Cruiserweight build to ‘Mania: This build was simply executed. Neville was on commentary hyping how he’s not scared of Austin Aries while Aries wrestled Noam Dar and looked strong the entire match. He won with his submission, The Last Chancery, but not before intensely staring and Neville before finishing Dar off. Later in the show, Neville wrestled Jack Gallagher in a solid match. He showed strength, but also looked beatable. This is what should happen for a build. Don’t let the wrestlers touch; instead, let the anticipation build. Make the challenger look strong; let the heel champion show a weakness or two. This helps establish that the face could win whether he or she does or not.
Roman Reigns/Undertaker build: Roman leans into the heat from Philadelphia by reminding them he won the Royal Rumble there two years ago and went on to headline Wrestlemania – twice – with a little smirk. He says this Wrestlemania is more important because he’s going to end The Undertaker which no one else has been able to do. “This is my time now,” he says. “This sold-out arena, this is my house now because this is my yard.” The gong goes off, and the Titantron shows a grave yard. The Undertaker tells him that the “ring…is his yard” but “the yard you see now is your yard.” The camera finally shows that ‘Taker is digging the grave. He stops shoveling. “At Wrestlemania, the Roman Empire will fall, and the Ultimate Thrill Ride…will be your last ride.” The lights go out and suddenly he’s in the ring. “At Wrestlemania, you will REST IN PEACE.” He disappears just as he appeared, in darkness. The Undertaker was classic here, digging a grave for Roman, in a video package reminiscent of the ’90s. Roman himself was strong, short, and effective on the mic. He had the arrogant look of Superman villain and a heelish timbre in his voice. It was the best Roman in close to a year. This segment definitely benefited this match.
Kevin Owens/Chris Jericho build and Sami Zayn fights for his career: The destinies of Zayn and Owens intersect again. Early in the show, Sami Zayn announced that he was entering the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. Stephanie McMahon interrupts him and says that with Mick Foley gone, there is a new order. She says Zayn doesn’t declare anything. Instead, he will face Kevin Owens tonight, and if he loses, he will be fired.
Later in the show, Owens cut a short but effective promo about how Jericho was never his friend. He said that he would have never been a Jericho fan when he was younger if he knew him like he did now. He also says he relishes the chance to take Sami Zayn’s career away from him just like Jericho took his Universal Title. Owen says, “I’m going to turn the Ultimate Thrill Ride (which thankfully he said mockingly) into Chris Jericho’s ultimate demise.” This was good if only for the fact that Owens knew enough to say the catchphrase in a disgusted way. Bravo.
The match was good and got Philly invested in the match quickly due to the number of hard-hitting high spots. At one point, it looks like Sami has the upper hand, and Samoa Joe comes down, grabs a chair, and looks ready to interfere when Chris Jericho’s music hits. Joe readies himself for Jericho, staring at the ramp, but Jericho comes from the crowd and attacks him. He takes Joe out with the chair, and Owens is distracted long enough by this for Sami to get the roll-up for a 1-2-3. Owens starts to attack Sami, but Jericho runs Owens out of the ring with a chair shot as well. Owens and Joe make their way up the ramp while glaring angrily at Jericho. Jericho grabs a mic: “Kevin Owens, who know what happens when you betray Chris Jericho?” The crowd pops and chants, “Yes!” Finally, after being interrupted weeks ago, “You just made The List!” Owens sells being put on the list as if Jericho just destroyed a cherished possession. These two stories tied in well, and the build to one of the best stories leading to Wrestlemania was finally capped off with Jericho putting Owens on The List. This is still the heart of Wrestlemania heading into the show in six days.
