WWE Raw Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from March 12
The Road to WrestleMania is underway, and Monday night, the path for several top Superstars from the Raw brand became clearer, thanks to a few red-hot angles and an unexpected conclusion to the broadcast.
John Cena once again challenged The Undertaker via a scathing promo that tested his temper and questioned his courage.
Brock Lesnar no-showed Raw, leading to Roman Reigns cutting another opinionated promo and confronting Vince McMahon backstage in a moment that led to his temporary suspension.
Finn Balor did battle with Seth Rollins, Nia Jax found out how disingenuous Alexa Bliss can be and Braun Strowman earned a tag team title opportunity at WrestleMania...all by himself.
This was the March 12 episode of Raw, its outcomes and segments guaranteed to have an effect on the coming weeks as WrestleMania rapidly approaches.
Kurt Angle, an Unfortunate Announcement and Roman Reigns' Fury
The March 12 episode of Raw kicked off with Raw general manager Kurt Angle discussing his upcoming WrestleMania match and how honored he is to team with Ronda Rousey.
He announced that Brock Lesnar wouldn't be at Raw tonight. Roman Reigns interrupted and said he knew it, he was right and that Lesnar does not care about anyone. The only one he cares about is himself, but it's not Angle's fault.
No, the problem is Vince McMahon, who allows it to happen because Lesnar is his boy.
Reigns ended the promo by discussing the fact that McMahon did not even have the decency to tell him about Lesnar's no-show when he walked right past him in the Gorilla Position.
Reigns stormed out of the ring and to the back, where he confronted McMahon and other officials overseeing the show.
It should be interesting to see if positioning Reigns against McMahon, Lesnar and the machine will be enough to get him over with fans in time to be the clear-cut babyface at WrestleMania. Or, if WWE Creative is tearing a page from the history books and booking all of this as a red herring to turn Reigns a la The Rock at Survivor Series 1998.
The promo from Reigns was another strong one in a line of them and sets him up for success on this road to WrestleMania, as opposed to others that were far too forced creatively.
Sasha Banks vs. Sonya Deville
Despite the incredible tension that exists between them, Bayley was at ringside in support of Sasha Banks as The Boss squared off with Sonya Deville in the first match of the night.
Deville utilized her submission-based offense to ground Banks and put her in jeopardy through the heart of the match.
A spirited comeback saw Banks deliver the double knees in the corner, only to have Mandy Rose attempt to interfere in the bout. Bayley took care of her, pulling her from the apron and allowing Banks to score the submission victory with the Bank Statement.
After the match, Bayley headed to the back, leaving Banks susceptible to a beatdown by Absolution, who stood tall to close out the segment.
Sasha Banks defeated Sonya Deville
Banks and Bayley vs. Absolution is a feud that has exhausted itself of any fresh matches, but the storytelling between Banks and Bayley really helped this segment.
Bayley reluctantly supporting Banks and then leaving just in time for her "friend" to catch a beating will only further speculation that the hug-loving Superstar is in line for a heel turn.
And if not Bayley, perhaps Banks will take the necessary steps to sever her friendship with Bayley.
Miz TV Featuring Finn Balor and Seth Rollins
Miz admitted The Miztourage is not with him tonight because they will have the opportunity to cash their ticket to WrestleMania later in the night.
He went on to claim that, despite adversity, he will defeat Finn Balor and Seth Rollins at WrestleMania and clear the final hurdle between him and the record for the longest Intercontinental Championship reign of all time.
Both No. 1 contenders drew enormous pops from the WWE Universe.
Miz, the master manipulator, reminded fans of Balor's monumental victory over Rollins for the Universal Championship. The situation devolved into a confrontational one until the babyfaces realized what Miz was trying to do.
The intercontinental champion was cleared from the ring, but Rollins put the exclamation point on the segment with a knee to Balor, lying the Irishman out to close out the segment.
Was it nice to see a babyface or two not entirely immune to common sense around heels? Yes, but at the same time, this segment was as one-dimensional and formulaic as it comes when dealing with a Triple Threat match build.
It was nothing we have not seen a million times before, nor did it do anything to create any more or less excitement for the title bout.
Miz was great, as usual, and this was kept the right length. Those are the two positives from the otherwise average segment.
The Bar vs. The Miztourage
Before the scheduled match between The Bar and The Miztourage could start, the tag teams of Monday Night Raw hit the ring and unloaded on Sheamus and Cesaro.
The Raw tag team champions escaped as their peers watched from the ring, clearly not finished with the loudmouthed and braggadocios duo.
Why does it feel like we are heading to a monumental cluster of a tag match for WrestleMania?
Does anyone really care that much?
In all honesty, any of the matches The Bar teased later in the night with SmackDown teams sounds like a better idea than what we are actually likely to get.
John Cena Promo
Just 24 hours after losing another WWE title match at Fastlane, John Cena addressed the fans.
Again, he brought up a match with Undertaker and cut a scathing promo about The Deadman.
He claimed Undertaker is the only person keeping a match between them at WrestleMania from happening. He claimed Undertaker buried his head in the sand because he is a coward. He proceeded to call him an egomaniac who only cares about himself and whether he looks bad.
The exclamation point on the promo was a knock on The Phenom posting workout videos on wife Michelle McCool's Instagram account.
The promo ended with Cena saying if he were Undertaker, he would want one more match at WrestleMania.
The Undertaker has never been verbally eviscerated like that in his entire career. Not The Rock, not Steve Austin or Triple H...no one has spoken as irreverently of The Deadman the way Cena did Monday night in setting up their WrestleMania beef.
He was blunt, almost uncomfortably so, and it struck a nerve with audiences. This is suddenly more interesting than any match over legacies or history ever could be.
Elias' Downfall and Braun Strowman's Warning
A week after enduring tremendous pain and punishment in a Symphony of Destruction match against Braun Strowman, Elias attempted to play the audience a song despite an obviously battered body.
Frustrated and unmotivated, he told the fans it was their fault and walked off.
The cameras cut backstage, where Strowman was standing.
Angry over his lack of WrestleMania match, Strowman vowed to cause chaos and make his own path to the pay-per-view.
Elias blaming the fans is a nice touch, seeing as how he is always so eager to insult them over the course of his music.
Strowman vowing to create chaos until he has an obvious road to WrestleMania has the potential to create immensely entertaining television. We have seen what he can do in the past. Determined to cash his ticket to the event, he could be more dangerous and destructive than ever before.
If the reaction to his threat is any indication, the fans would love to see it.
Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins
The professional rivalry between Seth Rollins and Finn Balor, reignited earlier in the evening by the manipulative Miz, culminated Monday in a one-on-one contest that brought work rate to a show that had been quite talk-heavy to this point.
Balor seized control of the evenly fought first half of the match heading into the break.
Back from commercial, Rollins took over, catching the leader of Balor Club with a knee to the head.
Rollins worked over Balor's head and neck, but the inaugural universal champion fought his way back into the match. It was a momentary comeback, as Rollins sent him face-first into the corner.
The action intensified and the Superstars began executing their signature offense. They countered and escaped everything the other threw at them until Balor delivered a Pele Kick. Rollins answered with an enzuigiri of his own.
Balor caught Rollins with a Sling Blade, but The Kingslayer answered with a superkick that put his opponent down for two.
The finish came when Balor countered Rollins' superplex/Falcon Arrow combination into a small package for the win.
Finn Balor defeated Seth Rollins
Balor and Rollins do not have bad matches together.
Their chemistry is such that fans can always be confident they will get a good bout out of it.
The look on Rollins' face after the fall was priceless and really put over the quality of the counter. The finish itself was done in such a way that he loses nothing while Balor scores a strong victory over his rival.
Likely the first of many incarnations of Balor-Miz-Rollins matches in the coming weeks.
Charly Caruso Interviews Asuka
At Fastlane, Asuka revealed her intentions to challenge Charlotte Flair for the SmackDown Women's Championship. Monday, she joined Charly Caruso in the ring to explain her decision.
Before The Empress of Tomorrow could say a word, Alexa Bliss and Mickie James interrupted.
Bliss mocked Asuka and claimed she chose Charlotte because she knew she could not beat Bliss and keep her winning streak intact.
Asuka said she chose Charlotte because she wanted to beat the best champion in WWE.
After a cheap shot from James to Asuka, a match between the two was underway.
The segment featured nothing much of substance, but it did allow Bliss to be at her meanest best. A quality heel, it is no wonder management opted to bring her to Raw and ship Charlotte to SmackDown, feeling completely comfortable in Little Miss Bliss' ability to carry the brand.
Asuka was fine here. She does not have to talk nearly as much as others to get her character over because her aura speaks for itself.
Asuka vs. Mickie James
Mickie James controlled the majority of her match with Asuka, calling upon their previous bout at TakeOver: Toronto to help her gain an advantage over The Empress of Tomorrow. Bliss' presence at ringside did not help the Royal Rumble winner any.
James worked over the leg of her opponent, keeping her grounded for the time being.
Asuka fought her way back into the match and, after some dramatic near-falls, tapped the future Hall of Famer out to the Asuka Lock.
Asuka defeated Mickie James
Like Balor and Rollins earlier in the show, James and Asuka have hellish ring chemistry, and any match between them is almost always guaranteed to satisfy.
Asuka picks up another quality match without hurting her opponent James, who neither lost nor gained anything from Monday's loss given her status as the grizzled veteran of the division.
Nia Jax vs. Joan King
Nia Jax made quick work of unknown Joan King, finishing her off and scoring a clean and decisive pinfall.
After the match, as Jax stood tall, a camera cut backstage, where Alexa Bliss was standing with Mickie James.
Bliss, moments after being upset that Jax was not at ringside with her and James for the match with Asuka, told her cohort that Jax is just happy to carry her bag. She insulted Jax, even poking fun at her size. Jax watched from the ring as the backstage conversation aired on the video screen.
Charly Caruso interrupted and told Bliss and James that the mic in the room was hot and that the entire world had just heard and witnessed her sharp words toward her "friend."
Jax left the ring, wiped a tear from her eye and rushed backstage.
She destroyed Bliss' locker room and let out a scream of fury to close out the segment.
Nia Jax defeated Joan King
Hell hath no fury like Nia Jax scorned, a fact Alexa Bliss and Mickie James are destined to find out in the coming weeks.
The mic work from Bliss coupled with the powerful performance by Jax made this segment a hellishly entertaining one to watch.
Jax is a sympathetic character, in this case, all the while fully capable of dismantling any woman put in her path. Weeks of hard work, close calls and increased popularity have led Jax to what should be a defining moment at WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans.
That is if WWE Creative gives us the expected one-on-one showdown between Jax and Bliss.
Tag Team Battle Royal
A Tag Team Battle Royal pitting the red brand's top duos against each other for the right to challenge The Bar for the Raw Tag Team Championship headlined this week's show, but Braun Strowman interrupted the match from the get-go.
The Monster Among Men vowed earlier in the night to cash his own ticket to WrestleMania and did just that.
Strowman shook off a ringside attack that saw the opposition team up to throw him into the ring steps and dispatched of everyone from Apollo to Bo Dallas to win the match and seemingly earn himself a shot at Sheamus and Cesaro's tag team titles.
Michael Cole ended the broadcast by hesitantly stating no one man can challenge for the tag titles, perhaps tipping the creative team's hat to yet another historic occurrence at WrestleMania.
Braun Strowman defeated Titus Worldwide, The Revival, Heath Slater and Rhyno, and Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows
Whether you agree with the decision to put Strowman in the tag team title picture or not, you cannot help but be intrigued by the story here.
Is Strowman going to actually challenge for the titles by himself at WrestleMania?
Maybe a certain sinister songster with whom Strowman has a recent history will step up and team with The Monster Among Men in hopes of capturing championship gold on wrestling's grandest stage.
Whatever the case may be, it is a lot more interesting than simply throwing Strowman into the already crowded Intercontinental Championship picture.