HEY HUNTER, DO I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION NOW? HEY ALEX, I JUST OBLITERATED YOUR NICE, TIDY, ALMOST-COMPLETE REVIEW. DO I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION NOW?
Yes, Batista! You’ve got my attention! You’ve got our attention!!!
Holy...okay. I wasn’t the only one expecting Becky Lynch to break out of jail for this segment, right? And sure, it’s been done ad nauseam and yes, it’s cliché. It still would have rocked and I expected WWE to go for it.
WWE did not go for it. They had something better.
Ric Flair’s 70th birthday celebration has been advertised for weeks now and it was rightfully the main event segment of our evenings. It featured the Raw roster on the stage and Flair’s colleagues Shawn Michaels, Ricky Steamboat, and Sting in the ring. WWE also made Flair a custom WWE World Heavyweight Championship for the occasion – and perhaps that should have been our first clue.
Because Dave freaking Batista broke into Ric Flair’s locker room and apparently beat the mess out of a 70 year-old man to send a message to Triple H. I thought everything about Batista’s 60 seconds of airtime was brilliant; the quick cut to him dragging a camera man down the hall, his attitude after beating a septuagenarian to a pulp, the flicker of a smile after screaming into the camera...GAH! I have goosebumps just describing it. This man went to Hollywood and now he can act his ass off.
Somehow, I didn’t get this spoiled for me before the show – and I’m sure spoilers were out there – and for that I’m eternally grateful. I’ve said it for weeks: WWE needs some big moments to kick this road to WrestleMania off right. We got three on one show.
...Oh. And by the way...Big Dave wore blue shades, a blue nose ring, and skinny jeans. For the gimmick.
Reigns is in Remission
Good grief, Batista got me to bump a dude announcing he’s recovered from cancer to second on my review list. Has hell chilled over?
Speaking of hell, HELL YES, Roman!!!! I remember writing the recap of the show where Reigns announced having cancer and it honestly made me emotional. The fact that he had cancer once and never brought it up, never used it as an easy “in” into the business told me everything I needed to know about him as a person. He’s someone to be admired.
That’s what I loved about his speech on this show. Reigns thanked the fans for a tremendous outpouring of support and made one really poignant claim. He said that for a lot of the younger wrestlers, it’s all about titles and accolades. That’s how he was in his first run. But after something like freaking cancer, you just want to be there every day. You want to give back to those who need you. And he wants to use his platform to give back.
THAT’S brilliant, from a humanitarian perspective as well as a storyline perspective. Because guess what Reigns did on this show? He helped someone in need.
Dean Ambrose has been...drifting. Floating aimlessly. Losing. Pick an adjective. Ever since Reigns first announced his fight with Leukemia, Ambrose has been a shell of himself. I know I mentioned this in the reviews at the time but it was my working theory that Ambrose turned villain because he had no idea how to cope with his grief for Roman. And he’s wandered aimlessly since then, down on his luck and lost in his own head.
That was the case on this show. He picked a fight with Elias for no reason, called Drew McIntyre out for a No DQ match, and promptly got ganged up on by all the villains in the world. Reigns and Seth Rollins came to his rescue, despite all the vile things Ambrose once said. They didn’t try to coddle him either; they both walked away and let Ambrose rise to his feet on his own power and a small smile broke out on his face.
Shield reunion? Shield reunion.
This show was so good that even trivial stuff like a thrown-together match featuring your usual suspects was fun. Ronda Rousey and Natalya fought the Riott Squad in what was essentially an excuse for Becky Lynch to come through the crowd swinging a crutch at the champion.
Their scuffle sent the (delightfully raucous) Atlanta crowd into a frenzy and the two had to be pulled apart by producers, agents, and the police. And true to Triple H’s threat, Lynch was escorted from the building in handcuffs.
Luckily, the storyline progression did not end there. Rousey was incensed – but not for the reasons you might think. It’s clear to her that Lynch is “the best of the best” and it drives her crazy that the McMahons won’t allow her to compete. That’s why Rousey’s here, after all; to fight the best. Otherwise, why should she care at all about the title.
And despite talking not being Rousey’s strongest attribute, THAT’S A VERY GOOD POINT RONDA. Rousey stood up to Stephanie McMahon doing the usual “how dare you I’m your boss” routine by dropping the title at Steph’s feet and walking away.
You have more power than you think, common folk. I mean...not that Rousey, a champion is “common” - look, you know what I meant. Stephanie and Triple H had a brief freak out moment backstage so this story should continue to provide some great stuff moving forward.
Aleister Black and Ricochet def. The Revival – I’m a huge fan of the video packages these guys got in lieu of commentary talking them up. It’s a much more succinct, interesting way to give backstory.
This match provided so much urgency and energy to start the show coming on the heels of Reigns’ announcement. These four really tried to maximize their time and hit some crazy stuff and it caused a slip up or two, but all four are so talented that even the missteps look good. The Black Mass is also starting to feel like Shawn Michaels’ Superkick, at this rate. Protect that move at all costs, WWE.
Elias gets interrupted a lot – Renee Young fawning over Lacey Evans was hysterical to me. And then Ambrose interrupted and acted as if Elias wasn’t even there. Ambrose hit Elias with a Dirty Deeds to end the segment, but Elias got him back later in the show.
Kurt Angle def. Jinder Mahal – This was a PERFECT Angle match nowadays. It was a feel-good (inc) moment where he got to hit all his stuff and win quickly. Mahal was pissed that no one invited him to Ric Flair’s celebration and directed an open challenge to anyone going to the party. Angle answered and destroyed him.
Finn Balor def. Lio Rush to retain the Intercontinental Championship – ...Okay, Alexa Bliss is intentionally parodying talk shows with all this over-the-top acting and flirtatious behavior, right? Balor matched her in all that silliness and Rush’s “this is bullshit” face is priceless.
This was a fun match and precisely why Balor has the potential to be an excellent Intercontinental Champion. He worked with a guy who’s generally seen as a sidekick and had a quality, fairly lengthy match that allowed the show to hit the reset button, so to speak. They gave Rush a ton of offense which I liked – he’s a talented guy and probably ought to be taken as more of a threat than he currently is. With that said, I don’t think this one was ever in doubt. Finn sells extremely well and his 1916 (and variations) need to be used so much more often.
Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley never happened – The two brawled but the bell never rang. Lashley was furious at Rush for getting a title shot against Balor instead of working to get Lashley one and it looks like this might’ve been the final straw for Lashley.
Don’t insult Otis? - The Ascension learned the hard way. And you know what? I’m all for it. That’s some actual character work for Heavy Machinery, of all people.
Bayley def. Nia Jax – This was probably my least favorite portion of the show. It was a fine match, it’s just...I’m sick of seeing these folks all fight each other and there was no hook like the Lynch stuff from earlier. With that said, beating Jax clean in a singles match is a big feather in Bayley’s cap.
This show was sooooo much better than anything else Raw’s put out all year. It’s insane and it’s also why I’m so frustrated when the product isn’t fun. The pacing was incredible, commentary didn’t oversell things, and every storyline had some sort of progression.
Between the trifecta of Roman Reigns, Batista, and The Man Becky Lynch, I give this show...
HEY LEUKEMIA, DO WE HAVE YOUR ATTENTION NOW? Suck it.