With the main event of WrestleMania official, Raw originates from Detroit tonight as the countdown to WrestleMania begins. Clearly, after the reception Roman Reigns received at Fast Lane, there’s still plenty of work to do to avoid him getting booed out of Texas next month. He and HHH will likely kick off a series of angles tonight. The recipient of the Vincent J. McMahon Legacy of Excellence Award will be announced, which could also be an angle leading up to WrestleMania. There will probably be new programs for Charlotte, Kevin Owens and the New Day for their respective championships.
Plus, there’s the matter of which 90s starts will appear at WrestleMania? Who will they be facing? And when will the promotion for those matches begin? It’s the start of the most popular time of the year for wrestling in America tonight, and our coverage starts at 8 ET.
From Dave Meltzer:
An angle was just shot before Raw to air on the show where Brock Lesnar destroyed Dean Ambrose and he was rushed to the hospital to help get the wheels in motion for their WrestleMania match and make Ambrose the babyface.
It is expected this will be announced at the start of the show. The plans are for this to be a major show to set up WrestleMania’s top bouts.
The Big Takeaway:
A wild night. Shane McMahon made his return to Raw after leaving the WWE six years ago. He will face the Undertaker at WrestleMania in a Hell in a Cell match with control of the company on the line. Brock Lesnar and Dean Ambrose is also set for WrestleMania after an angle where Lesnar jumped Ambrose and slammed him on a limo. Ryback appeared to turn heel and looks to be up for a program with Kane. Roman Reigns juiced in the main event after being jumped by HHH, ending with HHH giving him a Pedigree on the ring steps.
The Vincent J. McMahon Legacy of Excellence Award was in the ring with a red carpet draped around it.
Michael Cole showed video of Dean Ambrose being driven in, where Brock Lesnar jumped him and drove him into the hood of a limo. Lesnar then slammed Ambrose onto the limo, and Ambrose was shown being stretchered out of the arena with a neckbrace on. Cole claimed Ambrose underwent medicat tests at a local hospital. Lesnar and Paul Heyman will make an appearance later.
Vincent Kennedy McMahon came out for the presentation of the Legacy of Excellence award. Vince said tonight would be a night the fans would never forget. Vince said for over 100 years, his family had been presenting sports entertainment. It started with his grandfather, then carried on to his father. He announced the winner as Stephanie McMahon.
Stephanie came out and started crying. She got a lot of heat as she accepted the award. She claimed she wasn’t expecting to win, but had some prepared remarks to make. She then pulled out a binder the size of a notebook ready to make her remarks.
Before she could talk, Shane McMahon came out to an incredibly huge pop. He was wearing old school Air Jordans straight from 1984 and looked a little emotional as he made his return to TV for the first time since 2009. The place went bonkers and Shane looked stunned to see how huge the response was. Fans chanted “Holy Shit” and “This is Awesome.”
Shane milked it in for a while. Vince went to hug him, but Shane stopped him. So Vince extended his hand, and Shane left him hanging. He looked like he’s lost 60 pounds, minimum, since he made those cameos at various PGA Tour events. Shane said the Legacy of Excellence Award should be bestowed on someone who deserves it, and it wasn’t Stephanie.
Vince asked his son to play nice and asked if he and Shane could talk in the back. Shane said his father always told him to do things out in the open face-to-face. Stephanie said this was her moment, getting booed worse than Mark Messier in Joe Louis Arena. Stephanie said her husband and her have been running a billion dollar business for seven years while Shane is away.
Shane told his father “She doesn’t know, does she?” Then Shane said Stephanie and her husband have been running the company into the ground based on talent injuries, stock, even TV ratings (Good lord. This was like Eric Bischoff admitting Nitro had fallen off the rails in 1999). Stephanie called Shane a quitter and told him to get out of her ring. Shane said it was her father’s ring. Shane said several years ago, Vince messed up huge. Big time. But Shane was there to save the day.
So Vince and Shane cut a deal. In that deal, Shane was able to take time off, build businesses. But he never lost his place in line. Shane said the reason why Stephanie was able to climb this far was because Shane allowed it to happen. Stephanie thought this was ridiculous and asked Vince to say this wasn’t true. Vince had a very guilty look on his face. Stephanie kept asking if this was true. Vince didn’t want to answer. Shane pressed for an answer, and Vince admitted there was some truth to it.
