By Steven Flora
Braun Strowman forced his way into Raw’s Tag Team Battle Royal main event, and The Monster Among Men outlasted the five teams in the contest to emerge as the apparent victor. How will Raw General Manager Kurt Angle sort out the situation that seemingly puts the solitary Strowman on a collision course with Raw Tag Team Champions Cesaro & Sheamus at WrestleMania?
The Bar vs. Braun Strowman at WrestleMania?
Braun Strowman won a Tag Team Battle Royal to determine Cesaro & Sheamus' WrestleMania opponents
Strowman guaranteed he would administer These Hands at WrestleMania, and it appears his “Path of Destruction” has gone through an entirely unexpected route: The Tag Team division. The Monster Among Men both surfaced as a surprise entrant in the Tag Team Battle Royal that was supposed to determine Cesaro & Sheamus’ WrestleMania challengers, but that was nothing compared to the shocker at the end, when he won the melee by his lonesome.
Granted, Strowman is not a tag team unto himself, and he more or less yelled at the official to ring the bell in the opening confusion, both of which muddled the legality of his participation as well as his victory. Yet, participate he did, and win he did as well, dishing out eliminations and forcing the five competing tag teams to unite in a series of unlikely alliances that culminated with Braun being obliterated outside the ring with the steel steps. Yet, as The Bar looked on in shock from the commentary position, Strowman roared back to last eliminate Karl Anderson with a battle cry of “I’M GOING TO WRESTLEMANIA!”
Side Note: So many questions need asking, like how can Strowman challenge "The Bar" for the tag titles at WrestleMania? I think Elias could play some part in this tag match, though having 1 man beat all of the tag-teams on Raw shows what little value that division holds.
Roman Reigns confronts Vince McMahon
For a second time, Universal Champion Brock Lesnar did not honor a planned face-to-face with his WrestleMania challenger, Roman Reigns. Unlike last time, however, The Big Dog decided to take his grievances straight to the top, and unlike last time, he immediately faced the consequences.
Reigns’ protests to Angle over Lesnar’s absence failed to produce a reprimand for The Beast Incarnate, which he said was no surprise, as Lesnar was “Vince’s boy.” As such, and given that The Chairman had “disrespected” Reigns by not informing him of Lesnar’s absence in person, The Big Dog made his way behind the curtain and demanded answers from Mr. McMahon himself.
Their ensuing closed-door meeting was not captured by cameras, though The Chairman was caught coming out of his office and cleared the air on a few matters. For one, Lesnar was “nobody’s boy,” least of all his own. For another, no matter who Lesnar respects or does not, The Beast had indeed been afforded special privileges and could take advantage of them if he chose. Third, even though Lesnar occasionally steps out of line, Mr. McMahon gave his word the Universal Champion would be at WrestleMania and, more immediately, would be at Raw next week.
That said, since Reigns had failed to honor his famous cousin's catchphrase of "know your role and shut your mouth," Mr. McMahon found he had suffered the only disrespect of the evening. As a result, The Chairman announced Reigns would be temporarily suspended for his actions.
Side Note: You have to say, after everything they've done with Reigns, he's getting so much better at his promos, and this promo was easily his best. He's slowly easing back into that anti-authority edge he attained back in early 2016. Lesnar being held of TV is clearly a ploy to make the WWE universe back the challenger, ahead of his match at WrestleMania 34. We all know how this match will end up, so let's just enjoy the ride.
John Cena asks The Undertaker for one more match
John Cena’s “Plan B” to get to WrestleMania failed at Fastlane, so now he’s circling back to “Plan A”: Challenge The Undertaker to a match at The Show of Shows. Well aware he had fallen short in his recent opportunities and was now hinging his WrestleMania hopes on the longest of long shots, Cena seemingly defied protocol and challenged The Deadman outright — his rationale being that, as he had been told he wasn’t going to compete at WrestleMania and had resigned himself to attending as a fan, he really had nothing to lose if The Phenom turned him down.
Cena went big in his call-out, too, claiming The Deadman was the only factor stopping the match from happening in the first place. And given that he believed Undertaker’s “ego” was the only thing holding him back, Cena decided to play to it. The 16-time World Champion flat-out asked the WWE Universe if they wanted to see him eat a Tombstone at The Showcase of the Immortals. When the fans responded in the thunderous affirmative, Cena dared The Deadman to try before leaving Raw with a tantalizing offer on the table: “One. More. Match.”
Side Note: One of Cena's best promos. Why? Because no one has ever said so many demeaning things toward the Undertaker. Cena going after Taker being "broken" but then claiming he was always posting "workout videos on his wife's instagram" was probably the lowest of the low. Undertaker has to come out next week and it'll be interesting to see how he deals with Cena's harsh comments.
Nia Jax wants revenge
Nia Jax def. Joan King
With a match against Asuka approaching next week, Alexa Bliss had planned to shore up Nia Jax as an ally against The Empress of Tomorrow by reinforcing their tough-love bond and telling Jax she loves her. Unfortunately, she said a little more than that in front of a working microphone.
With Jax appropriately inspired, The Irresistible Force made quick work of a local named Joan King, but the TitanTron cut to a planned interview with the champion before she was ready. The boom mic propped up in the dressing room caught Bliss openly admitting to Mickie James about “using” Nia, including her earlier words of encouragement, planning to use her to do the heavy lifting against Asuka next week, and plotting to beat her up if she didn’t.
