Monday Night Raw
Date: February 25, 2019
Location: State Farm Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
Commentators: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Renee Young
It’s another big show this week with a double shot of huge. First up, we have the return of Roman Reigns, who will be making some sort of a major announcement. It’s the first time he’s been on television in months, having vacated the Universal Title in October due to leukemia. In addition to that, it’s Ric Flair’s 70th birthday and there is going to be a celebration, which of course means a lot of guest stars. Did I mention it’s Wrestlemania season? Let’s get to it.
We open with a recap of Reigns vacating the title back in October. Has that only been four months?
Here’s Reigns, in street clothes, to open things up to an absolute ROAR. His arms are looking a little smaller, but you have to expect something like that. Reigns takes a long time high fiving people and stops to hug three women in the front row, likely family. He hits the pose on the ropes and stares at the ring for a bit before getting back inside. Reigns thanks the fans, which he’ll likely be doing a lot. He missed us all because there is no job like this.
Reigns says this is our yard and believed that God had his back the whole time. He was scared back in October and didn’t know if he wanted to tell everyone about the condition. Fans: “IT’S OK!” When he got home from making the announcement, he couldn’t believe all of the messages he received and he was so touched that God’s voicemail was full about him. Reigns is going to use his platform to support people and raise awareness for the condition he went through.
So as for the announcement, he’s done better than swinging for the fences. They’ve hit a home run because he’s in remission. After one heck of an ovation for that, Reigns says that the Big Dog is back. The fans greet that with some barking and a WELCOME BACK chant and Reigns says thank you so much. No return date is given. Reigns leaves to another ovation and here’s Seth Rollins to hug him.
Aleister Black/Ricochet vs. Revival
Non-title and the non-champs get vignettes on their way to the ring. The Revival jumps them both before the bell so Black kicks them down, allowing Ricochet to hit the big crossbody, followed by Black’s moonsault into a seated position. Ricochet dives onto Dawson but grabs his knee as we take a break. We come back after the opening bell with Black firing off a bunch of kicks and what looked to be a botch off a German suplex/top rope sunset flip combination. Dawson slugs away at Black before catching him in DDT. Ricochet shoves Wilder off the top, leaving Black Mass to finish Dawson at 2:03.
Baron Corbin doesn’t like being asked about his comments regarding Reigns’ having leukemia. For Reigns’ sake, he better hope their paths don’t cross.
Snoop Dogg wishes Ric Flair a Happy Birthday.
Elias is in the ring for his song but Lacey Evans interrupts, with the commentators being rather big fans. As usual she doesn’t say anything so here’s Dean Ambrose (Renee: “And more greatness!”) to interrupt. Dean wants a rematch with Drew McIntyre and he wants it to be No DQ. Elias plays some guitar but Dean requests some songs, including Dirty Deeds. That’s exactly what Elias gets and Renee wants an encore.
Riott Squad vs. Ronda Rousey/Natalya
Logan gets aggressive on Natalya to start but gets driven into the corner, allowing Ronda to come in for a snap suplex. A hard STO drops Rousey though and the Squad takes over in the corner. A clothesline with a roll allows the tag off to Natalya to pick the pace back up but Liv Morgan pulls Natalya to the floor. That means something like a Hart Attack (forearm instead of a clothesline) from the steps, only to have Logan dropkick Natalya as we take a break.
Back with Natalya still in trouble, including Logan putting on the Rhea Ripley standing Cloverleaf. That’s broken up and the hot tag brings in Rousey to clean house. Everything breaks down and Natalya takes Riott outside for the discus lariat. Piper’s Pit hits Logan but here’s Becky Lynch on a crutch to come through the crowd and hits Natalya for the DQ at 9:36.
Rating: D+. This was little more than a way to have the women in the ring so Becky could come out there and there’s nothing wrong with that. The wrestling was fine enough, though Ronda has already destroyed the Squad so many times now that it doesn’t mean much the third time around. At least the Becky appearance got a good reaction.
Post match the brawl is on until cops come out to arrest Becky (Becky: “Easy! I need these hands to hold up the Women’s Title!”).
Post break Rousey demands that Vince get out here right now but she gets Stephanie McMahon instead. Becky has just been arrested but Rousey doesn’t want anything other than the suspension being lifted. Stephanie says Rousey can face Charlotte at Wrestlemania because Becky is unprofessional and brought this on herself. Rousey appeals to Stephanie’s legacy and her three daughters but it’s still a hard no.
That’s not good enough for Rousey so Stephanie shouts about being Rousey’s boss. Rousey says she’s not like everyone else because she’s Ronda Rousey and the Raw Women’s Champion. This is just a belt (that’ll be a fine) and it’s not even her style. It’s time for Vince to make the right decision. Rousey lays the title down and walks away. They’re doing everything they can to spread this out until Wrestlemania and it’s feeling the strain.
Steve Austin wishes Ric Flair a happy birthday.
Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers are in the ring. Mahal isn’t happy with the way Ric Flair is getting all the attention tonight she he’s challenging anyone invited to the birthday party to a match right now.
Kurt Angle vs. Jinder Mahal
Normally I’d make a joke about Angle sitting in the back in his gear on a night he’s invited to a birthday party, but that feels exactly like something he would do. Mahal jumps him from behind to start and we hit the very early chinlock. That’s broken up so we hit the chinlock, just in case you didn’t get enough. Angle gets up and hits a release German suplex, followed by the rolling German suplexes. The Khallas is countered into the ankle lock and Mahal taps at 2:59. Angle shouldn’t need to be in two chinlocks in a three minute match.
Post match the Brothers gets suplexed as well.
It’s time for a Moment of Bliss, with Alexa mocking Ronda and saying enjoy leaving on the red carpet WWE rolled out for her. Anyway the guest this week is Finn Balor, who is asked about being the new champion. Bliss doesn’t like him being champion, because it covers up those beautiful abs. Bliss: “You’ve got to let those babies breathe.” Bliss makes him an offer: show her the abs and she’ll show him her….and here’s Lio Rush. Corey: “I HATE THIS GUY NOW!”
Rush says that Bobby Lashley should be Intercontinental Champion, but Balor sees it as Rush saying he’s better than Lashley. That’s an accepted challenge. Bliss asks if Rush is man enough to do the job by himself. Somehow Bliss gets to say the match is on right now so Rush says play his music. That was a great way to have Bliss be a bit more sexual in nature without going over the line. There’s more to her character than thinking Balor looks good, which sets her a good distance apart from a lot of the women from the Divas era.
Maria Menunos wishes Flair a Happy Birthday.
Intercontinental Title: Lio Rush vs. Finn Balor
Balor is defending and wastes no time in taking Rush down for some hard stomps to the ribs. They head outside with Rush hitting an Asai moonsault into a pair of suicide dives. Back in and the Final Hour hits raised knees but Balor’s knee is banged up. A leglock doesn’t last long as Balor is right back with an Eye of the Hurricane. 1916 doesn’t work and Rush kicks him in the head for two. Balor scores with a clothesline but gets crotched on top, setting up a super hurricanrana for another near fall. The second 1916 connects and the Coup de Grace retains the title at 7:39.
Rating: C-. Is there a reason that a former Universal Champion and the current United States Champion is having a competitive match with the loudmouthed manager? I know Rush can work and is very athletic, but there are times when he should be taking a beating. JJ Dillon once told a story about wrestling a match as a manager and being competitive because he had wrestled for years and knew his way around a ring. The promoter yelled at him for acting like a wrestler instead of a manager and destroying the illusion. That’s a lesson WWE needs to learn with Rush.
Ascension asks Tucker where Otis is. That would be out back dumpster diving for cheeseburgers. They make fun of him even more but Tucker warns them that Otis won’t find this funny. Otis comes in and Tucker explains the story to them with Otis repeating individual words. He runs them both over and says that’s what they get. To call this bizarre would be the understatement of the night.
We look at the Reigns announcement and its media attention.
Bobby Lashley yells at Rush and asks if he can trust him tonight.
Bobby Lashley vs. Braun Strowman
Lashley jumps Strowman from behind before the bell and the fight is on, with Strowman hitting a splash in the corner, followed by the forearm to the chest to send Lashley outside. That means the running shoulders around the ring. No match.
