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WWE Raw preview (April 23, 2018): Power Struggle

The new Raw roster hits St. Louis before flying to the Arabian Peninsula.

The Headliner(s)

The lack of ramifications for Ronda Rousey’s arm-breaking antics has been driving some folks crazy. It’s an odd inconsistency, and maybe a missed opportunity to explain away some training time for WWE’s newest Superstar. But it’s also just one front on what looks to be the latest authority figure angle from the company.

Rowdy’s partner at WrestleMania was Kurt Angle, who’s also the General Manager of Raw. Commissioner Stephanie McMahon may have been at home nursing the busted wing Rousey gave her, but that didn’t stop her from overruling her GM via email when it came to hiring Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. And if you’ve been following The ‘E’s Tuesday night show at all over the last year or so, you haven’t been able to miss how big of a pain in the ass that duo’s been to Steph’s brother, SmackDown commissioner Shane McMahon.

So, Kurt’s not only cozy with an enemy of The Authority, he’s pretty much the reason Ronda’s an enemy, since he revealed Stephanie and her husband, Triple H’s ulterior motives for hiring the former UFC champion. Now Steph’s taken a page out of her old man’s playbook, injecting a bit of nWo-like poison into her own show by forcing The YEP! Movement onto Angle.

As someone who’s more than leery of McMahon-family power struggles, I admit I’m intrigued. The investment they’ve made in Rousey makes this version one where The Billion Dollar Princess and The Game actually might be underdogs. KO and Sami can’t be counted on to not kill each other, let alone not bite the hand that feeds them. And I’m more than a little suspicious of the new Ronda ally Kurt just hired, Natalya...

Unlike Stephanie and Hunter’s feud with Mick Foley, Our Olympic Heroes might have a fighting chance against The Authority. If you’re committed to watching WWE, you’re never going to completely escape these types of stories. At least this one might have some new wrinkles and drama we haven’t seen since WrestleMania 30, or hell-raising Attitude Era.

Of course, Shane and Daniel Bryan’s feud with Owens and Zayn looked interesting, too. And it lead to a match with stakes... that WWE overruled a week later.

Save us, Ronda.

The title scene

There’s more than one former UFC champ advertised for Scottrade Center. Universal champion Brock Lesnar will be here for the first time since he unexpectedly retained his title in New Orleans, and that means Roman Reigns will need to come up with a line other than “Brock didn’t come to work tonight”. At least he probably won’t have new SmackDown Superstar Samoa Joe showing up to make fun of him. Lesnar and Reigns have a steel cage match on Friday in Saudi Arabia. Tonight, Paul Heyman will probably talk about that.

Speaking of Joe, he may be gone, but in addition to his Backlash match with Roman, he still has a chance to take the Intercontinental title with him to the blue brand. Can Seth Rollins climb the ladder in Jeddah before the Samoan Submission Machine and fellow SmackDown transplant The Miz beat him to it? Of course, there’s another way the white-and-gold strap can stay with Raw: Finn Bálor could take it from The Kingslayer.

One of the teams who will fight for the Raw tag belts are now on SmackDown’s roster. The Superstar Shakeup makes things weird. Our money is still on Woken Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt to beat Cesaro and Sheamus on Friday, but who knows.

She doesn’t have to worry about a match at Greatest Royal Rumble, but we guess Women’s champ Nia Jax is gonna have a rematch with Alexa Bliss at some point. Since ‘Mania, she’s mostly palled around with Ember Moon, evening up the numbers disadvantage brought by Little Miss Bliss and her pal, Mickie James. still lists this division as part of Raw’s roster, so this is where I’m gonna cover it. Cedric Alexander is Cruiserweight champion. Buddy Murphy didn’t make weight last Tuesday. There will be a gauntlet match (that probably will be won by Drew Gulak or Mustafa Ali) tomorrow on 205 Live to find out who Ced makes his first title defense against in Saudi Arabia.

Oh yeah! Jinder Mahal is here, but he didn’t get to keep the United States Title he brought with him. He can win it back from Jeff Hardy at Greatest Royal Rumble, though. It seems more likely he’s headed for a feud with No Way Joe, though.

Other stuff to keep an eye on:

- We all figured either Sasha Banks or Bayley would head to Team Blue in the Shakeup, but they got jumped by Riott Squad after Ruby, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan made the jump from SmackDown instead. Will the frenemies team back up to get revenge against the faction from NXT?

- He’s here for the “big matches”. Does that include Elias? Because it seems like Bobby Lashley’s first walk of his second WWE run might be with the former Drifter.

- Did we mention that things can get weird after the Superstar Shakeup? Here’s a couple other examples: Braun Strowman seems to be directionless. Also, Bobby Roode is here.

Two weeks until Backlash - and it’s the Greatest Royal Rumble ‘go home’ show!

What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?

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