WWE Raw Live TV Review: WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar returns for the final push for the WWE Greatest Royal Rumble

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

WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live on April 23, 2018 from St. Louis, Missouri at Scottrade Center

[Hour One] Raw opened with a graphic that acknowledged the death of Bruno Sammartino. Vince McMahon and all of the wrestlers stood on the stage and there was a “Bruno” chant. Ring announcer JoJo asked fans to stand and then they rang the ring bell ten times…

A video package on Sammartino aired and included comments from John Cena, Pat Patterson, Roman Reigns, Bill Apter, The Miz, Ted DiBiase, Triple H, and Paul Heyman while highlights and still shots aired from his career… Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Booker T were on commentary…

Brock Lesnar’s music played and the WWE Universal Champion headed to the ring along with Paul Heyman. Once the duo made it to the ring, Graves said Roman Reigns couldn’t be far behind and then they went to the first commercial break… [C]

Powell’s POV: A classy video for a classy man. WWE did more to pay tribute to Sammartino than they do most wrestlers and rightfully so given everything he did for the company. Meanwhile, the broadcast team acknowledged that Jonathan Coachman was on assignment. He’s doing some broadcasting work for a golf event. Coachman also stated on Twitter that he would miss the Greatest Royal Rumble event on Friday, but he will be back for Raw next week.

Cole hyped the Lesnar vs. Reigns cage match for the WWE Universal Championship at the Greatest Royal Rumble event. Heyman cleared his throat while standing in the corner of the ring. Heyman introduced himself and Lesnar while boasting that Lesnar is still the champion. Lesnar showed off the goosebumps on his arms following the introduction.

Heyman asked the fans if they thought he was there to gloat and tell them that he told them so. Heyman mentioned Lesnar conquering the Undertaker’s undefeated streak, which led to boos, and he also boasted about Lesnar taking John Cena to Suplex City. Heyman pointed at the belt and said “this is real” to Lesnar. He said none of the wannabe tough guys backstage stand any better of a chance than wannabe tough guys in the crowd.

Heyman said Lesnar does not gloat, he conquers. “Paul Heyman gloats all night long,” Heyman said. He noted that Lesnar used elbows in a non-PG era to bust open Roman Reigns. He said he gloats over the fact that Lesnar took Reigns to Suplex City and hit him with multiple F5s and then pinned him in the biggest WrestleMania of all time.

Heyman said none of it means anything to Lesnar because he doesn’t dwell on the past. He said Lesnar looks forward to the future. He said Lesnar craves a UFC fight so badly that he will fly across the globe to be locked inside a cage with Reigns. There were a few people chanting for Reigns at ringside and the camera cut to them and both Heyman and Lesnar looked at them.

Heyman asked them if they really think being in a cage was Roman’s idea. Heyman said WWE had no choice when Lesnar won at WrestleMania and they signed him to a big new contract. Heyman said Lesnar requested Reigns in a fight for the title in a cage match. Heyman said the odds are stacked against Reigns even more than they were at WrestleMania. Heyman said that’s a spoiler. Heyman said Lesnar is going to shred Reigns to the point that he will come back in multiple boxes.

Roman Reigns’ entrance music played and he came out to a more favorable reaction than usual while Cole said many people feel Reigns is in a must win situation. Reigns entered the ring with a mic and stared at Lesnar, who smiled at jawed at him. Reigns said he doesn’t know how he’ll get back, but he’s coming home with the title “and you can believe that.” Reign dropped the mic and his music played to end the segment…

Cole hyped the debut of the Sami & Kevin Show with the first guest Kurt Angle for later in the show. Graves said Angle was giving the women the same opportunity he gave the men last week. He announced a ten-woman tag match with Bayley, Sasha Banks, Nia Jax, Ember Moon, and Natalya vs. Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan, Ruby Riott, Alexa Bliss, and Mickie James as the show’s main event. Elias was shown walking backstage. Cole said Elias would face Bobby Roode after the break… [C]

Powell’s POV: The St. Louis fans were kinder to Reigns than we’ve seen any crowd be in in recent weeks. The promo was so brief that it was completely forgettable. I wonder if they wish they had that one back given how receptive this crowd was to Reigns.

Bruno Sammartino social media tributes were shown from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Booker T, NFL great Dan Marino, Jerry Lawler, and Shane McMahon…

Elias sat in the ring on his stool and started to address the crowd, but he was interrupted by Roode’s entrance music…

1. Bobby Roode vs. Elias. Cole noted that both men will be in the 50-man Royal Rumble on Friday. Roode leapt off the middle rope and winced while selling knee pain when he landed, but then he went right back on the offensive. Graves took issue with Cole referring to Elias as an up and comer. Cole said he’s an up and comer and a main eventer and he’s one of his biggest fans. Roode clotheslined Elias to ringside at 2:25 before a commercial break. [C]

An ad aired for the Greatest Royal Rumble via split screen once they returned from the break. Graves announced that Shane McMahon will be in the Greatest Royal Rumble match. Late in the match, Elias wrenched the arm of Roode on the ropes as Roode was standing on the apron. Elias pulled Roode through the ropes and rolled him up for the win…

Elias pinned Bobby Roode in 11:15.

Powell’s POV: No pull of the tights, but Graves did call it a highway robbery. I’m surprised to see Roode lose clean early in his Raw run. That said, it’s one match and it’s possible they come right back with Roode going over next week. I agree with Twitter.com/barnettjake, who wrote prior to the match that he’d like to see Roode go on a losing streak that leads to a heel turn.

A Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt promo aired. Hardy said they will procure the Raw Tag Titles at the Greatest Royal Rumble. He said they must first descend into the abominable wasteland. Wyatt appeared and the lighting changed. He said there can be no light because they will cast a shadow that engulfs all living things… [C]

The broadcast team acknowledged the birth of Rock’s third daughter. They showed his Instagram photo. Graves asked the obvious question of why Rock was shirtless in the hospital bed. “He didn’t give birth!” Funny…

2. Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt vs. “The Ascension” Konnor and Viktor. The Ascension’s entrance was not televised. Viktor did a cartwheel over Hardy early in the match. Hardy stood up and called it wonderful, then led the crowd in applauding Viktor. Graves pointed out the success that The Ascension had in NXT. Booker said he’s not surprised they haven’t done as well against better competition on the main roster. Graves compared it to a AAA player struggling in the majors. Late in the match, Wyatt took out Konnor with Sister Abigail. Hardy tagged him into the match and they hit their double team move, allowing Wyatt to pin Viktor…

Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt defeated The Ascension in 3:55.

Graves hyped the Sami & Kevin Show for after the break… [C]

Powell’s POV: Hardy’s early antics got the crowd engaged in the match, which was just a showcase for Hardy and Wyatt heading into their match with Sheamus and Cesaro for the vacant Raw Tag Titles on Friday.

Another batch of social media posts regarding the death of Bruno Sammartino aired. This back featured posts from Triple H, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio, and musician Bruno Mars… Cole hyped the WWE Network special that will air on Sammartino after Raw…

[Hour Two] Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn made their entrance and sat behind a desk that was set up in the ring. There were also photos set up on stands in the ring along with the show’s logo. Zayn questioned whether it was a weekly show. Owens said it was. Owens said it’s the Greatest Royal Rumble because they would show their greatness by winning the Rumble match.

Owens and Zayn introduced Kurt Angle as their guest and he headed to the ring to his entrance theme. Zayn moved one of the photos so that Angle could enter the ring. Owens pulled a lawn chair out from under the ring and set it up. Angle sat down on it. Owens took a jab at Angle by saying that his boss had his manhood in a jar. They also claimed that Shane McMahon had a personal vendetta against them.

Owens boasted about cracking the skull of Vince McMahon. Zayn said Stephanie must really appreciate their talents or she really dislikes Angle. Kurt said he wouldn’t blame her if she did because if it wasn’t for him then she would still have Ronda Rousey under her thumb and the use of both of her arms. Owens and Zayn said Angle desperately needs the general manager job because he has so many kids. They debated whether Angle had five or six kids. Owens said Zayn forgot to count Jason Jordan. Zayn said Angle forgot about him for years too.

