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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
MAY 24, 2021
LIVE FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA – “THUNDERDOME”
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Commentators: Adnan Virk, Byron Saxton, Corey Graves
Ring Announcer: Mike Rome
-They opened with Virk introducing the show as MVP stood mid-ring. MVP introduced Lashley, who walked out with five women (with relatively diverse body types compared to WWE’s history). Then they threw to a video package on last week’s Lashley open challenge with Drew McIntyre providing a distraction leading to Kofi Kingston’s (unsatisfying, tainted) victory. Then Drew, Kofi, and Xavier Woods celebrated and laughed at Lashley.
Back live in the ring, the women were jeering what they just saw. MVP called for an “energy change.” He called for an “explosive” round of applause for Lashley. The women cheered. MVP announced that in July, WWE is leaving (the AWARD-WINNING, CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED) ThunderDome “back on the road where we belong at an arena near you.” He said fans can see the WWE Champion up close and in person. He said, sadly, there is the perennial dark cloud that hangs over them and that petty, crass, dark cloud has a name – Drew McIntyre.
Lashley said be beat Drew at WrestleMania and beat Drew and Braun Strowman at Backlash, so a rematch is a no-go. MVP said they’re done with all that. MVP said they tried to move on by issuing an open challenge. He called Kofi a “dread-locked cartoon character” who thought just because he was a champion before, he deserved to step to face Lashley. McIntyre’s music interrupted.
McIntyre said everyone knows he’d walk out there eventually “because your business is my business since my business is winning back the WWE Championship.” He said if it weren’t for MVP, he have beat Lashley at WrestleMania. He blamed Braun for his loss at Backlash. He said he knows Lashley wants to prove he can beat him clean, and asked him not to look over at MVP. Drew entered the ring and told Lashley that he doesn’t have the balls to face him again. He asked the women if Lashley has any balls. They all reacted like, “How would we know and what are you suggesting?!”
New Day music interrupted Drew and Lashley bickering. Kofi and Xavier trotted onto the stage. Kofi bragged about beating Lashley “bay-beeeeeee!” (As if he had anything to be proud of.) Lashley asked Kofi if he thanked Drew. Drew said, “You’re welcome.” Kofi asked Drew what he just said. “What’d you say, bru? It seems like you’re insinuating I couldn’t have beat Bob without you.” He said he didn’t ask Drew to come out to his corner last week. He said he answered Lashley’s challenge last week because he never got a WWE Championship rematch. Kofi said Drew seems to get one rematch after another, so he and the fans would like him to stand off to the side and watch him do something Drew hasn’t done – pin Lashley. Drew said maybe he didn’t need him, but he’s 99 percent sure he did.
Adam Pearce walked out to the Raw theme and said there’s an easy way to settle this debate – Kofi vs. Drew, and the winner faces Lashley at the Hell in a Cell PPV. MVP said it’s a great idea, and they’d set up the VIP Lounge on the stage to watch. Drew and Kofi faced off.
(Keller’s Analysis: WWE has a limited roster of singles wrestlers who come even close to credible opponents for Drew and Lashley, and arguably Kofi was a level below that last week. Getting a tainted fluke win over Lashley didn’t elevate him instantly to that level where anyone believes WWE is going to have him co-headline the Hell in a Cell PPV against Lashley. All of that said, as a two week storyline to fill some TV time, given their limited options, Kofi vs. Drew feels fresh and novel in the ring and at least gives Drew an opportunity to “earn” a one-on-one rematch against Lashley. The storyline put Kofi in a tough spot of bragging about a win that wasn’t impressive.) [c]
-The announcers hyped WWE’s return to live touring starting on July 16.
-A soundbite aired with Braun touting WWE’s return to live touring.
