By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois. The fallout from the Fastlane PPV would reach a fevered pitch because the Windy City is notorious for having raucous fans who have no shame in unleashing their fury if they smell bullshit coming from a mile away. With Fastlane being riddled with iffy booking decisions, Raw was ripe for a hijacking. Did Goldberg quell the noise or was he public enemy number one after defeating Kevin Owens in 21 seconds to become the new Universal Champion? The answer to that question can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of Raw in no particular order.
· Chris Jericho will face Kevin Owens for the United States Championship at WrestleMania. This news was expected as Owens and Jericho kicked off the show.
· Jericho wanted to know why Owens betrayed him and proceeded to call KO out.
· Owens made his way onto the main stage and explained that he needed a tool to do his dirty work after he won the Universal Championship last August. Jericho was gullible enough to get the job done. However, his usefulness ran its course when he booked Owens in a Universal Title match against Goldberg at Fastlane. This led to the Festival of Friendship debacle a couple of weeks later which ended their business relationship.
· Owens allowed Jericho to walk away because he was a good man. Jericho changed all that by costing him the Universal Title last night. Therefore, he vowed to take Jericho’s United States Title at WrestleMania. Y2J agreed and invited Owens to the ring. Owens accepted and the brawl was on.
· Samoa Joe attacked Jericho from behind which made things a 2-on-1 situation. Sami Zayn ran down to the ring with a steel chair to even the odds. Joe and Owens double teamed Zayn for a bit until Jericho made the save as the opening segment came to an end.
· This was a hot way to start the show. Jericho was entertaining on the mic while Owens showed his true colors by telling Jericho that he was never his best friend. Their match at Mania for the US Title should be very good with their promos setting the stage for an epic showdown.
· Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn had a solid match, but it was short on time. Zayn had a few hope spots including an awesome flip dive which saw him sail over the referee and onto Owens onto the outside.
· Owens recovered and dropped Zayn with the Popup Powerbomb. He added insult to injury by drilling Zayn with a Pumphandle Neck Breaker before winning the match with a second Popup Powerbomb.
· This was more about getting heat on Owens than having a competitive back and forth match against Zayn. It makes sense, but Zayn deserves better than being a setup man for other high profile matches on the Mania card.
· Neville and Rich Swann had a very good match for the Cruiserweight Championship despite dealing with CM Punk chants early on. The action was fast paced and hard hitting throughout. Swann landed some sick kicks and almost had the match won, but got a little overzealous when he tried to hit Neville with the Phoenix Splash. Neville moved out of the way and made Swann tap out to the Rings of Saturn moments later.
· After the match was over, Austin Aries interviewed Neville in the ring. The King of the Cruiserweights did his usual spiel while the fans chanted for Aries. Aries asked if there was another Cruiserweight that could go toe-to-toe with Neville. Neville assumed that Aries was talking about himself and proceeded to shout him down while spraying spit in his face.
· Aries had one more question to ask Neville but decided to make a statement instead when he clocked Neville with a couple of stiff elbow shots to the face as the crowd erupted. Aries is now a major player in the Cruiserweight Division. His personality screams heel, but he is a cool face that fans are ready to get behind. Aries could be a breakout star on Raw and 205 Live if he’s booked properly. His presumed WrestleMania against Neville for the Cruiserweight Title should be great if both men are given enough time to shine.
· Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar were the perfect equalizers to neutralize the CM Punk chants that rained down on Goldberg during the onset of his promo. It was very hostile until Heyman came out with Lesnar in tow.
· Heyman stated that Lesnar wanted to shake Goldberg’s hand for winning the Universal Championship at Fastlane last night. From one beast to another, he wanted to show his respect. From one conqueror to another, he wanted to show his admiration for a job well done.
· However, these pleasantries would come to an end at WrestleMania when both men face off for the Universal Championship. Heyman provided a spoiler that Lesnar would walk away as the new Universal Champion. To cap things off, Lesnar would prove to the world that Goldberg was his bitch.
· Goldberg took offense to that, but his reaction time was a little off as Lesnar dropped him with an F5. It was a great moment that caught everyone off guard as the segment came to an end.
· For the first time since Goldberg’s return in October, he was staring up at the lights instead of standing tall. Lesnar made quite the statement while Heyman did a great job laying the sticks for the big surprise at the end. WWE was smart to keep things short and sweet. The Chicago fans smelled blood in the water, but the company did enough to salvage the situation. All in all, everything went according to plan.
· Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson retained the Raw Tag Team Championship thanks to Cesaro attacking Anderson which led to the automatic disqualification. Gallows and Anderson vs. Enzo and Big Cass was fine, but the outcome was never in doubt after Cesaro and Sheamus appeared at ringside before the commercial break.
· After Enzo laid out Gallows with a Tope, Enzo got a little overexcited and accidently bumped into Cesaro which caused him to spill his coffee all over Sheamus. Cesaro chased Enzo back in the ring which led to the DQ finish.
· All three teams got into a brief scuffle which ended with Sheamus nailing Enzo with a Brogue Kick while he was draped over Cesaro’s shoulder.
· Mick Foley announced that Cesaro and Sheamus will face Enzo and Big Cass next week with the winners going to face Gallows and Anderson for the Tag Team Titles at WrestleMania.
