By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live on March 18, 2019 from Chicago, Illinois at Allstate Arena
[Hour One] Michael Cole welcomed viewers to the show while noting that we are 20 nights away from WrestleMania. Cole was joined on commentary by Corey Graves and Renee Young, and the ring announcer was Mike Rome…
WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar made his entrance along with Paul Heyman. “It’s about time he shows up to Monday Night Raw,” Young said. Lesnar was booed after being introduced by Rome. Heyman started his introduction and stopped due to the fans booing. Lesnar held up his title belt and smirked at the crowd.
Heyman delivered his introduction and then stated that Seth Rollins was the one who necessitated an appearance by Lesnar. Heyman said Rollins is a revisionist and a master at weaving a tale “of Heyman level proportions and propaganda.” Heyman recalled Rollins saying that Lesnar has a stylistic problem with challengers of Seth’s size and moveset.
Heyman said Rollins proved himself to be a fool. Heyman listed the opponents that Rollins listed and noted that Lesnar beat them all. Heyman also questioned the logic of Rollins choosing to face Drew McIntyre on Raw just 20 days before WrestleMania.
Drew McIntyre made his entrance and said it was refreshing to finally get the respect he’s earned in WWE. McIntyre said he brutalized Roman Reigns last week and then did the same when Dean Ambrose tried to save him. McIntyre suggested that Lesnar have Heyman find a new challenger for WrestleMania, because he wouldn’t make WrestleMania once McIntyre was finished with him.
Seth Rollins ran out behind McIntyre and hit him with a chair to the back twice. Two referees ran out and tended to McIntyre. Rollins hit McIntyre several more times with the chair and then stared down Lesnar. Rollins entered the ring and Lesnar exited the other side and smirked at Rollins, who flashed a smile back at him. Rollins taunted Lesnar, who handed his belt to Heyman. Heyman talked Lesnar down. Lesnar held up his title belt and headed to the back with Heyman…
The broadcast team hyped Ronda Rousey vs. Dana Brooke, and a feature with Batista telling his side of the story of his issues with Triple H. Cole recapped Lio Rush distracting Finn Balor last week, which allowed Bobby Lashley to defeat him to win the Intercontinental Champion… Lashley and Rush were shown backstage. Finn Balor made his entrance while Cole hyped Lashley and Rush vs. Balor and a partner of his choosing. Cole said he believes it will be a monstrous tag team match… [C]
Powell’s POV: The opening segment was effective in making Rollins look good while teasing the fans with a Lesnar and Rollins in-ring confrontation. I like the way they kept them apart here. It was all simple yet effective. Meanwhile, I think we all assume Cole was hyping Braun Strowman with the “monstrous” teaser, but we’ll find out after the break.
Cole narrated still shots of Balor at the Special Olympics. Balor took the mic and wished the fans a belated happy St. Patrick’s Day. He said he didn’t have the luck of the Irish last week. Lashley and Rush interrupted Balor’s promo by making their entrance. Rush had a mic and spoke as they walked to the ring. Rush said it looked like the little leprechaun was upset because Lashley had his pot of gold around his waist. Rush had Lashley pose with the title in the ring, then Balor introduced his partner…
1. Finn Balor and Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush. Cole boasted that he told viewers it would be a monstrous tag team match. Strowman and Lashley started the match. Strowman got the better of it early as they cut to a split screen commercial (with Becky Lynch’s Head & Shoulders shampoo commercial airing). [C]
Lashley was working over Balor coming out of the break. Lashley ended up going through the ropes and crashing his shoulder into the post. Rush tagged himself in. Balor tagged in Strowman moments later. Strowman worked over Rush, who sold like a champ for him. Strowman set up for a powerslam, but Lashley speared him.
Balor and Lashley fought to ringside. Rush went up top and performed a frogsplash on Strowman, who kicked out strong when Rush tried to pin him. Rush fled to ringside, but Balor caught him. Lashley drove Balor into the timekeepers area, then Strowman took out Lashley with a shoulder block. Strowman chased Rush back inside the ring. Strowman performed a chokeslam on Rush and finished him off with a powerslam while Lashley watched from ringside…
Finn Balor and Braun Strowman defeated Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush in 7:30.
