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WWE Raw preview (Mar. 29, 2021): Show strength

Live from ThunderDome!

The Headliner

Many jokes have been made about WWE champ Bobby Lashley tasking the Raw locker room’s job squad with taking down Drew McIntyre. It’s part of a storyline whereby The All Mighty is looking to weaken McIntyre ahead of their WrestleMania 37 showdown on April 10. Last week, in addition to offering Drew Gulak, Akira Tozawa & friends a bounty, it featured Lashley’s Hurt Business teammates/underlings Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin being sacrificed in a handicap match to the big Scot.

It’s being done to make it clear Bobby isn’t the good guy in his ‘Mania story. Since he beat consummate heel Miz for the belt, because his behind-the-scenes story is inspirational (and aspirational), and because wrestling fans tend to get restless when WWE pushes a babyface the way they have Drew over the past year or so, it’s tempting to cheer for Lashley. Showing him soliciting dishonorable advantages to help him keep his belt, and berating two friends who helped him win it in the first place, makes it clear Bob’s the baddie.

Which is fine. Wrestling almost always works better with a clearly defined hero and villain, and it’s understandable WWE would be a little nervous about this as they get ready to perform in front of a live in-person crowd for the first time in year. They haven’t made this terribly clear on-screen, but it also makes sense in the story. Lashley hasn’t lost a singles feud since he failed to take the title from McIntyre last summer. Despite a dominant run since, it’s natural he’d have some doubt, and be looking to tip the scales in his favor.

A lot of people either weren’t watching those early pandemic era shows or don’t remember them, though. We should at least be reminded there’s a reason why The Hurt Business’ CEO is employing Miz-like tactics heading into ‘Mania. Or... WWE could just take a different approach to making Lashley less likeable.

Confidence may be sexy, but arrogance is a turn-off. In general, people like to see a braggart taken down a peg. From Gorgeous George to Floyd Mayweather, someone who tells you about how great they are, and flaunts their success is going to get heat from much of the audience. And if WWE isn’t confident the champ can pull off Conor McGregor-esque promos? That’s what MVP is there for!

Some of that approach should at least be mixed in with the current storyline, especially if the plan is to have Lashley lose to McIntyre. The All Mighty’s rise over the past year is impressive, but if the audience’s impression of him coming out of WrestleMania 37 is a chicken$#!+ who had a short title reign... it will have been mostly for naught.

You’re never going to convince everyone to boo him anyway. But you’ll get at least as many by making him cocky & conniving as you will by having him act cowardly... and he’ll be a much more useful character down the road, too.

The title scene

Asuka’s back, and tonight she’ll sign the contract to defend her Raw Women’s championship against Rhea Ripley on night one at Raymond James Stadium. That will go as these things tend to. Will we see any signs of Ripley playing a heel, as she was rumored to be?

Raw Tag Team champions The New Day seem to have the upper hand on their ‘Mania opponents. First they proved their better friends than AJ Styles & Omos, then Kofi Kingston picked up a singles victory over Styles. We’ll see if that holds when we inevitably get an Xavier Woods vs. AJ or Omos match.

Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler continue to run through potential WWE Women’s Tag title challengers, and Jax’s antics with Reginald continue to make Baszler (and most of us) roll our eyes.

After taking a scooter to the bread basket last Monday, Riddle will face Sheamus tonight. It should be good, which is cool because it’s almost certainly a prelude to a rematch for Bro’s United States championship on the Grandest Stage of Them All.

One week and counting on R-Truth’s 51st run as 24/7 champion. God is good.

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- It doesn’t appear Randy Orton can beat The Fiend without setting him on fire, and setting him on fire doesn’t kill him. Excited for their WrestleMania match?

- Shane McMahon says Braun Strowman can pick whatever kind of match he wants for their night one showdown. If he doesn’t pick “Speed, Mayhem, and Murder on the Strowman Express”, we riot.

- Where do you go after each guy has smashed a guitar over the other one? We’ll find out as the Bad Bunny/Miz feud marches on to ‘Mania.

Two weeks until WrestleMania 37!

What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?

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