Well, thanks to the Rumble and a lot of Progress, I will have watched around fifteen hours of wrestling programming by the time this Raw is over. It’s been a busy couple of days. We’re here tonight in Laredo, Texas, with the WrestleMania sign in full glory. What’s going to happen tonight?
We start with Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho, walking down to the ring together as we’re given a recap of the match last night, including Braun Strowman showing up to chokeslam Roman and let Kevin capitalise on that. Kevin introduces himself and Chris, and their championships, in case we think they’re two confused magpies with shiny bits of tinfoil who’ve wandered on at the wrong event. Kevin says he’s been proving people wrong for his entire career, and that if he was to put the names of all those people he proved wrong on a list, it’d be longer than the List of Jericho – and that he can add Mick Foley to that. Kevin’s upset that Mick has been stacking the deck against both of them, but Kevin won, he proved he could do it, and he’s the man, the guy, the ONE. Neo?
But, Kevin admits that he had some help, and he wants to thank the man who helped him – Chris Jericho. His moral support and friendship is what kept Kevin going, and he pulls Chris to him and hugs him. Then he wants to talk about Chris’ history-making performance in the Rumble, and how he’s the best RR competitor ever. “I don’t want to brag…” “No, go on, brag!” “…but I will.” Chris Jericho has now spent the longest time in Rumble matches in history. He lasted over an hour, making him the 61 minute man, which he wants us to hashtag. Jericho says the only reason he didn’t win was because he was still coping with vertigo – and ROAR.
Here comes Braun Strowman, climbing into the ring, and Kevin says he was just about to thank him for his help. Braun says he doesn’t want thanks, and he did what he did because 1) he can’t stand Roman Reigns, and 2) he wants his title shot against Kevin that he promised him. Kevin has no recollection of promising him this, but Braun rolls the tape, and we’ve got the proof there. Braun wants his title shot tonight, or he’ll just break Kevin in half outside of a sanctioned match.
Oh, Mick Foley’s here to decide whether this is going to be an actual match or not. He says he didn’t like what Braun did, but at least he understands it, and he’s going to hold Kevin to his title shot promises. Kevin says his match was too hard last night, and Mick should understand that, and that he won’t do it tonight, he won’t agree to it. Mick’s having none of it, and tonight, Kevin will have to defend his title against Braun Strowman. Kevin bails from the ring, and we’re told Chris Jericho has a match next.
MATCH: Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn
Jericho’s already in the ring, of course, and then bouncy Sami bounces his way to the ring, and honestly, I’m amazed he’s got any bounce left in him after the Rumble last night – we’re reminded he lasted 47mins – and he joins Jericho in the ring. We notice he’s got a tribute to Quebec on his arm, due to the mosque shootings of last night.
- Ole chants to start us off, before a side headlock from Jericho which Sami turns into a wristlock, then a headlock of his own, which Sami turns into a wristlock. Sami tries to roll out of it, but can’t break the hold until a blow to Jericho’s gut and sending him to the floor.
- Deep arm drags from Sami, over and over, gets Jericho into an armbar. Jericho gets free and sends Sami to the corner, which a chop. Following him to the other corner, Sami kicks Jericho away and fires back with chops of his own.
- Trying to rebound Jericho off the ropes, Sami waits for him to come back and Jericho rolls out for a breather. Sami hits a dropkick through the bottom and middle ropes, and after Jericho uses the ref as a shield, a springboard dropkick takes Sami down.
- Baseball slide attempt from Jericho, Sami comes back and gets him out of the ring, but after some chops, Jericho whips Sami to the barricades and he hits his moonsault, slamming into Jericho and sending us to commercials.
- Back from the break, Chris has Sami in the middle of the ring in a headlock, but Sami’s fighting his way out quickly, blows to Chris’ face, before Sami eats an enzuigiri and pins Sami for two.
- Back to their feet, Sami in the corner, chops and elbows from Jericho, whipping Sami into the opposite corner, and Sami coming back with a huge clothesline, before clubbing blows. Sami whipped into the corner and sent to the top rope, Jericho climbing up and hitting a huge superplex. While Jericho’s grandstanding, Sami rolls him up for two.
