By Jason Powell
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WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live from Anaheim, California at Honda Center
[Q1] Raw opened with a recap of the segments involving Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose from last week… Michael Cole, JBL, and Byron Saxton were on commentary…
Dean Ambrose made his entrance while the broadcast team hyped the Fastlane main event. Ambrose said he’s in for the fight of his life at Fastlane. Ambrose said he has visions of Lesnar trying to F5 him, which he said could not get done last week. Ambrose said that if Lesnar is in the building or in the state of California, he should come out and get himself another piece.
Ladies first! Stephanie McMahon’s music played instead. “Was I not what you were expecting?” Stephanie asked the booing crowd. Steph mocked Ambrose for needing Reigns to come out so he could hit Lesnar from behind. Stephanie played up that Ambrose could win on Sunday and then face her husband in the main event of WrestleMania. Ambrose said he was starting to cool down and asked if they could get to the fighting.
Stephanie asked if Ambrose wants and F5. She said he would get it, but not in the way he wanted it. Stephanie announced a Fatal Five-Way match for the Intercontinental Championship and wished him good luck. Steph teased leaving, then stopped and said that if Roman Reigns interferes in this match then Ambrose would be disqualified. Stephanie put herself in Reigns’ shoes and questioned whether she would save Ambrose and cost him the title or let him be softened up for Sunday. Stephanie announced the match would take place immediately…
Ring introductions for the IC Title match took place with Kevin Owens, Stardust, Tyler Breeze, and Dolph Ziggler entering as challengers… [C]
Powell’s POV: A good start to Raw with a brief talking segment that sets up an intriguing match. The real intrigue for viewers will come if Ambrose drops the title in this match heading into Sunday and what that could mean as far as his chances of winning the Triple Threat. Cole explained that the first pin or submission wins. He also covered the fact that there are typically not disqualifications in these types of matches.
[Q2] 1. Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens vs. Stardust vs. Tyler Breeze vs. Dolph Ziggler in a Fatal 5-Way for the Intercontinental Title. There were some rapid fire spots at 3:30 and then Owens powerbombed Breeze onto Stardust and Ziggler who were on the floor. Ambrose took control and hit his top rope elbow on Owens and went for a cover, but Stardust broke up the pin. Breeze caught Stardust with a kick. All five men were down heading into the break. [C]
Coming out of the break, Cole said Stephanie stacked the deck against Ambrose. The rapid fire action continued coming out of the break. Owens blasted Stardust with a superkick and then covered Ambrose for a two count. Owens performed cannonball, but then ran into a Beauty Shot from Breeze, who had him pinnned only for the other entrants to break it up. The fans chanted “this is awesome.”
Ambrose set up for his finisher on Stardust, but Ziggler hit the Zigzag, which caused Stardust to take Dirty Deeds. Breeze quickly threw Ziggler from the ring, then walked into a Popup Powerbomb from Owens, who pinned him to win the match and the title…
Kevin Owens defeated Dean Ambrose, Tyler Breeze, Stardust, and Dolph Ziggler in a Fatal 5-Way to win the Intercontinental Title.
[Q3] Cole hyped an interview with Brie Bella regarding her state of mind following Daniel Bryan’s retirement and heading into her title match on Sunday…
Powell’s POV: That was a lot of fun. Never a dull moment. I was actually hoping they would surprise everyone by making Breeze a player, but I’m certainly not complaining about Owens winning the IC Title. There are several questions coming out of the match. Obviously, the big one is whether they are freeing up Ambrose because he’s winning on Sunday. Keep in mind that Reigns never used his rematch clause, so they could turn the WrestleMania main event into a Triple Threat. It’s also possible that they thought fans read into Ambrose holding the IC Title as a sign that he was not a realistic candidate to win on Sunday for whatever reason. I’m also curious to see what this means for the IC Title at WrestleMania. I would love to see Owens vs. AJ Styles, but I think it’s also possible we see another big train wreck ladder match for the IC Title.
