By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This is the go-home show for Fastlane which takes place this Sunday. Goldberg is set to respond to Kevin Owens’ promo from last week while Seth Rollins addresses the rumor that he might miss WrestleMania for the second year in a row after suffering a torn MCL during Samoa Joe’s ambush nearly one month ago. Did Raw end with more questions than answers heading into the last Raw-exclusive PPV before WM? Keep reading to find out. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of Raw in no particular order.
· Goldberg kicked off Raw by promising his wife, son, and fans that he would defeat Kevin Owens and become the new Universal Champion at Fastlane.
· Owens had something to say about that as he appeared on the main stage to fire off a list of people he has defeated in WWE so far. The List of KO includes John Cena, Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles, Roman Reigns, and Chris Jericho. Goldberg would be next as he will contribute to the Evolution of Kevin Owens at Fastlane. According to Owens, the “Goldberg” chant will die when he retains the Universal Title and walk into WrestleMania with the Big Red Kryptonite Belt draped over his shoulder as the opening segment came to an end.
· This was a good way to start the show. The material for Owens and Goldberg was a bit on the skimpy side which might explain why this segment was slotted first. Both men held their own on the mic, but they didn’t add any additional heat to their Universal Title match at Fastlane on Sunday. Their title bout should be an enjoyable spectacle, though.
· The New Day spoofing the La La Land-Moonlight Oscar snafu was pretty lame.
· Xavier Woods and Big E defeated Rusev and Jinder Mahal when Woods pinned Mahal with a rollup/bridge combo. The match was decent and I’m glad that Rusev is not the fall guy during these meaningless tag team matches.
· By the way, it appears that New Day Pops are coming to a store near you in the very near future. A certain Punk in Chicago is probably fuming at this news.
· It’s official. The creative team is deliberately turning Enzo into an annoying pest. This might not bode well for his future as a singles star because his in-ring work leaves a lot to be desired. Plus, he is better with Big Cass because they feed off each other in terms of chemistry and energy. One can’t do without the other when it comes to getting over. Cass’ size gives him an out, but he’s wooden on the mic without Enzo to play off of. Let’s hope this experiment is short-lived because Enzo and Cass are better together than apart.
· Samoa Joe and Cesaro had an intense backstage exchange that might lead to a future match between the two. Their battles in Ring of Honor was hinted at, but not overtly stated. Just the thought of Joe vs. Cesaro makes me giddy like a child on Christmas morning.
· Stephanie McMahon emasculated Mick Foley by calling him a weak and feeble man. At this rate, Foley should quit and tell Stephanie to have a nice day.
· Akira Tozawa defeated Noam Dar with the Snap German Suplex in a decent match. The Brian Kendrick attacked Tozawa from behind afterward to teach him another lesson on how to always keep your eyes peeled because you never know who’s lurking in the shadows. Kendrick is doing a good job playing the surly veteran who is trying to beat some respect out of Tozawa. It’s a feud that has legs on both Raw and 205 Live which keeps things fresh each week.
· My dream scenario has come true as Mick Foley booked Samoa Joe in a match against Cesaro set for later tonight. They should have a great match if they are given enough time to shine. Fingers crossed!
· Charlotte vowed that Bayley would be a one hit wonder heading into their Raw Women’s Championship match at Fastlane this Sunday. Bayley came out and stated that she defeated Charlotte three times which makes her a three hit wonder. Her main dream was to go into WrestleMania with the title. Charlotte chided Bayley some more until Sasha Banks made her way to the ring.
· Banks spoke up for Bayley, but Charlotte made a good dig at Banks being exhausted from stealing Bayley’s spotlight. Banks stated that she was tired of looking at Charlotte’s stupid face and wanted the tag team match to get underway. Charlotte agreed, but The Queen had a trick up her sleeve when she announced that Nia Jax was her partner instead of Dana Brooke.
· The promo exchange was a fine way to set up the tag team bout after the commercial break.
· Nia Jax put herself in championship contention by pinning Bayley with a Leg Drop after slinging Sasha Banks on top of Bayley leading up to the finish. Bayley eating the pin six nights before her title defense sucks and conventional WWE wisdom suggests that Bayley is walking out of Fastlane Women’s Champion. However, I don’t foresee Charlotte’s winning streak coming to an end at a Raw-exclusive PPV. That should be held off until WrestleMania. The same thing could’ve been said for Bayley’s coronation, but I digress.
· Braun Strowman wants Roman Reigns’ name on the dotted line to make their match at Fastlane official. As with all contract signings, expect a fight to break out at some point. It’s a tradition that will stand the test of time.
· Enzo and Cass got little heat during their signature introduction. With Enzo acting like an ass as of late, the tepid crowd reaction shouldn’t come as a shock.
· Big Cass pinned Luke Gallows with a big boot in a decent match. Cass had the match won after dropping Gallows with the Empire Elbow, but Karl Anderson climbed on the ring apron which caused Cass to break up his pin attempt. Enzo ran interference by slamming Anderson against the steel steps which led to the finish. Conventional WWE wisdom suggests that Gallows and Anderson will retain the Raw Tag Team Titles at Fastlane. Expect Enzo’s latest antics to play a role in the outcome.
· Titus O’Neil got the jump on Sheamus before their match officially got underway, but it was short-lived when Sheamus nailed O’Neil with the Brogue Kick for the quick and decisive win.
· Are the fans seriously doing a CM Punk during Seth Rollins’ promo?
· Seth Rollins announced that the doctors might not clear him in time for WrestleMania. Triple H was thrilled with this news and made fun of Rollins for making a deal with the devil nearly three years ago. HHH noted that Rollins knew what he signed up for and reaped the benefits of being by his side.
