By Jason Powell
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WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live from Nashville, Tennessee at Bridgestone Arena
[Q1] Raw opened with a video recapping Triple H attacking Roman Reigns at the end of last week’s show… The opening video aired… Michael Cole, JBL, and Byron Saxton were on commentary. Cole noted that WrestleMania is 34 days away…
Triple H made his entrance wearing a suit and carrying the WWE World Heavyweight Championship over his shoulder. Cole said Hunter was responsible for “one of the most hellacious, vicious beatdowns we have ever seen.” Cole apparently missed Booker T stating on the pre-show that this happened every week during the Attitude Era.
Triple H went to speak and was booed. “Authority, a select few have it and the rest of you bow down to it,” he started. Hunter said the fans all have authority figures they have to listen to and they all hate it. Hunter said they all want to stand up and challenge the authority, but they don’t do it because they are afraid. Hunter said that fear isn’t a bad thing, it’s what keeps things in place, and nature provides it so they all know their places in life.
Hunter said Roman Reigns should have listened to that fear and knew his place, but he challenged authority and disrespected him. There was a “Roman” chant that Hunter stop to listen to, but it didn’t pick up much additional steam. Hunter said the disrespect has Roman at home breathing through his mouth and hoping his WrestleMania dream still exists. Hunter said you do not question authority.
Dean Ambrose’s music interrupted Triple H’s rant. Once Ambrose was in the ring, there was a chant for him that lasted about as long as the one Roman received. Ambrose said he just got off the phone with Reigns and he said hello to Hunter, and to let him know what he’s coming for him.
Hunter introduced Ambrose as being fresh off his Oscars win for best supporting actor in a bromance. Ambrose chuckled and said he was in a movie and it was pretty good. Ambrose spoke about how crazy last week was. There was a “Shane-O-Mac” chant.
Ambrose asked Hunter if he likes Shane or not. Hunter just kind of nodded as if to tell Ambrose to get to the point. Ambrose asked who Hunter didn’t want to win at Fastlane. Hunter said it’s an irrelevant question. Hunter said the only people who meant anything in the Triple Threat were Reigns and Brock Lesnar, and it was easy to see that Ambrose was not a factor in it.
Ambrose stepped forward and asked Hunter if he can see him now. Ambrose said it’s hard for Hunter to remember all the little people, but he’s Dean Ambrose and he’s pretty sure that he’s the last guy that Hunter wanted to face at WrestleMania.
Hunter laughed and said, “You are crazy, aren’t you?” Hunter said he thought Ambrose was doing this as a schtick for the fans, but he really is mental. “Why does everybody keeping saying that?” Ambrose replied. Ambrose said he makes poor decisions at times, but Hunter is the Cerebral Assassin and Hunter has known for a long time that he can’t beat him. Ambrose said he could smell it on Hunter.
[Q2] Triple H said the unfamiliar smell is laundry detergent, clean clothes, money, and power. There was a “You Can’t Beat Him” chant. Ambrose challenged Hunter to a match. The fans chanted “Yes!” Ambrose told them he’s not finished yet. Ambrose followed up by asking Hunter for a title match. Ambrose said Roman won the right to challenge for the title, but that doesn’t mean Hunter will be the champion.
Hunter mocked Ambrose for thinking that’s the way things work. Triple H said he’s the authority and Ambrose’s thoughts and ideas mean nothing. However, he said it’s intriguing and he would take it under advisement. Hunter said he would think about it and give Ambrose an answer by the end of the night. Ambrose asked if that meant the end of the show or if Hunter was going to text him.
Hunter said it would be before the end of Raw. He said he was going to give Ambrose the night off since he was mauled by Brock Lesnar, but he changed his mind. Hunter booked Ambrose in a singles match against Alberto Del Rio with the rest of League of Nations at ringside…
The broadcast team spoke at ringside. JBL was offended by Ambrose challenging Hunter, while Saxton appreciated the guts it took. Cole recapped Shane McMahons’ return as highlights were shown. The broadcast team hyped Undertaker, Vince McMahon, and Stephanie McMahon appearances for later in the show…
A shot aired of Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks walking separately backstage while Saxton hyped that their match was coming up next… [C]
Powell’s POV: All that for a match between Ambrose and a League of Nations member? Anyway, I don’t see Ambrose winning the title before WrestleMania and I’ll be surprised if we get a real match between him and Hunter on Raw. The good news for WWE is that this live crowd saw Hunter as the heel and Reigns as a babyface. The bad news is that I didn’t feel much in the way of chemistry between Hunter and Ambrose. It wasn’t bad, there just wasn’t a real spark there that made me want to see them have a match.
1. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks for a Divas Title shot at WrestleMania 32. Charlotte and Ric Flair were seated at ringside. They cut to break with Sasha in offensive control.
[Q3] [C] Lynch clotheslined Banks coming out of the break. Sasha came back with a double knee stomp for a two count. Charlotte scowled and acted above what was happening as she was shown watching the match at ringside. Later, Lynch went up top. Sasha tried to cut her off, but Lynch shoved her off and then blasted her with a great missile dropkick for a two count. A short time later, they fought on the ropes where Lynch headbutted Sasha, who powerbombed her from the second rope. The shoulders of both women were down as the referee counted to three. There was a loud “Triple Threat” chant from the crowd…
Becky Lynch fought Sasha Banks to a draw in 9:40.
A Wyatt Family pre-tape aired. Bray Wyatt gave us the definition of insanity. He said he might be crazy. He also spoke about having a plan that becomes a beautiful symphony. He said if you take his hand, he will give you eternal paradise. If you do not, you will end up conquered like the rest of them…
Powell’s POV: I rarely endorse the idea of Triple Threat title matches at WrestleMania. This is an exception. All three women deserve to have that spotlight and I think the characters are set up in a way that makes it work. Charlotte is the heel champion. Sasha hasn’t been a true babyface and there’s not a connection there with fans unless they know her from NXT. Becky is the only true babyface of the three. Plus, I believe they can executive the match properly. As for this match, it was entertaining and physical. The crowd was into the action. The broadcast team could have done more to call the match with more of a sense of urgency than they did, but it was still an entertaining segment. By the way, the definition of insanity also applies to the way Bray Wyatt has been booked.
2. Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz. Cole hyped that Ziggler will be on the Jonathan Coachman hosted segment on ESPNews SportsCenter on Tuesday. Footage aired from last week of Ziggler telling Miz that he doesn’t even deserve to be a WWE Superstar was shown. Ziggler went for a superkick. Miz caught his leg and went for the Skull Crushing Finale. Ziggler blocked that and caught him with a dropkick. Moments later, Miz whipped Ziggler aggressively into the corner and then rolled him up coming out of the corner for the clean pin…
The Miz pinned Dolph Ziggler in 1:05.
Powell’s POV: That backstage clip with Ziggler tearing into Miz last week was really good and I’m happy they followed up on it. With Miz losing competitive matches to AJ Styles and Chris Jericho, and now beating Ziggler, are they finally trying to feature him as more of an in-ring threat than a comedy figure?
[Q4] Cole hyped New Day vs. Chris Jericho and AJ Styles for later in the show, and Saxton hyped a recap of last week’s Shane McMahon segment… [C] A lengthy recap of the Shane McMahon segment aired… Stephanie McMahon was shown walking backstage. Cole said she would bask in the glow of the Vincent J McMahon Award after the break…
Powell’s POV: Up next, Linda McMahon interrupts to set up a match with her husband at WrestleMania.
A WrestleMania video aired. 34 days until I don’t have to hear the now annoying theme song anymore…
[Q5] Stephanie McMahon made her entrance to a flat reaction. She entered the ring and stood next to the VJM Award which was set on the podium. She spoke about how it was her proudest moment until her brother ruined it. She said she was going to finish her speech and she would appreciate if the fans gave her the respect she deserves. The fans chanted “Shane-O-Mac” and she told them that he wasn’t there, nor would he be after Undertaker beats him at WrestleMania.
Powell’s POV: The clicking sound you hear is hundreds of thousands of viewers changing the channel. Why tell viewers that the guy they want to see isn’t going to be there when there’s two hours left in the show?
Stephanie tried to deliver her speech, but she was interrupted by a “We Want Shane” chant. She got upset that the fans didn’t recognize that she sacrifices time with her family every single day. Stephanie flipped the switch and pushed the podium over.
Stephanie said Shane blackmailed her father. She mocked the idea of Shane showing up last week after all these years. She said Shane hasn’t been to a WrestleMania or a Raw. She said that’s abandonment of the fans and her family. She said Shane doesn’t care about her grandfather or her or her family.
Stephanie said she loves her brother, but she doesn’t respect him. She said every time she lets her guard down, he stabs her in the back. She said it eats Shane alive that she and Hunter are married and that she wields so much power. Stephanie said her nephews will have the right to fight for power in WWE just as her daughters will.
