Monday Night Raw
Date: April 9, 2018
Location: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Louisiana
Commentators: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Jonathan Coachman
As usual, this could be the most interesting show of the year. Tonight could be filled with major angles, returns and surprises, all of which could become big deals in a hurry. Or it could be all about Roman Reigns, who managed to not win the Universal Title from Brock Lesnar last night. Let’s get to it.
I was in the arena for this show, sitting in the upper deck on the opposite side from the hard camera, looking nearly straight down at the ring.
Here’s Stephanie McMahon, walking very slowly and with her arm in a cast after last night, to open the show. Cole talks about how Ronda Rousey’s debut may be the best debut in Wrestlemania history. Does that mean the best wrestler to debut at Wrestlemania (As in she’s better than Fandango and Baron Corbin? Or the best ever first match at Wrestlemania? I’m thinking someone else has probably done it better before). Stephanie talks about the post Wrestlemania crowd having an international flavor (Is that an insult?) but she expected at least SOME sympathy.
She did tap out last night but the fans have to admit that one woman did everything she could last night and made the transition. Yes Stephanie did make that transition and was amazing so she deserves all the praise. This brings out Rousey to a very nice reception (which she earned) and even Stephanie gives her credit for last night. Rousey is a role model and a superstar and with Stephanie guiding her, they can reach new heights. The fans tell Stephanie to shut the F up so Stephanie calls Rousey her friend….and offers a handshake.
Now if you don’t know where this is going and yeah I’m not even going to finish that. Rousey hugs her and smiles before shifting to the death stare. Stephanie gets taken down by the bad arm and Rousey takes the brace off to crank it back all over again. Referees run in for the late save and Rousey is all smiles. She’s getting better at the facial expressions and really does come off like a star. Medics come out to check on Stephanie and the fans tell her that she deserves it. As she’s leaving, JoJo asks for a little respect for Stephanie. I was hoping that made the broadcast because it made me laugh in my seat.
My issues with Stephanie are fairly well known but I LOVED this. The key to Stephanie is her being in on the joke and that doesn’t happen very often. This time she was in full on obnoxious heel mode but with a bit of a wink to the camera that she knew she was about to be destroyed. That made this workable because she was FINALLY getting what was coming to her. I know you can’t have it happen all the time, but once a year isn’t quite often enough.
The announcers do their usual “this crowd is insane” speech. Good to see them cover themselves like that as the fans actually get through for a change.
The Superstar Shakeup is confirmed, thereby making almost everything you see here tonight a lot less important.
Here’s Nia Jax for a tag match with a surprise partner. The fans tell Nia that she deserves it but Bliss doesn’t seem to share the mentality. Apparently Nia is the real bully here, even bigger than Rousey. Bliss talks about Nia being so much bigger and running over someone innocent like Mickie. Last night Nia assaulted Mickie before the match and Alexa was competing under emotional distress. Everyone knows how horrible Nia is and that’s why she doesn’t have a partner tonight. Nia: “Shut up Alexa!” She did enjoy what she did to Mickie and Alexa last night and she’s the new Raw Women’s Champion. She does have a partner.
Nia Jax/Ember Moon vs. Alexa Bliss/Mickie James
Makes perfect sense (the fans knew too) as Ember clearly wasn’t going to get the title back in NXT and wasn’t going to evolve all that much more down there anyway. Nia throws Mickie across the ring to start (maybe Mickie wasn’t ready) so Mickie kicks her in the knee. Bliss comes in and Nia chokes both of them at once before handing it off to Ember.
The announcers try to explain Ember but realize it’s not that easy because she doesn’t really have a character. Ember enziguris Alexa, slips a bit off a springboard (a quick camera cut protected it very well) and takes Bliss down with a spinning crossbody. A legsweep sets up the Eclipse to end Bliss clean at 3:00.
Rating: C. This was exactly what it needed to be: Ember debuts, gets a huge clean pin over Bliss, and looks awesome in the process. The Eclipse is all she needs to do for a long time as that’s one of the coolest finishers in a long time. Nia as a face could be a work in progress but at least she got the big moment to start.
Braun Strowman comes in to see Kurt Angle and blocks out Nicholas from Kurt’s view. As soon as he steps aside though, the fans go coconuts. Strowman hates to do this but they relinquish the Tag Team Titles. See, Nicholas has a scheduling conflict: he’s still in the fourth grade. As soon as he’s done with school though, they’re coming back to win the titles. Nicholas promises that someone will GET THESE HANDS. If Nicholas makes a cameo in ten years, I can die a happy man.
