By Steven Flora
Mayhem ensued when Kurt Angle called out the Cerebral Assassin after Triple H cheap-shotted him, amid the Elimination Chamber controversy. Stephanie McMahon & Ronda Rousey followed with Rousey challenging the Raw commissioner to a match at WrestleMania. Following The Game's entrance, Angle offered a solution to this scenario … Angle & Rousey vs Triple H & Stephanie McMahon at WrestleMania!
Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle vs. Triple H & Stephanie McMahon at WrestleMania
Kurt Angle once claimed Triple H and Stephanie McMahon only signed Ronda Rousey as payback for humiliating them at WrestleMania 31. Well, at WrestleMania 34, they may wish they had never signed her at all.
After weeks of escalating tensions and sneak attacks between the four parties — Rousey put Triple H through a table; Stephanie slapped Rousey; Triple H sucker-punched Angle — The Olympic Hero called out The King of Kings, only to be reminded by Stephanie he needed his General Manager gig to pay the bills. The Raw Commissioner offered to put all prior animosity behind them and start fresh, but Rousey crashed the party to formally administer a WrestleMania challenge to Stephanie.
Despite the protests of a flustered Triple H, Angle pointed out that Stephanie was still under contract as a Superstar in addition to her Commissioner status, so he was within his rights as Raw’s matchmaker to give Rousey what she wanted. And, given that Triple H possesses the same dual contract and Angle once promised payback if The Game ever attacked him again, The Olympic Hero decided to fold him into the proceedings and make a Mixed Tag Match between himself & Rousey against Triple H & Stephanie for The Show of Shows.
A manic scuffle ensued between the teams that ended with Triple H grapevined in the Ankle Lock, while Stephanie was dropped with a massive Samoan Drop from Rousey. In short? That new signing is looking to be a dream in the ring — and a nightmare for the people who recruited her.
Side Note: This was such a great segment to shoot the rivalry. Angle getting a slight revenge on what Triple H has done to him since November & Rousey getting even with the Raw commissioner. Rousey did seem to rush through her promo a bit and tripped over her words. Triple H & Stephanie McMahon played their roles great as always and I'm looking forward to the build-up toward this match.
Roman Reigns confronts Paul Heyman
Last week, Roman Reigns arrived on Raw and went in hard on an absentee Brock Lesnar after the Universal Champion no-showed his scheduled face-to-face with his WrestleMania challenger. If nothing else, The Big Dog seemed to slightly turn the tide of public opinion against The Beast Incarnate, but Paul Heyman, speaking for his client, proved to be entirely unconcerned with the opinions of the audience when he arrived to "set the record straight."
The Advocate began by demonstrating his and Lesnar’s status by laying the Universal Title down on the mat and didn't waste any time in rebutting Roman's remarks about Lesnar's schedule: According to Heyman, The Conqueror isn’t any less impressive of a competitor because of limited appearances, just like The Undertaker. Furthermore, Reigns would never acquire the title because it “belongs to Brock Lesnar” and, according to Heyman, The Big Dog will never put the needs of the title above those of the family he fights to represent.
He went to make his exit on an ominous note, promising Lesnar would return to Raw next week where Roman could say (or attempt) whatever he wants. Reigns showed up unannounced, though, and demanded Heyman pick the title up off the mat. He reiterated the WWE Universe deserves a champion who appears and wants to appear and ended the evening with something that fell between a request and a command: That when Lesnar comes next week, he comes dressed for a fight.
Side Note: Heyman, though he may go on for a long, long, LONG time, is untouchable at promos in the wrestling world. Reigns is slowing getting better at his promos and this program he's in with Lesnar. I feel like this feud is between Heyman & Reigns, since Lesnar is hardly there and Heyman is also Lesnar's mouthpiece. We all know how this will end and quite frankly we need Reigns as champion as I've seen less of the WWE Universal Championship on TV than Angle has seen of his son Jason Jordan.
The Miz vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor at WrestleMania
Finn Bálor & Seth Rollins def. IC Champion The Miz & The Miztourage
There are always upsets during awards season, but the third Mizzie Awards ended in a very different kind of upset for The Miz when Seth Rollins and Finn Bálor crashed The A-Lister’s snarky ceremony and defeated him in a Handicap Match that pitted the two former titleholders against Miz and his Miztourage.
Miz seemed to think he was in for an easy night with his 3-on-2 advantage, but if anything was enough to get Rollins & Finn on the same page after their weeks of one-upmanship, it was The Miz. The A-Lister had plenty of unfiltered fighting words for his opponents before the bell, mocking Seth’s impressive-if-fruitless performance from two weeks ago and Bálor’s failure to win back the Universal Title, and the impromptu team responded in kind.
Of course, their win wasn’t seamless — Bálor tagged himself in right as Rollins was getting ready to roll, and Rollins reciprocated when Finn set Miz up for the Coup de Grâce — but it was enough. Rollins stole Bálor’s pin over The Miz to hand them the victory, after which Angle emerged to inform The Miz he had decided on The A-Lister’s WrestleMania match after all: A Triple Threat Match against Rollins and Bálor for the Intercontinental Championship.
Side Note: Great match and showing how far Rollins & Balor's trust can go before they face each other for the coveted Intercontinental Championship. I see The Miz trying his best to convince Balor or Rollins that one is better than the other, trying to stir the pot between them. This match will be a show-stealer at Mania plus it'll be Balor's first WrestleMania!!
Strowman ends this musical mayhem of a match
Braun Strowman def. Elias in a Symphony of Destruction Match
The Monster Among Men formally joined the ranks of the great composers on Raw, defeating Elias in a Symphony of Destruction Match — in short, the ramp was festooned with an orchestra’s worth of instruments — that the wandering balladeer did everything to try and get out of, up to and including fleeing the arena outright.
To Elias’ credit, he showed off his proficiency at guitar, piano and drums before the chaos started, but it turns out These Hands possess a destructive talent that Elias’ melodic gifts simply cannot overcome. Strowman lifted Elias’ getaway car into the air to stop his escape and pursued Elias back into the ring. Elias landed a solid Kabong across Strowman’s back with a guitar and a picture-perfect elbow drop off the top rope, only to be chased back up the ramp where Strowman broke a bass over his back (again) and completed the crescendo by flattening Elias under a grand piano. Winner: Braun Strowman.
Side Note: This was a typical fun match, something you'd get on a seasonal holiday … aka Christmas. It was fun and what it should be.
Other Notable Moments:
Asuka def. Nia Jax: The first time Asuka faced Nia Jax, The Empress of Tomorrow escaped with a win via a technicality. The second time, she won by the skin of her teeth. The third time was the charm, as the Women’s Royal Rumble Match winner finally cracked the code and landed a far more decisive (if no less hard-fought) victory over The Irresistible Force just a month from WrestleMania. Even though a backstage Alexa Bliss predicted nothing less than a career-ending loss for The Empress of Tomorrow, and even though Jax powered her way to an early advantage, Asuka’s ruthlessness was far more than The Irresistible Force could handle. Asuka ensnared Jax in an armbar down the stretch and transitioned into a triangle when Jax hoisted her into the air, refusing to release the hold even after Nia rammed her into the turnbuckle. After Jax bounced Asuka off the ropes, Asuka re-applied the armbar in what would turn out to be the bout's deciding maneuver. Jax refused to submit for what seemed like an eternity, but Asuka eventually got the tapout she wanted, handing Jax a loss that left her teary-eyed in the ring. The WWE Universe acknowledged The Irresistible Force's efforts with a pointed ovation, but Alexa opted for more of a tough-love tactic, telling an increasingly emotional Nia she was sure The Irresistible Force would recover to make WrestleMania next year ... or risk losing everybody's respect for her. Winner: Asuka.
