TD Gardens in Boston, MA. We open Monday Night Raw the same way we ended Smackdown, with The Bloodline. Paul Heyman informs us through “going over the plan one more time” with Solo Sikoa and Jimmy Uso that Solo has been assigned to “solve the KO problem” tonight. Jimmy has been assigned to “finally solve the Sami Zayn problem” with or without his brother’s help. Tasks they and others in the Bloodline have been assigned many in the past but have only seemed to mitigate at this point without actually solving.
Unlike Smackdown, which followed the format of Segment opening which we’ve been treated to for the last several years, Raw tonight began with this brief conversation, then the opening bell.
Kevin Owens VS Solo Sikoa:
We’re promised John Cena’s return to Raw, Lita, Becky, and Trish celebrating their Tag Title win, Seth and Logan Paul face-to-face, and the main event of Sami Zayn VS Jimmy Uso during KO’s entrance, so maybe we’re not ENTIRELY without pre-match hype as Raw takes to the air tonight. Last week on Raw KO got in a nicely planned hit-and-run on The Bloodline and Solo was primed to get revenge for that… not to mention his “assignment” tonight.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out as I review this match how good a job Solo Sikoa does working the crowd by NOT working the crowd, which is something few have been talented at through the years. Sure, he interacts with them, and he’ll give them a face, or a taunt here and there, but unlike, say, a heel Chris Jericho who feels the need to give the middle finger to the audience, just in case they’ve forgotten he’s the bag guy, Solo focuses on beating the hell out of the person the audience likes and allows that to make them hate him.
He’ll give them hope, and shut them down just as quickly, and only a glance outside the ring, briefly, gives the indication that Solo even registers the audience is there. It’s excellent work for someone who’s been on this large stage for such a brief amount of time.
Despite what appeared to be an arrant low blow during a knee to the midsection, the match was pretty good. I’d certainly not be alone in the opinion that Kevin Owens, at this point in his career, could wrestle a wet paper bag, and that match would be worth paying attention to. So with Solo out there playing the Monster, and KO playing the Prize Fighter that he is, this was certainly a great table set for the rest of the show.
While Solo may have come to the ring… solo… he is joined by Jimmy Uso before the commercial in time to distract KO. This causes an attack that KO wishes to avoid so he rolls to the floor to recover, only to take the hip attack from Solo against the barricade. Owens began a hit, run, and recover style of comeback after the break, but Jimmy Uso entered the ring after being knocked to the floor from the apron late in the match for the DQ.
A post-match beatdown ensues, and just when it appeared Solo would be leaping off the barricade to put KO through the announce table again, Sami made the save, chasing The Bloodline off with a chair. He offers Kevin a hand up from the corner, after enjoying some praise from the Bostonian crowd, but KO rolls out, declines, and leaves the arena, continuing the delay in their reunification, and likely match against the Usos at Wrestlemania.
We then see a Bobby Lashley segment in the back, with Bray Wyatt teasers on the screen behind him. He again demands Bray face him “like a man”. After the commercial break, Carmela is interviewed by Byron Saxton. Chelsea Green approaches and is added to Carmela’s match tonight in a valet role. Adam Pearce approached but fled in the background, avoiding Karen… er… Chelsea Green at all costs.
Carmela w/ Chelsea Green VS WWE Raw Women’s Champion Bianca Belair:
We’re, again, reminded John Cena will be out later. After losing to Asuka last week, Carmela suggested in the back that she’s going to beat the Raw Women’s Champion tonight and get added to the Wrestlemania match… you know… after she lost to the current #1 contender last week, so… obviously.
Other than a delay in a spot early on where Bianca almost landed on Carmela’s head during a leapfrog, the match was pretty well put together, although we did get most of the heat during the screen-in-screen segment. It has to be noted here that there are some things in Bianca’s game that when up against Charlotte, may just expose some weakness in certain parts of her presentation.
