Closing the books on another Monday Night RAW episode, get into the kayfabe with this RAW recap brought to you by PowerLeveled.
Working through six full matches, and nearly ten promotional pieces, Monday Night RAW on March 2nd was fully in the flow leading up to Wrestlemania 31. Featuring some fine wrestling overall, with better than average payoffs and a notable “Diva’s” division match, RAW this week was worth watching, even if at some points the action dulled a bit.
Match 1: Ambrose vs. Barrett
Fleshing out a thievery-riddled Intercontinental Title contest, Dean Ambrose has stolen the WWE Intercontinental Championship from Bad News Barrett just two weeks back. With little physical or story line debate with the “Authority” on the part of Barrett, this issue has largely been resolved – or lack thereof, in the ring. As of last week, as highlighted tonight on WWE RAW, R-Truth has firmly planted himself into the conflict with Ambrose and Barrett by cowardly stealing Barrett’s title belt. Just as Truth would return the title belt to Dean Ambrose last week, R-Truth would steal the title again tonight on RAW and hand the title over cowardly to Luke Harper who appeared aggressively behind Truth at the ringside announcer’s table. Tonight’s match between Ambrose and Barrett would spend more time covered in commotion over the Intercontinental title than we would see regarding in-ring action. While this of course takes away from the wrestling aspect of the WWE for this match, the story-driven aspects which lead to Wrestlemania were pushed forward further as Harper would walk away with the title in this match. The match would later resolve itself as feeling like more of a two-part match than a conclusion here.
Match 2: Naomi and The Usos vs Natalya, Cesaro and Tyson Kidd
In this mixed tag-team match up, the Usos and Naomi battled against Kidd, Cesaro and Natalya to very little fanfare. As reigning tag-team champions, Kidd and Cesaro put on a decent show yet again, but their performance was nothing to call home about. Unfortunately, the same case goes for the Usos and the ladies on both teams. With what feels like a limited timer, it’s likely that if you’re watching RAW on HULU or another respective streaming service, this match will be cut to allow the Cena promo to roll on later in the show. Not only did the Usos fail in hyping up the crowd, they did not get to perform any decent high spots, and nobody flew over the ropes tonight. On the other side, we didn’t see any fan favorite action out of Kidd with a sitting sharpshooter Cesaro with his patented swing. A few European uppercuts hit an Uso jaw or two, but this match came down to the ladies and a cowardly Tyson Kidd again. With Kidd in trouble early, he would tag out to Nattie and her time in the ring would be cut short by a twisted ankle off of a high spot scenario. When Nattie tags Kidd into the ring, the match continues as usual with an Uso wrenching Kidd’s escape by drilling Cesaro off the apron, leaving only Nattie to tag. Naturally Kidd runs like a scalded dog yet again and Nattie must fight on an injured leg. She would go on to lose on a distraction roll-up in an already average match. Nothing to see here, and you probably won’t see it in a 90 minute cut.
Match 3: John Cena vs Curtis Axel
Following up a promo by John Cena, this match was setup by Stephanie McMahon as Cena tried to declare himself eligible for the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale. Stephanie would imply that Cena could only get his rights to enter the Battle Royale through her permission, and as an explicit opposition of The Authority, Cena would not be allowed to do whatever he wanted, despite the fact that people like Adam Rose can simply “declare” entry. Curtis Axel stepped to the ring after Stephanie smashed down Cena’s hopes and dreams, bringing the entertaining #Axelmania chant to the crowd. The people of Newark, New Jersey seemed more inclined to like Curtis Axel and his ideals then they did Cena’s entry. Axel would go on to face Cena on the fly and get jobbed out in the match, but it was what Stephanie said just prior that strikes a chord. If John Cena wants to take on Russev for a second shot at the United States Championship after his loss at Fastlane, only Russev can allow for that. Russev would not comply yet again after the jobbing out of Curtis Axel, but he appeared to be contemplating the move.
Match 4: Paige vs Nikki Bella
In yet another Diva’s Championship match between Paige and Nikki Bella, an actual match happened this week and it wasn’t the worst of the show. Whether by design of a time crunch or a lack of respect in the division, the WWE Diva’s division got less than three minutes of air time in last week’s show, causing an uproar in social media. That distinct lack of screen time was countered with a solid match this week, running longer than most of the matches we saw. With a decent variety of moves out of both Nikki Bella and Paige, the match was entertaining and better than average. Most of this match was a build up to the Paige Tap Out which would both fail and succeed in various spots throughout, ultimately resulting in Brie Bella interrupting the match and causing a disqualification for Nikki. As we know, disqualifications do not result in the title changing hands, and Nikki retained. While reeling from the successful PTO, the Bella twins would be surprised during a gang-up attack on Paige. AJ Lee came back this week with a fun new shirt and a “enemy of my enemy” attitude toward Paige, rescuing her from attack by the Bellas. This doesn’t feel like the “Frienemy” story line kicking back up, but you can be sure that AJ and Paige will be pegged against the Bellas before ‘Mania, and this may lead to a triple-threat match in the biggest Pay-Per-View of the year.
