KELLER & POWELL FLAGSHIP (12/5)
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HEYDORN’S WWE RAW REPORT
MARCH 19, 2018
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Jonathan Coachman
-Kurt Angle kicked off the show and received a nice reaction from the Dallas crowd. As he made his way to the ring, Michael Cole put over Angle’s match at WrestleMania with Ronda Rousey as his tag team partner. In the ring, Angle welcomed the audience to Raw and gave the audience some “bad” news and that Roman Reigns would not be on the show. He also said that while Brock Lesnar isn’t in the building yet, Mr. McMahon guaranteed he would be. Angle then addressed the Braun situation as Roman Reigns was shown walking in the crowd and then into the ringside area. From there Reigns entered the ring and grabbed a microphone.
Heydorn’s Analysis: You had to figure something like this would happen with Reigns, but he pretty much appeared with a microphone in his hand. If WWE is going to make Reigns this rogue superstar, they need to produce him a little less.
With Roman in the ring, Angle told him that he was trespassing. Reigns then said “who cares” and because Lesnar hasn’t been around, someone needed to be around to showcase the WrestleMania main event. Reigns then asked where Brock was at. Angle said that he knows Reigns is upset, but that if he wanted to talk about it he’d have to do so outside of the arena. Reigns then countered with “suspended, from what?” Angle then told Roman that he just had to wait until WrestleMania to kick Lesnar’s ass. Reigns said that he understands that, but he still doesn’t care. He said he wouldn’t leave the ring until he makes more memories in Dallas. He said he wouldn’t leave the ring until he faces Brock Lesnar tonight. From there, Kurt Angle dropped the microphone and left the ring. Meanwhile, Reigns picked up a chair and sat in the middle of the ring.
Heydorn’s Analysis: I liked Roman’s passion in this promo. He looked determined and confident, but not arrogant. That is a line that he hasn’t been able to decipher well enough. He did here and it worked to his advantage.
With Reigns sitting in the ring, a team of US Marshall’s went to the ring to remove Reigns. Roman was then handcuffed to a chorus of boos from the audience. One of the Marshall’s touched Roman’s arm after being told not to and Roman proceeded to snap and destroy all three. Cole called this a frustrating two weeks for Reigns before Lesnar’s music hit. Brock Lesnar proceed to assault Roman Reigns who was defenseless due to being handcuffed by the Marshall’s. Lesnar destroyed Reigns with a steel chair before connecting with a batch of German suplexes. Cole said Lesnar clearly heard everything Reigns had to say over the last couple weeks, but many would say that this attack was cowardly. After pretending to leave the ring, Lesnar went back in and connected with more chair-shots, suplexes, and an F-5.
After Brock left the ring, Reigns was stretchered out of the arena as faint “you deserve it” chants could be heard from the audience. From there, Lesnar’s music hit again and Brock came out to attack Reigns while he was on the backboard. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: This worked. Reigns was able to drum up some sympathy and Lesnar looked like complete heel monster. Out of the gate, the crowd reacted how WWE wanted them to. They booed Lesnar and were concerned for Reigns. Because the segment went on a little long, the Reigns boos were able to seep through a bit. That said, this segment created a major issue between Lesnar and Reigns which can now be settled at WrestleMania that goes above and beyond the Universal Title. It’s personal now which adds another layer to their feud.
-After the commercial break, Reigns was shown being loaded into an ambulance backstage. Cole said he had never witnessed a colder, more premeditated assault ever on Raw.
-The announcers were then shown in the shot and cued up a video package that highlighted the past week’s events between Alexa Bliss, Asuka, and Nia Jax.
(1) ALEXA BLISS vs. ASUKA
Alexa hit the ring first with Micke James at her side as the show went to a commercial break. (c)
After the commercial, Alexa grabbed the mic and looked curiously at the audience as they booed her. She told them that last week she said some things about her best friend Nia Jax that were hurtful and wrong. She said she didn’t know about the audience listening but that Micke and her were just joking around. She called it girl talk and said she got carried away in the moment. She then said she was sorry. Bliss sincerely apologized that “she didn’t speak the truth sooner.” She said that the word sorry didn’t fit in her vocabulary and that she didn’t feel any remorse. She said that Nia was humiliated and she loved every second of it. Alexa said that she never liked Nia, but that she just used her. She that it felt good to get that off her chest and that she lost 300 pounds of a sad pathetic loser. She said that because she doesn’t have Nia dragging her down she can do what nobody else could do which was end Asuka’s streak. This prompted Asuka to hit the ring and then they went to commercial. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: I don’t particularly like Alexa trolling the audience and pretending to apologize. She’s played that card too many times that it isn’t surprising or effective any more. That said, the words she spoke once she went full heel in her promo were spot on. They didn’t cross any lines and further developed her disdain for Jax. The crowd booed and was against Bliss here which leads me to believe that when Nia gets her hands on Alexa, they’ll pop big.
The match was in progress after the commercial break ended and Bliss was in complete control. James got involved a few times from ringside as Asuka assaulted Asuka in the corner. Bliss then tossed Asuka to the outside of the ring where James was able to get additional cheap shots in. When Asuka was tossed back into the ring, Bliss covered, but only received a two count. Bliss continued her offense and kept going after pin attempts, but they each were unsuccessful.
Inside the commentary for this match Cole said that “WWE management had to enjoy Lesnar’s beat-down of Roman Reigns.:
Heydorn’s Analysis: C’mon, they had to go there? Eye-roll. The segment worked as it was. There was no need to add more Reigns against the company story. Nobody buys it.
Back in the match, Asuka gained some momentum, but due to a distraction by James, Bliss took over. Graves then compared Bliss and James to real-life Mean Girls. The crowd chanted for Asuka as she worked to get out of a sleeper hold and was successful. From there, she laid in some stiff kicks on Asuka before Bliss countered into another unsuccessful pin attempt. (c)
After the commercial break, Bliss was still in control. Alexa hit a flipping slam on Asuka off the top rope and went for the cover, but only received a two count. Out of the pin, Asuka battled back with a running butt-bump which she followed with a pin attempt of her own. She got a two count as well and after Alexa kicked out, Asuka locked in an ankle lock submission. Bliss made it to the ropes which forced Asuka to break the hold. Bliss proceeded to roll outside the ring to check her ankle. From there, Bliss grabbed her title and attempted to leave the ring. Bliss was then counted out.
WINNER: Asuka via count out
As Bliss walked up the ramp, Nia Jax’s music hit to a big pop from the audience. Alexa ran away, but Nia caught her before she went into the crowd. From behind, Mickie James stopped her which allowed Bliss to get away. Nia tossed James into the ring steps before furiously staring down Bliss and then chasing her into the backstage area. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: I didn’t like the psychology of this match and thought that Asuka needed to show more and be presented as dominant. She took a beating almost the entire match and didn’t get her comeuppance with Alexa being counted out. On the flip side, Nia’s involvement was successful. The crowd got a taste of what it will be like when she finally gets her hands on Bliss, but nothing significant was given away. A job well done in that regard.
-After the break, Kurt Angle was shown talking on the phone when he was interuppted by Alexa Bliss. She asked Angle to arrest Nia Jax. Angle said that he saw what Nia did and heard what Bliss said. He said that the Raw Women’s Championship should be a role model and not a bully. Then then said, that he is giving Jax a match against Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship at WrestleMania.
-Braun Strowman’s music hit and Cole said that Strowman would need to find a partner in order to compete for the tag titles at WrestleMania. On the mic, Strowman said that last week he won the tag team battle royal by himself. He said he carved a path of destruction and that he’s going to WrestleMania. He told the crowd that he didn’t think he needed a partner and that he believes he can win the tag team titles alone. As he was about to call himself the monster among men, Cesaro and Sheamus interuppted him.
-Sheamus said that Braun is out of his mind if the thinks he could beat both of them by himself. He said that winning the battle royal was different than beating them. Cesaro then said it takes hard work to become a tag team and that Braun just doesn’t stand a chance. Strowman then interupped Sheamus and told them to “shut the hell up.” He told them to stop worrying about other things and to worry about the fact that he’ll have a partner at WrestleMania and that Kurt Angle told him that he could face one of them tonight. Braun then asked them which one wanted to “get these hands.”
Heydorn’s Analysis: I’m glad that Cesaro and Sheamus didn’t come out tonight shaking in their boots about Braun. It’s important that they appear confident and strong so as not to make their division look awful at the hands of Strowman. In addition, WWE went the correct route in making The Bar seem 100% flabbergasted at the notion that Strowman could beat them alone.
(2) BRAUN STROWMAN vs. CESARO
Cesaro stepped up to plate to fight Strowman. As Strowman dominated the beginning of the match, Cole asked his fellow announcers who they thought Strowman would pick. The broadcast then went to a commercial break. (c)
Out of the commercial, Cesaro had the upper hand on Braun due to a variety of strikes. Braun got some control back by tossing Cesaro into the guardrail. He then walked Sheamus down who attempted to interfere on his partner’s behalf. After, Strowman flawlessly tossed Cesaro back into the ring. Strowman then tried to splash Cesaro in the corner, but ended up crashing into the ring post when Cesaro moved. This gave Cesaro the momentum again. From there, he connected with a corkscrew uppercut before covering for a two count. Out of the pin attempt, Cesaro went for a second corkscrew uppercut, but Braun countered with a punch to the face. Sheamus distracted Strowman again which allowed Cesaro to roll to ringside. Strowman then followed and clobbered Sheamus with a clothesline. Strowman then went back to the ring and caught Cesaro who went for a top rope splash. Strowman then connected with a powerslam for the 1,2,3 victory.
As Strowman walked up the ramp, Coach declared that with a partner, Strowman may steal the show at WrestleMania.
WINNER: Strowman via pinfall
Heydorn’s Analysis: Strowman is so over with the crowd that this tag team match feels a bit beneath him. That said, he’ll be able to destroy Sheamus and Cesaro at WrestleMania which is mainly what the audience wants to see. It’ll be interesting to see who Strowman picks as his partner and hopefully that can be drawn out a bit to give this story legs as WrestleMania gets closer.
-Matt Hardy was shown at the Hardy compound with his wife Rebecca playing a piano. He picked up king Maxel and Lord Wolfgang and said that everything that he does, he does for them including ridding the world of Bray Wyatt. Hardy then spoke to Senor Benjamin and told him to prepare the battlefield for annhilation. (c)
(3) THE REVIVAL vs. TITUS O’NEIL & APOLLO
After the commercial, The Revival were dominating O’Neil. Soon after, Apollo got the upper hand and the momentum. After some fast-paced action and some over the top rope moves, Apollo connected with a top rope cross body on Dawson. Dawson was able to roll through for a pin attempt, but only got a two count. After a quick blind tag, The Revival hit a Shatter Machine on Apollo and covered for the 1,2,3 win.
WINNER: The Revival via pinfall
Heydorn’s Analysis: A nothing match here. Quick and pointless, though it did make you think about just how far The Revival has fallen since their debut nearly a year ago.
-After the match, Charly Caruso asked The Revival what their path for WrestleMania was. They said that no tag team was more qualified than them to challenge for the tag team titles. They then said that they’ll be the first tag team ever to win the Andre The Giant Battle Royal.
-A video package aired for Mark Henry’s WWE Hall Of Fame induction (c)
-After the commercial break, the announce team promoted the WWE 24 episode airing after Raw tonight, Empowered.
-Bayley made her way to the ring and Cole and Graves recapped Bayley helping Banks in her match last week before walking out on her after her beat-down.
Sasha came out next and on her way to the ring said that she was taught to face her problems face to face. She said that Bayley is her best friend and that she wants to fix what is happening between them. She said that she knows that Bayley is upset about Elimination Chamber, but that was every woman for herself. Banks then said she wasn’t trying to win anything the last two weeks when Bayley left her. She then said she was the bigger person and that she forgave her. Bayley then grabbed a mic and explained that she acted impulsively when abandoning her friend. She said that she took off because she can’t get over what Sasha did to her at Elimination Chamber. She said it wasn’t what she did, but how she did it. She said that it ate at her core. Bayley then asked why was knocking her down at the EC so easy.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Both Sasha and Bayley effectively told their side of the story to one another and the audience. This was important as we finally got some concrete insight as to what the exact issues were between them. With Sasha revealing that she’ll be trying to win the first ever Women’s WrestleMania Battle Royal this year, it appears we won’t be getting a match between the two. To me, that signals that this feud will continue its slow burn with either of them costing the other at WrestleMania. I worry about how long this can go on without a definitive turn on the part of one of them.
Before Sasha could answer, Absolution walked out and interuppted. Paige said that it was time for their match and that her ladies were going to show them how real ladies settle the score.
(4) BAYLEY & SASHA BANKS vs. SONYA DEVILLE & MANDY ROSE
The match began with Absolution gaining control before the broadcast went to a commercial break. (c)
After the commercial break, Bayley had the upper hand on Mandy Rose and kept her momentum with various elbow drops. Sasha made a blind tag on her own and attempted to pin rose. This frustrated Bayley. With Sasha not paying attention, Rose was able to connect with a strike of her own which gave the momentum back to Absolution. Rose then made the tag to Deville who continued the offense with a submission hold. Sasha attempted to make the tag, but Deville slammed her to the mat with a sidewalk slam. Deville then tagged in Rose again who promptly connected with running knee strike. She went for a cover, but only got a two count. Out of the pin, she locked in an abdominal stretch. Banks escaped the hold via a hiptoss, but was then taken down with a dropkick. From there, Deville and Rose kept Sasha in their corner. Eventually, Sasha hit the tag to Bayley who dismantled Deville with strikes, suplexes, and a flying elbow.
Bayley had Deville pinned, but the ref didn’t see it because Sasha was illegally in the match. Bayley then confronted Sasha and the two argued. Because of the argument, Bayley bumped Sasha out of the ring after being hit by Deville. Deville then covered Bayley for the win.
As they went to commercial, Cole said that he doesn’t know how much longer Bayley and Sasha can continue like this. (c)
WINNER: Deville and Rose via pinfall
Heydorn’s Analysis: An expected outcome here. They continue to plant the seeds of a nice story between Sasha and Bayley. It appears that there is no real platform for the payoff yet. That’s fine as this deserves its moment. It will be a challenge to see them milk this week in and week out until that platform appears though.
-John Cena’s music hit and the crowd erupted with their typical mixed reactions. In the ring, Cena smiled at the crowd and pumped up the crowd by simply mentioning their name. He said it wasn’t a typical Monday Night Raw and reminded everyone about his challenger to the Undertaker which he made last week. He said that tonight we’ll all get the Undertaker’s answer. Cena said that Undertaker has meaning. He said that audiences get brought to their feet by the mere mention of the name, Undertaker. Cena then played to the crowd again by asking what Dallas thinks about him. Again, John Cena asked Dallas if they wanted to see The Undertaker at WrestleMania. They cheered loudly and did the yes chant. He then said that Undertaker’s response to his challenge was nothing but silence. “Not a yes or a no, but nothing.” Cena then said that that was the biggest mistake The Undertaker has ever made. He then said it was “damn disrespectful” to not respond. Disrespectful to him, the fans, and anyone who has stood up and cheered for The Undertaker.
Heydorn’s Analysis: I’m surprised that this is the avenue that WWE is taking to get to Cena vs. Undertaker. They complicated a story that didn’t need to be complicated. All that needed to happen was for Cena to challenge Undertaker and say that he just needs to know who the better man is. Instead, Cena is unabashedly undercutting Undertaker ahead of their probable WrestleMania match. I don’t think the undercutting is working, but if its not working, why do it? Nobody believes Undertaker is any of the things Cena is saying so why say them. In the end, I believe this will iron itself out and we’ll get the match. The road from the beginning with Cena’s losing streak until now has just been “too much.”
Cena continued to be bewildered that Undertaker couldn’t or wouldn’t give them a yes or no answer. Cena said that if Undertaker was retired for him to say no and everyone could respect him. He then said to say yes and give the world what they wanted. Cena said that now Undertaker was “not the god they made you, the man you’ve allowed yourself to become: a coward.” From there, Cena called Undertaker a coward and told Undertaker to prove him wrong and do something. The crowd chanted “do something.” Cena said that Undertaker shouldn’t call himself a god and could barely be called a man. As he said this, Kane interuppted and Cole wondered if this was the sign Cena was looking for. Graves then said he may be just defending his brothers honor.
With Kane in the ring, Cena said Kane must be there to give the audience the response everyone deserved. He asked Kane if it was yes or no. Instead of giving an answer, Kane choke slammed Cena and left the ring. While Kane walked up the ramp away from the ring, Cole wondered if Kane accepted Cena’s challenge instead.
Heydorn’s Analysis: This missed the mark for me. Overall, in this match, we needed to see two stars battle it out to see who the better man was. Now its as if we are getting a whiny Cena facing a scared Undertaker. Hardly the characters that were game changing stars in this business. This won’t mean anything once the match happens, so maybe the road to get there is a matter of preference. My reaction is simply, why?
-After the segment, Cole recapped the Roman Reigns injury angle from earlier in the night.
-The Miz hit the ring next with the Miztourage as the broadcast went to commercial. (c)
-After the commercial, Matt Hardy was again shown on his compound talking to his giraffe.
-From there, Miz was shown in the ring with Miztourage at his side. With the crowd booing, he said that three weeks out from WrestleMania he still had no respect. He said that AJ Styles and Brock Lesnar get one on one matches and that he’s stuck in a triple threat match. He then yelled “no respect.” From there he asked the crowd if he was a bad guy and the crowd chanted “yes.” Miz then said at WrestleMania he’ll send Tyler Black and Prince Nevitt back to the bingo halls.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Prince Nevitt? Oh Miz, you mean Devitt. At least get your insults right! I like Miz, but he needs to find more than just bashing indy fans.
As Miz said that Gallows and Anderson hit the ring followed by Finn Balor himself. Nice pop for Balor as usual. With both teams in the ring, Seth Rollins came to the ring for commentary as they went to commercial. (c)
(5) THE MIZ & THE MIZTOURAGE vs. FINN BALOR, GALLOWS, & ANDERSON
After the commercial, the match had started and Finn Balor had the momentum against Curtis Axel. During the match, Rollins was on commentary and highlighted how important it was for him to win the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania and become a grand slam champion. Rollins then commented on how he missed a beat in losing to Balor last week, but that he was as focused as ever. Cole then reminded the audience of the Rollins MITB cash-in at WrestleMania 31.
In the ring, Axel had the upper hand by locking in a head lock on Balor. From there, Miztourage beat Balor up in their corner and cut the ring in half so he couldn’t reach his team. Balor fought his way out and finally made his tag to Anderson. Anderson connected with a few jumping kicks before hitting a jumping neck breaker off the top rope for a two count pin attempt. (c)
Out of the commercial, Finn Balor got the hot tag in the match and connected with his suicide dive over the top rope on the entire Miztourage. Balor then went to the top rope, but Curtis Axel knocked him off. Miz then attempted the Skull Crushing Finale but Balor countered into a pin attempt. From there, Balor pushed the Miztourage off the ring apron by using Miz. He then rolled Miz up for the 1,2,3 win.
After the match, The Miz and Miztourage destroyed Balor, Gallows, and Anderson. Then, with Balor alone in the ring, they looked to attack again, but Rollins made the save. He cleared the ring and then connected with The Blackout on Miz. With Miz laying in the ring, Balor and Rollins faced off nodded their heads at each other in respect.
WINNER: Balor, Gallows, and Anderson
Heydorn’s Analysis: Decent match and a finish that keeps this triple threat story moving on the track. Nothing special, but it worked. To me, they have the Miz story almost done within this match. They need to do more between Balor and Rollins. There is a historical backstory between them that they could and should go to.
-Matt Hardy was shown canoeing across the lake of reincarnation on the Hardy compound. (c)
-Out of the commercial break, a training video was shown with Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle. Footage was shown of her winning an Olympic medal and of her UFC championship action. Rousey said that she isn’t arrogant, she’s just the best. She said that people need to stop fearing the confidence of a woman. The video addressed her final UFC loss and showcased Ronda talking about it in detail saying that after it she felt “god hated her.” Angle then put over Rousey huge and said that Ronda would be the focal point of the match. The video wrapped up with Ronda saying that she was always meant to be at WrestleMania and that winning at WrestleMania is all that she cares about.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Excellent video. This showed a lot. By using Ronda’s Olympic and UFC footage, the WWE can properly showcase who Ronda Rousey is and why she’s so important and significant for the WWE. Ronda talking about her loss was a surprise, but it allowed the crowd to see inside her which will benefit her in the long run. That is something she never allowed while in the UFC and her public perception suffered because of it. The WWE is smart to try and correct that. Ronda is smart for letting them.
-A Bray Wyatt video played that showed him walking up to the Hardy compound. Wyatt had his lantern and then walked face to face into Hardy’s drone. Wyatt then walked into the camera and the scene cut to Hardy who was standing in the ring as Wyatt walked up to it. Hardy then said “Bray Wyatt, I knew you’d come” before commercials aired. (c)
(6) THE ULTIMATE DELETION – MATT HARDY vs. BRAY WYATT
Before the match began, Michael Cole “warned” the audience about what they were about to see and “apologized” for it.
Heydorn’s Analysis: This sounds like Vince hedging and saying “I still don’t get this, but whatever, go nuts.”
The match began with both Hardy and Wyatt circling each other in the ring. They fought in there with chairs and treated the crowd to some fireworks. From there Hardy haunted Wyatt by showing him visions of Sister Abigail’s house. This sent Bray off the deep end and he assaulted Hardy with a kendo stick. After, mat ran away and Wyatt hunted him down while yelling to him. Wyatt ended up the land of obsolete men. Hardy hid around what looked to be a graveyard with Wyatt hammering the headstones repeatedly with the stick. Finally, Wyatt found Hardy and destroyed him with heavier sticks and more vicious punches. From there, Wyatt attempted to slam Hardy through a piano in the dome of deletion, but was unsuccessful. Hardy then gained the upper hand and crushed Wyatt with a steel ladder.
Heydorn’s Analysis: I’m simply not a fan of this type of “match.” That said, the WWE did not explain the Hardy character well enough for this to work in any way. Something like this needs long term planning and storytelling to pull off and that just hasn’t happen for Woken Matt in the WWE.
From there, Hardy attempted to run over Wyatt with a lawn mower, but was stopped when Wyatt did his spider crawl. They brawled to a ring inside the dome of deletion with Wyatt keeping the momentum with some clotheslines and moves into the ring ropes. Once they made their way outside, Wyatt caught the drone and told it he’d deal with it later. After appearances from Senor Benjamin and Brother Nero singing “he’s got the whole world,” Hardy hit the Twist of Fate for the 1,2,3 win.
After the match, Hardy pushed Bray Wyatt into the lake of reincarnation. Then, Senor Benjamin went to retrieve him from the lake, but he was nowhere to be found. Hardy smiled and said that the great war was over and that Bray Wyatt has been deleted.
WINNER: Hardy via pinfall
Heydorn’s Analysis: This was what it was I guess. It’s hard to repeat something done so well. With the WWE behind this and the production they bring to the table, I was interested to see how’d it go. The bottom line is, the Woken Matt Hardy character was not developed enough within the WWE to showcase this match in this way. To work, the audience needs to understand the character and the pieces within that character’s world. That was missing here and everything was just, there. I give Vince and WWE credit for trying it even though he hedged on all of it via Michael Cole before the match began.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Overall, this was a very effective Monday Night Raw in terms of building matches for WrestleMania. Nothing stood out as far as ring work, but we got storyline progression for Reigns, Lesnar, Rollins, Balor, Miz, Strowman, Miztourage, Jax, Bliss, Sasha, and Bayley. And logical progression at that. That’s impressive. The Cena stuff throws me for a loop. They simply don’t need to go down this path to get to this match. Rarely are things easy in the WWE world. This was and they found a way to make it hard.