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 24, 2020
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Jerry Lawler, Byron Saxton
-They opened with a video recap of the Randy Orton attacks on Edge and Matt Hardy, with a focus on him saying over and over, “I am sorry. I am truly sorry.”
-The Raw opening theme aired.
-They cut live to the arena where pyro blasted. The screen said they were in “Winnipeg, Canada” (Manitoba didn’t make the cut.) Phillips introduced the show and said they were “live in Winnipeg” for the first time for Raw in 15 years.
-Orton walked out to his music. Phillips called him “the most depraved and twisted mind in WWE.” They went to the announcers on camera to set the stage for the show including discussing Brock Lesnar’s title defense against Ricochet at Super Showdown in Saudi Arabia before he has a chance to defend against Drew McIntyre. They also showed a graphic hyping Seth Rollins vs. Montez Ford and Murphy vs. Angelo Dawkins in singles matches before their Raw Tag Team Title match later this week. They also plugged a Women’s Elimination Chamber contract signing segment for Elimination Chamber.
Phillips said “the WWE Universe” has been looking forward to hearing Orton explain his actions and his statement that he is sorry. Saxton wondered if he has any remorse. Orton began: “I – I need to apologize. I’m definitely not the most sentimental of men, but to say the least, my emotions have become unbalanced. This morning, once I arrived to the venue, I was told it had been 15 years since Monday Night Raw had made it to Winnipeg. I would have been 24 years old.” He said at that time, he was the Intercontinental Champion and he was “also punched in the face by a certain man who would eventually save me from myself” – from his self-destructive tendencies who he eventually learned to love like a brother. “His name was Adam,” he said. “But all of you call him Edge.” Fans chanted “We Want Edge!” He said Edge can’t be there tonight because of what he did to him almost a month ago. He said he knows fans could never understand why he did what he did. Boos. “But what I did, what I did I am very sorry for,” he said. “I am truly sorry from the bottom of my heart.” He was then interrupted by Kevin Owens.
(Keller’s Analysis: Babyfaces keep interrupting Orton just when he seems to be close to explaining himself!)
Owens marched to the ring. Lawler said Canada is Bizarro Land and you need to be from Bizarro Land to interrupt Orton. Fans chanted “Kevin Owens!” KO paused to let it build. He said he’s been dealing with a lot of delusional people including AOP, “their little buddy” Murphy, and Seth Rollins, but he’s putting that aside this week because he realizes he has an issue with him. He said he just heard him apologize for what he did to Edge. “Here’s the thing; I don’t think you mean it,” he said. He asked Orton to drop the act and tell him why he did it.
Orton said, “You don’t want to go down that road.” He said he really does want to go down that road. He said he remembers what it felt like sitting at home watching Edge retire. “At that point I was already wrestling for a living, grinding it out on the independent circuit, but my goal was always to get to WWE,” he said. He said watching Edge retire, he said it sucks for Edge but also him because he would never get to share the ring with him. He said when he watched Edge return at the Rumble, he was excited for Edge, but also that he’d get to step in the ring with him some day, then Orton took it all away. He asked him again, “Why did you do it?” Orton asked, “You think you know me?” He said Edge thought he knew him too. KO said fans are sick of seeing them talk, so how about they fight. He threw the mic aside. Orton said he’s on, “but not right this minute.”
(Keller’s Analysis: KO’s been a bit flat in the feud with Seth & Co. lately, not really flexing his verbal muscles. Good to see him get some mic time and inject himself into the Orton scenario. The idea that he was upset for Edge, but also for himself, because their time in WWE didn’t overlap and he thought it finally would, is a good backstory for KO stepping up to address Orton. They’re still getting us to the point where Orton gets around to presenting his explanation, only that we wouldn’t understand it.)
-Backstage Charly Caruso interviewed Angel Garza and Zelina Vega. She asked what their unfinished business is with Humberto Carrillo. Vega said they need to take out the trash because there’s some family you are super-proud of and some you’d prefer to deny. He said Garza is a man’s man, and he needs to put his “awkward cousin Dimples Carfillo where he belongs.” He said once he does that, there’s nothing stopping Garza from taking the top spot on Raw. Charly thanked them for the interview and shook their hands. That gave Garza a chance to kiss her hand. She seemed to get all tingly. Lawler said he’s surprised she didn’t faint.
(Keller’s Analysis: It’s not traditional for interviewers to offer handshakes after an interview ends, but now we know why she did that – so Garza could kiss her hand, but she was the one presenting her hand to him so it wasn’t uninvited personal contact. Today of all days would be a tough day to get away with that.)
-Garza and Vega walked to the ring. [c]
-Phillips announced that Orton vs. KO is official for later on Raw.