Stephanie said Shane thinks he can show up and run the company just because he’s a man. She said the idea of her and Hunter working for Shane makes her want to vomit. Stephanie said Taker will dismember Shane at WrestleMania. She said Shane is a reflection of the fans. She said they are narcissistic, apathetic, lazy, weak minded wastes of life who think the world owes them. Stephanie said the fans will have to bow down to the king and their queen…
Cole questioned what Undertaker thinks of all this and hyped his appearance for later in the show… [C]
Powell’s POV: A well delivered rant from Stephanie. I would worry that she made too good of a case for why Shane is a prick, but her character is so mean and easy to dislike that I don’t think the fans will see it from her perspective. Furthermore, Shane can counter a lot of what she said by playing to the fans while saying they had nothing to do with his decision to stay away.
3. Sheamus and Rusev (w/King Barrett, Alberto Del Rio) vs. Kalisto and Sin Cara. The broadcast team spoke about Rusev having a bodyslam challenge and how members of his faction were unable to slam him. Sin Cara sold early and made a hot tag to Kalisto.
[Q6] Kalisto had a run of flashy offense on Rusev. In the end, Del Rio distracted Kalisto long enough for Rusev to kick Kalisto, leading to the pin. After the match, Del Rio performed a double stomp on Kalisto…
Sheamus and Rusev beat Kalisto and Sin Cara in 5:05.
Backstage, Renee Young asked Natalya what her secret is to looking so good. It’s sleep, cardio, and water. She also pimped a Subway sandwich… A recap of the Ambrose and Hunter segment was shown…
Powell’s POV: Say what you will about the sponsorship spot, but at least that freak Jared wasn’t the pitchman. I told you so!!!!!
Cole touted that WWE topped 10 million subscribers on Youtube…
4. Ryback vs. Adam Rose (w/Curtis Axel, Bo Dallas, Heath Slater). Before the match, Ryback said the movie Spotlight outshined the others. He said that when you look and work like he does, you deserve it. If the spotlight isn’t given to him, he’s going to take it. Good luck with that. Ryback threw repeated punches at Rose until the referee stepped in. Ryback blew off the referee and picked up Rose and performed Shellshocked for the win…
Ryback beat Adam Rose in 2:00.
Cole asked where that Ryback has been.
Powell’s POV: My spellcheck doesn’t like the word outshined. If it’s good enough for Soundgarden, it’s good enough for me. Shouldn’t the broadcast team be selling concern for Rose and admonishing Ryback for now allowing the referee to check on him? Does anyone in creative watch professional sports? On the plus side, I would like to publicly thank WWE for not giving The Social Outcasts mic time this week.
[Q7] A video package focussed on the Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose setup for WrestleMania… New Day made their entrance for the tag match against “Y2AJ” for after the break… [C]
[Q7] A video package focussed on the Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose setup for WrestleMania… New Day made their entrance for the tag match against “Y2AJ” for after the break… [C]
New Day delivered an in-ring promo. Xavier Woods said they are the best three-man team on the planet and will fight anyone who says otherwise. A message to The Elite? Jericho’s entrance music interrupted the promo, then he and eventually Styles made their entrances…
5. Big E and Kofi Kingston vs. AJ Styles and Chris Jericho in a non-title match. New Day mocked the eye injury that Jericho suffered. Styles and Jericho cleared E and Kingston from the ring, then did simultaneous dives onto them heading into the break.
[Q8] New Day had the advantage over Styles. Woods held out some playing cards. Kingston drew two of spades with Styles’ face on it and boasted, “I have his number.” Jericho took a hot tag and performed an enzugiri and a nasty looking bulldog. Jericho performed a spring board dropkick to knock Woods off the apron. Kingston rolled up Jericho for a two count.
Jericho avoided a dropkick and then followed up with a Lionsault. Big E broke up the pin attempt. Styles performed a flying forearm to take out E. Kingston ditched Styles to ringside. Kingston went for his finisher, but Jericho countered with Walls of Jericho for the win…
AJ Styles and Chris Jericho beat Big E and Kofi Kingston in a non-title match in 9:00.
After the match, Styles took the mic and said that win puts Y2AJ at the top of the list for the tag titles. Jericho said Y2AJ is a thing. Jericho said they are the new big thing in the WWE. Jericho challenged New Day to a tag title match on Raw…
The broadcast team hyped Ambrose vs. Del Rio for later in the show, and Taker for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: I’m happy to hear the tag title match is occurring on Raw rather than at WrestleMania. It might be wishful thinking at this point, but I am hopeful that means Y2AJ will be broken up before then so that both men work singles matches rather than face New Day for the tag titles on the big stage. By the way, the graphic approach used to promote Taker tonight is really weak. It’s the biggest thing on tonight’s show and they are hyping it the same way Raw flashes a graphic while advertising a Smackdown match. This should be the main topic of conversation and instead they’ve treated it like any other top of the third hour segment. I was excited about this segment all day, but my interest level has dropped over the last two hours.
