial break — and congratulating Becky, Ronda, and Charlotte, as well as every woman in the history of the company, confirming that we are dealing with full-on dorky dad in a leather jacket Babyface Triple H here. (That was doubly confirmed when he couldn’t get the prop envelope out of his jacket pocket for this segment.)
The letter was apparently from Dave Batista’s lawyer, and featured a three- or four-page paranoid rant about their Evolution storylines ending with the demand that their match be for Triple H’s career. (If Big Dave wins, Triple H can never wrestle again.) Hunter accepted.
Drew McIntyre? More like Drew McThisEntireShow! Right?
Dean Ambrose’s contract with WWE is up after Wrestlemania. And if the rumors about him not signing a new one are true, these next two weeks will be his last with the company (at least for the foreseeable future).
It would be nice to give him matches with people other than Drew McIntyre, but Ambrose repeatedly stepping in to defend Roman Reigns is emotionally compelling enough that I can give the repetition a pass, for now. (I’m not bored yet, but I’m getting close.)
This last man standing match is much shorter than their falls count anywhere match two weeks ago. It had some of the hardcore elements that let Ambrose shine as a performer (kendo sticks, tables, chairs), but… You know what, I wasn’t bored of Drew McIntyre beating people up while I was watching this, but remembering it is a drag. I think I’m officially bored. McIntyre won after putting Ambrose through a table and kicking him in the face.
A classic finish for sure, but I’m ready to end Raw with someone different next week.