By Josh Coulson @BristolBeadz
The penultimate Monday Night Raw before Wrestlemania 33! The show of shows is really creeping up on us. Plenty still to unpack on the red brand before we arrive in Orlando though. Roman Reigns may have The Undertaker on the horizon but on Raw he had to once again deal with Braun Strowman. Mick Foley would have to answer for his actions last week. Plus Monday night was surely the last chance for Finn to show his face if he’s going to make it back in time for Mania.
Monday night’s first segment picked up where last week’s Raw left off. Mick Foley opened the show to inform us that he would be taking a leave of absence, an announcement he read from index cards that turns out had been prepared for him. Once he reached the end of those cards he let us know how he really felt, only to have his mic cut. Mick was swiftly joined by Stephanie McMahon who fired the GM after he neglected to leave of his ‘own accord’ as planned. Well a man who Foley has been a big proponent of during his time as GM had a problem with that, Sami Zayn. Zayn let a lot of home truths fly about Steph. Unfortunately his bravery did not save Foley and instead got him an opening match with an incoming Samoa Joe.
A pretty big first match for the night then as Zayn and Joe got things under way. The only bad thing about the matchup is the spotlight it shone on the fact that these two talents are still without matches for Wrestlemania. Some good back and forth between the two in this one and although it was relatively even, a cut above the eye sustained by being driven into the ring post seemed to push Joe up a gear. On returning to the ring The Destroyer synched in the coquina clutch and forced Sami to submit.
Last week Dana Brooke finally had enough of being treated like a second class citizen by Charlotte Flair and knocked the former champ flying. This week the two faced off and although Flair underestimated Brooke at first, she picked up what turned out to be a relatively easy win. A big boot from Charlotte kept Dana down for the 1-2-3.
Chris Jericho had a very special edition of the highlight reel for his upcoming Wrestlemania opponent Kevin Owens. Y2J wanted to reveal the ‘real’ KO. A KO that, as Jericho showed us, wore Y2J t shirts as a teenager and texted the US champ for advice upon his arrival in WWE. Jericho continued to poke fun at and berate Owens and I was almost led to believe that The Prizefighter wasn’t in the building. He did finally show his face though, but not before Samoa Joe captured Jericho’s attention so that Owens could have the element of surprise. Not only did he leave Y2J lying after a pop up powerbomb, but he tore up The List and left the debris scattered about Jericho’s prone body.
Familiar foes Brian Kendrick and TJ Perkins did battle next in the first cruiserweight action of the night. Kendrick really meant business. Despite both men being former champions The Wizard of Odd made extremely short work of TJP. Post-match Kendrick questioned why Akira Tozawa hadn’t attacked him, describing himself as a ‘sitting duck’. Turns out it’s because Kendrick had Tozawa’s passport and the Japanese star was not even in the country.
Following Mick’s departure Stephanie went around to those who benefitted from his tenure and effectively punished them. First Sami at the beginning of the night then Bayley was up next. The Raw women’s champ had to go up against Nia Jax in a no disqualification match where if Jax won she’d be added to the title match at Wrestlemania. Well even though Bayley put up quite a fight she could not withstand the onslaught from Jax. Nia rallied from having a steel chair kicked in her face to hit Bayley with the Samoan drop and pick up the win, successfully adding herself to the Mania match with her opponent, Charlotte and Sasha Banks.
Earlier in the night we heard from Seth Rollins’ doctor who said there is no doctor in the country that would clear Seth for Wrestlemania. Well later in the evening we got to hear Triple H’s views on that via an in ring interview with Michael Cole. Well at first The Game made a point of how Rollins would be missing yet another Wrestlemania, same old stuff, and offered The Architect two tickets to the show. But then he had a change of heart, sort of. Just as HHH was about to leave the ring he turned around and declared he had a better idea. That he would draw up some paperwork meaning that he and Seth could have their match in Orlando. Well, more of an unsanctioned fight as The Game put it. If Seth turns up to sign the contract next week the match will be on, plus he’ll be unable to hold WWE to blame for what may happen to him when he steps in the ring without being medically cleared.
The next and final victims of Stephanie’s night of punishing Foley’s friends were Sheamus and Cesaro. Despite already qualifying for the tag title match at Wrestlemania Stephanie wanted the European pair to do it again. This time they’d have to defeat all four of their Mania opponents in a handicap match. Anderson and Gallows continued their run of making terrible decisions and decided to attack their partners for the evening before the match had even begun. That effectively made it two on two. Then when Enzo and Cass made it back to their feet they took out Gallows leaving Anderson all alone in the ring to eat a Brogue Kick. A quick win for Sheamus and Cesaro and they remain in the title match at Wrestlemania.
More cruiserweight action up next as Austin Aries faced off against Tony Nese. A Double has been on a tear since debuting in the cruiserweight division a couple of weeks ago and that momentum will culminate when he faces Neville at Wrestlemania for the cruiserweight title. He had to get through Nese first though who has had a bit of a chip on his shoulder as of late. Aries managed it though and his impressive run continues. Plus he had some choice words for Neville who made his presence known upon Aries’ victory.
A Fastlane rematch for Raw’s main event. Last week Braun Strowman declared via an attack on Roman Reigns that he wasn’t done with him. Roman had his chance at revenge this week. He’s beaten Strowman before but could he do it again? Well he almost did. Just as he was lining The Monster among Men up for a spear the gong sounded, the lights when out, and when they came back up The Undertaker was standing in his way. Braun tried to take the opportunity to blind side Taker himself but wound up receiving a chokeslam instead. Then once The Deadman was finished with him he ate all of a spear from Reigns. A strong message from Roman less than two weeks away from their Wrestlemania showdown. Undertaker had a message of his own though as The Phenom sat up before Reigns could even make his way up the ramp.