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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
APRIL 12, 2021
LIVE FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA – “THUNDERDOME”
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Commentators: Adnan Virk, Byron Saxton, Corey Graves
-The new WWE Then, Now, Forever brand jingle played with wrestlers saying catch phrases subtly in the background.
-They cut to Bobby Lashley and MVP arriving. A woman approached Lashley for an autograph. Riddle scootered up to him and challenged him. Lashley said he got whooped by Sheamus and now he wants to face him, so he must be out of his mind. Riddle said he wore a tin foil hat to school for a year because he thought he was receiving alien messages. He said it turned out his braces were receiving messages. Lashley said he already defeated Drew McIntyre, so he won’t come to Raw to face someone lesser. He said he came here to celebrate his victory and address the WWE Universe. Riddle asked if it was about three weeks ago he said anybody can have an opportunity to become WWE Champion. He quoted Lashley from various Raw episodes. Lashley had enough and slammed him to the ground. He bent over and said he wants to teach him a lesson. He said Riddle is a loser whereas he is a winner, and tonight he’ll show him the difference. Lashley and MVP walked away. Riddle nodded.
-They went to ThunderDome. Saxton introduced the show “from the new ThunderDome.”
-Lashley’s entrance video aired. As he walked to the ring, they went to the announcers. Saxton welcomed Graves back to Raw and introduced Virk. Virk said it will be a thrill of a lifetime. He thanked Saxton and Graves for carrying him tonight. Virk hyped a Raw Title rematch between Rhea Ripley and Asuka. Graves said for the first time in three months, there’d be a Firefly Funhouse. He said they hoped for some answers to the bizarre encounter between The Fiend and Alexa Bliss.
(1) BOBBY LASHLEY (w/MVP) vs. RIDDLE
Lashley posed on the second rope as MVP stood mid-ring. Lashley attacked Riddle at ringside, knocking him off his scooter and then slamming him against the ringside barricade. Graves said he’s surprised Riddle was even able to get out of bed in the morning after his battle against Sheamus. (What about Lashley’s battle with Drew McIntyre?) Lashley rammed Riddle into the ringpost ribs-first. Graves said Lashley is now the face of Raw and he deserves the respect of the entire locker room and WWE Universe. Virk said he’s not sure how “the audience” will react to that. (We’re all wondering if he got scolded for saying “audience” instead of “WWE Universe.”)
The ref called for the bell after Lashley threw Riddle into the ring and Riddle stood on his own. He looked pretty battered and out of it, though. Saxton said Lashley was mauling Riddle so far. Lashley dropped to ringside and grabbed Riddle’s scooter. Virk asked, “Why would you mess with someone’s vehicle; that’s just cruel and unusual punishment.” Riddle tossed the scooter away and then went back after Riddle. Lashley pressed Riddle over his head and tossed him over the barricade. Virk said, “Bobby Lashley, putting on a clinic.” (Cliche Alert #1.) They cut to a break. [c]
Lashley continued to beat on Riddle in the ring. They showed that during the commercial, Riddle barely beat the ref’s ten count to avoid a countout. Lashley face-planted Riddle and scored a two count. A graphic in the corner said Maryse would be the guest on Miz TV later. Saxton noted Lashley and Riddle had a number of battles when Lashley was U.S. Champion. Riddle ducked Lashley and landed a high knee. He went for a quick top rope Floating Bro, but Lashley avoided it and applied a Hurt Lock for the win.
WINNER: Lashley in 12:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: They protected Riddle a bit by having him issue the challenge despite the brutal battle he was in with Sheamus at WrestleMania, plus Lashley attacking him before the bell, but it was still one-sided throughout other than the brief short-lived comeback. As for Virk, he’s not leaping out as an upgrade, but it’s very early of course and I can imagine the pressure he feels and how much he has going on in his head doing this live for the first time.)
-A video package aired on Rhea Ripley’s Raw Title win over Asuka.
