TOP 3 DEVELOPMENTS – RAW 3/26: Lesnar beats on Reigns again, another Undertaker no-show, Triple H & Stephanie prepare

By Jeff Vandrew Jr., PWTorch contributor

Ronda Rousey with Stephanie McMahon and Triple H


Lesnar’s Beating on Reigns Continues…

Recap: The show began with Brock Lesnar approaching the ring with Paul Heyman. Heyman recapped the events of last week, and then announced that while the Roman Reigns’s suspension was lifted, Roman Reigns was not present. Heyman did not credit Lesnar for Reigns’s lack of appearance, but instead credited Reigns’s Samoan lineage, alleging that his relatives failed to teach him to be a man. He said that if the roles had been reversed last week, with Lesnar having been the one taking a beating in handcuffs, Lesnar would’ve appeared the following week no matter how injured he was.

To Heyman’s surprise, Reigns then appeared in the crowd and approached the ring. He attacked Brock with a chair, but was quickly taken down by Lesnar. Reigns recovered to deliver a beating with the chair to Lesnar. Reigns’s injuries caught up to him, however, and Lesnar again gained the upper hand, attacking Reigns with the steel stairs and a chair. After the initial beating, Lesnar returned to F5 Reigns onto the steps.

Evaluation: I’ve written previously in this column that the “lazy part-timer” angle for Lesnar had won me over to Reigns. I also expressed some reservations about how that angle played out last week, with Reigns attacking innocent U.S. Marshals and Lesnar delivering multiple beatings to Reigns.

Based on tonight’s crowd reaction, it seems that last week’s attempts to get Reigns over did backfire. When Heyman showed a replay of last week, the crowd cheered along with Lesnar laughing at the replay.

WWE did seem to realize that Reigns’s attacks on the U.S. Marshals last week were probably not a great way to get him over as a face, because during the replay Michael Cole went out of his way to mention that the Marshals “manhandled” Reigns, and later in the promo Heyman went so far as to mention that the Marshals were in reality just a bunch of guys taken from a local MMA school dressed up to look like law enforcement. The latter reveal was too much of a break from kayfabe for Raw television in my opinion.

Forecast: With only one week of television remaining, the fan reaction to Roman Reigns is likely locked in. I would not expect an enthusiastic reaction for his victory in two weeks.

Stephanie and Hunter Prepare…

Recap: An extended video package aired showing Triple H and Stephanie’s training regimen for their upcoming match with Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey. Interspersed with the training footage were parts of a sit-down interview with both of them. Stephanie emphasized her superiority by virtue of being a McMahon. The interview segments closed with Stephanie and Triple H stating that after they embarrass Ronda at WrestleMania, they’ll “repackage” her to market her to the masses. They both came across as the puppetmasters of WWE.

In a later in-ring promo, Ronda referred to Stephanie as tough, but “trust fund tough, limousine tough, personal trainer tough.” She was interrupted by Absolution. Paige offered her membership in Absolution, which she declined. Absolution then attempted an attack on Ronda, which ended in Ronda getting an armbar on Mandy Rose. Kurt Angle was able to calm Ronda down before she did any serious damage to Mandy’s arm.

Evaluation: Overall, the video package was well done. It appears that WWE read a bunch of internet message boards, noted the most frequent criticisms of Stephanie, and amplified them in the interview to increase her heel heat. The entire interview emphasized that WWE as an entity mattered above all, that the McMahons were WWE, and that the wrestlers themselves were basically just interchangeable pawns for the McMahons. [The “repackaging” comments at the end of the interview really hit this last point home.]

On the other hand, the attempts to rewrite history to show Stephanie as a legitimate fighter based on her previous in-ring experience in the 1990s and early 2000s sort of fell flat. Perhaps this is by design, as it gave Ronda fodder to doubt Stephanie’s toughness in the later promo.

Ronda definitely still seems awkward on the mic. Hopefully this will improve in time.

Forecast: Ronda will obviously win at WrestleMania. The real question is whether the match quality will be passable. We have no way of knowing since we haven’t really seen Ronda in the ring, so we’ll have to trust the process.

Another Undertaker No-Show…

Recap: John Cena had a mostly no disqualification match with Kane, which Cena won. During the match, Cena performed the Undertaker’s patented throat slash and chokeslam in an attempt to provoke him. After the match, however, the Undertaker did not appear. Cena cut a promo repeating that the Undertaker was selfish and cowardly, and said he hoped to see him next week.

Evaluation: This was for the most part more of the same from Cena. The throat slash and chokeslam were a nice touch.

Coach seemed to acknowledge the internet discussion about this angle when he said fans were split between those that want to see the match and those that think the Undertaker is in no condition to continue wrestling. Interestingly, Coach also questioned in what “form” the Undertaker would appear, perhaps a nod to the discussions swirling about whether the Bikertaker character will return.

Forecast: Unless WWE is planning on pulling the biggest troll of all time on the fans, we’ll see the Undertaker next week. The real question is whether the Dead Man or the Bikertaker appears. Considering every Undertaker match could be his last match ever, I would expect to see the Dead Man. It’s unlikely that the Undertaker or WWE would want the Bikertaker to be the final image of Undertaker in the ring.

Random Thoughts…

-The Cruiserweights appeared again on Raw tonight after a long absence. I don’t think these tag exhibitions with nothing on the line do much to inspire fans to check out 205 Live. A meaningful match at a PPV is more likely to succeed in that regard…

-WWE seemed to acknowledge the error of having an announcer pre-emptively apologize for a segment about to air (especially an anticipated one), as Michael Cole issued an on-air quasi-apology for his intro to last week’s Ultimate Deletion…

-Typically the first of two friends to resort to physical violence is the heel, so it appears Sasha Banks will be the heel in the Sasha-Bayley breakup…

NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: TOP 3 DEVELOPMENTS – RAW 3/19: Roman Reigns defies his suspension and U.S. Marshalls, Braun gets his WrestleMania match, Alexa vs. Jax set

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