Hey ya’ll, Kenji here, filling in so our (English) usual recapper can go to sleep at a normal people’s hour. The true legacy of the Revolutionary War is being able to follow wrestling without staying up ‘til dawn on a regular basis.
First of all, before Raw (a “pre-cap,” if you will) we get word from Raw’s Facebook page that Brock Lesnar assaulted Dean in the parking lot of the arena, leading to him being taken away in an ambulance, and temporarily scaring the crap out of me because I thought they were telling us Dean had been hurt in the match last night and we were down yet another wrestler. Be careful how you play with our feelings when your talent is dropping like flies, Vince.
Some of these boys might have made a few choices at Fastlane that they hope they live to regret, says Sora, our in-house artist.
It’s actually a pretty great video, and if Dean doesn’t do a run-in to attack Brock while wearing a neckbrace, I’ll eat my life-size cardboard cutout of Seth Rollins. I know that at this point our highest hopes are “maybe Dean will have a great match and look like a star while he loses to Brock” but if I can be optimistic for a second: what if Dean goes over at WrestleMania? Somebody has to slay the beast eventually, and at this point they’ve at least realized that it’s not gonna be Roman. Why not the Iron Man of the WWE?
We start with a weirdly lit video package recapping last night’s main event, hilariously edited to show the crowd rejoicing after Roman’s victory. Someone needs to tell Vince that Window Movie Maker doesn’t work on our memories.
We’re going to open with the presentation of the Vincent J. McMahon Legacy of Excellence Award. To get serious for a sec: both of Vince’s parents were very abusive, and stuff like this is a reminder that all the inexplicable stuff Vince put his talent through, he’s just as willing to do to himself. I genuinely cannot imagine why he devised this segment. All mocking and hand-wringing aside, I hope that Vince the human gets to step away from this business and enjoy his twilight years with his family at some point.
Okay, back to comedy and mockery. The crowd ‘what’ Vince, because Steve Austin ruined wrestling for everyone years ago. Vince talks about the McMahon family legacy for a while, then gives the award to Stephanie. Which I guess we should have seen coming. Who else would receive the McMahon award for being a McMahon?
Stephanie accepts the award to deafening boos and invites her trophy husband to join them, but he doesn’t come out. Shane Motherfucking McMahon comes out. That’s right. The WWE is in such deep shit that it resurrected Shane from China.
The crowd goes FUCKING WILD while Steph is pissed the fuck off. I don’t blame her, and if we get a McMahon siblings feud where she resents being passed over for Shane after she’s held the company down for years, I’ll be so hype.
Shane rejects both a hug AND a handshake from Vince, in a moment that definitely wins the McMahon Ice Cold Legacy Award. He then ruins all my good will by declaring that Steph doesn’t deserve this award, which he obviously would know, since he hasn’t even fucking been here. Steph transparently takes the opportunity to call out the smarks for complaining on the Internet, and Shane snaps back with the irl facts about the WWE’s decline. Shane reveals that his absence was part of a deal with Vince all along, and he never officially lost his place as Vince’s heir.
So, uh, does the WWE for real want me to root for a woman to be removed from a position of power because it’s her older brother’s birthright to take it whenever the whim strikes him? Because that literally makes me so angry my hands are shaking. Stephanie walks out of the ring with her head held high, after promising Shane that she will never forgive him.
Now that the lady is gone so the menfolk can talk business (my rage is an ocean), Shane asks for control of Monday Night Raw, so that the company will still be there for the next generation. By which I presume he means Stephanie’s three daughters and Seth. Vince suggests that they wage it all on one match: Shane vs. an opponent of Vince’s choosing. The company vs. a lockbox in Shane’s possession that Vince seems very interested in. Shane agrees, and Vince says a lengthy sentence that is censored, presumably just the word “prick” several times in a row. Vince announces Shane’s match: a Hell in a Cell match with the Undertaker at WrestleMania, AKA the most unbeatable situation in all of wrestling. Then Vince walks to the back and fires himself for swearing on live television.
I’m just kidding, the rules don’t apply to Vince.
