WWE Raw results, recap, grades: Brock Lesnar returns, Ronda Rousey angle adds Travis Browne
The countdown to WrestleMania 35 dipped down to 20 days this week during an episode of Raw that failed to produce the justifiable fireworks for being this close. In the end, all was not lost on this Monday night thanks to a few positive developments throughout the three-hour show, including Ronda Rousey’s continued strong work as a heel. But Raw was largely too hit-or-miss for being this close to the big one as the biggest storylines seemed to barely move the chains.
From Brock Lesnar’s return to Raw to Batista’s angry promo aimed at Triple H, let’s take a closer look at what went right (and wrong) as we draw closer to Sunday, April 7 in New Jersey.
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Brock Lesnar returns to cost Seth Rollins
Raw opened with Lesnar and advocate Paul Heyman fielding heavy boos inside the ring. Heyman referenced Rollins’s match later tonight against Drew McIntyre and offered, “What in the hell are you thinking?” due to how close it was to WrestleMania. Just as McIntyre came out to hype up his plans to dismantle Rollins and create a need for Lesnar to find a new opponent, Rollins attacked from behind with a chair in retaliation for beatdowns McIntyre gave Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose last week. Rollins then entered the ring just as Lesnar exited, laughed and held up his universal championship for Rollins to see.
Drew McIntyre def. Seth Rollins via pinfall: A pre-match promo saw McIntyre claim that his beatdown of Reigns signified that “this is my yard now.” He went on to address Roman’s real-life persona as Joe and challenged him to a match at WrestleMania by saying, “You may have beaten leukemia, but on the grandest stage of them all, you will never beat me.” Rollins ran out to begin brawling with McIntyre on the ramp before they were broken apart. The main event match saw Rollins get dropped on his face with an Alabama Slam before hitting his superplex/Falcon Arrow combo for a two count. The finish came after Lesnar’s music hit as a distraction, allowing McIntyre to lay out Rollins with a Claymore for the pin. Lesnar stood and laughed as the broadcast came to a close.
Similar to the episode at large, the main storyline saw equal mix of good and bad as McIntyre was able to largely retain his heat from last week while simultaneously forcing Lesnar to an unnecessarily reduced role. One week after Lesnar’s absence from Raw so deep into WrestleMania season was sorely felt, seeing him open and close the show by merely standing and laughing isn’t getting the job done for a main event storyline. Reigns-McIntyre as a possible match come April 7 is certainly a nice development that made up for a very predictable and ho-hum ending to Monday’s show. Grade: C+
Kurt Angle chooses ‘farewell match’ opponent
After thanking the McMahon family for giving him the choice of who to face at WrestleMania in his final outing, Angle told the Chicago crowd, “There are so many superstars that I want to face, but only one that I want to beat. He is the man who has made my life a living hell since I became the general manager of Monday Night Raw.” Angle announced Baron Corbin would the opponent for his final match and shared that his retirement tour on Raw would continue.
Kurt Angle def. Chad Gable via submission: Gable, who thanked Angle for the honor before the match, was incredibly aggressive throughout in attacking Angle’s left knee. A series of near finishes woke up the crowd late as both escaped Ankle Locks and Gable produced a dramatic near fall when he countered out of an Angle Slam into a DDT. After Gable missed a moonsault, Angle applied the Ankle Lock once more and sat down for the added grapevine to produce the tap. Angle raised Gable’s arm just as Corbin came out to heckle Angle and promised to humble him en route to retirement. “Remember, it doesn’t matter what you have accomplished throughout your career,” Corbin said, “people will only remember your last match.”
Apollo Crews def. Baron Corbin via pinfall: Crews approached Corbin backstage to issue a challenge and joined The Revival in letting Corbin know just how disliked he is in the company. A late rollup saw Crews then steal a victory from the jaws of defeat. Afterwards, he celebrated on the stage with a smiling Angle as Corbin stared angrily from the ring.
Talk about a tone-deaf decision. Unless WWE is setting up for a massive swerve, the choice of Corbin as an opponent for Angle’s final match couldn’t have been met with any less enthusiasm from the Chicago crowd. In fact, the WWE Universe ignored it so much inside the arena (while simultaneously slandering it on social media) that Raw announcer Michael Cole even worked it into the storyline as if it supports Corbin’s standing as a heel. Instead, this was the wrong kind of heat and Corbin just isn’t interesting enough for this opportunity, making the match an instant dud in terms of expectations. The only saving grace on Monday was how good Gable performed in making a match with Angle that started slow end with such excitement. Too bad it wasn’t Gable who got the call for April. WWE dropped the ball big time on this one. Grade: D+
Ronda Rousey introduces husband into storyline
Arriving with husband and UFC heavyweight Travis Browne by her side, Rousey was scolded backstage by referee John Cone for being late. Cone also said that in addition to her being fined for last week’s behavior, Raw had to hire extra security this week to contain her. Rousey walked away angrily with Browne at her side.
