Raw General Manager Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey Attacked Triple H and Stephanie McMahon
Angle came across like a complete wuss in last week's Raw segment with Triple H and Stephanie, so I was happy he was much more of a badass here. As for Rousey, she is slowly but surely improving on the microphone and becoming more comfortable, so that was a plus as well. After Angle and Rousey vs. HHH and Stephanie was officially announced for WrestleMania, the crowd ate up Rousey and Angle's attack on The Authority. This was a hot angle and an excellent way to kick off the show.
Asuka def. Nia JAx
The match these two had at Elimination Chamber honestly exceeded my expectations and I enjoyed their encounter here just as well. They once again told a solid story with Asuka fighting from underneath (which is rare) and making Jax out to look like a monster even in defeat. The fact Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss is being heavily teased but not actually confirmed for the card yet means Asuka is headed to SmackDown to face Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania, which I assumed was the plan all along.
Raw Tag Team Champions Sheamus and Cesaro def. The Revival (Non-title)
When Sheamus and Cesaro said last week that they had no competition left to face from the Raw roster, I figured that would logically position The Revival as the next challengers to the championship. Well, they had their crack at the champs here, but they fell short. As a match, this was pretty good, but I wish it was saved for WrestleMania and didn't end with The Revival getting beaten so decisively. Does this mean a main roster call-up for Authors of Pain is imminent?
John Cena def. Goldust
Cena's explanation for talking about his Fastlane WWE Championship match on Raw (despite it being a SmackDown Live pay-per-view) because he didn't want to be interrupted by the other contenders surprisingly made sense. What didn't make sense, however, was Goldust confronting him and immediately challenging him to a match. The crowd couldn't have possibly cared less and neither could I. This was totally pointless aside from giving Cena a momentum boost ahead of Fastlane, but that could have been accomplished on SmackDown instead.
Bayley def. MAndy Rose
Bayley didn't have much of a chance to explain why she bailed on Sasha Banks last week because she was quickly cut off by Paige and Absolution. Rose scored an ample amount of offense over Bayley and had a decent showing, but the interesting stuff was saved for afterward when Banks saved Bayley from an ambush from Absolution and proceeded to attempt to hug her until Bayley denied it. I'm curious if either of them will turn heel at this point or if the seeds are being planted for them to be involved in a multi-woman match for the Raw Women's Championship at WrestleMania. I hope it's the former.
Braun Strowman def. Elias in a Symphony of Destruction Falls Count Anywhere Match
This sounded absolutely ridiculous on paper, but I had faith Strowman and Elias would be able to make it work, and they did. Elias started out by playing each of the instruments before trying to make his escape out of the arena, though Strowman thwarted his plan and destroyed him with every instrument in sight. While this was a treat, what was even better about it was how it all but guaranteed that they won't be facing off one-on-one at 'Mania. That said, I have no idea who Strowman faces instead.
Bray Wyatt def. Rhyno
Didn't Rhyno tell Heath Slater he was going to "toughen him up" a few months ago? I guess that storyline isn't going anywhere. They're the biggest jobbers on the brand at this point (even more so than Wyatt), so thankfully, this was kept short and sweet. Let's talk about what's truly amazing: we're headed to the Hardy Compound, baby! "Woken" Matt Hardy broke the news during the post-match by inviting him to where the "Broken Brilliance" all started. This feud has underwhelmed for the most part, but The Ultimate Deletion could salvage it if done right.
Intercontinental Champion The Miz Hosted The Mizzies; Finn Balor and Seth Rollins def. Miz and The Miztourage in a 3-on-2 Handicap Match
WWE always has to capitalize off these award shows whenever they happen by doing something similar on Raw, but this was well done, largely because of Miz and how tremendous of a heel he is. Rollins and Balor interrupting was expected, and the subsequent 3-on-2 Handicap match effectively ate up television time in addition to furthering the feud while giving the babyfaces another big win. I wasn't a fan of Miz eating another non-title loss considering who he was teaming with, but that was obviously done by design because Rollins and Balor are gunning for the gold.
Roman Reigns Interrupted Paul Heyman
Heyman's promos are always above-average, but some are better than others. That said, this was definitely one of his better promos in recent memory as he rebutted Roman Reigns' claims about Lesnar being lazy last week, basically making me care about the upcoming WrestleMania match more than I did before. Heyman put over the Universal Championship as the most prestigious prize of all-time even though it doesn't feel like it more often than not, but props to him for the effort. Reigns was strictly business with his response, teasing a physical altercation with Lesnar next week and I'm excited to see what will happen there.
Aside from the extremely meaningless Cena vs. Goldust match, I thought this was an enjoyable edition of Raw that successfully set up several matches for 'Mania including the Intercontinental Championship match and the mixed tag team match. More matchups were teased between The Ultimate Deletion, Bayley vs. Banks, Bliss vs. Jax, and whoever The Bar will be facing. Everything seemed to serve a purpose and didn't drag, so for that, this episode gets a thumbs-up from yours truly.
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