In this episode of Wrestling Night in America, PWTorch columnist Greg Parks breaks down both nights of WrestleMania with callers and emailers. Topics include the quality of the Firefly Funhouse match, the decision to put Charlotte over Rhea Ripley, the potential of wrestlers getting more creative freedom in the current environment, and more.
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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
FEBRUARY 17, 2020
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Jerry Lawler, Byron Saxton
-The Raw opening theme aired. Then Phillips introduced the show as the camera panned the crowd. The screen graphic said they were in “Washington,” but didn’t mention the name of the city. Phillips didn’t say the location out loud.
-Randy Orton began his ring entrance. They went to the announcers on camera who plugged the line-up including Drew McIntyre vs. MVP, “A Sermon from the Monday Night Messiah,” and “Becky Lynch Bites Back.”
Orton then walked around ringside as fans booed him. Phillips said Matt Hardy came to the defense of Edge and got RKO’d. He said tonight he’s supposed to face Hardy in a No Holds Barred match, but he said he won’t be medically cleared. He said Matt’s in the back trying to get cleared, but it won’t happen. He said the Hardys are known for jumping from the highest of highs and crashing to the lowest of lows. Hardy’s music interrupted and he walked out in a neck immobilizer. He told Orton that instead of talking about him, he should finally confess why he tried to take away Edge’s second chance. (Yes! That said, he was about to last week when Hardy interrupted him.) “What in the hell is wrong with you, Randy Orton?” he said. Matt said he wanted to take his passion away from him, too. “But you can’t, Randy,” he said. “No one can. I came here tonight to fight you.” He said the WWE doctors won’t clear him to compete in a match tonight, but he is there and just like Edge, he has grit. He said people like him and Edge will always get back up. He said he doesn’t know what the future holds for him, but it damn sure won’t be determined on Orton’s terms.
Orton said, “You should have said good bye last week while you could still leave the arena on your own two feet,” he said. Matt entered the ring, dragging his right leg behind him and clutching his neck in discomfort. Orton asked him what he could do if he decided to RKO him right now where he stands. He said Matt “has balls,” but no one will ever understand why he did what he did. He said he respects him from the bottom of his heart for all he has done. He said he respects Edge but also loves him like a brother. He said he is truly sorry. He dropped the mic and walked out of the ring. The announcers wondered what to make of what Orton just said.
Orton got to the stage and paused, and took off his vest, and looked like he was thinking of heading to the ring. Matt grabbed a chair from ringside and slid it into the ring. He stood in the ring with the chair in hand as Orton slowly made his way back to ringside. Hardy dared Orton to “finish me.” Hardy swung the chair, but Orton ducked and then snapped Hardy’s head over the top rope. Orton entered the ring and waited for Hardy to stand. He then gave Hardy another RKO. A few fans chanted “One more time!” Then it picked up some steam. Orton grabbed a chair and slammed Hardy across his back three times. Then when Hardy rolled onto his back, he jabbed Hardy in the ribs and gut several times. Then another bash across his back. Orton slid a chair under Hardy’s head and then removed his neck brace. Another ref ran to the ring. Orton then wound up to swing a chair onto Hardy’s head. He paused and appeared conflicted and looked around at the fans. He threw the chair down to the floor. Some fans booed. Orton then left the ring. He jogged around the ring, though, and dragged Hardy by his arm out of the ring. He dropped him on the floor and then rubbed his face in a way that conveyed he was feeling stress over what he was about to do. He put Hardy’s head on the base of the ringside steps. He whispered some words to Hardy. Then he picked up the chair, smiled with anticipation, and bashed Hardy across his head. Then he set up the chair and sat down on it and looked at Hardy. There were security officers with their backs turned to the ring, perhaps stationed there to watch for anyone trying to run and help Hardy because of the intensity and duration of this angle. Orton bashed him across his head again, then yelled, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” They cut to a break.
(Keller’s Analysis: I’m intrigued by what Orton’s rationale is, but I’m worried we don’t really ever get a satisfactory answer. The angle was dramatic and both Hardy and Orton players their parts convincingly. The problem is the sheer duration of the angle, lasting more than 20 minutes into the show. It just defied any logic that he’d have that much time on his own without any wrestlers coming out to help.) [c]
-They showed a replay of what happened, and then a mom consoling a kid around age 12 in the crowd who was crying.
