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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
MARCH 22, 2021
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. AT TROPICANA FIELD (“THUNDERDOME”)
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Commentators: Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton, Samoa Joe
Ring Announcer: Mike Rome
-They cut right to a wide shot of the arena with Phillips touting the “award-winning and critically-acclaimed” ThunderDome. He said they are now “full speed ahead on the Road to WrestleMania.”
(1) SHEAMUS vs. BOBBY LASHLEY (w/MVP)
Bobby Lashley made his ring entrance, which included the video short of him hitting big moves and poses. He was accompanied by MVP. Sheamus’s ring entrance then took place. They aired a clip of Drew McIntyre shoving Sheamus off of one level of ThunderDome through monitors. The announcers talked about how amazing it is Sheamus is able to wrestle after that fight. This match just feels random and arbitrary the way they just went into it without any real scene-setting or explanation for why it was made. As Sheamus got early control against Lashley a few minutes in, a graphic hyped Rhea Ripley’s appearance later. Saxton said he’s excited to see her finally arrive at Raw. As Lashley made a comeback and tossed Sheamus to ringside, Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin came to ringside. Cedric jumped onto the ring apron right away to distract the ref as Shelton clotheslined Sheamus at ringside. [c]
Back from the break, Lashley was in control. When Cedric got onto the ring apron again, Lashley told him to get down and that he had the match under control. That distraction, led to Sheamus rolling him up for a one count. Lashley charged at Sheamus, but Sheamus moved and thus Lashley sailed into the ringpost. Sheamus battled back again and landed a knee strike to the jaw for a two count. He set up a Brogue Kick, but Lashley ducked. Cedric reached into the ring. Sheamus turned toward him. Lashley came back with a spinebuster and then a Hurt Lock for the win.
WINNER: Lashley in 12:00.
-After the match, as the ref raised Lashley’s arm and his music played, Cedric and Shelton yanked Sheamus to the floor and beat on him. McIntyre’s music played and he ran out for the save. He attacked both Cedric and Shelton. Drew then entered the ring and faced off against Lashley mid-ring. Their words got increasingly heated as MVP stood between them. MVP kept telling Lashley, “WrestleMania! WrestleMania! Business! No emotion!” Lashley was wide-eyed as Drew called him to take the first shot at him. Drew called him a son of a bitch. Lashley backed out of the ring. MVP had a few final words for Drew before leaving the ring. Drew’s music played.
(Keller’s Analysis: What a weird match in the sense that Sheamus was the sympathetic one facing outside interference, yet Lashley also seemed to be a stand-up guy to a point in that he didn’t want Cedric necessarily trying to help and it ended up costing him momentum in the match. WWE is going to quickly run out of heels if they start turning everyone babyface. There seems to be a deliberate slow-walk of Lashley toward being a babyface.)
-Phillips said Randy Orton will summon The Fiend later. [c]
-Backstage Cedric and Shelton seemed pleased with themselves as they walked up to Lashley. Cedric said, “When you mess with one member of Hurt Business, you mess with all of us.” Lashley yelled at Cedric and Shelton that this was supposed to be a one-on-one match. He said he didn’t need their help or want their help. MVP told Shelton and Cedric that they tarnished the image of Lashley, making it seem like he couldn’t beat Sheamus by himself. MVP said they embarrass themselves, they embarrass Lashley. He asked them to think about what they’ll do to make things right.
(Keller’s Analysis: The parallels there between Lashley & MVP with Cedric & Shelton and Paul Heyman & Roman Reigns with Jey Uso is striking and can’t be coincidental.)
-A video package aired on Alexa Bliss-Randy Orton leading up to and including Fastlane. Saxton said Orton has promised to summon The Fiend later in the show. Saxton said they’d show Fiend’s reemergence from the depths of hell later.
-Asuka made her ring entrance. They replayed Shayna Baszler kicking a tooth out of Asuka’s mouth. Phillips said Peyton Royce wanted to get chance against Asuka and it was next. [c]
-An NXT commercial aired showing highspots from Capital Wrestling Centre.
-They replayed Asuka getting revenge against Baszler last week on Raw.
(2) ASUKA vs. PEYTON ROYCE
During Peyton’s entrance, they showed a clip of her on Raw Talk two weeks ago calling for an opportunity against Asuka. Saxton said the question now is whether she can handle Asuka. They battled back and forth for a few minutes. The announcers hyped a special WrestleMania Edition of Miz TV tonight later. Asuka reversed Peyton into the corner, then landed a spinning backfist. When Asuka went for a hip attack, Peyton moved and then landed a very slow and weak looking hook kick to Asuka’s back. She then leaped off the ring apron and yanked backward on Asuka’s hair, sending her hard to the floor. They cut to a break. [c]
Back from the break, they showed Asuka scoring two near falls with leverage pins. Asuka landed a snap German suplex back live and then a knee to the face for a near fall. Peyton came back with a near fall after a leaping slam with her arms hooked back-to-back with Asuka. Asuka then caught Royce with an Asuka Lock, but Peyton slipped free and rolled up Asuka for a two count. Royce went for a spinning wheel kick, but Asuka ducked and delivered double-knees to the face for a believable near fall. Royce fended off a move off the second rope from Asuka, then leaped off with a double stomp onto Asuka’s back leading to a two count. Peyton kicked the bottom rope in frustration and then complained to the ref. Asuka kicked her and then applied a cross armbreaker. Peyton tried to escape, but Asuka converted to an Asukalock for the tapout win.
