By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
The Rock: We’ve certainly seen hotter segments involving Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but this was a fun unadvertised appearance. Rock is back in special guest entertainer mode. He wasn’t there to set up a big WrestleMania match, he was there to play with New Day and a host of different personalities including Rick Ross. It’s tough when we still have fairly recent memories of Rock delivering promos and taking part in angles that led to big matches. As fun as Rock’s comedic appearances are, I think we all naturally prefer segments that are building to a big showdown match. In fact, the comedic tone of the segment and Rock wrapping it up by saying he will see y’all at WrestleMania left me thinking this might be the last time we see him on WWE television before the big event. Maybe I’m reading too much into that, but if that turns out to be the case then one has to assume that his previous statement that he will “electrify” at WrestleMania is code for he is going to appear at WrestleMania rather than wrestle at WrestleMania. Granted, they could recreate what we saw here by having Rock team with the Uso Brothers to face New Day in a six-man tag match that would require little more than Rock performing the Rock Bottoms and the People’s Elbow we saw in this segment. As much as the WrestleMania card could use Rock even in a six-man tag match, I can’t blame the guy if it turns out he would prefer that his final match be the memorable main event against John Cena rather than a middle of the show six-man tag match.
AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho: WWE wasted no time in putting Styles in a dream match. Sure, they could have saved this match for pay-per-view, but it’s not like there are not countless wrestlers that fans look forward to seeing Styles work with. And who knows, maybe they will take this match to Fastlane if Jericho’s character can’t handle losing to Styles and we get an angle coming out of this. Either way, I really liked the pre-match meeting between the two backstage with Jericho big-timing Styles. I also enjoyed the match itself. Sure, it wasn’t what it would have been five years ago, but it was still very cool to see the first Styles vs. Jericho match.
Vince McMahon, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon opening segment: Vince McMahon is at his best when his character has a good reason to gloat. He was downright hilarious while admitting that enjoys the misfortune and misery of others. In fact, this was the most entertaining Vince has been since he returned to television. Triple H’s promo was strong in that he also gloated while trying to build up Roman Reigns’ abilities. As fun as this was, I still feel strongly that the heel authority figure madness needs to end. More on that in the Misses section.
Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler: The match was more competitive than I expected. I thought Ziggler was going to be the fall guy for a dominant and vicious outing for Owens coming off his pay-per-view loss to Ambrose. Instead, it was an entertaining match with Owens going over clean in the end. And if you think about it, the match being competitive was logical given the injuries that Owens was selling from the night before.
Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch: The match was brief, yet entertaining while it lasted. The post-match angle with Charlotte was odd in that she tossed Banks aside to go after Lynch, which didn’t make any sense given that Sasha left Charlotte lying the night before. Michael Cole mentioned it on commentary so I assume it’s by design. My guess is they are setting up a Triple Threat match, but even then I’m still not sure why Charlotte would go after the woman she just defeated the night before rather than the woman who attacked her. Nevertheless, I am still excited to see that the Divas Title picture is more interesting than it was even a month ago.
Kalisto vs. The Miz: A minor Hit for a decent match. I am going to continue to preach the idea of bringing back the open challenge for Kalisto. This meaningless non-title affair could have had some life breathed into it if Kalisto’s U.S. Championship had been on the line. Kalisto is a great candidate for the open challenge gimmick. It would make the underdog look noble to issue the open challenge, and the fans would be hanging on every near fall because they see him as being a vulnerable champion.
WWE Raw Misses
Fastlane main event announcement: The McMahon family went through all the trouble of stacking the deck against Roman Reigns in the Royal Rumble and Vince even led a League of Nations attack on him during the match because they desperately wanted him to lose the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. So what do they do the very next night on Raw? They announce that they are giving Reigns a chance to earn a title shot at WrestleMania by booking him in the Triple Threat match at Fastlane. I guess we’re just supposed to forget that Reigns should have a rematch clause in his contract like every other champion. But if you think the McMahon family characters look bad, stop and think about how the real McMahon family looks. After all, Vince has been hellbent on Reigns getting over as the top babyface in the company, yet he booked him in a situation where he was sure to be booed at the Royal Rumble and now books him in a match against two of the most popular wrestlers in the company at Fastlane. Naturally, I assume the WrestleMania crowd will boo the hell out of him too. At this point, I expect Vince to book Reigns against Make-A-Wish Kids at Extreme Rules.
Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose vs. Sheamus and Rusev: League of Nations is like the upper card version of The Social Outcasts in that it seemed like a decent idea to make them a faction, yet it turns out that they are much better off as individuals. It pains me to think that Rusev was a killer heel who had one of the great WrestleMania entrances of all-time not even a year ago. WWE turned him into a comedy heel and he’s never been the same since. And Sheamus still hasn’t recovered from the parity booking that defined him down despite the fact that he won Money in the Bank and even cashed in successfully. So while there was nothing really wrong with the match, I just didn’t care if Reigns and Ambrose beat these heels. I really wish they could have brought in Drew Galloway to pair with Sheamus and Wade (not King) Barrett because that strikes me as a trio that would have chemistry, unlike League of Nations.
Natalya and Paige vs. Brie Bella and Alicia Fox: I feel bad giving the match a Miss because it was intentionally meant to be a comedown match following The Rock’s segment. I was just hoping that they would have done more for Paige’s return to the ring than book her in a throwaway segment.
Bray Wyatt vs. Kane: WWE doesn’t want Raw to become the Rocky Horror Picture Show because fans who dress up like wrestlers distract from what’s happening in the ring. In this case, WWE should be grateful to those fans because they got an entertaining moment with The Rock out of it, and at least the live crowd stayed away during this match by humoring themselves with Randy Savage chants. No one wants to see Bray vs. Kane anymore. It ranks right up there on the “For The Love Of God, Not Again” list along with Roman Reigns vs. Big Show, Big Show vs. Kane, Ryback vs. Big Show, Kane vs. Ryback, and Reigns vs. Kane.
Flo Rida and The Social Outcasts: The only thing positive I can say about this segment is that Bo Dallas bought a singlet. I suppose Bo Rida was fun if you were in the mood for some quirkiness. Perhaps the saddest part is that I was more entertained by his rap battle performance than actual rapper Flo Rida. I don’t care what type of mainstream attention WWE got for this segment, it wasn’t worth the torture that they inflicted upon their regular viewers.