By Steven Flora
Roman Reigns is down, but he’s far from out. After absorbing multiple beatings at the hands of Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, The Big Dog finally got a piece of The Beast Incarnate with a succession of Superman Punches that left Lesnar dazed. However, The Conqueror is not so easily dispatched.
Reigns confronts Lesnar
Paul Heyman decided to deliver a sermon of “truth” that stretched well beyond the reveal that Lesnar had no desire to stick around if he wasn’t holding a title.
No, Heyman had larger truths on his mind, namely the “mystique” he’d cultivated of Lesnar as a solitary figure who doesn’t respect anybody was, if anything, understated over the years. Lesnar’s feelings toward the WWE locker room and Universe alike fall somewhere between indifference and outright hostility and, while Heyman certainly respected Reigns’ bonafides as a Superstar, he felt comfortable in the same “not a prediction, it’s a spoiler” forecast for WrestleMania 34 that he gave for The Undertaker all those years ago: F-5 in the middle of the ring, 1-2-3.
Reigns, who had promised to leave Brock and Heyman alone if they kept it respectful, made his entrance soon thereafter, though the human blockade seemed dead set on keeping him from The Conqueror — that is, until he asked them if they really wanted to protect a “part-timer,” at which point the seas parted and Reigns hit the ring. After some circling, Lesnar made his move with chair in hand, and The Big Dog administered five Superman Punches that flattened the champion. Right as Reigns paused to celebrate, however, Lesnar sprang with a quick-strike F-5 that left Reigns writhing in the ring while The Beast left of his own volition.
Side Note: This was a better build up compared to 2015 where they were grabbing the title. Reigns is easily gonna win this, but what makes this more interesting is Heyman says Lesnar isn't sticking around if he's not holding a title. As we know Reigns will win, it'll be intriguing to see what happens to the status of Lesnar as a WWE employee.
Triple H & Stephanie McMahon attack Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey
On her first night as a WWE Superstar, Ronda Rousey sent Triple H crashing through a table. Now, Stephanie McMahon has repaid the favor.
In the final faceoff between WrestleMania’s Mixed Tag Team opponents — Rousey & Kurt Angle and Triple H & Stephanie — tensions escalated almost immediately, thanks to The King of Kings preemptively blaming The Olympic Gold Medalist for a potential Ronda loss. The Baddest Woman on the Planet replied by demanding why Triple H signed her with “ulterior motives;” Stephanie took issue with being demanded to do anything; Angle reminded his opponents they were speaking to an Olympic medalist and a former UFC champion; and Triple H brought it all home by reminding Angle that, despite all of Ronda’s accolades and skills, she was stepping into a world she did not yet fully understand.
The trash-talking continued through a pair of questions from the WWE Universe, peaking when Stephanie implied that Rousey’s impending loss would be too much for her to handle. Moderator Jonathan Coachman seemed to cool the hostilities enough to stage a pre-match photo opp, but Stephanie’s words had hit their mark, and Rousey was soon nose-to-nose with the Raw Commissioner. Triple H dispatched Angle with a microphone to the back of the head, and when “Rowdy” Ronda turned her attention to the COO, Stephanie struck, driving Ronda through the interview table she’d been sitting behind moments earlier.
Side Note: Great segment but then again anything involving Triple H is automatically an A*. Stephanie played her role well and Rousey, though initially struggling, managed to pull of a decent promo. This will be a great match and I look forward to seeing Rousey tear Stephanie’s arm out of its socket.
John Cena tries to summon The Undertaker one more time
Cena is out of time. Weeks have gone by without a response from The Undertaker in the wake of Cena’s WrestleMania challenge, and with the clock ticking down to zero, The Cenation Leader has come to accept The Deadman’s lack of a response is his response. As he put it on Raw: "Silence means 'no.'"
And, having concluded that entering the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal or signing up as Braun Strowman’s partner would simply rob a more deserving Superstar of an opportunity, Cena came to Raw resolved and “proud” to experience WrestleMania as a fan. It wasn’t just stoicism either: The 16-time World Champion seemed genuinely fired-up to see Seth Rollins and Finn Bálor try to steal the show, join The "Yes!" Movement for Daniel Bryan’s return, witness AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura’s “Dream Match,” partake in the Rusev Day festivities and watch the Women’s Evolution take its next leap forward.
Before he resolved himself to a seat in the front row, however, The Cenation Leader tried one last time to summon The Deadman by lathering the WWE Universe into a frenzy. No dice. He even tossed off one last below-the-belt insult in the hopes The Last Outlaw would make his presence known. All he got was silence. And now, he knows what that means.
Side Note: I see what they're doing with this. They're building up for a huge return for The Undertaker but they want to keep the shock factor by having him appear out of nowhere at WrestleMania. Similar to Kane vs Undertaker at Wrestlemania 20 where Undertaker appeared with his father the late, Paul Bearer. His entrance will be memorable and that's all that matters. See you Sunday, Deadman.
“Brains” Strowman confronted Raw Tag Team Champions Cesaro & Sheamus
For weeks, Braun Strowman has claimed he doesn’t need a partner to defeat Cesaro & Sheamus at WrestleMania and take their Raw Tag Team Championship. This week, Strowman took that argument one step further by promising to reveal his partner if the mystery man got a match with Cesaro or Sheamus … and it turned out to be himself, in a pair of spectacles and competing as Strowman’s brother “Brains.” The message seemed to be Strowman didn’t need any help against The Bar, especially when he ripped off the disguise the second he got into the ring.
"Brains" might have been a ruse, but ironically, the champions— who claimed they weren’t sweating the challenge of an impromptu team against their time-honed chemistry anyway — outsmarted Braun in the ensuing brawl when Sheamus plowed him with a nasty Brogue Kick while The Monster Among Men busied himself with Cesaro. Even so, Strowman managed to send the champions scurrying and looked no less confident for his beating. The guessing game continues...