WINNER: Asuka in 10:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Asuka can have a good match with almost anyone, and this might have been close to an exception. The effort was there, but there was more sloppiness than the low bar allows and that hook kick was so weak, I thought things went into slo-mo.)
-As Asuka celebrated, Rhea Ripley’s music played. Ripley walked out and Asuka looked at her like, “Who do you think you are?” Ripley entered the ring and said she’s one of the greatest women’s champions in WWE history, and now she’s proven her point. She talked about how Charlotte Flair was challenging her for the Raw Women’s Title while she was recovering from having her teeth knocked out. She said now Charlotte isn’t there and she’s actually recovering from COVID. “So, Asuka, I’m gonna need an answer. On my first official night here at Raw, straight up, I challenge you to a championship match at WrestleMania.” Asuka excitedly took the mic and talked in Japanese enthusiastically. She sang, “You are not ready for Asuka!” She calmed down and said, “Rhea Ripley, I accept.”
(Keller’s Analysis: So they just drop that Charlotte is recovering from COVID into Raw and then rush into a Ripley challenge Asuka like that? Charlotte revealed it on Twitter tonight, too. It just feels rushed and unearned and presumptuous of Ripley to even suggest that without more backstory to explain why her resume would put her ahead of everyone else – as paltry as that list on Raw is, especially with Charlotte out.)
-Adam Pearce approached Drew backstage and said he and Sheamus beat each other senseless for weeks. Pearce said he shouldn’t sanction a two-on-one challenge by Cedric & Shelton to face Drew later, but he wanted to run it by Drew before he turned down their request. Drew said he’d do if it means that if he wins, they’re banned from ringside at WrestleMania. Pearce agreed to it.
(Keller’s Analysis: I know pro wrestling might completely fall apart if this logic was used, but shouldn’t Shelton and Cedric already be banned from ringside given what they did earlier to Sheamus?)
-A commercial aired hyping WrestleMania with brief clips of WWE wrestlers.
-They replayed Ripley challenging Asuka before the break. Then they showed a graphic of Asuka vs. Ripley at WrestleMania, so apparently Charlotte for now is off the show, not just missing from the official poster.
(Keller’s Analysis: If WWE made more money if WrestleMania drew more viewers, they’d probably more upset about wrestlers testing positive for COVID right now. If there’s ever a time in a pro wrestler’s career to be vigilant about not mixing with anyone maskless, it’s for the next few weeks. That depletes the WrestleMania line-up, but most of all hopefully Charlotte is symptom-free and recovers to 100 percent quickly. It is good to explain why she isn’t in the WrestleMania line-up. They could have devised a storyline injury, but that would have sparked a lot of rumors about her falling out of favor with management or walking out on WWE over how Andrade’s situation was playing out.)
-Miz TV: Miz and Morrison stood in the ring and took digs at Bad Bunny. Miz said he is a two-time Grand Slam Champion. He asked Morrison who else is a two-time Grand Slam Champion. Morrison said not John Cena, not Brock Lesnar, and not even Undertaker. Miz said he has been the backbone of WWE for 15 years. He touted Morrison. Then he said they don’t get the respect they deserve. As evidence, pointed to the WrestleMania poster graphic. It includes from left to right: Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, Bianca Belair, Edge, Roman Reigns, Drew McIntyre, Sasha Banks, Bobby Lashley, Damian Priest, and Bad Bunny. Miz complained that Bad Bunny made it onto the most important poster in WWE all year, whereas he didn’t. He said last week was the final straw. They replayed Miz hitting Bad Bunny with Elias’s guitar, then being chased out of the ring by Priest.
Morrison said, “Now that was a smash hit!” Miz called it a warning to all actors and pop stars who think they can waltz into WWE and walk all over them. Morrison said Bunny has hopped back into whatever hole he came from. Miz said they will premiere their “Hey Hey Hop Hop” video next week in honor of Bad Bunny. Morrison quipped: “Do you know what the opposite of a Bad Bunny is? A good rapper!” In a preview of next week’s video, a clip aired of Miz and Morrison dancing and singing in bunny outfits. Miz then challenged Bad Bunny to a match against him at WrestleMania. He said if he wants a preview of what he’ll do to him, watch his match against Jeff Hardy right now.
