SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
MARCH 15, 2021
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. AT TROPICANA FIELD (“THUNDERDOME”)
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Commentators: Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton, Samoa Joe
Ring Announcer: Mike Rome
-They opened with breaking news from the announcers that Bobby Lashley would be defending his WWE Title against Drew McIntyre at WrestleMania. Lashley and MVP made their ring entrance. They cut to the announcers briefly who spoke about the WWE Title situation including Drew’s feud with Sheamus while also calling out Lashley. Joe said Drew has invoked the wrath of Lashley by questioning his heart.
Lashley was sporting a purple suit jacket with a plaid pattern. MVP said he had an official announcement from The Hurt Business that they have entered the All Mighty Era. He said after 16 years of dedication and decimation, the CHO of the hurt Business took the WWE Championship once he had the opportunity. He said he proved the doubters wrong and did what he said he was going to do. He said he destroyed Drew at Elimination Chamber and he will do so again “at the main event of WrestleMania.” He said he will continue to reign supreme. The Miz’s music interrupted.
Miz and John Morrison walked out, mics in hand. (Morrison’s hair!) Miz said that speech was truly remarkable. Morrison said he has a way with words. Miz said they weren’t there to steal his spotlight, but rather congratulate him. Miz said they’re all in on the All Mighty Era. He said these past two weeks, he was so proud to share the ring with him. Miz said their rivalry is just getting started. Morrison mentioned Steve Austin vs. The Rock, Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant, and Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels. Miz imitated Austin in honor of “3:16 Week” and asked everyone to give him a “Hell yeah!” if they want to see Miz challenge Lashley at WrestleMania. Morrison said Miz was suffering from gastrointestinal distress in his title loss. Miz said it’s up to Lashley whether he wants to really earn his title by facing him at full strength. Drew’s music played.
McIntyre made his way to the ring as Miz and Morrison backed away. McIntyre stared intensely at Lashley, who stood stoically throughout all the Miz and Morrison babbling. Drew stared at Lashley and said he hasn’t had the chance to formally congratulate him. He said they have had similar paths. He talked about his 17 year journey compared to Lashley’s 16 years, being the hardest workers, yet opportunities passed them by. He said when they arrived at 2 a.m., when everyone else went to bed, they went to the gym. He said they both found themselves out of WWE and had to scratch and claw to get back.
Drew said the difference between them is that when he got to the finish lines, he won the Royal Rumble and beat Brock Lesnar in five minutes, whereas Lashley screwed him over. MVP brought up Drew having to worry about Sheamus before he gets a shot at Lashley. Drew asked MVP why he’s there and wanted understand the nature of their relationship. Lashley told Drew not to worry about MVP, but focus on him. Miz said, “And me.” He and Morrison were standing on the ring apron.
Drew said said he forgot about him. Drew said he’s going to turn his back on Miz and then Miz will have two choices – he can attack him or run for his life. He recommended he run, because if they fight, he’ll hurt him and make an example of him. He said then he’ll beat Sheamus at Fastlane and move on to WrestleMania. He looked at Lashley and vowed to knock him around the stadium and reclaim his championship. He called Lashley “a big, bald bitch.” Miz told Drew to calm down. Lashley jumped Drew as Drew was looking Miz’s way. Lashley pummeled Drew with punches as Miz and Morrison looked on. Lashley and MVP left. Miz took over against Drew with a barrage of punches.
Sheamus attacked Lashley on the stage. Several referees broke it up quickly. Phillips said they have chaos on Raw.