With Carmela and Chelsea pulling out every heel move in an attempt to get the win, and Bianca able to counter them all and win anyway, she’s certainly on par with Charlotte’s momentum heading into Mania though. Asuka came to the ring after the Karen Connection decided a post-match beating was in order, to make the save with the blue mist to Chelsea but opting NOT to touch Bianca, which does show an attempt to make the match between them at Wrestlemania more of a respect based face versus face ordeal, despite many calling for Asuka’s heel persona to show her painted face for the first time in WWE. Time will tell.
Sami Zayn finds Kevin Owens backstage afterward and approaches to once again plead with Kevin to work with him against The Bloodline, regardless of recent issues between the two. But KO still declines to accept Sami’s assistance, or work with him. It felt a little unnecessary to have this segment, as they had clearly had this moment in the ring just minutes earlier. Maybe sprinkled in later in the show it would’ve landed better, but this close to the post-match segment they’d done, it felt shoehorned in for no reason.
Time for Miz TV.
It was established last week that we’d be seeing Seth Rollins and Logan Paul face to face to discuss their issues and the upcoming Wrestlemania match tonight, and Miz moderating it on Miz TV was no shocker. If the “Logan Paul is an outsider” angle wasn’t clear enough before, having Miz and Rollins out there dressed to the nines (or in Rollins’s case, what he considers being dressed to the nines), and Paul out there in jeans, t-shirt, and backward hat, should have hammered it home.
The visual of him standing there, jittery, anxious, dressed like a fan sitting ten feet away in the audience, while the two “professionals” worked their mic magic, was well done. Boston did their damndest to compete for “longest delay of a Monday Night Raw due to crowd reaction” (BUT, IMO, Seattle still takes the cake for the night they nearly ran Elias and Kevin Owens out of town and shut Raw down for several minutes when the two foolishly mentioned the Seattle Supersonics on live television… I was there, the YouTube clip doesn’t do it justice).
Rollins let the crowd reaction cook, and masterfully redirected after Logan Paul made an attempt and only kicked the hornet’s nest harder, guiding the segment along without taking the energy out of the room. In a scenario where WWE is dealing with three people that aren’t where they had them planned to be. Rollins is one of the biggest babyfaces in the company at the moment, despite their best efforts, Logan Paul is one of the most hated celebrities to come into the company, despite their best efforts, and Miz still being in the company and being one of the most reliable assets they have, despite their best efforts early in his career… this match has a lot of potential.
Logan Paul, regardless of fan support or not, has shown every time he’s gotten into the ring that he’s willing to put in the time and effort to make his presentation look as good as possible. He, Pat McAfee, Bad Bunny, and the like are setting a new standard for “bringing in outsiders”. Which, in my opinion, is welcome. I’ll leave Johnny Knoxville out of the conversation, and will be taking no questions.
As Miz TV often does, things dissolved from conversation to the initiation of fisticuffs (who let a vaudevillian in here?!), and Seth dropped his coat to reveal he’d elected to wear one of Becky’s underlayers to Boston. Miz got involved on Logan Paul’s side, despite Paul clearly not wanting to have anything to do with him. This put Rollins on his heels fighting 2 on 1.
Rollins held his own until it was night-night time after Paul landed a huge right hand. It certainly seems like The Maverick is still going to be relying on that whole “one lucky punch” angle he used with Roman Reigns, and Rollins is a true professional for selling it like a legit knockout, especially after the “fraud” charge he made earlier in the segment.
Omos w/ MVP VS Dolph Ziggler
Yep, read that one right. Pretty standard squash for Omos, just against someone from the roster people know, not an Extra this time. Obviously, this boosts his value and momentum for the match against Brock Lesnar in Hollywood but it also allowed the story between Ziggler and Ali to progress. This hasn’t gotten the traction they likely wanted it to. That doesn’t mean we won’t see the two square off at Wrestlemania, but they may end up on the pre-show or earlier in night 1 or 2 than they deserve. That doesn’t mean they can’t still do what Ziggler claims, and often does, do best… they might just steal the show.
