OH MY GAWD, IT’S THA BI-IG DAWG~!!! Roman Reigns opened Raw, again, to address his aspirations for the Universal Championship and the small issue of Seth Rollins being next in line for a shot. Rollins popped out to clear the air and they came to the agreement that Seth should go on to slay Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania and that reigns deserved the first shot afterwards due to having to give up the belt. Reigns also said he wanted to reform the Shield but Rollins was sceptical; Dean Ambrose came out but got taken out by Elias before he could reach the ring. Honestly, I would prefer that the WWE didn’t immediately start talking about Reigns having “never lost the title” as it kind of diminishes Rollins’ Royal Rumble win and makes him look inferior in a lot of ways; plus, like, Finn Balor and Kevin Owens never really got to talk about or be considered for rematches after they lost the same belt so it just annoys me a bit to see Reigns immediately say he wants a title shot when he hasn’t even had a match yet.
Speaking of matches, the dream team of Finn Balor, Kurt Angle, and Braun Strowman teamed up once more to take on Bobby Lashley, Baron Corbin, and Drew McIntyre; maybe, now that we finally have those WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships, we’ll get a Six-Man Tag Team Championship some time next year so that all these multi-man matches will have some meaning. Anyway, Strowman started things off by destroying Corbin before Drew and Balor went at it; Balor cleaned house with a big old Suicide Dive onto all three heels but he was soon worn down by Corbin and his rest holds. The heels tried to keep him isolated with quick tags but Balor brought in Angle, who tossed everyone around with German Suplexes before being cut off by McIntyre. Strowman brought the momentum back to the face’s side, though, but Lio Rush interrupted their pin fall and, despite being Speared through the barricade by Strowman, interfered enough to allow Lashley to land the Spear on Balor and win the match. After the match, the dastardly heels beat up Balor and Angle for good measure; so, I guess we’ll be seeing more of Lashley and Balor going forward, which is a shame as I was hoping to transition into a McIntyre/Balor feud for WrestleMania but maybe they’re saving McIntyre for Angle’s retirement match.
Ruby Riott and Natalya went at it next; Ruby scrambled out of the Sharpshooter but got pinned like a chump soon after and lost in less than three minutes. So much for my big ideas for Ruby. Triple H then came out to talk about Batista, which is obviously way more important than allowing Ruby and Natalya any actual match time; Triple H is less than thrilled that Batista would ruin the legendary Ric Flair’s birthday and basically told Batista that he will hunt him down and make him pay for his actions. Good emotion from Triple H but I was hoping to see Batista show up this week; if all we get is both men yelling at each other through the camera then the build to their match will be a bit disappointing for me. We get enough of that shit with the Undertaker; I want to see them livid and rabid and going to any lengths to get their hands on each other, not just shouting threats through the camera lens.
Heavy Machinery finally got to be in a match as they faced off with the Ascension, the B-Team, and Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins in a gauntlet match; Tucker and Otis destroyed Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel in a little over a minute before Konnor and Viktor slowed things down to a crawl with some bland heat. Otis plowed through them and pinned Viktor off the hot tag, though, and then managed to rally through Ryder and Hawkins’ double-teams to do the same and win the match. I didn’t realise that Heavy Machinery were faces, to be honest, and, while I’m glad to see a new team win and get some focus, I’m not too enthusiastic because I remember what the WWE did to the Authors of Pain not that long ago…
After refusing to entertain the idea of a Shield reunion backstage, Dean Ambrose fought with Elias in a bit of a match; Ambrose attacked like a house of fire right from the start but Elias took control with the Undertaker’s Rope Walk (could that be a tease for him having a face-off with the Undertaker at WrestleMania?!) and stomped away at Ambrose when he tried to rally back. Eventually, Dean couldn’t get past the attack from earlier or the pressure Elias was putting on him and got pinned following the Drift Away. After the match, Reigns and Rollins tried to talk some sense into Ambrose but he wasn’t having any of it…until Lashley, Corbin, and McIntyre arrived and mocked them. When they started ganging up on his old buddies, Ambrose immediately came to help, clear the ring, and join in with the Shield fist bump.
Following the match between Bayley and Nia Jax from last week, Sasha Banks and Tamina went at it this week, with Nia and Bayley at ringside. Tamina dominated in the early going but, of course, Sasha weathered the storm and caused Tamina to hit the ring post. Nia negated the Banks Statement, however, and things broke down a bit, which allowed Tamina to capitalise and get a shocking win of the WWE’s golden girl.
The Raw Tag Team Champions, the Revival, wandered around in the ring like jobbers without an entrance for their rematch with Aleister Black and Ricochet; so, are these guys officially a team and officially on Raw? I miss the Draft; at least then you knew which wrestlers were on which brand! Anyway, the Revival quickly cut Aleister off from Ricochet and worked him over until he made the hot tag. Things didn’t really get much of a chance to go anywhere, though, as Bobby Roode and Chad Gable attacked the Revival to cause a disqualification, presumably to setup a three-way match at Fastlane.
Earlier in the night, Stephanie McMahon then reinstated Becky Lynch and setup a match between her and Charlotte Flair at Fastlane, with the winner becoming the new Raw Women’s Champion (which means, I guess, that Charlotte and Becky are both officially on Raw now then?). Becky Lynch then came out at the close of the show to sign one of those “hold harmless agreements” the WWE likes to wheel out every now and then; Ronda Rousey turned up to establish that she never actually vacated the belt and it is announced that, if she wins the Fastlane match, Becky will be added to the WrestleMania match (which is kind of bullshit; it should have been that is Charlotte wins she’s officially added as Becky already won her title shot). Ronda seemed to get a bit upset about the whole situation and expressed her frustration by tossing Charlotte out of the ring and locking the Arm Bar on Becky to end the show.
Daniel Bryan and Rowan opened the show this week to trash talk Kofi Kingston and Kevin Owens; Owens interrupted Bryan’s eco-defender rant to trade some verbal barbs and start up a brawl that got ended by Rowan.
The Miz and Jey Uso went at it in the first match of the night, with Shane McMahon and Jimmy Uso at ringside. Miz and Jey tumbled to the outside soon into the early going, allowing Miz to slam Jey off the announce table and gain control back in the ring. Jey managed to counter the Skull-Crushing Finale and take the momentum back; Shane took out Jimmy when he tied to get involved, which was enough to allow Miz to hit the Skull-Crushing Finale and take the win.
R-Truth issued another open challenge for the United States Championship and, this time, got three challengers as Rey Mysterio, Samoa Joe, and Andrade all came to the ring for a shot at the gold. Joe dominated in the beginning, chucking guys all over the place and working over first Rey and then Andrade. R-Truth finally shut down Joe’s rampage with a Dropkick and a bit of order settled over the match as R-Truth and Joe battled each other and Andrade and Rey continued their issues, with Andrade planting Rey with the Three Amigos. In the final stretch, Rey landed the Canadian Destroyer on Andrade but his Frog Splash only got a two count when Joe interrupted the pin; Joe then planted Andrade with a Uranage and got the win and the title. I’m glad to see Joe finally win a main roster championship and, hopefully, this leads to a decent WrestleMania match for him; it’s all very well and good rewarding R-Truth with a championship run but I would rather he went back to being a bit-part guy and not be involved in the championship scene in any meaningful way going forward, especially with so many younger guys waiting in the wings for a push.
Aleister Black and Ricochet were back on SmackDown! Live (so I guess they’re just going to bounce around for a while until settling on a brand?) to go head-to-head with the Bar; Ricochet and Sheamus started the match, with Ricochet getting a near fall off a Standing Shooting Star Press, until Sheamus tossed him to the floor. Sheamus and Cesaro worked the quick tags and isolated Ricochet for a while until Ricochet made a wild comeback and tagged in Aleister, who flew into a rage of strikes, kicks, and knee strikes. The Bar managed to ground him down but Aleister hit the Black Mass out of nowhere, which allowed Ricochet to tag in, hit the 630 Splash, and get the victory.
Mandy Rose and Naomi saw what Ruby Riott and Natalya did on Raw and decided to do one better by having their match go under a minute, as Mandy landed the Implant Buster following a distraction from Sonya Deville. At least Asuka came out and kicked the crap out of Mandy and Sonya after the match, though, to remind you that they’ll be fighting for the SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship on Sunday.
Similarly, Kevin Owens and Rowan lasted a little less than two minutes as Owens decided to just go after Daniel Bryan, who was on commentary, which led to Bryan fighting back and the match being thrown out with a disqualification. When Rowan and Bryan put a beat down on Owens, Mustafa Ali made the save, which allowed Owens to leave Bryan lying with a Stunner.
SmackDown! Live ended with a confrontation between Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch, who can apparently also just jump between brands now; they traded insults and then, obviously, ended up in a brawl. Charlotte targeted Becky’s still-injured knee but Becky fought back with her crutch and the Dis-Arm-Her until referees had to separate the two.
Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade
These guys will face off, one more time, on the Fastlane kick-off show; I was under the impression that these two were done with each other a while ago but, in recent weeks, they’ve been rekindling their rivalry. I guess I’m okay with this, as it keeps Andrade on television and gives him something to do, but here really needs a win here and to move on to something else. With Samoa Joe as the United States Champion and Daniel Bryan as the WWE Champion, it’s hard to say will be, but I still say Andrade should take the win here.
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship Match: The Boss ‘N Hug Connection (c) vs. Nia Jax and Tamina
A natural choice for Sasha Banks and Bayley’s first title defence, especially given how hard the WWE have been pushing Nia Jax and Tamina as this dominating team, I’m imagining that the entire point of this is to paint Sasha and Bayley as underdog champions who need to overcome the odds. I could totally understand why the WWE might want dominating heel champions heading into WrestleMania but, if that is the case, Nia and Tamina should have been the inaugural champions so I’m going to pick Sasha Banks and Bayley to retain.
SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship Match: The Usos (c) vs. The Miz and Shane McMahon
Shane McMahon just doesn’t know how to stay the hell away from in-ring action, does he? Given that there was some tension teased after Shane and the Miz lost the belts, I full expect to see one or the other (I’m guessing the Miz) turn on their partner and cost them this match to set up the Miz/McMahon WrestleMania match so I’m giving the win to the Usos.
SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship Match: Asuka (c) vs. Mandy Rose
After weeks, if not months, of being absent from television and not even being mentioned as the WWE focused exclusively on the only women’s championship that matters, the Raw Women’s Championship, Asuka randomly came back and asked for a challenger and got…Mandy Rose, a woman who has been under my radar so long that I didn’t realise she was even a singles competitor. Honestly, with two women’s championships, this could have easily been Charlotte and Asuka rekindling their issues from last year but, no, we’re going to get…this. Asuka to retain and hopefully get a better opponent (but she’ll probably end up with Lacey Evans…)
Raw Tag Team Championship Match: The Revival (c) vs. Aleister Black and Ricochet vs. Bobby Roode and Chad Gable
Wow, there are a lot of tag team matches on this card! So, as you may have gathered from my thoughts this week, I have no idea what is going on with Aleister Black and Ricochet; plus, didn’t Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa also beat the Revival? How come they’re not in this match as well? Anyway, at least this gets Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder onto a pay-per-view where they can defend the belts, but they looks like complete chumps now because of back-to-back losses in recent weeks so I’m pushing the Revival to get a strong win here to regain some credibility.
The Shield vs. Baron Corbin, Drew McIntyre, and Bobby Lashley
Great to see Roman Reigns back on television and healthy, despite all the haters, but I can’t help but think the WWE have rushed into this Shield reunion in a desperate attempt to get back to the status quo pre-leukaemia. I guess it’s tidier than having three separate matches between these guys but I think it might have been better to have teased the Shield reunion on Raw and had Reigns in a singles match against Baron Corbin, who everyone hates. After the match, the heels could jump Reigns and then the Shield could reform here instead. The rumour now is that Dean Ambrose might be sticking around and that Reigns will fight Corbin at WrestleMania but I’m going to try and apply some logic to my prediction and say that Ambrose will betray the Shield, allowing Baron Corbin, Drew McIntyre, and Bobby Lashley to win, to setup a match between him and Reigns at WrestleMania.
WWE Championship Match: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Kevin Owens
So, I think at this point we all know that Vince McMahon replacing Kofi Kingston with Kevin Owens is simply a storyline thing intended to get people even more behind Kofi but I still find it a bit awkward to paint Owens as a face. I think they should have stayed the course and had Kofi and Bryan but have Owens make a return to SmackDown! Live as a tweener, having matches against faces and heels and showing no allegiance, and then have him interfere in this match and cause a disqualification finish. Then we could build towards a triple threat match at WrestleMania with the clear heel (Bryan), clear face (Kofi), and the tweener (Owens) using a model similar to the build to WrestleMania XX where Kofi has to overcome the odds and being overlooked. Maybe something like that will still happen but I feel it’s been a bit rushed and awkward so far…oh, and Daniel Bryan will retain.
Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch
The idea here, apparently, is that Becky Lynch will be added into the Raw Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania…despite the fact that she won the Royal Rumble and earned that spot and never had that stripped from her, as far as I can recall. It really should have been the other way around, with Charlotte having to get the win to be added to the match. Anyway, yeah, Becky Lynch is obviously getting the win; the WWE surely wouldn’t swerve us and drag this out even longer, would they?