Shane said, at the time, the agreement he and Vince reached was “Best for business.” Stephanie started to leave, but said she would never forgive Shane for this.
Stephanie left. Vince wanted to know what this was about. He offered to give Shane any amount of money. Shane said it wasn’t about money. It was about getting out from under Vince’s thumb. It was all about legacy. Shane talked about Vince being the third generation, he was the fourth generation, and his three children would be the fifth generation. He started to tear up when he talked about that.
Shane said he wanted control over Monday Night Raw. Vince said if Shane controlled Raw, he would control the entire company, and Shane can’t just step right in and control the entire company. Vince offered a deal. He would give Shane Monday Night Raw as long as he has one match on one night. And if he wins, he gets his match. If he loses, Vince gets the key to Shane’s lockbox so Shane can’t hang anything over his head again. Crowd actually chanted “You still got it.” That Randy Orton angle was a million years ago at this moment.
Shane agreed to the deal. Vince said something that got bleeped out but left the crowd buzzing. Vince said Shane would wrestle at WrestleMania…against the Undertaker. Hell in a Cell.
The New Day defeated Lucha Dragons and Neville (15:27)
Good match where Kofi Kingston pinned Sin Cara with Trouble in Paradise after Kingston escaped the Dragon Bomb by pulling Sin Cara’s mask. Before the finish, Neville did a 450 splash onto Big E. off the apron. Kalisto then jumped off Neville’s back and did a 450 splash onto Xavier Woods. The New Day look to be turning face as they cut a promo on the League of Nations during an inset promo. They offered them a box of Booto-Os cereal, which has it’s own box with the new day on the front. That was hilarious.
Reigns did a promo with Jojo upset over what happened with Ambrose. Crowd loudly booed Reigns and chanted for Ambrose as he did his promo. It was a badly scripted interview about how the match between him and HHH would be about heart. Reigns just doesn’t have the promo ability.
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman came out. Heyman said this was the main event of the evening, even tough he wasn’t wrestling. He said Lesnar was the single biggest attraction in sports entertainment or Mixed Martial Arts. That sound you hear in Connor McGregor laughing. Heyman said Lesnar took Ambrose and Reigns to Suplex City, and had Reigns on the verge of tapping out to Lesnar, just like the Undertaker was. Then Ambrose took a three-way fight and turned it into a street fight, and took Lesnar out of the equation and out of the main event of WrestleMania.
Heyman said Lesnar got his revenge earlier today, and claimed that Ambrose was out of WrestleMania altogether. Heyman said there was no shield that could protect Ambrose from the wrath of Lesnar. Heyman said Lesnar deserves to be in the main event of WrestleMania, and is the main event. Not HHH, not Reigns. Heyman ran down Ambrose as some kind of hardcore kid wannabe riding on a BMX bike that everyboyd thinks is cool. Until the reality of a Mack-Semi truck comes down and…Heyman then threw down the mic to symbolize what Lesnar does to people. He actually had to get another mic because he broke the old one.
Heyman said Lesnar needed another Lesnar WrestleMania opponent. Whoever wants to be that person, go visit Ambrose in the hospital room while he can barely breathe. So sayeth Brock Lesnar.
Heyman finsihed. At that point, the TitanTron turned to the back, where an ambulance came in from the back. The ambulance came out into the arena. Of course, Ambrose was behind the wheel wearing a neckbrace. He staggered out to a pop. Ambrose crawled to the ring, more or less. The brace fell off his neck. Lesnar stood over Ambrose and walked over his chest.
Ambrose told Lesnar he was indestructable and he would find that otu the hard way. He challenged Lesnar to a match at WrestleMania in a No Holds Barred Street Fight. Lesnar went after Ambrose and gave him an F-5 on the floor. Fans didn’t chant for Ambrose. They chanted “One More Time.” Heyman got down on his knees and told Ambrose face-to-face that his client accepted Ambrose’s challenge.
