SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
FEBRUARY 21, 2022
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Commentators: Jimmy Smith, Byron Saxton, Corey Graves
-The “Then, Now, Forever, Together” intro aired with the (creepy) narration added saying those words.
-A highlight package aired of Elimination Chamber. They included Madcap Moss’s botched bump on top of his head. It closed with Brock Lesnar celebrating with the WWE Title belt. They hyped the “Winner Taker All” between Lesnar and Roman Reigns at WrestleMania as a result.
-They cut to a shot of the arena as Jimmy Smith introduced the show.
-Lesnar made his ring entrance. He was all smiles with a title belt over his shoulder. Graves said Lesnar’s performance in the Chamber was one of the most dominant in WWE history. They showed Lesnar interacting with a kid in the front row, letting him pat his hand on his title belt. He fist bumped more fans in a patterned black and red sweater and cowboy hat. He stood on the announce desk and played to the crowd with his newly won WWE Title belt. He went back to slapping hands. (He’s making peak babyface Bret Hart look introverted by comparison here.)
When Lesnar entered the ring, fans loudly chanted “Suplex City!” He said it’s getting hot in there and he’s boiling. He took off his sweater. He thanked the fans and smiled some more. He was interrupted by Paul Heyman. As he began to introduce himself, Lesnar interrupted him. He said, “That’s as far as I’d go if I were you.” Fans chanted “You suck!” Heyman said, “The Special Counsel for the Tribal Chief does not suck.” He said he is the Special Council for the only real heavyweight champion in WWE. He said he came out there not to be disrespectful, but out of love for their 20 year friendship and professional relationship. He said Lesnar is so myopic right now looking at “Winner Take All” at WrestleMania. He said there’s a road block in his way. He called him “farm boy.” He said he might not make it to WrestleMania as the WWE Title holder. He said for 20 years he took care of the small details for Lesnar, but on March 5 he has to defend his WWE Title at Madison Square Garden. He said that means he isn’t going to make it to WrestleMania as the champion. He told Lesnar that if he has any more questions for him, let him know.
Lesnar said he can still appreciate him “even though you’re such a dick.” He thanked him for telling him where he’s supposed to be when he already knows. Heyman said Bobby Lashley is his scheduled opponent, but if he doesn’t pass concussion protocol, he’ll make sure it’s a title defense worthy of “the world’s most famous arena.” Heyman turned to leave. Lesnar told Heyman he had a news flash for him. He said he’s doing just fine without Heyman representing him. Lesnar said since Heyman told him where he’s supposed to be, he’s going to tell Heyman where he’ll be on Friday night. He said he’ll be in Hershey, Pa. standing besides his little Tribal Chief Roman Reigns demanding some acknowledgment. “Guess where Brock Lesnar’s going to be Friday night,” Lesnar said. Heyman guessed Saskatchewan. Lesnar said he’s going to be there to introduce himself as the reigning WWE Champion.
Saxton wondered what kind of fireworks they’ll see on Friday. Graves said the MSG show could be a roadblock on the way to WrestleMania.
(Keller’s Analysis: So a lot of moving parts here. Bobby Lashley was dealing with a legit shoulder injury suffered at the Royal Rumble, and that likely means he won’t make it to MSG. Heyman said he will use his influence to be sure Lesnar has a worthy opponent. There’s no way they’d have Cody Rhodes make his debut there and beat Lesnar, would they? Lesnar seems to be having almost too much fun as a babyface playing to the fans. Heyman was stupendous here, antagonizing Lesnar from afar. The MSG show looks to be shaping up as a pivotal and newsworthy show.)
-Backstage, Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens were chatting about what happened at Elimination Chamber. Kevin Patrick approached them. Patrick said their path to WrestleMania isn’t clear at all. KO said they have a path. He said they beat RK-Bro two weeks ago. Seth said last week he beat Orton. KO said tonight they’re going to beat RK-Bro again, and then they’ll be added to the Raw Tag Team Title match in two weeks. KO said the possibilities for WrestleMania are endless at that point. He said maybe they’d challenge the Usos to a match of champions. Seth cackled as KO asked Patrick what he thinks of their path. Then KO said the path is good, and it makes it bearable that WrestleMania is happening in that “hellhole known as Dallas, Texas.”
-The Street Profits made their ring entrance. [c]
-Saxton hyped the return of Edge to Raw later.
-Graves said if KO & Seth win later, they will be added to the Raw Tag Team Title match in two weeks.
(1) ALPHA ACADEMY (Chad Gable & Otis) vs. THE STREET PROFITS (Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford) – Non-Title match
Otis and Gable tripped Ford and yanked him to ringside by his boots. That was a Veteran Move, said Smith. Dawkins landed a running flip dive over the top rope onto all three. As he celebrated, they cut to a break. [c]
Back from the break, Gable took over against Ford. He settled into an armbar mid-ring. Ford dove over Gable and somersaulted over to tag in Dawkins, who rallied with a flurry of offense against Gable including a flying neckbreaker and a corner twisting splash. Ford then leaped off the top rope and hit Gable with a blockbuster off of Dawkins’ shoulders. Otis broke up the subsequent cover at two. Otis tossed Dawkins around ringside. Ford kicked him. Gable and Ford battled, but Otis had been blind-tagged in. Ford saw him coming and landed three kicks to stagger him. He followed with a powerslam attempt, but he fell backwards. Gable held Ford’s boot as Otis was on top of Ford and the ref counted to three.
WINNERS: Gable & Otis in 9:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Gable & Otis is one of the surprisingly fun acts of 2022 so far. We knew they were talented, but they play so well off of each other. They’re entertaining on the mic and really solid in the ring.)
-They replayed the scuffle between Dolph Ziggler and Tommaso Ciampa on Raw last week.
-Patrick interviewed Ciampa, whom he called “a standard-bearer of NXT.” He asked about facing Ziggler and Robert Roode on their home turf of Raw. He said he doesn’t feel pressure. He said he’ll take them on any night of the week. He introduced Finn Balor as his partner. Balor said Raw might be his home now, but he hasn’t forgotten where he came from. He said they’ve faced each other in the past, but tonight they can start the Road to WrestleMania by standing shoulder to shoulder.
-Balor’s ring entrance began. Graves said, “The Prince is back on Monday Night Raw!” Smith said he was rehabbing since the beating he took from Austin Theory. [c]
-More highlights aired from Elimination Chamber.
(2) THE DIRTY DOGS (w/Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode) vs. FINN BALOR & TOMMASO CIAMPA
The tail end of Ciampa’s ring entrance aired as he entered the ring. Graves said there are few men walking Earth as intense as Ciampa. He touted his stamina and aggression. Ziggler and Roode then made their entrance. A clip aired from last week’s NXT 2.0 show where Ciampa and Ziggler got into a brawl during the Bron Breakker match. Graves hyped Ciampa would face Ziggler one-on-one tomorrow night on USA Network. Ziggler distracted Ciampa at the start, giving Roode an opening to get in the first shots. Ciampa soon took over and eyed Ziggler. Smith mentioned seeing Walter at his first NXT event. Graves quickly said, “You’re referring to Gunther, Jimmy Smith.” (Ooops.) Graves went back to touting Ciampa’s history. Ciampa knocked Ziggler to the floor. Ciampa knocked Roode to the floor. Balor then landed a flip-dive over the top rope onto Roode and Ziggler. They cut to a break. [c]
Ziggler and Roode had Ciampa isolated after the break in their corner. A couple minutes later Ciampa hot-tagged Balor just as Roode also tagged in. Balor rallied. Smith said Balor looks to be thrilled to be back. Ziggler broke up Balor’s cover on Roode. Roode caught Balor with a spinebuster for a two count. Balor tagged Ciampa back in. He caught Roode mid-air with a knee and leveraged Roode’s shoulders down for a three count.
WINNERS: Ciampa & Balor in 9:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: A good tag match, and more importantly, an actual fresh match-up on Raw. The cross-promotion between Raw and NXT has been a long time coming.)
-They went to the announcers at ringside on camera who discussed the Lesnar situation again. They discussed Becky Lynch vs. Bianca Belair and Charlotte vs. Ronda Rousey being set now, too. Graves said WrestleMania will be must-see.
-Miz made his ring entrance for Miz TV. Graves said Miz has headlined WrestleMania and he is a reality star. He said he will reveal a new tag team partner next. [c]
-They aired postcard shots of the University of South Carolina.
-Miz TV: Miz said most people watching will never experience flying a private jet across the world. He said most of them will never leave their small, Podunk hometowns. He said most actually don’t know what it’s like to leave their couches. He said they want his success, his family, his beautiful wife, and his travels. “To you it feels unattainable, and it is,” he said. He said therefore they look to someone they can better relate to such as Rey Mysterio. He made fun of Rey’s height. He said they each do what it takes to get ahead. He said they look past Rey’s misconduct, including using his son Dominik to beat him at Elimination Chamber “because you need Rey to succeed because it makes you feel better.” He said Rey is everything they despise about him, but they choose not to see it. He said therefore he has come to the realization that they, the fans, are the ones who cannot be trusted. He said he has found a new tag team partner going into WrestleMania. He said it’s someone he can relate to and who he can trust who comes from a fighting family. (There were no “Cody” chants at this point, which is amazing, all things considered.) He said he is dashing and a pioneer. He said he’s an athlete and a celebrity. He was interrupted by Rey’s music.
Rey and Dominik walked out. Rey said he doesn’t know anyone in the back who would team with him. He said he knows everyone in the locker room can’t stand him. He said whoever the outsider is can go right back where he came from and give his moment at WrestleMania to someone who deserves it. Miz said he knows what is best for this industry, not them. He said it felt like a handicapped match at Elimination Chamber. He asked if Dom deserved a WWE contract of did his daddy get him one. Dominik said he watched WWE from the front row since he was a kid and he learned what it took to become a WWE Superstar. He said his dad brought him there, but he’ll do whatever it takes to stay. He said this is his blood, family, and life. He said it’s everything he knows. “So if you say one more thing about my father…” he said. Miz interrupted and asked what he would do. Miz proposed that his new tag partner and him face the Mysterios at WrestleMania. He then introduced his new tag team partner. “Ladies and gentleman, please get up out of your seats for social media megastar Logan Paul!”
(Keller’s Analysis: Tremendous tease of Cody, but it really says something that there were no “Cody” chants despite the “dashing” hint and everything else Miz said that could also apply to Cody. Are WWE fans that cut off from AEW happenings? Or did they not pick up on the clues? Or do they just not see Cody as a big deal? Or too big of a deal to be Miz’s partner? If that was a trial balloon for Vince to see how big of a deal Cody is to his fanbase, because if it was, that could make Vince think Cody isn’t really on the radar of the WWF fanbase.)
Logan Paul made his way to the ring. He said Rey is a WWE legend, but he has pool toys bigger than him. He called him “Bucko.” Dominik said if that jackass is going to be his tag partner, he accepts. Miz hit Dominik from behind. Logan attacked him and rammed him into the mat a few times. Then they threw Rey shoulder-first into the corner ringpost. Logan Paul gave Dominik a Skull Crushing Finale. Miz celebrated with Logan. Fans booed.
-Patrick interviewed Gable and Otis backstage. Gable bragged about his 4.0 GPA. Gable said if a team is added to their tag title defense, their odds go from 50 percent to 33.333 “and repeating, as you know.” Gable said the Academy is going to win in two weeks.
-Rhea Ripley made her ring entrance. [c]
(3) RHEA RIPLEY vs. NIKKI A.S.H.
Graves said he is enjoying Nikki lately, even if there’s a hint of delusion. He said it’s been serving her well. Nikki trash-talked Ripley at the start, saying she is nothing. Ripley headbutted her to the mat. Nikki rolled to ringside. She yelled at the commentators and banged on the desk. Ripley dropped to ringside and slammed her head into the desk. Ripley threw her back into the ring, then shrugged toward the announcers. Nikki recovered and bashed Ripley with forearms. Fans chanted, “Let’s Go Rhea!” Ripley came back with a quick sudden Riptide for the clean win. Saxton asked if Nikki has learned her lesson.
WINNER: Ripley in 3:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Not a lot to that, but it indicates Ripley’s push continues. I’m curious if this will lead to Nikki being repackaged or just moved down the card or even off the show for a while.) [c]
-More highlights aired from Elimination Chamber. They focused on Lashley’s situation. Saxton said if Lashley can clear concussion protocol, he’ll face Lesnar at MSG. If not, he’ll face someone else.
-The Undertaker career tribute video package aired.
-Damian Priest made his ring entrance. Smith said Priest has a darkness of his own, a reference to Undertaker’s darkness. [c]
(4) DAMIAN PRIEST vs. SHELTON BENJAMIN (w/Cedric Alexander)
Shelton threw Priest to ringside early. Cedric charged at Priest and hit him with a roundkick to the chest. Shelton slammed Priest and scored a two count. He settled into a chinlock. Priest came back with a leaping spin wheel kick to the head. Cedric DISTRACTED Priest on the ring apron. Priest punched him and yelled at him. Shelton landed a running knee and then a powerslam for a two count. Priest came back with a roundkick and a South of Heaven chokeslam followed by his Reckoning for the win.
WINNER: Priest in 3:00.
-Priest gave Shelton credit for fighting him like a man. He said he’s defeated athletes his caliber. He said he’s defeated serious fighters and athletes. He said he’s remained United States Champion. He said this is WrestleMania season and he wants his next opponent to match that caliber. He volunteered his U.S. Title in a match against someone “of world championship caliber.” He said his name. Fans booed. He held up his belt and asked who’s going to try to take it from him. Balor’s music played and he came out. He said if he wants to face a serious athlete and world champion level opponent, it sounds like he’s talking about him. “Be careful what you wish for, Priest. I’ll see you next week,” he said.
(Keller’s Analysis: So it seems they’ve largely dropped the “Damian inside him” dark side angle, other than alluding to him having a dark side. Then he cut this blah promo and I wasn’t sure if he was aiming to be cheered or not, since he was saying he wanted to face better competition while also complimenting Shelton. So he was being classy, but also not particularly charismatic. Then when Balor came out, it seemed to indicate either WWE sees Priest as a heel already or Priest will turn officially against Balor.)
-They replayed clips of last week’s angle with Dana Brooke and Reggie.
-As Reggie made his ring entrance, Saxton said he’ll let Reggie know it’s not all that bad being the friendzone. [c]
-More Elimination Chamber clips aired.
-Reggie said he just came out there to get something off his chest. He said first he wanted to bring Dana Brooke out to the ring. She made her entrance to her music. She looked perplexed. Reggie told her he has been very supportive of her winning the 24/7 Title from the beginning. He said he cared for her, more than just friends, but he gets she only wanted to be friends. He said last week he lost sight of what was important and took advantage of an opportunity. He said he just couldn’t resist, but it left him with a horrible feeling all week. He said from the bottom of his heart, he is sorry. He said he also wanted to show her how much she means to him. He asked for a referee. Reggie lay on his back and let Dana cover him. The ref counted, but Reggie kicked out. He told her to do it again. She did. He kicked out at two again. Reggie smiled. He talked her into trying again. She did, but this time she kissed him and got the three count. Reggie popped up, looking happy with how that turned out. R-Truth charged to the ring. Reggie dropkicked him. Dana knocked Akira Tozawa off the ring apron into the arms of Tamina. He puckered up, but Tamina dropped him. Dana ran to the back as the parade of others followed her.
(Keller’s Analysis: WWE should incorporate that finish into more matches.)
-They went to the commentators at ringside, who threw to highlights of the women’s Elimination Chamber match.
-Bianca Belair made her entrance. [c]
-Belair talked about going to WrestleMania and facing Becky Lynch. She also gave credit to the women who were in the EC match with her. She said they’re all tough, especially Doudrop whom she’s facing later. She said there can only be one “toughest.” She said she is the hardest working woman in WWE. She said she’s been working nonstop just for this moment. She pointed at the WrestleMania sign. She said she’s not going to let up now. She said she’ll show Lynch that you can’t spell WrestleMania without a little EST. Lynch’s music interrupted. Belair laughed.
Becky sauntered to the ring. She said it doesn’t get any more big time for Bianca then facing her. She said she did it first. Belair said maybe so, but she did it better. Becky said she walked out of WrestleMania 35 “Becky Two Belts.” She said she’s been holding the Raw title ever since. She said nobody has beat her for it in over three years. She said it was six months ago at Summerslam when she beat her for it in just 26 seconds. Belair said, “See see see, there it is.” She said she hasn’t forgotten about it. Becky said she knows she remembers and likes to play the victim. Belair said she listened to Becky, because Becky told her to go the back of the line. She said she was the sole survivor at Survivor Series and beat everyone on her way through the Chamber. Becky said she’s right and she’s not the victim. She said she, Becky, is the victim. Becky said before Belair, she was the “man of the people” and the fans loved her. She said she got a heroes welcome, but because of Belair, they turned on her. She said because they despise her, she now despises Belair. She said she loves Lita and look what she did to her, so imagine what she’ll do to her at WrestleMania. Belair said since Becky likes playing the victim, how about she makes her a victim. Doudrop’s entrance began. [c]
(5) BIANCA BELAIR vs. DROUDROP
Becky joined in commentary. Graves thanked Becky for joining them “because it’s good for my brand.” Becky said Belair turned the fans against her. Saxton said that’s not true, they turned on her because of her actions. He said she has used underhanded tactics to retain her title. Becky said she’s earned the right to grab a rope now and then, and it’s her opponents’ fault for not seeing it coming. Graves said that’s why she is the Van Goat. Doudrop headbutted Belair as they battled near the top rope at 2:00. Belair charged and knocked Doudrop off the ring apron to the floor. She landed a bodypress onto Doudrop at ringside, then walked over to yell at Becky. Becky stood and engaged. Doudrop then recovered and landed a leaping bodypress on Belair. They cut to a break. [c]
Belair reversed a Doudrop suplex attempt. The announcers went bonkers over Belair’s display of strength. They cut to Becky’s reaction. They replayed the suplex as Becky said she needed some water as she was feeling dehydrated. Graves fanned Becky with his stack of notes. Belair avoided a corner flip dive in the corner and scored a two count. Doudrop landed a Michinoku Driver a minute later for a near fall. Both were slow to get up. Belair powerbombed Doudrop off the top turnbuckle. Next, she lifted her onto her shoulders for a K.O.D. It was a struggle, but she pulled it off and scored a three count. Becky stood on the announce desk and held up her title belt as Belair celebrated to her music in the ring. Belair stood and held up her braid.
WINNER: Belair in 11:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Nice match. Quite a bit was a backdrop for Becky’s commentary, but Becky was entertaining.) [c]
-Graves hyped the “Corey & Carmella” show debuting next week on WWE’s official YouTube Channel. He said it’s a glimpse at their life unlike anything anyone has seen.
-Edge made his ring entrance. Edge asked fans, “Do you smell that?” He talked about WrestleMania 3 and being a fan. He said the first WrestleMania he was part of was WrestleMania 14, but it took two more years to wrestle on the show. He said he wanted to have a performance that would elevate his career, and he did so. He gave a shout-out to D-Von. He talked about putting Mick Foley through a flaming table “and we stole the show again.” He talked about main eventing against Undertaker. He said he came close. He congratulated him for the Hall of Fame induction.
He said he busted his ass for ten years to get back to WrestleMania. He said last year, he main evented it again. He said for 38 years, WrestleMania has been a thing of dreams for him. He said every year, he still dreams of WrestleMania and what it’ll feel like to walk the aisle and soak up the energy of the fans “so I can be phenomenal.” Fans chanted “A.J.!” briefly. He said he makes everyone and everything around him better at WrestleMania. He said he needs WrestleMania. He said they’re calling WrestleMania 38 stupendous, but you can’t call it that without him. He said as much as he needs WrestleMania, WrestleMania needs Edge. He threw out a challenge to everyone. “I need someone to step up!” he said. “You want to prove yourself? You stand across the ring at WrestleMania against the man who is still the best in this industry today – a certifiable legend. You fight me at WrestleMania and I’ll make you live forever. So step up, boys. I’ll be waitin’.”
(Keller’s Analysis: That felt authentic. It also is the type of promo that really emphasizes the “brand” of WrestleMania being a big deal to wrestlers, not just fans. We’ve had “dashing” and “phenomenal” dropped tonight. Only “phenomenal” led to a brief chant of the name of the wrestler associated with the term.)
-A clip aired of Seth beating Riddle two weeks ago on Raw.
-RK-Bro made their ring entrance. Riddle rode a scooter next to Orton. The bio graphic said Orton has wrestled more matches on Raw than anyone. [c]
-More freeze-frames aired from Elimination Chamber.
(6) RK-BRO (Randy Orton & Riddle) vs. KEVIN OWENS & SETH ROLLINS
Graves wondered what condition Riddle would be in after competing in the grueling Chamber match and having faced Lesnar. Owens made his entrance followed by Seth. Seth agreed to let KO start, and then Seth said, “Let them soak it up, they’re loving me.” A few minutes in, the action spilled to the floor after Orton backdropped Seth over the top rope. He was going to slam him onto the announce desk, but KO intervened. Orton slammed Owens onto the desk instead. Seth then dove through the ropes and knocked Orton over the desk. They cut to a break. [c]
Back from the break, Owens had isolated Orton. Riddle eventually got the hot tag. Seth also tagged in. Riddle scored a near fall with a suplex into a bridge. Seth distracted the ref as Owens knocked Riddle off balance. Riddle fell backwards, hanging upside down in the corner. Seth landed a leaping stomp for a near fall. Seth and Owens continued to beat on Riddle until he somersaulted and tagged in Orton. Orton snap-powerslammed Owens, and then did the same to a charging Seth. Orton set up a double draping DDT, but Seth slipped free. Orton gave Owens the DDT, though. He signaled for a RKO, but KO caught him with a superkick instead. Orton had tagged Riddle first, though. Owens caught a Riddle roundkick and then stomped his foot. Graves called it a veteran move. Seth gave Orton a running stomp at ringside. Riddle came back with a Floating Bro, but Orton wasn’t on the ring apron to tag out to. Seth and Owens double-teamed Riddle. KO hit a stunner and then Seth landed a quick Stomp for the win.
WINNERS: Owens & Rollins in 13:00 to earn their way into the Raw Team Team Title match in two weeks on Raw with RK-Bro and Alpha Academy.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good, well-executed tag match to close out Raw.)
-They showed Otis and Gable reacting backstage.
-Graves hyped Priest vs. Balor for the U.S. Title last week.