One night after Fastlane, WWE made a quick shift into full WrestleMania 37 mode with an episode of Raw that focused on making several important matches for the company's biggest weekend of the year. Four matches were made official on Monday night with at least one other teased for WrestleMania, which is 19 days away.
Drew McIntyre managed to win a handicap match to remove a potential complication from the equation for his match with WWE champion Bobby Lashley in one of the biggest matches on the card. In addition, Asuka finally found out who would challenge for her Raw women's championship when Rhea Ripley made her long-awaited Raw debut.
CBS Sports was with you all night, bringing you recaps and highlights of all the action from inside the ThunderDome.
Bobby Lashley puts out hit on Drew McIntyre
Bobby Lashley def. Sheamus via submission with The Hurt Lock. This was the expected big man brawl. That both Sheamus and Lashley are doing some of the best work of their careers certainly raised expectations, which were largely met. The Hurt Business was out with Lashley and Cedric Alexander caused a bit of a distraction for Lashley, allowing Sheamus to take over the match for a while. Alexander made up for it in the end, causing a second distraction, this time affecting Sheamus and allowing Lashley to hit a spinebuster to set up the submission. After the match, The Hurt Business swarmed Sheamus, beating him down until Drew McIntyre made his way to ringside to break things up and run off Shelton Benjamin and Alexander, leaving Lashley and MVP alone in the ring with McIntyre. McIntyre held his hands behind his back and begged Lashley to throw the first punch while MVP begged him to leave by yelling it was business, not emotions. Backstage, Lashley and MVP admonished Alexander and Benjamin for making it seem the champion needed their help to win, calling it an embarrassment.
Drew McIntyre def. Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin in a handicap match. McIntyre was challenged to a handicap match against Alexander and Benjamin, but told Adam Pearce there needed to be the right stakes to the match before saying he would accept the match if The Hurt Business was banned from ringside at WrestleMania should he win the match. After battling back from the numbers disadvantage, McIntyre managed to hit both men with Claymores to score the win and get Benjamin and Alexander removed from the equation at WrestleMania. Backstage, MVP and Lashley again blew up at Alexander and Benjamin before Lashley stormed into a locker room and offered members of the lower card an opportunity at a title shot for taking McIntyre out.
This was probably the smallest change to the WrestleMania card as a whole on the night, but it's clear that Lashley's challenge to the locker room to take out McIntyre will be a story that carries forward for weeks. Wrestling has a history of great bounty situations and seeing men like Drew Gulak take their shot at glory could provide some great fun. Sheamus appears to be locked into a WrestleMania program with Riddle (see below) and he deserves at least that much for a tremendous run over the past several months. Grade: B+
What else happened on WWE Raw?
- Asuka def. Peyton Royce via submission with the Asuka Lock. Royce put up a very good fight, nearly scoring the win several times, but Asuka pulled off the win with the submission. After the match, Rhea Ripley made her debut as a member of Raw. Ripley entered the ring and challenged Asuka to a match at WrestleMania. Asuka told Ripley, "You are not ready for Asuka," before officially accepting the challenge.
- The Miz challenged Bad Bunny for a WrestleMania match on Miz TV. Miz and Morrison said they would premier a video for "Hey Hey, Hop Hop" next week on Raw, a "diss track" that would end Bunny's career. Miz then laid out the official challenge for Mania.
- The Miz def. Jeff Hardy via pinfall after hitting the Skull-Crushing Finale. As Miz celebrated after the match, Bad Bunny slid into the ring and hit Miz with a guitar and accepted the challenge for a match at WrestleMania.
- Kofi Kingston def. AJ Styles via pinfall with the S.O.S. Before the match The New Day riled up Styles by trying to convince Omos not to team with him at WrestleMania.
- Sheamus hit Riddle with a scooter. Riddle interrupted an interview, asking Sheamus questions about Ireland, aggravating Sheamus until he took Riddle's scooter and hit him with it.4
- Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler def. Dana Brooke & Mandy Rose via pinfall when Jax hit Brooke with a Samoan drop. Reginald was ringside and helped provide distractions that aided the women's tag team champions earn the win.
- Braun Strowman def. Elias via pinfall after a running powerslam. After the match, Shane McMahon hit Strowman with his crutch, having no effect on the big man. McMahon then ran from the ring, leading Strowman to point out that McMahon's knee looked fine and laid down the challenge for WrestleMania, which McMahon accepted for "any match" Strowman wanted.
- In the show's final segment Randy Orton vowed to end The Fiend before the night was over, bringing out Alexa Bliss, who told Orton to be careful what he wished for before the lights went out. Fire shot from the ring posts and The Fiend was in the ring behind Orton. Orton produced a gas can from a bag he'd carried to the ring and threw gas on The Fiend, who was not moving. Rather than lighting a match, Orton hit an RKO. After Bliss entered the ring, The Fiend rose to his feet, locked Orton in the mandible claw and hit Sister Abigail before Bliss pointed at the WrestleMania sign. The show ended with the official announcement of a match between Orton and The Fiend at WrestleMania.