By Jason Powell
Join Zack Zimmerman for live coverage of NXT Takeover: London on Wednesday afternoon. Dot Net Members will hear an NXT Takeover: London audio review hosted by Zack Zimmerman and I on Wednesday. They are currently listening to my 44-minute WWE Raw audio review and my 76-minute Q&A audio show from Monday. Join us on the ad-free version of the website and special section of our free iPhone and Android apps by signing up for membership today via the Dot Net Members’ Signup Page.
WWE Raw Hits
Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus: WWE didn’t just go into Philadelphia and protect Roman Reigns, they went into the tough market and had him win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. And the live crowd was receptive. There were plenty of boos for Reigns early in the evening, but he won the fans over to the point that you could see nearly everyone standing and clapping when WWE cut to the crowd shot after he won the title. I’m sure some of those fans were happier about seeing a world title change in person than they were about Reigns win, but the bottom line is that the same Philly crowd that completely turned on Reigns when he won the Royal Rumble back in January embraced his title win less than eleven months later. For all the criticism that Vince McMahon’s booking has drawn this year, he definitely deserves credit for pulling this off. Maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised that the Philly fans didn’t crap all over Reigns. After all, I think most fans were ready to accept Reigns winning the championship at Survivor Series when they opted to go with Sheamus. Reigns and Sheamus also deserve a ton of credit for their great in-ring work two nights in a row. The near falls down the stretch were believable and dramatic.
Vince McMahon helps get Roman Reigns over: The Mr. McMahon character was always over the top, but Vince has taken it to a new level in recent years. The character is now a parody of itself. And while the live crowd went from being thrilled with seeing Vince’s surprise appearance to being a little unsure of how to react to his theatrics, there’s no denying that he played a key role in helping Reigns get over with a typically tough Philadelphia crowd. That said, it was strange enough to watch Stephanie McMahon slap the piss out of Reigns and then they followed that with a Vince McMahon nut shot. I started to feel like I was watching Reigns was pledge a fraternity. Was there an off-air moment with Shane McMahon dishing out the paddle shots followed by Roman saying, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”
Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler: Ambrose was very over with the live crowd after winning the Intercontinental Championship the night before. A good, competitive match with an even better match ending attack by Kevin Owens. I loved the way Owens responded to losing his Intercontinental Championship with a ruthless attack on both men. His backstage interview was also very good and that combined with the attack made him feel more dangerous than he’s been since he defeated John Cena in his first pay-per-view match.
The Wyatt Family vs. Team ECW: I noted yesterday that I was hoping that WWE would do right by Team ECW in Philadelphia and they did. It was logical to have the Wyatt Family go over again, but they also gave the ECW crew a strong backstage segment complete with historical clips and then let them put up a good fight before losing.
WWE Raw Misses
Alberto Del Rio and Rusev vs. Ryback and Jack Swagger: There was nothing really wrong with the match aside from the fact that it followed the big Roman Reigns and Vince McMahon segment. The right team went over in a way that kept the two singles feud issues alive. It just felt flat coming off the big segment.
Neville vs. Tyler Breeze: The biggest problem with the match was The Miz. I’ve enjoyed most of Miz’s heel work (and try to forget his babyface run), but his new Hollywood obsessed gimmick isn’t doing anything for me. The scripted lines about Neville’s ears are so tiresome. There are so many positive things about Neville, yet someone in creative is apparently obsessed with his ears. Meanwhile, Breeze was treated like a nobody. They called him up from NXT for this? I would have been excited about this match had it been announced ahead of time. Unfortunately, it was more about Miz’s heel comedy antics than the two tremendous in-ring talents.
Becky Lynch and Charlotte vs. Brie Bella and Alicia Fox: I like the finish because it played into the Flair family cheating to win unbeknownst to Lynch. It’s just hard to care about the flip flopping Brie and Alicia tag team. Are they heels or babyfaces? Why should we feel bad that Team Bella lost due to outside interference when we’ve seen Twin Magic a million times? WWE desperately needs some babyfaces in the women’s division. Will Bayley drop the NXT Women’s Championship tomorrow?
New Day, The Lucha Dragons, The Uso Brothers: They were obviously trying to recreate the scene with the Dudley Boyz, The Hardys, and Edge & Christian from back in the day. However, this was a poor segment that lacked a satisfying payoff. As spectacular as some of the big ladder match spots were, the fans just don’t have the same connection with these teams that they did the classic teams. I think we were all waiting for New Day to get to the punchline at the expense of the other tag teams. Instead, they danced, which just didn’t feel insulting enough to warrant the babyface teams attacking them.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Todd Martin on his background, attending pro wrestling events in Japan, the NJPW G1 Tournament, why lucha libre companies haven't been as successful as NJPW in the United States, AEW optimism, covering pro wrestling and MMA, and more (68:57)...