Backstage, Ambrose was interviewed by Renee Young. He said nothing the Authority does shocks him anymore. He said they think they’ve taken everything from him, but they’ve given him motivation, inspiration, and dedication to win at Fastlane. He said he has nothing to lose and spoke about facing Triple H. “It gives you goosebumps, doesn’t it?” Ambrose asked.
They went back to the broadcast team briefly, then they went backstage again where Owens was telling Young to tell the world he was right about it being his Intercontinental Title. Dolph Ziggler walked into the picture mock applauding him and congratulated him “on a job…done.” Ziggler said he beat Owens twice and he deserves to be the first challenger. “Nah,” Owens said before walking off…
Powell’s POV: A good fiery promo from Ambrose. It’s nice to see the Ziggler wins over Owens make some sense in retrospect regardless of whether this was planned when those matches took place.
New Day made their entrance. Footage aired of New Day’s segment with Edge & Christian on Raw back in September. Cole announced The Cutting Edge Peep Show for the Fastlane with New Day as their guests. They did a musical bit. Big E said it was the worst thing to happen in music since Coldplay performed the halftime show. Amen. They also complained about Mark Henry walking out on them last week. Kingston referred to Henry as “the world’s largest booty hole.” Mark Henry made his entrance for a match against Big E…
Powell’s POV: The Edge & Christian show debuts on WWE Network after Fastlane, so the two of them appearing on Fastlane is a logical promotional move.
[Q4] [C] 2. Mark Henry vs. Big E (w/Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods). Big E performed a splash for a near fall at 3:10. He went for an abdominal stretch, but Henry reversed it into a hip-toss. Henry slammed E and covered him for two. Woods climbed onto the ring apron and played the trombone until Henry shoved him off the apron. Henry performed a big boot to the head of E, but E came back with an attempted finisher. Henry escaped E’s shoulders, but then dropped to the mat. E covered him and pinned him. The announcers said Henry may have suffered broken ribs from two splashes earlier…
Big E pinned Mark Henry in 4:35.
Saxton hyped the Brie interview for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: Well, that was an awkward finish. On the bright side, there’s a chance that Big Show vs. Braun Strowman will not be the worst match on the night.
Cole hyped that Brock Lesnar will appear on Smackdown this week for the first time in 12 years…
Byron Saxton stood in the ring and introduced Brie Bella. Footage aired of Daniel Bryan’s retirement speech with him saying he was able to meet the most wonderful woman in the world and how they want to have children soon. Saxton asked Brie how Bryan is doing. The fans chanted his name before she could answer. Brie said that last week was hard for him, but the love the fans showed and all the support he got backstage allowed him to turn a negative into a positive. She said he is ready to start the next chapter of his life.
[Q5] Charlotte’s entrance music interrupted the interview, and then she and Ric Flair walked to the ring together. Charlotte said Bryan really was in a league of his own. Brie corrected her by saying that Bryan “is” in a league of his own. The fans cheered. Charlotte said it’s not like he died or something. Brie said Bryan is very much alive and looking forward to the next chapter of his life.
Charlotte said you never know what tomorrow will bring and you have to live each day like its your last. She said she would understand if Brie forfeited at Fastlane. Charlotte said most women would want to be at home with their husband. She said Daniel lost his childhood dream, but who is she to judge. Brie said that’s right and Bryan supports her one hundred percent. Charlotte said Brie now supports Bryan one hundred percent.
“Oh, that’s why you’re here, you and Daniel need the money,” Charlotte said. Brie recalled Charlotte talking about her sister two weeks ago and now doing the same about her husband. Charlotte said she made a sympathetic gesture. Charlotte said Brie needs to go home and help Nikki Bella with her physical therapy and open up a bed and breakfast with Bryan. Charlotte said she doesn’t need Brie, but her sister and husband do.
Brie said Charlotte came out to mess with her head because she is afraid. She said Charlotte knows that she needs that because Brie is not an “easy beat.” Brie said Charlotte added fuel to the fire and she is disgusted by the champion that Charlotte has become. Charlotte held the ropes open for her father, who went to ringside.
