This week’s Monday Night Raw aired live from the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.
With this the first Raw after the Royal Rumble, the road to Wrestlemania officially begun. Going into the night there is a noticeable buzz in the air about what’s next after the emotionally draining pay-per-view. In addition, all day there has been word that a major superstar will be returning to Raw.
Starting off the night is this chairman of the WWE Vince McMahon accompanied by his daughter Stephanie. The McMahons jump at the chance to gloat about their part in ensuring Roman Reigns did not leave the Rumble as WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
The level of trolling by the authority is at an all-time high. They make reference to the WWE universe believing Reigns would overcome being put through an announce table to retain his title. For the most part this was indeed the general feeling while the match was going on.
They introduce the new World Champ Triple H. Hunter addresses the question, why does he need the title at this point in his career? He claims he does not need to be WWE Champion, he just wants to be WWE Champion because people like Roman Reigns want to be champion but don’t deserve it. Stephanie McMahon announces that on tonight’s Raw all the talent on the roster would be evaluated. By the end of the night we would have our main event competitors for WWE Fastlane to determine who will face Triple H at Mania.
Dolph Ziggler vs Kevin Owens
Owens comes out fired up, still fuming from his loss in the Intercontinental title match at Rumble. The announce team reminds us that like with every match tonight, these two are trying to impress the Authority. After a short, balanced contest. Owens is able to avoid the top rope facebuster and hit a pop-up powerbomb for the win.
After the break the #socialoutcasts are in the ring. Heath Slater calls out Flo Rida who is in the front row. If you’ll remember Flo and Heath have had beef since an altercation at Wrestlemania 28. Slater challenges him to a rap battle against Bo Dallas. Bo lays down a few squeaky clean bars followed by some by Rida who seemed to forget his lines. Pretty embarrassing. Bo won hands down. The Miami rapper then brings out the Dudley’s setting up the next match…
The Dudley Boyz vs Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel
The question still remains whether or not the Social Outcasts can be taken seriously. There is a section of WWE fans who want them to succeed, but this showing doesn’t do them any favors. The Dudley’s control most of the match before Heath interferes. Flo Rida hip tosses him into the ring. Bubba and D-von hit the 3D on Axel and score the win. Basically this week the #socialoutcasts are bested by a couple wrestlers of yesteryear and a midlevel rapper. Let’s hope things get better before they get worst.
There is a backstage segment with Renee Young interviewing the Phenomenal One AJ Styles. It is quickly interrupted by Chris Jericho who welcomes him to the “big leagues”. This seems to be a continuation of their twitter exchange from the night of the Rumble.
Chris Jericho vs AJ Styles
Jericho begins the match with the clear upperhand. AJ struggles to counter his smothering offense. After the ad break though it’s a different story. Styles has the advantage and we are treated many of his familiar moves. The Pelé kick. The springboard elbow smash. The frog splash. Y2J is able to lock in the Walls of Jericho. After a long struggle AJ gets to the rope. Once again the Styles Clash is teased, but is turned into roll up by Jericho. The pin is reversed and the Phenomenal One is able to notch his first WWE victory.
Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch
Sasha Banks returns to action after being briefly sidelined with an injury. She and Becky got counter for counter for a couple of minutes until the Lass Kicker locks in the Disarmer. Sasha reverses out of it, whips Lynch into the ropes and hits the backstabber rollover into the Bank Statement. Before Becky has chance to even consider taking out, Charlotte jumps both of them. She downs Banks with her Natural Selection and then poses with her title. Becky Lynch seems to be still feuding with Charlotte and with Sasha thrown into the mix. This looks to be setting up a triple threat for the Divas Championship.
Bray Wyatt vs Kane
Here’s a match we’ve seen quite a few times dating back to the debut of the Wyatt family. The crowd turned on it almost immediately (chants of RAN-DY SA-VAGE rang thought the arena) and it likely got the early go-home. Bray wins quickly with Sister Abigail. Afterwards the Family beats down the Big Red Machine.
Backstage we’re finally ready for the reveal of a returning superstar. Rich Brennan knocks on the window of the stretch limo that has been parked in the back all night and the Miz emerges. He begins to talk about how he has been gone for three weeks, but is quickly cut off by the screeching tires of a big black pickup truck pulling up. It’s the Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment, The Rock.
Rock makes his way through that backstage area bumping into the Big Show, reminding him of their Royal Rumble moment and hitting on Lana before Rusev shows up. He eventually comes through the curtains to a thundering ovation. Rocky hits the ring and starts hyping Wrestlemania when the New Day enter. The verbal back and forth between the these three and the People’s Champion is a thing of beauty. The Rock introduces our crowd chant of the week “llama penis” and challenges all three to a fight. They retreat but here comes the Usos. Big E takes a Rock Bottom, Kofi a Samoan drop and finally Xavier feels the People’s Elbow. Rocky celebrates with his cousins afterwards.
Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns vs Sheamus and Rusev
It’s time for our main event. This is the last match before the authority announces who will fight at Fastlane for the chance to face Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Title at Wrestlemania. This is a good hard hitting match where the League of Nations members appear equally matched with the former Shield members. These four are really fighting for the Authority’s attention. Roman gets the pinfall victory with a spear to Sheamus, but it’s not over just yet. Reigns and Ambrose put Rusev through the French announce table with an assisted powerbomb.
Just then Stephanie McMahon’s music hits. She announces that the main event of Fastlane will be a triple threat match between Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and the Beast Brock Lesnar.
1. What are WWE’s plans for AJ Styles? Styles is arguably the company’s biggest signing in many years, but will he be in the main event scene and if so when? We’ve already seen a little spark of a rivalry start up when Kevin Owens eliminate him from the Rumble. We already know these two can put on a hell of a match and another one could steal the show at Mania.
2. When are we going to finally see the Heath Slater vs Flo Rida blow off match? This Raw was the third time these two have encountered one another and Heath finally got one up by having his boy Bo take down Flo lyrically. Look for the #socialoutcasts to interrupt the music performance in Dallas.
3. What is Bray doing exactly? This week we saw him paired back up with Kane. Wouldn’t what we saw last Monday and Sunday and the Royal Rumble be hinting at a feud brewing between Wyatt and Brock? Now that we have Lesnar main eventing Fastlane, it looks like that match up is a ways off. Let’s hope Bray and the Wyatt family can find something interesting between now and then.
4. What’s going to be the Rock’s time in Wrestlemania? There’s been speculation that he may have a match, but things don’t seem to be building towards one. The Great One was really on this week and sometimes that’s enough, especially these days.
5. What was the point of tonight really? The Authority set up the evening to determine the competitors for the number one contenders match and then they put in the guy they just took the title from, his best friend and someone who didn’t even compete on Raw. It may have worked better to have a tournament leading up to Fastlane. Put 16 men in and have one round every week until the pay-per-view. That would create lots of drama finding out who gets to “play the game”. Also imagine someone like Neville or AJ Styles making it to the semifinals. True, there was just a number one contenders tourney a few months back, but this could have been the chance to get it right.