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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
MARCH 31, 2017
DETROIT, MICH. AT JOE LOUIS ARENA
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, Corey Graves, Charlie Caruso.
-A video package aired on the Goldberg-Brock Lesnar angle last week.
-Cole introduced the show as they went right to Brock Lesnar’s ring entrance. Paul Heyman joined Lesnar on his way to the ring. Heyman gloated about Lesnar downing Goldberg last week with an F5. He introduced himself to the crowd. He said not only can he see the future, but that vision has been bestowed upon everyone in the crowd. He said at WrestleMania 33, his client will cause the “so-called announcers to scream at the top of their lungs ‘Down goes Goldberg!'” Heyman took offense at “Goldberg” chants. He said Goldberg was not there tonight, but his client obviously is. He said every time his client has faced Goldberg, the same thing has happened – spear and Jackhammer – except for last week. “Last week was a different story, wasn’t it?” he said. Lesnar nodded along. He said fans will see the greatest comeback in sports entertainment history at WM33 where his vision of the future will be validated. He said his theory of WrestleMania relativity is “F5 equals Lesnar goes down, down goes Goldberg!” Lesnar’s music played. Cole said it’s amazing what one F5 can do to a man’s confidence.
(Keller’s Analysis: That’s fine for this stage of WrestleMania hype and to underline what happened last week. Heyman is always really good, and this was one of his solid performances that shows his value.)
-Backstage Stephanie McMahon told Mick Foley that Heyman is “so creepy.” Foley chuckled. She said she is glad she can make him laugh. She said there’s been tension between them, and she thinks it’s because of the pressure leading to WrestleMania and “sometimes in the heat of the moment things are said you can’t take personally.” She said her dad taught her not to take things personally. She said she hired him to be her G.M. because of how much he cares about their Superstars. She said she is his manager, though, and she needs to manage him so he can grow. Foley said, “I respond better with a pat on the back, I always have.” She said she wants to take all of her experience and teach him, if he’s willing. “Is this the McMahon-Foley Connection?” he asked. She asked if he is in, because she has his first lesson ready. “To WrestleMania and beyond!” he said. Stephanie said by the end of the night, she wants him to scour the Raw roster and determine the one person he is going to fire. Foley noted it’s three weeks before WrestleMania. She said it’s tough, but he has to trim the fat to send a message of strong leadership and everyone will become more competitive plus they’ll save overhead. Foley asked how long he has. Steph said “until the end of the night.” She already said that, and her tone suggested she wasn’t thrilled he asked. Foley said he’d do it. She said she knew she could count on it. The crowd began chanting suggestions.
(Keller’s Analysis: I wish Foley put up a little more of a fight over this. He just kind of went with the flow of Steph’s pitch and her command. It just makes him seem even more compromised which makes it difficult to root as hard for him. But they want to add that hook for this show and this was the efficient way for them to get there. I suspect Foley offers up himself at the end.) [c]
(1) SASHA BANKS vs. DANA BROOKE
WINNER: Sasha in 1:00.
-Afterward Charlotte entered the ring and told Dana she’s a disgrace and she doesn’t deserve to be associated with her. Dana fought back and knocked Charlotte out of the ring. Graves said now Dana is going to get what she deserves which is being out on the street without a meal ticket.
(Keller’s Analysis: I didn’t see this coming, and it takes away one aspect of Charlotte’s act, which is having someone create distractions to help her win. I’m curious if Dana is part of plans as a babyface feuding with Charlotte and stays a significant part of the Women’s Division, or if this is a way to write her off and maybe send her back to NXT for more in-ring seasoning. The crowd reacted as you’d want, cheering Dana and taking satisfaction in Charlotte being knocked out of the ring after her attack.)
-The announcer threw to a video package on Eric LeGrand, the 2017 recipient of the Warrior Award. He is a college football player who was paralyzed from the neck down after an on-field collision, but has fought back to regain movement in his upper body and the ability to breath without a ventilator.
-The announcers plugged Chris Jericho & Sami Zayn vs. Samoa Joe & Kevin Owens later. Graves said Roman Reigns will respond to what Undertaker said last week at the end of Raw. [c]
(2) T.J. PERKINS & AKIRA TOZAWA vs. BRIAN KENDRICK & TONY NESE
Cole called Perkins “the very exciting T.J. Perkins.” The babyface duo knocked the heels down at ringside and they cut to an early break. [c]
Back from the break, they showed Kendrick pulling the ring apron over Perkins’ head to take control. They showed Neville watching backstage on the monitor. Cole said Neville along with everyone in this match will be part of a five-way match on 205 Live tomorrow night. In the end Perkins hit a DDT off the top rope, but Kendrick broke up the pin with a forearm to the side of Perkins’ head. When Kendrick interfered again, Tozawa charged in and knocked Kendrick off the ring apron with a running kick. He then made cartoon faces until Nese shoved Perkins into him from behind. Nese then rolled up Perkins and yanked on his tights to score a three count. Graves said, “You gotta do what you gotta do to get to the top of the Cruiserweight Division.” No disagreement expressed by either Cole or Saxton. Saxton merely said he picked up “that all-important momentum headed into tomorrow night.”
WINNERS: Nese & Kendrick at 8:50.
-Saxton plugged Big Cass & Enzo vs. Cesaro & Sheamus later for a shot at the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship. Then he threw to Charlie Caruso (by name!) for an interview with the tag champs.
-Caruso interviewed Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. Anderson complained that everyone is talking about the challengers instead of them. He said they’re not a flash-in-the-pan because they’ve won tag teams titles around the globe. Gallows said if you want to talk about those nerds, talk to someone else about them. Anderson said if they don’t get the spotlight in the tag division, they’ll take it themselves just like they’ve always done when they’ve wanted something.
-Kevin Owens’ ring entrance began. [c]
-Owens entered the ring as the announcers plugged the tag match later he’s involved in. He stood center-ring with the spotlight on him and the arena otherwise darkened. He was pelted with a chant of “Y2J!” He said one month ago today he took the spotlight and put it back where it belongs. There’s a focus on “spotlights” over the last two segments. He threw to highlights of the attack at the “Festival of Friendship.” Back live, he said a lot of “you people” are very upset with him for betraying Jericho and because he pretended to be Jericho’s best friend for months. He said he’s not his best friend now and he never was. He claimed Jericho was just trying to get close to him so he could get close to his Universal Title, and Jericho was never actually his friend, either. He said he did what every single one of the fans would have done, which was stab Jericho in the back before Jericho could stab him in the back. “The bottom line is I outsmarted Chris Jericho,” he said.
He said now Jericho wants his revenge, but at WrestleMania, he’s going to take Jericho’s U.S. Title “just like he took my title away from me.” He added: “Cry it out, mannnn!” Boos. He said as far as tonight goes, the only thing Jericho and “his waste of space partner Sami Zayn” are going to get is a lesson. He said that lesson is: “Who needs best friends when you have a Destroyer.” Out walked Joe to his entrance music as official ring announcements began.
(Keller’s Analysis: I liked that Owens gave a rationale for his timing, saying he turned on Jericho before Jericho could turn on him. It gave us a window into his thinking, which is that Jericho was never sincerely his friend, either.) [c]
(3) SAMI ZAYN & CHRIS JERICHO vs. KEVIN OWENS & SAMOA JOE
Graves said Sami is a glutton for punishment. He said his mom always taught him to use people before they use you. Saxton said it’s a sad lesson. Joe took it to Sami early, then tagged in Owens. Owens taunted Jericho as he stood on Sami’s chest. Jericho yelled at him. Owens gave him a superkick to knock him to the floor. Owens laughed and tagged Joe back in. Sami knocked both to the floor and then hit a flip dive onto them at ringside. He sold a knee injury upon landing. He punched the ringside barrier, but then stood up, still favoring his knee. Owens clipped Sami from behind on his bad knee seconds later in the ring. Owens and Joe double-teamed Sami with stomps. The ref eventually DQ’d them both. The crowd booed.
WINNERS: Sami & Jericho via DQ in 5:00.
-Joe then applied the Coquina Clutch as Owens stomped on him. Jericho made the save and knocked Joe to the floor. He then went for the Walls of Jericho on Owens. Joe hit Jericho with a forearm to break it up. Boos from the crowd. Joe held Jericho as Owens took shots at him. As referees tried to stop them, Joe threw Sami into Owens’ arms for a Pop-up Powerbomb. Cole said things couldn’t have gone worse for Jericho tonight.
(Keller’s Analysis: Everyone involved in this should be pleased that the crowd is responding the way the angle is designed. They’re siding with Jericho against Owens. It shows that if you cast the right people in the right roles and book logically with the heels acting as, well, heels, the crowds in 2017 aren’t going to be just contrarian for the sake of being contrarian.)
-Backstage Stephanie told Foley it’s a difficult decision, but she’s willing to help. Foley said he will eliminate somebody from the roster because she tasked him with it. Steph suggested Sami because he’s an underperformed. Nia Jax walked in and rolled her eyes. She said she put Sasha on the shelf for one month and now she barely put her shoulders on the mat at Fastlane for three seconds and now she’s out of the WrestleMania match. She said she wants justice. Steph interrupted Foley, saying he had a lot on his plate. She told Jax she deserves to be part of the WM conversation. She offered her a match one-on-one with Bayley later. Jax thanked her. Steph said this shows she can be helpful. Foley said he’s going to go clear his head. He walked away. She offered him some company. He kept walking.
-On WWE Network after Raw, “Bring It to the Table” features Peter Rosenberg asking various questions about Goldberg, Mauro, and Bayley. Corey Graves and JBL are his panelists. The show will also feature a sit-down interview Graves conducted with Kurt Angle who admitted he had a problem with pain pills at the end of his WWE run. Kurt Angle: “I got really bitter.”
(Keller’s Analysis: This show format has potential if they remove the “score settling” and whole “responding to common complaints about the product” aspect and keep it within the storylines.) [c]
-Backstage Foley approached Jinder Mahal and asked Foley if he’s going to be fired tonight. He said he is a main event talent and he wants an opportunity to show his talents. Foley asked if he gives him an opponent, will he calm down. He booked him against Roman Reigns.
-They went to the announcers on the stage who reacted to Jinder facing Roman Reigns. Saxton said Foley has a difficult decision. Graves said he’d love to be in Foley’s shows. Cole threw to The New Day backstage.
-Big E continued to up the weirdness as Xavier Woods played his trombone. Kofi told Jimmy Fallen to move over because they’re debuting their new talk show. Xavier said they have the biggest guest possible. Kofi and Big E asked, “Who? Who? Who?” In walked Big Show. Xavier said he will have the chance to become a two-time winner of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Kofi interrupted Show with an ice cream cart plug. Then Big E read a question about the “Jetsons” movie that Show is in. They kept interrupting Show as he tried to talk about the movie. Titus O’Neal interrupted and said someone’s job is on the line tonight, so he doesn’t care about their show. He said what he does care about is why isn’t the Titus Brand the star of the Jetson’s movie. He said he loves the Jetsons. Titus shoved Show when Show said it wasn’t his decision. Show looked upset. New Day were eating popcorn intently in the background. Xavier said one thing is for sure, Titus ruins everything.
-Enzo and Cass came out first and did some mic work on the way to the ring with their catch phrases. Enzo said they got Cesaro a gift this week – a new coffee mug so he doesn’t spill it as much. It says: “Well, what we got over here?” on one side and “Cuppa Haters” on the other side. More product placement? Cass said March Madness is in full swing and they’re the bracket busters. “We are the Cinderella Story,” he said. He listed various college teams and he said everyone should put them in the championship column when they fill out their brackets because tonight they stamp their ticket to WrestleMania where they will become Raw Tag Team Champions.
(4) ENZO AMORE & BIG CASS vs. SHEAMUS & CESARO – No. 1 contendership
They showed Anderson & Gallows watching on a monitor backstage. They cut to an early break. [c]
A couple minutes back from the break, Anderson & Gallows charged out of the crowd and attacked both teams. Cole said they’re tired of not being in the spotlight. Saxton said they apparently don’t want challengers at WrestleMania. Graves said they’re just doing what they promised – putting the spotlight back on themselves.
WINNERS: No contest in 8:00.
-The beat down continued on Cesaro in the ring with the others out at ringside.
-The announcers threw to a highlight package on the Braun Strowman, Undertaker, Roman Reigns segment last week on Raw.
-They showed Reigns backstage. [c]
-They showed Anderson & Gallows backstage. Foley asked them if they think they’re funny. Anderson said Foley told them they’d face the winners, and those two teams are both losers. Gallows said, “Nerds!” Foley said as a result, they’ll be in a triple threat match instead against both teams. He wished them a Nice Day.
(5) JINDER MAHAL vs. ROMAN REIGNS
They showed the very end of Jinder’s entrance as his music trailed off. Then Reigns came out to an eruption of boos. Cole said after what happened last week, WWE made the match official that Reigns would face Undertaker at WrestleMania. He called Undertaker “the most prolific” Superstar in WrestleMania history. As Reigns bashed Mahal with clotheslines in the corner, Taker’s gong sounded. Reigns stopped in his tracks and looked around for Taker. Jinder nailed Reigns with a running knee and then a flying kneedrop. He scored a near fall. Reigns came back with two Superman punches to boos from the crowd and a three count.
WINNER: Reigns in 3:00.
-Afterward, Reigns said that win shows he’s not messing around. He called Taker out. “Come out here like a man,” he said. They cut to an abrupt commercial break. [c]
Back live, Reigns was still in the ring. Instead of Undertaker, Shawn Michaels came out. Reigns looked confused. The crowd popped. Cole said, “That’s not Undertaker, that’s Mr. WrestleMania!” They showed fans dancing to his music as Michaels made his way to the ring. Reigns said, “I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty cool to see ya’.” A loud “HBK” chant broke out. Reigns said Detroit loves HBK. “But I’m sorry, Detroit, I didn’t call out HBK. I called out the Undertaker.” Michaels said he’s not going to waste his time, he’ll cut right to the chase. He said when that gong went off, he got distracted. He said he is distracted and unfocused. He said he needs to understand something. He said Undertaker has already set up shop in Reigns’s head, so come WrestleMania, he’s “going to eat you alive.” Reigns said that’s not happening. He said the only question he ever gets is, “What’s it going to be like to be in the ring with Undertaker. Maybe Undertaker should be thinking about what it’s going to be like to be in the ring with me.” Boos.
Michaels said he’s on his side. He said he’s the big dog and it’s his yard, but how about Reigns acknowledge that he is Mr. Wrestle Frickin’ Mania. He said knows what it’s like to walk around with a huge chip on his shoulder and the weight of the company on his shoulders. He said he knows what it’s like to have everyone secretly hoping he fails. “Believe me, Roman, I have walked in your shoes.” He said he’s on his side. The crowd booed Michaels. Reigns said he appreciates the advice and the help, “but with all due respect, the Undertaker retired you.” Some “ooooh” from the crowd. “And I’m the guy who’s going to retire him.” Reigns set the mic down and walked out. Michaels stared at him as he walked away. Graves said that brash and bold confidence is what Reigns will need to beat Undertaker. Reigns looked back at Michaels. Strowman charged at Reigns and knocked him down the ramp and off the edge of the ramp. Ouch. It was like Reigns was sliding on ice as he flew off the ramp at high speed. Wow. The crowd chanted, “Thank you, Strowman.” An “HBK!” chant broke out as referees tended to Reigns.
-Backstage Stephanie said Strowman just showed the kind of intensity that’s needed on Raw. Foley said he’s not taking this decision lightly and he’d like to talk her out of it. Steph said she knows this isn’t an easy decision for him, but she’s doing this for his professional growth and the company’s growth. “This is going to position you as a leader and raise the level of competition in the Raw locker room,” she said. He said somebody is losing their job right before WrestleMania and he doesn’t like it. Steph said he has one hour to make the decision and if he doesn’t, she will make it for him. “And if I decide, it might be something that you don’t like.”
-The announcers threw to a video package on Austin Aries. [c]
(6) ARIYA DAIVARI vs. AUSTIN ARIES
Graves said Aries has competed with the who’s who of the WWE roster around the globe including Samoa Joe, Daniel Bryan, and Seth Rollins. Cole said he’s so technically sound. They showed Neville watching on a monitor backstage. Daivari got in a flurry of offense, but Aries made a comeback including a suplex that landed Daivari on his head in a dangerous looking landing. He finished Daviari with a rolling elbow.
WINNER: Aries in 4:00.
-The announcers on camera talked more about Neville and whether Aries can be the one to dethrone him. [c]
-A video highlight package aired on Lesnar and Heyman earlier.
-A vignette aired on Emma returning. Afterward Graves asked, “Are we seriously doing this again?”
(7) THE BIG SHOW vs. TITUS O’NEAL
WINNER: Big Show in 2:00 after a chokeslam.
-The announcers threw to a video on Billie Jean King as part of celebrating women in March.
-Sasha asked Bayley backstage if she is nervous. Bayley said she is. Sasha told Bayley to trust her because she is beatable. Sasha told her not to listen to the haters. Bayley said, “What haters?” Sasha said all the people who say she’s not championship level. She said she can prove who the better woman is at WrestleMania. Bayley acted like Sasha planted a seed of doubt. [c]
-The announcers plugged WrestleMania’s line-up and the WWE Network including a free trial that includes WrestleMania. Then they went back to highlights of Owens and Joe beating up Sami and Jericho earlier in the show.
-They went backstage to a guy with no name (Mike Rome) who interviewed Jericho. Jericho said he’ll pay back Owens at WrestleMania. He said in the mean time he wants to expose the real Owens. He said he wants to show people the true Owens. He said next week on Raw, on a special edition of The Highlight Reel, his guest will be the Real Kevin Owens. He said everyone is going to want to watch “it.” Jericho called the interviewer “Tom.” He said his name is “Mike Rome” and Tom is on Smackdown. Jericho said he knows he’s Tom and don’t insult his intelligence. He asked him if he knows what happens when you insult Jericho’s intelligence. He put him on The List.
(Keller’s Analysis: Now I assume he put Tom Phillips on his list, which seems entirely unfair, right?)
(8) BAYLEY vs. NIA JAX
Graves said Bayley could lose her career against someone as dangerous as Jax. Cole said Bayley might think she has to prove something in every match because a lot of people are saying Sasha has helped her win every match in recent weeks. Saxton said Bayley has confided in him that she feels sometimes she is living a lie. Saxton said those are decisions Sasha made, and Bayley didn’t ask for her help. Saxton said he’s looking for conspiracies. Graves said if he was doing that, he’d speculate that his microwave is listening in on his conversations. They cut to a break.
(Keller’s Analysis: Is Graves allowed to poke fun at the Trump Administration considering his boss’s wife is in President Trump’s cabinet?) [c]
A few minutes after the break, Jax crushed Bayley with a splash in the corner. The ref counted to five and DQ’d Jax.
WINNER: Bayley via DQ in 8:00.
-Jax then hung Bayley upside down in the corner. The ref blocked her from charging at her. He unhooked Bayley’s foot. Jax grabbed Bayley and threw her into the barricade at ringside. Jax said: “I’m a woman. You’re a little girl.” Cole said Jax wanted to make a statement about being left off of WrestleMania.
-The announcers recapped the Reigns-Strowman angle.
-Stephanie entered the ring and said Foley was on his way to the ring to make a tough decision and fire a Raw Superstar. Foley said he thought this was a cruel exercise all night until he thought of someone who deserved to go and would make Raw better. He revealed it was her. She said that’s not a valid option and he knows it. Foley said he treasured their 18 year friendship, but six months ago she swore she had nothing to do with Triple H’s interference. He said back then she lied to him and proved she is a good liar and bad a person, so she needs to go. He said Triple H isn’t a creator of WWE Superstars, he’s a creator of his own personal army doing things for him. Stephanie interrupted and told Mick he can find out how bad she can be. She asked what happened to his fortitude.
Triple H walked out to his music. He entered the ring and told Foley to say what he has to say to his face. Foley said he didn’t know he existed, but rather just hid in the shadows. Hunter said he’s a businessman and that’s all that’s stopping him from causing a lawsuit by ripping his leg off his hip in need of replacement and beat him with it. Foley said he figured he’d assign Joe that task. Hunter called him “a fun little nostalgia act.” He asked if he wants to read the name of the city off his hand “right here in Detroit.” Triple H said he is nurturing future stars so he doesn’t have to look at has-beens like him anymore. He said Steph brought him back because she really likes him. “Do not mistake Steph’s heart for a lack of being able to do what it takes,” he said. He was thrown off a little by a loud “C.M. Punk” chant. He said she is every bit the businesswoman her dad taught her to be.
He mocked Foley for traveling the globe telling stories about the man he used to be. Foley said the WWE Superstars in the back respect him and even envy him because he doesn’t need to pretend to like him. He said he enjoys traveling the globe. He said he might be missing an ear and his teeth, but when he looks in the mirror, he likes what he sees in the reflection. Triple H said he is happy his reflection works for him and he likes it, but he wonders how his kids will feel about that. He said he needs to waddle to the back and have an epiphany that he needs his job for the sake of his kids. He said once he realizes that, he will do what Steph says and jump when she tells him. “You will jump, monkey. You understand me, Foley? Now get your ass up that ramp and get out of my ring. Go!”
Foley set the mic down and began to leave. Steph told the fans to let that be a lesson to them all. They began cheering because of what Foley was doing in the background. She said all of them should go to work tomorrow and tell their bosses thank you for giving me this opportunity. She said none of them understand what it takes to run a business and be a manager. When Hunter walked up to Foley, Foley put Mr. Socko in Hunter’s mouth. The crowd popped. Stephanie gave him a low-blow. Graves said Foley just performed career suicide. The crowd chanted “Foley!”
Seth Rollins then came out on a crutch for the save. He dropped the crutch and went after Triple H. He was wearing a knee brace. He punched away at him. The crowd exploded with cheers for Seth. Seth superkicked Hunter, using his good leg as the support leg. He then gave him a running kick to drive him to the floor. Graves said Seth has waited a long time to earn the name King Slayer. Hunter jabbed Seth in the bad knee with a crutch and then swung it at his leg. The crutch bent. Hunter looked at it. Seth writhed in pain on the mat as the show ended.
- For another perspective on this show, check out Jason Powell’s report at his website, PROWRESTLING.NET, HERE. Jason joins me this Wednesday at 1 ET for the PWTorch Livecast Mid-Week program.
- But first, tune in tonight as PWTorch columnist Pat McNeill joins me LIVE right after Raw goes off the air to talk about tonight’s program with live calls. STREAM LIVE HERE. You can call with your thoughts on the show – 515-605-9345.