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WWE Raw preview (Mar. 8, 2021): Smash and gab

Live from ThunderDome!

The Headliner

You’d have a hard time convincing someone who just started watching, but if we turn the clock back to 2017 - Braun Strowman was the hottest guy in wrestling.

A few years of bad booking decisions and a couple runs at the top that exposed how limited he is as a performer, and we have the less charismatic Big Show we see on television right now.

WWE is trying to recapture some of Braun’s old magic with one of their old tricks. Since moving to Raw after his feud with Bray Wyatt last summer, they’ve worked to present the Monster Among Men as an alignment neutral character who’s mostly just here to kick ass. Stopping him from moving up the card so he can kick more ass is Shane McMahon.

Over the course of McMahon’s latest return to our screens, he’s not only helped to keep Strowman out of some big matches, he’s started to act more and more like the egomaniac he’s been so many times in the past. For example, in the course of booking Braun in a tag match with Adam Pearce last week, he told us about the MBA classes he’s been taking. One includes a text on conflict management that he said is way beyond Strowman’s reading level.

During the Raw Tag Team championship match that followed, Shane made Strowman tag in Pearce to teach him a lesson in communication. The Hurt Business’ Shelton Benjamin & Cedric Alexander retained their titles as a result, and now Braun wants an apology from Shane O’Mac.

This is supposedly leading to a Strowman vs. McMahon showdown at WrestleMania 37 next month. It’s a decent enough idea - I don’t know what you’d do with either man otherwise, plus the story has its roots in Shane’s Raw Underground segments from last summer, and Braun’s suspension for headbutting Pearce a few months back. I don’t want to discourage WWE creative from using the past as storytelling fodder.

But I just don’t see fighting a McMahon-led authority as a way to make folks care about Braun again. He’s not Stone Cold Steve Austin or Becky Lynch or Daniel Bryan, as a performer or as a character. His appeal is that he smashes thing, not that he’s an everyman. He’s the Hulk, not Spider-Man. There’s also not much history of Strowman being denied opportunities. What there is has been manufactured during the last six months.

Putting him out there for talking segments with Shane - which based on the McMahon feud blueprint and tonight’s “demanding an apology” segment is the plan - is just going to further expose how one note his mic game is.

I don’t know how you get back to the days of crowds popping for Strowman run-ins from before he lost to Roman Reigns a lot and won the tag belts with a child. But this ain’t it.

The title scene

What was it, both in terms of ratings success and a feel good moment for a guy who’s been grinding in the scripted fight game for a long time, was Bobby Lashley’s WWE title win over The Miz. His faction-mates MVP, Alexander & Benjamin will lead the Lashley celebration tonight. The uninvited guests will probably reveal the new champ’s challengers at this month’s Fastlane PPV... and beyond. After he won a slobberknocker over Sheamus last week, Drew McIntyre figures to be one of them.

While Raw Women’s champ Asuka is out recuperating from a rough night on Feb. 22, rivals are lining up for their shot. Her former tag partner Charlotte Flair put herself at the front of the line, of course.

Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler also want in on that action, but they also have to worry about their WWE Women’s Tag Team championship. The duo have defenses lined up against SmackDown’s Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair at Fastlane, and at some point against Raw’s Lana & Naomi.

It’s a good thing United States titleholder Riddle has his Lucha Bros Lince Dorado & Gran Metalik to watch his back, because it looks like he’s feuding with Mustafa Ali & RETRIBUTION.

Three weeks and counting on Bad Bunny’s 24/7 champion reign. Dios es bueno. Miz probably isn’t feeling as grateful, but he & John Morrison should replace Elias & Jaxson Ryker as the guys Bunny & Damian Priest are beefing with soon. Maybe that will cheer the A-Lister up after his second WWE title reign ended in an embarrassing disaster.

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- We still haven’t seen The Fiend since Randy Orton burned him up at TLC, but Alexa Bliss did conjure another Orton last week. If anyone’s ready for Randy, it’s Randy. It certainly wasn’t Soulja Boy.

- Rhea Ripley is coming!

Two weeks until Fastlane!

What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?

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