Brock and Heyman come out and Heyman announces that Roman Reigns’ suspension has been lifted. WHAT? The man got suspended, then the very next week crashed the TV and did the very same thing that got him suspended the previous week, plus ASSAULTED FEDERAL MARSHALL AND RESISTED ARREST… and so this week instead of punishing him even more, they just give him what he wants? WHAT THE F*CK?!
Heyman also announces that Roman isn’t here. This got a huge pop. Heyman claims that this is because Roman is a coward, and that not showing up tonight made Roman a hypocrite.
He also implied that last week’s federal marshals were hired impersonators. This came-off as a ham-fisted attempt to cover up for last week’s “our top babyface just assaulted officers of the law” problem by creating a new problem, which is that PAUL HEYMAN JUST ADMITTED TO A FEDERAL CRIME ON NATIONAL TELEVISION. But even if we ignored that, this only solves part of the original problem. They solved the problem of their top babyface having committed an actual crime… but Roman couldn’t possibly have known they weren’t actual federal marshals at the time (or else why would he have let them put the handcuffs on him in the first place). This means that even if Roman didn’t actually assault federal officers, he still showed that he has no problem assaulting people who he believed to be federal officers. That’s like calling someone the N word only to find out that they were just a very tan white person. You haven’t actually called a black person the N word, but that doesn’t mean that you haven’t revealed yourself to be a racist.
Well… turns out Heyman was wrong about Roman not being here. That was predictable… which I wouldn’t normally have a problem with except that Heyman made a whole big deal out of saying that the predictable thing wasn’t going to happen.
Roman has a chair and charges at the ring. Brock charges out to meet him… and floors him with one big knee to the stomach, even though Roman was armed and Brock wasn’t. I laughed my ass off at this. Roman got up and shoved Brock into the post and then beat him up with a chair. He tried for a Superman Punch off the stairs but Brock caught him and hit him with a belly-to-belly suplex. Brock smashed Roman in the face with the steps, then beat him up with weapons. He looked like he was done with Roman but came back and gave him an F-5 onto the steps. The fans cheered Brock’s destruction of Roman Reigns. Then Brock stood on the steps, holding his belt and looking down at Roman. The brawl here was great, but everything else was stupid. Also, this seems like it will be used to turn Roman vs. Brock into a No DQs match.
Speaking of No DQs matches, tonight’s Kane vs. Cena match has randomly been booked as one.
They also advertised that Ronda Rousey would be here tonight live. Okay… so is everyone else. Maybe get a graphic that actually explains what she is kayfabe scheduled to do tonight. Something like “Ronda Rousey speaks about her WrestleMania match live tonight!”
NIA JAX vs. MICKIE JAMES (w/Alexa Bliss!)- 3/10
They introduced this match as a “Women’s Division” match. Like they do for tag teams and Cruiserweights, like it’s some sort of variation on the normal. The problem is that it’s not supposed to be. What WWE totally fails to understand in all of their pushing of their own pushing of the women is that treating the women equally means that we’re not supposed to see them as something different from the norm. The idea of women being treated as serious wrestlers should be portrayed as the norm. (That being said, if they wanted to keep doing this and also start introducing the male non-Cruiserweight matches as “Men’s Heavyweight Division” matches, I would be quite happy with that, as I like the more “real-sports” feel it provides.)
In the first week of her babyface turn, Nia doesn’t look any different than normal coming down to the ring. She doesn’t look upset after her recent “humiliation” (as Michael Cole called it) and she doesn’t look angry and ready to take her frustrations out on her opponent, or betrayed by Alexa’s comments. She just looks like regular, blank-faced Nia Jax. She did get angry once Alexa said something to her, though, so that was better.
Mickie came out to Alexa’s music. I get that she’s a lackey, but the woman (as they have constantly told us over the past few weeks) is a future hall of fame-er, so can we please not portray her as a Miz-tourage-level chump?
Nia’s leg got worked over a bit but Nia got the win with little real difficulty.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- Alexa tried to attack Nia but Nia basically no-sold it. Alexa ran away in fear and Nia didn’t really chase her. Instead she started to yell at Alexa… and I could be wrong, but I think Nia was given a rather simple line and screwed it up not once but twice. I think that she was supposed to call Alexa a “little bitch,” but the first time she tried it she instinctively started to say “f*cking” first but caught herself. The second time she called Alexa a “little Bliss,” which I really hope was just Nia flubbing rather than something someone in Creative thought it would be clever for her to say, simply because if it’s the latter, that means we’re probably going to be hearing it several times a week, every week, until Alexa turns babyface. The third time Nia got it right, but by then it had killed what otherwise would have been a good little “I’m going to get my revenge on you at WrestleMania” promo.
