KELLER & POWELL FLAGSHIP (11/14)
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NOTE: Mike Meyers, who covers WWE Main Event and WWE Kickoff Shows for PWTorch, fills in as the Raw Alt Perspective reporter for Zack Heydorn this week; Zack attended Raw in person in Chicago.
WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW TV REPORT
MARCH 18, 2019
REPORT BY MIKE F. MEYERS, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Michael Cole, Renee Young, Corey Graves
The show opened in the arena with Lesnar’s music playing. Lesnar and Heyman entered to a very energized round of boos from the Chicago crowd. Brock smiled and held his belt aloft, urging on more boos. A “Burn it down!” chant began to stir. Heyman eventually got to his shtick, and the crowd joined along with his introduction before resuming their boos. Heyman accused Rollins of Shakespeare – no, Heyman-levels of propaganda. Heyman addressed Rollins’s contentions that Lesnar struggles against opponents of his stature by citing Lesnar’s victories against Styles, Bryan, and Balor. Heyman expressed disbelief that Rollins wants to wrestle McIntyre tonight, 20 days before Wrestlemania, after McIntyre ran through Ambrose and Reigns last week.
McIntyre’s music played and out came the Scot. McIntyre said he was happy to finally be paid some respect. He urged Heyman to find a new Wrestlemania opponent for Lesnar, because after tonight, Rollins will be unable to make it to Wrestlemania. Rollins appeared from behind and smashed McIntyre in the back repeatedly with a steel chair, in what one could call a serious heel attack from behind. Lesnar had a fantastic expression of disbelief, and when Rollins entered the ring with the chair, Lesnar quickly scooted out to ringside, smiled, and chuckled. Lesnar handed his belt to Heyman and looked up at Rollins, but Heyman screamed warnings against whatever Lesnar was thinking. The duo then walked calmly up the ramp while Rollins’s music played.
Balor’s music played and Finn addressed the crowd after the commercial break. Balor vowed that he wouldn’t be a former champion for too long, but was interrupted by Lashley’s music. Graves declared Lashley as the greatest physical specimen in WWE history. Rush had the mic, and indicated that the little leprechaun was upset because Lashley has his pot of gold around his waist. Rush introduced Lashley’s new favorite pose: Holding the Intercontinental title aloft with one hand. The crowd reaction was mild, considering the locale. Balor then introduced his partner: Braun Strowman. Strowman came down the ramp, and Rush looked very uncomfortable in the ring. Michael confirmed that Colin Jost and Michael Che would be special correspondents at Wrestlemania.
(1) FINN BALOR & BRAUN STROWMAN vs. BOBBY LASHLEY & LIO RUSH
Lashley started off against Strowman. They exchanged classic big man back-and-forth: Shoves and shoulder blocks. The show cut to the commercial moments after the bell rang, but thanks to Head and Shoulders, we were able to watch the match alongside the ads. Tags had been made and Lashley had gotten the upper hand over Balor by knocking him off the ring apron with an elbow.
The story of the match quickly became Balor’s struggle to tag in Strowman. Balor was able to neutralize Rush with relative ease, then made the hot tag. Strowman went for an apparent choke slam, but Rush flipped in midair, landing on his face. Strowman continued punishing Rush, but Lashley entered the ring and speared Strowman who had Rush hoisted on his shoulder. Rush began to stir first and went to the top rope and landed a frog splash on Strowman, but Strowman kicked out at two. Some antics ensued outside of the ring, and Strowman eventually choke slammed Rush, then executed a running power slam, all while Lashley abandoned his partner and walked up the ramp alone.
WINNERS: Finn Balor & Braun Strowman by pinfall.
(Meyers’s Analysis: Rush sure knows how to take a bump, and it’s amusing to see him work opposite a much larger opponent like Strowman. Lashley cemented the idea that he is a rubbish person by abandoning his most loyal supporter mid-match.)
Rousey was shown entering the arena backstage with her husband, Travis Browne. A referee and crew of security stopped her and said she was being fined for being late and would be monitored by security after last week’s events. She said, “Uh huh,” and walked away dismissively.
(Meyers’s Analysis: So it’s against the rules to not be in the arena before the start of the show? Holy sh–, the amount of fines that WWE would have levied over the years must be staggering.)
Alexa Bliss took the stage for A Moment of Bliss as we cut to commercial.
Bliss wanted to tell us what all the buzz was about for Wrestlemania, so she cut to… Michael Cole. The announce team then went through a very standard match rundown with on-screen graphics for the matches that have been announced so far for Wrestlemania. Back to Bliss. She introduced her guest: Elias. Elias walked onto her set while strumming his black Fender acoustic electric. “Hello, I am Elias.” “Hello, I am Alexa.” Bliss guaranteed that no one would interrupt Elias’s big announcement tonight. His announcement: He would be the headlining musical act at Wrestlemania, in the greatest city of them all, New York. Chicago booed.
Elias said he was born to live in the moment of pressure, that he thrives on it. “If my performance at Wrestlemania was a game-winning field goal, I’d make it every single time.” Bears fans were displeased. He said if anyone dares to interrupt him at Wrestlemania – but was interrupted mid-sentence by No Way Jose’s music. A conga line entered, headed up by Otis of Heavy Machinery. The line circled Elias and Bliss. Bliss interrupted the music and told Otis that they weren’t supposed to come out until the end of the show, and wondered why they even bothered having ten rehearsals. Elias got in Otis’s face, but was clubbed from behind by a large man in disguise. The man removed his mask and was revealed to be… NO WAY JOSE! In a Cubs tee shirt, no less. With bright green braids / extensions, no less. He ran down into the ring as we cut to commercial.
(2) ELIAS vs. NO WAY JOSE
The match was in progress as we returned from break, and Jose had Elias in an airplane spin. Jose locked in an arm bar as his conga line started a “No Way Jose!” chant that the crowd wasn’t interested in joining. The animated antics of the well-lit conga line at ringside was juxtaposed with a stationary, red-hued audience. Elias shouted, “Who wants to walk with Elias!” and Renee said, “Elias is jacked.” Graves responded, “Hell of an observation, Renee.” Elias landed the Drift Away for the pin and victory.
WINNER: Elias by pinfall.
(Meyers’s Analysis: A sad, marginal upgrade from a Main Event match that the crowd couldn‘t have cared less about. It’s as if the conga line was meant to distract from the crowd‘s indifference, but it almost served to draw more attention to it.)
Angle’s music played and Kurt made his way down the ramp as we cut to commercial.
After the break, Angle said his farewell tour would continue here in Chicago with another match. A “Thank you, Kurt” chant erupted from the crowd. Angle thanked the McMahon family for allowing him to pick his final opponent at Wrestlemania – someone who has made his life a living hell while he was general manager: Baron Corbin. The crowd booed.
(Meyers’s Analysis: I don’t think the tepid boos were against Corbin the character, but rather the choice of Corbin as Angle’s final opponent. The crowd seemed let down by this announcement.)
(3) KURT ANGLE vs. CHAD GABLE
Gable entered the ring and as the bell rang, he told Angle that he was an inspiration and that the pleasure is all his. The wrestlers locked up and exchanged holds to start, and a “This is awesome!” chant rumbled throughout the arena. Some back-and-forth action ensued, none of it at a fast pace, and Angle eventually fired Gable across the ring with a belly-to-belly suplex, the biggest bump of the match, and Gable rolled out to ringside.
The wrestlers took to some mat wrestling, and Gable got the upper hand, working on Angle’s arm. Angle leveled Gable by whipping him chest-first into the corner, then went again to the mat with a front chancery. Gable got to his feet and fired a charging Angle through the ropes out to ringside. Shockingly, we do not go to commercial. Gable drop kicked Angle’s knee as he attempted to climb into the ring. Gable covered for a two-count. Gable then locked up Angle’s left knee with a leg lock, but Angle kicked him off and knocked Gable out to ringside and viewers get knocked out to commercial break.
Angle knocked Gable down repeatedly with clotheslines and a back body drop, then nearly applied the ankle lock but Gable reversed and kicked Angle away. Gable ended up applying an ankle lock of his own, but Angle escaped by firing Gable into the turnbuckle. Angle got to his feet and began to apply the Angle Slam, but Gable reversed the maneuver into a DDT. Gable covered for a two count – a believable false finish. Angle managed to re-apply the ankle lock, but this time fell to the canvas and locked his legs around Gable. Gable tapped out within seconds.
Angle helped Gable to his feet and the wrestlers embraced.
WINNER: Angle by submission.
(Meyers’s Thoughts: Fascinating to see the shell of Angle wrestle a younger version of himself. Gable created all sorts of movement in this match. With proper buildup, Angle vs. Gable would be a better Wrestlemania match than Angle vs. Corbin; pitting two amateur wrestlers against one another. The mutual respect story would’ve tallied an easy feel-good moment at WrestleMania, and a better match to boot.)
Corbin then entered. Corbin explained how he liked humiliating Angle when he was general manager, but not as much as he will like dominating him in his last match. Corbin concluded with Angle’s line, “It’s true… It’s damn true.”
Banks and Bayley entered and went to the ring as we cut to break.
Backstage, Corbin was chatting with the Revival, who seemed unimpressed Corbin’s dealings with Angle. Apollo Crews entered and said he wanted a match tonight with Corbin. After some prodding from Crews, Corbin accepted. Crews said, “Why you gotta be so difficult? That’s why no one likes you!” Corbin turned to the Revival and said, “These guys like me… right?” The Revival snickered and said, in tandem, “Hell no!” and walked off camera.
(Meyers’s Analysis: The Revival’s positioning here is interesting. During matches they are portrayed as heels, but the fans tend to appreciate them as a skilled, entertaining tag team. When faced with Corbin, a heel in the purest sense, they are allowed to take our side against him. WWE, at least in this segment, is allowing them to be the cool heels.)
Bayley and Banks were interviewed in the ring by Charlie. Bayley indicated that they would defend their tag titles against anyone, and that they will be appearing tomorrow night on Smackdown that it would be… Iconic. Banks began to address their Wrestlemania aspirations, but Natalya and Beth Phoenix interrupted and walked to the ring.
With all four women in the ring, the crowd audibly heated up. Phoenix complimented the efforts of Bayley and Banks. She said she was content in her commentary role until she saw Jax and Tamina trying to set the women back with their jealousy and pettiness. She indicated that Jax and Tamina also “awoke the dragon.” She added that she loved her WWE career but that there was one thing missing, and went on to challenge the tag champs for the new tag team championships at Wrestlemania. The camera panned up to a sign hanging from the rafters.
Bayley suggested that Phoenix reconsider the challenge, and that Wrestlemania might be too soon for her to get up to speed. Natalya chimed in and praised Phoenix’s prowess. Banks interrupted and said Natalya was riding the coattails of Phoenix just to have a match at Wrestlemania. This was too much for Natalya, who smacked Banks across the face. Banks tackled Natalya, then Phoenix tossed Banks to the ring apron with little effort. When confronted by Bayley, Phoenix shoved her to the canvas as well. Commercial break.
(4) SASHA BANKS vs. NATALYA
We rejoined the show just as the bell rang for a freshly-concocted singles match. Natalya locked Banks in an abdominal stretch at mid-ring. Banks broke free and fired Natalya into the corner, then landed a knee attack. Natalya ducked a second strike and leveled Banks with a clothesline. Jax’s music played and all in-ring action ceased. Jax had a mic and began throwing shade at Phoenix. Phoenix, distracted by Jax’s harsh words, was blindsided by Tamina. Tamina then super kicked the charging Bayley and Banks, which resulted in a DQ finish.
Winner: Banks by disqualification.
(Meyers’s Analysis: Boss & Hug Connection vs. Natalya and Phoenix could be a good Wrestlemania match – it’s unfortunate that Jax and Tamina are still in the mix. Not only will they be involved in the remaining episodes of Raw, but there’s a good chance this will result in the dreaded triple threat tag team match at the big show.)
We cut to Mojo Rawley backstage – in a nebulous black void – talking to a mirror. He had harsh words for himself and his alleged potential, and he screamed at himself to “Figure it out!”
(Meyers’s Analysis: If someone has to talk to a mirror, at least they figured out how to film it. This is a quantum leap for WWE directing: Rawley actually looked into his own eyes in the mirror, instead of into the reflection of the camera lens. It’s Emmy time.)
Ricochet entered to his music, and the crowd seemed very pleased. Commercial break.
(5) RICOCHET vs. JINDER MAHAL (w/ Singh Brothers)
Ricochet essentially ran circles round Mahal before leveling him with a missile dropkick. Mahal retreated out to ringside, but Ricochet continued the attack back in the ring. The Singhs provided momentary distraction to Ricochet that allowed Mahal the opening he needed to land a clothesline to Ricochet on the ring apron.
Mahal locked in a Main Event Chinlock. Some fans started an awkward “U.S.A.!” chant as Ricochet nearly got to his feet before being slammed back down to the mat. The wrestlers got to their feet and Mahal delivered a slow paced beatdown before going back to the chinlock. Eventually Ricochet countered with an enzuigiri and another drop kick, knocking Mahal to the canvas. Ricochet fired Mahal into the corner with a hurricanrana, then knocked Mahal down again with a flying clothesline. Ricochet executed a running shooting star press and covered for a two-count.
Mahal rolled out to ringside to the comfort of the Singhs, but Ricochet performed a Space Flying Tiger over the top rope to demolish the threesome outside of the ring. Ricochet rolled Mahal back into the ring then scaled the top rope. Ricochet jumped into a spinning blur known as the 630 senton, landed on Mahal, then pinned for the three-count.
(Meyers’s Analysis: I haven’t seen anyone sell this much for Mahal since his ill-conceived title run. Ricochet is a phenom – watching him working with Mahal is like watching the Quicksilver scenes from X-Men films.)
After a break, Rollins was interviewed backstage, where he was questioned by Dasha about his chair attack on McIntyre. He said that tonight was for Dean and Roman, and for Brock Lesnar, too. Rollins cited Bay Area thrash-metal pioneers Metallica by saying he wasn’t afraid to fight fire with fire.
Rousey was pouting and pacing in the ring as her music played. We cut backstage to Charlie with Dana Brooke. Brooke admitted she might not be better than Rousey, but she only has to be better than Rousey for three seconds to become Raw Women’s Champion. Brooke’s entrance commenced.
(6) RONDA ROUSEY (c) vs. DANA BROOKE – Raw Women’s Championship match
Proper championship match introductions were made once both wrestlers were in the ring. Graves said that Brooke’s guidance counselor lied to her when she told her she could be anything she wanted when she grew up. The bell rang and Rousey squashed Brooke within 30 seconds with a few leg strikes and the arm bar submission.
WINNER: Rousey by submission.
Rousey had a celebratory smooch with her hubby at ringside when security ran down the ramp and confronted her. Rousey decked one, Browne decked another, and the confrontation fizzled once Browne scooped up Rousey and hoisted her over the barrier. Back in the ring, Brooke writhed in slow motion agony. We cut to break.
(7) BARON CORBIN vs. APOLLO CREWS
As the match commenced, Michael said that the WWE Universe is upset that Angle selected Corbin as his Wrestlemania opponent. Crews took out Corbin with a moonsault from the ring apron outside of the ring. The announce team continued to discuss Corbin’s Wrestlemania match as Corbin locked in a chinlock.
Crews battled out of the chinlock but was met with the Deep Six by Corbin, who covered for a two-count. This should have been a big false finish, but the crowd was checked out. Corbin got a bit caught up in his posturing and sign-pointing, allowing Crews to roll up Corbin for the pin and victory.
Angle joined Crews at the top of the ramp and congratulated his friend on the victory.
WINNER: Crews by pinfall.
(Meyers’s Analysis: This match actually served some purpose. It was a backdrop for the announcers to expand on the Corbin-Angle story, and the in-ring action reinforced Corbin’s arrogance and foolishness.)
We were shown a scene of Batista being prepped and groomed backstage, sat in a fine leather armchair and flanked by the finest golden tapestries Illinois has to offer. Commercial break.
Michael Cole, from his announce table via headset, asked Batista what he has against Triple H. Michael asked if the strife goes back to the Evolution days. Batista said it goes back further than that – that Triple H only groomed him to be his muscle. “He talked down to me, underestimated me.” Batista said he blames Triple H for his walking out on the company, that he left because of Hunter. Batista pointed out what he’s achieved since leaving WWE – and that he’s now in a position of control, without Triple H.
When Michael asserted that Triple H has only ever been kind to him, Batista pointed out that Triple H is the “Cerebral Assassin,” and that he’s got everyone fooled. He predicted two things: One day, Vince will wake up and fire Triple H. And at Wrestlemania, he will end Triple H’s in-ring career. He shouted at the crew to get out of his pretty office, then stormed off camera.
(Meyers’s Analysis: In this pre-taped segment, Batista came off a little disjointed – though not as bad as last week’s live promo. Hearing only Batista’s side of the story in this segment, he doesn’t come off as a completely groundless heel. We will have to wait to see Hunter’s drawn-out, meandering response next week.)
After a break, Bliss and Strowman were shown backstage. A recap was shown of Strowman destroying the Chevrolet Camaro gifted to him by SNL star Colin Jost. Bliss said it was her job to make sure Wrestlemania runs smoothly, and she offered to broker peace between Strowman and the SNL lads. Strowman agreed to give her one week.
McIntyre’s music played and Drew made his entrance for tonight’s main event. We cut to break.
McIntyre addressed the crowd from the ring. He announced that the Shield is no more, thanks to him, and now he’s got Rollins attacking him like a coward with a chair. He proclaimed this as his yard now, since putting Reigns down last week. McIntyre mentioned Reigns’s leukemia return, and said that if Reigns wants to be a hero and an inspiration, that he has a challenge for him: A fight at Wrestlemania. The crowd’s response was minimal.
He urged Reigns to choose his family over the fans, because the fans don’t care about him. “I will hurt you, I will maim you, I will destroy you! You may have beaten leukemia, but on the grandest stage of them all, you will never beat me!” Rollins appeared on the big screen, began breathing heavily, and said “That, right there, is why I did what I did to you earlier tonight, Drew.” A replay was shown of Rollins’s chair attack from hour one.
Rollins charged in and McIntyre intercepted him on the ramp and the two began brawling. Referees separated the two as Rollins rolled into the ring. Commercial break.
(8) DREW MCINTYRE vs. SETH ROLLINS
McIntyre whipped Rollins to the mat and locked in an arm bar. Seth worked his way upright and broke free but was knocked down again with a reverse elbow. McIntyre covered for two, then went back to the arm bar. “Let’s go, Rollins!” echoed plaintively in the arena. Rollins nearly mounted some offense but McIntyre hit the brakes and executed repeated suplexes, then applied another arm bar, this time with his knee driven into the backside of Rollins’s skull.
The wrestlers wound up on the floor and brawled at ringside. Rollins attempted a moonsault off the ring steps into thin air, and McIntyre did his best to side step the harmless attack and fling Rollins to the floor. We cut to commercial.
The wrestlers were back in the ring, and Michael said that McIntyre was hell-bent on destroying every member of “the group formerly known as the Shield.” With a fistful of Rollins’s hair, McIntyre shouted, “I’ve taken out your brothers!”
Rollins finally countered McIntyre’s attacks with a hurricanrana that sent McIntyre out to ringside. Rollins ran the ropes and dove through the ropes at McIntyre, but McIntyre intercepted Rollins, twisted, and fired him back-first into the barricade. McIntyre then located and wielded a steel chair of his own. McIntyre was distracted by the referee, what with the foreign object, allowing Rollins to super kick McIntyre. Both men collapsed, and the referee began the double count-out, but both wrestlers rolled in at nine.
Rollins immediately clotheslined McIntyre over the top rope, then landed two suicide dives outside of the ring before delivering a sling blade inside the ring. “Burn it down!” chants began to echo throughout the arena, but they were short lived. McIntyre caught Rollins and delivered an Alabama Slam – a move previously unheard of in the northern parts of the United Kingdom.
McIntyre set up Rollins atop the top turnbuckle, but Rollins slithered down to the canvas. Rollins sprinted toward McIntyre, who was now perched on the turnbuckle, and executed a snap superplex, followed by a Falcon Arrow and pin for a two-count. The crowd began to sizzle as Rollins grabbed the ropes and stomped his boot, eliciting another “Burn it down!” chant. Rollins planted a boot to McIntyre’s midsection just as Lesnar’s music played.
Rollins froze in his tracks and stared at Heyman and Lesnar, who were slowly waltzing onto the stage and posed no imminent threat. This allowed McIntyre to blitz Rollins from behind with the Claymore Kick, which was sufficient for the three-count and victory.
WINNER: Drew McIntyre by pinfall.
(Meyers’s Analysis: Rollins is a moron.)