Live from ThunderDome!
We never got the celebration of new WWE champ Bobby Lashley last week. Raw switched up the card late in the day on Monday, and let the All Mighty beat The Miz up again instead.
Hey, everybody likes seeing The Miz get beat up, right?
You can’t beat Miz up forever, though. WWE will look to turn the page tonight, and they’re teasing the reveal of Lashley’s first real challenger. With less than a month to go until WrestleMania 37, whoever steps up tonight will likely still be involved when we get to the weekend of April 10 - 11.
Also on the Mar. 15 Raw, Lashley’s Hurt Business teammates Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin will defend their Raw Tag Team titles against The New Day’s Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods. There’s not much in the way of build-up here. Woods beat Benjamin in singles action last Monday, but before that the champs had been dealing with Lucha House Party while the Princes of Positivity killed time with RETRIBUTION.
Kofi & Xavier are pretty much in this position by default, as there aren’t any other established babyface tag teams on the red brand’s roster. Realizing that got me to thinking... are The Hurt Business really heels at this point?
MVP’s deal to help Miz cash-in on Drew McIntyre at Elimination Chamber is the clearest act of villainy they’ve committed in recent memory, and McIntyre reminded us of that in an interview last Monday before he got jumped by Sheamus. But that short-cut’s been overshadowed by how much fun it was to see the All Mighty beat up the A-Lister, and the real world excitement for Bobby’s big win as both a personal and historical achievement (and how cool the crew looks in suits).
The lack of a reason to hate The Hurt Business normally wouldn’t be a big deal. There’s nothing wrong with shades of gray storytelling and characters. It’s possible to build a hot feud between wrestlers who aren’t 100% good or evil.
But we’re close to the biggest show(s) of the year. There’s not enough time to turn this into Rock vs. Austin. And if there’s anything to rumors and speculation about what WWE hopes to accomplish at an event that is in many ways a do over for WrestleMania 36 from the Performance Center, they’d like to cement McIntyre as one of their big heroes at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium. I don’t think he’s gonna get a “Roman Reigns in 2017” reaction, but if he’s facing Lashley, I’d be surprised if the response to Drew winning the belt for the third time was anything better than mixed.
Perhaps pitting Cedric & Shelton against The New Day is part one of a plan to remind us that we’re supposed to dislike The Hurt Business. Or maybe they’re not worried about giving McIntyre a coronation moment.
We’ll start to find out tonight.
The title scene
That’s not the only place where WWE has its work cut out for it with only a month to the Show of Shows. It’s not even clear if Raw Women’s champion Asuka will be cleared to compete next month. They’ve started to have everyone on the roster make their case as a potential opponent or replacement, from Charlotte Flair to Peyton Royce, Mandy Rose, Dana Brooke, Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler.
Speaking of the WWE Women’s Tag titleholders they’ve got a defense coming up Sunday at Fastlane against Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair, and Naomi & Lana have a good case for a rematch after Reginald helped the champs retain last Monday. And while we’re on the subject of Reggie, Baszler doesn’t seem all that excited about her tag partners situationship.
Tonight, Mustafa Ali will take a break from complaining about his RETRIBUTION teammates, and doing the thankless work of trying to keep an enhancement talent gimmick interesting online, to challenge Riddle for the United States championship.
One month and counting on Bad Bunny’s 24/7 champion reign. Dios es bueno. He padded those stats by taking last Monday off, but he should be back soon to get the ‘Mania program with Miz going.
Other stuff to keep an eye on
- We’re really ready for The Fiend to return. It may not be any better than what we’ve been getting for the last few months as Alexa Bliss torments Randy Orton with black goo and doppelgängers, but it’s well past time to move on from all that.
- We’re already ready for WWE to move on from this Braun Strowman/Shane McMahon rivalry, but it’s just getting started. At least whatever they do tonight can’t be any stupider than what they did last week... right?
- Sheamus & McIntyre had their second straight slobberknocker last week. This feels like the set-up for The Bar 2.0, but maybe it’s setting the stage for a ‘Mania Triple Threat?
- It’d be neat if they could find something for AJ Styles to do. But then, the same can also be said for guys like Jeff Hardy, Ricochet, and poor, poor Andrade. While they’re working on that, maybe they can find Keith Lee?
It’s the Fastlane go home show!
What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?