3/8 WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW REPORT: Hazelwood’s alt-perspective on Lashley’s first night as WWE Champion, title rematch against The Miz, Strowman’s apology demand, Fastlane build, more

BY BRUCE LEE HAZELWOOD, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR


SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW TV REPORT
MARCH 8, 2021
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. AT TROPICANA FIELD (THE “THUNDERDOME”)
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY BRUCE LEE HAZELWOOD, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR

Commentators: Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton, Samoa Joe

Ring Announcer: Mike Rome

Tonight after the show, join Wade Keller and I to break down the show with live callers and emails.

STREAM LIVE HERE ABOUT 5 MINUTES AFTER THE SHOW CONCLUDES
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[HOUR ONE]

-They began with a recap video, highlighting the countdown clock and The Miz’s continued attempts to NOT defend the WWE Championship against Bobby Lashley. They showed The Miz’s “cramps” and his immediate countout loss that technically qualified as a championship match defense. They showed Lashley’s eventual victory and cut to the “Thunderdome” as Tom Phillips gave his usual introduction.

Byron Saxton said the first match will be the WWE Championship rematch between Lashley and The Miz. They showed The Hurt Business walking in the back, draped in gold (sans M.V.P.) as unnamed Sarah Schreiber approached. Lashley said he’s a happy man and that he’s been through a lot. He said he’s not a normal man, but he’s the almighty.

He said 16 years, 16 years, 16 years he had to wait seeing others get opportunities he should have received, 16 years of busting his ass to get the title. He said he punished The Miz because he was trying to delay the ienvitable and he’s going to make The Miz an example in the rematch. He said it’s his time and 16 years is way too damn long to wait for the WWE Championship. He said he is going to walk into WrestleMania as the WWE Champion. He removed the belt and said the Almighty Era (he said error) has begun.

-The Miz made his entrance as Samoa Joe said The Miz is lucky to receive a shot so quickly. The Miz grabbed the mic and said he’s empty handed because Lashley is the new WWE Champion. He asked John Morrison if he expected to get his ass handed to him by Lashley? Morrison said yeah. The Miz asked if he thought he would lose his WWE Championship? Morrison said no. The Miz said Shane McMahon pulled a fast one.

He said after all he’s done for the WWE, including not taking vacations or getting injured, so people should believe him when he says his body isn’t feeling well. He said we didn’t because we sit on our couches while he is a professional athlete and it happens sometimes. He said he still successfully defended the title, which is accurate. He said he lost, but that a title cannot change hands on countout or DQ.

He said of course it’s shady, but he played to his advantage. He said he outsmarted everyone, including the global audience. He said yeah, sure, Lashley had his chance, but he blew it. He said his contract said he needed to defend the WWE Championship, which he did, but not twice in one night. He said he was forced to do so, physically threatened, with the title being stripped if he didn’t defend. He said it was worse when it was made a lumberjack match. He said we can all agree it’s unfair, and that it’s unfair Lashley brutalized him.

He said after the match, Lashley brutalized him and yet there are no repercussions for Lashley. He said WWE did do one thing right in giving him a rematch. He said everyone that’s tweeting, blogging, doing interviews celebrating Lashley all week, he wanted them to stay real close to their device because there will be hashtag tonight that will say #AllNew because he’s The Miz, and he’s awesome. They showed Lashley & M.V.P. making their way from the back as they cut to break hyping the match. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: Exactly what you’d expect from The Miz. He laid out justifications that technically make sense, but in such a pretentious way that it makes everyone hate him more. As a heel, that’s what you want. Still, there’s been way too much of The Miz on television the past few months. Let’s hope this match is as quick as last week’s main event.)

-They returned with The Miz & Morrison waiting in the ring as Lashley made his first entrance as WWE Champion, complete with lightning bolts and a new, fullscreen highlight video. After using a graphic on social media that said “The Almighty,” they’ve gone back to “All Mighty.” The Miz looked nervous as Lashley & M.V.P. entered the ring. Mike Rome gave formal ring introductions from ringside rather than in the ring. He introduced Lashley as “The All Mighty WWE Champion.”