Charlotte got in Brie’s face and said she hopes she remembers this moment because she gave her a chance to walk away. She said she can only imagine what Brie’s goat-faced, vegan babies will become. Brie attacked her and threw a series of Bryan kicks at Charlotte, who then fled the ring…
The broadcast team set up a brief video package of the Wyatt Family taking out Kane and Ryback in past segments, then hyped Braun Strowman vs. Big Show for later in the show…
Chris Jericho made his entrance with his lite-brite jacket. Cole said Jericho would be joining them on commentary for the Styles vs. Miz match… [C]
Powell’s POV: A good segment between the women. Charlotte did a nice job on the mic. She silenced a Yes! chant at one point, and she had good facial expressions that told viewers that Brie was right when she accused her of playing mind games. I like that she continues to take center stage while her father plays more of a background role. Brie has never been a great talker, but Charlotte carried the segment and Brie held up her end nicely. I hope WWE doesn’t save that Show vs. Strowman match for the third hour when the live crowds tend to lost steam.
[Q6] 3. AJ Styles vs. The Miz. Cole introduced Jericho as a legend, and Jericho joked around with JBL about being referred to as a legend. Actor Gerard Butler was shown in the front row. Jericho spoke about giving Styles the Codebreaker after their tag match on Smackdown. He said he didn’t do it to disrespect him but rather to let him know he’s not the biggest fish in the WWE pond.
Miz attacked Styles before the bell. Jericho and JBL spoke about working in Japan. Jericho said all the titles you win in Japan mean nothing once you get to WWE. He said Styles is not a rookie, but he is a rookie to WWE. One of the broadcast team members asked if Jericho is embarrassed by losing to Styles in his debut match. Jericho asked if the announcer was embarrassed by walking around in a cheap suit. He said there’s no shame in losing to Styles, then said he has the advantage after winning the rematch. Miz went to ringside and jawed at Jericho, which led to Styles performing a flying forearm off the ring steps heading into the break. [C]
Jericho said he isn’t cutting down Styles in terms of ability, but he said he doesn’t know whether he likes him. He said Styles has an ego and was boasting to people that he won their first match. Styles scored a couple near falls and went for the spinning back fist. Miz ducked it and Styles rolled him up again for two. Styles hit the Pele Kick for two.
Styles went up top, but Miz recovered and cut him off. Styles came back with a springboard forearm for another two count. Styles stood up and played to the crowd. Miz ducked a punch, and then Miz hit the Skull Crushing Finale for a good near fall. Styles avoided a charging Miz and then rolled him into a Calf Crusher and got the submission win…
AJ Styles beat The Miz in 12:05.
After the match, Jericho stood up with a mic in hand and started to talk, but Styles interrupted him. Styles said Jericho got his win on Smackdown, but it’s eating him up that he was beaten by him in his first WWE match.
[Q7] Styles challenged Jericho to a third match at the Fastlane pay-per-view. Jericho didn’t look wowed. He said that was a phenomenal idea and it sounds like the fans want to see the match again, but he’s not sure if he wants to wrestle him again. “I’ll think about it and I’ll let you know Thursday on Smackdown,” Jericho said. “I’ll see you, buddy,” Jericho said. JBL said it was a veteran move to play mind games…
Cole hyped The Dudley Boyz appearing after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A good match between Styles and Miz. I can’t help but wonder how casual viewers see Styles given that it took him so much longer to defeat Miz than it takes most of the other wrestlers. I like the post-match angle as a nice minor hook for Smackdown. That said, I am a little surprised they didn’t make the announcement tonight simply so they could hype the match in front of the the Raw audience.
A brief Black History Month video aired and featured a Nelson Mandela quote about education…
The Dudley Boyz headed to the ring for a promo and teased pulling tables out from underneath the ring. Once in the ring, Bubba chuckled over the fans thinking they were going to get the tables. Bubba called for The Uso Brothers to come out. Bubba said they were unable to appear, then set up a video package of he and D-Von turning on them last week.
