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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HEYDORN’S WWE RAW REPORT
MARCH 23, 2020
LIVE AND WITHOUT FANS FROM THE WWE PERFORMANCE CENTER IN ORLANDO, FL
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton
-The show began with Paul Heyman. He introduced himself as the advocate for Brock Lesnar and called him the single most dominant force in the history of WWE. From there, Heyman went over all of the stars that Lesnar has beaten throughout his tenure in the company. He continued and said that nobody has been so dominant for such a long period of time. After Heyman spoke, Drew McIntyre was shown on the big screen and countered his points. He agreed to an extent, but then said that Brock Lesnar had never run into him before. Drew continued and said he would knock Brock out to become the WWE Champion of the world at WrestleMania.
Heydorn’s Analysis: This is a replay of a video that aired a couple weeks ago now. Smart to start the show with it as it frames Lesnar vs. McIntyre in a very workable and logical way. Really good stuff then and it plays well now too.
-When the videos ended, Paul Heyman was shown standing in the ring with Brock Lesnar. Heyman introduced himself again before saying that he wanted to be honest. He said we live in uncertain times and that we need certainty in our lives. Heyman said he wanted to give everyone certainty in the form of Brock Lesnar. Heyman said that Drew McIntyre can do whatever he wants, but he can’t beat Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. Heyman plugged WrestleMania being too big for one night and then continued. He said that god’s prayer line would give Drew a busy signal. He said that Lesnar would answer Drew’s prayer and make his win quick and painless. Heyman said that Lesnar would make it quick at WrestleMania, but not painless. From there, Heyman continued and said Drew was a main man after what he did to Lesnar at the Royal Rumble and on Raw a few weeks ago. Heyman said though that when WrestleMania is over, Drew would be another bitch that tried and a wannabe beaten by Brock Lesnar. When the video ended, the announce team plugged Brock Lesnar vs. Drew McIntyre at WrestleMania on the Saturday night WrestleMania show. The show then went to commercial break. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: A few things here. First, props to WWE on learning from AEW and moving the hard camera to face the Raw stage instead of a bunch of empty chairs. About time. Second, I believe the expectation was Lesnar and Heyman confronting Drew correct? We’ll have to watch the rest of the show here, but obviously that was missing here. All that said, Heyman delivered as always. In typical Heyman fashion, he built Lesnar’s opponent up as he talked up Brock. Promo work at its finest. It’s a shame this match won’t get its true due on a big WrestleMania stage.
-Out of the break, the announce team recapped the events of last week between the Undertaker and The OC. They also plugged that Styles would join the show live later on in the evening. From there, the announce team cued up Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the Royal Rumble from 2015.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Really good match choice tonight. This showcases Brock in a big way, is a match that not many out there have seen before, and is very good on top of all that. Smart stuff.
-After the past match, the announce team plugged Brock Lesnar vs. Drew McIntyre once again for WrestleMania on the Saturday night card. From there, they hyped Rob Gronkowski as the host of WrestleMania 36 and then aired highlights of how Styles vs. The Undertaker came to be a WrestleMania 36 match. After the highlights, the announce team plugged that Styles would join the show live as they went to commercial break. (c)
-Out of the break, the announce called WrestleMania 36 the only WrestleMania too big for one night. They then aired yet another recap video on Styles vs. Undertaker.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Ok, how many recap videos do we need for this match? Obviously, they are well done. WWE videos typically are, but c’mon, we get it.