The Usos were about to face the Ascension when the Dudley Boyz came out. Bubbay Ray Dudley said the Usos shouldn’t take the beating the Dudleys handed them two weeks ago personally. They did it to remind people they were the most decorated tag team in the history of WWE. Their legacy won’t be defined by a piece of furniture, but by the accomplishments. Bubba claimed the fans would never see the tables again. Devon Dudley told the Usos maybe their father shouldn’t have been running around in oversized thongs, but should have taught his sons respect. Fans didn’t seem to know Devon was talking about Rikishi, which Cole and Byron Saxton filled in the blanks.
The Usos defeated the Ascension (1:58)
Jey Uso pinned Viktor after a double superkick and a splash. Dudleys came down to tease a fight with the Usos. Looks like that’s another match for WrestleMania.
Jim Harbaugh was at ringside in time for tonight’s tweets from angry SEC fans about unfair recruiting practices.
Chris Jericho came out for more talking. He said for years, he heard about the legacy of A.J. Styles. He saw Styles in the Royal Rumble and he didn’t like him because Styles called himself “Phenomenal” without having one match in the WWE. Then he wrestled Styles three times, with last night’s match being one of the best he’s had in years. Jericho said Styles beat him. 24 hours later, Jericho said he had some words for Styles, and wanted to say them face-to-face.
Styles came out and the fans instantly started dueling chants. Jericho said Styles that going into their match last night, the pressure was all on Styles. But Styles won, and Jericho admitted it. Jericho congratulated Styles because he proved to the WWE Universe that he belongs in the WWE. He has what it takes to become a WWE champion. Styles proved he was phenomenal. They shook hands.
Social Outcasts came out. Heath Slater made fun of them. Bo Dallas said his heart was warm seeing how much love was in the ring right now. Slater told Dallas he was being sarcastic. Dallas pretended he knew. Curtis Axel accused Jericho of playing nice to Styles, but in his heart he knew Styles made him tap out. Slater asked Styles if he was a man. Slater said where he comes from, they call people like Styles a coward. Adam Rose said no one was buying Y2AJ. Slater ordered them to get out of the ring.
Jericho called Slater “Ginger Jackass.” Jericho said he and Styles weren’t planning on being a team, but they could become one to face Social Outcasts immediately in a tag match. It was Y2Aj vs. Slater and Axel.
Chris Jericho and A.J. Styles defeated Curtis Axel and Heath Slater via submission (3:55)
Jericho made Axel submit to the Walls of Jericho while Styles did a springboard plancha onto Dallas, Rose and Slater. Slater is now being referred to as the Red Dragon in a moniker that Sinclair Broadcasting executives should just love.
Stephanie and HHH were backstage. Stephanie was furious at Shane. HHH said Shane was always a failure and always will be. HHH said tonight will end the way they want it to, so he asked if she wanted to tell Roman, or should he? She volunteered.
Stephanie found Reigns backstage and said Reigns would be facing Sheamus tonight. She said League of Nations was a brotherhood, unlike the fake one Reigns had with Ambrose. She urged him to watch out for League of Natons causing him to miss WrestleMania because of injury.
R-Truth and Goldust had another skit. Goldust apologized for costing Truth his match against Axel last night. He offered a cake which said “I’m Sorry” as a makeup present. Goldsut said it was chocolate cake with golden frosting, just like a potential tag team with him. R-Truth tried to tell him off, but Goldust said he could predict Truth’s every move before he does it. Truth said he guessed Goldust would predict he was going to take the cake a smash it in his face. But he wouldn’t do that to Goldust because he was better than that, and walked off. Then he stormed back, said “Psych” and smashed it in Goldust’s face.
Luke Harper, Bray Wyatt and Erick Rowan defeated Ryback, The Big Show and Kane (12:29)
Finish saw Kane about to deliver the choke slam on Luke Harper, but Ryback walked out on Kane. For some reason, this distracted Kane, which allowed Harper to tag Bray Wyatt. Then Wyatt pinned Kane with Sister Abigail. Big Show was laid out earlier by Braun Strowman. Fans did’t care for Ryback and chanted “Goldberg” at him. Then a few started chanting “Gillberg” and the Big Show started laughing. Wyatts sure ended up on the short end of the WrestleMania stick. They went from potential opponents to the Undertaker to potential opponets for Lesnar to status unknown. Who would have thought last month that the Dudleys would have had a clearer direction for WrestleMania than the Wyatts?
Ryabck did an interview saying he walked out on Big Show and Kane because he was done being in tag teams. It was his time to be in the spotlight. He said “That glass ceiling. That brass ring. Break it. Take it.”
