WWE Raw results, recap: Big moments for Roman Reigns, John Cena, Braun Strowman

To steal a line from WWE superstar Luke Harper's daily cryptic tweet: It's a mid-March episode of Raw ... you know what that means.  

One night after Fastlane exceeded expectations as an appetizer on the road to WrestleMania 34, Raw on Monday night delivered in the way it's expected to just 27 days out from the most-anticipated WWE pay-per-view of the calendar year.  

From Roman Reigns standing up to Vince McMahon -- earning himself a suspension in the process during a red-hot opening segment -- to John Cena pulling no punches in calling out The Undertaker in hopes of securing a match at WrestleMania, this was three hours of entertainment that didn't feel nearly as long and arduous. 

Braun Strowman closed the show by forcing his way into his own match on April 8 by winning a tag team battle royal as a solo competitor to earn a shot at The Bar's Raw tag team championship. The Raw women's championship picture also became more clear as Nia Jax eavesdropped on Alexa Bliss' nefarious plans, likely setting up a juicy feud of friendship and betrayal.  

The hits far outnumbered the misses on this night, just as they should so close to "The Show of Shows." But credit WWE for keeping the momentum going by delivering smart writing and clever reveals, even if their vow that Ronda Rousey would appear on every Raw episode from now until WrestleMania went mysteriously unmentioned outside of a video package.

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Roman Reigns calls out Vince McMahon

Raw general manager Kurt Angle announced that Brock Lesnar wouldn't appear tonight because "he had transportation issues or decided not to show or just didn't feel like it." An angry Roman Reigns came out to argue why there wouldn't be any repercussions, calling Lesnar "Vince's boy." Reigns said that Lesnar isn't the problem but that he works for the problem. "It's one thing to be disrespected by Brock Lesnar but I will not be disrespected by Vince McMahon!" Reigns stormed backstage into Gorilla position and got into the face of McMahon, who yelled for his producers to throw to commercial so the conversation could continue in his office. 

When the show returned, Reigns stormed out of the office and McMahon addressed the situation to Renee Young. After admitting that Lesnar has certain privileges and probably doesn't respect the WWE universe, he also revealed he relayed to Reigns the old catchphrase of The Rock: "Know your role and shut your mouth." McMahon gave his word that Lesnar would not only be on Raw next week but that he would still be defending his universal championship at WrestleMania. As far as Reigns is concerned, McMahon said he's temporarily suspended for his actions.  

This was hot fire and exactly what Raw needed to kick start a strong episode at a time where nothing less would've been accepted. This was the version of Reigns that fans want and deserve. Not only did the presence of VKM instantly raise the rent, the removal of the fourth wall by entering Gorilla and having McMahon personally throw to commercial was brilliant stuff considering the foundation of Reigns' gripe is more of a shoot (albeit a worked shoot) than a typical kayfabe storyline. Whether Lesnar actually is through with the company after WrestleMania is somewhat unimportant because WWE is telling the perfect story to make us all wonder.

John Cena formally challenges The Undertaker

Amid chants of "Un-der-taker" from the Detroit crowd, Cena was surprisingly jovial in announcing that he won't have a match at WrestleMania and will be forced to buy a ticket as a fan. To further hammer the point, Cena jumped the barricade and drank from the beer cup of a long-haired fan he called "Sasquatch." He then led the crowd through chants of "This is awesome," "Let's go Roman" and "Let's go Cena." After teasing he wasn't supposed to do it and that the idea was impossible, Cena feigned breaking the fourth wall by saying, "screw it," and challenging The Undertaker four separate times to a match on April 8.

His smile then turned serious as Cena cut a direct promo challenging Taker's manhood (even referencing the workout photos that The Deadman's wife, Michelle McCool, had posted of him on Instagram). "It's amazing that a symbol so strong is really so fragile," Cena said. "Stop hiding behind your lame excuses. You are not too old, you are not washed up, you are not broken down. The only person stopping this match from happening is you, you self-centered, conceited, egomaniac." Cena dropped the mic and walked off but not before saying, "The ball is in your court, Deadman."  

This was a badass promo, make no bones about it. Cena was also entertaining (until he pushed the goodwill too far with the chants) by jumping into the crowd and freestyling with the people. But unless Cena and Undertaker are among your favorite wrestlers in history, you're probably not going to want to hear the hard truth. For as strong as this segment was, it's difficult to imagine the actual match will be anywhere as good after the rough memories of seeing an ailing Deadman look exactly that against Reigns last year.

