By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. With Fastlane a little under two weeks away, the Road to WrestleMania is starting to come into focus. Last week, Kevin Owens kicked Chris Jericho out of his professional and personal life in the literal sense by ruining the Festival of Friendship celebration. Was this Owens’ way of exorcising his demons heading into his Universal Championship match against Goldberg at Fastlane?
Meanwhile, Bayley’s lifelong dream came true as she defeated Charlotte to become the new Raw Women’s Champion. Happy ending aside, will the win feel hollow if The Queen regains the title at Fastlane to become a five-time champ? Will Bayley end Charlotte’s PPV Winning Streak and avoid coming down with a bad case of Sasha Banks Syndrome when it comes to losing the belt during a special event on the WWE Network? Some of the answers to these questions can be found throughout this blog while the rest will be revealed in due time. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of Raw in no particular order.
· Kevin Owens wore his finest corporate suit and warned Goldberg that he would outlast and outsmart the WCW Legend during their Universal Championship at Fastlane in a couple of weeks. Owens vowed to ruin Goldberg’s narrative of being a superhero to children by keeping the title around his shoulder heading into WrestleMania. As for Owens’ attack on Chris Jericho, KO dropped the mic and headed backstage as the opening segment came to an end.
· For the first time in months, Owens was unanimously booed. He got the right amount heat as he chalked up Goldberg’s 86 second victory over Brock Lesnar at Survivor as pure luck because Lesnar underestimated Goldberg. Owens wouldn’t make the same mistake because he knows how to play the game better than anyone else. I guess he took tips from Triple H.
· In any event, Owens was confident heading into Fastlane. Jericho was nowhere to be found, but I expect that to change during Owens’ Universal Title match against Goldberg. Just a hunch.
· The theory of a Triple Threat Match featuring Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows vs. Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass was nullified when Big Cass pinned Cesaro with the East River Crossing as he and Enzo became the number one contenders for the Raw Tag Team Championship.
· Cesaro was in control until he tried to swing Big Cass. Enzo hopped on Cesaro’s back which gave Cass enough time to hit his finisher for the win. Enzo and Cass will go on to Face Anderson and Gallows for the Tag Team Titles at Fastlane.
· Enzo got a little too cocky when he poked fun of Cesaro’s Swiss Superman moniker by saying that he was loaded with kryptonite. Sheamus nailed Enzo with a Brogue Kick as the fans chanted “Thank You, Sheamus.” I don’t think that was supposed to be the desired reaction, but Enzo had it coming. I wonder if this is leading to Enzo and Cass turning heel or Enzo getting a little too comfortable for his own good because he has backup in the form of his seven foot best friend. The fact that the crowd turned on Enzo spoke volumes about the latter scenario possibly coming to fruition.
· Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn will take place
for the 25th time later tonight. I’m sure they will have a great match, but WWE has completed pissed on the “Final Match” stipulation from Battleground last July.
· The Brian Kendrick vs. Akira Tozawa never got underway as Kendrick nailed Tozawa with a clothesline. Kendrick rammed Tozawa’s neck into the exposed turnbuckle before putting him in the Captain’s Hook. This was in response to Tozawa rejecting Kendrick’s offer to mentor him during a backstage segment on 205 Live last week. Kendrick noted that the Japanese star learned his first lesson in respect. This was a nice way to add heat to their feud even though The Wizard of Odd was faintly cheered in his home state.
· It was Déjà vu all of again as Roman Reigns faced Anderson and Gallows in a 2-on-1 handicap match. Like last week, the match ended via Disqualification when Reigns nailed Gallows with a steel chair shot to the gut. Reigns delivered several chair shots to Gallows’ back until Anderson intervened. He got drilled with a series of clotheslines in the corner until Gallows made the save.
· Gallows was in control until Reigns nailed him with a Superman Punch. Anderson tried to save his partner, but Reigns destroyed him with a wicked Spear from midair. It was a sick spot that popped the crowd. That was the highlight of an otherwise ho-hum match.
