03/23 Powell's WWE Raw Live Review: The final edition of Raw before WrestleMania 31 with Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns going face-to-face, Sting opens the show, Nikki Bella defends the Divas Championship
By Jason Powell
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WWE Raw on the USA Network
Live from Los Angeles, California at Staples Center
[Q1] After the opening played, Michael Cole, JBL, and Booker T introduced the show from ringside... Sting made his entrance. Cole noted that it was the first time that Sting had ever opened Raw. He also noted that it was 14 years ago today that WWE purchased WCW.
"So this is what it feels like to kick off Monday Night Raw?!?" Sting asked. He let out a "woooo." He said he's been watching Triple H backstab and undermine to do whatever it took to get to the top. "I guess he thinks he's unstoppable," he said. Sting said he might be the last soldier standing in a forgotten war, but he's not fighting for WCW because "that would be ridiculous at this point." Amen.
"I'm here for one reason and that is to take Triple H down," Sting said. Stephanie McMahon's music played and she walked to the ring. "So this is that it feels like to be in the ring with the Stinger, the last holdout from WCW," she said. Stephanie congratulated him on making it to the big time.
Sting said Stephanie is a spoiled brat who had everything handed to her in life "and somehow believes she's earned it." Stephanie said Sting is lashing out because he's intimidated. She said he was a big fish in the tiny little pond of WCW.
Powell's POV: If WCW was a tiny pond, then I'm pretty sure that makes TNA a puddle.
Stephanie said dogs are loyal too. She said they are also "kinda stupid." She said she would compare him to a dog, but she doesn't want to insult dogs. Stephanie told Sting that WCW lost, and Sting lost his dignity and pride along with it. She said he's going to lose whatever he has left of it when Triple H pins him on Sunday. She called him a "face-painted freak."
Sting let out a "wooooo" again. Stephanie tried to slap him, but Sting caught her arm. Triple H's music played and Stephanie's expression went from panicked to a confident smirk. Triple H removed his tie as he walked to ringside. Sting released Stephanie. Hunter walked around the ring and checked on Stephanie, who was holding her wrist. "Did he put his hands on you?" he asked her off mic. Triple H took his jacket off.
Triple H entered the ring and rolled up his shirt sleeves while asking, "Did you put your hands on my wife?" Stephanie pulled the sledgehammer out from underneath the ring. Sting pulled out his baseball bat from his jacket. Triple H stopped in his tracks on the ring apron. "You've got a sledgehammer and I've got a bat, come on," Sting said off mic.
Triple H teased entering the ring, but he ultimately stepped down to ringside and then he and Steph headed toward the ramp. Sting removed his jacket and motioned for Hunter to enter the ring. Hunter teased it as Sting played to the crowd, but Hunter stopped. Stephanie stood in front of Hunter and cautioned against it. Hunter and Steph headed up the ramp as Sting's music played...
The broadcast team hyped that Randy Orton would face the winner of a fan vote... Backstage, Paige and A.J. Lee were shown talking. They have to decide which one of them will challenge Nikki Bella for the Divas Championship...
Powell's POV: The only negative is Sting's music and that's subjective. Sting was confident and energetic. He seemed like a guy who was relaxed and having fun more than worrying about his lines. An excellent start to the show. I was against the idea of Sting speaking before WrestleMania to maintain his aura, but he was very good here. They may do more throughout the night to set up this match, but they'll be just fine if this was the only segment we see all night.
[Q2] Dean Ambrose headed to the ring. Cole said Ambrose would team with the "delightfully unstable R-Truth" to face Stardust and Luke Harper after the break... [C] The other match entrants were already in the ring...
