KELLER & POWELL FLAGSHIP (11/14)
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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
MARCH 25, 2019
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Renee Young
-The announcers opened up by talking about the news that WWE released earlier that the Women’s Raw Title match would headline WrestleMania this year. Graves hyped the Beat the Clock Challenge with the three women facing Riott Squad members one at a time with the “all important momentum” headed into WrestleMania at stake.
-Ronda Rousey marched out. Fans pelted her with a “We Want Becky!” chant. She wore her pouty face. She said the women are headlining WrestleMania and all she has to say is “you’re welcome.” She dropped the mic. She picked up the mic and said she has more to say, but the fans won’t appreciate it. She said she will tap out both Charlotte and Becky Lynch at once. She dropped the mic. She lifted it and said she does have more to say. She said she has no idea what a Beat the Clock challenge is, but it sounds like another lame gimmick, so let’s get to it.
(Keller’s Analysis: This version of Rousey is really entertaining and believable. Dropping the mic and then picking it up for more comments was a tremendous touch, as was pretending that she doesn’t know or care what a “Beat the Clock” match is)
Becky Lynch came out onto the stage and took some verbal digs at Rousey. She said nobody gave a damn about Ronda until The Man came around. “Becky!” chants rang out. “These people know the best thing that ever happened to you is me,” she said. She took credit for them being the main event of WresteMania. She said Rousey also knows how this ends: “With your title above my head and your skull beneath my foot.”
Charlotte walked out onto the stage next. Charlotte said WrestleMania is headlining with them because of what she’s done the last seven years, not what Ronda’s done the last year or Becky’s done the last few months. “That’s why I was hand-picked to be the main event of WrestleMania,” she said. (Charlotte is morphing into latter-day Cher a little with her make-up and facial expressions, if not her outfits.)
(1) RONDA ROUSEY vs. SARAH LOGAN (w/Liv Morgan, Ruby Riott) – Beat the Clock
Rousey chased Logan around ringside as she tried to extend the clock (although that means nothing to her). Rousey chased her, pushed through Ruby and Liv at ringside, and dove into the ring. Logan, though, stomped on her and then applied a standing leglock mid-ring. Rousey climbed the ropes and applied an armbar. She had to break before five, though. Rousey then pummeled Logan with an elbow and applied her armbar for the tapout win at 1:25. Graves said it’s a tall task, if not impossible, for Becky and Charlotte.
WINNER: Rousey at 1:25.
(2) CHARLOTTE vs. RUBY RIOTT (w/Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan) – Beat the Clock
Charlotte ducked a clothesline by Ruby early, then hit went for the Natural Selection, but Ruby countered and scored a two count with 30 seconds left. Rousey watched nervously from the stage. Charlotte applied sudden figure-four leglock. Ruby teased tapping, but held on. The match then ended without a decision.
WINNER: No decision.
(3) BECKY LYNCH vs. LIV MORGAN (w/Sarah Logan, Ruby Riott) – Beat the Clock
As Becky entered the ring, Charlotte gave her a boot to her face. Liv settled into a chinlock with 30 seconds left to milk the clock. Graves messed up by saying it’s bad strategy for Liv because she can’t win in 30 seconds, but it’s not really to her advantage to take chances as Becky’s the one with everyone to gain or lose. Becky went for a Disarm Her early, but Liv countered. Becky came back with a jackknife leverage pin to get the three count.
WINNER: Lynch with 0:07 left in the 1:25 clock.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good drama and well booked for what it was, but with the caveat that it’s unrealistic to believe Becky would just happen to beat Liv in under 1:25 in any other circumstances, so it feels orchestrated or forced the way the match played out. But you can talk yourself into the idea, I suppose, that the urgency at hand led to Becky going for the win quicker and it worked. Now, if you are familiar with WWE booking, this should worry Becky fans because what challenger ever wins on TV before going on to win at the PPV with the title on the line?)
