By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live on February 26, 2018 from Anaheim, California at Honda Center
Hour One: Raw opened with still shots of Roman Reigns winning the men’s Elimination Chamber match… Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Jonathan Coachman were on commentary with JoJo as the ring announcer…
Graves set up footage from Elimination Chamber of the Ronda Rousey contract signing angle. Cole said Rousey would appear live on Raw…
Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss and Mickie James headed to the ring together while the broadcast team recapped the women’s Elimination Chamber match. They also recapped Asuka defeating Nia Jax. Cole said Asuka will “apparently” challenge Bliss at WrestleMania.
Bliss said she amazed herself by winning the first women’s Elimination Chamber match. Bliss said James showed the world why she’s a six-time former champion and a future WWE Hall of Famer. She said they’ve had their ups and downs, but she has learned so much from her and the other women have too.
Bliss said Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville have a bright future, just not while she is champion. She said Bayley is a sad situation. She said it was her year, not Sasha Banks’s year. Bliss spoke about breaking the streak of Asuka. She brought up Nia Jax leaving Asuka lying and said she can’t wait to finish the job.
Asuka made her entrance. Bliss said Jax deserved to be added to their championship match. Bliss spoke slowly while saying she knows Asuka’s English isn’t great. She said her body language was saying otherwise. Bliss told Asuka to wipe the smile off her face before “she does”.
Nia Jax rushed to the ring. Asuka hit Bliss and James with a shot and was then attacked by Jax. Asuka caught Jax in an armbar, but Bliss and James attacked her. Sasha Banks and Bayley ran out to make the save, but the heels ended up leaving the babyfaces lying…
Cole said John Cena would appear to address his path to WrestleMania “if he even has one” later in the show… [C]
Powell’s POV: A solid opening segment. Bliss drew good heat and the heels standing tall likely sets up a six-woman tag match for later in the show. It’s odd that James is suddenly hanging out with Bliss despite not actually turning, but we’ll see where it goes. If Rousey is going to appear live then I’m very surprised they didn’t hype her first appearance on Raw as a major event going into the show.
1. Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, and Mickie James vs. Asuka, Sasha Banks, and Bayley. The broadcast team noted that Banks went after Bayley at Elimination Chamber. Cole said that Banks has stabbed Bayley in the back at every turn. Banks made a hard tag to the back of Bayley to enter the match at one point. Jax mowed over Banks with a shoulder block at ringside and the heels were in offensive control heading into a break. [C]
Banks was worked over by the heels. She crawled to her corner to make a tag, but Bayley dropped off the apron. Cole framed it as Banks “sending a little message” to Banks. Sasha tagged in Asuka. Bayley returned and performed her finisher on Bliss when she broke up a pin. Asuka put James in a kneebar for the win…
Asuka, Sasha Banks, and Bayley beat Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, and Mickie James in 13:05.
Cole set up footage of mopey John Cena from the Raw Talk show that aired after Elimination Chamber. Graves hyped that Cena would address the situation coming out of the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A good tag match that touched on the top storylines in the Raw women’s division. Bayley declining the tag from Banks was not positioned as a heel turn. In fact, she came back and helped out Asuka, so it’s an ongoing issue between Bayley and Banks. By the way, they still haven’t had Asuka declare which title she will challenge for at WrestleMania.
A graphic boasted that WWE Elimination Chamber topped the Winter Olympics closing ceremony in social media activity…
John Cena made his entrance for an in-ring promo. He looked at the WrestleMania sign before saying he failed at Elimination Chamber. He spoke about going through failure alone and said character is put to the test when your back is against the wall. Cena said he spent five minutes feeling sorry for himself on Sunday and then he moved forward in trying to figure out his road to WrestleMania.
Cena said he failed at the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber, but he was up because he figured it out. Cena said he was going to do something he should have done a long time ago by putting out a WrestleMania challenge to the Undertaker. The fans roared. Cena told the fans he doesn’t make the matches and he’s been told that the match won’t be happening because it’s impossible.
Cena said his road to WrestleMania will go straight through Smackdown. He said he will appear on Tuesday’s Smackdown with the goal of doing whatever it takes to earn a spot at WrestleMania. “See you tomorrow night,” Cena said to close… [C]
Powell’s POV: A quality promo to whet the appetite of fans for a Cena vs. Taker match. Normally, I wouldn’t think there’s much of a chance of Undertaker making an unadvertised appearance on Smackdown, but Tuesday’s show will be in Los Angeles so we’ll see what happens. It’s not like there’s another obvious WrestleMania match waiting for Cena on Smackdown.
Bray Wyatt made his entrance for a match against Heath Slater, who was in the ring with Rhyno. Wyatt attacked Rhyno and then got the better of Slater. The referee left the ring. Wyatt performed Sister Abigail on Slater. Cole noted that he hit the same move on Rhyno while they were showing replays.
Wyatt sat in the corner and delivered a promo. He said what he did was Matt Hardy’s fault. Wyatt said Hardy will face him again, but he will make sure Hardy’s Woken eyes stay shut forever. “I’m coming for you,” Wyatt said.
A shot aired of The Miz, Bo Dallas, and Curtis Axel walking backstage. Cole said Miz would find out who his WrestleMania opponent is after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: Let’s hope that Wyatt stating that he’s coming for Hardy means he’s going to take a trip to Cameron, North Carolina along with a WWE camera crew.
Hour Two: They aired another Ronda Rousey at Elimination Chamber recap video. Graves said Triple H and Stephanie McMahon have demaned that Rousey explain herself on Raw…
The Miz made his entrance along with Dallas and Axel. Miz scoffed at the Road to WrestleMania making a stop in Anaheim. He made it clear he would rather be in Los Angeles. Miz boasted that he will become the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion of all-time in 62 days. Miz complained that his face isn’t on any WWE merchandise and said he should be facing Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania.
Miz complained that Kurt Angle forced him to start the Elimination Chamber match against Seth Rollins and Finn Balor. Miz said neither man deserved to be there and he’s tired of the disrespect. Miz said Angle told him that his opponent might determine who he faces at WrestleMania. Miz blew a gasket about “might”. Miz said whoever came out would get a beating. Seth Rollins made his entrance. [C]
Powell’s POV: Miz was on fire. He’s as consistent strong as anyone on the mic these days and this was somehow even better than usual.
2. Intercontinental Champion The Miz (w/Curtis Axel, Bo Dallas) vs. Seth Rollins in a non-title match. Cole accused Miz of stealing the kicks from Bryan. Graves said Bryan is not A-List or on any list. “He’s on the same list as me, but that’s different,” Graves added in reference to both men being unable to wrestle due to head trauma. [C]
Late in the match, Rollins performed a suicide dive that took out Miz and his cronies. Back inside the ring, Rollins hit a high knee and then followed up with a long distance frogsplash for the win…
Seth Rollins beat The Miz in a non-title match in 13:05.
After the match, Finn Balor made his entrance as Rollins was celebrating. Balor did his rope poses. Rollins shook his head in disgust and left the ring as they headed into a commercial break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A very good match from Rollins and Miz. It was a strong way to continue the momentum that Rollins developed with his gauntlet match performance last week. And just when it looked like they were going with Miz vs. Rollins for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania, Balor made his entrance to perhaps make it a Triple Threat. Meanwhile, Matt Hardy just tweeted that he wants to go to war with Wyatt again “HOWEVAH, it shall only be on MY terms. On MY Battlefield,” he added. Nice.
3. Intercontinental Champion The Miz (w/Curtis Axel, Bo Dallas) vs. Finn Balor in a non-title match. Cole said the match was made by Kurt Angle during the commercial break. The bell rang and Axel and Dallas attacked Balor for the DQ.
Finn Balor defeated The Miz by DQ.
Miz, Axel, and Dallas worked over Balor until Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows ran out. Kurt Angle appeared on the big screen and said that Miz would face Balor with Dallas, Axel, Gallows, and Anderson banned from ringside. Angle said there would be a winner or Miz would not be going to WrestleMania…
4. Intercontinental Champion The Miz vs. Finn Balor in a non-title match. Graves suggested that Miz could take a count-out loss and there would be a winner and he would still go to WrestleMania. Miz had offensive control going into a break. [C]
Rollins was shown watching the match on a backstage monitor. Balor delivered some Bryan style kicks to Miz at one point. Balor hit his usual finishing sequence that is capped off with a Coup de Grace for the win…
Finn Balor pinned The Miz in a non-title match in 10:45.
