WWE Raw Live TV Review: No Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns blames Vince McMahon, John Cena makes a major WrestleMania challenge, Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins, tag team battle royal for a Raw Tag Title shot at WrestleMania 34

By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)

WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live on March 12, 2018 from Detroit, Michigan at Little Caesar’s Arena

Hour One: Michael Cole welcomed viewers and noted that they are on the road to WrestleMania. Cole was joined on commentary by Corey Graves and Jonathan Coachman. JoJo was the ring announcer…

Raw general manager Kurt Angle made his entrance for an in-ring promo. Angle said he’s excited to team with Ronda Rousey to face Triple H and Stephanie McMahon at WrestleMania. He said he almost feels sorry about what Rousey will do to Stephanie, but he won’t feel bad about what he does to Triple H.

Angle brought up the Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns match at WrestleMania, which was booed. Angle said he was just informed that Lesnar was not present. He said he’d heard a variety of excuses including transportation issues as a possible reason for Lesnar not appearing.

Roman Reigns made his entrance. Cole noted that Reigns looked angry and Angle looked uncomfortable. Reigns said he wasn’t surprised because Lesnar doesn’t respect him, the company, or the fans. Reigns received the “what” treatment from some in the crowd. Reigns said Lesnar didn’t show up for work this week or last week and he questioned what the repercussions would be.

Reigns said there wouldn’t be any repercussions because Lesnar is “Vince’s boy.” Angle tried to take the mic, but Reigns pulled it away and told him not to touch his mic. Reigns said the best case scenario if he or anyone else didn’t show up for work would be a huge fine and the worst case would be that they can’t feed their kids.

Reigns said the real problem is Vince McMahon. He said he walked past Vince backstage and he didn’t even have the respect to inform him about Lesnar. “That’s the man I bust my ass for,” Reigns said. He added that it’s one thing to be disrespected by Lesnar, but he will not be disrespected by Vince.

Reigns left the ring and the camera followed him backstage to the Gorilla Position where Vince was seated at a monitor with Shane McMahon and a lot of other people were standing nearby including the Absolution trio. Reigns approached Vince and said, “You’re not going to talk to me?” Vince took off his headset and said they could talk in his office… [C]

Powell’s POV: An unexpected twist with Vince McMahon being brought into the storyline, which is only appropriate considering Vince has been hellbent on getting Reigns cheered all this time. Lesnar worked the Chicago and Minneapolis house shows so everything involving him not showing up as advertised is storyline driven. If Lesnar does not appear, you have to feel bad for any fans in Detroit who attended the show with seeing Lesnar as their highest priority.

Renee Young stood outside the “Mr. McMahon” office and said things seemed to have settled down in the last 30 seconds. Reigns walked out of the office and walked past Young without saying anything. Vince emerged seconds later and told Young that Lesnar is not his boy or Paul Heyman’s boy or anyone else’s boy. He said he had no intention of disrespecting Reigns. He said he reminded Reigns of an expression from his cousin The Rock. “Know your role and shut your mouth,” McMahon said.

Vince said Lesnar doesn’t like people, but that doesn’t make him a bad guy. Vince conceded that Lesnar probably doesn’t like the WWE Universe. He said the thing that Lesnar respects competition in the ring or in the octagon. He said Lesnar has privileges that others do not and admitted that Lesnar can take advantage of those privileges, but he thinks he’s earned those privileges.

Vince assured fans that Lesnar would appear next week. “You’ve got my word on it,” Vince said. Vince closed the segment with a “by the way” and stating that Reigns had been temporarily suspended…

1. Sasha Banks (w/Bayley) vs. Sonya Deville (w/Paige, Mandy Rose). Bayley had her arms crossed when she came out with Banks looked like she wasn’t happy to be with her. Banks tossed Deville to ringside heading into an early match break. [C] Banks applied the Banks Statement and got the submission win…

Sasha Banks beat Sonya Deville in 7:10.

Bayley left as soon as the match ended. The Absolution trio surrounded the ring. Rose and Deville attacked Banks while Paige directed traffic. The trio left Banks lying…

Cole set up the video package for Kid Rock as the latest entrant in the WWE Hall of Fame’s celebrity wing. The narrator stated that Kid Rock has “rocked the WWE stage” more than any other artiest in WWE history. The video included footage of Rock playing “American Badass” for the Undertaker persona and of Rock appearing at Tribute to the Troops…

Graves noted that Asuka challenged Charlotte for the Smackdown Women’s Championship at WWE Fastlane. He said she would appear on the show. Coachman hyped Miz TV with Seth Rollins and Finn Balor for after the break… [C]

Powell’s POV: WWE must be very excited by getting Kid Rock since it’s rare to see the Hall of Fame videos in the first hour. The timing of the announcement was smart in that Kid Rock is a Detroit native and actually opened the venue that is hosting Raw tonight with six shows last year.

The Miz hosted Miz TV in the ring. He noted that Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel were not with him for the segment because they would be having a special tag match and could punch their ticket to WrestleMania. He took credit for elevating their careers. Miz introduced Rollins and then Balor. They all sat down in chairs in the ring.

Miz said he and Rollins are the workhorses in WWE and they could have “burned it down” in a singles match. Miz said Rollins was denied a one-on-one opportunity. He said Balor is always in his way. Rollins didn’t bite and called Miz on what he was trying to do. Miz took a similar approach on Balor, who also called him on it.

Rollins eventually told Miz to shut up. He said they don’t need him to get them fired up about WrestleMania. Rollins said he would beat Miz and take the title and Balor doesn’t stand a chance. Balor asked Rollins what happened the last time they had a championship match. Balor said he beat Rollins with one arm.

Rollins said he’s all about living in the present. Balor said they didn’t have to wait four weeks for WrestleMania. Balor stood up and removed his jacket. Rollins also stood up. The Miz was all smiles and rubbed his hands together, but then Rollins and Balor both looked at him. Miz tried to leave, but he ended up taking punches from both men. Balor clotheslined Miz to ringside, then turned into a punch from Rollins…

An ad aired for Smackdown and hyped Shane McMahon making a WrestleMania announcement. Asuka was also advertised as making her first Smackdown appearance… [C]

Powell’s POV: The Miz was a blast here with both guys seeing through his attempted manipulation only to have Miz get exactly what he wanted out of the segment anyway. The Rollins punch at the end was a nice touch as the story is more compelling when it’s every man for himself rather than two buddy babyfaces challenging one heel.

Cole announced Rollins vs. Balor for later in the show…

Sheamus and Cesaro made their entrance for a match against Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas. Cole noted that the match came together via social media. The Miztourage members were not introduced. They showed up in the ring and attacked The Bar from behind. The Revival ran out and also fought with The Bar. Sheamus and Cesaro tried to leave, but Rhyno, Heath Slater, Titus O’Neil, Apollo, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson came out and helped work them over…

Cole hyped “a devastated” John Cena for after the break… [C]

Powell’s POV: So much for my hope that Authors of Pain would show up and challenge Sheamus and Cesaro in a straight up tag match at WrestleMania. It’s possible that WWE will still add an outside team, but it sure looks like they are going with a big multi-team, get everyone on the show match. Will the gong sound during Cena’s appearance? That would be a great way to make up for Lesnar if they truly don’t intend to have Brock appear on the show.

John Cena made his entrance for an in-ring promo. Cena noted that they were less than four weeks away and he has finally found his road to WrestleMania.

Hour Two: Cena said it’s not his ideal path and it’s different. Cena said he is brave enough to face the truth. He said he’s had opportunities on both brands and he did not get the job done. A loud Undertaker chant broke out. “I hope they’re listening” Cena said while motioning toward the back.

Cena announced that he would not be competing on this year’s WrestleMania. He said it doesn’t mean that he’s quitting or walking away. He said he would even be at WrestleMania. Cena said he was going to WrestleMania as a fan. Cena said the WWE Universe is the most important part of WrestleMania.

Cena said he’s not going with a boo boo face or complaining, he’s going to have a blast. He said he’s going to be fired up and he might even be sitting next to “you.” Cena pointed at multiple fans and then joined them in the crowd and took a dainty little sip of a guy’s beer. He tried to lead a “This is awesome” chant. “One more,” he said. “Let’s go Roman.” The fans booed. Funny.

Cena returned to the ring and led his own “Let’s Go Cena” while the crowd responded with “Cena sucks” chants. Cena mentioned doing something he wasn’t supposed to do. Then he pointed out that it wouldn’t affect his standing at WrestleMania since he was buying a ticket.

“Screw it, I challenge the Undertaker to a match at WrestleMania,” Cena said. The fans cheered. He claimed he was told it was impossible even though the fans want to see it. He said he never asked why it wasn’t possible and questioned whether it was because of the executives. He said they could turn his mic off if they wanted to. Cena issued his challenge a few more times.

Cena said the mic is still on and he’s still there. Cena said it wasn’t WWE or the fans who were keeping that match from happening. Cena blamed Taker and then told him to get over his own ego. Cena said that he picks himself up after he fails, whereas Taker hides his head in the sand because he’s so ashamed and embarrassed about what people say about him.

Cena told Taker to stop hiding behind lame excuses. He said Taker isn’t too old, washed up, or broken down. He said that if Taker wasn’t broken down then he wouldn’t be posting workout videos on his wife’s instagram. “The only person stopping this match from happening is you, you self-centered, conceited egomaniac,” he said.

Cena asked the fans if they want to see Taker kick his ass and Tombstone him in front of 75,000 people at WrestleMania. The fans cheered again. Cena said WrestleMania will either be a party or he will go as Undertaker’s opponent and it will be history. “The ball is in your court, Deadman,” Cena said. “Time to see if you’re still alive. If I were you I know what I would do. I would want one more match.” Cena dropped the mic. Fans chanted “one more match” to end the segment…

Powell’s POV: Hey, does this mean I’m not such an idiot after all for stating the day after WrestleMania that I didn’t think we’d seen the last Undertaker match at WrestleMania? It seemed very obvious to me that the company was keeping their options open simply because they were noncommittal about whether he retired. Anyway, this was a very good promo by Cena and the crowd was completely behind the idea of seeing Taker vs. Cena.

Backstage, Sheamus and Cesaro vented to Kurt Angle about being attacked. They demanded to be traded to Smackdown. They mentioned Bludgeon Brothers, New Day, the Usos, and Breezango as possible opponents. Angle said he would not trade them. Angle announced that they would find out who their opponents would be. Angle announced a Raw tag team battle royal for later in the show…

The broadcast team set up a recap video of Braun Strowman vs. Elias in the Symphony of Destruction match from last week…

JoJo introduced Elias, who sat on a stool with his guitar while wearing a neck brace. He said he had one question. After a long pause, Elias said, “This is your fault” and then left the ring…

Backstage, Braun Strowman delivered a promo as giant words appeared on the screen again. He boasted about dropping a piano on Elias. “How is it that I don’t have a match at WrestleMania?” Strowman asked. He said he would create his own path and then guaranteed that someone would get “these hands” at WrestleMania…

Graves hyped Rollins vs. Balor for after the break… [C]

2. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor. The Miz was shown watching the match on a backstage monitor. Balor dropkicked Rollins off the apron and into the barricade. He followed up with a kick from the apron heading into a break. [C] Late in the match, Rollins performed a superplex and got up for the falcon arrow that he typically follows up with, but Balor caught him in an inside cradle and pinned him…

Finn Balor pinned Seth Rollins in 14:50.

Powell’s POV: The broadcast team played up the idea that Balor did his homework by countering that move. It was a good match and my guess is that we’ll see Rollins return the favor in a rematch before WrestleMania.

The broadcast team set up a video package on Fabulous Moolah. The narrator announced a Fabulous Moolah Battle Royal for WrestleMania… [C]

Powell’s POV: WWE laid it on really thick with that video package by portraying Moolah as a great pioneer for all women. She’ll probably be waiting at the Pearly Gates and expecting a payoff percentage from any female wrestler who came after her. Anyway, my dream of The Chyna battle royal is dead. Long live The Moolah battle royal.

Cole set up a video package on Ronda Rousey in WWE… A shot aired of Asuka walking backstage and the broadcast trio said she would be appearing after the break… [C]

Hour Three: Asuka made her entrance. Charly Caruso was there to interview her in the ring and asked why she chose to challenge Charlotte for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Asuka started to answer, but she was interrupted by Alexa Bliss’s entrance music. Bliss came out with Mickie James at her side.

Bliss said Asuka is smart and has the unbeaten streak. She said she is so smart that she kept her streak going by not entering the ring with her. James said everyone knows nobody is ready for Asuka. Bliss said Asuka knows she can’t beat her at WrestleMania so why try. Bliss said some say it’s cowardly to back down from a fight that you can’t win, but she shouldn’t listen to them. She applauded her for choosing to be champion of the B show.

Asuka said she didn’t choose Bliss because to be the woman, you have to beat the woman. She said she wants to be the best champion in WWE. Bliss said there must be an issue with the language barrier and said Asuka chose to face the easier champion. Asuka said she beat Bliss once and would beat her again on the spot.

Bliss said Asuka would face James instead and then she would face “this woman.” Bliss and James pointed at the entrance, but no one came out. Bliss shoved Asuka and then James knocked Asuka down… [C]

3. Asuka vs. Mickie James (w/Alexa Bliss). Cole noted that Angle made the match official during the break and pointed out that Asuka’s unbeaten streak was on the line. The match was joined in progress. James avoided an Asuka kick at ringside and Asuka kicked the ring post instead. Asuka beat the ref’s count but continued to sell her leg injury.

Later, James went up top, but Asuka cut her off. James performed a sunset flip powerbomb for a two count. Asuka ducked a Mick Kick and applied the Asuka Lock for the submission win. Bliss stormed backstage as soon as the match ended…

Asuka defeated Mickie James in 6:30 of television time.

The broadcast team hyped a preview of the Ultimate Deletion and the tag team battle royal to determine the challengers for Sheamus and Cesaro for WrestleMania…

Backstage, Bliss entered Nia Jax’s locker room and asked where she was when she called for her. Jax said Angle told her not to come out because she had a match. Bliss said she did it for her and it was the perfect opportunity for her to get payback for last week. Bliss called Jax her best friend and said she was there for her last week and she did it because she loves her. Jax told Bliss she loves her too and then they hugged. Bliss said she needed Jax’s word that she would be in her corner when she faces Asuka next week. Jax agreed…

A Women’s History Month video aired on Indira Gandhi… [C]

Powell’s POV: Gandhi somehow came off less historically important than they made Fabulous Moolah out to be in the previous video. The match between Asuka and James was more competitive than I expected. It seems obvious that Jax will be challenging Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship. It still remains to be seen whether they will stick with a singles match or add others to the Raw Women’s Championship match.

4. Nia Jax vs. Joan King. King acted petrified, then tried to swing at Jax, who blocked the punch. Jax dominated King and put her away with a Samoan drop…

Nia Jax beat Joan King in 0:45.

They cut to a camera inside the Bliss and James locker room. James said Jax was a loser and a failure who let her entire family down. Jax was watching on the big screen. They laughed about Bliss comforting Jax the week before. Bliss said she has to be coddled because she can’t handle the truth. Bliss said she needs Jax. “Look at her and look at me,” Bliss said.

Bliss added that it was no wonder that Jax hitched her wagon to her. She said she would face Asuka and Jax would be right where she wants her. She said Jax is as easily manipulated as she is big. She laughed about telling Jax that she loved her and said Jax would be nothing without her. Bliss told James that they would use Jax to do their heavily lifting and they would beat the hell out of her if she decided to think for herself for the first time in her life.

Charly Caruso entered the room with a mic and informed them that the microphone in the room had been on the entire time and everyone heard what they said. Jax was shown leaving the ring looking hurt initially and then getting angry and charging backstage. Bliss and James grabbed their belongings and ran out of the room. Jax arrived backstage and started trashing the room and luggage. Caruso told her that Bliss and James just ran off. Jax screamed and sobbed…

Powell’s POV: At first it seemed like they were going to pretend like the camera wasn’t in the room because Caruso never mentioned it and instead spoke about the microphone being on. She eventually turned to the camera and spoke into it so apparently she could see it, but the Bliss and James were somehow oblivious to it. Or maybe the idea was that the new the camera was there but they didn’t realize the mic was on? Anyway, I actually like the way they are building up Jax as being bullied by heels for being different. It should be effective in getting her over as a babyface.

A video package aired on the Ultimate Deletion match that will feature Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt. The video showed Queen Rebecca, King Maxel, Lord Wolfgang, Senor Benjamin, and Vanguard 1. Matt said they banish Sister Abigail’s rotten soul from Bray Wyatt into the redeeming waters of the Lake of Reincarnation. Hardy sentenced Wyatt to the Ultimate Deletion.

The Wyatt video flashed. Wyatt delivered a promo in which he called Hardy a liar, a fool, and added that he’s just a man who had made a very bad decision. Wyatt said when the devil is on your doorstep you should never let him in. Wyatt accepted the Ultimate Deletion invitation. He said it was a beautiful home and family and said it would be a shame if something bad happened to them…

A shot aired of Kurt Angle shaking his head backstage. Angle said he knew Wyatt was crazy, but he wondered what happened to Matt. Angle informed one of the referees that he needed him to be the ref for the Ultimate Deletion. The ref asked if he did something wrong. Angle assured him that wasn’t the case and said he wanted him to make sure they get back to Raw in one piece…

Powell’s POV: This is going to be fun. I reported earlier today that the match would air next week and that the Hardys were said to be very pleased with the results of the shoot that took place last week in Cameron, North Carolina. If Bray is thrown into the Lake of Reincarnation, will Husky Harris make an appearance?!?

The WrestleMania video aired. We are 27 days away…

The broadcast team recapped the opening segment with Roman Reigns, Kurt Angle, and Vince McMahon…

The broadcast team hyped that Brock Lesnar would be in Dallas next week. Cole questioned whether that means they would get their face to face with Lesnar and Reigns. Coachman pointed out that Reigns was suspended. They also hyped Ultimate Deletion and Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss iin a non-title match for next week…

5. A Tag Team Battle Royal for a shot at the Raw Tag Titles at WrestleMania. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, The Revival, Heath Slater and Rhyno, Apollo and Titus O’Neil, and Bo Dallas, and Curtis Axel were already in the ring when Sheamus and Cesaro came out to sit in on commentary. Braun Strowman came out and insisted upon being in the match. The broadcast team didn’t know whether Strowman was flying solo or not.

