Roman Reigns’ progress update is the news of the night. There isn’t a single pre-announced match on the preview. There are some hints that something is going on with the soon to depart Dean Ambrose. We may find out who The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection’s first challengers are. The NXT superstars who arrived last week will be in action. And RAW is hosting a birthday celebration for Ric Flair. It could be a very odd night.
I’m Amanda, and this is the RAW review.
Aleister Black & Ricochet def. RAW Tag Team Champions The Revival
Ronda Rousey & Natalya def. The Riott Squad (DQ due to interference)
Kurt Angle def. Jinder Mahal
Finn Balor def. Lio Rush
Drew McIntyre def. Dean Ambrose
Bayley def. Nia Jax
The Key Bits
» A recap of Roman Reigns’ leukaemia announcement started RAW and Reigns opened the show to a massive ovation. He took a long time getting to the ring, greeting fans and family members, drinking it all in while the crowd cheered and chanted for him. It was almost ten minutes into the show before a word was spoken.
Eventually, he said, ‘I’m probably going to say this a lot but I’m going to start off by saying thank you. I miss you all. I’m serious, I missed y’all. There is no other job like this. There is no other fanbase like you guys.’ A ‘This is your yard’ chant broke out and he said, ‘I’m ad-libbing a little bit here, I used to say this was my yard, but this is our yard.’
He talked about being a man of faith, but before his announcement in October, he was terrified. He was insecure and he didn’t know if he wanted to share that secret with the world. He was scared because he didn’t know how everyone would react. By the time he got home, he had messages from every possible source and the amount of thoughts, prayers and blessings were overwhelming. It felt like everyone, not just WWE fans, were surrounding him with their love and support. So many people prayed for him God’s voicemail was full. That’s how strong it was and he can do anything with that kind of strength and love.
It gave him strength and opportunity, and it gave him a new purpose. In WWE, a lot of your purpose as a young superstar is to win titles and climb the mountain, and that’s still important, but for him, the only thing that’s important is that he has the ability to set foot in the ring every single night. And if he can do that, he’s going to use this global platform WWE has to raise awareness and to support those in need like he was.
He waited for the ‘Roman’ chants to die down, then said ‘We advertised it as an update, so should we get to the update. When I made my announcement, I said I was going to swing for the fences. We did better than that y’all, we didn’t just swing for the fences, we hit a home run. So when I tell you this, I am so grateful, I’m so humbled and so honoured to announce this. The good news is, I’m in remission, y’all. So, with that being said, the Big Dog is back.’
He thanked the crowd again and said ‘I love y’all’ before he left the ring, clearly emotional and went back to greeting fans. Seth Rollins music played as Reigns exited and Rollins met him on the stage with a hug. No Dean Ambrose though.
» Baron Corbin was asked whether he was worried about what would happen when Roman Reigns caught up with him after he made light of Reigns’ cancer battle, told the WWE universe to move on, and said he hoped Reigns would never return. Corbin said he never said it, but when the footage was offered to him, he backtracked and said the things he said might sound bad out of context, but it was an emotional night and he was under the stress of being the acting GM and a competitor, so no one, not even Roman, could understand. When asked if he was saying his stress was worse than Roman’s fight with leukaemia, he said that for Roman’s sake he hoped their paths don’t cross.
» Lacey Evans appeared just as Elias was about to start his bit. She did her catwalk thing, then left, and Dean Ambrose appeared. Ambrose said all the celebrating tonight has got him in a festive mood, reminiscing about the past. He’s feeling good, and when he feels good, he feels dangerous. He wants a rematch with Drew McIntyre, and he wants a No Disqualification match.
He got in the ring when Elias started playing and asked if Elias was trying to play him off the stage like it was the Academy Awards. Elias said if it was the Academy Awards, he’d be on his second standing ovation and told him off because he was about to sing a song about how much he loves Atlanta, then insulted them. Ambrose said he was a big fan of Elias and was there to request a song. Ambrose reeled off some potential requests, ending with Dirty Deeds. Elias swung the guitar at him, Ambrose ducked and delivered the Dirty Deeds. The Riott Squad came out for their match before Elias had picked himself up off the mat.
» Dean Ambrose vs Drew McIntyre – No Disqualification match – This was another one that started pre-bell, with Ambrose taking it to McIntyre on the ramp. This one did get started when they got to the ring though. Ambrose was wearing two belts and he took one off to try to take down McIntyre, but McIntyre caught him with a kick and used the belt instead. It turned into a quality no-DQ until Elias appeared and smacked Ambrose over the head with a guitar and rolled him into the ring. After that, Drew McIntyre was just a Claymore from victory.
Baron Corbin and Bobby Lashley joined Elias at ringside and all four began the beatdown on Ambrose. Seth Rollins music hit and he came out holding a chair, closely followed by Roman Reigns. They put everyone down, Drew McIntyre took a spear from Reigns, but Rollins and Reigns left without acknowledging Ambrose. They got to the top of the ramp and looked back at him picking himself up. Looks were exchanged, then we went to a break.
» The Riott Squad vs Ronda Rousey & Natalya was decent. Ruby Riott and Sarah Logan represented the Riott Squad, with Liv Morgan at ringside. Logan and Riott had the best of the offence, mainly against Natalya. Rousey did have a short mid-match stint, but she was dominated as well. While Natalya was in control, Morgan got involved, but she was put on Natalya’s shoulders and taken out by a Rousey forearm. A dropkick from Sarah Logan on the outside put Natalya down and returned control to the Riott Squad. Natalya took a lot of punishment but eventually got to Rousey, who quickly overpowered Logan. Ruby Riott tried to save her and got punched as well. Rousey knocked Morgan off the apron and Natalya dealt with Riott after Riott broke up a pin attempt, leaving Rousey and Logan one on one.
Rousey had Logan primed for the armbar when Becky Lynch appeared through the crowd. She punched Natalya to the floor and hit her with a crutch, then Rousey came to meet her. After a brief fight over ownership of the crutch, security dragged Rousey back to the ring, where she proceeded to lay a few of them out in order to get back to Lynch, while Lynch fought off the people holding her back.
Police arrived on the scene and dragged Becky Lynch away. She struggled so they cuffed her. As they led her away she yelled, ‘You should be arresting them, they robbed me.’
As Natalya was helped out of the arena, Ronda Rousey stormed back to the ring and called out Vince McMahon. She got Stephanie instead. Rousey asked her to reinstate Becky Lynch. McMahon said she understands she’s upset, but reinstatement is the least of Lynch’s problems, she’s just been arrested. Rousey told her to fix that as well, go tell her daddy and just do it. McMahon said it’s not that easy, Rousey has to get used to the fact Charlotte Flair is her WrestleMania opponent. Becky Lynch is unprofessional, she did this to herself.
Rousey said McMahons always do what’s best for business and this is what’s best for business. It’s what she wants, what the crowd wants, what the ‘ginger douche in cuffs’ wants. The first ever women’s main event at WrestleMania, her, Becky and Charlotte (that’s the triple-threat spoilered then, as if it wasn’t obvious). She asked Stephanie to think about what it means to her three daughters while the crowd chanted, ‘Triple-threat’. Stephanie McMahon said she’s sorry, but the answer is a hard no and started to leave the ring. Rousey stopped her and said that wasn’t good enough. She demands that she reinstates Lynch now.
Stephanie McMahon got riled by that. She reminded Rousey she’s her boss and said her dad was right, Rousey and Lynch have the same bad attitude, and nobody is bigger than WWE.
Rousey said McMahon doesn’t control her. She’s not like everyone else. She’s bled enough to be set for life. She’s not her worker, she’s Ronda Rousey and she’s the RAW Women’s Champion. She will carry the title as long as it represents the best of the best, but now she just defends against the chosen they’ve turned it into a gaudy accessory.
She cannot stand there and endorse her violating this title. It means too much. Vince McMahon says he’s the man and makes all the tough decisions, it’s time for him to make the right one. She put the belt on the mat at Stephanie McMahon’s feet and left the ring.