D-Von said people thought they were going to ride off into the sunset. He said they are not a GNR tour (fighting words!), they are the baddest tag team on the planet. Bubba said the tables are gone forever. The fans booed. Bubba said fans could watch the best of them on WWE Network to see all of the great teams they have beaten. Bubba said they are nine time tag champions and that’s how their legacy will be defined, “not by a piece of furniture.”
The fans chanted “We Want Tables” and Bubba said those chants will fall on deaf ears. Bubba said he and D-Von don’t give a damn what the fans think. D-Von closed out the promo with a testify line…
A shot aired of Paige walking backstage as Cole hyped “Divas action” for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A decent promo from the Dudley Boyz. I’m really waiting for Bubba to break into Bully Ray mode in WWE. We’re not there yet.
[Q8] 4. Paige vs. Summer Rae. Cole said we are 48 days away from WrestleMania. Summer hit Paige with a spinning kick to take control. Paige came back and was standing and looking to the crowd while holding onto Summer’s legs. Summer reached up and rolled Paige into a pin and got the three count…
Summer Rae beat Paige in 3:40.
The broadcast team pimped Fastlane on WWE Network and used their flashcards… Paul Heyman was shown walking backstage… [C]
Powell’s POV: JBL did a nice job of acting surprised by the outcome (and he may have been if he doesn’t know the results going in). Paige kicked out right after the three count and then Summer taunted her from the floor. I assume Paige gets her win back soon and this is just parity booking, but it was nice to see an upset that might make viewers pay a little more attention to Summer’s upcoming matches.
Saxton hyped Brock Lesnar appearing on Smackdown for the first time in 12 years…
Paul Heyman stood in the ring and was introduced by Lilian Garcia. Heyman then introduced himself as the advocate for the next undisputed champion. Heyman said WWE Network will offer live coverage of a historic match. Heyman said one beast will emerge victorious and then main event WrestleMania against Triple H for the title.
Heyman called out Roman Reigns so he could look him in the eye and say what he had to say straight to his face. Reigns made his entrance through the crowd and entered the ring. Heyman looked up at the WrestleMania sign and then Reigns joined him in doing so.
[Q9] Heyman shook Roman’s hand and said he wanted to thank him for coming out so he could say it to his face. Heyman explained that if Reigns wasn’t out there, people would say he was disrespecting him even though he has the utmost respect for him. Heyman said Reigns knows he feels that neither he nor Ambrose can get Lesnar either alone or together. Heyman said Reigns’ dream is to win on Sunday night, win the title, and then go home to his wife and daughter with the title.
Heyman said Lesnar stands in his way. Heyman said Reigns has a huge challenge because Ambrose stands in his way as well. Heyman said Reigns has a choice to make – “your daughter or your best friend because you can’t have them both.” Heyman said Roman can’t keep his promise to his daughter and maintain his friendship with Ambrose.
Heyman said there are people in the business who choose friendship over family “and those are the ones who end up in divorce court.” He said there are others who choose family over friendship and those are the ones who sit alone in the locker room and potentially stand alone in the center of the ring as the champion at WrestleMania.
Heyman said that is the sacrifice that Reigns must make, and that’s the life they live for the championship that Reigns wants. Heyman said the enemy of thy enemy is not your friend. Heyman said Lesnar is the enemy on Sunday night, and so is Dean Ambrose. Reigns smiled and nodded his head.
“Your good,” Reigns said before there were some boos from the crowd. Roman shook Heyman’s hand and thanked him. He said nobody says what they are thinking to another man’s face. Reigns said he made a choice a long time ago. He said Ambrose did the same and that’s why they don’t have problems with this. Reigns said he beat him and it was one of the hardest things he’s ever done in his life. Reigns said he’s never beaten Lesnar, “but I have beaten his ass.” The fans cheered.
Reigns said he has everything on the line on Sunday. “I’m gonna win somehow at Fastlane and then I’m going to WrestleMania and I’m gonna beat Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship,” he said. “And now I know that you believe that.” Reigns shook Heyman’s hand and they spoke off-mic briefly. Heyman left the ring as Roman’s music played.
