By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live on February 19, 2018 from Phoenix, Arizona at Talking Stick Resort Arena
[Q1] Raw opened with ring announcer JoJo asking the live crowd to stand in silence to pay respect to the shooting victims in Parkland, Florida. The crowd was respectfully silent until she thanked them… The Raw broadcast team was Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Jonathan Coachman…
Roman Reigns’ music played and he made his entrance to more cheers than boos. JoJo introduced Reigns for the gauntlet match. Charly Caruso entered the ring and asked if Reigns had any concerns about competing in the match just six days before the Elimination Chamber. Reigns said no. He said he’s never been in a Chamber match before. He put over the danger and what it does to the bodies of the wrestlers.
Reigns mentioned that he’d be facing some of the best competition in the world and ran through the list of his opponents. Reigns said they all have one thing in common. “They cannot beat Brock Lesnar,” Reigns said. “That’s why it’s my time now, because I can beat him. Oh, you don’t think it’s true? Go back and watch WrestleMania. The last time I faced Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, I would have defeated him.”
Seth Rollins made his entrance while Cole pointed out that Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract during that Lesnar vs. Reigns match. Cole explained the rules of the gauntlet match…
1. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins vs. Braun Strowman vs. John Cena vs. Elias vs. The Miz vs. Finn Balor in a gauntlet match. Reigns and Rollins started the match. Rollins got a two count off a nice rollup and then another off a backslide. Reigns and Rollins went face to face heading into the first commercial break. [C]
[Q2] Cole noted that only two of the seven men in the Chamber match have actually been in past Chamber matches. Rollins sold some hip and knee pain. Rollins performed a Buckle Bomb. Reigns came out of the corner with a Superman Punch. Both men were down heading into another break over 13 minutes into the match. [C]
Rollins hit Reigns with back to back suicide dives and then rolled him back inside the ring. Rollins went for a springboard move and ate another Superman Punch, which led to Reigns getting a two count. Reigns went to the corner and let out the primal scream, but ran into a boot. Rollins came back with a Stomp attempt. Reigns avoided it and rolled up Rollins, who returned the favor and got a pin off of a rollup.
Seth Rollins pinned Roman Reigns to eliminate him from the gauntlet match in 20:05.
Powell’s POV: The Reigns and Rollins portion of the gauntlet match was entertaining. The offense was split well and I love that they had Rollins score the pin. The Reigns promo sure felt like another indication that he will be challenging Lesnar at WrestleMania. And if he wins the championship as expected, then it’s wise to give Rollins a television win over Reigns, as that’s something they can point to if they book a Reigns vs. Rollins title match.
Reigns stayed in the ring and acted surprised by the loss. Rollins smiled as they exchanged words. Reigns stuck his fist out. John Cena’s entrance music played and he entered as the third man in the gauntlet while Rollins and Reigns bumped fists. Reigns left the ring. Cena entered and played to the crowd, then turned and took a sling blade clothesline that gave Rollins a two count.
[Q3] [C] Cena was in offensive control coming out of the break. The broadcast team hyped Ronda Rousey signing her Raw contract at Elimination Chamber as she was shown in a graphic. Cena used a headlock for a good stretch. Cena picked up Rollins and drove him into the mat three times and got a two count heading into a break.
Powell’s POV: The time between the last two commercial breaks was as slow paced as you’ll see during a Raw television match. It was so slow that you would have thought it was occurring during a commercial break. Were they giving Rollins a breather because he’s going deep into the match?
Cole noted that Rollins had been in the match for 35 minutes. Cena picked up Rollins for what appeared to be a fallaway slam, but instead he hoisted him up and performed a Stunner for a two count. Rollins sold in the corner. Cena toyed with Rollins and threw punches at him. Rollins eventually stood up and barked at Cena, which led to the wrestlers trading punches and then Cena putting Rollins back down with an elbow for a two count.
[Q4] Cena knocked Rollins off the apron. Rollins struggled and barely got back inside the ring to beat the referee’s count. Cole said Cena couldn’t believe the heart of Rollins. [C] They picked up the pace coming out of the break. Cena went for his five knuckle shuffle, but Rollins kicked him and then followed up with a superkick for a two count.
Cena and Rollins ended up on the apron. Rollins charged Cena, who moved, causing Rollins to crash into the ring post. Cena charged at Rollins on the floor. Rollins moved and Cena crashed into the ring steps. Both men raced back at the last moment to beat the ref’s count. Cena ended up performing the five knuckle shuffle and hoisted up Rollins for the Attitude Adjustment, but Rollins countered into a rollup for a two count.