» Throughout the show there were video messages and tweets celebrating Ric Flair’s birthday, and a red-carpet event somewhere backstage. The final segment was the Ric Flair’s 70th Birthday Celebration. The roster was0p on the stage, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon entered a ring decorated with balloons and a cake. We know what happens with cakes in wrestling rings. Triple H welcomed back Reigns and talked about Rousey and Lynch before introducing the guests. Shawn Michaels was followed by Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat, Kurt Angle, and Sting. WWE made him a custom Championship belt as a present. They played his music, but Ric Flair didn’t appear.
Cut to backstage and Batista was dragging a cameraman to Flair’s dressing room. Seconds later, he dragged an unconscious Flair out, looked to camera and said, ‘Hey Hunter, do I have your attention now?’ Triple H ran back there and found Flair, but Batista had gone. RAW closed out with Triple H yelling for a doctor over Ric Flair’s still unconscious body.
NOTE: Jinder Mahal was put through the cake by Kurt Angle after RAW went off air.
The Other Bits
» Aleister Black & Ricochet vs The Revival started rather suddenly, when The Revival attacked Black and Ricochet during the introductions. There were bodies flying all over the place when they cut to a break. By the time we came back, it had settled into a proper tag match, albeit a short one. Ricochet did some fancy stuff on the outside, but the in-ring was almost all Aleister Black. He pinned Scott Dawson with Black Mass. That’s the second loss for the RAW Tag Team Champions in as many weeks, both to NXT superstars.
» Jinder Mahal vs Kurt Angle took place after Mahal whinged in the ring about not being invited to Ric Flair’s celebrations. He had apparently challenged any superstar who had been invited to a match, and Angle answered. The match was fine. Mahal tapped out to the Angle Lock, then Angle had to deal with the Singh Brothers as well.
» Alexa Bliss hosted a Moment of Bliss, with Finn Balor as her guest. Before she introduced him, she took a moment to say, ‘Bye Ronda, don’t let the red-carpet WWE rolled out for you, hit you on the butt on the way out.’ She added that, as a three-time Champion, she would never have disrespected the title like that and, if the McMahons are looking for someone they can actually rely on to take Rousey’s place at WrestleMania, they know where to find her.
When Balor came out Bliss said that the downside of him being champ was that the title covered up his abs. He asked if she was trying to make him blush and she offered him a deal, he shows her his abs and she’ll show him her… and that was when Lio Rush arrived to tell Balor he didn’t deserve the title, Lashley does. But Lashley is preparing for Braun Strowman, so Balor had to deal with him and he’s not leaving until Lashley has the title back.
Balor asked him if he was out there to challenge him so he could prove to Lashley that he’s better than him. Rush protested, but Balor talked over him and accepted the challenge. Bliss asked if Rush was hesitating because he’s not man enough to do the job on his own. Rush looked worried and tried to excuse himself to prepare. Bliss informed him the match was now. Rush demanded a proper entrance, which he got, but was cut off before he got to the ring by Balor’s music.
Finn Balor vs Lio Rush – Intercontinental Championship match – Rush was stuck between taking a loss or having some explaining to do to his boss. Good match though. Rush had Balor in trouble for a while and Balor’s left knee took a knock which Rush took advantage of. It wasn’t enough though, a Coup de Grace secured the victory for the champion.
Backstage, Bobby Lashley yelled at Rush for messing up and asked if he could trust him. Rush assured him he could and followed Lashley to the ring for his match against Braun Strowman. The match never started. Lashley attacked Strowman before the bell but ended up on the wrong end of the interaction. Strowman did his run around the ring and took down Lashley and Rush, then left.
» Heavy Machinery had an altercation with The Ascension backstage. It mainly involved The Ascension fat-shaming Otis to Tucker, then Otis knocking them down.
» Bayley vs Nia Jax was used to announce The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection’s first title defence, against Jax and Tamina at Fastlane. Good match. Jax dominated the majority of it, but Bayley put her down several times. Banks and Tamina got involved at the end, when Jax grabbed Banks by the hair while she was encouraging Bayley. Tamina rushed Banks, who sidestepped and Tamina’s momentum sent her into the steps. Bayley kneed Jax in the head to make her let go of Banks, then delivered the elbow from the top rope and got the pin.
That was, indeed, an odd episode of RAW. Wonderful news from Roman Reigns, and a lot of business to wade through from the rest, with very little filler. It’s going to be an interesting few weeks on the Road to WrestleMania.