Side Note: Braun continues to be Braun, or shall I say Brains? Now that we know Strowman needs a partner if he wants to challenge for The Bar's Raw Tag Team Championships … the question is who? I think someone will come down and volunteer themselves to be his partner at WrestleMania … maybe Elias?
Overall Raw Rating: C
Other Notable Moments:
Bayley def. Sonya Deville: The WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal is an opportunity for both Bayley and Sasha Banks to make yet another bit of history. That said, it’s looking more and more like they see it as an opportunity to finally beat each other up — and that may well make them easy pickings for the other Superstars looking to seize their moment. The fraying friendship between the former champions seemed, at first, to repair itself when Banks came down to the ring following Bayley’s victory over Sonya Deville of Absolution, who turned in her most impressive performance as a Raw Superstar. After The Huggable One rolled up Sonya for the win, she was easy pickings for Paige’s crew until The Boss’ arrival evened the odds. Bayley, however, refused to grant Sasha’s demand to raise her hand in a show of gratitude, leading to the second brawl between the two in two weeks — though this tussle was interrupted by Absolution, who seized the opportunity to drop them both and leave the ring with the wind at their backs heading into WrestleMania. In other words, Bayley and Sasha can use the Battle Royal as a chance to finally work out their aggression. But as their collision course winds through a crowded field, they may yet find that tunnel vision does them more harm than good.
Seth Rollins def. Finn Bálor: Did you think becoming a father (congratulations, by the way) was going to stop The Miz from making his presence known as WrestleMania draws near? Absolutely not. The Intercontinental Champion showed up to Raw as motivated and focused as ever to retain his title at WrestleMania, scouting every second of the latest one-on-one bout between his two challengers: Seth Rollins and Finn Bálor. What he saw was a first-rate battle between two old foes whose rivalry still simmers and, perhaps, a path to keeping his gold and bringing it home to his daughter. Miz proclaimed on commentary that his ideal scenario was for the WrestleMania Triple Threat to go long, thereby sapping Rollins and Bálor of their respective strengths and allowing Miz to pick up the win. The Raw match certainly stretched on far longer than a typical contest, to the point that the two former World Champions resorted to wild haymakers and whatever big moves they could muster while Miz urged the match to stretch on as long as it could. Rollins, who made it very clear he wanted the “momentum” that a win could give him, seemed to pull an answer out of thin air each time The Extraordinary Man began to roll, even kicking out of Bálor’s previously successful rollup of the superplex-Falcon Arrow combo at the last second. Finn showed some resilience of his own, escaping a running powerbomb into the barricade and drop-kicking The Kingslayer into the blockade instead. The match came down to dueling rollups, which Rollins managed to writhe free of and achieve the win by stomping Finn into the mat, but it’s Miz, with his title held high, who goes into WrestleMania as the most energized of all the combatants — and, with Monroe Sky watching, maybe the most motivated as well.
"Woken" Matt Hardy def. Goldust: Goldust is headed to WrestleMania after making a “Princess Bride”-themed declaration for the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, but it’s looking like “Woken” Matt Hardy might be the Raw Superstar to beat in the fifth annual edition of the melee. The Woken One, returning to in-ring action for the first time since The Ultimate Deletion, maintained his momentum by overcoming a resilient effort from The Bizarre One moments after the former Intercontinental Champion’s Battle Royal announcement. If it seemed like a particularly inspired performance by the victor, it soon became clear where Hardy got that inspiration from: Matt made a beeline straight for the Andre trophy at ringside, seemingly carrying on a conversation “Humongous Wonder No. 8” that ended in a new mantra of sorts for The Woken One: “Procure!”
Elias def. Heath Slater: Last week, Elias made quick work of Rhyno as he marched toward “the greatest performance of a lifetime” at WrestleMania. For his encore, he took out Heath Slater. And even though The One-Man Band put up a tough fight, his interruption of Elias’ opening performance was too brazen to be forgiven. The second Elias put Slater on his heels, the guitarist swung into Drift Away, and Slater was done for the night.
Asuka & Dana Brooke def. Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss & Mickie James: Whether Alexa Bliss loses the Raw Women’s Title at WrestleMania remains to be seen, but The Goddess took two L’s on Raw — one literal and one metaphorical — sending her to The Showcase of the Immortals with a lot of ground to cover if she wants to retain her championship against a furious Nia Jax, whom Bliss has insulted for the better part of two weeks. The first of Bliss’ losses came in a tag team match that pitted her and Mickie James against Dana Brooke and Asuka, who’ll challenge for the SmackDown Women’s Title at The Show of Shows this Sunday. That was something of a shocker, as Alexa and Mickie isolated Dana for almost the entire match. Brooke, to her credit, was tough as nails and ultimately managed to reach Asuka after creating some hard-won separation. Once The Empress of Tomorrow entered the bout, Mickie succumbed to the Asuka Lock in relatively short order. Alexa and Mickie got the jump on Asuka and Dana in a post-match attack, but Nia — who vowed to “squash Alexa like a bug” in a backstage interview — quickly hit the scene, pulverizing James with a Samoan Drop while Bliss ran scared up the ramp, ending her night on the second disappointment in almost as many minutes. The good news for the champion, at least, is that she’ll have a chance to avenge these shortcomings on Sunday. The bad news is there won’t be any escape this time around.
Things to look forward to next week
WrestleMania 34 this SUNDAY!!!
The Raw after WrestleMania!!!
What new superstars will we see make their debut on Raw?
Can Braun find a tag team partner before Sunday?
Will it be Cedric Alexander or Mustafa Ali who becomes the KING of 205 LIVE?