(1) ERICK ROWAN vs. ALEISTER BLACK
Rowan brought his burlap-covered cage with him. Black charged with a running knee. Rowan fired back with an elbow and tossed Black onto the ring apron. Rowan charged, but Black ducked and then went for a flip at ringside. Rowan moved, so then Rowan dove onto Black. They cut to a break, but stayed with the action on split-screen. [c]
During the break, Rowan threw Black into the ring and got in sustained offense. Back from the break, he powerslammed Black for a near fall. At 5:00 Rowan lifted Black at ringside for a powerbomb, but Black slipped free and sent Rowan into the ringpost. Black broke the ref’s count by rolling into the ring. Then he leaped off the middle rope with a moonsault press onto Rowan at ringside. This one connected. Back in the ring, Black kicked away at Rowan with roundkicks and then a knee strike for a near fall. They replayed the knee in slo-mo. Rowan caught a Black Mass attempt and applied his iron claw. Black escaped and landed a spinning back elbow. Rowan caught Black with a boot to the face and then a powerbomb for a two count. A graphic on the screen advertised a 24/7 Triple Threat match. Black landed Black Mass. Rowan fell against the ropes and struggled to stand. He dropped to his knees. Black landed another Black Mass for the win.
WINNER: Black in 7:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Black was the right person to win, but after months of Black and Rowan each winning squash matches, it seems the first competitive match for each should have been a bigger deal with more build-up, if for no other reason so that Black’s win had more impact.)
-Phillips plugged Charlotte Flair would be out next. [c]
-An NXT commercial hyped Velveteen Dream vs. Roderick Strong on this week’s NXT show.
-Charlotte made her ring entrance, wearing a red shirt and leather skirt and high-heels boots. She’s definitely going for a different look these days. She threw to a clip of what she did at NXT Takeover Portland last night and telling Rhea Ripley she wants her at WrestleMania. Back live, Charlotte said she went to NXT because she wanted to see who was filling Ripley’s head with the notion that she could challenge the Queen. She said she got there and started to reminisce about her training at NXT. She said she thought about the challenges and growing pains, and “my class that built the foundation of what is now the third brand called NXT.” She said what’s bothering her is the sense of entitlement from the current class who didn’t scratch and claw and fall down as many times as she did to earn the respect that NXT has now. She said Ripley has the audacity to step into “my ring on my show and hold up the title that I put on the map?” She said Ripley is very good, but there is a saying that pride comes before the fall. “I am going to humble you at WrestleMania,” she said. “Everyone is the next big thing until they’re not.”
(Keller’s Analysis: Good Charlotte promo. The last line was a good one. The downside is that Charlotte sounds, as far as anyone knows, to be telling the truth. She wasn’t quite heelish enough if that’s what she’s going for, and unless the goal is to create brand warfare or some generational warfare, it could undercut clear feelings fans might otherwise be predisposed to have cheering Ripley against Charlotte.) [c]
(2) RIDDICK MOSS vs. MOJO RAWLEY vs. R-TRUTH – 24/7 Title match
Saxton said Mojo needs to find better friends after Moss’s double-cross last week. Mojo broke up a cover by Moss on Truth, then went to work on Truth. He gave him a lift-and-drop slam off of his shoulders, but Moss showed up and leveraged Mojo’s shoulders down for the win. Moss grabbed his belt, celebrated in the crowd, and fled quickly.
WINNER: Moss in 1:00 to retain the 24/7 Title.
-Mojo took out his frustration by grabbing Truth and yelling, “See what you did?” Truth broke free and gave him a scissors kick to the back of his neck.
-They plugged Drew vs. MVP. [c]
-Phillips hyped the Elimination Chamber PPV match featuring Natalya vs. Shayna Baszler vs. Asuka vs. Sarah Logan vs. Liv Morgan vs. Ruby Riott, with the winner getting a title match against Becky Lynch at WrestleMania.
-Ring announcer Mike Rome excitedly introduced Drew McIntyre. Drew said he can see everyone is fired up tonight. He said there’s only 48 days until WrestleMania. He said Charlotte already pointed at the sign, so he wants to make it bigger. He asked the fans if they want to get on TV by pointing at the sign with Drew. He did the Claymore Countdown. “3-2-1 Boom!” There was almost no pop. He yelled, “Hell yeah!” (That didn’t work at all.)
