WWE Raw Live TV Review: John Cena vs. Kane, the penultimate edition of Raw before WrestleMania 34

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

WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live on March 26, 2018 from Cleveland, Ohio at Quicken Loans Arena

[Hour One] Raw opened with a shot of the WrestleMania sign and then WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman made their entrance. The broadcast team of Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Jonathan Coachman spoke as Lesnar and Heyman headed to the ring.

Heyman delivered the in-ring introduction for himself and Lesnar and then recalled the “savage beating” that Lesnar dished out to Roman Reigns last week. Heyman pointed to the big screen for a recap of last week’s angle. Heyman declared breaking news before saying the temporary suspension of Reigns had been lifted. He noted that fans were expecting Roman to interrupt him at any moment. However, in his second “breaking news” item, he announced that Reigns was not in the building.

Heyman spoke about Reigns being raised by his father Sika and his uncle Afa to be a Samoan badass. “It’s a shame they didn’t raise Roman Reigns to be a man,” Heyman said. “Because a man would be here tonight.” He recalled Reigns saying he was there every week. “Well, Roman Reigns, you’re advertised and Roman Reigns is not here two weeks before WrestleMania.”

Heyman said Lesnar would be at Raw if the beating had gone the other way last week. “Roman Reigns isn’t man enough to show up tonight to take another beating from Brock Lesnar.” Just as Heyman was about to close out the promo, there was a commotion in the crowd that caused Heyman to stop talking.

Roman Reigns walked slowly to ringside and picked up a chair. Lesnar raced to ringside and dropped Reigns before he could use the chair. Reigns came back and ran Lesnar into the ring post. Reigns picked up the chair and struck Lesnar with it a couple of times and sold his pain from last week. Reigns went for a Superman Punch off the steps, but Lesnar caught him and suplexed him on the floor.

Lesnar tossed Reigns and a piece of the ring steps into the ring. Lesnar brought a chair into the ring and then picked up the steps and ran them into Reigns. Lesnar picked up the chair and ended his slamming it over the back of Reigns repeatedly. The adult males let out a loud cheer for the last of the chair shots to Roman’s back.

Lesnar grabbed his title belt and his music played, but he ended up returning to the ring and gave Reigns and F5 onto the ring steps. Lesnar walked up the steps and posed with his title belt in mid-ring while his music played. Lesnar smiled and pointed at the WrestleMania sign while jawing at Reigns and then left the ring…

The broadcast team hyped John Cena vs. Kane, Ronda Rousey, and Nia Jax vs. Mickie James… [C]

Powell’s POV: They doubled down on the sympathy play for Reigns this week and it seemed less effective with this crowd. There wasn’t all out hate for Reigns, but it’s just a case of same story, different week as far as the fan reaction is concerned. The Lesnar beatings are vicious and I can’t help but wonder just how effective these same segments would be if they involved a babyface that the fans universally liked.

Reigns was shown limping up the ramp slowly and then the broadcast team narrated highlights from the Lesnar beatdown. They spoke about how Reigns was not going to be 100 percent heading into WrestleMania…

1. Nia Jax vs. Mickie James (w/Alexa Bliss). Jax tossed James sideways. James landed awkwardly with her leg under her before rolling to ringside heading into the break. [C] James seemed to be fine coming out of the break. Jax eventually pressed James from the ropes and then put her down with a Samoan Drop before pinning her. Bliss ran in and hit Jax, who no-sold it. Bliss ran away. Jax yelled in the ring and called her a little bitch (WWE was late censoring that one)…

Nia Jax defeated Mickie James in 7:30.

Cole hyped an all access look at Stephanie McMahon and Triple H training at the WWE Performance Center for their match against Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle… [C]

Powell’s POV: Predictable in a good way with Jax plowing through the minion while en route to her match with Bliss. The James spot before the break looked a little awkward in that James’s leg was caught under her, but it seemed like the idea was for her to roll to ringside from that spot going into the break. Meanwhile, the Stephanie training video has major potential. This could be fun.

