I’m back, guys! After a long week of not watching wrestling and letting the rest of the team pick up my slack, it is I, Steph, your usual recapper, annoyed at the strobe lighting warning on Raw tonight, ready for more. All the art in this recap is by Sora, our resident Raw sketch artist.
We start with a recap of Roman’s bloody and broken nose, the announcers saying this is… a FIGHT?! Between two professional wrestlers? Dear god, no! We’re 34 days from WrestleMania, and Triple H appears to a huge pop, and then some belated heat as we remember he’s the bad guy, back in his suit thank goodness. Daddy Trips was too much raw sex appeal for the internet to cope with. We get a picture of Roman with a tissue shoved up his nose, which isn’t going to get him over, because he looks ridiculous, and then back to Trips being smug in the ring, holding his title, and being… booed? Must be a lot of kids in the audience tonight.
Trips says he has authority, and everyone else bows down to him, and says we all have an authority figure we have to listen to, and that we hate them and challenge them. He’s doing a bloody good job of putting Roman over as not being afraid of challenging authority, someone who disrespected Triple H, and there’s a lacklustre ‘Roman’ chant that slowly builds momentum, which is… surprising. Trips botches a couple of phrases, but has a lovely little line about Roman being at home, breathing through his mouth that makes me giggle.
You don’t respect authority, Trips says, and then… out comes the man himself who disrespects allll the authority – it’s Dean Ambrose! Dean’s limping a little as the screams of the crowd roar, and he comes to face Hunter. Dean’s mic doesn’t work, so he just luxuriates in the sing-song Ambrose chants. The screams of the women rise as Dean says Roman’s coming for Triple H. Trips says Dean got an Oscar for best supporting actor in a bromance.
Basically, Dean tells us what happened last week in the best way, and Dean says that his and Trips’ schedules never really matched up, as the crowd chant for Shane. Dean asks who Triple H wanted to win the triple threat match at Fastlane – or better yet, who didn’t he want to win? Triple H says that Dean wasn’t a factor in the triple threat match at all. Dean says he’s sure he was the last guy Trips wanted to face at WrestleMania, and Trips makes the mistake of calling Dean crazy, and mental. Dean’s not happy about this, asking why people keep saying that. He says Triple H can’t beat him as the sing-song Ambrose chants fill the arena. Fuck, can Dean do this every week?
Triple H calls Dean dirty and unwashed – totally unfair as he looks all spruced up and like he’s bothered to have a haircut – and says he doesn’t have any money or power. Dean says this is pretty hurtful, but it’s all talk – and he wants a single’s match. For the title. Then maybe Roman will fight Dean for the title at WrestleMania. Holy SHIT that would be awesome. Triple H says he’ll think about it, and give him an answer at the end of the night – Dean wants to make sure that’s the end of Raw, not like, midnight. Triple H puts Dean in a match vs. Del Rio. Really, Del Rio? Obviously with the League on the sidelines, but… eh.
More importantly, are they doing this? Is Dean going to take the title off Triple H and make the WrestleMania main event Dean vs. Roman? But then Dean would have to retain at Mania, because if they let Roman win over Dean at Mania? No go. Oh my god. I’m… sort of excited? This isn’t natural, guys, I’m worried.
Video package about Shane vs. Taker, and Vince’s deal for the control of Raw. Undertaker back tonight, Steph, and Vince will be talking. Apparently we’re in for a lot of non-wrestling stuff tonight. So, like every night.
Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks – No. 1 Contender Match
It’s the ladies of magic and mystery up tonight, for the number one contendership for Charlotte’s Diva’s title, the prestigious pink butterfly. God, I hate that stupid title. Give them a gold one, for a start, not fucking silver, and make it look less cheap. Please. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks, the unlikely alliance broken up to see who’s going to fight Charlotte at WrestleMania. Charlotte and Ric Flair at ringside, and Charlotte’s getting better at making a face like she hates everyone she can see.