-They showed Finn Balor warming up backstage. [c]
(2) FINN BALOR vs. BOBBY LASHLEY (w/Lio Rush) & JINDER MAHAL (w/The Singh Brothers)
Balor came out first. The announcers explained he had to win to get a chance at WrestleMania. Then Lashley and Rush came out to face Balor two-on-one. Rush said Balor should have quit because the path to WrestleMania runs through them. He took a dig at Gronk, calling him a spent piece of trash. Then Rush switched out with Mahal because he wasn’t medically cleared. The announcers discussed the unfairness ever-so-briefly and then moved on. Rush and the Singh Brothers took it to Balor early with a flurry of distractions and then Lashley clotheslined Balor off the ring apron to the floor. They cut to a break. [c]
Back live Balor was “battling back against impossible odds.” Cole again noted Balor had to win to make it to WrestleMania. Balor knocked Mahal into Lashley on the ring apron, knocking him to the floor. Balor landed a double stomp and then clotheslined Mahal over the top rope. He set up a dive, but the Singh Brothers grabbed his leg and distracted him. Balor fended off a charging Mahal, threw him to the floor, flip dove onto al three, and then back in the ring landed a Coup de Grace for the win. “Finn Balor is going to WrestleMania!” exclaimed Cole. He called it a “miracle in Boston.” Renee said maybe Lashley should have picked a better partner when rigging the contest in his favor.
WINNER: Balor in 5:00.
-Afterward, an enraged and frustrated Lashley attacked the Singh Brothers and then speared Mahal. Lashley then tried to make an “irate” facial expression. (I’d give him a 10 for effort, but a 3 overall for pulling it off.)
-They went to the announcers on camera. Cole plugged the Kurt Angle vs. A.J. Styles match on Smackdown. Renee plugged Elias would be the musical guest at WM. They cut to a video of Elias at Times Square strumming his guitar. Nobody was bothering him, which may be a bad sign. In walked another street performer who was playing guitar. Elias said he’s a solo act. He asked if the guy can sing. The guy began singing. Elias stopped him and said he’s a typical New Yorker with a big ego but little talent. (That will win over the Boston fans.) Graves said being excited to see Elias at WrestleMania is like going to see KISS live and being more excited about the opening band.
-Aleister Black made his ring entrance as Cole plugged the next match.
(3) THE REVIVAL vs. ALEISTER BLACK & RICOCHET
Ricochet made his ring entrance. The Revival attacked Ricochet & Black as soon as they arrived in the ring, but before the bell. Fans chanted “NXT! NXT!” The ref restored order and officially started the match. The announcers talked about how Black and Ricochet clicked early and have such great teamwork. Black and Ricochet each did dives at ringside, although both barely connected. They cut to a break as The Revival regrouped. [c]
Back from the break the announcers talked about Ricochet & Black needing a win to secure a chance at WrestleMania. Revival controlled Ricochet and scored a near fall. Eventually Black hot-tagged in and went to work on Ricochet with rapid-fire offense that had the crowd ooh’ing and ahh’ing. The Revival took control again and Dawson scored a near fall after a DDT on Black, with Ricochet making the save. Ricochet blind-tagged in and then Black hit both Ricochet members with Black Mass. Ricochet then landed a top rope 630 for the win. Graves said it was a fundamental error late by Revival that opened the door for the Black Mass. They replayed the 630 in slo-mo and it looked great. Graves said they haven’t heard the last of Ricochet & Black regarding WrestleMania.
WINNER: Black & Ricochet in a non-title match.
(Keller’s Analysis: They’ve basically set up WM as the “inevitable” crowning of the new red-hot team Black & Ricochet, but it’d mean more if Revival weren’t just having consistently really good matches with everyone, but also winning some of them.)
-The announcers hyped Triple H would appear later to respond to Batista’s satellite interview last week.
-Drew McIntyre walked out onto the stage. They cut to a break.
