Ah, wrestling. Where we believe an ancient man controls an old, undead wizard, and is making him kill the ancient man’s firstborn son at the biggest event in the wrestling calendar. Where a man who grabs the ancient man’s arm gets suspended for sixty days, but the undead wizard can grab him around the throat and still be treated like a trained lap dog. As always, our art is by in-house Raw sketch artist, Sora.
We open with Shane O’Mac dancing for us like he’s grinding it for us in our front rooms for money. I like hearing that he’s the best McMahon to work for, and has a genuine rapport with his workers, because it means I have faith that if the company does get handed over, so wrestlers might actually survive the next ten years. Shane looks good, man, in the middle of the ring to uproarious cheers, and seems a little teary eyed as he talks to the crowd. He says he was watching Raw last week, and he saw Taker, whom he respects, but also Vince, who he doesn’t. Shane says his dad is an ego-driven old bastard who has lost his touch with the business, the fanbase – crowd cheering – and reality. He brings Vince’s grandkids into this, too. He says it’s his destiny to be in charge of Raw, and Chicago pull out the yes chants for him.
The Authority stops, the backstabbing stops, because it is ‘choking the life’ out of wrestling. He brings up that there are guys with loads of talent who never get any breaks, and many who get all the breaks but have no talent. Holy shit, are we actually calling out the mistakes the product has been making? Are we addressing this? Shane says it’s his destiny to defeat the Undertaker at Wrestlemania – but he doesn’t yet know how he’s going to do it.
The Undertaker’s gong goes.
But it’s Vince. Obviously. I love Chicago, because as Vince starts to speak, they chant ‘asshole’ at him, and when that chant runs out of steam, they pull out the ‘CM Punk’ chants, too. Vince, for all his flaws, is a consummate showman, and he waits out the chants. He breaks a photo of him at Shane heading out to Shane’s first live wrestling event, and I mutter that he shouldn’t break glass on the ramp where his talent are going to come out. Vince says that Shane’s kids will see something Shane never did – they’ll watch their father fail – but that he’s going to be the father figure those kids need. He says that at WrestleMania, Vince’s greatest creation will beat his biggest failure.
Vince sends security into take Shane out of the ring. Shane says he’ll leave peacefully, of his own accord, and as security go to touch him, he grapples with them and fights them off him, giving us a show of strength from the man we need to believe can beat an undead wizard. Vince looks perturbed at the other end of the ramp, and the crowd are on their feet, cheering for the man who says he’ll save the company for us.
Kevin Owens vs. Neville
Owens is giving the IC title the cuddles it’s been missing since Dean took to treating it like a title, not the small pet Kevin treats it as, and as Neville comes out, I’m sad as to where his purple has gone. He looks good in red, mind you, but I miss the purple. Lovely bit of grappling and a clothesline from KO to start with, having Neville crumpled in the corner, but KO takes the time to ask Cole if he’s watching, and Neville gets one good punch in. KO happy to call Neville ‘mate’, mocking Neville’s accent, before leaping on him and getting an early pin. There’s a good clothesline, and then KO goes for the running senton, but Neville gets the knees up in time. As KO recovers, Neville brings in the kicks, then a running forearm, before a lovely hurricanrana to take him down and out. KO rolls out of the ring, and Neville goes for a flip over the top rope, but Owens isn’t there when he lands it. We head to commercial after seeing Owens grab Neville and shove him into the steel steps outside the ring.
When we come back, Owens has Neville in a headlock in the centre of the ring, but Neville is powering out right to the knee to the gut to KO. Taking it to opposite corners, Owens goes from the cannonball, but Neville dodges out of the way. Neville goes for a German suplex, but can’t lift Owens, who counters with a suplex of his own. Back into corners, Owens goes for the cannonball again, but walks into an enzuigiri to send him out of the ring. From the top rope, Neville throws a shooting star press to the outside of the ring, and rolls KO back in, a standing shooting star from the mat onto a slumped KO. Hoisting Owens to the top rope, Neville looks like he has plans, but KO fights back, and while Neville flips backwards to land on his feet, he takes a kick from Owens to lay him out flat.
