By Steven Flora
After overcoming the demonic Kane in Raw’s main event, using some moves from The Undertaker’s arsenal in the process, John Cena once again lashed out at The Deadman for failing to respond to The Cenation Leader’s WrestleMania challenge. Has The Phenom resigned himself to an eternal slumber, leaving Cena without an opponent at The Show of Shows?
Cena imitates the Deadman
No DQ Match: John Cena def. Kane
With each passing week The Undertaker fails to respond to John Cena’s WrestleMania challenge, The Cenation Leader’s attempts to goad The Deadman out of the void have flown dangerously close to blasphemy. That led Kane to defend his brother’s honor, but even as Cena occupied himself with The Devil’s Favorite Demon in a No Disqualification victory, he made it abundantly clear who he was fighting in his head.
Not only did Cena sit bolt upright in the style of The Phenom after Kane busied himself with exposing the turnbuckle, he landed a vicious Chokeslam on The Big Red Machine. After his victory — via a savage Attitude Adjustment through a table — the 16-time World Champion expressed open shock that The Demon of Death Valley hadn’t made his presence known at any point during a No Disqualification Match.
Once again stoking the WWE Universe’s love of The Undertaker into “Do Something” chants, Cena implored The Deadman more forcefully than ever to deliver a response of any kind. Silence, he said, was an insult to himself, Kane and everyone who ever believed in The Undertaker.
“I hope for the sake of all that is good inside this ring I see you next week,” Cena said before he left. As one final jab to The Deadman, he unleashed one more mimic, performing Undertaker’s signature throat-slash motion straight into the camera as Raw went off the air. It was a striking note to end on, but as the clock continues to tick, The Deadman’s deafening silence may be all the response he’s going to get.
Side Note: I do wonder why it's taking WWE so long for Undertaker to get back at him. The only reason I see for waiting is they have something big for this match planned, and when I mean big I mean Undertaker changing personas. If you think about it, he "retired" his deadman gimmick by laying his clothes in the ring. Quite simply he isn't retired but the deadman character is. ENTER THE AMERICAN BADASS.
Intercontinental Champion The Miz confronts The Miztourage on "Miz TV"
The Miz’s game plan leading into WrestleMania has been to pit Finn Bálor and Seth Rollins against each other in the hopes they'll be too preoccupied with each other to mount a proper challenge for the IC Title. Turns out two (or three) can play that game.
Playing off escalating tensions between Miz and The Miztourage, who have been less than efficient in their duties lately, The Kingslayer arrived early to his and Bálor’s “Miz TV” interview to stoke the animosity between the Intercontinental Champion and his supporting cast. He did a pretty good job of it, as an aggravated Bo Dallas muttered that Miz was a “phony A-Lister who can’t fight” into the mic after a lengthy berating. Bálor arrived to pile on by goading Dallas into insulting his boss a second time, leading to a slap across the face from The Awesome One that he tried to play off as “firing up” his enforcers. It seemed to work, too ... until Miz implied he was a better Intercontinental Champion than Mr. Perfect, leading to some raised eyebrows from Curtis Axel.
With Miz having shoved both his loafers in his mouth, he quickly found himself surrounded by The Miztourage and Rollins and Bálor — though the whole confrontation turned out to be a ruse to goad Seth and Finn into a beatdown from Bo & Axel. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson’s arrival sent The Miztourage packing, and it kick-started a brawl among the three WrestleMania opponents that ended with Miz, Rollins and Bálor all fighting over possession of the Intercontinental Title. Finn came out on top in the scramble, knocking Rollins to the mat and stepping over him to hoist the championship above his head. Retribution may yet be in the cards for The Kingslayer, however, as he and Bálor will clash next week on Raw just six days before WrestleMania.
Side Note: Such an underrated segment. Balor & Rollins were too funny trying to rile up the Miztourage. Dallas & Axel played their roles well with Dallas getting some much needed spotlight. The Miz being The Miz wouldn't get very far if he didn't have a plan and that resulted in the sneak attacked by him and the Miztourage. This match is heavily underrated going into WrestleMania.