-Hardy’s ring entrance took place. [c]
(3) JEFF HARDY vs. MIZ (w/Morrison)
Hardy said we all know how this goes, and Morrison is going to interfere as soon as Miz gets in trouble. He told Miz to send Morrison to the back if he’s any kind of a man. Morrioson did. Deep into the match, Hardy set up a Twist of Fate, but Miz slipped free and sent Hardy shoulder-first into the ringpost, then landed a Skull Crushing Finale for the win.
WINNER: Miz in 4:00.
-As Miz gloated afterward, Bad Bunny attacked him with a guitar from behind. They aired a low camera angle aimed up at Miz that felt unusual, and it was so Bunny wouldn’t be seen before the guitar impact. Bunny waved his finger at Miz as he backed up the ramp. He then accepted his challenge and called him a bitch.
-They went backstage to Riddle rolling past A.J. Styles and Omos on his scooter. Styles said he wants to embarrass New Day next. [c]
-During Styles’s ring entrance with Omos, they replayed Omos chokeslamming Xavier Woods through a table at ringside last month. (I still consider this Omos’s babyface turn because Xavier was so obnoxious with that trombone playing.) Styles said Omos is going to slam New Day through ring at WrestleMania. New Day came out and turned up the obnoxiousness to usual levels. They said Omos is Styles’s attempt to make up for his lack of size. New Day challenged Styles to prove how much he really knows Omos, whom he claims is his best friend. They asked him about his favorite color, favorite ice cream, and favorite WWE Superstar ever. Styles got them all wrong. Omos said Andre the Giant was his favorite. Styles had guessed it was him. Styles “got back at them” for swiveling his hips and singing “A.J. Rocks” to the beat of “New Day Rocks.”
(Keller’s Analysis: Yuck. Just juvenile and demeaning and annoying.) [c]
-The announcers commented on Eric Bischoff being added to the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2021. Tweets were shown from Mick Foley, Trish Stratus, Bruce Prichard, DDP, and (of course last) Triple H.
(4) KOFI KINGSTON (w/Xavier Woods) vs. A.J. STYLES (w/Omos)
The announcers talked in awe of the chance to see Omos wrestle for the first time at WrestleMania. (This is so much a manifestation of Vince McMahon’s fascination with big tall wrestlers, dating back to his early days being around Andre the Giant. He overestimates how much others care, but at least if you’re going to have a giant around, he gets the most possible out of it.) The announcers revealed a Braun Strowman vs. Elias rematch later on Raw. Kingston monkey-flipped Styles a few minutes in and scored a one count. They fought to ringside where Styles threw Kingston into the ringside steps. Omos got in Xavier’s face nearby as they cut to a break. [c]
Kofi dominated for several minutes after the break. Kofi landed a top rope splash to the back of Styles for a near fall. Styles countered an S.O.S. into a Calf Crusher. Kofi crawled over and grabbed the bottom rope. Styles released the hold. As Styles was about to go for a Phenomenal Forearm, Xavier played his trombone. Styles lost his balance and looked over Xavier angrily. Omos walked toward Xavier at ringside. Styles went for the Phenomenal Forearm, but Kofi turned it mid-air into an S.O.S. for the win.
WINNER: Kingston in 13:00.
-In a backstage interview, Sheamus was asked why he went after Lashley tonight after a grueling battle against Drew. Sheamus said he doesn’t back down from a fight, he lives for a fight. He told him if he has to ask him that question, he doesn’t know a damn thing about him. When asked about his former best friend McIntyre coming to his aid, Sheamus said it is called respect and it’s something the world needs and more. He said he didn’t ask for his help and said he can’t stand the the ground his big ego walks on. Riddle then scooted by him and asked if he’s ever seen the Loch Ness Monster and he asked if Leprechauns are real. Sheamus yelled at him to stop. Riddle said he just wanted to ask him a question. Sheamus admired his scooter as Riddle bragged about it to him. Then he jabbed Riddle in the stomach with it. Riddle went down gasping for breath. “Was it something that I said, bro?” he asked.
(Keller’s Analysis: Between Riddle and New Day, the heels are seeming a lot cooler and more dignified in WWE these days.)
-McIntyre made his ring entrance as Phillips explained the rules of the two-on-one match. [c]
-They bragged about WWE’s 50 billion YouTube video views and noted it’s the no. 1 most overall viewed sports channel ahead of all major league sports.
(5) DREW MCINTYRE vs. SHELTON BENJAMIN & CEDRIC ALEXANDER
Cedric dove through the ropes and tackled Drew at ringside a few minutes in. Cedric and Shelton threw Drew into the ringside barricade before cutting to a break. [c]
The heels beat up Drew for a while longer. Drew eventually took out Cedric with a Claymore for the win. Cedric took a great flip bump. Phillips said Cedric and Shelton are banned from ringside at WrestleMania.
