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Raw Thoughts- I Was Marking Out, Man!

It's been a hell of a ride, and we're on the home stretch! Wrestlemania is just around the corner, and this year has more significance to me than any other, seeing as it's the first Mania I'm attending live. There's something about Mania season that just elevates everyone and everything. As the biggest show of the pro wrestling year, the talent and creative staff get their shit together and give us the best they possibly can. Fuck some of the online negativity. AJ is facing Shane, not Nakamura, and Goldberg is a major attraction. Get over it. I feel like this Raw continued a pretty consistent run of strong shows leading up to the Superbowl of wrestling. Let's go!

-The show kicks off with Mick Foley. He's drawn some criticism for his performances, and while he's flubbed lines here and there, I think the real problem is with the booking. Foley has been made to look inferior to Steph at every turn, save for the past couple of weeks, and it's been the best we've got out of Foley as GM. I don't think that's a coincidence.

-Foley reads palm cards in a despondent manner, apologising for his actions (putting Mr. Socko on HHH) and the crowd boos, before Mick jolts out of it, yelling "index cards!" (so they're called something different in the States). He's "Mick Freaking Foley" and he starts ranting before the mic gets cut. Enter Steph. The crowd are into this. Steph fires Foley, Sami Zayn surprisingly enters to stand up for the Hardcore Legend, and gets rewarded for his sense of morality with a match against Samoa Joe. I really enjoyed this opening. It had the crowd hooked, and it effectively used the authority figure drama to advance an issue between full time talent that deserve the spotlight. Excellent stuff.

-If this truly is the write off for Mick Foley to have his hip surgery, it's disappointing for the timing. 2 weeks away from Mania and he doesn't get to be part of it. Shame. Would have liked to see him and meet him in person.

-By the way, Raw is emanating from Brooklyn this week, so smart use of talent, opening with the New York native Foley and transitioning to the former ROH standouts Joe and Zayn. Sami has his moments, but the rocket is behind Joe right now, who finishes the Underdog From The Underground with the Kokina Clutch. Joe adds the new element of rolling his eyes into the back of his head ala Undertaker while locking in the choke, which is a tremendous visual which gives him the look of a video game boss. I don't think Joe and Zayn will have a match at Mania (card is getting too full), but I think they'll get prominent roles. Zayn is a front-runner to win the Dre, while Joe will likely have a big impact on the HHH-Rollins situation in the Citrus Bowl.

-Nice touch interviewing Seth's trainer regarding his rehab. The verbiage is very interesting. Wilk doesn't say Seth won't make Wrestlemania, just that "no doctor in America would clear him". Oh, Canada... but seriously, that feels like a meaningful piece of dialogue.

-Wow, Charlotte squashed Dana with a single boot. So much for Raw gaining a new face following Dana's turn. This feels like Dana's loss is NXT's gain, maybe?

-Bayley and Steph confrontation backstage. It's nice that the writers are finally allowing babyfaces to have some semblance of a spine against the almighty Steph. Goody two shoes Bayley used to admire perennial heel Stephanie McMahon. I can only assume Bayley is referring to 2002/2003 era Smackdown GM Steph, otherwise that's a big crack in her babyface armour. Bayley draws Nia Jax as an opponent tonight after pissing the Billion Dollar Princess off. If Nia wins, the Wrestlemania women's title match becomes a fatal 4 way. Bayley's not the type to cry unfair about the situation, but if she was, I'm sure Alexa Bliss would slap the butterface off her.

-Chris Jericho, back with the Highlight Reel! The biggest credit I can give to Jericho right now is this. In 2017, when it's "cool" to boo the faces and cheer the heels, face Jericho gets a monster pop... in Brooklyn, of all places! Jericho exposes the "real" Kevin Owens, including a photo of a 16 year old Kevin Steen, doing the classic Jericho arms extended pose in front of a Y2J poster. "He was a fan of Jericho... he was marking out, man!" Owens and me both. Love Y2J (no homo). Also, Jericho provides a text exchange between an adult Kevin asking Chris for advice in 2014, upon signing with WWE. After these reveals, Samoa Joe walks out, distracting Jericho enough for Owens to blindside him and hit the Pop Up Powerbomb. But, that's not all. Owens destroys the List of Jericho! That bastard! Great segment. Jericho vs. Owens at Mania could be a sleeper.

-Cruiserweights get minimal time. Kendrick pins Perkins in about a minute. Who did TJP piss off?

-Roman continues to act more and more heelish in his interviews. I like it.

