Can you feel it? The electricity in the air, the tingle in your bones? It’s WrestleMania week, like Christmas and the Super Bowl rolled into one for pro wrestling fans. And for WWE, it kicks off tonight in Washington with the go-home edition of Monday Night Raw. Aside from lots of pointing towards the giant Mania sign in the rafters, what exactly should viewers expect?
All The Singles Ladies’ Champions
A six-woman tag match is set, which could have huge ramifications on Mania due to the stipulations. Raw Women’s Champ Ronda Rousey will be teamed with her opponents for Sunday, Becky Lynch and SmackDown Women’s Champ Charlotte Flair. The Mania main event trio will take on the Riott Squad; however, if Rousey, Lynch or Flair betray either of their teammates Monday evening, they’ll lose their spot in the WrestleMania match. We can expect to see lots of shenanigans as each lady teases throwing their moment away in exchange for a quick slap. But don’t expect to see any of the girls actually removed from the bout. Even if they go with some major swerve to take one of them out, they’ll just reverse the decision tomorrow night.
Stephanie McMahon has announced she’ll be on Raw tonight to make a major announcement about the Mania main event. Expect at least one of four things. The winner will either become the undisputed WWE Women’s Champion, or there will be complicated title change rules. They could have decided to add Asuka into the match to counter some of the backlash after SmackDown. Most likely, however, is Stephanie declaring herself the special guest referee. After all, the creator of women’s wrestling should be in there somewhere, no?
A Beast Unleashed
The Official Preview reminds us Universal Champion Brock Lesnar will grace Raw with his presence this evening. Lesnar hasn’t had a lot of face time with his challenger Seth Rollins, who has had to rely on verbal jousting with Paul Heyman to hype the match. We should expect the pair to be highly motivated to tear the house down on Sunday. We know the match will follow the formula of Lesnar vs AJ Styles or Daniel Bryan. All that remains to be seen is whether or not Rollins will take the upset all the way home. Expect a whole lot of posturing tonight. Lesnar has to look like the immovable mountain going into Sunday, but fans have to get a sense that Rollins could pull off the impossible. The build has been lack-luster, but this pairing is capable of pulling fans into the story on Sunday.
Animal On The Loose
We’ll also see Batista in-person tonight, who plans on delivering a message to Triple H prior to their big match. The Game has agreed to put his career on the line, and made the bout No Holds Barred. This obviously sets up the slug-fest with foreign objects these two can pull off, versus the in-ring classic that is beyond them now. I get the impression WWE expected the audience to be more engaged with this than they appear. If we hadn’t seen Trips in the fall, his promos and impending return would mean more. And after the brilliant Flair Birthday Beating angle, we didn’t get a follow-up from Big Dave meeting that standard. They’ll need to use tonight to really set up the idea that Triple H’s career is in serious jeopardy. Expect Batista to leave tonight with momentum firmly on his side.
Kurt Angle wraps up his work with Monday Night Raw this evening with a scheduled match against Rey Mysterio. These two veterans have had five-star matches against each other in the past. While their prime days are in the rear-view mirror, both are still up to the task of delivering a high-quality bout. Most of this depends on Creative’s intentions this evening – is this being played as Angle’s last hurrah, or a Mania set-up angle? If it’s for Baron Corbin to interfere and hype Sunday’s match against Angle, don’t expect much. If, on the other hand, they want to let Kurt go out from Raw looking as good as he can look, we can expect a really good match. I can imagine this is something Creative will be debating up to showtime.
Fighting Over the Yard
Roman Reigns accepted the WrestleMania challenge of Drew McIntyre last week, so we can expect a confrontation tonight. McIntyre also mopped the floor with Dean Ambrose for the second time in a month, dragging momentum to his side. The Scottish Psychopath has been steadily moving up throughout March, particularly looking good against The Shield brothers. Since his return, Reigns has seemed somewhat on the sidelines, a peripheral figure like Braun Strowman. Their match this Sunday is either designed to complete Drew’s push to the top of the card, or properly re-introduce Reigns. A lot will depend on Universal title plans. If Rollins is going to take the strap, they’ve done a good job positioning McIntyre as his first challenger. If not, Reigns will once again be the man trying to beat The Beast. Expect tonight to be a whole lotta fisticuffs between the two until they have to be separated by half the roster.
A Legacy Looms
Sasha Banks and Bayley have the weight of legacy on their backs headed into WrestleMania. They’re the first-ever WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, defending a title making its Mania debut. There’s an amazing amount of pressure to perform along with that. Granted, there are three other teams in the mix, and it takes all participants to make a great match. But it’s going to be the Boss and Hug Connection at the center of the story. If they can generate a WrestleMania ‘moment’ on their way to winning on Sunday, they’ll immediately strengthen and legitimize the division. We’ll see a Mania preview of sorts tonight, with the champs teaming with The Divas of Destruction (Beth Phoenix and Natalya) to tackle Nia Jax and Tamina with The IIconics. Expect this to break down in a hurry, with all four teams battling each other by the end.
Raw Tag Team Champions The Revival will defend their straps tonight on Raw against Aleister Black and Ricochet. The last time the teams met, Bobby Rooooooo and Chad Gable interfered; since that duo are booked for WrestleMania’s Andre Invitational, they would appear to be out of the picture this week. Neither the Raw or SmackDown tag team titles are slated for WrestleMania yet, but of course that could change this week. Expect a screwy finish tonight, leading to a Mania rematch one way or the other. By which time, Black and Ricochet could already be the NXT Tag Team Champions.