- Jericho charges at Sami, who sends him over the ropes, but Jericho goes high, coming in with an elbow, but Sami catches him and hits the Blue Thunder Bomb, with a pin for two.
- Chris in the corner, Sami starts for a Helluva Kick, but Jericho ducks to the outside. Sami comes in too, going for the DDT through the ropes, but again, Jericho moves, rolling into the ring. Sami follows, and Jericho catches him for Walls, which Sami counters.
- Sami keeps hold of Jericho, tightrope DDT, and then goes for the Helluva Kick, but Jericho counters into the Walls.
- Sami looks like he’s going to tap, but he makes it to the ropes, forcing the break, Jericho coming back with kicks to Sami’s head in the corner. Sami manages to rise, hitting an exploder suplex into the corner, and then goes for the Helluva Kick, and this time it counts! Sami takes the win!
Yes! Sami’s hand is raised high, and Jericho lies still in the ring as Sami limps to the ropes. Jericho is slowly led away by a ref, and Sami gestures to his armband, holding up two fingers as a sign for peace. God, don’t you love it when wrestlers you like are actually decent people as well? Sami’s such a damn poppet, I love him so much.
Cesaro and Sheamus are having a lover’s spat backstage, as Cesaro’s accused of trying to swing his partner, and Sheamus says he didn’t try to eliminate Cesaro. Bayley appears to stop them and make them have a group hug, and I’m here for Bayley making big men hug each other, honestly. Apparently there’s a mixed tag battle tonight, and Charlotte, Gallows and Anderson show up to insult the beltless team and call them nerds.
Commentary are in black, cream and Corey’s found a burgundy suit that makes him too ridiculously edible. Look, I’ve not slept much this weekend, just… deal with this shit.
We get a video package about Seth’s rise and fall in the estimation of Triple H, and how this is all going to come down to Seth vs Trips, most likely. Stephanie McMahon is going to talk later about this, and we see Seth losing his Royal Rumble spot and his guaranteed WrestleMania spot, as well as his appearance at TakeOver San Antonio, where Triple H put some kayfabe distance between the creator – his persona as a loving father figure to his NXT babies – and the destroyer, the wrestler.
We see Steph backstage, on the phone, and then Kevin’s there, apologising for barging in, but begging not to have to defend his title tonight, because he wants to live up to Triple H and Stephanie’s hopes for him. The camera lingers on Kevin’s Quebec armband, too, and I can’t help it, I’m just coping with such stark reminders that the world is going to shit, and I wonder if the fifteen plus hours of wrestling I’ve buried myself in this weekend are enough to keep me from losing it completely. Back to our light-hearted tone, yeah? I’ll do my best to stop crying.
MATCH: Tony Nese vs. Mustafa Ali
We get a recap of the previous matches these two have had, but I’m just focused on Ali’s twitter posts recently about fighting hate, and how this is what we need right now, how ZSJ is selling shirts about armbars for fascists and I just… Fuck, I need to pull myself together.
- The two men shake hands, deep arm drag from Ali to Nese early on, Nese fighting out of the resultant hold, the two going for a test of strength. Headscissors from Ali, Nese against the rose, the ref pushing Ali away and Nese charges him.
- Nese displays his biceps. Pin from Nese, blow from Nese, Ali whipped hard into the corner. Ali somersaults over Nese, who grabs him, but Ali rolls through and pin Nese for two, Nese reversing it and pinning Ali for two.
- Ali headbutts Nese through the ropes, rolls over him and comes in off a rebound with a he pair of clotheslines, sliding out of the ring in time for Nese to slam into the post. Rolling neckbreaker from Ali, pin for two.
- Spin kick from Ali, Nese down hard, and Ali climbs the ropes but Nese grabs the ankle. Ali goes up high anyway, Nese pulls him down and he lands hard on the back of his neck and shoulders. Nese drags his kneepad down and hits a running knee on Ali – and pins him for three.
Damn it, I was really hoping that we were going to have a night of antifa wrestler victories tonight, but I guess what can I really hope for when Linda’s in Trump’s fucking cabinet.
