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.
(Search "wade keller" to subscribe in podcast app or CLICK HERE to subscribe in Apple Podcasts.)
HEYDORN’S WWE RAW REPORT
MARCH 16, 2020
LIVE AND WITHOUT FANS FROM THE WWE PERFORMANCE CENTER IN ORLANDO, FL
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton, and Jerry “The King” Lawler
-The show opened with the standard Raw intro. When the intro ended, the Raw announce team welcomed the audience to the most unique Monday Night Raw in history. Tom Phillips and the team introduced the show and detailed the fact that they were at the WWE Performance Center. From there, Lawler hyped that Stone Cold Steve Austin would be on the show and that it was 3:16 day. At that point, Phillips got down to business and cued up a recap video that detailed the events of last week concerning A.J. Styles and the Undertaker.
Heydorn’s Analysis: WWE is selling this as “the most unique Raw in history” and I get it. At the same time, the entire experience is bizarre. Unique isn’t always good and though this is a valiant attempt at normalcy, the product is off.
-When the video ended, the announce team hyped the contract signing between Styles and the Undertaker. From there, they hyped Edge for an appearance later in the show, but his music hit and he briskly walked to the ring. When he got there, he picked up a microphone and spoke. He said it was a strange few months for him and his wife before rolling footage that detailed the happenings between him and Randy Orton throughout the last few months.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Excellent video package that did a good job at detailing the intensity of the Orton and Edge feud. A shame that this will be played out at a WrestleMania show without any fans. Such is life though and the right call given the circumstances.
After the video, Edge continued and detailed what it was like to meet Randy Orton years ago. He talked about how he knew his path with Orton would cross down the road and then detailed his history with Orton in the WWE. Edge reference RKO and wrestling for the Intercontinental Championship before talking about their history with Mick Foley. From there, Edge said he took a lesson from Foley that Orton didn’t. That was the lesson of grit. Edge said that after nine years he did what he needed to in order to make a comeback. Edge called Orton one of the best, but also said he was an entitled brat. He said that Orton may be the best ever, but that he was handed everything he got. Edge said it made Orton jealous that he had to work for all he got and it paid off. Edge said that Orton didn’t love him, but that he was jealous of him. Edge said that Orton couldn’t do what he did and that drives Orton crazy. At that point, Edge talked about the appearance of Beth Phoenix. Edge said that she was at Raw to announce another retirement from Edge. Edge talked about pulling Randy out of holes and said that after what he did to Beth, Orton pulled him out of a hole. He said Randy prevented him from making a terrible choice before challenging Orton to a match at WrestleMania. Edge said that if Orton had the guts, he’d face him at WrestleMania in a Last Man Standing Match. From there, Edge said that his story wasn’t a tragedy, but a story of redemption. He said Orton wouldn’t stand up at WrestleMania and then walked out of the ring.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Good stuff from Edge. He pulled the right strings to convey the correct emotion while openly not buying the narrative that Orton spewed a few weeks back about loving Edge. Tough to truly gauge without the audience there, but this checked all the boxes on what he needed to do out there.
-When the promo ended, the announce team played clips from earlier in the night in which Becky Lynch drove up to the Performance Center in a semi-truck with her name and face on the side of it. Lynch then got out of the truck and walked toward the building as the show went to commercial break. (c)
-After the break, clips of the WWE Performance Center were shown. From there, the announce team plugged major elements on the show including Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Too much from Lawler regarding Steve Austin. They hype is good. The promotion is good as well. Lawler losing his mind three times in less than fifteen minutes is overkill.
-The entirety of the 2020 Men’s WWE Royal Rumble Match aired. When the match ended, the broadcast started again with the Raw announce team. There, Tom Phillips announced that WrestleMania wouldn’t run live in Tampa, but live from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando. Phillips called it a monumental announcement. From there, Phillips cued up highlights from the past several weeks on Raw that detailed events between Brock Lesnar and Drew McIntyre.
-When the hype video ended, the Undertaker made his entrance to the ring. Instead of the long and slow Undertaker-like walk. Undertaker briskly walked down the ramp and climbed the steps into the ring.
