March 5 2017
We are on the road to WrestleMania, which means RAW needs to get another PPV in. The big hype for this show is surrounding Goldberg getting a title shot. It’s an intriguing concept, even if I’m not entirely into it. Mainly because I didn’t like Goldberg the first time around.
We’re in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Hosts are Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton.
Sami Zayn vs. Samoa Joe
Joe has been treated like a big deal since being brought up from NXT, which is a contrast to how Sami himself has been booked. At least Zayn is getting on TV regularly. This is Joe’s very first WWE PPV, which makes you wonder why they never used him in the Rumble.
The violent machine version of Joe is something we didn’t see often enough in NXT. I figured he was saving himself for the big leagues. Sami is a good opponent for him to showcase his variety of skills as Zayn will quite happily take a beating for an entire match to get someone else over. Sami’s comebacks are a delight and it’s a strong opener. Zayn ends up taking a nap after running into the STJoe. The narrative being that Joe is bigger, stronger and a major player on RAW. Sami needed to lose to demonstrate that. It’s a tough spot for Zayn but his underdog act makes him virtually job-proof.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Video Control takes us backstage where RAW Women’s Champion Bayley gets interview time. Charlie Caruso suggests Bayley is nervous because we’re just weeks away from ‘Mania. She’s interrupted by Nia Jax who promises to beat Bayley if Charlotte doesn’t.
RAW Tag Team Championship
The Club (c) vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass
Anderson & Gallows have done very little for me as a team. I think it’s because of the carry on from a poor title run in New Japan. It feels like a continuation of that. Plus we had to wait for WWE to pull the trigger on their push while New Day were breaking records. It means they’ve been hanging around for a year, occasionally doing bad comedy. Anderson is way better than that but WWE only saw him as a tag guy coming in, unfortunately. This match just screams ‘undercard’. Enzo takes heat for a while until the inevitable hot tag. The problem comes from using the Rocket Launcher as a finisher. It means Enzo has to be tagged back in and that leaves them weak. Anderson kicks Enzo in the face and Gallows swipes his foot off the rope in a clever finish.
Final Rating: **
Video Control takes us backstage where Mick Foley has been left in charge because Stephanie McMahon is incapable of getting to a PPV.
Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks
They’ve done a good job of building up Nia as a monster. I worry that people don’t care but they’ve done it anyway. Putting Sasha in this spot works as, with Bayley, she’s one of the biggest babyfaces they have on RAW. I’m still not convinced Sasha has the promo tools to compete with Charlotte at this level but she’s better than the other options. Nia doesn’t do much here, merely grinding away at heat. Her better work has been in squashing people. Why switch that offence for a normal match? Sasha tries to fight from underneath but there are none of her patented insane bumps and the gruelling pace just murders any potential interest in the contest. Sasha gets a bit creative in her defensive wrestling, including a couple of sleepers and the bridging pin she beats Nia with comes out of nowhere.
Final Rating: *1/2
Jinder Mahal vs. Cesaro
A backstage interview segment shows how ‘healthy’ Jinder is nowadays. He’s been at the Python Powder. The fucking state of him. No wonder he’s angry at Rusev, he’s feeling the Roid Rage brother! Apparently this is Foley “pulling out all the stops”. Booking Jinder in a PPV match is “pulling out all the stops”? What’s a run-of-the-mill contest in the Foley household? Jerry Saggs vs. Brooklyn Brawler? Cesaro quite literally carries Jinder through this, spending the entire match lifting him at various angles. When Jinder is in charge the match becomes a toil through mediocrity, including the kind of clothesline I laughed at as a child, presuming the wrestlers were ‘just having a bit of fun’. The crowd are so horrified at witnessing Jinder’s offence that they chant for “CM Punk”. It’s the default chant for “please take this shit away and put it in the bin”. Is this Vince’s idea of a joke? Let’s see how great Cesaro is. Let’s see if he can get something worthwhile out of Jinder fucking Mahal. On Pay Per View no less! Cesaro puts Jinder away with Swiss Death. This outstayed its welcome when it went over 0:30.
Final Rating: ½*
Post Match: Rusev goes after Jinder. Nobody cares. Not a single person. Nobody gives a fuck.
Rusev vs. The Big Show
Big Show has been off getting abs and growing the kind of beard normally associated with the lumberjack trade. I like him a lot more than I have since he first got into the business and smoked cigarettes on his way to the ring. Rusev is sporting a new hairdo, which makes him look strangely dull. This match suffers from being the second in a row that the crowd don’t care about. It’s a ‘bonus’ match, as was Jinder, and the novelty of Super Thin Show soon wears off. He’s still very slow moving around the ring, he just looks different. He does some a tiny bit of hustle in escaping the Accolade. Show then trundles through three chokeslams and a punch for the win. I’m sure he thinks he’s moving better than he has in years but a little faster than really slow still isn’t that fast.