Bliss seemed appropriately shaken when Charly Caruso informed her she and Mickie had been gabbing in front of a live microphone, and for good reason: Jax stormed into the locker room in something halfway between despair and rage, then tore it apart when Charly told her that Bliss was gone. It’s a fair bet she won’t be in Alexa’s corner next week. Instead, The Goddess may just find herself in Nia’s path.
Side Note: This was a breath of fresh air. Jax has slowly been edging into the babyface role since the recent posts on body appreciation. The WWE universe clearly like her though Alexa Bliss would always remind them who was the No. 1 woman in WWE. Nia Jax needs this win at WrestleMania and I can't see any other outcome but that one.
Other Notable Moments:
Sasha Banks def. Sonya Deville: It has been a rough couple of weeks for Sasha Banks and Bayley’s friendship, and despite a cooling-off period that saw the two former champions reunite as allies on Raw, there may yet be an issue or two that needs working out. Though Bayley was, indeed, ringside for Sasha Banks’ match with Absolution’s Sonya Deville and did, indeed, provide a crucial assist when Mandy Rose attempted to interfere (payment, apparently, for Banks' help the previous week), The Huggable One’s willingness to have Sasha’s back only went so far. Bayley left the ring immediately after Banks submitted Deville with the Bank Statement, making The Boss easy pickings for a two-on-one beatdown from Absolution as a result.
Finn Bálor def. Seth Rollins: Technically, The Miz faces a disadvantage when he defends his Intercontinental Title against Seth Rollins and Finn Bálor under Triple Threat rules at WrestleMania. However, credit where credit is due: The A-Lister has played the situation perfectly thus far. Rather than target or try to form an alliance with one of his opponents, Miz has instead stoked the lingering animosity between The Kingslayer and The Extraordinary Man – so much that even a joint “Miz TV” interview turned into a brawl that ended with Rollins decking Bálor to the mat. The mounting tensions also led to a match later in the night between The Awesome One’s two challengers, a hard-hitting game of one-upsmanship that saw Rollins fight with a little extra fire given that Miz made a point of bringing up his Universal Title loss to Bálor back at SummerSlam 2016. The two former champions went kick-for-kick as the match went on, but Bálor went scientific for the deciding maneuver, trapping The Kingslayer in a small package while he was halfway through the superplex-Falcon Arrow combo. The sudden loss left Rollins visibly frustrated as he left the ring, and seemed to confirm that all this drama forecasts the best possible outcome for Miz: Rollins is shaken, both challengers are a little worse for wear physically, and with their eyes on each other instead of the title, the champion could have his opponents right where he wants them.
The Fabulous Moolah Memorial Battle Royal is announced for WrestleMania: As the Women's divisions of WWE continue to march toward WrestleMania, Raw saw the announcement of the latest leap forward in the Women's Evolution: The Fabulous Moolah Memorial Battle Royal, an over-the-top-rope contest named after the late WWE Hall of Famer herself and open to all WWE's Women's division competitors. The inaugural edition of the Fabulous Moolah Battle Royal will take place Sunday, April 8, at WrestleMania 34. May the best woman win.
"Woken" Matt Hardy revealed his "Woken family": Hardy and Bray Wyatt’s twisted rivalry has been leading up to a bizarre battle on Hardy’s home turf, dubbed The Ultimate Deletion. What that will entail, exactly, is anybody’s guess. Hardy’s extended “Woken family” — Queen Rebecca, King Maxel, Lord Wolfgang, Señor Benjamin and the drone Vanguard 1 — will be there, as will a “Lake of Reincarnation” with the ultimate goal of exorcising Sister Abigail from Wyatt’s vessel. Wyatt, for his part, made thinly veiled threats toward Hardy’s family. However, about the only certainty surrounding The Ultimate Deletion is that it's happening next week. And, since The Ultimate Deletion is technically a Raw match, Angle had to assign a referee to officiate it. The lucky (?) soul ended up being Shawn Bennett, who was given one simple charge by The Olympic Hero: To make sure, if at all possible, that Hardy and Wyatt return to Raw in one piece.
Asuka def. Mickie James: At Fastlane, Asuka surprised everybody by using her Women’s Royal Rumble Match privilege to challenge SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania. That doesn’t mean Bliss is in the clear just yet, though. Not only did The Goddess suffer a serious burn when she mocked Asuka’s choice of title match — The Empress of Tomorrow replied she wanted to face the best Women’s Champion and chose accordingly — her apparent plan to sic Nia Jax on the undefeated Superstar backfired when The Irresistible Force didn’t answer the call. Mickie James stepped up instead, and she got The Empress of Tomorrow impressively close to the edge of her first loss. An early cheap shot gave the six-time Women’s Champion an early advantage, and a timely dodge of Asuka’s kick sent The Empress’ shin swinging into the ring post. Mickie continued to target the leg in the hopes of exploiting the injury, but when she tried to hit higher-impact maneuvers instead, The Empress of Tomorrow had only to weather the storm and apply the Asuka Lock for the win. Which, of course, she did.
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?
Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss at WrestleMania for the Raw Women's Championship?