Angle said he appreciated the way they treated him and so he wanted to replay them. Angle announced that he, Daniel Bryan, and Chris Jericho would all be in the Greatest Royal Rumble match. Angle booked them in a tag match against Bobby Lashley and Braun Strowman for later in the show. Owens and Zayn didn’t look pleased…

Backstage, Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas made a pitch to align themselves with Seth Rollins. They said they could be the new Shield. They put their fists out. Rollins gave them “a hard no”…

The broadcast team ran through some of the matches advertised for the Greatest Royal Rumble event and then hyped the 10-woman tag match as the show’s main event. They also hyped Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre for after the break… [C]

Powell’s POV: A fun segment with Owens and Zayn getting some zingers in, including one about Lana finally allowing Rusev to face Undertaker in the casket match on Friday. Oddly, that’s been as much hype as that match has received. They have been pushing the hell out of the overall event, though. One thing missing is that while they try to push everyone on watching the show live, they should be pointing out that fans who work can watch it whenever they choose on the network. By the way, I like the hook that they gave the Rumble match by making it clear that Owens and Zayn would have so many enemies in the match. That’s the most that match has going for it at this point because it’s hard to care about a 50-man Rumble match for a trophy. Here’s hoping they sweeten the pot somehow.

3. Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler vs. Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews (w/Dana Brooke). The Titus Worldwide entrance was not televised. McIntyre has a new theme. Unfortunately, the shit fest that is Ziggler’s awful music remains. Cole gave McIntyre a big buildup by saying he’s not the same guy who was previously in WWE and noted that he had improved dramatically. In the end, McIntyre hit the Claymore kick on Crews into the Zigzag from Ziggler…

Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler defeated Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews in 2:05.

After the match, Charly Caruso entered the ring and asked Ziggler why he brought McIntyre with him. Ziggler said he thinks everyone knows why. We do? Anyway, he said no one has had his back in WWE since day one and now he does. McIntyre said he sees no fire or ambition in the locker room. He said he sees people collecting checks and it makes him sick. He said times are changing. He said he’s not what WWE wants, he’s the wakeup call and reality check the company needs. Ziggler said they don’t care about stealing the show because they are the show…

Powell’s POV: Congratulations to Crews for officially getting his last name back. McIntyre was good in the match and he delivered a quality promo. I still have no idea why they paired him with Ziggler given that McIntyre has breakout singles potential, particularly as a babyface.

Backstage, Chad Gable thanked Kurt Angle for bringing him to Raw in the Superstar Shakeup. He said it’s an awesome opportunity and he doesn’t intend to waste it. “I know you will, I know you’ll be there” Angle awkwardly replied. Gable asked how Jason Jordan is doing. Angle said he’s doing okay, but he brought Gable to Raw to be a singles wrestler.

Jinder Mahal and Sunil Singh showed up. Mahal complained about losing the U.S. Title, which he said he would get back. Mahal said he wants to go back to Smackdown. Gable told him to have respect. Mahal said he’s been working out, then cracked that Gable was the kid who teamed with Braun Strowman at WrestleMania. Gable shoved Mahal, which led to Angle booking them in a match…

An ad for Smackdown hyped Miz TV with Daniel Bryan… [C]

Powell’s POV: A good segment with Mahal and Gable to set up their match. I’d love to see them do an actual program between the two, but I suspect we’re going to see a showcase win for Mahal heading into the Greatest Royal Rumble. Meanwhile, Miz TV with Daniel Bryan is a terrific hook for Tuesday’s show.

Cole noted that it was Raw episode number 1,300… Ring entrances for the Mahal vs. Gable match took place…

4. Jinder Mahal (w/Sunil Singh) vs. Chad Gable. Before the match, Gable stood on the ring apron and jawed with Singh. Mahal shoved Gable off the steps and then ran him into the barricade before rolling him back inside the ring and putting the boots to him. The ref pulled him back and checked on Gable before starting the match. Gable took Mahal down, but Mahal blasted him with a boot to the face moments later. Mahal clotheslined Gable at ringside heading into a break. [C]

Mahal worked over Gable and set up for his Khallas finisher, but Gable blocked it and then pushed off the ropes with his feet and ended up on top of Mahal for the win…

Chad Gable pinned Jinder Mahal in 8:50.