Rollins applied the STF on Cena, who powered up Rollins into an AA, but Rollins landed on his feet and kicked Cena. Rollins went up top and performed a frogsplash for a good two count just shy of the 50-minute mark. Cena hit Rollins with an AA for another good near fall at 50:45. Cena went up top, but Rollins cut him off and superplexed him and then performed the falcon arrow for another good near fall. Cena avoided a Stomp and applied the STF, but Rollins reached the ropes.
[Q5] Cena reapplied the hold, but Rollins again reached the ropes. Cena took Rollins to the ropes and set up for his Super AA, but Rollins elbowed his way out of it. Cena dove off the middle rope at Rollins, who rolled through and hoisted up Cena for an AA for a great near fall. Rollins went for a Phoenix Splash. Cena moved, so Rollins landed on his feet. Cena hit an AA and went for the move again, but Rollins slipped away and hit the Stomp and pinned Cena.
Seth Rollins pinned John Cena at 56:30 to eliminate him from the gauntlet match.
Powell’s POV: This is a blast. I was looking forward to the gauntlet match, but I never thought they would book it to go as long as it has or that they would have Rollins pin both Reigns and Cena. I have been critical of the way they have been rather careless with Cena’s recent losses, but this was not a problem here as both he and Reigns have helped remake Rollins thus far as a serious main eventer.
Elias ran out as the third entrant in the match and was all over the weary Rollins and got a couple of two counts heading into a break. [C] Elias, who still had his ribs wrapped to sell the Braun Strowman bass guitar attack, worked over the leg of Rollins in the ring.
Renee Young interviewed Cena backstage as they went to a split screen. Cena said he wasn’t taking anything away from Rollins, but his focus is entirely on being Mr. Monday Night. Cena said he’s trying to balance a lot of things at once. He said Rollins can focus on this and only this. Cena said he’s not going to give up. He said he must win at Elimination Chamber to have a path to WrestleMania and he has six days to sort himself out.
Back in the ring, Elias performed Drift Away on Rollins and pinned him. The fans applauded Rollins as he left the ring while the broadcast team praised his performance.
Elias pinned Seth Rollins in 65:35 to eliminate him from the gauntlet match.
Powell’s POV: It was cool to see Rollins go as long as he did. It would not have shocked me if someone had told me before the show that he was going to win the match, but it was shocking to see him go 65 minutes. Hell, it’s shocking that this match has lasted so long. The broadcast team did a nice job of putting over Rollins throughout and after his run in the match.
Finn Balor’s music played and he made his standard entrance. Balor took early control and set up for his finisher, but Elias rolled to ringside heading into a break.
[Q6] [C] As the match continued, Young interviewed Rollins backstage. He said he beat two of the best in the match, but it doesn’t mean anything if he doesn’t win the Elimination Chamber match on Sunday.
Powell’s POV: The backstage interviews with Cena and Rollins have both made the Chamber match feel like its the most important thing in the WWE storyline world. There was a very serious tone to both interviews and they had a sports-like feel with both men fresh out of the match. Well done.
Balor caught Elias with a kick to the head as he was on the ropes. Elias went to ringside. Balor followed and performed a running dropkick that drove Elias into the barricade. Back inside the ring, Balor connected with a Sling Blade. Balor set up for another move, but Elias clotheslined him. Elias powerbombed Balor for a two count heading into a break at 77:50. [C]
[Q7] Balor performed the Coup de Grace on Elias and pinned him. The broadcast team was quick to point out that Balor hit the move on the injured ribs of Elias.
Finn Balor pinned Elias in 83:50 to eliminate him from the gauntlet match.
Powell’s POV: The Balor and Elias portion of the match was routine. They had a tough act to follow.
The Miz’s music played. Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel came out and teased charging the ring, but Miz attacked Balor from behind. Miz got a two count off a DDT. Cole noted that Dallas and Axel won’t be a factor and there won’t be any sneak attacks on Sunday due to the Chamber structure. Miz wrenched the arm of Balor heading into a break. [C]
As the match continued, they went with the split screen again and showed Renee Young interviewing Elias. He pointed to what he did to Seth Rollins and said he would pick up the scraps on Sunday and then go on to deliver his greatest performance at WrestleMania. In the ring, Miz threw his Daniel Bryan style kicks at Balor, who ducked the last one and threw a series of strikes at Miz at 93:10.
Miz continued to target the shoulder of Balor. Dallas took a cheap shot at it as well. Balor responded to it with a flip dive onto Axel and Dallas on the floor. Back in the ring, Balor dropkicked Miz into the corner. Balor wanted to go for his finisher, but he had to fight off Axel and then Dallas before Miz cut him off on the ropes. Miz followed up with a Skull Crushing Finale for the win…
The Miz beat Finn Balor in 96:00 to eliminate him from the gauntlet match.
Powell’s POV: Good action during his portion of the match. Balor lost nothing due to the outside interference, and the win for Miz set up the finale of the gauntlet match between him and Strowman..
