Can @CodyRhodes trust ANYBODY?!?!?#WWERaw pic.twitter.com/0lHIcSrAmJ— WWE (@WWE) April 4, 2023
The Raw after Mania brings certain high expectations. Sometimes too high, but WWE set that bar pretty consistently. While they do that fake season premiere crap in the fall, this is the real season premiere. This Raw sets the template for the rest of the year with new stories, new feuds, and a clean slate for everyone. The show’s unpredictability breeds excitement because what person doesn’t like new toys?
This particular Raw after Mania felt dull, slow, unimaginative, and hardly necessary. But we’ll get to that later in drips and drabs. The big hook for this show is Brock Lesnar effectively turning heel and treating Cody Rhodes like those dudes treated Ricky in Boyz n the Hood. How did we get there? Glad you asked.
The show kicked off with Roman Reigns basking in the afterglow of another victory. Cody hit the ring and demanded a rematch. The champ, through his counsel, said nah. Cody, who wanted static with Solo Sikoa as well based on Solo interfering at WrestleMania, challenged the both of them to a tag match because he wanted anything. Cody begging the champ for a match is certainly a choice, but it fits Cody’s character and he’s pretty teflon at this point. Begging for something on behalf of the people only ingratiates him more.
The champ agreed to the tag match but only if Cody finds a partner who wrestled on WrestleMania Night two and the person understands that they will never get a shot at the Undisputed Universal championship so long as Roman remains the champ. Well, that narrowed the potential partners down to one.
THIS IS REAL LIFE.#RawAfterMania pic.twitter.com/aLcZVxc46s— WWE (@WWE) April 4, 2023
Brock hit the ring and I felt uneasy. To paraphrase Sincere in Belly, Brock is a livelier and can be ill when he wants. Brock will hug you just as soon as he’ll hit you with a chair. But he shook Cody’s hand and we got a match. Brock had nothing to lose because he hates Roman and can’t challenge Roman for the title anymore anyway after their SummerSlam 2022 match. So, yeah, this made sense.
We got some hints at dissension between Paul Heyman and Roman as the champ questioned whether the Wise Man knew about Brock. Heyman hilariously pointed out that Brock normally takes months off after Mania and leaves Heyman high and dry, so of course he didn’t expect this. Reigns sounded convinced, then said smashing Brock is kinda his thing anyway, so one more time won’t hurt. But he set up the match as a true test for Solo. Roman’s still in his feelings about Cody defeating Solo.
Despite Solo saving Roman’s championship at WrestleMania, the Tribal Chief still wants the Street Champ to prove himself. If I’m Solo, that rubs me all types of wrong ways. And maybe it does but in the moment, he played the good soldier role. Especially since Roman Solo’s older brothers home early.
And with that, we headed into what WWE billed as the biggest main event in Raw history, and certainly the biggest tag team match in Raw history. Only it never happened. Right after the introductions, Brock spent about 20 minutes beating Cody into a pulp. Chair shots, suplexes, shots to Cody’s injured ribs, and of course an F5 on top of the steel steps. Adam Pearce and the rest of his Keystone Cops eventually made Brock relent but the Beast left them, and the audience, with a clear message in the form of the double bird as Raw ended.
Stone Cold Steve Austin he ain’t.
Now, besides wondering why Brock did it, I felt nothing. The show to that point built no momentum. No NXT call-ups, no new major feuds of which I should care, and then the bait and switch on the tag match. WWE laid a lot of track for that tag match with Reigns & Solo foreshadowing some beef, Jimmy & Jey getting their walking papers for the night, and just the fact Brock detests Roman. Not saying they won’t “finish this story” and give a reason because of course they will. I just need a really compelling reason for Brock dismantling Cody over Roman.
Why did @BrockLesnar just DESTROY @CodyRhodes on #RawAfterMania? pic.twitter.com/yxOanZoZ3C— WWE (@WWE) April 4, 2023
That felt like a theme tonight too: why? Why waste the Street Profits’ title shot already? Why give Damage CTRL two losses back-to-back? Why tease Rhea Ripley vs. Bianca Belair rather than give the champs new challengers? Why not infuse the show with new blood? And why on everything that is holy do they give us Omos vs. Elias as the first match on this episode?
After a stupendous weekend and a new beginning for the company, Raw seemed like an afterthought.
Operation Lock Down
After an eventful and exciting opening, Raw shifted gears and slowed down a bit for Omos vs. Elias. Even if you didn’t see it you know how this ended and you get the gist.
Justice 4 Elias!
