Before getting to my RAW recap, I want to address Bret Hart and the news revealed today that he has prostate cancer. This is a bit personal given that my father fought through prostate cancer. He fought through it for 5 years but eventually passed away. I have done some fund raising events for the Prostate Cancer Foundation and they’re actually a legit charitable organization given they donate a large percent of their proceeds to research (some other organizations aren’t as charitable as they seem). If anyone wants to donate to the foundation to support Bret, I strongly recommend it, they do a great job. Good luck in your fight Hitman!
Brock Lesnar/Paul Heyman Promo
– Great to see the show open with the Beast Incarnate.
– Discussed Wyatt’s role in the Rumble (keeping that storyline relevant) and how Wyatt cost Lesnar the title.
– The match between Brock, Roman and Dean is great in that they’re all faces right now. Rare that creative goes that direction.
– “The billion dollar trophy husband”, Paul Heyman discussing Triple H.
– “He used to ride the short bus to school”, Paul Heyman knocking on Ambrose.
– Heyman basically ensures that Lesnar won’t have any issues with Ambrose or Reigns, and then Ambrose’s theme hits the titantron.
– Ambrose and Lesnar go face to face and it’s pretty great. Ambrose says he has “never been in the layer of a beast before, it’s cozy”. Great line, Ambrose is really good on the mic.
– Ambrose refers to himself as “the iron man of the WWE”, claims he’s obsessed with the WWE WHC so much he’s willing to step into the ring with his own brother, along with Lesnar.
– The promo ends with Ambrose letting Lesnar know he’s a legitimate threat to win the match and take on Hunter at Mania. Lesnar lets him leave without putting Dean through suplex city.
Grade: B, Ambrose did a solid job on the mic in the ring with Lesnar, hyping up himself as a legitimate contender for the title. Heyman was good but limited compared to his usual rant. Nice promo to start the show.
Rusev vs. Kalisto
– Kalisto is going to be better than Mysterio, he’s got a better moveset.
– Alberto Del Rio is on commentary for this match.
– Both work the match well, speed vs power is the obvious route to go and they wrestle with that mindset.
– Great spot when Kalisto springboards over the top to the outside and Rusev tags him with a nasty superkick.
– Kalisto had great ring awareness in this match, really well timed in his spots. Did a great job selling as well.
– Kalisto runs across the announce table and hurricanrana’s Rusev into the outside barricade, leading to a victory for Kalisto via countout. Del Rio tries to catch Kalisto off guard but Kalisto sneaks out and celebrates on the entrance ramp.
Grade: B, Decent match, Kalisto showed off his skill set as he wore Rusev down with his speed and agility. Kalisto also continued his feud with Del Rio by knocking off a member of the League of Nations. I don’t mind seeing this feud stretch to Fastlane, Del Rio and Kalisto had great chemistry in their previous matches.
Roman, Dean, Steph promo
– The WWE WHC is in some nice frame sitting on velvet in the generic promo area.
– Good to see the Intercontinental Champion involved in this match. Should help elevate the title.
– Steph teases a heel turn, referring to Dean as “Roman’s sidekick”, and that Marty Jannetty (The Rockers breakup) and Randy Orton (Evolution breakup) didn’t see it coming. Good references.
– Dean and Roman brush off the fact they could break up
Grade: B-, Dean and Roman didn’t get as much time as Steph did. But it is intriguing to see Steph tease a break up. Both have been rumored to turn heel for quite some time and you’d have to think it will happen at some point given the lack of heels on the roster. Knowing Vince he’ll make Dean turn, can’t have his new franchise guy turning heel.
Brie promo with Renee Young
– Brie talks about Nikki’s recovery, damn Brie looks good. Being D-Bry can’t be too bad.
– Charlotte shows up to knock on Nikki in front of Brie. She talks her self up, claiming she will shatter Nikki’s record.
Grade: C, Nothing too special here, Charlotte’s heel turn has continued with this promo. Ric Flair’s presence definitely helps her transition to the main roster. Brie really fell off since her storyline with Nikki.
The Usos vs. The Social Outcasts
– Side note: Lillian Garcia said “Grammy Award” winning tag team of the year while introducing the Usos. She’s probably fired.
– Where the hell is Bo? Heath Slater attempted to make up for Bo’s humor and failed miserably, like every effort to make a good Fantastic Four movie. Can we add Sandow to this stable btw?
– Rose and Axel rep the Outcasts in the match while Heath acts as manager. Glad Rose is on the main card, if you didn’t see his story on the e60 special on ESPN, check it out. Hard not to root for him.
– Social Outcasts control the first half of the match, lot of mat wrestling and combo moves on tag-ins. Standard heel wrestling in a tag match, nothing special.