What doesn’t make me happy though is this whole thing. If they weren’t going to have Strowman keep the titles anyway, then why do the whole thing? Why have the Bar lose to a ten year old and then just drop the titles the next night? Give Strowman a partner who loses the fall and set up something with them. Or bring someone up from NXT to give them an instant rub. Just do ANYTHING but this and it’s an improvement. The more I think about this, the worse it gets, especially since the Bar is likely getting the belts back in Saudi Arabia, making this whole thing just a way to inflate their title count.
No Way Jose debuts next. I’m a big fan and he could open house shows forever, but the same character didn’t work for Adam Rose.
No Way Jose vs. John Skylar
Jose has a Conga line and wins with the pop up right hand in 26 seconds. The entrance is all that matters anyway.
The Bar comes in to say they’re ready to take their titles back. Not so fast though (Kurt: “You guys lost to a freaking ten year old!”) as they can be in the title match, but their opponents will be determined by a four team tournament over the next two weeks.
Tag Team Eliminator First Round: Revival vs. Anderson and Gallows
Joined in progress with Anderson throwing Dawson around and declaring him a NERD. Revival gets smart by taking out the knee with Wilder cranking back and bending the leg in various odd directions. Dawson dives over to prevent a tag as they’re trying to get that Revival formula going. A big boot to the face is enough to bring in Anderson though and that means HI YAH in the corner. Anderson dives onto Wilder but Dawson rolls through a high crossbody for two (with tights). Everything breaks down and Gallows gets sent into the barricade, leaving Anderson to eat the Shatter Machine for the pin at 3:41 shown.
Rating: D+. Nothing match here due to time and that’s the problem with Revival on the main roster: they’re built around the long matches which allow them to really set something up. That’s not the case on the main roster as they only have a few minutes. You can’t make it work that way and, injuries aside, it’s the biggest reason why the Revival is no longer the Revival.
John Cena Make-A-Wish ad. Thankfully this earns applause, because even Wrestlemania fans have some heart.
Here’s Seth Rollins for a chat. The fans are all about Rollins here with another YOU DESERVE IT chant. Seth says it’s been a long road back but that was the loudest BURN IT DOWN ever. After last night, he’s back and now a Grand Slam winner, just like the rest of the Shield. He talks about how special it was to complete the Grand Slam in front of fans like these but here’s Finn Balor to interrupt.
Balor gets straight to the point: Rollins was the better man last night but there was someone who wasn’t the winner or a loser and that man wants more. He wants to be the first challenger for the Intercontinental Title and Rollins will shake to that. This brings out Miz and the Miztourage with Miz ranting about how Rollins doesn’t deserve to be champion. It was Miz who made the title what it is but he slips up and says he can’t win without the Miztourage backing him up.
Miz is a changed man after becoming a father to his new daughter. Fans: “HE’S GOT KIDS!” Last night, his daughter watched the match in Maryse’s arms and when Miz lost, she started crying. Miz: “You made my little princess cry.” That made Maryse cry and Miz cried when he heard about it. Seth: “That’s what everyone does when they watch you try to wrestle.”
Miz has a rematch clause and since Balor lost last night, he goes to the back of the line. Rollins is ready now but Miz isn’t wrestling in this suit. Instead he’ll do it at Backlash but if they want a fight tonight, a handicap match is fine. Cue the returning Jeff Hardy to even things up and the Miztourage bails.
Back from a break with the six man being set for later.
Sasha Banks vs. Mandy Rose
Absolution and Bayley are at ringside. Sasha sends her outside for a baseball slide to start as the fans sing about Bayley. A suplex gives Sasha two as Corey is very glad that he gets to commentate both shows, meaning he always gets to see Mandy. Sasha gets dropped throat first across the top rope and we take a break.
Back with Mandy holding an abdominal stretch until Sasha slips out and hits a knee in the corner. The top rope double knees get two and they head outside where Mandy….seems to mistime whatever she was supposed to be ready for. Mandy goes after Bayley, who hits Sasha by mistake in the next logical step. Back in and Mandy knees Sasha in the face for the pin at 6:55.
Rating: D. The botches were hurting it but Bayley vs. Banks is what matters most here. Absolution is fine at the moment with Paige being the adviser but I’m not sure how long that’s going to work without another top level star. Mandy and Sonya are getting better but they’re a long way behind the top level talent.
