Fastlane didn’t have a lot of work to do last night to set the table for WrestleMania. Outside of Becky Lynch vs Charlotte Flair, there wasn’t anything with actual Mania ramifications. That means WWE has just four weeks of television to build practically the entire card for the Show of Shows. Without question, we’ll be seeing matches develop quickly, starting tonight. But what specifically can fans expect to see on this evening’s episode of Monday Night Raw?
Rollins’ Road to WrestleMania
We should definitely expect to see the rapid ascent of Seth Rollins. They’ve taken the time to tell us recently how he’s the number-one star – now they have to get back to showing us. Which is where we hit a little bit of a snag. Who can Rollins beat that gives him a rub? Any heel on the roster gets a win over Rollins, they’ve gained momentum and status. But a Rollins win over any of the same guys doesn’t mean anything. Should we expect to see Rollins taking on the trio The Shield destroyed last night in concurrent weeks leading to Mania? The only other opponent he’d been facing was Dean Ambrose, and apparently they’ve patched things up again. The only man that makes sense to me to stand across from Rollins is Roman Reigns. It wouldn’t have to mean a heel turn for either man, it could be Reigns’ opportunity to earn his way into the Universal Championship match. It’s the biggest and best win they could give Rollins on his road to WrestleMania. I suppose the another option could be Braun Strowman, but he just doesn’t have the same cachet.
We were told during Fastlane that we can look forward to seeing a live confrontation between Triple H and Batista. Of course, this will largely depend on Batista showing up versus appearing on JumboTron. Expect him to be in Pittsburgh. They’re gonna need to squeeze four segments between the two for everything they’re worth. It feels there’s a large segment of the audience unhappy with Trips and another part-timer getting a marque spot. They’re going to have to work hard to make this hot enough fans don’t care about age or how long they’ve been out of the ring. Batista’s return angle was well executed, but we don’t know his motivation yet. Expect this to be the focus of his appearance tonight.
‘Member the Intercontinental Title?
We also found out last night we’ll be seeing an Intercontinental Championship bout on Raw. Title holder Finn Balor will take on former champ Bobby Lashley (don’t call it a rematch). Balor’s entire run thus far has been defenses against Lashley or his former mouth piece Lio Rush, and nobody cares. You would think we should expect to see Lashley’s apparent running-mates Drew McIntyre and Baron Corbin assist him this evening. If that happens, does this mean Balor finally gets a real Club? Or will he just get Strowman and Reigns in his corner for a one-off? One way or another, expect to get some clarity on what these two will be doing at WrestleMania – if anything.
Rousey & Lynch & Flair, Oh My
The Official Preview hypes up Becky Lynch’s inclusion in the Raw Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania. We can most definitely expect to see Rowdy Ronda Rousey on this evening’s broadcast. It only makes sense we’ll get to see Lynch and Charlotte Flair as well. With build going all way back to SummerSlam, this match is getting the most focus and the most hype. Rousey’s worked-shoot YouTube video got them the mainstream attention they knew it would. Now Lynch is, apparently, officially in the match too. They’re not going to take a chance at letting this momentum slip now. Expect to see this trio exchange fists on TV and insults on social media for the next month. It’ll be interesting to see if the McMahon family decides to interject themselves into the story again, or if they just let it roll out now.
Jax & Tamina on a Tear
WWE’s preview for Raw also raves about the post-match beatings issued by Nia Jax and Tamina. The pair lost their WWE Women’s Tag Team Title shot, and after the match, they beat the tar out of legendary veteran Beth Phoenix and Natalya. I would expect to see Jax and Tamina taking on Phoenix and Natalya this evening, but I can’t guess where that’s going. I suppose they could be building the big-girl duo back up for another title shot at Mania. But if that’s the case, why have them lose cleanly last night? Perhaps Phoenix and Natalya are the duo heading to title shots at Mania. This has wait and see written all over it, but isn’t feeling very interesting at the moment.
The tag team division got to look good last night at Fastlane. The Revival held onto their titles, winning a really good triple-threat tag match against Ricochet and Aleister Black and Bobby Roode and Chad Gable. Knowing WWE’s penchant for 50/50 booking, don’t expect The Revival to go on a winning streak though. It’s more likely we see them lose a non-title match tonight as we head towards a multi-team match for the belts at Mania.
Officially, there are only three matches booked for WrestleMania, and one of those (the Cruiserweight title match) only has one competitor. We know some of what’s going to be added (Triple H vs Batista, AJ Styles vs Randy Orton), but there’s a lot more needed to fill six hours of show. And if any of that is going to be relevant to the audience, there’s a lot of ground to be covered in four weeks. So we should expect to be getting more than our share of big angles for a month on Raw. How that plays out and if fans are left impressed or overwhelmed remains to be seen. On a scale of one to five, with five being, “OMG, Harlem Heat are headed to the Hall of Fame,” and one being, “OMG, Vince Russo is headed to the Hall of Fame,” expect tonight’s Raw to rate a three.
Comments and discussion are welcome below; follow Chris Holden on Twitter @Shocked_n_Awed.