(Keller’s Analysis: A lot of developments there, but it’s good to end speculation and solidify – presumably – Lashley defending against Drew at WM. I think WWE could have done a better job explaining the rationale for the decision, although I suppose it’s just implied he is the former champ and was screwed out of it, so of course he deserves that match. Not making him work for it at Fastlane could indicate WWE just wants to get the clear marketing out there and establish the top singles matches ASAP. Lashley wasn’t at his best on the mic in that segment. He seemed a little off. Drew was really strong and came across as physically superior to Lashley, which is really saying something. He leaned into the confrontation and Lashley seemed to shrink a bit until attacking Drew. In a way, that’s probably good and perhaps somewhat intentional if WWE wants Drew to be cheered and Lashley to be booed at WrestleMania.) [c]
-Sarah Schreiber asked Sheamus why he attacked Lashley. Sheamus said he’s facing Drew on Sunday, and he doesn’t want Drew at 90 percent or 80 percent. He said he doesn’t want him to have any excuses. He said Lashley is messing with his business. He said he wants Lashley tonight so he can show Drew tonight what he won’t be able to do at WM. He said he’s going to be the one to beat Lashley.
-They showed the referee checking on a groggy Drew in the ring.
-The announcers hyped Asuka’s return against Shayna Baszler later, plus Hurt Business vs. New Day and Riddle vs. Mustafa Ali in two championship matches.
(1) DREW MCINTYRE vs. THE MIZ (w/John Morrison)
When the bell rang, Drew went after Miz in the corner. Miz tried to crawl away, but Drew went after him on the floor and threw him into the barricade and chopped his chest before throwing him back into the ring. Morrison pulled at Drew’s boot half-heartedly, and Drew just turned and shot him a dismissive look. Morrison then threw sunglasses at Drew’s back. Drew turned and stomped them disdainfully. Miz attacked Drew from behind. Drew came right back, though, and gave Miz a reverse Alabama Slam. When Drew charged for a Claymore, Morrison pulled Miz to ringside. The ref yelled at Morrison, then tossed him to the back. ThunderDome “cheered,” but reacted a few seconds later than a real audience would have. Morrison yelled: “This is the worst! You’re throwing me out for what?” [c]
Back to the match, Drew was beating up Miz in the corner again. He threw Miz to the floor and rammed him into the barricade and the ring apron, then the barricade and the ring apron again, and finally one more time into the barricade. Joe called it “the worst pinball machine Miz has ever been in.” (Exactly how many pinball machines has Miz been in before? Is that a thing?) Drew rammed Miz’z head into the ringside steps and had a few angry words for him. Drew threw him back into the ring and gave him a Future Shock DDT. Drew delivered a Claymore, but instead of going for the cover, he sat up and smiled. He stood and applied the Hurt Lock for the submission win.
WINNER: McIntyre in 12:00.
-They went to the announcers at ringside. Phillips congratulated Bad Bunny for the 2021 Grammy Award for the Best Latin Pop Album. They showed headlines from various music publications. They showed Damian Priest and Bad Bunny walking together chatting backstage.
-A recap aired of the Shane McMahon taunting Braun Strowman segments last week. Then they showed an angry Braun walking backstage. Phillips said he intends to confront Shane next. [c]
-They joined Braun mid-sentence, calling Shane out. (Did Braun jump his cue.) Shane asked why Braun has a problem with him. Braun said Shane growing up in mansions and going to Ivy League school doesn’t make him smarter than him. Shane said he would never poke fun at another human being. Braun said they both know that McMahons don’t apologize for anything. He said he came out there because he wanted to confront him, but he fumbled with words because he’s scared. He said his mouth wrote a check his ass couldn’t cash. Shane said if they were inside his brain, they wouldn’t hear anything but a beep noise. Braun said as soon as he walked into the building, it reeked of his fear because he’s afraid. He said he knows he wants a match with him, but he doesn’t have the balls to say it, so he’d say it. “I want a match with you tonight!” he said. Shane said now he knows he is stupid. He said he talks and acts stupid. Shane said the T-Rex isn’t around anymore because it couldn’t adapt. Braun yelled for him to answer his challenge. Shane said if he wants “Brains vs. Bruan,” then he’s on for a match tonight. Shane’s music played and he left the stage the announcers reacted. Joe said he didn’t expect this.
(Keller’s Analysis: That was all kinds of clunky and all over the place. Both guys were talking like the train was wobbling off the tracks with each sentence. What is the ostensible story that Shane wants a match against Braun? Why is anyone to believe a 50 year old Shane would think he has a chance against Braun or anything to prove against him? I suppose the “match” later, if it happens, will explain some of Shane’s strategy or thinking. This all feels really random, like a match idea in search of a backstory to explain it happening.)
-Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke were chatting with Naomi & Lana backstage when R-Truth walked up to them asking for a “Hell Yeah!” They told Truth that Austin 3:16 day is tomorrow. He offered them a beer, but Naomi said they had a match. Truth swigged the beer and said that’s the bottom line because R-Truth said so.
(2) MANDY ROSE & DANA BROOKE vs. LANA & NAOMI
Nia Jax and Baszler joined the announcers on commentary. Baszler said she’s sick of everyone talking about Reginald. Saxton asked Baszler if she’s spreading herself too thin facing Asuka and having to defend the titles. Baszler said they are tired of being doubted when all they do is prove themselves over and over. The announcers hyped Shane vs. Braun and confirmed Sheamus vs. Lashley later. A few minutes, Asuka’s music played. Baszler took off her headset and charged at her. Asuka ducked and hit a spin wheel kick. WWE officials Pat Buck, Adam Pearce, and Jamie Noble separated them quickly. Back in the ring, Lana face-planted Rose, but Dana had blind=tagged in and she surprised Lana with a neckbreaker for the win.
WINNERS: Brooke & Rose in 3:00.
-As Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston were chatting backstage, Riddle rolled in on his scooter (affectionately nicked “Riddle’s Dignity Redemption Vehicle”). He said he raced there to wish them luck in their Raw Tag Title match later. Kofi sang that they will reclaim their position on the mountaintop. Xavier said they can celebrate together after Riddle beats Ali. Riddle suggested they all get matching tattoos and all-you-can-eat pancakes. Kofi said tattoos is a little much since they just met. Riddle agreed it was coming on a little strong. Riddle suggested they get matching scooters and ride off into the sunset. The New Day music played, so Kofi and Xavier went bonkers and headed to the ring. [c]
(3) SHELTON BENJAMIN & XAVIER WOODS vs. THE NEW DAY (Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) – Raw Tag Team Title match
Hurt Business made their ring entrance. They did formal ring introductions. Kofi took a beating for a while before hot-tagging Xavier, who rallied. When New Day went after Shelton and Cedric at ringside, it backfired. They cut to a break with New Day down. [c]
Back live, Xavier and Cedric were battling mid-ring. Cedric landed a Michinoku Driver for a near fall. Shelton and Kofi battled next. Xavier DDT’d Cedric on the floor when he tried to interfere. Kofi landed a nice Trouble in Paradise on Shelton, then Xavier landed a top rope elbowdrop. Kofi then landed a top rope double stomp to Shelton’s chest off of Xavier’s knee to regain the Raw Tag Team Titles.
WINNERS: New Day in 14:00 to regain the Raw Tag Team Titles.
-As New Day celebrated, A.J. Styles & Omos came out to Styles’s music. After entering the ring, Styles congratulated them on their victory just in time for WrestleMania. Styles said he and Omos don’t currently have anything planned for WrestleMania. He said he’s had big WrestleMania moments including facing Undertaker. He said his bucket list is getting low (or “short”). Omos said, “We should be Raw Tag Team Champions.” Styles said no one knows what Omos is capable of. Styles said actually Xavier does. Xavier got angry and snarled at Omos. Styles imitated New Day as he officially challenged them to a tag team title match at WrestleMania. Kofi grabbed a mic and asked, “First and foremost, are you two officially registered as a team?” (That’s a thing?) He asked if they know how to wrestle as a team. Xavier then took the mic and said, “Yes.” They exchanged some words.
-Morrison was talking to a limping Miz when they crossed paths with Priest and Bunny. Priest made fun of Miz for losing earlier. Morrison said he shouldn’t kick a man when he’s down. Miz told Bad Bunny he should be jealous of his list of achievements. He looked at Priest and asked what awards he has won. Truth ran up behind Bunny with an Austin 3:16 lunch box over his head like he was about to attack Bunny. Truth said came with a gift, and he presented Bunny with an Austin doll and a beer. Bunny asked what he wants in exchange. Bunny and Priest talked in Spanish, then Bunny told Truth he respects him and this business. He said he deserves the belt more than him. He teased handing it back to him. Truth asked if he’s for real. He then gave it back to Truth, who was wide-eyed and proud. He began saying he got his baby back. Drew Gulak, Akira Tozawa, and someone else (Humberto Carillo) chased Truth away.