(1) DREW MCINTYRE vs. KOFI KINGSTON – Winner Gets PPV Title match against Bobby Lashley and his WWE Title
Virk asked Graves who Lashley would rather face. Graves (preposterously) said Lashley would rather face Drew because Lashley has shown he can beat Drew “in different scenarios in the past.” Graves said Kofi spoke a lot of truth about having what it takes to win the WWE Title. They cut away to Lashley, MVP, and the women on the stage watching. A few minutes in, Kofi escaped a powerbomb and sent Drew to ringside, then slingshot himself over the top rope onto him at ringside. Xavier (obnoxiously) taunted him with trombone playing and dancing at ringside. Drew catapulted Kofi onto the edge of the ring apron, then looked over at MVP on the stage. They cut to a break as Virk said, “He knows what’s next and that’s what he’s focused on.” (Isn’t that getting ahead of things and painting Drew in a bad light as someone taking a win over Kofi for granted prematurely?) [c]
After Drew snap-suplexed Kofi, a graphic in the corner advertised Asuka vs. Charlotte later on Raw. Virk asked, “How wild was Kofi-mania back in the day?” (Sigh. That sounded like a genuine question, not a declaration of how wild it was, because WWE hired an announcer who is barely familiar with the recent history of the product he’s in charge of calling three hours a week on national cable.) A few minutes later Drew rolled through on a bodypress off the top rope and landed a Michinoku Driver for a near fall. Drew stood on the second rope and looked over at Lashley and waved him to the ring. Lashley threw his jacket down as Graves yelled, “This is about to get more interesting!” [c]
Back from the break, Lashley and MVP were sitting at ringside. Kofi and Drew battled back and forth, trading near falls after big moves. Graves said the will of Kofi was on display for the world to see. Saxton said Drew was showing signs of frustration. Kofi side-stepped a charging Drew, who went shoulder-first into the ringpost. A graphic in the corner advertised Riddle vs. Xavier Woods later on Raw. Kofi leaped off the top rope with a splash onto the back of Drew for a near fall. Kofi tossed Drew over the top rope to the floor a minute later. When Drew stood and looked over at MVP and Lashley, Kofi dove off the top rope onto him. He knocked Drew onto Lashley, knocking him off his chair. Back in the ring, Kofi scored a near fall with an S.O.S. Lashley and MVP charged into the ring and attacked both Drew and Kofi. Virk said “pandemonium had broken out.” (He’s been watching Gorilla Monsoon era WWE, perhaps?) When Xavier ran in, Lashley clotheslined him. Kofi hit Lashley with a Trouble in Paradise. Drew gave Lashley a Claymore a second later. Lashley and MVP retreated.
WINNER: No contest in 22:00.
-At ringside, Graves said there are a lot of questions left unanswered about who will face Lashley at Hell in a Cell.
(Keller’s Analysis: That match ended 40 minutes into the first hour, and that was a long time to ask viewers to invest in a good back-and-forth battle only to have the indecisive outcome. It’s part of a pattern that’s continuing to work against fans investing in matches or buying into high-stakes.)
-A clip aired of Asuka pinning Charlotte last week.
-Rhea Ripley walked up to Charlotte as Charlotte was walking backstage staring at her phone. Charlotte said Ripley claims to despise her, but she actually wants to be just like her. She said she’s the most decorated, feared woman in WWE. She said it’s going to her beautiful face she sees inside the ring at Hell in a Cell. Nikki Cross walked up to them and said one of them should face her tonight. Charlotte said she already has a match against Asuka, but she’s not worth her time. She said she’d beat her in two minutes. Ripley said people don’t like Charlotte because she talks down to people. Charlotte asked Ripley to try to beat Nikki in two minutes. Ripley agreed.
-Graves said it appears Ripley has gotten inside Charlotte’s head and cracker her armor.
(Keller’s Analysis: Nothing in that segment suggested Charlotte was shaken up or thrown off at all by Ripley there. She seemed completely confident and unrattled. It’s like he watched a completely different segment, or more aptly, he was scripted to say that but the segment came off differently than intended.)
-As Ripley made her ring entrance, Saxton said Ripley is brash and believes in herself, and she has a chance to prove it. Graves said Ripley is going to try to do what Charlotte “refused to do.”
(Keller’s Analysis: I wouldn’t say Charlotte refused to do it. She just said she could if she didn’t already have a match scheduled.)
-Another Eva Marie vignette aired. She was shown on a movie set. She thanked the people who guided her down the right path. She said now that she’s a heroine like Angelina Jolie, she wants to do more than play a hero – she wants to be a hero. She said the role of a hero is to “show others the way.” She said she wants to be a figure that little girls look up to and said, “I can be that.”
(Keller’s Analysis: I wouldn’t put it past WWE to misjudge how these come across and think she’s a babyface waiting to get cheered by star-struck naive fans everywhere, but more so it appears they’re setting her up to cheat to win and show she’s a total phony out of the gate.)