Austin Aries is on the ramp to interview Nese about his ‘clearance rack charisma’ and that having a conversation with him is as interesting as talking to an actual washboard. Nese says that he doesn’t have to respond to his critics, and stalks off.
Seth’s here, stalking in to the screams of the women, and they’ve given him a mic. He’s complaining about being banned from the building last night, and he’s… live. Well, yes, Raw always is. Apparently Steph wants to scold Seth for his bad behaviour, but she can’t get what she wants all the time. He ends this up by calling his boss ‘babe’, which is… generally not acceptable, Seth. Seriously.
Steph saunters out and says she’s here to disappoint Seth in many ways, and he makes a crack about how she disappoints her husband every night. Um. Steph says that Triple H doesn’t want to bring out his dark side to destroy his greatest creation, and she told him to stay away. Seth calls Steph delusional and crazy, and Steph brings up that Seth has to watch WrestleMania last year, and how he was banned from the Royal Rumble. He says that Seth should be begging for forgiveness from her, Triple H, and the audience. Steph says the audience doesn’t deserve an apology, but she does. Seth says, well, Steph’s the boss, so he’s sorry… that he’s exposed Triple H as a gutless snake, and how he’s going to destroy Trips’ legacy because Triple H won’t face him. He says that the Triple H at NXt is a ‘scared dude’, because Seth is the greatest threat to his legacy.
There’s a whole thing about the way Steph’s always looked at Seth – and she says she looks at him with nothing with disgust, because he doesn’t measure up, and he’ll be the architect of his own demise. Seth says that he has nothing left to lose, and says he’s not afraid to go to headquarters, to turn up in meetings for the board, or at the house where their children are. Um. Sorry, I thought we had face Seth, I wasn’t ready for this. He says he’s going to slay the king, and Steph says, well… she lied. Triple H is on his way – to take Seth out.
Welp, that was weird.
MATCH: Bayley, Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Charlotte, Anderson & Gallows
So this is the losers of the Rumble matches vs. the winners, and the beltless against those with belts, I guess.
- Starts off with Bayley vs Charlotte, Anderson coming in and Bayley backing off to let Cesaro come in, quick pin for two. Uppercuts to Anderson, Gallows tagged in, and another uppercut, and then a few more. Cesaro’s enjoying himself tonight.
- Gallows reverses the whip, Cesaro going high, distraction by Charlotte, Cesaro eating a kick from gallows in return.
- Back from commercials, Cesaro is still being smacked around, by Anderson now, Bayley trying to encourage the crowd to clap for Cesaro, who fights back, but eats a spinebuster and a pin for two before he can get to Sheamus.
- Gallows in, pulling Cesaro away, but not enough, Sheamus in, slamming into Gallows with clotheslines, and then a shoulder tackle. Off the top rope, Sheamus gets a pin for two. Stretching Gallows over the ropes, Sheamus goes for the ten beats, and Charlotte hits Sheamus. Bayley comes in to smack her away.
- Sheamus catches Gallows with a fireman’s carry, Cesaro coming in too, Anderson breaking it up. Cesaro tagged in, tries to take Gallows for a swing, and the Charlotte tags in. Bayley comes in, launched by Cesaro, who goes to the outside and lands on everyone else.
- Charlotte goes for the Figure Four, but Bayley hits a Bayley-to-belly, and that’s the win!
Bayley stands between the two boys, and the crowd cheers for the faces!
Steph is backstage insulting Mick Foley about Kevin’s match tonight, and she’s really not pleased about it. He says that he was hired to do a job, but that Steph stops him doing his job, by doing things like playing Triple H’s music when he’s not there. He says Steph shouldn’t be treating him like he’s stupid, and she takes a moment to breathe, saying she’ll keep her promises, and Triple H is there. He says to let him keep his – and the match will go ahead.
Neville’s here! We lucky, lucky people get to watch his coronation, and I will watch it forever, because he’s utterly flawless and I love him. Please don’t turn out to politically be a dick, darling, please. My heart wouldn’t take it.
