By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Miz TV with AJ Styles: The Miz was tremendous in telling the Styles’ story while big timing him by pulling the mic away repeatedly. It’s a schtick we’ve seen from Miz before, yet it was never this effective. This was also the most effort that WWE has shown in years when it comes to setting up a Smackdown match during Raw. It’s not that Styles vs. Miz is suddenly a highly anticipated match, but it means a lot more than it would have had the match been thrown out there without any build. Plus, Chris Jericho saying he will be watching the match closely was intriguing and left me assuming we will be seeing more from Jericho and Styles. The only thing I’m not crazy about is the way WWE is portraying Styles as an undersized underdog. Isn’t that Kalisto’s gimmick? Why not treat him like a major star right out of the gate since the fans view him that way and WWE needs all the star power they can get?
Kalisto vs. Rusev: This wasn’t a case of creative being lazy by booking a count-out finish. Rather, it was a rare satisfying and logical count-out finish. It felt like an achievement for Kalisto to beat Rusev even by count-out. Furthermore, losing in this fashion didn’t do more damage Rusev.
Brock Lesnar and Dean Ambrose: A good opening segment that made Ambrose look good as he confidently entered the ring with Lesnar. Brock was also terrific in that he was able to say what he needed to without actually saying anything simply by smiling at Ambrose in a way that said, “You’ve got some balls, kid.” Lesnar returning at the end of the night and F5’ing Ambrose to close the show didn’t wow me, but it gave them an issue heading into the Fastlane main event. I hated the way the music hit immediately after Lesnar hit the move as it came off like the production staff knew the segment was ending here. It’s bad enough when this happens for every other wrestler on the roster, but they should always go the extra mile to make Lesnar seem unpredictable.
Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks: This was more of an angle than a match, as we saw the end of Team BAD and the awful unity bit. Lynch looked like an admirable babyface by coming to the aid of her opponent, especially considering that Banks took a cheap shot at her at the Royal Rumble. The lousy three-woman factions assembled at the start of the “Divas Revolution” are no more. Technically, Team Bella is still a thing for some reason, but they are mostly side players while Nikki Bella is sidelined.
Charlotte vs. Brie Bella: Brie’s job in recent months has consisted of doing jobs, speaking about her injured husband, and now speaking about her injured sister. So it was nice to see her get a little something in the form of a non-title win over the Divas Champion. I’m not sure where this is going given that Charlotte has bigger issues with Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks. If they don’t book the rematch for television, then perhaps it will be Charlotte vs. Brie for the title at Fastlane, while Lynch and Banks face Naomi and Tamina. And that’s not such a bad thing if they plan to go with a Triple Threat for the Divas Championship between Charlotte, Sasha, and Lynch at WrestleMania.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens: The usual good match from these two. Ziggler needed to win this match if they really feel the need to do more with this feud because Owens winning was becoming predictable. That said, I was surprised to see Owens lose at a time when WWE is so desperate for top heels. I assume Owens will win the rematch and move on, but I still think they would be better off building up Owens as a major heel force who comes off like a true threat to beat the top babyfaces.
WWE Raw Misses
Overall show: A minor Miss for a forgettable night of television. They opted to focus on creating issues between Brock Lesnar and Dean Ambrose. And while I it was refreshing to see Lesnar work with someone other than the usual suspects, nothing they did really made me more excited about the Fastlane or WrestleMania main events. It’s nice that WWE is at least trying to convince viewers that the match isn’t all about Reigns. Yet even if you believe Lesnar or Ambrose could win, are you really excited by the thought of seeing Reigns, Ambrose, or Lesnar face Triple H for the title at WrestleMania? I’m not feeling it.
Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose vs. Big E and Kofi Kingston: With three of the four members of League of Nations nursing injuries, it was New Day’s turn to face Reigns and Ambrose. And their in-ring performance was very good. Kofi Kingston is always fun, and Big E had a couple of memorable moments, including the big missed splash spot where he crashed to the floor at ringside. My problem with New Day continues to be that they are funnier than they are heelish. It’s not that I’m not entertained by New Day because I definitely am. I just wish they would as hard at getting heat as they do at getting laughs. When the masses are entertained by New Day comedy, it makes it difficult for babyface teams to get the fans behind them. I thought New Day would go for real heat in their pre-match promo because they were working with main event babyfaces, but they were all about the comedy and made no effort to turn the live crowd against them.
The Uso Brothers vs. Adam Rose and Curtis Axel: I tuned in for Raw and a WWE Superstars match broke out. There was good ring work during the five-minute match, but the Social Outcasts gimmick is awful and there’s still no sign of chemistry amongst the group. It’s 3MB with one extra wrestler and minus the air guitars.
Big Show vs. Erick Rowan: The fans sat on their hands as the Wyatt Family put the boots to Show. And why wouldn’t they? Big Show is a babyface not because there was a big turn or an apologetic promo, but simply because Big Show smiles instead of making his mean giant face. WWE previously got a bit of a reaction when Show and Braun Strowman engaged in a staredown. This crowd didn’t play along and it made for an awkward moment. Give us a reason to like Big Show and to think that this turn might actually stick.
Paul Heyman: A minor Miss in that this was a letdown by Heyman standards. A good Heyman promo leaves you feeling more excited by whatever match or even wrestler he is pushing. I didn’t come away from Raw feeling that way. I’m sure he’ll bounce back big next week if he’s given a chance to sell viewers on the Triple Threat main event. And lord knows that match and whatever Lesnar is doing at WrestleMania needs his help. The way Lesnar has been booked lately makes him feel like more of a regular WWE wrestler than the huge special attraction he should be. Is Heyman’s less passionate than usual mic work an indication that he’s not creatively inspired by the way he and Lesnar are being booked? If so, I can’t say I blame him.