SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)…
KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
APRIL 5, 2021
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. AT TROPICANA FIELD (“THUNDERDOME”)
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Commentators: Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton, Samoa Joe
Ring Announcer: Mike Rome
-They opened with a wide shot of ThunderDome as Phillips introduced the show “from the award-winning and critically-acclaimed ThunderDome.”
-Drew McIntyre’s sword sound and entrance theme then played and he walked out to the ring. Phillips talked about Bobby Lashley putting out a bounty (but they don’t call it a bounty) on Drew. They replayed what happened last week with Lashley and King Corbin. Saxton said Lashley was “trying to drain the desire” out of McIntyre.
Pyro blasted as Drew stood mid-ring. Phillips called it “the main event of WrestleMania” and plugged WM airing on Peacock. Drew said it’s the final Raw before WrestleMania with just five days to go. He talked about last year “and how unique WrestleMania was.” He said this year they’re back in business and Drew is fighting for the WWE Championship. He said there’s so much running through his head.
He talked about Corbin and Lashley. He told Lashley, “This match is happening, buddy.” He said they’re going to rip each other to shreds and he can’t wait. He said he’s been thinking a lot about it lately. He wanted to figure out what separates them after all the similar roads they’ve traveled. He concluded it was how much he is willing to sacrifice. He said they’ve both sacrificed a lot – missing weddings, birthdays, and Christmases. He said he left home at age 22 and left his friends and family behind with one purpose – to become WWE Champion. He said he wished at times he had the luxury of going home.
He said when his mother was going through chemotherapy, he wanted to be home for her. His voice cracked as he said she told him to continue to pursue his dream. He said he kept pushing forward and sacrificing. He asked Lashley, “How can you beat a man who will keep pushing forward sacrificing.” He said he’ll run through Corbin tonight and end the Almighty Era at WrestleMania.
Lashley’s music played. He walked out with MVP. He asked Drew if he was done. He said he’s tired of hearing Drew’s story about taking 17 years. He said it took him 16 years, so he gets it. He said only one person can be on top, and now it’s his time. He said last week he saw fear and then he felt him go out in the Hurt Lock. He said that will happen again Saturday and there’s nothing he can do about it. Drew said the Hurt Lock is no joke. He said Lashley, though, is trying to get help to take him out. Lashley interrupted and said he took out Shelton Benjamin last week and he can watch him to it to Cedric tonight, so he doesn’t need any help.
Drew said they can do it now and not wait until Saturday. (I call for a three year moratorium on babyface saying that before a big event.) MVP said that’s not how they do it. He said WrestleMania is Saturday and he’s going to lose. Drew said maybe he should be an Uber driver or Amazon driver, then. He said that’s not what he’s doing, though. He said he’s going to run him down at WrestleMania and get back his WWE Title. MVP said that’s a lot of talk for someone who might not even get to WrestleMania.
Corbin’s music played and he walked out onto the stage. He said he agrees with MVP that because of him, Drew won’t make it to WrestleMania. He told Drew to face the facts that there’s “no WrestleMania for you and no WWE Championship for you.” He said he’ll whoop his punk ass tonight. Drew nodded and stared back at him.
(Keller’s Analysis: Strong promo from Drew. That’s the type of thing I kept expecting Roman Reigns as a lead babyface to grow into, but WWE almost never put him in that spot. Drew is really good at that final promo as a babyface challenger to a title. Lashley was more steady this week than last week. Corbin was Corbin, and you know what you’re going to get with him. That’s not a dig. It’s just he’s always the same.)
-The announcers hyped matches and segments on Raw, including A.J. Styles vs. Xavier Woods.
-A commercial aired for the WWE Hall of Fame airing on Peacock tomorrow night. [c]
-Phillips hyped Asuka & Rhea Ripley vs. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler later on the show. He asked if Ripley and Asuka can coexist before WrestleMania.
-Riddle startled Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods backstage. He told Kofi he’s never in his entire life seen anyone as high as he got last week when Omas threw him. He asked if he’ll be able to get both of them that high. Kofi said, “Let’s hope nobody gets that high on Saturday.” Then Kofi and Xavier hip-swiveled with Riddle as they sang about retaining their tag team titles. Riddle talked about how sticky Ali is so he’ll have to grind him up before he breaks him down. He said he has to get ready for his match. He wished Xavier luck against Styles. Riddle left. Kofi and Xavier insinuated they thought he was high on marijuana or maybe they were high. Kofi said he’s got the urge suddenly for milk and cookies, “dairy-free, of course.”