Backstage, Renee Young asked Rollins what he thought about Balor’s antics. Rollins said he didn’t know what Balor was up to and questioned if he was trying to upstage him. He said if you want to make a mark and prove you’re the man then you do what he did in the gauntlet match. Rollins said he failed in the Elimination Chamber, but there’s more than one road to WrestleMania. Rollins said he wants The Miz and the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania…
The broadcast team recapped Stephanie McMahon’s appearance on Raw Talk and then showed Ronda Rousey talking with Kurt Angle backstage. Coachman hyped Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar for after the break… [C] A sponsored ad focussed on Braun Strowman and Big Show breaking the ring last April…
Powell’s POV: Rollins should give Cena the talk about there being more than one road to WrestleMania. Anyway, another good match with Miz continuing to shine. The apparent Triple Threat match with Miz vs. Rollins vs. Balor at WrestleMania should be very good. It’s actually the same trio that opened the Elimination Chamber match last night.
The WrestleMania 34 video aired. We are 41 days away…
Roman Reigns made his entrance. He stood in the ring and looked to the crowd, which was some boos, female squeals, and a lot of people not doing much of anything. Reigns said he’s a man of his word in that he said he would win the Chamber match and he did. He said that means he’s telling the truth when he says he’s going to beat Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania.
Hour Three: Reigns said people backstage wouldn’t like him saying it, but Lesnar was not there. He said Lesnar was there until about 30 minutes ago and something happened. He said Lesnar is an entitled piece of crap who hides behind his contract. Reigns pointed out that Lesnar was not at the Elimination Chamber. He said Lesnar was hanging out with UFC boss Dana White while in Las Vegas because he doesn’t respect him, the fans, or anyone in the locker room. “We’re all sick of it,” Reigns said.
Reigns said he doesn’t care how big the money is or how big the town is, when he says he will be there, he will be there. Reigns said Lesnar and Paul Heyman would eventually say they are businessmen. Reigns said he was born into the business and he was taught that there’s a fine line between business and respect. “I don’t respect Brock Lesnar and I damn sure don’t fear that bitch,” Reigns said.
Roman said he’d said enough and would go backstage and take his ass chewing like a man. “Unlike some people, I actually respect this place,” Reigns said. Roman dropped the mic and left the ring. His music played as he walked up the stage…
Powell’s POV: A very interesting approach to paint Lesnar as the bad guy for being a part-time champion while Reigns is the full-time voice of the locker room who is sick and tired of Lesnar’s antics. At this point, I’m not sure if anything will lead to Reigns winning over the masses or the WrestleMania crowd, but this at least gives him a chance to win over some fans. I’m curious to see how Paul Heyman responds and whether he and Lesnar will be all out heels.
Footage aired of Strowman breaking a bass guitar over the back of Elias. A Strowman selfie style promo aired. He said he may not have won the Elimination Chamber, but he saved everyone from his noise pollution. He said he would perform a symphony of destruction and it would be a smash hit…
Cole announced Strowman vs. Elias for later in the show and then set up a Black History Month video… Sheamus and Cesaro made their entrance… [C]
5. Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Titus O’Neil and Apollo in a best of three falls match for the Raw Tag Titles. Cesaro distracted Titus and then Sheamus blasted him with a Brogue Kick and pinned him to win the first fall in ten seconds. Apollo had Sheamus down at ringside in the second fall heading into a break. [C] Sheamus and Cesaro performed a double team move and Apollo was pinned to give the tag champs a 2-0 sweep…
Sheamus and Cesaro beat Titus O’Neil and Apollo in a best of three falls match in 11:20.
Charly Caruso interviewed Sheamus and Cesaro after the match. They said two men walked into The Bar and they didn’t get back up. They ran through some of the teams they’ve beaten and mocked Dean Ambrose’s injury. They spoke about there being no one left for them to beat…
Powell’s POV: Sheamus and Cesaro used the same quick fall distraction into a Brogue Kick spot to win the first fall of a previous best of three falls match. I don’t mind them repeating it since it comes off as strategy and it’s been a while since we’ve seen it. WWE must have something unique planned if Sheamus and Cesaro are boasting about there being no one left to beat.