Powell’s POV: I love it. It’s nice to see them do something with Gable right out of the gate. The guy has been completely wasted since being called up to the main roster.

Backstage, Renee Young interviewed Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan about attacking Bayley and Sasha Banks last week. Riott said it was a message for everyone. Morgan said they weren’t there to be role models. Morgan spoke about trapping animals when she grew up and said they were easy prey. Morgan said that if Alexa Bliss and Mickie James get a little too familiar then they could get the same treatment. Riott said they are equal opportunity agitators…

Cole hyped Reigns vs. Samoa Joe for WWE Backlash. He said both men would comment after the break… [C]

Powell’s POV: The Riott Squad’s words will feel empty until viewers are given a reason to take them seriously.

The next batch of tweets about Bruno Sammartino came from Vince McMahon, Ted DiBiase, Josh Reddick, Madison Square Garden, and Kurt Angle. Cole hyped the network special for after Raw again… They replayed some of the Lesnar, Heyman, and Reigns segment from earlier in the show…

A Samoa Joe selfie promo aired. He said he’s worried he won’t have an opponent at Backlash because Lesnar will bury Reigns in the Saudi Arabian desert… The broadcast team hyped Undertaker vs. Rusev in a casket match. Graves said it was Taker’s first casket match in over a decade. They ran through some of the other matches on the show…

Backstage, Dallas and Axel made a pitch to align with Finn Balor, who passed…

Powell’s POV: I wonder if the plan is to put Dallas and Axel with Elias. They had some interaction while Miz was away making a movie and they could be a fun fit as his roadies or personal security. Meanwhile, I think WWE has done more to promote the Greatest Royal Rumble tonight than they did for WrestleMania on its go-home show. Man, they are really pushing this show. In case you are wondering, yes, I will have live coverage on Friday and we’ll avoid running any spoilers in our headlines for those of you who want to watch the show on delay.

Shots aired from the WWE talent on the South African tour…

[Hour Three] Ring entrances for the tag match took place…

5. Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Lashley ran the ropes and Owens held the top rope down, causing Lashley to tumble to ringside. Owens performed a senton on him at ringside heading into a break. [C]

Strowman took a hot tag and worked over Owens and Zayn. The crowd was hot for it. Zayn fled the ring, but Lashley caught him and threw him back inside the ring. Strowman worked over Zayn while the crowd chanted “Get These Hands”. Lashley tagged in and performed a one-handed vertical suplex on Zayn. Strowman tagged back in an hit the running powerslam on Zayn for the win…

Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley defeated Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in 12:05.

Cole hyped the 10-woman tag match as the main event. Graves hyped Seth Rollins and Finn Balor vs. Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas… A Baron Corbin video aired and he was hyped as appearing after the break… [C]

Powell’s POV: Man, the crowd was hot for Strowman. I thought he’d been cooling off lately due to all of the comedy taking away some of his edge, but that certainly wasn’t the case in this match. I continue to hope that Lashley turns heel and Drew McIntyre turns babyface sooner rather than later. Both men feel miscast even though Lashley was well received in this match.

Cole touted Make A Wish’s World Wish Day for Sunday…

No Way Jose made his entrance. He still has Rosebud rejects. Booker said he’s not a fan of all the dancing. Graves pointed out that Booker was famous for doing the spinaroonie. Cole defended the conga line, which is always the kiss of death. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Cole told viewers that Jose “loves to have fun.”

Baron Corbin made his entrance and stopped on the stage. He accused Jose of conspiring to have five or six of his dancers attack him. Corbin said Jose is in WWE to have fun, while his idea of fun is ruining other people’s fun. Corbin said Jose isn’t on his level. As for their match, Corbin told him “As long as you’re running around with that group of freaks, I saw no way, Jose.” Corbin left. Jose said the party could continue without Corbin.

Jose and the rejects danced around the ring and then up the stage. The dancers headed to the back. Jose looked like an idiot as he stopped and played to the crowd only to be predictably attacked from behind by Corbin, who gave him a chokeslam backbreaker…

Powell’s POV: I wish Corbin would do that to the Rosebud Rejects. Well, maybe not that, um, gifted woman in the front of the conga line.