The WrestleMania video aired. We are 13 days away…

The broadcast team spoke about WrestleMania and then set up the video package. Triple H and Stephanie spoke in a sit-down format at the WWE Performance Center while highlights from their angles with Rousey and Angle were shown. Hunter and Stephanie said it was all about Rousey’s ego. Hunter called Angle and idiot. Stephanie said they write and make the rules and sometimes have to show everyone who is boss.

Hunter said people believe they were handed everything because Stephanie is Vince’s daughter, but it’s not like that. Trainer Joe DeFranco was shown talking about how Hunter and Stephanie train all year. Footage aired of the couple going through workouts at the WWE Performance Center while DeFranco spoke about how he trains world class athletes and Hunter and Stephanie are exceeding what those athletes do.

Stephanie spoke about Rousey’s interview and how she is vulnerable and is now entering a world she knows nothing about. Stephanie said Rousey hasn’t had one match, whereas she grew up in the WWE ring. Stephanie was shown hitting a heavy bag as she spoke about how Rousey doesn’t have a clue what she’s in for. Hunter said it’s not UFC or MMA, it’s their world.

Stephanie said Rousey doesn’t scare her because she’s a McMahon, which means Rousey will simply work for her. She said it’s a shame that all of this has to happen to Rousey. They said that when it’s over they will pick her up and repackage her. Stephanie said they will humble her like they have humbled every superstar in WWE…

Cedric Alexander made his entrance while Cole hyped that he would team with WrestleMania opponent Mustafa Ali after the break… [C]

Powell’s POV: That’s not what I was hoping for. The verbal part of it was mildly fun with Hunter and Stephanie being egomaniacs, but the training footage was way too serious in tone. Stephanie has never been positioned as an in-ring threat, yet she was positioned like a serious athlete in the training footage. The trainer’s over the top praise didn’t seem like he was trying to go over the top because he included Hunter in his praise, which made it seem like he was being honest.

2. Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali vs. Drew Gulak and TJP. The match was joined in progress. 205 Live general manager Drake Maverick sat in on commentary. Late in the match, Ali tagged himself in. Alexander hit the Lumbar Check on TJP and the referee informed Alexander that he was not the legal man, then Ali hit his 054 finisher for the win. Alexander and Ali were smiling as they spoke about the finish…

Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali beat Drew Gulak and TJP.

The broadcast team hyped Miz TV with Seth Rollins and Finn Balor for after the break… A video showcased Daniel Bryan’s return and last week’s angle on Smackdown. The narrator questioned whether Bryan would have the strength to return and lead Smackdown on the road to WrestleMania… [C]

Powell’s POV: It felt like a mistake to reintroduce the cruiserweights to Raw using four of the mainstays of the division. It was a nice touch to have Maverick on commentary, but the match itself sent the message that nothing has changed for those who haven’t been watching 205 Live, which actually is not the case.

The Miz hosted Miz TV in the ring while Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel stood by him. Cole noted that they were in Miz’s hometown of Cleveland. “I live in LA,” Miz started. Funny. He said he likes to get things out in the open. He asked Dallas and Axel if they were happy. They indicated they were. Miz said he was not. He said he couldn’t count on them and if he wanted misery he would have stayed in Cleveland.

[Hour Two] Dallas told Miz that they were doing everything they could. Miz told him he could Bo-lieve himself back to catering and he’d be nothing without him. Seth Rollins’ entrance music interrupted. Rollins said he’s normally not a fan of Miz TV, but he was enjoying what he saw. Miz said he came out early and they had an issue they needed to resolve.

Rollins said the Miztourage was feeling under appreciated. He asked when the last time Miz said thank you to Axel and Dallas. Rollins said that without the two of them Miz would not be Intercontinental Champion. Miz started singing his own praises. Dallas interrupted and said he was a phony A-Lister who can’t fight. Rollins and Miz asked him to repeat himself.

Finn Balor made his entrance and claimed that Dallas called Miz the biggest jerk he’d ever met. Dallas corrected him and repeated what he actually said. Miz glared at Dallas and told him to say it again. Dallas started to repeat himself and Miz slapped him across the face. Axel had to keep Dallas away from Miz, who said he was trying to motivate them.

