Last week was the week of NXT call-ups as Ricochet, Aleister Black as well as Johnny Gargano and NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa all debuted victorious. Gargano and Ciampa teamed up to face The Revival in a rematch of their classics back in 2016, whilst Black defeated Elias, and Finn Balor teamed with Ricochet against Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush. Ronda Rousey successfully defended the Raw Women’s Title against Ruby Riott, and Braun Strowman was finally able to get his hands on Baron Corbin without interference as he defeated the Lone Wolf in a Tables match which was better than it had any right to be.
Announced segments for this show at the State Centre Arena in Atlanta, Georgia were a Roman Reigns leukaemia update, as well as Ric Flair’s 70th birthday celebration.
Roman Reigns Update
There is not really much to which I can add here, other than saying I would highly recommended watching this segment of Raw. The main announcement was that Reigns is in remission and that he is coming back, which is absolutely fantastic news. Just an added point to this: the crowd this week in Atlanta was a lot better than the one last week in Lafayette, but that is not much of a surprise.
Ricochet & Aleister Black vs. The Revival
For the second week running, The Revival were facing NXT call-ups, as are The Bar on SmackDown. During their entrances, both newcomers got a video package showcasing their skills and their characters very well (Bruce Prichard’s idea maybe?). This was a perfect TV match, with it being short but making you want to see more, with it not feeling rushed. Highlights included a wicked DDT from Scott Dawson on Black, as well as a great second rope moonsault to the outside by Ricochet. The finish would come out of nowhere, with Black hitting his patented Black Mass on Dawson for the win over the Raw Tag Team Champions.
Shawn Michaels was seen backstage ahead of Ric Flair’s 70th birthday celebration. Also, Charly Caruso interviewed Baron Corbin, and after asking Corbin what his opinion on Reigns was after his previous comments on the former Universal Champion, the former Constable first denied and then reasserted his previous claim that “The Big Dog should be worried”.
I call this an Elias segment, but really it was for anyone but him. Firstly, just before Elias started his song, he was interrupted by Lacey Evans. who did her usual routine that is getting less of a reaction every time she comes out. After Evans left, Dean Ambrose (who was absent from the Reigns segment earlier) came out, and The Lunatic Fringe again proved to be one of the best things on Raw right now by time-wasting with Elias and challenging Drew McIntyre to a No DQ match. Dean then said he wanted Elias to play “Dirty Deeds”, and after Elias missed a guitar shot, he was hit with (yes!) Dirty Deeds.
Ricky Steamboat was shown arriving for the Ric Flair 70th Birthday Celebration.
Ronda Rousey & Natalya vs. Ruby Riott & Sarah Logan
Despite seeing a mixture of this bout multiple times, the handicap setup was at least different to previous encounters. A personal highlight was the fact that Ruby Riott wore her beanie during the match and kept it on for as long as possible. The majority was spent with The Riott Squad isolating Natalya from the Raw Women’s Champion, although the big move of the match was an elevated forearm team-move by Natalya and Ronda on Liv Morgan at ringside. However, there was no finish as expected: yet again, the suspended Becky Lynch appeared out of nowhere to attack Natalya with her crutch and then brawl with Ronda Rousey. This led to Becky being arrested, after Corey Graves on commentary claimed that “Atlanta PD have stopped eating doughnuts”.
Post-match, Ronda Rousey called out Vince McMahon to rescind Becky’s suspension. Instead of the patriarch of the McMahon family appearing, however, Stephanie McMahon would make an appearance (yay). After a back-and-forth between the two, Ronda told Stephanie that she is not like any other employer and that Stephanie needs to do “what’s best for business”. Rousey then left the title belt in the middle of the ring and walked to the back. Steph and Triple H were shown backstage holding the title with seemingly no idea what to do.
Stone Cold Steve Austin cut a promo via iPhone wishing Ric Flair a happy 70th birthday, as did Snoop Dogg earlier and Maria Menounos a little later.
Jinder Mahal vs. Kurt Angle
I never thought that this match-up would happen, but hey, anything can happen in 2019. Mahal cut a pre-match promo about him not being invited to Flair’s birthday celebration. The match was pretty basic, with Angle winning via the Ankle Lock, getting his first singles win in WWE since 2006. Post-match, Angle delivered 2003-esque German Suplexes on both Singh Brothers.
A Moment Of Bliss w/ Intercontinental Champion Finn Balor
Alexa Bliss started by dissing Ronda Rousey, claiming Rousey disrespected the Raw Women’s title, and that if the McMahons are looking for a better representative, they know where to find her. After introducing Finn Balor, they discussed his IC title win, though Alexa was worried about Balor’s abs being covered. Bliss would offer a trade but before The Goddess could offer her side of the bargain (at which point you could have cut the sexual tension with a knife), Lio Rush came out (which greatly angered Corey on commentary), saying he needed the Intercontinental title for Bobby Lashley. Balor played Lio by saying he’d issued a challenge for the title itself, and after being goaded by Alexa claiming that he wasn’t man enough, Lio accepted. Alexa announced the match for right now, with Lio at least demanding a proper entrance (he should have said “Alexa, play my theme music”).
