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WWE Raw preview (April 5, 2021): Double down

On tape from Tropicana Field ThunderDome!

The Headliner

Does this year’s WrestleMania - coming up in just five days - feature a bunch of stories that suck? Or do they rule? Does the long history behind a handful of them change outshine scattershot booking in others?

Opinions vary. With five hours of pre-recorded shows to air before the opening bell at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, WWE doesn’t have much time to turn the negative ones into positive ones.

Which is why they shouldn’t even try.

Don’t get me wrong. We’ll get a big push for this weekend’s shows on the April 5 Raw, most of them focused on getting people to sign up for WWE Network’s new domestic streaming home, Peacock. WWE will remind us the April 10 - 11 will have actual people in actual seats for the first time in more than a year. Celebrities will be name-dropped, and their always top-notch video packages will air.

There’s just not much in the way of course correction that can be done. As we’ve seen over the last couple weeks with the poorly received Hurt Business break-up angle, any surprises or big story twists will probably turn off as many people as they intrigue.

So, keep it simple. Focus on the actual conflict that’s driving these fights with predetermined outcomes. Accentuate what’s worked for the portion of the audience a given program is designed to serve, and accept that not every feud on a 12 - 14 match card is going to serve everyone.

If there is a swerve coming (e.g. the much hoped for reveal that The Hurt Business split was just to get around the stipulation that Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin can’t be ringside for Saturday’s co-main event), why give it away tonight? Tease it, sure. But save the surprise for the Grandest Stage of Them All.

WWE has a habit of needlessly complicating things, or thinking more is always better. That’s not always the case, and the additional bells & whistles often serve to distract from a generally solid core offering.

Friday’s SmackDown is essentially a ‘Mania pre-show, and should therefore avoid the trap. We’ll see if they can resist temptation to muddy the waters tonight.

The title scene

What they’ve announced for the WWE championship program is a continuation of the past two weeks worth of drama. Heading into his defense this weekend, Bobby Lashley will tangle with ousted Hurt Business associate Cedric Alexander, while King Corbin attempts to take out Lashley’s WrestleMania challenger Drew McIntyre. If Corbin is successful, he’ll collect the bounty of a future WWE title shot.

After Rhea Ripley finished their contract signing by flipping a table in her face, Raw Women’s champ Asuka will be looking to remind The Nightmare that no one is ready for her. She’ll get a chance when they team up to try and win the WWE Women’s Tag Team championship from Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax. After that predictably breaks down, we should get the one addition to this weekend’s card that makes sense. The seeds are planted for the rumored night one multi-team #1 contenders match, and for potential Reginald-inspired issues between Jax & Baszler when they defend the belts on night two.

The best thing anyone can do in the feud between Raw Tag Team titleholders The New Day and AJ Styles & Omos is not play any games. I mean, how do you top charades as a way to sell a WrestleMania match? Xavier Woods and Styles are set to lock-up again tonight. No word on a Pictionary rematch.

Like a good babyface, Riddle attacked Sheamus last week after the Celtic Warrior won a non-title match to earn a WrestleMania rematch with the United States title on the line. Alignment jokes aside, whatever keeps these dudes pissed ahead of what should be a kick ass Sunday night showdown is fine by me.

Two weeks and counting on R-Truth’s 51st run as 24/7 champion. The Night Panther looms, however.

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- The big question in the Randy Orton/The Fiend/Alexa Bliss story is... are we really doing this as a straight-up wrestling match? Asking folks who paid $100s of dollars (or more) or tickets to watch a cinematic match isn’t ideal, but after voodoo spells and fiery resurrections, can you really pay it off with a referee counting 1 - 2 - 3?

- Miz wants respect from Bad Bunny. I don’t think he’s going to get it.

- Not only will Braun Strowman run through anyone he needs to in order to get his hands on Shane McMahon, there will be choo choo sound effects when he does so.

- Seeing as there are a lot of Raw Superstars in Friday’s Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal, a big brawl seems likely for some point.

It’s the WrestleMania 37 go home show!

What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?

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