The Monday Night Raw crew rolls into Grand Rapids, Michigan, this evening, going home to Elimination Chamber this Sunday. With the network special six days away, and WrestleMania looming ever larger on the horizon, what expectation can fans have of WWE’s premier television presentation tonight?
We’re still a couple of months away from WrestleMania, but the hype-machine is in motion. Stephanie McMahon (reprising the role of her dad), told Becky Lynch (playing the part of Stone Cold Steve Austin), she needs doctor’s clearance. Her Mania title bout against Ronda Rousey hangs in the balance. The Man refused, and decked McMahon. The following night on SmackDown, Lynch slapped the taste out of Triple H’s mouth. Tonight, as per the Official Preview, the McMahon family has invited Lynch to Raw once again to keep things rolling. It seems safe to assume Lynch will get a fresh face from the family to slap, and expectations are for either Shane or Vince himself to be the sacrificial lamb.
This is the set up to get Charlotte Flair into the Mania main event. Lynch will be officially removed, Flair will be inserted into her spot, only for Lynch to force her way back in. Whether that happens tonight, or we just see more of the same posturing from last week, remains to be seen. On the one hand, it’s a nostalgic homage to one of the greatest angles in WWE history with a feminine twist; on the other, it’s another rehash of the plot they’ve worn pretty thin through the years since Austin. Hope for, but don’t expect, a major swerve to give this version its own place in wrestling folklore.
As for Rousey, the Raw Women’s Champion is slated to defend her title on Sunday against Ruby Riott. While Rousey will definitely have an eye and ear for whatever happens between Lynch and the McMahon clan, her attention will be split. Expect the Riott Squad to put a beating on the champ at some point tonight, probably while she’s engaged with the Lass Kicker. The way Creative has kept Rousey busy with different challengers, while also brewing and bubbling the feud with Lynch and Flair, has been excellent. The title has had a variety of contenders, and they’ve kept a cohesive story or two going as well. Leaves you wondering why the men’s title scene always seems so stale.
Raw’s other top title match for Mania might be in some jeopardy itself. Universal Championship challenger Seth Rollins is apparently dealing with an injury that’s legitimately keeping him out of the ring. There have been reports Rollins won’t be in the ring for the rest of February or March. If these stories are accurate, there may be a major issue. Rollins didn’t appear on Raw last week – could be because Creative was selling the beating champ Brock Lesnar dished out the previous Monday, could be because of the real-life injury. The Architect Kingslayer has to make an appearance on Raw, and we can expect him to address these rumours. Following the last-minute change to the Universal Title match at the Rumble, will WWE put themselves in a position to have the same thing happen at Mania? If they’re going to pull Rollins from the match, how? And the bigger question, who goes instead of the Rumble winner? Hard to figure out what to expect without solid answers on a potential injury. If he really is legitimately hurt to the tune of six weeks off, surely they can’t cross fingers and hope he’ll be good to go. Hope to get some clarity tonight.
Finn Balor was supposed to be taking on Bobby Lashley in a non-title match last Monday, only for Lashley to balk and send his hype-man Lio Rush to the ring in his stead. Balor was told he would earn an Intercontinental title shot if he could “entertain” the big man, so expect to find out tonight if Lashley considered himself entertained. Since there’s not a lot booked from Raw’s perspective for Sunday’s Elimination Chamber, this feels like a no-brainer for the PPV.
The ladies arguably have center stage at Elimination Chamber, with the big cage coming down to determine the historic first-ever WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions. Three teams from Raw and three from SmackDown will be in the structure, so expectations are for the red brand pairs to exchange words and fists tonight. Nia Jax and Tamina, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan of the Riott Squad, and Bayley and Sasha Banks (who is also not apparently cleared for in-ring action) all have arguments for and against being crowned the inaugural tag champs, and they’ll definitely get time to hype the match tonight.
The Revival once again earned a Raw Tag Team Championship shot last week. Expect that bout to help fill up Sunday’s pre-show time. More interesting than Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder being set up for more disappointment is the potential behind B-Team 2 (or is it Job Squad 3?) – Zack Ryder (Zac Rider? Zach Rhyder?) and Curt Hawkins. There’s little chance this reunion, and the television time spent so far, is being done to simply bury the pair again. Expect to see Ryder and Hawkins get a decent tag push soon. Well, as decent as a tag push can get at WWE.
An interesting dichotomy Creative face at the moment is Raw’s main event scene on the men’s side. We don’t have a top champion on television, or a lot of the PPVs. The man positioned at the top of the roster is apparently not fit to compete. Those we’re left with as the so-called main eventers are guys recently booked to be second-best. Braun Strowman, runner up at the Rumble. Drew McIntyre, the next big thing that just can’t seem to get over the last hurdle. Baron Corbin, apparently the reason the show sucked so badly for the better part of last year. Kurt Angle, the veteran about to retire due to his recent win/loss record. And don’t forget Dean Ambrose, who we’re told is on his way out the door. Expect him to put EC3 over again this week, by the way, so the next wave can at least begin to build. As for the other four, expect them to butt heads again in some combination this week, and look for Corbin and McIntyre to take advantage of 50/50 booking to come out on top.
Mojo Rawley has apparently been sitting in a darkened room talking to himself in a mirror for the past couple of weeks. Will he summon the motivation to leave said room this week? Or will Rawley satisfy his cravings to making something of himself by spending another two minutes on affirmations? Either way, expectations are, we’ll see him tonight. Little Miss Alexa Bliss will host her Moment of Bliss; no word yet on her guest, but expect it to be either the three teams in the Elimination Chamber, or Dana Brooke and Natayla. That pairing seem headed towards a feud following a silly misunderstanding last Monday over earbuds. Have we seen the last of Double J Jeff Jarrett and backstage producer Jesse James on television, or does Elias get to move on to something worthwhile this week? Expect guitar salespeople to smile, and guitar repairmen to frown along with wrestling fans, if we have to sit through another rendition of With My Baby Tonight before a Fender is smashed on somebody.