-In lieu of spending large sums of money on having Goldberg and/or Lesnar appear on Raw, the production team work overtime in making cool video packages that make the feud seem huge. I'm so curious to see what happens with Goldberg. WWE have worked hard not to expose his limitations, as a 50 year old man who wasn't a workhorse in his prime, but to invest so much into this, surely Goldberg can perform to some extent? Or if he can't, surely WWE have a plan in place to make this huge Mania match not suck? I thought the whole point of having this feud happen was to erase the shittiness of Wrestlemania, when both Goldberg and Lesnar were leaving WWE and didn't give a damn. (Goldberg says it's for his kid, but every time the little Goldberg is on camera, he looks like he couldn't give the slightest shit about seeing his dad in the ring)

-Jax beats Bayley to go to Mania. I don't like it. This particular match on Raw was decent, but it feels like any time Nia has a halfway decent match, she is getting dragged to it by a superior opponent. She's big and is The Rock's cousin, but she doesn't seem to have a lot of discernible talent herself.

-Sit down interview with Michael Cole and Triple H. Normally, these take place backstage, but this one is in the ring, presumably to set HHH apart from Cole's other interview subjects, and like Hunter is going to miss a chance to rile up the Brooklyn crowd. He rips on the fans, saying that their cheers cost wrestlers like Rollins, and the recently fired Foley, their health. He gives Cole some nosebleed seats to give to Seth for Wrestlemania (mine are better) and then retracts the offer, only to make another one. Fuck the doctors (he doesn't say that, exactly). Unsanctioned match at Mania, Triple H vs. Seth Rollins. Will he accept? Find out next week on Dragon Ball Z, err, Monday Night Raw!

-Unsanctioned match. Really, just another name for a street fight, but I believe the last unsanctioned match was HHH vs. HBK at Summerslam 2002, one of the greatest matches of all time in my opinion.

-Sheamus Brogue Kicks his way through the tag champs in 30 seconds, after the Club bickers with Enzo and Cass, to retain his and Cesaro's spot in the Raw tag title match at Wrestlemania. With 12 matches set for Mania (not including the yet to be confirmed HHH-Rollins match), some of the currently booked matches will probably slide to the pre-show. With a segment like that, I think the Raw tag title match is a front-runner for one of those spots- I'm thinking at least 3 matches make the move.

-Big E and Kofi ask Xavier Woods if there's anything he wants to talk about, with shifty expressions on their face. Instead of telling them a tale about a girl from Norwich, he begins hyping Mania. Smooth.

-Aries vs Tony Nese was a fun cruiserweight match, at least for Raw standards. Unfortunately, given the general presentation of the cruisers outside of 205 Live, I think Neville vs. Austin Aries gets the pre-show treatment at Mania too. I'd love to be wrong about that. Aries has done a good job as a face in his return role. He's no Akira Tozawa, but he's a-ight.

-Reigns vs. Strowman main events. Not quite at the level of Fastlane, but still had some nice spots. In an era where we have a large amount of top tier talent below 220 pounds (100kg for Aussies that don't understand America's wacky ways), these two really know how to work as big men.

-Undertaker's gong sounds, and one of the most legendary big men in the business appears. He might be 52, but fuck it, he's still a legend and I'm honoured to be able to watch what may be one of the last matches of his career. He's definitely breaking down, but I'm hopeful he has another great performance in him to pass the torch to Reigns- who, as I keep saying, doesn't deserve half the criticism he gets, at least as far as his wrestling ability. I'm really looking forward to Reigns vs. Taker.

-So, Taker chokeslams the green Strowman, but made a rookie-esque mistake himself. The Deadman realises this too, expressing a brief look of frustration before turning around and eating a Spear from Roman. The Big Dog leaves the yard and Undertaker sits up. Fade to black. Yeah, I don't care what anyone says, this match is big time.

The thing I love about Wrestlemania season is that everything on the show had a purpose, no real filler. Even the Charlotte/Dana match gave Charlotte a bit of momentum and tied the loose end of the Charlotte/Dana partnership, and the super short Kendrick/TJP match included build for the promising Kendrick/Tozawa feud. A hot Brooklyn crowd enhanced the show greatly too. Jericho was the MVP on this show, and Triple H left me very intrigued about what will happen at Mania with Rollins. Time to keep driving.

Until next time, take care,


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Image of Mick Robson, founder of The Arena Media

Mick Robson is a freelance writer from Australia. A lifelong fan of pro wrestling and MMA, he endeavours to bring that passion through his coverage in news, reviews and opinion pieces.

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