Raw, Smackdown put forth strong go-home efforts before Wrestlemania

Robert O’Neill: Wrestlemania go-home Raw! Villanova vs. Michigan! It’s a loaded television night!

Chris Novak: “Ronda Rowdy.” Oh, Kurt.

Robert O’Neill: Kurt Angle’s constant battle with the English language aside, that was a hell of a way to open the show. The build to Angle/Ronda vs. Trips and Steph has been virtually perfect. I can’t wait for it.

Chris Novak: The segment was what it was, but I do agree with you. They’ve done a solid job here of building this up, I will say. Steph throwing Ronda through the table was a nice touch and a nice batch of revenge after Ronda sent HHH through the table at Elimination Chamber.

Robert O’Neill: Bayley vs. Sonya Deville was a pretty good match. Sonya continues to improve. After the match, Sasha saved Bayley from a beatdown and Bayley wasn’t appreciative in the least. Could it be that Bayley is the bad friend and not Sasha?

Chris Novak: Well, no. Sasha wanted Bayley to raise her hand, which is the pettiest thing.

Chris Novak: Okay, that was an AMAZING MATCH between Seth and Finn. The go-home show for Mania just produced a 4.5-star match, and I’d be tempted to even go a tick higher. Just absurdity. Seth is so good again, and Finn is still a very good in-ring worker. Loved ALL the callbacks they had in that match, too. Goddamn. That has me hyped.

Robert O’Neill: Seth and Finn should fight forever. Good lord what a match.

Chris Novak: They’ve put on nothing but good matches since they started feuding. I’ll say that much.

Chris Novak: I’m not certain what the point of this Cena stuff is right now. I guess they’re just gonna have Undertaker show up impromptu on Sunday? Weird build to this whole thing. Having Taker not show up the WHOLE way towards Mania is a misstep, in my opinion. But hey, we’ll see what happens Sunday, I suppose.

Robert O’Neill: I find myself having mixed feelings. On one hand, yeah, it’s kinda dumb to have no build (look at Undertaker/Bray Wyatt). On the other hand, these are two of WWE’s biggest stars of all time. How much build do you really need? Would it have been that much better if Undertaker came out and cut weird cryptic promos on Raw the past few weeks? It’s 2018. You know what you’re getting from him

Robert O’Neill: Goldust and Matt Hardy first wrestled each other in WWF in 1999. It’s 2018 and they had a match on Raw. I love stuff like that. .

Chris Novak: Okay, Braun and “BRAINS” Strowman was an incredible bit. I still have no idea who Braun’s tag team partner is going to be on Sunday. But this was hilarious.

Robert O’Neill: Braun’s comedy stuff has been amazing this year. From the MMC to working with Elias to this. He’s great.

Chris Novak: Haven’t been much of a fan of this whole Alexa-Nia feud. But they both seem like they’re cool with it in interviews? Whatever. Nia needs to win on Sunday in emphatic fashion for this to work. If they try to drag this out with a long match, it’s a mistake. If they have Alexa go over, it’s an even worse mistake. I’m not wholly optimistic, either.

Robert O’Neill: I’ve been team Alexa since day one, so I’m biased here, but having her retain the title probably isn’t smart.

Robert O’Neill: Rhyno is built like a refrigerator with legs.

Chris Novak: He really, truly is. I for one cannot wait for Elias’ performance on Sunday. I’m wondering who’s going to make a cameo. Jeff Jarrett? The Rock? Both? Either way, even without a match, Elias has something that you feel like you can’t miss and that you feel like is must-see TV. They’ve done a great job with him and building him up to be an attraction. It’s great stuff.

Robert O’Neill: The final segment between Roman and Brock was kind of tame but given how they’ve built up to it, I really can’t nitpick it too much. It’s a match I’m incredibly excited for, and I think it’ll be even better than the first time they met.

Chris Novak: Y’know, you say it’s tame. But I enjoyed it a lot. They played off the locker room stuff they alluded to earlier on in the feud. I don’t know if it was great to have Brock get the last laugh (again) but they did its job and there’s legitimate heat on Brock. It’ll be 50/50 in New Orleans, like you’d expect. But they won the crowd over with this feud. Point blank, period.

Quick Results
Bayley def. Sonya Deville
Seth Rollins def. Finn Balor
Matt Hardy def. Goldust
Elias def. Heath Slater
Asuka & Dana Brooke def. Alexa Bliss & Mickie James

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Welp. The Road to Wrestlemania has concluded, and frankly I think both shows did a great job taking that final step this week. Everything got lined up nicely for Sunday night, and I think every match on the card has a certain level of intrigue and importance. As far as this show specifically, Rollins/Balor could very well be the TV match of the year so far (depending what you think about Rollins’ marathon gauntlet match performance) and I always appreciate seeing Goldust in action. The Cena stuff could have been better, but it is what it is. I think bookending the show with Ronda/Kurt/Steph/Triple H and then Roman/Brock shows the level of importance of those two matches. B+

Chris Novak: A B+ for me too. The Seth-Finn match was exceptional, and everything else hit all the right notes. I think they took time to take in every possible situation going into Mania, and gave it all the appropriate time. It’s certainly one of the better go-home shows in recent memory, which 1) Says a lot about recent memory and 2) Shows that they have the depth of talent to pull such a feat off. Good going.

Robert O’Neill: Away we go! Final show before Wrestlemania, and Daniel Bryan is here to open the fun.

Chris Novak: Makes a bunch’a sense to open with this. Bridgestone Arena looks sold out and they’re going bananas.

Robert O’Neill: Bryan and Shane being friends makes me most uneasy.

Chris Novak: Yuck… it’s Charlotte-Nattie again.

Robert O’Neill; Well, they pretty much did the same thing as last week with Charlotte and Natalya, complete with a tease from Carmella. It was a bad match because Natalya is awful, but the Charlotte/Asuka stuff afterwards was solid.

Chris Novak: Hey, Happy Rusev Day, Rob.

Robert O’Neill: Can we talk about Aiden English rapping?

Chris Novak: We should. He had bars. Rusev getting the win here has me intrigued. They don’t USUALLY do that if the guy is going to win at Mania but… they have to belt him right? Oh, there’s Orton with an RKO outta nowhere again. Once again, they have to belt Rusev right? Right???

Robert O’Neill: Yes. WWE has done dumb stuff in the past, but if they don’t let Rusev win on Sunday they may lose the crowd *very* early in the night.

Chris Novak: Not gonna lie, pretty fun 8-man tag featuring the Andre Battle Royal guys. Solid stuff all around here. Corbin getting the win was a nice touch, I suppose. They’re doing the best they can with the Andre buildup, and to their credit, a lot of guys are getting work from it.

Robert O’Neill: Primo was in this match! That was wild. The Andre will be fine I guess. It is what it is. Back in the day they had a 30-man battle royal before Mania started and it was a dark match. Thanks to the Network, they don’t have dark matches anymore.

Robert O’Neill: Kevin Steen and Sa- El Generico are in the arena! They weren’t invited to this show!

Chris Novak: Nice touch to have them show up before Mania. Sami cut a promo like an effective heel. Who would’ve thought THAT would happen? They’ve done a good job in the last 2-3 weeks in building up this feud after it dragged on and on.

Robert O’Neill:My biggest post-Wrestlemania wish is that they continue to use Benjamin and Gable correctly like they did the past few weeks. They can be in higher card Smackdown matches to get guys over. They’re very good in the ring. Styles and Nakamura are going to blow the roof off the Superdome and I’m here for it.

Chris Novak: Hell of a main event, hell of a way to send us off. They built up Nak-Styles entirely through mannerisms, and it worked well. I, for one, can’t wait for this match on Sunday.

Quick Results
Charlotte Flair def. Natalya
Rusev def. Jinder Mahal
Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, Mojo Rawley & Primo def. Tye Dillinger, Zack Ryder & Breezango
AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura def. Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: In my opinion, Smackdown had less work to do than Raw. I mean, Nak/AJ, New Day/Usos, and Charlotte/Asuka practically build themselves. Not to mention the fact that Smackdown’s build benefits from having Daniel Bryan’s first match in three years. As a result, this show focused on building the “lesser” stuff like the US Title fatal four-way (RUSEV DAY), and the Andre Battle Royal. It was successful. B+

Chris Novak: It’s a B+ for me, as well. Like Rob said, a lot less work to do. But they still succeeded in it. I think more Tag Team Title stuff would’ve been helpful, but they already did enough in the past few weeks to get me excited and amped up for that. WWE’s hitting all the right notes right now. Hopefully that leads to an awesome show on Sunday.