By Jason Powell
WWE Roadblock Hits
Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte in an Iron Man match for the Raw Women’s Championship: The best match of the night. It helped that viewers had no clue regarding which woman would go over. It was slow going for the first ten minutes to the point that you would have thought they were preparing to go a full hour. The second half of the match was entertaining and the falls were laid out and executed well with the exception of the botch that occurred when Sasha won her first fall. The drama with Sasha trying to hold on before the time limit seems to be polarizing. It worked for me aside from the fact that it felt like she was in the figure four so long that it made the hold seem weak. However, it was done so at the expense of establishing the Figure 8 with the idea being that Sasha couldn’t hold on for even too seconds longer because of how much more painful the Figure 8 is. On a side note, I hated the way the broadcast team had to act clueless once they reached the time limit. They made it seem like everything was in the hands of the referee, and no one had even considered the possibility that the match would end in a tie. I understand not having the broadcast team tell viewers in advance that overtime was possible, but once they reached the time limit the broadcast team should have been right there to explain that overtime was happening. The few seconds of drama were not worth damaging whatever credibility the broadcast team has left.
New Day vs. Sheamus and Cesaro for the Raw Tag Titles: WWE just couldn’t wait to pull the trigger on the title change. After months of seemingly predictable outcomes with New Day retaining until they broke Demolition’s record, I was actually hoping that they would have some fun by dragging out their title reign for a few weeks once it actually felt like they were on the verge of losing. Nevertheless, the match was entertaining and I found the finish to be clever, albeit a little awkward all at the same time. Sheamus and Cesaro have clicked as a team and I really hope that they are on the same page going forward because the bickering team members bit feels like it has run its course.
Seth Rollins vs. Chris Jericho: A minor Hit for a good back and forth match. The evenness of the offense feels a little strange in retrospect in that Jericho was made to seem equal to Rollins, and the idea was that Jericho would have won had it not been for Kevin Owens inadvertently distracting the referee. That just doesn’t mesh with what we’ve seen from Jericho’s heel persona. I thought they might be turning him babyface and that’s why they went with this approach, but once he aligned himself with Owens in the main event it left me puzzled as to why Rollins struggled to defeat a guy that loses so frequently even on Raw.
Neville attack: An intense attack that seems to bump Brian Kendrick out of the top heel spot in favor of Neville. The tenacious in-ring style of Neville should work really well now that’s a heel. I actually hope he abandons some of the crowd pleasing moves such as his Red Arrow finisher and goes for pure heat. It had to be discouraging for creative to hear the fans rally behind Neville rather than boo him, as it shows that they still haven’t been able to make any of the cruiserweight babyfaces click.
WWE Roadblock Misses
Overall show: With the exception of the women’s match, it felt like most of this could have played out on Raw. Heck, we have seen most of these matches on Raw. Even the main event title match had a TV style finish. Why is it that the Smackdown brand continues to get more out of the smaller roster they have to work with?
Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal Championship: The Raw brand is a mess. The top babyfaces struggle (or outright fail in the case of Reigns) to be cheered against the top heels, and the top heels get more laughs than heat. WWE’s answer to this problem seems to be running the comedic heels fractured friendship angle into the ground. I’m not sure if they think this is compelling or if they think that Jericho saving Owens again will lead to heat. The reality is that it’s no longer compelling and it’s the interference finishes have become eye rolling material. The whole thing felt like WWE was setting up a tag team main event for Raw, yet they already gave us the payoff by having both heels take the Shield powerbomb through broadcast tables. Is this all leading to Chris Jericho winning the Royal Rumble or whatever the Universal Championship match qualifier is so that he ends up challenging Owens at WrestleMania?
Sami Zayn vs. Braun Strowman: For starters, I had no clue that Zayn would be named the winner if he simply survived ten minutes. Perhaps I missed something, but this was billed as having a ten-minute time limit, so it seemed like the match should have been ruled a time limit draw. And it’s hard to view Zayn as the winner given that Strowman had him pinned twice and opted to pull him up. There may be an interesting story to tell with underdog Zayn and the monster, but the less it involves Mick Foley the better. The Raw general manager played his part and now it’s time to make this all about the wrestlers rather than the guy carrying the white towel.
Rusev vs. Big Cass: A sloppy match with a finish designed to create a rematch for Raw. The finish made Big Cass look like a dope, but he manages to accomplish that on his own with the exaggerated bug eyes he flashes to show he’s angry. For those keeping score at home, Rusev and Lana have now outsmarted the pervert who exposed himself and tried to sleep with a married woman, and his big brother too.
Rich Swann vs. Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship: This match would have received more time if it had main evented 205 Live than it did on the pay-per-view. I was looking forward to the match going in, but the crowd’s lack of enthusiasm killed the mood quickly. Is it really a good idea for WWE to cut to their fans when they at their dorkiest by dancing along with Swann’s music?