(1) ANGEL GARZA (w/Zelina Vega) vs. HUMBERTO CARRILLO
They showed Garza’s attacks on Carrillo and Rey Mysterio Jr. before the bell. They locked legs and did handstands and slapped each other while upside down. When Phillips referenced Vega saying you aren’t always proud of all family members, Lawler said he has a cousin who is a waste of skin. Lawler said Humberto doesn’t belong in WWE yet because he’s so young. He said his first girlfriend dumped him because she grew a mustache before he did. Humberto threw a dropkick on Garza that came up short and showed a ton of light. Garza bumped for it anyway and rolled to the floor. Humberto dove through the ropes, knocking Garza into the barricade. [c]
They stayed with the action on split-screen, during which Humberto controlled the action including near falls. Back to full screen, Garza knocked Humbert off balance on the top rope, then yanked off his pants and threw them into the face of Humberto. Then he punt kicked him, knocking him to the mat. Humberto made a comeback with a nice arm drag. Garza rolled to the floor, but ducked Humberto’s slidekick. Garza side kicked Humberto as he did a handstand on the ring apron. Lawler said, “That’s what happens when you try to get a little too cute.” The battled on the ring apron, exchanging kicks and stomps. Garza landed a leaping moonsault press off the second rope onto Humberto at ringside. With both down, they cut to a second mid-match break. [c]
Humberto landed a Spanish Fly after the break to make a comeback and score a two count. When Humberto climbed to the top rope, Vega distracted Humberto. Garza then gave him a leaping uppercut. He followed with a top rope Spanish fly of his own for a two count. They went into flurry of moves and counter-moves including a string of near falls, and eventually Garza sat out on Humberto’s roll-up attempt and yanked on his tights for a three count.
WINNER: Garza in 14:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: That was a lot of fun start to finish. Great in-ring chemistry with those two.)
-They went back to the announcers, who shifted to talking about Elimination Chamber’s women’s match. They threw to a video package on Shayna Baszler biting Becky Lynch’s neck. They showed Becky speaking with someone backstage.
-Ricochet made his ring entrance. [c]
(2) RICOCHET vs. LUKE GALLOWS
Phillips called Super Showdown an opportunity of a lifetime for Ricochet that he earned. Gallows kicked Ricochet in the gut at the bell, but Ricochet ducked a Gallows clothesline and dropkicked him out of the ring. Then he landed a flip dive over the top rope at ringside. When Ricochet spring-boarded off the top rope, Gallows caught him with a boot to the face. They showed Paul Heyman watching backstage. (He was watching a natural angle and we still knew it was him!) Gallows settled into a chinlock. Phillips said Lesnar has had issues with wrestlers faster and smaller than him, so it could mean Ricochet has a shot at Super Showdown. Ricochet made a comeback and scored a two count after a standing shooting star press. Ricochet landed a super kick and a Recoil next, then climbed to the top rope. Ricochet leaped and landed a shooting star press for the win. The announcers marveled at the distance and height of his shooting star press. They showed Heyman looking cartoonishly sinister as he watched Ricochet celebrate his win.
WINNER: Ricochet in 5:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Makes sense to give Ricochet a win against a bigger opponent days before he faces Lesnar. Gallows and Anderson continue to be utility guys on this roster to do strategic jobs.)
-Phillips said Lesnar and Heyman would be out next to speak about Super Showdown and Drew McIntyre waiting for them at WrestleMania.
-A commercial for NXT hyped Tomasso Ciampa vs. Austin Theory plus Finn Balor revealing his next move. [c]
-Backstage The O.C. reacted to Gallows’ loss. Gallows and Anderson were arguing when A.J. Styles yelled, “Enough! Come on! Aren’t you guys the greatest tag team in the world? Then act like it!” Styles said a miracle could happen at Super Showdown and Ricochet could leave Super Showdown as WWE Champion. He said he’ll be right behind him to take the title from him after he wins the Gauntlet Match. He said they have to plant their flag at the top of the food chain. Aleister Black walked by them. Styles called him out and said after winning a couple matches, he thinks he owns the place. Styles said they’re the official and original club that matters. Then they attacked him three-on-one. The left, and the camera stayed on him as he struggled to stand.
-They went to the announcers. Phillips said Black has a match later against Erik Rowan. Lawler chuckled and said he should return to his locker room and wait for someone to knock on it. Saxton said they picked an easy target and took out their frustration on him.
