Stephanie McMahon Made a Blockbuster Announcement; Seth Rollins Attacked Universal Champion Brock Lesnar
As expected, Stephanie announced that the Triple Threat main event at WrestleMania 35 will now be "Winner Take All," meaning whoever wins will be both Raw and SmackDown Women's Champion. I can't say I'm surprised, but I'm not a fan of it, either. Both brands should have their own champion as long as there is a Brand Split, but I guess it's better than the dumb stipulation of having the winner take the title of whoever's pinned. As far as the interaction between Rollins and Lesnar, it was easily the best thing they've done up to this point in their feud. It's just a shame they waited so long to make people care.
WWE Women's Tag Team Champion The Boss 'n' Hug Connection and Natlaya & Beth Phoenix def. The IIconics and Nia Jax & Tamina
If you're asking why The IIconics competed on Raw despite being SmackDown Live Superstars, don't bother. Apparently the Brand Split means nothing on the road to WrestleMania. At any rate, this was a decent multi-woman tag team match that was designed to familiarize fans with Phoenix's offense before she steps in the ring again at WrestleMania. Giving her the victory was the right call, but I don't see her and Natalya capturing the championship on Sunday.
Batista Responded to Triple H
This episode emanated from Batista's hometown of Washington D.C., so the strong reaction he received from the crowd made sense. He made his entrance, showed a brief video package of him beating Triple H three times during their 2005 rivalry, told Triple H to kiss his ass, and left. This feud has left a lot to be desired, and I'm all for a good heel promo from Batista, but this short-and-sweet approach to Batista's promo might have been for the best.
Apollo Crews def. Jinder Mahal
Similar to every other year, the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania will largely consist of enhancement talent, including these two. We've seen them do battle before, and although they were surrounded by other Battle Royal participants around ringside, this was not technically a Lumberjack match to my knowledge. Crews standing tall was cool, but it all but confirmed that he won't be winning the actual Battle Royal. On a side note, it's so discouraging to see EC3 relegated to jobber status since being called up to the main roster.
Baron Corbin Interrupted Kurt Angle
The video package looking back at Angle's legendary career was incredibly well done and I actually liked Corbin's promo. I hate that he'll be Angle's last opponent ever, but props to Corbin for turning a positive into a negative and generating as much heat as possible from it. Angle vs. Rey Mysterio was originally advertised for Raw, but perhaps Mysterio coming to Angle's aid against Corbin was WWE's way of keeping Angle out of the ring so close to WrestleMania. Angle vs. Mysterio would have been a blast, but Angle has been wrestling a lot lately, so I'm not shocked WWE is playing it safe to ensure he doesn't get hurt ahead of his retirement match at 'Mania.
Raw Tag Team Champions The Revival def. Aleister Black and Ricochet by Count-out
WWE has run this match into the ground by this point, but at least these two teams work well together and have quality chemistry. This was another entertaining encounter from them with the crowd invested in the action. I didn't mind the finish because it didn't make The Revival look weak, it protected Black and Ricochet in defeat, and set up the need for a rematch, possibly at WrestleMania (presumably on the Kickoff show).
Raw Women's Champion Ronda Rousey, SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch def. The Riott Squad
Needless to say, there was never any doubt The Riott Squad was losing, but it's still funny to me that WWE continues to put them in situations where they can't win. The real hook of this match was whether the WrestleMania opponents would turn on each other and change the complexion of the 'Mania main event in the process, which of course was never going to happen after the announcement Stephanie made at the start of the show. All hell broke loose afterward with Rousey, Lynch and Flair roughing up the law enforcement officials. Most of it was completely ridiculous, but if WWE wanted to get fans talking going into their Triple Threat, they definitely succeeded.
Heavy Machinery def. Bobby Roode and Chad Gable
Heavy Machinery were on WWE TV a fair amount following their main roster call-up earlier this year but haven't been featured all too much lately. All four of these guys will be a part of the Andre Battle Royal, and obviously, none of them will win. Therefore, this was pretty pointless. Roode and Gable have been directionless for months, so fingers crossed that is a split is on the horizon for them. Tension seemed to be teased after their loss here, but the camera quickly cut away, so I'm not so sure.
Braun Strowman def. Local Athletes in a 2-on-1 Handicap Match
Strowman confronted these nobodies backstage after he caught them watching The Weekend Update from Saturday Night Live. He pretended they were Michael Che and Colin Jost and unleashed his frustration out on them. It was a fun little squash, but it did nothing to make me look forward to the Andre Battle Royal. That appears to be total throwaway on paper and this angle between Strowman and the SNL goofs still feels like a waste of Strowman to me.
Finn Balor Revealed He Will Compete as The Demon Against Intercontinental Champion Bobby Lashley at WrestleMania 35
The brief promos from Lashley and Lio Rush were fairly forgettable, but Balor confirming that he will be competing as The Demon at WrestleMania was newsworthy. Many fans figured that would be the case, and although it would have been a cool surprise (a la SummerSlam 2018), I don't blame WWE for wanting to advertise it in advance considering how little hype their match has at the moment. It took a few years, but The Demon will finally be getting his WrestleMania entrance.
Baron Corbin def. Rey Mysterio
I would have been fine if WWE had left it at Mysterio and Corbin's physical altercation from earlier in the show. Mysterio vs. Angle would have been a treat, but this seemed to serve no purpose aside from giving Corbin more momentum before he takes on Angle at WrestleMania. From an in-ring standpoint, it was serviceable but definitely a questionable choice to close the show with, regardless of whether Angle sent the crowd home happy with his post-match attack on Corbin.
WWE terrible's track record of delivering mediocre go-home shows before WrestleMania continues. The road to WrestleMania was already underwhelming and this episode hardly helped matters. The stuff with the women will be talked about in the days to come and I enjoyed the opening segment with Lesnar and Reigns, but everything else either fell flat or was unsuccessful in making me more excited for WrestleMania than I was previously. WWE desperately needs to hit a home run on Sunday, because these recent Raw shows have been abysmal. I can't imagine anything after 'Mania will be much better.
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