Heydorn’s Analysis: How strange is that? The lack of a crowd reaction is always noticeable. but to hear the gong and then to see Undertaker stroll out with a normal walk is uncomfortably noticeable – especially with that lack of a reaction in place.
-Once Undertaker got into the ring he stared at Jerry Lawler who was in there to preside over the signing. From there, Undertaker flipped over the table in the ring and kicked over the chairs as the show went to commercial break. (c)
-Out of the break, Tom Phillips said that the Undertaker was unhappy that there was no contract present for the Undertaker to sign. Phillips then cued up a hype package that detailed the recent history between A.J. Styles and The Undertaker. When the video ended, The Undertaker was shown packing in the ring. At that point, A.J. Styles’ music hit. Undertaker looked toward the ramp, but the music faded without an appearance from Styles. Eventually, the music hit again, but once again, Styles didn’t show. Instead, Styles appeared the big screen and told Undertaker that he had the contract. He said that hundreds of people come through the Performance Center to be like the Undertaker and that he was a legend. He said that the Undertaker has carried the WWE on his back, but that it was 202 and he was past his prime. Styles said that it was Michelle McCool’s fault that the Undertaker keeps trying to inject himself into the WWE. Styles called Undertaker a shell of his formal self and told “Mark” to let it all go. Styles said that the Undertaker stole two victories from him and that at WrestleMania he wouldn’t be able to run or hide. Styles said that when WrestleMania is over, he’d pay for Undertaker’s assisted living cost. Styles then signed the contract as Gallows and Anderson looked on. Styles then told them to take the contract to the Undertaker in the ring. Gallows and Anderson didn’t like that idea, but Styles insisted. From there, Gallows and Anderson made their entrance and then slid the contract to the Undertaker. After they did, the gong hit again and the lights went out. When the gong hit again, Undertaker was behind Gallows and Anderson. Undertaker then proceeded to beat up both Gallows and Anderson around the ringside area. As he did, a furious Styles was shown looking on backstage. With both Gallows and Anderson decimated, Undertaker signed the WrestleMania contract and shoved it into Anderson’s mouth. Undertaker then left as Styles looked on from the backstage area on the big screen. The show then went to commercial break. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: A decent little segment to be sure. As far as the build to the match goes, probably the best they could do given the circumstances. The real question and analysis at this point needs to be around the presentation of the Undertaker. Between the walk to the ring and fact that Styles showed family photos of him and McCool, it appears as if he and the WWE are willing to step away from his usual gimmick in order to make this match work. The Undertaker gimmick has been protected for years so this is a drastic change from the norm. On one level, I like it as its a fresh way to see the Undertaker. At the same time though, WWE can’t have its cake and eat it too. You can’t work to present the Undertaker as a real person and then flip in the same promo for him to magically move around and control the lights. WWE needs to pick a lane.
-Out of the break, Rey Mysterio made his entrance to the ring. As he posed on the ropes, Asuka was introduced at the announcers desk as a special guest commentator. Once Mysterio got to the ring, Andrade made his entrance with Zelina Vega. Once he got to the ring, the bell rang and the match began.
(1) ANDRADE w/ Zelina Vega vs. REY MYSTERIO
Mysterio dropkicked Andrade to start things off. As the action happened, Asuka spoke in Japanese as the announcers worked to understand what she was saying. They tried to hear Asuka’s thoughts on facing Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross at WrestleMania and did when Asuka said they would be willing to do that.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Nothing wrong with giving Asuka television time, but why here? She has been exponentially far away from this feud.
Back in the ring, Mysterio took over, but his momentum was halted due to Vega’s involvement. Rey tried to battle back with a top rope move, but Andrade connected with a dropkick and followed that with a cover for a two count. The show then went to commercial break. (c)
Out of the break, Andrade kept him momentum and connected with the three amigos. Eventually, Mysterio hit the 619 and followed that with his top rope splash before covering for the 1,2,3 win.
WINNER: Mysterio via pinfall
Heydorn’s Analysis: Not much to say about this one. Clearly not their best match, but what else do you do? I just don’t think you can ask these guys to go out there and wrestle physically demanding matches without a crowd. With that in mind, this was what it was.