WINNER: McIntyre in 13:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Lashley and MVP should also be happy about this, right? Good match, though, as you’d expect with these three.)
-Phillips hyped the Orton-Fiend segment coming up later. [c]
-The announcers said that WrestleMania tickets are still available. Saxton said tickets won’t last long.
(Keller’s Analysis: They can’t be happy tickets haven’t sold out yet. While they don’t have any incentive to put on a great card because they’re not reliant on that for PPV revenue or Network subs anymore, a bel0w-par line-up needlessly spread over two nights in the midst of a pandemic apparently is enough to have an effect on ticket demand.)
-Backstage Lashley yelled at Cedric and Shelton that if they can’t handle Drew, he’ll go find somebody who can. Lashley walked to the next locker room and told Drew Gulak, Akira Tozawa, Gran Metalik, Lince Dorado, and Ricochet that if any of them take out Drew before WrestleMania, they get an opportunity.
(6) MANDY ROSE & DANA BROOKE vs. NIA JAX (w/Reginald) & SHAYNA BASZLER
Rose and Brooke flexed their biceps on the stage during their ring entrance. (Mandy always looks a little embarrassed at how disproportionately proud Dana while flexing her arms.) Lana and Naomi sat at ringside on commentary. They were sitting off to the side somewhat distanced from the announcers. A couple minutes in, Mandy yelled at Reginald to stay out of her business. Reginald did some acrobatics into the ring, then left. A minute later Reginald distracted Dana on the top rope. Rose went after Reginald, but he somersaulted on the ring apron to avoid her. Baszler then hit Rose with a running clothesline. Back in the ring, Jax gave Dana a Samoan Drop for the win.
WINNER: Jax & Baszler in 3:00.
-They cut to Bliss swinging backstage in a ring next to a slide with the Funhouse logo on the screen. She said she knows Randy wanted her out of his life, but she’s still here, and so is Fiend. She said you can’t always get what you want, but tonight he ought to be careful what he wishes for. She then mouthed, “Let me in” but it was Fiend’s voice. [c]
-They aired a clip of Shane McMahon injuring his knee, then what happened with Shane, Braun, and Elias at Fastlane. [c]
-WWE hyped Hulk Hogan and Titus O’Neal are hosting WrestleMania. [c]
(7) ELIAS (w/Jaxson Ryker) vs. BRAUN STROWMAN
Shane watched from ringside with a crutch. Braun ran around ringside and charged into Ryker and then Elias. They actually played the sound of a train engine and horn as he ran around ringside. (That’s right up there with BIG WORDS ON THE SCREEN for corny ideas that shouldn’t have made it past the brainstorming stage.) He then threw Elias into the ring and powerslammed him for a win.
WINNER: Strowman in 3:00.
-Shane hit Braun with his crutch after the match. Braun no sold it. Braun turned and said Shane must be one of the stupidest sons of bitches. Shane scurried away from ringside and up the ramp, showing no signs of an injured knee. Braun said it appears his knee is fine, and he had no trouble running away with his tail tucked between his legs. He said he’s has enough of chasing him and enough of calling him stupid, so he challenged him to a match at WrestleMania so he could end it. Shane smiled from the safety of the ramp and accepted his challenge. He said he can have any match he wants and he’s going to win. “You know why?” he asked. “Because you are stupid.” He danced a little and then retreated to the back.
-They showed Orton heading to the ring. [c]
-The announcers revealed which matches will occur on which nights. Night One: Drew vs. Lashley for the WWE Title, Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair, and Miz vs. Bad Bunny. Night Two: Roman Reigns vs. Edge for the Universal Title and Asuka vs. Ripley.
-Orton entered the ring and said it feels like just yesterday he watched The Fiend burn, but tonight the bullshit comes to an end. Bliss came out and twisted a Jack-in-the-Box and out popped a grotesque puppet. The Fiend music played and showed up behind Orton. Orton reached to the black bag he brought into the ring and revealed a gas can. He stared at Fiend and splashed him with more gasoline. Saxton said, “Not again. The stench of the gasoline.” Fiend just stood there, frozen. Orton then teased lighting a match, but instead as soon as Fiend took a step toward him, he hit an RKO. He then turned to Bliss who had entered the ring behind him. Fiend stood up. Orton turned. Fiend applied the Mandible Claw. Then he delivered a Sister Abigail. Bliss smiled and skipped around the ring, then turned and pointed at the WrestleMania sign. Pyro blasted as Fiend’s music played. Bliss and Fiend posed together. The announcers commented on a replay of the Sister Abigail.
Just when I’m typing poor Jeff Hardy, he has to be a fish for the Miz now. The Miz takes the guitar shot from Bad Bunny! Poor Miz. You did get your short lived title run. This is your penance.