Post match Bayley leaves and Paige talks about how hard it was to be on the sidelines yesterday at Wrestlemania. This ring is her soul but due to neck injuries, her in-ring career is over. The THANK YOU PAIGE chants start up in a hurry and Paige thanks the locker room for growing the division into something they never could have dreamed of. She also wants to thank Daniel Bryan for giving her hope that she might be able to come back some day as well.
Earlier today Edge spoke to her and showed her that there’s life outside of wrestling. Edge has a family and acting career but now Paige has to go find something else. WWE has allowed her to do this for the last four years. She debuted here four years ago and won the Divas Championship so she wants to retire here as well.
Paige starts to cry so we get a THIS IS YOUR HOUSE chant. This will always be her house and she takes the shirt from around her waist, leaving it in the ring before walking up the ramp. I know she’s had some issues over the years but there’s no denying that she played a big role in the Women’s Revolution. It’s a shame that she’s done at such a young age and I hope she gets to do this again someday.
The announcers recap John Cena vs. Undertaker.
Here’s Elias for a song. The fans get that WWE stands for WALK WITH ELIAS and last night they paid for an Elias performance. That means an OH WALK WITH ELIAS chant but Elias calls them scumbags. Fans: “WE ARE SCUMBAGS!” The song is about how he wants to punch the clapping fans in the face….and here’s the returning Bobby Lashley. House is cleaned in a hurry and Lashley hits a delayed vertical suplex (with one arm free at times) to drop Elias. Lashley won’t be around long but let him make an impact while he can.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn come to see Kurt Angle to ask for a job. Sure they had a falling out with their management but that won’t happen here. Angle: “My tag team division is full, but I hear that TNA is hiring.” After the line of the year, Angle says he can’t hire them both. He has one spot available so they can wrestle for the contract tonight.
Here are Heath Slater and Rhyno to issue an open challenge. Oh man that’s never a good idea on this show.
Heath Slater/Rhyno vs. Authors of Pain
Pounding abounds and the Last Chapter ends Slater at 49 seconds.
Post match the Authors walk away from Paul Ellering. Maybe he just didn’t want to do the full schedule?
Here’s Roman Reigns for a chat. He took a beating last night but he’s here while Brock Lesnar isn’t. When he got to the Superdome yesterday, no one could look him in the eye. As of this past Wednesday, Lesnar was done and going to the UFC. Now though they have another match in a cage in Saudi Arabia later this month. That means Reigns can win the title there in a match he found out about on the internet. This brings out Samoa Joe to say Reigns exposed Lesnar last night.
For over a year, Reigns has been saying he’s the only one who can beat Lesnar. It doesn’t matter who couldn’t look at Roman because he’s a failure. It also makes him a liar because he can’t beat Brock Lesnar. Every time the Beast meets the Big Dog, the Big Dog gets conquered. After Lesnar makes Reigns fail again, Samoa Joe will be waiting at Backlash to put him to sleep. As usual, Joe was great here with the commanding voice and fire in his eyes. Joe as the new #1 contender could do some great things, especially if he eventually wins the title.
Tag Team Eliminator First Round: Titus Worldwide vs. Matt Hardy/Bray Wyatt
Before the match, Hardy talks to the Andre the Giant trophy, saying it’s time to start on the expedition of gold. Bray shows up and laughter ensues, allowing them to appear in the ring. Matt and Titus have the required pose off and Matt hammers away. Bray comes in and the fans give him a little He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands.
The announcers discuss whether these chants are more like football games or soccer until Apollo comes in with a flip. Matt and Bray find this WONDERFUL but beat on Apollo anyway. A series of rams into the buckle have Apollo in trouble but he gets in a dropkick to stagger Bray. That just earns him a release Rock Bottom as Titus is knocked to the floor. Bray tosses Apollo into the Twist of Fate (called Sister Abigail into the Twist, which is nonsense) for the pin at 5:08.
Rating: D+. Just a quick match here with the right team winning. There’s no reason to believe that Titus Worldwide are going to be anything more than jobbers to the stars so having them put Matt and Bray over here was the right call. You can almost guarantee that Bray and Matt are going to the title match and it might be the right move to put the titles on them this soon.
We recap the opening sequence.
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn
The winner gets a Raw contract. Cole points out that the loser here will NOT be allowed in the Superstar Shakeup, which could make things more interesting. Sami misses the Helluva Kick at the bell and he has to explain the attempt at the fast start. Owens gets low bridged….to the apron as Sami doesn’t get the rope low enough and Owens goes through the ropes instead. He’s smart enough to hammer Sami in the head but gets knocked to the floor for a big flip dive.