-A Smackdown commercial asked what is next for Kofi Kingston and said New Day would react to last week’s happenings. [c]
-Drew said he doesn’t give a damn if fans like him, but he said they will respect him. He said one week is a long time to wait for an answer. He said he understands why Roman Roman is hesitant to answer. He threw to a clip and told everyone to look into Reigns’s eyes because “eyes never lie, and neither does Drew McIntyre.” Then last week’s challenge aired and they included the line about beating leukemia. Back live Drew said he hopes his wife or one of his extended family members got through the thick skull of his to just say no to his challenge.
Drew said he exterminated the cockroach Dean Ambrose, and then last week he beat the no. 1 contender for the Universal Title Seth Rollins. He said he knows the superstar Roman wants to say yes, but he’s going to appeal to “Joe the man, Joe the father, Joe the husband.” He told him to think if he’s put his family through enough. “They already had to watch Daddy fight for his life already; do you want to put them through that one more time at WrestleMania when you know you’re going to lose?” (Roman has to win with a promo like this, doesn’t he?) Fans chanted “Roman! Roman!” Drew said he’d hold Raw hostage until Roman answered. Reigns’s music played and he walked out. Graves called them sub-human tactics to use his kids as leverage to goad Reigns into accepting the challenge. Cole said he also resorted to bringing up his cancer to get what he wants.
Reigns stood nose-to-nose with the taller Drew center-ring. Reigns said he is accepting the challenge, but Drew should listen clearly to what he says next. He said Drew should never run his mouth about his wife and kids. Then he attacked Drew with a barrage of punches. He yelled and threw Drew into the ringpost and then to the floor. Reigns went after Drew at ringside, throwing him into the barricade. Back in the ring Drew fought back with a low blow. Cole asked how low Drew will stoop. Reigns coughed and struggled to stand. As soon as he did, Drew gave him a Claymore Kick. Fans stood in near silence. Drew stared down at him and stood over him. Graves said that could be the end of the WrestleMania challenge. Cole said he’ll be there at WrestleMania, but the question is has he met his match.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good angle. Serious heel heat for Drew – with the questionable territory of playing up the leukemia factor again. Drew’s delivery is sinister. Reigns was tremendous in his response, and then Drew got the heel edge again with that low blow. Drew stood opposite of Reigns center-ring and just looked like a top-top guy not just visually but also with body language. Drew conveys a sense that he belongs on top, which is half the battle sometimes.)
-Renee plugged that Seth Rollins would be out later. [c]
-Dean Ambrose approached Drew backstage. He said he doesn’t feel exterminated. He told him to give it another try. “Me and you, last man standing.” Fans cheered. Drew said he doesn’t know how Dean is still standing, but he promised he won’t be after tonight.
(Keller’s Analysis: Kurt Angle might be in the midst of his feel-good farewell tour, but Dean Ambrose is on his Farewell Tour of Jobbing to the Stars.)
(4) SASHA BANKS (w/Bayley) vs. NATALYA (w/Beth Phoenix)
Sasha kicked Natalya to the floor a few minutes in, then went after her, but Natalya caught her with a forearm and threw her into the ring. Sasha spun around and head scissored Natalya to the floor, then kneed her in the face. [c]
Banks applied her Bank Statement back from the break. Natalya crawled toward the bottom rope. Banks pulled her back. Natalya escaped and applied the sharpshooter. Graves said it’d be humiliating for The Boss to lose in her hometown. Banks reached the bottom rope. Tamina and Nia Jax ran out and attacked everyone. The ref called for the bell.
WINNER: No contest.
-Beth fought back and cleared the ring of Nia and then took Tamina down with the Glam Slam mid-ring. Cole declared that Beth still has it. The fans chanted, “You’ve still got it!” right on cue. Natalya and Beth stood in the ring, raising their arms. Sasha and Bayley watched from ringside with their tag team title belts.
-They went to the announcers on camera. Cole said they have breaking news – Drew will face Dean in a Last Man Standing match tonight. Cole then shifted to the Hall of Fame. He announced that The Hart Foundation will be inducted. Graves credited Yahoo! Sports for breaking the story. Clips aired of the Hart Foundation.
