SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
APRIL 16, 2018
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Jonathan Coachman
LISTEN TO WADE KELLER’S POST-SHOW PODCAST ON THIS EPISODE OF RAW INCLUDING LIVE CALLERS AND AN ON-SITE CORRESPONDENT…
-Cole introduced the show as Kurt Angle’s ring entrance began. Fans chanted “You suck!” to the beat of his music, as usual, and he smiled and encouraged them. Cole said the G.M.’s from Raw and Smackdown have been negotiating all week, and he said the wrestlers in the back from both Raw and Smackdown are nervous. Graves said Angle has been smiling all day and is clearly excited about some major acquisitions. Angle was interrupted by Samil Singh who announced Jinder Mahal, the current U.S. Champion, as the newest member of Raw. Cole said Mahal is big news, but so is the U.S. Title coming to Raw. Coach said a lot of Smackdown wrestlers won’t be happy about the belt going to Raw.
Jinder complained about being brought to Raw in an SUV since he insists on limousine with a motorcade. Angle said he never agreed to that. Jinder said Angle brought him to Raw knowing his expectations, and he declared he is better than any wrestler on Raw. Jinder said he wants the same perks as Brock Lesnar. Angle said instead of using this forum, he could email him his list of demands. Singh said it’s a great idea and asked for Angle’s email address. Angle said it’s: “email@example.com.” Angle said on Raw they settle things in the ring, so if he thinks he’s better than everyone else, prove it. Mahal said he doesn’t just think it, he knows it. He said he’d be defending the U.S. Title tonight. Mahal and Singh protested. Out came Jeff Hardy to a nice crowd pop. Cole said this isn’t how Mahal wanted to start his Raw career.
(1) JINDER MAHAL vs. JEFF HARDY – U.S. Title match
The crowd cheered as the bell rang. Cole noted the U.S. Title has been held by more than a dozen WWE Hall of Famers. Coach went “rah rah Raw” saying that he likes Angle showing Mahal how champions have to defend their titles on Raw. Hardy dove onto Jinder at ringside. Then they cut to a break. [c]
Jinder rammed Hardy into the ringpost during the break and had settled into a chinlock/armbar as they came back live. Cole said Jinder didn’t endear himself to the WWE roster already. Singh distracted Hardy a few minutes later, but Hardy was unaffected and took Jinder down for a legdrop between his legs and then a basement dropkick for a two count. Hardy set up a Twist of Fate, but Mahal countered and nailed Jeff with a knee to the face for a near fall; Jeff grabbed the bottom rope to stop the count. Mahal set up the Khallas, but Hardy countered into a victory roll for a near fall. Mahal then fired back with a quick boot to the face for a believable near fall. A loud “Hardy!” chant broke out. Jinder gave Hardy a lift-and-drop gut-buster, but Hardy leveraged it into a cover for a two count. Then he hit a Twist of Fate. He climbed to the top rope and landed the Swanton for the win.
WINNER: Hardy in 12:00 to capture the U.S. Title.
(Keller’s Analysis: Big way to kick off the Superstar Shake-up. I like Hardy as U.S. Champ to send a message he’s relevant here as he returns to the active roster and not just a legacy gatekeeper. Jeff Hardy became the no. 3 trend on Twitter after this match. Jinder was no. 8.)
-The announcers hyped Miz TV and a big Superstar acquisition.
(Keller’s Analysis: Hmmm. Who’d be the perfect Smackdown wrestler moving to Raw to be a guest on Miz TV? The shadowy image on the screen of the mystery wrestler could not pass a WWE Wellness Test.)
-A commercial aired hyping the arrival of “Something More to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” on WWE Network starting Wednesday. [c]
-The announcers commented on a replay of the title change. They showed fans reacted with cheers in slo-mo.
-Backstage Jinder was fuming and Renee Young approached him for comment. He said it was a conspiracy to bring him to Raw to embarrass him. He said he wasn’t even warmed up. He invoked his rematch clause at The Greatest Royal Rumble in two weeks. He said he will take back his U.S. Title. Suddenly No Way Jose’s music played and he made his way to the scene. He told Jinder to put a smile on his face. “When life tries to get me down, I say no way.” He then invited Renee to his fiesta. They danced away as Jinder snarled.
-The announcers said tomorrow night, Raw Superstars will find out if they’ve been moved to Smackdown.
(2) BAYLEY vs. SASHA BANKS
They showed the accidental blow Bayley gave Sasha at ringside last week on Raw. Bayley slipped on an attempted body press off the second rope. The announcers said that’s an example of Bayley being overzealous and nervous going into this match. Sasha kneed her in the ribs. Cole said Sasha has been more cold and Bayley has been more emotional. Bayley threw Sasha over the top rope seconds later. She then dove through the ropes legs-first and head scissored Sasha at ringside. They cut to an early break. [c]
With Sasha in control several minutes later, she began talking some trash and shoving Bayley in a heelish way. “I’m better than you, Bayley!” she shouted. Then she slapped Bayley. Bayley slapped her back. They exchanged slaps. They they went at it with a barrage of punches. Graves said it’s like they’ve never been best friends. Sasha rolled into the Bank Statement. Bayley reached for the bottom rope, but then the Riott Squad from Smackdown attacked Sasha from behind.
WINNER: No contest in 9:00.
-The Squad attacked both Sasha and Bayley. Coach said whenever it seems they’ll get some resolution between Sasha and Bayley, something happens. The heel trio stood over the other two. Cole said this means The Riott Squad have been acquired by Raw.
(Keller’s Analysis: With the Iconics showing up on Smackdown last week, and the end of Absolution, this move makes sense as Riott Squad essentially replaces Paige’s group. As for Sasha and Bayley, is there anyone left who cares? It looked like Sasha was being the bigger jerk here, but neither of them are coming out of this looking particularly admirable.)
-WWE is back to advertising Undertaker vs. Rusev in a Casket Match. Last week there was a social media outrage over Chris Jericho replacing Rusev in the casket match that drew in Undertaker’s wife, Michelle McCool. [c]
-A soundbite aired with Rhyno & Heath Slater who looked at this as a second chance at Authors of Pain. Rhyno said they don’t take second chances lightly. There were WORDS ON THE SCREEN emphasizing their key words as they spoke them.
(3) AUTHORS OF PAIN (Rezar & Akam) vs. HEATH SLATER & RHYNO
Cole noted AOP dumped Paul Ellering last week. Graves said the creation has outgrown the creator. Graves said Akam is a former amateur wrestler who turned down opportunity to compete at the Olympics and Rezar fought in MMA for Bellator at one point. Rhyno hot-tagged in and took Rezar down with a flying shoulder tackle. Akam broke up a cover after a Rhyno belly-to-belly. Slater ran in to even the odds. They knocked Slater to the floor and finished Rhyno with the Last Chapter double-team clothesline.
WINNERS: AOP in 3:00. [c]
-Miz TV: Miz, with Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas, introduced his segment. He said his guests represent a seismic shift in WWE. He introduced Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Cole emphatically said it’s impossible for them to be acquired by Raw since they no longer worked for Smackdown. Coach said they were obviously signed as free agents. Miz said this is bigger and better than the NWO and better than the 1992 NBA Dream Team. He called it WWE’s version of “The Avengers.” He said, “This blockbuster won’t be held back by the egotistical Shane McMahon and they don’t have to answer to wanna-be movie star Paige.” He said together they are changing the landscape of WWE and transforming Raw into their image. He put the Raw locker room on notice. Angle then walked out.
Angle said Miz doesn’t have any control. He said Kevin and Sami had their chance to be added to Raw last week, but they both lost. KO said there’s an email that was sent a few minutes ago that he should be aware of. He said plans have changed. Sami offered to read Angle the email himself. He put on his reading glasses and read a statement allegedly from Stephanie McMahon who overruled Angle because he was too emotional and unfair to KO and Sami last week. KO and Sami obnoxiously celebrated and said there’s nothing Angle can do about it.
Angle said he’s surprised Stephanie had time to type an email considering how much physical therapy she must be undergoing after Ronda Rousey yanked it out of socket. Angle then informed Miz that Daniel Bryan still has pull and he wanted Miz on Smackdown, so he is being shipped to Smackdown. Miz said that can’t be real. Angle said it is. Miz said he just made Smackdown the clear-cut B-show to the clear-cut A-show. He said they will make Smackdown the most must-see show of all-time. Angle said the Miztourage isn’t going anywhere. Axel and Bo looked very sad. Angle said he has a going away present, though – KO & Sami & Miz & Miztourage vs. Finn Balor & Seth Rollins & Bobby Lashley & Braun Strowman & a WWE wrestler making his Raw debut.
(Keller’s Analysis: Mysteries are always fun. Who has never been on Raw before who could team with those other four top babyfaces? Breaking up Miz and Miztourage is kind of sad. This also seems to indicate Bryan will stay on Smackdown to feud with Miz, since it seems like such a logical feud for Bryan at this time.)
-A soundbite aired with Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt. Bray had a black background and Matt had a white background on a virtual split screen.
-A commercial hyped the continuation of the Superstar Shake-up tomorrow night on Smackdown. [c]
(4) THE REVIVAL vs. MATT HARDY & BRAY WYATT
Cesaro and Sheamus joined the announcers on commentary. Bray did the crab walk to Dash Wilder, then tagged in Matt. Cesaro seemed exasperated by Coach asking him to explain what The Bar means. Bray gave Wilder a Urinage and then tagged in Matt. Bray gave a Sister Abigail to an interfering Dawson, after which Wyatt helped Hardy give Dash a Twist of Fate.
WINNER: Hardy & Wyatt in 6:00 to earn a Raw Tag Team Title match at the Greatest Royal Rumble event.
-A commercial aired with WWE wrestlers singing about all future WWE PPVs being co-branded.
-They went to the announcers on camera. Cole touted the co-branded PPVs. Then Graves said they’d show the Rousey-Stephanie confrontation next on Raw.
-A commercial hyped Aleister Black appearing for the first time as NXT Champion on NXT TV this week. [c]
-The Fashion Police approached Cesaro & Sheamus. They said they’ve been transferred to a new distract and are going to clean up the streets. They threatened tickets for their fashion violations including wearing dresses, which was rather hypocritical of Tyler Breeze in particular. Breeze said they have no theme and everything just clashes. Fandango mispronounced mohawk, which upset Cesaro.
-The announcers talked about the arrival of Ember Moon, No Way Jose, and The Authors of Pain last week. Moon got a nice pop. They also showed Sami, Owens, Riott Squad, and Jinder Mahal. Then they showed Rousey putting an armbar on Stephanie last week on Raw.
-Rousey chatted with Angle backstage. She said Stephanie was wrong if she thought they’d just hug it out. Angle said Stephanie won’t go away quietly, and who knows what she has planned in the Superstar Shake-up. There was a knock on the door, and then in walked Natalya. She smiled. Rousey hugged her. Angle said he didn’t know they knew each other. Rousey said they trained together. Angle said Natalya pushed hard to move to Raw. Natalya said this is a fresh start for her. She said if she’s not the best there ever will be, at least she can be the second best. She fist-bumped Rousey.
(Keller’s Analysis: Natalya legitimately did work with Rousey in the ring, so this makes sense to have Natalya on the same brand, presumably quickly leading to a turn by Natalya against Rousey. Rousey working matches with Natalya early in her WWE run makes total sense because of their familiarity and Natalya’s experience.) [c]
(5) EMBER MOON vs. MICKIE JAMES
Nia Jax was a guest on commentary. Alexa Bliss was scheduled to be at the table, too, but they interviewed her from the back. She said it was a set-up and she wouldn’t let Nia have the satisfaction of gloating about her win.
WINNER: Ember Moon with the Eclipse in 5:00.
-Sami and KO bickered backstage about their strategy. Sami said they needed to put the mystery man out of their mind, but KO disagreed. KO didn’t like how Angle was treating them. Miz entered the picture and asked KO and Sami what Shane is like these days. He asked how he thought he’d treat him. Sami told Miz to concentrate on their match tonight first. Miz turned and told Bo and Curtis to mourn tomorrow and focus today. Miz said they need to make his Raw Finale a “must-see” event.
-They hyped the mystery wrestler again. It sure looks like a picture of Rob Terry from TNA. [c]
-Dolph Ziggler walked out to the same no-music immediately turns into entrance music entrance bit. He taunted the crowd and said, “Oh, so sad. So sad.” He said he still steals the show everywhere he goes. He YELLED, of course, so that is also the same. He said one thing has changed, though. He was interrupted by Titus O’Neal, Apollo, and Dana Brooke. Titus pitched Ziggler a spot in Titus Worldwide so he could maximize his return. He said they could take things to the next level with his connections and conquer the world. Ziggler thanked him for the offer “for so loudly interrupting me while I was talking.” Did he just accuse Titus of talking too loud. Ziggler said he didn’t return to Raw alone. Drew McIntyre then attacked Titus and Apollo. Coach said, “This is next level, but the not the next level Titus was talking about.” The crowd chanted “Holy sh–.” Ziggler superkicked Titus in the corner. Graves said this is a shocking arrival. McIntyre then attacked Apollo with a barrage of punches. Fans chanted “McIntyre!” Cole called it remorseless vicious attack. Cole said this changes the landscape of Raw.
(Keller’s Analysis: Interesting to see Drew return as a heel. He’s good as both a babyface and a heel, but WWE is more in need of heels. Ziggler was also in need of something fresh to enhance his character. I expect, if Reigns wins the Universal Title and stays babyface, that Drew is on a short list of people penciled in to challenge him.) [c]
-Roman Reigns came out to an outburst of boos. Reigns looked around at the crowd. The announcers talked about his match in Saudi Arabia next week against Brock Lesnar in a cage for the Universal Title. More boos as he entered the ring and the music stopped. A “Roman sucks!” chant broke out. A small pro-Roman chant began, and then boos got louder to drown them out. “Once again I’m here and Brock Lesnar isn’t,” he said. More boos. He said he’s going to leave Lesnar trapped in a cage, and then he’s headed back to Raw. More boos. Constant. He said he’ll return as the full-time Universal Champion. Scattered cheers and more boos. He was interrupted by Samoa Joe.
Joe said Roman brags about showing up to work, but he noticed he doesn’t brag about getting the job done. He said he hasn’t got the job done and he never will. He said he’s not getting in the ring with a normal Superstar in Saudi Arabia, but a Beast who has beaten him every time he’s stepped in the ring with him. He said he’d almost feel sorry for him, but he can’t because he won’t learn until somebody puts him down for good. “When Brock Lesnar is done massacring you in the cage, I’ll be waiting for you at Backlash to put the Big Dog to sleep once and for all,” he said. “Since you’ve got a lot of bass in your voice and fire in your eyes, let me remind you what the Beast has done to you and what I will do to you.” Then a montage of the Reigns-Lesnar match aired.
Back live, Reigns told Joe: “That’s everything that Brock has done. Why don’t you come on down and let’s see what your lazy fat ass can do.” (Do babyfaces call wrestlers like Joe “lazy fat asses?”) Joe walked half way to the ring, then stopped and returned to the stage. Boos. Then Joe turned again and headed to the ring. Then he said from ringside, “I’ll see you at Backlash on my time.” Reigns music played and then boos started again.
(Keller’s Analysis: Reigns is just boring. He’s not really offensive to fans at this point, as much as fans are just over him. I think he’s just so flat as an act at this point and there’s no reversing the booing. Joe was his usual good, believable self.) [c]
(6) MANDY ROSE (w/Sonya Deville) vs. NATALYA
Graves talked about how the Superstar Shake-up changes who you train with and travel with, not just which show you’re on. Coach said you have “Abso- on Raw and -lusion on Smackdown, I don’t know how it would work.” Graves said that’s why he makes the jokes. Cole agreed that was really bad. Natalya won with a Sharpshooter.
WINNER: Natalya in 3:00.
-Deville and Rose attacked Natalya afterward. Rousey walked out to make the save. The heel duo bailed out. Rousey checked on Natalya. Deville entered the ring and went after Rousey. Rousey smirked and then blocked a Deville punch. She took her down with a few jabs and a tackle. Rousey then knelt by Natalya to check on her and help her up. Cole touted the speed of Rousey’s punches.
(Keller’s Analysis: It’s good to see Rousey integrating into the main roster and away from Stephanie McMahon.)
-Cole threw to a video introducing the latest Raw addition – Baron Corbin.
(Keller’s Analysis: Another possible heel opponent for Roman Reigns moved to Raw.)
-Breezango came out to their entrance music. [c]
(7) BREEZANGO vs. CESARO & SHEAMUS
Graves tried to explain Breezango to Coach and Graves. Sheamus rallied late and tagged in Cesaro, who landed the top rope elbow on Breeze. Cole called it like it was the finish, but Breeze kicked out. Coach couldn’t believe it. Cesaro reached to tag Sheamus, but Fandango yanked Sheamus off the ring apron. Breeze then rolled up Cesaro for the upset win. Coach said that instantly puts Breezango in the tag team title picture.
WINNERS: Breezango in 4:00.
-Renee interviewed Elias who said he doesn’t play rinky-dink dirtbag towns like Hartford anymore because he’s too big time now. He called Renee “Rachel.” He said a lot has changed since Lashley was last in WWE. He said, for one, he has become the biggest star in WWE and Lashley should sit in the stands and worship him like everybody else. He said if he interrupts him again, he’ll learn what everyone already knows – that WWE stands for… crowd yells: “Walk With Elias!” Elias said Renee obviously wants a private performance. He asked her to silence her cell phone. Renee said they don’t have time for that. He told her to shut her mouth and began playing anyway. [c]
-Graves plugged the Superstars Shake-up continuing on Smackdown tomorrow night. Cole hyped that Lesnar will be on Raw in St. Louis next week.
-Ring entrances began for the main event with KO and SZ coming out. Then Miz with the Miztourage. Then Braun Strowman, Finn Balor, Bobby Lashley, and Seth Rollins. The announcers joked that if Seth gets moved to Smackdown, he’ll need a new t-shirt, which says: “Monday Night Rollins.” Coach said, “It’s all about the march.” Then a dramatic pause as Seth told the heels at ringside that even he doesn’t know who his partner is. Then out came Bobby Roode. Cole excitedly congratulated Angle for this pick-up. “Has the landscape changed here on Raw or what?” said Cole.
(8) BOBBY ROODE & SETH ROLLINS & FINN BALOR & BOBBY LASHLEY & BRAUN STROWMAN vs. THE MIZ & MIZTOURAGE & KEVIN OWENS & SAMI ZAYN
Graves said Lashley is as wide as most doorways. Early in the match, Seth dove onto KO at ringside. The rest of the heels ran over to KO. They cut to an early break. [c]
Coach asked how Braun is going to handle having a full sized partner. Graves asked what he was talking about. Coach said he’s used to ten year olds. Graves said that was stupid. Lashley tagged in and overpowered Sami with a barrage of offense. Cole touted his MMA experience and said he’s competed all over the planet. He vertical suplexed Sami and then pressed and threw Miz onto KO and Axel at ringside. [c]
Graves began talking about the good news of who was added to Raw but lamented Miz leaving for Smackdown, forgetting that earlier he said he wins either way because he is on both shows. Coach wondered if Miz knows that Daniel Bryan tweeted about him tonight. Graves said he of course knows because Miz has an entire social media team. Roode got the hot-tag and gave Axel a Blockbuster. Bo broke up the cover. Axel tagged in Miz who went for a figure-four, but Roode small packaged him for a two count. Roode clotheslined Miz and then tagged in Braun. Miz bailed out and ran around the ring. Braun knocked KO into the ringside barrier and caught up to Miz. Sami distracted Bryan, giving Miz a small opening, but Braun gave him his hands and chokeslammed him. He charged at Bo and Curtis in the corner, but they moved and Braun went shoulder-first into the ringpost. Balor entered and went after Miztourage, but they knocked him to the floor. Seth dove onto Curtis at ringside. Roode then surprised Sami with a Glorious DDT. KO superkicked Roode. Lashley entered and gave KO a spinning elbow and then a spinebuster. Miz threw Roode out of the ring. Miz and Strowman were back one-on-one as the legal two in the ring. Miz threw two dropkicks in the corner at Strowman. On a third attempt, Strowman dropkicked him. Both were slow to get up. Miz leaned over to tag in Bo and Curtis, but they dropped off the ring apron and refused to tag in. The crowd chanted “Yes!” They walked to the back. Coach said he couldn’t blame them. Miz slowly turned and Strowman charged hard and then gave him a running powerslam for the win.
WINNERS: Strowman’s team.
(Keller’s Analysis: No surprise that Miz would “do the honors” on his way out of Raw, although it’s such a strange policy for WWE since they’re in theory sending Miz to Smackdown colder than if he looked strong here. But it’s Miz, so it doesn’t matter much as he’ll talk his way back to his normal level, as usual.)
SUPERSTAR SHAKE-UP TALLY
MOVED TO RAW:
-The Riott Squad (Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan)
-Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens
-Breezango (Fandango & Tyler Breeze)
KNOWN MOVES TO SMACKDOWN:
LISTEN TO WADE KELLER’S POST-SHOW PODCAST ON THIS EPISODE OF RAW INCLUDING LIVE CALLERS AND AN ON-SITE CORRESPONDENT…