Roman Reigns confronts Universal Champion Brock Lesnar
For weeks, Roman Reigns has disparaged Universal Champion Brock Lesnar for not showing up to Raw when he was supposed to. Last week, Reigns received a beating for his troubles, and now just two weeks from WrestleMania, The Beast returned under a cloud of irony: Despite the lifting of his temporary suspension, Reigns was the one who was seemingly nowhere to be found.
That led to some savage gloating from Paul Heyman, who called Reigns’ manhood into question for failing to live up to his family’s fighting legacy. To Heyman’s surprise, however, Reigns appeared in the crowd, steel chair in hand, and was ready to throw down. Lesnar obliged, and while The Big Dog connected a few times with the chair, he was still too weakened from last week to put up much of a fight beyond that. Lesnar snatched Reigns out of the air when he attempted a Superman Punch off the steps and easily overpowered him, thanks in no small part to his use of the steel steps as an equalizer. After another series of hellacious chair swings to Reigns’ back, The Beast was seemingly done, though he returned for one final statement at the expense of his challenger: An F-5 atop the steel steps.
Side Note: Another Roman Reigns beatdown, another brutal assault from the BEAST and the WWE Universe couldn't care one bit. Reigns will never be the top babyface of WWE. Never.
Absolution confronts Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle
Ronda Rousey’s WrestleMania debut is a dream come true for The Baddest Woman on the Planet, but Triple H & Stephanie McMahon are already predicting that conflicting motives and rampant egos will lead to disaster for Rousey and her WrestleMania partner, Kurt Angle.
The Baddest Woman on the Planet seemed entirely unmoved by Stephanie, who she referred to as “trust-fund tough” after Angle invited her to the ring later in the night. She was a bit more polite in refuting Paige’s offer to recruit her into Absolution, who Paige believed could back her up better than Angle.
When Paige attempted to stick her cohorts on “Rowdy” Ronda in response, however, all civility went out the window. Sonya Deville was swiftly dispatched, and Mandy Rose’s attempt at a sneak-attack nearly landed her in an armbar until Angle talked his partner down. There may be no such restraint at WrestleMania.
Side Note: Rousey's make up did scare me I'll be honest though her promo work felt flat as it was getting better in the past few weeks. She made quick work of Absolution and her hip toss on Mandy Rose was damn impressive.
Other Notable Moments:
Nia Jax def. Mickie James: Alexa Bliss played Nia Jax for a very long time, but the jig may well be up when The Irresistible Force faces Bliss for the Raw Women’s Title at WrestleMania — at least, if we’re to take what Jax did to Bliss’ enforcer Mickie James as any indication. The Irresistible Force seized control early against James and refused to let up, though Mickie landed a chop-block on Jax’s leg after Bliss diverted her challenger’s attention at ringside. Mickie capitalized on the cheap shot by forcing Nia into the corner, though that also led to her downfall when Nia pressed Mickie off the turnbuckle and into a match-ending Samoan Drop. Alexa attempted to pile on with a post-match sneak attack, but The Goddess’ strike only served to anger Jax more, and the champion made a hasty retreat. With WrestleMania just around the corner, however, Alexa can only run so far before she finds herself face-to-face with Jax, ready or not.
Cedric Alexander & Mustafa Ali def. Drew Gulak & TJP: The Cruiserweights have been conspicuous by their absence the last several weeks on Raw, and with good reason: The revamped 205 Live has played host to a tournament for the vacant WWE Cruiserweight Championship, with Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali advancing to a final battle at WrestleMania. On Raw, however, “The Heart and Soul of 205 Live” put aside their friendly rivalry to team against Drew Gulak & TJP in a thrilling match that was half-exhibition, half-one-upmanship between the two dynamic high-flyers. With 205 Live’s General Manager/breathless hype man Drake Maverick at commentary, Ali and Gulak battled to a stalemate, leading TJP and Alexander to re-enter the fray. And even though Ali provided a crucial assist to his partner when Gulak ran interference, he ended the match a little bit on the sneaky side, making an under-the-table tag moments before a rolling Cedric blasted TJP with the Lumbar Check. A confused Alexander was forced to cede the ring to Ali, and he bemusedly watched from the apron as his WrestleMania opponent finished the job with an 054 to The Fil-Am Flash. A display of Ali’s prowess for the WWE Universe, or a warning to Cedric of what awaits him at The Show of Shows? No reason it can't be both.
