It feels like it took forever to get here, but finally Raw is done with the Road to WrestleMania, and all that's left is the big show itself. The build has been hit and miss. On the one hand, Sunday's card is stacked, filled with the potential to be one of the best top-to-bottom WrestleMania's in recent years. On the other hand, not every feud has managed to tell a compelling weekly story. There's good and bad in nearly every single story. It's been fun watching Nia Jax work her way through the roster on her way to revenge against Alexa Bliss, but the whole "mean girl" angle feels a little tired. Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, and The Miz will undoubtedly construct a near-perfect triple threat on Sunday, and the feud has been a showcase of mic skills, but the repetitive storytelling with Rollins and Balor, based on "momentum," is exhausting, no matter how good the in-ring work has been—in other words, this week's match is unreal.
Those kinds of pros and cons are present in just about everything Raw's been doing leading up to WrestleMania. Weeks ago it felt like the Red brand was ready for the big show, but now we have the final bits of clarification we need to truly anticipate Sunday's PPV. We have an answer to John Cena's challenge in the form of a non-answer, which is wonderfully mysterious. We have an angry, relatable Nia Jax, and three different reasons to be excited for Intercontinental Championship match. We have nearly everything we need to understand how Raw will be represented on Sunday, and despite some of the more sluggish aspects of the last few weeks, Raw is heading into WrestleMania looking damn good.
The Ronda Rousey question
This isn't a perfect go-home show by any means, but it has its moments. Where builds are complete it doubles down on the tension and intrigue of what's to come at WrestleMania. Where the feuds need something a little more, Raw mostly delivers. If you only tuned into the start of the show though, you'd assume it was a sluggish affair. The opening segment is just Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Ronda Rousey, and Kurt Angle sitting around a table awkwardly trading barbs. It's fine, and it's representative of everything this feud is: pretty much a mess on the weekly show, but it'll likely lead to something kind of fun on Sunday. Rousey will get her moment, and then the real work begins.
A less compelling hour
There's no denying that there are less than compelling aspects to this week's Raw. Absolution continues to be a non-entity in the women's division, no matter what commentary says. They're just a team of wrestlers that other wrestlers have matches with when they're in feuds. Absolution has nothing of its own going on. They're pieces to be used, but even then, they're not that interesting. Hopefully they get more to do after WrestleMania. In the meantime though, Sasha Banks is really leaning into The Boss character, and it's great. It's a shame that her and Bayley are stuck on the kickoff show in the battle royal, but at least the feud is progressing in a way that feels organic.
There's also a drawn-out portion of the second hour that, despite boasting Braun Strowman as "Brain Strowman," just never really gets going. There's a match between Goldust and Matt Hardy just because, there's Alexa Bliss and Mickie James making fat jokes about Nia Jax because WWE loves its women to be extremely petty and nasty, and there's the aforementioned Strowman segment, which is fun enough, if slightly underwhelming. The fact that Raw refuses to both reveal Braun's partner and include an appearance from The Undertaker is a fascinating choice.
WrestleMania's unpredictability factor
"Fascinating" maybe isn't the right word. It's a choice that's so far outside of WWE's usual tactics that it's difficult to understand it. It puts me, and I believe all viewers, in that rare position of truly not knowing what's going to happen on Sunday. If I was placing bets I would say that Undertaker is showing up at Mania, but I wouldn't feel confident in that bet. Maybe this is a way to get Cena against a returning superstar, a call-up, or somebody else. No matter what goes down at WrestleMania, this Cena story has created serious intrigue, and that's pretty remarkable when you consider we're talking about late-career John Cena. He should be settling into predictability at this point. Instead, he's leaving us wanting more like the legend that he is.
This is very much a go-home show that isn't entirely sure what's left to do with so many of its feuds, but it's also a show that manages to capture the spirit of WrestleMania. From the video packages to the extended mysteries to the absolutely incredible match between Balor and Rollins, this is a go-home show that, while not exactly the most compelling Raw, is certainly a fitting end to the Red brand's Road to WrestleMania.
- "We all know how you handle losses." Stephanie pulling no punches with Rousey.
- Rollins and Balor once again confirmed that they should be the now of WWE. What a match.
- I know that was "Brains Strowman," but it looked a lot like a Dudley brother.
- John Cena mentions Rusev Day. Bless that man.
- Curt Hawkins is the physical manifestation of your dreams being smashed to bits.
Bayley defeated Sonya Deville; Seth Rollins defeated Finn Balor; Matt Hardy defeated Goldust; Elias defeated Heath Slater; Asuka and Dana Brooke defeated Alexa Bliss and Mickie James.