-Kevin Patrick interviewed Ripley backstage. He congratulated her on her win and asked how she prepared to defend her title just 24 hours after winning it. She said her self-confidence got her here and it will carry her on. She said what the WWE Universe witnessed at WrestleMania was “the brutal new order” of the WWE Women’s Division. She said as of tonight, she’s going to prove to everyone that she is ready for Asuka.
(Keller’s Analysis: Ripley is coming across as a smug and cocky, but not necessarily a clear-cut despicable heel.)
(2) THE VIKING RAIDERS (Erik & Ivar) vs. CEDRIC ALEXANDER & SHELTON BENJAMIN
The announcers talked about Ivar being back from his injury. Graves said it won’t be an easy night because Cedric & Shelton are eager to right the ship of their careers tonight. Graves said he talked with Shelton earlier who said he thought he and Cedric have lost their way. Virk asked why MVP kicked them out. Graves punted on that and told him to ask MVP. Saxton said the words “dead weight” were used at one point about them. The Raiders went on the attack early, but Shelton took control against Erik. Cedric tagged in and continued on the attack. Ivar hot-tagged in. He and Erik double-slammed Cedric a minute later for the win.
WINNERS: Raiders in 5:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good to see the Viking Raiders back. Glad that they’re not doing that dual cover anymore that put the ref in the awkward position of allowing them to cheat when he was counting to three. This is not a good sign for the futures of Cedric & Shelton.)
-Patrick interviewed Asuka backstage who was in a rage and fired up and vowed to become Raw Champion again. [c]
-Charlotte walked out with a cool looking new outfit. Virk said there are rumors she wasn’t happy not to be part of WrestleMania. Graves said she feels she should have been a headliner. Virk marked out a little too much for the pyro. “Seeing it in person is a completely different experience,” he said. Graves told him to get his jaw off the floor. Charlotte demanded a photographer at ringside open the ropes for her. (Better than the referee doing it. That’s always groan-inducing that the official would agree to that when the referees are authority figures, not personal assistants to wrestlers.)
She said, “So here I am on the Raw After WrestleMania.” She said she’d typically be standing there smiling, but she wasn’t welcomed at WrestleMania. She said she wasn’t there, and she said she knows what some are thinking – that she’s been on five WrestleManias before. She said she is a franchise player and genuine superstar. She said what she does in the ring is sacred to her family. She said she wasn’t on WrestleMania over things she couldn’t control. She asked if it was her fault that her dad showed on legends night acting like a fool. She said it wasn’t her fault that Lacey Evans “decided to get pregnant” and she didn’t get to kick her ass in the ring. She said she challenged Asuka, but Asuka didn’t respond. She said Ripley issued a challenge, Asuka accepted, and Ripley beat Asuka. “A new star was born,” she said. “Out with the old, in with the new.” She called Ripley “the biggest snake in the locker room.” She said Asuka manipulated her way into a rematch on Raw the night after WrestleMania. “Karma is a bitch, and I’m that bitch,” she said. She listed a dozen women by name and said “no one compares to me.”
She said she has realized for the first time since signing her first WWE contract seven years ago that she doesn’t steal opportunities, she is the opportunity. “So to all of you delusional WWE fans at home who think I steal opportunities from your favorites, no no no, I create opportunities,” she said. She said she won’t apologize for being that damn good because they will all bow down to their 13-time Women’s Champion. She said no more little humble Charlotte because she’s that good. She asked everyone to show some respect to her for what she has brought to the industry. She said she’s dedicated years and tears and blood and sweat to this business. She asked what any of them have given her in return. She told Asuka and Ripley to enjoy the title match later she should have been in. She dropped the mic.
(Keller’s Analysis: Okay, so that’s a really solid promo from Charlotte that felt less robotic and recited than past promos, and it was refreshing seeing her looser and more genuine. It’s tough to tell for sure if that was meant to be a heel promo or just an assertive babyface promo consider how WWE books characters these days. I thought she came across whiny and arrogant, so hopefully it was intended to be a heel promo. Either way, I hope she is presented consistent without any obvious turns or changes in attitude for at least a year. My main critique would be it wasn’t clear who she is upset with for being left off WrestleMania. Is it management? Or Asuka for not accepting her challenge? Or Ripley for barging in and succeeding at getting a match that Charlotte wanted? Or the fans for saying online that she takes other people’s opportunities. I like her framing herself as the giver of opportunities rather than one who takes them, a push-back to criticism she has received before in the press and social media.)
