As we learn to adapt in this new world of social distancing and no live sports, WWE is serving as a stabilizing force to give us something new to digest every week.
Monday Night RAW 3/23 opens with a pre-recorded and previously aired promo by Paul Heyman and Drew McIntyre previewing their match at WrestleMania. The live portion of the show begins with Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar in the middle of the ring with Heyman promising certain defeat for Drew McIntyre at Mania. As with most wrestling promos recently, it’s very hard to get excited without a crowd. It’s a good promo by Heyman, it just feels out of place in the mostly empty performance . This might have even been served better as a video package.
The next portion of RAW was a replay of the 2015 triple threat match at Royal Rumble between Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and Seth Rollins for the WWE Championship, where Lesnar retained the title. I understand the need to show old content during this time, it’s impossible to fill three hours of promos without a crowd, and it’s a match to show Lesnar’s dominance. My only concern is how they’re going to fill a WrestleMania, and if they’re going to play old live content.
Next was a recap of last week’s confrontation between AJ Styles and The Undertaker. After which AJ Styles comes out to cut a promo where he once again decides to talk smack again Undertaker and Michelle McCool. There was an interesting part where Styles showed off a clip of Undertaker and Michelle McCool talk about tiger preservation. AJ is trying to maintain that Undertaker has lost himself to his wife. Which is such a weird way to attack someone. It was a fairly weak promo all things considered.
We learn that Andrade and Angel Garza will be challenging The Street Profits for their RAW Tag Team Titles. Zelina Vega cuts a promo backstage hyping up this match, which was fine.
Next was a tag team match between Ricochet and Cedric Alexander, and Andrade and Angel Garza. Andrade and Garza try and get the jump on Ricochet after he comes out waiting for Alexander but they quickly rebound. Shortly after the match begins The Street Profits come out to provide some commentary for the match. I’m a huge fan of the Street Profits, I think they might serve as better hosts for WrestleMania than Gronk. I don’t’ think Gronk will be able to do well without a crowd, but the Street Profits have managed to keep a high energy even without a crowd.
To productions credit, while on commentary The Street Profits were mostly doing reaction noises to “mimic” crowd noise and reactions. Between them and Zelina Vega cheering on Andrade, it helped “fill” the lack of noise in the performance center. Maybe for WrestleMania WWE could use its extensive roster to serve as a “crowd,” almost like a lumberjack match, but for cheering and jeering. This match was useful for reactions because Ricochet has such high flying matches. Andrade gets the pin on Alexander to win. It’s weird to think that the best workers in this match were The Street Profits, because they brought so much energy on commentary.
The Street Profits take on Shane Thorne & Brendan Vink in a tag team match. This match is so different from the previous one without The Street Profits on commentary. I hope that WrestleMania has some form of crowd noise, even if it’s streamed in, it was such an interesting juxtaposition between a match with the Street Profits on commentary vs. one they were working in. The Street Profits wind handily.
We get a quick clip of R Truth getting the 24/7 title from Riddick Moss which was fun, Truth referred to him as Randy Moss as he was fleeing.
After this we get an interview between Charly Caruso and Shayna Baszler. Shayna comes off as intimidating and fierce in the interview. In the middle of the interview Becky comes from behind and takes a chair to Shayna, cutting the interview short.
The next match is Aleister Black vs. newcomer Leon Ruff (of EVOLVE). Black begins the match by slowly walking into the middle of the ring and sitting down as the match begins. Black gets up after his intimidation move and delivers the Black Mass to Ruff for the quick win. These quick matches to move along story points is preferable given the current situation, it also helps keep everyone well rested leading up to WrestleMania, which can’t hurt.
Kevin Owens is in the ring to discuss his match against Seth Rollins at WrestleMania. Owens goads Rollins into coming out, which he does soon after. Rollins talks about NXT and the Performance Center wouldn’t exist without the success of Seth Rollins. There was even one weird callout where Rollins says the women’s revolution wouldn’t have happened without him which is an awfully weird thing to take credit for. Owens had really good subtle facial reactions during the promo, something he’s definitely mastered, I expect this match to be good at Mania.
After the promo there was a replay of the Smackdown Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 34 featuring Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair. After showing the match there was an interview backstage with Charlotte about her match with Rhea Ripley at WrestleMania. Charlotte exudes her typical conference as she talks about her certain Victoria at Mania.
The show ends with Randy Orton saying that his actions that he has done over the past couple of months have been acts of love not brutality. He talks about his history with wrestling, speaking directly now to Edge’s comment that Randy was handed his career because of his last name. Randy officially accepts Edge’s Last Man Standing match at WrestleMania. I’m tentatively excited for this match at WrestleMania, in terms of a legends match I think Randy Orton can carry a match well enough to make Edge look good, we’ll see if that comes to fruition.
Another episode of RAW comes and goes. With WrestleMania less than 2 weeks away it’s hard to know how they’ll fill 2 nights of content with no crowd. I think there are ways to help compensate (see my early idea for using the roster as a crowd), but for now I think we’ll have to hope for some high-quality matches.