WWE Raw results, recap: A wonderful Ultimate Deletion, Brock Lesnar's return
Matt Hardy delighted WWE fans, and Brock Lesnar destroyed Roman Reigns
While Monday's episode of Raw featured equal portions of highs and lows on the road to WrestleMania 34, this was an episode that will be best remembered for what happened far away from the ring.
Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt closed the show with a pre-taped outdoor match dubbed "The Ultimate Deletion." Not only did the main event bring the original TNA concept back to life with the full resources of the WWE machine behind it, the extended "Woken Universe" produced similar moments of comedy, horror and "can't look away" entertainment.
Monday also featured more traditional fair as John Cena continued to call out The Undertaker for an April 8 showdown in New Orleans. Meanwhile, in the opening segment, Brock Lesnar offered a barbaric rebuttal to Roman Reigns' recent trash talk.
The Ultimate Deletion finally arrives
With his "Woken" character finally in full bloom, Hardy returned to his backyard in Cameron, North Carolina, for an avant-garde tussle with Wyatt. The outdoor match, officiated by WWE referee Shawn Bennett, took place everywhere from a ring to a forest to a lake, featuring the same fireworks (literally) and extended Hardy characters that we were first introduced to back in 2016 with TNA Impact Wrestling.
In an odd move, Raw lead announcer Michael Cole tossed to the pre-taped match by calling it "obnoxious" and apologizing for its content. What followed was a mix of violence and campy entertainment. As they brawled outside of Hardy's barn, it provided Wyatt with distracting flashbacks of Randy Orton burning down his prayer shack ahead of WrestleMania 33. Wyatt would later get revenge by striking Hardy with a tree branch to earn a two count.
Late in the match, with Wyatt on the verge of hitting Sister Abigail next to the Lake of Reincarnation, Hardy's flying drone (named "Vanguard One") provided distraction. When Wyatt turned around, Hardy's body appeared to be hiding under under Skarsgard the Dilapidated Boat. Instead, it was Hardy's caretaker, Senor Benjamin, who tossed a globe into Wyatt's hands before singing, "He's got the whole world, in his hands." Jeff Hardy (aka Brother Nero) also randomly showed up to leave Wyatt confused. Matt Hardy surprised him with Twist of Fate to get the pin. Wyatt was subsequently kicked into the lake by Hardy. But after he asked Senor Benjamin to remove the corpse, Wyatt's body wasn't there. "Delightful!" Hardy said. "The great war is over! Bray Wyatt has been deleted!"
Wow. Lots to unpack here. Was it entertaining? No question about it, and that's the best news of all. There's certainly a place in pro wrestling for this type of alternative programming and no one does it better than Hardy. The fact that WWE gave him enough room to be himself and not stray too far from his TNA roots in terms of the presentation was the greatest victory of all. No, what we witnessed didn't make a lot of sense. But that's also part of the charm -- in a way.
This certainly wasn't outright offensive -- like the infamous House of Horrors match between Wyatt and Orton last April. It also left a lot on the table in terms of expansion should WWE look to capitalize on the characters and catchphrases previously established in Hardy's universe (including his wife, Reby, and son, King Maxel). Even better, the potential is there for Wyatt to possibly get a character refreshment should his disappearance in the Lake of Reincarnation produce exactly just that.
Brock Lesnar gets revenge on Roman Reigns
Raw general manager Kurt Angle opened the show by announcing that Reigns would not be theredue to his temporary suspension but Lesnar would be as promised by WWE chairman Vince McMahon. Despite being told that he's trespassing, Reigns came out through the crowd to dispute. "Who cares, really? Brock Lesnar wasn't here last week, the week before or the week before that," Reigns said. "Somebody has got to be here to represent the main event of WrestleMania."
After Reigns pulled up a chair and refused to leave the ring until he can face off with Lesnar, Angle shook his head and walked quickly backstage. A trio of U.S. Marshals followed to read Reigns his rights and handcuff him. Indignant throughout, Reigns broke free with forearm strikes, hammer fists and stiff elbows to the face despite having his wrists bound in handcuffs. Out came Lesnar to inflict some serious damage. Three German suplexes and four chair shots to the back followed. So did a "Suplex City, bitch," off microphone. Lesnar feigned leaving, took off his shirt and landed two more chair shots, a wedgie and a German suplex. He left and returned a second time, hitting an F5. Finally, after Reigns was placed onto a backboard and eventually a stretcher, Lesnar ran in a final time to flip him over and drag him.
Talk about a physical statement from Lesnar, who delivered the violent intensity one would expect. What he was unsuccessful in doing, however, was drawing real heel heat. Part of that is due to the polarizing nature of Reigns. The other half is how badly WWE botches the psychology of booking him. Considering McMahon was in the right for suspending him, Reigns' kayfabe actions in trespassing were without justification. So was his decision to assault a group of U.S. Marshals. This wasn't Steve Austin overcoming the evil, cheating Authority in front of an adoring crowd. Reigns received zero sympathy from the crowd because his character didn't deserve any. Luckily for WWE, Lesnar was believably despicable enough that the segment still did its job and then some.
