Roman’s announcement of his giving up the title is shown from October. Roman comes out in his new cancer-fighting shirt, which at $35 a pop, is hopefully at least partially going to charity. He is mega-over and got the biggest sustained pop of his career. Roman hugs fans and the Rock’s mother. Roman gets a giant chant and a huge “you deserve it” chant for the giant reaction. For the first time in ages, Roman actually comes off like a human being. Roman says he’s ad-libbing, but this isn’t his yard, it’s OUR yard. “God’s voicemail was full!” is the best line on WWE TV in ages. Roman says when he left, he said that he’d swing for the fences. He’s in remission and he’s back! The fans do a giant dog bark and welcome him back.
Roman goes to leave before Seth walks down and gives him a hug. Aleister Black is back and gets a weird picture in picture video during his intro – why they couldn’t do the video before his intro when his intro is such a big part of the act I have no idea. Ditto Ricochet, who at least gets the cool lighting part of his intro. They face the Revival, who gets no intro. Black does the dive fakeout before Ricochet dives for a break. When we return, the match has started properly and Ricochet’s tagging out for a hot tag to Black. Dawson walks into Black Mass and stumbled drunkenly backwards before being pinned. Well this sure made the Raw Tag Titles seem important.
Baron Corbin is intereviewed and says that no one, not even Roman, can understand what he was going through before Charly compares that to Roman’s fight with cancer. Well that wasn’t needed at all. HBK is shown at a red carpet looking around aimlessly. Snoop sends Ric Flair well-wishes, possibly while high. Elias starts to sing, but Lacey Evans comes out in the world’s largest dress. Dean says that tonight, he feels good and he feels dangerous. He also wants a no DQ match with Drew tonight before Elias plays over him, Dean asks what he’s doing bub. Elias says that he was going to sing a song about how great Atlanta is since they can host the Super Bowl, but they just can’t win it. Dean lays out Elias with the Dirty Deeds and the Riott Squad is out to face Ronda and Nattie.
Ricky Steamboat offers up a tribute to Ric Flair that is talked over by Michael Cole. This is one of those little things that shows why WWE struggles to get anything over. Ronda gets boeod and gives out some merch to get slightly fewer boos. Nattie works for a bit before tagging in Ronda, who gets tripped up by Ruby Riott. Nattie and Ronda hit a flying forearm variant of the Hart Attack on the floor to Liv, or more accurately, the air around her. After a break, Nattie is beaten down for a bit. Logan locks on an ankle lock/cloverleaf hybrid. Ronda gets tagged in and she throws everyone around and throws a few billion corner jabs. Piper’s Pit hits Logan and Becky comes back and attacks Nattie with a crutch. Adam Pearce separates Ronda and Becky before Becky is apparently arrested. There’s doing the same kind of thing that worked in the past and doing a shot-for-shot recreation of it – and this is like Hitchcock’s Psycho with Austin against the ’98 remake for Becky.
Ronda comes down and demands that Vince come down. She gets Steph instead. Shocked Steph isn’t dancing to the beat of her song here. Ronda wants Becky to be reinstated and Stephanie says she’s been loaded into a cop car. Steph and her mom jeans talk about Becky being unprofessional and uses a modified Becky Screwed Becky line and says that instead of being on the road to Mania, she’s on the road to jail. Ronda knows how to get to Steph – find a way to bring THE ALMIGHTY MCMAHONS into things. Ronda demands the match and Steph talks down to her and says that no one is bigger than WWE. Ronda leaves the belt mid-ring and walks out. Okay then.
Stone Cold wishes Ric a happy birthday. Steph and HHH walk backstage with the belt. Jinder is mid-ring and insults Ric Flair. He challenges anyone invited to the party and Kurt comes out. He does a thing that loosely resembles an attempt at running. Jinder works him over in the corner before a long chinlock and then a long neck and arm lock. Oh God – I think he’s used up 2/3rds of Corbin’s offense. Kurt gets an ankle lock and wins it! And then he beats up the goons and then Alexa comes out for her talk show. This show never gives the viewer a chance to breathe. Alexa says that Ronda shouldn’t let the red carpet WWE rolled out for her hit her on the butt on the way out.
Balor comes out, and then Lio Rush. We get some wacky deal where Finn tricks Lio into a title match against him. Alexa just makes this match now because of course she can do that. And somehow in all this, Balor acted like a teenager in high school with his goofy voices. No one came out of this any better, but at least Lio vs. Balor should be good.
Titus is interviewed at the red carpet and talked over before Sting comes in for a hug. Balor hits a baseball slide before Lio gets a suicide dive and goes for the Final Hour, but Balor gets the knees up. Lio works the knees over for a while before Balor recovers and hits a Nightmare on Helms Street. Lio lands Ospreay’s kneeling tornado kick for 2. A second rope moonsault misses and Balor spins him with a lariat. Balor gets crotched. Inverted Bloody Sunday hits as Balor counters an Oscutter and the double stomp wins it. The Ascension talks down to Tucker, who says that Otis is dumpster diving for burgers. Otis comes in and dozes them after Tucker lies and says that they said he was dumpster-diving instead of Tucker saying it.
Backstage, Lashley insults Lio for a bit and then Lio gets cut off while answering Lashley as he faces Braun – a thing that is happening now apparently. Braun bowls over both guys on the floor and that’s that. Bayley faces Nia later and Dean faces Drew in a no DQ match next. Ric and Wendy arrive in a limbo before Ric gets cut off for an ad break. Dean comes out to face Drew in a no DQ match. They brawl on the floor for a bit before Dean takes his belt off mid-ring and Drew grabs it and beats him. Dean recovers and hits a dive. Lunatic elbow off the top to the floor – I don’t know if I’d do that on the way out given how badly that kind of spot wrecks up knees, but whatever. Shockingly, Elias comes down to attack Dean. Claymore ends it. Wow is Raw unpredictable.
Everyone jumps Dean before Seth comes down for a save before being joined by Roman. So I guess we’ll get the Shield against three of these guys on Fastlane. Superman punches abound and a curb stomp hits Elias. They just leave Dean laying before staring at him awkwardly. Bayley comes down to face Nia, who angrily shoves the Bayley buddy on the ramp. Boss and Hug face Tamina and Nia at the PPV. Bayley plays face in peril for a century or two and Bayley gets an edge thanks to Sasha. Bayley hits a flying elbow to beat Nia – so they might just lose at the PPV.
Ric’s cake is shown before HHH and Steph come down to start the party, now as babyfaces. Steamboat, Angle, and Sting come out. Kurt’s in jeans and a $10 Wal-Mart shirt – Kurt must think he’s at his TNA Hall of Fame induction again. A fantastic career retrospective airs for Flair. Love them showing off his influence in sports and hip hop – this makes him seem like so much more than “just” a wrestling star. HHH and Steph show off a revamped Big Gold before Batista returns and attacks Flair off-screen in his dressing room and drags him out. This is a perfect Mania build – they need to do NOTHING else for this to work. HHH tends to Ric and just like that, Mania’s ready to roll.
Tags: Kurt Angle, Ric Flair, Roman Reigns, The Rock, WWE RAW