By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. It’s the night after WrestleMania which means only one thing: It’s the craziest show of the year when it comes surprise returns and/or debuts along with the unpredictable crowd being the star of the broadcast.
Mania was filled with twists and turns with the biggest shock coming at the end when The Undertaker seemingly retired from WWE after losing to Roman Reigns during the main event. He symbolically left his coat, gloves, and hat in the ring as he kissed his wife before disappearing underneath the stadium. It’s safe to assume that Roman Reigns is public enemy number one with the fans wanting his head on a silver platter.
Meanwhile, The Hardy Boyz continued their Expedition of Gold when they won the Raw Tag Team Championship in a Fatal Four Way Ladder Match. It was quite the moment that popped the crowd something fierce.
Brock Lesnar was crowned King of the Universe when he defeated Goldberg to win the Universal Championship. It was a smash mouth fight that was fun to watch, but the outcome was never in doubt as The Beast walked away with the Big Red Kryptonite Belt. With these storylines in play, how did the raucous international crowd respond to the Mania fallout? 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.
· Raw got off to an insane start when the crowd showered Roman Reigns with monstrous boos and expletives that were too colorful to repeat here. The crowd roasted, toasted, and flambéed Reigns for a good five to six minutes until he finally got on the mic and proclaimed that the ring was his yard before heading to the back.
· The fans were super pissed about Reigns retiring The Undertaker last night at WrestleMania and they vented in epic fashion. It should be interesting to see how the New Big Dog is received in cities outside of the Mania bubble.
· The Hardy Boyz retained the Raw Tag Team Championship when Jeff Hardy took out Luke Gallows with the Swanton Bomb which allowed Matt Hardy to score the pin. The match was pretty good with the exception of Jeff’s execution of the Twist of Fate on Gallows. It was a little sloppy, but Matt made it look better on the second attempt which set up the finish. The action was solid and the fans were hot as they chanted “Delete!” “Obsolete!”, and “F*** That Owl!” for atmospheric effect.
· Neville and Mustafa Ali had a very good match, but it was marred by the crowd playing an impromptu game of volleyball with a pair of beach balls. If you cancel out the extra noise, Ali had an impressive showing as he dropped Neville with a beautiful Springboard Spanish Fly from the top rope. Ali tried to finish Neville off with the Inverted 450 Splash, but Neville moved out of the way.
· The King of the Cruiserweights climbed to the rope and was about to hit Ali with the Red Arrow, but decided to lock him in the Rings of Saturn for the submission win instead. The crowd popped for the big spots towards the end, but they were too busy entertaining themselves instead of paying attention to the action taking place in the ring. Sadly, that is one of the drawbacks to the night after WrestleMania.
· Vince McMahon announced that there would be some kind of Superstar Shakeup next week. McMahon didn’t outright say that a draft was taking place, but we shall see how this news develops throughout the week.
· In the meantime, Vince had to name a new General Manager since Mick Foley was fired and Stephanie McMahon is out of action due to Triple H accidently putting her through a table last night. Teddy Long came out and assumed he was the man for the job, but Vince quickly shut him down. 2017 WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle was named the new Raw GM as the fans erupted in “You Suck!” chants in the most endearing way possible.
· Angle cut a quick promo about being glad to be back on Raw as the segment came to an end. Angle’s name popped up as Foley’s replacement dating back to his HOF announcement a few months ago. He has the right personality for the job and it should be interesting to see him interact with Stephane because they had a mutual attraction for each other during the height of the McMahon-Helmsley Era.
· The Revival just made their debut on Raw. They are the perfect team to shake up the tag team division along with the Hardy Boyz. However, their talents might have been better utilized on SmackDown Live because that division also needs some much-needed TLC.
· The Revival defeated The New Day when Dash and Dawson nailed Xavier Woods with the Shatter Machine for the win. It was a solid match that showcased The Revival’s prowess as a tag team.
· Things took a heelish turn when Dash and Dawson attacked Kofi Kingston after the match was over. They double-teamed Kingston and took out his knee as the crowd booed them out of the building. This was a nice way to establish The Revival as heels who shouldn’t be cheered under any circumstances. Their debut was a success despite my mixed feelings about them being better off on SD Live.
· Kurt Angle, Enzo Amore, and Big Cass had an entertaining backstage segment that featured several laugh-out-loud moments. Angle had a great line about not knowing where Enzo got his certification as a G from while Enzo asked a great life question about why Goofy was treated like a human while Pluto acted like a dog. That is quite the conundrum.
· Enzo and Cass pleaded their case about wanting a shot at the Raw Tag Team Titles and Angle responded by booking them in a number one contenders match against Sheamus and Cesaro. Cass spelled out the word SAWFT and Angle mused that the spelling was incorrect as the crowd laughed in the background. This was classic Angle in the best possible way. His sense of humor is always on point.
· After 30 weeks of hype videos, Emma is finally back! It’s about damn time.
· Bayley, Dana Brooke, and Sasha Banks defeated Emma, Nia Jax, and Charlotte when Banks made Charlotte tap out to the Bank Statement. It was a solid match that illustrated the vicious streak of Emma when she yanked Bayley’s ponytail while The Raw Women’s Champion hung upside down in the corner. The match broke down into a parade of moves leading up to the finish.
