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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
APRIL 6, 2020
TAPED IN ORLANDO, FLA. AT PERFORMANCE CENTER
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton
-A video package aired with highlights of Drew McIntyre’s win over Brock Lesnar last night.
-Phillips and Saxton introduced the show and said this is the most unpredictable night of the year for Raw. They hyped Street Profits vs. Austin Theory & Angel Garza in a rematch for the WWE Raw Tag Team Titles.
(1) ASUKA vs. LIV MORGAN
The announcers talked about what mood Asuka would be in after having “failed” at WrestleMania. A few minutes in, Morgan leg scissored Asuka off the ring apron to the floor, but when she charged, Asuka round kicked her in the head. Phillips asked, “Can Morgan can get back in it on Monday Night Raw?” They cut to a break. [c]
Asuka avoided a leaping Morgan, then went for an Asuka lock. Morgan dropped back for a leverage two count. Asuka went right back for the Asuka lock, arm dragging Morgan and cinching on the hold for the tapout. Saxton said Morgan put up a good fight. Asuka celebrated with her over-the-top dancing to her music afterward.
WINNER: Asuka in 11:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Solid match. You can tell who was around and available for the Raw pre-tapes last month as we’re getting a lot of Asuka and Street Profits, among a few others, in matches. Asuka is good for providing organic crowd-free energy and noise, and her entrance is among the most dynamic when it comes to distracting from the lack of crowd. I worry a match with no backstory or pre-match hype going that long is going to test the patience of some viewers early, since WWE didn’t exactly give anyone watching a strong hook to stay tuned other than the generic promise of this being the most unpredictable Raw of the year.)
-Phillips threw to a video package on Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler at WrestelMania.
-Charly Caruso interviewed Becky backstage. Becky said it feels good to be a champ for nearly a year. She said she’s one day away. Caruso asked if Becky rolling Baszler back was her last gasp. Becky said everything she does is calculated and she’s always looking for a counter. Caruso asked how good Baszler is. Becky said she’s great, and she thinks Baszler underestimated her. She said she’s the longest combined NXT Champion and has a great MMA resume. She said her resume is perhaps unmatched in WWE today, but this was a test of skill and heart, and heart won. Becky said Baszler can knock on her door if she thinks her win was lucky.
(Keller’s Analysis: The camera stayed on Caruso too long as she awkwardly gazed toward Becky with a smile for several seconds as Becky walked away. Becky is being herself here and reacting like an athlete would to a win. I think that’s plenty for Becky’s character as long as the structure around her is fundamentally sound – which is framing the title as important, making sure the way contenders are determined seems to have integrity, making sure her challengers are presented as wrestlers fans don’t want to see take over as champion, and the way matches play out and conclude seems to have credibility. When those pieces aren’t in place, that’s where overly bombastic trying-to-hard promos tend to come in to try to make up for it. This wasn’t one of those.)
-Baszler talked about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat backstage with at white towel over her head. She yanked off the towel and said she is promising Becky “the agony of my defeat.” She stared into the camera threateningly.
(Keller’s Analysis: It seems more steam was taken out of the legend of Baszler at WrestleMania than was put back in by this promo, but at least Baszler didn’t just curl up into a ball of self-pity and instead vowed to dish out some pain. The delivery and wording here were good. I’m not fully condemning Baszler’s initial loss against Becky as necessarily bad, since Becky holding the title for over a year has some real value.)
-Phillips hyped that the Street Profits vs. Theory & Garza rematch was coming up. Saxton said they’d take a look at the “unorthodox and ultra-personal WrestleMania Boneyard Match between Undertaker and A.J. Styles later. [c]
-A commercial aired for the Edge “24” special on WWE Network.
