Fast Lane Flashback
For the Raw brand, not much significantly changed to make a huge difference going into this show. The Revival retained the Raw Tag Team Titles, Sasha Banks and Bayley defeated Nia Jax and Tamina with some ‘Divas of Doom’ interaction at the end, and The Shield were victorious in their last ever match alongside one another. The only major event to take place saw Becky Lynch defeat Charlotte Flair, thus adding her to the Raw Women’s Title match at WrestleMania.
Announced segments prior to Raw were a Shield farewell to open the show, Finn Balor vs. Bobby Lashley for the Intercontinental Title and a face-to-face between Triple H and Batista. Raw took place at the PPT Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The Shield/Paul Heyman Segment
Raw kicked off with the disbandment of The shield. This segment did not do what many expected, and was an amicable breakup between the three. The focus quickly switched to Seth Rollins though, as Roman Reigns claimed Seth was going to “slay the Beast”, as well as announcing that he was going to have his first singles match since October on the show later tonight. Reigns and Dean Ambrose went backstage after this, leaving Seth by himself. Rollins would move on to cut his own promo, but before anything significant was said, Paul Heyman would enter the scene. Heyman said that Rollins would not go on to slay the Beast, and the only reason Lesnar has struggled against smaller guys is that they have been late replacements. Before Rollins could respond, though, he was attacked from behind by Brock Lesnar’s old OVW tag partner from the Minnesota Wrecking Crew in Shelton Benjamin. This led to a match between the two next.
Seth Rollins vs. Shelton Benjamin
This was a solid match to open, with both guys showing a lot of athleticism; this was particularly shown with Benjamin hitting a kip-up knee strike on Rollins from the outside on the ring apron. Rollins was dominated for most of the match, with Benjamin hitting a lot of Lesnar’s marquee moves, but after an attempt at an F5 was escaped, The Architect was able to hit the Stomp and get the three over the surprise opponent on the night.
Intercontinental Championship Match
Finn Balor (C) vs. Bobby Lashley
This feud has only been going for a month and is already starting to drag. The focus would be on how, if it was not for Lio Rush, then Bobby Lashley would still be Intercontinental Champion. The match went in a David vs. Goliath pattern with Lashley hitting power moves, including a very nice flatliner and a Uranage on the outside, whilst Balor would use his quickness and agility on the former ECW Champion. At the close of the match, it seemed Balor had won the match, but out of nowhere, Lio Rush would appear and cause enough of a distraction for Balor to be hit with a spear whilst springboarding, giving Lashley his second run as Intercontinental Champion. NEW CHAMPION!!!
Backstage, Baron Corbin was interviewed on how he is going to “house-train” The Big Dog, and that he has overtaken Roman Reigns’ spot on Raw. I am really hoping this does not lead to Baron Corbin vs. Roman Reigns or any form of that match at WrestleMania, as Reigns should be in a marquee position which Baron is unable to bring.
Ronda Rousey Segment
Following on from Fast Lane, one of the key questions was: why did Ronda Rousey cause a DQ win for Becky Lynch, making the match a triple threat at WrestleMania and decreasing Ronda’s chances of winning? Ronda told all the fans they can “shut it” with their support after cheering for Becky and Charlotte for the past few months, with Elimination Chamber being highlighted. Rousey claimed WWE was full of “carny con artists” (ugh) and called Becky and Charlotte “jokes”. Then out came the Saviour to WWE in DANA BROOKE! Dana came out defending WWE, saying she has worked tirelessly and wanted to fight. Ronda would go on to decimate Dana and then hit an official when trying to break it up. WWE has recovered from the Fast Lane show, which left fans in mixed emotions going into WrestleMania, with the Baddest Women On The Planet kicking ass here.
Aleister Black & Ricochet vs. Bobby Roode & Chad Gable
The two teams presented here were the two that challenged unsuccessfully against The Revival at Fast Lane, so both had a point to prove if they wanted another shot at the championships. This match was very much a showcase, with little story involved and both teams hitting a lot of big moves, one of these being a very nice German suplex-neckbreaker combination by Roode from which Gable got a close two-count. However, it would be Roode and Gable who would fade to Black, falling to a fireman’s carry-style roundhouse kick combo, followed by a Black Mass on Bobby Roode. Post-match, The Revival would get revenge from their beatdown suffered after the bout at Fast Lane by taking out Ricochet and Aleister Black.
