By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Philly would serve as the backdrop for the final episode of Raw before WrestleMania. It’s the calm before the storm. It’s the next to last exit before hitting the I4 towards Orlando. This long winding road leading up to the biggest show of the year is almost over.
It’s been a so-so build on television, but nothing beats the excitement of WM Week. It’s a celebration of all things professional wrestling leading up to the Granddaddy of them all. Was the WWE Hype Machine in full effect or did it suffer a major breakdown instead? The answer to that pressing question can be found throughout out this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of Raw in no particular order.
· The opening segment featuring Bayley, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Nia Jax was fine, but the dialogue was rough in spots. Charlotte made the most sense by saying that Sasha was using Bayley in order to worm her way back in the Raw Women’s Championship picture. Sasha downplayed Charlotte’s claim by saying that there would be a time when business came before friendship and vowed to win the Women’s Title at WrestleMania.
· Nia Jax made her way to the ring and chided the other ladies for acting like a bunch of high schoolers trading the belt back and forth like a game of hot potato. Things broke down into a brawl as Michael Cole tossed to commercial break.
· It should be noted that the Women’s Title bout has been changed to a Fatal Four Way Elimination match. This will allow the action to flow more smoothly which should make the ending a bit more unpredictable. The division has been cold as of late, but the women are talented enough to pull off a good match at WrestleMania if they are given the time to do so. Bayley winning the championship at WM would have served as the perfect coronation, but WWE decided to pull the trigger on free television instead. It’s too late to put the genie back in the bottle and wish for a better result. That only happens in fairy tales produced by Disney.
· Bayley and Sasha Banks defeated Charlotte and Nia Jax when Bayley dropped Charlotte with the Bayley-to-Belly. The match was solid as Bayley ended her losing skid heading into Mania. The fans were into the action as well which helped repair some of the damage from the so-so opening segment which caused them to break out in an annoying CM Punk chant.
· Bayley and Sasha Banks’ celebration was cut short when Nia Jax attacked them from behind. Jax laid out both ladies with the Samoan Drop before wiping out Charlotte with a running body avalanche. Jax picked up the Women’s Title belt as the crowd showered her with boos. This was an effective way to get heat on Jax heading into the Fatal Four Way Elimination match.
· Sami Zayn will not only be fighting for a spot in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WM, but his career is also on the line when he faces Kevin Owens in a No Disqualification match per the order of Stephanie McMahon. The bastardization of their “Last Match Ever” decree continues, but the match should be great nonetheless. Since the bout is No DQ, expect Owens’ former best friend to make a cameo appearance. *wink, wink*
· Austin Aries made Noam Dar tap out the Last Chancery after nailing Dar with a wicked Discus Five Arm. This was a nice maintenance win for Aries heading into his Cruiserweight Championship match against Neville at WrestleMania.
· Seth Rollins signed the Hold Harmless agreement which cleared WWE of all liability in the event Triple H seriously injured Rollins during their Non-Sanctioned Match at WrestleMania.
· The promo work from HHH and Rollins was good, but the segment didn’t have a lot of heat to it. Hunter talked about how Rollins shouldn’t be ashamed about wanting to live the good life by trying to appease his haters. Rollins countered by saying that his biggest regret was joining Triple H three years ago. He sold a piece of his soul in order to get ahead and it worked for a while. However, Rollins lost his self-respect along the way and decided that he needed to find redemption in order to make things right.
· After Rollins signed his named on the dotted line, Triple H kicked the table against Rollins’ bad knee.
· Rollins countered with an enzuigiri and was about to nail The Game with a Pedigree, but Hunter went after the injured knee again.
· HHH was about to drop Rollins with his finisher, but Rollins moved out of the way and tossed Triple H out of the ring.
· The Game got back in the ring only for Rollins to whack him with the crutch as Hunter rolled out of the ring to fight another day.
· I’m glad that Rollins finally grew a conscience, but it’s too late to right all his wrongs six days before WrestleMania. His contrition should’ve taken place seven months ago, but he decided to whine to Stephanie McMahon when he didn’t get his way. Rollins’ de facto babyface run has been lackluster which explains why his feud with Triple H is not tearing down the house from a heat standpoint. Their match at Mania should be very good, but I don’t know if the crowd is going to be invested from an emotional standpoint.
· The Big Show participated in an over the top rope challenge featuring Jinder Mahal, Bo Dallas, and The Shining Stars. Big Show tossed them over the top rope with ease, but he was ambushed by The Golden Truth and Curtis Axel which allowed the eliminated wrestlers to return the favor by tossing him over the top rope.
· Big Show delivered choke slams and knockout punches to everyone except for The Golden Truth because they got the hell out of dodge.
· Braun Strowman came out and threatened to kick Big Show’s ass, but decided to wait until WrestleMania as the perplexing segment came to an end.
· I think Big Show won the match, but the bell never rang. If this was WWE’s way to kill some time, mission accomplished! In all seriousness, this was a sleepy way to hype the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Outside of Big Show and Strowman, the wrestlers representing Raw are perceived as a bunch of chumps who have no chance at winning the big gold trophy.
· Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson attacked Sheamus and Cesaro backstage as they sent a clear message that they were ready for their Triple Threat Match for the Raw Tag Team Championship at WrestleMania. The beat down was pretty vicious which plays into Gallows and Anderson’s wheelhouse. If they were booked liked legit badasses on a consistent basis, these ambush attacks would mean so much more in the grand scheme of things.
· Neville and Jack Gallagher had a solid match as Neville took care of Gentleman Jack with a beautiful superplex from the top rope followed by the Rings of Saturn for the win via submission. Gallagher had a nice moment when he took flight with his umbrella and laid out Neville with a senton. However, the outcome of the match was pretty academic as The King of Cruiserweights took care of business heading into his Cruiserweight Title match against Austin Aries at WM.
