Showtime. Six days before The Road to WrestleMania reaches its conclusion in Santa Clara, Calif., and 14 years to the day WWE purchased WCW, Sting opened Raw for the first time in his career with some more fighting words for his foe at The Show of Shows, Triple H. The Vigilante’s taunts weren’t received all that well by Stephanie McMahon, though Stinger’s block of her attempted slap to the face left the heiress as red-faced as The nWo Wolfpac. Where insults to Stephanie McMahon appear, Triple H himself usually follows. The King of Kings was quick out of the gate to defend the honor of his queen, who handed him a sledgehammer when he arrived. The Vigilante was ready to answer with his patented baseball bat, but The Game thought better of battling The Icon on terms other than his own and beat a hasty retreat — the final time he'll have the luxury of doing so.
One of the most unexpectedly compelling rivalries on the path to The Grandest Stage of Them All has been the seven-man scrum over the fate of the Intercontinental Championship. With Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler seemingly splintering off into a mini-rivalry of their own, four of the remaining contenders teamed up on Raw while reigning champion Bad News Barrett took up R-Truth’s now customary post at the commentary table.
Considering all four of the competitors are harboring some degree of mental instability, the contest was far more demented than your typical tag-team bout. Stardust & Harper didn’t take long to get on the same deranged page against their rowdy opponents. The two fiends took turns using Ambrose as their be-jeaned punching bag until Truth tagged in to even the odds, taking advantage of a brief brawl to catch Stardust with the Lie Detector for the victory.
Well, at least some bad blood got put to rest as WrestleMania rivalries ramped up. First, JBL and Bill Simmons settled their simmering Twitter beef at the commentary desk. Then, the partnership between The Miz & Damien Mizdow continued their path toward a Shaq-and-Kobe-esque implosion in a 10-Man rumble that pitted the A-listers, Adam Rose & The Ascension against Ryback, Erick Rowan, Zack Ryder & The Prime Time Players. In what was mostly a one-sided affair, Ryback & Co. ran roughshod over their mismatched competition, with Rose taking the brunt of the abuse until he caught a break against Ryder. A brief interlude by Mizdow gave The Ultimate Broski the opening to tag in Ryback and The Big Guy went to work, singlehandedly dismantling the opposition and Shell Shocking Miz to earn the fateful 1-2-3.
When the WWE App re-opened its doors for voting business and allowed the WWE Universe to select Randy Orton’s opponent for the evening, The Authority likely hoped the Universe would be choosing the Superstars to cripple The Viper in advance of WrestleMania. Instead, they simply selected The Apex Predator’s latest meal. Even though Seth Rollins & J&J Security were pegged as the former WWE World Heavyweight Champion’s opponents, The Viper treated the whole match as an opportunity to dismantle Rollins before the bell even tolls at their WrestleMania match on Sunday. Rollins treated it as an opportunity to have J&J rough Orton up on his behalf before the curtain rises on The Show of Shows.
As for J&J, who’ve suffered an array of RKOs lately, they treated it as an opportunity for comeuppance … and were painfully denied. Orton played with his proverbial food for the entirety of the match while Rollins ran scared, with Orton administering the deciding RKO to “The Secret Weapon” himself, Jamie Noble.
The Divas Championship is the sole prize that will not be contested at this year’s WrestleMania. So it’s only fair that Nikki Bella gave Paige, who’s been boondoggled out of the butterfly-emblazoned title twice now, a third and final shake to kick off a third run with the Divas division’s signature hardware on Raw. That she allowed Paige and AJ Lee, who’ll team up against both Bellas at WrestleMania, to choose which among them would get the match in the first place was a blatant divide-and-conquer scheme on the champion’s part. But the plan seemed doomed to fail after The Diva of Tomorrow battled her way into a stalemate, writhing free of the Rack Attack to hit Nikki with an (ultimately unsuccessful) Ram-Paige.
With Nikki in a daze, Brie attempted to pull her sister to safe harbor, but AJ evened the odds and cut Brie Mode off before it could even rev up. In her excitement, however, The Black Widow blasted Paige in the face with an accidental elbow and Nikki pounced with a quite deliberate one, following up with the Rack Attack to win the title. A two-on-one attack of their WrestleMania opponents wasn’t even necessary; Paige swarmed AJ after the match in frustration, leaving their partnership on some very, very shaky ground.
SnoopMania vs. AxelMania. What you got? As it turns out, the rivalry between Curtis Axel’s grassroots movement and Snoop Dogg’s loyal fanbase ended up becoming a moot point when Hulk Hogan thundered into Raw to confront Axel and potentially put an end to Hulkamania’s red-sheep offspring. Give Axel credit for trying to cheap-shot The Immortal One after a posedown attempt, but the greatest competitor in Royal Rumble history misjudged his own element of surprise when Hogan and The Doggfather dropped Axel like he was hot and tossed him from the ring and basked in the Los Angeles spotlight. So whatcha gonna dizzle, Hulkamizzles?
Let’s cut the proverbial bull: An Interspecies Tag Team Match is far too momentous an occasion to simply do once. So in a rematch of SmackDown’s historic contest, Cesaro, Tyson Kidd & Natalya went toe-to-hoof with Los Matadores & El Torito in a bout that some would say defied the laws of nature itself. Los Matadores’ resident bull-man (and by extension, Natalya) were largely confined to the apron for most of the match while the men handled the heavy lifting, though El Torito’s uncanny one-upsbullship of Cesaro continued to a severe enough degree that The King of Swing had to tag Natalya in. Alas, The Queen of Harts specializes in cats, not bulls, and Torito earned his keep by reversing a powerbomb into a sunset flip, pinning Natalya for the win.
Rough day for we, the people. Before John Cena attempts to hand Rusev his first true defeated at WrestleMania this Sunday, Jack Swagger took another crack at snapping The Super Athlete’s streak on Raw. Unfortunately for the former U.S. Champion, he failed, but give Swagger credit for shooting for the moon. He came out swinging against The Hero of the Russian Federation and put up a stiff defense against the champion’s hybrid style, getting within a hair of a Patriot Lock before Rusev took his legs out on the turnbuckle and locked in the Accolade. Rusev kept the move applied long after Swagger had submitted and succumbed to unconsciousness, though.
The barbarism was, of course, a display intended to draw Cena out into the open and the 15-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion obliged his WrestleMania opponent with gusto. The bravery was, perhaps, ill-advised, as it earned Cena a one-way trip over the commentary table, a leaping kick to the mouth and an Accolade on top of that same table until the Cenation leader passed out, all of which makes his status for SmackDown's marquee 8-Man Tag Team Match more questionable than his teammates would, perhaps, prefer.
In six days, Bray Wyatt gets his wish when The Undertaker returns to his hallowed ground of WrestleMania. But one of The Show of Shows’ greatest competitors may not be as weak as The Eater of Worlds would have the WWE Universe believed. As Wyatt raged against The Phenom in his final Raw sermon before The Showcase of the Immortals, thunder rumbled in the distance in an apparent display of The Deadman’s lingering power. Unfazed, Wyatt proclaimed his mastery over The Undertaker’s domain and promised his foe that he would, at long last, rest in peace.
- DBvsDZ! #DBvsDZ! #DBvsDZ! Granted, It’s not WrestleMania, but Dolph Ziggler’s gentleman’s challenge to Daniel Bryan from a few months ago came true all the same in a Raw showdown that pitted The Showoff against Bryan with a special guest referee — Dean Ambrose — as determined by the WWE Universe via an App vote. Despite the two Superstars' mutual respect for each other, sportsmanship broke down in quick fashion and Ambrose had no intention of stopping a fight from breaking out at a wrestling match, cackling his head off as the two started slapping each other across the face.
As the match ramped up, Ziggler planted Bryan with a top-rope facebuster, but The Beard once again attempted to pin The Showoff with a backslide. Again, Ziggler kicked out of the maneuver and, as Bryan attempted to tenderize him with running dropkicks, pounced with a superkick and Zig Zag for the win. The glory was short-lived, however, as the rest of the playing field for the Ladder Match stormed the ring for a bench-clearing brawl that left no stone unturned and nobody standing.
No snowstorm, no studio, no rules. For the first time since their close-quarters confrontation in Stamford, Conn., two months ago, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar came face-to-face in a WWE ring. Even with the absence of a Snowmageddon-caliber blizzard outside Los Angeles’ STAPLES Center, the atmosphere was indeed chilly between The Beast Incarnate and his No. 1 contender, who not only interrupted Paul Heyman’s latest round of Eat-Sleep-Promo-Repeat, but also refused to flinch at The Conqueror’s thuggish intimidation games. In fact, Reigns flat-out defied The Anomaly by snatching the title out of his hands, setting up a literal shoving match as Raw went to black. Of course, Brock Lesnar does not fight for free, so for one more night, Roman Reigns got away with his bravado. But only one more night. Believe it.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Dean Ambrose & R-Truth defeated Luke Harper & Stardust (10:37)
- Ryback, Erick Rowan, Zack Ryder, & The Prime Time Players (Titus O'Neil & Darren Young) defeated The Miz, Damien Mizdow, Adam Rose & The Ascension (Konnor & Viktor) (5:48)
- Randy Orton defeated Seth Rollins & J&J Security (Jamie Noble & Joey Mercury) in a Three On One Handicap Match (3:21)
- Nikki Bella (w/ Brie Bella) defeated Paige (w/ AJ Lee) to retain the WWE Diva's Championship (10:40)
- Los Matadores (Diego & Fernando) & El Torito defeated Brass Ring Club (Cesaro & Tyson Kidd) & Natalya (4:00)
- Rusev defeated Jack Swagger by submission (4:37)
- Dolph Ziggler defeated Daniel Bryan (with Dean Ambrose as special guest referee) (10:52)
Other on-screen talent