Graves hyped Rollins vs. McIntyre for later in the show, and Young hyped Rousey vs. Brooke for the Raw Women’s Championship…
Ronda Rousey and her husband Travis Browne showed up. A referee and security was there to greet her. The referee told Rousey that she was late. He said that in addition to fining Rousey an undisclosed amount, management also brought in extra security. Rousey blew him off…
Alexa Bliss made he entrance for A Moment of Bliss segment with Elias… An ad for Smackdown hyped Kofi Kingston’s gauntlet match and The Miz responding to Shane McMahon’s attack… [C]
Powell’s POV: Cole’s foreshadowing of Strowman was so ridiculously obvious that I was actually hoping it was a red herring. The “partner of his choosing” bit is typically good for a pop from the live crowd if it’s someone they like, but it also sets up a lot of fans for disappointment in that they let their imaginations run wild and hope that it’s someone out of the ordinary. Anyway, the match was fine and didn’t overstay its welcome, though Balor continues to look weak when he’s one on one with Lashley.
Bliss worked in a plug for WWE having one billion social media followers, then turned it over to the broadcast team, which ran through the WrestleMania lineup. Bliss said the Oscars didn’t have a host, but the WrestleMania card deserves her as a host. She said she’s a great talkshow host and took credit for Lilly Singh getting her own talkshow (the crowd didn’t care). Bliss introduced Elias.
Elias played his guitar and took a seat at Bliss’s talkshow set. Bliss told him the set is a safe place. She said they’ve both been interrupted, but that won’t happen during his announcement. Elias thanked her and then announced that he will be the headlining musical act at WrestleMania. Some fans cheered loudly. Elias referred to New York as the greatest city, which drew boos.
Elias turned the crowd completely against him by taking a jab at the Chicago Bears. He said that if his WrestleMania performance was a game winning field goal then he’d make it every time. Elias compared his performance to legendary performances of Queen and Johny Cash. He started to make a threat about people interrupting him.
No Way Jose’s music interrupted Elias, then Heavy Machinery led the goof troop out for a conga line. Bliss apologized and said it wasn’t supposed to happen until after Elias was finished. Elias started to jaw at Otis when a masked goof troop member hit him from behind. In a shocking twist, the man unmasked to reveal his identity as No Way Jose, and then he went to the ring… [C]
Powell’s POV: Here’s hoping the weekly Elias interruptions are leading to something big at WrestleMania such as The Rock or Undertaker interrupting his musical performance.
2. Elias vs No Way Jose (w/Rosebud Rejects). The match was joined in progress and the goof troop (minus Heavy Machinery) was at ringside cheering Jose’s offense. Elias hit a top rope elbow and Drift Away before scoring the pin…
Elias defeated No Way Jose.
Kurt Angle made his entrance. Cole said Angle would announce his WrestleMania opponent after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: Elias’s goof troop made more noise at ringside than anyone else in the building. I still can’t believe that after Adam Rose’s act bombed on the main roster, the creative forces still thought that bringing in wannabe Rosebuds for Jose was a good idea. It’s a shame because he is a charismatic guy and that clown show nonsense kills any chance he has of getting over. For what it’s worth, John Cena has been the popular prediction for Angle’s opponent.
Angle said his farewell tour would continue with a match in Chicago. Angle noted that his last match is 20 days away. A “thank you, Kurt” chant broke out. Angle thanked the fans, then thanked the McMahons for letting him choose his opponent. Angle said there’s only one man he wants to beat and it’s a man who made his life a living hell. Angle announced that he would face Baron Corbin, which drew boos. Chad Gable made his entrance as Angle’s opponent…
Powell’s POV: Weak. It makes sense from a storyline standpoint, but it’s hard not to be disappointed that they didn’t go with something bigger than what feels like a glorified Raw match for Angle’s farewell. I’d love for this to be a swerve with Angle actually beating Corbin in his final match on Raw, leading to a go-home week switch to something more appealing, but I’m not holding my breath.
[Hour Two] 3. Kurt Angle vs. Chad Gable. The bell rang and the wrestlers shook hands. Gable told Angle that the pleasure is all his, and that Angle is a hero of his. There was an early “this is awesome” chant. Gable worked Angle’s knee, then Angle kicked him off and clotheslined him to ringside going into a break. [C]
Angle applied the ankle lock, but Gable countered into a pin for a two count. Angle came right back with a German suplex. Gable rolled out of Angle’s next attempt and applied an ankle lock, which drew boos from the live crowd. Angle escaped the hold and went for an Angle Slam, but Gable performed a DDT. Gable went for a top rope moonsault. Angle rolled out of the way and then applied the ankle lock and got the submission win.
