WWE kicked off “Monday Night Raw” in a major way Monday night as Ronda Rousey’s first WrestleMania match was announced. The former UFC star will be teaming with Kurt Angle against Stephanie McMahon and Triple H on April 8 at the Mercedes-Benz SuperDome New Orleans.
The show started with Angle demanding that Triple H confront him for punching him in the face last week. Instead, McMahon came down, which brought out Rousey. While McMahon tried to make amends with Rousey, she demanded to name her match at WrestleMania 34. When McMahon asked who she wanted to face, Rousey demanded a match with the Raw commissioner. Triple H of course said that wouldn't happen. However, Angle reminded Triple H that McMahon had an active superstar contract (Why she has that contract? Never explained.) and that he has control over all the superstars. He said he'd make that match, but he also asked Rousey if he could team with her, and add Triple H to the match, which Rousey agreed to. The segment ended with Angle locking Triple H in an ankle lock and Ronda dropping McMahon with a samoan drop.
While not exactly a shock, this makes the match official and lets WWE start advertising. And let's be clear, with the wrestlers involved, this becomes the most important match in the media cycle for WrestleMania. It's a logical match for several reasons. It brings Rousey's first appearance at WrestleMania 31 full circle, and it allows Rousey to not have to be the focus while she is getting used to the squared circle. While there have been complaints that her first match isn't being used to put over one of the current superstars, it should be about putting Rousey over as a juggernaut. She should absolutely kill whoever she's in the ring with, so why not let McMahon be that sacrificial lamb? It gets eyes on the match with the star power of Triple H and Angle, and it prevents someone such as Nia Jax from getting slaughtered in the process.
The next few weeks will clearly be about making Triple H and McMahon look like a mild threat, even if the result in April shouldn't be in doubt. But now that the match announcement is out of the way, we get to see WWE do what they do the best: promote.
The Rest of Raw
» The main event wasn't a match, but rather Paul Heyman laying down the law on Roman Reigns. Heyman said that Roman was right about Brock Lesnar not showing up, but said that wasn't a bad thing. Lesnar defends the title when he wants to. He rightly pointed out that nobody criticized Roman's win over The Undertaker, despite Undertaker only showing up once a year. He then went on a long monologue about how the belt belongs to Lesnar, and nobody was going to take it from him. He also said that Lesnar would be there next week. Roman said he was looking for a fight, and that next week he would get it.
Kacy Catanzaro, the Towson University alum who made “American Ninja Warrior” history by becoming the first woman to complete a city finals course and qualify for nationals in Las Vegas, has officially reported to NXT to begin training for a pro wrestling career, according to WWE.com.
» Another Wrestlemania match was made by Angle. The Miz will defend his intercontinental title against Seth Rollins and Finn Balor in New Orleans. This match was made after the two beat the Miztourage in a handicap match. This match has the potential to be the best of the night at WrestleMania this year.
» John Cena explained why he went to Smackdown to demand his title shot, and hyped the Fastlane main event. Cena talked about winning the tile and breaking Ric Flair's record. He then said that when he wins, he hopes Styles invokes his rematch clause for WrestleMania, making it a triple threat between the two and Shinsuke Nakamura. Surprisingly, this brought out Goldust. He made some title contender references and talked about Cena's path being like a movie before sucker punching Cena. They had a match, which ended with a Cena win.
» Braun Strowman beat Elias in a “Symphony of Destruction” match, which was basically a street fight with instruments on the stage. Elias tried to escape before the match started, but Strowman picked up the back of Elias' car, not letting him escape. While Elias got some moves in, Strowman used just about every instrument, including a piano, to get the win. The question still remains: What is Braun Strowman doing at WrestleMania?
» Asuka once again defeated Nia Jax. Nia seemed to have the match won at several points, but Asuka locked in the armbar for several minutes before Nia was forced to tap out. Alexa confronted Nia backstage, basically calling her a loser and causing her to cry. The title picture continues to be somewhat muddled. It seems as if they're heading towards Alexa/Nia, yet Asuka is presumably the challenger. If Asuka challenges Charlotte instead, why did Alexa cut the scathing promo on Asuka last week?
» In other womens' division news, Bayley beat Mandy Rose. When Absolution attacked after the match, Sasha Banks made the save, and tried to make amends with Bayley. However, Bayley refused a hug and left Sasha in the ring.
» Bray Wyatt topped Rhyno in a quick squash match. After the match, Matt Hardy came on screen and said that if he and Bray were going to continue their war, there was only one place for it: the Hardy Compound. At WrestleMania, the two will engage in the Ultimate Deletion, WWE's version of Final Deletion.