-Lesnar and Heyman walked out to Lesnar’s entrance music and pyro. When they arrived at the ring and his music stopped, fans applauded them. Heyman introduced himself and Lesnar. He said for years people have tried to brand themselves with catch phrases. He said Lesnar doesn’t need a catch phrase. He said Lesnar doesn’t take an opponent to Suplex City every night, so when it happens, it’s special. Heyman said when Lesnar lays waste to Ricochet, it’s more special than usual because the stakes have never been higher for a Lesnar match. “Why, you ask?” he said. “It’s a damn good question, even for Canadians.” The crowd booed. Heyman said, “Thou shall not boo thy advocate!” Lesnar laughed. Heyman said if Ricochet somehow emerges victorious and becomes the WWE Champion, then he goes on to main event WrestleMania and defend the WWE Title against Drew McIntyre. He said the consequence would be groundbreaking and change everything about this year’s WrestleMania. “If that happens,” he said. “If my aunt has balls, she’d be my uncle, but she doesn’t, so she’s not.” He said Lesnar is going to take Ricochet to Suplex City, F5 him, and pin him 1-2-3 and then go on to WrestleMania. Lawler said, “That was awesome!” Heyman said he’s been wrong on one spoiler in seven or eight years, and this is a spoiler. He said Lesnar will make minced beat out of Ricochet and be their “reigning, defending, undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.” Lesnar held up his belt as Heyman dropped the mic and left.
-They showed Aleister limping backstage and wincing as he walked toward the entrance stage.
-A commercial hyped John Cena’s return to Smackdown on Friday. [c]
-They showed postcard shots of Winnipeg and then showed fans at ringside who were upgraded as part of a sponsorship.
-The announcers threw to another video package on the Lynch-Baszler angle.
(3) ALEISTER BLACK vs. ERICK ROWAN
Rowan brought his cage with a burlap tarp covering it with him. Phillips said the last man standing at Super Showdown’s gauntlet match wins “a prestigious trophy” which represents a mountain that represents the Saudi Arabian symbol of strength and fortitude. Lawler wondered if Black would even be able to make it to the ring. Black continued to struggle as he made his way to the ring. Phillips said it took all of Black’s powers to take down Rowan last week, and now he’s hobbled this week. Saxton said Black shouldn’t be in the match after the O.C. attack earlier. Rowan raised his arms and celebrated his early dominance of Black. Black made a comeback and knocked Rowan to the floor, but when he went after him, Rowan threw him hard into the ringside time keeper’s area. They cut to a break on split-screen. [c]
Rowan dominated during the break. Lawler said sometimes you have to live to fight another day. Black showed some signs of life. Rowan thwarted the comeback with a urinage for a two count. Black made a comeback a minute later and landed a cabrada and then a running knee to the jaw. As Black set up a Black Mass and spent time playing to the crowd, Rowan grabbed his leg. He then went for a claw slam. Black blocked it, but Rowan then powerslammed Black for a near fall. Rowan took it to Black at ringside. Black sidestepped a charging Rowan, who knocked over his cage from the ringside steps. Had Rowan landed his move that would have happened anyway, but it would have been Black who knocked it over. The announcers wondered if the creature in the cage was okay. A furious Rowan attacked Black at ringside, including powerbombing Black into the ringpost. He threw Black into the ring, then put the cage upright and on the stairs. He said, “I’m sorry.” He then returned to the ring where Black met him with a Black Mass. And another Black Mass right after for the win.
WINNER: Black in 11:00.
-Schriber interviewed Black on the stage and asked how he overcame the odds. Black said it was unbridled rage, “and next week my rage will be A.J. Styles’ burden.” He said if anyone thinks he’s being too dark and cryptic, next week “we fight.”
-They showed Drew McIntyre having a friendly chat with a producer backstage. [c]
-Phillips talked about Tyson Fury winning his boxing match over the weekend, then showed tweets from The Rock, Mick Foley, Braun Strowman, and Triple H. Lawler said he sent out a tweet, too, but it wasn’t shown. “Am I chopped liver?” he asked, using a phrase no one under age 70 uses.
-Caruso conducted a sit-down interview with McIntyre. She asked whom he’d rather face at WrestleMania. Drew said either works because he just wants to headline WrestleMania. He said it was promised to him once, but it never materialized. Caruso asked him to expand on that. He said 13 years ago at age 21 he debuted, and he said Mr. McMahon proclaimed him The Chosen One and the future of the company. He said he’s won zero world titles since then, as hard as that is to admit. “As hard as it is to admit, there’s only one person I can blame for that,” he said. “It’s me. I look back and I lost passion at the time for WWE. I was in my head. I was a liability, quite frankly, at times, and inevitably I got fired – deservedly so.”