(1) BOBBY LASHLEY (c) (w/M.V.P.) vs. THE MIZ (w/John Morrison) – WWE Championship match

They began with Lashley taking the center of the ring, which forced The Miz to roll outside to regroup. Back inside, he rolled right back outside. Lashley brought him back in with a delayed vertical suplex, holding it for about 10 seconds. They showed Drew McIntyre watching in the back, facing the screen at a 45 degree angle.

Lashley went for a corner shoulder, but The Miz moved and Lashley hit the post. The Miz followed to the outside and countered a Lashley fireman’s carry by forcing him into the post. However, Lashley responded with a stiff lariat that drove The Miz to the ground. They cut to break. [c]

They returned with Lashley in control of The Miz, driving his fist into The Miz’s chin. He struck The Miz with a clothesline, but The Miz hit a couple of upkicks. Lashley rushed The Miz in the corner, but caught himself unlike earlier. The Miz went for his flying clothesline in the corner, but Lashley caught him with one arm and slammed him.

On the outside, he drove The Miz into the barricade, then lifted and slammed him chest-first across the barricade. He rammed his head into the announce desk, then rolled him back into the ring. The Miz hit a boot, slipped out of a military press slam, then elbowed out of a flatliner. He ducked a rushing Lashley, sending him to the outside. The Miz went for his modified baseball slide, but Lashley dodged, lifted The Miz, and drove him into the post. He has a counter for everything The Miz has tonight.

Back in the ring, Lashley hit the flatliner, then mounted him and reigned down punches. Lashley then hit his HUGE one-armed spinebuster (Phillips said “All Mighty” spinebuster). He locked in The Hurt Lock, and that’s that. They showed replays after the match, highlighting the spinebuster and The Hurt Lock. Lashley posed with the title on the second turnbuckle after the match.

WINNER: Bobby Lashley at 9:05 (The Hurt Lock) to retain the WWE Championship

-Phillips shifted to hyping McIntyre speaking later tonight, then about tickets for WrestleMania being on sale one week from tomorrow. They showed a video package with the tagline “Back in Business.” They cut back with McIntyre (to an unnamed Schreiber) saying he’s the only challenger as far as he’s concerned. He said Lashley went after The Miz, not him, and that HE beat Brock Lesnar. He challenged Lashley’s heart, passion, and desire, then was suddenly attacked by Sheamus. Sheamus threw McIntyre all around the hallway and into some equipment crates. He yelled at McIntyre some before heading off. McIntyre launched a crate as they cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: They gave The Miz more time in this match, but they made it believable in how he got in some offense. However, the best part was that none of that mattered either because it was ineffective against Lashley or because Lashley had a counter for everything The Miz had. He even learned from hitting the post earlier in the match. They’re booking Lashley as not just dominant, but intelligent in both the macro sense and the micro/in-match sense. Good.)

-They returned with another vignette for Rhea Ripley, this one with more of her words in the voiceover. They really hyped her “Nightmare” nickname. They replayed Sheamus’ attack on McIntyre prior to the break. McIntyre was fuming as Pearce approached him. McIntyre yelled at him and said he needs to face Sheamus tonight in a No DQ match. Pearce just nodded as McIntyre stormed off. Joe was excited to hear about the match being official.

-They shifted to the Braun Strowman-McMahon situation, playing a video of McMahon’s prodding and needling Strowman last week about conflict resoultion and the subsequent Tag Team Championship match he made with Strowman & Pearce vs. The Hurt Business (Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin). Strowman was walking in the back as R-Truth approached him.

Truth said he has a lot to get off his chest and hoped Strowman could forgive him. H pulled out crumpled up pieces of papers and recited a bad poem about the Monstars and Truth regaining the 24/7 Championship. He said he need the “Monstar” among men. He apologized for a bunch of things that were supposed to be comical. Strowman said he was about to go ask- wait, he’s Braun Strowman, he doesn’t ask for anything; he’s going to DEMAND an apology. Truth put on some shades and tried to pull a Men in Black on Strowman as they cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: That was…a waste of time?)

-They returned with the official announcement (with graphics and video) of the No DQ match, really hyping how they could fight “anywhere.” Strowman made his entrance with lots of smoke for his terrible “Strowman Express” gimmick. Saxton said Strowman has an understandable gripe. They had a scrolling lower third about tickets for WrestleMania.

Strowman asked what McMahon’s motivations was after excluding him from the Chamber match (he said he’s over it), but then he chose Pearce as his partner. He asked if McMahon is amused over all this. He brought up the whole if you’re not laughing with me, you’re laughing at me line and said he thinks McMahons is laughing at him, especially after the textbook quip.

He said he could snap McMahon like a twig, but he also knows he’d be fired on the spot. He said he wants respect. He yelled that he demanded for McMahon to come to the ring and apologize to him. McMahon’s music hit as he did his usual dance at the top, completely negating the serious atmosphere Strowman tried to create.

McMahon entered the ring and walked right up to Strowman. The glared at each other, face-to-face, before McMahon simply said, “I apologize,” and left the ring. Saxton said, “That’s it?” Phillips wondered if that would be enough to satisfy Strowman.

Suddenly, McMahon stopped at the top of the ramp, turned to say something, thought better of it, then walked away. Strowman said if there’s anything to say, just say it. They then showed Sheamus making his way from the back for his match with McIntyre as they once again replayed the video of his assault on McIntyre earlier in the night. They cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: Strowman hits the “yelling” part of his promos much too quickly; it’s like he went to the Dolph Ziggler School of Promos or something. They gave us a little point of intrigue with McMahon turning to say something only to turn back without saying anything, angering Strowman. Yeah, they’re definitely doing a gimmick match at Mania.)

-They returned with a congratulations to Bad Bunny for his upcoming performance at the Grammy Awards. They showed McMahon walking in the back as Schreiber approached about what he was going to say. McMahon said maybe later as he walked off. Sheamus’ music hit as he made his entrance.

[HOUR TWO]

(2) SHEAMUS vs. DREW MCINTYRE – No Disqualification match

McIntyre attacked Sheamus as he did his pose at the top of the entrance ramp. He drove Sheamus into the steps before entering the ring and officially starting the match. They traded punches before Sheamus hit a shoulder tackle to floor McIntyre. McIntyre responded with a running back elbow, then stomped on Sheamus’ hand. He punched Sheamus into the corner before Sheamus raked the eyes.

He whipped McIntyre into another corner, then took McIntyre’s feet out of him as McIntyre hit the second rope. McIntyre tried creating space, but got hung up on the top rope. Sheamus climbed to the top rope and hit a flying clothesline for a two-count. He kicked McIntyre to the outside, but missed a flying clothesline. McIntyre sent him into the steps and over the announce desk with Sheamus landing in Phillips’ chair.

As Sheamus was seated, McIntyre punched him, but was driven into the ring apron and hit with a clothesline. Both men have red marks all over their bodies at this point as Sheamus grabbed a kendo stick. He missed and hit the post as McIntyre sent Sheamus over the barricade. McIntyre cleared the first ring step to reveal the bigger, flatter bottom piece and bodyslammed Sheamus onto the steps.

He lifted Sheamus and rolled him back into the ring. Still on the outside, McIntyre grabbed the kendo stick before he tried to reenter the ring. Sheamus kicked the middle rope as McIntyre reentered right into the groin, then laid him out with a clothesline. He grabbed the kendo stick and struck McIntyre across the back multiple times, the sound echoing in the empty arena.

He then struck McIntyre across the midsection as McIntyre rose to his feet, then hit a rolling senton for a two-count. He applied what Joe called the “Dublin Smile,” a modified Camel Clutch where Sheamus pulls at the sides of the mouth. He grabbed the kendo stick again, but McIntyre caught him with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex, then one out of the corner before Sheamus could use the weapon. He hit a leaping neckbreaker and kipped up.

McIntyre grabbed the weapon as Sheamus rose to his feet. He rushed McIntyre only to be struck by the weapon four or five times, followed by a side Russian legsweep with the kendo stick across the face of Sheamus for a two-count. He struck Sheamus a few more times as Sheamus rolled outside. McIntyre followed, but Sheamus drove him face-first into the post, then hit a Lashley-esque spinebuster on McIntyre across the edge of the announce desk, which didn’t budge. They cut to break. [c]

They returned with McIntyre trying to fight out of the corner before Sheamus hit the Irish Curse and locked in the Cloverleaf, which took a couple of well-placed knees to McIntyre’s lower back to force him to turn over. McIntyre picked the right ankle enough to punch Sheamus in the face to fight out of the hold, then hit a stiff right and a spinebuster into a jackknife cover for a two-count.