– Jimmy gets in on a hot tag and superkicks the entire arena, Jey nails a splash on Adam Rose for the victory.
Grade: D, Weak match, the heels command until the faces get the hot tag and win. We’ve seen it. We’ve also seen the Usos lose to the New Day so I don’t know what the plan is for Rikishi’s boys. Why not get this new heel stable over a little bit? Unless they want to have the Usos challenge the New Day one last time at Fast Lane before Enzo and Cass debut on the main roster, I don’t get this storyline writing.
Miz TV w/ AJ Styles
– It’s a shame Miz has really no direction in the company, he does have talent. His character just feels painfully stale since the Mizdow storyline. Miz should put Damien over and give him a fresh start since being buried by Cena and then by creative after he was more over than Roman.
– Miz hypes up AJ with a story of his past. Talks about AJ’s rural life in Georgia and being denied a spot on the high school football team. Then Miz talks about AJ’s life in the ring before he came to WWE.
– Miz gets into AJ’s time on the roster, his match with Jericho and his presence in the Royal Rumble. Miz then transitions into comparing AJ to Daniel Bryan. Note that Miz hasn’t let AJ speak yet.
– Miz says he wants to “mentor” AJ, like he mentored D-Bry. Miz says AJ “will drown” if he doesn’t have a good mentor. Calls AJ “a rookie redneck”. Doing a good job hyping up AJ to the members of the WWE Universe who don’t know much about Styles.
Grade: C, I get the concept behind the promo, they wanted to have Miz put AJ over. Which they did. But it’s the Reality Era. We knew AJ would be here. A feud would be nice. Maybe I’m being impatient and should just be happy AJ has arrived. Or maybe I’m sitting in the large population of the WWE fanbase who knows who AJ Styles is and doesn’t need a wasted promo to hype him up.
Charlotte vs Brie Bella
– Brie is lasting longer in this match than I expected.
– Ric Flair is messing around on the ring apron getting the ref’s attention.
– Ric’s distraction backfires as Brie sneaks a rollup pin on Charlotte and steals an upset victory.
Grade: C, Average match, nothing too memorable. The interesting part was the result, as Brie Bella gets a shocking upset over Charlotte. I don’t mind the upset once every now and then on RAW, as long as it contributes to the current storyline. As of last Monday, Sasha Banks was the front runner to feud with Charlotte for the Divas title. Now Brie is? They better address this next week. This could also be a way for Charlotte to get angry at her father to lead to their breakup. Guess we’ll see if this is addressed further on Smackdown this Thursday or RAW next Monday.
Erick Rowan vs. Big Show
– Big Show threatens the Wyatt Family, Strowman in particular. Show attempts to throw some steel steps at him before the match.
– Big Show makes quick work of Rowan, chokeslamming him for the win.
– After the match, Harper, Rowan and Strowman beat him down, including a double scoop slam on the steel steps.
Grade: C, minus the 8 year olds, no one really cares about Big Show anymore. His character has gone through more heel/face turns than Y2J and he’s slowed down so much that his matches are hard to watch. This is leading to a Strowman vs Big Show match to get Strowman over at Fastlane. It’s good news for Strowman, as he’s taking on the man he’ll essentially replace on the roster. I just don’t need anymore Giant vs Giant matches in my lifetime. I saw Kevin Nash try to Powerbomb The Giant at nWo Souled Out and Paul Wight almost broke his neck. I also saw Mark Henry and Big Show destroy a ring on a Superplex. I’m satisfied. Please, no more.
Titus O’Neil vs. Tyler Breeze
– What happened to Titus’ theme music when he went on his singles run? I actually enjoyed it.
– Glad Titus gets some time on RAW, he’s almost as charitable if not more charitable that Cena. Great guy who I thought would do better on his singles run but the move-set just isn’t there.
– If the rumors about Vince giving up on Breeze are true, just let Breeze go back to NXT. He’s not a jobber. He can wrestle and should compete for a mid-card title.
– Tyler uses a lot of submission wrestling, I wonder if that hurt his stock for a title run in NXT.
– After losing his grip on a single leg Boston Crab, Tyler gets annihilated by O’Neil and Titus eventually hits his finisher for the win.
Grade: D, Vince’s flawed RAW at it’s finest. I get that you want to get Titus some TV time after his charitable work, but is squashing Tyler Breeze the way to go about it? Breeze is an example of Vince’s inability to utilize talent when he has plenty of it. On NXT, Tyler was a title contender who put on great matches. On RAW he’s a jobber. On NXT, The Ascension were a tag team who were a force to be reckoned with. On RAW, they’re jobbers. And what does this match do for Titus? He’s not going to be feuding for a title, get him on TV some other way. Oh wait, that involves thinking. Which creative sucks at. I will admit that most NXT call-ups have done well (Reigns, Ambrose, Rollins, Wyatt, Owens, Charlotte, Kalisto, Becky Lynch, Rusev, Cesaro, Xavier Woods, Paige) but after seeing what some of these men and women achieved on NXT (Neville, Breeze, Ascension, Adam Rose, Sasha Banks) you wish they could all be performing at the same level on the main roster.
Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler
– Should be a fun match, they did great last week.
– Really aggressive work from both of them to start the match.
– Ziggler sold a great irish whip into the turnbuckle. Best seller in the business.
– Owens is great when he talks trash in the middle of a match.
– Owens dominates the majority of the match and doesn’t allow Ziggler much momentum. That ends when Ziggler hits a fameasser to Owens outside of the ring. Owens regains momentum when KO hits a filthy superkick. God Ziggler can sell.
– Owens continues beating down on Ziggler and attempts a pop-up powerbomb only to have it reversed into a Zig-Zag, which helps Ziggler get the upset victory.
Grade: B, make that two weeks in a row these superstars delivered a good match. Also make that two upset victories tonight. Owens just held the Intercontinental Title and has now slipped into the mid-card purgatory so many stars find themselves in. Hopefully he goes over Ziggler at Fastlane and gets a good feud for his first Mania.
Mark Henry Tribute
– Glad to see the company acknowledge Henry’s career. Hopefully he retires soon as he’s fallen down on the roster since his title match with Cena at MITB in 2013.
Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
– Birmingham, you suck. Sasha should have gotten a bigger pop than Lesnar. SHAME!
– Sasha had a little pre-match promo and held it down. Birmingham is giving her the “what” treatment. Not ok. Sasha is talking, shut up. The promo addresses Sasha’s desire for the Divas title which address my concern earlier. Looks like she will be in the title picture after all.
– Naomi and Tamina come to the ring, saying they expected this would happen with Sasha. Turns out they have her back. The three do a “unity” first bump before Becky comes out.
– Team BAD is at ringside for the match.
– Awesome technical wrestling by both women to start the match. “Lets go Becky” and “Lets go Sasha” chants fill the arena, Divas revolution ain’t dead yet.
– Team BAD is about to ambush Becky and Sasha breaks it up. Leads to Tamina and Naomi beating down Sasha and force a DQ. Sasha and Becky team up against Naomi and Tamina.
– NXT Chants! Birmingham is forgiven.
Grade: B+, a lot accomplished here. Sasha and her relationship with Team BAD needed to be addressed and it was in this promo/match combo. Becky and Sasha did the best with the limited time they had and their teaming up could provide a unique storyline going forward.
Renee Young w/ Chris Jericho
– Really great to see this feud continuing, Jericho is one of my all time favorites.
– Jericho is going to keep an eye on AJ and watch his match with Miz on Smackdown.
R-Truth and Goldust promo
– R Truth find Goldust hiding in a bathroom stall looking for him.
– Goldust goofily (its a word) tries to ask Truth to join him and form a tag team.
– Truth denies Goldust. I’d be ok with this tag team, just not vs. The New Day at Mania. That better be a spot reserved for Enzo and Big Cass.
The New Day vs. Ambrose and Reigns
– Love the New Day opening, gets a good crowd reaction every time. I’m also happy to see the tag team champions being taken seriously and being given spots in the main event on RAW. Took awhile to make those penny belts relevant again.
– Paul Heyman on commentary.
– New Day promo before the match, “booty”gate is brought up. They knock on the Rock a little bit, call him out for last week. Good promo as always from New Day.
– Good start to the match, lot of action and engaging spots.
– Big E was going to hit a splash on Roman lying on the ring apron and missed and it looked like a nasty fall. Luckily Big E has plenty of meat to cushion the blow.
– Big E takes a flying elbow through the ropes from Ambrose and slams his head on the announce table in another nasty collision. Big E is taking Big bumps tonight.
– Reigns getting hot tag again, really hides his flaws as a singles wrestler when he doesn’t have to be in the match too long. He still gets mixed crowd reactions, kids like him, most adult males don’t. Cena 2.0 :).
– The match gets really fast paced at the end with a lot of good spots, ends with an Amborse Dirty Deeds on Big E for the victory.
– Lesnar comes out which leads to New Day ambushing Reigns and Ambrose. Lesnar F5’s Ambrose.
Grade: B+, pretty good tag team match and promo/match combo was good. Lesnar sending a statement at the end was expected.
Overall RAW grade: C
Not really a memorable RAW. A couple of good matches and promos were surrounded by too many average to below average matches and segments. Creative needs to think outside the box because the 2nd, 3rd and 4th RAWs before a PPV are underwhelming and painfully predictable. The only intriguing storyline development tonight was the feud for the Divas title. Not even Lesnar and Heyman could save creative tonight. SHAME!