Sasha Banks defeated Naomi via submission (6:47)
Tamina interfered several times on Sasha Banks. That brought down Becky Lynch to jump Tamina. Banks won with the Bank Statement.
Postmatch, Charlotte and Ric Flair came out. She was dressed like Nikki and Brie Bella, which Cole pointed out. They’re teasing Nikki Bella showing up at WrestleMania. Charlotte said the Authority had told her Lynch would be facing Banks in the coming weeks, and the winner would face Charlotte at WrestleMania. Charlotte told Lynch to watch out, like Banks was about to jump her. Of course, Banks hadn’t made a move toward Lynch. But Lynch reacted like she had. Charlotte laughed about how they really don’t trust each other after all.
Stephanie wanted to know what Shane held over Vince’s head. Vince said the odds of Shane beating the Undertaker were astronomical. Vince explained he was taking a calculated risk. Stephanie seemed to understand.
So in the final week of Black History Month, they announced the Godfather was the latest inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame. JBL announced the APA was reuniting to induct the Godfather because they rode miles and miles with the Godfather.
There was a sign on the screen shown repeatedly in the final hour that said “Raw is Stale as Cole Slaw.” How that made the airwaves without being confiscated is beyond me. This show had more signs than any Raw is a while, so maybe restrictions are being curtailed.
Roman Reigns and Sheamus went to a no contest (10:51)
This was one strange scene. Sheamus, the top regular performing heel in the company, came out to complete silence. Reigns, the chosen one, got mostly booed. A reminder that we are six weeks away from WrestleMania. Alberto Del Rio, Rusev and King “Catch Him While You Can” Barrett were at ringside. Rusev gave Reigns a uranage on the floor to a round of cheers. During the break, referee Chad Patton (his name was announced on TV, breaking previous company protocol), ordered the League of Nations to the back. They went two more minutes past the commercial when Reigns hit a Superman Punch on Sheamus. HHH came out ready to fight, and he and Reigns started brawling. As for where Sheamus went? Your guess is as good as mine. How’s that for top heel treatment?
So HHH and Reigns brawled, with Reigns delivering a Superman Punch to HHH. And HHH responded by selling it somewhat, then hit Reigns with a ring bell. HHH was ruthless, slamming Reigns head into the table again and again so much, it got a “Yes” chant going. HHH put punches to Reigns head, and he started juicing. This led to several referees coming down trying to pull HHH off. Instead, HHH pulled down the ring steps and gave Reigns a pedigree on the steps to mostly cheers. HHH actually did a crotch chop to Reigns and got cheered louder. Then he posed with the belt and the show went off the air with HHH like a rogue babyface, which is pretty much how he’s been booked when he’s a heel for the past decade.
This was some surreal booking for WrestleMania. Shane McMahon got a great one-time reaction tonight. So how does that carry over for six more weeks? They couldn’t get Alberto Del Rio over long enough for two weeks after his return. When did the Undertaker turn heel and join the Authority? Did I miss this angle? What is it that Shane holds over Vince’s head? There have been plenty of times over the past 15 years that a McMahon-driven storyline has gaping holes in the plotlines that the audience is supposed to have cleared up before the end. Except it almost never does, and I wouldn’t bet on it here. Plus, the company just did the storyline of Stephanie and HHH potentially being out of power only 18 months ago at Survivor Series. They returned a month later. And so what if Shane wins? Does that mean Raw will be a different show? Judging from the past, it makes the likelihood of guys from Jackass sequels showing up as guests, which isn’t how you build top heels.
The segment alone where Shane actually acknowledged the WWE’s falling rating was straight out of 1999 WCW. And I mean, like, taken word for word from an Eric Bischoff interview during Nitro in March of that year.
Then there’s the main event segment. The idea on paper was: with John Cena out of the equation, who do fans hate more than Reigns? HHH. Thus, Reigns can be cheered at the biggest show of the year. That idea isn’t working in practice. Reigns is the new John Cena. Females and kids cheer him. Everyone else boos him. That’s fine for the short-term. But in terms of getting fans emotionally invested in a character like they did Daniel Bryan, it’s not happening. HHH didn’t exactly help matters tonight, in that regard.