Raw Tag Team Champions Cesaro & Sheamus def. The Revival: The Bar spoke a touch too soon last week by insisting they’d beaten every tag team Monday Night Raw has to offer, but as of this week, Cesaro & Sheamus can finally make the claim: Following their victory over The Revival, the Raw Tag Team Champions have officially swept the field. And, since a Revival win would have gotten Dash & Dawson a title match at WrestleMania, The Bar have seemingly vanquished all their potential challengers for the big dance. That said, the “Top Guys” fought with all the ferocity you’d expect from their two reigns as NXT Tag Team Champions, and The Bar only beat The Revival by using their own strategy of cutting the ring in half against them. Even then, however, it was about as close a win as you could get. True to form, Dash & Dawson took a cue from a classic tag team and seized control with a Powerplex that notched a near three-count. With the match slipping away, Sheamus was forced to run interference, taking out Dash Wilder with a Brogue Kick before The Revival could execute the Shatter Machine on Cesaro. The Swiss Cyborg administered the Neutralizer to the stranded Scott Dawson, and that was that. The Bar march down the Road to WrestleMania a little worse for wear, but victorious all the same. Winner: Raw Tag Team Champions Cesaro & Sheamus.
John Cena def. Goldust: John Cena hopped over to SmackDown in search of a Road to WrestleMania, and his big move is already paying off. Not only did WWE’s resident free agent win his way into what is now a Six-Pack Challenge for AJ Styles’ WWE Title at Fastlane this Sunday, he has an idea for a WrestleMania dream match if he wins. After promising a record 17th World Title, The Cenation Leader demanded Styles use his rematch clause in the event of his victory to turn WrestleMania’s WWE Title Match into a Triple Threat between himself, The Phenomenal One and Men's Royal Rumble Match winner Shinsuke Nakamura. Cena also revealed that he showed up on Raw to avoid an attack from the likes of Styles, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin, though he wasn’t immune from a confrontation from a Raw Superstar. The interfering party turned out to be Goldust, who wanted to topple Cena as a starting point to achieve his own WrestleMania dreams. However, the improved odds of making the big dance have already invigorated the 16-time World Champion. Cena shook off Goldust’s mind games — not to mention a devastating low blow behind the ref’s back — to take The Bizarre One down with his big combo of shoulder-blocks, slam, Five-Knuckle Shuffle and Attitude Adjustment to win the first-time-ever matchup. That’s a wrap. Winner: John Cena.
Bayley def. Mandy Rose: Bayley and Sasha Banks have always had a friendly, if competitive, rivalry, but The Boss’ betrayal of The Huggable One during the Women’s Elimination Chamber Match seems to have finally opened a rift between the two that will take some time to mend. Not only did Bayley bail on Banks in a crucial moment during a Six-Woman Tag Team Match last week, The Huggable One seems resigned to a life without backup as she faces whatever lies ahead for her. As Absolution’s Paige pointed out before the scheduled match between Bayley and Mandy Rose, that means The Huggable One is making life incredibly difficult for herself. It proved to be a valid point. Sonya Deville's presence kept Bayley at a constant disadvantage; The Huggable One was only able to defeat Mandy with a surprise rollup, and the ensuing beatdown from Absolution was only thwarted by the arrival of Banks. The Boss single-handedly stopped the attack and helped Bayley to her feet, but despite the assist, The Huggable One seemed ambivalent at best about her presence. Bayley and Banks may still be friends, though as Bayley’s refusal of a post-match embrace indicates, they’re not exactly on hugging terms at the moment.
Bray Wyatt def. Rhyno: Wyatt challenged “Woken” Matt Hardy to a final battle, and now The Woken One is ready to accept. He even has a location in mind. After The Reaper of Souls dispatched Rhyno — piling on last week’s decimation of Heath Slater — and demanded The Woken One present himself, Hardy appeared on the TitanTron with a mind-boggling acceptance of Wyatt’s challenge. Hardy not only promised to subject Wyatt to “The Ultimate Deletion,” he vowed to do so beyond the reaches of space and time itself, on the only ground that could possibly play host to the finale of The Great War: The Hardy Compound, where flying drones roam, expansive lakes stretch as far as the eye can see, and the battlefield has been prepared for annihilation. Winner: Bray Wyatt.
Overall Raw Rating: B
Things to look forward to next week
The Road to WrestleMania continues...
What are the plans for both Strowman and Elias heading into WrestleMania 34?
Will Reigns feel the wrath of the Beast next week on Raw
Who will face The Bar for the Raw Tag Team titles at WrestleMania?
Will The Miz's IC Championship World Tour come to an end at WrestleMania?