The World is Yours
WHAT DID WE JUST WITNESS?!@sanbenito just got chokeslammed through the #WWERaw announce table on #RawAfterMania! pic.twitter.com/ala7TYu36c— WWE (@WWE) April 4, 2023
Austin Theory felt himself this week. Rey Mysterio came out for adulation and a mini victory lap after his storied WrestleMania weekend. Theory, for basketball reasons and general bullying, challenged Rey. I guess Austin fancies himself the new legend killer after “defeating” John Cena.
I enjoyed the match quite a bit though because Rey is Rey and Theory keeps getting better in-ring and as a heel. Of course, this really just set the stage for Ex-Con Dom’s entrance.
Dom interfered and helped Theory get the W. So in a couple days, Theory has victories over Cena and Mysterio, Cheap victories yes, but still victories that work in his favor.
Dom attacked Bad Bunny, who sat ringside, wanting a little revenge for Bunny interfering at Mania. Bunny had all the smoke for Dom and laid him out with a hell of a punch. But, sadly, that same punch didn’t land on Damian Priest. The big man dragged Bunny over the barricade and Choke Slammed him through the commentary table.
Good action and good continuation on the foundation laid at WrestleMania. Rey & Bad Bunny vs. Damian & Dom? Sign me up because that has the makings of a very fun match with an even better build. Especially since Dom and Bunny are boys. Father against son, homie against homie.
Give Up the Goods (Just Step)
The #StreetProfits already put @FightOwensFight & @SamiZayn to the test on #RawAfterMania! pic.twitter.com/m0DsrCzMLT— WWE (@WWE) April 4, 2023
I’m torn on Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens’ first tag team title defense. On one hand, they and the Street Profits put on an incredible match that showcased chemistry, fluidity, and more than enough reasons why we need more than one battle between these four.
But then there’s the fact that the Street Profits took their best shot this early and missed. After surviving their WrestleMania battle, they felt they deserved a shot at the champs. And they did. But they didn’t answer when destiny called. While this provided an incredible first title defense for the new champs and showed they know each other just as well as Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford know each other, I wonder what this does for the Profits of the Street.
Their last few tag title defenses ended in close but no cigar fashion so at what point do they either stop trying or just disband? There’s always some hotter team or better story in front of them: The Usos, RK-Bro, and now Sami & KO. I’ve never been a bridesmaid but I imagine constantly playing that role and never the bride gets tiresome. Right now, the Street Profits are constant bridesmaids in search of someone to put a ring on it.
Ali picked the wrong moment. Bobby Lashley, fresh off a disappointing WrestleMania where he simply showed up and smiled, Bronson Reed poked the bear. After Reed insulted Lashley and bounced, Ali showed up with his whole positive gimmick. Lashley snapped because of course, and dragged Ali out the locker room area into the ring. A ref showed up, the bell dinged, and Lashley got a very quick win.
Lashley vs. Bronson Reed has potential. That’s a lot of meat and a lot of slapping. But this thing with Ali and Lashley? For the Raw After Mania? No thanks.
Even worse? This followed Seth Rollins simply coming to the ring and letting the crowd sing his song. That’s it.
Extinction Level Event
This might be it for Damage CTRL. They suffered another big loss following their WrestleMania loss. This time, Raquel Gonzalez & Liv Morgan gave them the L, which hurt doubly since a shot at the tag team championships hung in the balance.
This ultimately functioned as a Raquel showcase, as she got the big moments through bullying Dakota Kai & IYO SKY. Kai & SKY looked out of sorts in the ring with Raquel. I do wish we got some meaningful interplay between Raquel and Dakota just because there’s so much history there. But I can’t get excited for Raquel & Liv vs. Lita & Becky Lynch next week.
But here’s the really weird thing: Rhea Ripley interrupted Bianca Belair’s promo before this match. Rhea interrupting isn’t weird on its own, but the fact both women acknowledged a future battle between them...some day. That made it weird. Rather than setting up an immediate challenger for either champion, we got foreshadowing to something that has no meaning at this moment. I pontificated about Bianca’s next challenger and the fact there’s no immediate candidate. Maybe this little business between the two champs acknowledges that fact and just put them both on TV until all those cooks in the writer’s kitchen figure it out.
Going Back to Cali
Miz got upset about surprises and the whooping he took at WrestleMania. Right on cue, Matt Riddle made his return. Miz went for the sneak attack, Riddle recovered and turned Miz into a punching bag.
Raw disappointed me big time this week. Coming off two very dope nights of wrestling, I expected a lot more than a plodding show with no rhythm and very little important happenings. Maybe they're saving the firepower for SmackDown now but when you specifically label something “Raw After WrestleMania” and make it a big deal, then I expect a show worthy of that hype.
Those are my feelings, right or wrong. Your turn.