Early grapple and Sasha’s vicious to start with, the crowd alternating duelling ‘let’s go Becky’ and ‘let’s go Sasha’ chants, proving these two women who came out of NXT are still incredibly popular, both very over, with Sasha possibly slightly having the edge. Both women are going for their submission moves rather than anything else, just going back and forth, before they decide that isn’t going to work out. Action outside the ring, Becky coming off with a vicious elbow that takes Sasha down, but when they’re back in the ring, Sasha hangs Becky off the rope and slams her into the ring post. We go to commercial, because damn the pacing, we need that ad revenue!
Back from the break, Becky takes Sasha down with a huge clothesline, and Sasha surges back with kicks, almost getting Becky’s shoulders down for the count. Becky gets a suplex and a pin for two, and JBL doesn’t know the difference between pink and orange as he confuses their hair. Another double knee to the face from Sasha for a pin, but once more Becky kicks out of it. Charlotte looks bored with the whole proceedings, and Ric Flair just looks like he’s timing down how long until the bar closes. A flurry of blows in to a back slide, but Becky kicks out, Sasha then taking her onto the apron and hitting her hard. Becky comes back with a furious kid, then goes to the top rope, Sasha coming back, but a dropkick from Becky taking her down – but it’s only two and a half.
JBL calls this the biggest match of these women’s careers. Not sure, I think Sasha in the first women’s main event ever against Bayley in an ironman match might have been bigger, even if it was NXT. In the end, it’s a sunset flip to take both women down… and there’s a double pinfall. The crowd boo, as damn well they should, because of course it’s contrived to give us the triple threat we knew was coming at Mania. Sasha looks close to tears, and Becky looks heartbroken, both women in the ring looking lost as Charlotte parades her title back up the ramp. A fourteen minute segment, not too bad, but I’m a little annoyed at the contrivance of it all. Though it’s going to give us a HELL of a triple threat at WrestleMania.
Bray Wyatt breaks into Charlotte leaving and says he might be a little bit crazy, but if we take his hand then he’ll offer us eternal paradise. He wants us to enter into a contract with him. He also says something about people who defy him getting conquered… okay Bray, steady on. Also, for a second there I thought Bray was going to admit he desperately wants the Diva’s Championship, because he loves butterflies.
Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz
Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz, because they… both like attention, and Jericho and AJ are a team now. Supposedly it’s because of the thing about the Raw pre-show, with both of them in suits and Dolph says that The Miz hasn’t done anything in the five years since he main evented WrestleMania that anyone remembers.
Dolph has gone back to the loose hair, and gets two very early near falls, taking The Miz down easily. There’s a lovely dropkick, and then another elbow drop and a third pinfall. Miz manages to fling Dolph face first into the ring post, roll up the show-off, and… pin him for three? The IC title picture had a shorter match than the Diva’s match, and… that’s pretty cool, you know? It’s just that there’s plenty of room on a three-hour show for everyone to get their time, if we don’t spend all our spaces listening to Trips and Steph and Vince talk. I’m sorry, but this is a wrestling show, supposedly, and as much as we love the storytelling, show not tell has always been the rule of television. Tell not show only works if you’re in a gothic novel, and while the future of WWE might be dark, I’m not sure it’s as well written as something of Mary Shelley’s.
Vincent J McMahon Legacy of Excellence Award
Okay, so Steph was getting her Vincent J McMahon award, and everyone booed her, and then out came Shane in a suit and trainers, because he’s Doctor Who, I think. He’s certainly transporting me back in time. They just play us the whoooooole segment again. This whole thing about Taker fighting Shane, I don’t even know, it’s so weird. What’s Undertaker’s stake in it? Well, I guess we’ll find out later.
Oh, god, we’ve got to watch Steph come out to accept her award again. Legacy of Excellence? Legacy of Nepotism, more like. But aww yeah, Steph looks awesome, and it can’t be easy going out into a ring and talking over everyone screaming other names. She plays into the crowd really well, to give us her acceptance speech. She’s trying to do the speech through the boos, but she shuts her black leather folder after just two words – legacy, and family. She cradles the award like it’s a baby as the crowd chant ‘we want Shane’.