Kurt Angle defeated Chad Gable in 12:20.
Angle and Gable had a moment after the match, and then Baron Corbin came out and cut a promo on the stage. Corbin boasted about humiliating Angle while he was Raw general manager, but it will be even better to beat him in his last match. Corbin said it doesn’t matter what Angle’s done in his entire career because the only thing people will remember is his last match…
Powell’s POV: The match was slow and the fans were very quiet before the break, but Angle and Gable woke them up down the stretch.
The broadcast team spoke about the Rousey vs. Brooke match while the fans chanted “Kurt” behind them. Cole set up a video package on Drew McIntyre attacking Roman Reigns last week… The broadcast team hyped Rollins vs. McIntyre… Sasha Banks and Bayley made their entrances heading into a break. [C]
Corbin was talking with The Revival backstage when Apollo Crews approached him and challenged him to a match. Crews interrupted with “yes or no?” a few times before Corbin accepted the match. Crews said it didn’t have to be so difficult and that’s why no one likes him. Corbin said the Revival likes him and then asked for confirmation. “Hell no,” one of them said…
Charly Caruso interviewed Banks and Bayley in the ring. Bayley said they will defend the tag titles against any team that steps up. Bayley said they will make a special appearance on Smackdown. “And it will be iconic,” Bayley said in a hint toward a match or angle with The Iiconics.
Natalya and Beth Phoenix made their entrance and joined the WWE Women’s Tag Champions in the ring. Phoenix took the mic and received a nice ovation from the live crowd. Phoenix said she respects Banks and Bayley. She said she watched them bring respect to the tag titles. Phoenix said she and Natalya would have loved to have had that opportunity during her career.
Phoenix said she was content to watch it all until Nia Jax and Tamina tried to set the women back with their pettiness. Phoenix said they awoke the dragon. Phoenix said it made her think that maybe her and Natalya’s dream could still become a reality. Phoenix said there’s one thing missing from her accomplishments. Phoenix said that since Banks and Bayley are taking on all comers, she is ready to step out of retirement and challenge them for the tag titles at WrestleMania.
Banks and Bayley looked to the crowd, which then responded with a brief yes chant. Bayley said it would obviously be a huge honor, but questioned whether Phoenix needed more time to prepare after being retired for six years. Bayley said competition has evolved since then. Natalya barked that it’s Beth Phoenix and she’s a WWE Hall of Famer. Natalya pointed out that Phoenix won the women’s championship in Chicago, then asked if Bayley really thought she was afraid to fight someone like her.
Banks asked Natalya who the hell she thought she was talking to. Banks said Natalya is riding Phoenix’s coattails so she could have a match at WrestleMania. Natalya slapped Banks, who then tackled her and threw puncehs at her. Phoenix pulled Banks off and tossed her aside. Bayley got in Phoenix’s face and they jawed at one another until Phoenix shoved Bayley down… [C]
Powell’s POV: A solid angle. The Chicago crowd was much louder than we heard for Phoenix last week. I still assume they go with multiple teams including Jax and Tamina at WrestleMania, but only time will tell.
4. Natalya (w/Beth Phoenix) vs. Sasha Banks (w/Bayley). Cole said the match was made during the break. Nia Jax walked out a couple minutes into the match and said she’s done more in three years than Phoenix ever did during her entire career. Jax said she’s a prettier and stronger version of the Glamazon. Tamina showed up at ringside and shoved Phoenix into the post and then roughed up Banks and Bayley. The bell rang to end the match, then Natalya checked on Phoenix at ringside. Tamina joined Jax on the stage. “See you all at WrestleMania,” Jax said…
Natalya fought Sasha Banks to a no-contest in 3:00.
Mojo Rawley had another talk with his reflection in a backstage mirror. Rawley said he despises the word potential. He asked what good potential is if you don’t do anything with it. “Why can’t you figure this out?” Rawley said while looking into the mirror. “Figure it out!”…
Ricochet made his entrance… [C]
Powell’s POV: Mojo is the anti Stuart Smalley.