1. Dean Ambrose and R-Truth vs. Stardust and Luke Harper. Bad News Barrett was on commentary. The fans chanted "Cody" at Stardust, who had his ears covered by Luke Harper. Funny. They cut to a break with the heels regrouping at ringside. [C]
After the break, Paul Stanley from Kiss could be seen seated at ringside behind the broadcast team. Late in the match, Truth performed some of his signature spots on Stardust and had him pinned, but Harper broke it up. Ambrose sent Harper to ringside and performed a suicide dive. R-Truth hit his finisher on Stardust and pinned him...
Dean Ambrose and R-Truth beat Stardust and Luke Harper in 10:30.
[Q3] After the match, Barrett stormed to the back. Truth danced, then wanted Ambrose to dance too. Ambrose did a little shimmy and they shook hands... Cole hyped the fan voting, then hyped the Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns face-to-face segment. JBL hyped a look at Reigns for after the break... [C]
Powell's POV: I'm sorry about the poor match description. I was distracted by Paul Stanley of Kiss at ringside. They should really make him dress up like a wrestler so that he's not so distracting. Anyway, Stanley was a really good guest on a recent edition of Chris Jericho's podcast, and noted that his young son is a big wrestling fan. The celebrities usually get the primo seats and while WWE definitely puts their celebrity attendees at ringside, I wonder if they ever feel slighted when they are stuck behind the broadcast team.
Renee Young stood on the stage with Special Olympics participants and the president of the organization... A video package that featured Byron Saxton's interview with Roman Reigns was shown...
Powell's POV: I feel like the Special Olympics should at least have a figurehead president who is special. The guy that had out there was like the equivalent of the NHL having a basketball guy as their commissioner. Wait, never mind. #FireBettman
They read tweets from JBL and Bill Simmons on Twitter. Cole hyped that Simmons would be joining them on commentary...
The Miz and Mizdow made their entrance. Footage was shown of the two of them interviewing Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart. Miz asked if they used stunt doubles. They did not. Miz said stunt doubles try to outshine you and need to learn their place in life. They actors disagreed, then said Mizdow has a Hollywood look. Miz told Mizdow to go get him a water. Cole hyped the entire interview is on the website... [C]
[Q4] The entrants of the WrestleMania battle royal were in the ring. Bill Simmons was on commentary...
3. The Miz, Mizdow, Adam Rose, and The Ascension vs. Titus O'Neil, Darren Young, Ryback, Zack Ryder, and Erick Rowan. Simmons spoke about wanting to do an E:60 documentary on Andre the Giant. He said he's most looking forward to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania.
Mizdow tagged in and got a good reaction. Miz made him tag him into the match instead. The crowd popped when Ryback took a hot tag from Ryder. Ryback hit the Meathook Clothesline on Miz and then Shellshocked for the win. Simmons agreed that Ryback is the favorite to win the battle royal. JBL gave him credit for being better than Mike Adamle. Cole had Simmons pimp WWE Network...
Titus O'Neil, Darren Young, Ryback, Zack Ryder, and Erick Rowan beat The Miz, Mizdow, Adam Rose, and The Ascension in 5:50.
Cole narrated footage from last week of Sting and Randy Orton fighting off The Authority. He also hyped the fan voting to determine Randy Orton's opponent... [C]
Powell's POV: Congrats to Titus, Young, Ryder, and Rowan on a very rare Raw win. As much as I enjoyed Sting in the opening segment, I feel like they are setting up a campy Halloween segment for Smackdown when they play the beginning of his crappy music.
The new fluffy video to show how charitable WWE is was shown...
[Q5] Randy Orton made his entrance. Booker T is still alive. He stood up and read the results of the poll. Seth Rollins and J&J Security won the poll with 77 percent, Kane received 12 percent, and Big Show received 11 percent...
Powell's POV: Trailing Kane in this type of voting is like losing an election to a dead man.
3. Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins, Jamie Noble, and Joey Mercury. Orton got the better of Noble and Mercury while Rollins dodged him. Orton hit a double hanging DDT on the duo while Rollins watched from the floor. Rollins tried to sneak in the ring, but Orton spotted him and Rollins ran to the floor. Orton hit the RKO on Noble for the win...
Randy Orton beat Seth Rollins, Jamie Noble, and Joey Mercury in 3:15.
Powell's POV: I am looking forward to this match despite the awkward build. It's just odd that we're back to Orton wanting to get his hands on Rollins after he destroyed him a couple weeks ago. I was hoping they would give Rollins some heat tonight instead of having him play the chickenshit heel role.
JBL pimped WWE Network and asked why anyone would pay $60 for a pay-per-view when they could pay $9.99 for the network... Cole set up footage of John Cena's interview that aired on the WWE website... Cole hyped Rusev vs. Jack Swagger for later in the show...
Backstage, Paige and AJ Lee spoke about which one of them would get the Divas Championship match. Paige said she would take it unless Lee wanted it. Lee said she didn't want them to fall into a trap. Paige said turning down a championship match makes Lee crazy. Paige hugged her and walked away... [C]
4. Nikki Bella (w/Brie Bella) vs. Paige (w/AJ Lee) for the WWE Divas Championship. Lee didn't look thrilled during the entrances.
[Q6] The champion and the challenger traded offense, and Nikki was in control heading into the break. [C] Late in the match, Nikki set up for a forearm shot, but Paige dodged it and came right back with a kick and a two count. Paige went for the Rampaige, but Nikki countered into a pin for a two count. Nikki performed the Alabama Slam for another two count.
Paige came back with Rampaige for a good near fall. Paige expressed shock that she didn't get the win, as did Cole on commentary. Both women tumbled to ringside. Lee took out Brie. Paige approached Lee from behind and was greeted with an elbow to the face. Lee expressed regret once she saw who she struck. Nikki brought Paige back into the ring and hit the Rack Attack for the win...
Nikki Bella beat Paige to retain the Divas Championship in 10:45.
After the match, Lee approached Paige, who tackled her and threw punches at her. Lee rolled Paige over and threw punches at her. The referee separated them as the announcers said this is exactly what the Bella Twins wanted. A CM Punk chant broke out and was killed by Paige's entrance music...
Powell's POV: Good action that kept the live crowd engaged. I thought we were finally past Paige and AJ not being on the same page, but at least they told a story and went right at each other. This was better than the mind games they were playing with each other in the past that seemed to cause more confusion or apathy than anything.
[Q7] Cole narrated highlights of the gauntlet match from Smackdown... Cole said fans would be able to choose the special referee for the Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler match. The candidates were the other participants in the ladder match... The broadcast team hyped Snoop Dogg for after the break... [C]
Cole hyped the WrestleMania week events for WWE Network...
Lilian Garcia introduced Snoop Dogg, who was accompanied to the ring by some dancing Divas (Rosa, Alicia, Cameron, Summer). Snoop introduced himself as Snoop Mania. He said he's been to a couple of WrestleManias "and this thing is gonna be a stone cold..."
Curt Axel's music played and he walked onto the stage. "Don't change the channel," Axel said. JBL said he was thinking about it. Axel said AxelMania isn't an east coast or west coast thing, he said it's a worldwide thing and he wouldn't listen to him talk about SnoopMania when AxelMania is running wild.
Axel entered the ring and mocked Snoop's lyrics and said he's here to stay. "So you're that clown who has been popping off on Twitter?" Snoop asked. Snoop said Axel is missing the most important Mania of them all.
Hulk Hogan's music played and he made his entrance to a big reaction. Hogan and Snoop did the ear-cupping routine together while Axel watched. Hogan told Axel he was going to tell him a little story about the mania. He said he knew when he pressed Andre the Giant that Hulkamania would live forever. He said he knew Snoopamania would live forever when he dropped his first LP.
"As far as AxelMania?" Hogan asked. "What's this brother smoking over here?" Hogan asked Snoop while the announcers laughed like dorks and killed the joke for the viewing audience. Axel ripped off his shirt and tried to hit Hogan, who blocked it and then punched Axel. Snoop picked up Axel and threw him over the top rope. Snoop ripped off his shirt to reveal a Hogan shirt, then Snoop and Hogan posed together...
Powell's POV: Watching Snoop Dogg pose made the segment totally worthwhile. If nothing else, it's cool to see good hand Axel get something. As silly as it was, this was probably his career highlight in a lot of ways. It was probably smart to have this segment on Raw rather than WrestleMania, where the super fans may have actually supported Axel.
Cole set up a video that featured the Brock Lesnar sit-down interview clips...
[Q8] [C] Tyson Kidd and Cesaro vs. New Day vs. The Usos vs. Los Matadores in a four-way match for the tag titles was announced for the WrestleMania Kickoff show...
5. Tyson Kidd, Cesaro, and Natalya vs. Los Matadores and El Torito. The Usos sat in on commentary while Naomi stood behind their chairs. In the end, Torito countered a Natalya powerbomb attempt into a rollup for the win...
Los Matadores and El Torito beat Tyson Kidd, Cesaro, and Natalya in 4:15.
Backstage, Kane congratulated Bad News Barrett for holding onto his Intercontinental Title for 72 hours. Kane said he had to relieve him of the title so that it can be hung above the ring during Raw. Barrett wasn't happy. Kane said he was authorized to strip him of the title if he did not comply. Barrett said it's a travesty, then handed it over. Kane said he doesn't know why he's so upset because all he has to do is beat six other men in a ladder match...
Cole hyped Rusev vs. Swagger for after the break... [C]
Powell's POV: I wonder if Rusev and Swagger roll their eyes like everyone else when they see they are assigned to work each other for the billionth time. WWE never updated the Jey Uso's injury status, so it will be interesting to see how much he does. It's a multi-person match and they are twins, so Jey could do little or nothing and most viewers wouldn't notice.
Cole hyped John Cena, Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan, and Mark Henry vs. Bray Wyatt, Seth Rollins, Big Show, and Kane in an eight-man tag match for Thursday's Smackdown television show...
Powell's POV: That match should be taped later tonight at Raw since there is not a Smackdown taping tomorrow. Our own Will Pruett is at the show, so we should have the result later tonight.
[Q9] 6. U.S. Champion Rusev vs. Jack Swagger in a non-title match. Lana was not with Rusev again this week. JBL noted that Zeb Colter is still "on the shelf." The fans chanted "we want Lana" which Cole acknowledged. He said there is speculation that a rift has developed between the two. The fans chanted USA as Rusev dominated the match. Rusev eventually won with The Accolade.
Rusev defeated Jack Swagger in a non-title match in 4:35.
After the match, Rusev didn't release the hold until John Cena's music hit. Cena hit the ring and attacked Rusev, which drew some boos from the crowd. Rusev came back ran Cena into the barricade at ringside. Rusev waived the Russian flag, then went over tagged Cena with a kick to the face. Rusev tore the announcers' table apart, then set Cena on it and locked him in The Accolade. Rusev released the hold and then posed with his title belt in the ring... [C]
Powell's POV: Where were you when America needed you, Paul Stanley?!? Anyway, it was nice to see them put more heat on Rusev heading into WrestleMania. I like the way Cole said Lana is usually the person who calls off Rusev when he has the Accolade locked it. It made him seem even more dangerous without her. I still can't believe WWE is having her shoot a movie this close to WrestleMania. Why not schedule the shoot for after WrestleMania? I mean, they do own the studio. It will be very interesting to see if the WrestleMania crowd cheers for Real American Cena or if they get off on siding with the Bulgarian, er, Russian.
[Q10] The announcers spoke as footage of the Rusev and Cena angle aired...
Bray Wyatt made his entrance and stood in the ring with a light on him while the rest of the arena was dark (and filled with his fireflies). He said reality can be a difficult pill to swallow, but each and every one of you is guilty of hating the person that you've become.
Powell's POV: It's like he knows me! Er...
He said people look in the mirror and don't like what they've become. He said the fans are all liars. He said he's not like you. "I am not a liar," Wyatt said. "I might be a lot of things, but I am not a liar." He said he has the sword of truth and it cuts through the deception of your world. The fans chanted for Taker, and he spoke louder and over the fans.
Wyatt said Undertaker is just like you. "The Undertaker is a liar," Wyatt said. He said Taker tries to deny the fact that he's lost and that he wants his soul to be set free. Wyatt said the angel with the bird's wings has been sent to take him back to the other side.
Taker's lighting flickered. Wyatt said that's what the fans have become addicted to. Wyatt said the lights and the demons all belong to him now. Wyatt said he has judged Taker and he is guilty. He said there will be no redemption or shield for him to be carried out on. He said Taker will meet his fate in the form of Sister Abigail's Kiss. Wyatt said he will take his rightful place among the gods as the new face of fear. He said Taker will get the mercy he has been begging for, and he will finally be able to rest in peace... [C]
Powell's POV: Excellent mic work from Wyatt and I'm happy they had him cut that promo in the ring rather than in the bad backstage setting. I love the way he just spoke over the fans and didn't pause to let them take over. He saved his best mic work for last. Hopefully the broadcast team will make a big fuss over Taker appearing at WrestleMania for the first time since last year. They haven't done a good job of establishing that because I don't think they wanted Raw viewers to know he wasn't going to show up. They have under an hour to drive that home in a big way.
ESPN's Michelle Beadle was shown in the crowd. Rick Rubin and Kid King were shown seated together...
Powell's POV: Why haven't they acknowledged Paul Stanley? That's odd.
[Q11] Cole set up the Kevin Nash video for his Hall of Fame induction...
Backstage, Natalya was putting on lipstick when Tyson Kidd sat down in the other room wearing headsets. Kidd was eating Burger King and spoke about how it smelled amazing and how there was no way of stopping true love. Natalya thought he was talking to her since there was a divider between them. She figured out he was not. He told her chicken fries are back. She sat down and ate one, then told him she needed a moment...
Powell's POV: That was so much better than anything Burger King did with that creepy King character they had.
The guy who should have won the Royal Rumble made his entrance to a much more favorable reaction than Roman Reigns will receive later tonight. The Intercontinental Title was shown hanging above the ring as Dolph Ziggler made his entrance. Booker T announced the results of the poll to determine the referee for the match. The winner was Dean Ambrose with 57 percent. R-Truth had 19 percent, Barrett had 13 percent, Stardust had seven percent, and Harper had four percent. Ambrose made his entrance looking like a Grease extra and carrying his referee t-shirt... [C]
7. Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler with Dean Ambrose as special referee. There was a faint chant for Bryan as the match started. JBL spoke about some of the great Intercontinental Champions of the past. Bryan charged at Ziggler on the floor. Ziggler moved and then clotheslined Bryan into the timekeeper's area. "Hey, you guys need to get back in the ring," Ambrose could be heard yelling just before the break.
[Q12] [C] After the break, Bryan hit a great German suplex into a bridge for a two count. Bryan went up top, but Ziggler crotched him by falling into the ropes. Ziggler, who just took a wicked German, went for a superplex. Bryan fought him off and headbutted him off the ropes. Ziggler jumped right back up and performed a Facebuster from the top rope for a two count.
Bryan got the better of Ziggler and threw kicks at him. Bryan caught him with a running dropkick in the corner. Bryan charged again and Ziggler caught him with a superkick and then Zig Zagged him for the clean win.
Dolph Ziggler beat Daniel Bryan in 10:50.