Brock/Goldberg build: Paul Heyman delivered one of his better promos throughout this Lesnar and Goldberg feud, but it still felt a little like he’s phoning it in. He did put over the championship, although he engaged in some hyperbole that felt insincere, and put over Goldberg as a “superhero.” But, in the end, Lesnar is “The Beast,” and Heyman says he’ll be triumphant at Wrestlemania. Goldberg comes out and says Philadelphia isn’t there to see them talk, so since he can’t take Philly to Orlando, he’s going to bring Orlando to Philly. Lesnar jumps out of the ring to meet the rushing Goldberg who immediately spears him at the bottom on the ramp. He gets into the ring and holds the Universal Title above his head as Brock lays holding his ribs to end the show. This was a relatively tame segment ending into ‘Mania, but the Philadelphia crowd helped by being hot for it, so it made the match seem more important thanks to them.
Women’s build to WM: Bayley opens RAW and talks for about three minutes and practically the only message was that she is so excited that she’s going to Wrestlemania. Charlotte comes out and tells Bayley she’s a “fangirl in a women’s world.” She tells her that Sasha is waiting to stab her in the back because that’s who she is. Sasha comes out next. She says that she feels “like she hears this same thing every week.” That’s because she has for about the past four weeks. Sasha claims Charlotte is just trying to “stir the pot” but her and Bayley understand that “friendship is friendship and business is business.” Nia comes out last and says the three of them are all “high school drama” and she’s going to win the title.
This leads to a match because that’s exactly what you should do the week before the biggest PPV of the year is give away part of the action they would see, but three hours to fill and all that. Charlotte took the pin after a Bayley-to-Belly. Afterwards, Nia took out all three women. This segment did nothing to help this feud that hasn’t been done previously, and the crowd was largely silent except some “CM Punk” chants at one point. Hopefully, after ‘Mania, this division can get some fresh story lines because this is dreadful television. To compound the problem even further by placing the four women in a tag team match is hackneyed booking, pure and simple. After that finish, everyone knows Bayley isn’t holding the title and that Nia isn’t winning it most likely, which is another bad reason to have one of these matches before the big event.
Rollins-HHH build to WM: This is the contract signing segment for the unsanctioned match. HHH tries to explain that life is about taking what you want and saying to hell with everyone else. Seth tells him that was what Hunter said to convince him to join The Authority three years ago, but it’s not three years ago. He’s now trying to redeem himself and become “Seth-Freaking-Rollins” again. After Rollins signs, Hunter attacks him because, of course. Hunter does some more damage to Rollins’s leg but Rollins got the advantage and back-dropped him out of the ring. This segment went on far too long, and having Rollins explain that he’s part of a “redemption” story to the crowd was embarrassing to watch. At least the physical interaction seemed even which could allow viewers to feel the finish is up-in-the-air.
Over-the-top Challenge: It seems like the point of this match is that The Big Show takes on one challenger at a time to see if he can eliminate all of them. He eliminates Jinder Mahal, then Bo Dallas, before a swarm of lower card wrestlers come out to beat him up and eliminate him. The Big Show gets angry and returns to the ring to clear it out. Then Braun Strowman’s music hits. Braun says he could destroy Show right now, but he does what he wants, so everyone will have to wait for Wrestlemania where he will also be in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. This was a rather pointless segment that existed only for Strowman to announce he’s entering the battle royal Sunday, which anyone could have guessed considering he has nothing to do on the show.
Tag Team Championship Build: The Club attacked Cesaro and Sheamus backstage earlier in the show, and later they wrestled Enzo and Cass. When they were on the ramp, Cesaro and Sheamus attacked them with a ladder that was used on them earlier in the show. The three teams brawl, and the segment ends with Gallows and Anderson standing tall and giving Wolfpack signs in the ring. At least this segment didn’t last long.
The Final Analysis: Overall, it was a mixed show. There was a lot of filler with meaningless backstage interviews, promotional materials, overly long segments that are weeks or even months late, in the case of Rollins. However, there were some solid segments in this go-home show, most notably Reigns/’Taker, Jericho/Owens, and the cruiserweights, which interestingly enough, but be the matches that needed the build-up the least. Surely, big things will come next week on the RAW after ‘Mania as usually new stars are introduced and a couple reset buttons are hit.