Kane answers John Cena's challenge
Cena questioned The Undertaker's manhood and challenged him to a WrestleMania match for the second straight week. After calling Taker's silence a big mistake that was disrespectful to both himself and his fans, Cena poked the bear even further by calling him an "oversized mortician" whom the fans turned into a God. Cena called him a coward who is drowning in his own insecurity. "You are not the God that they made you, you are the man that you have allowed yourself to become." After imploring him to "be a man, be The Undertaker, do something," Cena urged the crowd to join in on the chant. Out came Kane, which Cena assumed was on his brother's behalf to deliver "the answer we all deserve." That answer was a hand around the throat and a chokeslam. Later in the show, a Cena-Kane match was announced for next week on Raw.
If seeing 50-year-old Kane in a universal championship match at Royal Rumble wasn't enough to satisfy your nostalgic appetite, get a load of this. While Kane's involvement doesn't necessarily mean he'll be replacing his Brother of Destruction on April 8, it's nothing short of irritating either way. This development does nothing but slow the storyline's momentum and keep things in neutral with a bait-and-switch reveal of The Undertaker likely to follow. Had WWE worked a bit harder to give Kane's appearance some nuance, it wouldn't have taken away from another quality promo from Cena. Instead, we get the cliffhanger of a match we have no interest in seeing next week.
What else happened on Raw?
- Asuka def. Alexa Bliss via countout: Bliss opened with an in-ring promo apologizing for what she said about Nia Jax last week. But after passing it off as "joking" and "just girl talk," Bliss' heel persona took over. "I sincerely apologize … that I didn't speak the truth sooner," she said. Bliss thanked the fans for letting her vent and dropped a crass reference to Jax's weight by saying, "I feel like I dropped 300 pounds of sad, pathetic loser." A lengthy match with Asuka followed. Bliss broke free from an ankle lock by grabbing the bottom rope and declined to continue the match as she limped away with Mickie James. Jax ran out to intercept them, clotheslining James and throwing her into the side of the ring. Bliss broke free and Jax gave chase backstage.
- Angle lambastes Bliss, books a WrestleMania match: Bliss walked in backstage on the Raw GM, demanding the "out of control" Jax be suspended and arrested. Sick of people telling him what to do, an annoyed Angle referenced the millions of young women (including his daughter) who heard Bliss' comments last week. "The Raw women's champion should be a role model and not a bully," he said. Angle then book a match between the two for the Raw title on April 8.
- Braun Strowman def. Cesaro via pinfall: Strowman announced he was informed by management that he'll need to find a partner for his tag team title match at WrestleMania against The Bar. Out came the Raw champions to heckle him, which led to Strowman revealing he was granted a match against one of them. Cesaro, who was tricked by Sheamus into entering the ring, put up a strong fight until his cross body off the second rope was caught by Strowman into a running powerslam for the 1-2-3.
- The Revival def. Titus Worldwide via pinfall: The match, which began abruptly after commercial without entrances or an introduction, showcased the quick-tag work of Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson. They combined on a Shatter Machine to finish Apollo. Asked after the match by Charly Caruso what their path to WrestleMania will be, Dawson declared The Revival will become the first tag team to win the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
- Absolution def. Sasha Banks & Bayley via pinfall: Preferring to confront Bayley in person, Banks apologized for the hurt feelings caused at Elimination Chamber. She also chose to be the bigger person and forgive Bayley for walking out on her last week. Bayley wasn't as willing to move on, however, revealing she's unable to get the picture out of her head of Banks smiling after turning on her. Out came Absolution to start the match. Bayley and Banks argued throughout. After Sonia Deville pushed them into each other, she hit an Enziguri on Bayley for the 1-2-3.
- Ronda Rousey featured in a video package: Amid interspersing highlights of both her UFC days and recent in-ring training, Rousey delivered a strong promo while sitting alongside Angle. "What drives me is earning the respect of those that I respect," she said. Rousey talked about her post-Olympic days of sleeping in her car and how it led to her career in UFC. "Nobody else would give me the respect I thought I deserved," she said. "So I decided that I'm going to talk a lot of shit and break a lot of arms and at least get to feed my dog." Rousey also broke down in what appeared to be honest tears when talking about the emotional fallout of saying goodbye to MMA after two devastating defeats. "I'm not afraid to care anymore," she said. "I needed to be miserable then to be truly happy now. It has all let to this." This was Rousey at her very best – raw, tough, real and unapologetic. She closed by saying she was meant to be on this stage and that winning at WrestleMania was all she has ever cared about.
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