The New Day vs. Neville and the Lucha Dragons
This is pretty obviously a breather segment for the crowd, not to mention an opportunity to run through the commercials that built up in the first half hour, but it’s still a good time. Most of the match is the New Day getting offense in against Neville, tagging out frequently and keeping him from getting to his teammates. During one of the many, many commercials, Big E drives Neville into the barricade and gives him a splash. Big E then makes the mistake of tagging in his valet, Xavier Woods, who let’s Neville get the drop on him and knock him out of the ring. Big E cradles Xavier in his arms while Kofi holds Neville back, but eventually Neville wriggles away to get the hot tag on Sin Cara. Which I guess is marginally better than having an exhausted guy wrestle? Neville takes the not-legal men out with the help of Kalisto, who does a move off of Neville like a baller. It’s all for naught, because Kofi gets the pin by pulling on Sin Cara’s mask.
We get a backstage segment where Jojo interviews Roman, and the crowd greets the video footage of Roman with deafening boos. Roman is checking his phone for updates on Dean, but he hasn’t heard anything. Jojo asks if he is happy to be going to WrestleMania. He declares that he is, because this is it. The final chapter. Just two men in honest battle, no shenanigans. There’s absolutely no reason for you to believe that at this juncture, Roman, but okay. I mean, Triple H hasn’t even said that there will be no shenanigans, right? For all we know, Roman’s gonna walk out at WrestleMania and get murdered by the League of Nations on his way to the ring. Not that it would stop him from beating Triple H, but still.
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman come out, and Paul announces that this is the main event of the evening, even though Brock isn’t wearing his wrestling gear. I know that I find it very difficult to take Brock seriously when he isn’t covered in Jimmy Johns logos. Paul declares that Roman WOULD have tapped if Dean hadn’t intervened, and that Dean turned the triple threat into a street fight by bringing in a steel chair, because apparently that is even more no DQ than throwing someone through the announce table? Paul also throws Dean over the bus, saying that he lost because he was too crazy to notice that Roman was going to spear him. I thought I could at least count on you, Paul.
Paul furthers the “Dean is just a crazy hardcore kid who can’t hang with a true athlete like Brock” narrative. I hope to God that their WrestleMania match is Dean chain wrestling the soul out of Brock’s body. Paul is already on the hunt for a new WrestleMania opponent for Brock, but never fear! Dean Ambrose drives an ambulance into the arena and drags himself, tearing at his neckbrace and unable to stand, to fight Brock Lesnar. I love that, in kayfabe, Dean couldn’t be bothered to text Roman and tell him what was up while he stole an ambulance and drove it to his death.
Brock is visibly befuddled by this development, and ends it by stepping on Dean’s face as he walks away.
With the last of his strength, Dean finds a microphone and tells Brock to kiss his ass, and that he wants a streetfight at WrestleMania. Brock F5’s Dean onto the outside, which Paul translates as his acceptance of Dean’s challenge. Dean smiles as he dies slowly on the floor. There is no indication that Paul Heyman is not 100% correct in his estimation that Brock vs. Dean will be the real main event of WrestleMania.
Oh, and at some point in there Paul declared that there was “no shield that could protect [Dean] at WrestleMania,” and I know it’s not going to, but I so want that to foreshadow Seth doing a run-in on their match. Protect your boy, Sethie.
The WWE celebrates Black History Month. Unrelatedly, did you know that a black character called the Godfather, who was a pimp that walked to the ring surrounded by “Hoes,” was just announced as a new inductee to the hall of fame? Just thought I’d mention.
The Usos vs. The Ascension or The Bland vs. The Bland.
The Dudley Boyz cut the same promo they cut before about not being a nostalgia act, being more than tables, etc., etc., then suddenly take it up a notch by dissing Rikishi. For some reason the Usos are offended by this, even though you’d think that growing up with a father who rubs his ass of people’s faces for a living would make you immune to insults.
There are some good moments in the match, like an Ascension Member getting hit in the face with a human butt and both Usos kicking another Ascension member in unison, but it’s over very quickly, with An Uso getting a pin on An Ascension Member. Somewhere backstage, Stardust feels a disturbance in the force, then goes right back to playing A Link to the Past. (I struggle more with telling The Ascension apart than I do The Usos – Ed.)
Raw is Jericho? Highlight Reel? There isn’t a lot of wrestling on this show, huh?
The Y2J countdown hits, and as per usual there’s a breathless moment where I think “Perfect 10” Tye Dillinger is going to debut. Then a middle aged man in ill-fitting panties and an embarrassing jacket walks out instead.
Jericho says that all he knew about AJ Styles when he first showed up was that he called himself “phenomenal.” Same, Chris. He also says that you can’t be phenomenal if you’re not in the WWE, and that claiming otherwise makes him angry, because Chris Jericho is apparently a 12-year-old with a blog. He puts over Styles and invites him out, and after an awkwardly long pause while we wait for the production team to hit his music, Styles comes out.
Jericho puts Styles over with the force of a thousand suns and then THE SOCIAL OUTCASTS COME OUT OMG.
Heath Slater and Bo Dallas acknowledge the fact that it’s impossible to tell at this point if Bo is being sincere or not, and then the Outcasts take Jericho and Styles to task for being fake fakers who are faking their friendship. How dare they insult each other while claiming to respect each other? That’s not what a team is! A real team is random co-workers who happen to have the same workplace grievances as you. Get with the times!
Jericho and Styles TOTALLY WEREN’T gonna team up, but now that Heath mentions it, Y2AJ is actually a pretty good idea. Why don’t they test it out RIGHT NOW?????
Curtis Axel and Heath Slater vs. Y2AJ
The commentary team runs through Heath’s nicknames, and when they get to Heathie Baby it suddenly becomes obvious that they’re all just Adam’s pet names for him. Curtis Axel is apparently officially The Tank now, which I’m down with. I guess that makes Heath the Hero, Adam the Lancer, and Bo the Chick? Bo and Adam go for the Xavier Woods Legacy Yelling Shit Outside The Ring Award, but Y2AJ thwarts their interference at every turn, and eventually AJ taps out Axel in the middle of the ring.
JBL: “It’s not a publicity stunt, they just want to be noticed.” That’s what a publicity stunt is, hun.
Backstage, Triple H is trying to comfort Steph while they hang out in front of the WWE championship. He calls Shane a failure, and then offers to let Steph “tell Roman” to cheer her up. Nothing takes your mind off family drama like tormenting your employees!
Backstage backstage, Roman is still checking his phone even though Dean has been in the arena for like 45 minutes? Okay. Steph ambushes him and tells him he’s going to fight someone he “overlooked” – Sheamus! Because as we well know, Roman and Sheamus have never, ever fought each other before, ever, especially not on pay per view. Steph also straight up says she hopes Sheamus injures Roman so he has to forfeit, which strikes me as very unsubtle but she’s had a hard day.
Backstage backstage backstage, Goldust has baked R-Truth a cake. R-Truth breaks it down that Goldust’s behavior is unacceptable, but Goldust isn’t having it. R-Truth claims that he’s not going to do the obvious and smash Goldust’s face into the cake, then does it anyway. It’s legitimately the funniest backstage segment there’s been in some time.
The Wyatt Family vs. Team Large
The Wyatt Family walk very slowly to the ring, accompanied by boos and Michael Cole reading a promo for Snickers. Truly, the new face of fear. Luke Harper looks okay, so hopefully Ryback’s botch from Fastlane – when he screwed up his finisher and dumped Harper straight on his shoulder, causing Harper to scream in pain and be escorted to the back by the referee – didn’t hurt him too badly. Of course, Harper’s fighting Ryback again tonight, because lightly grabbing someone’s arm is grounds for suspension, but repeatedly being careless with people whose safety is left in your hands warrants no punishment whatsoever.
All the Wyatt fam with masks put them on Byron Saxton. It’s great. Unfortunately, during the commercial, they decide that he doesn’t deserve them and take them away. The tragedy.
It’s the same pointless match we saw last night, consisting of a team whose credibility has been absolutely wrecked, legends on the road to retirement, and the walking magnet for passive-aggressive Goldberg chants, so it’s pretty much an exercise in futility. The commentary keeps putting Ryback over, because apparently fucking up your own finisher so bad your opponent has to be rushed to the back = a push. Honestly, fuck this company.
The Goldberg chants mutate into Gillberg chants, and then We Want Ziggler and Let’s Go Luke. Man, it’s almost like the people don’t have a boner for huge guys who aren’t great at wrestling the way that Vince does, huh?
Luke gets Big Show in a sleeper that Show turns into a slam, opening it up for him to tag in Kane. Kane disables the whole Wyatt fam by himself, because why not at this point. Literally the only person the Wyatts have ever beat is Dean Ambrose at the lowest point in his life.
For no reason, Ryback just leaves. He wasn’t even about to be tagged in. The Wyatt family takes advantage of the distraction to get the pin. It’s super weird and I have no idea if it was planned or not. Is this building to a WrestleMania match or…?
Backstage backstage backstage backstage, Milhouse asks Ryback why he walked out of his match. Ryback says that he got the pin last night and doesn’t want to be in tag teams anymore, so he’s going to grab the brass ring. Um, why didn’t you just… not accept the match, then? Also, how are you going to grab the brass ring if you’re not wrestling matches? And he had an Intercontinental Title run a few months ago, he’s hardly languishing in tag team hell. Maybe he is being punished for sucking by being made to look like an asshole? I don’t know, I’m still baffled.
Naomi vs. Sasha Banks
With half an hour left to the show, we get the first Divas match of the night. It’s Sasha vs. Naomi, with Tamina at ringside. Naomi and Sasha continue the trend from Fastlane of making every move look fucking brutal. When Sasha hit the apron, it looked like it almost took her head clean off. In terms of sheer realism, Naomi and Sasha have been leading the pack lately. Even stuff like Sasha stumbling while coming off a move, which I have no idea if it was on purpose or not, helps the match by making it look genuine. Personally, I like the occasional harmless botch, like a move missing or what have you, because things don’t always go perfectly when you’re an athlete performing at the highest level, you know?
Sasha catches Naomi out of the air and hurls her to the mat, then catches her with a double knee. Tamina distracts Sasha enough for Naomi to briefly turn the tide, but then Becky runs out and decks her. Sasha gets Naomi in the Banks Statement and that’s all she wrote. Sasha and Becky do their girlfriends handshake, and then Charlotte comes out to mock their beautiful friendship. The crowd woos passively-aggressively almost nonstop throughout the segment.
Charlotte tries to sow discord by dangling the number one contendership in front of them, and pulls the LOOK OUT BEHIND YOU on Becky to prove that they don’t really trust each other, because Charlotte is the bully from a Disney Channel Original Movie.
Before we go to commercial, we’re treated to the League of Nations bro-ing it up in the locker room, but none of them have ever texted the other from the hospital, so their relationship is obviously shit.
The WWE Celebrates Black History Month
Hey, remember last night, when Edge told the New Day that he’d “never seen chocolate act so vanilla”? What a necessary and good joke that was!
In the eight millionth backstage segment of the night, Steph is trying to reason with Vince, insisting that she refuses to work for Shane, no matter what Vince agrees to. Vince insists that Shane will never BEAT THE ODDS and that his Machiavellian plan of making a suggestion and having Shane agree is what’s Best for Business. Steph is impressed by her father’s devious nature and allows herself to be appeased.
Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus
What a fresh match-up! Sheamus works Roman’s arm for most of the match, taking advantage of the fact that Roman is presumably still hurting from last night’s kimura lock. Rusev yells “Break his arm! Break his arm!” from outside the ring, because he’s a supportive friend. Cole insists that “whether you like Roman or not, you have to respect his guts” and the fact that he doesn’t sleep on opportunities, even though the fact that wrestling is scripted and Roman gets so many opportunities is a large part of the reason people don’t like him.
The League of Nations gets sent to the back during the commercial for some reason and Roman takes control of the match, spearing and superman punching Sheamus while still favoring his good arm. There’s almost a double count out, but Roman rolls back into the ring at eight, and then leather jacket Triple H walks out with a bottle of water to dump on his own head, indicating that he means BUSINESS.
Triple H and Roman wail on each other. The crowd cheers for Triple H and boos Roman, to the surprise of exactly one person. Roman dominates Triple H even though he just finished a grueling match and has a bad arm, throwing him into the timekeeper’s area. Triple H strikes back with the bell and bashes Roman’s head into the announce table, getting what is quite possibly the greatest face pop of the night and freaking this is awesome chants. They even let Roman bleed on TV. That’s how committed to getting him over they are. Triple H pedigrees Roman into the ring steps and looks visibly awkward, because the crowd is yes chanting and then starts up on the “one more time!” chants. I reiterate, Triple H is covered in blood from beating the shit out of the top babyface and pedigreeing him into the steps, and the crowd wants to see it again. But at least this will all be over at WrestleMania, where the guy who just randomly attacked his employee and blatantly tried to cause him serious injury on live television will surely accept the outcome with poise and grace.
So yeah. This is the company, Shane. Still want to fight the Undertaker for it?