WWE RAW PRIMER 4/1: Stephanie’s big WM35 announcement, Ronda & Becky & Charlotte vs. The Riott Squad, Kurt’s farewell tour dials 619, The Beast is back, Reigns-McIntyre saga, The Animal returns, Raw Tag Team Title match

By Frank Peteani, PWTorch Specialist


Charlotte (photo credit Brandon LeClair © PWTorch)

SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW PRIMER
APRIL 1, 2019
WASHINGTON D.C. AT THE CAPITAL ONE ARENA
AIRS ON USA NETWORK, 8:00PM EST
BY FRANK PETEANI (@FrankPeteani), PWTORCH SPECIALIST

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Renee Young

Arena and Items Advertised by WWE

Tonight we put a bow on the build to WrestleMania from the Raw side of the pond as WWE arrives in the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. The arena, formerly known as the MCI and Verizon Center, is no stranger to WWE events as it has hosted a litany of them dating back to 1999. WCW was also showcased here many times, including Starrcade back in 1997 which saw WWE Hall of Fame Sting return to action after nearly a year’s absence to defeat WCW Champion “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan. Ten WWE Hall of Famers were in action that night.

That was all then, and this is now. WWE has a lot advertised thus far for tonight’s WrestleMania go-home show, subject to additions and changes as we head towards tonight. I’ll keep things as brief and concise as possible today:

  • Stephanie McMahon to make an announcement regarding the WrestleMania main event tonight
  • Can WrestleMania main-event Superstars coexist against the Riott Squad?
  • Batista returns to Raw
  • Kurt Angle battles Rey Mysterio in his final Raw match
  • Beth Phoenix returns to action in an Eight-Woman Tag Team Match
  • Brock Lesnar comes to Raw to extinguish Seth Rollins’ fire
  • Can Aleister Black & Ricochet convert their recent success into a Raw Tag Team Championship reign?
  • Will Roman Reigns attain retribution against Drew McIntyre before WrestleMania?

Stephanie McMahon’s Announcement Regarding WrestleMania Main Event

This morning WWE announced on their website and Twitter page that Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon (she is still commissioner, right?) is returning to Raw to make an announcement in regard to the main event of WrestleMania.

Let’s quickly recap the roller coaster we’ve been on since Becky won the Royal Rumble and chose Ronda as her opponent at ‘Mania, shall we? Becky was suspended for not seeking medical attention for her injured knee by Stephanie, but reinstated once she saw her doctor and apologized to Stephanie and Triple H. WWE Chairman and CEO then suspended Becky for having a bad attitude (why else did he suspend her), and replaced her with Charlotte. When Stephanie thought Ronda relinquished her title, Stephanie reinstated her and determined her and Charlotte would compete for the Raw title at Fastlane. Ronda told Stephanie she misunderstood her, and thus the match at Fastlane was for Becky to get back into the match (that she earned) at WrestleMania. Becky won via DQ when Ronda interfered, something Becky claims she goaded Ronda into doing.

To complicate matters, as if it wasn’t complicated enough, Charlotte defeated Asuka in an unadvertised impromptu match on Smackdown last week for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Social media has been abuzz with negativity from fans and support from fellow wrestlers in regard to Asuka including from Charlotte:

https://twitter.com/mscharlottewwe/status/1110721962085629952?s=21

The triple threat match now involved both the Smackdown and Raw Women’s Championship. Currently, only the Raw title is on the line. Tonight, we’ll learn what Stephanie has to say in regard to this landmark match.

Frank’s Analysis: It has to be one of two things. One possibility is they’re unifying the titles and will have one women’s champion. That scenario in my eyes points to either Ronda winning, depending on her post-WrestleMania plans, or Charlotte. Ronda, like it or not, is largely responsible for getting the women into the main event. In regard to Charlotte you have to believe WWE views her as their top women’s wrestler next to Ronda and winning the first women’s WrestleMania main event will add a main accolade to her resume. That could hurt Becky, but the truth of the matter is she has cooled off and that has a lot to do with how she’s been booked since winning the Rumble.

The other possibility is whichever champion is pinned or submitted loses that title. Becky can win either the Raw or Smackdown title, Ronda can pin or submit Charlotte and walk away with both titles and vice versa, or Becky gets pinned or submitted and no title changes hands. That sounds complicated for WWE to explain, but complicated seems to be the theme this WrestleMania season.

Beyond that, you’re guess is as good as mine.

Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey & Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch vs. The Riott Squad (Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan)

There’s a ton to unpack since Tuesday as Charlotte Flair defeated Asuka to regain the Smackdown Women’s Championship and begin her third reign & eighth reign overall. We’ll get more into that in tomorrow’s Smackdown primer.

Last week, a beat-the-clock challenge took place. Becky Lynch won overall as she defeated Liv Morgan in under one minute and twenty-five seconds, the time set by Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey. Charlotte nearly submitted Ruby Riott but came up short following Ronda defeating Sarah Logan.

Tonight, all three women team up to face the Riott Squad in a six-woman tag team. If any of the women “betray the team,” they will be removed from the triple threat match for the Raw Women’s Championship at WrestleMania which is slated as the main event. As of this writing, it’s still only the Raw Women’s Championship on the line. The dynamics are certainly different with Charlotte now holding the Smackdown Women’s Championship.

Ronda is surely touting her responsibility for getting the women in the main event of ‘Mania:

https://twitter.com/rondarousey/status/1110230527519399936?s=21

Here’s Becky Lynch:

Frank’s Analysis: It is truly hard to predict the outcome of the match at WrestleMania, especially now with Charlotte as Smackdown Women’s Champion. It’s not crazy to see Becky win, hold up the Raw Women’s title, but have Charlotte steal her thunder and hold up the Smackdown title to close the show. If they eventually merge the titles that scene could be the precursor to the two of them going at it down the line in a unification match. That said, WWE can turn things on their ear tonight and say WrestleMania is winner take all. They could say whichever champion is pinned or submitted, that title changes hands. Truthfully, it’s all on the table! One thing is for sure to me and that’s Becky winning is not a slam dunk. The fact that the match is the main event actually lowers her chances of winning as crazy as that sounds.

Batista Returns

Last week, we learned another thing Batista wanted (what he really really wanted) from Triple H. At their upcoming match at WrestleMania, he said he wouldn’t wrestle unless Triple H’s career was on the line.

Triple H, after nearly losing a battle with his jacket, pulled an envelope out of his pocket with a letter from Batista. He talked about how Evolution was created to protect Triple H’s reign as World Champion, a claim he did not deny. He complained about how the group held him down, to which Triple H said he started out as Deacon Batista and when he left Evolution was World Champion himself. Triple H also claimed Batista wanted WrestleMania moved to accommodate his movie schedule, and quit several times in the past because he couldn’t beat John Cena.

When all was said and done Triple H said he is not letting Batista quit this time and will make him come to WrestleMania. He said if he can’t beat a “delusional douchebag” like Batista he shouldn’t wrestle, and thus agreed to put his career on the line. Batista responds tonight.

Frank’s Analysis: This whole story is somewhat lopsided as a lot of things Batista is saying about Triple H are true, making Batista the sympathetic figure in a way. If you look back, him leaving Evolution propelled him to the World Championship. You almost want to see Batista win this match, except for him acting like a rich & entitled movie star. They haven’t tapped enough into Triple H not beating Batista back in those days, even though it was mentioned at the start of this on Smackdown 1000. I would have liked this a little more if Batista made it clear after that night that he wanted one more match at WrestleMania with Triple H. Triple H could have denied him and said “yeah you never beat me, but at least I never quit like you.” Batista could have attacked Ric Flair, and Triple H would finally give in. There’s a million ways to do things, but this build has just kinda felt choppy. I don’t like the way they’ve done it here with the “give me what I want” without Batista making it clear. Maybe I’m being nit-picky, but it just could have been organized a little better. It’s all good. Triple H putting his career on the line is unnecessary as nobody believes he will lose.

Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio

Last week, the Kurt Angle farewell tour ran through former TNA rival and current U.S. Champion Samoa Joe, as Kurt pulled out what Michael Cole called a “miracle win.” Prior to that match, Charly Caruso interviewed Kurt only to be interrupted by Baron Corbin. Corbin takes on Kurt in his final match at WrestleMania. Corbin told Kurt he should have retired 10 year ago. Kurt’s response was “screw you.”

Corbin took on and defeated Apollo Crews last week. He had this to say to the fans prior to the match:

Tonight, Kurt takes on Rey Mysterio from Smackdown in his final match on Raw. Ironically, Rey’s first WWE PPV match was against Kurt at SummerSlam 2002. They went at it in a triple threat match involving Randy Orton at WrestleMania in 2006 for the World Heavyweight Championship which saw Rey capture the title, months after his longtime friend and WWE Hall of Famer Eddie Guerrero tragically passed away.

