There’s always some extra anticipation for the Monday Night Raw following a major Network special event. With the Road to WrestleMania officially opened last night at the Royal Rumble, what expectations of follow up, new programs and surprises can we have of WWE’s flagship television show tonight?
It would stand to reason that we’ll be seeing both Rumble winners themselves on Raw tonight. If the long-rumoured Becky Lynch vs Ronda Rousey Mania match-up is indeed going to happen, it would seem The Man needs to move to the red brand to use her title opportunity. There looks to be very little doubt that will happen. The more interesting question is if or how Sasha Banks and Bayley play into the angle. Banks threw up the Four Horsemen/women symbol while Rousey tried to console her after their match. Will Banks and Bayley link up with Lynch, and would that mean Rousey reaches out for her reinforcements from NXT? The Boss took Rousey into deeper water than any other challenger yet, so don’t expect that pairing to be done with just yet. Expect Lynch to make her WrestleMania title match official tonight – beyond that, don’t anticipate details, just wait for something fun to happen.
Seth Rollins claimed his first Royal Rumble win last night, and will no doubt be selecting Universal Champion Brock Lesnar as his target for Mania. Obviously, this will leave Rollins without a dance partner for the foreseeable future, and that won’t do. Usually, the Rumble winner now has to jump through a series of hoops through to Elimination Chamber to keep their shot. Expect Drew McIntyre to be the hurdle stuck in front of The Architect. It’s hard to see Braun Strowman come to terms with coming so close, so it seems reasonable to expect he’ll have something to say to Rollins too. The Official Preview from WWE.com reminds us Rollins could choose to face Daniel Bryan at Mania, but that would come out of left field. Rollins has had a lot to say about Raw’s absentee champ, it’s a no-brainer he’ll be going for the red belt.
Finn Balor put in a great shift last night, looking very credible against Lesnar and nearly shocking the world. He came up short, but with some more key wins on Raw and Elimination Chamber, his main event status would be finally cemented. Who’s next for Balor? It seemed like Elias slipped back into heel-mode last night, first going back to his old home-team joke routine before his song, and then smashing his guitar on Jeff Jarrett. Expect someone to say the wrong thing to Balor about his title shot last night, leading to them being shown up by the plucky Irishman later in the show.
The final item on the official preview asks where the latest NXT call-ups will land. We’ve seen Lacey Evans, EC3, Nikki Cross and Heavy Machinery on both shows recently, and both Evans and Cross enjoyed decent stints in the Rumble match. Evans looks like a natural opponent for Charlotte Flair, so expect to see her land on SmackDown. Cross, however, looks like a Raw wrestler – less technical and cerebral, more crazy and slobberknocker. Heavy Machinery will be praying no matter where they wind up, the tag division gets more attention and spotlight than it does now. They’re the kind of act that could really make the division more intense, more competitive and much more enjoyable – but that’s been said before, several times, and teams have been wasted. Many expected EC3 to make his much-anticipated debut last night, and it didn’t happen. It’s gotta happen some time, so perhaps tonight? If Creative had nothing for him, why shift him from NXT in the first place?
Others expected to have some sort of impact last night, who then didn’t even appear, were Bray Wyatt, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. WWE have claimed Owens and Zayn won’t be returning until after Mania, and maybe they weren’t trying to throw a swerve after all. Who knows what’s up with Wyatt. He’s made at least one house show appearance in the last month, but hasn’t been on television in ages. Granted, he needed some time away to let people forget how low his success rate actually was. But he also has to come back at some point. There are plenty of guys on the roster right now seemingly without current enemies. These call-ups and returns have to happen soon, lest we end up again with the same old repetitive match-ups.
We’re short on details and large on speculation for tonight’s show, which isn’t a bad thing at all. The easier things are to forecast in wrestling, the less point there is watching in the first place. WrestleMania was murky at best heading into last night’s Rumble – things are a bit clearer now at the top of the card, but there’s a lot of work to be done. On a scale of one to five, with one being, “Nia Jax pulling double-duty was our big shock?” and five being, “Becky Lynch did double duty!”, expect tonight’s Raw to be a three-point-five.