For all the well-documented disdain among WrestleMania’s newly-minted main-eventers — open Twitter if you dare — Ronda Rousey, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair’s shared path to their historic moment has been defined primarily by their distance between each other. With Rousey savaging challengers and security guards on Raw and Becky and Charlotte trading barbs on SmackDown LIVE, it’s been difficult for any competitor to establish the upper hand, so Raw’s Beat the Clock Challenge (short version: fastest victory wins) provided an opportunity for one of these women to separate from the pack.
In the end, Becky Lynch got the leg up by posting the fastest victory and raining on what was looking like a perfect opportunity for Rousey to display her dominance over her two challengers. After all, The Baddest Woman on the Planet’s victories have gotten nastier, more brutish and shorter since she broke bad a few weeks ago; despite not knowing what a Beat the Clock Challenge was, she quickly got the gist of it and submitted Sarah Logan in 1:25. Charlotte was knocked out of the running when she couldn’t defeat Ruby Riott any quicker than that, and despite taking a frustrated big boot from The Queen, Lynch topped Rousey’s time by just seven seconds with a jackknife pin of Liv Morgan. Rousey didn’t seem all that impressed by Lynch winning a match where nothing was at stake, but just because nothing was on the line, it doesn’t mean it was meaningless: If there was a lesson to be learned, it’s that Becky can end a match just as quickly as Ronda can — if not quicker.
The abolition of automatic rematch clauses has forced deposed champions to work a little harder for a little longer to get another crack at the titles they lost. Finn Bálor, it appears, has fulfilled that new mandate with two consecutive victories over Bobby Lashley, and now he gets an Intercontinental Title bout at WrestleMania for his efforts.
Anyone looking for a caveat would point out that Bálor sent himself to MetLife Stadium on the strength of a Handicap Match win, but the argument holds a little less water when you consider the last-second change — Lashley was supposed to compete alongside Lio Rush, but an injury to the hype man subbed in Jinder Mahal — and the astonishing amount of variables that it brought. Between Lashley, Mahal, Rush and The Singh Brothers, Bálor wasn’t fighting one-on-two so much as one-on-five, so it’s hard to find fault with the sequence that brought him the win: An over-the-top-rope plancha to all five Superstars on the outside, and a Coup de Grâce to The Maharaja for the win.
Of course, Lashley did find fault, dropping Mahal and The Singhs with a ruthless post-match attack. And that might make The All Mighty feel a little better in the short run. But it won’t change the result or make the new challenger any less deserving.
The Revival’s Raw Tag Team Title reign has been a story of coming through in the clutch when it matters and getting caught unaware when it doesn’t, mostly at the hands of Aleister Black & Ricochet. The “Top Guys’” personal boogeymen struck again on Raw, handing the champions yet another non-title defeat that was so impressive that Dash & Dawson felt the need to remind the WWE Universe who runs the roost around here.
The victory was doubly impressive by virtue of the way Black & Ricochet got there. Not only did Black grind his way out of one of Dash & Dawson’s patented, cut-the-ring-in-half gameplans, but he maneuvered The Revival into a rare error by charging them both into their opponents’ corner and dropping both champions at once with Black Mass. Ricochet sealed the deal with a 630 to Dash Wilder, and while The Revival’s post-match insistence that they be announced as still the Raw Tag Team Champions may seem on its face like a flex, it gets a little shakier the longer you look at it: After all, Black & Ricochet have gone past upstarts and moved into the territory of a legitimate threat. If you were The Revival, you’d want a different note to end the night on, too.
Drew McIntyre challenged Roman Reigns to a fight at WrestleMania, but he begged Joe Anoa’i to turn him down for the sake of his family. It appears both sides of The Big Dog seemed to accept, with the former Universal Champion sufficiently goaded by The Scottish Psychopath’s boasts of destroying The Shield, and the family man behind the vest throwing the first punch in defense of his family. But accepting this challenge might be to their shared detriment: Reigns had McIntyre on the ropes, riding the high of his frustration, but the towering Scot cut the onslaught short with a low blow that brought Reigns to his knees and a Claymore that put him on his back. The Scottish Psychopath played his WrestleMania card perfectly by appealing to both sides of Reigns’ personality, but The Big Dog may have underestimated his now-opponent’s cruelty: The truth is, Drew McIntyre doesn’t care which Reigns shows up to The Showcase of the Immortals. They’re all the same to him.
