Oh my God, it’s THE BIG DAWG! Roman Reigns made a dramatic return to Raw this week, to a massive ovation, simply to announce that his leukaemia was in remission and that he would be back in Raw going forward. There’s been a lot of talk going around that Roman’s leukaemia has been a “work”, mainly because he has a small role in the Rock’s new movie, which kind of disturbs me. First of all, he’s hardly starring side-by-side with the Rock; it’s just a bit part, if anything. And, second of all, would the WWE really take one of their best merchandise sellers of television for this long? I don’t really think so but I am glad that he got a hero’s welcome; hopefully, the WWE will capitalise on that going forward and keep that momentum going…though Reigns really shouldn’t be taking away Seth Rollins’ WrestleMania moment or even going near the Universal Championship for a while.
Aleister Black and Ricochet teamed up against the Revival and, as if randomly losing to the NXT guys last week wasn’t bad enough, this resulted in another loss for the Raw Tag Team Champions. In many ways, though, this is classic WWE; the Revival threaten to leave, the WWE rushes the belts onto them and acts like they give a damn, and then has the champions lose back-to-back matches against guys who either haven’t teamed together for ages or guys who have never teamed together at all (as far as I am aware). Just having the belts isn’t an incentive to stick around, guys!
More tag team action followed as Natalya and Ronda Rousey teamed up against the Riott Squad; in a nice change of pace, the Riott Squad were in control for a lot of the match as they wore down Natalya but things all fell apart when Ronda got the hot tag and took everyone out. Becky Lynch was the deciding factor in the end, though, as she ran out to cause a disqualification. When Ronda demanded that Becky be reinstated and posted bail (because she got arrested…) so she could get some payback, Stephanie McMahon shut her down so Ronda left in a huff and without the belt.
Kurt Angle answered Jinder Mahal’s open challenge, which was a pretty neat surprise. Unfortunately, Mahal continued his tried-and-true formula of working slow, plodding offense and extended rest holds; it might be to get heel heat but, dude, it doesn’t really work unless the face is rallying against you. Anyway, Angle fought back with the Rolling German Suplexes and the Ankle Lock to get the win in a little under three minutes.
Finn Balor ended up putting the Intercontinental Championship on the line against Lio Rush after appearing on Alexa’s Bliss’ little talk show segment; this was also part of Balor’s plot to sow dissention between Lio and Bobby Lashley, which really shouldn’t need to be done as Lashley seemed to ditch Lio at Elimination Chamber but whatever. This was a great little sprint; it’s so refreshing to see Balor go at it with a similarly-sized opponent as the WWE always seems to lumber him with monsters and big men.
Lio worked over Finn’s knee but he was able to fight through it, hit the Coup de Grâce, and retain the championship; Lashley was then immediately thrown into a match with Braun Strowman that turned out to be nothing but a short segment in which Strowman destroyed Lashley. Not sure I really agree with that; you could have had Lio break from Lashley and have a mini feud with Balor heading into Fastlane and then built towards one of those fantastic over-the-top Strowman matches between him and Lashley. Instead, Lio put up a decent fight but Lashley got decimated, making it difficult to buy him as a credible threat to Strowman in future matches.
Dean Ambrose and Drew McIntyre went at it…again…but this was little more than a brawl and an excuse for McIntyre, Elias, Corbin, Lashley, and Lio to beat the piss out of Ambrose. Luckily, the BIG DAWG!! is back in action and he and Rollins came out to fend off the heels and tease a Shield reunion. I guess that is a good idea to keep the crowd on side and give these guys something to do at Fastlane but I really don’t agree with the flip-flopping of Dean’s character since his initial heel turn.
Nia Jax and Bayley faced off to keep that feud going; Nia dominated the entirety of the match with her power and Bayley bounced all over for her in a desperate attempt to cover up Nia’s sloppiness. Sasha Banks ended up giving Bayley a huge assist to allow her to land the Diving Elbow Drop for the win.