(2) RHEA RIPLEY vs. NIKKI CROSS – Beat the Clock Challenge
The 2:00 countdown clock began at the bell. Nikki landed a jaw-breaker at 1:00 and then landed a crossbody off the top rope for a two count. Ripley dropkicked Cross and beat on her in the corner with 30 seconds left. Graves wondered if she forgot about the time limit. She stomped away at her in the corner as the clock hit zero. She looked up at the clock and yelled, “What?!” Graves congratulated a celebrating Cross.
WINNER: Cross in 2:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: I don’t think anyone looked good there. Cross was put in a position to celebrate merely lasting two minutes without losing. Ripley was put in a position to look unfocused and undisciplined enough to focus for two minutes on the stipulation announced loudly as the match began.)
-Charlotte made her ring entrance and laughed at Ripley as her music played. [c]
-WWE hyped the return to the road in July.
-A soundbite aired with Damian Priest expressing excitement about returning to arenas with fans.
-Virk said “it’s been way too long” since WWE was in front of fans.
-Backstage, Drew asked Pearce what the finish meant. Kofi barged in and wanted to know what Pearce was going to do. Pearce said he was “as pissed” at what happened as them. Drew said, “You don’t look it! Get more pissed!” Pearce said next week they’ll wrestle again, and the winner will face Lashley at HIAC. Kofi said he’s cool with that, and he wants him to find a way to keep Lashley and MVP away. Drew looked at Kofi and said everyone knows he’s go through everybody to get the WWE Title back.
(3) CHARLOTTE vs. ASUKA
Charlotte chop-blocked Asuka on a mid-air hip attack. At 5:00, Charlotte dropped Asuka knee-first onto the ringside steps. They cut to a break as Asuka clutched her knee in pain. [c]
Back from the break, Charlotte was working over Asuka’s leg. Asuka made a comeback and applied a cross armbreaker at 12:00. Graves said Ripley was surely watching in the back. Charlotte reached the bottom rope to force a release of the hold. Charlotte went for a moonsault, but Asuka moved. Charlotte landed on her feet. Asuka gave her a German suplex, but clutched her knee afterward in pain. Asuka landed a spinning wheel kick a minute later to drop Charlotte. She landed a hip attack for a near fall. They battled at ringside. Charlotte threw Asuka into the announce table. They cut to another break with both down at ringside. [c]
A graphic advertised A.J. Styles vs. Jaxson Ryker later on Raw. A couple minutes after returning from the second break, Asuka countered a figure-four attempt into a roll-up. She went for an Asuka lock, but Charlotte rolled through and leveraged Asuka’s shoulders down for a three count. As Charlotte smiled, Graves said you can no longer deny that Charlotte is the queen who has earned another opportunity to become champion once again.
WINNER: Charlotte in 22:00.
-They cut backstage to the five women rubbing Lashley’s muscles. A producer walked in and told Lashley that Pearce would like to see him. Lashley seemed annoyed. [c]
-They showed more headlines about WWE returning to the road with live crowds. Saxton said everyone in WWE miss the cheers and boos and boisterous chants. “We will finally be reunited with the WWE Universe,” he said.
-Backstage, Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke touted the return to “performing in front of our fans.” Dana said everyone can come out and flex with them in Texas.
-MVP and Lashley walked up to Pearce, who asked them if that’s the kind of champion he wants to be. Lashley said Drew and Kofi couldn’t represent WWE as well as him. Lashley said he was trying to help Pearce. Pearce said if either of them interfere in the match or even go to ringside, they will be suspended for 90 days without pay. “In your bracket, that’s a whole lot of money,” he said. MVP held back an angry Lashley.
-A video package aired on the break-up of Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander.
-Shelton made his ring entrance for his scheduled match against Cedric. When Cedric walked to the ring, he said he wants to talk first. He said they had a good thing going and became Raw Tag Champions and were part of the hottest thing in WWE. He said MVP took them from obscure nobodies to the top of the mountain. He said then they were kicked out of Hurt Business. He said that’s because Shelton is washed up. He said he’s the only reason they were tag champs. He said MVP and Lashley kicked him out of Hurt Business “and I was just collateral damage.” He said that’s okay, because he’s got years to make up for past mistakes because he’s young, fresh, and in his prime. “How many years do you have left?” he asked. “What do you have to show for all your years of hard work?” The ref held Shelton back as Cedric went on and on. Cedric said he’s an evolving athlete who learns and who will have his arm raised in victory. Saxton said all he’s done is inflame Shelton’s rage. Graves complimented Cedric’s athleticism but said, “Cedric has the charisma of a cinder block. That’s the most I’ve ever heard him speak, and I hope Shelton snatches his tongue clean out of his head after that diatribe.” Graves said he’s rooting for Shelton tonight.