Beth Phoenix hasn’t officially come out of retirement yet, and that might be the best thing for Sasha Banks & Bayley. About the only conclusion to come out of Banks’ otherwise inconclusive rematch against Natalya — and the equally shifting WWE Women’s Tag Team Title picture — was that The Glamazon does, indeed, still got it: When Nia Jax & Tamina crashed the match and handed Banks a disqualification win with a boot to the face, Phoenix went to work, singlehandedly taking down the “Samoan Slaughterhouse” and administering a Glam Slam to Tamina. (Pointedly, she also placed her boot on Sasha's title as The Boss tried to take it out of the ring.)
Perhaps The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection were initially excited by the idea of a past-vs-present exhibition, or maybe even a nostalgia match from Phoenix. That feeling has obviously turned to frustration, as the champions pointedly offered to face Beth & Natalya, Nia & Tamina, and even their SmackDown LIVE rivals The IIconics at WrestleMania, as well as anybody else who wanted to challenge them. But they might do well to be less hasty: If that bout comes to pass, they may well find they have severely misjudged the situation.
The WWE Universe been operating under the assumption that Braun Strowman can’t really be called off once he gets on a tear — you either give him what he wants and hope it’s enough, or something else catches his eye and he decides to go after that instead. But Alexa Bliss, truly, has cracked the code: Not only did The Goddess somehow stop Strowman from pursuing a vendetta against Colin Jost and Michael Che of “SNL” fame, but she did so in a way that also gave The Monster Among Men exactly what he wanted.
In a satellite interview with Che & Jost that quickly turned contentious — Jost asked Braun to pay him back for the car he destroyed plus interest and get him an autograph from Brock Lesnar — Strowman offered a compromise: That Jost throw his hat into the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal and hope that The Monster Among Men wouldn't be able to get to him, as opposed to take his chances backstage where he would definitely not be safe. Jost would only accept the deal if Che joined him, and Alexa, seizing upon her authority as host, made it happen. And lest Jost & Che think of bailing on WrestleMania altogether, Strowman offered a truly frightening alternative: That he would find them, somewhere, someday, on the streets of New York, and they would be left to wonder exactly when that would be.
Baron Corbin enjoys ruining people’s nights, and WrestleMania is an all-time opportunity for the former United States Champion, Money in the Bank contract winner and “Boston’s favorite son.” He has a chance to retire Kurt Angle with a loss, thus administering the ultimate insult to the Olympian and the WWE Universe. The Lone Wolf seems like he’s in a better position to do that than he’s perhaps given credit for. Not only did Crews defeat Angle admirer Apollo Crews, he did so in fairly decisive fashion by catching the five-tool player with an End of Days right when Crews started to roll. Corbin rubbed it in, too, administering the maneuver a second time after the match just for the fun of it and perhaps to send a message: Win, lose or draw, Angle may not be afforded the respect of a dignified exit.
Does Seth Rollins have a prayer of defeating Brock Lesnar? Paul Heyman thinks not. The Beast’s advocate had little respect for Rollins’ promise to take the Universal Title in the name of the fans he says will be his “army” in spirit, and little thought for the notion of a “Handicap Match” in which Rollins fights alongside the entire WWE Universe. After all, they have nothing to offer except “thoughts and prayers,” and as far as Heyman is concerned, Rollins’ big game has been a smokescreen to distract from the fact that he’s got nothing.
After asking Rollins and the audience not to take it personally when Lesnar wins at WrestleMania, Heyman found himself literally falling over while trying to evade a pursuing Rollins. The Kingslayer had no interest in throwing down with an advocate. But he did have a message: “We are going to WrestleMania, we are going to beat Brock Lesnar, we are going to take the Universal Title, we are going to march into Suplex City and we are gonna burn it down.”
Heyman is right, of course, that the WWE Universe can’t physically help Rollins in the fight of his life, to say nothing of a match The Kingslayer claims will determine the future of WWE. And whether Heyman underestimated Rollins, overplayed his hand, or called it to the T remains to be seen. But tonight, at least, he failed to read the room: If nothing else, Seth Rollins isn’t as alone as Heyman thinks, and that might make all the difference.
If anyone was going to leave a blemish on Kurt Angle’s farewell tour, the odds-on favorite had to be Samoa Joe. True, The Olympic Hero’s first two bouts on his road to his final WrestleMania ended in victories, but his opponents thus far have been relatively newer faces and ardent admirers of Angle who were happy to share the ring with him. Joe, on the other hand, is a molten ball of aggression and disdain on his most pleasant day, not to mention he’s a world-traveled competitor who’s feeling himself mightily as the newly-crowned United States Champion on SmackDown LIVE. This one had the look of a match that was over before it began.