(Keller’s Analysis: Those investigative reporters at Yahoo! sure pulled off a big scoop! I get why they dangle “scoops” to the mainstream media brands, as it can “co-opt” some of them into more favorable coverage or soften the edges on some of the more touchy or controversial stories. It also makes WWE seem more mainstream in that major brand name entities cover them. But at this point, saying they “broke the story” as if it wasn’t handed to them by public relations is kind of insulting. Maybe I’m just bitter that they didn’t give Pro Wrestling Torch credit for breaking the news that Dean Ambrose had opted not to renew his contract, since I broke that story and unlike Hall of Fame news, they didn’t give credit to the media entity that broke the story!)
-They showed Natalya tearing up in the ring with Beth Phoenix at the news that her dad is going into the Hall of Fame.
-Backstage Charly Caruso talked with Kurt Angle about his Farewell Tour. In walked Baron Corbin who said he’s touched by how much the fans care about him. He asked Angle how long he’s wrestled and how old he is. Corbin said the fans aren’t cheering him because he’s a great competitor, but rather because they feel sorry for him because they feel he should have retired ten years ago. He said he’s half the man he used to be. Corbin said the headlines will read that a former Gold Medalist disgraced himself in his retirement match. Angle leaned in and said, “Screw you.”
(Keller’s Analysis: Great response. Simple and realistic response to Corbin being such a jerk.)
-Alexa Bliss walked out as Graves said her guests would be Colin Jost, Michael Che, and Braun Strowamn next. [c]
-Backstage Sasha and Bayley were interviewed. Sasha said they’re sick of it and they’ll face everyone at WrestleMania with the belts on the line.
-A Moment of Bliss: Bliss sat mid-ring and threw to a video package on the Strowman-Che/Jost stuff including Jost asking if any of it was really real. Strowman made his ring entrance. She asked him what he’s been doing lately and he owned it. She asked what it’d be like if Che and Jost got those hands. Strowman said he wants to smash Jost’s pasty face. Jost and Che appeared on the big screen via satellite from the SNL set. Jost said he made a dumb mistake last time, but he learned a lesson and won’t put on a Mets hat like last time. He put on a Yankees hat. Fans booed. Che said as a life-long WWE fans and a fan of his, he wants to say he respects the hell out of him, but he also crossed a line because he jacked up Colin. He said Colin might not be funny, but he’s a good guy. Colin wasn’t sure if he fully appreciated the comment. Colin said he went to Harvard and his parents paid millions of dollars to get him on the women’s cross country team at Harvard, so there are a few things he could teach a monster like him. “Like how to chew food, or how to read a newspaper, or how to do your taxes,” he said. He said Braun is a big, tough guy – 5-11, 180 pounds or something. He suggested they handle things like adults. Che told Colin he wasn’t helping. A “Yankees Suck!” chant broke out. Colin asked Braun to pay him back for the car he destroyed plus interest, but get him an autograph from his favorite wrestler, Brock Lesnar. Fans booed. Che shook his head. Colin threatened not to go to WrestleMania.
Braun got worked up and told Colin to enter the battle royal. Braun said he better do that or he’ll find him backstage when he’s all alone. Che said Colin is in the match, he’s got a deal. Colin asked, “What in the hell are you doing, Che?” Che said if Braun catches them backstage, they won’t see it coming. At least in the battle royal, they know what’s up. Colin said if he’s in the battle royal, Che is in too. He tried to start the chant. Braun told them to shut up. Fans began to chant it. Braun asked Alexa if she can make it official. Alexa said she can’t do it for his bloodlust, but then laughed and said it’s official – they’re in the battle royal at WM. Braun said if they don’t show up, they’ll wander the streets of New York the rest of their lives wondering when they’re going to “get these hands!”
(Keller’s Analysis: Who bestowed Alexa with that power anyway? Braun was good here, and they’ve booked him into an amusing situation that fits his character well.)