(1) XAVIER WOODS (w/Kofi Kingston) vs. A.J. STYLES (w/Omos)
Saxton said he’s seen training footage of Omas and he thinks Styles & Omas are going to win the tag titles based on what he’s seen. Phillips welcomed Samoa Joe back to the announce desk after missing last week. The announcers were on camera briefly, and then they plugged Peacock.
Styles applied an early Calf Crusher. Kofi yelled at Omas that he gave them his best last week and they’re still standing. He threw a mic at him. Kofi ran into the ring. Omas stood on the ring apron. The ref turned to yell at him. Xavier then surprised Styles with a small package for a quick three count.
WINNER: Xavier in about 1:30.
-They showed Damian Priest and Bad Bunny arriving in a ridiculously expensive sports car. They also showed Braun Strowman walking backstage as Phillips said he wrestles next. [c]
-A video package aired on the Braun-Shane McMahon storyline.
-In the ring, inside a cage, Braun said he’s had to deal with people like Shane bullying him because of his perception. He said those people don’t know who he is or what he’s really made of. He said Shane produced a fake report card last week to get under his skin. He said Shane doesn’t know what he has gotten himself into. He said he can run his mouth all he wants, but at WrestleMania, he’ll be locked inside that cage with him. He said he’s going to whoop Shane’s ass not just for himself, but anyone who has been called stupid. Braun said the last thing Shane hears on Saturday won’t be “Here comes the money.” He said it’ll be, “Here comes the body bag.” He said he will turn him into a corpse.
Shane walked onto the stage to his theme. He said asking him to pick the match stipulation was an intelligence test, and it would seem on the surface he chose wisely. He said with any normal man, it’d be good choice, but he’s a Mc-Man. He said he’ll outwit him and defeat him.
(Keller’s Analysis: Braun did a really good job delivering his promo, speaking on behalf of anyone who stands 6-5 and 350 pounds of muscle whose main communication method is roaring and making mean faces who have been picked on for being presumed dumb. Shane wasn’t sweating profusely, so I was able to enjoy his promo without worrying for his health. This angle has come around to clearly define Shane as a bully and Braun as a victim of a rich brat, so I think fans are going to enjoy seeing Braun destroy Shane this weekend. Braun is winning, right? Of course, right?) [c]
(2) BRAUN STROWMAN vs. JAXSON RYKER & ELIAS
The heels double-teamed Braun, but he kicked out of their double-cover. Shane came to ringside to taunt Braun. Braun ended up powerslamming both, then covering both for a simultaneous three count. Saxton said Shane’s confidence has to be rocked. Shane stood on the stage, pointing at his head with confidence that his brains will defeat Braun’s brawn.
WINNER: Braun in 3:00.
-Backstage Miz and Morrison noted that they saw a scratch in Bad Bunny’s million dollar sports car. They said they are artists and will apply that skill to fix the blemish. They painted “Hey Hey Hop Hop” on his hood. Miz said it was “matching paint,” but it was red paint on a white car. The announcers said it was so disrespectful. Miz rubbed red paint on the hood, too, with his hand.
(Keller’s Analysis: They did not smash windshields in this angle. No one got power-slammed onto the hood. Is there any angle in pro wrestling more relatable to the wrestling viewers than their multi-million dollar sports car being defaced by jealous nemesis.) [c]
-Bad Bunny showed his acting chops when he saw the (water-soluble) red paint on his car. Miz and Morrison then attacked him. Morrison yelled, “This is what happens when you disrespect us!” Miz said he doesn’t respect his car and he doesn’t respect him, and he’ll ruin him at WM just like he ruined his car. Executive Adam Pearce ran in and yelled for some help. Bunny sat up grabbing at his neck. Priest joined the scene and asked if it was Miz and Morrison again.
(Keller’s Analysis: I love that Priest had to ask, like there might be other potential prime suspects. Could this lead to Bunny being too injured to perform, or just Priest being added to the match so it’s a tag match?)