After the match, Ambrose attacked Ziggler. Ambrose went to ringside and grabbed a ladder. He made a play for the title belt and then waited while Bad News Barrett ran out and stopped him. The other challengers for the title entered the ring for a big, predictable brawl that the live crowd watched, yet didn't seem all that fired up about.
They all took turns climbing the ladder to make plays for the belt. Eventually, Harper pushed the ladder over with Ambrose and Stardust on it. The ladder bounced back and landed on Harper's leg, and he appeared to be in pain as he rolled to ringside and held that leg. No one was able to grab the title belt...
Powell's POV: I'm happy this wasn't a WrestleMania match. I enjoy the work of both men and I think a babyface vs. heel feud between them would be fun, but the straight up babyface vs. babyface match just because they are internet darlings never appealed to me. Did this match do more to boost Ziggler by getting a win over Bryan or more damage to Bryan because he lost to Ziggler? I would argue that latter.
Cole welcomed viewers from OSN and hyped that WWE Network would be available on OSN in 26 countries in the Middle East. JBL said it's $65 to get the pay-per-view or $9.99 to order WWE Network and watch it there...
Backstage, Paul Heyman knocked on Brock Lesnar's door and then opened it. "Hey, Champ, it's time," Heyman said... [C]
Powell's POV: Maybe it's just me because I zoned out the Lesnar and Reigns video packages since we saw them previously, but I didn't feel like they did a good job of consistently hyping the face-to-face segment between the two. It feels like a big deal now that it's happening, but I don't think they did a good job of setting and maintaining that tone from start to finish.
[Overrun] Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman made their entrance. Lesnar was sporting a first-round NHL playoff beard. "Yack, yack, yack, yack," Heyman said. He noted that if he hadn't sold people on the WrestleMania main event then there's nothing more he can say. "But if you're looking to see a fight, a fight, if you're looking to see Brock Lesnar lay a beating down on another human being... then I swear to you you are going to get your money's worth."
Heyman said either Lesnar is everything he says he is or he isn't. He said either Roman Reigns is everything they build him up to be or he isn't. Heyman said Lesnar makes failures out of every man that steps in front of him. He recalled the fans saying Brock Lesnar couldn't and wouldn't end The Streak. "I said he can and he did," Heyman said.
Heyman brought up the "prison beating" and used the same terminology. He noted that Cena isn't in the main event and isn't ending the show, Brock Lesnar is. Heyman brought up the mercenary label used for Lesnar. Heyman said he's a passionate competitor.
Heyman said Lesnar is a beast and a conquerer who will break down your front door, take your wife and take the food off your children's plate and rename them Lesnar. "This Sunday Brock Lesnar conquers the main event of WrestleMania," Heyman said. Heyman brought up Reigns' catchphrase. "Brock Lesnar says you can't and therefore you won't," Heyman concluded calmly.
Reigns' music hit to a mixed reaction. Reigns walked through the crowd and entered the ring. Once he entered the ring, Reigns glared at Lesnar, who smirked at him and then looked at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. There were dueling chants.
Lesnar held out the title belt and there were cheers. Lesnar held it up in Reigns' face. Roman took the title belt away from Lesnar and looked at it, then held it up to way more boos than cheers. Lesnar grabbed the belt and they wrestled over it while making mean faces as the show went off the air...
Powell's POV: I could have done without the mean faces belt tugging at the end, but Heyman was great. The look Lesnar shot him when Heyman started talking about his wife and kids was interesting. I couldn't tell if he was legitimately surprised Heyman went there and wasn't sure where he was going with that line or if it was something we'll look back on after WrestleMania. I can't remember a WrestleMania main eventer not speaking on the go-home show. They really went out of their way to protect him. I thought we'd at least hear something from him even if it was a new pre-taped promo. Overall, a good go-home show with solid hype for most of the top matches. The Smackdown tapings are taking place now, so hang around and we'll get have Will Pruett's updates available on the main page shortly. Likewise, join me for Prowrestling.net Live momentarily.
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