Drew said at WrestleMania, they’re going to demolish Suplex City, and he’s leaving WWE Champion. Paul Heyman interrupted. He walked onto the stage and did his usual self-introduction. He said he would make this evening even bigger. He introduced Brock Lesnar. Drew stood ready in the ring. Lesnar didn’t come out. Then Heyman smiled and asked Drew if he really thought Lesnar was there tonight. He said just wanted him and the entire WWE Universe to know what it will sound like after the word “and still” after Lesnar beats Ricochet at Super Showdown and after Lesnar beats Drew at WrestleMania. He pointed to the sign, too.
Drew told Heyman he can say Lesnar’s name over and over between now and WrestleMania, and he can say his name when he’s crying after he kicks his head off at WrestleMania to win the championship. Heyman said he has profound respect for Drew, but he didn’t come there to debate him. He said he’s a huge admirer of his talents. He said has an opponent this evening and he has a legitimate grievance with him, which he will settle in the ring with him right now. He then introduced MVP.
MVP made his way to the ring with a mic in hand. He told Drew he has a big issue with him. He said he invited him to the VIP Lounge last week and treated him like an elite-level VIP. He said he thought they were all friends. He asked him how he repaid him. Drew said, “Wait, I know this one. I kicked your head off.” He said he hit him with a cheap shot. MVP said he will beat Drew without a cheap shot. He told the ref to ring the bell. MVP then gave him a cheap shot elbow to the head, then a boot to the face. Drew was fuming mad.
(3) MVP vs. DREW MCINTYRE
The bell rang. MVP charged. Drew went for a big boot, but MVP bumped early and the move showed a lot of light and only hit MVP’s hands. Drew ripped off MVP’s nasal strip and aggressively beat up MVP in the corner. Drew then gave MVP a Future Shock DDT that also showed MVP’s head coming nowhere near the mat on impact. Drew called for the Claymore and did his 3-2-1 countdown, then delivered. This one was fast enough that it wasn’t clear if MVP bumped early or not. They replayed the Future Shock DDT from the same angle in slo-mo afterward, which was a strange choice. Drew played to the WrestleMania sign.
WINNER: McIntyre in 2:00.
-They went back to the announcers on camera, who threw to a video package of the Baszler-Becky angle last week. Becky then made her ring entrance. [c]
-Becky stood in the ring and said, “Washington!” She said she has been feeling a lot of things over the last week. She said she came to the United States to seek fame and fortune. She said she learned she had no use for fame, but she didn’t see what fortune could do for her. She pulled wads of hundred dollar bills out of a paper bag and told WWE management that it’s her down payment on violence for the fines she’s going to incur after what she does to Baszler. “Bad things are going to happen when I find her,” she said. “Because only animals go to the neck, which is to weaken their prey before they end them.” She told Shayna to take a long look at the prettiest face of the longest reigning Raw Women’s Champion in history. She asked if she looks like prey to her.
Baszler appeared on the big screen and said she came from the world of MMA, so fighting inside of an Elimination Chamber is a perfect situation for her. She said if it makes Becky feel any better, she didn’t plan what she did last week. “I just did it,” she said. “But imagine the things I do have planned. Becky, I’m going to tear the living shit out of you.” Becky smiled and said she’ll be watching closely and rooting for her. She dropped the mic.
(Keller’s Analysis: This feud would have been big if they just had a staredown, and instead we have Becky pulling wads of cash out of a brown paper bag while Baszler is put on a big screen on Raw to talk back at Becky? Why isn’t Baszler suspended or fined for tearing apart Becky’s flesh with her teeth last week? Why is Baszler added to the Chamber match when she’s not even officially announced to be a Raw wrestler?)
-Charly Caruso interviewed Lana, Bobby Lashley, Zelina Vega, and Angel Garza. Charly asked where the idea came for them teaming together. Lana said it was an idea from Valentine’s Day because what would be better other than members of the two hottest couples teaming up against their respected enemies. “It’s like a Monday Night Double Date!” she said. She called it “brilliant.” Zelina didn’t seem on board. She said that she and Garza are two of the hottest people in WWE, but they’re strictly business. Garza told her to calm down because everyone knows how beautiful she is. He said he is there for her business acumen. He said Carrillo is close to finding out no man can measure up to him. Lana rubbed Lashley’s chest. [c]
-Ring entrances took place during the break on split screen.
(4) RUSEV & HUMBERTO CARRILLO vs. BOBBY LASHLEY (w/Lana) & ANGEL GARZA (w/Zelina Vega)
A few minutes in Garza tagged in and dropkicked Carrillo, then he tore off his own pants and threw then at Rusev. He bailed out to ringside. A woman in the crowd ran up and kissed Garza. Carrillo then dove through the ropes and speared Garza into the ringside barricade. They cut to a sudden break. [c]
Lawler talked about what a ladies man Garza is and they talked about the fan kissing him. Carrillo landed a corkscrew dive over the top rope onto Garza at ringside. Lashley surprised Carrillo with a spear. Rusev then charged at Lashley and knocked him over. He threw Garza into the ring and then climbed to the top rope. Lashley distracted Rusev, and then Garza kicked Rusev and climbed up to the top rope. Rusev threw Garza down. Garza shifted into perfect position for a diving headbutt for a near fall. Rusev lifted Garza, but Garza slipped out and shoved Rusev toward Lashley. Rusev hit Lashley with his Machka kick, but then Garza rolled up Rusev and yanked on his tights for a three count. As Garza celebrated, Rusev shoved him off the top rope to the floor. Lashley and Lana were already on the stage. Vega and Garza joined them.
WINNER: Garza & Lashley in 11:00.
-They showed Asuka and Kairi Sane backstage. Saxton said Kairi faces Natalya next. [c]
-The announcers hyped Keith Lee on “WWE Backstage” tomorrow night on FS1.
(5) NATALYA vs. KAIRI SANE (w/Asuka)
Before the match, they replayed Kairi kicking Natalya in the face two weeks ago on Raw, and then Natalya showing off the swollen eye on Instagram hours later. Asuka and Kairi did their obnoxious mic work on their way to the ring. Asuka talked about her plans to easily beat Natalya inside the EC. Lawler said his ears are bleeding. Back and forth action for a few minutes. When Natalya set up a Sharpshooter, Asuka teased interfering. Natalya let go and walked over to Asuka to yell at her and back her away. Kairi then knocked Natalya to the floor. Asuka then kicked Natalya in the head as the ref’s back was turned. Natalya was counted out.
WINNER: Kairi in 4:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good idea to create a little intra-EC rivalry even if no one really sees Asuka or Natalya winning.) [c]
-AOP and Murphy stood in the ring at the podium. Murphy introduced Seth for his sermon. He said he single-handedly saved Monday Night Raw. Lawler said he hoped Saxton and Phillips would show some reverence toward Seth.
Seth thanked Murphy for the kind introduction and the fans for making him the man he is today. He went on and on for a while about fans setting their minds to things in order to achieve them. He said now the work begins because he does not take the responsibility of being their Monday Night Messiah lightly. He said phase two of the movement will not be easy. Fans chanted, “You suck!” He said it is time for them to seek out the weak and the noncompliants. “We must find the flaws in the system and rehabilitate them, if we can,” he said. “And eradicate them if we must.” He said this isn’t a promise or a threat or a warning. “This comes from my heart, this is the gospel,” he said. “If there are any WWE Superstars who remain noncompliant, then they will suffer the same fate as the weak.” Boos. He said if you stand in the way of progress and in the path of the future – at which point he was interrupted by the Viking Raiders. They charged to the ring and went on the attack. Seth and Murphy bailed out and returned to the stage as the Raiders fought AOP in the ring. KO jumped Seth on the stage with a stunner. [c]
-Backstage Caruso approached Seth & Co. She said his sermon didn’t seem to go as planned. Seth mockingly said, “Breaking news from Chuck.” He said Murphy and AOP seem to be the only people around there who give him the respect he deserves. He said if they want a fight, they’ll get a fight from AOP tonight.
-A.J. Styles, Karl Anderson, and Luke Gallows walked out. Styles said he’s back on Raw and asked what WrestleMania season would be like without him. Gallows said he is phenomenal during WrestleMania season. They pointed at the sign. Anderson said Styles is the new Mr. WrestleMania. Styles said that’s one of the sweetest things Anderson’s ever said. Styles said he can honestly say he is the greatest Superstar on any roster. Gallows and Anderson agreed. He said he’s the greatest Superstar of any era. He said he has critics, which some might find hard to believe. He said when he wins the gauntlet match at Super Showdown, no one can say anything except for him. He said he’s going to say, “Who’s next?” He said he doesn’t care as long as the WWE Champion is available. He said it could be Brock Lesnar or Drew McIntyre or Roman Reigns or Ricochet or Undertaker or Shawn Michaels or Razor Ramon or Diesel or Sting. They made fun of Sting’s soul patch. Gallows called it “a flavor savor.” Styles said he doesn’t care if it’s the whole NWO. He said when he proves his dominance at Super Showdown – at which point Ricochet interrupted.