-Joe said there’s one rule in WWE – you’re never safe. (Yikes! Is that really a rule?) He said that also applies to your property.
-They replayed the backstory with Ripley and Asuka.
-As Rhea Ripley made her entrance, Phillips said Ash Costello of New Years Day will perform Ripley’s theme song, “Brutality,” live at WrestleMania. [c]
(3) ASUKA & RHEA RIPLEY vs. NIA JAX & SHAYNA BASZLER (w/Reginald)
Phillips said this Saturday night at WrestleMania, there will be a Tag Team Turmoil match with four total teams from both Raw and Smackdown, and the last team remaining will challenge the Women’s Tag Team Champions on Sunday at WrestleMania.
The announcers noted that Ripley was not acknowledging her partner in order to get inside Asuka’s head. Ripley tagged herself in a minute in after Baszler got the best of her. Her body language indicated she was going to show Asuka how it’s done. Jax tagged in. Ripley went for an early slam, but Jax blocked her. Ripley slipped out of a Jax slam attempt and tagged in Asuka. Asuka wasn’t ready. Ripley jumped to ringside and told Asuka to get into the ring and stop complaining. Asuka put Jax in a hanging octopus and then yelled over at Ripley. Jax took control and beat down Asuka methodically.
Ripley avoided a charging Jax. Jax tagged out to Baszler. A Reginald distraction led to Baszler knocking Ripley to ringside. Jax shoved her into the ring apron as they cut to a break. [c]
Back from the break, Baszler was kicking away at Ripley. Eventually Ripley reached for a hot tag. Asuka hesitated, but did tag in. She rallied against both Jax and Baszler in the ring. She gave Baszler a released German suplex and a running knee to the face for a two count. When she climbed to the top rope, Ripley shoved her hard to the floor. She then gave her a face plant and threw her back into the ring. Baszler then gave Asuka a running knee to the face for the three count.
WINNERS: Jax & Baszler in 12:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: I think introducing Ripley as a heel is tone deaf, but not surprising of Vince McMahon. I’m glad, though, if Asuka and Ripley are going to wrestle, they’ve established one of them as a heel.)
-They replayed the break-up of Hurt Business last week and Lashley beating Shelton.
-Backstage Cedric approached MVP. MVP said he hoped he wasn’t looking to get himself back into the Hurt Business. Cedric shoved him. Shelton showed up. Cedric said MVP is a parasite, and without them, he’s a crippled washed-up has-been. Cedric said he might not beat Lashley tonight, but he’ll give him a scar to remember him by. He said he can’t wait to watch Drew kick his teeth in at WrestleMania and expose him in front of everyone. Shelton looked at MVP’s THB necklace and told him to keep his crippled ass out of the way. McKenzie Mitchell approached MVP and asked if he’s now concerned about Lashley’s match later. MVP said he’s never concerned, but he is disappointed in the arrogant, ungrateful attitude Cedric and Shelton are showing right now. He said it’s because of him they got bumped to business class, wore fancy suits, won the tag titles, and became relevant again. Lashley walked up to MVP and asked what happened. MVP said it’s okay. Lashley angrily said he’s going to “break his ass in half.”
(Keller’s Analysis: I’m not sure Lashley is familiar with the anatomy of asses.) [c]
-A clip aired of Ripley turning her back on Asuka earlier in the show.
-McKenzie approached Jax, Baszler, and Reginald and congratulated them on their victory. She asked about having to defend their tag titles after the Tag Team Turmoil match. Jax made fun of how long her question was. Lana & Naomi walked up to them. Then Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke walked up. Then Tamina & Natalya joined in. Riott Squad also showed up. Billie Kaye joined in. Baszler asked if she even has a partner. Kaye said Carmella is reviewing her resume. Jax shoved her away and then said she doesn’t have time for all of this. The rest of the teams bickered as Kaye showed off her resume.
(4) BOBBY LASHLEY (w/MVP) vs. CEDRIC ALEXANDER (w/Shelton Benjamin)
MVP joined in on commentary. Before the bell, Shelton jumped Lashley. Cedric joined in the double-team. MVP said Bobby’s got this just fine and wasn’t rattled. Lashley cleared the ring of Shelton, then turned to Cedric. The bell rang. MVP said the failures of Cedric and Shelton put them in this position and he doesn’t feel bad at all. Lashley worked over Cedric for a few minutes, and rammed him into the ringpost before they cut to a break. [c]
Back from the break, Cedric got in some offense at ringside. Lashley, though, still finished Cedric with the Hurt Lock.
WINNER: Lashley in 10:00.
-They showed an angry-looking Bad Bunny regrouping as Priest talked with him about what they’d do to get back at Miz and Morrison. Saxton said they’ll publicly address the situation next. [c]
-A video package aired on the Randy Orton-Fiend/Alexa Bliss saga.
-Phillips commented on Miz and Morrison defacing Bunny’s “three million dollar” sports car. (This car gains value as the show progresses, apparently.)
-In the ring, Priest alongside Bunny said it’s easy to beat down the man two-on-one, so he suggested they make it a two-on-two match. Bunny nodded along as Priest pointed at the WrestleMania sign.
Bunny said he just came there following his dreams and believing in his dreams because he loves this business and has great memories watching with his family. He said now he doesn’t know how to feel after this experience. He said he wanted to perform and do his job. He said he’s very grateful for the opportunity to perform at the Royal Rumble a song he made for Booker T. He said he loves Booker T the same way he loves Triple H and Steve Austin and Ric Flair and Undertaker.
He said he even used to respect and love the Miz. He said Miz disrespected him from the first day he showed up, “with no reason.” He said he isn’t a professional wrestler, but he is a man. He said Miz broke his TV set, disrespected his D.J., his career, his music, and his fans for no reason. He said he knows he jumped from the top rope at the Royal Rumble. He changed to Spanish for a minute, where he expressed himself much more comfortably.
Back in English, he said what he did was no reason to hit him with a guitar or paint his sports car. “Who do you think you are?” he asked. He said Miz is a legend and respects that, but he doesn’t respect him back. He said he crossed a line and he doesn’t know why and he doesn’t care. He said this Saturday, he’s going to show him how to respect him. He said he will shut his mouth and whip his ass. He finished in Spanish.
Miz and Morrison interrupted on the big screen and applauded mockingly Bunny’s speech. Miz told Bunny he doesn’t belong there. He said they have overstayed their welcome and he’s going to embarrass and hurt him and send him back home. He said they accept the tag team challenge. They got into a limo. Morrison said, “This is classy.”
-Backstage Sheamus approached Ali. He said he wanted to tell him something about Riddle. Ali said he doesn’t need advice. He said Riddle is why Retribution is dead. He said Sheamus has a match at WrestleMania, but he doesn’t. He sounded perturbed. Sheamus said they don’t share a lot in common, but they both share an intense dislike of Riddle. Sheamus said he’ll be out there rooting for him. He said he’ll be on commentary. Riddle scootered right between Sheamus and Ali with a big smile on his face as his music began to play. Saxton said his timing is impeccable.
-Riddle was introduced and pyro blasted and augmented reality birds flew as he kicked off his sandals. [c]
-Phillips thanked Fitz for “Head Up High” as the official theme of WrestleMania. Saxton announced Bebe Rexha will perform “America the Beautiful” at WrestleMania live on Saturday.
-Phillips hyped that Drew, Braun, Jax, Baszler, and Reginald would be on Raw Talk later.
-They showed a clip from last week of Sheamus attacking Riddle before their match last week, then Sheamus getting the win, followed by a post-match shove by Riddle. Saxton said that was Riddle showing Sheamus he wasn’t a push-over and he wasn’t done with him yet. He said loves his fighting side and when he gets a little testy. Phillips said that was getting back at Sheamus for the pre-match attack.