A hard right hand breaks up a springboard but Sami catapults him face first into the post. Back in and Sami gets crotched, setting up a Vader Bomb elbow for two. We take a break and come back with Cole sounding like he’s talking to production and Sami getting two off the Blue Thunder Bomb. They head outside again with Sami’s dive through the ropes eating a superkick.
Back in and the frog splash gets two and Owens follows it up with a corner clothesline. He tries another but Sami is right behind him with the Helluva Kick to send him to the apron. There’s the Pop Up Powerbomb but Owens falls to the floor for some reason. Back in and Owens goes up, only to get kicked in the face again. Sami superplexes him down and neither can get up, meaning it’s a double knockout at 10:18.
Rating: B. These two are always penciled in for a solid match and that’s what they had here. I’m not exactly surprised by the ending either, which leaves the story open for a few weeks. They could wind up on either show through one shenanigan or another (say through a new Smackdown GM) or as free agent signings after the Shakeup. Getting a good match out of it helps too.
Post match, the fans chant TNA.
Matt and Jeff run into each other with Matt saying he was glad to hear about Jeff getting over being broken. Jeff left him a message but it must have been DELETED. Matt must have been preparing for Andre’s battle of the giants. Indeed he was, and he won, thanks to the help of an old foe. Bray comes in and hugs Brother Nero, who is glad that Sister Abigail has been rendered OBSOLETE. Bray is now feeling wonderful and walks off with Matt. The camera pans over to Balor and Rollins, who are very confused. Jeff just shrugs and leaves.
Great little segment here, as just putting normal people (Rollins and Balor qualify here) into this strange world that is wrestling makes things all the better. That’s a guaranteed way to get a chuckle in wrestling as these are crazy people doing crazy things but when you live in the wrestling bubble, everything seems fine. Looking at it through the eyes of the normal people makes it all the funnier.
Next week: Bayley vs. Sasha Banks.
Jeff Hardy/Finn Balor/Seth Rollins vs. Miz/Miztourage
Before Finn’s entrance, the production crew replaced a piece of the stage, which I thought would be a Rey Mysterio entrance but turned out to just be for the smoke in Balor’s entrance. Miz and Rollins start but let’s hand it off to Axel instead. Rollins kicks both lackeys in the face and it’s off to Jeff for some Poetry in Motion to Axel and Dallas. Finn and Seth play decent Matt’s actually.
Back from a break with Balor coming in and forearming all three villains. Miz offers a distraction though and Dallas decks Balor from behind. Now Miz is glad to come in with a chinlock, followed by the Hennig necksnap from Axel. Dallas drops some knees and grabs a chinlock of his own as we’re not exactly setting any new standards here (as they shouldn’t be here). Balor finally dropkicks Miz down and the hot tag brings in Jeff to clean house.
A Whisper in the Wind takes down the Miztourage as you can see Rollins getting all charged up on the apron. The diving tag brings in Seth with a springboard clothesline to Miz. Rollins suicide dives onto all three of them for a big crash and we hit a BURN IT DOWN chant. Back in and the superplex into the Falcon Arrow (Cole: “Tonight he hits it!” He hit it last night too.) gets two on Miz with Dallas making the save. Finn dives onto Axel and Dallas and the Stomp finishes Miz at 13:56.
Rating: C+. This was just an easy way to end the show and that’s all it needed to be. I would have had Jeff come out later in the night, but that would have meant the lack of the Matt segment so it balances out. Rollins pinning Miz again is fine, especially with the title match already being set. It’s not like Miz is going to be damaged by a loss in a six man tag so this was fine all around.
Post match Dallas takes a Twist of Fate, Coup de Grace, Swanton and Stomp. Axel gets a similar treatment and a Stomp to Miz ends the show.
The dark segment saw Rollins telling the fans to throw in their beach balls. Several fans obliged and the good guys batted them around for a few minutes to wrap up the night.
Overall Rating: B+. I had a good time with this show as they went with a string of debuts and returns instead of one or two big angles. They didn’t really have a big moment here but they did set up stuff for both the Greatest Royal Rumble and Backlash. The problem with that is it made things feel like they were flying through tonight instead of actually focusing here, which is understandable given how the fans can react to something they don’t like. All in all though, this was a VERY entertaining show and makes things rather interesting going into next week’s Shakeup.
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