WWE Raw results, recap, grades: Surprise title change, major WrestleMania 35 shakeup
A lot went down Monday night on the go-home show to the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view
For the first time in two weeks, the Road to WrestleMania 35 featured enough heat to set social media afire in the aftermath of Monday's Raw episode. That doesn't mean the creation of said heat was the right call (or anything more than cheap trolling).
Either way, the go-home episode ahead of Sunday's Elimination Chamber – one of two pay-per-view stops before WrestleMania on April 7 – left viewers talking after an entire episode built around Becky Lynch's dilemma regarding an apology. Let's take a closer look at the highs and lows from Monday, including a title change.
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Becky Lynch decision has unexpected consequences
As soon as Triple H and Stephanie McMahon attempted to open the show by revealing the test results from Becky Lynch's visit to her doctor, Lynch's music hit to cause an interruption. Triple H apologized for what he said to Lynch on SmackDown Live last week and announced that WWE doctors have agreed with the diagnosis of Lynch's doctors, meaning there are no tears or structural damage to her left knee. After a few weeks of rehab, Lynch would be cleared to face Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania.
Despite Triple H lifting Lynch's suspension, there was a caveat thrown in: Lynch would need to apologize to The Authority for attacking them last week or get pulled. Lynch twice referenced Vince McMahon by saying she would even run through "your old man" if anyone tried to get in her way. After Lynch told them to take their apology and "shove it up your arse," Triple H advised to put her pride and stubbornness aside so she can fight for her dreams. An undecided Lynch spent the rest of the show getting unsolicited and conflicting advice from Finn Balor and Alexa Bliss. Rousey also warned Lynch against placing ego above history and called her a coward should he choose not to apologize.
The show closed with Lynch apologizing to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon inside the ring and shaking their hands. Her attempt at cutting a promo was then interrupted by Rousey, who met her face to face. But out came Vince McMahon to overrule, citing Lynch's bad attitude and belief she's bigger than WWE. "So you're not the man, I'm the man," he said. "Sometimes the man has to make tough decisions." The WWE Chairman then suspended Lynch for 60 days, which expires five days after WrestleMania. He then brought out Charlotte Flair to announce as Rousey's new opponent before raising Flair's hand and instructing Rousey, "Get used to this because at the end of WrestleMania, that's what you will be seeing."
If there was ever a case to be made for Triple H to take over the book, look no further than this. A historic WrestleMania main event match that sells itself now has an overcooked mess to clean up over the next two months. Adding Flair to the match for an eventual triple threat isn't the wrong move in this case, but it's the lazy execution that contradicts much of strong booking and organic turns that got us to this point. Given how red-hot Lynch's character has been and how great recent PPV matches involving all three women have played out, this story needs anything but Vince McMahon's forced entry.
Will the match come April still be sensational? No question. Does WWE still have time to repair the implications of Monday's booking after social media caught fire in the aftermath? Of course. But the problem is that WWE shouldn't have needed to rely on this kind of troll booking to get that reaction when it's the performers alone who could've delivered something more true to their actual characters. Instead, Lynch was made to look unnecessarily weak by giving in and apologizing despite the Austin-like setup that made you believe she would rebel. Flair, meanwhile, has been so good as a heel of late that she doesn't need the rub of corporate endorsement. Lynch's new suspension makes almost as little sense from a kayfabe standpoint as building an entire episode around her questioning whether she should apologize despite her WrestleMania opponent having gone unpunished last year for the same offense. Grade: D
Tag team titles change hands
Raw Tag Team Championship -- The Revival def. Bobby Roode & Chad Gable (c) via pinfall to win the titles: Dramatic near falls became the norm and popped the crowd into multiple "this is awesome chants." Scott Dawson dove in late to break a pinfall after Roode and Gable hit their top rope finisher on Dash Wilder. But the finish came shortly after when Gable moonsaulted directly into a Shatter Machine for the pin. The Revival then gloated and celebrated during a backstage interview in Gorilla position.