· Akira Tozawa and Ariya Daivari had a solid match that featured a fun exchange of knife-edged chops until Tozawa eventually picked up the win with a Snap German Suplex.
· After the match was over, Tozawa called out The Brian Kendrick after Kendrick’s series of attacks over the past few weeks. Kendrick vowed to answer his challenge tomorrow night on 205 Live. It was short and to the point.
· The New Day made quick work of The Shining Stars when Big E and Kofi Kingston defeated Primo with The Midnight Hour. The match was fine while it lasted.
· Stephanie McMahon laid down the law and announced that Charlotte would get another shot at the Raw Women’s Championship when she goes one-on-one with Bayley at WrestleMania. Sasha Banks threw her name in the hat and Mick Foley was about to make things official until Charlotte interrupted.
· Stephanie came out to read Foley the Riot Act moments later. Foley tried to explain that Banks shouldn’t be left off the biggest show of the year. Therefore, he decided to book Banks in a match against Charlotte next week with the winner going on to face Bayley for the Women’s Title at WM.
· Stephanie appreciated Foley’s passion but decided to flip the script by booking Banks against Bayley. If Banks won, the Women’s Title match would become a Triple Threat affair.
· This was a nice way to set up the Women’s Championship at WrestleMania. Stephanie got the biggest heat of the night so far as she was showered with CM Punk chants. She tried to shut them down by calling the fans losers, but it didn’t work. She mustered enough gusto to power through the segment, though.
· Bayley feeling conflicted about retaining the title under a cloud of controversy makes sense, but Sasha Banks continues to justify her actions which will probably come into play via a heel turn in the very near future. It needs to happen soon because Bayley’s Goody Two-Shoes character has taken a hit due to questionable booking as of late.
· Sasha Banks punched her ticket to WrestleMania by making Bayley tap out to the Bank Statement. Charlotte and Dana Brooke interfered, but it was to no avail as The Boss turned the one-on-one Women’s Championship match into a Triple Threat.
· Sasha and Bayley had a decent match, but it was very methodical in nature. The crowd could have easily turned on them, but they remained on their best behavior by being lukewarm at best. The face vs. face dynamic is always a killer because the fans are forced to choose a side. Tonight was no different as they were muted for most of the match.
· Charlotte nailed Sasha and Bayley with a pair of big boots and raised the Women’s Title in the air to signal that she was 27 days away from becoming a five-time champion.
· Samoa Joe defeated Chris Jericho via count-out when he put Jericho to sleep with the Coquina Clutch outside the ring.
· Joe tried to do more damage to Jericho, but Y2J nailed him with a Codebreaker which kept The Destroyer at bay.
· The match was decent while it lasted, but it was slotted during the 10:30 p.m. Lull Period of Death which is known to kill segments dead prior to the main event.
· Who knew Braun Strowman was a crowd panderer?
· Strowman is a smart man. Respect your elders and take your leave. That was a classy move on his part.
· Roman Reigns learned a valuable lesson tonight. Never a claim a yard that isn’t yours because the previous owner might have something to say about that. The Undertaker glanced at the WrestleMania sign and choke slammed Reigns in the middle of the ring. It appears that Reigns vs. Undertaker is set for Mania.
· Raw went off the air with Taker standing tall while Reigns was shaking away the proverbial cobwebs in the ring.
· This was a hot way to end the show. The crowd erupted when Taker’s gong hit. It was an amazing prolonged pop that was breathtaking to witness at home, but it had to be unreal watching it in-person.
· Reigns was booed out of the building and got schooled by The Dead Man leading up to their match at WM.
· It’s an interesting match that might become another passing of the torch moment for Reigns if he beats Taker at the biggest show of the year. It’s a tricky balancing act because Reigns is the de facto heel in this feud which might finally give people a taste of what it would be like if he truly went rogue. If Taker’s health holds up, they could have a very good match. It’s been a few years since The Phenom has had a show-stealing match at Mania. Will he reverse that trend this year by having a classic battle against Reigns? We shall find out soon enough.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was decent at best. The main event segment made the show feel newsworthy, but it appeared that WWE was in damage control by trying to keep the Chicago crowd in check throughout the night. The Goldberg-Brock Lesnar confrontation was ripe for a hijacking, but Paul Heyman saved the day by delivering a great promo that set up Lesnar hitting Goldberg with the F5. Things might get dicey as the Road to WrestleMania makes pit stops in Brooklyn and Philadelphia on March 20th and 27th. If the creative team plays it smart, Heyman should be able to keep the boo-birds at bay.
· The rest of the broadcast was inoffensive, but it didn’t feel like a hot post-PPV show until Taker’s appearance at the end. Over the next three weeks, Raw needs to feel like a must-see show. The groundwork has been laid, now it’s time to put the wheels in motion.
· Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho for the US Title writes itself. The Tag Team Championship situation will be resolved next week. The Women’s Division is in a quagmire due to problematic booking decisions as of late. Bayley, Charlotte, and Sasha Banks are capable of rising above the noise to deliver a good match at WrestleMania with the Women’s Title at stake. Nia Jax is still a wild card, but we shall see where she fits in the Mania picture soon enough.
· WWE tried their best to right the ship after the Fastlane fallout. They have a few more weeks to make the Raw side of the WM card feel special. It’s touch and go at the moment, but there’s still time to get it together. Fingers crossed!
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!