I love Raw in the week leading up to WrestleMania. Love it. I’m willing to cut the WWE writing and booking staff a fair amount of slack for giving me filler, or for stretching storylines out further than they should be stretched, because 52 episodes of a three-hour show is a lot of time to fill every year. But god it feels good to watch an episode where everything is more or less going right!
And that’s more-or-less what you get on the Monday before WrestleMania. It was, in fact, what we got this week. WrestleMania 35 is this Sunday and you can already tell the company is revving up for the round-ish numbered event.
- Hunktears Recap: WWE NXT 3/27/2019
- WWE Fastlane 2019 Review
- No Apologies: A Conversation With Becky Lynch
Stephanie McMahon Confirmed That the WrestleMania Main Event Will Be “Winner Takes All”
Stephanie McMahon — the sometimes villain, sometimes heroic champion of women’s rights, always daughter of Vince and Linda McMahon — announced that, since Charlotte Flair is the Smackdown Women’s Champion, the triple threat main event of Flair, Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey is now for both titles. I suspected this might happen when Charlotte beat Asuka for the title so suddenly on Smackdown last week. I’m just sad to see confirmation that Asuka definitely won’t get a match on Sunday.
The rumor is that the brand split (which quarantines some performers on Raw and some on Smackdown) is ending… again. And putting both women’s belts on one person seems like a very expedient way to make them into a single, unified title. I still would have liked to see Asuka defend at WrestleMania — and maybe then lose the Smackdown Women’s Championship in a winner takes all match with (my projected winner) Becky Lynch at the next pay-per-view.
Seth Rollins Hit Brock Lesnar in the Dick… Twice!
Aside from the occasional match where Brock Lesnar actually attempts to be entertaining (by which I mean that one match with Daniel Bryan at Survivor Series and no other match I can remember), the best thing about Lesnar’s reign as Universal Champion has been the gift of Paul Heyman shouting into a microphone. The guy can talk. I’m so sick of Lesnar and so blasé about this match with Seth Rollins… but Heyman’s carny growl of “Brock Lesnar will violate Seth Rollins and desecrate the good name of WrestleMania” tricked me into forgetting that.
To Brock Lesnar’s credit, he’s great at standing in the ring like a big dumb goober, grinning horribly, and making me want to boo him. (He’s also very good at wrestling when he wants to be.) Seth Rollins came to the ring, attacked him, hit him with two(!!) low blows, and then stood over him holding the title. It felt good to watch.
The IIconics Added a Lot of Fuel to the Women’s Tag Title Fire
Women’s Tag Team Champions the Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection (Bayley and Sasha Banks) teamed up with Natalya and Beth Phoenix against the IIconics (Peyton Royce and Billie Kay), as well as Tamina and Nia Jax in the first match of the night. I want to preface this by saying: yes, fine, there are some good wrestlers here. Beth Phoenix is very strong, blah blah blah. Whatever. Here’s what’s important: Billie Kay is one of the most entertaining human beings on the planet. I don’t even know what she said in this match, but every time she squawked a meaningless heel phrase, her whole face contorting absurdly. I just started laughing! She achieved that Kevin Owens-ian ability to just stand in the ring funny. It is so cool to watch a performer blossom like this.
Kay’s counterpart, Peyton Royce, is not as funny. Although she’s arguably more talented in the ring. Royce was able to look strong while on the offensive — but not too strong. She took moves in a way that made Beth Phoenix look unstoppable. The IIconics are perfect chickenshit heels. And that, readers, is my favorite kind of wrestler.
After spearing Tamina through the barricade (which was, I admit, insanely cool), Phoenix hit the Glam Slam on Peyton Royce to win the match. I’m getting very excited for Sunday’s tag team fatal four-way.
“Hunter, Kiss My Ass” Quoth Big Dave
I’ll never be a true workrate fan. I know this because Dave Batista walking to the ring in a gorgeous plum ensemble, pointing at a screen, and saying one sentence gets me as excited as just about anything. That’s literally all that happened in this segment. Plum, though! Plum!!!
A (Very) Brief Reminder That the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal Isn’t Just Between Braun Strowman and Weekend Update
Apollo Crews and Jinder Mahal had a weird little match with the B Team, Ascension, Singh Brothers, No Way Jose, Titus O’Neil, and Tyler Breeze standing around the ring. At first I thought it was going to be a lumberjack match. It wasn’t. I’m not… I’m not actually sure what it was.
Apollo Crews pinned Mahal; everyone tried posing with the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal trophy and brawled. Even Michael Cole, doing commentary while this was happening, said that “this means nothing.”
Thank You for Sucking
“You Suck Thank You” is the best T-shirt slogan I’ve seen in my entire life. It’s Kurt Angle’s retirement shirt, and it’s such a universe-brain-level bizarre choice that I kind of want to buy one. Anyways, Kurt came to the ring to watch a career retrospective video about how he’s one of the best. I thought he was supposed to wrestle Rey Mysterio tonight, but it’s probably better for him to wrestle as little as possible before Sunday.