(Keller’s Analysis: So Bad Bunny doesn’t do jobs, apparently? If that’s “his people” saying that, I’m not sure that’ll endear him to the locker room. Although I could also imagine everyone just shrugs their shoulder or doesn’t give it a second of thought since it’s just the 24/7 Title.) [c]
-A Peacock commercial made an offer for Peacock Premium for $2.50 a month for a limited time at www.peacocktv.com/wwe with “peacockwwe” as the coupon code.
-They went to the announcers at ringside. Phillips said plans for WrestleMania “are still being finalized” and the on-sale date has been delayed without a new date being announced yet.
(Keller’s Analysis: WWE just issued us a press release without any more details. It reads: “The WrestleMania on sale will be moved as plans for the two-night event are still being finalized. We expect a new on sale date within the next week.” For people who wanted time to make travel plans or take time off from work if they scored tickets, this complicates matter. My assumption is WWE is looking into configuring the stadium for the most tickets possible given Dana White announcing UFC will play to a full arena soon.)
(4) DAMIAN PRIEST (w/Bad Bunny) vs. JAXSON RYKER (w/Elias)
Priest landed a Broken Arrow and a Hit the Lights for a quick win.
WINNER: Priest in 35 seconds.
-After the match, Elias grabbed his guitar and was going to hit Priest when Bunny came in and yanked it away. He threw the guitar to the floor. Elias grabbed Bunny and lifted him for a slam. Bunny slipped out, blocked an Elias punch, and then punched him. Priest then gave Elias his Hit the Lights. Morrison walked out to the ring. Miz hit a distracted Bunny in the back with his guitar. (It looked only slightly better than the mic shots on Dynamite last week.)
-Backstage, Schreiber interviewed MVP and Lashley. MVP was upset with Sheamus attempting to embarrass him. He said what happens to Sheamus later tonight will happen to Drew at WrestleMania.
-Shane McMahon was in the ring with his music playing. Phillips said he was looking uber-confident. Strowman made his entrance. Shane left the ring and Braun entered the ring. Shane told Braun he needed a second. “I’m not out here every day,” he said. “This is special.” He said he had to warm up. He did some push-ups and jumping jacks. Braun said he’s just “prolonging” the ass whipping he’s about to give him. Shane showed him a hopscotch course drawn at ringside and said it can help him warm up, but also help Braun learn to count. Braun went after Shane, so Shane ran into and out of the ring quickly. Phillips said the match wasn’t officially underway yet. Braun did catch Shane and dragged him to the floor and then threw him into the barricade.
Braun yelled at Shane that he warned him if he ran his mouth, he’d regret it. Braun charged at Shane, but Shane grabbed a ringside camera and hit Braun in the face with it. Then he bashed him in the back and then again in the head. Shane knocked Braun onto the announce desk, then leaped off the top rope with a flying elbow to Braun’s chest. The announce desk collapsed. Shane yelled, “Yeah, Braun!” He then grabbed a big white bucket from under the ring and poured green paint all over him. “Stupid is as stupid does, Braun!” Shane said. He poured another bucket over him and said he is stupid. He yelled, “Don’t you ever, ever challenge me again!” he said. “Do you understand me.” Shane left, looking quite satisfied with himself. They showed Braun standing, furious with what played out. He yelled, “I’m going to rip you in half!” [c]
-They replayed a clip of what Alexa Bliss did to torment Randy Orton last week leading to Orton coughing up black slime and costing him his match against Styles. Then they went to Alexa’s Playground and Alexa was on her swing reciting some nursery rhyme style phrases. She said if Randy wants her out of his life so badly, he’ll have to take her out of it. She said Sunday at Fastlane is his chance. “So Randy, are you going to take it?” she said before giggling. Saxton wondered what that meant.