Both men made it to their feet, but Sheamus floored a rushing McIntyre with double kicks from the corner. He lifted himself to the top, kneed McIntyre who rushed at him to dislodge him, but was still dislodged by McIntyre with a leg pick. He climbed to the second rope and raked Sheamus’ eyes before hitting a top rope superplex and immediate pin for a two-count. Great spot with how seamlessly McIntyre shifted into a pin.

McIntyre looked for the Future Shock, but Sheamus countered with White Noise for a two-count. Has White Noise won Sheamus a match in the last, I don’t know, decade? He always looks shocked when it doesn’t end a match. He grabbed a chair, but McIntyre hit a throat chop. He grabbed the chair before striking Sheamus across the back and hitting Future Shock on the chair. Sheamus kicked out at two! If that doesn’t end a match, how does any match actually end?

Sheamus stealthily made his way to the chair as McIntyre setup in the corner for a Claymore. He counted down, but Sheamus threw the chair into McIntyre’s face and hit a pump knee for a two-count. Sheamus drove the chair into McIntyre, then set the chair up in the corner between the top and middle turnbuckles. He limped over to McIntyre and looked to send him into the chair, but McIntyre reversed hit and hit the Claymore. However, it sent Sheamus to the outside! Another good spot with how close Sheamus was to the ropes and the force of McIntyre’s Claymore.

McIntyre went to the outside, holding his lower back, and attempted to lift Sheamus. He did with tremdnous difficulty, literally lifting Sheamus onto the apron. As McIntyre rolled inside, Sheamus rolled outside and lulling McIntyre back out where he hit a Brogue Kick. He grabbed the top part of the steel steps, but McIntyre has his own set and they collided with the stairs wrapped around their heads! McIntyre went over the barricade as Sheamus collapsed on the floor. The ref checked on both men before calling the match and asking for medical assistance for both men. On replay, the steps may have landed on Sheamus’ head as he fell. They cut to break. [c]

WNNER: No Contest at 19:23 (ref called the match due to both men being unable to continue)

(Hazelwood’s Take: Both matches thus far tonight have been rematches. Not only that, they take a great feud, regardless of the origin, and have a bad ending to what was a pretty good match beforehand. It seems more likely this is for Fastlane than Mania, so let’s see what happens.)

-They returned with replays of the final spot in the previous match. Sheamus is either an award-winning seller OR he was legitimately out. Phillips then shifted to the ongoing Randy Orton-The Fiend-Alexa Bliss saga with a package that first highlighted Orton immolating The Fiend three months ago. They proceeded to show the various creepy interactions between Orton and Bliss in the proceeding months, including the fireball to the face; Bliss appearing during a match and spouting blood; costing Orton the Chamber entry match; and Orton coughing up blood like he’s affected by the plague. They ended with last week’s “face-to-face” between Orton and his doppelganger.

-The announcers then shifted to introducing Kevin Patrick, a new backstage correspondent. A.J. Styles & Omos appeared as Styles asked if they’re not going to discuss Orton. Styles said we haven’t seen The Fiend because of Orton’s actions. He said Orton’s haunted by his actions and “little Miss Witch” Bliss. As Styles talked more smack, Omos placed an arm in front of him as Orton approached.

Orton asked if he thought it was funny seeing a man having his mind messed with. Styles said it’s not funny, it’s weak. Orton said they should meet in the ring so Orton could show him first-hand just how weak he is. He said Orton has problems, but accepted. Orton said good as he slithered away. They cut to break with The New Day’s entrance. [c]

(3) XAVIER WOODS (w/Kofi Kingston) vs. SHELTON BENJAMIN (w/Cedric Alexander)

They returned with Woods & Kingston posing on the ropes before they hyped a Tag Team Championship match between these two teams for next week, six days before Fastlane. The Tag Team Champion made their entrance, Alexander still in his nice suit. The New Day were hip swiveling to The Hurt Business’ music, strangely.

They began the match with Benjamin using his power to force Woods into the ropes and out of the ring. Woods cautiously reentered the ring, countered a few Benjamin moves, and hit a leg lariat for a one-count. Benjamin countered a side headlock with a big belly-to-back suplex, then hit a big snap bodyslam before whipping Woods hard into the corner and hitting another body slam. Kingston yelled out encouragement.

