WWE Raw and WWE Smackdown Live
Mike Miceli – Staff Writer
Welcome to another edition of Bell2Bell where we recap both WWE Raw and WWE Smackdown LIVE every Sunday right here on TwoCentsTV!
WWE Raw 4/3/17
Well it’s the Raw after Wrestlemania which is always a wild night. Tonight was no exception. An absolutely rowdy crowd coupled with some suprsing debuts, NXT call ups, and returns made this one shocking Raw and a great kick off to the new WWE season (as the Raw after ‘Mania tends to be).
Raw begins with a recap of The Undertaker’s second Wrestlemania loss and supposed final match. The crowd, on their feet, chants “Undertaker” over and over for a solid 3-4 minutes which then evolved into a dueling “Undertaker/Roman Sucks” chant.
Of course, they’re interrupted by (who else?) Roman Reigns. Reigns stands in the ring and is absolutely eviscerated with all manner of boos, obscene chants, and jeers from the crowd. Each time he brings the microphone to his face to speak, the boos would grow louder and he would put the mic down. Reigns did this several times, the crowd along with him the whole way, booing each time. Reigns mouthed that he had the crowd in the palm of his hand and pointed to his hand. The crowd continued to boo and chant various things (“Go away”, “Roman sucks”, “F you Roman”, etc). Roman looks right into the camera and says “This is my yard now” before throwing the mic down and leaving.
I’d say this was a great heelish promo and it was. It had a very heel feel to it with Roman having a smug smile on his face and his one line was obviously meant to incite even more anger and ire from the crowd. I said in my predictions that the only way to make this work would be to turn Roman heel. And it would seem they were going in that direction… But then the announcers try to make excuses for the crowd reaction saying that the Raw after Wrestlemania is “bizarro world” and the fans in attendance are “non-traditional” and would boo superstars they normally would cheer.
This kind of propaganda spin is complete BS and insults the intelligence of every WWE viewer and fan.
Next up we saw the newly returned Hardy Boyz come out to defend their Raw Tag Team Championship against former champs Anderson and Gallows.
This was a good little match and it’s still a bit of a mind twist seeing The Hardys back in WWE. Matt continues to straddle this broken/unbroken line that’s bit confusing. But my guess is that until his legal issues with Anthem and TNA/Impact Wrestling are resolved, Matt will continue to walk this line until he’s able to, legally, dive in with both feet. Which is fine. It’ll introduce the more casual fans to the Broken Universe gradually.
The match was good, but the crowd was insane here chanting “Delete!” and cheering very move. They elevated what was a pretty normal match into a really fun segment. The match itself, as I said, was good with The Hardys pulling off some of their greatest hits and getting a great pop from the crowd. At the end of the match, Matt hit a “Twist of Fate”, followed by Jeff landing with a “Swanton Bomb”. Matt then pinned Gallows for the win.
Neville was out next and bragged about his win at Wrestlemania over Austin Aries. He then faced Mustafa Ali in a pretty decent match. The two went back and forth a bit and the crowd was mostly into it and firmly behind Neville for the most part. Neville was able to get the submission win with the “Rings of Saturn”.
We had our first big surprise of the night when Vince McMahon was shown getting out of a limo backstage. Vince (looking just a little bit older) came down to the ring and the crowd immediately started chanting “Roman Sucks” and “Fire Roman”. Vince said “thank you” and called the WWE fans the “most passionate fans in the world.” Vince said that next week we would have a “superstar shake-up”. It’s not a draft… I don’t think. But, ok. Whatever. I’ll take it.
SIDE NOTE: No matter how much I rag on Vince and the state of the WWE product, I still mark out when I hear that “No Chance” music and Vince comes out doing his strut. I just can’t help it.
Vince said that Stephanie (after going through a table at ‘Mania) will be out for sometime and we need a new general manager. He said this GM is a Hall of Famer. Out comes Teddy Long dancing and having a great time. Vince tells Teddy to stop dancing and says the new GM it isn’t him. Teddy says “my bad” and dances off stage.
The crowd already saw where this was going. Vince announced Kurt Angle as the new GM of Raw. Kurt comes out to a humongous pop and loving chants of “you suck”. Kurt said it’s great to be back on Monday Night Raw. It’s true!
I absolutely love this. It’s a fantastic way to get Kurt back into the spotlight, reintroduce him to casual and younger fans, and get him involved right away in big storylines going forward. It also helps that Kurt looks like he’s having a blast being back in front of a WWE crowd.
The New Day came out in ice cream themed, Road Warriors-esque ring gear to issue an open challenge and who should answer? (who? who?) The Revival! SAY YEAAAAHHHHHHH!
Our first NXT call up of the night and it couldn’t be more perfect. Dash and Dawson are incredible and remind me of Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard. They are absolute masters of in-ring storytelling and have had some incredible, match of the year quality bouts in NXT.
The Revival dominated most of the match, as they should. The New Day were great first opponents (victims?) for The Revival especially Xavier Woods, who helped make the great team look even better. Dash and Dawson were able to hit Woods with their “Shatter Machine” finisher for the win.
After the match, the two attacked Kofi Kingston, focusing his knee and solidifying their heel status on the roster. Good stuff.
Backstage, Kurt Angle is settling in as Raw GM when he’s approached by Enzo Amore and Big Cass. They want another shot at the titles. Angle says that he’s going to make a match between them and Cesaro & Sheamus and the winner of that match will be the new #1 contenders. Cass said Cesaro and Sheamus were S-A-W-F-T, SAWFT.