An Alexa Bliss “PSA” aired on bullying. She told a story about being out with Nia Jax when a homeless woman approached them. Bliss said she gave the woman the rest of her burrito bowl, but Jax took it away from the woman and ate it in front of her. “I did nothing,” Bliss said while acting emotional. “I’m going to have to live with that the rest of my life.” She said it’s not too late for Jax’s partners. They can make the world a better place together. She said she can beat Jax at Backlash and prove that bullies never win. “This has been your moment of Bliss,” she said to close…

Finn Balor made his entrance heading into a break… [C] Seth Rollins made his entrance. Axel and Dallas came out to Miz’s theme and were billed as the Miztourage…

6. Seth Rollins and Finn Balor vs. Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel. The broadcast team noted that Rollins and Balor would be opponents in the four-way for the Intercontinental Championship on Friday. Late in the match, Rollins hit the Stomp on Axel and then tagged in Balor, who hit the Coup de Grace and got the pin…

Seth Rollins and Finn Balor defeated Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel in 4:55.

Backstage, Natalya, Ember Moon, and Nia Jax spoke about the ten woman tag match while Sasha Banks and Bayley stood by. Jax said her PSA is that mocking her is bad for your health. After the other three left, Banks looked at Bayley and smiled. Bayley left without saying anything and Banks’s smile disappeared… [C]

Additional Bruno Sammartino tribute posts aired from Edge, the Pittsburgh Penguins, JBL, AJ Styles, and Bret Hart…

Ring entrances for the main event took place. Alexa Bliss and Mickie James walked out together. Riott Squad made a separate entrance. All of the babyfaces received separate entrances…

7. Nia Jax, Ember Moon, Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Natalya vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, and Liv Morgan. Cole noted that Booker T trained Ember Moon. He said she worked hard and deserves to be in WWE. Moon performed a suicide dive on Morgan heading into a break. [C]

As the match was taking place, they cut to a split screen ad for the WWE Universal Championship match at the Greatest Royal Rumble. Around 11:00, Natalya put James in a Sharpshooter. Logan ran in and delivered a chop block to Natalya’s knee. James kicked the leg of Natalya, who tumbled to ringside and was tended to by a trainer and two referees.

Later, Jax press slammed Riott and then performed a leg drop. She went for the pin, but the heels broke it up. A big brawl with the women broke out on the floor. Jax ran off the apron and crashed into the women on the floor. James tended to Bliss, who was selling away from everyone. Natalya got back to her feet and was kicked through the ropes by James.

As James put the boots to Natalya, Ronda Rousey’s music played and she headed to ringside to check on Natalya. Rousey tried to help Natalya to her feet. James kicked her from behind. Rousey stood up and flashed her mean face at James. Rousey entered the ring and took James down, then applied an armbar briefly. The bell rang to apparently end the match. Cole said it was a DQ.

Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, and Liv Morgan defeated Nia Jax, Ember Moon, Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Natalya by DQ in 15:20.

Rousey helped Natalya get to her feet. They cut to the broadcast team, who delivered more hype for the Greatest Royal Rumble while Rousey and a referee were shown helping Natalya up the ramp…

Powell’s POV: The overcompensation main event with the focus going to the women days before the company runs a show in Saudi Arabia where the women are not allowed to perform. Anyway, the angle with Rousey saving Natalya was solid. I just don’t have much faith that WWE is going to convince anyone that Natalya is actually a babyface before they have her turn on Rousey. The risk is that Rousey will look like a dope for being the only person in the world who doesn’t see it coming. Overall, a decent show with just a ton of hype for the Greatest Royal Rumble throughout the night. I will have more to say about the show in my members’ exclusive audio review later tonight.



Readers Comments (4)

  1. Kurt Angle sweats through literally every shirt he wears under that blazer of his.

  2. “The overcompensation main event with the focus going to the women days before the company runs a show in Saudi Arabia where the women are not allowed to perform.”

    Is it just me, or are we not talking enough about this? It seems the much-trumpeted women’s evolution can be put on hold if money from an oppressive state is being offered. Does anyone know if women are even allowed to attend the show?

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