They announced Orton vs. Styles for later in the night as Woods fought to his feet. However, he was hit with yet another bodyslam. Benjamin whipped Woods into the corner, caught his legs as he tried to counter, then popped Woods in the throat as Woods tried to reenter the ring. He hit a pump knee to Woods, caught up in the ropes, for a two-count.

Benjamin applied a modified rear chinlock, but Woods fought out with a jawbreaker. He hit some punches and chops, slid under Benjamin, and countered a suplex into a sunset flip for a two-count. Benjamin then floored Woods with a big kick. As Benjamin was jawing at Kingston, Woods rolled up Benjamin for the victory.

WINNER: Xavier Woods at 3:45 (small package)

-After the match, they cut to Gorilla where Schreiber interviewed Riddle. Riddle said Retribution can play all the games they want, but his main concerns is where he’s going to park his scooter. He asked Schreiber if she had any ideas. The New Day made their way back into Gorilla after the match, Kingston made some rhymes about food, then asked if they could keep his scooter safe. They agreed as they did a quick thumb war before Riddle entered for his match. They cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: What a way to make your Tag Team Champion look like chumps before their match. Maybe they were going for overconfident, but yeah, you HAVE to keep THB strong with Lashley as WWE Champion. Also, that Riddle segment was truly, truly awful.)

(4) RIDDLE (c) vs. SLAPJACK (w/Mustafa Ali) – Non-title match

Slapjack made his entrance with Ali giving him words of encouragement as they hyped the United States Championship match next week between Riddle and Ali. They began with Riddle immediately hitting a gutwrench suplex, two corner forearms, an exploder, and his sequence that ended with a Broton and PK to the chest. Slapjack rolled to the outside, hammerfisted Riddle’s bare foot, then belly-to-back suplexed him on the apron. Ali yelled out he defeated him single-handedly, so Slapjack should as well.

In the ring, Slapjack had Riddle in the corner and hit a snap suplex on Riddle, who was seated on the top. He hit a modified Final Cut looking maneuver for a two-count. Riddle fought back with srikes, but was hit with a beautfiful dropkick by Slapjack for a two-count. He gave Riddle a couple of chest kicks, then kicked the hamstring before hitting a snap suplex.

Slapjack climbed to the top rope, but Riddle met him before he could leap. Riddle looked for an exploder, but Slapjack fought it off. He looked for a missle dropkick, but Riddle countered into a powerbomb and Final Flash for a two-count; Riddle had to readjust Slapjack because he was too close to the ropes. Riddle went for a gutwrench, but Slapjack flipped out and hit a Final Flash of his own for a two-count. He looked for his finisher, but Riddle rolled out, hit a ripcord Final Flash, then the Bro Derek for the victory as Ali was apoplectic. Ali berated Slapjack after the match.

WINNER: Riddle at 3:54 (Bro Derek)

-After the match, the announcers shifted to recapping the earlier interaction between Strowman and McMahon. They showed McMahon in the back hanging up the phone as Pearce approached. He asked if there was anything McMahon wanted to say to Strowman. McMahon said everyone’s nosy. He said you know what, have Strowman meet me in the ring so I can tell him. They cut to break. [c]

[HOUR THREE]

-They returned with McMahon dancing in the ring. Strowman’s music hit as he made his entrance. Strowman entered the ring, but as McMahon began speaking, he asked for a different mic as he went outside. He kept tapping the mic to test it out, but then kept walking back up the ramp. He said a bunch of nothing, then said he should say his words face-to-face…but he was still on the ramp.

He said he was doing some introspection. Did he have fun last week? Absolutely he did because that’s what he does in life, sometimes at the expense of others, but that’s OK in his book as long as it benefits him. He said a lot of people feel the same way as him, but not Strowman. He said one thing they have to get done…then said he couldn’t talk to Strowman about this.

Strowman yelled out why are they even out there then. McMahon said one thing he needs to get done is to come to an understanding with Strowman (he seemed lost, honestly). He approached the ring again, then backed up again as Strowman said McMahon is trying to make him look stupid again. McMahon said he would never do that, and he finds stupid to be an abhorrent word. He said he can tell by Strowman’s non-verbal cues that Strowman is quite upset with him.