Asuka def. Jamie Frost: With established WWE Superstars trying and failing to snap Asuka’s undefeated streak, an intrepid local named Jamie Frost arrived on Raw with all the confidence of a multi-time champion, proclaiming that since she had never competed professionally, there was no way Asuka could possibly be ready for her. She was wrong. Her inexperience turned out to be her undoing, as a couple of hammer-fisted punches and one brazen slap to The Empress of Tomorrow led to a wicked kick that dropped Jamie Frost like a rock. 1-2-3, the streak continues, and Charlotte Flair awaits in New Orleans.
Sasha Banks confronted Bayley: Animosity has been brewing between Bayley and Sasha Banks for weeks, and the discontent between the two former Women’s Champions has finally led to a collision course at WrestleMania: Bayley declared for the WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal, making her only the second Raw woman to do so after Banks. The Huggable One had less to say about their confrontation last Monday, which led to a tag team defeat, though she was adamant that she would refuse to let Sasha seize the spotlight any longer. Banks, unmoved, made no apologies for the me-first attitude she’s taken throughout her career, nor was she fazed by Bayley’s accusation that she continues to take advantage of The Huggable One because she can’t win in a fair fight. But The Huggable One’s final shot — that even though Banks was a four-time Raw Women’s Champion, she never kept it for very long — was too much to bear, and the two finally threw hands, hurling each other into walls and lockers alike in a wild backstage brawl until they were separated by a crew of refs.
Braun Strowman def. Raw Tag Team Champion Sheamus: Braun Strowman’s search for a tag team partner at WrestleMania continues. Or maybe it’s finished. Strowman certainly seemed to imply he had backup secured against Cesaro & Sheamus for The Showcase of the Immortals, though he refused to reveal who it was to The Bar unless The Alabaster Gladiator defeated him in their one-on-one match. Given that the mystery is robbing The Bar of their precious prep time, Sheamus certainly approached the bout with the appropriate sense of urgency, and even managed to tweak his opponent’s knee in the early goings. Cesaro did his part, too, attempting to distract The Gift of Destruction each time the big man began to rev up. But when the ref got wise to The King of Swing, Cesaro backed off, a Brogue Kick went wide left and a Powerslam to Sheamus spelled the end of the match. So the question of Strowman’s partner rolls on, though he’s clearly happy to continue doling out These Hands to Cesaro & Sheamus in the meantime.
Gallows & Anderson def. The Miztourage: The Miztourage have a little more fight in them than their detractors give them credit for, but they’re still a length or two behind The Bálor Club’s resident good brothers. Despite a strong showing from Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel, the good brothers kept their tag team contest firmly in hand, though it did take them a little longer to earn the victory than they seemingly thought it would. Dallas provided a crucial assist to save The Axe Man from a Boot of Doom, though after a superkick from Luke Gallows felled the former NXT Champion at ringside, Axel was ripe for a Magic Killer that put the match away.
Elias def. Rhyno: One Superstar who has yet to find his way to WrestleMania is Elias, though that hasn’t stopped him from promising “the performance of a lifetime” in 13 days. He certainly provided a solid opening act to whatever he does at The Showcase of the Immortals, dispatching a game Rhyno with Drift Away despite a run of blistering offense from the former SmackDown Tag Team Champion. Seemingly unsatisfied, Elias followed up by dropping Heath Slater with the same maneuver after The One-Man Band attempted to console his partner following the defeat. With a display like that, it's hard to imagine New Orleans won't walk with Elias. The only question is how far Elias will go once he gets there.
Overall Raw Rating: C
Things to look forward to next week
The Road to WrestleMania continues...
What are the plans for Elias heading into WrestleMania 34?
Will Undertaker finally answer John Cena?
Sasha Banks vs Bayley at WrestleMania?
Can Nia Jax finally seek revenge on her former friend Alexa Bliss?