Baron Corbin interrupting Angle’s very real-looking, heartfelt tears — just to tell him he doesn’t have it anymore and can barely move — was supposed to be a dickhead attack to make us all boo him. But like… He wasn’t wrong. Watching Kurt Angle walk now, I half expect him to just fall into pieces like a cartoon jalopy. Rey Mysterio was in fact present, too. He attacked Corbin to defend his buddy Angle’s honor.
I Could Watch the Revival Wrestle Ricochet and Aleister Black Every Week Until I Die
Coming off their win last week, Ricochet & Aleister Black challenged the Revival for their Tag Team Championship. There’s not much to say about this that I haven’t already — every single time I’ve watched these guys in the ring together since I started doing these recaps. If you want me to believe in a babyface tag team, put them against the Revival. From American Alpha and DIY back in NXT, to Chad Gable and Bobby Roode (a team I never thought I’d get behind) the Revival are simply star-makers.
This was structured like a Raw tag team match, but had the exuberance, chemistry, and cool factor of a solid PPV performance. Scott Dawson “finished” by tripping Ricochet so he couldn’t make it back into the ring in time to beat the referee’s count. It was a perfect way to keep the titles on the Revival while also keeping this feud fresh and exciting.
Drew McIntyre Will Not Wear Clothes or Stop Attacking Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns tried to give a normal interview looking normal backstage, but was attacked by the wet, enormous body of Drew McIntyre — who is always in full gear. Roman made some good angry faces that also communicated “what is the DEAL with this guy” very well.
Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair, & Becky Lynch All Got Arrested
The big, much-advertised match this week was between the three participants of the Women’s Championship triple threat versus the Riott Squad. There was just one stipulation: the first woman to betray her team during the match gets taken out of WrestleMania. It was fun, with Lynch, Rousey and Flair tagging themselves in with increasing hostility. Flair is doing great heel work and Lynch still reminds us of the charming scamp we fell in love with. Rousey made Liv Morgan tap out to an armbar, then attacked Charlotte immediately.
This is where it got good. One of the things WWE does best is this “brawling from the ring to backstage,” mayhem and chaos stuff. And this was right up there with Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns, and all their ambulances. When WWE security couldn’t get the three women to stop fighting, Washington DC police stepped in, leading to all three women getting handcuffed and taken away because they wouldn’t stop fighting each other. The backstage segment included highlights like Rousey and Lynch handcuffed — and still kicking each other in the backseat of a cop car. Rousey eventually kicked through the window of her own paddy wagon. Then Charlotte hit Ronda with a knee strike with her target’s head still sticking out the window (which is already turning into a meme).
My ideal reaction to WWE programming is to watch wide-eyed and smiling, saying “yo, this RULES.” And yeah. This ruled.
Oh Hey, It’s These Guys
If something has to follow the three stars of your company’s biggest angle, all getting arrested and brawling in cop cars while handcuffed, you could do worse than Chad Gable & Bobby Roode vs. Heavy Machinery. This was entertaining, silly, and low-stakes. And those are three great tastes that go great together in WWE. Heavy Machinery are fun; Gable & Roode are fun; this was fun. Heavy Machinery picked up the win after hitting Gable with their two-person powerslam finisher that they call “the Compactor.”
Braun Strowman Will Beat Up Anyone Who Enjoys Weekend Update
Earlier in the show, Braun Strowman caught Tyler Breeze, EC3, and Alexa Bliss talking about how much they enjoyed the most recent Weekend Update. Breeze blamed two extras — who Strowman decided would be his Che and Jost stand-ins for the night. If you like watching Braun Strowman beat up extras, you’ll also like this.
Spoopy McFacepaint Was Officially Announced for WrestleMania
Finn Balor interrupted an in-ring interview with Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush via Titantron. He just wanted to say that he will be the Demon on Sunday (just like we predicted in our, uh, predictions). Balor then “transformed” into the Demon mid-promo with movie magic.
Okay. Technically what he said was:
Bobby, I would consider some concern. I’ve always been a guy who’s had……………….. demons. And at WrestleMania, my demon will be your nightmare. Aahhhhhhgll!
It was so deeply, deeply stupid and corny. I wish I could have been in the room when Balor filmed the demon stuff. That way I could have heard the notes the director was giving him.
“More tongue? Less tongue? Make a scary sound!” That’s the dream. That’s the dream…
Can Rey Mysterio Make a Baron Corbin Match Fun?
I’m starting to think that having Baron Corbin wrestle legendary stars we’d much rather see wrestle anyone else is an elaborate, ingenious joke. Mysterio and Corbin went around 15 minutes together — which is 10 minutes longer than I normally have the patience to watch Baron Corbin wrestle period. I like his mic work fine, and he can do the moves, but he just doesn’t have the physical charisma that makes me want to watch him.
All said, though, this was pretty good. At least it managed to make Corbin look tough. On the other hand, Rey Mysterio could wrestle a mannequin and make it look tough. He probably has. Corbin hit the Deep 6 and won the match, but Kurt Angle surprised him on the ramp and put him in an ankle lock. Meanwhile, I’m still hoping someone else retires Angle on Sunday.