Ricochet said whether they like it or not, he has earned his title match. He said at Super Showdown, he plans to beat Lesnar and become WWE Champion. Styles, Gallows, and Anderson laughed uproariously. Ricochet offered to prove how good he is against Styles right now. He dropped he mic and encourage the crowd to cheer. Anderson said, “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Easy, cowboy.” He said there’s no way he could allows his first match back on Raw to be against Ricochet. Anderson said he’s accept the challenge and face him instead.
(Keller’s Analysis: The hints were dropped that will lead to a likely Styles vs. Undertaker match at WrestleMania. I like the groundwork being laid by Styles that he’s Mr. WrestleMania, setting up Undertaker to take exception.)
(6) KARL ANDERSON (w/A.J. Styles, Luke Gallows) vs. RICOCHET
Ricochet landed an early flip dive at ringside. They cut to a break, but stayed with the action on split-screen. [c]
Anderson dominated during the break. Ricochet eventually made a comeback and superkicked Anderson followed by a lift-and-dropf front kick to Anderson’s head leading to the 1-2-3. Phillips said Ricochet has doubters, but this was his way of showing he’s ready for Lesnar.
WINNER: Ricochet in 7:00.
-Phillips announced KO & the Raiders vs. AOP & Murphy would be next. [c]
-They went to the announcers on camera who recapped what Orton did to Hardy earlier in the show. They showed Hardy being wheeled out on a gurney earlier. Phillips said he’s been rushed to a local medical facility. He said for updates, check their social media platforms and WWE.com.
-Caruso interviewed Liv Morgan backstage. She said Ruby Riott has taken credit for her accomplishments. Morgan said she was as excited as anyone to see one of her closest friends battle back from injury, and she was just as surprised to see her appear. She said Riott walking out was a rush of great feelings, but Ruby she tossed their friendship aside like it meant nothing. She said being betrayed by someone you wholeheartedly believed in is enough to break anyone. She said not long ago it would have broken her, but she’s not the puppy on a leash Ruby described. She said she’s now comfortable in her own skin and looks at the future with an open eye. She said she will eliminate Riott at EC and move on to a championship match at WrestleMania.
-Main event ring entrances took place. [c]
(7) THE VIKING RAIDERS (Ivar & Erik) & KEVIN OWENS vs. AUTHORS OF PAIN (Akam & Rezar) & MURPHY
Back and forth action in the early minutes. AOP eventually isolated Erik and landed some double-team moves for near falls. Erik made a comeback with a knee strike to Akam. They both crawled over and tagged in partners. In came KO and Murphy. KO took him down with a clothesline. Murphy kicked him on a backdrop attempt, but KO came back with a clothesline and a senton. Murphy caught him charging with a boot to the chin. They cut to a break, but stayed with the action on split-screen. [c]
KO dominated during the break until AOP interfered and took control. Eventually KO made a comeback and he landed a top rope flip senton off the top rope onto Rezar. He played to the crowd. Rezar got up and clotheslined KO, then tagged out to Murphy. KO gave Murphy a Pop-up Powerbomb. The Raiders dove through the ropes onto the AOP at ringside. In the ring KO ducked Murphy and gave him a stunner. He made the cover. Seth jumped him and got DQ’d.
WINNERS: Raiders & KO via DQ in 14:00.
-Murphy and AOP held KO as Seth said this is what would happen to anyone who didn’t listen to him. “You have crucified me since Day One and now it is time for us to crucify you,” Seth said. Suddenly the Street Profits music played and they made the save. (Where were they earlier for poor Matt Hardy!) They cornered Seth. The Raiders joined them. Seth ran away. He watched as the Profits and Raiders beat up AOP and Murphy. Ivar and Ford mounted opposite top turnbuckles and then leaped onto two of the heels on the mat. Seth threw a fit on the stage as the babyfaces celebrated in the ring. Saxton said the uprising is in full force. Ford shook the top rope and hammed it up in an over-the-top way. Saxton said if he wants control of Raw, he’ll have to go through all those men to do it. The show ended with Seth continuing to throw a fit.