Neville addresses us, and says that we’ve actually seen his coronation, it was last night, and we get a close up on the title, which he says is his crown. Gonna look silly on your head, babe. Neville says he will be at 205 Live, and he proved all the peasants wrong, because we never believed or supported or cared for him. As he starts to proclaim that he’s the undisputed king, Rich Swann’s music hits!
Rich says that the fight isn’t happening outside, it’s happening inside Neville’s head, and he respects Neville for going out there and showing that he’s one of the best. Neville looks almost flattered for a second as Rich offers his hand, but Neville says that you don’t offer your hand to a king, you bend the knee and you bow. I mean, I appreciate the game of thrones shit, but in this political climate, you want a black man to kneel for a white one? He turns his back on Neville, and Neville jumps him.
A huge kicks from Swann takes Neville to the outside and sends him retreating up the ramp without his title.
We cover Nia and Sasha from last night and then we see Sasha’s knee being strapped up, before Bayley comes in and tries to dissuade her from facing Nia while she’s not at 100%. Sasha says that, unlike some people, she’s not okay with coming up short, and limps off, leaving a crestfallen Bayley to go cuddle Cesaro again, probably.
Also backstage, Kevin Owens is pulling at his compression bandages, and Chris approaches, to tell him that the match with Strowman is still on. Jericho fumbles the name of the belts as he tries to tell Kevin that they still have the US belt, even if they lose the Universal title. Kevin says that Chris needs to help him out, and Chris is like, “well… I’m tired, honestly, and you didn’t help me with Sami, so…” but Kevin asks if Chris wants to main event Mania with him, and Chris says of course. When Kevin asks Chris if he has Kevin’s back, Chris reluctantly says yes, but he doesn’t look too happy about it.
MATCH: Kevin Owens vs. Braun Strowman – WWE Universal Championship Match
Kevin doesn’t seem too happy as Chris joins commentary, instead of being at ringside, and my cats decide to have a fight, because they’re annoyed that Raw isn’t exciting enough. They don’t get wrestling, they’re cats. We get a recap of the match from last night for about the third time, so I watch my big white coward cat jump my small black cat from behind, and she still smacks him in the face and makes him run away. Strowman comes out and charges at Jericho, who seems to be almost strangled by a headphone cord, and then Strowman chokeslams Jericho through the announce table before the match has even started. Braun, where are the announcers going to sit now?
Kevin looks deathly afraid as three people check on Chris, and Braun approaches the ring. The crowd start a ‘Strowman’s gonna kill you’ chant, but for a moment, without commentary or music, it’s very silent and eerie as Strowman comes to the ring. Kevin kisses his title before reluctantly handing it over as four people help Jericho out of the arena, to the back.
- Kevin rolls out as the bell rings, and Strowman follows him, Kevin rolling in and getting a couple of hands in, dropkicking Strowman off the apron. Strowman back in, savage rights taking Kevin down to the ground. A whip from Strowman slams Kevin into the turnbuckles and bounces him off, and once he’s on his feet, Strowman smacks into him again.
- Kevin rolls out of the ring again, and the ref holds Strowman off him, but he goes around the ring, slamming Kevin into the barricades. Strowman throws Kevin back in, and leans him back, a clubbing blow to the chest, Kevin coughing as he tries to catch his breath.
- Once more, Strowman on the outside, but Kevin dodges him, and he hits the post, Kevin hitting a cannonball as the ref counts to nine before Strowman gets back in, a senton or two from Kevin to Strowman. Frogsplash from Kevin, Strowman kicks out at two.
- Kicks from Kevin, Strowman getting up as Kevin tries to go to the top rope, Strowman coming in with a running powerslam – and Roman’s here!
- Strowman stands to wait for Roman to approach, and he climbs into the ring and goes straight in with a Superman Punch to Strowman – so the bell rings for the DQ.
Strowman is sent over the top rope by Roman, who follows him to the outside, Kevin crumpled on the apron as Roman hits Strowman again, slamming him into the barricades. Roman takes a measuring look, and then hits a spear off the steps to Strowman, taking him down hard. He heads into the ring and hits a spear on Kevin too, then heads out of the ring. God, I love it when he’s just in a tank top and not the vest, you can really appreciate his shoulders.
Strowman is already back up before Roman’s left the ramp, a truly formidable challenger.
We see a car pull up, and everyone thinks it’s going to be Triple H, but it’s Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman!
The cave troll and his trainer are here, and Paul’s thankfully got the mic, not Brock. He sounds unhappy, and says Brock is crestfallen and disgraced. Apparently there comes a time when – but the audience interrupt with Goldberg chants. Heyman goes on a bit about the ‘yeah, but’ moments in careers, and my cat climbs into a bin bag to escape how Brock’s smiling.
I love Paul Heyman’s gift of the gab, I’d love to be that good, but honestly, because he’s talking about Borked Lipsore, I don’t care. Apparently, Lobster wants Goldberg at Mania, and once more, I want to know what fucking year this is.
MATCH: Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
Hey, more women! Hi Sasha! She’s walking slowly, but with confidence, and my cat comes to sit in my lap and purr, because as strong women, we appreciate this division. She wants belly rubs, but I need to recap. Nia enters, sneering at Sasha.
- Dropkick from Sasha, Nia goes for the Samoan Drop, backslide from Sasha. Sasha dodges ot of the way of Nia, who slams into the post with a clatter. Sasha kicks her as she tries to climb back in, and as she goes for a dropkick, Nia gets a full nelson on, and slams Sasha’s bad knee into the post, twice.
- Sasha rolls across the flooring on the outside, and you can hear a small child saying ‘are you okay’, and that’s just heartbreaking. Nia rolls her back in, grinning, and as she approaches, Sasha kicks Nia away as best she can. Nia grabs Sasha’s feet, and gets to work on the bad knee, Sasha trying to crawl to the rope, and the bell randomly rings.
- Nia pulls Sasha up into practically a bow, and Sasha’s limp in the ring, Nia puts the hold back on, and here comes Bayley! Bayley slides in, but even she keeps her distance from Nia. The official sends her to the back, as Bayley tries to help her friend, or even rouse her from her position on the mat.
Backstage, we see Sasha being helped to the back by a trainer and Bayley, limping down the corridor.
MATCH: Enzo & Big Cass vs. Rusev & Jinder Mahal – Tornado Tag Match
Lana has had a haircut, and she looks a bit like she’s been to Renee Young’s stylist, and I love her. Rusev still has his noseguard on, and Jinder looks awesome as per usual. Enzo appears to be wearing a cape. They do the spiel. I don’t care.
- You know what, it’s nearly 4am, and this is meant to be the last match, and my cat wants belly rubs. I’ll let you know who wins.
- Enzo and Cass win. Fuck off.
A limo is here, and so is Triple H! Hello Hunter, we’ve all missed you! His music hits, and everyone goes wild, and man, he looks good. I’m sorry, but I’ve always liked him. Being a Stephanie doesn’t help, I think.
Trips says that he plucked Seth from obscurity, and he became the first NXT champion, and then the leader of the Shield, and then the champ, and then the double champ. He says he made Seth the man he was, before the injury. He mocks Seth, making weepy noises as he talks about Seth having to hand back the title, and how he hobbled off into obscurity. Triple H says he gave Seth the world, and he spat it back. It’s hard for Hunter, we hear, when Seth calls him out, not to come out and fight him, because Steph says not to – because he’s trying to not be that guy, not to be the career-ending, dream-crushing guy who doesn’t care. He wants to be a creator – but when Seth invades NXT, where Hunter makes heroes, he can’t take it.
Triple H starts stripping off his suit jacket and tie, unbuttoning his tie. He says that Seth doesn’t have to worry about coming to his house, because he’s here, right now. “You already know who your creator is. Get your ass to this ring and meet your destroyer.” Fuck me, that’s amazing.
Seth comes out, and he strips off his shirt, Trips having rolled up his sleeves, and then Seth’s blindsided by SAMOA FUCKING JOE! Triple H puts his jacket back on and walks away as Joe takes Seth apart in the ring, senton after senton, and this is AMAZING.
Seth tries to pull himself upright to throw a punch, but Joe gets Seth down onto the mat and holds him there, until he fades. We close out on this new rivalry – Trips doesn’t need to do another Mania, and we’re going to get THIS instead. Fucking yes.