The fans briefly chanted Strowman in Goldberg style. Miz showed fear and concern while kneeling in the ring. Braun Strowman was the final entrant in the gauntlet match. Miz begged off as Strowman climbed onto the apron. Miz fled the ring. Strowman went after him and chased him through the production area and near the stage.
[Q8] Strowman grabbed Miz and dragged him back and tossed him over the barricade heading into a break. [C] Strowman dominated Miz while Cole said it makes sense for Strowman to beat the hell out of Miz so that Miz is nowhere near 100 percent on Sunday.
They cut to Renee Young interviewed Balor on the split screen. Balor said Miztourage got involved in the match, but they will be locked out on Sunday while Miz will be locked in with him and five other guys. Balor said he would win the Chamber match and go on to face Lesnar at WrestleMania.
Back in the ring, Strowman dropkicked a charging Miz. Strowman charged Miz, who lowered the top rope, causing Strowman to tumble to the floor. Miz kicked Strowman a couple of times before Strowman resumed the domination. Back in the ring, Miz actually hit a Skull Crushing Finale, but Strowman kicked out strong at two and sent Miz out of the ring and onto his minions. Miz ran back into a Strowman clothesline. Strowman picked up Miz and powerslammed him for the win…
Braun Strowman beat The Miz beat Finn Balor in 106:55 to win the gauntlet match.
After the match, Charly Caruso interviewed Strowman on the stage and asked if his mindset will change on Sunday since he’s never been in an Elimination Chamber match before. Strowman said he does not fear the unknown, the unknown fears him. Strowman said the domination will be the same at Elimination Chamber and and then he’s going after Lesnar. “You hear me, Beasty Boy?” Strowman asked. “And at WrestleMania you’re gonna get these hands.
Strowman excused himself and said he had unfinished business to attend to. Strowman returned to the ring while Dallas and Axel tried to pull Miz out of the ring. Strowman grabbed Miz’s legs and pulled both minions back inside the ring. Strowman gave both men powerslams. Miz escaped the ring. Strowman chased Miz backstage.
Just when it appeared the segment was finished, Miz came tumbling out of the strange entrance with Strowman behind him. Strowman brought Miz back to ringside and tossed him back inside the ring. Strowman powerslammed Miz again. Strowman teased leaving, but he returned and delivered another powerslam to Miz…
Powell’s POV: The gauntlet match was an unexpected treat. I don’t know if anyone would have predicted that WWE would dedicate an hour to the match let alone two hours. No matter what happens during the final hour of the show, the gauntlet match made this a memorable night. As for the third hour, will they finally add some matches to the Elimination Chamber show? They only have three matches advertised and the Ronda Rousey contract signing thus far.
[Q9] Cole hyped the six-woman tag match for later in the show. Asuka was shown walking backstage. Graves spoke about her match with Nia Jax at Elimination Chamber. They cut to the broadcast table. Cole set up the WWE Hall of Fame video for Jeff Jarrett. The video featured Roman Reigns, Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston, Natalya, and Road Dogg commenting on Jarrett. The footage used was primarily from WWE and the Double J run, but there was a little WCW included. “With My Baby Tonight” played in the arena following the video…
Powell’s POV: The Jarrett induction news is cool. People seem genuinely shocked by the news. I can’t say I feel the same. In fact, I mentioned him as one of a handful of candidates in my Q&A audio show a while back. The timing is right in that Jarrett isn’t working for TNA and he’s coming off what I assume was a sting in WWE sponsored rehab. Plus, he’s definitely deserving of the recognition for his run with the the company and everything he’s done outside of it.
Asuka made her entrance… [C] Renee Young interviewed Asuka in the ring and asked how concerned she is about her title match at WrestleMania becoming a Triple Threat. Asuka said she controls her own destiny and that is to win the championship at WrestleMania. Young noted that Nia Jax feels she is the only woman who can end Asuka streak. Asuka said she didn’t look so confident when Asuka won their last match. Asuka said Jax likes to talk, but she will tap on Sunday.
Jax attempted to attack Asuka from behind, but Asuka saw her coming and went after her. Jax took control and performed a Samoan drop. Jax followed up with three leg drops…
Powell’s POV: This was logical in that it made Jax look strong heading into the match with the unbeaten Asuka. I could have done without Asuka bringing up a previous match, but the beatdown was simple and effective.
The broadcast team discussed the Asuka vs. Jax match at Elimination Chamber. Cole then set up a video package on Ronda Rousey, which featured footage of the former UFC star’s appearance at the Royal Rumble along with clips of Rousey on late night talk shows.