-After the match, the announce team recapped the events concerning Shayna Baszler at Elimination Chamber.
-When the recap video ended, the announce team showed the clip of Becky Lynch arriving earlier in the day in her own semi-truck. From there, the show went to commercial break. (c)
-Out of the break, Becky Lynch made her entrance. Once she got to the ring, she picked up a microphone as the announce team hyped her match at WrestleMania against Shayna Baszler. From there, Lynch spoke and said that she knew Shayna was watching her. She said that her existence angers Baszler because as long as she holds the championship, Shayna’s world doesn’t make sense. Lynch said that Shayna has been trained to bully her way to the top of the mountain. Lynch said that her on top makes Baszler question the order of things. From there, Lynch continued and said that she was the one that was hunted, but got tired of being hunted. She said that she was the prey that killed the hunter. She said that every interview she does is designed to make Baszler thing what she want her to think. Lynch said that she wants Baszler to think. She said she wants Shayna to think about what it will feel like when she beats her at WrestleMania. She said at WrestleMania she would prove that her life was a lie and that it would hit Baszler like a truck.
Heydorn’s Analysis: That works. Short, sweet, but effective. The booking has turned a corner in that instead of being about bites, bites its about competition and the championship. That should have always been the story. Good on WWE for finding that sweet spot.
-After the segment, the Stone Cold and Mr. McMahon clip from the hospital aired as the show went to commercial break. (c)
-Out of the break, the announce team discussed the WrestleMania move once again. From there, they cued up clips detailing the events of last week between Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley. When clip finished, Kevin Owens was interviewed backstage. Owens was asked about the challenge Seth Rollins laid out last week. He then asked for the microphone from Charly Caruso and spoke to Rollins directly. Owens accepted the challenge, but said he thought quite a bit about when and where to do it. From there, Owens said that given the WrestleMania move, he wanted to fight Seth at the Performance Center. He said it was the perfect place because for months Rollins has had an advantage. He said that Rollins has gotten the best of him many times because of his goons like AOP. Owens said he had the advantage now because he started his career at the WWE Performance Center. Owens detailed his early years in the WWE and talked about how Rollins never thought Owens would make it. Owens continued and talked about the memories he made at the Performance Center. Owens said that at WrestleMania he would add another memory and beat Seth Rollins.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Another effective promo. A little cheesy with Owens remembering his early days, but a serviceable attempt to tie the match back to the Performance Center.
-After the promo, the announce team hyped the appearance from Stone Cold Steve Austin coming up next.
-Out of the break, the announce team promoted an appearance from Brock Lesnar on next week’s Raw. They also hyped an appearance from Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton as well. From there, Stone Cold Steve Austin made his entrance to the ring. Austin took a swig of his beer before being called the greatest of all time and posing on all four ring posts.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Glass breaking without a crowd pop shouldn’t be a thing.
From there, Austin chugged two beers and then picked up a microphone. He spoke and said that he blew himself up on the entrance, but that he was glad to be there. Austin said he was out there to make a declaration that the 16th day of March was a national holiday. Austin asked the audience for a hell yeah, but Byron Saxton was the only one to give him one. From there, Austin talked about what 3:16 day meant and Byron Saxton gave scores to each of his points. Finally, Austin asked Saxton to come down to the ring to celebrate with him. Saxton did and while he drank some beer with Austin, he also took a Stunner. At that point, Austin had a solo beer bash until Becky Lynch walked out to join him. Lynch and Austin drank beer together and Austin gave Saxton another Stunner as the show went to commercial break.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Obviously, not how you’d typically want to use Steve Austin. Austin seemed to be more comfortable off the cuff and less so when he was reading through what 3:16 was all about. WWE is going to try and “WWE” this 3:16 thing too aren’t they. Eye roll. That said, the appearance with Lynch was fun and sent the audience home happy.
FINAL THOUGHTS: You have to wonder how many of these shows WWE has in them. Not having an audience clearly hurts the product. The good? WWE has most of its matches setup and ready to go for WrestleMania. They can easily spend the next few weeks showcasing promos until they get to those matches themselves. That can work. What comes after though? How do you setup new angles and feuds without an audience to react? Interesting times.