My kind of town, Chicago is. Especially on the Road to WrestleMania.
Remember when conventional wisdom told us that with Brock Lesnar on Brock Lesnar’s schedule and Roman Reigns away getting leukemia treatment, the Intercontinental title should be the most important thing on Raw?
It certainly seemed positioned as such. The scene centered on a then red-hot Seth Rollins, working 4+ star matches with Dolph Ziggler and the latest, very personal feud with Shield brother Dean Ambrose. But somewhere along the way, many of us lost interest. This year’s round of hot potato between Finn Bálor and Bobby Lashley hasn’t changed anything. Heck, while probably not possible, it’s doesn’t seem impossible the IC strap itself is cold enough now it’s played a role in cooling off hot acts like Seth and Finn.
So as we head into ‘Mania, where does the legendary white leather strap fit into the picure?
We should get have a better idea after tonight. According to WWE.com’s official preview, Bálor will bring “a partner of his choosing” into battle against the All Mighty and the man who helped him win back the title – his on-again hype man, Lio Rush. Finn’s mystery partner figures to either replace the Irishman in the Intercontinental championship picture (if rumors about the return of the Demon gimmick and a more high profile match for the Irishman prove true) or join a multi-man bout for the strap. But who will it be, and can they help Raw’s secondary men’s singles title regain some luster?
Three names come to mind:
- Dolph Ziggler
- Johnny Gargano
- Bray Wyatt
Of the three, only Gargano really makes any kayfabe sense as someone Finn would pick on his own. The Show-Off and the Extraordinary Man were uneasy allies for a war with Drew McIntyre, but never in a “this guy has my back” kind of way. Bray remains in creative limbo, and his history with Bálor involves the never-completed 2017 program where Wyatt cosplayed as Sister Abigail for a promo… probably something WWE doesn’t want to remind us of.
Johnny Wrestling’s main roster status is in limbo after Tommaso Ciampa’s injury put plans for a multi-brand #DIY run on ice. If he’s still available for Raw, a Gargano and Bálor would bring a ton of in-ring talent and babyface appeal as a team and/or cogs in a multi-man ladder match on April 7.
Would it heat up the IC scene again?
The title scene
With Rollins primed to continue a war between the now-retired-for-now Shield and McIntyre which seems to be leading to Roman vs. Drew, Seth’s WrestleMania opponent will make his first appearance in weeks. Last week, the Architect took out the Universal champ’s old training partner, Shelton Benjamin. Will that phase the Beast? We’ll see what Paul Heyman says while Brock jogs behind him tonight.
All rogue, all the time Ronda Rousey will defend her Raw Women’s title against Dana Brooke, who made the mistake of taking her grievances with the booking department directly to Rowdy last Monday. Bless her heart, Dana is trying to position herself as the defender of the business against the upstart Rousey. It’ll probably end after a one-match feud, though.
After standing tall at Fastlane and beating former champs Chad Gable & Bobby Roode last week, Aleister Black & Ricochet have positioned themselves as the clear #1 contenders for The Revival’s Raw Men’s Tag championship.
Meanwhile, The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection and their Women’s Tag Team belts appear to be shifting over to the blue brand for now. But with Beth Phoenix transitioning away from commentary for one last run, lots of folks are wondering if the Divas of Doom might answer Sasha Banks & Bayley’s “take all comers” call once Natalya & Phoenix are done with Nia Jax & Tamina…
Other stuff to keep an eye on
– Kurt Angle will tell us who his final opponent will be at MetLife Stadium next month, and the smart money is on John Cena.
– Neither Batista or Triple H is advertised for Allstate Arena tonight, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see replays of The Game giving Big Dave what he wanted from last week. Or maybe even some new live-via-satellite posturing from the two legends.
– Like a certain WWE Hall of Famer, Braun Strowman is feuding with Saturday Night Live.
– Lacey Evans will show up to walk around. Will Ambrose make an appearance, or is he really done?
Three weeks until WrestleMania!
What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?