She asked if he thought he’d return. He said he didn’t. He said he was very angry and bitter and carried a chip on his shoulder. He said he was fueled by that anger. He said he realized he had to work his way back to WWE. He said he didn’t want the world to remember him for playing air guitar.
They showed him on Apr. 1, 2017 in the front row at NXT Takeover, three years after he was fired. He said Triple H has always looked out for him, and they had the same thought – come to NXT to prove himself again. They showed his return to Raw on Apr. 16, 2018. He said fans remembered him, which felt good, and it was four years to the day since he was released. He said he left a boy and returned a man, and he showed the world what happens when you work hard. He said he wanted to set an example that if you bust your butt and give 110 percent, you can succeed. “Not just me saying it to say it, I’m living proof of it,” he said.
Caruso asked about him winning the Royal Rumble, eliminating Lesnar during the match. She asked what was going through his mind before he entered the match. He said he knew he had to eliminate Lesnar. He said he was the measuring stick of the industry, and he had to make his mark. He said he Claymore Kicked him out of the ring and “knocked his teeth down his throat.” He said Lesnar knew that moment he wasn’t like everyone else around there. He said he will fulfill his destiny at WrestleMania, and he feels good.
(Keller’s Analysis: Really good interview segment that pulled from history and told the story WWE wants fans focused on when it comes to McIntyre. The missing ingredient was any acknowledgment of why his attitude recently changed, and why after all of his time as a heel with a bad attitude he flipped the switch recently. They just don’t want fans thinking about it, but it’d have more credibility had they found a way to do that as they did with Lacey Evans on Smackdown last Friday. McIntyre came across likable and as a leader with main event credibility and a backstory he is owning and holding himself accountable for.)
-They went to the announcers on camera who reacted to the interview. Saxton said it’s been a struggle, but if he wins at WrestleMania, it’ll all be worth it.
-R-Truth interrupted with “Truth TV.” He said it was the “winter premiere.” He introduced Bobby Lashley and Lana, calling them Raw’s “power couple.” They began their journey to the ring as they cut to a break. [c]
-Phillips hyped the Tuwaik Mountain trophy. Phillips again said it’s a Saudi Arabia symbol for strength and fortitude. They showed a graphic with Styles, Truth, Rusev, Rowan, Lashley, and Andrade, the participants in the match.
-Back in the ring, Truth began his interview with Lashley and Lana. He asked Winnipeg “What’s up?” Lana said they’re not there to talk about his stupid talk show. She said they’re there to talk about Lashley. Fans chanted “Rusev Day!” She yelled that Rusev Day is cancelled. Truth said Lashley is really, really, really big. Phillips said that’s true. Truth asked Lashley if he’s ever seen the “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie. Lana asked for them to ring the bell right now. Apparently what she says, goes, because the bell rang.
(4) R-TRUTH vs. BOBBY LASHLEY (w/Lana)
Truth asked for time to get out of his ring jacket. Lashley attacked him as he removed it. Fans booed. Saxton asked why Lashley was in such a rotten mood. Lashley drove Truth face-first into the mat as fans pelted him with chants of “Rusev Day!” He then tossed him out of the ring to the floor. Truth showed some fight and took Lashley down with a shoulder tackle and a side slam. He signaled for Cena’s Five Knuckle Shuffle and dropped it. He lifted Lashley for an Attitude Adjustment, but Lashley escaped and speared Truth for the win.
WINNER: Lashley in 2:00.
-They showed a clip of Baszler responding to Becky last week on the big screen.
-Asuka made her ring entrance. [c]
-Phillips hyped Styles vs. Black next week on Raw. Saxton hyped Rey & Humberto vs. Andrade & Garza next week.
-Asuka sat at a table with Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan. They all looked like kids at detention. Natalya made her ring entrance. Lawler introduced the segment, but Asuka yanked the mic away from him. “We don’t care!” she shouted. She said there will be six people in the Chamber, but there are only five there. She called out Baszler for not being there. Lawler said it’s true that it’s customary for all participants to be part of a contract signing. He said he heard she was in the building, but maybe she’s late or a no-show. Fans booed. He said they’re going to continue with or without her. He asked Logan to sign first. She did, holding the pen like an ice pick. Nice touch. Natalya was next. Then Morgan. She walked the contract over to the other side of the table and slammed it down in front of Riott. She signed it and then slid it to Asuka who signed it. Baszler’s music then played.
Baszler walked through the crowd to the ring. Saxton said she wasn’t a no-show, but was making a grand entrance instead. Baszler stood and signed the contract, then walked past each opponent and eyed them. She leaned in particular in front of Natalya. Natalya stood and stared back at her. They faced off mid-ring and exchanged words. Asuka shoved Natalya down and got in Baszler’s face. “Bite me!” Asuka said. Baszler took off her jacket. Natalya tackled Asuka and punched away at her. Morgan leaped and tackled Riott. A bunch of security guys entered the ring to try to restore order and remove the table and chairs. Baszler was the last one standing in the ring. She smiled and applauded. Then Lynch’s music played.
Lynch tackled Baszler. Baszler came back and slammed Lynch and mounted her. Security and producers ran into the ring and pried them apart quickly. Fans booed. Lynch broke free, but they were separated quickly as they cut to a break. [c]
-Phillips hyped that the Bella Twins would be on WWE Backstage on FS1 tomorrow night. Saxton said they’ll be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.
-The Street Profits made their way to the ring through the crowd. They entered the ring and talked about facing Seth Rollins & Murphy at Super Showdown for the Raw Tag Team Titles. They called Murphy “Murph the Smurf.” A brief chant broke out. They called Seth the Monday Night Pariah. Montez Ford showed enthusiasm and then said there are only four words that matter. They said together: “We want the smoke.” Rollins’ music played and he walked out with Murphy and AOP.
(5) MURPHY vs. ANGELO DAWKINS
A minute into the match, when Dawkins was going for a cover after a sidewalk slam, Seth ran in and stomped on Dawkins. The ref DQ’d Murphy.
WINNER: Dawkins in 1:00 via DQ.
-Ford said Dawkins hit Murphy so hard last week, they removed his first name. Ford asked Seth if he’s scared. He said he’d do the same thing to Seth. The announcers reacted like it was an impromptu challenge, but didn’t they advertise it at the top of the show? Ford dropkicked Seth and then landed a running flip dive onto both Seth and Murphy at ringside. They cut to a break on split-screen. [c]
(6) SETH ROLLINS vs. MONTEZ FORD
The match started on split-screen during the break. Phillip said Dawkins was barred from ringside after getting into it with Murphy. The ref booted Murphy too seconds later. He threw a fit. Ford rallied against Seth and then clotheslined him over the top rope to the floor. Ford landed a standing dropkick to Seth on the floor. They continued to fight back and forth, including exchanging quick near falls. Phillips said this is their first one-on-one match. Seth landed a buckle bomb for a two count. He gave him a released running powerbomb into the ringside barricade. They cut to a break. [c]
Back from the break, Seth set up a Pedigree, but Ford blocked it and delivered a DDT for a near fall. The crowd popped. Ford got wide-eyed afterward. Seth met Ford on the top rope. Seth tried to superplex him. Lawler said he thought the match would be over long ago. Ford blocked the suplex attempt and then landed a sunset bomb. He then climbed to another top turnbuckle and went for a frog splash, but Seth moved. Seth then hit The Stomp for the 1-2-3.
WINNER: Rollins in 15:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good match. Ford gained credibility by lasting 15 minutes with Seth like that. He looked good, but it didn’t feel like it was time for him to score an upset. It made sense for Seth to get the clean win after a longer-than-expected match.)
-The announcers hyped Super Showdown. They said next week Beth Phoenix will return to Raw to provide an update on her husband. They showed a split-screen of Orton and Owens walking backstage toward the entrance stage. [c]
-A video package aired on Rhea Ripley.
(7) RANDY ORTON vs. KEVIN OWENS
KO took early control at ringside, then climbed to the top rope. Seth, Murphy, and AOP walked onto the stage. KO was then required to turn his attention to them and turn his back to his opponent. Orton knocked him to the floor. They cut to a break on split screen. [c]
Orton controlled during the break. KO came back with a superkick to the jaw. The Viking Raiders and Street Profits ran out and got into a fight with the heels at ringside. KO and Orton battled in the ring. Orton ended up giving KO a draping DDT after a Seth distraction, and then the ref made a fast three count. Like, a super-fast three count. Orton eyed the ref with surprise as the announcers wondered what just happened. Lawler said, “Even I don’t have any excuse for that.” Saxton wondered, “What in the hell did we just witness.”
WINNER: Orton in 12:00.
-Seth slid two chairs into the ring. KO got up and picked up a chair. The ref yanked the chair out of KO’s hands. Orton turned and left. KO then grabbed the ref and threw him into the ring. He tore his shirt, and the ref was wearing a Seth Rollins t-shirt. Seth, from the stage, said he doesn’t know what that’s about and had nothing to do with it. The ref begged off. Fans cheered for KO to hit the ref with a chair. Seth asked what was wrong those people. He then gave him a stunner. Seth yelled, “That is a good human being, Kevin! You got a problem with him, you’ve got a problem with me!” KO grabbed a table from under the ring and powerbombed him through the table.