-Graves said there is truth in what she said. He said all the women in the locker room should be on guard.
-Asuka’s ring entrance began. [c]
(2) RHEA RIPLEY vs. ASUKA – WWE Raw Title match
Ripley’s entrance aired after the commercial. Virk touted Ripley’s performance at WrestleMania. Ripley got in most of the offense in the opening couple minutes. After knocking Asuka to the floor, they cut to an early break. [c]
Back from the break, Saxton noted that Ripley is smiling as she attacks Asuka. Asuka came back with a dropkick. A corner graphic hyped that Lashley and MVP would address the WWE Universe later. Asuka landed a high roundkick and a spinning wheel kick followed by a sliding knee for a two count on Ripley. Asuka climbed to the top rope, but Ripley sidestepped her flying dropkick. She then applied a standing leglock. Asuka reached the bottom rope to force a break. Ripley yanked Asuka hard to the mat and scored a two count. The announcers noted she looked frustrated.
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Ripley threw some kneelifts. They botched a move out of the corner. It appeared Ripley’s legs gave out as she tried to lift Asuka onto her shoulders. They went back to the same spot, and it was a struggle, but with some covert help from Asuka, she lifted her. She went for a crucifix driver. It was a bit sloppy. Graves said it was a car crash. Asuka transitioned into an armbar. Ripley rolled out of it, but Asuka applied a sudden Asuka lock. Ripley stood out of it and drove Asuka head-first into the turnbuckle. She went back to putting Asuka on her shoulders and slammed her face-first onto the mat. Ripley scored a two count, then sat up and showed frustration. Graves said Asuka continues to put up a fight. Asuka shoved Ripley into the corner ringpost, landed a hip attack, and then face-planted Ripley on the edge of the ring apron. They both dropped to the floor. (Virk chuckled afterward, which isn’t the right reaction of an announcer in that situation.) Charlotte attacked them both. The ref called for the bell.
WINNER: No contest in 11:00
-Charlotte continued to beat up both of them at ringside for a minute. They piped in boos as she mock-cried over Asuka and Ripley. She held out her arms and said, “I’m back!”
(Keller’s Analysis: I don’t know how much the final few minutes of that match will be held against Ripley, but got really sloppy and clunky late. I’m relieved they’re not hedging at all with Charlotte. She is in full heel mode and that’s absolutely the right slot for her.)
-Backstage Miz caught up with Maryse and they kissed. John Morrison asked what she was doing there. Miz said she’s their guest on Miz TV. That seemed to be news to Morrison. Miz and Maryse walked away. Morrison gathered himself and said, “Hey, wait up!” [c]
-A Smackdown commercial hyped WrestleMania fallout on Friday.
-They showed Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler watching Mandy Rose slip and fall on the ramp at WrestleMania. They replayed it over and over. Mandy walked up to them and asked if they’re done. She said she said on Twitter to leave it to her to find a new way to trend. She said she can laugh at herself, though. She then slapped Jax. Dana Brooke helped Rose shove Jax into a cart. Baszler had walked away before that happened. Jax stood up and looked upset.
-They cut to Alexa Bliss on a swing backstage. She said WrestleMania was so fun. She said once upon a time, she was a little girl who was lost, but then was rescued by the darkness. She said the darkness nurtured and protected her, but then the darkness went away. She said she wondered at that point if she never needed the darkness after all. They showed her throwing the fireball or lightning bolt at Randy Orton. “How do you think it made her feel that she could do it all on her own,” she said. “Was the darkness helping her or was it just standing in her way?” They showed the scene at WrestleMania of her sweating dark liquid. She asked if it’s true what they say about the female species being the deadliest. “We may never know,” she said with a giggle. She said along the way, she unlocked something truly evil. She introduced her new friend, Lily. It was a creepy looking doll. “Trust me, our fun is just getting started,” she said. She laughed. They showed a close-up of the doll which had skulls for teeth. It snapped it’s jaw like Goldust sometimes does.