(2) THE STREET PROFITS (Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins) vs. ANGEL GARZA & AUSTIN THEORY (w/Zelina Vega)
Saxton talked about what a big deal it was for the Profits to successfully defend their tag team titles at their first WrestleMania. Early in the match, Ford, standing on the ring apron, squawked at Theory as he walked by him, which startled him. Saxton said, “I don’t know what that sound was, but I liked it.” Dawkins checked Theory hard to the mat after a leapfrog. Dawkins tagged in Ford who landed a signature high dropkick. The Profits slammed an interfering Garza onto Theory, then knocked them to the floor. A they played to the camera, they cut to an early break. [c]
Back live the heel duo beat down Dawkins. Saxton said this is a new team of Theory and Garza, so it’d be unheard of to win the tag team titles that quickly. He said they are showing they learned already from their loss at WrestleMania given how well they were doing here. Saxton said Charlotte becoming NXT Champion in 2020 in “one of the OMG” moments of the year. Eventually Dawkins hot-tagged in Ford just as Garza also tagged in. Ford hit a flurry of moves against Garza including a dropkick and a DDT. Theory distracted the ref. Vega held Ford’s leg as he stood on the top rope. The ref saw it and called for the bell.
WINNER: Street Profits in 12:00 via DQ to retain the WWE Tag Team Titles.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good basic tag match. The finish was kind of cheap, and the lack of any sensible reaction by Phillips and Saxton was annoying. Phillips said “the official is going to throw out this match.” Doesn’t Phillips mean the referee is going to DQ Garza & Theory? And shouldn’t the announcers say that the interference backfired and cost Theory & Garza a coveted chance at the Raw Tag Team Titles? It just totally undercuts the idea that wrestlers value title matches when the announcers are so unaffected by the heels cheating completely backfiring.)
As Vega kicked Ford in the face as Theory and Garza held him, Bianca Belair came out. She asked Zelina if she really thinks she’s doing something. “I go here now,” she said. She said Vega can’t outrun her, so come on in the ring or does she have to get her herself. Saxton and Phillips wondered if that match would take place next. [c]
(3) BIANCA BELAIR (w/The Street Profits) vs. ZELINA VEGA (w/Austin Theory, Angel Garza)
Phillips said Belair is one of the best pure athletes in WWE. (That label again is applied to a black wrestler, which is a rich tradition in pro wrestling as the default compliment that also implies something if they don’t succeed despite that great pure athleticism. It’s time to move on from that “compliment” disproportionately being applied to black athletes and look for another way to frame their characters and describe their strengths.) Ford slid toward the lens of the camera and yelled and made faces. Phillips mentioned that Ford is Belair’s husband. Theory stood on the ring apron to get in the way of Belair running the ropes. He said it’s not going to go like that. Ford attacked Theory. They brawled into the ring. The ref called for the bell.
WINNERS: No contest in 3:00.
-The Profits and Belair stood in the ring after the heel trio bailed out to ringside. Ford said they are one day removed from WrestleMania and since they’re all there, why not make it a family affair and do a three-on-three match. He shouted, “We want the smoke!”
(Keller’s Analysis: This is a real test of the audience’s interest in these six wrestlers. It’s just a shame WWE just threw them to the ring and didn’t have them talk ahead of time and put some real passion into stating what was at stake while giving viewers a strong reason to cheer for one side and boo the other and, just in general, feel emotionally invested in the outcome. It was just so half-hearted. I get circumstances are what they are, but televised pro wrestling is at its best when promos from good talkers get you excited about a match. WWE just forgets to do that for mid-card level matches, and they pay the price when they try to hold viewers’ interest when a lot of viewers just don’t have reason to care a lot or think anything is really at stake.) [c]
(4) THE STREET PROFITS & BIANCA BELAIR vs. ANGEL GARZA & AUSTIN THEORY & ZELINA VEGA
Saxton said, a few minutes in, “The way this night is going, this match might go all night.”
Ford tagged in Belair who knocked Theory off the ring apron rather than stopping this time, then moonsaulting Vega. Garza broke up the cover by yanking on her boot. Ford chased after Garza, who begged off. Theory caught Ford with a superkick as he turned the corner at ringside. Dawkins chased Garza to the back as Belair gave Vega a snake-eyes/Glam Slam followed by her KOD for the win. Ford got in the face of the camera.
WINNERS: Street Profits & Belair in 6:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Imagine being stuck in an elevator with Montez Ford and Mojo Rawley. Ugh.)
-Phillips hyped the look back at the Undertaker-A.J. Styles match. Saxton said they had breaking news, as they’d show shocking footage of what happened after Drew won the WWE Title.
