By Jason Powell
Dot Net Members are listening to my 38-minute WWE Raw audio review with my initial thoughts on the possibility of AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Doc Gallows, and Karl Anderson signing with WWE, and my 40-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 and Stephanie McMahon: Creative has wisely booked Reigns against the one heel they who will never be cheered – Stephanie McMahon. The fans love to hate Stephanie, so they have no choice to make when she and Reigns are in the ring together. And this was a well scripted verbal exchange. It was short and sweet, which is always good with Reigns. He delivered the best lines and even left Stephanie showing concern. This wasn’t Stephanie slapping the piss out of anyone or emasculating a male wrestler. This was excellent use of her character.
Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus with Vince McMahon as special referee: You really need to turn your brain off to enjoy most matches that include a heel referee. Vince could have made an even faster count or simply claimed that Reigns was pinned for a three count. Sheamus could have applied a basic hold and Vince could have claimed Reigns tapped out to give us the Montreal Screwjob all over again. Heck, Reigns could have punched out Vince to get himself disqualified or at least to get a new referee. Yet despite so many logic gaps, the fans always seem to go along with heel referee silliness. This match was no exception as the fans got behind Reigns while also getting caught up in Vince’s antics. The heel referee routine doesn’t do much for me, but you can’t really argue with it being successful.
Kevin Owens vs. Neville: A near ten minute match that helped make up for the 20 seconds we saw from Owens and Neville last week. The match was entertaining from start to finish, and Dean Ambrose did a better job than most wrestlers do on color commentary. Ambrose was more effective than the actual broadcast team of putting over Owens’ physicality while also questioning whether he can hang when someone takes the fight to him. The post-match brawl with Owens and Ambrose strong. I was hoping that Owens would get the better of Ambrose later in the show to leave the babyface Ambrose seeking revenge when they meet for the Intercontinental Title on Smackdown. Am I guilty of reading too much into this by wondering if Ambrose leaving Raw with the edge is a sign that Owens is taking the title back on Smackdown?
Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch: The chaotic booking of the Divas Division led to the abrupt Charlotte and Ric Flair heel turns, which led to more fan confusion. It’s taken some time, but it seems like the fans are starting to get react to Charlotte’s heel persona. Granted, pro wrestling fans still wooooo whenever they see Flair and they will probably wooooo until the end of time when they see a wrestler throw a chop, but it seems like the tide has turned a bit in terms of the fans accepting Charlotte as the heel and Lynch as the babyface. Becky still hasn’t made a real connection with the fans, but maybe last night was a start. She’s been coming off as too nice and naive given Charlotte’s recent antics, so it was encouraging to watch her character return the favor by holding Charlotte’s tights as she pinned her. Maybe the fans will respect her more now that she’s standing up for herself. With the title match booked for Smackdown, these two needed a followup segment with Charlotte confronting Lynch only to have Becky finally stand her ground and leave Charlotte showing some concern heading into Thursday’s television show.
Alberto Del Rio and Rusev vs. The Uso Brothers: A minor Hit for a good tag match. I normally cringe when two singles wrestlers beat an established tag team because the real tag team is rarely protected. In this case, the match was laid out in a way that made it seem like the Uso Brothers put up a good fight and would have won had Rusev not made a last second save of Del Rio at one point. By the way, is Lana on the old Chris Jericho plan? She has been working house shows, yet she seems to have disappeared from television again.
Chris Jericho returns: A minor Hit. I like the way his countdown interrupted the New Day countdown. I guess we’ll never know what New Day was counting down to. Still, it was still a clever way to reintroduce Jericho. The return promo was essentially filled Jericho’s greatest hits such as the Ayatollah of Rock-n-Rolla and the “never, ever” routine. Hell, even JBL referred to him as The Lionheart on commentary. This was fine for night one, but it left me hoping that the nostalgia kick ends here. Classic Jericho is a fine especially if this is just a brief return for the Royal Rumble, but I really hope he’s sticking around long enough that we get the innovative Jericho who takes pride in reinventing himself. Maybe the best is yet to come.
New Day vs. The Dudley Boyz and Kalisto: This week’s six-man tag filler match of the week held my interest. Maybe it’s because it didn’t involve The Uso Brothers in yet another throwaway six-man tag match or because it didn’t involve The Dudleys being destroyed by the Wyatt Family again. Mostly it’s because the in-ring action was entertaining and I liked the way New Day pulled out the win. It was nice to hear the broadcast team immediately credit New Day. Their act is over the top fun, so it’s important that the broadcast team is there to help boost their in-ring credibility. New Day could easily be flukey heel champions, but they will make the most money if they are cast as strong champions, as they were in this match.
The Social Outcasts: A minor Hit for the attempt to do something with Bo Dallas, Heath Slater, Adam Rose, and Curtis Axel. This wasn’t the type of tongue in cheek silliness that I would have expected given the wrestlers involved. Rather, all four men were serious and the broadcast team played it straight rather than groaning and laughing at them. I don’t think anyone expects this to be a major faction, but I like the idea of doing something with these undercard acts. Meanwhile, I felt bad for Dolph Ziggler. It’s bad enough that he’s been branded a mid-card act for life, but now he’s losing to undercard wrestlers.
Titus O’Neil vs. Stardust: After watching these guys clown around on the backstage cosmic set so many times, I assumed that this would be more comedic than anything. I was pleasantly surprised that it was a straight forward match. In fact, this match combined with the approach they took with the Social Outcasts faction left me wondering if WWE is taking more of a serious approach rather than striving for sports entertainment silliness with their undercard acts.
WWE Raw Misses
Roman Reigns defends the WWE Championship in the Royal Rumble match: I love the Royal Rumble match. Granted, the match usually sounds better in theory than it’s executed, but I still look forward to the surprises and the overall drama of watching the match determine which wrestler will challenge for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania. We may still get some fun surprises, but I fear that this match is being hijacked by the Roman Reigns vs. The McMahon Family drama. I fear that this is all a setup for Triple H to enter the match at No. 30 and take the title heading into WrestleMania. In retrospect, Vince McMahon may have foreshadowed this by telling Reigns last week that Hunter would exact his revenge when Reigns least expected it. I’m all for a Reigns vs. Triple H match. I was hoping we would see the match at the Royal Rumble or even Fast Lane. I just don’t want to see the match at WrestleMania. And maybe WWE has something else in mind, but the specter of this potential finish is hanging over the Rumble match. The other finish I have no interest in seeing is Reigns actually winning the Rumble match for the second year in a row and retaining his championship. I really hope WWE has something cool in mind, but the idea of putting the title on the line in the Rumble match made me more apprehensive than excited about my favorite gimmick match of all time.
Big Show vs. Ryback: I cringed when WWE advertised this match ahead of time. We’ve seen them wrestle each other so many times and at this point it’s probably best just to avoid advertising anything involving Big Show. The match was basically a setup for the Wyatt Family to attack both men and then announce that they are all entering the Royal Rumble match. The problem is that the attacks were tame by Wyatt Family standards. And I thought the broadcast team could have done more to establish that they were trying to take out two of the wrestlers they see as threats to win the match. There’s an interesting story to tell with all four family members entering the Rumble. The broadcast teams need to play up the threat that all four men would pose to the other wrestlers if they all end up in the Rumble match at the same time. They should also establish that the minions intend to sacrifice themselves for Wyatt or at least tease that one or more of them may be more interested in trying to win the match.
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The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features ProWrestling.net's Will Pruett discussing AEW Full Gear including the polarizing Jon Moxley vs. Kenny Omega match, what's drawing Will to AEW Dynamite over NXT TV, the appeal of NWA Powerrr, and much more...