Final Rating: *
Video Control takes us backstage where Kevin Owens points out Goldberg’s track record over the past decade is one sole win. It doesn’t bother him that it was against Lesnar. At ringside we’re joined by Austin Aries to show off his package. Video package, that is. He’s joining commentary.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Neville (c) vs. Jack Gallagher
Two jolly nice chaps from old Blighty in action here. Neville, the former blue-eye, has become somewhat of a scoundrel of late. Gentleman Jack is here to put him in his place. Neville’s upper body development gives him a clear cut strength advantage but Jack has a unique style. Neville is far more familiar with that style than you’d think, being British himself, but he doesn’t show that here. Instead wanting Jack’s advantage to remain clear in technical wrestling. The crowd don’t seem interested in being presented with a cosmopolitan product such as this. This is why Wisconsin isn’t allowed nice things. The story is that Jack needs to switch his game up to truly threaten the more powerful, experienced opponent. This includes a tope con hilo (of sorts) and a back superplex. Jack takes a couple of gruesome bumps, one into the ropes where he gets a bit lost and one off a snap suplex. Jack discovers the fuel that gets crowd support; headbutts. Every time he lands one they come unglued. Jack gets hurled off the top though and the Red Arrow finishes. This was a very good little match, although it suffered from some awkward bumps.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Video Control takes us backstage where Paul Heyman is in the building. It’s implied that Brock might also be around. Heyman spins a tale about Lesnar winning regardless, as either he’ll get the Universal title at WrestleMania or he’ll get a new found weakness courtesy of Big Kev.
Promo Time: The New Day
They’re out here for reasons…and Big E sings Randy Orton’s music because he’s drunk. Big E singing and touching Kofi’s face, and licking the ice cream vending machine is pure gold. Wasted Big E is the best Big E. They promise ice cream at ‘Mania and Byron, the massive nerd, is excited.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
Say it with me: “Big Lads wrestling clap, clap, clap-clap-clap”. The crowd, suitably behind the times, don’t like Roman. Braun has never been pinned or submitted.
Roman does a grand job of selling his experiences here. He walks in as The Big Dog and quickly discovers there’s a bigger dog. At first he’s confused, then he has apprehensions but then he finds the courage to fight. Braun is a story of Vince McMahon’s persistence. He hired the guy knowing he was rubbish, called him up about a year too early and kept pushing him regardless of talent level. Now Braun has learned enough to get his character over and have a passable match. It might never have worked out but Vince doesn’t give up easily. Roman, who I normally enjoy, causes an issue for me by wearing very distracting footwear. If you’re rocking a badass gimmick, you can’t have white soled boots. Braun does a solid job of both controlling the pace and stopping Roman’s usual comeback ticks. The aggression forces Roman outside of his comfort zone. Braun has particular disdain for shit like the Drive By and the Superman Punch. When he tries for the latter on the floor Braun just grabs him out of the air and powerslams him through the announce table. A massive “fuck you” to the status quo from big Braun. However circumstances work against him and Roman catches him with a spear for the win after Braun misses off the top rope.
Final Rating: ***
WWE Women’s Championship
Bayley (c) vs. Charlotte
Bayley joined the Sasha Club of beating Charlotte for the title on RAW. The continued insistence that Charlotte never loses on PPV is obviously going somewhere but it has interfered with the storytelling regarding the women’s title on RAW. Charlotte has been accused of using Dana Brooke to win title matches so she sends Dana to the back from the start. Charlotte is 16-0 on PPV.
These two are familiar with each other and find it easy to work an opening ‘feeling out’ sequence. This is a sign of the advancement in women’s wrestling in WWE. Competent wrestlers looking entirely at ease in a big spot is now accepted as the norm. If anything this looks too fluid and pre-planned. Everything neatly flowing from one spot to the next. Charlotte should be very pleased with how her trash talk is coming along. She tells Bayley she’s “just a fan” during a sleeper and tells the front row they’re “average…all of you”. I also like how obsessed she is with glancing at the WrestleMania sign. It’s her destiny to be the champ at ‘Mania again. This time without her Dad’s help. This time she wants to prove she’s the best, which is important because of Dana being left in the locker room too. The match gets slightly derailed by Bayley repeating a spot and Charlotte getting caught in the tree of woe. Luckily they get back on track and the match develops a sense of epic. This includes Natural Selection and Sasha Banks running out to stop a moonsault to the floor. Charlotte should win with a handful of tights but Sasha stops the pin and the Bayley to Belly finishes, ending Charlotte’s unbeaten PPV streak. Not sure I really understand why Charlotte went unbeaten for so long just to lose in a match where the odds were stacked against her as a heel. It’s very strange booking. Good match though. Bit clunky in parts but good overall.
Final Rating: ***3/4
WWE Universal Championship
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Goldberg
I never understood why Goldberg needed security guards. Whose bright idea was that? Is he scared of getting jumped backstage? As much as I hate Goldberg as a wrestler, and I absolutely fucking despise the man, he does have a certain intensity that is hard to argue with. Owens, in an attempt to out-last Lesnar, simply bails out of the ring and walks around killing time. This match combines two of my least favourite things in wrestling; heel stalling before the match starts and Bill Goldberg. Chris Jericho distracts. Spear. Jackhammer. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
Final Rating: DUD
WrestleMania season is flaming hot garbage. It seems to get worse every year. Expect a nine hour show loaded with horrible booking and shitty matches. Luckily every promotion is running Orlando ‘Mania weekend so hopefully there will be some entertainment for those making the trip. This was about the worst possible go-home show for ‘Mania, so kudos for putting out a show this bad with the roster you have.