(Keller’s Analysis: It would have been beneficial to mention that earlier as a hook for viewers to stick around. The announcers should have excitedly lead with that at the very top of the show and built a sense that you must stay tuned to see this.)
-Phillips threw to Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley highlights. It included freeze-frames of Lana yelling instructions from the ring apron at Lashley, giving Black a chance to strike with a surprise Black Mass.
-Caruso asked Lashley what happened to him. Lashley said, “Something tells me I need new management or a new wife.” He stared at Caruso. In walked Lana, who was all smiles and asked what they ere talking about. Lashley sulked away. Lana turned to Caruso and asked, “What did you do to my husband?”
-Clips aired of Aleister throwing Black Mass kicks at various opponents. Phillips said he was up next. [c]
-They showed the exterior of the Performance Center.
(5) ALEISTER BLACK vs. APOLLO CREWS
The announcers really talked up Black’s win over Lashley. Phillips said in the last nine months, Black has only lost twice. “Talk about momentum,” he said. The announcers said Crews is an exciting pick-up for Raw with an “expiring draft pick.” (In other words, he was around and available at the tapings and they needed someone to face Black.) About three minutes in, after Black got the better of Crews after some running the ropes, Black sat down mid-ring and Crews bailed out to ringside to regroup. He smiled and shook his head no at Black. [c]
Phillips said this is the exciting part about the “Raw After WrestleMania” because you never know what’s going to happen. He referred to Crews and Belair showing up on Raw. Phillips said they’d hear from Charlotte later in the show. Phillips talked up WrestleMania being the most social show in WWE history with nearly 14 million social interactions. (I suppose it helps to have something to brag about since they can’t tout the crowd or ratings or probably WWE Network subscriber levels. It lets people know that a lot of people had a lot to say about WrestleMania 36, despite the odd setting and difficult circumstances.) Saxton said Black is beat up from the Lashley match, which gives Crews an opening to take advantage of. They fought to ringside where Crews kicked Black in the shoulder and then moonsaulted off the ring apron onto Black. They cut to another break. [c]
Back from the break, Crews splashed Black in the corner, then took him down with a lariat for a near fall. Black rolled out of the path of a Crews top rope splash, then took Crews down and applied a kneebar mid-ring. Crews cried out in pain and reached for the bottom rope. He eventually got there to force Black to release the hold. Black signaled for the Black Mass, but when he spun around, Crews ducked and pump kicked Black, then landed an enzuigiri. Black bumped to the floor. They cut to another break.
(Keller’s Analysis: Who had their money on an Apollo Crews match on the Raw After Mania that had three commercial breaks in it?) [c]
Black swept Crews and landed a running knee, then kipped up. He landed a cabrada for a two count. He kicked Crews in the face and scored another two count. Crews came back with a high dropkick. Phillips said after this match they’d take a look back at the Randy Orton-Edge match at WrestleMania. Crews and Black battled on the ropes leading to Crews superplexing Black for a near fall. Crews pressed Black in the air and then landed a sitout powerbomb for a near fall. Saxton said sometimes there is no substitution for pure power. Crews pressed Black again and dropped him behind him, then landed a standing moonsault and a standing shooting star press for a two count. Crews collapsed from his knee, which he had been selling most of the match. Crews saw Black was still down, so he climbed to the top rope. Black got up and kicked him in the face. Then Black went for a superplex, but Crews lifted and dropped him. Crews leaped at Black, but Black caught him mid-air with a knee to the chin. He then signaled for the Black Mass again, but Crews blocked it. Black sunset-flipped Crews to counter his powerbomb set-up. Black then finally caught Crews with the Black Mass for the win. Black sat cross-legged next to Crews, who was knocked out cold for a while after the match.
WINNER: Black in 27:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: This match was designed to fill a lot of TV time first and foremost with limited options for WWE at their pre-WrestleMania tapings to get them through the stay-at-home order in Florida where the Performance Center is. Given that opportunity, Black and Crews made the most of it with a really good lengthy match. The downside is there was no crowd to win over and react big, which would have enhanced the enjoyment of the match for viewers at home. The bright side is, there was no crowd to get bored and thus not react in case they didn’t buy into Crews as a threat against Blacks which would worked against the enjoyment of the match for viewers at home. While it helped Crews show the kind of match he can have, Crews has been so diminished with how he’s been utilized by WWE for years now, Black needing nearly a half hour to beat him, I fear, takes more away from Black than it does to help Crews. This defines Black down as a slightly-above-mid-carder rather than something really special. I wish they did more to stress that Black was hobbled from the Lashley match at WrestleMania while Crews was resting. Also, a little heel-face dynamic would have added some edge. We’ll see if this showcase match for Crews is the start of a new push for him, or a one-off to fill TV time on a weird week.)
-A three minute video package aired highlights of the Edge-Orton Last Man Standing match at WrestleMania.
-Philips plugged Cedric & Ricochet would be in action next. Phillips said it’s an exciting new team. Saxton said they’d be taking a look back at the Undertaker vs. A.J. Styles Boneyard Match later too, “an unconventional and offbeat match.”
-An NXT commercial aired hyping Johnny Gargano vs. Tomasso Ciampa and the six-woman ladder match to become no. 1 contender for Charlotte’s NXT Title. [c]
(6) RICOCHET & CEDRIC vs. ONEY LORCAN & DANNY BURCH
Phillips noted that Lorcan & Burch are from 205 Live and NXT with a chance to shine against the new team of Cedric & Ricochet. Phillips again teased that what happened after the Lesnar-Drew match was stunning and they’d show it later. When Ricochet tagged in against Burch, it looked like someone hit the 2x button on the remote. Black and Ricochet finished Lorcan after a sequence concluding with the Recoil.
WINNERS: Cedric & Ricochet in 3:30.
(Keller’s Analysis: It’s good they didn’t go too long with this, although it wasn’t a great moment for Burch & Lorcan to go down so easily to two wrestlers who didn’t even make the cut to be part of WrestleMania. The pushes of Crews, Cedric, and apparently the start of the Lashley babyface turn is noteworthy on this episode.) [c]
-Phillips touted the social activity for WrestleMania and showed various mainstream headlines about the event.
-A two minute video package recapped the Kevin Owens-Seth Rollins match at WrestleMania.
-A post-match promo aired with KO in the parking garage speaking about how in the last five months, his career has been hell. He said all he wanted for five months was to get Seth in the ring one-on-one, and all he got were multiple attacks by three and four at a time. He said it got so bad he began to ask himself if it was worth it. He said at WrestleMania, when he jumped off the sign and crashed onto Seth and the table, and when he heard the three count, he realized it was worth it to have a WrestleMania Moment he could finally be proud of. He said it’s time to move on to bigger and better things. He said he used to call himself a prize fighter, and maybe he should focus on that, or maybe there are more people in WWE like Seth who deserve a stunner or two. He said whatever he does from here on out, the message and mentality will be the same, he is there to stay and it will be the Kevin Owens Show. He winked.
(Keller’s Analysis: KO can give an interesting promo when he has nothing really new to talk about, and this was close to that. I like accentuating the win and what it means to him. It gives fans a chance to bask with him during his celebration. I was left feeling Owens has no idea what’s next for his character, so he covered all bases in a generic sense – maybe I’ll chase a champion and be a prize fighter, maybe I’ll take out another irritant on the roster.)
-Seth Rollins music played. Phillips wondered what mood Seth would be in. Seth walked very slowly with small steps to the ring. Phillip said the look on Seth’s face tells the story of what happened at WM. Phillips: “That’s the look of a very ticked off Monday Night Messiah.” Saxton said maybe he’s despondent, too.
(7) SETH ROLLINS vs. DENZEL DEJOURNETTE
Seth stomped away at Dejournette early and then took it to him at ringside, throwing him into the ringside barricade. Then he threw him back into the ring and landed The Stomp for the win. Phillips said it’s a new Seth Rollins. Saxton wondered if that’s a good thing.
WINNER: Seth in under 2:00.
-Saxton excitedly said Nia Jax is returning to Raw tonight. Phillips said they’d hear from her next.