HUNTER & STEPH VIDEO PACKAGE- this was really great for what it was, but I think a lot of people will be disappointed by it because their decision to call it a “Stephanie McMahon training video” probably made people expect something more in this vein:
And come on. You can’t tell me that you, too, didn’t want to see Kevin Nash in the Shane roll for Hunter, giving him advice on how to avoid quad injuries, while Death Rey is having Steph do axe kicks to meat in a meat locker while shouting “I HATE RONDA! I HATE RONDA!”
CEDRIC ALEXANDER & MUSTAFA ALI vs. DREW GULAK & TJP- 3.25/10
This match, intended to build up the Cruiserweight Title match at WrestleMania to the wider Raw audience for the very first time... had the beginning of the match (and most of the entrances) happen during a commercial break. The televised portion lasted just over four minutes.
MIZ TV WITH SPECIAL GUESTS FINN BALOR & SETH ROLLINS- bad
Before bringing out his guests, Miz starts to yell at Bo and Axel for their incompetence. Seth Rollins then came out for no other reason than to be a total dick. Seth was able to get them fighting more, but then Balor came out and interrupted, and he, too, came off like a dick. The Miz-tourage exchanged harsh words and made you think that they were going to fight but it was all a ruse and they attacked Seth and Balor instead. Anderson & Gallows came out to make the save and brawled away with Bo & Axel. Balor hit Miz with a Slingblade and Rollins then went for the Curb Stomp but Miz rolled out of the way. Balor picked up the IC Title. Rollins then grabbed it away from him like a total dick. Miz tried to attack them during their face-off, but Balor was kind enough to push Rollins out of the way, then knock Miz down. Rollins clotheslined Miz over the top rope, then Balor hit Rollins and posed with the title. This was just a big waste of time. Nothing progressed at all. Just like every single week since this match was announced. Because WWE writers have no idea how to actually tell a story.
KANE PROMO- good.
Kane said that Cena should have just let The Undertaker rest in peace instead of calling him out, and because of this he will send Cena to hell tonight. His music was playing in the background, but this happened backstage, to I’ll just assume that this was pre-taped and WWE edited the music in on their own.
ASUKA vs. JAMIE FROST- no rating, stupid segment because WHY IS ASUKA STILL APPEARING ON RAW?!
Renee interviewed Frost at ringside during Asuka’s entrance. Frost cut a promo that was absolutely nothing we haven’t heard every single woman facing Asuka say before, but I had no idea who she was, so I was shocked that she was able to cut a good promo because a lot of people on WWE’s roster (never mind random jobbers they bring in) struggle to do so.
Asuka kicked her in the head and pinned her. This was entirely pointless and completely stupid. If she’s challenging for the Smackdown title and is allowed to appear on Smackdown, then she should be a Smackdown wrestler and thus not allowed to appear on Raw. That the basis of this whole brand split, isn’t it?
When Cole buried The Ultimate Deletion, Corey Graves claimed that Vanguard 1 was going to target Cole. Cole’s response to this was to roll his eyes. I laughed my ass off.
WOKEN MATT HARDY PROMO- he is going to enter himself into the Andre The Giant Memorial Designated Concession Stand Visit Time.
We then got a graphic for the Andre The Giant Memorial Bathroom Break, which showed us the wrestlers who have entered themselves into it so far. There is Matt Hardy, The Revival, Tye Dillinger, and the winners of the past two years, Baron Corbin and Mojo Rawley, just to show everyone how much winning this Battle Royale will help your career. Meanwhile, Michael Cole had the temerity to tell me that winning this match could “launch a career.”
The next thing we saw after this graphic was another graphic, this one advertising something for the Bayley/Sasha storyline, claiming that it was “up next.” Then they cut to JoJo introducing Elias. I face-palmed. Then I got very excited because it occurred to me that maybe Elias was going to sing a song about the Bayley/Sasha storyline, but then he started to ask “who wants to count with Elias” and he was apparently singing in a kindergarten (though we didn’t see any kindergarteners around). Then it was revealed that this was a Snicker’s commercial. This was quite the mindf*ck.
When we got back from commercial, we had the announcers now talking up the Definitely Not The Fabulous Moolah Memorial Women’s WrestleMania Battle Royale, and they tried to explain to me that this was “the next step in the Women’s Evolution” and that this would be a big career boost for the winner because “we’ve seen what it has done for the careers of the male Superstars” who have won the Andre Memorial Battle Royale. I am continually amazed by the announcers’ ability to say this sh*t without bursting out into laughter.
The announcers, of course, were not able to give any examples of how winning the men’s version has actually done anything for any of the male winners. What we did get was Corey Graves explaining to us that these women would all be fighting for the right to say that they won the first one of these things. In other words, the reward for winning is being able to say that you won. Coach then encapsulated WWE’s entire promotional philosophy of the Women’s Evolution over the past eighteen months or so: “any time you can put ‘historic’ in front of any name, that really makes it.”
Even better, WWE’s claim that this is the “first ever WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royale” isn’t even true because they had one at WrestleMania XXV… although I guess it is true that this year’s winner will in fact be the first woman to win such a match.
