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Raw’s Wrestlemania go-home show is definitely not the ultimate thrill ride

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Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.

  • If you were expecting Raw‘s Wrestlemania go-home show to get off to a hot start so as to, you know, put some thrill into the “ultimate thrill ride,” you’d be sorely disappointed by what takes place here. When Bayley’s music hits to start the show it’s initially an encouraging sign, something fresh and different. But then it devolves into the usually chain of promos, with each woman who’s challenging for the title and—you guessed it—competing in a tag match “next on Raw!” coming out to stake their claim to the Women’s Championship. The problem isn’t that some of these performers can’t get the story over, it’s that there’s no story. The GOAT Charlotte is doing everything she can to elevate the segment, but the absence of a feud leaves her hanging. There’s nothing to work with here. The only “story” is the idea that maybe Sasha Banks doesn’t have pure intentions when it comes to her friendship with Bayley. Somehow, Raw has managed to put four women into a Wrestlemania title match, and yet can’t find a single story to raise the stakes. There’s no underdog story for Bayley, no chance of Charlotte being at her best as a confident champ, and no intrigue in a potential Sasha-Bayley Wrestlemania match with Sasha as the heel, which could have been established weeks ago. Instead, Raw is just throwing these women into a match and hoping that it’s enough, which isn’t too far removed from what they’re doing with many of the Wrestlemania matches.
  • That opening segment and subsequent tag match, which does deserve credit for actual giving the Women’s Champion a pinfall victory, takes up the first thirty minutes of the show, and it immediately kills any potential for the show to get off the ground. I mean, Raw follows up the lackluster, directionless Women’s segment with…the lackluster, directionless Cruiserweight division. The Neville vs. Gallagher match that comes later in the night is pretty great, as those guys share some serious chemistry, but I’m having all sorts of trouble giving a damn about Austin Aries. His whole thing has been that he’s been biding his time before moving into the division, but what’s the motivation? Why does he want to knock off Neville so badly, outside of capturing the title? There’s no storyline definition here, and it doesn’t help that Aries’ in-ring work mostly leaves me wanting to watch Gallagher headbutt the hell out of him.
  • The first spark within the show comes from the contract signing with Seth Rollins and Triple H. Setting aside the stupidity of these guys saying “hold harmless,” it’s a pretty great segment. Triple H’s opening speech goes on a bit too long, but at least there’s a story to latch on to here. Triple H works himself into a shoot and talks about how much he loves being a billionaire and living the good life, and Rollins, once again finding that great babyface tone, counters with the reasons why he’s so adamant to distance himself from his behavior of the last three years. He says he liked who he was before he met Triple H—a nice, thinly veiled shoutout to The Shield—before saying that while many folks might assume this grudge is revenge for Triple H screwing him out of the Universal Championship, the Wrestlemania match is actually about redemption. That’s a great hook, and Rollins really sells it. You can feel the regret and anger in his voice, coupled with the desperation he feels to prove himself to the fans, to show that he’s still Seth Freakin’ Rollins. It’s great, and I couldn’t be more excited for the match at Wrestlemania.
  • What was that ‘Over The Top Rope Challenge’? It was a complete mess. It wasn’t even a match, despite being booked as one. It just kind of ended once Big Show got thrown out by some guys who just want a Raw paycheck, and then Braun Strowman threatened Big Show, as Braun Strowman tends to do. I don’t know, at least Bo Dallas got a pop in Philly.
  • “I’m a grown man. I don’t believe in dead men.” Roman Reigns is good again, you guys.
  • Every time Jack Gallagher takes that off-the-ropes snap suplex from Neville, I expect him to die on live television.
  • Tonight’s Raw is like 70% Wrestlemania ads and “feud recap” video packages. It’s exhausting, especially when you know that WWE is going to show them a few times during the six hours of Wrestlemania on Sunday.
  • So maybe we’re actually getting a ladder match at Wrestlemania for the tag team titles? That would immediately improve that match.
  • Roman Reigns smugly running down his accomplishments in front of the Philly crowd is maybe the most heel we’ve seen him. Still disappointed that those ‘Taker videos didn’t end up revealing Reigns as the one digging a grave. Imagine the heat! Instead, we get the same old Undertaker appearance out of nowhere. Also: don’t have the Undertaker say “the ultimate thrill ride.” Just, no.
  • Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn once again put on a great match, because that’s what they do even though WWE should be saving all of that for their own isolated story. Still, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to see Y2J show up and get a huge pop while smacking Samoa Joe around with a steel chair.
  • Can we just get Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar over with, please?
  • See you all next week for the Raw after Wrestlemania!