(Keller’s Analysis: That felt more like a burial of Cedric’s grating vocal performance than a build for the match. I have to agree with the sentiment that Cedric’s yelling was hard to listen to, perhaps even headache-inducing. Is he going for that? If not, does he listen to himself back on TV to see how his voice sounds at that decibel and intensity over a mic? Yikes. It’s just channel-turn inducing unpleasant.) [c]
(4) SHELTON BENJAMIN vs. CEDRIC ALEXANDER
Shelton threw Cedric into the ringside barricade a minute in. Cedric took over with a mat hold a couple minutes later. Shelton came back with a spinebuster. Graves said Cedric is about to learn the meaning of the word regret. Shelton took Cedric down with a spin wheel kick. Cedric thumbed Shelton’s eye and landed a Neuralyzer kick to the face for the three count. Graves called it the biggest singles win of his career. Saxton called it cheap and underhanded. Graves gave him credit for doing it and not getting away with it.
WINNER: Cedric in 12:00.
-A video package aired on R-K-Bro.
-Riddle rolled on a scooter to the ring and kicked off his sandals. [c]
-A video hyped WWE’s return to live events starting July 16 in Houston, Tex. for Smackdown, July 18 in Ft. Worth for Money in the Bank, and July 19 in Dallas, Tex. for Raw.
-A John Morrison soundbite touted the return to crowds. Virk said he gets a little moist when he’s near Johnny Drip Drip. Graves told him to “keep his personal business personal.”
(5) RIDDLE vs. XAVIER WOODS
Virk said Xavier is into “animae, video games, and nerd culture.” Graves talked about how the R-K-Bro team isn’t official yet, but Riddle knows there’s something to be gained from teaming with Randy Orton. Xavier gave Riddle a Death Valley Driver onto the edge of the ring apron. Virk said about Riddle, “I’ve never seen Riddle with that expression on his face.” Graves said, “You’ve never spent a Saturday night with him.” (I laughed out loud for real at that one.) [c]
Xavier rallied after the break in the ring and scored a near fall after a second rope missile dropkick. They battled on the top rope. Riddle gave Xavier a springboard German suplex off the middle rope. Xavier kicked out with force. The replay showed Xavier landed on the top and side of his head awkwardly. Riddle went for a Floating Bro, but Xavier moved. Riddle caught Xavier with an RKO for the win. Riddle yelled, “That was for you, Randy!”
WINNER: Riddle in 13:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good match. That suplex landing on Xavier’s head was nasty and hopefully he’s not feeling that too much tonight or tomorrow. Yikes.)
-The announcers commented on a replay of last week’s Elias vs. Styles match.
-They showed Styles and Omos talking backstage on their way to the entrance stage.
(Keller’s Analysis: They haven’t yet advertised that the main event is a Women’s Tag Team Title match.) [c]
-They went to the announcers at ringside who announced that Ripley will defend against Charlotte at Hell in a Cell. They didn’t say the match will be inside the Cell, though.
(6) A.J. STYLES vs. JAXSON RYKER
During his ring entrance, Graves touted Styles as perhaps the greatest in-ring performer of this generation. Ryker made his ring entrances second. As Styles took it to Ryker at ringside a minute in, Elias showed up and attacked Styles with a flying knee to the jaw before scurrying away. Back in the ring Ryker landed a one-armed turning slam for the win.
WINNER: Ryker in 2:00.
-Omos shoved Elias down at ringside after the break, then chased after them. Elias and Ryker ran away. Graves touted their speed as he caught up to Elias on the stage and shoved him into the LED wall. Omos entered the ring and checked on Styles. Saxton said someone of Omos’s size shouldn’t be able to move that quickly.
-Virk threw to a video package on the Sheamus-Humberto Carrillo rivalry.
-Sheamus began his ring entrance. [c]
-Another video hyped WWE’s return to live events.
-Jeff Hardy made a rare appearance lately to tout going to the extreme in front of fans again.