Flip off the ropes from Owens, landing off Neville, and then we’re fighting to the other corner, Neville hitting the Red Arrow off the top rope onto Owens, but Owens kicks out at two. Pulling on his clothing, Owens manages to get the pin, but even after winning, that isn’t enough. He comes back to throw Neville around, and then – it’s Sami! Zayn flies into the ring, slapping Owens about and grappling him, Neville helping out to drive Kevin Owens out of the ring… so it looks like we’re getting the Owens vs. Zayn match at Mania. Murderbear vs. Gingerbread Sunshine. I’m in for that, but I think it needs a lot of set up for people to be interested in it.
We come back to a video from The Rock’s twitter account, because twitter is exactly where the toughest feuds take place, didn’t you know?
Following that, a recap of Triple H, back from beating down Roman Reigns, having a go at precious Dean Ambrose last week. Poor Dean. This just makes me flinch through all the punches, but I am super excited about Roadblock and how that’s going to happen.
Backstage, Dolph is talking to Zack Ryder (!!!!), and Steph has shown up to talk to Dolph about his tweeting habits. Yeah, the innuendo is a bit much, isn’t it, Steph? Apparently he said something bad about the Authority, and he reminds her about Survivor Series two years ago where he took her out of power. Briefly. She says he’s delusional, and puts him in a match against three-quarters of the League of Nations (I’m assuming Barrett will be playing soccer mom on the sidelines again) with no tag partners for him. He says he wouldn’t have it any other way, and there’s a wonderful moment where Steph is biting her lip not to corpse, which I love. She seems very cheery and enthusiastic tonight, which is good to see, and Dolph cheerfully accepts the match for later on tonight.
Brie Bella vs. Summer Rae
We cut off Brie’s entrance for commercials, and skip Summer’s altogether, breaking into a Total Diva’s promo. Ah, joy. Summer makes a lot of noise in the ring, which is frustrating, but she’s coming across nice and vicious as she pulls Brie around a little bit. Brie Sends Summer into the mat face first, and then goes for Bryan’s yes kicks, before a dropkick to the chest and a knee to Summer’s chest on the apron. Brie goes for a cross-body, but Summer is out of the way – and here comes Lana.
Summer uses the distraction of Lana to get the rollup on Brie, and take the win, as Lane comes in and uses Brie’s confusion at losing to slam her into the mat, too. Summer’s wearing the same ring gear she had when she was Dolph’s girl, the mock-denim crop top and tight skirt, with the cropped leather jacket, which is pretty cool, but doesn’t work thematically? Someone’s not thought this out at all. For those of us with our hands on the timers, that was a five-minute segment with a TWO MINUTE match. And then Lana left barefoot, having kicked off her heels outside the ring, walking over where Vince broke glass earlier. No, I’m not letting that go, I work with kids, I’m hyper aware of that sort of thing. Let’s just hope for more Divas stuff later, okay.
Back from commercial to lovely Deano ambling out, and reminding me I need that new shirt of his, and also that I need a haircut. Dean’s looking neater than usual again, and his hair’s mostly dry. He stands in silent in the ring, composing his thoughts before he talks to us about what’s happening at WrestleMania. Dean says he’s happy to be inconvenient, and that he doesn’t care if the posters are already printed, because he’s going to hijack the championship and that main event at WrestleMania, and he doesn’t give a damn what Triple H or Roman had planned.
Dean says that authority and respect are earned, and that Triple H will learn what respect is when he holds down Trips for the pin. He says his face with be on Oprah, on People magazine, that he’ll go to schools and talk to kids – that are just like regular people but smaller. He tells the kids not to try this at home, and says Triple H will buy him a new suit, and shoes – but he says he won’t wear a suit, even though he looks good in it. He says that actually, he doesn’t want all the extra-curricular stuff, but he wants to be the kind of champion who goes out every night and fights his way through any contenders to keep his title.
Triple H comes out and says he’ll be keeping his title, thanks, and that if Roman’s face needs gluing back together right now. Dean says he’s going to win, and then… Triple H can suck it. The crowd oooh at that, which is brilliant. Trips fluffs his words a lot, and says Roadblock is some idea some idiot in marketing came up with. Aww, don’t talk about yourself like that, Hunter, we love you. He says Dean is a pothole of a speedbump, not a roadblock, and that he and Roman have this issue with authority, and can’t learn from their mistakes. Triple H says that if Dean remains this delusional, he’s going to get hurt, and Dean says hurt isn’t so bad, and delusional has got him this far – and it’s better than being whatever Triple H is. Hunter says he’s ‘driven’, and Dean invites Triple H down into the ring with him, the crowd chanting ‘Ambrose’. Triple H says nope, Dean will get his chance on Saturday, and instead, he’ll do what successful people do, and delegate the match. He says Dean can face Bray Wyatt instead.
Well, that segment was incredible, and now to pour cold water on our glorious ringboners (it’s just adrenalin, okay, it doesn’t mean anything!) is a reminder that Y2AJ is still a thing. I don’t object to it, but I would like to see a better storyline come together. Ah well, maybe after Mania.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus & Barrett & Rusev – Elimination Match
Ah, thank goodness, Dolph has gone back to wearing his hair loose, which means I can coo over him again. Hello pretty. Also, holy hell, we’re letting Barrett in the ring tonight! Yay! I love him so much. Makes me happy to see him being used, even if he is rarely used properly. We start off with a little grappling, and the two men circling each other, Barrett’s evil grin a thing of beauty. There’s a lovely dropkick straight onto Barrett, and then a distraction from Sheamus lets the Englishman hit the Winds of Change. Barrett hangs Dolph up on the ropes again, and then ref tries to convince Sheamus to stop slamming Dolph about on the ropes. Rusev tagged in and Dolph manages to kick out of a pin, before Rusev hits him with a dropkick.
Barrett back in, hooking Dolph up on the top rope and giving him a big kick to the gut, another cover with a kick out at two and a half for Dolph. Sheamus tagged in by his best mate, but Dolph gets a roll up and nearly takes Sheamus down, but the Celtic Warrior is back up and hits Dolph with a big clothesline, before shoving him into the corner to slap him about. Ziggler claws at Sheamus’ kneepads from the mat, and Sheamus grabs him by the hair, pulling him up. Dolph powers back up with headbutts and punches, before taking Sheamus down with a DDT, but both men are flat to the mat, Sheamus tagging in Barrett.
Barrett goes shoulder first into the ring post – don’t hurt us like this, WWE, we’re already scared of his glass bones – and Barrett gets up just in time to be taken down by a couple of lariats, then a swinging neckbreaker. Rusev comes in to distract, and Barrett rolls up Ziggler, but he kicks out at two and pins Barrett instead. Rusev saves Sheamus from a near fall, and then heads out of the ring again, Sheamus going for a brogue kick but Dolph ducking underneath. In the end, it’s a brogue kick from Sheamus that takes Dolph down, and the boys bow in the ring, Dolph lying sprawled out behind them, as Sheamus and Rusev check that Mommy Barrett’s shoulder is okay. I hope so, I love seeing him in the ring, and I absolutely want to see more, because if the rumours are true, he won’t be staying much longer if they don’t utilise him properly.
Beautiful fast match, with nothing spectacular, but a few good, solid spots to keep us interested, and it’s a nice way to show Steph teaching Dolph Ziggler a lesson. Good workers can make anything, even a match without a storyline, work out well, and that’s what everyone in this match did, which is refreshing to see.
We get a retrospective view of Shane McMahon’s in-ring career, to a song that I always consider to be a Shield song, but I love it in this situation too. We get a shot of Seth, who’s allowed to talk! And a reminder that Vince nearly killed Shane through sloppy logistics meaning Shane got slammed into toughened glass instead of the sugar glass it was meant to be, and landed right on his neck. Really? I would have thought you wanted us to forget that, Vince. Okay.