(Keller’s Analysis: There’s actually a lot happening on this show, but they did a terrible job setting the stage for it. They just keep mentioning in passing newsworthy items during extended content that feels like largely dry filler. This was a week to open Raw with list of bullet points on how newsworthy the show would be – Seth in action after his loss, a tag team title rematch, the return of Nia Jax, Kevin Owens speaking about the impact of his win on his mindset and future, Charlotte speaking for the first time about regaining the NXT Title, Apollo Crews joining Raw and looking to make an early statement, reaction from both Becky and Baszler to their WM match, a shocking post-match occurrence between Lesnar and Drew, and a look back at Edge-Orton and Styles-Undertaker. They previewed some of those during match commentary, but the first hour or so of this show just felt like it was going to be a phoned in uneventful show of long matches with mid-carders and highlights of other stuff. I wonder how many viewers they lost first.)
-A commercial aired for Smackdown asking what comes in the wake of WrestleMania with new champions emerging above the rest and changing the landscape.
(8) NIA JAX vs. DEONNA PURRAZZO
Jax outpowered Purrazzo from the very start. Saxton said this is her first match in a year. Phillips talked about how much has changed since she was last around – Charlotte as NXT Champion, Becky celebrating a year as champion, Baszler on Raw, Belair on Raw roster. Jax landed a Samoan Drop and then a cradle DDT for the win.
WINNER: Jax in under 2:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: I like that they made a big deal out of Jax returning and gave her a decisive win upon her return. It presented her as a disruptor to the scene that she’s been away from for a year. If you’re going to have on the roster, do the most to maximize her impact.)
-A nearly five minute highlight package aired of the Undertaker-Styles Boneyard match. [c]
(9) HUMBERTO CARILLO vs. BRENDAN VINK
As Humberto walked out, Phillips said they’d hear from Charlotte later tonight. The 6-5, 260 pound Australian Vink took it to Carillo out of the gate, outpowering him. Carillo avoided a suplex and landed a jaw jacker followed by a springboard armdrag. He landed a roundkick to the face and then a top rope dropkick. Vink bailed out to ringside. Carilllo charged, but Vink caught him with a big boot. Vink slammed Carilllo and scored a two count, then settled into a chinlock. Phillips said he’s still processing “whatever the hell the Firefly Funhouse match was.” Saxton said he’s had some dreams like that. Carillo made a comeback and dropped Vink with a moonsault off the top rope for the win. Carillo celebrated on the middle turnbuckle in the corner as if he was being cheered by a large crowd. It was odd.
WINNER: Carilllo in 3:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Here’s a situation where Carillo’s win would have meant so much more if over the last week or so WWE put together a brief introductory package on Vink to make it seem like he was an intimidated new arrival threatening whatever momentum Carillo has. That said, I understand Vink might have been on the show because he was local and they were trying to cram in a Raw taping before sending everyone to quarantine for two weeks, so I’m more forgiving of putting him out there with no build or context. He has a look, and he also has a personality they can market.)
-Phillips hyped a look back at the Charlotte win over Rhea Ripley and then said they’d hear from Charlotte. [c]
-Phillips touted the social media activity record for WrestleMania.
-A two minute highlight video aired of the Charlotte win over Ripley.
-Caruso congratulated Charlotte on her win. Charlotte interrupted her and told her she doesn’t need her to congratulate her. She said when she was a little girl, her dad had custom cars, custom rooms, custom suits, and everybody thinks it’s a suit the makes the man. “You know what my dad told me?” she said. “It’s the man that makes the suit.” She said now it’s the woman who makes the title. She said she retired the Divas Title and has held the Raw Title, and now she’s a two-time NXT Champion. She said Ripley was okay, but she did what everyone else does – she bowed down to The Queen.
(Keller’s Analysis: I liked that. One of Charlotte’s better promos. She was less robotic and clearly a heel. I’m hoping she thrives as a character in the NXT environment.)
-Highlights aired of the Lesnar loss to Drew. [c]
-Drew McIntyre walked out to the ring. Phillips said he is the first wrestler born in the U.K. to win the WWE Title and he’s the first Scottish champion in WWE history. Sarah Schreiber interviewed Drew mid-ring. She asked if the magnitude of what he accomplished has hit him yet after just 20 minutes. Drew said not yet and he hasn’t had a chance to talk to anyone. He said he doesn’t believe it’s real. He said he took the time to get the plate changed with his name on the side of the belt and that is helping it feel real.