Miz said he’s 37 days away from being the greatest IC Champion of all-time. He said that means he’d be better than Shawn Michaels, Randy Savage, and Mr. Perfect. Axel didn’t look happy at Miz bringing up his father’s name. Rollins and Balor tried to stir the pot. Miz said Miz TV is now cancelled.

“Let’s just get out of here,” Miz said. Axel and Dallas blocked his path. Miz apologized to them off-mic and then said into the mic that nobody wants to see this, which drew a pop from the live crowd. Miz ended up between Axel and Dallas on one side, and Rollins and Balor on the other. Suddenly, Axel and Dallas struck Rollins and Balor.

Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows came out for the save and fought with Axel and Dallas to the back. Miz was left alone in the ring with Rollins and Balor, but he ended up escaping without being touched. Balor picked up the IC Title belt and looked at it, then Rollins took it away from him and held it up. Balor shoved him aside and hit Miz, who was going for a sneak attack. Rollins clotheslined Miz to ringside, then turned and took a clothesline from Balor, who held up the title belt to end the segment…

Asuka was shown walking backstage… [C]

Powell’s POV: Rollins and Balor look foolish for interrupting at times when it looked like Miz, Dallas, and Axel were going to self destruct. If you can get past that, the segment was actually very entertaining. My guess is that Miz drops the title at WrestleMania and doesn’t break the IC Title record because he’s moved to Smackdown in the Superstar Shakeup where he’ll eventually face Daniel Bryan.

Kane delivered a backstage promo about how demons don’t like to be disturbed when they want to rest in peace. He said John Cena will pay for his indiscretion. He said Cena won’t go to WrestleMania because he’ll be going straight to hell…

Asuka made her entrance. Charly Caruso interviewed her opponent Jamie Frost at ringside and noted that it was her first professional match. Frost said Asuka doesn’t know who she is or what she’s capable of and therefore isn’t ready for her…

3. Asuka vs. Jamie Frost. Asuka blasted Frost with a kick to the head and pinned her…

Asuka pinned Jamie Frost in 0:29.

Cole apologized and said he warned everyone that the Ultimate Deletion was going to be the weirdest thing they’d ever seen. Graves went off about how great it was and then narrated still shots from the segment. Matt Hardy appeared on the screen and said that as a result of the Ultimate Deletion, the essence from the vessel known as Bray Wyatt is no more. He declared the Great War to be over and said he must honor the legacy of the Humongous Wonder Number 8. In other words, he’s entering The Dre…

Graves hyped an in-depth look at the Sasha Banks and Bayley friendship… [C] There was a Snickers add that featured Elias…

Powell’s POV: I don’t think the dominant win did much for Asuka, but it beats watching her have another competitive match.

The broadcast team spoke about the women’s battle royal. Cole asked Graves what it will do for the women in WWE. Graves spoke about how the winner could claim victory in the first-ever women’s battle royal (at WrestleMania) and then Coachman said it would be a jumpstart for anyone who is victorious…

Backstage, Bayley and Sasha Banks talked in front of a set of lockers. Bayley said she’s winning the women’s battle royal. Banks wanted to talk to her and said she’s tired of her being passive aggressive. Bayley said she thought Banks liked her being passive and having a friendship where Banks gets to do whatever she wants and she just goes along with it. Bayley said Banks loves when she puts her first and acts like she’s a Legit Boss. Banks said she makes no apology for doing what she wants for herself and her career. She suggested Bayley do the same so everyone doesn’t think she’s a loser.

Bayley said Banks screws her over because she knows she can’t beat her. Banks pointed out she’s a four-time Raw Women’s Champion. Bayley asked her how long she kept the title. Bayley went to leave, but Banks grabbed her and slammed her into the lockers. They fought and Banks ended up running Bayley into other lockers and then they fought on a table until several referees pulled them apart…

Braun Strowman made his entrance while the broadcast team spoke about how he must have a partner to get the tag title shot at WrestleMania… [C]

Powell’s POV: Sasha and Bayley both continue to be unlikable. On the bright side, at least the women’s battle royal has an actual storyline to follow.

Sheamus and Cesaro made their entrance and wanted to know who Strowman’s partner will be. Strowman said they would find out if Shemaus beat him…

4. Braun Strowman vs. Sheamus (w/Cesaro). Strowman set up for his forearms to Strowman’s chest, but Strowman blocked and delivered one to Sheamus that knocked him to ringside. Strowman rolled him back inside the ring and then clotheslined him to ringside. [C] Strowman won with a running powerslam…

Braun Strowman beat Sheamus in 7:55.

Cole hyped Ronda Rousey as appearing after the break.. The Daniel Bryan Smackdown ad aired again… [C]

Powell’s POV: Will we get the reveal of Strowman’s partner next week or is it something they will save for WrestleMania? Give me some Ellsworth! Hey, I can dream. By the way, I know the roster split is in play and all, but it feels like they could have done more on Raw to hype Bryan’s return. It feels odd that the broadcast team hasn’t addressed it.

Cole touted John Cena hosting the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards and The Rock winning two awards…

Kurt Angle made his entrance and then introduced Ronda Rousey, who received a mild, yet favorable reaction. Graves said the fans were unglued for Rousey. Angle said that after watching Rousey train the last few weeks, she is ready for WrestleMania. Angle recalled Hunter and Steph stating that they write the rules. He said they mean it. He added that WrestleMania will be fun, but it won’t be easy.

Rousey said she didn’t come to WWE for easy. She said Stephanie is trust fund touch, limousine tough, and personal trainer tough. She said Stephanie would get what she deserves, which is having her arm ripped out of its socket. The Absolution entrance music interrupted Rousey.

Paige introduced herself, Mandy Rose, and Sonya Deville and said this is her house. Paige entered the ring while Rose and Deville stood on the apron. Paige said they were there just in case she needed backup. Rousey thanked them, but said she had an Olympic gold medalist. Paige said being on the bad side of Hunter and Stephanie is career suicide.

[Hour Three] Paige invited Rousey to become the fourth member of Absolution. A light “no” chant broke out. Rousey thanked her for the offer and declined. Paige said she could have made good friends, but she made her worst enemies.

Paige exited as Rose and Deville entered the ring. Angle stopped Rose from punching Rousey, who then knocked Deville down. Rose tried to kick Rousey, who caught her leg and then suplexed her onto Deville. Angle raised the arm of Rousey. Rose charged at Rousey, who put her in an armbar. Angle had to talk Rousey into releasing the hold. Angle raised Rousey’s arm and she received a polite round of applause…

The broadcast team narrated highlights from the Lesnar and Reigns segment… The broadcast team hyped Cena vs. Kane in a No DQ match… Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson made their entrance heading into a break… [C]

Powell’s POV: I now spend the Rousey segments staring at that red eye shadow or whatever it is that she’s wearing under her eyes. I’m pulling for Rousey in WWE, but this was a forgettable segment. Here’s hoping they heat things up again on the go-home show.

5. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson vs. Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas. The match was joined in progress. “All in… in support of the Intercontinental Champion,” Cole said of Axel and Dallas. There was a light “too sweet” chant for Gallows and Anderson. In the end, Anderson and Gallows hit the Magic Killer on Axel. Gallows pinned Axel for the win…

Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson beat Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas.

Powell’s POV: A time filler match on the penultimate edition of Raw before WrestleMania? This may set up two punches and three kicks in The Dre battle royal. Strange.

Cole read a tweet from Charlotte about ending Asuka’s streak at WrestleMania… Elias was shown walking backstage… [C]

Ring announcer JoJo introduced Elias, who received a favorable reaction and led a loud “Walk With Elias.” He spoke about selling out MSG and said coming to Cleveland is a huge disappointment. “I am truly embarrassed to be here tonight, but I’m in good company because my brother LeBron James told me he felt the same way when he came back from Miami,” Elias said. He said James would leave Cleveland again.

