By Justin M. Brown
Well, here we are. There’s officially no other PPV’s between now, and WrestleMania, so we’re in the home stretch. Fastlane while a good show, left some questions in the booking department, but that’s why we have Raw. To clean things up a bit, right? Well… we start with the Shield, fresh off of their victory the night before. Roman said his piece quickly, then made his exit with Ambrose. Seth is left, and here comes Heyman for a little back and forth. The most interesting part here, is that Seth noted that Lesnar has trouble with smaller guys, and that bodes well for him. Heyman counters by saying that Lesnar was just unprepared for those particular matches, and you might be able to make a case for that. Before we get to any kind of real conclusion, Shelton Benjamin attacks Seth Rollins from behind. I can’t say I saw that coming, but Shelton and Brock did wrestle at the University of Minnesota, back in the day, and we learn that Heyman paid him for the attack. This leads into a nice little, match, that Seth wins. Not a bad way too kick things off.
This leads into our Intercontinental Champion Finn Balor, defending his title against Bobby Lashley. Lashley is more or less in control of the entire match, when Finn gradually starts to put it together, towards the end. Before he can finish Bobby off, Lio Rush shows up, and starts ringing the bell, and steals the belt. Finn dispatches of him, but Lashely is able to recover and hit a mid-air Spear on a springboarding Finn Balor, for the win, and we have a new champion. I don’t understand why you’d take the belt off of Finn Balor, here. Why give him the title, if you’re just gonna whisk it away in a few weeks? My thinking is that they wanna stretch this to ‘Mania, have Finn do his demon thing on the grand stage, and use this as another launching point for him, but did he have to lose the title, in order for that to happen? Just seems puzzling, but then again what isn’t on Raw, these days?
Next, Raw Women’s Champion is out to explain her actions from Fastlane, and I can’t say it’s anything that you shouldn’t have been expecting. She helped Becky win, because with both Becky and Charlotte in the title match, she can put them both down for good, and show that the division is a sham…..the division that she’s currently at the top of. Look, I know that she’s just working, and she’s just trying to create a response. Hell, they’ve done a fantastic job of that, so I guess I shouldn’t really complain. But seriously, it’s so weird to have a champion completely discredit an entire division, that she’s a part of, because she’s simultaneously discrediting herself, and if she loses does it make her look bad, because she lost to people who can’t really beat her, or does it hurt the division, because we’re constantly being told that none of it is legitimate? Will Becky or Charlotte look better because they were able to best somebody, who could legitimately kill them, in false combat? It’s entertaining, and confusing, and I kinda just want it to be over.
At any rate, this brought out Dana Brooke of all people. She’s sick and tired of listening to Ronda run down the division that she loves, and fights hard to simply be a part of. She’s not a household name, and she’s not gonna put butts in the seats, but she’s still out here, doing everything she can, to simply belong. Dana Brooke stumbled over every third word in her promo, but still managed to deliver is with passion and fire. I know that sounds contradictory, but there’s not really a way to describe it, without seeing it. The important take away was that regardless of how well she got the words out, I think it was clear to everybody that they were in fact her words, and her feelings, and you could believe in that. That goes a much longer way then simply being eloquent, in my book. Dana demands a match with Ronda Rousey, but instead Ronda just gives her the Wolf Fang Fist, and dispatches of Dana with almost no resistance. This just really made me wish that we would see Dana more often. I remember when Emma had gotten hurt a couple of years back, and Dana started to team with Charlotte. She’d treat Dana like crap, and after a few months, Charlotte had finally crossed a line. It would’ve been great to see her team with Emma again or something, to bring Charlotte down, or even just be able to do it on her own, but sadly that never happened. Hopefully, she isn’t cast aside again, and we can continue to see her grow more, because this really made me want to see a Dana Brooke redemption story.
Sadly, the rest of the show really falls apart from here. Don’t get me wrong: a lot of it is perfectly fine, but it’s either of little consequence, or meandering in the worst possible way. Let’s break it down:
- Ricochet and Aleister Black defeated Bobby Roode, and Chad Gable. Afterward, the Revival attack them.
- Alexa Bliss announces that she’s the official host of WrestleMania
- The cast of SNL write a letter to Braun Strowman apologizing for how last week went. They send him a brand new car as a gift. He destroys the car.
- Triple H and Batista stand roughly 30 yards from each other, shouting. Batista is being very vague about what he wants, and Triple H just wants to fight. They finally settle on a No Holds Barred Match, at WrestleMania.
- Nia Jax w/Tamina, and Natalya w/Beth Phoenix, no lie, have a match for 28 seconds, before their partners interfere, causing a disqualification. Beth chases Nia and Tamina off, and they are in turn, immediately attacked by Sasha Banks, and Bayley as they enter the backstage area.
- Kurt Angle announces that he’ll be having his farewell match at WrestleMania, and defeats Apollo Crews in a short, but fun match in front of his home crowd.
- Elias is interrupted by No Way Jose, so he beats him up.
There are two other things of importance that happens on the show. Roman Reigns is stet to have his first one-on-one match, since his return, against Baron Corbin. He makes his entrance, and is awaiting Corbin, when he’s blindsided by Drew McIntyre. McIntyre completely beats him down, and Seth comes out to help his brother to the back. As they get back there, Ambrose sees what’s happened, and demands a No Disqualification, Falls Count Anywhere Match, with McIntyre, from Triple H. Trips makes the match, and best believe it’s on. Some great physical work from both guys, and of course plenty of props get involved, as they even make their way out to the retail area. In the end, McIntryre is able to get the win on the stage, as he nails Ambrose with the Claymore Kick, while Ambrose’s head is sandwiched by a steel railing. Tack on another Claymore for good measure after the bell, and that was all she wrote.
My favorite part of the show, was in the middle though. We got our newest WWE Hall of Fame inductees in, Harlem Heat. If you grew up watching WCW in the 90s, then you know doubt know that Harlem Heat should’ve been inducted ages ago. The ten time WCW Tag Team Champions, were absolutely fundamental in helping to establish not just WCW’s tag team division, but all of tag team wrestling, during the decade. From their awesome black, red, and rarely white attire, to their iconic entrance music (still used by WWE Hall of Famer Booker T, to this day), Harlem Heat was a constant staple of WCW’s weekly programming, and we can’t forget how instrumental their manager, WWE Hall of Famer Sensational Sherri, was to their success. This was a long time coming, and well deserved. Congratulations to Stevie Ray, and Booker T, who will now be in the hall twice. This warmed my heart, and next to nothing could put a damper on the night. Here’s hoping things continue to look up.