Creepy Todd Chrisley and his son were at ringside…
[Q9] Vince McMahon made his entrance to a flat reaction from a really flat live crowd. Even Vince looked a little surprised by their lack of enthusiasm. Vince called the crowd on their poor reaction and asked, “Don’t you know who I am?” He told the crowd to imagine him introducing his son Shane McMahon the day after WrestleMania.
Vince said it would take a miracle. He said Triple H and Stephanie would immediately quit the business. Vince said he would be put on the sidelines in corporate mothballs. Vince said Shane would lead you to believe that he will take WWE to a new era never attained before. There was a “Shane-O-Mac” chant. Vince said none of that will happen because only fools believe in miracles.
Vince said Shane might be foolish, but he still loves him. Vince said he loves Shane more than Shane loves him. Vince said he loves him enough to teach him a lesson he will never forget. Vince said he loves him enough to put him in the ring against the most coldhearted, destructive force that WWE has ever seen. Vince introduced Undertaker.
Taker made his entrance and looked at the WrestleMania sign and then Vince once he entered the ring. The live crowd finally woke up and chanted Undertaker’s name. Vince said Taker is his force of destruction. Taker grabbed Vince by the throat and asked Vince if he knows what is going to happen when he closes the door at WrestleMania. Taker said the blood of Shane is going to be on Vince’s hands, not his. Taker’s music played and he left the ring and headed to the back.
Vince coughed and took a drink of water to sell the choke. Vince said he is going to write Shane out of his will and give it all to Stephanie. Vince said he will renounce Shane McMahon as his son. Vince said Shane will no longer be his son from his heart, he will just be a son of a bitch… [C]
Powell’s POV: Well, we didn’t get any answers. I guess the idea is that Taker is just a coldhearted SOB who will destroy whoever they put in front of him at WrestleMania. It’s not what I was hoping for. The flat reaction for Vince was interesting. This has been a plodding show, so that may have a lot to do with it. It also doesn’t help when they told the fans that the hottest guy in the company isn’t appearing (and I’m not talking about Roman Reigns). Was it just me or did Taker have a bit of limp as he walked?
[Q10] 6. Bubba Ray Dudley (w/D-Von Dudley) vs. Jey Uso (w/Jimmy Uso). D-Von pulled a table out from underneath the ring. For some reason, Jimmy ran around the ring and leapt off the ring steps where D-Von slammed the table on his face. Cole called the Dudleys hypocrites for using the tables again. In the ring, Bubba hit a Full Nelson Slam on Jey for the win…
Bubba Ray Dudley beat Jey Uso in 2:05.
Backstage, R-Truth told Goldust not to say a word. Truth said he doesn’t need a partner. He said there won’t be a Ride Along episode with the two of them. Truth told him to save whatever weird outfit or silly song he had prepared. Truth said he’s done. Goldust made a sad face and walked away…
The broadcast team hyped the Ambrose vs. Del Rio match, and Triple H answering the question of whether Ambrose will get a title shot. They also hyped Kevin Owens vs. Big Show for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: The idea was that Jimmy was trying to prevent D-Von from using the table, but he looked like a dope for expecting any other result than having the table slammed in his face. I wanted mic time from these teams rather than singles matches. Meanwhile, this was the best Golden Truth angle to date because no one tried to be funny. I’m enjoying it while it lasts.
7. Kevin Owens vs. Big Show in a non-title match. Owens put Show down with a tornado DDT at ringside. Show returned to the ring to break the ref’s count at nine.
[Q11] Owens performed a running senton. Owens went to the top rope. Show cut him off and crotched him on the top rope. Owens fell to the floor and held his balls in pain until the referee counted him out. Big Show laughed while Owens was counted out…
Big Show beat Kevin Owens by DQ in 2:30.
Backstage, Renee Young interviewed Brie Bella, who said she put up a strong fight and she’s ready for her match. She was asked about her sister and husband. Lana entered the picture and said Americans don’t know what it means to be a real woman. Lana said Brie is doomed to fail just like her marriage. Brie told her to go back to her cave until she’s actually ready to step in the ring. Brie said she loved Rusev as the bear in the Revenant, but Lana needs to shave his back. Brie was so pleased with her joke that she chuckled… [C]
8. Brie Bella vs. Naomi (w/Tamina). Tamina tripped Brie and Naomi kicked her to ringside. Naomi had a prolonged run of offense, then Brie came back with a kick to her leg and performed Daniel Bryan kicks. Brie performed a running knee and then went to the ropes. Tamina tried to interfere, but Brie knocked her down. Naomi took advantage of the distraction and went for a pin, then turned it into her new submission hold for the win. After the match, Lana walked out and clapped, then laughed at Brie…
Naomi beat Brie Bella in 4:05.