· Roman Reigns talked a big game, but The Undertaker has already dug the plot for his soul heading into their match at WrestleMania. Reigns sounded more heelish than usual by saying he didn’t give a damn about Brock Lesnar, Goldberg, John Cena, and Undertaker’s claim that they were the true Alpha Male in WWE. The ring was his yard and everybody inside the Wells Fargo Arena were in his house.
· Taker shut down Reigns by telling him that he would Rest in Peace as he magically summoned the sound of thunder before dimming the lights.
· The segment was short and sweet and didn’t overstay its welcome because Reigns and Taker are not known for being the greatest talkers in the world. Keeping things nice and simple was the way to go in this instance.
· Big Cass’ Allen Iverson impersonation was pretty good.
· Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Anderson and Gallows never got underway because Cesaro and Sheamus attacked the Tag Team Champs from behind with a ladder. However, Gallows and Anderson was the last tea, left standing as they knocked Enzo off the top rope with a ladder. This was a nice way to get out of the match without either team eating a pin 6 days before Mania.
· The video package hyping Triple H vs. Seth Rollins did more to make me care about their match than their promo exchange from earlier tonight. That’s saying something…
· Sami Zayn not only saved his career, but he’s going to WrestleMania as he defeated Kevin Owens via a roll-up thanks to an assist from Chris Jericho. Zayn and Owens had a nice match that survived the 10:30 Lull Period of Death as they put on a show for the Philly crowd. The action was hard-hitting throughout as the fans chanted “We Want Tables” down the stretch.
· Things got interesting when Samoa Joe made his way to the ring. However, Jericho saved the day when he attacked Joe from behind with a steel chair. KO knocked Y2J off the ring apron, but the distraction allowed Zayn to pick up the win.
· Owens tried to attack Zayn after the match was over, but Jericho made the save by hitting Owens in the back with a steel chair. He shooed his former best friend out of the ring and put him on The List of Jericho heading into their match at WrestleMania. This was a great way to promote Jericho vs. Owens while Joe is on the outside looking in heading into the biggest show of the year. One would think The Destroyer would have a high profile match at Mania, but it looks like he will be Triple’s H heavy instead.
· Paul Heyman did a masterful job hyping the Universal Championship match featuring Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg at WrestleMania. Heyman respected Goldberg for being a real-life superhero and legit badass, but he was about to take a trip to Suplex City where he checks in as Champ, but he won’t check out as Champ. WrestleMania 33 would mark the death of a Superhero and the beginning of a new era with Lesnar as the new Universal Champion.
· Goldberg made his way to the main stage and decided to bring some Mania flavor to Philly by running down the ramp and spearing Lesnar onto the floor. Heyman was in absolute shock as Raw went off the air with Goldberg standing tall while his client was licking his wounds from the main stage.
· This was a great way to end the show. Heyman was awesome on the mic. Goldberg kept things short and sweet by giving fans a taste of what they can expect at WrestleMania when he nailed Lesnar with a wicked spear.
· Lesnar vs. Goldberg has to last longer than 1:26. If they are going on last, it needs to be an epic battle that grabs the fans’ attention. If this is Goldberg’s last hurrah, he needs to go out in a blaze of glory. A 10-12 minute match would do the trick, but his stamina might hamper things. If he can surpass the five-minute benchmark, everything else should be gravy.
· It will be interesting to see if Lesnar is going to work extra stiff during the match. The Beast is known for getting a little rough in the ring and I don’t know if Goldberg can withstand the punishment. In any event, the match should be a spectacle with a raucous crowd cheering on Lesnar for the most part. Here’s hoping the match exceeds expectations. Fingers crossed!
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw was decent. The in-ring action was a bit better this week, but I thought WWE did a nice job bookending the top of each hour with a money segment hyping the key matches at WrestleMania. The results were mixed, but I thought the Roman Reigns-Undertaker and Brock Lesnar-Goldberg segments did the best job in terms of making WrestleMania feel like a must-see event.
· The Women’s segment that kicked off the show was okay, but the division has been hampered by the hot potato booking of the Raw Women’s Championship as of late. Bayley is less over since winning the title in Las Vegas last month and the haphazard booking of her character hasn’t helped matters either. Patience is a virtue and I wished the company showed more restraint by letting Charlotte’s PPV winning streak end at WM. It’s too late to re-write history, but the Fatal Four Way Elimination Match featuring Bayley, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Nia Jax should be good despite the lack of heat heading into the title bout.
· Triple H and Seth Rollins are in the same boat as their feud has fallen below expectations. This is a match that has been built up for well over a year, but it doesn’t feel like an epic encounter because Rollins’ character has taken a hit in the credibility department in recent months. He came off as a spoiled brat who didn’t get his way until he had an epiphany from the clear blue sky that he was a total jackass during his unholy alliance with Triple H.
· If Rollins was presented as a likable babyface sooner, he would be more over with the crowd. Sadly, he is playing behind the eight ball heading into his Non-Sanctioned match against HHH at Mania. Let’s hope Rollins has a virtuoso performance without seriously hurting himself.
· Everything else on the WM card was given some shine, but it will be interesting to see how many of the matches end up on the Kickoff Show. Neville vs. Austin Aries for the Cruiserweight Championship has been bumped to the pre-show. It wouldn’t be surprising to see three more matches suffer the same fate once everything is timed out. We shall see how it all plays out over the next few days.
· The Road to WrestleMania is almost over. The journey has been bumpy at times, but the final destination should offer some interesting surprises come Sunday. SmackDown Live will put the final exclamation point on things during their go-home show tomorrow night. Let’s hope the blue brand takes care of business heading into the biggest show of the year.
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!