· On the Brightside, Anderson and Gallows didn’t eat the pin for a second week in a row.
· The New Day’s Triple-Encrypted Ice Cream Blueprint just got hacked by Lana. It’s a Russian Conspiracy!
· Crisis averted! Big E and Kingston pinned Jinder Mahal with the Midnight Hour while Xavier Woods retrieved the tablet from Lana that contained the Ice Cream Blueprint and smashed it to bits. The match itself was decent at best.
· Once again, the WWE Production Team top themselves with a classy video tribute to George “The Animal” Steele who passed away this past Friday.
· Quick Side Note: Who knew Kevin Hart was a noted Wrestling Historian. I give David Arquette a pass because he is a noted fan who will live in infamy for winning the WCW Championship on an episode of Thunder 17 years ago. Yes, that actually happened.
· The Cruiserweight Championship contract signing between Neville and Gentleman Jack Gallagher was very good. Neville tried to browbeat Gallagher by telling him that his gentlemanly ways were not a true representation of actual British Brawlers. Neville claimed that real Brits are ugly and rough around the edges. The people were laughing at Gallagher instead of with him and vowed to prove that point by beating him at Fastlane. Gallagher made a nice comeback as he defended his prim and proper ways. He didn’t like the fact that Neville’s proclamation of being the King of the Cruiserweights made him better than anyone else.
· Neville tossed the table upside down and asked Gallagher what he planned to do about it before shoving Gallagher. Gentleman Jack responded by head-butting Neville out of the ring. It appeared that Gallagher knocked himself loopy. If that’s the case, he needs to retire that move because it’s a concussion waiting to happen.
· Thanks for coming, Sarah Pierce! Nia Jax laid out Pierce with the Samoan Drop for the quick and decisive win.
· After much consideration, Bayley decided not to relinquish the Raw Women’s Championship after Stephanie McMahon tried to guilt trip her into doing so. Stephanie talked about Bayley being a role model to young girls and should do the right thing by giving up a title she didn’t win fair and square. She claimed that Sasha Banks did all the work and that’s not how championships should be won.
· Bayley was about to do the unthinkable when Banks made her way to the ring to talk some sense into her best friend. Stephanie tried to stir the pot by saying that Banks only wanted Bayley to keep the championship because she could beat her more easily than Charlotte. Stephanie encouraged Bayley to the do the right thing by forfeiting the title.
· Bayley teased handing the belt to Stephanie, but she said hell no because she earned the title fair and square. Besides, Bayley already beat Charlotte three times which made the outcome almost academic.
· Charlotte came out to invoke her automatic rematch clause and will face Bayley for the Raw Women’s Championship at Fastlane. Banks challenged Charlotte to a match since her knee was healed up and Charlotte accepted. However, she wanted to make sure that Banks left the arena in a wheelchair as the segment came to an end.
· This was a good segment that played into the wholesomeness of Bayley’s character. Bayley always talks about doing the right thing, but sometimes it comes at a price. Stephanie tried her best to manipulate her, but it was too no avail as Bayley stood her ground as the new Raw Women’s Champion. The crowd did a great job as they were solidly behind their home state girl.
· Plus, Sasha Banks avoided a verbal beat down by Stephanie McMahon. That is a miracle in of itself.
· Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte was a solid match that featured Charlotte working on Banks’ neck throughout. Banks got back on offense when she nailed a Charlotte with a Bulldog followed by the double knees on the outside.
· Dana Brooke ran down to the ring to interfere, but Bayley cut her off at the pass. The distraction allowed Banks to lock Charlotte in The Bank Statement for the win.
· For the second week in a row, Samoa Joe attacked Sami Zayn from behind after Zayn talked about Joe during a backstage interview prior to his match against Kevin Owens. Joe kicked Zayn’s ass from pillar to post before landing a sick Running Senton on Zayn from the outside.
· Joe tossed Zayn back in the ring as Owens licked his chops in the proverbial sense.