Frank’s Analysis: “Screw you” is the line of 2019. I’m not even joking it sounded so real and probably what a lot of people want to say to Baron Corbin. This is just one of those situations that is what it is. I can understand Kurt wanting to have these matches, but they’re difficult to watch. I can somewhat understand Kurt beating Joe, but it’s still frustrating on a level which has more to do with how they’ve booked Joe through the years. Kurt vs. Rey was great from 2002-’06. Hopefully Rey can carry the load tonight and give the fans what they deserve in watching a match between these great wrestlers.

Eight Woman Tag: Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection (Sasha Banks & Bayley) and the Divas of Doom (Natalya & Beth Phoenix) vs. The IIconics (Billie Kay & Peyton Royce) and The Samoan Slaughterhouse (Nia Jax & Tamina)

At WrestleMania, WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Sasha Banks & Bayley will defend their titles in a fatal four-way match. Their opponents will be Natalya & Beth Phoenix, Billie Kay & Peyton Royce, and Nia Jax & Tamina. The IIconics have defeated Banks & Bayley in a non-title match on Smackdown recently. Banks & Bayley have done every combination of singles matches under the sun against Nia Jax and Tamina on Raw recently. They also successfully defended their titles against Nia & Tamina at Fastlane. Last week, Sasha & Natalya went to another no contest when Nia and Tamina interfered.

Following Raw last week, WWE announced the title match on their WrestleMania Twitter account:

Tonight, the babyfaces (Banks & Bayley and Natalya & Phoenix) team up to take on the heel teams (Nia & Tamina and Smackdown’s The IIconics) in an eight-woman tag match. It is Beth Phoenix’s first match on Raw since losing to A.J. Lee in October of 2012 and being “fired” by then-Raw Managing Supervisor Vickie Guerrero. In reality that wrote her off TV as she was leaving WWE at the time.

Frank’s Analysis: There’s no analysis worth typing for this match tonight or the title match at WrestleMania. Now, here’s something that’s always grated on my skin. In a multi-person singles match, all wrestlers are in the ring at the same time, right? Well then, in a multi-team match why isn’t one person from each team in the ring at the same time? THERE’S NO REASON TO TAG IN SOMEBODY FROM ANOTHER TEAM AS YOU’RE GIVING THEM THE OPPORTUNITY TO WIN THE MATCH! YOU SHOULD ONLY BE TAGGING IN A MEMBER OF YOUR TEAM!

Brock Lesnar Returns

Last week on Raw, Seth Rollins discussed his upcoming WrestleMania match for the Universal Championship against reigning titleholder Brock Lesnar. He talked about being inspired by Shawn Michaels, Bret “Hit Man” Hart, Ric Flair, and “heck even John Cena” (whom he said inspires kids, not necessarily him). He brought up an autograph session where fans expressed their hope in him defeating the man known as “The Beast.” He claimed that he realized he “must” beat Brock Lesnar for the fans.

Paul Heyman interrupted and talked about Seth’s generation always asking for “thoughts and prayers.” When Seth confronted Paul, he said he’s not asking for thoughts and prayers, but rather answering them. At WrestleMania he will take the Universal Title and “burn it down!” (And Frank’s eyes roll again)

Tonight, Brock returns for the final build to the match. Here’s Paul Heyman and Seth Rollins on Twitter:

Frank’s Analysis: Paul’s right in that thoughts and prayers has to be the most annoying thing to see on social media. Nonetheless it was a strong promo by Seth, but you can’t help but roll your eyes at some of the scripting. “I refuse to let Brock Lesnar be the champion that defines the future of this industry” doesn’t sound like something he would say. Having Paul Heyman say WWE Universe 15 million times, and Seth holding up the microphone so everyone can say “burn it down” is just so fake and annoying. It is the flavor of WWE these days so you take it for what it is. You still like to see Seth want to do this for the fans at the end of the day. Seth referencing their first one-on-one match from Battleground in 2015 in that tweet is pretty cool. That match did not have a finish due to Undertaker’s interference. WWE has not referenced this part of their history nor him cashing in Money in the Back at WrestleMania in that same year against Brock and Roman.

Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre is on for WrestleMania

Last week, we found out that Roman Reigns accepted Drew McIntyre’s challenge to a match at WrestleMania. Drew has been going after the Shield members one by one, as in the previous two weeks he defeated Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. Later on in the evening, he would defeat Ambrose again in a Last Man Standing match.

Prior to the match with Ambrose, Drew came out and doubled down on his challenge to Roman. He questioned whether or not it would be wise for Roman to accept, considering his family just watched him battle leukemia. Roman came out and told Drew to never mention his family again, and threw a punch that started a brawl. Drew would eventually get the better of things with a low blow and a Claymore Kick.