A Moment Of Bliss To Announce The WrestleMania Host
The ‘A Moment Of Bliss’ segments are something which Bliss is above doing, but this was the first one without a guest. Alexa talked about prior WrestleMania hosts in Kim Kardashian (who was booed), The Rock and The New Day, but promised that the next host would be better than them all. This would of course mean that Alexa Bliss is the host of WrestleMania. A very happy Corey Graves was in total shock, as was the Goddess herself. Bliss would claim: “It is such an honour for the WWE Universe”, and then claimed WrestleMania has its “rightful host for the grandest stage of all”. Even though this means Alexa will have a significant role at points during Mania, it is quite surprising for someone who has been top of the women’s division for so long to not have a match at WrestleMania, especially with Asuka having no huge opponent in waiting.
Cut to Braun Strowman being interviewed by Charly Caruso backstage, from which he was given a gift by a random guy backstage: a car. When asked who sent Braun the car, the gift bearer told Strowman it was from Colin Jost and that he is sorry for last week. Braun responded by destroying the car via ripping its doors off. Braun is back to the random segment of WrestleMania.
This was a standard Elias promo, with not much added to it other than this being in his own hometown. Elias would be interrupted by No Way Jose, now sporting a new green dreadlocks haircut, which Renee Young saw as very “Naomi”. Before Jose could get his conga line going, though, he was attacked by Elias, with a vicious Drift Away on the steel end of the ramp. This very much seems to cement Elias in mid-card purgatory going into WrestleMania.
Nia Jax vs. Natalya
This match was a follow-on from the aftermath of the Women’s Tag Title match at Fast Lane, where Nia Jax and Tamina attacked both Beth Phoenix and Natalya. This was over in seconds when, after Nia had gained the upper hand, Beth rushed from ringside to attack Jax. Nia and Tamina scuppered away, but were then attacked by Sasha Banks and Bayley. This seems to be moving to a multi-women’s match at WrestleMania, with a team from SmackDown likely to be announced on the show this week (I’m predicting The IIconics).
Triple H & Batista Segment
For the past week, this was the most anticipated segment for this show, and it delivered. Triple H came out first in his leather jacket, which seems to mean business, followed by Batista who was with an array of security guards, or “Guardians Of The Independent Scene” as HHH called them, at the top of the ramp. Batista would say that the security were there as Hunter is “one of the dirtiest players in the game” and was protecting himself. Batista just wanted Triple H to give him “what I want”, and after a shouting contest, a match was agreed upon, which will be Batista’s last match. However, Triple H made this on his terms, under No Holds Barred rules. I recommend checking this segment out.
Kurt Angle vs. Apollo Crews
Prior to this match, Kurt got on the mic and announced that, at WrestleMania, he will be having his farewell match, and that he wanted to have one last match in his hometown of Pittsburgh. For his last match in his hometown, Angle faced future prospect for the past three years in Apollo Crews. It was pretty short, but both guys looked very good, with Apollo being able to get his big moves in with the standing enzuiguri coming close to winning, but in the end he fell to the Angle Slam.
Roman Reigns vs. Baron Corbin
This was a pure bait and switch by WWE, and made perfect sense doing so with how important Roman’s first singles match in months is. As Reigns was making his entrance, The Big Dog was blindsided by Drew McIntyre and attacked viciously. This was done through two Claymore kicks to Roman, including one which bashed Reigns’ head into the ring post and seeming to give him a concussion. Reigns after initially refusing help was helped backstage by Rollins and Ambrose. Backstage, Ambrose asked Triple H to give him Drew McIntyre now in a Falls Count Anywhere match, to which the 14-time World Champion obliged.
Falls Count Anywhere Match
Dean Ambrose vs. Drew McIntyre
Despite feeling that it occurs bi-weekly, this was a good main event and actually lived up to the name stipulation, in that it went around the whole arena. The match rarely went in the ring, and both guys are good brawlers so they suited this match perfectly. Some big spots included McIntyre lawn-darting Ambrose into a wall, and the use of the steel steps. Ambrose nearly had the match won with a cradle pin, but when attempting a Dirty Deeds on the announce table, he was low blowed. This gave Drew full control, as he lawn-darted Ambrose into the LED board twice, followed by a Claymore kick whilst Ambrose was trapped in the step railings. Post-match, McIntyre hit another Claymore on Ambrose, which the commentators sold like death as the show faded to black.
Overall, this was a solid episode of Raw with a major focus on WrestleMania, as Alexa Bliss being appointed host, McIntyre vs. Reigns seeming to be set up, and the solid progression of the Batista vs. Triple H, Rollins vs. Lesnar and the women’s three-way storylines.