Steph looks… upset, strained, hurt. She says she sacrifices so much, time with her family, and all she gets is ignored, whereas Shane blackmailed Vince and the company. I love seeing an irascible Steph – ‘because he’s a McMahon, because he’s a man?’ Oh, Steph, that’s brilliant. She says Shane doesn’t care about the crowd, or about the WWE. She says Shane can’t cope that she has power, and that his kids will have to fight her kids for the right to run the company. Again, she says he’s a man so he gets to walk back in, and she says that Shane is like the audience, and they think the world owes them a living. This is perfect heel work, and I am SO sorry I doubted you, Steph. You are a brilliant heel, you’re a brilliant woman, and every time people get annoyed that you don’t face consequences? I don’t care. You’re just that good.
She ends her speech saying ‘You will bow down to the authority, bow down to the king… and bow down to your queen, me!’. Wow. I’ve got chills, that is quality work right there, and I’m so, so glad she’s got the skill to keep going through the ‘what’ chants, because that takes a hell of a lot of skill. Kudos to the Queen of Wrestling.
Lucha Dragons vs. Sheamus & Rusev
Our Lucha babies are out! The League of Nations are doing double duty tonight, and apparently letting Barrett wrestle last week was a clerical error, because he’s back to standing on the edge being the soccer mom. He and Adam Rose probably sit on the bleachers together and talk about what they packed the rest of their stable for lunch.
Rusev is enjoying taking Sin Cara apart in the ring, because that’s how he gets his jollies, everyone just keeping Sin Car from reaching Kalisto. Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m eating biscuits during this match, so I’m not doing my play by play, but you know, it’s 2am. I’m tired. Barrett is screaming to his compatriots to break Kalisto’s arm, because Sheamus was in a cast recently, so it’s funny. During this match, Sin Cara does the lightest and most gentle suicide dive ever onto Barrett, which is adorable, they’re so desperate for him not to get hurt. But also very, very sad.
In the end, Del Rio distracts Kalisto for Rusev to pick up the win, and after the match is over, Del Rio hangs Kalisto for the double stomp, and leaps onto Kalisto’s chest. Funny points: Rusev and Sheamus putting Del Rio on their shoulders, and Del Rio cuddling Rusev by lifting one leg up and seemingly rest it over his crotch. Whatever gets you off, boys. Jut cuddle Barrett more, he looks left out.
Natalya and Renee have an advert for Subway which just involves Renee telling Nattie how good she looks, and how amazing she is, and I just want to watch them have a cuddle, then go get mani-pedis together. Which is exactly what Total Divas should be giving me. Look, they’re awesome, okay.
Ryback vs. Adam Rose
Ryback has turned up to hopefully not drop anyone on their heads again, because good god that made me wince, and looked so dangerous. Please, WWE, don’t let him hurt people we like. He’s up against Social Outcasts soccer mom, Adam Rose, so his boys are on the apron slamming their hands around and being a distraction.
There’s a short little bit where Rose is moving nicely, getting a good amount of punches in, dancing out of the way of the lumbering Ryback. Rose does his best to come across as violent, getting a sleeper hold on, but Ryback clambers on top and slams his fists into Rose’s face, the ref having to pull him back, refusing to stop mauling Rose. After the bad spots of the other few nights, that’s uncomfortable to watch. Almost immediately, from getting a Shellshock and the pin, Ryback talks out, straight away. JBL says that Ryback has to fight the glass ceiling… I didn’t know Ryback had to fight against institutionalised sexism. You idiot. I am SO TIRED of hearing him misuse that phrase.