(Keller’s Analysis: I admit I’m intrigued by where they from here with Bliss seemingly splitting off from Fiend. While I’m intrigued, I also simultaneously have little hope the payoff will be good and wish this would all go away. Is that cheating to be intrigued but also have no faith and wish this would go away?)
-Miz came out with Maryse. Then Morrison came out to his own music. They posed together on the stage. [c]
-Miz TV: They talked at first about the season premiere of “Miz & Mrs.” Morrison asked about a spin-off series, “Miz, Mrs., and Morrison.” He said it could be called “MMM…” Miz told him he’s in tonight’s episode already. Miz shifted to talking about Bad Bunny. He said he took Bunny from a megastar in the music industry into a WWE Superstar. Miz said Bad Bunny wouldn’t have done what he did without his tutelage. Miz commented on freeze-frames of highlights of Bunny’s big moves in their match.
Damian Priest’s music started. He walked out and asked Miz if he really is taking credit for Bunny’s performance. Priest said he’s his partner and he’s not even taking credit. He said Bunny put in the work. He told Miz that the headlines around the world were “Bad Bunny beats Miz.” Miz asked Priest where his name was in the headlines. He said he’s upset that Bunny upstaged his WrestleMania Moment. He said if he wants his star power to rub off on him, he challenged him to a one-on-one match tonight. Morrison said he was going to challenge Priest also. They argued over who should get the match. Maryse interrupted and said they can both fight him. Priest said he gets that they’re challenging him to a handicapped match. Priest said he’s ready to make his headline: “Damian Priest beats both Miz and Morrison.” Graves said Miz and Morrison are impeccably dressed, so this isn’t the time for them to compete. [c]
(3) MIZ & MORRISON (w/Maryse) vs. DAMIAN PRIEST
Miz and Morrison wrestled in street clothes. When Priest had Miz covered a couple minutes in, Morrison broke up the cover with a running knee. When Miz and Morrison bailed out to ringside, Priest landed a running flip dive over the top rope. He almost hit the back of his head on the ring apron in flight. Morrison and Priest battled on the top rope. Priest landed a leaping spin wheel kick off the top rope for a near fall. Priest landed Hit the Lights on Morrison. Miz went for a Skull Crushing Finale. Priest blocked it and set up his finisher, but Maryse held onto Miz’s feet. Priest yanked on Miz’s pants and they ripped off, but Miz then rolled up Priest and used his legs on the ropes for extra leverage. Maryse hugged Miz and helped cover him up. Miz, with his torn and around his ankles, fell backwards and he almost took Maryse down with him.
WINNERS: Miz & Morrison in 5:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: I know Miz cheated to win, and it was a two-on-one match with interference from Maryse, but it’s not a great look for Priest to lose to Miz coming out of being nearly invisible at WrestleMania.)
-Patrick asked Jax and Baszler for a comment about what happened earlier with Rose and Brooke. They replayed it. Jax didn’t like that they replayed it. She said they were trying to embarrass her. She said it was a cowardly attack meant to deflect from Mandy’s WrestleMania blooper. She said mission accomplished, because after they beat them up, nobody will talking about Mandy and Dana.
-Rose and Brooke made their ring entrance. Yes, they flexed their biceps together. [c]
-An NXT on USA commercial aired noting its move to Tuesdays.
-A slideshow aired of various cool images from WrestleMania weekend.
(4) NIA JAX & SHAYNA BASZLER vs. MANDY ROSE & DANA BROOKE
Jax caught her foot on the middle rope entering the ring and stumbled. Saxton said, “Let’s poke fun at Nia Jax now and laugh at her expense.” Graves said he doesn’t like to get beat up. Jax attacked Brooke at the start, tossing her around and crushing her in the corner. A few minutes in, Rose tagged in and attacked Baszler with a flurry of offense. Baszler came back with a Kirafuda Clutch, but Rose jumped out of the ring and out of her grip. Jax threw her back into the ring after asking if she thought it was funny she slapped her. Jax stepped back onto the ring apron, but slipped again and fell. Rose laughed at her. Jax got mad and crawled into the ring after Rose. Rose bailed out. Brooke said it’s not worth it and they backed up to the stage and just got counted out on purpose.