Maximum Male Models are seen in the back making all sorts of complimentary remarks when they’re approached by Baron Corbin, assuming they’re referring to him when of course they were actually discussing their newest outreach recruit… Ot-Is. How the mighty have fallen… Corbin is the last man to pin Roman Reigns in a match and is now begging work from MMM and working the big man vs the small man program, again. It’s the NXT loop all over again for him, unfortunately.
We also see a moment with The Bloodline in the locker room. Jimmy finds himself in a weird place. He initially hesitated to enter The Bloodline in the first place, but then leaned into it fully, and is now arguably more committed than anyone in the group to the cause. He’s now being told to fix the problem with Jey or get the blame, and feeling like something he leaned into is now coming back to haunt him, and not enough praise is being given to the man’s anguish facial expressions telling that story.
Finn Balor w/ The Judgement Day VS Johnny Gargano w/ Dexter Lummis:
Am I the only one that thinks, every time Finn makes his way to the ring, how nice it is to see Balor in a position where he’s respected now, comfortable now, and billed well now… a huge counter to even a year ago. What should, and obviously could, be a five-star match on ANY show WWE produces, being relegated to having most of its content shown during screen in screen time was a shame though. Certainly, the audience enjoyed something fully that we could not. The storylines both men are involved in just didn’t allow for what could’ve been, proving that not every time two talents touch can be all it can be.
Gargano certainly wasn’t holding back or being light-handed in the ring, as was evident by the commentary team surprised by the double boot counter on the ropes later in the match. Edge’s interference at the end of the match was well done and again sets up him and Balor at Mania for what’s sure to be a classic, not sure why they set it up a second time though, as last week on Raw it seemed they’d announce the match as an official at any moment. Lummis even got to MOVE at one point in the match, “flattening” Priest, as Cory Graves delivered.
We review the Wrestlemania Main Event, then are introduced to the next Saudi show, King, and now Queen, of the Ring, as well as having a brief backstage segment with Edge in the back, asking Balor to meet him in the ring next week to settle things. Maybe this will… finally… cause the match to formally be announced?
Nikki Cross VS Piper Niven:
We saw these two cross paths last week during the match between Niven and Candice LeRay. Nikki has her odd… obsession… with Candice at the moment, and was at ringside during the match, costing Niven the match. Cross assaulted Niven during her entrance, and the match started in chaos, allowing Cross to engage in some character work which was enjoyable. The match was brief but showed off what Nikki can do to entertain, and what Niven can do as a monster heel. Niven with the clean, aggressive win.
Elias and Rick Boogs backstage afterward. These two work well off one another and should be entertaining moving forward. Bronson Reed and Elias are set up here for next week on Raw. The “happenstance” booking they’re doing with Reed is a bit irritating to those who enjoy his work, but glad to see him on the show and getting the push at the moment.
HAVE WE MENTIONED JOHN CENA IS COMING BACK TONIGHT?!
Great reaction for Cena in Boston, which is no surprise to anyone but him apparently… the 20-year anniversary celebrating Superstar got emotional on the ramp. Sorting a new 8-bit look to his merch, likely due to him being on the cover of the new 2K game, which is a nice tie-in. Austin Theory didn’t even let him get a word out before interrupting, which did wonders for getting him the heat needed for this segment.
The Theory challenges Cena to Mania as expected with the United States Championship on the line. Cena poured the proverbial truth all over Austin Theory, shoving the IWC’s comments and opinions into the limelight and telling Theory that his name is perfect, because he SHOULD work… in theory… and that no one really cares about what he’s doing.
Austin Theory delivers promos well, but he also sticks to the script exactly and doesn’t improvise very well at times, and with Cena giving what felt like a very natural promo, and Austin’s coming right back feeling rehearsed and regurgitated word for word from the document they gave him before the show went on the air, there was some pretty clear difference in skill level on the mic (similar to how the skill level in the ring work is going to be rather clear when they meet in Hollywood).
Cena certainly did his part to sell the match, now Theory has to do his over the next several weeks, and it has to not be the same bit over and over, or he’s going to go into Wrestlemania with people feeling exactly like Cena called it… they’re not going to care. Cena introduced Cody Rhodes as he was leaving, and they spoke during an embrace on the stage.
This is another of those “passing the torch” moments WWE likes to do, but felt a little odd, as the show went to commercial after that, and when it returned… Cody wasn’t in the ring, on the ramp, or cutting a promo. He’d just come out to say hi, apparently.
Instead, we get Sami Zayn backstage for a second time, and I have to say it was a smart choice in filming location… Roman Reigns’ image was on the trailer behind him and, essentially, looking over his shoulder during the entire segment, as he has been these last months, and as he is while ordering the noose around his neck from The Bloodline. Nice, small, detailed, and done well.
Chad Gable w/ Ot-Is VS Baron Corbin:
Setup via a backstage segment earlier in the night, Corbin is looking to do a favor for Maxine Dupree and get in good with MMM, who watches from backstage. Gable worked a beautiful match, and Corbin did his part, as usual. Like most fans, I see that he has all the tools to do well, just missing the much-fabled “IT factor” that has caused him to languish in the mid-card as long as he has.
The rolling German Suplex was scary for a moment, I’ve seen someone blow out their shoulder on that very same spot with less of a reach back into the bump, so glad to see Corbin come out of the match healthy, although he was on the losing end.
We get a review of the Women’s Tag Title match from last week, followed by Becky and Lita coming out to celebrate their win. Cool moment for Becky, being able to team and be champions, with her childhood favorite, which the company has been leaning into that plenty. Trish Stratus joins the celebration, and Damage Control interrupts.
The three-on-three match at Wrestlemania was pretty easy to see coming, but the casual nature with which Trish brought it up and made the challenge was pretty awkward, for me. The stage is pretty well set for two of the best in the business today, two legends, and two established younger talents all paired for a big match on a grand stage.
Jimmy Uso VS Sami Zayn
Will he or won’t he would be answered tonight? Jimmy entered on his own, and the crowd reaction going into this one was pretty good. We got two commercial breaks through the match however and being required to watch most of the through-the-screen in-screen feature was… annoying. For a match, they pushed all night as important, and for what was very well done by both men, having to watch it on one-tenth of my screen was irritating for sure.
At this point, it’s pretty clear that Jimmy could clearly work as a singles performer if it ever came down to it, and he and Sami have a lot of very good chemistry, the match was great. Jey arrived later in the match and was clearly hyping his brother up, but in his elation, was distracted enough to lose the match.
They let the distrust and the unsettling feelings between the brother’s build-up for long enough that when Jey’s… decision… finally happened it was enough to really, truly push this storyline into the next chapter. It could’ve come down to the brothers going separate ways and even coming to blows, it could’ve come down to Jey destroying the Bloodline entirely, it could’ve come down to the brothers versus Roman and Solo, but ultimately it came down to The Uso’s aiming the nose of the ship toward Wrestlemania and a match against Sami and KO.
They allowed the moment to simmer just long enough on the ramp for the crowd to invest in the idea that Jey was siding with Sami, it was all done just right. Cody coming down to make the save at the end of the show is likely a setup for him and late arrival to the party Solo Sikoa to meet before Wrestlemania, which will be interesting.
So that’s it fans! That’s where we sit as we head into Smackdown this evening, where we’ll see The Bloodline’s reaction to Jey’s decision and the reuniting of the Unified WWE Tag Team Champions, the Fatal Five Way match to determine the challenger for the Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania, along with some likely clean up as we continuing heading toward Hollywood. I, of course, appreciate your time, and we’ll chat again next week after Raw has aired, and we continue down the Road to Wrestlemania!