Braun Strowman earns his WrestleMania match  

During an early backstage promo, "The Monster Among Men" complained about not having a WrestleMania match and vowed to carve his own path to destruction in order to get one. A match was also scheduled with The Bar taking on The Miztourage with a title opportunity at WrestleMania on the line. That match never started as the rest of Raw's tag teams wound up interfering, not even allowing the bout to officially begin. This ultimately led Angle to schedule a battle royal main event for the No. 1 contendership as The Bar threatened to force a trade to SmackDown if they were not given legitimate competition.

Strowman got it done in the main event by entering the tag team battle royal on his own after the rest of the teams were in the ring. As expected, Strowman was a one-man wrecking crew in the match, which featured The Miztourage, The Revival, Titus Worldwide, Heath Slater & Rhyno and Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson. Not only did he have the most eliminations, he fought off as many as eight men trying to attack him. With the match down to two people, Strowman screamed, "I'm going to WrestleMania." He then threw Anderson over the top rope onto everyone else outside.  

With WWE committed to Lesnar-Reigns for the universal champion at WrestleMania, any others plans for Strowman (outside of matches with Cena or The Undertaker) would be considered a step back in terms of booking. Because of that, consider this a brilliant move, whether or not the match with The Bar remains a handicap one or someone else (like Elias, Samoa Joe or even Jason Jordan) somehow get added in the 11th hour. While some will surely look at this as a burial of Raw tag teams, the truth is the division is lacking in terms of a marketable A-side for WrestleMania (The Bar included). Strowman gives WWE just that, in a match (which had looked destined for the kickoff show before Strowman) that he doesn't even have to win as long as it's booked the right way.

What else happened on Raw?

  • Sasha Banks def. Sonia Deville via submission: With Bayley back in Banks' corner after their recent ups and downs, their friendship was tested once again. Absolution's Mandy Rose jumped on the apron looking to interfere, which led to Bayley pulling her down. Banks responded with a backstabber into a Banks Statement that instantly forced a tap. But an unhappy Bayley walked back to the locker room alone, leaving Banks to get beaten down by Absolution as the soap opera continued.  
  • Injuries force Elias to walk: After a video package relived Braun Strowman's violent victory over Elias in last week's "Symphony of Destruction" match, Elias emerged wearing a neck brace in the center of the ring. Unable to play his guitar and sing properly, he said "this is your fault" before walking off.  
  • Finn Balor def. Seth Rollins via pinfall: Following a Miz TV segment in which Miz attempted to turn Balor and Rollins against one another only for them to gang up and take him out, Angle scheduled a one-on-one match for later in the show. This two-segment match wasn't as epic and fast-paced as the recent Raw offerings from both men. But the finish heated up just enough to entertain as Balor interrupted Rollins' attempt at a superplex-into-Falcon Arrow combination by rolling him up after the first move for the surprise 1-2-3.  
  • A new women's match announced for WrestleMania: Following a video package celebrating the life and career of the late former women's champion The Fabulous Moolah, WWE announced a 20-woman memorial battle royal in her honor beginning at WrestleMania 34. The winner will receive a trophy featuring an image of Moolah, similar to the annual men's Andre The Giant match.  
  • Asuka def. Mickie James via submission: What began as an in-ring interview with Asuka, turned into heckling from Alexa Bliss and Mickie James. Asuka countered by saying she chose Charlotte Flair for WrestleMania because she's the best WWE champion and "to be the woman, you've got to beat the woman." After teasing that someone else would come out who has "unfinished business" with Asuka, Bliss and James instead attacked her as the confused crowd sat silent. A match was booked during commercial, which saw James produce multiple false finishes that would've ended Asuka' unbeaten streak. Instead, Asuka ducked a Mick kick and applied her Asuka Lock for the tap.
  • Nia Jax learns the truth about Alexa Bliss: The Raw women's champion left James in the ring to scold Jax backstage for not coming out to attack Asuka. Bliss then manipulated Jax into believing she has always had her back and asked that Jax be by her side for next week's match against Asuka. But after Jax destroyed Joan King in a squash match, a live boom microphone that was set up for a locker room interview picked up Bliss and James talking. Jax overheard the heels laughing about using her. "She worships the ground I walk on because I make her relevant," Bliss said. An apoplectic Jax stormed backstage and tore up the locker room after Bliss and James, who were tipped off, escaped.
  • Ultimate Deletion match booked for next week on Raw: A video promo showed Matt Hardy at his North Carolina home, introducing the various members of his "Woken Universe." Bray Wyatt followed with one of his own backstage, calling Hardy a fool who made a very bad decision. "Here's some advice," Wyatt said. "When the devil is standing on your doorstep, you should never let him in." Wyatt accepted Hardy's invitation for the Ultimate Deletion match before creepily adding it would be a shame to see something bad happen to Hardy's family. Angle then booked the match for next week, assigning it to referee Shawn Bennett "to make sure they both make it back in one piece."
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Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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