(7) HUMBERTO CARRILLLO vs. SHEAMUS
Graves said Humberto was injured last time he wrestled Sheamus, forcing the match to be stopped, but he’s back. He said Sheamus wants to complete the job. Graves said Humberto’s injury wasn’t career-threatening or catastrophic, but at the moment it was a scary situation. Sheamus dished out relentless punishment for a few minutes, then trash-talked Humberto. Humberto fought back. Saxton said Humberto couldn’t be demoralized despite Sheamus’s attempts. He dropkicked Sheamus to the floor, then dove at him through the ropes, knocking Sheamus head-first into the table. Humberto threw Sheamus back into the ring, then leaped off the top rope with a flying back elbow for a two count. Sheamus sat down on a roll-up attempt and yanked on Humberto’s tights for a three count.
WINNER: Sheamus in 4:00.
-Sheamus attacked Humberto afterward as he was being announced as the winner. He put Humberto in a Cloverleaf mid-ring. Ricochet made the save with a springboard dropkick. Humberto then springboard-kicked Sheamus. Ricochet landed a springboard moonsault. Then Humberto landed a moonsault off the top rope. Virk said, “The aerial show continues!” Ricochet landed a 450 splash off the top rope. Sheamus rolled to the floor. Saxton said Sheamus has created a growing list of enemies.
-The announcers commented on the Natalya & Tamina vs. Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax rivalry including Baszler’s win last week against Natalya to earn the rematch this week.
-Backstage, Sarah Schreiber interviewed Jax, Baszler, and Reginald. Baszler said Jax was distracted again last week. Jax told her to stop being a bully. She said Reginald was shaken up because the flames got close to his eyes and he was seeing triple and having nightmares. “Who cares?” Baszler said. She said they were an unstoppable force until Reginald showed up and she got distracted by things that don’t matter. Baszler suggested they go to the ring without Reginald this week. Reginald said he was only trying to help. Baszler said he can help by staying in the back. She said if she sees his face ringside for another match of hers, she’ll give him a real reason to have nightmares.
-Natalya & Tamina began their ring entrance. [c]
-Another vignette aired with Eva Marie, this one with her working out. She said as an athlete, she’s learned it’s as important to build yourself up on the inside as much as on the outside. She touted having the right mindset. “The weight of the world may tear you down, but discipline and consistency will overcome weakness.” She said she’s learned to become her own cheerleader, and now she’s an advocate helping others build better versions of themselves.
(8) NATALYA & TAMINA vs. NIA JAX & SHAYNA BASZLER – WWE Women’s Tag Team Title match
The bell rang 47 minutes into the hour. Natalya wanted to tag in at the start against Baszler. Tamina tagged out. They showed Reginald watching on a monitor backstage. As Natalya and Baszler battled at 3:00, Reginald walked to ringside. They cut to a break. [c]
Baszler had Natalya in an armbar. Saxton asked why Reginald was so hard-headed and not realizing he isn’t wanted at ringside. Baszler and Natalya each tagged out; Tamina took it to Jax for a few seconds before Tamina superkicked Jax and scored a two count. Jax avoided another superkick and scored a two count on a roll-up. Baszler tagged in. Tamina powerslammed her for a two count, then tagged in Natalya. Natalya catapulted Baszler into a superkick to the chest. Jax broke up Natalya’s cover by yanking Natalya up by her hair and headbutting her. Tamina took Jax down with a Thesz Press. They rolled to ringside and battled. Jax backdropped Tamina over the barricade.
Meanwhile, Natalya avoided a running Baszler knee in the corner, then landed a discus clothesline. As Natalya went for a sharpshooter, Reginald jumped on the ring apron. Baszler, though, countered Natalya into a small package. The ref turned to yell at Reginald, so he didn’t make the three count in time. Baszler yelled at Reginald, saying she had her beat. “Get out!” she yelled. “Go!” Reginald pleaded his case and then left, looking dejected. Flames shot up on the stage again. Reginald went down and grabbed at his eyes. Natalya then pinned Baszler with an inside cradle for the win. Graves called it “pyrotechnic mishap,” but said since it was twice in a row, it’s not happenstance. Baszler checked on Reginald at ringside, then grabbed him by his lapels and yelled, “You son of a bitch!” she said. “I am tired of your interfering in my matches!” She called him a twerp and challenged him to a match next week, then shoved him down.
WINNERS: Natalya & Tamina in 12:00 to retain the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles.