By Jason Powell
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WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live from Birmingham, Alabama at Legacy Arena
[Q1] The opening video aired and then Michael Cole, JBL, and Byron Saxton checked in on commentary… Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman made their entrance. The fans chanted “Suplex City” before Heyman introduced himself. Heyman said The Wyatt Family engaged in a conspiracy theory to take Lesnar out of the title picture. He said Lesnar would get his revenge when he feels like it.
Heyman said Stephanie McMahon did what is “beast for business” by booking him in the Fastlane main event in a “brother vs. brother vs. beast” match. Heyman said Lesnar will F5 both Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, stack them on top of one another, and win at Fastlane, then go to WrestleMania to win the title. Heyman said he wasn’t selling two-thirds of The Shield members short, but he said Reigns needs to explain to Ambrose what Lesnar is all about. Heyman said Ambrose isn’t playing with a full deck and used to take the short bus to school.
Dean Ambrose made his way to the ring and immediately went face to face with Lesnar. “Who are you calling a nut job, porky?” Ambrose asked. Ambrose said he thought that entering the den of the beast might be crazy. Ambrose said he isn’t afraid of Lesnar, but he respects him. Ambrose said he was there to look Lesnar in the eye to tell him that he wants the title, and he wants it so bad that he is going to fight his brother for it.
Ambrose asked whether he wants to fight Lesnar. “No, not really,” he said. Ambrose said no one has to sell him on the beating he’ll take from both men. “Take me to Suplex City, baby,” Ambrose said. Lesnar said off mic that he will. Ambrose said he hopes Lesnar is prepared to give him the worst beating he has ever dished out. Ambrose said he is the iron man of WWE and he will drag his broken body to WrestleMania and take the title away from Triple H.
Ambrose said he came out to say all of that out of respect. “Go ahead, Paul, I just wanted to come out here and see what all the fuss is about,” Ambrose concluded. Ambrose left the ring and his music played. Lesnar smiled. The camera mic picked up Lesnar and Heyman talking, with Heyman telling him not to take the bait…
Cole hyped Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens, and Kalisto was shown while Saxton hyped his match with Rusev for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: The one time you would like to see an opening promo segment go long we get a shortie. Of course, the nice thing is that they left us wanting more. Ambrose looked ballsy going face-to-face with Lesnar. I like the message that Ambrose sent as well. If they’re not careful, he might even be cheered over Reigns at Fastlane. Oh, wait, both Ambrose and Lesnar are going to be cheered more than Reigns at Fastlane, which may explain why we didn’t see the three of them together in this segment.
[Q2] 1. Kalisto vs. Rusev (w/Lana) in a non-title match. Alberto Del Rio sat in on commentary. Kalisto vs. Del Rio for the U.S. Title was announced for the Fastlane show. Del Rio said he got cocky the first time he faced Kalisto, and he lost twice. Cole tried to make sense of it. Meanwhile, Kalisto leapt over the top rope only to be kicked on the way down to ringside by Rusev on the floor. [C]
Kalisto came back with a springboard tornado DDT that Rusev sold really well. Kalisto performed some flashy offense until Rusev cut him off with a slam. Later, Kalisto dropkicked Rusev into the ring steps on the floor. Rusev got to his feet and threw Kalisto onto the broadcast table, but Kalisto landed on his feet. Kalisto performed a huracanrana, then rolled back inside the ring for the win…
Kalisto beat Rusev in a non-title match via count-out in 10:40.
Powell’s POV: That was a fun non-title match. It’s rare to see a count-out finish feel satisfying, but it was logical and it worked because of Kalisto’s underdog status. Sadly, Kalisto did not grab the mic and boast about having sex with Lana afterward to piss off a bunch of viewers again. Yes, I’m kidding.
[Q3] The broadcast team hyped AJ Styles on Miz TV… [C]
Backstage, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose were admiring the WWE World Heavyweight Championship that was in a case. Stephanie McMahon showed up and gloated about the two of them facing one another and Triple H being champion. Reigns said either he or Ambrose will be the number one contender coming out of Fastlane.
Stephanie ran through some famous turns and said the person turned on never saw it coming. She said absolute power corrupts absolutely. She said it’s just a matter of when. She said she’s not sure how much longer Dean wants to be known as Roman’s sidekick. Dean said Roman is his sidekick most of the time, but he knows what she’s doing. Stephanie booked them in a tag match against New Day for the main event…
Powell’s POV: Stephanie was very good at stirring the pot, and I like that Reigns finally didn’t look like a gullible dope. Rather, he and Ambrose both said they knew what she was doing. The crowd will be interesting in the main event because there were loud “New Day Rock” chants when she mentioned their name.
Michael Cole recapped the story of Nikki Bella’s surgery…. Backstage, Renee Young interviewed Brie Bella, who said doctors are very optimistic that her sister will return to the ring. Renee mentioned they will be on an upcoming edition of Ride Along.
Charlotte and Ric Flair showed up. Charlotte told Brie to pass along her sympathies, then took credit for potentially ending her career. Charlotte said she should apologize. “But why should I?” she asked. Charlotte said Nikki is at home starting her new chapter while online shopping…
The Uso Brothers made their entrance for a tag match and were introduced as “Grammy Award” winners by Lilian Garcia… [C]
Powell’s POV: So they are already setting up a Charlotte vs. Nikki match that may never happen?
[Q4] 2. The Uso Brothers vs. Adam Rose and Curtis Axel (w/Heath Slater). They replayed Lilian’s mistake and got a chuckle over it. The Social Outcasts asked “where’s Bo” during their entrance. Slater said he told them last week that he wouldn’t be here this week because he’s in the studio. The Uso Brothers had a, well, superkick party and then one of them followed up with a top rope splash on Rose for the win…
The Uso Brothers beat Adam Rose and Curtis Axel in 5:10.
Backstage, Miz took a sip of coffee and then shoved it into the assistant who brought it to him. Cole hyped AJ Styles on Miz TV for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: Lilian’s cute mistake was completely run into the ground by the broadcast team throughout the match. The match felt straight off of WWE Superstars even though everyone involved worked hard. The Social Outcasts gimmick somehow makes these guys feel like they are lower on the totem pole than they were as singles wrestlers.
The broadcast team hyped that WWE is featured in an in-flight magazine…
The Miz hosted Miz TV with guest A.J. Styles, who made his entrance while the broadcast team recapped his highlights from his Raw match against Chris Jericho.
[Q5] Styles took a seat next to Miz in the ring. “You finally made it,” Miz said. He said the WWE Universe wants to know who Styles is. Miz pulled the mic away before Styles could answer. He said Styles is a guy who was always told he doesn’t have the It Factor, and he used a Southern twang while saying Styles was the runt of the litter. Miz said Styles was too small for his football team. Miz said Styles worked hard and by the end he was the best player on the team.
Miz held the mic in front of Styles and then pulled it away. Miz stood up and continued to talk about Styles. Miz said Styles wondered what it was like to be in a WWE ring. He said years and years past and he saw the great white whale become more unattainable. Miz said the Rumble must have been the most important moment of his life. Rinse and repeat with the mic gag.
Miz asked where Styles goes from here after beating Jericho. Miz pulled the mic away again and said that Styles reminds him of Daniel Bryan. Miz said Styles was short in stature, an indy darling, and a great “wrassler.” Miz said Bryan achieved greatness after he took Bryan under his wing. Miz said some people have called him the Father of the Yes Movement. Funny.
Miz said he wants to guide and mentor Styles in WWE and all Styles has to say is yes. The fans chanted no. Miz told the crowd that when his hand goes up, their mouths go shut. He ran through his accomplishments and said there’s probably a reason Styles never made it to WWE. Miz said Styles was a big fish in a small pond and he will drown if he keeps listening to the fans. The fans chanted AJ Styles.
Miz asked the fans if they really believe a rookie redneck like Styles can make it in WWE without his guidance. Miz said there’s no chance in hell. Styles punched Miz and then worked him over in the corner before running him into one of the director’s chairs. Styles punched Miz until he fled the ring and ran up the ramp. “Do you know me now?” Styles yelled…
A recap of the Ambrose and Lesnar segment was shown. They amplified Brock’s comments to Heyman and Cole recapped them by saying Brock said there will be a lot of fussing to come tonight… Cole hyped Reigns and Ambrose vs. New Day as the main event… [C]
Powell’s POV: The Miz was fantastic in this segment. Say what you will about the lack of mic work they are giving Styles, but Miz told a warped version of the Styles story in a way that made the fans like Styles while also putting heat on himself. I hope the Southern jabs are not a regular part of the Styles jabs, but it worked here considering they are in Birmingham. I must admit that I didn’t have high hopes for this, but Miz really made it work.
[Q6] WWE is celebrating Black History Month. There was a quote from Aretha Franklin. Cole said they would be celebrating all night tonight, then said throughout the month of February… Boxer Deontay Wilder was shown in the crowd…
3. Divas Champion Charlotte (w/Ric Flair) vs. Brie Bella (w/Alicia Fox) in a non-title match. Late in the match, Brie applied a sleeper on a standing Charlotte. Ric stood on the ring apron while Fox just kind of threw a fit from the floor. Charlotte sat down to break it with a jaw jacker. Charlotte went for her finisher, but Brie caught her in inside cradle for the win. Cole said Brie is in contention for a title shot down the road. JBL congratulated Brie and Nikki at home…
Brie Bella beat Charlotte in a non-title match in 4:35.
Big Show vs. Erick Rowan was hyped for after the break. If that doesn’t keep viewers engaged then nothing will… [C]
Powell’s POV: This has to be quick TV thing, right? They already have Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks in the title picture, so I assume Brie gets a title shot on Smackdown. By the way, they’ve mentioned Nikki Bella’s injury more in two weeks than they have mentioned Tyson Kidd’s neck injury in nearly eight months.
The broadcast team discussed Bret Hart’s announcement that he is battling prostate cancer. JBL said Hart is a warrior and he can’t wait to see him back in WWE soon…
[Q7] 4. Big Show vs. Erick Rowan (w/Luke Harper, Braun Strowman). Before the match, Show picked up a piece of the ring steps and walked toward Strowman, the dropped them and went to the ring for his match. Show chokeslammed Rowan and pinned him clean.
Big Show beat Erick Rowan in 1:20.
After the match, Strowman entered the ring and had a staredown with Show. The crowd didnt really react. Strowman attacked Show, and then Harper quickly joined in. Rowan recovered and he joined in on the attack. Rowan performed his spin kick. Harper performed a big boot on a kneeling Show. Rowan clotheslined Show. There was a brief Big Show chant and some boos directed at the Wyatt Family. They brought Show to ringside and ran him into the ring steps, then teamed up to slam him onto the steps…
Powell’s POV: Yawn. Big Show never really turned babyface. We’re just supposed to like him now that he’s smiling more. In case you missed it, Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas both reportedly left Raw today to be with their grandfather Blackjack Mulligan, who is hospitalized in Florida.
5. Titus O’Neil vs. Tyler Breeze. A pre-taped Breeze interview aired with Breeze mocked Titus for being a jock and said there’s a reason they put the football helmet on his head. Titus toss Breeze around with ease and played to the crowd. Breeze went after the left knee of Titus and rammed it into the post.
[Q8] Titus came back with a clothesline and then hit his Clash of the Titus finisher for the win…
Titus O’Neil beat Tyler Breeze in 2:40.
Powell’s POV: It’s nice to see good guy Titus get a little something. It’s just too bad it comes at the expense of the underutilized Breeze.