· Charlotte took out her frustration on Emma and Nia Jax after the match was over. Jax shoved Charlotte in the corner and nailed her with a big boot while Emma got out of dodge.
· Jax dropped Charlotte with a vicious elbow to send the message that she wasn’t the woman to mess with.
· Paul Heyman kicked off the third hour of Raw by telling a bedtime story about Goldberg being a hero in his village only for him to take a detour in Suplex City where he got his ass kicked by Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. Lesnar is the new Universal Champion and Heyman promised that Bill Goldberg would never show his face in a WWE ring again.
· Heyman switched his attention to Lesnar’s possible new challengers for the Universal Title. Heyman name dropped Seth Rollins and The Hardy Boyz before setting his sights on Roman Reigns as the fans booed at the mere sound of Reigns’ name.
· Since Lesnar and Reigns are the 2 in 23-2, it’s only fair that they duke it out to determine who the Top Dog really is. Realizing where the segment was going, the fans started up a “We Want Balor” chant. Heyman didn’t acknowledge it and continued his promo. He was about to make a major announcement when Braun Strowman made his way to the ring.
· Strowman told Lesnar that once he took care of Reigns, he would have his attention. He gave Lesnar a light shove before telling The Beast that they would throw hands on his terms as he left the ring.
· This is was a good segment, but the crowd was not very receptive towards another Lesnar-Reigns feud. It’s a hardcore post-Mania crowd that knew Finn Balor never lost the Universal Championship outright. Therefore, he should be first in line for a title shot. With WWE sidestepping the issue, it makes for a very awkward situation.
· Strowman facing off against Reigns is getting a bit tiresome because Reigns beat him decisively at Fastlane last month. Unless Strowman picks up a quality win soon, his monster push will become mute. Strowman vs. Lesnar is an intriguing matchup, but it will mean nothing if Strowman continues to rack up losses.
· Chris Jericho cut a great backstage promo as he acknowledged the Beach Ball Mania chants from earlier tonight. He topped things off by putting the tip of Kevin Owens’ finger on the LIST.
· The fun and games quickly came to an end when Owens attacked Jericho and power bombed him through a table thanks to an assist from Samoa Joe.
· Angle informed Rollins that Jericho was in no condition to compete, but vowed to find a partner for Rollins. Something tells me that a certain Demon King is going to make a surprise appearance. Just a hunch...
· Sheamus and Cesaro defeated Enzo and Big Cass to become the number one contender for the Raw Tag Team Titles. The match was decent, but it was rough in spots. The crowd added some levity by serenading Sheamus and Cesaro. It was cute and endearing, but it could’ve gotten ugly if Enzo and Cass picked up the win.
· They were about to do just that when Sheamus nailed Cass with a Brogue Kick. This allowed Cesaro to nail Enzo with a flying European Uppercut for the win.
· Sheamus and Cesaro vs. The Hardy Boyz should be very good and the mere thought of Cesaro and Jeff Hardy being in the same ring together is the icing on the cake.
· Jinder Mahal got the early jump on Sami Zayn, but it wasn’t enough to keep Zayn down as he nailed Mahal with the Helluva Kick for the win. The match was serviceable while it lasted.
· It’s good to see you again, Finn.
· Seth Rollins and Finn Bálor defeated Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe when Bálor pinned Owens with the Coup de Grace. The match was good, but it hit a lull when Rollins played the babyface in peril midway through the match. The crowd decided to do The Wave until Rollins made the hot tag to Bálor.
· The action picked up from there with the finishing sequence coming off strong when Bálor tried to dropkick Owens in the corner only for Joe to catch Bálor in mid-charge. He locked Bálor in the Coquina Clutch, but Rollins made the save when he nailed Joe with a flying knee from the top rope.
· This allowed Bálor to take out Owens with the running dropkick in the corner which led to the finish.
· This was a nice comeback match for Bálor as he looked sharp and fought with an extra tinge of intensity throughout.
· Balor not being in the Universal Championship picture is odd and I hope the big red elephant in the room is addressed sooner rather than later. Owens has a claim to the title as well which should create an interesting dynamic in the weeks and months to come.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was solid. The show had its share of surprises with Kurt Angle being named the new Raw General Manager along with Emma making her long-awaited return, The Revival putting the tag team division on notice, and Finn Balor’s homecoming during the main event.
· As always, the broadcast hit a lull during the third hour with the fans starting to get a bit restless with the exception of Cesaro and Sheamus getting serenaded by the crowd during their tag team match. It’s remarkable that The Celtic Warrior went from being on the fast track towards nowhere this time last year to being a beloved babyface due to his partnership with Cesaro. It’ quite the career resurrection.
· The rest of the show was fine with the crowd being vocal in key spots. Some of their chants had merit, but the beach ball fiasco was the lowlight of the show because it diluted a competitive cruiserweight match between Neville and Mustafa Ali.
· The Superstar Shakeup appears to be a take on the NFL Free Agency Period. There will probably be some trades involved to strengthen both rosters heading into the spring and summer months. The Raw roster is bloated and they need to unload some talent to SmackDown. SmackDown can’t afford to part with too many stars, but we shall see who debuts on the blue brand tomorrow night as the fallout from WrestleMania continues. With another PPV looming on the horizon for the red brand, it’s time to unload some of the excess baggage and become a more efficient show from a creative standpoint. We shall see how it all plays out next week.
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 edition of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls!