WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from February 20
The Big Show looked to end the run of dominance by Braun Strowman Monday night in the main event of an explosive February 20 episode of Raw.
The show, focused on building and hyping the March 5 Fastlane pay-per-view card, highlighted some of the midcard matches that will support marquee bouts such as Goldberg vs. Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns vs. Strowman.
No. 1 contenders to the tag team titles were determined, Raw women's champion Bayley found out who her first challenger will be and a rivalry between Akira Tozawa and Brian Kendrick was touched off following a vicious assault by the enigmatic and eccentric villain.
Who walked out of Los Angeles' Staples Center with victories to their names and momentum on their side ahead of the upcoming Raw-exclusive extravaganza?
Take a look with this recap of the February 20 broadcast.
Kevin Owens Promo
WWE universal champion Kevin Owens kicked off this week's show, prepared to address both his Fastlane opponent Goldberg and his betrayal of Chris Jericho from a week ago.
Owens claimed he would beat the former using his superior smarts. He admitted he was never impressed by Goldberg and believes he only has to outsmart and outlast him to retain his title.
He feigned addressing Jericho next but simply dropped the microphone and walked off as chants of "you suck" and "Jericho" broke out.
Much to the dismay of the Los Angeles fans, there was no run-in by either hero.
There is the Kevin Owens fans know and love.
Yes, it is fun to see him hamming it up alongside Jericho, but at his best, Owens is a relentless, sarcastic bad guy. Here, he showed the intensity and intelligence that bad guys in Vince McMahon's WWE are rarely allowed to exhibit unless their nickname is The Cerebral Assassin.
It was ironic given who pulled Owens aside moments before his attack on Y2J last week.
The fans were hot for Jericho here, proving the feud between former best friends will generate strong heat if the writing staff can continue building momentum for it heading into, and coming out of, Fastlane.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Cesaro and Sheamus
Late in the match, Enzo Amore and Big Cass were rolling off of a hot tag and appeared to be en route to a victory.
That changed when Cesaro paired off with Cass.
The Swiss Superman outclassed his opponent, flying around the ring with an artistry reserved for the most virtuoso of athletes. He caught Cass with a series of uppercuts and looked to have him beat but only managed to keep the big man down for a count of two.
Cesaro tossed Amore but turned right into the East River Crossing from Cass, who scored the upset victory.
After the match, an overconfident Amore cut a promo but caught a Brogue Kick from Sheamus, who received "thank you" chants from fans in Los Angeles.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass defeated Cesaro and Sheamus.
The chants of "thank you, Sheamus" after he blasted a talking Amore is concerning if you are a WWE Creative team hoping beyond hope that Amore and Cass make it as the next big, babyface marketing-machine tag team.
Enzo and Cass are at that point in their WWE careers where the feud with Rusev, Lana and Jinder Mahal did much worse than better for them. Amore was exposed as a living, breathing cartoon character rather than an edgy, creative master of the mic, and fans are starting to catch on to the fact that he is more of a caricature than a character.
Now they prepare to battle a duo of badasses with cred from their New Japan days in current Raw tag team champions Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. If the overly comedic writing continues, expect fans to be solidly behind the heels and writers to panic over the failing of another supposedly huge babyface duo.
Akira Tozawa vs. Brian Kendrick
The match between Akira Tozawa and Brian Kendrick never happened.
Prior to the match, Kendrick attacked the Japanese star, assaulting him and leaving him in a heap following The Captain's Hook.
Tozawa was shown struggling to get to his feet as Kendrick returned backstage.
Kendrick cut a promo about respect with Charly Caruso backstage.
This was the same thing we have seen out of Brian Kendrick numerous times since the relaunch of the cruiserweight division.
He beats some fresh-faced Superstar down and rants about respect, and WWE Creative presents that as the genesis for a program. He is a psychological worker, for sure, but it remains to be seen if this Kendrick can work Tozawa's style and deliver a match that plays to the strengths of the newcomer.
If not, Tozawa could see his momentum halted before he can really seize any opportunity on Raw.
Roman Reigns vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
Because last week's Handicap match did wonders for Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson's young reign as tag team champions, this week featured a rematch between them and Roman Reigns.
The match featured the same handicap match formula that most similar bouts have but ended when Reigns grabbed a steel chair and blasted Anderson with it in the midsection, drawing a disqualification finish.
After the match, Reigns continued to unload on his opponents with the chair. He ended his assault on the champions by blasting Gallows with a Superman Punch and catching Anderson coming off the top rope with a spear.
Reigns, naturally, stood tall to close out the segment.
Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows defeated Roman Reigns by disqualification.
How in the hell does this help anyone but Reigns?
This writer is an admitted fan of the former WWE champion, but this right here is exactly the type of angle that infuriates his harshest critics.
Anderson and Gallows are the tag team champions, the top dogs in a division in which two men jell to form the most coherent unit in the sport. Yet here they were, unable to beat a single Superstar in a two-on-one match.
Instead, Reigns looked like a beast at the expense of an entire division, something that will surely not endear him to the fanbase the company has disillusioned through its use of Reigns over the last three years.
Angles like these feel like a giant F-you to those who are so openly critical of Reigns and the company's use of him.
The New Day vs. Rusev and Jinder Mahal
Before The New Day could square off with Rusev and Jinder Mahal, the popular trio took a swipe at current events, claiming Lana hacked their plans for ice cream, exclaiming, "she is Russian!"
Late in the match, Xavier Woods was able to regain possession of the ice cream plans, providing a momentary distraction that played to Kofi Kingston and Big E's advantage.
The former tag champion finished Mahal off with The Midnight Hour to score the victory.
The New Day defeated Rusev and Jinder Mahal.
Common sense says the clean babyface win would spell the end of the issues between these two teams, but there was something about this segment that felt like it was the beginning of a program rather than the end.
If that is the case, it at least gives The New Day and Rusev something productive to do come Fastlane.
The match here was nothing special, but it at least got everyone on television and gave the impression to fans that something between the two tandems was brewing, perhaps in time for the upcoming March 5 pay-per-view.
Cruiserweight Contract Signing
At Fastlane, Neville will defend his Cruiserweight Championship against Jack Gallagher. Monday night, they signed the contract for their title clash.
Austin Aries oversaw the proceedings.
Neville was disgusted by Gallagher, admitting that the resident gentleman is everything that was wrong with Neville when he arrived in WWE. He worried too much about what the people thought and was a joke.
Gallagher responded, saying he would not stand for people placing themselves above everyone else.
He cleared Neville from the ring to close out the segment.
Maybe it is the gimmick, but no matter how fun and entertaining Gallagher may be, it is difficult to envision him beating Neville in a major championship match.
There is something vintage about him, that is for sure, but he has never once felt like a competitor on par with The Man That Gravity Forgot, and as a result, Sunday's match feels more like a foregone conclusion than anything.
The segment was fine but did little to increase anticipation for the match.
Sarah Pierce vs. Nia Jax
It was a bad night to be young Sarah Pierce.
The native of Los Angeles found herself opposed by Nia Jax, who tore through her en route to victory with her signature Samoan Drop.
After the match, Charly Caruso caught up with Jax, who put women's champion Bayley on notice, making her title aspirations obvious.
Nia Jax defeated Sarah Pierce.
There was no substance to the match, but for the first time, Jax made it clear to the WWE Universe that she sees herself as a champion and proceeded to put both Bayley and Sasha Banks on notice.
Her post-match promo was strong, and her presence between the ropes continues to improve with every passing week.
The future is bright for Jax.
New women's champion Bayley hit the ring, eager to celebrate her championship victory from last week, but found herself cut off by Stephanie McMahon.
The Billion Dollar Princess tried to get Bayley to relinquish her title, going as far as to play on her childhood ambitions and questioning whether Bayley imagined having help to win a title she did not really deserve.
This brought out Sasha Banks, who called McMahon's words garbage. She implored Bayley to listen to her, listen to her heart and, most importantly, listen to the fans. Bayley vowed she would never relinquish the title.
Charlotte appeared and stated that she would take the title back at Fastlane as part of her rematch clause.
A match between the second-generation star and Banks was booked.
Banks manipulating Bayley as the "voice of reasoning" helps create intrigue for the impending turn from The Boss.
Before we reach that moment, though, Banks' confrontation with McMahon was damn fun and has this writer imagining a program between the two of those strong, independent women. The promos alone could make for extraordinary television and a match as heated as any other on whatever card it appeared.
Charlotte revealing that she would cash in her rematch at Fastlane should be cause for concern if you are a Bayley fan, given the genetically superior heel's sparkling pay-per-view record.
Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte
A rivalry renewed as Sasha Banks and Charlotte clashed on Raw once again.
The contest saw Charlotte dominate the middle until The Boss mounted a fiery comeback.
Dana Brooke attempted a late run-in, but Bayley followed close behind, cutting her off and preventing an unfair numbers advantage for the heels. With Charlotte distracted inside the squared circle, Banks delivered a Banks Statement and scored the submission victory.
Sasha Banks defeated Charlotte.
It is virtually impossible for Banks and Charlotte to have a bad match at this point in their rivalry. They have a chemistry with each other that is second-to-none in the women's division, and that was on display here.
The finish continues the narrative that Banks and Bayley are best friends, eager to help each other. It is only a matter of time, though, before Banks shows her true colors, her desire to reign as champion overwhelming any need for friendship or popularity.
A fun segment overall, with the only questionable aspect being the use of Dana Brooke, whose stock has seemingly fallen in recent months.
Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
Before Sami Zayn could hit the ring for his showdown with longtime friend-turned-bitter rival Kevin Owens, he was brutally attacked by Samoa Joe. The Samoan Submission Machine repeatedly threw him into the ring post and could be overheard yelling, "keep my name out of your mouth."
He rolled a nearly obliterated Zayn into the ring, where a vicious and violent Owens was waiting.
The Underdog from the Underground, never one to say die, ordered the match continue.
He would regret it, eating a series of corner clotheslines, a cannonball and the Popup Powerbomb, which ended his night.
Owens stood dominantly to end the segment.
Kevin Owens defeated Sami Zayn.
This worked only because of the intensity shown by Joe during his brutal assault of Zayn.
Owens picking up the pieces does nothing to enhance the badass image we saw earlier in the show, and Zayn catching another ass-kicking is repetitive, neutralizing how effective the segment as a whole actually was.
What could have been a strong segment was merely average thanks to small-but-fixable booking mistakes on the part of WWE Creative.
Big Show vs. Braun Strowman
The main event saw Braun Strowman battle Big Show inside a squared circle reinforced by the ring crew.
Strowman showcased tremendous athleticism, performing a kip-up that wowed fans. From there, he would dominate the match, using his strength to keep his former world-champion opposition grounded. He even withstood a chokeslam and a knockout punch to remain in the match.
A late-match botch slightly hurt what had been a really strong heavyweight battle, but Strowman recovered nicely, putting The World's Largest Athlete away with the powerslam.
After the match, Roman Reigns hit the ring and caught Strowman with a series of Superman Punches, only to suffer a dropkick at the hands of Strowman. He delivered another powerslam to end the segment and close out the show.
Braun Strowman defeated The Big Show.
Big Show and Braun Strowman wrestled a fun heavyweight match that featured a clunky spot late but recovered courtesy of another impressive Strowman powerslam.
The beatdown of Reigns further establishes Strowman's dominance over The Big Dog and creates doubt as to whether Reigns can realistically defeat him at Fastlane.
Kudos to Big Show, who bumped all over the ring for Strowman, selling all of his offense and putting over the shock of him kicking out of his signature moves.
A strong show-closing segment.