-They went back to Elias who was now standing in front of Madison Square Garden. He said his rehearsals could sell more tickets at MSG than Billy Joel. He said he was going to sip herbal tea for his vocal cords, but then someone dropped a coin in his cup. He flipped out.
-Baron Corbin walked out for a match. [c]
(5) BARON CORBIN vs. APOLLO CREWS
Apollo rallied a few minutes in and landed a frog splash for a near fall. Corbin fired back with an End of Days for a sudden win. Cole said it was a warning to Angle what he’s in store for. Cole said perhaps Angle will regret challenging Corbin at WrestleMania. Corbin gave Crews another End of Days after the win.
WINNER: Corbin in 3:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: In as much as it matters now, Corbin getting a win before WrestleMania is a good move.) [c]
-Renee plugged that Ronda, Charlotte, and Becky will be on SportsCenter tomorrow morning. The announcers then reviewed the Beat the Clock matches from the start of the show. Graves said they have breaking news – Ronda & Charlotte & Becky would team against the Riott Squad next week on Raw.
-Seth Rollins made his ring entrance. He said he wants to be a wrestler who inspires kids, because as a kid he was inspired by Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Ric Flair, “and heck, even John Cena inspires people.” He said Brock Lesnar does not inspire people. He said this is the biggest match of his entire career. He said he’s wanted this for a long, long time, but he didn’t realize how important the match was until recently to all of the fans. He said at an autograph session, everyone said the same thing to him before leaving the table – they told him to please beat Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. He said he feels he doesn’t have a choice, and now he has to beat Brock Lesnar because he refuses to let Brock Lesnar be the champion who defines the future of the industry. “I cannot let that happen!” he said.
Paul Heyman walked out and talked about how he went to Boston to announce it’s now a handicapped match – Lesnar vs. Seth and the entire WWE Universe. He talked with a snide tone as he talked about how Lesnar will retain the title. When he turned to leave, Seth walked up the ramp and surprised Heyman. Heyman dropped down and said he’s just an advocate and everything he said was Brock’s idea. Seth leaned over Heyman and said he’s not asking for thoughts and prayers, he’s there to answer them. He said they are going to WrestleMania and “we are going to beat Brock Lesnar” and take the Universal Title and “we are gonna…” He pointed at the fans who finished his sentence with “Burn it Down!”
(Keller’s Analysis: Strong Seth promo. I love the babyface effectively connecting his journey with the fans’ desires. Heyman was a good foil here, too.)
-Angle walked out to his music and laughed at Heyman as he walked past him. The announcers hyped Angle vs. Samoa Joe was up next. [c]
-Joe stepped out and said that although they have a lot of memories together, he’s not very sentimental. He said it’ll be a cold day on the wrong side of the afterlife before he lets him ride off into the sunset. He said he is bringing him a different gift. He said a good night’s sleep is always important, so the best way to say goodbye is to put him to sleep one last time.
(6) SAMOA JOE vs. KURT ANGLE
Joe got in the early offense. When he paused, Angle went for a German suplex, but Joe elbowed out of it. Joe took over with a dropkick to the back of Angle. Cole said he thinks Joe is the most dangerous man in WWE today. Joe landed a flying forearm after a dive through the ropes. They cut to an early break. [c]
Joe was in control after the break. Angle came back with his unreleased German suplexes – three of them for a near fall, although it was as weak of a cover as you’ll see. He set up an Angle Slam, but Joe blocked it and took over. Joe scored a two count after a leaping senton. Angle hit an Angle Slam out of nowhere for a near fall. Joe came back with a powerslam for a two count. Graves complimented Joe for being one of the best bell-to-bell wrestlers in WWE. Angle hit a missile dropkick. “Can you believe it?” Cole asked. Angle dropped his strap. He went for an Angle Slam, but Joe escaped and hit a headbutt and set up a urinage, but Angle countered with a hip toss. Joe then applied Coquina Clutch mid-ring. Angle dropped to one knee. Angle leaned back and scored a leverage pin. Cole called it a “miracle win.” Angle escaped up the ramp with a smile as Joe sat up and looked on in disbelief.
