It makes a huge difference when segments and matches are promoted a week in advance. That automatically gives the fans something to look forward to, while giving the writing team something to work around. This particular episode of Raw was a great example of what felt like a prepared show.
Foley’s written speech was a great follow up to last week’s closing segment. It showed that he did in fact suffer the consequences of his actions. That allowed for a big pop when Mick finally tore the cue cards. Along with that, the set up gave Stephanie an incredible amount of heat from this Brooklyn crowd.
Sami Zayn coming to Foley’s aid was a great touch. It gave him chance to showcase the strengths in his promo ability, and it gave the crowd something to cheer for. For once, it was great to see someone other than a top guy confront McMahon.
Overall, this was a hot way to kick off this episode of Raw.
Samoa Joe vs Sami Zayn
This included two men who have yet to be booked in Mania matches. I find that interesting considering how both of them have been central figures in the authority struggle.
I for one enjoyed their Fastlane match, and I can say the same for this one. While they told a similar story to their previous encounter, it completely worked here given the context of the opening segment.
The pacing here was perfectly done, because it got Zayn 100% over with the live crowd. Sami came across as a genuine superstar with the amount of cheers he received.
Given the context of the match, this would’ve benefited from a no contest. After Zayn stood up for himself and Foley, did he really need to lose clean? Couldn’t they have gotten more from the two brawling to a count out?
Charlotte Flair vs Dana Brooke
I found it strange to see Dana in a babyface role. She’s been playing a heel since her NXT debut and it’s tough to imagine her playing anything else but that role.
This match was a sign Dana still needs some time before she can wrestle in long matches with wrestlers such as Charlotte. She looked quite lost, which didn’t make this a fun match to watch.
Highlight Reel w/Kevin Owens
Jericho’s showing of the “real” Kevin Owens turned out to be a lot more meta than I had expected. The usage of real life pictures from KO’s past was an excellent way to create more depth for this program. In that moment, I was reminded why this is the most personal feud heading into Mania.
After the wicked promo that Y2J cut, it was only fitting for Owens to ambush him and stand tall. That was great way to garner heat for KO. Also, tearing up the list was an effective way to cap off the segment.
TJ Perkins vs Brian Kendrick
After so many big angles were addressed at this point in the show, anything that had no context was meaningless. At the same time, something like this was needed, just to give the viewers a break.
I must admit, I did a get a good chuckle out of seeing Kendrick with Tozawa’s passport.
Bayley vs Nia Jax
If Stephanie really wanted to punish Bayley, why not just insert Nia into the Mania match? Giving Bayley this one on one still gives her the chance to keep Nia out.
The no DQ stipulation worked well for Bayley and Nia. These two have always had great chemistry, and this twist only allowed for them to do more than they’ve done in the past.
The finish to this what predictable. Why else would they book this match of Nia wasn’t going to come out on top?
Triple H Interview
Within his last few promos, Hunter has been absolute dynamite. He’s always been great, but lately he’s found a certain intensity that fits the current incarnation of his character. The last bit where Triple H was shouting for Seth may be deeper than some might think. Him begging Rollins to be present next week may have been a sign that he still, to an extent, wants his former protege to not give up on his dreams. At least that’s how I took it.
Overall, I thought this entire segment was a brilliant way to announce Triple H vs Rollins at Mania, and further their feud.
Enzo Amore, Big Cass, Luke Gallows, & Karl Anderson vs Cesaro & Sheamus
Thankfully this wasn’t too long, as it was more effective with a shorter length. This turned out to be an entertaining way to keep this three way feud relevant, while progressing it.
New Day Promo
The only thing that fans were talking about this past weekend was the Paige/Woods sex tape, and it was interesting to see how the WWE would deal with it. Well, it turns out that they didn’t need to say anything, but having Big E and Kofi give Xavier a look was neat way to brush it off.
Austin Aries vs Tony Nese
Even though Aries has been one of the hottest wrestlers as of late, this contest was nothing more than filler. The post match promo between Neville and Aries was also uneventful. The two just hurled some generic threats, and it just didn’t feel natural.
Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman
I was surprised how this match started right at 11 PM. Considering how they received over 15 minutes at Fastlane, I was expecting something similar on this show.
For the most part, this turned out to be an entertaining main event. Everything came across as smooth. I can honestly admit that the action had me glued to the screen.
The finish was solid, but it still left loose ends in the Reigns-Strowman feud. From a logical standpoint, what’s stopping Strowman from going after Taker or Roman? Hopefully Braun’s narrative is figured out immediately next week. Apart from that, it was smart for neither man to lose. Along with that, Taker’s appearance was meaningful, as it was a great way to give Roman some legitimate heat.
Aside from a few lower card segments that didn’t have much going on, this was a solid episode of Raw. Similar to the show last week, this had structure, as if it were written weeks in advance. Pushing the big Mania feuds helped, but I’d say the success of this show was mainly attributed to it having a beginning, middle, and end. Nothing was over exposed, and the over arching story was something that affected every performer.
The low point of the show was Aries vs Nese, while the high points consisted of the opening segment, Triple H’s promo, and the Highlight Reel. Overall, I’d say this show deserves a solid 8.5/10.