Seth Rollins says he’s about to go burn it down with Reigns. Cold beverages are promised.
Ric Flair arrives.
WWE superstars talk about seeing where Martin Luther King died.
We look back at the Becky/Ronda segment.
Drew McIntyre vs. Dean Ambrose
No DQ and the fight starts on the floor. Dean pulls off his belt (he has another underneath) but gets whipped with it instead, setting up a suplex on the floor as we take a break. Back with Drew in trouble and Dean hitting a top rope elbow to the floor. Note that yes, it is possible to come back with action instead of another chinlock. Back in and Dean unloads with the belt (the first, not the under belt) but the Glasgow Kiss knocks him outside. McIntyre gets sent face first into the steps though and it’s time for Dirty Deeds, only to have Elias come out with a guitar to the back. The Claymore finishes Dean at 9:16.
Rating: C+. It wasn’t anything special but I had a good time with this one. They were going with the violence and aggression that you should see in a match like this and that’s the right idea. Ambrose going out (allegedly) on his back like this is a good sign, though these midcard heel alliances are kind of getting tiresome.
Post match it’s Baron Corbin and Bobby Lashley coming out for the beatdown but Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins make the save. Superman Punches and chair shots abound with Reigns even hitting a spear on McIntyre. Seth and Roman go to leave but look back at Dean.
Bayley vs. Nia Jax
I don’t think it’s going to be as good as the London match. Nia starts throwing her around to start but Bayley manages a nice hiptoss. That earns her a shove to the floor and we take a break. Back with Nia missing a sitdown splash and an elbow but Bayley takes too much time loading a charge in the corner and gets run over again. The chinlock goes on, followed by Nia tying her in the Tree of Woe. That means the running hip attack but Nia goes after Sasha, allowing Bayley to hit a knee to the head. The top rope elbow finishes Jax at 9:00.
Rating: D+. I stand by my normal assertion that Nia just needs to go away for awhile. There’s little impact to these appearances anymore and that’s not likely to change. These matches are good enough, but it’s getting really hard to care when it’s a bunch of stuff that we’ve seen before. There’s no time for Nia to make an impact because she’s always here. That’s the case with any giant and it’s caught up with her too.
With the roster on the stage, the ring is ready for the party and HHH and Stephanie handle the introductions. After HHH recaps the night, Stephanie introduces the special guests: Shawn Michaels, Ricky Stemboat, Kurt Angle and Sting. HHH introduces a video on Flair as we’re running low on time.
Back in the ring, Stephanie unveils a custom made title (which she also calls a belt) so we can get to the introduction…and there’s no Flair. We cut to the back where Batista of all people has commandeered a camera man and goes into Flair’s locker room. A fight is heard and Batista pulls Flair out of the room. Batista: “Hey Hunter. Do I have your attention now?” HHH runs to the back and finds agents and referees around Flair to end the show. Works for me. With the final Avengers movie coming out about two weeks after Wrestlemania, there’s certainly cross promotion to be had. Why not? The match should be good.
Overall Rating: C. I had a good time with this show, mainly because I’m having a great time laughing at how little WWE cares about Fastlane. They’re hyping up several Wrestlemania matches at the moment and I believe there are three confirmed matches at Fastlane so far. I’m sure they can throw a card together and it’ll be watchable enough, but my goodness they don’t care about it and it’s hilarious.
As for tonight, it was a nice effort with the storytelling taking some steps forward all around, but it’s not like there was anything special in the wrestling department. Reigns’ return is what’s going to matter most here and there’s nothing wrong with that. It was a big moment and there’s a chance we’ll see a Shield match at Fastlane. This certainly was an eventful show and it’s the right kind of you like storytelling instead of wrestling.
Aleister Black/Ricochet b. Revival – Black Mass to Dawson
Ronda Rousey/Natalya b. Riott Squad via DQ when Becky Lynch interfered
Kurt Angle b. Jinder Mahal – Ankle lock
Finn Balor b. Lio Rush – Coup de Grace
Drew McIntyre b. Dean Ambrose – Claymore
Bayley b. Nia Jax – Top rope elbow
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