-When the recap video ended, A.J. Styles walked out to the ring with O.C by his side. He stood on the ramp and then spoke. Styles said that for the first time in history, WrestleMania was too big for one night. Styles said that he and the phenom would go at it at WrestleMania and that he didn’t care which night he was on. Styles said that Undertaker might care though because his wife may not let him out of the house. Styles said that Undertaker had lost control of everything and that Undertaker looked like was wearing maternity pants last week. Styles called the Undertaker a gothic version of the Tiger King and then laughed with Gallows after he called it a sweet burn. Styles continued and made fun of Undertaker’s Twitter account. He talked about Undertaker swimming with a tiger and then he played the video from the Twitter account. When the video ended, Styles laughed and asked “who is this man?” From there, Styles continued and said that he hasn’t been the same since the streak was broken. Styles said he wanted to take Undertaker’s soul, but that his wife had already taken it. Styles said he didn’t want to face Mark Callaway that was posting selfies on Twitter. Styles said he wanted the Undertaker from yester-year, but that he was nowhere to be found. Styles then said he would give the WWE Universe what they want to see. Styles said he would bring back the Deadman in a match that he would love to be in. Styles then said he wanted to face Undertaker in a boneyard match. Styles said that he wanted to bury the Undertaker and he would do it in the same plot where his wife buried his career. Styles then laughed with the OC as the announce team took the broadcast once again.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Well, in ordinary times, I would eye roll the idea of a boneyard match. And the name deserves and eye roll. Boneyard? How about graveyard or cemetery. Something close to real? That said, this is WWE trying to make the best of a bad situation. With this stipulation, they can shoot the match offsite and safely while hopefully abiding by all health restrictions. I’ve got an open mind here.
-Zelina Vega, Andrade, and Angel Garza were all interviewed backstage. Charly asked them about their tag title opportunity at WrestleMania and in response, Vega said they were ready and in their match later tonight, they would show the world why they are the best team in the company. Vega said that Andrade would be the most decorated champion in WWE. Andrade then spoke and said that the Street Profits may want the smoke, but that they want the championships. Garza then spoke and said that they know what they want before walking out of the shot. The show then went to break. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: Andrade has point. As silly as it sounds, as a heel, he needs to check that logic at the door. A fine promo here to build a low card match at WrestleMania.
-Out of the break, the announce team hyped the boneyard match announcement. From there, they cued up a highlight video that recapped the events of last week concerning Edge and Randy Orton. When the highlight video was over, Andrade and Angel Garza made their way to the ring with Zelina Vega. Once they got to the ring, Ricochet made his entrance and quickly ran down to the ring to start the fight. Ricochet got some momentum and then fended off Andrade and Garza as Alexander made his entrance. Once he got down to the ring, the referee got control, and the bell rang for the match to begin.
(1) ANDRADE w/Zelina Vega & ANGEL GARZA vs. RICOCHET & CEDRIC ALEXANDER
Garza and Ricochet started things off. The action went back and forth between both teams until Garza and Andrade were yelled at by the referee due to moving the tag ropes. After, they got the momentum in the match back by tossing Ricochet into the guardrail. As they gloated, the Street Profits made their entrance and joined the commentary team. The show then went to commercial break. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: Not a bad match thus far and it looks infinitely better due to how it was shot with the hard camera moved. If you’re a Ricochet fan, you have to hope that this is a one time partnership between Ricochet and Alexander. If not, the worst fears for Ricochet on the main roster would have been fully realized.
Out of the break, the Street Profits said hello to the WWE Universe on commentary and then detailed their history in the company and that this was their first WrestleMania. Back in the ring, the action continued with Garza and Andrade taking the upper hand over Ricochet. Eventually, Ricochet tried to battle out, but Garza grounded him again and prevented from making the tag. Andrade took over after and chopped Ricochet in the chest before attempting a move off of the top rope. Ricochet countered and connected with a hurricanrana. After, he tagged Alexander into the match. Cedric hit the ring with fire as the Street Profits hyped up the action. Back in the ring, the action continued as the show went to commercial break. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: The Street Profits are adding a lot with their commentary. Not in an analytical sense, but in an energetic sense. Without a crowd, that is important and both Ford and Dawkins are delivering in a big way.
After the commercial break, Alexander and Garza exchanged strikes in the middle of the ring. Alexander took over momentum and connected with a spinning enziguri. He then made a cover, but Garza kicked out at two. Out of the pin, Alexander charged at Andrade the corner, but missed when Andrade moved out of the way. Andrade capitalized and hit his running knee strike in the corner before making the cover, but only got a two count. Out of that pin, Angel Garza tagged into the match and hit Alexander with a springboard reverse neckbreaker. Garza then made the cover, but only got a two count. Out of the pin, Andrade and Garza hit Alexander with a double team and covered, but got a two count as well. In the end, Andrade connected with a back elbow and made the cover for the 1,2,3 win.
