0 of 6Credit: WWE.comThe coronavirus pandemic again forced WWE television to the confines of its Performance Center Monday for an episode of Raw featuring “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s celebration of 3:16 Day and a contract signing between AJ Styles and The Undertaker for their proposed WrestleMania 36 showdown.What else went down on the unprecedented episode…
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The coronavirus pandemic again forced WWE television to the confines of its Performance Center Monday for an episode of Raw featuring “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s celebration of 3:16 Day and a contract signing between AJ Styles and The Undertaker for their proposed WrestleMania 36 showdown.
What else went down on the unprecedented episode of WWE’s flagship show, and how does it affect the company’s build to a Showcase of the Immortals that will take place under similar circumstances, as announced earlier in the afternoon?
Find out with this recap of the March 16 broadcast.
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In front of an eerily empty Performance Center, Edge kicked off the night’s show, throwing to a recap of the horrific last month for him and wife Beth Phoenix.
Edge mentioned the common connection he and Orton had in growing and evolving: Mick Foley. Foley taught him grit, something The Viper never learned.
“This isn’t love. You don’t love me, Randy. You’re jealous because you can’t do what I do and that tears you apart,” Edge said, referencing his comeback after nine years away.
Staring through the camera and into the soul of his rival, he issued a challenge to Orton for a Last Man Standing match at WrestleMania.
If there is one thing that has not skipped a beat, it is Edge’s uncanny ability to cut a promo that sucks the audience in and has them eager to invest themselves going forward. Like Orton and Phoenix before him, his contributions here carried the feud forward and added to what has already been months of stellar storytelling.
The Last Man Standing match stipulation was probably unnecessary, but it allows for a No Disqualification setting that will hide any of Edge’s ring rust while allowing the performers to bring the intensity and violence one expects out of a rivalry this personal.
Strong work to kick off the show.
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Driven by anger and frustration, The Undertaker hit the ring and tore apart the table set up for his contract signing with AJ Styles.
Following a commercial break, Tom Phillips revealed there was no contract present, further infuriating The Deadman.
Devoid of the theatricality, a black knit cap on his head, it was clear that the Undertaker in the ring was not the Phenom fans had become accustomed to over the years. Pacing like a caged animal, he watched from the ring as Styles’ music played twice but no Phenomenal One entered.
Styles appeared on the video screen and revealed he had the contract in-hand. He called Undertaker a shell of his former self and even offered to pay for his assisted living facility after WrestleMania. The heel signed the contract and then asked a reluctant Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson to take it to The Deadman.
They did and quickly fell prey to the violent onslaught of WWE’s last outlaw. Undertaker beat them around ringside and left The Best Tag Team In The World lying before signing the contract and shoving it in Anderson’s mouth.
This was the first time the lack of crowd was really felt on tonight’s show.
An audience likely would have been red-hot for Undertaker and his beatdown of Gallows and Anderson. As it was, it was solid effort aimed at building more heat for The Deadman vs. The Phenomenal One on April 5.
The only problem? Undertaker has been presented as so dominant throughout the early weeks of this storyline that there is no reason to invest or believe Styles has a chance in hell of beating his opponent on wrestling’s grandest stage.
This did nothing to change that sentiment.
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Rey Mysterio battled United States champion Andrade, a rivalry renewed, in the night’s first match.
The aggressive champion attacked from the opening bell and caught a soaring Mysterio with a dropkick to the midsection heading into the break.
Back from the commercial, the resilient Mysterio fought his way back into the bout and set up for the 619 while Asuka watched on commentary. Andrade blasted the masked luchador with a nasty back elbow and earned a two-count.
The future Hall of Famer again came back, this time delivered the 619 and earned the victory off a top-rope splash.
Mysterio defeated Andrade
This was a very paint-by-numbers version of the match Mysterio and Andrade have had before and done much better. The performers are essentially handcuffed due to the lack of audience to feed off of and it showed here.
Still, a lower-end Mysterio-Andrade match is still better than most. With Rey picking up the win here, one has to wonder if a United States Championship match is in his future and whether it will also feature Humberto Carrillo and Angel Garza.
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Raw women’s champion Becky Lynch arrived at the arena earlier in the day in a huge 18-wheeler truck. She took to the squared circle ready to address Shayna Baszler ahead of their WrestleMania match.
Lynch said the idea of her drives Baszler mad because for so long, The Queen of Spades has bullied her way to the top. The Man, she was the one woman tired of being the hunted and she turned it around on those who preyed on her.
The champion vowed to defeat Baszler and retain her title on April 5, all while her top contender watched on a monitor backstage.
For the second consecutive week, Lynch hit the proverbial ball out of the park with a short, sweet promo that added to the story and heat of her upcoming match with Baszler.
The limitations of the production made it so that Lynch would deliver another promo in the same vein as last week’s but, again, she managed to leave the comedic and sarcastic side of her character behind and strike the right tone before what should be an intensely physical match at WrestleMania.
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Taking the microphone from Charly Caruso, Kevin Owens looked directly into the camera and issued a challenge to Seth Rollins for a match at WrestleMania.
Citing the Performance Center as the perfect setting for the match because of his history at the facility and the wealth of knowledge he gathered there, he capped of the impassioned promo by laying down the gauntlet for the match.
When Owens is engaged and motivated, no one can touch him on the mic. Here, he delivered and in the process, made fans genuinely want to see a match between two guys that have wrestled each other countless times over the years.
That is a sign of a talented performer whose passion has not wained, even when the creative behind him has not always been the strongest.
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WWE Hall of Famer “Stone Cold” Steve Austin wrapped up the evening’s show by celebrating 3:16 Day.
He drank beer and ran down a list of what 3:16 Day means, including four-letter words being acceptable. After each one, Byron Saxton scored them, to which Austin claimed it was a “tough crowd.”
Stone Cold invited the commentator to the ring for a toast with some Broken Skull IPA beer. He dropped Saxton with a Stone Cold Stunner, popping Tom Phillips and Jerry “The King” Lawler.
Suddenly, Lynch’s music played and The Man joined The Texas Rattlesnake in the ring. She stepped on, and over, Saxton, before joining Austin for a toast of their own. The top babyface in the company and the returning legend closed out the show by saluting the viewing audience with some adult beverages.
Austin dropped Saxton with one more stunner for good measure.
If there was ever evidence of just how much Austin feeds off live crowds, this was it.
The promo material was so-so, something Austin can usually make up for. The stuff with Saxton scoring everything came across as and the stunner could be seen coming from a mile away.
What this did do to great effect was incorporate Lynch into the proceedings, sending a message loudly and clearly to the WWE Universe that The Man is the top star in the industry entering WrestleMania. Her spot with Austin is one typically reserved for guys like John Cena, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker or other industry icons.
Lynch has become one of those, the face of the current era of WWE and a star Vince McMahon feels absolutely comfortable putting in that position. It is a testament to her work and the evolution of McMahon’s mentality when it comes to female talent.