Backstage, Heyman was talking with Lesnar about not reacting when people try to get him to play into their hands. Triple H entered the room. Brock shot up. Hunter asked for a moment, and Heyman left the room. Hunter said he couldn’t believe he saw “Little Dean Ambrose” go face to face with Lesnar and live to tell about it. Hunter asked if things are getting soft in Suplex City. Lesnar told him he’ll find out at WrestleMania. Hunter said he’s looking forward to it. “So am I, I’ll see you there,” Lesnar said… [C]
Powell’s POV: I think most of us expect Reigns to win the Triple Threat, but I like the way they have focussed more on Lesnar and Ambrose tonight. It keeps casual viewers guessing and it may even create some doubt in the minds of some fans who expect them to go with Reigns.
The broadcast team hyped AJ Styles vs. The Miz for Thursday’s Smackdown television show… Stephanie McMahon will be on Good Morning America on Tuesday…
6. Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler. Cole recapped the confrontation the duo had on the Raw Pre-Show earlier tonight. Ziggler got off to a quick start, but Owens caught him and threw him into the timekeeper’s area heading into the break. [C] Ziggler sold coming out of the break.
[Q9] Ziggler knocked Owens off the apron with a superkick and then performed a Fameasser on the floor. Owens fired back with a superkick for a two count. Owens caught Ziggler with a cannonball in the corner and then went for his finisher, but Ziggler leapt over him and performed the Zigzag for the upset win. Afterward, Owens knocked JBL’s hat off the desk. “What did my hat do to you?” JBL asked on commentary…
Dolph Ziggler pinned Kevin Owens in 10:20.
Powell’s POV: The announcers didn’t really sell this as an upset. Rather, they talked about how Ziggler pulled out a win after taking so much punishment. They also comically talked about how important the matches are right now with WrestleMania right around the corner. You know, like last week’s matches played such a big part in determining the Fastlane main event. Anyway, the usual good match from these two. I assume Owens gets his win back on Thursday or next week. Lord knows they need strong heels right now and Owens is the most over full-time heel on the roster.
A Black History Month feature on Mark Henry aired. It featured Big Show saying he’s one of the best human beings he has ever met, and Rock talking about how proud of Henry he is. Cole said he is proud to call Henry a friend… Cole hyped the main event… [C]
Sasha Banks headed to the ring. She cut a promo and said that Brie Bella and Becky Lynch can’t hold a candle to her because she is the boss.
[Q10] Naomi and Tamina walked onto the stage. “Look at baby girl,” Naomi said. Naomi said Sasha is stepping out on her own. Naomi and Tamina acted like it was a proud moment. Sasha said she came to WWE to be the best. Naomi and Tamina entered the ring and said they feel the same way and understand that partnerships don’t last forever.
Tamina said they came out to congratulate Sasha themselves. Naomi said they wouldn’t let it manifest itself into some crazy Twitter war like Kanye and Wiz Khalifa. Sasha asked if they came out to give her their blessing. “I mean, of course, why wouldn’t we, unless you think you can do this on your own?” Naomi asked. Sasha asked for unity. They all put their hands together and did that horrific unity call. Becky Lynch made her entrance for a match against Sasha… [C]
7. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks (w/Naomi, Tamina). Sasha kicked Lynch off the ring apron. Naomi and Tamina were about to go after Lynch when Sasha intervened. Sasha said she doesn’t need them. She tried to go back to the match, but they stopped her and attacked her for the DQ. Lynch ran out to help Sasha. They ended up back in the ring and then prevented Naomi and Tamina from getting back inside. There was an audible NXT chant…
Becky Lynch fought Sasha Banks to a no-contest in 3:35.
Powell’s POV: A decent angle with Lynch looking admirable from come to the aid an opponent who recently attacked her. Please let this be the last time we have to hear the awful unity line. By the way, the bulk of the mic work involving Sasha, Naomi, and Tamina felt really forced and unnatural.