Strowman said he isn’t one of McMahon’s pets. McMahon said he would never call Strowman stupid, those abhorrent words. He said there’s a saying Strowman might have heard, stupid is as stupid does, hit all the branches falling out of the stupid tree, and just being plain stupide. He said that’s a stereotype, but for Strowman to hear him out: he has never nor would ever specifically call Strowman stupid. Then he said, “B-B-B-B-But Braun,” as he ran away from Strowman. McMahon entered a waiting SUV and drove off. Strowman walked away shaking his head. McMahon reappeared as Strowman left, saying, “So stupid.”

-The announcers wondered if McMahon knows what he’s doing as they shifted to, finally, the first women’s segment on this, International Women’s Day. They replayed highlights of last month’s Lana-Nia Jax table match (the infamous “My hole” match) as Naomi & Lana (Ravishing Glow, I guess according to Saxton) made their entrance with a choreographed dance spot. They then played a video for the Girl Up program. They cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: That was worse than Riddle’s segment. McMahon honestly looked like he forgot his lines and didn’t know how best to recover. McMahon isn’t coming off as a smart heel; he’s coming off as a pretentious bully. They should have cut that entirely.)

(5) RAVISHING GLOW (Naomi & Lana) vs. SHAYNA BASZLER & NIA JAX (w/Reginald) – Tag Team Championship match

They returned with Naomi & Lana psyching themselves up for the match (their gear has matching colors). Baszler & Jax made their entrance, accompanied by Reginald, who was fired on Smackdown last Friday. Jax gave a promo saying she brought him over after he was fired and ended by saying, “Isn’t he cute?”

The match began with Jax and Naomi. Naomi hit a foot stomp, then tagged in Lana. They tried to whip Jax into the ropes, but instead hit her with kicks instead. Baszler tagged in, drove Lana into the corner, and mushed her. Lana hit an axe kick out of the corner and tagged in Naomi, who hit her split legdrop. Lana tagged back in and they hit a double side Russian legsweep on Baszler for a two-count. Baszler was able to send Lana to the outside. Naomi hit a springboard corkscrew onto both opponents to save Lana as they cut to break. [c]

They returned with Baszler giving Lana a clothesline for a two-count. They showed a split-screen replay of Baszler stomping on Lana’s arm during the break. Lana tried to fight out, but Baszler gave no separation. Instead, Baszler went and struck Naomi, but Lana hit Baszler and made the tag. Baszler tagged in Jax, but Lana hit the Rear View on Baszler and a Disaster Kick to Jax. She followed hit her flurry of kicks and a head scissors spike for a two-count that was broken up by Baszler pulling Naomi off.

Jax went to avalanche Naomi in the corner, but Naomi moved and Jax hit Baszler. Reginald grabbed Naomi’s leg, who tagged in Lana so she could grab Reginald. Jax then hit both women, knocking Naomi off. Jax hit her powerbomb/chokeslam combo on Lana for the victory. They played a promo for Charlotte Flair on Straight Up Steve Austin, airing after the show.

WINNER: Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax at 7:40 (powerbomb/chokeslam combo) to retain the Tag Team Championship

-Schreiber approached Orton in the back about rumors that others are concerned about Orton. He said wait, I have friends in the locker room? He laughed and continued by saying if that’s the case, none of them have said it to his face. He said the only thing Styles needs to concern himself with is what happens tonight when he’s reintroduced to the three most deadly letters in sports entertainment, R-K-O. They cut to break. [c]

(Hazelwood’s Take: Another championship match where the finish had no doubts. Sometimes that works fine, like Lashley the past few weeks. Here, though, in a division with a distinct lack of viable challengers, it’s just boring. It did nothing for either team. Moving on, Orton just has to keep with those catchphrases, no matter his disposition, huh?)

-They returned with the same vignette for Ripley that they played earlier in the show. I’m going to say she debuts either after FastlaneMania, or the Raw after Mania. Schreiber then approached Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke about their plans for WrestleMania, and they said while they didn’t declare their intentions, they want a Tag Team Championship shot. Brooke said they’re ambitious and have worked hard. Flair appeared and said yeah, she wants a title match at WrestleMania. Brooke said they’re deserving, and Flair said to show her, they have five weeks.

