The Road to WrestleMania winds through Portland, Oregon.
One third of the most dominant faction in WWE history is on his way out the door. To where, we don’t yet know. But the company itself has gone on record that Dean Ambrose is leaving when his contract is up in April, and despite a lot of speculation this could be a storyline, all the usual sources say it’s legit.
It helps make sense of some strange booking last Monday. Whether or not you believe it was designed to humilate Ambrose or send a message to others on the roster considering testing the booming free agent market, Dean losing to Seth Rollins clean and then getting womanhandled by Nia Jax was odd.
The latest reports say the Grand Slam champion will remain a part of WWE television until his current deal ends. That makes sense, in that you don’t want to pay him stay home if there’s still value to having him involved in the on-screen product. But is there?
He’s already gotten his comeuppance for his turn on the night Roman Reigns left and subsequent references to Reigns’ leukemia (which turn out in retrospect to be even cheaper heat generating tactics). The last title he wore had been dropped to another heel before Rollins defeated him last week. Barring a full blown embracing of intergender wrestling, there’s not more to do with Jax – especially considering they’re both villainous characters.
”Burial” is a term that gets thrown around too often, by folks who don’t have a firm grasp on the concept, but considering where the Ambrose character ended up on the last episode of Raw… this might be a time it’s being used correctly. So it’s worth asking how much value being put over by Dean does at this point?
The best fantasy booking scenario I can come up with would be to somehow use him in whatever plans they have cooked up for Kurt Angle this WrestleMania season. The Olympian will be on tonight’s episode to address his last two losses – an early November humliation by Drew McIntyre and last week’s defeat at the hands of Baron Corbin. The Lunatic Fringe could play a role in Angle’s quest to prove he still has it, perhaps as someone Kurt defeats to get his mojo back before putting his career on the line against Corbin at ‘Mania.
A middle-level boss is about the best use I can see for a lame duck Lunatic, though. There’s no reason to give him a prime spot on the card for the Showcase of the Immortals – not when there are so many other talented guys and gals sticking around past April who will be fighting for a piece of the spotlight.
What will WWE do with a problem like Dean? We’ll start to find out tonight on a Raw that’s loaded with pre-announced segments and angles.
The title scene
One of several stories being hyped by the official preview for the Feb. 4 Raw involves one of WrestleMania 35’s main events. Universal champion Brock Lesnar isn’t being advertised for Portland, but Royal Rumble winner Seth Rollins is. And Seth will be addressing the fact he didn’t even get a chance to formally challenge the Beast last Monday before he was F5ed multiple times.
Women’s champ Ronda Rousey will be on tonight’s show, as will Royal Rumble winner Becky Lynch. The Man made it perfectly clear which brand’s titleholder she wants to face in MetLife Stadium, and Rowdy told her to bring it on. Now, Stephanie McMahon will stick her nose into things, and given the Billion Dollar Princess’ own ‘Mania history with Rousey, it’ll be very interesting to see what scheme Steph will lay out during her chat with Lynch.
They’re the frontrunners to be the first winners of the new Women’s Tag belts, but technically Sasha Banks & Bayley haven’t even qualified yet for the Elimination Chamber match which will decide the first champs. They face Alicia Fox & Nikki Cross tonight for the right to join the Riott Squad and Jax & Tamina as red brand representatives on Feb. 17.
Quickly eliminated from the Rumble, Intercontinental champion Bobby Lashley took out his aggression on Finn Bálor – and probably picked up a new challenger in the process. They’ll face off this week in what sounds like non-title action.
They weren’t on TV last Monday, but they did pick up a non-title win on the Rumble pre-show. That counts for something, right? Anyway, Chad Gable & Bobby Roode are the Men’s Tag titleists. And I guess we’re still thinking The Revival will feud with them at some point as part of their “you’re not getting your releases, so here’s a ‘push’” push?
Other stuff to keep an eye on
– They haven’t forgotten about the angle they ran to write Braun Strowman out for his latest elbow surgery, and his quest for revenge placed him in a match against Drew McIntyre last week. That ended when Corbin joined the Scotsman for a two-on-one beatdown, so now the Monster Among Men has even more reason to want to revenge.
– WWE also hasn’t forgotten about that Jeff Jarrett still wrestles, but they do seem to have forgotten they turned Elias babyface. The current guitar-playing Superstar takes on one from a previous era (and his D-generate friend) tonight.
– Mojo Rawley is mad at himself.
Two weeks until Elimination Chamber!
What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?