Saxton said Ambrose is still waiting to hear whether he will get a title shot, but in the meantime he has to face Del Rio… [C]
Powell’s POV: The thrill of last week’s Raw is gone. This one is just a grueling marathon.
[Q12] Cole congratulated The Fabulous Freebirds on becoming the latest members of the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2016…
Powell’s POV: This could have been a nice hook. The actual announcement would have pleased a lot of longtime viewers and given the show a bit of a late boost. Instead, WWE feeds their announcements to mainstream media outlets. They get some mainstream love, but couldn’t they make the announcements on Raw, give the same outlets the first interview with the new inductees, and get the same media attention?
Backstage, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks bickered over which one of them would have won their match if they had more time. Charlotte and Ric Flair showed p. Charlotte said they are getting one last chance to earn a title shot. She said one of them would go on to obscurity while the other will be an answer to the question of who she defeated in her first WrestleMania match. For some reason, Becky and Sasha just stood there and took it even after Charlotte referred to them both as losers…
A recap of the Vince segment aired… Dean Ambrose made his entrance for the main event… [C] New Day vs. Y2AJ for the tag titles and a Shane McMahon appearance were hyped for next week…
[Overrun] 9. Dean Ambrose vs. Alberto Del Rio (w/Sheamus, King Barrett, Rusev). Ambrose had his left shoulder heavily taped. Del Rio dominated the opening minutes of the match. Del Rio took Ambrose to ringside and hung him up over the barricade, then performed a double stomp from there. Del Rio returned to the ring confident he was going to win by count-out, but Ambrose returned at the last moment.
Ambrose kicked Del Rio, who avoided Dirty Deeds. Ambrose caught him with the teetering clothesline. Ambrose threw punches and chops and then performed a bulldog on Del Rio for a two count. Ambrose went up top, but Del Rio cut him off. Ambrose ended up knocking Del Rio off the top rope and then performing a missile dropkick that led to a two count.
Ambrose charged at Del Rio, who avoided it, causing Ambrose to run his bad shoulder into the post. Del Rio caught Ambrose with a kick, but then Ambrose avoided him when he charged. Del Rio crashed to ringside. Ambrose went up top and dove onto all four League of Nations members.
Triple H’s music played and he walked onto the stage wearing a suit and carrying the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Hunter motioned with his hand, and then League of Nations all attacked Ambrose, which ended the match.
Dean Ambrose beat Alberto Del Rio by an apparent DQ in 9:05.
Triple H entered the ring once Ambrose was down and he shook hands with the League of Nations members. Hunter took the mic as League of Nations left the ring. “You’re never gonna learn, right, Dean?” Hunter asked. He asked what it is about people like Ambrose who won’t learn that they will never beat the authority.
Ambrose punched Hunter and then threw a flurry of punches at him that brought the crowd to life. Hunter quickly regrouped and put Ambrose down with a Pedigree. Hunter took the mic and said that if Ambrose wants a championship match then he’s on. Cole said Ambrose may live to regret the title match. Hunter left the ring.
Ambrose was lying next to the microphone and started making a bunch of noise before saying, “Hunter… thanks.” Triple H took his jacket off and rolled up his sleeves. Hunter went back to the ring and violently attacked Ambrose. Hunter threw him to ringside and pounded on Ambrose on top of the broadcast team’s table while several referees pleased with him. The referees eventually put their hands on Hunter and he backed off momentarily. Hunter circled the table where Ambrose was lying, then took his title belt and headed toward the back to close the show…
Powell’s POV: A decent angle with Hunter destroying Ambrose to set up their match just as he destroyed Reigns to set up their match. I assume this match will be announced for the WWE Network special on March 12, but nothing is official as I write this. I can’t say I have a burning desire to see Hunter face Ambrose, but at least it’s not Ambrose facing another League of Nations member. By the way, the main event was well worked. The problem continues to be that no one takes LON seriously. And protecting them by having matches like this end in disqualifications or non-finishes are not really protecting them from anything, and they are depriving the babyfaces of crowd pleasing wins. Overall, it felt like this show as never going to end. It was one of those nights, and it’s a shame that they had such a flat show coming off all the buzz that Shane’s return generated last week. I’ll have more to say in members’ audio later tonight. Thanks for watching along with me.