-They shifted to replaying the interactions between Styles and Orton earlier in the night, which setup their main event match tonight. Styles & Omos were in Gorilla as he was approached by Patrick asking if he regretted his comments earlier in the night. Styles said he doesn’t regret his words, and said Orton’s taking his frustrations out on him rather than being focused on The Fiend. He said Orton’s going to tie his problems up into a nice little loss tonight. He made his entrance. [c]

-They returned with a Raw Talk ad featuring The New Day, Riddle, and Peyton Royce. Phillips then shifted to recapping, finally, the WWE Championship match from earlier, complete with Lashley’s new and awesome entrance. It’s clear they’re making him a big deal, and this is the right move (his first nickname was “The Real Deal” I believe).

(6) A.J. STYLES (w/Omos) vs. RANDY ORTON

The shifted back to the ring where Styles & Omos awaited Orton’s entrance. His music hit as he slowly, methodically made his way to the ring; he had pyro as he posed on the turnbuckle. They began with Orton backing Styles into the corner and punching him over the referee’s back. He then threw Styles head-first into the middle turnbuckle, followed by stomping Styles on the hand and knee.

He hit Styles with his patented European uppercut and went for the RKO. Styles pushed off and rolled outside, but Orton followed. Styles reentered the ring and stomped on Orton as he reentered to gain the advantage. He tried whipping Orton into the ropes, but Orton countered with a back elbow. He started gave Styles a stiff kick across the chest before stomping across Styles’ face with his boot. Styles rolled to the outside.

As Omos observed, Orton hit his belly-to-back onto the announce desk. He and Omos glared at each other for several seconds before Orton rolled Styles back in. Styles hit a springboard flying forearm to Orton on the outside, who went back to glaring at Omos, as they cut to break. [c]

They returned with Styles stomping away at a seated Orton in the corner, then driving his shoulders into Orton’s gut. He whipped Orton across to another turnbuckle, caught Orton’s leg, then hung it in the rope and kicked it before working over it with strikes and rope work. Styles tried working the leg more in the corner, but ate some punches. He responded with a haymaker that floored Orton.

Styles drove Orton’s head into the top turnbuckle, then tore away at Orton’s face. Orton fought back with kicks to the gut, but Styles hit an enziguri that dropped Orton. Styles methodically made his way to Orton, then locked in the Randy Orton Special (rear chinlock). Orton reached for the ropes, but Styles responded with 12-6 elbows to the shoulder/neck area.

Orton couldn’t get a good footing, selling the leg work, but finally drove Styles into the corner. He hit a back elbow and some punches. Styles caught an Orton kick and spun him around, but ate a huge lariat instead. Orton didn’t make the cover. He hit his snap powerslam suddenly for a two-count. Orton attempted a suplex, but Styles slid out. He went for some strikes, but Orton hit his patented neck/backbreaker combo for a two-count.

He lifted Styles to the top turnbuckle, setting him up for the superplex, with some punches for good measure. Saxton said this is where Orton is at home (really?). Styles fought out, slid out, and chop blocked Orton’s leg so that he feel face-first into the turnbuckle. He went for the Phenomenal 4-Arm, but Orton swept out his legs. Orton looked for his draping DDT, but Styles fought out and looked for the Calf Crusher. Orton blocked for a bit by placing his body weight high, but Styles eventually rolled him into the hold.

Orton crawled for the ropes, causing Styles to try to drag Orton, who responded with kicks, then a big European uppercut that sent Styles to the apron. Orton hit the draping DDT on the second attempt, then set for the RKO by pounding the mat. Omos dragged Styles to the outside as Bliss appeared on the Tron saying, “Oh, Randy!”

She had another Jack-in-the-box as she sat in the pentagram. She played it a bit and whispered, “Not yet.” She lit a match and blew it out, which caused the turnbuckles to explode like Kane’s pyro. Orton started coughing up that black substance again, then was hit by the Phenomenal 4-Arm for Styles’ victory.

WINNER: A.J. Styles at 15:35 (Phenomenal 4-Arm)

-They showed replays after the match as Orton tried to recover. Bliss was shown laughing hysterically as Orton regained his footing. The show ended with Bliss’ laughter and Orton’s confused anger.

(Hazelwood’s Take: That was a good match, but once again, the ending screwed it up. At least this ending serves the purpose of furthering the Orton-The Fiend-Bliss angle.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: The first 90 minutes were solid, but the last 90 minutes not so much. It was saved by the main event, though the ending took away from the match a bit. Keep booking Lashley & THB strong; that’s Raw’s best path to relevancy once again.

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