Five Stars From #WWE #RAW (3/12/18): It’s WrestleMania Season
Welcome back, wrestling fans. Now that Fastlane has come and gone, WWE is officially on the fast track to WrestleMania. Counting last night’s show, there are only four Raw’s left until WrestleMania. The biggest show of the year will be here before we know it, and the good news is the early card looks great. Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar is a rematch of one of the more intense and stiff Mania main event’s in recent memory.
Ronda Rousey/Kurt Angle vs. HHH/Stephanie is a great idea for Rousey’s first match. The match will have a main event feel thanks to the other three who are involved but it keeps Rousey away from the Women’s title until she’s earned it. MIz/Rollins/Balor should be fantastic with the IC title on the line. Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax is becoming a very emotional storyline with Bliss playing her heel role perfectly, which is going to lead to a groundswell of support for Nia. Braun Strowman might be challenging for the tag titles solo which is just preposterous enough to work.
All in all, WrestleMania is looking good on paper. Now, let’s get to the five stars from last night’s Raw!
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5. Roman Reigns
I’ve really enjoyed the build to Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar II. Instead of going the traditional route with Reigns and Lesnar going face to face or brawling for weeks in a row, they’ve kept it one sided. If they tried to build this like a normal title match, the crowd would continue to shit on Reigns. By keeping Lesnar away and allowing Reigns to finally sound like a normal guy, they’ve started to bring some fans to Roman’s side. Roman cut a fantastic promo on Lesnar two weeks ago and followed it up with another strong speech last night. When WWE allows Reigns to talk tough and keep it short he’s a much more believable character. While Reigns has held up his end of the build so far, WWE used their trump card last night.
While it’s easy to think of Vince as this super popular legend, the facts are that he’s one of best heels in pro wrestling history. He makes it so easy to hate him, and if you’re looking to build sympathy or support for a character, you pit them against Vince. Remember Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus from three years ago? The crowd rooted for Reigns almost by default because Vince was on the other side.
Last night Reigns called out Vince in the ring then confronted him backstage. That led to Vince temporarily suspending Reigns while also mentioning Brock Lesnar does enjoy special privileges, but he’s earned them. Brock Lesnar was always cheered because of his freakish skills and unmatched intensity, but it’s much harder to cheer for him when he’s aligned with or supported by Vince. This will almost certainly lead to a Vince/Reigns confrontation, which should enhance an already great build.
4. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor
Miz vs. Rollins vs. Balor could have zero build and i’d still be psyched for their match at Mania. They’re three of the best workers on Raw, and they’re fighting for what should be the workhorse championship. Since Raw is a 3 hour show every week, they’re obviously going to feature some type of segment with those three, and I’d prefer it to be more wrestling than promos. Miz TV is always enjoyable, but Miz is so far and above both Rollins and Balor on the microphone and this match doesn’t need a lot of talking up to get people excited.
Rollins vs. Balor was a fun match, and I particularly enjoyed the ending. Rollins and Balor are evenly matched, so if you’re going to have someone go over clean, it shouldn’t be a dominant victory. They also know each other well and have a shared history. I don’t think either should win with their finisher either, which is why I liked this so much. Rollins loves to hit the top rope suplex/falcon arrow combo to soften guys up for his finisher. While he executed the suplex perfectly, Balor knew he was going to roll over into the falcon arrow. He was able to use that knowledge to his advantage and reverse the falcon arrow into a roll up for the win.
It wasn’t a dominant victory, but it showed you how quickly someone can pickup a win, which if it happens at Mania, means there will be a new IC champ.
3. Asuka vs. Mickie James
Asuka finally made her WrestleMania decision Sunday at Fastlane. Asuka vs. Charlotte is a dream match any way you look at it, and it’s a much better title match than Asuka vs. Bliss would have been. As great of a character as Alexa is, there is no realistic way for her to beat Asuka without a metric ton of shenanigans. That shouldn’t be the route they take for Asuka at Mania, so I’m glad she’s challenging Charlotte. Asuka even threw some shade at Bliss by saying she wants to face the best women’s champion at Mania. To add insult to injury Alexa’s backup plan Nia Jax was a no show. forcing MIckie James to be the poor sacrificial lamb.
James/Asuka was a lot of fun, mainly because Mickie understands the value of fighting different styles of matches against different opponents. She was super aggressive against Asuka, and even got a few near falls. Asuka has been undefeated for 55 years for a reason though, and eventually adjusted to pick up the tap out win.
2. Alexa & Nia
While Asuka/Charlotte has a leg up from an in ring standpoint, Alexa vs. Nia Jax has all the emotional weight behind it. Alexa and Nia have been “friends” for awhile now, with Alexa using Nia for her size and strength while Nia has been getting the extreme short end of the stick. Nia continues to persevere, but it’s starting to take a toll. Last week’s interaction between Bliss and Nia was heartbreaking, and it’s a credit to how strong both of these characters are. Bliss is the absolute worst, while Nia has been manipulated for so long that it’s starting to break her down. She keeps going though, because at the root of it all is her friendship with Bliss.
Yeah…about that friendship. After Nia murders a poor local competitor, a hot boom mic picks up Alexa talking some major hurtful shit about Nia. Nia is in the ring listening the entire time and eventually storms to the back and destroys the women’s locker room that Bliss and Mickie James were in. Alexa tip toed the line with NIa for so long, but she finally went too far when Nia was within earshot. If you have even a tiny piece of a heart you’re going to be rooting for Nia to rip Alexa to shreds as soon as possible.
1. Braun Strowman
Braun Strowman winning the tag team battle royal by himself doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but stay with me here. 1. Watching Braun Strowman destroy ten other guys is always fun. 2. The Raw tag division is useless, and there’s no point in trying to turn one of the current teams into believable contenders. I’m not saying one or multiple teams can’t be revamped, but four weeks prior to WrestleMania is not the time to do that. 3. If this win stands, I think Kurt Angle should force Braun to find a partner. How fun would it be watching this unstoppable monster try to find someone who he hasn’t already tried to murder to be his tag team partner?
Strowman isn’t the most trustworthy guy, but having an automatic tag team title shot at WrestleMania could convince someone to join forces with Braun. I’m interested to see who that could be.