SASHA & BAYLEY IN THE LOCKER ROOM- great
Holy crap they’re in an actual locker room! With, like, actual lockers and stuff!
They started off by trading cringe-worthy WWE dialogue, but then all of a sudden Bayley said that Sasha can’t beat her and Sasha fired back by pointing out that she is a four-way champion and Bayley isn’t and Bayley responded by asking “And how long did you keep it?” and all of a sudden this became an actual pro wrestling segment! Bayley turned to leave but Sasha grabbed her from behind and slammed her into the lockers.
They had a great little brawl that needed a bunch of referees to break it up. I will admit that by the end of this I had gotten totally distracted with trying to figure out who this woman was who ran in to help break them up. They showed her face very clearly, like, a bunch of times, but I didn’t recognize her.
BRAUN STROWMAN vs. SHEAMUS (w/Cesaro)- 4.75/10
Sheamus & Cesaro cut a dumb promo that ended with them demanding to know who Braun’s partner would be. Braun told them he would tell them if Sheamus could beat him tonight. Coach attempted to make a comparison between Cesarmus’ current situation using the local basketball star, asking “if you go into a game and you don’t know who is playing with LeBron James, how can you professionally prepare for that?” Easily. Just try to figure out how to shut LeBron down. If one of the players on the opposing team is LeBron, it really doesn’t matter who the other four are. LeBron is the one who is going to be the biggest offensive threat.
Braun won a match that wasn’t particularly interesting or exciting. Coach’s attempt to spin some sort of positive out of tonight for the heels was laughable.
RONDA ROUSEY SEGMENT- Ronda and Kurt came out and Ronda cut a good promo on Steph. Then Acolyte Protection Paigency came out and interrupted Ronda Rousey. Do they have a death-wish?
Paige tries to recruit Ronda to be the newest member of D-Gyneration X. Paige kept calling her “baby-girl,” seemingly in an attempt to provoke slash-fic writers into action. Ronda turned them down so Paige sicced the other two Fabulous She-Birds on Ronda. Their attempted assault went like this:
Mandy rushed in and tried to throw a punch, but was stopped by an outstretched arm from Kurt Angle who was trying really hard to avoid accidentally touching Mandy’s boobs. Sonya then tried to come at Ronda from the other direction but Ronda blocked her punch and floored Sonya with one of her own. Sonya Deville, former MMA fighter, stayed down for a long time. This done so that Ronda could then corner Mandy. Mandy responded by trying to throw a kick but Ronda caught her leg. Mandy talked some trash, so Ronda gave her one of those over-head leg-capture suplexes. The idea here was that she would throw Mandy into Sonya, who had gotten up and was heading back towards Ronda, but Mandy came up short. Sonya bumped herself trying to get out of the way, and Mandy basically rolled over Sonya. Mandy came back again but Ronda gave her the old Judo throw into an almost armbar but Kurt got Ronda to stand down, so we still didn’t get to see an armbar. Ronda and Kurt then had a totally awkward and pointless hug. This wasn’t terrible or anything, but it was nowhere close to being good, either.
During this, it also occurred to me that if they’re going to keep using Paige as an on-air character they really need to give us an explanation for why she never runs in to help her friends (I don’t think they ever even told us she was injured). Putting her in a neck brace would work well.
THE MIZ-TOURAGE vs. LUKE GALLOWS & KARL ANDERSON- 3/10
Both the Miz-tourage’s entrance and the beginning of this match happened during a commercial. Gallows & Anderson won, but more importantly in WWE’s view, they successfully killed several minutes of TV time.
THE DRIFTER SINGS- fun, as always
Cole says that this was the best concert he has heard in Cleveland since 1978… which means that Cole just said that this was better than one of The Rock’s concert segments. He’s not wrong, but I just find it funny that he just put The Drifter over the company’s favorite movie star when WWE usually does everything they can to swing from Dwayne’s nuts.
“THE DRIFTER” ELIAS SAMPSON vs. RHYNO (w/Heath Slater)- 2.5/10
The Drifter beat Rhyno, then beat Slater up, too. Cole was treating The Drifter like a total babyface in this segment. It was weird (and also lends a bit of credence to the “Drifter as Braun’s partner” theory going around).
NO DISQUALIFICATIONS MATCH: Kane vs. John Cena- 6.75/10
They did a bunch of big weapons spots, but the real story here was that Cena did a bunch of Taker’s moves to try to provoke him. After the match Cena once again cut a promo on Taker and got the fans to appeal to him as well. He once again said that he’d be okay if Taker said “no” because he would still go to WrestleMania as a fan, once again ignoring the possibility of entering himself into the prestigious Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale. The longer this goes on, the more I feel like Cena is being a total jerk here. If Taker has decided that he is retired then shouldn’t Cena just respect that?
Another water-treading episode of Raw on the painfully slow-moving road to WrestleMania.