The WWE’s red crew is in Portland, Oregon for tonight’s episode of their flagship television presentation, Monday Night Raw. Last week, following on from the Rumble, they set the stage for the two top Raw title matches at WrestleMania. But we’re two weeks away from the Elimination Chamber PPV, which needs a card. So what exactly can fans expect from this evening’s show?
Well, we know we can expect The Man to come around. Million Dollar Princess Stephanie McMahon has personally invited Women’s Royal Rumble winner Becky Lynch to Raw tonight. Perhaps this invite and appearance is meant to tie up the loose end left regarding Lynch’s current roster spot. Is she indeed still a SmackDown star challenging for the Raw championship, or does she have to officially move to the red brand? It’s more likely WWE just wants to expose both audiences to the buildup to the Mania main event. Expect Rousey to end up making an appearance or two on SmackDown between now and April 7 as well. As for tonight, expect this to end up being a chance for Lynch to draw more comparisons to Austin, as she defies McMahon authority – and maybe evens lays out the boss.
The other Raw WrestleMania main eventer, Seth Rollins, was rag-dolled by Universal Champion Brock Lesnar last week, a move which didn’t exactly lend any credibility to his title shot. There are no Paul Heyman or Lesnar on the official preview for tonight’s show, but there’s no doubt we’ll be hearing from Rollins. Expect someone (please not Ambrose, please not Ambrose) to interrupt the Kingslayer, with a message along the lines of, “at Elimination Chamber, I’ll make what Brock did to you last week look like a gymnastics lesson.” We’ve had teases for several debuts of NXT call-ups for weeks now – let’s hope WWE finally drops its reluctance to use one of them.
Olympic Gold Medalist, Hall of Fame member and multiple time former World champion Kurt Angle is due to address his future on Raw this evening. After losing last week to Baron Corbin, the expectation is for Angle to announce his sailing off into the sunset tonight. But that seems a little too obvious. Instead, look for Angle to issue a challenge of some sort for Elimination Chamber, probably to Corbin. If this is indeed the beginning of the end of the run for Angle, look for one more WrestleMania moment for the ex GM. There’s also a chance this all ties into a possible return for Jason Jordan, if he’s able.
We’ve also got matches announced – that’s right, plural! We’re due to have Sasha Banks and Bayley take on Alicia Fox and Nikki Cross for the final Raw team spot in the Women’s Tag Team Championship Elimination Chamber match. This bout looks to be set up for two reasons – one, for Banks and Bayley to assume their rightful spot in the Chamber. The second is for Foxy and Cross to continuously one-up the other’s ‘craziness’. The other match already scheduled pits Elias against another fifty-plus Hall of Fame multi-time former World Champ, Jeff Jarrett. Double J will have his old buddy, and current WWE producer, Road Dogg Jessie James in his corner, watching for blindside guitar shots. Elias seems like’s he’s been dropped into some sort of Creative purgatory. After being stuck in go-nowhere feud after go-nowhere feud, and flipped from heel, to face, and now apparently back to heel again, now he’s the supporting player for a nostalgia act. If WWE had their heart set on letting Jarrett have this last blast, it should have been one of the NXT call-ups up against him. For one of them, it would have been elevating. For Elias, it’s devastating.
Speaking of Lashley, the Intercontinental champion is in another of tonight’s already announced matches, taking on Finn Balor in a non-title encounter. Since Lashley absolutely dominated Balor last week, with three power bombs burying the plucky Irishman, and since the title isn’t on the line, we can expect Balor to win tonight. The McMahon’s can sing about change all they want, they’ll cling to the ‘win a non-title match to become a challenger’ plot forever. It’s such a shame that Balor’s main story, since he was constantly matched up against Corbin last year to now, is that he’s not huge.
Meanwhile, two of the biggest guys on the Raw roster seem stuck in ruts of their own, now coming up against each other. Braun Strowman and Drew McIntyre were both being looked at as potential claimants to the throne at different times over the last year. Right now, both men lack direction, and both characters are missing momentum. Putting them in a pairing could salvage things for one of them, but it’s difficult to see how it benefits both. Expect one of these two to be looking back on 2019 one day as the year that could’ve been, but wasn’t.
They gave us a lot of details in this week’s official preview, but as always there are questions going into the show. Will the topic of Dean Ambrose’s apparent real-life decision to leave the company come up on-air? Will Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins take another stab at reviving their tag team, or will The Revival use last week’s win over the pair as their own springboard? Will we ever see Bray Wyatt again? What about those NXT call-ups? Be it work or shoot, it’s anyone’s guess if they’ll talk about the Ambrose contract situation on Raw. Their acknowledgement of the situation suggests it’s a work, in which case, it’s more likely Corey Graves tries to corner Rene Young with questions. If it is just a matter of them being more open and accepting, and it is ‘real’, it’s less likely to come up… but not impossible. It’s certainly one of the more interesting angles around the company at the moment.
Things have definitely improved through January, maybe baby steps up a very slightly incremented ladder, but improved nonetheless. It’s a middle-of-the-journey show, a couple weeks removed from the last PPV, and a couple weeks out from the next. By definition, we know not to expect too much in the way of major fireworks. Tonight’s just supposed to keep the pot simmering. With that in mind, on a scale of one to five, with five being, “Ambrose Left WWE to Join NJPW as Jon Moxley!” and one being, “Ambrose left WWE to Join Taco Bell as Jon Good,” expect tonight’s Raw to come in at 2.5.