Hello AW Universe,
The Road to WrestleMania is officially underway, with the first Monday Night Raw after Royal Rumble AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX.
Here’s what we can expect on tonight’s show.
Who Will the Royal Rumble Winners Choose to Face at WM36?
Though the reaction to the entire card is mixed, the Royal Rumble matches themselves yielded some great moments, from Bianca Belair scoring the most eliminations and dominating the first half of the Women’s Rumble, to Keith Lee getting the “big boy” spot with Lesnar, Edge returning from career quietus and hitting some gorgeous-looking spears, and, of course, Drew McIntyre doing the unexpected and winning the Men’s Rumble.
So, now that the pyro smoke has dissipated from the WrestleMania sign in the arena, and the celebrations have been had, the question now naturally spins from the present to the future, as the ceaseless WWE schedule demands it to: who are the winners going to challenge?
Let’s start with Charlotte Flair.
Becky Lynch retained her Raw Championship last night in the felling of her latest rival, Asuka. Flair and Lynch obviously have a heated rivalry, including the historic WrestleMania 35 Triple Threat main event last year with Ronda Rousey, so it’s understandable that this could feel like a re-tread. But, if WWE wants to build a new Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, then have these two regularly engaging in a inescapable confrontation could eventually be pro wrestling legend.
Bayley also retained her SmackDown Championship, beating Lacey Evans in a pretty lack-lustre match. There don’t seem to be any real reason to have Flair jump over to Friday nights to take on a champion who, unfortunately, pretty inconsequential right. Besides, the feud with Evans can’t possibly be done yet.
Now, the angle that is unlikely, but would be the most compelling: challenging Rhea Ripley for the NXT Championship. Flair was the second ever holder of that belt, reigning as champion for 258 days before dropping it to Sasha Banks in the incredible Fatal Four-way match with the aforementioned Bayley and Lynch at TakeOver: Rival. There has been the push to recognise NXT as an official third brand, and Rhea Ripley has been pushed to the moon, so what better way to bring some real legitimacy to these parallel pushes?
There really shouldn’t be any doubt as to who Drew McIntyre will be challenging at WrestleMania 36. After his stunning elimination of the conquering WWE Champion Brock Lesnar, the Scottish Psychopath spent the next few minutes staring daggers at Lesnar and his advocate, Paul Heyman, the entire time The Beast was laying outside on the floor, but he took his belt and left through the crowd. The bookers did exactly what they should have with Lesnar’s presence and rub, and now we have the path carved out for an incensed champion looking for revenge and to punish the challenge, while McIntyre finally completes his ascension to main event status as he looks to win his first World title in WWE.
It’s been nine years, but it appears that the Rated-R Superstar hasn’t missed a beat, hitting Spears and taking bumps like the pre-grey beard Edge did. The interaction with Randy Orton was the most notable of his in the match (save for maybe legitimately injuring AJ Styles), so if Edge is back to wrestle once more, maybe we’ll find out who he’ll be facing for the first time one-on-one at WrestleMania since his last match, against Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXVII.
Seth Rollins & Buddy Murphy Defend the Raw Tag Team Championship against Kevin Owens & Samoa Joe
Logic says that there can’t possibly be a title change her, but logic also said the same thing when “The Monday Night Messiah” and his newest Disciple won then in the first place. This epic feud continued during the Rumble match, as Murphy and the A.O.P helped get Owens and Joe eliminated, thus eventually leaving Rollins without backup in the match as they all brawled to the back (along with Aleister Black). This match could really go either way, because it just feels like this program is going the distance to WrestleMania. Thankfully, all four of these wrestlers are some of the best workers on Raw, so whatever the result, it should be a great match.
Lana vs. Liv Morgan
Yeah, no one wants to see this, but apparently this feud is getting blown off (hopefully) finally with a confrontation between the two. Bobby Lashley and Rusev are apparently banned from ringside– they were also absent from the Rumble match last night because they “got into a parking lot brawl” sometime during Becky Lynch and Asuka’s championship match and “weren’t medically cleared to compete” even though there was zero footage of any of this occurring. Anyway, this news indicates that this is going to be a proper wrestling grudge match? Oh boy. Let’s just hope