WINNER: Andrade and Garza via pinfall
-After the match, Andrade and Garza stood in the ring with Vega and looked at the Street Profits. The Profits stared them down as well and congratulated them on their win. From there, the Street Profits walked down to the ring. As soon as they did, all four men started brawling with each other until Garza and Andrade ran away once the Street Profits took the upper hand. The show then went to commercial break. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: Strange finish. The referee counted the pin strange and in a way that signaled Alexander was maybe supposed to kick out? Not a bad match given the circumstances and the Street Profits helped greatly on commentary. The post-match brawl was simple and a bit out of the blue, but what else do you do at this point to build a rivalry here. Talking about the titles would be a smart way, this is an option to accomplish that goal as well though.
-Out of the break, the announce team cued up highlights of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s appearance from last week’s show. After, the Street Profits stood opposite their opponents in the ring. From there, the bell rang, and the match began.
(2) SHANE THORNE vs. BRENDAN VINK vs. THE STREET PROFITS
The action started with the Street Profits taking early momentum. Soon after, Thorne and Vink took over. Eventually, Montez Ford hit his frog splash off the tope rope and covered for the 1,2,3 win.
WINNER: Street Profits via pinfall
Heydorn’s Analysis: Essentially a squash, but an logical one given what the Street Profits have on tap.
-After the match, the announce recapped the 24-7 Championship title change over the weekend with R-Truth getting the belt back after pinning Riddick Moss while he was on a run. From there, they hyped an upcoming appearance from Shayna Baszler. The show then went to break. (c)
-Out of the break, the announce team ran down the WrestleMania matches and then tossed the show to Charly Caruso with Shayna Baszler in the ring. There, Caruso paused at first, but then called Baszler the most intimidating woman in WWE. She detailed Baszler’s Elimination Chamber win and then asked how Baszler would conduct herself as champion.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Shayna Baszler looks like a giant opposite of Charly Caruso. A great visual.
Baszler stared at Caruso and didn’t answer. Eventually, she spoke and said that Charly looked nervous. Baszler asked if she was afraid she would bite. Baszler laughed at this and then continued by saying that Becky Lynch should expect to lose at WrestleMania. Baszler told Caruso to ask the question she wants to ask. Baszler said that she loves to destroy and that winning the title would destroy Becky Lynch. As Caruso asked another question, Baszler was crushed with a chair from behind. Lynch appeared from the shadows and crushed Baszler with a second chair shot. Lynch then smirked and walked off as her music played. The show then went to commercial break. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: I liked this. Baszler looked the part of a bad ass and cut a nice promo that detailed her mission statement and why she wanted to win the Raw Women’s Championship. Becky got some brief comeuppance here too which was smart for her character development within this storyline.
-Out of the break, Aleister Black made his entrance. Once he got to the ring, his opponent was waiting, and the mach began.
(3) ALEISTER BLACK vs. LEON RUFF
Black sat down to start the match. Ruff told him to get up and as he did, tried to rush him with offense. Black dodged it and eventually hit Black Mass for the 1,2,3 win.
WINNER: Black via pinfall
Heydorn’s Analysis: Black Mass is such an impressive finish. A big key to Black matches. A squash all the way here, but it worked.