Backstage, Becky slamming on the Divas locker room door, waiting for Sasha. Sasha decides that just before their match is a great time for them to have an argument. Becky wants Sasha to spare her the Nicki Minaj attitude, and Sasha wants Becky to know that if Charlotte’s ‘Hugh Hefner father’ hadn’t been there, she would have had Becky beaten, and win the right to face Charlotte for the title on her own. Becky would like Charlotte to focus on now, not four weeks’ time, but what I mostly get from this is that Sasha changes in the locker room, and Becky… can’t get in? Does she have to change in the corridor? Is this a thing now?
Becky Lynch & Sasha Banks vs. Tamina & Naomi
Charlotte and Lich King Flair at ringside to watch this, and we’re talking about the chemistry with Mania coming along. Tamina starts with an early cheap shot to Sasha, and then slamming Becky over and over in the match. Becky dodges out of a slam, sending Tamina into the corner, and then Sasha and Naomi in the ring, Naomi getting a double k nee, before Tamina and Becky get involved, and take it to the outside, Tamina taking Becky into the barricades. Sasha gets a Backstabber onto Naomi, and then into the Bank Statement. Sasha gets the win, and then out comes Charlotte, who does not look like she’s wearing a supportive enough top for this, and Charlotte takes both Sasha and Becky out, before standing at the foot of the ramp and waving her title in the air. A seven-minute segment, and ANOTHER two-minute match. Really? You’re going to do this to us? I’m really tired of this, WWE.
Golden Truth segment, Chicago deep dish pizza that Mark Henry is going to get to eat, and Goldie being lactose intolerant. Okay. Now apparently R-Truth wants Goldie to be his buddy, but Goldust isn’t so sure. Okay.
We get a reminder of Y2AJ winning their match against The New Day for tonight’s match against the tag team champs.
Y2AJ vs The New Day – Tag Team Titles Match
Kofi says that stakes are at the highest level, because they’re at 197 days of being tag team champions, and they laugh at the idea of being beaten by Y2AJ, and Kofi hops himself into the ring. Big E goes to show off a team tattoo, but Kofi and Xavier say they were joking, and Xavier mentions his triforce tattoo. Once more, my strobe-hating self looks away from Jericho’s sparkly entrance, because I don’t think anyone over fifteen needs a jacket with LEDs in it. He’s wearing himself a Y2AJ t-shirt over that dad bod, shipping his own relationship, because no one else will… other than the legions of writers on tumblr. The shirts look like Jericho made them himself at home, which he possibly did. They also look like they glow in the dark. Also, Jericho, stop wearing trunks. It’s not 1999.
Kofi and Jericho to start, and the crowd chants for AJ Styles, Chris taking down Kofi with a dropkick before launching Kofi over the ropes easily. Big E follows, and then Chris and AJ leap over the ropes onto the unicorns, Xavier Woods sniffling over his fallen brothers. Chris grins at AJ, because they’re so in love, and I’m just imagining how sparkly the ring Chris buys for his lover is going to be. Back from commercials and we see The New Day taking the numbers advantage, with Jericho crumpled in the middle of the ring, his younger boyfriend not doing much to help, or indeed look very interested as Chris gets the Unicorn Stampede and Xavier plays ‘New Day Rocks’ right in his ear. Kofi keeps up the punishment, and then Big E tags in and a missile dropkick takes him down, Jericho crawling to AJ and his corner. He even has to take down Kofi before he gets the tag.
AJ shows off to his older lover with a kip up, before taking a beautiful backflip off the second rope onto Kofi Kingston and taking him down for a pin to two and a half – so close, but not close enough. Kofi tags Big E back in, and there’s a lovely double team move from Kofi and Big E onto Styles. Jericho breaks up the pin, and AJ and Big E are crawling to their respective corners. Chris comes off the top rope on Kofi, and then a missile dropkick to Big E, Kofi taking the time to roll up Jericho.
Jericho fights up, gets a Lionsault onto Kofi, and Styles hits a lovely somersault onto Kofi too, pinning for two and a half before Kofi is pulled out from underneath him. Back in the ring, Kofi pins AJ for two, but Styles fights out, and then tags in Chris. Jericho gets Kofi in the Walls of Jericho, AJ taking on Xavier and Big E on the outside, but Big E managed to make the tag, getting Kofi out of it. Jericho goes for Codebreaker, but Big E hits the Big Ending, and gets the pin to keep the tag titles where they are.
AJ helps old man Jericho up onto his feet, and then this tag team was short-lived, because Jericho uses AJ’s gripping hands to hit the Codebreaker, AJ puzzled and limp, crawling to the ropes. Jericho hits a second Codebreaker, leaving Styles flat in the middle of the ring, and the crowd shaking their heads as AJ tugs on Chris’ knees and thighs, trying to claw his way back to his feet. Jericho pulls him up by his hair and hits a THIRD Codebreaker, the boos rising in the ring for Y2J as he heads out to the timekeeper’s area and holds up the Y2AJ shirt, before stuffing it into Style’s mouth and shouting that he’s a son of a bitch. The whole crowd boos Jericho – a hell of a way to make a man the crowd love into someone they’ll fire heat at. Well played.
Renee Young gets hold of Jericho, who says he’s tired of the crowd chanting AJ Styles, and Renee wipes over-zealous saliva off her face when he’s done chanting his ex-boyfriend’s name. Poor girl, she puts up with so much.
WrestleMania is only TWENTY-SEVEN days away. I’m excited, as our in-house Raw sketch artist, Sora, will be visiting me then, so for once I won’t be watching wrestling alone at 1am, I’ll be watching wrestling with a friend at 1am!
Kalisto vs. Tyler Breeze
Kalisto! Hey buddy! Tyler! Hey gorgeous! This is an interesting match-up, with a good seller and a hell of a mover, so I’m quite excited about this. Tyler takes a chance to get vicious straight away, and the two of them are getting some brilliant dynamic moves straight off, leaping over each other, and Kalisto getting Breeze down with a hurricanrana. Breeze gets an early pin for two, and instead of calling the match, commentary want to talk about Y2AJ. Shush, there’s an interesting match happening here.
Breeze gets Kalisto in a headlock, but the little Lucha battles out, kicking Breeze in the jaw before trying to roll him up, Breeze rolling through and into a kick. Corkscrew from Kalisto, and a couple of lovely little moves off the ropes before a Salida Del Sol takes out Breeze, who falls easily. I’m upset that didn’t go for longer, to be honest, because that was a beautiful match, and Breeze kept up pretty well with Kalisto, impressively so.
Jojo catches Kalisto backstage, and he says he’s so excited about WrestleMania, to follow in the footsteps of Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerro. Ryback enters, and says he doesn’t understand why he doesn’t have a match and why he isn’t in the main event of WrestleMania. Ryback says he has nothing but respect for Kalisto, but he doesn’t understand how these little guys are believable, dissing Iron Man and Deadpool. He also tells Kalisto to get out of the Lucha Dragons, because tag teams just weigh you down. Okay, Big Guy. Chill.
Big Boss Man is going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. I actually remember some of his matches, caught a looong time back, so that’s pretty well earned, I’m happy to see him there. Guess I’ll be covering the induction ceremony, too.
Ryback vs. Curtis Axel
It’s everyone’s favourite tag team who can use social media, the Social Outcasts, cutieboos, with Bo saying he’s sad Ryback doesn’t want to be in a team, because he can’t play dodgeball, be one of the new Ghostbusters, or have friends. The mics catch a snicker from commentary as Curtis Axel screams wildly into the arena, because the poor boy is still traumatised from his time in Vince’s sex dungeon. Remember Rybaxel? Nope, nor does anyone else. Heath gets his hands all over Adam as they exit the ring, because they’re the daddy and mummy of the team, and their angry little teenager is about to attack the school bully who used to be his best friend, with baby bro Bo at ringside too.
The match started while we were busy watching commercials, because this isn’t important apparently, and we see a nice throw from Ryback, but Axel’s doing his best to fight back. Ryback is slamming poor Axel around, and slams a knee to his face in the corner, the rest of the Social Outcasts backing off, not wanting to get their family member disqualified. Axel gets Ryback down on the floor and just goes to town with punches, getting his aggression out until Ryback turns Axel over and keeps punching, refusing to give up. Shellshock on poor Curtis Axel, who gets pinned for three, and Ryback stalks off, Adam and Heath checking on their baby, as Bo pets big bro’s hair.
Steph interrupts Vince’s phone call to talk to her dad about her brother, but she says what if, what if Shane can win at WrestleMania, and then she loses her control. Vince says he’s got this, but Steph asks what if he doesn’t. He reiterates his point, and she nods and leaves, ever the good daughter for him. At some point, Steph, being a good daughter? Won’t get you far enough.
Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt
So I guess Brock was off tonight, or they couldn’t get him, so it was decided Dean would face someone whose name started with the same first two letters. Okay, I guess. We get a Bray promo, too, where he says their fates are entwined, and also that he’s excited about fighting Brock at Roadblock. Dean ambles around the dark ring like he’s switched his ears off, or like he knows they only have ten minutes left and would like to spend them fighting, not standing in darkness wishing he was back in a hotel room already.
Once in the ring, we waste no time, Bray punching and kicking Dean around, and Ambrose goes to his knees pretty easily before deciding he can be bothered, and hitting the Lunatic Lariat off the ropes, before pulling Bray into a submission move. In the corner, he sets some heavy elbows to Bray’s head, before Bray slams Dean into the turnbuckles, a dazed Dean getting some punches to the face and a headbutt, pulled into an early cover. Dean kicks out at two, and once he’s back up, goes for a flurry of jabs, walking into a hell of a lariat as we to yet more ads. This is… slow, which is not a word I’ve ever thought I’d have to use about a Dean match, but this is dull as hell. I get it, both men have matches on Saturday, but this isn’t setting up for either of those, and it’s making Dean look weak. If he’d come out still taped up, I could understand why he needs to look this floppy, and fall this easily, but instead it just looks wrong.
We come back to Bray holding Dean in a headlock, before he fights out, still taking jabs from Bray, who grandstands for the crowd as Dean lies flat in the centre of the ring. He tries to stand again, but Bray drags him up and takes him for a suplex, throwing him across the ring. ‘Mercurial’ is used to describe Dean, which is lovely, but adding ‘lunatic’ to it is frustrating. Outside of the ring, both men hit each other with a clothesline, both lying flat outside the ring, struggling to get to their feet as the official counts. Both men back in at nine, and they trade blows in the centre of the ring for a little while, a few chops on Dean’s side. He steps back to do his trademark rebound off the ropes, Bray’s back to him, but Bray turns and hits him with a clothesline, taking him down. Bray hangs Dean up on the top rope and climbs behind him, Dean locking him in a headlock. There’s an almost Dirty Deeds, but Bray gets out of it, then almost Sister Abigail, too, on the outside. Bray bounces Dean off the barricades and then rolls them both back into the ring, Bray arching his back and heading back towards Dean.
Wyatt thinks he’s got Ambrose down, but he clearly doesn’t, and Dean manages to catch him with a Lunatic Lariat – and the screen goes dark. When we’re back, the rest of the Wyatt family are up beside the ring, and Bray Wyatt hits Sister Abigail. The bell might have rung for the DQ, but it doesn’t matter. As Bray stands in triumph, out comes Triple H, and Bray grins at his employed, Dean a mess in the centre of the ring. Triple H loosens his tie before climbing into the ring, then takes it off, the title slung over his shoulder. Bray Wyatt gets a little too close, and Triple H seems to size him up for moment, the crowd chanting yes, and then Bray strokes the title before pushing off Trips’ chest and walking away.
Triple H watches the Wyatts walk away, then takes his jacket off and rolls up his sleeves, standing astride Dean’s prone body, glancing at the announce table. He heads over there, throwing the monitors off, and then heads back into the ring, where Dean rises and hits Dirty Deeds, slamming Triple He into the mat where he lies still. Dean reaches for the title, placing his hands on it and holding it aloft as he staggers back to the corner. We end out Raw with Dean Ambrose, in cleat pain, clutching the WWE Word Heavyweight Title, under the WrestleMania sign. Foreshadowing.