Brock Lesnar makes a rare appearance on RAW tonight. It sounds like it might be quite a talk-heavy episode. Paul Heyman will have a lot to say. Kurt Angle is due to name his WrestleMania opponent. Batista will talk more about his match against Triple H, and Beth Phoenix may address whether she’s planning a return to the ring. There will be some wrestling. Seth Rollins faces Drew McIntyre. Finn Balor and an unnamed partner take on Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush. And, after her impassioned speech last week, Dana Brooke gets a title opportunity against Ronda Rousey.
I’m Amanda and this is the RAW review.
Finn Balor & Braun Strowman def. Bobby Lashley & Lio Rush
Elias def. No Way José
Kurt Angle def. Chad Gable
Sasha Banks def. Natalya
Ricochet def. Jinder Mahal
Ronda Rousey def. Dana Brooke
Apollo Crews def. Baron Corbin
Drew McIntyre def. Seth Rollins
The Key Bits
» Brock Lesnar opened the show to a cacophony of boos and a ‘Burn It Down’ chant. The Chicago crowd wasn’t keen on letting Paul Heyman speak at all. When he finally did, he said Seth Rollins necessitated Lesnar’s visit. He referred to Rollins’ comments last week as ‘Heyman level propaganda’, specifically the bit about Lesnar having trouble with guys of Rollins’ size and skillset. But Rollins is a fool because the winner of all the matches he mentioned (AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, Finn Balor) was still Brock Lesnar. He talked about why Rollins’ fight against Drew McIntyre was a stupid idea for Rollins, then McIntyre came out.
McIntyre said it was nice to finally get the respect he deserved. Last week, he brutalised Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. And Paul Heyman should find Lesnar a new WrestleMania opponent because, after he’s finished brutalising him, Rollins won’t make it.
Seth Rollins chose that moment to hit McIntyre from behind with a chair. He gave him three shots, then waited a while and gave him a bunch more. Rollins advanced to the ring but Lesnar was out the other side before he got in.
Lesnar handed the title belt to Heyman and looked like he was getting in the ring, but Paul Heyman talked him out of it.
Drew McIntyre took to the mic before his match. He said actions speak louder than words, then showed footage of him attacking Roman Reigns. The attack is apparently why Reigns was not on this week’s show. McIntyre said everyone rejoiced because the Big Dog was back, but he realised at Fastlane that Reigns was weak and vulnerable and now The Shield is no more, thanks to him. Now he has Rollins attacking him like a coward. This is his yard now, and he wants to take a moment to speak, not to Roman Reigns the Superstar, but Joe, the man. If he wants to be the hero so bad, then he has a challenge for him. A fight at WrestleMania. He knows the answer already, but he wants Roman/Joe to take a moment and look at his family, then say no. Because, if he takes the fight, what he did to him and Dean last week and what he’ll do to Seth tonight will be nothing. He will hurt him. Reigns may have beaten leukaemia, but he’ll never beat him.
Rollins appeared on the big screen and said that’s why he did what he did earlier. That was for his brothers, this is for him.
Rollins came out, McIntyre met him on the ramp and officials fought to separate them long enough to get it to the ring.
Drew McIntyre vs Seth Rollins was really very good. Both men are on top form and it’s less than a month to WrestleMania, how could it be anything else. A tipping point came outside the ring. McIntyre slammed Rollins into the barricade then grabbed a chair. The referee cautioned McIntyre not to use it, McIntyre swung it against the ringpost and ate a superkick from Rollins.
On an adrenaline-fuelled second wind, Rollins landed three suicide dives and a quick run of offence, but couldn’t keep McIntyre down. McIntyre got a close two count by flipping Rollins over his head to the mat. A trip to the top turnbuckle for both of them led to nothing. A second trip led to Rollins getting the superplex into falcon arrow combo, but it was only worth two. Rollins set McIntyre up for the Stomp, then Brock Lesnar’s music hit.
Rollins stood ready for whatever Lesnar was going to do, then turned into a Claymore kick and got pinned. Lesnar and Heyman just laughed from the stage.
» Finn Balor talked about losing the Intercontinental Championship last week and said he doesn’t plan on being a former Champion for long. He didn’t have the chance to announce his partner because Lashley and Rush made their entrance. Rush unveiled Lashley’s new favourite pose, holding the belt up. Balor told him to enjoy it while he can, then brought out his partner. Finn Balor & Braun Strowman vs Bobby Lashley & Lio Rush was the first match of the night. Lashley and Strowman had a power contest and Lashley rolled out of the ring when he lost. After a break, it was Lashley and Balor, and Balor was being dominated. With Balor subdued, Lashley gave Rush a brief turn. Very brief. Lashley did his best to keep Balor away from Strowman but Balor dodged his charge into the corner and Rush tagged himself in when Lashley took a ringpost to the shoulder.
Rush was unable to keep Balor from tagging out and found himself facing Strowman. Lio Rush got thrown the width of the ring a couple of times and was about to be put out of his misery with a running powerslam when Lashley speared Strowman.
Balor came in and double stomped Lashley. Rush knocked Balor out of the ring, then went to the top before Strowman could get up. He delivered a frogsplash but Strowman’s kickout sent him several feet away. Rush tried to run away but got caught between Balor and Strowman. Lashley drove Balor through the barricade, Strowman knocked Lashley down next to him.
Bobby Lashley got up while Strowman was decimating Lio Rush. Instead of helping, he watched Rush take a running powerslam when he was backing up the ramp.
» Kurt Angle announced his WrestleMania opponent. He thanked the McMahon family for allowing him to pick his opponent. He said there are many men he wants to face but only one he wants to beat. The man who has made his life a misery, Baron Corbin. Nothing would make him happier than to tap Corbin out at WrestleMania to end his career. Then he had a match.
Kurt Angle vs Chad Gable was a gentlemanly contest, with Gable telling Angle he was one of his heroes during the pre-match handshake. The match was good, but made me wonder how awesome it would have been if it was Angle at his career best facing Gable. It was a lengthy match, which might not have worked in Angle’s favour. He was clearly exhausted and almost succumbed to Gable on several occasions. It’s the Kurt Angle farewell tour though and Chad Gable eventually tapped out to the Angle Lock.
After the match, Baron Corbin came out. Corbin said laughing at and humiliating Angle after he stole his job felt great. But it didn’t feel as good as it will feel to dominate and humble him in his very last match. Whatever else Angle has done, that’s all people will remember.
» The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection had an in-ring interview. Charly Caruso asked if they are ducking The IIconics. Sasha Banks started to get wound up, so Bayley stepped in and said no, they’re not. They’re going to SmackDown Live tomorrow. Sasha Banks was about to say something about WrestleMania when Natalya and Beth Phoenix arrived.
Phoenix told Bayley and Banks she respects them and what they’ve done. She was perfectly content with her role on commentary until she saw Nia Jax and Tamina trying to set the women’s division back with their jealousy and pettiness. But Jax and Tamina did something else too, they awakened the dragon. That got her thinking, maybe her and Natalya’s dream could still become a reality. She loves all her accomplishments, but there’s one thing missing. And since Bayley and Banks said they’ll take on anyone anywhere, she’s ready to come out of retirement, join up with Natalya, and challenge for the tag titles at WrestleMania.
Bayley said that would be an honour but asked if Phoenix wanted a little more time to prepare. She’s been retired for six years and competition has evolved. Natalya reminded Bayley who she was talking to – Hall of Famer, etc. – and asked if Bayley really thought she was afraid to face someone like her. Banks said of course they know who Beth is, she’s the woman whose coattails Natalya’s riding just to get a match at WrestleMania. Natalya slapped her and they started fighting, then Phoenix and Bayley got in each other’s faces.
Sasha Banks vs Natalya happened after a break, with Bayley and Beth Phoenix on the outside. It started at least. Nia Jax interrupted to talk to Beth Phoenix from the stage. She thinks Phoenix is the jealous one. While Phoenix was pondering Jax’s accusations, Tamina hit her from behind and shoved her into the ringpost. Tamina superkicked Bayley and Sasha Banks as well, then left with Jax.