They leave but Angle looks perplexed and says that’s not how you spell “soft”.
I’m really enjoying Angle as GM. I know it’s only the first night, but he’s doing a great take on his former comedic character while also being firm and fair. So far, so good.
Next up was a six-woman tag match featuring Sasha Banks, Dana Brooke, and Bayley against Nia Jax, Charlotte Flair, and the returning (Evil) Emma!
SIDE NOTE: Emma is a criminally underrated performer who has had some great matches in NXT and unfortunately, not much time to shine on the main roster. I’m glad to have her back in her Evil Emma persona and I hope she gets the opportunities she deserves.
Aside from the returning Emma, nothing here was all that special. It was your run of the mill, multi-person tag match. Very serviceable and well executed, just not particularly memorable.
That’s not to say we didn’t have some good spots like Sasha hitting her double knees from the top rope and Emma absolutely decking Bayley in the face after Bayley did that stupid “roll around on her opponent” thing. Which I hate… with every fiber of my being.
The match ended when Sasha was able to counter Charlotte’s “Natural Selection” into a “Bank Statement” and forced Flair to tap.
After the match, Charlotte shoved Nia Jax out of frustration. Nia responded by shoving her into the turnbuckle and then hitting a massive elbow onto Charlotte.
SIDE NOTE: It’s also worth noting that every woman in the ring tonight was an NXT graduate.
Backstage Sami Zayn had found his way into Kurt Angle’s office and was yakking the new GM’s ear off. Angle, in an effort to get Zayn to stop talking, said Zayn possessed the “Three I’s”. The two are interrupted by Jinder Mahal who is frustrated about Gronk from the New England Patriots getting involved in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania. Zayn and Mahal get into it a bit and Angle says they can settle it in the ring.
Our new Universal Champion, Brock Lesnar, comes down to the ring with Paul Heyman not far behind. The two get into the ring and Heyman starts to tell a “bed time story” about a “superhero getting his ass kicked by a beast.” Heyman said that Goldberg is gone and that’s the “happily ever after” of the story. Brock is looking for a new opponent. Heyman rattles off a few names including Seth Rollins, both Hardys and Roman Reigns (which got boos and triggered a “we want Balor” chant).
Braun Strowman comes out and says that when he’s done with Roman Reigns (wasn’t he already done with Reigns?) that he’ll be coming after Brock. Strowman then shoves Lesnar. Brock smiles and lays the Universal Championship on the mat and gestures for Braun to fight. Braun slowly gets out of the ring and heads up the ramp.
SIDE NOTE: I’ll never understand why they have one of the biggest and (supposedly) baddest men on the roster in Braun Strowman constantly come out to make challenges and then, when someone steps up to him, he backs away. Not a good look for your monster to be constantly running away like a wuss.
It was announced that Jericho would get his rematch for the WWE United States Championship at Payback. Jericho was interviewed backstage where he put the tip of Kevin Owens’ finger on the list since it touched the rope that broke the pin that would have given Y2J the victory. Jericho is then blindsided by Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe. They beat him down and Owens powerbombs Jericho through a table.
Jericho was supposed to be Seth Rollin’s partner in a tag match against Joe and Owens in the main event. But it now looks like Seth will need a new partner… I wonder who it could be…
Sheamus and Cesaro had a very short match with Enzo and Cass that saw them pick up the quick victory after a “Brogue Kick” to Cass and a European Uppercut from Cesaro to get the pin on Enzo. Seamus and Cesaro are your new #1 contenders for Matt and Jeff Hardy’s Raw Tag Team Championships.
We had another super-short match between Sami Zayn and Jinder Mahal. Mahal attacked Sami before the match started but Sami was able to get the upper hand. Zayn hit an exploder suplex into the corner and then nailed Jinder with the “Helluva Kick” for the win.
Next up was our main event. Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe make their respective entrances and wait in the ring for their opponents. Seth Rollins comes out and waits for his mystery partner which turns out to be…
Finn Balor makes his triumphant (but mostly expected) return to Raw.
This was great from start to finish. The match, interestingly, featured 4 former NXT champions and they all put on a hell of a performance.
This was entertaining and action packed from bell to bell. There were some awesome spots and stiff kicks from both Joe and Rollins. Balor looked fantastic. He hasn’t missed a beat and I’m glad to have him back.
Everyone had a moment to shine here which I liked. These four guys gelled together really well. I liked that they carried over the story of Rollins’ knee and continued to attack it. Despite this, Rollins still hit a few high flying dives. The match culminated in a great sequence between all four men with different counters to each man’s finisher. Balor countered the pop-up power bomb but ended up in a “Coquina Clutch”. Rollins then nailed Joe with a knee to the face and Balor hit the “Coup de Grace” from the top turnbuckle for the win.
SIDE NOTE: Why Finn Balor would come back and help the guy who put him on the shelf for months with an injury is beyond me… but hey, Finn’s back!
Overall this Raw was firing on all cylinders. Sure a few of the matches were short and unremarkable, but a fantastic main event coupled with some surprising returns, a new GM, and a much deserved NXT call up made this a pretty great episode of Raw. Can they keep this momentum going? Probably not. But we’ll see!
Click below to head on over to page 2 for the Smackdown recap!