Elias sang a song mocking the Cleveland Browns. He was interrupted by the entrance music of Rhyno and Heath Slater. Cole pimped WWE Hall of Fame tickets (ouch)…

6. Elias vs. Rhyno (w/Heath Slater). Cole pointed out that Elias had a man bun. Elias hit Drift Away for the win. Elias roughed up Slater after the match…

Elias beat Rhyno in 2:25.

Graves hyped a look back at John Cena’s disrespectful comments toward Undertaker… [C]

Powell’s POV: Okay, I get it now. Aside from the Rousey segment, the third hour of this Raw episode has been a tribute to WCW Thunder now being available on WWE Network.

Cole said he could not believe they were two weeks away from WrestleMania (me neither after watching the last 20 minutes of this show). Cole, Graves, and Coachman ran through some of the WrestleMania matches. They set up a video package that focussed on Cena challenging Undertaker and some of the verbal shots he’s taken at him… The broadcast team hyped Cena vs. Kane…

Powell’s POV: In all seriousness, this third hour has to be a case of bringing the crowd down while knowing that they are going to deliver something big at the end of the show. It’s great as long as they don’t bore the audience to sleep first. Wait, there’s a Star Wars: The Last Jedi DVD commercial. I’m awake!

Graves hyped Rollins vs. Balor for next week’s WrestleMania go-home show. Cole added that Angle and Rousey will have an “in-ring face-off” with Triple H and Stephanie on the same show…

John Cena made his entrance and said he brought out a special towel. He turned it around and it was something related to his appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres talkshow. Kane made his entrance and it was time for the 2002 WWE TV main event!!!

7. John Cena vs. Kane in a No DQ match. There were dueling Cena chants amongst the fans who actually chanted. A louder Undertaker chant started and faded as Kane was in early offensive control. Kane ran Cena into the ring steps heading into a break. [C] Kane suplexed Cena onto a piece of a guardrail next to the broadcast table. Kane tossed Cena over the barricade and back to ringside. Back in the ring, Cena sat up Undertaker style while Kane removed a turnbuckle pad.

Cena also did a throat slashing gesture and chokeslammed Kane. Cena set up a table inside the ring. Kane sat up and kicked Cena. He scooped him up, but Cena slipped away and put him in AA position, but Kane knocked over the table and fought himself free. Kane ended up putting Cena through the table and only got a two count. Kane set up another table in the ring and went for a chokeslam. Cena slipped away and performed an AA through the table and got the pin…

John Cena beat Kane in 14:05.

[Overrun] Cena stood in the ring and held out his arms in a WTF? pose. “No lightning, no bells of terror, no Undertaker?” Cena said. He said it was a match with no rules and anyone could be there. “Where are you?” he yelled. “Undertaker!?!?” Cena held up the mic as the fans chanted Undertaker. “I know you’re not deaf, you’re just a coward.” Cena said the fans chant Taker’s name night after night in city after city. The Undertaker chant fired up again.

Cena looked into the camera and said you don’t get to be mysterious. “It’s either yes or it’s no,” he said. The fans chanted yes. “I’m fine with no because I will go to WrestleMania as a fan, but get your eyes out of the back of your head and look at the energy when they chant yes, when they chant Undertaker, when they chant… do something for God’s…”

Cena held his arms out again and said, “Do something because now you only have one week left, one week that sums up your entire career. You can do something or you can do nothing. And if you do nothing, you let me down, you sure as hell let Kane down, but most importantly you’ve made it crystal clear to every person who ever believed in the Undertaker that you don’t care about them, you only care about yourself. I hope that for the sake of all that is good I see you inside this ring next week.” Cena dropped the mic and left the ring. Cole recapped the segment. Cena stopped and looked into the camera and made a throat slashing gesture to close the show…

Powell’s POV: Wow, that was one shitty third hour considering where we are on the road to WrestleMania. They definitely set the stage for next week with Cena making it clear that Taker only has one more week. That’s a really nice hook. I feel bad for the fans in Cleveland who sat through some lousy segments in that third hour and had to be thinking that this was the night for Taker’s return, but the storytelling approach with Cena and Taker is certainly interesting and unexpected even if Cena comes off really dorky at times. Overall, the go-home show should and must be better than this episode. I will have more to say in my members’ exclusive audio review later tonight. Thanks for watching along with me.