» Ronda Rousey was approached by an official, flanked by security, as she entered the building. He told her she was late, and that management had told him she was being fined an undisclosed amount and extra security had been hired to prevent an incident like last week. Rousey just walked away.
Charly Caruso asked Dana Brooke if she really knows what she’s getting into. Brooke’s answer was either optimistic or delusional, depending on your perspective, but she went to the ring with a smile on her face. Ronda Rousey (c) vs Dana Brooke – RAW Women’s Championship match – didn’t last very long. Brooke slapped Rousey, got kneed in the head, and tapped out in an armbar seconds later. Rousey shoved the official who dared to touch her arm when she wouldn’t let Brooke go, then went to talk to her husband, Travis Browne. Security approached her and Rousey attacked one of them. Another security guy lifted Rousey off and Browne punched him in the face before lifting his wife over the barricade and steering her away.
The Other Bits
» Alexa Bliss hosted another Moment of Bliss. She started to talk about WrestleMania, then handed over to commentary to run down the card so far. Once that was done, she brought out Elias. She flirted with him too and guaranteed it was a safe, interruption-free space. Elias announced he’s going to be the headline musical act at WrestleMania. I’m sure he had a point but he rambled on the way to it and got interrupted by Heavy Machinery leading No Way Jose’s conga line, without Jose. Bliss had apparently arranged for them to come out at the end of the segment. Elias was explaining timing to Otis when No Way Jose attacked him from behind.
Elias vs No Way Jose was ok. It was looking like No Way Jose might have a shot until he missed a frogsplash and landed on his face. After that, it was almost all Elias and Drift Away finished the job.
» Mojo Rawley is still talking to himself in a mirror in a darkened room. Is he locked in there?
» Ricochet vs Jinder Mahal was unexpected. Ricochet was running rings around Mahal until the Singh Brothers grabbed at his feet. That gave Mahal time to knock Ricochet to his back on the apron and take control of the match. Mahal did his best to keep Ricochet grounded. When Ricochet started to build some momentum the Singh Brothers pulled Mahal from the ring. Ricochet responded by launching himself over the top rope onto all of them then rolling Mahal back into the ring for the 630.
» This year’s Warrior Award winner is Sue Aitchison, WWE’s Senior Director of Talent Relations, who has been there for 33 years.
» Apollo Crews challenged Baron Corbin to a match. He got it. Baron Corbin vs Apollo Crews was decent enough. Crews won with a roll up.
» Batista appeared via satellite. Michael Cole asked why he was so angry with Triple H. Batista said he just doesn’t like him. Cole probed deeper and Batista revealed that the grudge goes back way before The Evolution. Triple H groomed him to be his muscle and held him down. Michael Cole asked about Batista blaming Triple H for quitting. Batista objected to the word quit but confirmed he left because Triple H didn’t think he was star material. But look at what he’s accomplished since. Now he’s in a position to demand what he wants. Cole tried to defend the boss, and Batista said he’s got everyone fooled. The real Triple H is an insecure, selfish, jealous, control freak. Finally, Batista made two predictions. First, Vince will fire Triple H, hopefully soon, and end his professional career. Second, at WrestleMania, Batista will end Triple H’s in-ring career.
» Braun Strowman spoke to Charly Caruso about Michael Che and Colin Jost. He said they’ve got him so angry he is entering the André The Giant Battle Royal so as many people as possible can ‘Get These Hands’, and when he sees them backstage at WrestleMania…
Alexa Bliss appeared and told Strowman that, as the host of WrestleMania, she needs to broker peace and asked him to give her a week. He agreed.
RAW felt a bit ponderous tonight. It’s all part of the rhythm on the Road to WrestleMania. There’s a lot to get established and sometimes that means crowbarring it in. WrestleMania is looking like a great show though and rumours abound that it will be the longest ever, again. Join us next week to see what unfolds.