5. Ricochet vs. Jinder Mahal (w/The Singh Brothers). Mahal’s entrance was not televised. Cole said Aleister Black was not at Raw because he was conducting business back home in the Netherlands. After Mahal slowed the match to a crawl with his offense, Ricochet went on the offensive and hit a big flip dive onto Mahal and the Singhs. Back in the ring, Ricochet hit his 630 splash for the win…
Ricochet defeated Jinder Mahal in 6:50.
Powell’s POV: The crowd came to life for Ricochet’s big spots and he did a nice job of firing them up after the match. But we’re on the road to WrestleMania and this show has felt slow and uninspired for the most part.
The broadcast team touted Sue Aitchison as the Warrior Award recipient. Cole said he’s known her for 22 years and it’s well deserved…
Ronda Rousey made her entrance and jawed at the live crowd… [C]
Seth Rollins was interviewed backstage by Dasha Fuentes. Rollins said he hopes Lesnar is watching his match with McIntyre. He said he will burn Suplex City to the ground at WrestleMania…
Dana Brooke was interviewed by Caruso, who noted that it was her first title opportunity. Caruso asked her if she knew what she was getting into. Brooke said it’s the road to WrestleMania where dreams become reality and underdogs make history. She said she’s not naive. She said she may not be better than Rousey, but she only has to be better than her for three seconds…
[Hour Three] 6. Ronda Rousey vs. Dana Brooke for the Raw Women’s Championship. Rome delivered in-ring introductions for the title match. Brooke caught Rousey’s kick and then slapped her, but Rousey leapt up and delivered a knee to the face. Rousey threw more knees and then applied an armbar for the win.
Ronda Rousey defeated Dana Brooke in 0:19 to retain the Raw Women’s Championship.
After the match, Rousey went to ringside and approached her husband Travis Browne. A security guard tried to get her attention. Rousey slapped the security guard and then worked hi over with punches. Browne punched another security guard. Rousey jawed at a bunch of security guards, then Browne pulled her over the barricade and they left through the crowd and then walked to the back through the side of the stage…
Powell’s POV: I like the chaos they are creating during Rousey’s heel appearances, and it was fun to see Browne get involved. For anyone who doesn’t know, Browne is also a former UFC fighter. The weak link here was Brooke in that she just doesn’t have a connection with the fans. It’s a shame that they don’t have a plucky and more likable babyface in her role because the right person could gain a lot of sympathy from this that could be paid off later.
7. Baron Corbin vs. Apollo Crews. Neither wrestler received a televised entrance. Cole noted that fans on social media were in an uproar of Angle choosing Corbin as his final opponent. He noted that Corbin tweeted that he needs a bigger boat to float down the fans’ river of tears. Late in the match, the fans were chanting for John Cena. Corin set up for his finisher, but Crews avoided it and put Corbin in an inside cradle for the win. Angle came out afterward and celebrated with Crews on the stage…
Apollo Crews defeated Baron Corbin in 4:25.
A shot aired of Batista “live from Tampa, Florida.” Cole said Batista would address his issues with Triple H after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: I was hoping for a Batista interview from the lunchbox room in his home. Anyway, the broadcast team acknowledging the disappointment over Corbin as Angle’s opponent is interesting. Here’s hoping that creative is a step ahead of up on this one after all.
Cole set up footage from last week’s Triple H and Batista angle…
Batista was interviewed by Cole, who was at the broadcast table. Cole asked him why he’s so angry with Triple H. Batista said he doesn’t like him. He said since he left all he’s wanted to do is come back and have one last match with him. Cole asked if it goes back to their days in Evolution. “No, no, it goes back way further than that,” Batista said. He said he keeps hearing how he owes his career to Triple H and how he made him a star. He said Hunter actually groomed him to be his muscle.
Batista said Triple H uses people to protect him. “He groomed me to use me like some big meathead to protect him,” he said. Batista said Hunter talked down to him and underestimated him. Cole asked if he blames Hunter for him quitting the company. Batista said yes. He said Triple H was supposed to be his buddy and was also his boos. He said Hunter was jealous and insecure. He said Hunter didn’t think he was a big enough star to be on top of the company. Batista pointed to the fame and movie star status he’s garnered since then. Batista said he’s in control and he’s getting what he wants.