· The referee checked to see if Zayn was able to compete. Zayn gave the all clear as the ref rang the bell. Owens went on the attack and finished Zayn off with the Popup Powerbomb for the win. This was a one-sided match that made sense because Joe has an ax to grind with Zayn and Owens needed a dominant win heading into his Universal Championship match against Goldberg at Fastlane.
· Also, the audience was spared from seeing Zayn and Owens have a good match that would have felt hollow with KO still getting the win by hook or crook. This was the best case scenario, all things considered.
· Mick Foley stood up to Stephanie McMahon, but at what cost? It appeared that Stephanie was about to put a hit out on Foley for bucking her authority. Foley’s days as Raw General Manager are numbered.
· Brock Lesnar mean mugging in front the camera during Paul Heyman’s promo was creepy as hell. Heyman did a great job explaining why he was impressed with Kevin Owens, but Lesnar didn’t share the same sentiment. Lesnar wants Goldberg to win the Universal Title at Fastlane and walk into WrestleMania with the Big Red Kryptonite Belt so he can take it from him. Sounds easy enough. However, will The Beast make the same mistake thrice? We shall find out soon enough.
· Braun Strowman and The Big Show had a shockingly good main event match. It was two big dudes going at it. The match featured power and incredible agility by Strowman. The fans were a little lukewarm towards the match at first, but the near falls and Big Show threatening to deliver a Superplex from the top rope got them on their feet down the stretch.
· Big Show had Strowman dead to rites by nailing him with the knockout punch, but Strowman kicked out at two. Moments later, Strowman dropped Big Show with a Powerslam for another near fall.
· The World’s Largest Athlete tried to chokeslam Strowman for the second time, but the big man countered with another Powerslam for the win.
· After the match was over, Roman Reigns made his way down to the ring and nailed Strowman with a pair of Superman Punches. Reigns was in position to lay him out with a spear, but Strowman countered with a dropkick to Reigns’ knees. He followed things up with an emphatic Running Powerslam and left Reigns lying in the prone positon for the third week in a row as Raw went off the air.
· Strowman continues to be portrayed as a dominant force that cannot be stopped. Reigns has failed to gain the upper hand which makes their match at Fastlane all the more interesting in terms of how the outcome is booked. Strowman should not lose the match via pin fall because it would derail his push something fierce. A count out or DQ victory is a more favorable option. Reigns should get some of his heat back, but pinning Strowman outright would be a dumb call. Let both men beat the hell out of each other and call it draw.
· For the first time in years, a homegrown monster from the WWE Production Factory is thriving. Let’s hope the company is not using him as a means to prop up Reigns heading into WrestleMania. That would suck in the worst possible way.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was adequate. For the second week in a row, the third hour saved the show because the first two hours were a drag. The Los Angeles market is usually treated to a fun event, but tonight seemed a little off. It lacked a certain spark that was apparent back in October when Sasha Banks won the Raw Women’s Championship from Charlotte for the second time. Just like that show, the follow-up was key in terms of consistency.
· The trend continued tonight as the broadcast felt lifeless until Bayley came out during the third hour. From there, the show ended on a high note but I question WWE’s thought process because the third-hour rating is traditionally weak. If the first two hours sucked, why should fans stick around until the end? Give them an incentive to stick around and they will keep the channel locked on USA Network. If not, fans will continue to DVR their way through life. I can’t blame them because the show was a bore until the last hour or so.
· Here’s hoping the energy picks up next week as Goldberg will appear on the go-home show before Fastlane. He should cut a great promo on Kevin Owens if he is allowed to speak in his own voice.
· Also, Seth Rollins will update fans on his knee injury and confirm whether or not he is missing another WrestleMania after Samoa Joe’s attack a few weeks ago.
· Most importantly, WWE needs to string together a strong show from top to bottom with minimum fluff because the past couple of weeks have been a chore to get through. The Road to WrestleMania needs to kick into high gear. Stat!
On that note, this wraps up another edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back tomorrow night with a brand new installment of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls!