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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
MARCH 20, 2017
BROOKLYN, N.Y. AT BARCLAYS CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton, Charly Caruso.
-A four minute video recap aired of the Triple H-Seth Rollins angle along with the Mick Foley-Stephanie McMahon “fire someone” saga.
-Foley walked to the ring. Cole said they haven’t heard publicly from him since last week’s Raw ended. The crowd chanted for Foley. He pulled out a written statement and read: “I stand before you a humbled man, a man who had the honor of calling himself the general manager of Monday Night Raw for the last nine months.” He said he’d like to personally thank Triple H and Stephanie McMahon for giving him an opportunity of a lifetime, “an opportunity I clearly put in jeopardy last week when I stuck Mr. Socko in Triple H’s mouth, and for that I apologize.” The crowd popped and he smiled. He said with less than two weeks left before WrestleMania, he didn’t want to distract any further from “the Ultimate Thrill Ride,” so for the good of WWE, WrestleMania, and for the sake of his own sanity, effectively immediately, he was taking a leave of absence. The crowd chanted “No! No! No!”
He then yelled, “Index cards!” and tore them up. He began yelling that he is Mick “Frickin'” Foley and he’ll say what he’s going to say. The mic cut out intermittently and then went out. Stephanie McMahon walked out. Graves said she will restore order and make things right. She asked if his mic wasn’t working. She said she gave him an opportunity to do the right thing and he attacked her husband. She then said she generously gave him a chance to give his farewell address in his home state of New York, but he couldn’t even do that right. She said she gave him index cards because he can’t do anything on his own right. She said it’s all about him and his wanting to be liked. A loud “Foley!” chant broke out. She said there’s something she’s wanted to say for a long time: “I’ve got two words for you. You’re fired!” She went off mic and yelled at him some more.
Sami Zayn’s music played. He stepped onto the stage with a mic in hand. He sighed and said what she is doing to Foley is wrong. He said she has been wrong about a lot of her decisions lately, but nobody has had the guts to tell her to her face. “Thank you for the morality lesson,” she said, then she asked him to help the broken down old man down the steps so they can move on with the show. A “C.M. Punk” chant broke out. Sami said Foley has shown more class and integrity as G.M. than she has in her entire life. He said now that she wants to disgrace his legacy because he never became the corporate yes-man she wanted, “you should be a shamed of yourself.” She asked if he said something because she wasn’t listening to word he said. She said he’s talented, but he’s not on the level to question her integrity or even speak to her at all. She told him to go back to the locker room and figure out how he’s going to make this up to her. She told him to do his little dance on his way.
Sami paused before leaving the ring. She told him it’s not a tough decision he’s pondering. Sami said the smart thing would be for him to leave as she ordered. She said it would be. He said he’s not going to do the smart thing, he’s going to do the right thing. He said he’s not going anywhere until she makes it right. Samoa Joe interrupted. He marched to the ring. Steph said Sami has to face Joe right now. He dove onto Joe at ringside. They cut to a break.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good performances from all… Hot crowd to start the show, which is a good sign. Stephanie, though, takes thing a bit further than serves any good purpose when she mocks Sami’s ska music and dance entrance. How does it help anything to ridicule that in the way that she does?… I’m glad Foley tore up the statement and got to leave under the guise of doing so on his own terms…) [c]
(1) SAMOA JOE vs. SAMI ZAYN
Cole said Raw has no general manager just 13 days from WrestleMania. Graves said they’re in good hands with Stephanie. The screen said “Mick Foley” was trending on Twitter. Cole promised an update later on the condition of Seth Rollins. Joe nailed Sami with a dive through the ropes and a forearm to the side of his head on the floor. As Joe threw Sami into the ring, they cut to a break. [c]
(A USA Network sponsored PSA during the break featured two heels, A.J. Styles and Natalya, telling kids not to smoke. Those two aren’t so bad after all. Anyone who thought of booing them at the next live event should rethink their stance, perhaps.)
Joe dominated Sami after the break, including a charging boot to the side of Sami’s face at ringside. Sami barely beat the ref’s count. Graves said if Sami were smart, he’d have lost by countout there. Cole agreed. Sami then surprised Joe with a comeback. He landed a crossbody off the top rope for a two count. At ringside Sami jumped through the ropes and gave Joe a DDT onto the mat at ringside. Both were slow to get up. Back in the ring Joe, who was bleeding from above his right eyelid, blocked a Helluva Kick with a urinage and then applied a Coquina Clutch. Sami tapped out.
WINNE: Joe 12:20.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good match. Sami’s role continues to be to put up a big fight, but lose, and he’s really good at that. Joe continued to not only carry himself like a badass, but wrestle like one, too. They’re pushing Joe pretty much perfectly so far. They do need be cognizant of the possibility of Sami entering Zack Ryder territory, though, where he’s damaged beyond repair for losing too much. Just giving him a TV win over a lower card wrestler every now and then would be helpful.)
-The announcers hyped an update on Seth Rollins later plus Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman. [c]
-A Smackdown commercial asked: “Is A.J. Styles fired or headed toward at match at WrestleMania?”
-Backstage Foley told Sami what he did was dumb, but he appreciates it and he thanked him. Sami said they need him and they can’t believe he’s gone. They hugged and Sami got choked up and said he’s glad he met his hero. Foley passed a few people in the back and hugged Cesaro and Sheamus. Sheamus thanked Foley for believing in him when no one else would. Foley said people thought he was crazy, but he knew they’d be great together. He shook hands with a few Cruiserweights. He then saw Bayley, who was also emotional as she moved in for a hug. She noticed Triple H behind him. Hunter walked up to Foley’s face and stared him down. Hunter smiled and yelled, “Have a nice day!” Foley walked out the exit doors.
(Keller’s Analysis: Like Stephanie’s mocking of Sami’s ska music and dance, or her pointless mocking of “Yes!” chants, Hunter’s little “Have a nice day!” thing at the end felt pointless. There’s being a heel to put over a storyline or setup having your comeuppance, and then there’s just in a jerk for no discernible net gain.)
-They went to the announcers on camera with a new front view camera angle of them at the desk. They threw to clips of the Seth angle last week. Then they interviewed Seth’s physical therapist at Champion Sports Medicine, Kevin Wilk. He said he reaggravated his knee injury last week and all that saved him from a terribly serious setback was the knee brace. He said, however, no doctor would clear Seth to compete at WrestleMania. He said he fears if Seth does try to make it to WrestleMania, he will see him back at rehab the next day. Cole said Triple H will respond later tonight.
-Charlotte began her ring entrance. [c]
-They replayed Brooke turning on Charlotte last week.
(2) CHARLOTTE FLAIR vs. DANA BROOKE
Brooke was aggressive early, so Charlotte rolled to the floor to regain her composure. The crowd chanted “We Want Paige” early. Charlotte caught Brooke with a boot to the chest and then an anti-climactic three count. Short match.
WINNER: Charlotte at 3:35.
(Keller’s Analysis: That made it seem like Brooke is more likely headed back to NXT than she is for any serious babyface push on Raw.) [c]
-Backstage Stephanie approached Bayley. Steph asked if she needs a hug. Bayley said not from her. She said she always thought Stephanie was a strong woman, but ever since Foley brought her to WWE seven months ago “right here in Brooklyn, New York” (cheers), she has seen Steph use her powers to hurt other people. Steph said hearing her say something like that makes her doubt her strength, so she’ll have to prove it every week. She tonight Nia Jax gets a rematch and if she wins, she’ll become a part of the Raw Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania. She said it’ll be no DQ because Nia does like to use her power to hurt people, using Bayley’s words against her.
-Chris Jericho made his ring entrance. Graves said he doesn’t think it’s right that Jericho is exposing Kevin Owens’ dirty laundry. Graves said he wants to hear it. Not sure WWE should be talking about dirty laundry airing this week. Jericho said his guest is “the real Kevin Owens.”
Jericho said he doesn’t need Owens as a best friend because he has a lot of friends, including the “Friends of Jericho.” He added, “Cheer me on, man!” A loud “Y2J!” chant broke out. He said Owens considers himself some sort of “cold-blooded hitman” and “prize fighter,” but he knows what Owens really is. He introduced the “real Kevin Owens.” They showed a picture of a young Owens wearing a Y2J t-shirt at age 16 in his parent’s basement. He pointed out a Jericho poster on one side and a “random chesty blonde” on the other. He said she’s not as sexy a beast as he is. He said Owens looks like a fan of Jericho. “He was marking out, man!” he said. He said Owens reached out to his idol for advice. He then showed a text message exchange he had with Jericho asking for advice. Jericho asked what kind of advice. Owens said he was worried about “pissing people off.” Jericho told him to just be himself because that’s what brought him.
Jericho talked about Owens attacking him at the Festival of Friendship. He said that was quite the payback for taking bullets for him when he was defending the Universal Title. He said he wants to see the real face of Owens. He showed a freeze-frame of Owens’ “nervous, scared, intimidated” facial expressions when Jericho came out during the Owens vs. Goldberg match at Fastlane. Jericho said in less than two weeks, in front of nearly 70,000 Friends of Jericho, he’ll face him in his first one-on-one match at WrestleMania. He snuck in the “Ultimate Thrill Ride” phrase. He said he will be transported back to the 16 year old nerd wearing the Y2J shirt and he’ll understand what he’s gotten himself into.
(Keller’s Analysis: Geesh, how bad does that make a current-day 16 year old fan with a Y2J poster in his room feel, especially if they have some acne??!?)
Jericho said he is the best in the world at what he does and the GOAT. “Y2J!” chanted the crowd. He called him a “stupid idiot,” then waited for that fan chant to gain steam. He then held up the List of Jericho and asked Owens if he understands what happens next. Joe then walked out. Owens then jumped Jericho from behind. He gave Jericho a Pop-up Powerbomb. Owens looked down at Jericho with that blank stare (that resembles Forest Whitaker in “The Shield”) and then tore up The List. The fans gasped. Owens put some shreds in his mouth and then spit them out onto Jericho. “Asshole!” chants rang out.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good segment, but not great. Jericho has an edge to him. He’s still entertaining, and he’s clearly the babyface, but he’s not doing light comedy. It feels like a grudge match, not a continuation of some sort of “ha ha” funny feud. The crowd is totally with Jericho, and that speaks volumes considering how the same Jericho fans also have had a tendency to like Owens… This is a successful wrestling angle in that htere’s a heel acting like a heel and fans booing, and a babyface acting like a babyface and the fans cheering, and it’s not even the 1980s!… Although it doesn’t matter at this point, technically Jericho seems to be lacking any regret for helping Owens cheat to hold onto his Universal Title all those times. There should have more focus on the U.S. Title, also. This WrestleMania is really downplaying the titles as if Vince McMahon is “over it” and thinks they’re as passé as manager and tag ropes… Does it undercut Owens’ character that before arriving in WWE he was concerned with pissing people of? Doesn’t his character give off the vibe of someone who wouldn’t care? This plays further into the growing sense that WWE’s wrestlers are all just corporate cogs playing roles and trying to fit in. WWE pays a price that’s hard to quantify when they virtually eliminate any sense that there are any “outlaws” left…)
-Cole plugged the interview with Triple H later. Then Cole threw to the contract signing for Fastlane with Reigns and Strowman last month. [c]
-The announcers reacted to the Owens-Jericho angle. Graves said if Owens hits the P0p-up Powerbomb at WrestleMania, that could be the end of Jericho “mannn.”
(3) T.J. PERKINS vs. BRIAN KENDRICK
TJP leaped off the top rope a couple minutes in for a two count. Afterward, TJP was thrown off by a near collision with the ref. Kendrick then took advantage and hit the Sliced Bread #2 for the win.
WINNER: Kendrick at 1:35.
(Keller’s Analysis: Who comes out of this episode looking more buried, TJP or Brooke?)
-Afterward, Kendrick asked where Akira Tozawa was. He said he’s not even in the country, and to travel to the U.S. you need a passport. He said he has Tozawa’s passport in his possession, claiming he found it on the ground.
-The announcers hyped a look at Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar later. [c]
-They replayed highlights of the Reigns-Shawn Michaels segment last week and the body check by Braun Strowman last week, knocking Reigns to the floor.
-Charly Caruso interviewed Reigns backstage. She asked if he can focus on Strowman tonight with a match against Undertaker less than two weeks way. Reigns said he only thinks of Undertaker when he imagines him flat on his back after losing to him at WrestleMania.
-A video package aired on Goldberg’s return to the ring, with sit down comments from him and various colleagues, such as Jericho and John Cena, who spoke about him being “lightning in a bottle” (Jericho) and looking tough and actually being tough (Cena). Goldberg spoke about wanting his wife and son to see him in the ring one more time for the first time when he can still do it.
(Keller’s Analysis: How will Goldberg react if his wife and son get to watch his first WrestleMania match and the crowd is booing him or heckling hi? Things could go off track quickly)
-They showed Nia heading toward the entrance stage. [c]
-Stephanie told Cesaro & Sheamus backstage that it was Foley’s idea to put them together as a team, and they’ll have to win a four-on-two match later or else they won’t get a match at WrestleMania.
(4) NIA JAX vs. BAYLEY
Cole said Bayley used to admire Stephanie until she saw she used her power to hurt people. They cut to shots of Charlotte and later Sasha Banks watching on monitors backstage. They noted that Charlotte is likely rooting for Bayley to avoid Jax being added to the match. [c]
Back from the break Jax remained in control. The crowd chanted “Paige,” “C.M. Punk,” and “We Are Awesome” during this match. Jax just dominated and pinned Bayley clean, thwarting her comeback by sweeping her off the top rope and then a Samoan Drop for the win. They showed Charlotte react with some concern. Then they cut to Sasha who, inadvertently or not, seemed a little bit happy.
WINNER: Jax at 10:35.
(Keller’s Analysis: That was about as one-sided of a loss as you’ll see a WWE Champion in any division take. It puts over Jax as a killer and Bayley as a big underdog. Maybe too much, though.)
-Saxton threw to a video package on Mae Young. Stephanie said Mae worked hard when women’s wrestling was not accepted.
(Keller’s Analysis: This plays into the WWE narrative that (heel) Stephanie single-handedly initiated the acceptance of women’s wrestling at unprecedented levels in the last couple of years. It’s a little rich and self-serving, made worse by the thin disguise of it being some sort of compliment for Young.) [c]
-Cole stood mid-ring and said it would’ve been a WrestleMania match years in the making, but based on what they heard earlier, it’s a match that probably won’t happen. He introduced Triple H. Triple H smugly asked the crowd how they were doing. He said he is disappointed because he is in the best shape of his life. He said the only person responsible is Seth because he made the biggest mistake of his life when he stopped listening to him and he started listening to the fans. “He started to listen to the roar of the crowd, and I get it. In some way I guess that is addictive, although I’ve never understood that myself. I think it’s an insecurity thing. I think that people like Seth need them to justify that he is pretty good. I, on the other hand, have never needed that. I know how good I am.”
(Keller’s Analysis: Oh, the irony. Did someone script that as a spit-test for how oblivious Triple H might be to his own reputation over the years? I could imagine someone putting that in Triple H’s script and seeing if he looks at them and asks if it’s a rib, but I could also imagine Triple H not even noticing how ultra-ironic it is and not seeing how much he resembles those comments. I hope he has the sense of humor about himself and the self-awareness to know how that came across.)
He asked how many times have the fans ruined Mick Foley’s life. “You have to go no further than to look at Foley,” he said. A “Foley!” chant rang out. He said those cheers are what made him do it. He made fun of his “potato chip little nugget of an ear” and his “hermit crab walk thing he does” and said it’s on the fans. He got red-faced as he said Seth’s initial charge will last about 30 seconds before he beats him down and leaves him in a crippled heap on the ground. They threw to a replay of the Hunter beatdown of Seth last week.
Back live in the ring, Cole asked Hunter about how his relationship with Seth turned toxic, so is there anything he would have done differently. Triple H said the first time he saw him in the ring, he thought Seth was the future, so he helped him and showed him the way. He said he gave him the blueprint to becoming The Architect. He said when it came right down to it, he made it too easy for him as he climbed to the top of the mountain. He said Seth will probably never come back, so as of this moment, he is officially done with Seth. He handed Cole comp tickets for WrestleMania and asked him to pass it along to him. He said they’re not front row seats, but he’ll be able to hear the roar of the crowd. Triple H began to leave, and as Cole began to conclude the segment, Triple H returned.
Hunter asked if there is a way for him fight Seth after all. Cole said there’s no way he’ll be cleared. Hunter said there’s always a way. He said he wants it, Seth wants it, and the fans want it. He asked the crowd. They sorta cheered. Hunter said he’s going to write up a non-sanctioned contract. If Seth signs it, that means he can’t sue him, his wife, or WWE when he cripples him. He said if Seth shows up, then it’ll be The Architect vs. The Game. He asked the crowd again and again. He got red-faced and yelled into the hard camera for Seth to “Show them! Or are you just a freakin’ coward.”
(Keller’s Analysis: Intense and a main event level delivery. This is where it’d be so helpful to have a babyface commentator point out how Hunter is talking a big game because he knows Seth isn’t cleared and has no business being in the ring. When you leave that component out, Hunter comes across as a tough guy ready for a fight who issued the challenge and the babyface has no choice but to answer or seem like a coward… There’s still something about Triple H promos where he just ends up seeming to come out of it strong and the babyface seems undercut if not emasculated. Saying he made the route for Seth to get to the top too easy rings too true, and the big issue with Seth as a babyface is that he doesn’t really have a counter-argument or at least hasn’t articulated one effectively. On another note, the crowd wasn’t as with Triple H when he kept looking for a big roar from them wanting to see the match… Basically, the short of it is, Seth should have delivered this promo instead. He should have said something along the lines of: “Triple H, you attacked me last week because you’re scared to face me. Well, just because your doctors won’t clear me doesn’t mean we can’t get this done. I’m willing to sign an unsanctioned match contract, meaning I take all responsibility for anything that happens, and you are off the hook, your wife is off the hook, WWE is off the hook for anything that might happen to me. So how about it? Let’s not let doctors stop this fight from happening. Don’t hide behind the doctors. Let’s make this happen, if you have the guts, that is.”) [c]
-A commercial aired for Snickers featuring Sheamus overdoing it in a tanning bed and then walking out in his underwear with some serious tan lines. Ric Flair was waiting in a robe to go in next. He was proud of Sheamus and said now he’s ready to style and profile.
(5) SHEAMUS & CESARO vs. ENZO AMORE & BIG CASS & KARL ANDERSON & LUKE GALLOWS
Enzo and Cass did some mic work before hand. Cass said they have home field advantage, so Sheamus & Cesaro can kiss their WrestleMania dreams goodbye. He called Anderson & Gallows a few names based on having bald heads. When they entered the ring, Anderson & Gallows attacked them. Sheamus and Cesaro just stood by and watched. Graves said Anderson and Gallows are confident they can win without help from Enzo & Cass. Cesaro went for a swing on Anderson at the very start, but Anderson wiggled free. Cass yanked Gallows off the ring apron as he was about to tag in. Sheamus then gave Anderson a Brogue Kick as Cesaro held him up, leading to a quick pin. After the match, Enzo and Cass did their big splash move on Anderson.
WINNERS: Cesaro & Sheamus in under 1:00.
-The announcer plugged WWE Network and a 30 day free trial to see WrestleMania 33.
(Keller’s Analysis: I get trying to get people in the door for WrestleMania hoping they stick around as paying customers. They’re proud of their product and want to add to their subscription base. That said, they’re basically begging people to watch WrestleMania for free now, and that does undercut the perception of exclusivity and value that used to accompany the past WrestleManias prior to the Network Era.)
-They went backstage to New Day. Big E and Kofi Kingston looked Xavier. Big E asked if he has something he wants to tell them. Xavier then went on to talk about hosting WrestleMania. New Day did a bit talking about various top matches on the card. Xavier said they have to be unbiased hosts and acknowledge Smackdown, too. Kofi laughed that Bray Wyatt thought Randy Orton could be trusted. Xavier said that match will burn the house down. They chanted “New Day Rocks!” and pointed at their ice cream cart. The crowd was apparently muted as they chanted a slightly different chant than “New Day Rocks” or “New Day Sucks,” but it rhymes.
(Keller’s Analysis: This was a pretty safe middle-ground. Don’t send Xavier out in front of a live crowd, but don’t skip featuring them on the show. And then give the whole hacked video story a week to play out before reacting any more definitively.)
-Austin Aries made his ring entrance. [c]
(6) AUSTIN ARIES vs. TONY NESE
Nese delivered a series of kicks to Aries’ chest. A minute later, Aries came back and dove through the ropes onto Nese. They cut to a break. [c]
Nese was in control after the break. Aries gave Nese a sweep and then got bug-eyed and played to the crowd, and then hit his pendulum elbow. He followed up with a rolling senton and a top rope dropkick and a running forearm into the corner. He closed with his Discus Five-Arm for the win.
WINNER: Aries in 8:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Aries didn’t get a big star crowd reaction. It might be better for him, for now, to always give him some mic work before his matches to get himself over with each live crowd, although some Aries mic work would come next… The taping of the ropes purple continues to hurt the Cruiserweigh)ts. It’s a signal to fans to run to the bathroom or concession or merchandise stands, and it takes the crowd out of the show. I hope WWE reconsiders the whole purple theme and customizing the ring ropes after WrestleMania.)
-Afterward, Neville came out. Aries asked Neville what he was doing because they don’t have interview time scheduled. Neville said this isn’t an interview. He said he could go to the ring and obliterate him, but why bother because Aries is beneath him. He said watching his ego spiral out of control will make his inevitable victory at WrestleMania that little bit more satisfying. Aries said that’s the worst and least believable interview segment he’s ever done on Raw. He said he hears his words, but what he sees is something different. He said he sees a man who knows he has to step into the ring with another man who is not as his level, but is above his level. He said for the next 13 days, he wants him to say it over and over and tell anybody who will listen that he is the King of the Cruiserweights, imitating his accent to laughs from the crowd. He said after WrestleMania, this whole facade he’s made up will be over.
-The screen said Emma is returning soon. [c]
-A sponsored clip aired of Brock Lesnar beating Kurt Angle at WrestleMania in 2003
-They went to the announcers. Cole said Brock vs. Angle was one of the greatest WrestleMania matches ever. They plugged the WWE Network content on WrestleMania weekend including the Hall of Fame and the one-hour red carpet ceremony. Graves threw to part two of the video preview of Goldberg vs. Lesnar focused on the Lesnar perspective.
-Charly Caruso interviewed Braun. He said he’s going to destroy Roman, and if Undertaker wants to wrestle him at WrestleMania, he better bring a shovel because he’ll need it to scrape him of the mat when he’s done with him.
-Reigns’s ring entrance took place. Cole plugged Raw in Philadelphia, Pa. next week. Tickets are still available. [c]
(7) ROMAN REIGNS vs. BRAUN STROWMAN
Strowman dominated early. When Reigns went for a Drive By at ringside, Strowman caught him with a clothesline. Reigns bumped onto the ring apron out of mid-air. Strowman settled into a chinlock. That led to a battle chant between pro- and anti-Reigns fans. There was a “We Want Lesnar” chant later. Reigns avoided a charging Strowman in the corner. Then he hit a Drive By at ringside. Strowman made a comeback, threw the ring steps into the ring, and then threw Reigns into the ring. Cole said he doesn’t think Reigns knows where he is. When Braun lifted the ring steps, Reigns popped up and hit him with a Superman Punch. He followed with a running Superman Punch attempt, but Strowman blocked it. Strowman charged, and Reigns blocked him and then gave hi a lift-and-drop Superman Punch. Reigns yelled out as he signaled for the spear. The lights went out and the Undertaker bell sounded. When the lights came up, Taker stood center-ring staring down Reigns. “Holy sh–!” chanted the crowd. Taker checked behind him to see that Strowman was still down. A big “Un-der-taker” chant broke out as the stardwn stretched out. Taker sensed Strowman coming at him, so he turned and chokeslammed him. He then turned back, but Reigns gave him a spear. The crowd booed. As Reigns walked to stage, Taker stood and did the throat-slice gesture.
WINNER: No finish.
(Keller’s Analysis: Taker again looked a little more brittle than I think serves him. It’s reached a point where, when he sells now, I think people are concerned for his well-being in a way that undercuts his character and the match or angle he’s in. They’re definitely letting this match just be presented as two big star colliding and not pushing a heel/face angle or even any big stip.)
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NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S REPORT: KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT 3/13: More WrestleMania 33 hype including Heyman and Lesnar gloating