-Asuka made her ring entrance. They showed Baszler kicking Asuka’s tooth out weeks ago. [c]
-They replayed Molly Holly being told by Hurricane Helms she is in this year’s WWE Hall of Fame.
(4) ASUKA vs. SHAYNA BASZLER
A pre-taped soundbite aired during Baszler’s entrance saying she enjoyed kicking Asuka’s tooth out, and she’ll do it again tonight and enjoy it even more. Asuka attacked Baszler from behind. Jax entered, but Asuka took her out with a kick. She showed fire as the ref checked on Baszler and called for the bell to start the match. Baszler landed a knee to Asuka’s face. The ref checked on her. She let out a yell, then went for an armbar. Jax again climbed onto the ring apron. Asuka went after her and dropkicked her into the ringpost. Baszler then went for a sleeper from behind, but Asuka countered. Baszler then countered with a Kirafuda Clutch. Asuka leveraged Baszler’s shoulders down for a three count.
WINNER: Asuka in 2:00.
-Asuka blocked a Baszler post-match kick to the ribs and delivered a released German suplex. She threw a barrage of kicks to Baszler’s face and head. She then drove Baszler’s face into the bottom turnbuckle pad with a kick. She removed the pad, took out Baszler’s mouthguard, and then put her mouth around the buckle. Asuka shoved her mouth into the buckle. The ref blocked her attempt to drive Baszler teeth-first into the buckle, curb-stomp style. The ref asked what was wrong with her. Asuka was still in a rage as Baszler rolled to the floor, but with her music playing, apparently decided to she officially couldn’t go after Baszler at ringside.
-Backstage Ali gave whatever the opposite of a pep talk is to Retribution. Riddle then scootered past him making a revving noise. Ali sighed at the indignity. Phillips plugged the U.S. Title match up next. [c]
-The announcers hyped the Fastlane line-up: Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan with Edge or Jey Uso as special enforcer referee; Shane McMahon vs. Braun Strowman; Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler vs. Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair; Big E vs. Apollo Crews for the Intercontinental Title; and Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus.
(Keller’s Analysis: They’re up to five matches now! And Shane-Braun isn’t being saved for WrestleMania, although I expect a ramped up gimmick stip for their WrestleMania rematch. I was surprised they didn’t put Shane-Braun at the start of the third hour and opted for Asuka’s return in that slot instead.)
(5) RIDDLE vs. MUSTAFA ALI (w/Slapjack, T-Barr, Mace, Reckoning) – United States Title match
They did formal ring introductions. A minute in, Riddle kicked Ali to the floor. When he went after him at ringside, Ali threw Riddle face-first into the announce table. Then he gave Riddle a leaping neckbreaker off the ring apron. [c]
Back from the break, Ali was in control. Riddle made a comeback and kipped up and then overhead tossed Ali out of the corner followed by a Bro-ton and a fisherman’s suplex for a near fall. Ali blocked a Final Flash kick and then connected with a wheel kick. Riddle came back with a kick and roll-up. T-Barr distracted the ref as Ali rolled through. It delayed the ref’s count briefly. Riddle then applied a sleeper and converted into Bro-Derek for the win. Ali chewed out T-Barr for the ill-timed ref distraction as Riddle celebrated.
WINNER: Riddle in 8:00 to retain the U.S. Title.
-Schreiber asked Orton backstage for his reaction to Bliss’s challenge for a match at Fastlane this Sunday. Orton said he’s pretty sure he heard her dare him to kick her out of his life. He said that is exactly what he is going to do.
(Keller’s Analysis: He didn’t exactly accept the challenge, but certainly established something is going happen with them on Sunday.)
-Drew made his ring entrance.
-A P.S.A. aired with WWE wrestlers encouraging fans to get vaccinations for COVID. [c]
-The announcers commented on New Day’s tag team title win earlier followed by a clip of Styles & Omos challenging them to a match at WrestleMania. Phillips said the match has become official for WrestleMania.