Drew’s not playing games:

Frank’s Analysis: With the exception of mentioning the cancer, this was all well done. The match between the two of them feels like a big deal and it feels like something is on the line, even though no title is involved. I’m not offended by the mentioning of leukemia, especially since Roman came out of it, but people may have lost loved ones to the disease and thus they ought to lay off talking about it. Overall, this feud is shaping up nicely and you could certainly argue for Drew winning at WrestleMania. Knowing WWE it’s more likely Roman goes over, and that is not the end of the world. Drew would certainly garner a lot of heat though beating Roman in his first singles match back after overcoming leukemia. If Drew loses, he would need to get his heat back after the match by doing some sort of attack.

Raw Tag Team Championship: The Revival (champs) vs. Aleister Black & Ricochet

Aleister Black & Ricochet have certainly made their presence felt on Raw recently since being “called up.” Last week they defeated Raw Tag Team champions The Revival in a non-title match after defeating them weeks earlier. They also hold a victory over former Raw tag champs Bobby Roode & Chad Gable. They did come up short in vying for the titles at Fastlane as the Revival defeated Black & Ricochet and Roode & Gable in a triple threat tag team title match.

On Saturday night, WWE announced that the Revival will put the titles on the line against Black & Ricochet tonight. This is an interesting development as Black & Ricochet won the Dusty Rhodes Classic tournament in NXT and will challenge the War Raiders for the NXT Tag Team Championship at Takeover: Brooklyn.

Frank’s Analysis: It’s a shame that this doesn’t mean more considering Black & Ricochet have beaten the Revival every time except for at Fastlane. The Revival’s reign feels meaningless and empty, as have a lot of reigns for the tag team championship on the main roster in recent years. I still don’t like Black & Ricochet as a tag team but I have to admit it’s grown on me. They do seem genuinely happy to be together as a team. We’ve seen this in the past where individual wrestlers come together and form a team that turned out to be better than we expect. With that said I can’t imagine them winning both the NXT tag titles as well as the Raw titles, but stranger things have happened.

Other Possible Items for Tonight

• WWE has announced other participants for the Andre the Giant Battle Royal at WrestleMania. As we learned last week, Michael Che and Colin Jost will participate along with Braun Strowman who announced his entry a few weeks ago. Notably in the battle royal are EC3, Andrade, Ali (formerly known as Mustafa Ali), Matt & Jeff Hardy, and former Raw Tag Team Champions Bobby Roode & Chad Gable. There are 29 names announced, which leaves room for one more. Rob Gronkowski recently retired from the New England Patriots and Conor McGregor recently “retired” from MMA. Social media has been abuzz about them possibly coming to WWE.

• WWE also announced the women’s battle royal. Notably in that match is Asuka, who last week dropped the Smackdown Women’s Championship to Charlotte Flair. There has been a lot of negativity from fans and reactions from WWE wrestlers on social media in regard to this sudden title change. The match was not announced previously. We were supposed to have a fatal four-way match on Smackdown to determine a number one contender to Asuka at WrestleMania.

• Last week we learned the Hart Foundation (Bret “Hit Man” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. There’s a lot of buzz about Brutus Beefcake being the final inductee, but nothing has been made official as of yet. Thus far we know of D-Generation X, Harlem Heat, Honky Tonk Man, Torrie Wilson, Sue Aitchison (Warrior award), and the Hart Foundation going in.

• Today is April Fool’s Day. Watch Charlotte turn on Becky & Ronda to lose her WrestleMania spot only for Vince McMahon to come out and say “April Fool’s” and she’s still in the match! Wait, even better Stephanie says she’s the special guest referee for the triple threat at ‘Mania. Funny? No? C’mon I put a little thought into this one.

Start Time & Matches Advertised on the Arena Website

The Capital One Arena website advertises a start time of 7:30 p.m. local, with doors opening at 6:00 p.m. They show one match which doesn’t seem likely for the main show but could be a dark match:

  • The Shield vs. Baron Corbin & Drew McIntyre & Bobby Lashley

They show others appearing and incorrectly show Finn Balor as Intercontinental Champion. It’s minute, but they show Brock Lesnar as “WWE Champion.” It wouldn’t be such a big deal if it weren’t for Daniel Bryan being “WWE Champion” and Brock Lesnar being “WWE Universal Champion.”


Follow Frank on Twitter @FrankPeteani or e-mail fpeteani@gmail.com. Questions and discussion are welcome. Thank you for reading!

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