A preview aired from JBL’s interview with Ron Simmons that will air on the network after Raw… [C]
[Q11] Footage aired of AJ Styles pinning Chris Jericho on last week’s Raw and the tense handshake that followed… Backstage, Young interviewed Jericho, who quoted the late Glenn Frey’s “Everybody’s talking about the new kid in town” lyric. He said everything about his match with Styles was great aside from the outcome. He said Styles is a fighter and he likes that because he’s a fighter too. Jericho said he’ll be watching Styles vs. Miz very closely. “I’m taking it very seriously, Renee, and I can’t wait to see it,” Jericho said…
Powell’s POV: No bitching allowed when it comes to Jericho using a Frey lyric. RIP. Watch “The History of The Eagles” on Netflix if you haven’t done so already. The first half is phenomenal. Oh, and then watch the great “Better Call Saul” season one, which just arrived on Netflix.
Backstage, R-Truth was complaining to himself about Goldust texting and calling him when he walked in on Goldust squatting on top of a toilet seat. Goldust pimped the Golden Truth tag team again. Truth said he’s flattered, but he doesn’t want to team with him. Truth said Goldust is a weirdo and now he has “doo-doo on his foot.”
Goldust said Truth’s last tag partner was Little Jimmy and questioned whether he was imaginary. Truth asked if he was going to cut him to the white meat. Truth said that was a deep cut and walked away. Goldust said he meant interplanetary, not imaginary…
New Day made their entrance for the main event… [C] Cole hyped Roman Reigns vs. Rusev for Thursday’s Smackdown television show along with the previously advertised Styles vs. Miz match…
Paul Heyman sat in on commentary for the main event…
New Day did their thing prior to the match. Xavier Woods said BootyGate is putting so much stress on Francesca that she can’t sleep at night. Big E said they’re not talking about Kanye ass play, they’re talking about Rock. Big E said Raw is family program. Kofi said New Day loves kids. They showed a young fan wearing a Bullet Club t-shirt. Kofi said they love him, but they will still fight him, just out of love. Woods said they stand for fair treatment of trombones and children around the world.
New Day declared that they are getting revenge by beating up The Rock’s cousin and The Rock’s cousin’s friends. They dubbed Ambrose and Reigns “Ambreigns.” They closed it out with their New Day rocks routine. Roman Reigns made his entrance through the crowd, then Ambrose made his entrance via the stage…
Powell’s POV: Mildly entertaining, yet no real attempt to generate heat.
[Q12] 8. Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose vs. Kofi Kingston and Big E (w/Xavier Woods). Reigns set up for his finisher on Kofi, who was pulled to ringside by his teammates heading into the break. [C] E went for a splash on Reigns on the apron, but Reigns moved and E crashed to the floor.
[Overrun] New Day isolated Ambrose in their corner and Woods played the trombone on the floor. Big E put Ambrose in an abdominal stretch and then slapped his ass to the New Day Rocks beat. Reigns took the hot tag and got some boos as he worked over Kingston, but more fans counted along as he threw clotheslines in the corner.
Rapid fire big move time with Kingston throwing a great dropkick through the ropes on Ambrose, Reigns taking out Kingston, and then Big E performing a belly-to-belly on Reigns onto the table. A short time later, Reigns and Ambrose recovered, and Reigns took out Kingston with a Superman Punch and then Ambrose hit Dirty Deeds on Big E and pinned him. Cole pointed out that Ambrose and Reigns got along. “So far,” JBL said.
Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose beat New Day in a non-title match in 17:20.
After the match, Brock Lesnar’s music played and he walked to ringside. New Day attacked Reigns and Ambrose from behind. Lesnar entered the ring and F5’d Ambrose. Lesnar’s music played and he left the ring and joined up with Heyman at ringside. Lesnar looked back at the ring and smirked to end the show…
Powell’s POV: I really missed heel Heyman on commentary tonight. The main event featured good in-ring work with Kofi flying all over and Big E taking some bigger bumps than usual. Still, it felt uneventful. The fans have no reason to strongly dislike New Day because they set out to entertain more than to garner true heat most weeks. And I didn’t expect them to have Reigns and Ambrose show any tension tonight, but I thought we might get a seed planted for future tension at the very least. Brock’s F5 on Ambrose afterward was pretty straight forward as well. I guess tonight was the night to create issues between them since they really didn’t do anything with Lesnar and Reigns. Overall, this felt like a marathon show without any more storyline developments.