Suddenly, the Dudley Boyz hit the ring and attacked Reigns from behind. Cole questioned what this was all about. Reigns fought back briefly, but Bubba caught him with a big boot to the head. “You know who we are, Roman?” Bubba asked. “Feel this.” Dean Ambrose’s music played and he ran out for the save. Ambrose was nearly outnumbered, but Roman recovered and hit a Superman Punch on D-Von.
Reigns and Ambrose stood together in the ring while the Dudleys backed away. Cole pointed out the history of Heyman and the Dudley Boyz. Roman shook Ambrose’s hand. Suddenly, Ambrose pulled him in and teased Dirty Deeds, but he didn’t hit the move. Reigns looked shocked. Ambrose pointed to the WrestleMania sign and spoke to Reigns off-mic, saying that if he wants to make it to WrestleMania then he better be quicker than that. Reigns smiled and they bumped fists, which drew some boos. Saxton called it a warning shot…
Cole hyped the “Vincent J McMahon Legacy of Excellence Award” for next week. Cole said that officials say it is the most prestigious award that WWE will ever present, and no one has deserved the award until now. Cole said the award would be presented next week. Cole then shifted the focus to The Wyatt Family going after Big Show next week, then hyped Show vs. Strowman for later in the show… [C]
Powell’s POV: That is the Paul Heyman who has been missing throughout the build to the Triple Threat. This is similar to the respect that Heyman showed for Reigns during the build to the WrestleMania 31 match between Roman and Lesnar. They can always go back to these segments if they ever turn Reigns and Heyman together, but in the meantime it makes for unique television. My guess is that the VJM Award is an on-air award that goes to Triple H or if someone turns in the main event on Sunday. I could be way off on that, but the line about how no one deserved it until now seemed like a tell that this is storyline related more than a sincere award. Tell me they’re not making Show vs. Strowman the main event.
[Q10] 5. Heath Slater (w/Adam Rose, Curtis Axel, and Bo Dallas) vs. Zack Ryder. A Social Outcasts pre-tape aired about how they are the real all-stars. The Outcasts took an early victory lap at ringside. Ryder hit his finisher for a two count. In the end, he was distracted by Dallas climbing onto the apron, which led to Slater performing an Impaler DDT for the win…
Heath Slater beat Zack Ryder in 2:10.
Powell’s POV: I have no idea what they want viewers to feel towards the Social Outcasts. Are they heels?
A pre-tape aired with R-Truth on a date at a restaurant “earlier tonight” with an unnamed woman. The woman praised him for being romantic. Goldust showed up as the waiter. Truth told him it’s not a Table For 3 episode. Goldust pulled out a bottle of champagne. Truth wasn’t pleased, but Goldust insisted that he worked at the restaurant and said the champagne was compliments of the house. Truth said they were not “in your house.” Goldust said it’s not 1997. Goldust ended up spraying the champagne on Truth’s date… [C]
Powell’s POV: Don’t worry, gang, I’m sure Big Show vs. Braun Strowman will make up for this!
A Kevin Owens spotlight video aired as part of WWE advertising for Geico… Cole hyped Owens vs. Ziggler for the IC Title at Fastlane. JBL pointed out that Owens rejected the match. Cole said WWE officials approved it… Cole hyped Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio for the U.S. Title on the Fastlane Kickoff Show…
6. The Lucha Dragons and Neville vs. Sheamus, Rusev, and Alberto Del RIo (w/King Barrett). The babyfaces performed big dives onto the heels at 1:10 and returned to the ring before the break.
[Q11] [C] Rusev was all over Kalisto coming out of the break. Late in the match, Kalisto dove at Rusev and they both tumbled to the floor. Sin Cara sent Del Rio to ringside and then performed a suicide dive. Barrett distracted Sin Cara as he was returning to the ring, allowing Del Rio to catch him with a kick. With Sin Cara hanging from the middle of the ropes for no good reason, Del Rio performed his double stomp for the win…
Sheamus, Rusev, and Alberto Del Rio beat The Lucha Dragons and Neville in 9:20.