WINNERS: Jax & Baszler in 6:00 via countout.
(Keller’s Analysis: Jax slipping twice after making fun of Rose for her slip is so contrived, it’s not effective. Rose & Brooke just getting counted out on purpose is an awful finish for a babyface team. The story is they’re scared of Jax because Jax is mad at them for laughing at her. That’s not an excuse to lose on purpose.)
-They showed footage of Lashley beating McIntyre at WrestleMania. Virk plugged Lashley would have an All Mighty Address later. [c]
-An NXT commercial hyped fallout from Takeover.
-They showed mainstream media headlines covering WrestleMania.
-MVP stood center-ring and said The Hurt Business have an official announcement. He said Lashley would come out shortly. He said first he had something to say. He said on Saturday, Lashley retained his championship, and all he wanted to do today was address them and celebrate his victory. He said McIntyre is an absolute warrior and one of the most dominant WWE Champions the world has ever seen. He told Drew it’s okay to be no. 2 when Lashley is no. 1. He said McIntyre is hanging his head right now. He said if McIntyre can’t handle the pressure of the Hurt Lock, then who can? He was interrupted by McIntyre’s music.
McIntyre stepped onto the stage and asked MVP how he’d know how he feels right now. He said he knew WrestleMania would come down to Hurt Lock vs. Claymore and who would make the first mistake. He said he made the first mistake when he allowed MVP to distract him. He touted the Hurt Lock’s effectiveness. He said there’s not a man on Earth who can humble him. He said he wants MVP to keep on the path of growing the ego of Lashley. He entered the ring as he told him to milk the cash cow and make the money and kiss his ass. He said he wants him on the biggest pedestal he can be on, because when he gets his rematch, he will connect with the Claymore. He said he wants him to fall as far as possible and then look up at the new WWE Champion. He got in MVP’s face. MVP said he respects him. He said even he should understand nothing around there is given, it must be earned.
Braun Strowman’s music interrupted them. He walked onto the stage. MVP told Drew to get to the back of the line and fight his way back to the front. He asked Braun what he wants. Braun said MVP is right, that Drew should get to the back of the line. Braun said he humiliated Shane McMahon at WrestleMania, and now it’s his turn. He got in the face of Drew. Randy Orton’s music then played. He walked out onto the stage. He said The Fiend and Bliss are finished, which means no more mind games for him. He said that means he has all the time in the world to focus on what he is truly great at – being the Legend Killer and Apex Predator and the Viper and, most importantly, being WWE Champion once again. Adam Pearce walked out and said he can see where this is going. He said everyone was making excellent points, which makes his job easy. He booked Orton, Drew, and Braun in a Triple Threat match, the winner going on to face Lashley in the headline match at the next PPV, “WrestleMania Backlash.”
-Virk plugged Jaxson Ryker & Elias vs. New Day next. [c]
-Backstage Braun confronted Drew. He said he knows he saw what he did to Shane. Drew said this isn’t a cage match, and he’s going to deliver a Claymore to his face. Braun asked if he was trying to insult his intelligence by explaining how Triple Threat matches work. He said he has a monster-sized ass whipping coming his way. He turned and walked away.
-They went to the announcers on camera. Saxton said they’re going to find out tonight who will face Lashley next, and he’s pumped. They shifted to reviewing what Charlotte said and did earlier.
-Elias sat on a stool in the ring next to Ryker. He strummed his guitar and said he wants to be sure Shane McMahon gets the respect he deserves for his valiant and heroic effort at WrestleMania. He dedicated this match to Shane, his “mentor and hero, for his unmatched bravery on Saturday night.” When Elias strummed his guitar, a trombone noise sounded instead. New Day then came out from the back to piped in cheers.
