By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Chris Jericho: A strong rebound for Jericho. The cartwheels, the throwback lines, and even Stephanie McMahon calling him out on using the same old material left me firmly believing that everything he has done so far is by design. I admit that I feared Jericho had lost his cool, but I came away from Raw feeling like Jericho knows exactly what he is doing. Either way, I like the way he was given a status boost heading into the Royal Rumble match. He wasn’t fighting a losing battle of seeing who can ham it up more with New Day, he was front and center with Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman, and Roman Reigns where he belongs. WWE needs Jericho to be a star, not a mid-card nostalgia act, and they made him feel like he’s in the top of the card mix just in time for the Rumble. I went from groaning at the thought of Jericho even being in the Rumble match to feeling like he’s at least a dark horse candidate to win the match. Jericho’s verbal battle with Paul Heyman was excellent, and the hype for Highlight Reel segment with Reigns and Lesnar as guests served as a great hook throughout the show.
Roman Reigns vs. Rusev: The match was nothing special, but I appreciate the way Reigns managed to turn a live crowd that was mixed when he made his entrance to open the show. The boo birds were silenced. Well, at least they were silenced when this match ended, but they return when Reigns’ entrance interrupted a potential Lesnar and Jericho showdown. Still, it was a good night for Roman, who also got a chance to talk more as opposed to standing there listening to Vince McMahon and Stephanie McMahon talk as he has been doing in recent weeks. Vince and Stephanie have played a big part in any popularity growth there has been for Reigns in recent weeks, but the guy has to be given a chance to stand on his own and last night was an example of that.
Stephanie McMahon and Chris Jericho: It was odd to see Jericho book a match and name himself the special referee, yet not unprecedented given that he booked a recent New Day vs. The Uso Brothers match and put himself in the corner of the Uso Brothers. Still, it was nice to see Stephanie call him out on it in this case. I normally cringe when Stephanie emasculates the wrestlers for no good reason. In this case, it was logical for her character to claim her territory, and Jericho left the exchange no worse for the wear.
The Wyatt Family: A minor hit. The Wyatts beat The Dudleys and Ryback clean in a six-man tag match and, more importantly, they laid out Brock Lesnar at the end of the show. This was a nice change from last week’s “anyone but you, Roman” approach, which strangley implies that Bray Wyatt is content with someone other than Reigns winning the match when his goal should be to use his numbers advantage to win the championship. The reason this is merely a minor Hit is that it felt like it was too little too late for the Wyatts and certainly for League of Nations. The Wyatt Family are the better act and I still hold out hope that WWE will get it right with them, whereas League of Nations felt dead on arrival and that didn’t change last night. Still, it was nice to see some effort made to making it seem like the Rumble match is about more than just Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar. I can’t imagine many people believe a Wyatt Family member or someone from League of Nations will win, but at least they established both factions as thorns in the side of main players Reigns and Lesnar heading into Sunday.
Becky Lynch, Charlotte, and Ric Flair: This wasn’t as hot as last week when Lynch cut the great promo, but it was still effective. It will be interesting to see whether Flair accepting the match his daughter clearly didn’t want will lead to an on-air split or if it will simply be forgotten. By the way, what was stopping Charlotte from simply taking the mic and pointing out that she never agreed to the match and therefore it wasn’t happening? Aside from that, it’s refreshing to see a women’s program receive solid storyline support for the first time since the so-called Divas Revolution began.
WWE Raw Misses
Vince McMahon and Stephanie McMahon name Roman Reigns the first entrant: It was nice to see they didn’t leave a huge logic gap by not naming Reigns the first entrant. After all, the McMahons went through the trouble of setting him up to fail in the Rumble match, so it would have seemed odd if they left his match entry point up to chance. The Miss is due to the actual segment. Watching Vince McMahon fumble and struggle to open the number containers was comical for all the wrong reasons, but I did laugh at Stephanie’s zinger about it not being worse than Vince being on the telephone during the McMahon’s Millions campaign. Ultimately, this segment just went on and on. I think we all figured out that they stacked the deck against Reigns the first time and we didn’t need two more long and painful drawings to drive it home. Actually, Byron Saxton may have needed a fourth drawing since he actually questioned whether it was really a coincidence. Gee, you think, Byron? Saxton should have been outraged, not questioning the legitimacy of the drawing in a way that made him look like a simpleton.
Big Show vs. Heath Slater: I really tried to give The Social Outcasts the benefit of the doubt when they were introduced, but I already cringe more when I see them together on camera than I did when I saw them separately. That said, nothing is more cringe worthy than what appeared to be the latest in a never ending series of babyface and heel flip flops for Big Show. He played to the crowd like the babyface during this match, and then he even posed for a fan selfie pic at ringside afterward. Maybe Show has turned so many times that WWE figures it’s not even worth taking the time to write a real turn for him.
Natalya and Paige: It was nice to see both women back on Raw, but apparently we are supposed to forget that the two of them had some serious issues stemming from Natalya being attacked on Smackdown. I don’t think they ever took the time to say officially that Paige was the mystery attacker, but it was certainly implied. I would like to believe that an explanation is coming. However, the broadcast team didn’t seem to remember it, so I guess the idea is to just pretend like it never happened.
Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio vs. Dean Ambrose and Kalisto: Part of the goal of this match seemed to be building up League of Nations for Sunday, yet the even bigger purpose felt like they were trying to fill television time. It was strange seeing Kalisto lose again after they announced that he will be challenging Del Rio for the U.S. Title he just lost one day after winning it. Ambrose is teflon and could have taken the fall, especially since they had Kevin Owens on commentary, which set up all sorts of distraction or interference finishes. Granted, such a finish may have put the focus on Owens rather than League of Nations, but did you come away from this match looking at League of Nations any differently? Me neither.
Jey Uso vs. Big E: I had this one pencilled as a win for Jey Uso while I was doing live coverage last night because it seemed like the obvious approach to take after they announced that The Uso Brothers will be challenging New Day for the tag titles on Sunday. Instead, they went with one of the champions pinning one of the challengers. Why should we be excited about The Uso Brothers or Kalisto heading into Sunday?
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features guest Eli Drake talking about signing with the NWA, his departure from Impact Wrestling, rejecting an intergender match with Tessa Blanchard, his WWE developmental run, and much more...