-McIntyre said people have to be asking, “Drew, it’s been two hours, why haven’t you showered and changed?” He said he saved a fortune in tops and underpants. He said MVP made some guarantees for tonight, which is a dangerous thing. He said when you don’t fulfill a guarantee, fans get upset. He then guaranteed that he and Sheamus will tear it up at Fastlane. He said he’ll beat the hell out of Sheamus and stand victorious, then regain his title at WrestleMania. He said he wants to see Sheamus vs. Lashley up close to get a first-hand view of what they do to each other.
-Lashley’s cool entrance video aired before he made his way onto the stage to his music. Drew stayed in the ring and stared down at him. When Lashley entered the ring, Joe said they are staring with ice cold daggers. Phillips called it a preview of the main event of WrestleMania. [c]
-Phillips thanked Will Roush for “Rise Up,” the theme of Fastlane.
(6) SHEAMUS vs. BOBBY LASHLEY (w/MVP)
Drew was sitting at ringside, not with the announcers. The bell rang and Lashley lifted and drove Sheamus into the corner. Saxton said this match will be “an exposé of carnage.” Lashley took it to Sheamus for the opening minutes. Sheamus gave Lashley a delayed vertical suplex. Lashley beat up Sheamus at ringside in front of Drew, then threw him back into the ring. Lashley was nearly counted out. Sheamus beat up Lashley as soon as he reentered the ring. He pounded his chest with forearms as he had him bent backwards over the top rope. Drew looked on with a smile. Lashley elbowed Sheamus, but Sheamus fired back with a clothesline to knock Lashley to the floor. Sheamus leaped off the ring apron, but Lashley gave him an overhead suplex. Lashley approached Drew. Drew stood up. MVP told Lashley to wait until WrestleMania. [c]
Back from the break, as Lashley beat up Sheamus, Saxton said there’s no way Sheamus is 100 percent after his brutal match-up with Drew last week (seemingly setting the stage for Sheamus to lose “with an excuse”). Lashley was preoccupied by Drew at ringside for several seconds. When he charged at Sheamus in the corner, Sheamus moved and sent Lashley into the ringpost. Sheamus drove Lashley’s arm hard into the floor, then threw him back into the ring. He leaped off the top rope and delivered a flying clothesline for a one count. He settled into an armbar. Then a cloverleaf. Lashley came back with a sudden powerslam for a quick two count. Lashley landed a short-arm clothesline, then again looked down at Drew. Lashley whipped Sheamus into the ropes, but Sheamus countered with a front kick to the chest. Lashley avoided a Brogue Kick and set up a Hurt Lock. Sheamus elbowed out of the attempt. Lashley delivered a flatliner for a two count.
Lashley put Sheamus on the top turnbuckle and delivered a superplex. Lashley charged, but Sheamus caught him with a knee. He then delivered White Noise for a two count. (The two count was more dramatic due to the one count kickout earlier by Lashley.) Sheamus went for a Brogue Kick, but Lashley countered with a mid-air spear for the three count.
WINNER: Lashley in 18:00.
-Lashley stared down at Drew as his music played. Lashley then put the Hurt Lock on Sheamus. Drew entered the ring. Lashley dropped Sheamus. Sheamus grabbed at MVP’s leg, which distracted Lashley briefly, which led to Drew giving him a Claymore (although, unfortunately, Lashley bumped a little early and the kick showed light). They had to replay it at a reverse angle. Drew had some words for Sheamus as the show ended.
(Keller’s Analysis: Sheamus is having a better in-ring 2021 than Kenny Omega so far. He just keeps delivering hard-hitting lengthy standout TV matches.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: They really had to come through with some Fastlane developments to make the event relevant while also building up WrestleMania, and this show did that. It might have been overkill in terms of keeping track of all the new matches and which ones are on which show. This episode had two title matches and a major title change, not to mention Truth regaining his 24/7 Title. I do hope the Bunny title handover was planned all along and wasn’t a result of him or his people refusing to lose it, because there are creative safe ways for Truth to regain the joke of a title. It’s good, though, for Bunny not to be carrying that around like he’s some sort of badass. It was a bad look for him