Live from ThunderDome!
Three weeks out from their biggest event of the year, and Raw Women’s champion Asuka is without a clear challenger.
Some of that is due to her recent injury. The dental work she needed (and likely concussion she suffered) while she & Charlotte Flair were challenging Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler for their WWE Women’s Tag titles back in February kept her on the shelf for a couple weeks. But the Empress returned last week, and paid Baszler back for the role she played in causing those injuries.
Her partner played a role too, though. And the week after Asuka lost a tooth, Flair made a speech about wanting to challenge her partner & rival at WrestleMania 37. Then the Queen was off television for a couple weeks.
Now, it would make sense to keep her off TV while her ‘Mania opponent was on the disabled list. And Charlotte is undoubtedly a busy woman with Hollywood aspirations that may be becoming a reality. But something else happened during those two weeks - her fiancé Andrade asked for, and was reportedly denied, his release from WWE. Before he was granted his release, Flair disappeared from some of WWE’s promotional materials for the the Showcase of the Immortals.
Did that ever mean anything about her status with the company? We’ll likely never know for sure. But if she returns tonight to resume setting up a WrestleMania 34 rematch, speculation will be that Charlotte used her stroke to get Andrade released.
It’s not like WWE was without options, either. There’s certainly enough heat from their recent strong style run-ins for an Asuka/Baszler feud. More likely, the debut of former NXT and NXT UK Women’s champ Rhea Ripley was announced for tonight’s show. The Nightmare could have, and still could, set-up nicely as a ‘Mania challenger. They figure to coronate another black-and-gold brand star in SmackDown’s Women’s title match. Why not two?
Hard to tell where Ripley fits into the scheme of things otherwise. She could face either of the tag champs, but despite retaining the titles at Fastlane over Team Blue’s aforementioned WrestleMania foes Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair, Nia & Shayna seem to be on track for a Reginald-fueled break-up of their own. Or they could opt for a slower build and have beat up some undercarders. Most of those are babyfaces and Rhea was a face herself when her NXT run ended, but those issues can easily be addressed.
They could, of course, just do another Triple Threat at ‘Mania. WWE loves multi-women ‘Mania matches, and Ripley & Flair have history from last year’s show, where Charlotte used her Royal Rumble win to take the young Australian’s NXT title.
It’ll be very interesting to see what the Women’s title scene looks like after tonight’s show.
The title scene
After Drew McIntyre channeled William Wallace to again beat Sheamus at Fastlane, it’s full speed ahead for a WrestleMania showdown with Bobby Lashley for the WWE championship.
Lashley’s Hurt Business teammates lost the Raw Tag Team titles to The New Day’s Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods. Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin will probably get a rematch at some point, but ya boys are already booked to defend the belts against AJ Styles & Omos at ‘Mania.
Not only is Riddle still the United States champion after last night’s PPV, he’s also got some great ideas for a scooter customization business. Hopefully that doesn’t leave him too busy for the weekend of April 10 - 11... not that he has a challenger lined up after beating Ali again.
12-ish hours and counting on R-Truth’s 51st run as 24/7 champion. God is good.
Other stuff to keep an eye on
- The three months he took off after Randy Orton set him on fire weren’t enough to heal The Fiend’s burns. It was time to rip through the mat and attack the Viper anyway. That allowed Alexa Bliss to pick up a win over Orton. Now we start hoping the inevitable ‘Mania match is more Firefly Fun House than House of Horrors.
- He ducked his Fastlane match against Braun Strowman, but Shane McMahon’s chosen replacement didn’t fare very well. This stupid feud will continue.
- Former 24/7 champ Bad Bunny is gonna want to have words with The Miz after the A-Lister broke Elias’ guitar over the Grammy winner’s back last Monday.
- RETRIBUTION is in shambles after Ali’s latest loss to Riddle. Is whatever’s next going to be any better for RECKONING, T-BAR, MACE or SLAPJACK?
It’s the Fastlane fallout show / three weeks until WrestleMania 37!
What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?