Cole set up another Black History Month video. This one focussed on Booker T…
Powell’s POV: Del RIo performing his finisher from a distance was kinda cool, but Sin Cara holding himself in that position looked ridiculous. They filled ten minutes of television time on a show that ran out of steam after the Heyman and Reigns segment. WWE overdoes the distraction finish and now we saw it in back to back matches.
Cole set up footage of Naomi and Tamina confronting Becky Lynch as she arrived. Becky said they could save it for later. Tamina nailed her with a big boot. Naomi said she would see her in the ring later. They did the hideous “unity” line… Cole hyped Lynch vs. Naomi for after the break…
[Q12] [C] Michelle Beadle was shown sitting in the front row. Apparently she’s no longer bothered by Triple H hanging out with “serial abuser” Floyd Mayweather Jr… Backstage, Alberto Del Rio said he let Kalisto win, and now he wants him in a best of three falls match so he can squash him not once but twice…
7. Naomi (w/Tamina) vs. Becky Lynch. Both women went for pins, and when Naomi kicked out Lynch applied the Disarmer for the submission win. Afterward, Tamina attacked Lynch and Sasha joined her. Sasha Banks came out to ringside. Tamina actually performed a Samoan drop on Becky rather than just be frozen because someone made their entrance. Sasha entered the ring and the heels fled…
Becky Lynch beat Naomi in 2:10.
The broadcast team hyped the Sasha and Becky vs. Naomi and Tamina match for Fastlane, then set up footage of the Wyatt Family attacking Ryback on Raw last week. Cole hyped the Show vs. Strowman main event… [C]
Powell’s POV: A Show vs. Strowman main event? Not gonna lie, I’d much rather be watching Better Caul Saul right now. This last hour has been so flat. I assume the main event will be more of an angle than a match. Still, it involves Big Show and Braun Strowman. Seriously?
Cole hyped Brock Lesnar for Smackdown, then Saxton announced Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose vs. The Dudley Boyz for Smackdown… Cole hyped the Vincent J McMahon Award for next week and once again said no one has deserved the award until now…
[Overrun] The Wyatt Family made their entrance. Luke Harper said everyone can awaken from their slumber or beg for mercy. Erick Rowan said that without them, there is no hope. Wyatt cut a promo about how his followers will walk with him in the fires of the apocalypse. Wait, I thought it was here already. Anyway, Wyatt said he offers everyone paradise. The fans were giving him the What? treatment. Wyatt told the fans that all they have to do is bow to him. After Wyatt’s weekly apocalypse talk was over, he handed the mic to Strowman, who said “wake up or run.” Big Show’s music played and he came out for the match that the world has been waiting for…
8. Big Show vs. Braun Strowman (w/Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan). Strowman knocked Show down with a clothesline. Show came back with a clothesline. Erick Rowan entered the ring and Show fought him off, but the ref called for the bell.
Big Show beat Braun Strowman in 2:25.
After the match, the Wyatt Family attacked Show. Ryback made his entrance and helped Show, but he was quickly outnumbered. Once both babyfaces were down, Kane’s pyro shot off. Kane emerged from a hole in the corner of the ring and helped the other babyfaces. Kane and Show teamed up for a double chokeslam on Harper. The Wyatt Family headed up the ramp while the babyfaces stood tall. There was a scattered “Feed Me More” chant and then Kane’s pyro shot off. Cole said the “titans of WWE” are not ready to relinquish their throne. Cole hyped the Stone Cold Podcast interview with Big Show coming up on WWE Network…
Powell’s POV: I wish they would have aired the Austin interview with Big Show in place of this third hour of Raw. It’s so hard to be excited about Show, Kane, and Ryback feuding with the Wyatt Family, and it’s certainly not main event worthy, especially on a go-home show. Did they phone it in because of the Grammy Awards? Have the third hour numbers been so lousy that they decided to put the meaningful material in the first couple hours? The show was fine until the Reigns and Heyman segment concluded, and then it was just a big waste of time. I will have more to say in members’ audio later tonight, and in the WWE Raw Hit List on Tuesday. I am unable to cover the Austin interview with Show live tonight, but I will be sure to let you know if anything newsworthy comes out of it.