WINNER: Angle in 7:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: This farewell tour is a nice gesture, but you can see Angle wrestling and realize it is time. I felt that back when he was having essentially a farewell tour in TNA and had that match against Bobby Roode that was difficult to watch. Is it worth having Joe lose here, though? I’m not so sure.)
-They showed Dean warming up backstage as Angle’s music continued to play.
-Triple H then made his way to the ring as the camera panned wide from the upper deck to see the stands flooded with green spotlights. [c]
-Triple H thanked the fans for the standing ovation for the entire commercial break. He congratulated Rousey, Becky, and Charlotte. He said it’s historic and credit goes to all of the women in the back tonight and everyone in the past who has contributed to the women’s division. “This was not given, it was earned,” he said. He said certain things make him happy, like having a dry mic, not the one Batista spit all over two weeks ago. He tried to pull something out of his pocket but it got stuck. He struggled in a moment of levity, and then he managed to pull the envelope out. He said it’s a letter from Batista’s lawyer that says he won’t be competing at WrestleMania this year unless he agrees to one more stipulation. He said Batista rambles and goes on and on, but includes complaining more about the distant pass.
Triple H said Batista debuted as The Deacon following D-Von Dudley around and ended up as World Champion. He said Batista absurdly blames Triple H for preventing him from having a meaningful career, but he actually quit when he realized he couldn’t beat John Cena. He said he blamed him for not welcoming him back more recently, but he said when Batista called, he actually wanted WrestleMania moved to accommodate the filming of his movie. He said that told him Batista wasn’t particularly serious about returning. Triple H read what he claimed Batista wrote. He mocked him for saying “I wanna I wanna I really really want.” He said in the end, he wanted him to put his career on the line, meaning if Batista wins, he will never compete in the ring again.
Triple H said this is just another attempt by him to quit because that’s what he does. He said he is not going to let him quit this time. He said he’s going to make him stand up to his commitment and make him show up. Triple H said if he can’t beat a delusional douchebag like him, he doesn’t deserve to be in the ring. He said if he wants his career on the line, he’s got it. He threw the mic down and left to his music.
-They went back to Elias on the streets of New York again. He said at the end of his performance at WrestleMania, there will be no doubt who the star of WM is. He closed his eyes and played guitar as a guy stole his guitar case.
(Keller’s Analysis: These skits are so slapstick and unrealistic, but not really funny enough to be worth the price paid for undercutting any sense that this is anything but a lousy sketch comedy show sometimes.) [c]
(7) DEAN AMBROSE vs. DREW MCINTYRE – Last Man Standing match
Drew went after Dean at ringside early and the ref began an early ten count, but Dean stood up at eight to keep the match going. Drew then threw Dean into the barricade again. They cut to a quick break. [c]
Back from the break, Drew battered Dean with a kendo stick. Renee reacted when Drew jabbed it in Dean’s face on the mat. Cole called Drew a sick, sadistic man. Dean ducked a swing and clotheslined Drew over the top rope, then dove through the ropes and knocked him hard into the barricade. Drew delivered a Glasgow Kiss at ringside. Drew was bleeding from a gash on his back. Drew catapulted Dean neck-first into the support beam under the ring. Dean gasped for breath afterward. Drew bashed Dean with the steps at ringside. The ref began his count again. Dean took over and Renee said she loves where this is going. He brought a table into the ring and leaned it in the corner. Drew lifted Dean and threw him into the table, breaking the table into pieces. The ref began counting Dean down again. He made it to nine. Drew then delivered a Claymore Kick as soon as Dean stood. The ref made it to ten this time just seconds before the end of the show.
WINNER: McIntyre in 10:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Another on Dean Ambrose’s Farewell Tour of Jobbing to the Stars. They packed a good amount of action into that small window.)