Match 5: Daniel Bryan vs Luke Harper
While Daniel Bryan is one of the best workers and one of the most charismatic people on the WWE roster, this match couldn’t be put over like he did with Reigns. Going up against Luke Harper, these competitors put on a forgettable match tonight, though they bolstered the crowd through Bryan’s lovable steamrolling kicks. Hitting all of Bryan’s standard spots, this match was relatively short and only boosted the earlier match between BNB and Dean Ambrose. Harper would walk away from a short match after scuffling with a few members of the Intercontinental title shuffle in a post-match story. Having Daniel Bryan build up a “YES!” chant further distracted from the actual match moments earlier and Ambrose and Barrett were nearly an afterthought in the wave of “YES!” chanting and excitement for Ziggler who entered the arena. As the match was by this point well over, Ziggler took the Intercontinental title symbolically up to the top of a 15 foot ladder after cleaning Harper’s clock and served the crowd up a stare-down with Bryan from across the arena – a payoff to their post-Royal Rumble messages for a ‘Mania battle via Twitter. Hitting on each of the six Superstars expected to participate in a ladder match for the rightful ownership of the WWE Intercontinental Championship, the match itself may not have been something to call home about, but the segment was entertaining and served as a critical piece of a build up that this match will surely deserve. Safe prediction? R-Truth is getting Job’d in the title match.
Match 6: Seth Rollins vs Roman Reigns
With Roman Reigns’ target being Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania, the Face of the WWE would take on Mr. Money in the Bank in a standard 1-on-1 bout. Given the expectations of any “1-on-1” match with Rollins in a corner, a cadre of allies awaited to pounce on Roman Reigns, and surely made him look strong tonight. During the course of this match, both competitors did a good job. I say this because nothing fantastic went on in the match and nothing unexpected went on in regards to The Authority’s involvement. Roman and Seth spent a good portion of this match rivaling in a push-pull format, and for the majority of this match Rollins sold the performance as we’re used to seeing. Despite this, Reigns did showcase more new and original moves this week and he did perform better than he would have before working with Daniel Bryan. This match was not unwatchable, and it is respectable, but it did not match the glamour that we’ve seen Rollins in and it did not come close to the impressive work we saw Reigns perform in his last match with Bryan. What this match amounts to is mostly in the story of The Authority, and how Rollins relates with Randy Orton. We’ve seen a touch of reluctant alliance in Orton over the last few weeks, and tonight Orton paid off by verifying his position as the most important member of The Authority, possibly hinting at a ‘Mania match between he and Rollins.
Before this match began, Orton approached a weary Rollins about a failed interview he had with The Daily Show host John Stewart. After Stewart delivered a low-blow to Rollins, Orton would make an appearance backstage and in-ring to “help” Rollins. Without actual physical assistance, Orton cleaned up the John Stewart situation and made his way backstage to tell Rollins that he had his back in the match with Reigns. Having been told by Kane, Big Show, and J&J security that he would not be needed, Orton made an independent appearance in the match ring-side. Back into the action, Roman Reigns had been fighting for a solid 50% of the match with Rollins when multiple attempts at Authority cheating would begin failing. First, the J&J Security guys would both be knocked out, and despite referee vision on the outside contact, the match would move on. While the rule on that still isn’t entirely clear, The Big Show would make an attempt at Reigns as well, being knocked around handily by Reigns. Later yet still, Kane would nail a successful chair shot on Reigns under the referee distraction by Rollins. Reigns simply would not fold to all of this outside work, kicking out at two despite the multiple distractions and damage. It was here that next week’s story would be set, as late arrival Randy Orton pulled a simple leg-sweep from the corner that would result in Reigns being pinned by Rollins to end the match.
This was not the payoff of the match, but it would end Orton’s time ring-side. Walking away while successfully proving his point to Rollins, Orton would not stay as Roman Reigns began to pick apart an onslaught by The Authority that took a crowd against him and turned them into Reigns fans. It was a mix of both Reigns’ familiarity and new fresh moves that yet again helped push him, not the false push that preceded this match as done by Paul Heyman. Reigns gave a solid Superman punch to one member of J&J, while spearing the other – the crowd didn’t like that, because they’ve seen that. It harks back to that “five moves of doom” that people complain about. With boos resounding, post-match scuffling continued, getting Big Show knocked out with a Superman punch of his own as Seth Rollins set up for a high spot on the top rope. Hoping to catch Reigns off guard, Rollins jumped down for a heavy hit only to receive a solid, exceptionally high spear that turned Reigns haters into a neutral crowd. All retreating, The Authority was without Orton and weak yet again, corralling near the ramp and unlike Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns didn’t wait to have a realization on what to do. Roman Reigns cleared the top rope nearly high enough to clear another set of ropes, crashing down on the entire group with force and setting the house cleanly in his favor.
