After the sh*t show the Raw brand put forth at Fastlane, the bar for Monday wasn’t set very high.
With Jericho costing Owens the title at Fastlane, it was only best that he opened this episode. Not only was it a good way to kick of the show, it was a smart way to dilute the negative criticism from Sunday.
The beauty of this promo was how direct it was. Neither of the two beat around the bush, and that allowed for this feud to progress smoothly. Their emotionally driven words made this segment feel real. Even though Owens did most of the talking, both him and Jericho sounded great. It’s worth noting that Y2J made a seamless transition from piece of sh*t heel into lovable babyface. That’s nothing more than a testament to his overall talent.
My only gripe with this promo was how Owens talked about getting his rematch any time he wanted. Why wouldn’t he request it for Wrestlemania?
Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn
You know what would’ve been a better match than this? A tag match that also included Jericho and Joe. This one on one essentially made the brawl from the promo seem pointless. Also, the fans have seen KO vs Zayn too many times within the past 10 months, and it doesn’t feel special.
If Owens was going to win a singles match in a decisive manner, it certainly didn’t need to be against Zayn. Now that Zayn has lost clean to Joe and Owens within the span of 24 hours, he’s nothing more than a joke. While Sami’s character does thrive from losses, it doesn’t mean he should lose every match.
Rich Swann vs Neville
This match was a great display of continuity. Swann never received his rematch because of his injury and it’s only logical that he requests one upon his return.
The aggressive pace these two wrestled made it easy to watch from the get go. Quite honestly, I’m surprised how Neville was able to go the way he did here. He worked an extremely stiff match with Gallagher at Fastlane, meaning he must’ve been sore to an extent.
There’s no denying that the action was solid, but the post-match interview with Aries stole the show. Austin has yet to wrestle a match on the main roster, but he was over with this Chicago crowd, and that made his attack on Neville a great moment. I for one doubted Aries entering the division as a babyface, although it appears that direction could work for him.
Considering how Goldberg mainly came out to cheers before his title win, I wonder how the WWE felt about the chorus of boos he received in Chicago. I can’t imagine it being easy for them to hear that along with the thunderous “CM Punk” chants. What made matters even more interesting was how Lesnar (heel) received a massive pop when he delivered the F5 to Goldberg (babyface). This is a weird program.
Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs Gallows & Anderson
I can’t say this was something I truly cared for. Since the match had already occurred the night before, it didn’t feel like a big deal. However, I understand this needed to be done, because it lead to the finish that’s clearly leading to a multiple tag team feud for Mania. That aspect was pretty entertaining, and the promos for this upcoming program should be awesome.
Akira Tozawa vs Ariya Daivari
I’m glad with how Tozawa has been handled so far. He’s still able to work his explosive style in quick squash matches, but now he’s able to further his feuds once those matches are over. Sure, his interaction with Kendrick wasn’t very long, but at least it had some sort of purpose.
New Day vs Shining Stars
The highlight of this segment, and the show, was undoubtedly Big E licking the “pop-cycle”. That man is a god damn gem.
Is this New Day-Shining Stars feud some kind of inside joke? They’ve been wrestling each other for the past few weeks and nobody else, but it doesn’t seem to be an annoyance.
Bayley/Charlotte/Sasha Banks Promo
I thought Bayley did a solid job at redeeming herself with this promo. It would’ve been out of character if she bragged about winning with Sasha’s help. That didn’t stop Mick Foley from looking like an incompetent GM, as he was fully on board with gifting Banks with a title shot.
Stephanie McMahon was sharp with her CM Punk come back, and she also managed to transition that insult back to the drama happening in the ring. Also, say what you want about her character always having the last word, but her promo on Bayley’s Mania opponent was completely logical.
Bayley vs Sasha Banks
Out of all the possible women’s matches on Raw, this is actually the freshest option. If I recall correctly, this was the first time the two have wrestled each other in singles action since their ironwoman match at Takeover:Respect.
While this match may not have been on the same level as their Takeover matches, it definitely felt intense. It’s evident that the two still have amazing chemistry and know how to work a smooth pace. Let’s not forget that this contest was also given an interesting stipulation. Many of us expected a Sasha heel turn here, but I was perfectly fine with this as it still gave the fans a sense of drama.
Obviously Flair had to get involved, but thankfully it didn’t take away from the match. Instead that showcased how serious she was about not wanting a triple threat, all while Sasha managed to pick up a clean win.
Chris Jericho vs Samoa Joe
As I mentioned earlier in this review, this would’ve meant more if it were a tag match. Joe and Jericho have no history, and a throwaway on Raw doesn’t help either of them. In fact, it just wastes another fresh match up for no reason.
Since the contest had already been booked, the two worked the best finish they could. This kept Joe looking strong, and Jericho didn’t lose clean after looking like a bad ass earlier in the show.
Bray Strowman/Undertaker/Roman Reigns Promo
With all the talk of Taker vs Roman, I was certain Taker was going to get involved in this somehow. However, that didn’t take away from me marking out once I heard his gong. What I didn’t expect was for Strowman to walk away. He’s a monster heel, not a chicken sh*t heel. Whatever, I guess somehow they needed to take him away from Reigns.
Despite the fan reaction towards Roman, the start of this feud felt exciting. Out of everything on the Mania card this feels the most unique, and if done right we’ll hopefully see some character development with Reigns.
I’m genuinely surprised that Raw wasn’t as bad as Fastlane. Did it have some weak spots? Of course it did, but the writers for the red brand showed the fans they could land on their feet (somewhat). Not every match was entertaining, but most of them had some sort of purpose.
The low point of the show was Zayn vs KO while the high point was Rich Swann vs Neville/Austin Aries attacking Neville. Overall, I give this episode a 6/10.