Recap to Brock being sad Roman had taken him out of the main even picture, and Paul being pissed off for him, Dean driving the ambulance into the ring. This is to remind us we’re having that street fight at WrestleMania – so we’ve got Dean vs. Brock, and then Dean will win the championship and we’ll have Roman vs. Dean for the main event, right? Can we also have Shane choose Dean as a proxy for his match against Taker? Now, obviously I don’t want that, Dean would be hugely overworked and I’d be terrified of him getting injured (though if there’s any guy who can make three matches a night work, it’d be Dean) but it would just be the funniest turn for the company.
“Oh god, only one guy in the company is legitimately over.”
“What if we put him in every match?”
“My god, Vince, you’re a genius.”
“I know, Hunter, I know.”
I imagine a lot of decisions in WWE Creative end with those last two lines.
The New Day vs. Y2AJ
Ah, our favourite heels now Seth has gone. Our fallen captain, we salute you. The best unicorns in the world have a threeway hug, before saying they’re not a loose collective, they’re like Edge & Christian, or Sonic and Tails. They’re not faking their friendship like Y2AJ – they’re real buddies. Given what Zavier has said about his aim in the company being to get the Heavyweight title on Kofi… yeah. It’s so good.
Y2J interrupts our favourites in ill-fitting purple trunks – please, someone find the man some clothes that fit? – and then AJ Styles, these two saying they’re aiming to go for the tag team championships. Jericho’s eye is still swollen, and Kofi climbs into the ring, gesturing at his eye, which Kofi gave him. Kofi comes off the ropes hard, taking Jericho down with a lariat, then Jericho responds with a dropkick. Getting Kofi in their corner, Jericho tags in AJ, who proceeds to throw Kofi from the ring. Big E also charges in to the rescue of his unicorn brother, and is thrown out, AJ and Chris coming over the ropes into Big E and Kofi, knocking them to the ground. As they head back into the ring, we can hear The New Day whimpering, begging to be left alone.
When we come back from commercials, AJ is in the New Day’s corner, suffering the unicorn stomp, and we’re shown that we missed Xavier grabbing AJ by the ankle to distract him, and that’s how The New Day got the control of the match. Kofi drags AJ out of the ring and slams his face on the apron, then Xavier is doing magic tricks on the side. Careful, Magician Dad Jericho isn’t going like you stealing his shtick, man. Back in the ring, AJ with Big E, and AJ gets a pelé kick to Big E, who goes down like a sack of bricks. Both tag out, Jericho comes off the top rope, and then keeps the momentum by slamming Kofi into the mat. Xavier gets cleared off the apron by Chris, and eventually, Jericho hits a hell of a Lionsault. Big E breaks up the pin, but then takes an elbow drop from AJ Styles. Kofi looks like he might get the win, but a missed Trouble in Paradise gives Y2J the chance to lock on Walls of Jericho, with Kofi tapping out.
Apparently, Y2AJ is the new big thing in the WWE. Well, it’s certainly the new big thing in the porn fanfiction, yeah. Jericho and Styles want to challenge The New Day for the tag team championships on Raw next week. Jericho gets awesome crowd response, and Styles looks absolutely giddy with being next to his senpai, who has declared them a thing. Bless him.
Vince comes out to… no pop, and no heat. He’s beckoning for applause, but the response he’s getting is just… blank stares. In fact, some people woo, apparently mistaking this old man for another old man we saw earlier. So the caveats of this thing with Undertaker is that Steph and Hunter would have to quit the whole business if Shane won. Vince growls and snarls about how much loves his son, and says he loves him enough to put him in a match befitting this deal, and befitting his love. He loves him enough to… teach him a lesson? That sounds like awful abusive parenting, yay Vince.
It’s the Undertaker.
Who, last time we saw, was getting smacked around by The Wyatts, who then got beaten by Taker and Kane, and who haven’t won a match that matters in forever. So this is an old man who got beaten up by swamp hicks and now we’re meant to believe he’s still scary? I’m just… I love him, the entrance, everything, it gets my heart pounding and my breath catches in my throat, but seeing him in a brightly lit ring like he’s about to talk? I don’t know.
Vince says Taker does what Vince tells him, and then Undertaker grabs Vince by the throat and says that Vince knows what is going to happen after this WrestleMania. He talks about how Shane’s blood is going to be on Vince’s hands, not those of The Undertaker. Blimey, careful Mark, or you’ll end up with a 90 day suspension! Vince coughs his throat clear, and says he’ll be in the ring after Mania, saying Shane loses his inheritance, gets written out of Vince’s will, if this happens. Vince sounds genuinely like a sad old man when he says that he means it from his heart that, should Shane lose, he will no longer be his son, just a son of a bitch. Christ, McMahon family drama is going down right now.
Jey Uso vs. Bubba Ray Dudley
I’m not sure I understand this. Sure, I know that these guys have the history we just got shown again, the Dudleys betraying the Usos and sending them through tables, but… okay. Jey starts off with a dropkick and a flurry of kicks, then some chops at well. Bubba starts to get some momentum back up, but Jimmy comes back strong with chops, before a club to the head from bubba Ray. This is… sort of a mess of a brawl, not really a match with strong spots. There’s a lovely superkick from Jey, and then D-Von is tugging a table out from under the ring, Jimmy leaping into it before a superkick from Jey takes down D-Von. When Jey gets back into the ring, Bubba Ray takes advantage of the distraction and pins him for the win.
Oh, god, R-Truth and Goldust. R-Truth points out that this has gone on way too long, and we all agree on this. R-Truth says he’s done with this – which is how we all feel, too. Goldie looks really sad, and walks off without saying anything, and R-Truth looks regretful that he’s upset someone who just wants to be his friend.
Kevin Owens vs. Big Show
Well, we love face Big Show, apparently, who’s got a tiny smile as he’s heading into the ring, and even JBL sounds confused as to why this is a good match. It starts like a boxing match, but then Big Show basically spears KO, who rolls out of the ring, winded. He lifts KO, but he manages to twist, Big Show into the ring post, and then KO stays in for the count out. He comes back out at seven and hits an amazing DDT off the apron, and jumps back in for the count out victory.
Big Show back in at seven, and a running senton from Owens, Big Show down in the middle of the ring. KO goes up to the top rope, but Big Show manoeuvres him to he catches the rope square between the legs. KO goes down, outside the ring, holding his hairy plums, and big Show laughs his way to a count out victory. Wow. Not at all the same finish we saw on SmackDown.
Lana says Brie has no figure, a goat for a husband, and a marriage doomed to fail. Brie fires back saying that Lana’s fiancé needs to shave his back, and was the bear in The Revenant. Can we get Lana in the ring and make this an actual feud? Like, Brie would be great to tech Lana a thing or two, and Lana can act for Brie, who always sounds stilted when she’s reading a script… this could be a thing, guys. Could this be the Lana push Vince has been putting off? Is she finally ready to get into the ring? God, I hope she’s not rubbish, because I would be so disappointed if that’s the case.
Brie Bella vs. Naomi
This match starts off straight after the Lana segment, and there’s a beautiful arm twist and somersault, which leads to Brie putting an armbar on Naomi. Naomi pushes her out, and gets a huge kick to Brie’s hair, and as Naomi walks away, Tamina slams Brie onto the apron. Naomi kicks Brie back off the side of the ring, onto the floor, leaving Brie struggling to get back into the ring.
Naomi has some vicious kicks and a leg drop, rolling Brie up for a two count, then putting Brie into a stretch submission. Brie battles out, but Naomi slams both women into the ring post, with Brie’s face meeting that. Apparently Naomi does a moonsault, but we miss it because the cameras were looking at something that isn’t a woman. Kicks from Naomi to Brie, then Naomi to one knee and yes kicks from Brie. Brie gets Tamina off the edge of the apron, but with Brie distracted, Naomi gets her new submission move that no one knows the name of locked in.
Brie lying in the ring, Naomi and Tamina head out as Lana’s music plays, and Lana giggles on the ramp in her business suit, pointing and poking fun at Brie. The whole thing was around five minutes, which is a little disappointing, but we got a section before with character development for Lana, so at least something seems to be happening.
The Freebirds are going into the Hall of Fame! Considering they defined the Freebird rule, which is the reason that The New Day can be so dominant as a three-person tag team? Yeah, that’s deserved.
Sasha and Becky are talking about how the draw was unfair, and how they could have easily beaten each other. Charlotte wanders by to sneer at them and say they get another chance on Thursday, to see who’s going to face her for the title at WrestleMania.
Dean Ambrose vs. Alberto Del Rio
Okay, so they filled Raw with rubbish segments and now we’ve got an ad break with six minutes left in Raw, and then they go one about stuff happening next week in Chicago? How short is this match going to be? By the time we get into the match, we have two minutes left on Raw. Dean takes his jacket off to reveal a taped up shoulder and ribs, ready to face Del Rio. Rusev cuddles Del Rio as he comes down the ramp, which is rather adorable.
Match starts, and Dean’s quick to move on the aggression, but one quick slam into the mat from Del Rio and Dean is on the floor, clutching his ribs. Del Rio slams him into the barricade three times, and then ambles back into the ring to wait for the count out. Dean gets back in at eight, and Del Rio goes to the top rope, an easy slap down and then into a submission hold. Dean manages to lift Del Rio to the top off the ropes, but Del Rio drops off the rope in the armbreaker, holding Dean’s taped up shoulder.
He gets De Rio down with a clothesline, wincing at it, but Del Rio continues to work the bad arm, over and over, Dean trying pop the shoulder back in, before setting Dean up for the double stomp – but he skips out of the way and rolls Del Rio over his head. Del Rio hits a backstabber, and Dean is crawling on the floor as the League stare dispassionately. Another contrived double stomp spot, hanging Dean off the barricades and hitting him square in the taped-up ribs. The count gets to nine, and Dean slides back in the ring, Del Rio aiming kicks to Dean’s ribs.
Dean comes up swinging, a couple of lariats, but he can’t keep it going because of the shoulder. He changes tactics, hitting a running bulldog, but Del Rio kicks out at two. A dizzy, struggling Deangoes to the second rope, Del Rio coming up with him for some headbutts, and then there’s a gorgeous missile dropkick from the top from, Dean hitting Del Rio beautifully, getting the pin – and Del Rio kicks out at two.
The bad shoulder gets slammed into the ring post, and Del Rio hits a running enzuigiri for Dean to get dizzy, leaning on the ropes. He has enough wherewithal to roll out of the way of a move, sending him to the outside of the ring. Dean comes off the top rope into the whole League of nations – and Triple H’s music hits. Dean waits in the centre of the ring.
Trips comes down to the ring, stripping off his tie, and then gestures with one hand – and the League descends on Dean. He’s on the mat, Del Rio’s boot on his head when Trips gets into the ring, making sure to shake hands with the whole League before telling them to ‘get out of here’. He stands above Dean, and says he’s never going to learn, how ‘people like him’ can’t beat authority. He crouches down to patronise Dean, and Dean slams into him, spitting at him, going for him viciously. They grapple for a moment, and then Triple H hits him with a Pedigree, before he grabs his title back, wiping spit out of his eye – and says Dean can have his match at WrestleMania.
Dean can’t leave well enough alone, because he pulls a mic towards him, and thanks Hunter, causing laughter. Triple H drops his title, rolls up his sleeves, and heads back down to the ring. He grabs Dean, throwing him out of the ring, and into the announce table. He throws Byron Saxton away from the table – literally throws him – and flings a chair after, before shoving Dean onto the table and beating the holy hell out of him. Hang on, are we going to have Roman go over at WrestleMania because Triple H beat up the only over guy in the company? Did Dean just take another bullet for Roman?
Are we going to watch Roman be cheered simply because Triple H beat up Dean, and Dean and Roman are besties? Is that the angle they’re going for here? We end out Raw with Dean lying, battered, bandaged and barely moving on the announce table, as a furious Triple H leaves the ring, title in hand.