Time is drawing short before WrestleMania, so I’m going into tonight’s show expecting some finalizations along with some decent build for the big matches.

Sure enough, things start with the recently reunited Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. The promo, as you may have expected, is solid as all heck. The Usos actually kinda drag it down but their appearances is completely expected. After all, we only have two weeks until ‘Mania, so now it’s time to shift into hyperdrive. End result, as expected, is both sets of tag belts on the line at ‘Mania.

Austin Theory vs. Montez Ford

This is yet another Road to WrestleMania filler match, and it’s really feeling like we’ve hit the tipping point on how many of these matches we’re getting.

Crowd chants that they want the smoke as the match gets started. Fire code doesn’t let that happen. FWIW, Theory’s new lumberjack beard looks awful.

The combatants head into the crowd and Ford takes a seat on two of the fans. Well… that’s sanitary.

Back from break, the two combatants are on the turnbuckles and I’ll wager we actually missed some good stuff during the commercials.

Ford Hulks up after a flying bodypress. Standing Moonsault gets two. Ford can’t muster much until an A-Town Down attempt goes awry. Theory spills to the outside and gets a Tope Con Hilo for his efforts.

Back in the ring, Theory evades a Frog Splash but Ford rolls through. Theory finishes things soon after with A-Town Down. Good match for Ford, but he’s not the featured player at this point. Theory looked WEAK, with most of his offence coming during the commercial break (assumedly).

Winner: Austin Theory 

Post-match, Theory cuts an intense promo on John Cena, but it’s not the good intense.

Backstage, The Bloodline assembles in the locker room. Jey Uso avoiding looking at Roman is a nice subtlety. Jimmy Uso gets a couple heated comments in at Roman. Roman has everyone but Jey leave at one point, building off the aforementioned subtlety. No words are exchanged… yet…

Back from break we’re still in the Bloodline locker room. Neither man looks at each other for a while until Roman confronts Jey on where he’s been and his current status in the Bloodline. Jey asserts he’s Bloodline. Jey leaves, Heyman enters, and we have some more dialogue.

Backstage, Byron Saxton talks with Adam Pierce about the Showcase Fatal 4-Way Tag Team Matches until Chelsea Green comes in wearing Canadian wrestling gear. Apparently Carmella is out as her tag partner and Piper Niven is in.

Backstage, Owens is confronted by Zayn about working together. KO no-sells it and hits back heatedly.

We then get a hype video for Brock Lesnar vs. Omos. It’s produced well but the subject matter…

Omos vs. Mustafa Ali

Heel vs. heel matches never work. Ali’s getting more annoying the more he looks like a Maximum Male Model. Tree Slam ends this quickly.

Winner: Omos

Post match, MVP gets on the stick and sings the praises of Omos. Hey, I said this exact same thing two weeks ago…

Backstage, Logan Paul talks with someone as he heads to the ring. The Miz cuts him off in his annoying way. Paul no sells. Paul cuts a very good heel promo here, getting the pre-requisite former NFL team shots in to boot. He gets the “What?” treatment at one point as he amps up the purposeful annoyingness. His mic goes down as we see Seth Rollins in the production truck. He hits his own music and soon is at the ring.

Once in the ring, there’s a brief standoff until the predictable pull-apart brawl starts. This is getting as cliche as the contract signing turned brawl. Paul finishes things off with a knockout punch.

Dominik Mysterio vs. Johnny Gargano

Really? We’re getting THIS matchup? Who did Gargano piss off backstage?

Gargano gets the bulk of the offence to start, as he should, until Dom gets a throw into the stairs to turn the tide. I’m seeing some fans say that Dom is entertaining. No. Just. No.

Speaking of annoying, we get a Leon’s commercial during the break for the third time tonight, and it’s not the 90s style cheesy bad funnies. It’s just plain awful.

Gargano goes for the three amigos and I’m tuning out of this match. Wake me up when the Guerrero “tributes” end.

Winner: Dominik Mysterio

Post match Dom gets stick time. Yup, this is bad too.

Backstage, Paul Heyman tells the brothers Uso to head to the private jet, except for Solo who is called into the meeting room.

Somewhere, Edge cuts a candlelit promo, calling out The Demon.

Rhea Ripley is out next for a promo and cuts an empowered, very face-leaning promo. It’s the kind of star-making promo that would mean a lot more if this show wasn’t bogged down by dialogue.

Oddly, Damage Ctrl comes out. Bayley offers to give Rhea tips on how to beat Charlotte at ‘Mania, which the Irradicator no-sells. More heel on heel violence is teased before we get…

Bayley vs. Rhea Ripley

Ripley starts hot but Bayley gets her time with the ADV while the crowd sits confused, not really able to cheer anyone.

Nice spots out the outside by the pair. Rhea somersaults over Kai-n-SKY to hit Bayley off the apron, to no reaction. What’s going on tonight? Is there a babyface convention somewhere?

Match continues with no heat until the Pumphandle attempt is broken up by Kai-n-SKY. Bayley gets a two count as a result.

Match blods along until the six-woman faces come out. Becky has a giant bag of popcorn.

Back from break, Belly to Bayley gets a one count. A second doesn’t warrant a cover, apparently, and soon after an exchange of moves has both women down.

Match continues well as Ripley gets the Prison Lock… locked in until Bayley reaches the ropes. This will be a good match once Ripley turns but there’s no heat here. The face trio comes to the other side of the ring to take out Kai-n-SKY, because they’re babyfaces afterall. Becky chases Bayley back into the ring. Rip Tide finishes it off soon after.

Winner: Rhea Ripley

Backstage, Chad Gable is looking for Otis, who is getting pampered. I’m not going into anymore detail on this bad segment.

Chad Gable vs. Ricochet

Great mix of amateur vs. lucha to start. All sorts of reversals in a clinical build. Gable gets the first pin attempt with a roll-up for two. After the kickout, Ricochet gets the advantage as the two settle in on the top rope. Goes for a huricanrana but Gable blocks and simply dumps Ricochet off the top. Flying Clothesline gets two.

Much seems to have been missed during the break again and the crowd is hot. Hopefully the full match will be available online. Springboard Clothesline into a Running Shooting Star Press gets two for Ricochet.

Gable takes advantage and hits a Razor’s Edge position into a front slam gets two. This is Awesome chant from the crowd, well deserved.

Ankle Lock attempt is broken by Ricochet who hits huge strikes. Gable reverses the tide with a Dragon Suplex for two. In the background, though, Maxxine arrives to distract Otis. She lures him to the back, distracting Gable. Grand Amplitude is reversed in the fracas, giving Ricochet his opening. Shooting Star Press follows soon after for the end to an absolute beauty of a match.

Winner: Ricochet

Asuka/Bianca Belair vs. Piper Niven/Chelsea Green

Here’s the problem – where’s the motivation for Asuka to tag in? Let Belair get the damage. Asuka buys into this and only take a surprise tag in. Asuka is playing her new character awesomely well by the way.

Back from a break, Asuka hits a codebreaker on Chelsea who tags out to Niven. Belair tags in, again, for no reason. Belair goes for a Suplex on Niven but can’t lift. Eventually she gets the advantage back and we go quickly into Pier Six mode. Mistimed corner attack results in Asuka hitting Belair and the argument ensues as expected. Belair hits the KOD for the win in this confusing match.

Winners: Bianca Belair / Asuka

Asuka attacks her ‘Mania opponent post match and hits a few different maneuvers. In theory this is a heel turn but Asuka is too over in her new persona to be a true heel.

Roman Reigns is out next for the final segment of the show, with Solo by his side.

After he’s acknowledged, Roman is interrupted by Cody Rhodes. Back and forth in strong dialogue with “professional wrestlers” put down by the “fighter” who is Reigns. Reigns takes a couple potshots at AEW and Cody retorts expertly. This promo battle needs to be seen and studied by every aspiring wrestler. This is masterclass material.

Roman and Heyman leave the ring, letting Cody talk with Solo for a brief moment before Solo turns to exit. He chooses instead, however, to stay in the ring and eats a Superkick but doesn’t go down. He’s ready to attack but Roman stops him as we fade to black.

Well, there was a ton of filler this week. I expected there to be qualifiers for the showcase matches, based on the action Friday, but instead we got a whole lotta nothing other than the book-ended Bloodline segments, which were absolute prime viewing, and one of the best matches you’ll see all year between Gable and Ricochet. Go out of your way to see those, but feel free to fast-forward through the rest.

You’ve been schooled on Raw. Until next time, stay classy.