Cole started defending Triple H by pointing to what he’s done for people in NXT. Batista interrupted him and asked what’s wrong with him. Batista said the name Cerebral Assassin is appropriate. He said Hunter has everyone fooled. “This man is the most insecure, selfish, jealous control freak I have ever met,” Batista said. “That is who the real Triple H is.” Batista said he hopes Vince McMahon wakes up and fires Hunter’s ass. Batista said he would end Hunter’s in-ring career at WrestleMania. Batista barked at the production crew to get out of his office…
Powell’s POV: A good promo from Batista. He’s been a heel, but he hasn’t really gone for all out heel heat yet. His issues with Hunter come off as being from his perspective rather than him being an all out heel. Are they banking on Hunter being so beloved that the Triple H fans will blow off these criticisms even though others have made similar statements over the years?
Caruso set up a recap of Braun Strowman destroying the car that Colin Jost bought him. Strowman announced that he’s entering the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Alexa Bliss showed up and said her job as host has her wanting to broker peace between him, Jost, and Michael Che. She asked for a week to fix the problem. He gave her a week and said that he would show them what discipline really is if they disrespect him again…
Powell’s POV: That’s the first mention of The Dre. I don’t believe they have mentioned the Not Fabulous Moolah Battle Royal yet.
Drew McIntyre made his entrance for the main event… [C] Charlotte was featured in the Women’s History Month segment…
McIntyre delivered an in-ring promo about Rollins disrespecting him by hitting him from behind with a chair. McIntyre turned his focus to “Joe the man.” He said that’s what Roman Reigns asked people to call him when his leukemia returned. McIntyre said Joe the man, husband, and father was sitting at home on his couch because of him. McIntyre challenged him to a fight at WrestleMania. McIntyre then asked Reigns to choose his family by saying no. McIntyre said that all bets are off if they fight at WrestleMania. He said he will hurt Reigns and destroy him. “You may have beaten leukemia, but on the grandest stage of them all you will never beat me,” McIntyre said.
Rollins appeared on the big screen and said that’s why he did what he did to him earlier. They cut to footage of Rollins hitting McIntyre with chairshots earlier in the night. Rollins said that was for his brother and what’s to come is for him. Rollins made his entrance and McIntyre met him on the ramp where they traded punches. Referees and agents came out to pull them apart. Rollins rolled into the ring heading into a break… [C]
8. Seth Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre. The match was joined in progress. The wrestlers fought to ringside. Rollins went for a moonsault off the ring steps. McIntyre stepped aside and Rollins crashed onto the floor going into the break. [C]
McIntyre had a chair at ringside and Rollins was down. McIntyre slammed the chair against the post, then turned into a superkick from Rollins. Seth went on an offensive flurry that included two suicide dives, a sling blade clothesline, and a superkick that led to a near fall. McIntyre came back with his face plant move for a near fall of his own. Rollins caught McIntyre on the ropes and superplexed him and picked up a near fall shortly thereafter.
Rollins set up for his finisher, but ended up kicking McIntyre in the gut instead. Lesnar’s music played and he and Heyman walked onto the stage. McIntyre caught Rollins with a Claymore Kick and pinned him…
Drew McIntyre defeated Seth Rollins in 14:10 of television time.
Powell’s POV: I have mixed feelings on the outcome of the match in that Rollins played Roman’s little buddy during the brief Shield reunion stretch and now he’s losing less than three weeks before he challenges for the WWE Universal Championship at WrestleMania. Obviously, I like what it does for McIntyre in the moment and even going forward if Rollins wins the title at WrestleMania. Rollins was protected to some extent thanks to the distraction finish, but it feels like this is a time when Rollins should be gaining momentum rather than taking distraction losses.
WWE apparently didn’t have access or chose not to book Roman Reigns (selling his injury angle), Dean Ambrose, any McMahon family members, and Aleister Black, and that seemed to lead to some wrestlers who will be destroyed by Strowman in The Dre getting television time. There were some decent segments, but the overall show left something to be desired just a few weeks before WrestleMania. I will have more to say in my members’ exclusive audio review tonight and in the WWE Raw Hit List on Tuesday. Thanks for watching along with me.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Fulvio Cecere discussing the 350 Days documentary that included interviews with over 70 pro wrestling legends including Bret Hart, Ted DiBiase, Wendi Richter, Greg Valentine, and Bill Eadie, why pre-ordering the documentary is so helpful, a nugget regarding Fulvio’s run as Lt. Thorne on Battlestar Galactica, and much more.