-After the match, the announce team hyped an appearance from Seth Rollins as the show went to commercial break. (c)
-Out of the break, Kevin Owens wrapped up his entrance and stood in the ring. Owens addressed Seth Rollins and said that last week he was on Raw to answer his challenge, but he was nowhere to be found. Owens said he was there tonight though and wanted him to come out and address him. From there, Seth Rollins walked out. He stood on the ramp and spoke back to Kevin Owens. Rollins said he was looking for Owens as he had some questions for him. Rollins looked around at the Performance Center and called it “pretty nice.” He then asked Owens if he honestly believed that fighting him in that building gave him a home field advantage. Rollins said he didn’t train there, but that Owens earned his job in the PC. Rollins then asked if Kevin Owens if he even understood how he got the opportunity to do all of those things. Rollins said that the PC was built on his sacrifice and success. He said on his first day in WWE, he was told that what he did before that point didn’t matter. Rollins said that Owens would never understand that sacrifice. Rollins paced around the ring as he spoke and continued by saying he needed to succeed in that environment so that people like Kevin Owens would have a nice facility like the PC to train in. He said that he didn’t know if it was Kevin’s ego, but he refused to fall in line. Rollins said that NXT or the PC simply wouldn’t exist without him. He said people owe him because of that. Rollins continued and said that there would not be a Kevin Owens without Seth Rollins either. Owens attempted to speak back, but Rollins interrupted and asked if he could finish talking. Rollins asked Kevin Owens why he would pick WrestleMania for their match. He then ran down all of his WrestleMania moments and said that Owens had zero. Rollins said that the Owens WrestleMania track record is failure after failure after failure. Rollins said that he wasn’t even good enough to be on WrestleMania last year. At that point, Rollins continued and said that Owens couldn’t beat him on his worst day. He said he is not at his worst at WrestleMania and that under pressure he becomes a god. Rollins finished by telling Owens that he simply does not have a shot at winning. From there, Rollins dropped his microphone and walked backstage as Kevin Owens looked on.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Great stuff right there from Rollins. Close to too much behind the scenes stuff, but it worked in framing his rivalry with Owens and a broader reason for the Messiah character. This was as close to a mission statement as we’ve gotten from Rollins since his heel turn and the context around it helped it all make sense. Well done.
-The announce team hyped Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins for WrestleMania and then did the same for Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley. From there, they cued up Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka from WrestleMania 34.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Another smart match choice. Probably the best match on that card.
-After the match, Charlotte was interviewed. She talked about reliving that match and said it was inspiring. Charlotte then addressed Rhea Ripley and said that Ripley wanted to be like her. Charlotte gave Ripley props for being the first woman to defend an NXT Championship on the WrestleMania card. Charlotte than ran down all of the historical moments she’s had a WrestleMania before walking out of the shot. The show then went to break. (c)
Heydorn’s Analysis: Simple, but effective in keeping the story moving forward.
-Out of the break, Randy Orton made his entrance and spoke at the top of the ramp. He said that he has done something recently that came from a place of love, but has been taken as an act of brutality and violence. Orton then looked into the camera and addressed Edge. He said he was there to react to his challenge, but then said he wanted to come clean about something first. Orton apologized and said that he lied to his wife three weeks ago. He said that Edge wasn’t a junkie for the fans and the reactions, but for Edge. He said that Adam Copeland was a junkie for Edge. From there, Orton continued and admitted that he never had to pay his dues to get an opportunity with the WWE. He said he was handed a chance because of who he was and what his last name is. Orton continued and said that just because he was handed an opportunity it didn’t mean he’d have a Hall Of Fame career. Orton then spoke about his accomplishments at a young age and said those weren’t handed to him. Orton said that he took the torch. He said he went from being a third generation prospect to the three most deadly letters of sports entertainment. Orton said he had grit and that maybe it meant different things to him and Edge. Orton said grit wasn’t sitting at home for nine years. Orton said that grit was longevity in an industry that doesn’t have any. Orton said that nobody has as much as grit as he does, including Edge. Orton continued and said that Edge can call him entitled, but Orton then asked Edge, “aren’t you the ultimate opportunist?” Orton said that everything he has done the last few months, he’s done because he loves him. Orton said that now though, Edge wants a match at WrestleMania. He said that Edge may be writing a story, but he would write the final chapter and finish it. Orton wrapped up by simply saying “I accept.” From there, the camera zoomed in on Orton’s face as the show faded to black.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Very well done. Orton was able to address some of the inconsistencies within the build and tied them together relatively well. He was cold and calculated, while justifying his actions. Heel 101 tactics. Good stuff.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S REPORT: HEYDORN’S WWE RAW REPORT 3/16: Alt Perspective coverage of the live show in a crowd free environment including the return of Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Undertaker and Styles contract signing for WrestleMania, and more