I’m not a Roman Reigns fan, and this was the most impressive thing I may have seen him do in his career. Watch at least the final match of this RAW if you don’t want to be disappointed heading into Wrestlemania.
The Story: Mizdow Shines Again
Most of the story line for this Monday Night RAW will be revisited, but the segment which may be cut could be the most entertaining piece of the show. Starting the night with a standard setup for the headlining event, Rollins and Reigns battled on the microphone a bit. Reigns is the notable person in this conversation, as the universe seems to be against his mic work. It wasn’t special, and it wasn’t terrible, most of all it will not hurt his impression on you if you watch the main event. We know Rollins can talk, and this was just a standard setup scenario that lead to tonight’s main event.
As the first story piece to showcase the WWE’s creative writing team, The Miz and Damien Mizdow fleshed out a bit of Smackdown controversy with the first screening of Mizdow’s new commercial. With The Miz’s cocky attitude getting in the way, Mizdow was set to record for a commercial over the last few weeks, and this week the commercial came to pay off. The Miz would interrupt the commercial and take Mizdow’s spot on the scene, but tonight it would be revealed that the scene was for a “male enhancement” commercial called “Niagra”, the The Miz would be gravely embarrassed in front of nearly the entire WWE roster. This was highly entertaining bit and should be watched by any WWE fan following the Mizdow story line.
Bray Wyatt hit again on the confrontation with Undertaker we fully expect to see at Wrestlemania. Building a custom casket for ‘Taker, Wyatt set the casket on fire tonight in symbolism to showcase how he is the new face of fear in the WWE. With a very short spot and no pay off, the scene did not bring a pop and is largely only worth watching if you’re a huge Wyatt fan.
Triple H called out Booker T in the most depressing promo tonight on RAW, asking Booker T to discuss with him the recent events regarding Sting. As we know, Triple H is going to Wrestlemania to face Sting in a 1-on-1 match, but tonight Booker led up Sting as untouchable and once again “The Icon” of WCW. Mentioning that Sting was untouchable, Booker T would become an example as he was almost immediately fired by Triple H, sent packing with his clipboard. Triple H would recant on this firing as Booker walked depressingly up the ramp, leaving the COO of the WWE to apologize to Booker. This was done to prove that no one is untouchable in the WWE, and set Triple H on a rant asking “If Sting is untouchable, why doesn’t he just come down here and get me right now”, or something to that effect. Triple H continued to solidify his role as the “heel” of this match up, but with no appearance from Sting to retaliate this was simply a hype game to remind of what is to come.
Mentioned previously in lead up to the Rollins-Reigns match, Seth Rollins hosted The Daily Show with Seth Rollins tonight on RAW to show John Stewart that he could in fact host better than Stewart could. Steaming up in John Stewart’s home of New Jersey, Rollins heel tactics kicked in full gear here as he insulted Stewart in full force, as well as the state of New Jersey. Using all the wit in his bag, John Stewart would not stand idly by as Rollins decided to host his show on a different program. Having come down to The Daily Show with Seth Rollins, John Stewart served as a trash-talking guest until Rollins and J&J security hit a boiling point and were ready to destroy Stewart’s aging body. Kick in the Randy Orton theme and things get a little more interesting. Not only are the WWE fans unsure of the position of Randy Orton, but neither is Seth Rollins as this music allowed John Stewart to kick Rollins clean in the groin. Observing this as a male, I’m not talking about a Stone Cold Steve Austin “kick in the groin”, I mean a legitimate groin kick that left Rollins red-faced for 5 minutes solid. It was painful and awesome, allowing John Stewart to run up the ramp flailing his jacket as Randy Orton would have to hold back his laughter. This would lead to the backstage conversation Orton would have with Rollins before the coming match where Orton would be blocked by the “loyal” members of The Authority.
The March 2nd episode of Monday Night RAW was enjoyable in most parts, but certainly wasn’t an all-star performance. Raised heavily on the back of John Stewart’s appearance and the Niagra commercial, the storyline and action of tonight’s episode left something to be desired, but it should serve as something entertaining to the core of the WWE universe. Watch it on Hulu or your locally available streaming service if you can, it’s worth your time.