(5) RIDDLE vs. ALI
As Ali made his ring entrance, Saxton said he just once wants to see Ali take blame for his own failures. As the match was about to begin, Sheamus made his way to the ring to join the announcers on commentary. Riddle took it to Ali early. Saxton said Sheamus’s presence motivated Riddle. Riddle put on Sheamus’s hat. Sheamus called him a filthy animal and told him to take it off. Ali gave Riddle a Russian leg sweep on the mat. Sheamus said that’s what he gets. [c]
Back from the break, Riddle gave Ali a sunset flip. Ali stood out of it and stomped on Riddle’s bare foot. Ali stomped on Riddle’s ribs and scored a two count. Ali stopped a Riddle comeback with a Koji Clutch. Riddle cradle suplexed him and then applied a triangle. Ali put his foot on the bottom rope to force a break. Saxton asked Sheamus if he’s impressed with Riddle. Sheamus said he knows Riddle is great in the ring, but he’s better. Riddle caught Ali mid-air going for a DDT and turned it into a Bro-Derek for the win. Riddle yelled over at Sheamus afterward. Sheamus stood on the desk and yelled back that he’s taking his U.S. Title.
WINNER: Riddle in 11:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: That was a really good match. Solid basic hype here going into the U.S. Title match at WrestleMania.)
-The new guy interviewed Drew backstage about how he feels about Corbin trying to take his place at WrestleMania. McIntyre said you’d think Corbin would have more sense than to come after him right before WrestleMania. Drew said everybody could say something bad about Corbin. He said he’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done, so he’ll be on his toes, but it’ll end with a Claymore so he can move on to his date with destiny to regain his WWE Championship. [c]
-As Drew made his entrance, the announcers were shown on camera hyping Peacock as the only place to stream WrestleMania. Then they hyped the entire WrestleMania line-up as Drew’s music looped in the background.
-Mitchell asked Lashley if she’d rather face McIntyre or Corbin. Lashley said if McIntyre survives, he’d love to face him. He said Drew can’t give him the promised ass whooping when he has him a Hurt Lock. He then turned to watch the monitor. They cut to a break.
(Keller’s Analysis: It’s pretty ridiculous that Corbin is officially being offered the WM main event slot if he can beat Drew. For so many reasons it’s stupid, but he only entered the picture last week by crossing to a brand he doesn’t belong to in order to chase a bounty put out by his opponent’s manager. There’s no way to sensibly explain why management would officially then tell Corbin he gets Drew’s spot if he beats him this week.) [c]
(6) DREW MCINTYRE vs. KING CORBIN
MVP joined the announcers on commentary. The bell rang 41 minutes into the third hour, so they left plenty of time for a full-fledged match barring a show-closing big angle. MVP yelled over to Drew a minute in and waved hello. Saxton asked if he was trying to get in Drew’s head. MVP said he was just being polite like his mom taught him to be. Drew applied a grinding side headlock as they cut to Lashley side-watching the match on TV. Corbin fought free, but Drew knocked him down in a mid-ring collision. Corbin rolled to ringside to regroup. Corbin took over back in the ring and MVP cheered him on to finish him. Drew came back with two overhead belly-to-belly tosses. Corbin fired back with a neckbreaker. Drew kipped up and looked at the hard camera, then over at MVP. MVP asked if everything was okay. Drew waited for Corbin to stand, then set up a Future Shock DDT. Corbin rolled to the floor. Drew went after him and whipped him into the ringpost and then the ringside steps. They cut to a break at 6:00. [c]
Corbin controlled after the break for a sustained stretch. He locked up Drew’s head and arms with a crucifix, then elbowed him over and over. Drew came back with a headbutt for a two count. MVP shouted at Corbin, asking if he wants to headline WrestleMania. Corbin got up and knocked Drew off balance on the top rope. He delivered a superplex for a two count. Drew and Corbin both caught their breath, then stood and battled mid-ring. Corbin landed a Deep Six for a near fall. MVP stood up and walked over to offer Corbin some advice. “It’s not about beating McIntyre, it’s about taking him out. Take! Him! Out!” He said. MVP then handed Corbin his cane. Drew ducked a swing and landed a Claymore for the win.
WINNER: McIntyre in 17:00.
-Afterward, Lashley stepped onto the stage where MVP met him. Lashley rubbed his fists together and looked at Drew in the ring. Drew stared back. Phillips asked who is willing to sacrifice more for the WWE Title.
(Keller’s Analysis: Solid, hard-hitting TV main event which had enough time to build and tell a good story. They “protected” Corbin by having MVP lose his patience right before the end of the show and hand Corbin a cane, which gave Drew just enough time to recover and finish him off.)