Due to the time difference I have to watch just about every MMA and pro wrestling event after the fact, generally the next day. As I was about to watch Fastlane I received the following message from my colleague Felix who was in the process of watching it. “I hate RAW. I hate Fastlane. And I hate myself for watching this shit.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the final PPV before Wrestlemania, but let’s jump into this RAW exclusive show. (Editor’s Note: I write these articles while watching the events match for match and not after watching the whole event.)
Sami Zayn vs. Samoa Joe
A bit surprised that this match is the one to kick off the show. They’ve been building this mini-feud over the past few weeks, but there isn’t a whole lot of storyline behind it, but I guess it’s kind of a make lemonade situation. Good back and forth match. not a ton of high spots, but they did let Sami get in some/most of his usual offense. I don’t think anyone was surprised with the outcome of the match, especially with Joe just debuting and being booked as a monster. These two are capable of putting on incredible matches, especially when they are both booked properly. This match wasn’t great, but it was a good display of what Joe can do in the ring. I like that they’ve had him go up against different styles of opponents since he debuted. It shows his versatility. Sami in the role of “underdog from the underground” is okay, but it means we probably won’t see him headlining any PPVs anytime soon.
Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. Enzo & Big Cass (RAW Tag Team Championship)
Let’s just start off with the elephant in the room. What in the hell was Enzo wearing? I get it that his style may not be for everyone, but I don’t know that anyone would think that that looked cool. Enzo and Cass just can’t catch a break in title matches. Before this match got underway I thought they might pull off the win and go into Mania with the titles. I still wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see this match again at Mania, because of the screwy finish. It was a classic heel escaping with the titles when they probably should have lost spot. Gallows and Anderson are the only legit “Heel” tag team on RAW so until we get some new blood in for the “Faces” to feud with, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them hang onto the titles for a while. And before you say well Rusev and … , just stop. I said legit Heel team Rusev and Jinder Mahal are heels but they are not a team that I can see being together for long.
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
For me there is a bit of a problem with the believability factor when I see Nia Jax taking on Sasha Banks or nearly any woman for that matter. Nia is just so much bigger than the other women and she isn’t the greatest at selling so any offense that Sasha was getting in just looked weak. The way Nia just stood up from the “Bank Statement” kind of reinforces my point. They did a good job of having Sasha play the face in danger throughout the match and the finish was good but sloppy. I’m not going to say that they gave away that Sasha was going to win when they started talking about Nia’s undefeated streak at PPVs but when you have Charlotte as the “Queen of PPV” it kind of led me to think that the finish would go something like it did.
Jinder Mahal vs. Cesaro
I didn’t have this one on my program as it was apparently set up in a backstage segment. The whole situation got off to a weird start with Mahal and Rusev fighting each other for who would get the first match after Mick Foley promised he’d find competition for both of them. Mahal hit Rusev with a running knee that took him over the barricade and into the timekeeper’s area which set up this match. Cesaro got started off with some nice offense, showing his power but then “tweaked” his back and wasn’t able to pull off the big moves that he’s known for. This resulted in Mahal being able to get in some offense of his own. I’ve gotta say I haven’t seen Jinder Mahal wrestle in a while and man he is ripped. They kind of telegraphed how this one was going to end, but they didn’t do it the way I thought they would. I expected that they would have had Rusev interfere, but instead the just had Mahal get distracted by Rusev getting up and walks into a pop-up European uppercut for Cesaro. Rusev did come in after the match and beat down Mahal. Not sure if this is supposed to make Mahal a face or Rusev. Whatever the case, RAW loses the only other “heel” team they had and the feud with the New Day died without any sort of payoff.
Rusev vs. Big Show
As Rusev was finishing up the beatdown on Mahal and posing the Big Show’s music hit and he made his way to the ring. What was this match? After I finished watching this I just thought to myself Mick Foley wants to get fired. Rusev got pummeled until he finally attacked show’s knee. Show picks up the win after 3 chokeslams followed by a knockout punch. Here’s what I’ll say. I hate the knockout punch in this match. I have no problem with the Big Show using it, but it looks so dumb when Rusev is out in the corner and then Big Show punches him in the face. There’s no impact. This show is starting to come off the rails.
Neville vs. Jack Gallagher (Cruiserweight Championship)
The crowd actually got into this match and they gave them time to work. These two have a big contrast of styles as Gallagher is not a high-flyer, but he did bust out a couple of moves we haven’t seen from him before. I really like Gallagher’s comedy stuff and the headbutt, though they don’t exactly look all that great, sound amazing. I said in my preview article that I really didn’t think they’d take the belt off of Neville in this match, but I will say there was a couple of times in the match where I thought maybe they were going to let Gentleman Jack go into Mania as the champ. Neville had to bust out the Red Arrow to pick up the win in the 3rd longest match of the night.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
Battle of the Beef Boys. This match was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. The let both guys get in their spots and they kept both of them strong, Roman is just a bit stronger. I wasn’t really pumped with the finish, but the WWE clearly sees Roman as their star of the future. What I will say and if you go back and watch the match again you’ll see it, Roman can’t see an injury. I’m not saying Strowman is amazing at it, but Roman goes through a table and then 30 seconds later he’s hitting a spear. Reminded me a lot of Kalisto in the handicap match with Dolph Ziggler and Apollo Crews. This match was the longest of the night but they ate up a lot of time with rest holds. Roman moves on and who knows who Strowman will start feuding with now.
Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair (RAW Women’s Championship)
The streak has ended. Charlotte Flair finally loses a single match on PPV. I was surprised that the interference came the way that it did as I really expected Nia to make an appearance distract Bayley or maybe actually hit Charlotte, all so that Bayley keeps the title and Charlotte keeps her streak. Charlotte and Bayley had much better chemistry in the ring during this match than they had in other matches. This was a much better match than the one they had at the Royal Rumble and I’m all right with the finish because I think that the women’s match is destined to be a fatal four-way.
Kevin Owens vs. Goldberg (WWE Universal Championship)
And with this match we finally get the explanation on why we had two impromptu matches on the card. What do you do when you’re Univeral Title Match is only going to last 23 seconds. You have Kevin Owens continue to roll outside of the ring and not have the bell ring. I think for the live crowd, they probably weren’t all aware how this was affecting the time of the show as much as anyone watching it in the network or a replay probably was. I’m sure that Owens fans are going to be disappointed with this match and I think they probably have a right to. I posed the question to my colleague after watching this match if he thought Goldberg could actually go a 10-15 minute match. His answer, and I have to agree with him is no. The main event of Wrestlemania is now Goldberg vs. Lesnar for the Universal Championship, that will be the match that closes the show I think. I hope I’m wrong but I think that’s how it will play out. We’re less than a month away, now let’s see how everything else plays out.
That’s all we got. What did you guys think? What was the match of the night for you? Let us know in the comments.
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