He looked at the camera and said, “Thank you, Paul Heyman.” He said during the match he felt ready, and he saw a look in Lesnar’s eyes that he was ready to go to war. He said at the point that Heyman said, “Keep giving him the F5, Brock, Drew can’t keep getting back up, he’s going to stay down,” it showed he said Heyman doesn’t know him very well. He said he has never surrendered and has dug himself out from ten feet under all the way back to WrestleMania. He said after every F5, he just got angrier and angrier. He said as of about 23 minutes ago, he is the new WWE Champion. The Big Show’s music played.
Show walked out and brought a referee to the ring by the arm. Show entered the ring with a big smile on his face. He congratulated Drew. “You did it! You slayed the Beast. You conquered the Conquerer!” He said now there’s an entire locker room of talented competitors with him in their sights. He told Drew it’s a big man’s world, but he’s no giant. Drew said that’s what he was waiting for. Drew said he knows where he’s going. Show said he doesn’t know shit. He said he’s not asking for a match at Money in the Bank. He said they’re both dressed to compete. “Ring the bell, let’s go,” he said. Drew said he just beat Lesnar for the WWE Title 20 minute ago, He said he is not fighting right now, though. Show said Drew is all talk, then. Big Show said when he sees Drew, he can tell he’s afraid of him. Drew said he’s not afraid of him or anybody. He said he knows he’s pushing his buttons, but there’s nothing he could say to convince him to fight him tonight. Show slapped him. Drew yanked off his belt. The ref stood between them. The bell rang.
(Keller’s Analysis: I think Drew trying to avoid defending the title when Show challenged him was framed better. It was unreasonable of Show to challenge Drew so quickly after the Lesnar victory, but having Drew’s first segment with the title talking his way out of a challenge is far from ideal. I know they wanted to get from point A to point C, but point B could have been better. Drew could have said he’d love to defend against someone with Big Show’s resume, but he wants to do it right where they’re both 100 percent and prepared so they can really find out who the better man is. The announcers could have done a much better job acting outraged at Show’s ridiculous timing and shamed him so that Drew trying to step away from the challenge would have seemed totally reasonable.)
(10) DREW MCINTYRE vs. THE BIG SHOW – WWE Title match
Phillips wondered if this was a wise decision. Phillips said they’ve never seen someone win the title at WrestleMania and then defend it not even 30 minutes later. Phillips said Drew can’t be 100 percent. Saxton said this is a good play by Show because he knows Drew isn’t 100 percent. Phillips talked about Show’s history including beating Hulk Hogan in his first night and also facing Lesnar in the past, holding the WWE Title five times. A screen graphic said: “After the show last night.” Saxton said Drew worked so hard to win the title, and it’s at risk already. Show landed a swing elbow drop out of the corner for a two count. Show told Drew to show some fight, or maybe he ought to stay down. Show said, “This is my pace, this is how I do my best work.” Show continued to beat down Drew methodically and yelled, “What are you made of?” Show chokeslammed Drew, but Drew kicked out. Show wound up for his big KO punch, but Drew ducked and landed a Claymore for the three count.
WINNER: Drew in 7:00 to retain the WWE Title.
(Keller’s Analysis: I liked that as a hot ending to the Raw After Mania. This was clearly a one-off stunt to give fans who stuck around a sense that they saw something they didn’t expect that fits the “Raw After Mania” reputation. It also gave Drew a strong win against a big opponent and, while the segment leading up to it was shaky for Drew, he ultimate won against a tough foe just 30 minutes after taking a beating from Lesnar.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: For a while, this felt like a generic drab canned Raw with unnaturally long matches with a collection of (recently overexposed) second-tier and third-tier wrestlers and unknown jobbers between highlight packages of WrestleMania matches. That said, the post-Mania interviews were solid, the wrestling was good, the video packages not overly long, and the main event segment satisfying enough (if imperfect) to make this – under less-than-ideal circumstances – a suitable and satisfactory Raw After Mania effort.