To the surprise of all assembled, it wasn’t, though the margin for victory was even slimmer than his last-gasp win over Chad Gable last week. The Samoan Submission Machine had kicked out of an Angle Slam, and even though the Olympian evaded a Uranage, he soon found himself trapped in the Coquina Clutch. And yet, Angle prevailed, rolling Joe over with the Clutch still locked in to achieve a pinfall that left the titleholder in a state of shock.
So, the farewell tour continues apace. Tomorrow, Angle will mosey on to SmackDown LIVE for a scrap in The House That AJ Styles Built. That will be as tall a test as Joe, but Angle has already survived two upstarts and a bona-fide monster. Clearly, anyone counting him out is getting ahead of themselves.
Triple H agreed to put his career on the line against Batista at WrestleMania facebooktwitter Tumblr Pinterest Email Triple H will put his career on the line against Batista at WrestleMania: Raw, March 25, 201905:00 Triple H and Batista’s No Holds Barred Match came out of nowhere as one of WrestleMania’s marquee contests, and two weeks out, the wrinkles just keep on coming. In his latest power play to turn the situation to his advantage, The Animal got litigious on The Game, delivering a letter from his lawyers threatening to bail on the match unless Triple H agreed to put his career on the line. Triple H accepted — though, as the 14-time World Champion pointed out, his decision to do so may have come as a bigger surprise to Batista than anyone else.
As far as Triple H was concerned, this new stipulation was nothing more than a chance for Batista to rewrite history in the same vein that The Game believed his former protégé already had. Batista’s recruitment as Triple H’s muscle in Evolution, for instance, went from being an obvious, mutually beneficial arrangement (remember, Batista was World Heavyweight Champion when he left the group) to a stifling power play; and quitting after failing to defeat John Cena became a protest resignation over The Game’s heavy hand as a manager. The King of Kings disputed every one of The Animal’s well-documented grievances and didn’t hesitate to call this one like he saw it, either, claiming the letter was a veiled attempt by Batista to quit once again without having to suffer the agony of defeat.
The surprise, then, was that The Game didn’t exactly disagree with the stipulation on its merit: In his mind, if he couldn’t defeat Batista at this stage of either of their careers, then he was better off as a full-time COO anyway. Triple H’s only exception was the way in which Batista went about handling his business, and now, there’s no way out for either of them. For better or worse, Batista is going to get exactly what he wanted.
If Drew McIntyre made any mistake in his grueling defeat of Dean Ambrose two weeks ago, it’s that he left The Lunatic Fringe with enough in the tank to get back up. He didn’t make that mistake twice.
Challenged by Ambrose to a Last Man Standing Match — the former WWE Champion took exception with Drew’s claim that he had been “exterminated” — McIntyre couldn’t help but respect Ambrose’s tenacity, but that was where all sportsmanship began and ended. In what was half a statement to Roman Reigns and perhaps half an acknowledgement that yes, keeping an actual cockroach down would probably be easier, The Scottish Psychopath brought everything but the kitchen sink against The Lunatic Fringe. That his plan of attack didn’t include an actual kitchen sink was the only sign of restraint; Ambrose was subjected to a Kendo stick to the torso, a slingshot into the underbelly of the ring, a tackle through a table and finally a Claymore before he was finally unable to answer the count of 10.
The idea of what Ambrose was fighting for remained something of a mystery to the commentary team. Was he fighting for pride? For the memory of The Shield? Just because he likes to? The WWE Universe ended Raw no closer to a consensus answer on that front. McIntyre, however, required no such speculation, as his step over Ambrose and gaze toward the WrestleMania sign made clear: It’s on to New York and a match with Roman Reigns. The rest is just ruin in his wake.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Ronda Rousey defeated Sarah Logan in a Beat The Clock Challenge match (1:25)
- Charlotte Flair vs. Ruby Riott in a Beat The Clock Challenge match ended in a No Contest
- Becky Lynch defeated Liv Morgan in a Beat The Clock Challenge match (1:18)
- Finn Bálor defeated Jinder Mahal & Bobby Lashley (w/ Lio Rush & The Singh Brothers) in a Handicap match (4:45)
- Ricochet & Aleister Black defeated The Revival (Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder) (9:00)
- Sasha Banks (w/ Bayley) defeated Natalya (w/ Beth Phoenix) by disqualification(7:35)
- Baron Corbin defeated Apollo Crews
- Kurt Angle defeated Samoa Joe (8:57)
- Drew McIntyre defeated Dean Ambrose in a Last Man Standing Match (9:55)
Other on-screen talent