Cole set up a video on Warrior Award recipient Jarius “JJ” Robertson. The fans gave the video a round of applause while Cole hyped that Dana Warrior would present Robertson with the award at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony…
Graves hyped Strowman vs. Elias for after the break and said Elias demanded an opportunity to serenade the fans first… [C]
Elias sat in the ring and played his guitar. He said he wasn’t going to perform until Strowman referred to his music as noise pollution. He said Strowman wants to be him. He said Strowman playing the bass and singing was noise pollution, as is anything that comes out of “Corey Graves’ stupid face.” Elias started to sing and he was quickly interrupted by Strowman’s entrance music… [C]
6. Braun Strowman vs. Elias. Strowman was dominant. They ended up at ringside where Elias pulled a fire extinguisher out from underneath the ring and sprayed it at Strowman’s face for the DQ.
Braun Strowman beat Elias by DQ in 5:00.
After the match, Elias hit Strowman with the fire extinguisher in the gut. Strowman acted blinded, but he swung and hit Elias to clear him from the ring. Strowman wiped his eyes a few times and then chased Elias. Strowman was about to put Elias through the broadcast team’s table, but Elias raked his eyes and ran away. Strowman chased after him.
They cut backstage where Elias was running away while Strowman wiped his eyes while chasing after Elias. A limo pulled into the building. Strowman yelled at Elias, who disappeared into the distance. Strowman walked away and the camera focussed on the limo heading into the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: For the love of The Model, please don’t let them bust out the blindfold match gimmick for WrestleMania. I don’t think that’s where this is going, but stranger things have happened.
Cole hyped John Cena for Smackdown. He also announced Asuka vs. Nia Jax for next week’s Raw…
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon made their entrance to one of his themes. Stephanie said Sunday was supposed the highlight of their executive careers in that they were signing Ronda Rousey.
Overrun: Stephanie blamed Kurt Angle and said Rousey believed every word he said. Stephanie said her reaction might be appropriate in the world of MMA, but it’s not not tolerated in the world of WWE. She set up the Rousey at Elimination Chamber video package again.
Stephanie said Rousey acted out of savage instinct and she had to get physical with her so that she could relate to her. Stephanie said Rousey reports to her, which means WWE owns Ronda Rousey. Stephanie said she wanted to call the players out so they could learn their place and move forward to WrestleMania.
Stephanie called out Kurt Angle, but Rousey’s theme played instead. Rousey came out with her hair up and rushed to the ring with a serious expression on her face. Angle walked out behind and called for her to hold up. Angle joined Rousey in the ring while Stephanie and Hunter were at ringside. Angle told Rousey that coming to WWE was the best decision she ever made.
Rousey said she meant what she said and she wants this more than anything, but she’s never been slapped before in her life and she refuses to be distracted. “I am no one’s property,” Rousey said. Angle told her that he needs the job. Some fans laughed. He said he lied. Angle said he has been sick and doesn’t even remember what he said. “Those statements that I made, they are not true and I’m sorry.”
Hunter and Stephanie were back in the ring at this point. Stephanie said they are not horrible people despite what she may read on social media or hear in the arenas. She said she wanted to put that all behind them and focus on making her a star.
Rousey said they addressed everything other than the slap. Rousey said if they want to put it all behind them then Stephanie needs to apologize to her. Rousey said that if Stephanie doesn’t apologize then she will not hesitate to rip her arm out of its socket. A “Rip it off” chant broke out.
Stephanie walked up to Rousey and said she was terribly sorry and there was no excuse. The fans booed her apology. Stephanie and Hunter started to leave. Triple H turned and punched Angle to the mat. Rousey checked on him. Triple H’s music played. Rousey helped Angle to his feet and then the show went off the air…
Powell’s POV: A good segment with an oddball finish that didn’t give the Raw viewing audience a memorable moment involving Rousey. The idea was that Hunter and Stephanie got to Angle and convinced him to say he was lying or he’d lose his job, but Hunter couldn’t resist giving Angle a cheap shot on his way out. If Rousey and Angle are going to team at WrestleMania, then hopefully her character can help him get his balls back because it was sad to watch his character say that he needs the job.
Rousey was better on the mic than she was the night before, but it’s still a work in progress. She makes up for some of her shortcomings on the mic with some great facial expressions. By the way, are we supposed to assume that Hunter and Stephanie were in the limo? Overall, this was a good edition of Raw as they began to set the table for WrestleMania. I will have more to say in my members’ exclusive audio review later tonight. Be sure to check out the free Prowrestling.net Live audio show from earlier today at PWAudio.net.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features referee Rob Page discussing the difficulty of reffing tag matches in the modern era, making three counts if a wrestler's shoulders are down even if it wasn't the planned finish, the growth of F1rst Wrestling, and more...