By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The Raw Exposé. Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw emanated from the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio. The Raw and SmackDown Live rosters were infused with fresh blood after the Superstar Shakeup last week. With the tables reset heading into the spring and summer months, did Raw’s first full week with a revamped roster pay dividends or did they experience a case of buyer’s remorse?
Elsewhere, Braun Strowman destroyed Roman Reigns in epic fashion last week. Did Reigns channel his inner John Cena by making a miraculous recovery or did the new Big Dog lick his wounds as Strowman continues his path of destruction? The answer to these questions can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of Raw in no particular order.
· Braun Strowman kicked off Raw by gloating about how he put Roman Reigns out of commission after his classic backstage beatdown last week.
· Kurt Angle burst Strowman’s bubble when he announced that Reigns would be well enough to face Strowman at Payback in two weeks. Strowman vowed that it would be Reigns’ funeral and demanded that Angle give him competition or else. Angle didn’t give him a clear answer which caused Strowman to storm backstage as the opening segment came to an end.
· This was a good way to start the show. Strowman was smug and gleeful during his promo, but the crowd reaction was mixed. Logically, he should be booed out of the building but Reigns is a lightning rod when it comes to getting de facto heel heat. It’s refreshing that an actual heel gets booed for being an evil and irredeemable human being for a change.
· I love Chris Jericho’ Lite Brite scarf. It’s so fetching.
· Samoa Joe defeated Chris Jericho when he made Jericho tap out to the Coquina Clutch in a solid match. Jericho had a few hope spots, but the outcome was never in doubt because Joe wasn’t going to lose his first match on a random episode of Raw.
· It won’t be business as usual when Samoa Joe faces Seth Rollins at Payback in two weeks. Joe reminded Rollins of his debut the night after the Royal Rumble. He wanted Rollins to remember his ligaments tearing apart in his knee. That was business, but things would get very personal at the PPV because Rollins defeated Triple H at WrestleMania and put Stephanie McMahon through a table as an added bonus.
· Rollins told Joe that payback’s a bitch as the segment came to a short and sweet end.
· I guess Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows vs. The Golden Truth is canceled as Strowman attacked Goldust and R-Truth backstage. Braun Smash! Braun Crush!
· Big Cass’ Ohio State Buckeyes shout out didn’t go over too well with the Columbus crowd. Tough room. In all honesty, the joke was pretty lame.
· Anderson and Gallows defeated Enzo Amore and Big Cass when Anderson pinned Enzo after dropping him knee first into the top turnbuckle. The finish was a little ugly as it appeared that the referee didn’t complete the three count. Enzo’s shoulders came up, but I never heard the ref’s hand hit the mat. Perhaps there was some kind of miscommunication, but the fans were not ready for the finish based on the tepid reaction after the match was over.
· The match was fine, but Enzo playing the babyface in peril was tiresome in spots. Big Cass took control down the stretch and had the match won until the fluky finish. This was a case where both teams gained nothing by facing each other which is a shame considering the talent involved.
· The Miz and Dean Ambrose’s feud from earlier this year has been re-ignited thanks to an explosive episode of Miz TV. Miz talked about how he looked and acted like a WWE Superstar while Ambrose wore cheap clothes which afforded him multiple opportunities on SmackDown Live last year.
· However, Ambrose was a blimp on this year’s WrestleMania card while Miz and Maryse were front and center. Miz called Ambrose lazy and complacent which has prevented him from breaking the glass ceiling in WWE.
· Ambrose had a great rebuttal as he explained that his outward appearance didn’t matter because his heart said it all. His love for professional wrestling had no limits. He was willing to shed his blood, sweat, and tears in front of 20 or 100,000 people. After all, Ambrose defeated The Miz to win the Intercontinental Championship to kick off the year in style.
· Maryse got in Ambrose’s face and called him a street rat. Aladdin reference for the win! She talked about how the man makes the championship and called Ambrose a boy which added insult to injury.
· Ambrose told Maryse to hold his mic as he removed several items from his leather jacket before folding it up neatly. Miz went on a tirade about how Ambrose made the IC Title a joke while Ambrose chucked the jacket at Maryse before attacking Miz.
· Maryse hit Ambrose from behind with the microphone which allowed Miz to set up the Skull Crushing Finale. Ambrose wiggled out of the move and was about to drop Miz with Dirty Deeds, but The Hollywood A-Lister made a quick escape as he and Maryse scurried up the ramp.
· I am not a big fan of WWE revisiting this feud, but the mid-card scene is pretty light on star power. Until that situation is sorted out, Ambrose vs. Miz for the IC title is a fine placeholder. For now…
· Kalisto first week on Raw resulted in him being tossed in a dumpster by Strowman. Sad times…
· The Big Show body checked Strowman as he shoved him into the garage door backstage. Big Show vs. Strowman II is set for later tonight. Their first match was a pleasant surprise. Let’s hope lightning strikes twice.
· TJ Perkins defeated Jack Gallagher with the Detonation Kick thanks to an assist from Neville. The first half of the match was good as it featured fluid action throughout. However, the heat cooled off considerably after the commercial break as the crowd reaction was lukewarm at best.
· Jack Gallagher pulling a Mary Poppins liven things up as he laid out Perkins with a Thesz Press while falling gracefully to the floor with his umbrella.
· However, things took quite the turn when TJP tossed Gallagher into Austin Aries while he was watching the match from ringside. Aries got up to confront TJP, but Neville yanked Aries off the ring apron which led to the aforementioned finish.
· This was a nice way to forward the Neville-Aries feud while also giving TJP a chance to shine as a heel who is not above taking a short cut in order to pick up wins.
· Alexa Bliss became the number one contender for the Raw Women’s Championship when she capitalized on Nia Jax’s handiwork by pinning Sasha Banks after Jax laid her out with a Samoan Drop. Bliss kicked Jax out of the ring and picked up the tainted, but completely legal win.
· The Fatal Four Way match featuring Alexa Bliss, Sasha Banks, Mickie James, and Nia Jax was good. It featured solid action throughout and I loved the interaction between James and Banks. Bliss was the ultimate opportunist as she knew what battles to fight and which ones to run away from.
· Jax’s power offense was impressive and relatively safe for a change. Jax needs more seasoning in the ring and WWE’s unique approach of having her learn on the job is exposing her weaknesses instead of accentuating her strengths as a badass who needs to do very little in order to get over. It worked for Strowman. Let’s hope the Powers That Be realizes that when it comes to the presentation of Jax in the future.
· In any event, Bliss will be a nice foil for Bayley heading into Payback while the slow burn heel turn of Sasha Banks continues.
· Finn Bálor made quick work of Curt Hawkins when he pinned Hawkins with the Coup De Grace. I’m glad that Bálor’s concussion scare wasn’t serious as he was back in the ring this week. If Bálor defeated Jinder Mahal in 30 seconds or less last week, that whole forearm to the head thing could’ve been avoided.
· On a lighter note, Hawkins is aware that his sole purpose on Raw is to elevate people to the main event. Smart man.
· Quick Synopsis of Bray Wyatt’s sermon to Randy Orton: There will be hell, fire, and brimstone. Here endeth the recap.
· Chris Jericho putting The Drifter on The LIST made my night.
· Jeff Hardy and Cesaro survived the 10:30 Lull Period of Death by having a competitive one-on-one match which saw Cesaro put on an uppercut party of the highest order.
· The match was solid, but it was a bit one-note due to all the uppercuts. Hardy eventually got back on offense when he grazed Cesaro with Whisper in the Wind followed by a dropkick that sent the Swiss Superman tumbling out of the ring.
· The ending came when both men countered out of their finishes with Hardy coming out on top with the Side Effect followed by the Swanton Bomb for the win.
· The Hardy Boyz and Cesaro & Sheamus shook hands as a sign of mutual respect heading into their Raw Tag Team Championship match at Payback in two weeks. We shall see if the face vs. face dynamic holds up heading into the go-home show next week.
· The Big Show vs. Braun Strowman had another classic battle that featured baseball slides, dropkicks, arm drags, powerslams, kip-ups, chokeslams, and knockout punches. However, the biggest spot of the match took place when Strowman delivered a superplex to Big Show that sent both men crashing down the canvas which caused the ring to implode. The referee flew out of the ring as the crowd popped with shock and elation.
· The ring crew checked on all three men as various camera angles surveyed the damage. Amazingly, Strowman got up and declared himself the winner as Raw went off the air with the Monster among Men celebrating on the main stage.
· The match was a total spectacle and I loved every minute of it. Big Show and Strowman worked well together and told a great story in the ring. Whoever laid out the match did a tremendous job teasing the superplex spot. The fans were on their feet, but their instant gratification was denied which made the actual moment even sweeter when it finally happened.
· This was a great way to end the show and I must give kudos to WWE for spacing out the epic ring implosion moment over the years. Big Show has been a part of all of them and each time it feels special and out of the blue. It’s a trick that will never get old as long as it’s used sporadically. Tonight was no different.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw was solid. The show was verging on being so-so until the main event salvaged things. Plus, WWE showed restraint by keeping Roman Reigns off television this week. It would’ve been dumb for Reigns to show up fresh as a daisy after Strowman kicked his ass to the nth degree. Building anticipation for their rematch was the way to go and I fully expect the new Big Dog to show up on the go-home show next week. Perhaps he should bring a bulldozer for added protection against Strowman. Safety first!
· Up until the main event, the Fatal Four Way Match featuring Sasha Banks. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, and Nia Jax were in the running for match of the night honors. The ladies had a solid outing that might have been the best in-ring work I’ve seen in the Women’s Division since Bayley defeated Charlotte for the championship a little over two months ago. Bliss has one week to promote her match against the Hugger Extraordinaire. With her razor sharp mic work, I am confident in her capabilities to get the job done.
· The rest of the show felt stagnant in spots. Due to Dash Wilder recovering from a broken jaw, The Revival’s push is on hold which causes a bit of stagnation in the Tag Team Division. The Hardy Boyz have to be the standard bearer until Top Guys make their triumphant return. Let’s hope the nostalgia doesn’t wear off between now and then.
· After last week’s Superstar Shakeup, nothing really changed with the exception of Dean Ambrose and The Miz rekindling their feud from SmackDown Live and Bray Wyatt spewing nonsense on the TitanTron. Everything else is pretty much the same. Let’s hope the creative team shakes things up over the next couple of months because the broadcast seems a little wishy-washy outside of Strowman being an indestructible badass. 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!