Welcome to The Raw Reaction, where I offer up my thoughts on this week’s show. As always, you can check out John’s full in-depth report here.
We open the show with an “Earlier Today” video of Bobby Lashley being congratulated when he arrived at the Thunderdome. Riddle rode up on his scooter and issued a challenge to Lashley for tonight. Lashley knocked Riddle down and accepted the challenge. Interesting choice here given their past history.
Back live, Byron Saxton welcomes us to the new Thunderdome setup at the University of South Florida, which appears to be a bit more cramped on TV. I believe the venue they are in is smaller than Amway Center. We’ll call it a work in progress.
Lashley comes out to maul Riddle as our first bout. But, before we get to that, Saxton welcomes his new commentary partners, the returning to Raw Corey Graves and new play-by-play guy Adnan Virk. Riddle rides down on his scooter and Lashley pounces before the bell rings. After the bell rings, Lashley continues the mauling and finishes him off with The Hurt Lock. Lashley was absolutely dominant in his performance here. I’m not quite sure the logic behind having Riddle get killed by Lashley after just dropping the US title to Sheamus last night. Perhaps they were trying to bridge over their history over the US title and this was just a one-off thing.
New Raw Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley reads off a teleprompter how she feels about facing Asuka in a WrestleMania rematch tonight. Can we try to make it a little less obvious that she’s reading from a script next time?
Good to see Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander are staying together as a tag team for the thin Raw Tag Division. Unfortunately for them, The Viking Raiders are back and they got picked to put them over in their return match. The match was a good five-minute reminder of how good The Viking Raiders are. At least we have a new babyface team to face AJ Styles and Omos.
Asuka did not need a teleprompter for her promo on Rhea later tonight.
Now making her triumphant return to Raw is…Summer Rae! Oh wait, that’s Charlotte Flair. She looks like she’s had some more facial surgery done. Her plastic surgeon needs to stop taking her calls. Anyway, Charlotte is out complaining that Titus O’Neil got more WrestleMania screen time than her because she was left off the card. Charlotte said all of the ladies in the back were excited that Charlotte was off the card and had an opportunity. Well, Super Charlotte is back and here to take the opportunities back. Well, I guess everyone is going to be banished to the tag division now.
Our next match is our WrestleMania rematch for the Raw Women’s Championship between Rhea Ripley and Asuka. Their match was not as good as the WrestleMania match. It looked like they messed a couple of spots up and that took away from the match. Before things get too far out of hand, Super Charlotte appears and smashes, laying both Rhea and Asuka out. The match was okay but we can’t have a women’s title feud that does not involve Charlotte Flair.
Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax kept replaying and laughing at Mandy Rose slipping and falling on the ramp during their Tag Team Turmoil entrance. Rose shows up and Baszler leaves. Rose tells Jax that she can laugh at herself and things you don’t see coming. Dana Brooke blasts Jax from behind before they leave laughing. I guess we found our next tag title contenders?
Alexa’s Playground is up next and Alexa tells a story in an attempt to explain the lopsided ending to the Fiend/Randy Orton WrestleMania match. At the end, she introduced the new higher power, Lilly, and I could care less. The new Alexa gimmick started off interesting but it’s gone so far off the rails that Creative just needs to forget where they were going and move on.
MizTV is up next with Maryse to sell the new season of Miz and Mrs. coming up after Raw. Miz tries to take credit for making Bad Bunny look great at WrestleMania so Damien Priest shows up. Miz and Morrison argue over who should challenge Priest so Maryse suggested they both fight him. Priest is good with the handicap match and it’s on. The match was fine and served the purpose of giving Miz and Morrison their win back but Priest needs to move on to bigger and better things. Sheamus perhaps?
Jax and Baszler are asked for their thoughts before their tag match with Rose and Brooke. Rose and Brooke have the dreaded pink WrestleMaina gear on again. Extra double-sided tape stat! Jax stumbled a bit climbing into the ring during her entrance. I’m not sure what the purpose of the match was supposed to be. Jax stumbled again trying to get on the ring apron and got mad about it. Rose and Brooke bailed and took a countout loss saying it wasn’t worth it. I guess they meant getting injured again by Jax?
MVP is out to introduce Bobby Lashley to address the WWE Universe. MVP gets Drew McIntyre instead of Lashley. McIntyre talked about the WrestleMania match and was ready for a rematch. Braun Strowman interrupts and wants a piece of Lashley. Randy Orton shows up for the same reason. Not WWE Commissioner Adam Pierce shows up to make a triple threat match instead of a tag team match. The winner of the triple threat gets Lashley for the title at WrestleMania Backlash. Holla holla, Playas!
Strowman and McIntyre set goals for the triple threat match tonight. It’s always good to have a goal.
Elias and Jaxson Ryker are in the ring wanting to do a musical performance before their scheduled match with The New Day. The New Day predictably interrupts and cuts a promo on their WrestleMania performance. New Day turns the promo to Elias and Ryker to set up their previously announced match. Well, I think somebody in Creative fumbled there. The tag match was pretty good with Elias and Ryker looking better than usual in tag matches. I think we can add them to the tag division as well. The New Day picks up the win but made Elias and Ryker look like tag contenders.
A quick Firefly Funhouse segment reminds us that Bray Wyatt is back and changes are coming with Alexa Bliss going rogue on them. Wyatt looks like he’s lost a little bit of weight as well. I’m hesitant to be excited about the forthcoming “changes”.
Main event time for the triple threat match. Strowman did the run around the ring shoulder tackles spot and somebody forgot to play the train noises (thank god). The triple threat was pretty good and kept to the standard WWE triple threat formula. All three showed that they were motivated to capture the title match with Lashley. In the end, Orton RKO’d Strowman before Drew broke the cover up with a Claymore and pinned Orton. I was okay with any of the three winning, as they would make for a good opponent for Lashley.
After the match, Mace and T-Bar attacked McIntyre while MVP watched from the stage. I’m not sure if this means that they will be in The Hurt Business or were just auditioning for a part to be in it. The logic wouldn’t make much sense behind it but I guess, if you can’t beat them, join them?
Let’s look at tonight’s highs and lows.
The triple threat match was the best match of the night. It was very formulaic but all three competitors showed great motivation for the prize. The Mace and T-Bar involvement at the end added a little intrigue to the situation.
Byron Saxton was at his absolute best tonight on commentary, helping with the Virk transition. He did extremely well in the play-by-play role and hope he gets some better opportunities in the future. I think he can excel when given the right role. The jury is still out on Virk. He did do pretty good for it being his first night on the job.
It looks like Super Charlotte has returned and will likely crush the entire women’s division. I can get her appeal but she’s almost the female version of John Cena. She’s likely going to get inserted into the Asuka title feud but she usually does not give back wins.
The Rhea Ripley/Asuka match just didn’t jive for whatever reason tonight. I think the missed move early in the match just threw everything off. I’m sure that they will put together another good match in the future.
That’s all I’ve got, until next time.