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WWE Raw preview (Feb. 19, 2018): Monster plans

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WWE sets up shop in Phoenix on Feb. 19, for the last Raw before their next pay-per-view (PPV).

The Headliner(s)

Sure, we’re doing the whole “jockeying for position” thing with the two Elimination Chamber matches which will happen at Elimination Chamber on Sunday, Feb. 25 in Paradise, Nevada. And that should be fun and cool and all, but does anyone think we’re going to learn anything particularly meaningful for either the seven-man gauntlet or the six-woman tag?

Not even trying to be snarky, as I’m actually kind of looking forward to Universal champion Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns stiffing the crap out of each other at WrestleMania 34, and I’m intrigued to see how tonight’s bout and the version of it which happens in a big steel and plexiglass monstrosity this weekend sets up possible programs for The Showcase of The Immortals. Will Chamber-related hostilities lead to Finn Bálor chasing The Miz and his Intercontinental title, or will The Demon get another shot at John Cena? Is someone going to confuse Seth Rollins for Elias (also, what are the ‘Mania plans for either of these two bearded hunks)? And, most importantly…

WHAT WILL BRAUN SMASH?!?!

You think I’m joking? Braun Strowman got his own sub-header on the official preview from WWE.com asking basically this question. And while we’ve discussed the creative challenge the popularity of The Monster Among Men’s escalating stunts poses for Raw, it’s a good problem to have. But it also brings up the question… if WWE is as dead set on Reigns vs. Lesnar on April 8, where can they put their extremely over hoss?

A program with Miz would make storyline sense based on their history, but still kind of feels like a step backwards, while also not presenting a terribly compelling match (except in that what Strowman would smash would be The A-Lister, and it is always fun to see a heel get thrashed). Braun just got down breaking a cello over Elias, but the former Drifter could cost him a shot at Lesnar and kick off something else for The Big Easy. Strowman could down a legend like Cena, or an underdog like Finn, or a former champ like Rollins… but none of those really feel right.

Because what you’d usually do with your most popular act heading into your biggest show would be to put them in the marquee match. And if they’re not doing that, I really don’t know.

The title scene

The first-ever Women’s Elimination Chamber match doesn’t have seven participants or an act like Braun, but it will be a defense for Women’s champ Alexa Bliss - and pose a few interesting questions of its own. Are we en route to a feud between Sasha Banks and Bayley, with or without a heel turn from either friend? Is the Mickie James/Bliss alliance from SmackDown making a comeback? Does WWE have much in the way of plans for Absolution with Paige out of action?

Injuries have finally done what nothing else could… get tag titleholders Cesaro and Sheamus new challengers. There weren’t a lot of teams ready to set into that role, however, so… it looks like The Revival’s win over former champs Gallows and Anderson may get them the job. As a big Dash and Dawson fan, that’s great! As someone who likes well thought out championship feuds, that’s… meh.

Lately, it’s been about 50/50 whether or not the division will work Monday nights these days, but just in case they announce a six-man tag for the pre-show this weekend… the first round of the Cruiserweight championship tournament is (almost) in the books. And maybe we’ll even get a bracket now that there are no more surprises coming!

Other stuff to keep an eye on:

- One of Sunday’s most interested match-ups pits Nia Jax against Asuka with a spot in the red brand’s ‘Mania Women’s title match on the line if Jax can break the Royal Rumble winner’s undefeated streak. A week after Nia Jax sent a message to The Empress by taking out Bayley and The Boss (and with rumors Asuka’s headed to SmackDown after Ronda Rousey signs her contract with the red brand this weekend), this is one where ‘go home’ posturing might give us some hints.

- Bray Wyatt got pinned by two dudes in last Monday’s main event. But at least he took out his rival Matt Hardy before that! The Woken One will probably have something to say about that, especially heading into a PPV with only three matches announced.

- Speaking of guys who lost in last week’s final match, am I the only one who gets really bummed thinking about how Akira Tozawa doesn’t get to hang out with his bud Apollo Crews and the rest of Titus Worldwide any more?

It’s the Elimination Chamber ‘go home’ show!

What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?