(5) THE NEW DAY (Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston) vs. JAXSON RYKER & ELIAS
Kofi mocked Ryker & Kingston for “getting their sorry behinds whooped all over WrestleMania by just one man.” Apparently aware of the irony, Xavier said if something like that happened to them, they’d never show their faces again. They mugged for the camera. Kofi said all they could do is catch Braun’s hands at WrestleMania. Kofi said they should be ashamed of themselves. Elias said they lost their tag team titles after one man destroyed them, so who are they to talk? New Day said they’re going to bring honor back to the tag team division by whipping their asses. New Day’s music played briefly.
The bell rang to start the match. New Day landed an early flying stereo flip dive onto Ryker and Elias on the floor. They cut to an early break less than a minute in. [c]
Elias and Ryker beat up Xavier for a few minutes. Kingston eventually got a hot-tag. Xavier tagged back in and landed a top rope double stomp for the win.
WINNERS: New Day in 9:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: It was good for New Day to get a TV win after that performance at WrestleMania, getting totally dominated by Omos. I got a kick out of the straight-faced self-aware hypocrisy of New Day’s pre-match promo, a pretty clever self-deprecating way to address what happened with them at WrestleMania. I wish they were more sad about losing the tag titles. WWE doesn’t like babyfaces dwelling on losses, but why should fans care if New Day regains the titles if they’re as happy as ever after losing them at WrestleMania?)
-Orton said for months he’s been distracted, but now he can focus on what matters – the WWE Championship. He said to get there, he has to go through Drew and Braun tonight. [c]
-Saxton plugged that Sheamus, Ripley, and The Viking Raiders would be on Raw Talk later.
-The Firefly Funhouse: Bray Wyatt was back with the usual cast of puppets. Ramblin’ Rabbit introduced him excitedly. Bray laughed, smiled, and waved. He said it feels so good to be back in the Funhouse, especially with all of his true friends. Abby had to be bleeped as she talked about Bliss. Bray told her if she doesn’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. She swore some more. Rabbit said it’ll be so groovy there without Bliss. Bray grabbed Rabbit like he was going to choke him, but he kissed him and said, “I bet you didn’t see that coming!” Bray said he feels great and it could be “a brand new start for all of them – new season, new friends, and a brand new me.” He said he feels reborn. He went into Southern Preacher mode and said the Funhouse will be big, bad, and strong. Then he waved bye.
(Keller’s Analysis: That was fine for a reset of the show to set the table for the next chapter. It didn’t answer anything, though, other than Abby really didn’t like Alexa.)
-Drew made his ring entrance. Virk said Drew has a score to settle. Braun then made his entrance. [c]
(6) DREW MCINTYRE vs. BRAUN STROWMAN vs. RANDY ORTON – No. 1 contendership match
Virk called Drew “the Celtic Warrior.” Graves nicely corrected him. Virk thanked Saxton and Graves for being there to help cover him. Drew and Orton beat up Braun together at the start. Braun knocked them both down when he charged out of the corner. The action spilled to ringside. Braun charged – sans the train sounds – at Drew, but Drew hit him with the ringside steps. Orton then slammed Drew onto the announce desk. They cut to an early break at 2:00. [c]
After the break, Orton beat up Drew at ringside and threw him onto the announce desk again. Braun then attacked Orton. He bashed both Orton and Drew with the top of the ringside steps. He let out a roar. Orton came back with a draping DDT to Braun in the ring a minute later. He laughed and stuck out his tongue. Orton then hit an RKO. He made the cover, but Drew broke up the cover and knocked Orton off of Braun to the floor. He then covered Braun and got the three count.
WINNER: McIntyre in 12:00 to earn a rematch against Lashley at WrestleMania Backlash.
(Keller’s Analysis: Utilizing the WrestleMania name for a non-WrestleMania PPV waters down the brand. I get why they’re doing it, but it’s risky. The WrestleMania brand has been so protected over the years, and it always had equity that could have been exploited by having it twice a year, for instance, but they resisted. It’s like doing too many title changes. Eventually title changes mean less.)
-After the match, MVP stood on the stage. Drew looked over at him. T-Bar and Mace attacked Drew from behind and then double-chokeslammed him. The announcers wondered what that meant. They stood at ringside as Drew sat up and seethed in anger.