Another Monday, another edition of the longest-running episodic program of all-time.
The Road to WrestleMania is now unobstructed following last night’s Fastlane event. While everyone’s temperatures seem to differ as to how enjoyable the event itself was, there’s no doubting that the RAW side of things had the wrestling world abuzz following last night’s event.
After months of speculation, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt made his return to wrestling programming just three months after being burned alive. This, of course, rivals only Triple H and John Cena’s Royal Rumble returns in terms of quick returns from injury.
Superhuman recovery abilities aside, Wyatt’s return (and Randy Orton’s subsequent loss to Alexa Bliss) was the major headline coming out of Sunday, at least the headline of prudence to tonight’s edition of RAW. However, it was far from the only major development to take place on tonight’s show. Like Wyatt’s return, Bobby Lashley and The Hurt Business were featured prominently throughout the show, however, perhaps for the final time. AJ Styles and Kofi Kingston put on one heck of a tilt (pardon my language), and the RAW Women’s Championship finally has a clear direction heading into the Show of Shows. Perhaps most importantly, Shane McMahon sang a song.
Lots to talk about from tonight’s show, so let’s get right down to the nitty-gritty.
Like a Pita Pit employee, we wrap.
Three Big Things
Yes, yes, let’s get my Bray Wyatt bias out of the way early.
As has been noted before, I’m admittedly a little more bullish on this storyline than most. I love the supernatural in pro wrestling, and have been a Bray Wyatt fan since the character’s earliest days. Unlike some, I’ve quite liked how Alexa Bliss and Randy Orton have carried the feud on in Wyatt’s absence and was thoroughly looking forward to how the return of The Fiend kickstarted his expected ‘Mania feud with Orton.
First and foremost, a quick shout to the excellent vignette WWE played early in the evening showcasing Orton, Wyatt and Bliss’ recent history. Truly, the only thing better than World Wrestling Entertainment’s short-film production team is Tom Phillips’ terrible pun prior the vignette’s actual airing.
Tonight’s main event slot began with Randall Keith Orton carrying a can of gasoline to the ring. After a brief promo, Alexa Bliss made her entrance, finally taking the opportunity to open the jack-in-the-box that she’s carried for the past few weeks. Suddenly, the Fiend appeared behind Orton, standing completely still as Orton proceeded to not only douse the now-mangled Wyatt with gasoline, but hit him with an RKO. However, at that moment, Alexa Bliss sauntered into the ring, causing a long-enough distraction for Wyatt to lock in the Mandible Claw and hit Orton with a Sister Abigail for the 2nd straight night. With the ringposts ablaze, both the Fiend and Bliss pointed at the WrestleMania sign, with confirmation that Wyatt and Orton would face off at WrestleMania match announced to close out the show.
I know I’m excited. Are you?
The Nightmare’s Debut
We’ve finally got a clear direction for the RAW Women’s Championship, and whoooo boy, it’s a doozy.
No disrespect intended to the other members of the RAW Women’s roster, but to me, Rhea Ripley was Asuka’s only realistic ‘Mania challenger this year. While perhaps not the original plan according to rumours, thankfully, RAW had an ace in the hole in the form of The Nightmare. While yes, there are certainly some qualms with someone who finished as Royal Rumble runner-up simply asking for a title match, I’m a little more understanding given the circumstances.
Despite her complete absence from programming since the Royal Rumble, Ripley’s always been presented as a star whenever on WWE television, and that was the case again tonight. Immediately following Asuka’s win over Peyton Royce – more on that in the Coffee Talk section – Ripley’s made her entrance, taking her sweet time getting down to the ring before laying the challenge to Asuka. Both women came off great during the segment, and though there’s still work to be done story-wise, I’m sold after tonight. While I would have hoped it would have started a few months ago, I’m at least of the belief that these two will absolutely tear it up come the Show of Shows, so truly, I can’t complain too much.
Hurt Business Hurts Hearts 🙁
Get it? Because it’s the name of the site, but also, because it’s a perfect summation of my feelings on the presumed breakup of The Hurt Business.
The evening started positively enough, opening with a tilt between Big Bad Bobby Lashley and The Untanned Warrior, Sheamus. First and foremost, I enjoyed the Lashley/Sheamus match much, much more than I thought I would considering we saw it just last week on RAW. I’ve got all the time in the world for a good ol’ fashioned rematch, but it’s certainly frustrating that those seem to be the case more often than not on our weekly programming.
However, as has been consistent over the past few weeks, the match directly played into more tensions between the members of the Hurt Business. Both MVP and Lashley chastised Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander, claiming the duo made the WWE Champion look weak in assisting him in defeating Sheamus. They challenged the former RAW tag team titleholders to make it up to them, leading to a 2-on-1 handicap match against Drew McIntyre later in the evening.
The match itself was solid; admittedly I’m not a huge fan of the handicap match format, but considering the talents involved it was bound to be a neat match. I really, really loved Cedric Alexander in this one, but frankly, that’s nothing new for me.
The Business’ final segment of the evening was, perhaps, the most heartbreaking. Following their loss, Lashley seemed to fire both Alexander and Benjamin from the Hurt Business before entering the locker room area and offering a WWE Championship opportunity to whoever was able to take McIntyre out before WrestleMania. Admittedly I’m not sure why you’d be selecting from the best of the best of the 24/7 crew, but I digress.
Did the breakup feel rushed? Absolutely, especially considering the excellent, excellent work that the entire faction has done as a quartet over the past eight months. It truly doesn’t feel like their time, but hopefully, it leads to bigger and better things (somehow) for all involved.
- It was excellent to see that they’re presumably leaning into a Sheamus vs. Riddle match at ‘Mania following their interaction backstage tonight. If that’s the case, I’m 100% in, and would really love the Celtic Warrior to win out on that one.
- It was alluded to earlier, but I quite enjoyed the Asuka/Peyton Royce match. Personally, while it started a little slower than I would have liked, it really picked up by the end of it. Huge pop for Peyton’s Widow’s Peak-like move. Certainly something I hope to see again in the future.
- Another week in which I hope that after WrestleMania, we get a John Morrison singles run.
- Bring on Bad Bunny and The Miz! I have all the time in the world for Bad Bunny’s run over the past few months. By all accounts, he’s been an excellent person to work with, and if having him involved will bring new viewers to pro wrestling’s biggest night of the year, I’m all for it.
- The New Day’s rapport with AJ Styles and Omos is absolutely terrific. There were a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments during their back-and-forth prior to Kingston facing off with Styles. Overall, absolutely terrific.
- I don’t think I have to tell you that Kofi vs. Styles was absolutely terrific. Definitely well worth a rewatch.
- Reginald is obviously a very athletic human being, but I can’t say I understand where the story is going. Moreso, I’m really not sure if I want to. I really loved the story they were telling with Lana and Nia a few months ago, and if they’re leaning back into that, I’m not sure Reggie needs to be involved.
- Shane McMahon earns a thunderous round of applause yet again tonight for his wonderful song about Braun Strowman. I can’t make a comment to Mr. Strowman’s intelligence – I’m certain he’s a smart man – but I’ll never complain about a McMahon sing-song
- Strowman vs. Shane: The Dream Match is official.
Bags o’ Popcorn Rating
There were certainly some neat moments from tonight’s show. I really loved the Fiend/Orton/Bliss segments, and the in-ring action tonight was really, really neat. Rhea Ripley vs. Asuka is certainly a match I’m thrilled about, too.
Have thoughts of your own? I’m happy to hear ’em! Get ahold of me on the Twitter machine @SpennyLove and let me know what you think!