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HEYDORN’S WWE RAW REPORT
MARCH 26, 2018
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Jonathan Coachman
-The show kicked off with Brock Lesnar’s music blaring through the loudspeakers. Coachman told the audience that nobody would have to wait to see if Brock would show up this week. As Lesnar walked to the ring, Cole heavily promoted his main event match against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania and then him and Graves wondered what Reigns’s condition would be after the beating he took at the hands of Lesnar last week.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Cole and Graves were a little too heavy handed in how they played the injuries that Reigns suffered. If they cooled it on the story and let the audience live it themselves, the process of Reigns getting over could feel more organic and less orchestrated by the WWE.
In the ring, Paul Heyman grabbed the mic and presented Brock Lesnar to a 50/50 crowd reaction. Heyman called the Reigns beating savage as part of the crowd cheered. Heyman said that not even his articulation of the beating could do it justice. From there, he proceeded to cue up a video of the attack. As the video played, all three announcers drove home just how horrific the attack was. After the video aired, a close-up of Lesnar was shown smiling and part of the crowd cheered.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Oof, that’s a bad sign. The entire video was setup to put sympathy on Reigns as was the commentary by Cole, Graves, and Coachman over it. To show Lesnar smiling immediatley after to a chorus of cheers was not what the WWE was looking for. That said, again, it was overproduced in favor of Reigns and it doesn’t allow for him to get over on his own merit.
Heyman then said that the temporary suspension of Roman Reigns was lifted, but that Reigns was not at the building. Part of the audience cheered that as well. Heyman continued on and said that he couldn’t give the credit for the Reigns absence to Lesnar. He then went on to talk about Roman’s family history and how his family raised him to fight. He then said it was a shame they didn’t raise Roman Reigns to be a man. He said a man would be in the building and that he was advertised to be there. Heyman said that if the beating went the other way, Lesnar would have shown up the week after to address the beating like a man. From there, he said that Roman Reigns was not man enough to show up and he’s not man enough to take the Universal Title from Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. As Heyman was about to conclude his promo, the crowd cheered and Reigns was shown entering the ringside area.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Is it possible for Heyman to be too good? If so, this was it. Heyman flawlessly dismissed the Lesnar “part time” criticisms that Reigns laid on him a few weeks ago. He was trying to setup the audience for Reigns’s eventual appearance, but I found myself just nodding along with him and agreeing with his heel assessment of Reigns. Job well done, Paul. A little too well as that could not have been the desired response.
Reigns picked up a steel chair and went after Lesnar. Lesnar immediatley clotheslined Reigns, before Reigns drove him face first into the ring post. Reigns then assaulted Lesnar with a steel chair shots to Lesnar’s back. Reigns attempted a flying superman punch, but Lesnar caught him and sent him flying with a suplex. From there, Lesnar picked up the steel steps and smashed them into the face of Reigns before tossing them into the ring.
In the ring, Lesnar picked up the steps again and smashed them into Roman’s face. From there, Lesnar demolished Reigns with five to 10 chair shots. A loud majority in the crowd chanted “one more time” during the beating. Lesnar then picked up his championship as Coachmen and Cole said that Roman came to fight against all odds even if he wasn’t 100%. As Lesnar’s music played, he left the ramp and entered the ring again to deliver an F-5 to Reigns on the steel steps. Coach ended the segment by saying that Lesnar was the champion and nobody could do anything about it. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: This was an entertaining segment, but wasn’t effective in achieving WWE’s main goal of getting Reigns over as the lead babyface. Heyman was on his game and Lesnar did some shockingly cool moves to Reigns. They were so cool though, that the crowd liked them and wanted to see more. The WWE can’t have it both ways with these segments. These beat downs can’t be cool. The cool factor makes people cheer Lesnar over Reigns. That coupled with the overproduction of Reigns left him in the same position as he was within this feud coming in.
-After the commercial break, Reigns was shown walking up the ramp as Michael Cole told the audience that this week Reigns was leaving on his own power.
(1) NIA JAX vs. MICKIE JAMES
Nia hit the ring first and as she made her entrance, a recap video was shown of Alexa Bliss talking behind her back two weeks ago. James came out next with Bliss at her side.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Jax got a really nice pop for her entrance and people seemed genuinely excited to see her. This is a good sign for this program. The heel work that Bliss has been putting in clearly is working and it should lead to a big moment when they finally go toe to toe at WrestleMania.
Jax dominated and tossed James around the ring as the broadcast went to commercial. (c)
After the commercial break, Jax was distracted by Alexa Bliss at ringside which led to James getting the upperhand with a chop to the back of Jax’s knees. Jax was slow to get back into the ring, but when she got in, James was there to deliver stiff kicks to Jax’s midsection.
Eventually, Jax picked up James for a big body slam and delivered it in the middle of the ring. This got a big babyface response from the crowd. James quickly got the momentum back. She climbed to the top rope, but Jax lifted her up and tossed her into a super Samoan drop. Jax then covered the James for the 1,2,3 victory.
-After the match, Bliss attempted to blindside Nia, but Jax caught her. Bliss then cowardly ran to the back as Nia yelled at her from the ring. The camera even picked up Jax saying the B word. (c)
WINNER: Jax via pinfall
Heydorn’s Analysis: A pretty standard A to B match. It pushed the Jax/Bliss feud along and kept Jax looking strong. The biggest takeaway is the reaction received for her offense in the ring. People like seeing her toss James around. This is a good sign for the growth of Jax as a top babyface in the Raw women’s division. Also, just like last week, they didn’t give away Jax finally getting her hands on Bliss. Clearly the WWE is leaving that moment for WrestleMania and they milked the moment again this week.
-Out of the commercial break, a hype video for Ronda Rousey and Stephanie McMahon aired. This was a new video that featured comments from Triple H and Stephanie McMahon in character. Triple H called Kurt Angle and idiot and said that his actions were why they were in the position they were in. Stephanie said that sometimes they just need to show the world who’s boss. From there, Triple H and Stephanie were shown training. Stephanie then talked about how she would beat Ronda Rousey and that she would use her vulnerability against her. Triple H then addressed Kurt Angle and said that he’s been beating Kurt his whole career. He then said that it will be embarrassing for Ronda when she inevitably gets beat by an executive at WrestleMania. They then said that after WrestleMania, they’ll repackage Ronda Rousey and present her again as it should have been done from the start.
Heydorn’s Analysis: This worked very well. Triple H and Stephanie addressed many of the elephants in the room regarding this match and did so successfully. Yes, it was a bit ridiculous to allude to the fact that they train harder than Ronda does, but since they are heels, that’s ok. They should be delirious with their thoughts. I thought the video gave them more heat and showed just how out of touch they are as executives.
(2) CEDRIC ALEXANDER & MUSTAFA ALI vs. TJP & DREW GULAK
Alexander made his entrance to a better reaction than I expected. The broadcast then went to a commercial. (c)
After the commercial, both teams were in the ring and doing battle. 205 Live GM, Drake Maverick, was on commentary and did a great job of setting up this match by saying that because he was given time on Raw he wanted to shake things up by teaming Ali and Alexander together even though they would be opponents at WrestleMania.
In the match, Alexander got the hot tag and Cole recapped his year in the cruiserweight division. Alexander attempted to pin TJP, but it was stopped by Drew Gulak. This sent Gulak to the outside which led to Ali hitting a high flying over the top rope suicide dive.
Back inside the ring, Cedric hit the neuralizer on TJP. As he did, Ali made the hot tag into the match as Alexander hit the Lumbar Check. Cedric went for the pin, but was told he couldn’t because he wasn’t the legal man. Ali then hit the 054 and pinned TJP for the 1,2,3 win. Alexander and Ali stared and smiled at each other as they raised their hand in victory. (c)
WINNER: Ali and Alexander via pinfall.
Heydorn’s Analysis: This match was essentially a commercial for 205 Live and the cruiserweight tournament final at WrestleMania. It succeeded in that light. Both Alexander and Ali are the show’s top stars and they showcased their talents well. Maverick was brilliant on commentary in selling the new 205 Live. He continues to breathe fresh air into that product. He’s natural sounding and can convey his thoughts well. He embodies the change of that show so it was smart to feature him on commentary for this match. Right now, nobody sells the 205 Live brand in character better than he does.
-After the commercial, The Miz was in the ring with the Miztourage for Miz TV. Miz successfully turned his home crowd against him with an LA comment and then ran down the Miztourage for letting him down. Miz told Bo Dallas that he should go “Bo-Lieve himself back to catering” because he would be nothing without him.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Miz did a great job of quickly turning his hometown crowd against him. Other guys on the roster would have basked in the cheers he was receiving. Regardless of your opinion on Miz, you have to respect his commitment to maintaining his heel status even in a welcoming environment.
This prompted Seth Rollins to come out to the ring for the biggest babyface pop of the night. Rollins said he usually hates Miz TV, but that he was enjoying this particular episode. He said he didn’t meant to interrupted and that he would let them hash out their problems. Rollins then said, he could help mediate. He told Miz that the Miztourage clearly felt underappreciated. Rollins asked Miz when the last time he thanked the Miztourage was. He said he should thank them because without them, he wouldn’t be Intercontinental Champion. Rollins then proceed to lead the crowd in a “Miz-Tour-Age” chant.
From there, Miz touted his accomplishments as Bo Dallas interuppted him by calling him an A-lister that couldn’t fight. The Miz asked him what he said, before Finn Balor interuppted.
Balor said he was a scheduled guest and told Miz that he could help as well. Balor said he could help everyone figure out what Bo Dallas said. Balor clarified and said that basically, Miz was a jerk. Dallas then disagreed with Balor and told the world again what he really said. This prompted a yes chant from the audience. Miz told Dallas to say it again and as he did, The Miz slapped him in the face. Dallas attempted to confront Miz before Axel got in between them.
From there, Miz said he was just trying to fire his team up. He said he needed focus so that he could become the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion of all time and better than the greats like Shawn Michaels and Mr. Perfect. The crowd rumbled as Miz said that “that one slipped.” He then said for everyone to take a deep breath and that Miz TV was cancelled for the night to a loud chorus of cheers from the audience. As he tried to leave, both Dallas and Axel stopped him. As Dallas and Axel appeared to start attacking Miz, they flipped, and attacked Balor and Rollins. Cole and Graves called it an elaborate setup by the Miz. As the attack went on Anderson and Gallows stopped it by fighting with The Miztourage. This left The Miz in the ring alone. Balor got some comeuppance with a couple strikes before Miz rolled out of the ring. With the Miz on the outside, Rollins and Balor exchanged turns holding the championship. From there, Balor saved Rollins from a behind the back attack from Miz and then clocked Rollins as Cole said “this is what it will be like at WrestleMania.” (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: Just like last week, I thought this segment was a little too heavy on telling a story between The Miz and Rollins/Balor. They drove a wedge between Seth and Finn at the end, but it was small. These guys have history and for this match to be all it can be, the WWE needs to tell the Rollins/Balor story as good as they’ve told the one with Miz.
-After the commercial, a pre-recorded video was shown with Kane. He said that some demons want to rest in peace. He told John Cena that he wouldn’t be going to WrestleMania, but that he would be going straight to hell.
(3) ASUKA vs. JAMIE FROST
Asuka made her way to the ring first to a nice crowd response. Michael Cole sold her WrestleMania match against Charlotte as she made her entrance. Cole then tossed the broadcast to Charly Caruso at ringside who was with her opponent Jamie Frost. Frost said that Asuka wasn’t ready for her.
The match began with Frost delivering some stiff right hands and a slap to Asuka. Asuka then kicked Frost in the face and covered for the 1,2,3 pin.
WINNER: Asuka via pinfall
Heydorn’s Analysis: Asuka needed this coming off of her match last week in which she got little to no offense in. I thought it was well timed in defining her as a total bad ass ahead of her Charlotte match in two weeks. That said, its strange that she continues to be featured on Raw.
-After the match, Cole admitted that he offended the WWE Universe with his comments regarding the Ultimate Deletion from last week. Graves basically told Cole he was a loser for not understanding what it was. Graves then went on to recap the match from last week.
-Matt Hardy was then showed on the screen. He said that Bray Wyatt’s reign of tyranny was over. He said the great war was over as well. Hardy then said he will now set his sites on WrestleMania and win the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: This spot is exactly right for Matt Hardy. It plants the opportunity for Bray to return from being deleted as well. Graves did a tremendous job as making Michael Cole out to be a total loser as well. He was a little over the top but got his point across successfully. He needed to be the guy to sell that match and its good that WWE recognized that.
-After the commercial, Bayley was confronted by Sasha Banks backstage. Banks said she got Bayley’s text. Bayley said that she was entering the Women’s WrestleMania Battle Royal as well. The two then argued back and forth with Banks telling Bayley that everyone around backstage thought she was a loser. Banks said she was a four time womens champion and Bayley responded with “how long did you keep it.” This prompted an all out brawl between the two that had to be broken up by WWE officials.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Its unfortunate that Banks and Bayley won’t get an opportunity to have a one on one match at WrestleMania to settle this feud. That said, because of how personal the words got toward each other in this segment, it was a good and effective time to lay in a physical altercation between the two. This could lead to a match next week on the WrestleMania go-home show and certainly gives the women’s battle royal at WrestleMania a shot of adrenaline.
-Braun Strowman’s music hit and he walked to the ring to loud cheers from the audience. Cole reminded the crowd that he’d need a partner for his tag team match in order to have his WrestleMania moment as the show went to commercial. (c)
(4) BRAUN STROWMAN vs. SHEAMUS
Ahead of Sheamus’s entrance, Cole and Graves discussed how Braun needed a partner for WrestleMania. Graves curiously said that he doesn’t know if Braun Strowman even wants one. Sheamus then walked to the ring and cut a promo on Strowman. He said that he Cesaro had Strowman figured out. Him and Cesaro said that all he does is catch people off guard with his entrance. Sheamus then said at WrestleMania they didn’t want any surprises and that they wanted to know who his partner was so they could prepare like pros. Strowman said that he would tell them who his partner was if Sheamus beats him in their match. Sheamus insisted and Braun responded by saying that he might give them an answer, but he guaranteed he would “get these hands.”
In the match, Sheamus briefly had some momentum before locked in his offense. He tossed Sheamus around the ring and connected with a variety of clotheslines. The broadcast went to commercial as Cole said “Strowman rules.” (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: A Billy Madison reference?
After the commercial, Sheamus had the upperhand on Strowman. He worked Strowman’s arm in the corner by bending it over the ropes. He continued by pounding on it in the middle of the ring before locking in a shoulder submission hold. Eventually, Strowman powered out and hit a flurry of clotheslines again on his opponent. The clotheslines sent Sheamus to the outside of the ring. Braun followed and delivered a shoulder tackle to Sheamus before tossing him back in the ring. With Sheamus in the corner, Braun charged at him and ended up diving into the metal ring post because Sheamus moved out of the way. Sheamus covered, but only got a two count.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Early in the match, Cole alluded to the fact that Strowman may have tweaked his knee in Sheamus’s initial run on offense when the match began. Cole kept up that story and referenced it within the match every time Sheamus got any semblance of offense in on Braun. I liked this a lot as it made Strowman a bit more human while protecting him and maintaining his monster character.
Out of the pin, Strowman was able to catch Sheamus off the ropes. From there, he delivered his powerslam finisher and covered for the 1,2,3 win. (c)
WINNER: Strowman via pinfall
Heydorn’s Analysis: This match was a lot like the Jax match earlier in the night. It did its job in further the Strowman tag team story while not giving too much away.
-After the commercial, Kurt Angle’s music hit and he made his entrance to the ring. He said that WrestleMania was only two weeks away and proceeded to introduce Ronda Rousey. Rousey had a smile on her face and slapped the hands of fans as she walked down the ramp. In the ring, Kurt hugged Ronda before he handed her a microphone.
Kurt told Ronda that he thought she was ready for WrestleMania. He said that Triple H and Stephanie will be prepared for everything and that their match wouldn’t be easy. Ronda said that’s good and that she wasn’t looking for easy. Rousey told Stephanie she was trust fund and limousine tough and that she would get what she deserved at WrestleMania. Ronda then looked at the camera and said that meant “her ripping her arm out of its socket.”
Heydorn’s Analysis: Ronda needs so much work on the microphone. It felt like she was reading her words throughout that entire thing. That said, when she turned up the intensity and and said “ripping her arm out of its socket” she came off a little more real. When she is in intense mode, she has turned in her best performances. WWE should take note of that and use that mode more. With that as her base, she can grow other parts of her promo game.
Absolution’s music then hit and Paige and her group walked to the ring. Paige welcomed Ronda to Raw and said that Raw was her show and her house. Paige then told Ronda they could be her backup. Rousey dismissed Paige and said that she had an Olympic gold medalist backing her up. Paige laughed it off and said that if that were true, the McMahon’s wouldn’t be on her bad side. Paige then invited Ronda to a be a fourth member of Absolution. Ronda thanked her, but then said no and the crowd cheered for that answer. Paige said that wasn’t a good choice and that Ronda just made some enemies. Deville and Rose then attacked and while Angle stopped Rose, Deville was caught by Ronda and then clotheslined. Ronda then picked up Rose and suplexed her into Deville before Kurt Angle raised her hand. Rose then tried to attack again and Ronda countered with an arm drag. She then maneuvered Rose into an arm bar submission. Ronda did not completley lock-in the hold due to Angle convincing her not to. From there, Rousey’s music hit.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Ronda isn’t feeling what she’s doing out there. She’s going through the motions, but isn’t selling them and doesn’t appear to be buying them either. If she isn’t connecting with what she’s doing, how can the crowd? Everything from her movements, words, and physicality are over scripted. She undoubtedly needs to be protected and scripted a little bit, but she also needs to learn to feel the moment shes in. In previous appearances, the intricate production helped her. Tonight, it made her look off. The segment wasn’t crippling, but it was a step in the wrong direction.
-After the Rousey segment, a video recap was shown of Roman Reigns getting destroyed once again at the top of the show by Brock Lesnar
-Gallows and Anderson hit the ring as the show went to commercial break. (c)
(5) GALLOWS & ANDERSON vs. THE MIZTOURAGE
After the break, The Miztourage had the momentum in the match. The two teams brawled briefly at ringside before Bo Dallas locked in a sleeper hold on Anderson in the ring. From there, Dallas and Axel continued to wear down Anderson as he kept working to make the hot tag to Gallows. Finally, Anderson connected with a spinebuster on Dallas before getting the tag. Gallows entered the match and easily cleaned house. He then hit a big splash tagged in Anderson again for the Boot Of Doom. Both teams went back and forth before the finish saw Gallows and Anderson get the 1,2,3 win after the Magic Killer
WINNER: Gallows and Anderson via pinfall
Heydorn’s Analysis: Just a filler match here. Much like The Revival last week, a match like this makes you think about what could have been with a team like Gallows and Anderson.
-Elias was shown walking backstage before the show went to break. (c)
-Out of the commercial break, Elias was in the ring trolling the crowd with his regular routine while laying in Cleveland Cavalier jokes. He then sang a song about WrestleMania before Rhyno interuppted with Heath Slater at his side.
(6) ELIAS vs. RHYNO
Rhyno and Elias exchanged chops to start things off. Eventually, Elias got the upperhand and maintained control of the match with hard, aggressive kicks. He then locked in a chin lock before he slammed Rhyno to the mat by his hair. From there, he went for a pin, but only got a two count. Out of the pin, Rhyno gained some momentum back with back to back shoulder tackles. He then whipped Elias into the ropes and followed for a splash, but Elias countered with a boot to the face. From there, Elias connected with the Drift Away and covered for the 1,2,3 win.
WINNER: Elias via pinfall
-After the match, Elias attacked Heath Slater and Michel Cole wondered what a performance by Elias at WrestleMania would be like.
Heydorn’s Analysis: I’m interested in an Elias performance at WrestleMania as well. He could be the one taking a spear and jackhammer at the hands of Goldberg after a quick musical performance.
-Out of the commercial break, the announce team promoted the full WrestleMania card
-A video package aired that recapped John Cena’s attempt to get a match with the Undertaker at WrestleMania.
(7) JOHN CENA vs. KANE – No Disqualification Match
After the commercial, John Cena’s music hit and entered the arena to his typical mixed reaction. Kane came out next.
Heydorn’s Analysis: I said this in 2016 and 2017, but I can’t believe Kane is main-eventing Raw in 2018.
The match started with Kane gaining the early momentum. As he did, Cole and the announcers debated whether or not they were surprised that Undertaker hadn’t responded to Cena yet. The action spilled to the outside of the ring with Kane slamming Cena into the ring barrier before tossing him back into the ring. The crowd chanted “Undertaker” as Kane went for a pin attempt. He only received a two count and then locked in a sleeper hold submission. Eventually, Cena escaped the hold and attempted to lift Kane up for an AA. Kane’s weight was too much for him to handle and his legs crippled beneath him. After, Cena rolled out of the ring and Kane followed to keep the momentum on his side. Kane tossed Cena into the ring steps and kept control as the broadcast went to a commercial break. (c)
Out of the commercial, Cena and Kane were brawling in the tech area of the arena. Cena hit Kane with a metal barricade and Kane answered with a vertical suplex onto the very same barricade. From there, Kane carried Cena back toward the ring and tossed him back into the ringside area. Cena climbed into the ring and as Kane was removing the turnbuckle pad, Cena sat up like the Undertaker and hit Kane with his five moves of doom combination. After, Cena tossed Kane into the exposed turnbuckle, mocked the Undertaker, and then nailed Kane with an Undertaker-like chokeslam.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Cena sitting up like Undertaker, delivering the chokeslam, and doing Undertaker’s patented throat taunt was a nice touch within this match. I’m still not buying this whole story, but this was another level to Cena calling out Undertaker that didn’t involve him begging on the microphone.
After the chokeslam, Cena went under the ring and got a table. He set it up in the ring as Kane sat up. Kane kicked Cena in the gut and tried to put him through the table. Cena countered and tried the same thing, but Kane pushed the table out of the way. Finally, Kane setup the table in one of the corners and ferociously tossed Cena through it. Kane immediatley went for the cover, but Cena kicked out at two. After the pin attempt, Kane setup another table and signaled for his own chokeslam. Instead, Cena countered and delivered an AA to Kane through the table. Cena then covered for the 1,2,3 win.
WINNER: Cena via pinfall
-After the match, Cena stood in the ring and looked confused. Into the microphone he asked, “no lightning? No bells of terror? No Undertaker?” From there, he screamed “Where are you!” The crowd chanted “Undertaker” in response. Cena then looked at the camera and called Undertaker a coward. Cena then looked directly into the camera and said that Undertaker didn’t get to be mysterious. He said he needs an answer, yes or no? The crowd responded with chanting “yes” and “do something.” Cena went on to say that Undertaker has one week left and that he could do something or nothing. He said doing nothing would let him down and would prove to the audience that all he cared about was himself. From there, Cena finished by saying he hopes he sees Undertaker next week.
Heydorn’s Analysis: This felt like more of the same to me. Cena has now done this exact same thing three weeks in a row. The taunting of Undertaker within the match was well done, but this desperation and begging by Cena is getting old. I was expecting another layer for this story tonight and it wasn’t delivered.
-The show concluded with Cena walking up the ramp and Cole asking if the Undertaker would ever rise again.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The term filler episode gets tossed around a lot in the television world, but tonight’s show is exhibit A for what one looks like. Last week, storylines progressed for nearly every Raw WrestleMania match and tonight they all just tread water. There weren’t any significant developments on any front. With the go-home show on deck, its understandable to move forward that way, but the outcome is a C level program from start to finish.