Strowman eliminated Apollo and then Slater. The other wrestlers stopped and decided to team up up Strowman. The Revival pulled Rhyno off the pile and eliminated him from the match. All of the tag team wrestlers huddled up at ringside while Strowman stood alone in the ring. [C]

The tag wrestlers ganged up on Strowman and ended up running him into the ring steps. The Revival took the steps apart and ran a portion into him twice. The remaining tag wrestlers started fighting amongst themselves while Strowman was down at ringside. Scott Dawson was eliminated by Dallas, then Axel eliminated Dash Wilder (it took two attempts to throw him over the top rope).

[Overrun] Strowman returned and eliminated Titus. Strowman eliminated Gallows. Strowman got rid of The Miztourage. The match came down to Strowman and Anderson. “I’m going to WrestleMania,” Strowman yelled before eliminating Anderson to win the match. Strowman celebrated his win to close the show…

Braun Strowman won a battle royal in 11:15 to earn a Raw Tag Title shot at WrestleMania.

Powell’s POV: No, Braun Strowman by himself is not eligible for Best Tag Team in our 2018 Awards. Will he be forced to find a tag partner or will he fly solo in a handicap match against The Bar? Could this lead to the return of James Ellsworth? I doubt it, but let me dream. I’m not a big fan of Strowman destroying the already damaged tag division and this isn’t what I would do with Strowman at Mania, but I do see the possible Strowman vs. The Bar match as a decent attraction match and find it more appealing than a “get everyone on the show” gauntlet style tag title match.

Overall, this was an entertaining and newsworthy edition. The big negatives is WWE advertising Lesnar and Rousey in advance and failing to deliver either. Keep in mind that they told us last week that Rousey would appear on every Raw leading up to WrestleMania and it only took them a week to go back on that. It doesn’t bother me so much as a viewer of the show, but it’s pretty harsh for anyone in the live crowd who paid to see them both. Perhaps one of them will show up for a dark segment? I will have more to say about Raw in my members’ exclusive audio review later tonight.

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Readers Comments (8)

  1. These work shoot angles would be more effective if

    1) We were in 1997

    2) There weren’t two of them running concurrently

    3) The ‘babyfaces’ weren’t people the fans hate

    4) If the wrestlers didn’t let us know how daring they were being by speaking out.

    • Seeing as how you took time out of your life to comment on the two storylines in question here would suggest that WWE is doing a fine job at getting them to work. Let’s not forget, a boo is on the same level as a cheer in WWE, as long as you make noise toward what they are presenting you on TV, that means you care, which means it works, which means we get more of it. If you change the channel and have no opinion, THEN that means that the fans hate something or someone

      • Yeah, not really considering I never watched the show to begin with. I saw highlights on youtube and read the details. WWE doesn’t get a rating point or a dime from me. The first rule of business is make a product people will buy. I’m not buying it and neither is an increasing number of people.

        I also talk a lot about Donald Trump. It doesn’t mean he works as President.

        The only significant income WWE gets is from networks that need to fill time with programming. Yeah, they’ll sell out Wrestlemania, but the weekly shows aren’t drawing fans. It’s a dying act and the McMahon’s know it, that’s why they’re interested in cashing out.

  2. One can only hope that Bray will end up taking a dip in the Lake of Reincarnation at Final Deletion. Especially if it could lead to a gimmick makeover for him.

  3. I don’t understand about The Fabulous Moolah thing. Jason, you mentioned that ” “WWE laid it on really thick with that video package by portraying Moolah as a great pioneer for all women. She’ll probably be waiting at the Pearly Gates and expecting a payoff percentage from any female wrestler who came after her.” She wasn’t a pioneer? Also, what about her wanting a payoff percentage?

  4. There is no way the Raw tag division can ever be viable again. After teasing the Good Brothers were finally going to get a decent push with Balor Club and The Revival being touted as future tag champs they allow one man to defeat not only them but the entire division. No matter if Gallows and Anderson or The Revival win 16 tag titles they will always be known as the team who couldn’t defeat a singles wrestler with 4 other teams helping them. All their credibility has been shredded. After saying all that I’m sure the whole thing will be forgotten before the next pay per view…..Forget Lesnar and Rousey no showing, where the heck was Dana Brooke and her power suit?

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