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Readers Comments (11)

  1. “That’s not what I was hoping for. The verbal part of it was mildly fun with Hunter and Stephanie being egomaniacs, but the training footage was way too serious in tone. Stephanie has never been positioned as an in-ring threat, yet she was positioned like a serious athlete in the training footage.”

    Sorry, but you’re dead wrong on this one. Steph’s workouts have been featured in video and print in recent years and some of that has been played up by WWE. What she was years ago in ring is not nearly as relevant.

    • No, it’s what “I” was hoping for. You liked what they did and that’s fine, but I was hoping for something more comedic. Stephanie’s workout videos make her a realistic threat to Rousey? Come on.

      • No, they fit with the image she’s had publicly for a while and plays perfectly into her delusional power tripping attitude. It makes perfect sense for her to come into the match believing that she can actually put up a legit fight against Rousey even though everyone knows that’s not the case.

      • In Stephanie’s world, she not only views herself as a threat, she views herself as being superior to Rousey. This is the same character that emasculated the Hardcore legend, Mick Foley regularly, and did the same to Olympic Gold Medalist, Kurt Angle. So, staying in character, why wouldn’t she be serious? She has more in ring experience than Rousey. And while Rousey may be a better “fighter”, WWE is not what she’s use to, so Steph would see that as an advantage. Does that mean she should be a real threat to Rousey, absolutely not. But, I think the approach they’re taking is the best one.

  2. As funny as it would’ve been to see Steph chasing chickens and screaming “I HATE ROUSEY!” it would’ve felt forced for her character. She’s so high on her own brand that she would never try to come across as anything other than a badass. She’s a bloviating brat that always has to look like the queen bee. Save her showing some ass for Mania when it really counts.

  3. I’m ready for a heel turn for Ronda Rousey after Wrestlemania season. She was given the “WHAT?” treatment tonight and it felt awkward when Kurt Angle kind of tried to tame her. I guess she could become a Paul Heyman girl and let him do the mic work as her manager while she destroys her opponents. Yes, a female Brock Lesnar, but with more dates to work.

  4. Well they killed Sonya Deville dead. Having a MMA style gimmick she would have been the perfect post Wrestlemania opponent for Rousey but that’s no longer an option.

  5. That third hour was rough. If you missed it, you didn’t miss anything memorable. I’m sure fans who left thought it was on part with watching a Browns game. Think about how bad that sounds…

  6. Gang, the character can be delusional about her ability and the segment can still be more fun than this was. Vince McMahon’s antics going into his matches are an example of what I’m referring to. Again, to each his own on this, but the segment just didn’t do much for me.

  7. I was like you thinking the segment would be more comedic than it was , but came away more impressed by what they did do, and how it was presented.

    If we’re to believe that Rousey was signed to get Stephanie over then it makes sense to make Steph look strong, and both her and Hunter played the heels perfectly. I don’t think anyone here believes that Steph will beat Ronda in all seriousness, but I see this one playing out past wrestlemania with neither woman getting a pin on the other one (perhaps having Angle pin Hunter or vice versa)again if this is to get steph over than i don’t see a blow off happening this quick.

    I wasn’t quite sure what you meant by not wanting to see Asuka in a competitive match…I mean I’d rather see a show filled with competitive matches instead of being bogged down by this slow story line crap all the time. That being said I like what they did here and Jamie Frost did her job extremely well.

    The only things I didn’t care for was the Rousey segment which came off bad, and the opening segmnent with Brock/Reigns which is getting old in a hurry(with the same old story telling) if brock is truly leaving then the story writes itself with Heyman turning on Brock at wrestlemania and walking off with the new heel Reigns. I just don’t think they needed to waste a year to get to this point…just have good matches and let the wrestling tell the story.

  8. Complaining about that Steph video is almost as out of touch as everything Barnett and Pruett write.

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