Raw ended with Ric Flair’s seventieth birthday celebrations, which necessitated the entire roster to be in attendance. Triple H and Stephanie hosted the event and Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle, Ricky Steamboat, and Sting all showed up to pay their respects. Triple H and Steph unveiled a swanky personalised World Championship for Flair and a moving video package aired but Flair never even reached the ring as BATISTA attacked him in his locker room and dragged him around backstage to get Triple H’s attention! I am so glad that Batista has come back and that the WWE are back on track to that Batista/Triple H WrestleMania match; I hope to see Batista show up a lot more than other guys (I’m looking at you, Undertaker!) to build to the match and it should be a fitting final match for Batista.
Kofi Kingston opened the show this week for a contract signing to make his WWE Championship match at Fastlane official; Stephanie and Shane McMahon were both their to keep things civil but, just as Kofi was about to sign, Vince McMahon showed up and decided that Kofi wasn’t qualified enough to be fighting for the company’s top prize and replaced him…with Kevin Owens. So this just seems like an exact retread of what we just saw on Raw with the Raw Women’s Championship but makes far less sense; didn’t Owens headbutt Vince and kick the shit out of him not that long ago? What about his actions against Shane? Or how about the fact that Owens hasn’t really done anything in recent memory to be deserving of being labelled as being more “qualified” than Kofi? I get that it’s a swerve to inject some drama but it’s an extremely weird turn; I figured Kofi would get some time to shine at Fastlane and then Owens would come back to face Bryan at WrestleMania, potentially in a three-way with Kofi or even a fatal-four-way including AJ Styles. That seems like it would make more sense as it would give Owens a chance to try and put over his new apparently babyface persona; instead, he’s just in the match because Vince is a racist?
Sheamus and Cesaro were in tag team action next against the Hardy Boyz; yep, apparently Matt Hardy still won’t die and is not ready for retirement just yet. He also appears to no longer be “Woken” and is back to being a more stable persona, one who has clearly been using his time off to improve his physique. The Hardyz came out like a house of fire but the Bar soon isolated Jeff. it didn’t last, though, as Matt made the hot tag, hit the Twist of Fate, and allowed Jeff to land a Swanton Bomb and get the win. While I’m glad to see the Hardy Boyz back, it would have been nice to see them facing a different team here, like SAnitY or the Club, but at least they seem motivated in putting on decent tag team action.
In answer to the United States Championship open challenge, R-Truth was forced to defend his belt against Andrade and Rey Mysterio when they simultaneously answered the call. Andrade was in control to start with but got shut down with a Doomsday Hurricanrana from Truth and Rey; shenanigans on the outside with Zelina Vega and Carmella distracted from the action but, in the end, R-Truth managed to escape with the belt, and the win, following a roll-up on Mysterio.
Aleister Black and Ricochet were back in tag team action, this time against Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura; so, I kind of get why the WWE wanted to use #DIY as a tag team last week but I really don’t get the idea of sticking these two together. What is their angle? That they’re NXT guys who need to impress? They’re not a team; they should be making their mark as singles competitors on the road towards the Intercontinental and United States Championships. But, whatever, thrown-together-tag-teams clash! Aleister and Nakaumra traded hard strikes to start with before Ricochet got isolated and took some heat; Aleister got fed up with that and took over the momentum but Rusev shut him down until Ricochet blew him away with his unique offense. Things broke down a bit at the end as Ricochet took out Rusev with a Suicide Dive and Nakamura fell to the Black Mass. So, Rusev and Nakamura were on rocky ground to begin with but, surely, this must spell the end of their team? Wouldn’t Rusev be a bit annoyed that his partner cost them the match?
Anyway, SmackDown! Live ended with Kevin Owens and Kofi Kingston teaming up against Daniel Bryan and Rowan; there was a lot of tag team wrestling this week, which would be fine except that the WWE doesn’t really seem to view tag team wrestling as anything other than a gimmick to spice up a feud or to further storylines. Bryan let Rowan handle this one, for the most part, which would be fine but Rowan suckkkks man! Kofi and Kevin seemed to work well together but their respect soon turned aggressive and tense as they each wanted to be in the match; Rowan and Bryan took advantage, using frequent tags to wear Kofi down and force him to have no choice but to make the tag to Owens. Owens burst into action and put Bryan away with a Stunner, which was actually very refreshing to see.