Tweets were shown from Charlotte Flair, Evander Holyfield and Shane McMahon for Ric Flair’s 70th birthday celebration, and we saw Sting arriving for said event.
Intercontinental Championship Match
Finn Balor (C) vs. Lio Rush
This was a very athletic match, as one would fully expect when seeing these two competitors. This was particularly shown with Rush hitting an Asai moonsault, two tope suicidas and, if not for Balor lifting his knees up, his frog splash finisher. The target for Lio was Finn’s left knee, and the 24-year-old piece of gold isolated it as much as possible. Rush nearly won on multiple occasions with a roll-up and a spin kick, both getting two-counts. However, Rush going for too many risky moves would be his downfall, as a bottom rope stunner was turned into a 1916, followed by the Coup De Grace for the three.
Backstage, The Ascension teased Tucker, calling Otis fat and a pig, and saying that his head was like “a bowling ball on top of a boulder”. Dozovic would lay both out in one fell swoop. Also, Bobby Lashley was seen to be furious with Lio Rush, claiming he “only had one job” and asking “can I trust you?”
Bobby Lashley vs. Braun Strowman
This started off early, and by early, I mean not at all, with Lashley attacking Strowman pre-match, taking the big man down. However, the tides turned dramatically after Lashley’s failed attempt of a vertical suplex, as The Monster Among Men took charge and drilled both Lashley and Rush with shoulder tackles at ringside. The match never officially started.
Charly Caruso interviewed Seth Rollins, who believed he had a chip in his step, not only because he knows he can beat Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 35, but also over the news that started the show, with Roman Reigns being in remission. We then had a Black History Month segment, with a key focus on Martin Luther King and perspectives from Kofi Kingston and Nia Jax.
No Disqualification Match
Dean Ambrose vs. Drew McIntyre
This match also started early, with Ambrose getting the upper hand early on over the Scottish Psychopath. However, the match turned dramatically once Drew was able to garner Ambrose’s belt (well, one of them, as Dean was wearing two; Corey asked Renee Young if she had dressed Ambrose) and hit him repeatedly with it. Ambrose showed some resistance with a suicide dive, but McIntyre was able to rebound and hit a belly-to-belly suplex on the outside. Ambrose regained some momentum back via the steel steps and the use of his own belt, but it would be short-lived due to a Glasgow Kiss. The finish saw Elias nail Ambrose with a guitar shot as Dean was about to hit a Dirty Deeds on the steel steps, followed by a Claymore Kick. Post-match, Ambrose suffered a 4-on-1 beat-down by Lashley, Corbin, Elias and McIntyre. That was, until THE SHIELD marched down to the ring to clean house, culminating in Reigns hitting a spear on McIntyre and celebrating with Rollins.
Next, we had promotion for Fighting With My Family.
Bayley vs. Nia Jax
This confirmed that Nia Jax and Tamina will be the first challengers to the Boss N’ Hug connection for the WWE Women’s Tag Titles, with a championship match announced for Fast Lane. Like every Nia encounter, this was a David vs. Goliath match-up, although Bayley hit an extremely impressive hip toss. The majority was dominated by Nia, though Bayley was able to hold her own against the Irresistible Force, focusing on trying to take Nia down first to her knees, but only to repeatedly be bulldozed. In the end, Nia’s own arrogance would cost her, as focusing on Sasha Banks at ringside allowed her to get distracted for a knee on the apron and then a big elbow by Bayley for the three, while Sasha sent Tamina flying into the steel stairs.
Ric Flair 70th Birthday Celebration
This segment had been scheduled for the past month, so expectations were high, especially with a cake in WWE. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon entered first, talking about how special tonight had already been but that this moment would be even bigger, as it was to celebrate the greatest sports entertainer of all-time. Special guests would then be introduced in the form of Shawn Michaels, Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat, Kurt Angle and Sting, the latter making his first appearance since his Hall of Fame induction in 2016 (in WCW country, no less!). A video package was shown, and because it’s WWE, it was great with highlights from a lot of Ric Flair’s greatest moments, including quotes from Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone, Michael Cole, JBL and HHH used throughout (apparently they wanted to use some TNA footage, but it had been deleted to clear disk space). A custom-made World Heavyweight Title was shown for Ric Flair, and then it was time to bring out Flair, music and all … but Ric didn’t show up. A cameraman was then shown to be dragged to Flair’s dressing room by a mysterious man, that man being BATISTA! Batista dragged an unconscious Flair out of his locker room and stood over him, heelishly asking HHH “Do I have your attention now?” HHH ran to the back to help Flair, thus bringing Raw to a close.
Overall, this was a great episode of Raw, as every segment meant something and lead into what was coming next, either for next week or the following segment. The opening and closing segments, as well as A Moment Of Bliss leading to the Intercontinental Title match, were all great, as was Ronda Rousey on her promo with Stephanie. It is much harder to criticise this week’s Raw, which is a great thing after the last few months.