· Hunter told Rollins to get over being used and spit out and move on with his life. In fact, he warned his former protégé to skip WrestleMania or run the risk of never being seen in a WWE ring again.
· Rollins was defiant and vowed to be WrestleMania. It might be his last night in a WWE ring, but he would make sure it was HHH’s last night as well.
· The interview portion of the segment between Seth Rollins and Corey Graves was not very good. Rollins took too many pregnant pauses which caused the crowd to go into business for themselves. Most of the fans shut down the small cluster of CM Punk chants. It was out of place and disrespectful. The scripting should have featured less exposition and got to the point, but the crowd didn’t help matters by being halfway dead or chanting things out of boredom.
· The backstage interview setting utilized by Samoa Joe and Brock Lesnar in recent weeks would have worked better with Triple H’s response coming at the end to quell the crowd noise.
· However, I can’t completely blame the fans’ tepid reaction because Rollins’ babyface run has been hit and miss. Rollins was a spoiled brat who got rejected by his father figure. His remorse should have kicked in months ago. The fans would be more sympathetic to his plight if he owned up to his shortcomings, but he was a little late coming to that revelation. The CM Punk chants were still inexcusable, but the creative team hasn’t done Rollins any favors when it comes to getting him over as a face that should be admired and respected. Here’s hoping they figure things out before Mania because Triple H might be walking into the biggest show of the year as the de facto babyface due to his cult status as the Creator of NXT and all things professional wrestling. WM taking place in Orlando gives Papa Hunter the home field advantage which might hamper things on “The Get Seth Rollins Over” front.
· The Big Show got a nice bounce back win over The Shining Stars in a two-on-one handicap match. The action was serviceable while it lasted.
· Jack Gallagher and TJ Perkins vs. Neville and Tony Nese was decent, but the crowd was dead for the most part. Gallagher made Nese tap out to a unique leg lock submission hold as Neville teased breaking things up before walking away from his tag team partner. This did very little to hype the Cruiserweight Title match between Gallagher and Neville at Fastlane.
· Stephanie McMahon booked Sasha Banks in a match against Nia Jax at Fastlane. The outcome might prevent Banks from being in Bayley’s corner during her Women’s Championship match against Charlotte.
· Samoa Joe defeated Cesaro with the Uranage Slam. Cesaro injured his knee early on which allowed Joe to take advantage of the situation. The Swiss Superman put up a good fight, but The Destroyer was too much to handle on this night. The match was good, but it wasn’t meant to be great because they were positioned in the 10:30 Lull Period of Death. The fans were awake for the most part, but this bout was more about putting over the dominance of Joe instead of showcasing Cesaro.
· After the match was over, Charly Caruso interviewed Joe on the main stage. Joe stated that he defeated a world-class grappler in Cesaro and promised to keep making examples out of him along with Seth Rollins and Sami Zayn.
· Zayn’s music hit as Joe waited for Zayn from the main entrance way. Zayn gave Joe a dose of his own medicine by attacking him from behind. They brawl offed the stage as officials and security guards tried to break things up. Zayn dived off the stage and wiped out Joe as officials finally separated both men.
· Zayn got a measure of revenge on Joe leading up to their bout at Fastlane. The match should be very good if they are given enough time to shine.
· Hope sprang eternal for a brief moment when Roman Reigns speared Braun Strowman through the barricade. A random dude was inadvertently taken out as well which added to the destruction at ringside.
· Reigns was about to sign the contract when he noticed that Strowman was on his feet. Strowman got back in the ring only for Reigns to nail him with a Superman Punch. He was about to spear the big man, but Strowman caught Reigns and rammed him into the turnbuckle which caused the ring ropes to snap. Satisfied with his handiwork, Strowman left the ring and headed backstage.
· Despite getting laid out for the fourth week in a row, Reigns signed the contract as Raw went off the air.
· This was a nice way to end the show. Strowman did a great job bullying Mick Foley early on by telling him to get out of the ring. He even called Foley a broken suburban dad before Foley manned up and reminded Strowman whose boss despite his tenure as Raw General Manager sinking faster than sand in an hourglass. Strowman was about to lay waste to Foley until Reigns came out.
· Strowman and Reigns brawled at ringside and amongst the crowd which led to the spear through the barricade spot. After that, it was all Strowman as he left Reigns in a bad place heading into their match at Fastlane.
· Strowman has been built up like an unstoppable monster in recent weeks. Reigns has had a few hope spots here and there, but he has been kept in check for a full month. Will the streak continue on Sunday? If WWE is smart, Strowman vs. Reigns will end via count out or disqualification. Strowman should be kept strong heading into WrestleMania. Reigns can save face by getting his licks in, but he shouldn’t be the conquering hero in this situation. Perhaps The Undertaker’s Gong will provide the perfect distraction leading up to their presumed match at WM. Let’s hope my theory checks out because Strowman should remain undefeated heading into the Showcase of the Immortals. Anything less would be asinine.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was middling. The show lacked a certain spark and buzz that comes with a final broadcast before a PPV. The promo segment between Kevin Owens and Goldberg hyping their Universal Championship match was so-so while Rollins’ interview and subsequent showdown with Triple H was decent at best.
· The third hour wasn’t the surprise savior this week as all three hours dragged with the exception of the contract signing featuring Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns. The wrestling action was okay, but nothing special. It should be noted that the Raw crew just got back from a four-day tour in Germany which might explain why things felt a little off. The Green Bay crowd was lukewarm, but they weren’t given much to sink their teeth into in terms of excitement outside of Goldberg and Triple H appearing live in the flesh.
· Fastlane should be a very good show with a few twists and turns thrown in heading into the home stretch on the Road to WrestleMania. Let’s hope WWE has a nice rebound after tonight’s ho-hum show.
On that note, this wraps up another edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will back tomorrow night with a brand new installment of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls!