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
MARCH 9, 2020
WASHINGTON D.C. AT CAPITAL ONE CENTER
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Jerry Lawler, Byron Saxton
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-The Raw opening theme aired. Phillips then introduced the show as the camera panned the crowd. The graphic said they were in Washington D.C. The announcers commented on clips of Randy Orton’s attacks on Beth Phoenix and Edge. They went to a live shot of the parking garage. Phillips noted they were in D.C.
-Becky Lynch walked out to her music, holding up her Raw Title belt. Phillips said Baszler is the only wrestler in a Chamber match to eliminate every other wrestler herself (except, of course, he didn’t use the word “wrestler”). He said Becky faced “the cage fighter” Baszler at WrestleMania. Becky said she finally knows who her WrestleMania opponent is, “the cage fighter, Shayna Baszler.” She threw to a video package on Baszler’s win. Then they aired a post-Chamber interview with Baszler along with footage of Baszler biting Becky’s neck. “Becky, look at me when I’m talking to you,” she said. “I am going to take the Raw Women’s Championship from you at WrestleMania and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it, bitch.”
Back live in the ring, Becky soaked up those words as some fans chanted “Becky.” She said Baszler cut through the entire field in a few minutes, including the one person it took her entire career to defeat (Asuka). She said Shayna was a top ranked MMA fighter for ten years and has the longest combined title reign length in NXT history, but added that she is “a world class scumbag.” She called her a “black hole of charisma.” She said she might be a bitch, but she’s the bitch who runs the division. She said she used to recognize her only as the constipated-looking robot from NXT who refused to shake her hand last year. She said now she sees clearly that she is the biggest threat to come her way since she pried the Raw title belt off of Ronda Rousey’s broken hand last year. She said Baszler isn’t just looking to take her title, but rather she’s looking to rewrite history. She said normal people like her shouldn’t be able to beat trained killers like Baszler, but she does, she did, and she will again. She said it’ll be heart vs. skill at WrestleMania. She said Baszler feels she is discounting and underestimating her, “and I’m going to smash your face in for it.”
(Keller’s Analysis: Strong Becky promo, one of her best in memory. I could have done without her calling Baszler a “black hole of charisma,” as it felt irrelevant to the rest of the promo and more like Vince McMahon venting because he’s insecure over not “getting” what makes Baszler special.)
-Phillips plugged Drew McIntyre wrestling later. They showed Rey Mysterio backstage. [c]
(1) ANGEL GARZA (w/Zelina Vega) vs. REY MYSTERIO
Garza kissed a woman in the crowd on his way to the ring. (Not sure that’s what should be going on these days with the coronavirus concerns, especially in D.C.) Lawler said this all started when Rey stuck his nose in Garza’s business. Phillips said Rey came to the aid of Humberto Carrillo because Garza was going to give him a hammerlock DDT on exposed concrete. Garza side kicked Rey in the face as Rey was swinging up from the top rope. Garza dropkicked Rey out of the ring to the floor. Vega sat on the ring apron and pointed at Garza as he yanked off his pants. [c]
Garza controlled during the break, which was shown on split screen. Rey made a comeback after the break including a sliding splash onto Garza from under the bottom rope to the floor. Back in the ring, Rey landed a seating senton and an enzuigiri for a two count. Garza caught Rey flying in mid-air and inverted suplexed him after bouncing him off the top rope leading to a two count. Rey came right back with a 619 attempt, but Garza ducked and superkicked Rey. Lawler said he wasn’t sure he’s ever seen that happen to Rey before. Rey headbutted Garza as they battled on the top rope, knocking him to the mat. Garza came back with a Destroyer attempt, but Rey countered with a head scissors into a 619 that connected this time. Rey then springboarded onto Garza with a Drop the Dime splash for a three count.
WINNER: Rey Mysterio in 9:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good match. Feel good win for Rey, although it seems at this point I’d want to make a bigger deal out of Garza losing than treat it as sort of “just another win” for Rey. Garza seems to have a good upside and this defines him down a little. That said, Rey has been on a hot run and there’s never overt shame in losing clean to him, either, and it’s nice to see a straight up clean win.)
-They went to a clip of Kevin Owens arriving at the arena earlier. Seth Rollins, AOP, and Murphy were standing there. Seth offered Owens a bag of popcorn and said it was good to see him. KO laughed and threw his suit case at AOP. The four heels attacked KO and slammed various rolling food carts onto him. Officials showed up and told Seth & Co. to get back. They called for a medic. [c]
-They advertised Steve Austin for Raw next Monday for “3:16 Day” in Pittsburgh, Pa.
-The announcers threw to a video package on Rhea Ripley touring the stadium in Tampa where WrestleMania is likely to be held next month (who knows with coronavirus what public gatherings will be taking place in a month) and her excitement to be facing Charlotte at WrestleMania in an NXT Title defense.
-Charlotte strutted out, dressing more formally rather than in her robe. She said Ripley is “the next big thing, the new shiny toy.” She said the video package was inspiring and had her all fired up. She said she is confused, though, because she said at the end of the video package that to be the best, she has to beat the best. She said Ripley is not her and she will never be her and there is only one of her. She said she is wrestling for the NXT Title to teach Ripley a lesson. She said it’s one thing to walk through an empty stadium and talk about her hopes and dreams, and it’s another to be humbled by the Queen in front of 90,000 people. She let out a “wooo!” Ripley’s music then played.
Ripley entered the ring and said she was going to explain something to her. Charlotte cut her off and said they already listened to her talk for two minutes. She said this isn’t NXT, it’s Monday Night Raw, “and this is my kingdom.” A mix of woo’s and boo’s. “So you are excused,” Charlotte said. She held up her hand in Ripley’s face. Ripley punched Charlotte. Charlotte went down, then looked up and laughed at the audacity of what Ripley just did to her.
(Keller’s Analysis: I like that Charlotte is leaning more heel, but I’d like her presentation to make it really clear to fans they have no reason to root for her. There’s just too much ambiguity still. Ripley is coming across as a star, though.)
-They showed Randy Orton backstage. The announcers plugged his appearance later.
-A commercial noted that NXT on USA will be coming from the Performance Center for the first time ever this Wednesday featuring Keith Lee vs. Cameron Grimes for the North American Title and Undisputed Era vs. Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne for the NXT Tag Team Titles. Full Sail is having their annual “Hall of Fame” week and needs the regular venue. (This would have been a great opportunity to plan ahead and move NXT to a larger venue elsewhere, but maybe they’ll turn the Performance Center setting into something cool.) [c]
(2) BOBBY LASHLEY vs. ZACK RYDER (w/Curt Hawkins)
Lashley dominated and won with the Dominator in a minute.
WINNER: Lashley in 1:00.
-They went to the announcers on camera who talked about how frustrated Lashley is lately. Saxton said maybe he can channel that on the road to WrestleMania. Lawler said anyone married to Lana can’t be bitter. Phillips seemed to agree. They threw to a video package on Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar last week, with Drew kicking Lesnar. [c]
-They showed postcard shots of D.C.
-Aleister Black was back to sitting alone backstage. He was about to talk when he was startled by a knock on his door. He got up and there stood Seth and Murphy. Black asked what he could do for them. Seth said he’s excited to meet him, as Murphy has told him a lot about him. Seth said he’s an expert at the numbers game. He said he should ask Owens. He pitched Black join their group. Black said, “Perhaps, uh, not.” Seth got upset and said, “Maybe I wasn’t clear. Either you are with me or against me.” Black said those are fighting words, and he knocked on the right door “because I accept.”
-The announcers hyped the Brock Lesnar vs. Drew McIntyre main event at WrestleMania for the WWE Title.
(3) DREW MCINTYRE vs. ERICK ROWAN
Rowan carried his cage to the ring with him first. Drew came out second. Lawler said if anyone has ever had Brock Lesnar’s number, it might be Drew. Rowan charged at the bell, but Drew kicked him. Rowan tried to take it to Drew at ringside seconds later, but Drew reversed him into the ringpost and then overhead slammed him on the mat. Drew moved the cage gently to the mat and then slammed the base of the ringside steps onto the cage, crushing whatever might have been inside. Rowan ran at Drew, but Drew headbutted him. Rowan tried to fight back, but Drew threw him into the ringpost shoulder-first. Then he hit a Future Shock DDT, kipped up, and then counted down 3-2-1 before hitting the Claymore Kick for the win. On a replay of the cage being crushed, Lawler hedged on whether anything was in there, but said if something was, it’s not in the same shape as it was before that. Rowan mourned the apparently death of his pet in the cage.
WINNER: McIntyre in 2:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: What a colossal waste of time Rowan’s “push” has been in recent months if this was how it was all paid off – with him losing on two minutes in a TV match and having his cage crushed. They really were hesitant to gloat that Drew killed Rowan’s pet robot spider, weren’t they? Not sure having Drew eviscerate any living creature is a babyface move, even if it’s a creepy giant spider.)
-They showed Orton backstage and then threw to a video package on the Orton-Beth Phoenix angle last week. Lawler hyped Edge’s return this week. “Who knows what is going to happen?” he said.
-A Smackdown commercial hyped that Paige would be confronting Bayley, plus Jeff Hardy returns to Smackdown after almost a year away.
(Keller’s Analysis: Goldberg, Hulk Hogan, John Cena, the NWO, and now Jeff Hardy – they’re really going with the “special appearance” theme for Smackdown even though it’s not led to significant sustained ratings increases for the show.) [c]
-The announcers said Seth Rollins vs. Aleister Black had been signed for later tonight “for the first time ever.”
-The Kabuki Warriors entertained themselves with over-the-top grating obnoxiousness. Asuka got emotional when Kairi asked how her arm is. Asuka over-the-top cried. (Vickie Guerrero is calming and meditative relative to this.) Asuka stomped her foot and said she wants to defeat someone.
(4) ASUKA & KAIRI SANE vs. NATALYA & LIV MORGAN – Non-Title match
Natalya and then Liv Morgan made their ring entrances. The announcers explained Asuka’s arm was smashed in the cage door last night. After a couple minutes of action, with Natalya and Morgan in control, Ruby Riott walked out. They cut to a break, but stayed with the action on split screen. [c]
Asuka took control during the break. Lawler referred to her as “Aksana.” (Seriously, Jerry?) Sarah Logan walked out and got into a brawl with Riott at ringside. Morgan leaped off the top rope onto both of them at ringside. Natalya elbowed Kairi from behind. Asuka blind-tagged in. Natalya put Kairi in her sharpshooter, but Asuka entered and kicked a prone and unsuspecting Natalya from behind and got the three count.
WINNERS: Kairi & Asuka in 11:00.
-Phillips commented on a replay of Orton giving the RKO to Phoenix. Then they showed the parking garage where Edge was scheduled to show up. [c]
-A.J. Styles, Karl Anderson, and Luke Gallows walked out. Styles complained about Undertaker “sticking his nose in his business” and “costing him moments.” He threw to a video package on what happened at Elimination Chamber with Undertaker helping Aleister Black beat him. Back live, fans chanted “Un-der-taker!” Styles said three years ago at WrestleMania, he saw Roman Reigns beat Taker, and then Taker folded his jacket and took off his hat and gloves and laid them in the ring. He said he then threw his fist up as if he was riding off into the sunset. He said he thinks he should’ve done that when Lesnar ended his streak. He said it was a beautiful, powerful moment, but Undertaker ruined it when he came back to WWE. He asked if it was Taker’s ego or need for the spotlight. He said it’s going to cost him because “I want you at WrestleMania!” Almost zero pop. (Yikes.) Styles said he might have been hesitant ten or fifteen years ago calling Taker out, but he doesn’t see this mythical monster anymore. “What I do see is a broken down old man named Mark Galloway.” (Uh, it’s Drew Galloway and Mark Calaway.) He said Taker should have retired ten years ago when he was in his prime.
Styles said Michelle McCool is to blame. He said she and Taker are married, “if you didn’t know.” He said she plays him like a fiddle. He said they have a beautiful family and everything is great, “but she’s just the most conniving person I have ever met in my entire life.” Some boos started. Styles said they can boo, but the truth is the truth. He offered advice for Undertaker. “I’m a good guy,” he said. “Undertaker, your wife is going to run you into the ground and I’m going to help her.” He leaned into the camera and smiled as he said it. “I’m going to make sure that you die in that ring at WrestleMania. Let me rephrase that. I am going to take the Undertaker’s soul at WrestleMania. I’m going to do exactly what his wife wants me to do. It’s pretty simple. I’m challenging the Undertaker to a one-on-one match at WrestleMania.” He said Taker has already lost his dignity, pride, and mystique. “You’re just a broken down old man,” he said. He told fans to chant for Taker all they want, but the truth is the fans don’t care about Taker. He told him to accept his challenge because he will “literally put the nail in his coffin.”
(Keller’s Analysis: If the idea was to completely minimize people’s interest in this match, having Styles get manhandled by Taker only to be followed by Styles talking about his real name, humanizing him by characterizing him as being controlled by his wife, and stressing how broken down and old he is seems like the right approach. Styles delivery here was good antagonizing Taker. I just worry that fans actually like Styles more than Taker at this point, and they aren’t crazy about seeing Styles get squashed by Taker as he has been so far. Does that last line about a nail in a coffin mean we’re headed toward a casket match?)
-Charly Caruso approached Orton backstage and asked for his thoughts on Edge’s return. Orton didn’t say anything; he just stared off. Caruso walked away.
(5) RIDDICK MOSS vs. CEDRIC ALEXANDER – 24/7 Title match
Phillips said the usual 24/7 Title rules are suspended during this match. Moss attacked Cedric and dominated out of the gate. Phillips said Moss is redefining himself in WWE lately. He won with a neckbreaker.
WINNER: Moss in 2:00. [c]
Send questions and comments for tomorrow’s “Tuesday Mailbag” edition of the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast with guest cohost PWTorch senior columnist Bruce Mitchell now to: email@example.com. All topics are on the table including WrestleMania, Takeover, AEW, Raw, Smackdown, Hall of Fame, etc.
-Back live MVP was mid-rant against Washington D.C. He said they aren’t even a state. He said they’re just a dot nobody cares about. He said he’s transitioning from an in-ring wrestler to “an absolute brainiac.” He said he’s held gold, so now he’s going to help guide others to greatness. He said he’s going to build a stable, starting with Edge. He said he and Edge go way back, and he learned a lot from him. He said Edge is a good dude, but he has some difficulty with focus. He said with his guidance, he could lead Edge back to the prominence he once held. “I can make Edge a champion again,” he said. Edge was shown arriving at the arena. Edge got out of an SUV and looked like he was on a mission. MVP was excited about presenting him with his offer.
Edge’s music played. Edge strode out. If he blinked, I didn’t see it. He yanked the mic out of MVP’s hand and called for Randy “to grow a set and get your ass out here right now.” Fans cheered. He jammed the mic into MVP’s chest. MVP asked what’s wrong with him. He said he’s focusing on the wrong things and embarrassing himself. He said, “Speaking of the wrong things, how is your wife?” Edge speared MVP. Orton attacked Edge. Edge gave Orton an RKO. Saxton said Edge is in a different state of mind right now. Edge then grabbed a chair at ringside. Cheers. He paused and looked around. “Look at his eyes,” said Lawler. Edge grabbed a second chair. Orton slid out of the ring and fled to the stage. MVP got in Edge’s path. Edge put him to sleep as he stared at Orton on the stage. MVP gasped for breath. Edge looked down at MVP and then gave him an RKO onto a chair. MVP didn’t let his face come within six inches of it, unfortunately. Lots of light on that one. Orton picked up the second chair and slammed it over MVP’s head. Edge looked back at Orton, who looked back at Edge with perhaps some concern. “One more time!” chanted the crowd. Edge hit MVP again. Edge’s music played. They replayed what Edge did. Edge then finally sprinted toward Orton up the aisle. They cut to a sudden break. [c]
-Saxton said the contract signing will take place next week for an Undertaker vs. Styles match at WrestleMania.
-More scenes were shown of Washington D.C.
-They showed Triple H at the Arnold Sports Festival receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award. Triple H said the gym teaches you everything you need to succeed in life. Work hard to succeed. Share knowledge. Make your life everything you dream of.
-They went to the announcers on camera. Lawler congratulated Triple H. They pivoted to a video package hosted by Paul Heyman discussing the Lesnar-Drew match. He said nobody has ever been so dominant for so long. Clips aired of Lesnar beating up a parade of major stars. Then the narrator changed to Drew. He said everything Heyman said is 100 percent true. He said Lesnar has never met someone like him, though. He said he showed Lesnar last week that he finally met his match. He predicted victory at WrestleMania after a Claymore Kick.
-Phillips hyped the Lesnar-McIntyre match at WrestleMania.
(Keller’s Analysis: This hype does seem to be pointing toward a win by McIntyre.)
-Backstage Caruso approached Edge. He asked where Randy went. She said he left the arena. Saxton said Edge looked “absolutely possessed.”
(6) SETH ROLLINS (w/Muprhy) vs. ALEISTER BLACK
Seth made his ring entrance first along with Murphy. Seth brought a bucket of popcorn with him. He ate popcorn with a glove on his left hand repeatedly. He offered some to Murphy, who passed. He then shared popcorn with fans at ringside who accepted. (Seriously?) He entered the ring and handed the popcorn bucket to the referee. Aleister made his ring entrance next. Black got in an early flurry, sending Seth to the floor. He teased a dive, but flipped off the middle rope and sat mid-ring instead. [c]
Seth took over during the break. Black made a comeback and landed a high kick. Black went for a snap German suplex into a bridge. Murphy jumped in, prompting the DQ.
WINNER: Black via DQ in 8:00.
-Black went after Murphy. Seth joined in and called for AOP to join in the beatdown. The Viking Raiders and Street Profits ran out for the save. Montez Ford asked the ref to make it an eight-man tag match. The announcers liked that idea (especially because they had a half hour left in time for Raw, and it’d be awkward if nothing happened, although they could just send Baszler out there to pace for 30 minutes!). [c]
(7) AOP & SETH ROLLINS & MURPHY vs. STREET PROFITS & VIKING RAIDERS
As the four battled back and forth for several minutes, they cut to a split screen of Seth & Co. attacking Owens backstage. (Maybe KO can help the Street Profits win again!) They cut to a break around 5:00 in after some action at ringside. [c]
The heel isolated Erik for several minutes. Seth yelled that nobody is going to get the smoke. Lawler liked that. Erik came back with a knee strike against Seth. Both were down and slow to get up. Ford got the hot-tag. [c]
The heels took over on Ford during the break. Eventually chaos broke out with wrestlers taking turns striking each other one after another. Erik avoided a Seth Stomp and then tagged in Ford. Ford leaped off the top rope with a frog splash on Seth for a near fall broken up by Murphy. The Raiders leaped onto Murphy and AOP at ringside. Seth gave Dawkins a flying knee. Ford kicked Seth to the floor, pointed at the WrestleMania sign, and then flip dove onto the crowd of heels (and his partners too) at ringside. He re-entered the ring, only to be suddenly stomped by Seth. Seth made the cover and got the pin.
WINNERS: Seth & Murphy & AOP in 24:00.
-As Seth celebrated, KO attacked him at ringside. He then gave a Stunner to Akam and then ducked a charging Rezar, who tumbled to the floor. He gave Murphy a stunner, but then Seth caught KO with a Stomp. Seth delivered a second stomp. They seemed to have a few second to fill, so Seth trash-talked KO and lifted him. His music stopped even after the on-screen credit appeared and then disappeared, and he delivered a third stomp before the show ended.