[Q10] They also had some of the current WWE female wrestlers and Stephanie McMahon speak highly of Rousey. Footage aired of Rousey training in MMA cages and pro wrestling rings… [C]
Powell’s POV: Now that’s more like it. WWE didn’t even mention Rousey the week after the Rumble and hasn’t done much in the weeks since then. This was a good video package that helped show off her mainstream appearances and showcased her training nicely.
Raw Tag Team Champions Sheamus and Cesaro made their entrance while Cole noted that it was Raw episode number 1,291. The broadcast team noted that Sheamus and Cesaro have been exchanging social media jabs…
2. Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews (w/Dana Brooke) in a non-title match. Cole noted that Titus hosted over 2,000 underprivileged children at showings of the Black Panther movie. Crews pinned Cesaro off a rollup…
Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews beat Sheamus and Cesaro in a non-title match in 4:30.
Cole hyped the six-woman tag match…
Powell’s POV: My dislike of the Titus Worldwide faction is well documented, but having them go over here is logical in that I assume they are setting up a tag title match for Elimination Chamber undercard.
[Q11] [C] The broadcast team spoke by their desk and hyped the WWE Elimination Chamber. They added Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt to the lineup…
A Bray Wyatt promo aired. He said some say the end is near and he hopes they are right, not just for the fans but especially for Matt Hardy. They did the back and forth thing again between Wyatt and Hardy. They both called each other liars. Matt said he has the power of illumination. Wyatt said Hardy must be silent. Hardy said Wyatt must be rendered obsolete.
Powell’s POV: Hardy and Wyatt really need to do something big on Sunday to breathe some life into their feud. The live crowd’s near silent response to their promo battle speaks volumes. It’s not complicated, WWE. Send a camera crew to Cameron and let the Hardys work their magic.
Sasha Banks made her entrance for the six-woman tag match… A Black History Month video package aired… [C] The WrestleMania video aired. We are 48 days away… Mickie James and then Bayley made their entrances.
[Q12] As the Absolution members entered, they aired a brief selfie style promo with the trio. Alexa Bliss was the final woman to make her entrance…
3. Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Mickie James vs. Alexa Bliss, Mandy Rose, and Sonya Deville (w/Paige). Rose got cocky and slapped Bayley twice and then whipped her hair in her face. Bayley responded by working her over in the corner and suplexing her. Rose rolled to ringside heading into a break. [C]
Bliss tagged herself into the match, which upset the Absolution members. Bliss slapped Bayley across the face and tagged Deville back into the match. Bayley eventually made a hot tag to Banks, but the referee didn’t see it. Rose and Banks collided. Bayley tagged in James, who worked over Rose and shot a look at Bliss. Rose caught James with a knee to the head off a distraction by Deville.
[Overrun] Rose performed a wicked suplex on Rose. James clearly jawed Rose after taking the move to the point that Cole covered it by saying James was talking to herself. At 13:55, Deville wanted to tag Bliss, who declined. James performed a double neckbreaker on the Absolution duo and then tagged in Banks while Bliss also tagged in.
Banks worked over Bliss and then performed a double knee press on Deville at ringside. Banks performed the double knee press on Bliss off the middle rope and went for a pin, but Rose broke it up. Bayley suplexed Rose. Bliss rolled up Banks, who rolled through for a two count. Bliss whipped Banks aggressively into the middle turnbuckle. Bliss set up for a DDT, but Banks countered into a Bank Statement for the win…
Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Mickie James defeated Alexa Bliss, Mandy Rose, and Sonya Deville in 15:55.
After the match, Rose and Deville attacked Banks. Bayley tried to help, but she was outnumbered and took a leaping kick to the head from Deville. Bliss smiled as she stood with Rose and Deville as they celebrated. They turned toward her, but James intervened and joined Bliss in performing a double DDT on Deville. Cole said the question is whether Bliss now has an ally on Sunday. Cole hyped Elimination Chamber to close the show…
Powell’s POV: Cole helped tell the story that Bayley and Banks are friends, Deville and Rose are friends, and now perhaps Bliss and James will be allies in the Chamber match. It’s not a great hook for the match, but I’m curious to see what they have planned. My guess is that those friendships don’t last long due to the “every woman for herself” theme. I’m anxious to see if they finally pull the trigger on Banks turning heel on Bayley. There was nothing in this match that I caught that foreshadowed anything, so we’ll see. Overall, it was a memorable night thanks to WWE dedicating two hours to the gauntlet match, which did a very good job of delivering final hype for the men’s Elimination Chamber match. Join me on Sunday night for my live review of the Elimination Chamber event.
Jason Powell and Jake Barnett co-host the Dot Net Weekly and Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast combo show and discuss Raw Underground and other WWE concepts, The Rock's group buying the XFL, the Marty Jannetty story, AEW Dynamite and NXT TV, and more...