Ronda Rousey def. Dana Brooke via submission: A pre-match interview in Gorilla position saw the underdog Brooke cut a promo about her plans to make history by simply being better than Rousey “for three seconds.” Brooke’s decision to slap Rousey in the opening seconds of the match led to her quick demise. Rousey applied an armbar and produced a quick tap before refusing to let go of the hold as Brooke screamed. After Rousey pushed down a referee who ran in to break things up, she kissed Browne at ringside. Rousey smacked a security guard and attacked him just as Browne floored a second one with a stiff forearm to the face. Browne scooped a distraught Rousey over the barrier and exited through the crowd.
Short, sweet and dominant. Heel Rousey continues to be a grand success as WWE has smartly limited her lines and upped her belligerent intensity. The 6-foot-7 Browne, who looks like he wouldn’t be out of place as an extra in the Wyatt Family, being added as muscle this far into WrestleMania season adds a potentially interesting wrinkle. Rousey’s demolition of Brooke was perfect, as was her increasingly disruptive behavior following a needed turn to the dark side. Grade: B+
What else happened on Raw?
- Finn Balor & Braun Strowman def. Bobby Lashley & Lio Rush via pinfall: Strowman walked out as Balor’s surprise partner and sought revenge on Lashley. Instead, he spent most of the time brutalizing Rush by throwing him around like a ragdoll. Lashley eventually sought cover and left his teammate behind to exit early as Strowman hit a running powerslam on Rush for the 1-2-3. Later on, Strowman announced he would be joining the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania “so as many people as possible can get these hands.”
- Elias def. No Way Jose via pinfall: A pre-match segment of “A Moment of Bliss” saw Elias announce he will be the headlining musical act at WrestleMania 35. But Bliss’s guarantee that no one would interrupt him tonight was broken when No Way Jose’s conga line came out with Heavy Machinery leading the way. Just as Elias stepped into Otis’ face, No Way Jose emerged in disguise to attack Elias from behind and gain retribution from last week. Surprisingly, Jose carried most of the match offensively. A missed splash from the top rope opened the door for Elias, who landed an elbow drop and his Drift Away for the win.
- Beth Phoenix issues WrestleMania challenge: To prove they aren’t ducking anyone, the Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection announced they will make a special appearance on SmackDown Live on Tuesday that will be “iconic.” But just as Sasha Banks was set to announce their WrestleMania opponent, Natalya and Phoenix interrupted. Phoenix revealed that a recent attack from Nia Jax and Tamina Snuka “awoke the dragon.” She went on to announce a comeback and joined Natalya in challenging the women’s tag champions at WrestleMania. A brawl between all four led to a post-commercial singles match.
- Sasha Banks def. Natalya via disqualification: Nia Jax walked out onto the ramp during the match to announce she’s a “prettier, stronger version” of the “jealous” Phoenix. Snuka then appeared from the crowd to attack Phoenix and Banks from behind and trigger the DQ. Jax told all four she will “see you at WrestleMania.”
- Mojo Rawley challenges the man in the mirror: Gone from Raw in recent weeks, Rawley returned to give himself another pep talk in the mirror and share his derision for the word “potential” if he’s unable to do anything with it. “Why can’t you figure this out?” Rawley yelled. “Why can’t you figure this out? Figure it out!”
- Ricochet def. Jinder Mahal via pinfall: With recent tag team partner Aleister Black away in his native Netherlands on business, Ricochet was given the showcase treatment as he rallied to showcase his insane athleticism with a standing shooting star press, a cartwheel Phoenix splash over the top rope and a 630 splash from the top rope for the pin.
- Batista sends message to Triple H: Appearing via satellite at his house in Tampa, Florida, Batista broke down to Michael Cole the origin of his hatred for Triple H. Citing their history in Evolution, Batista said he was talked down to, underestimated and used as muscle. “One day, hopefully soon, Vince [McMahon] is going to wake up and fire his ass and end his professional career,” Batista said. “At WrestleMania, I’m going to end his in-ring career.”