Talk about one hell of a television match. While there's little question this one belonged on Sunday's Elimination Chamber card, it was given the full showcase treatment over three segments and booked with pay-per-view intensity. Gable was clearly the standout after attempting multiple moonsaults, including one off the top rope onto the floor. But seeing The Revival finally get the push their talent deserves was particularly rewarding as a fan given their throwback quality as pure tag team technicians. Whether or not you believe this push coincides conveniently with the launch of new WWE rival AEW or not to keep them happy, this was the right call. Grade: A-
Seth Rollins shakes off fatal warning from Paul Heyman
Rollins looked back at his accomplishments over the previous 12 months and admitted "this was the year I finally felt like Seth 'Freakin' Rollins." But his in-ring promo was interrupted by Paul Heyman, who put over an absent Brock Lesnar as everything from a beast, predator and career killer to "a merciless sadist with an unrepentant soul." Heyman called Rollins' pursuit of a WrestleMania match against Lesnar "a suicide mission" and gave fair warning that going through with it would make Rollins "the architect of our own demise." Rollins countered by saying he's willing to "sell my soul to the devil and burn in hell" if it means stopping Lesnar from leaving WrestleMania as champion. Before Rollins could leave, Dean Ambrose came out for his next match, asked for the microphone, and told Rollins, "I only got one thing to say to you – slay the beast." Rollins smiled as Ambrose walked away.
This is how you hype a big match around Lesnar's part-time schedule. No one needed to take a bump or a punch because Heyman and Rollins were so effective in presenting their respective side of the story being told ahead of WrestleMania. Not only was the writing strong, the delivery was even better. The appearance of Ambrose, who WWE announced is leaving in April when his contract expires, could add an interesting wrinkle to the overall narrative should he continue to play a role (and could be a tease that Roman Reigns might play a role in the match in a surprise return). If imagining Reigns running in to rescue his Shield brethren from Lesnar and lift Rollins to an emotional title win gets you fired up, imagine Rollins turning heel on Reigns moments later to set up an era-defining feud. Either way, this one is headed toward big business. Grade: B+
What else happened on Raw?
- Nia Jax & Tamina Snuka def. Boss 'n' Hug Connection (via pinfall) and The Riott Squad: A pre-match video promo from Bayley and Sasha Banks saw them credit therapy for mending their chemistry and realizing their goal of winning the inaugural women's tag team championship at Elimination Chamber. The ensuing match then threatened said chemistry as, per the stipulation, the loss means they will enter the cage first in Sunday's title match. For the second straight week, Banks was injured early and carted off, leaving Bayley to fend for herself. Twice, Bayley hit finishing moves only to have her pin attempt broken up. A super kick from Snuka and a Samoan Drop from Jax on Bayley gave the self-proclaimed "Samoan Slaughterhouse" the win. A distraught Bayley took a long time to recover before leaving alone.
- Elias takes out anger on Kalisto: After a pair of interruptions prevented Elias from beginning his song inside the ring, Lucha House Party became the third when their music hit. A song from Elias produced three thumbs down and a "you suck" chant from the crowd. Asked by Elias if he could do better, Kalisto strummed a tune that drew cheers. The campy segment produced a fun ending when Elias feigned interest in a duet only to grab his second guitar and break it over the back of Kalisto before escaping.
- Finn Balor def. Drew McIntyre via disqualification: With Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush standing ringside, the DQ finish, which came when Lashley pushed Baylor off the top rope, was more than predictable. The only thing more predictable turned out to be the aftermath when Kurt Angle, Baron Corbin and Braun Strowman ran in to spark a giant brawl which, following a commercial break, turned into a 6-man tag team match.
- Finn Balor, Kurt Angle & Braun Strowman def. Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley & Baron Corbin via pinfall: This three-segment match ate up a large majority of the second hour but was unfortunately booked entirely in a house-show manner. A distraction from Lio Rush helped Lashley hit his finisher on Balor for what appeared to be a 1-2-3, despite Balor's foot being on the ropes. But referee Chad Patten ran in to overrule John Cone's call, which restarted the match. Strowman overcame a pair of Claymore kicks which sent him into the crowd by grabbing a hot tag and cleaning house. He hit a running powerslam on Lashley before tagging in Balor for the Coup de Grace and the pin.
- Kevin Owens teases in-ring return: During a video selfie he filmed with his family at a bowling alley, KO criticized the current WWE product and revealed he is one more month out from the McMahon family deciding which show he would return on.
- Ruby Riott def. Nikki Cross via pinfall: Despite a mid-match cut to a backstage conversation with Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey, Riott was given strong booking here to remind why she's a viable challenger to Rousey's Raw title on Sunday. This physical match, which saw Cross land a stiff suplex on the ring apron, ended when a Riott Kick put Cross away.
- Dean Ambrose def. EC3 via pinfall: A pre-match interaction between Ambrose and Seth Rollins teased a possible return to babyface for the "Lunatic Fringe." He then worked from underneath throughout most of this match, with the finish coming when Ambrose countered into a surprise rollup to redeem his loss from last week.
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